Entrepreneurs Are Happier Because Autonomy and More Meaningful Work Matter More Than Stress and Workload

(p. R1) “If you look at the data, it turns out that entrepreneurs on average earn less money than a typical employed person, work 13 hours more a week and report that it’s a very stressful occupation,” says Boris Nikolaev, assistant professor of entrepreneurship at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. “But despite that, there’s overwhelming evidence in the literature that entrepreneurs report significantly higher levels of job satisfaction.”

. . .

“Entrepreneurs are happier in terms of all indications (p. R4) of life satisfaction and work satisfaction,” says Ute Stephan, professor of entrepreneurship at King’s College London, who conducted a comprehensive review of more than 100 academic studies on entrepreneurship and well-being. “However, they might be more stressed than the rest of us, as well.”

This unusual mix of stress and happiness comes about, she says, because entrepreneurs tend to be deeply invested in their businesses, and their passion is a double-edged sword: It gives them a strong sense of purpose and autonomy, but it can also lead to worry, late nights, overwork and stress.

. . .

The stress and workload have a strong negative effect, as is evident in other studies, but the sense of doing something important and being their own boss is so gratifying that it outweighs all those negatives and leaves them happier overall.

“What they are doing is important to them, it’s part of who they are, it’s part of their identity, and that’s why it has such a positive impact on well-being,” says Prof. Stephan.

. . .

. . . in a recent study, Prof. Stephan discovered that autonomy alone isn’t enough. It’s important, to be sure—but what entrepreneurs need, above all, is meaning. She analyzed survey data from over 22,000 people in 16 European countries, comparing their feelings of happiness with the extent to which their work gives them a sense of meaning and autonomy.

. . .

She found that entrepreneurs experienced higher levels of happiness than wage-earning employees (4.37 vs. 4.28 on a scale of 1 to 6), as well as higher levels of meaning (4.56 vs. 4.25 on a scale of 1 to 5) and autonomy (2.66 vs. 1.95 on a scale of 0 to 3). Using regression analysis, she discovered that meaning was the decisive factor in entrepreneurial happiness.

“What we found is that much more important than decision-making freedom is the sense of doing something profoundly meaningful,” she says. “That really energizes you, and as an entrepreneur you really need that energy to be creative and to do the work that’s important to you.”

But finding meaning in work doesn’t have to be about changing the world. Framing work in terms of performing an important service can help even entrepreneurs in less glamorous industries find meaning and happiness—such as contractors who help people build a dream home, or accountants saving people from disastrous money problems.

For the full story, see:

Andrew Blackman. “Are Entrepreneurs Happier Than Other People?” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, Nov. 04, 2021): R1 & R4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Nov. 3, 2021 , and has the title “Are Entrepreneurs Happier Than Everybody Else?”)

The comprehensive review by Prof. Stephan mentioned above is:

Stephan, Ute. “Entrepreneurs’ Mental Health and Well-Being: A Review and Research Agenda.” Academy of Management Perspectives 32, no. 3 (Aug. 2018): 290-322.

The recent study by Prof. Stephan mentioned above is:

Stephan, Ute, Susana M. Tavares, Helena Carvalho, Joaquim J. S. Ramalho, Susana C. Santos, and Marc van Veldhoven. “Self-Employment and Eudaimonic Well-Being: Energized by Meaning, Enabled by Societal Legitimacy.” Journal of Business Venturing 35, no. 6 (Nov. 2020): DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusvent.2020.106047.

Could Amateur Investors Return the Walt Disney Company to the Principles of Walt Disney?

I wonder what amateur investors could do if they had more serious motives than hatred of elite short-sellers? What if they had the motive, for example, of returning the Walt Disney Company to the principles of Walt Disney? I do not endorse the ambiguity (how much fictional and how much nonfictional) of the book reviewed below. But the GameStop and AMC episodes are intriguing proofs-of-concept.

(p. A15) Until late last year, GameStop was a typical and not very successful corporation. The company sold videogames through a chain of retail outlets and lost money on every sale. But its stock caught the interest of small investors who traded on Robinhood, a mobile trading app, and the stock began to levitate.

From single digits in October 2020 the stock price doubled to 20 late last year. Then, over a few manic days in January, it vaulted “like a lid flying off a pot,” as Ben Mezrich puts it in “The Antisocial Network.” It went up to 77, then 148, then 348 and then an intraday high of 483—at which point GameStop was worth more than $30 billion. Briefly, it was the most heavily traded issue on the stock market.

The source of the mayhem was, to borrow from the book’s subtitle, “a ragtag group of amateur traders.” Few of the devotees who flocked to GameStop thought of themselves as even armchair security analysts. They were infected by crowd psychology and, in some cases, driven by the hope that the high price would punish well-to-do short sellers.

. . .

Even when the price hit the stratosphere, retail buyers professed not to be worried. They would “never” sell; they weren’t concerned with the possibility of losing money. “Oh im [sic] fully aware that I may end up a bagholder,” went one post. “But it’s worth being a bagholder to stick it to those Wall Street f—s who’ve gamed the system for so long at our expense.”

To Mr. Mezrich, such fulminations suggest that a revolution is a-coming. His thesis is vented in excited metaphors. The “pillars” of Wall Street are shaking; Melvin Capital faces an “existential moment” (which, actually, it survived); angry traders constitute a “millennial version of the French Revolution.”

A little of this gas comes from investors; most of it is supplied by Mr. Mezrich. “The Antisocial Network” is built on scenes that the author has re-created; quotation marks, in the main, are conveniently absent. He writes of one novice but gung-ho investor, who worked in a hair salon: “She believed something deeper was happening.” Did she say that? Is it a paraphrase? Is it what Mr. Mezrich thinks she believed?

For the full review, see:

Roger Lowenstein. “BOOKSHELF; Let Them Eat Shorts.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, Sept. 07, 2021): A15.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date September 6, 2021, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘The Antisocial Network’ Review: Let Them Eat Shorts.”)

The book under review is:

Mezrich, Ben. The Antisocial Network: The GameStop Short Squeeze and the Ragtag Group of Amateur Traders That Brought Wall Street to Its Knees. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2021.

Disney’s “Goo Goo Gai Pan” Simpsons Episode is Censored or Self-Censored in Hong Kong

(p. B4) HONG KONG—The absence of an episode of “The Simpsons” from Walt Disney Co. ’s streaming service in Hong Kong is raising concerns about rising censorship in the Chinese territory.

Disney launched its streaming service, Disney+, earlier in November in Hong Kong featuring an array of programming owned by the entertainment giant, including 32 seasons of the animated comedy series.

Yet one episode is missing from “The Simpsons” lineup: Titled “Goo Goo Gai Pan,” the episode from season 16 centers on a trip to China by the show’s namesake family. Along the way they encounter a plaque at Tiananmen Square in Beijing that reads: “On this site, in 1989, nothing happened.”

The episode also features a reference to the iconic “Tank Man” photo, in which a man stands in front of a column of tanks after the military moved in to crush student-led protests on June 4, 1989.

It isn’t known if Disney removed the episode under pressure, or whether it decided itself to leave the episode out of its lineup when it launched the Disney+ service in Hong Kong earlier in November. Representatives for Disney didn’t respond to requests for comment. A spokeswoman for the Hong Kong Office of the Communications Authority, which oversees broadcasters in the city, declined to comment.

The episode’s absence fuels concerns about rising censorship in Hong Kong, and the extent to which Western companies are under pressure to assist in the effort or to self-censor following the imposition of a sweeping national security law by Beijing last year that has stamped out dissent across the city.

For the full story, see:

Dan Strumpf. “Missing ‘Simpsons’ Episode in Hong Kong Fuels Censorship Fears.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, November 30, 2021): B4.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date November 29, 2021, and has the title “Disney’s Missing ‘Simpsons’ Episode in Hong Kong Raises Censorship Fears.”)

Humans Still Matter in Chess

(p. A14) Magnus Carlsen, of Norway, steamrolled Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi 7.5-3.5 in the best-of-14 series, capturing a decisive victory that solidified his legacy as the greatest in the history of the sport. He has been the world champion since 2013—this was his fifth win—and is the highest-rated player of all time.

What even his rivals marvel at is how Carlsen, 31, has weaponized the computer revolution against them. He does it not by overpowering opponents with calculation, but by harnessing that digital knowledge to turn games into more human battles.

“Magnus is proud of saying that he’s probably the top player who works the least with the computer and is the least influenced by the computer,” said Carlsen’s coach, Peter Heine Nielsen. “He wants to trust his own evaluation, his human touch and to keep that.”

. . .

. . . here’s the twist: the most lethal use of computer-based analysis isn’t to find something that only the machine can see. It’s figuring out what it sees and dismisses that might still be useful. The dream of any computer-savvy chess player is to discover a string of moves that an engine doesn’t necessarily favor, yet taps into a line that their opponent hasn’t prepared.

“That’s the Holy Grail,” said grandmaster Cristian Chirila, who assisted world No. 4 Fabiano Caruana when he faced Carlsen for the world championship in 2018. “If you can get there, that’s a huge advantage.”

In any given situation, the engines might recommend any number of moves and suggest that they are all relatively equal. Those are the obvious ones to study. But by playing a more obscure move—perhaps even one that the computers suggest is disadvantageous—Carlsen thrives by throwing his opponents into that unfamiliar territory.

For the full story, see:

Joshua Robinson and Andrew Beaton. “Computers Revolutionized Chess. Magnus Carlsen Wins by Being Human.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, December 10, 2021): A14.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Dec. 10, 2021, and has the same title as the print version.)

U.S. Liquified Natural Gas Saves Self-Sufficient China During Energy Crisis

(p. B13) At the height of the trade war in 2019, China all but cut off imports of U.S. liquefied natural gas. Today, China is buying more gas from the U.S. than ever.

The turnabout is one consequence of the global energy shortage that has sent prices soaring. And it is a result of China’s effort to cut carbon emissions by reducing how much coal it burns.

The energy shortage, China’s most severe in many years, has forced the government to curtail operating hours at factories and cut power in some cities. The shortage is due to factors including stronger-than-expected demand for its factory exports as the global economy rebounds from the pandemic, increased movement toward gas from coal to fight pollution and a lack of rain in parts of the country that has hindered its hydroelectricity supply.

For the full story, see:

Brian Spegele. “China Binges on Gas From U.S.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, November 3, 2021): B13.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date November 2, 2021, and has the title “China Binges on U.S. Gas to Manage Energy Shortage, Carbon Footprint.”)

Ford and Edison Tried to Build and “Gift the Nation” a “Utopian Garden City”

I have greatly benefitted from two of Hager’s previous books: The Alchemy of Air and The Demon Under the Microscope. A third one, Ten Drugs, was OK. I am looking forward to reading the new Hager book discussed in the passages quoted below from a WSJ review. I wonder if an inference from the book will be that more infrastructure could be privately provided, if the government would allow it? (By the way, I am by no means as convinced as the reviewer that the TVA was one of FDR’s greatest accomplishments.)

(p. A17) Henry Ford and Thomas Alva Edison were the twin wizards of the first decades of the 20th century in America.

. . .

The story of this pair’s vain effort to build a utopian garden city powered by a mammoth hydroelectric dam at Muscle Shoals, Ala., is all but forgotten. Now it’s been disinterred by Thomas Hager, in “Electric City: The Lost History of Ford and Edison’s American Utopia,” a well-researched, crisply written account tinged with irony.

. . .

During World War I, the government hatched a plan to dam the river and use the electricity generated to power two plants turning out nitrates for munitions. The dam was half built and the factories equipped when the war ended and the project was abandoned.

President Warren Harding didn’t want to spend the $30 million needed to finish the mile-wide 10-story dam and told underlings to lease the whole works to private interests. Ford had already been tempted to acquire the nitrate plants, which could be refitted to turn out the kind of fertilizer used by regional farmers. He envisioned the completed dam supplying cheap power for his blended new American community of garden cities strung for miles along the river. Worker-farmers would commute—in their Model T’s, of course—to small factories running on electricity from the dam. They would be given time off in planting and harvesting season to raise crops they could sell to supplement their incomes. It was a Jeffersonian vision of America updated to the age of the automobile and bounteous electricity.

Ford enlisted the prestige and smarts of his camping buddy Edison. They wanted, Mr. Hager writes, “to gift the nation they loved with a titanic, living example of how they thought America should work . . . The results would be new kinds of cities, new ways of making things, new approaches to labor and leisure, and improved lives for everyone.”

. . .

In the end, Edison faded from the picture, and Norris ended Ford’s hopes—passing legislation that made Muscle Shoals a federal undertaking, although Coolidge refused to sign it. And in the wondrous alchemy of American politics, when the Great Depression propelled Franklin D. Roosevelt into the White House, Muscle Shoals became the core of the TVA, the Tennessee Valley Authority, one of the first and greatest of FDR’s accomplishments.

For the full review, see:

Edward Kosner. “BOOKSHELF; Bright Lights, Big River.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021): A17.

(Note: ellipses between paragraphs were added; ellipsis in the middle of a paragraph was in the original.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date December 22, 2021, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘Electric City’ Review: Bright Lights, Big River.”)

The book under review is:

Hager, Thomas. Electric City: The Lost History of Ford and Edison’s American Utopia. New York: Harry N. Abrams Press, 2021.

Biden Daycare Proposal Would Act Like $27,000 Tax on Many Middle-Class Families

(p. A17) Child care is already a major expense for parents, and President Biden pledges to reduce its cost with his multitrillion-dollar Build Back Better bill. Yet while some of those who receive government subsidies may see reduced costs, millions of other working parents could see their child-care costs double. The new program would act like a $20,000 to $30,000 annual tax on middle-income families.

The bill’s latest draft proposes to reinvent child care with a trifecta of cost-increasing forces. First, it would remove much of the incentive to offer lower-cost care.

. . .

Second, providers would need extra staff to comprehend and comply with all the new statutes, certifications and agency rules.

. . .

Third, the bill imposes “living wage” regulations on staff pay.

. . .

. . ., Build Back Better could increase costs by more than 120%. For a family with an infant and a 4-year old, that would be an additional annual expense of up to $27,000 if they don’t qualify for subsidies. In 2022, when the subsidy is only available to those earning no more than their state’s median income, that would be half of families currently using child care. Even in 2024 when the subsidies would be more generous, more than a quarter of families using such child care would be paying more than double of what they do now.

For the full commentary, see:

Casey Mulligan. “Biden Would Make Daycare Even Pricier.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, Dec. 10, 2021): A17.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date December 9, 2021, and has the title “Biden Would Make Daycare Even More Expensive.”)

Tesla Could Switch Chips By Internally Modifying Software Code that Other Car Companies Had Outsourced

(p. 1) For much of last year, established automakers like General Motors and Ford Motor operated in a different reality from Tesla, the electric car company.

G.M. and Ford closed one factory after another — sometimes for months on end — because of a shortage of computer chips, leaving dealer lots bare and sending car prices zooming. Yet Tesla racked up record sales quarter after quarter and ended the year having sold nearly twice as many vehicles as it did in 2020 unhindered by an industrywide crisis.

Tesla’s ability to conjure up critical components has a greater significance than one year’s car sales. It suggests that the company, and possibly other young electric car businesses, could threaten the dominance of giants like Volkswagen and G.M. sooner and more forcefully than most industry executives and policymakers realize. . . .

Tesla and its enigmatic chief executive, Elon Musk, have said little about how the carmaker ran circles around the rest of the auto industry. Now it’s becoming clear that the company simply had a superior command of technology and its own supply chain. Tesla appeared to better forecast demand than businesses that produce many more cars than it does. Other automakers were surprised by how quickly the car market recovered from a steep drop early in the pandemic and had simply not ordered enough chips and parts (p. 12) fast enough.

When Tesla couldn’t get the chips it had counted on, it took the ones that were available and rewrote the software that operated them to suit its needs. Larger auto companies couldn’t do that because they relied on outside suppliers for much of their software and computing expertise. In many cases, automakers also relied on these suppliers to deal with chip manufacturers. When the crisis hit, the automakers lacked bargaining clout.

Just a few years ago, analysts saw Mr. Musk’s insistence on having Tesla do more things on its own as one of the main reasons the company was struggling to increase production. Now, his strategy appears to have been vindicated.

. . .

“Tesla, born in Silicon Valley, never outsourced their software — they write their own code,” said Morris Cohen, a professor emeritus at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania who specializes in manufacturing and logistics. “They rewrote the software so they could replace chips in short supply with chips not in short supply. The other carmakers were not able to do that.”

“Tesla controlled its destiny,” Professor Cohen added.

. . .

Doing more on its own also helps explain why Tesla avoided shortages of batteries, which have limited companies like Ford and G.M. from selling lots of electric cars. In 2014, when most carmakers were still debating whether electric vehicles would ever amount to anything, Tesla broke ground on what it called a gigafactory outside Reno, Nev., to produce batteries with its partner, Panasonic. Now, that factory helps ensure a reliable supply.

“It was a big risk,” said Ryan Melsert, a former Tesla executive who was involved in construction of the Nevada plant. “But because they have made decisions early on to bring things in house, they have much more control over their own fate.”

As Professor Cohen of Wharton pointed out, Tesla’s approach is in many ways a throwback to the early days of the automobile, when Ford owned its own steel plants and rubber plantations. In recent decades, the conventional auto wisdom had it that manufacturers should concentrate on design and final assembly and farm out the rest to suppliers. That strategy helped reduce how much money big players tied up in factories, but left them vulnerable to supply chain turmoil.

For the full story, see:

Jack Ewing. “Tesla’s Edge in Pandemic: Superior Command of Supply Chain.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, January 9, 2022): 1 & 12.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Jan. 8, 2022, and has the title “Why Tesla Soared as Other Automakers Struggled to Make Cars.”

Price Controls Still Won’t Work Against Inflation

(p. A19) Asked about his plan for a dangerous opponent, boxer Mike Tyson once said: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” President Biden has proposed various plans to deal with inflation.

Prices rise when goods become scarce or the money supply expands rapidly. Pandemic-induced holdups in the supply chain have caused scarcity; . . .

. . .

On the money-supply front, the Fed is making noises about backing off on aggressive expansion. But a CNBC report estimated that more than $5 trillion in cash is sitting in corporate coffers and bank accounts. Middle-class savers who have been holding cash will see its value eaten away—effectively a tax on the middle class, which progressives promised not to levy. Some of the rich will put their cash in real estate, heightening shortages of housing.

Whatever you think of Congress’s bipartisan infrastructure initiative, its timing is unfortunate. It will be sharply expansionary on the fiscal front, with new demands on labor markets straining to find workers. All that cash from Fed monetary expansion is out there ready to be spent. Mr. Biden’s Build Back Better plan would make these problems worse by injecting trillions into the economy.

Things aren’t yet so bad that a plan can’t make them worse. In a recent paper for the Law and Economics Center at George Mason University, I evaluated one policy for managing prices—a top-down approach directed from Washington. I found that such plans are thwarted by information problems (officials don’t know enough to direct resources or decide prices) and incentive problems (the power to decide which prices will be allowed to increase, and which will be held down, will be corrupted by politics).

For the full commentary, see:

Michael C. Munger. “A Biden Plan For Prices? No Thanks.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, Dec 15, 2021): A19.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date December 14, 2021, and has the same title as the print version.)

After Escaping Communism, Karikó Achieved “Critical Breakthrough” on Covid-19 Vaccine

(p. C8) “Infectious” is a chronicle of the “ongoing arms race between host and infection,” as Mr. Tregoning puts it, as well as the astounding medical progress in the past 100 years that has tipped this struggle in favor of humanity.

. . .

Before the pandemic, many doubted that vaccines based on messenger RNA would work at all, as the technique had a reputation for being finicky and unstable. That these new technologies have thus far outperformed traditional vaccines is an upset akin to Buster Douglas’s 1990 knockout of Mike Tyson. According to Mr. Tregoning, a large share of the credit belongs to the biochemist Katalin Karikó, who had a critical breakthrough that “massively improved the potency of the vaccine.” Ms. Karikó, “who fled Communist Hungary in 1985 with $1,200 hidden in a teddy bear,” was able to stabilize messenger RNA by studding it with methyl groups. This enabled the RNA to survive in the body just long enough to produce viral proteins for the immune system to target.

For the full review, see:

John J. Ross. “The Battle Inside Your Body.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021): C8.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date December 10, 2021, and has the title “The Defenders: Three Books on the Science of Immunity.”)

The book under review in the passages quoted above is:

Tregoning, John S. Infectious. London, UK: Oneworld, 2021.