Facebook’s “Lord of the Rings” Defense of Free Speech

(p. B1) On Dec. 30, [2019] Andrew Bosworth, the head of Facebook’s virtual and augmented reality division, wrote on his internal Facebook page that, as a liberal, he found himself wanting to use the social network’s powerful platform against Mr. Trump. But citing the “Lord of the Rings” franchise and the philosopher John Rawls, Mr. Bosworth said that doing so would eventually backfire.

“I find myself desperately wanting to pull any lever at my disposal to avoid the same result,” he wrote. “So what stays my hand? I find myself thinking of the Lord of the Rings at this moment.

“Specifically when Frodo offers the ring to Galadrial and she imagines using the power righteously, at first, but knows it will eventually corrupt her,” he said, misspelling the name of the character Galadriel. “As tempting as it is to use the tools available to us to change the outcome, I am confident we must never do that or we will become that which we fear.”

For the full story, see:

Kevin Roose, Sheera Frenkel and Mike Isaac. “Agonizing at Facebook Over Trump.” The New York Times (Wednesday, January 8, 2020): B1 & B7.

(Note: bracketed year added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Jan. 7, 2020, and has the title “Don’t Tilt Scales Against Trump, Facebook Executive Warns.”)

Art Carden Praises “Openness to Creative Destruction”

Economist Art Carden has written a fine review of my Openness book under the title “New Ideas Are the Key to Economic Development.” The review is fair, mostly positive, and well-written. His main reservation is that he sides with many other distinguished libertarians, but against me, on my argument that the patent system should be reformed rather than abolished.

Here is the final paragraph of Carden’s review:

I am glad to see Openness to Creative Destruction appear in print. It strikes a fine balance between detail and a big-picture perspective that, I think, can be read profitably by specialists and students alike. Anyone who wants to understand how the world grew rich and, importantly, what will sustain our enrichment would do well to have this book on the shelf.

Boudreaux Names “Openness” as One of Seven “Superb” Books Published in 2019

George Mason economics professor Donald Boudreaux, in his essay “Some Great Books for Stuffing Stockings” says “I offer here a list of seven superb books published in 2019 that your open-minded friends and family members are sure to love.”

I am honored that he included my Openness to Creative Destruction as one of the seven:

Arthur Diamond, Jr. Openness to Creative Destruction: Sustaining Innovative Dynamism. As does George Will, Diamond emphasizes the vital role played by individual entrepreneurs in helping to create modern mass prosperity. (The accounts of the challenges and efforts of flesh-and-blood entrepreneurs through the years is alone worth the price of this book.) And as does Deirdre McCloskey, Diamond recognizes also the importance of widespread respect for innovators and businesspeople. Making clear that modernity’s prosperity is the result of creative destruction, this book offers an unusually effective and powerful explanation of genuine market competition and a brilliant brief for its indispensability and for its goodness.

Entrepreneurs Dream of Transportation Breakthroughs

(p. A13) “Hop, Skip, Go” seems to be the result of an extended reporting trip, during which the authors chat with would-be game-changers from Los Angeles to Helsinki to Dubai to Guangzhou, offering futuristic punditry along the way.

. . .

The authors have tracked down entrepreneurs who are following their dreams of shaking up passenger transportation. In Shanghai, we meet Joseph Xie, whose Shanghai Quality Sensor Technology Corp. specializes in tiny semiconductors that sense light, sound and motion and have a wide application for autonomous vehicles, among other uses. In the Detroit area, R.J. Scaringe’s company, Rivian, aims to build electric cars and recently captured a $500 million investment from Ford. In Helsinki, an engineering student named Sonja Heikkilä wrote a thesis proposing a mobility app that would allow subscribers access to every sort of conveyance, from dockless scooters to rental cars. Mark Moore, a former NASA researcher now with an Uber venture called Uber Air, envisions small aircraft allowing users to fly over traffic jams within a decade.

For the full review, see:

Marc Levinson. “BOOKSHELF; Going Mobile.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, December 3, 2019): A13.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Dec. 2, 2019, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘Hop, Skip, Go’ Review: Going Mobile.”)

The book under review, is:

Rossant, John, and Stephen Baker. Hop, Skip, Go: How the Mobility Revolution Is Transforming Our Lives. New York: Harper Business, 2019.

Openness on Display at Oxford Booth at AEA Meetings

“Proud” Entrepreneurs’ “Joy Was Palpable”

(p. A13) People of all backgrounds are starting to see how they can participate in our wonderful free-market system. They’re innovating, creating jobs and lifting themselves and others up.

I was fortunate to come to that same realization as a young man. Although I had always aspired to be financially successful, my role models in Nebraska City, Neb., of the 1940s and ’50s were mainly doctors, dentists and attorneys in town. There was nothing to point me toward founding a discount brokerage firm, as I ultimately did with Ameritrade. Luckily, on my father’s advice, I took a job as a credit reporter for Dun & Bradstreet.

It wasn’t a high-paying or respected job, but it meant I spent my days driving from business to business in Nebraska and Iowa, interviewing entrepreneurs about their balance sheets. Those business owners shared proud stories of how they built their companies. Their joy was palpable. Had I not received that education in the field, I might never have become an entrepreneur.

For the full commentary, see:

Joe Ricketts. “In Praise of Today’s Entrepreneurs.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, November 5, 2019): A13.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Nov. 10, 2019, and has the title “Big Business Is Overcharging You $5,000 a Year.”)

Ricketts’s commentary is related to his book:

Ricketts, Joe. The Harder You Work, the Luckier You Get: An Entrepreneur’s Memoir. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2019.

Does Musk Want to Reach Mars or Conspicuously Consume Real Estate?

In my book Openness to Creative Destruction, I describe and praise those who I call “project entrepreneurs.” These are innovative entrepreneurs, like Walt Disney and Cyrus Field, who are motivated primarily by a desire to bring their project into the world, rather than a desire for conspicuous personal consumption. I have been unsure whether to count Elon Musk as a project entrepreneur. The evidence quoted below suggests the answer is “no.”

(p. M1) Over the last seven years, Mr. Musk and limited-liability companies tied to him have amassed a cluster of six houses on two streets in the “lower” and “mid” areas of the Bel-Air neighborhood of Los Angeles, a celebrity-filled, leafy enclave near the Hotel Bel-Air.

Those buys—plus a grand, 100-year-old estate in Northern California near the headquarters of Tesla, the electric car concern he heads—means Mr. Musk or LLCs with ties to him have spent around $100 million on seven properties.

For the full story, see:

Nancy Keates. “Elon Musk’s Big Buyout.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, December 6, 2019): M1 & M6.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 5, 2019, and has the title “Elon Musk Buys Out the Neighbors.”)

My book, mentioned at the top, is:

Diamond, Arthur M., Jr. Openness to Creative Destruction: Sustaining Innovative Dynamism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019.