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A generation with its hand out...

Discussion in 'The Observation Bar' started by p51, Nov 29, 2017.

  1. As one who had a closer view of the early years at Microsoft than I realized at the time, I can offer that luck and legalized theft had more to do with it than genius. The technologies that made the company were in largest part either purchased or copied from others.

    Who was it is that said "behind every great fortune is a crime"? I don't know that I am in complete agreement with that, but I've witnessed more than enough "geniuses" get (or take) credit for others' best ideas.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2017
    vitanola likes this.
  2. As I noted, there's a lot of variation and ways to expand on my comments. Luck is what it is, but as a ardent capitalist and libertarian, I have no truck with theft and want us to both have and actively enforce laws against corporations / individuals at corporations who engage in it.

  3. Consumer demand created the Model T. And granted.. this can devolve to a chicken/ egg argument, but it's highly doubtful that had Mr. Ford taken a job as a railroad telegrapher and worked it until retirement, we'd now all be lining up for the streetcar or the interurban to get to work. Someone else would have recognized the obvious mechanical and economic need for the development of the inevitable. Wealth is created by consumer demand as its actual proximate cause, and while the mind that actually develops the product has its place, its epiphany moment would never take place at all were it not for the macroeconomic realities which till the fertile ground upon which it falls.
    LizzieMaine, vitanola and tonyb like this.
  4. In other words, there are practical, real world limitations to your doctrine? But, but, but ...
    vitanola likes this.
  5. Starving people the world over have a great demand for food - I don't see demand as all that difficult to create or the driving force for economic advancement or wealth creation Otherwise, wanting things would by itself be wealth creating.

    Creating supply to meet that demand is the talent / the genius / the way wealth gets created. It, to me, is not a a chicken and egg scenario at all. The human demand or want for things is limitless, the talent is in finding a way to economically meet that demand.

    And yes, some other genius than Henry Ford would have advanced automobiles, but he did it - man, moment, machine. Heck, many people didn't even know they wanted a Model T or iPhone until they saw others using them - but Ford and Jobs not only envisioned what those things could do, they created a way to bring them to the masses.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2017
    M Hatman likes this.
  6. I'm sorry, but I'm not following you. I thought I expressed in my population-versus-individual-experience idea that thought, but again, I think I'm missing your point.
  7. You do so much hedging that your point is pointless.

    And really, you appear so in love with your "great man" thinking that you are blind to its rotten teeth and that big nasty zit on the tip of its nose.

    Yes, some people have ideas and vision and drive and they bring things to life that may well improve the overall human condition. But they never do it on their own. And waaaay too many claim credit and reward for the best ideas and hard work and brilliant visions of others. I've witnessed it waaaay too many times.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2017
    ChiTownScion likes this.
  8. It's hard to separate the "Great Men" from the haigiographies they create around themselves, but it's important to note that all of those "Greats" are the products of the society they exist in, and build their structures on foundations laid by others. Ford didn't invent the idea of the assembly line -- its principle had been in use in the US meatpacking industry for decades before he came along, and before his ascent to Olympus Ford himself admitted he wasn't doing anything that hadn't been done before -- in fact, the assembly line was already in use at the Olds Motor Works before Ford rolled out his first car. Ford's real success was in understanding the elementary truth that volume sales is where the money is, and that the car that would sell best is the car that Joe Blow could afford. But puttling this theory into practice required the existence of an army of Joe Blows, Jake Dinnerpails, Sammy Slopeshoulders, and Peter Punchclocks both to build the car and to buy it -- and the realization that modern marketing techniques would be needed to put the idea over. That, in turn, required the presence of experts in such marketing to build up a personality cult around Ford himself as the public face of the product, in the same way that Thomas Edison, King Gillette, Charles Fletcher, and Lydia Pinkham were the public faces of their products.

    I think when you poke at the cults of most "great men" you find a similar situation. There's usually a kernel of substance surrounded by a thick layer of marketing designed to make the "great man" the public face of the product, whether that product is a car, a bucket of fried chicken, or a nation. Even FDR would have gotten nowhere without his "Brain Trust."

    I like to think of baseball as the best illustration of how the individual and society are inextricably linked. Babe Ruth was a great player -- but the nature of the game he operated in required the presence of Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Mark Koenig, Jumpin' Joe Dugan, Earl Combs, Bob Meusel, Benny Bengough, Herb Pennock, Waite Hoyt, George Pipgrass, Wilcy Moore, and Urban Shocker to give his individual accomplishments any meaning or value. It's the same with the "Great Men" in any field of activity.
    Edward, ChiTownScion and vitanola like this.
  9. I do not believe I "hedged" but acknowledge that the subject is way more complex than can be covered in a post. Hence, I tried to make an overall point but recognize that there is much more behind it. I am not "in love" with anything, but believe that the economy does work a certain way and tried to reflect that.

    I also agree - and have posted many, many times - about how few ideas are truly new but build upon other past achievements and current thinking. As for the illegitimacy of claiming credit for other's ideas - I agree completely and support any legal construct that can address that.

    But I stand by the main point - it is not some collective of the people or the demand for goods that creates wealth - it is a much smaller number of outstanding individuals who have created, invented, discovered, improved a thing or way that increases our economic wealth.

    Edit add: I have no love of these creative people as, for example, IMHO, Ford was a horrible racist and nasty person in general. Edison was also miserable and, probably from what I've read, criminally guilty in how he "protected" his patents. Many of these economic movers are horrible humans, but that doesn't mean they didn't create what they created and aren't the movers of our economy whether we like them or not.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2017
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  10. Overall, I agree with the first two paragraphs (and alluded to the fact that Ford applied and didn't invent the assembly line); although, I would probably put more weight on the economic and historical value of the "kernel of substance" and less on the "marketing." I will need more time to think about the third paragraph.
  11. To expand on that third paragraph a bit, consider the case of Ralph Kiner of the Pirates, the biggest home run threat in the National League in the early 1950s. He was one of the great stars of his time, a slugger of momentous proportions -- but as general manager Branch Rickey told him upon turning down his request for a raise, "We finished last with you, and we can finish last without you."
  12. Paisley

    Paisley I'll Lock Up

    Certainly, good and back luck play a role. Selling my ridiculously overpriced house in Denver and shlepping my stuff to Indianapolis probably made me better off than spinning my wheels for almost 10 years in an engineering "career" (or, a difficult degree that led to flaky temp jobs with passive-aggressive coworkers). Be that as it may, my six nieces and nephews, almost my age, seem no better off than they were just after high school. In their cases, their circumstances are down to drugs, alcohol, having children at a young age, and stubbornness (one nephew unwilling to cut his hair, another unwilling to leave Walmart for a better job because he likes his coworkers). None of that is bad luck.

    On a macro level, Thomas Sowell finds that people tend to move between income levels--that it's unusual for people to remain in the bottom 20% (or stay in the top 20%).

    Back to the original question, I didn't like getting a barrage of emails asking for donations, any more than I like getting a bunch of emails advertising things. I have to wonder, with everyone asking for donations at the same time, whether anyone received very much. However, Indy Humane did a cute promotion where the CEO spent the day in the dog pound, and he was a good sport about it. I'm more inclined to make a donation where I can see the good something does, and how much it costs to do it, than to give because it's Giving Tuesday or because The Man wants 100% participation in the United Way drive.
    AmateisGal likes this.
  13. And you aren't hedging?

  14. I will try one more time. A ten or so paragraph post oversimplifies a concept that is, at minimum, book length. For example, sometimes the creative idea comes from a guy or gal on the assembly line, but since they work for a company, unless the company has a process in place (some do) that person doesn't get any or much reward as the idea is the property of the company. So am I hedging because now I acknowledge that the idea can come from the assembly line worker? Not in my mind, it just reflects that the "creative genius" can also work on an assembly line. There are a lot of variation to what I am putting forward - but the key point, IMHO isn't hedged: supply-side improvement led by a few (relative to the billions on earth) are what advances an economy.

    As to Lizzie's points, while I put more emphasis on the "kernel" of an idea, I recognize that all work is built on the shoulders of those who come before and - most of the time - contemporaries as well. Lizzie is correct - and doesn't IMHO refute what I said - that Ford was more an assembler than a inventor. In my first post (before Lizzie's), I identified "Creating, organizing, improving, advancing" as all acts of the ones who move us forward. To my mind, Ford is more an organizer, improver than an inventor, but he was the key one to put it all together to make Ford, employ thousands, reduce the price of the car and transform the economy. Did he do that like Superman all by himself - no / but my point is that he was one of those prime movers who did the key things that gave rise to the jobs and economic betterment.

    I get it, you don't agree. I'm sorry you think that what I see as complexity and nuance is hedging. At this point, I'm going to agree to disagree and let my posts on this issue stand for others to judge.
    AmateisGal likes this.
  15. So what "great man" invented the wheel, FF?

    To answer my own question, no one did and everybody did.

    Your "complexity and nuance" betrays the fundamental weakness in your argument. You cite so many exceptions (which, to weasel your way out of the corner you've painted yourself into, you prefer to call "complexity and nuance," but which might more fittingly be called "obfuscation") that there is no rule. And that is plainly hedging.

    And that's okay. Nothing wrong with acknowledging the weaknesses and limitations of one's preferred social and economic philosophies. But let's not make ourselves believe that any doctrine is without its weaknesses and limitations.
    ChiTownScion and vitanola like this.
  16. This is the very biggest problem with the way the nonprofit sector works nowadays. With the whole "annual appeal" thing concentrated on December, "the time of giving," you've got all the nonprofits in any given community competing all at once for the relatively few dollars out there, and it becomes a pretty cut-throat affair, with each organization trying to outdo the other in calling attention to itself.

    In our town, with dozens of nonprofits jousting against each other, there's a real tone of desperation in the appeals, and it's as obnoxious for those of us who have to engage in them as it is for those who receive them. But if you're not loud, if you don't make a pain of yourself, you don't get heard at all. It's a rotten system, but we seem to be stuck with it. For now, anyway.
    vitanola likes this.
  17. Consistent with an early post about how non-profit and for-profit entities' economics are very similar, what you describe here is what many retailers experience at Christmas. Individually, most would prefer that their business was more evenly spread throughout the year, but as the saying goes, you have to make hay when the sun shines, so they all market aggressively - like the non-profits do - at Christmas time or, as you note, risk not being heard (getting the sale or donation).
  18. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

    A little harsh, don't you think? I'd like to see you refute his points with evidence and facts instead of just saying he is "hedging" and "obfuscating." That would be more productive.
    Fading Fast likes this.
  19. No, I don't think that at all. Our friend has provided more than enough evidence of his own hedging and obfuscating. I just calls 'em likes I sees 'em.

    I'm no "ist" or "ian" of any sort. Ideologies become like religions, not subject to reason. The human tendency to invest personal identities in social/economic/political perspectives does much more harm than good. We'd be better off without it.

    By the way, hedging is fine by me. It makes sense to allow for other contingencies and, in this case, perspectives. I just ask that people acknowledge it for what it is. It's a tacit nod to the possibility of being wrong.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2017
  20. I was having a discussion today with a colleague, and I find the idea of black Friday and cyber Monday (and all the crazy chaos that goes with them) far more offensive to my tastes. And I like shopping deals, I've grown tired of all the excess and consumption.

    I like to give to charities around March/April/May/June. I don't tend to have money left in my budget in November or December (with kids and relatives to buy/make gifts for and holiday parties to bring treats for and my own holiday meals to host). I do the canned food drives and the bell ringers (salvation army) this time of year.

    My grandfather said on the front during WWII the Salvation Army provided free coffee while the Red Cross charged 5 cents. I always give to the bell ringers but have avoided giving to the Red Cross, proving the ability of my family to hold a multi-generational grudge. Also, i know several stores that do not allow bell ringers to be present outside (their choice), and I choose not to shop at those stores and take my business to where the bell ringers are during those months.

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