Week of January 23, 2017

“Man is pushed by drives, but pulled by values.”

Viktor Frankl

Psychiatrist and WWII Concentration Camp Survivor

Author of “Man’s Search for Meaning” and “The Will to Meaning”

Seinfeld on Success

Jerry Seinfeld made TV history with the eponymous “Seinfeld” sitcom.  In a short HBR audio interview,the comedian shares some counter intuitive insights on innovation, self-criticism and when to quit a winning streak. Check out Seinfeld’s remarks on Starting and Stopping with success””

“I, Pencil”

Those who are concerned that China’s economy will surpass ours should consider the following “required reading.”

China just announced to great fanfare that after years of effort and millions in investment, it has managed to produce… a ballpoint pen! (This was accomplished in the US about 80 years ago).  Before you read on, check out this short article that outlines why China is crowing so loudly about this and why its system took so long to accomplish it.   .

Now read a three page essay written in 1958 which had the Chinese read it, might have been saved a lot of time and expense.  This essay,   “I, Pencil”  (see also a short 6 minute video) elegantly conveys how hard it would be, bordering on impossible, for any one person to produce just one, simple pencil.

Thousands of men and women are required to produce the simple tool you hold in your hand.  And they do it without holding a mass meeting or relying on a central planning committee.  The free market system takes a lot of abuse for its supposed shortcomings; usually by those who haven’t seen (or don’t remember) the long lines for basic goods and services in countries that subscribe to central planning. If there is a friend, employee or a young person, in your life that does not have an appreciation for the unparalleled effectiveness of the greatest economy in the world, then “I, Pencil” is required reading.

Conversation Rehab 

The recent campaign, transition and inauguration demonstrated nothing if not that our country is more divided at any other time since the Civil War.  Most of us are not talking to the other side and if we are, we’re either waiting to talk (instead of listening) or shouting over each other.

Maybe come conversation rehab is in order!  A recent TED talk provides a simple way to start the process.  In a 12 minute video, social psychologist Robb Willer makes the case with some compelling studies that there is a way to communicate our case to a person who seems diametrically opposed if we will but take time first to identify what is non-negotiable for them.  This video ”How to Have Better Political Conversations” would be 12 minutes well spent for all.   Marketers and negotiators will find it provocative as well.

Econ Recon

Donald J. Trump is now the 45th president of the United States.  His success in office will be measured in no small part by the impact of his policies on the economy.   Brian Wesbury reviews the subpar growth of the current recovery in a recent Monday Morning Outlook and wonders what will be required to get back to normal instead of Another Plow Horse Quarter.  

Alan and Brian Beaulieu of ITR Economics think 2017 looks good but with a caution to look down the road a bit.