What happens when we outsource the most intimate of negotiations?
I really like the Battlestar Galactica show on the Sci Fi channel. It is amazingly good for an offering on that channel and stands up as one of the best shows on television, if not the best. Ever since I realized that Battlestar Galactica was good, I've been wondering how the Sci Fi channel (and their parent, NBC) would wreck the show.
Now, I know. Sci Fi has announced that they will be running a prequel along side Battlestar Galactica. Great way to Jump the Shark, by diluting and distracting their talent and tiring out their audience.
More is not always better. Just ask Paramount, owners of the played out Star Trek franchise, or Donald Trump and his rapidly waning Apprentice.
The Carnival of the Capitalists is up. Here is some good reading selected from this week's choices:
- Coytote Blog follows up on the Unfairness of price gouging laws.
- Mises Econmics Blog illustrates how markets work in the wake of Katrina. No regulation required, thank you.
- Financial Methods has The Thanksgiving Lesson You Should Have Learned in School.
- Union Cars vs. Forign Cars points out the collective hypocrisy of trying to legislate what others do when you aren't willing to do it yourself.
As promised and at the appointed time, my picks from this week's Carnival of the Capitalists:
- Entrepreneurs Needed asks why weren't pumpkin carving kits around when I was a kid?
- Politicians and Prioritization points out how absurdly politicians and bureaucrats act when asked to make budget cuts.
- Comparative Advantage in a Changing World suggests that we need to be friendlier to small businesses.
- Blackballed - you are the brand illustrates the need to represent yourself well to represent your company well.
Yesterday was the 400th anniversary of Guy Fawkes' "gunpowder plot" to blow up the King and House of Lords in 1605. 400 years and they still remember today. If I have any British readers here (I know I do on my other blog), I'd love to hear about anything special they did for the occasion. I wonder if the 9/11 terrorist attacks will be another "day of infamy" that Americans will remember 400 years later?
Its time for the Carnival of the Capitalists again. (Yes, I know its Wednesday -- next week i'll get to it on Monday, really I will.) Some of the entries from this week that I found most interesting:
- Social Mobility. Is the US a meritocracy?
- Rates are Too High -- So Lets Limit Competition looks at payday loans.
- Managing Bureaucrats offers suggestions for moving the immovable object.
- How I could afford my house by renting out the basement. Making a silk purse out of a sow's ear?
Oh, my Protectionist Republican post is listed in this weeks CotC.
I have never understood protectionist Republicans. How can you be against taxes but for tariffs? How can you oppose government interference, but support the government deciding which jobs are more worthwhile. How can you dislike government handouts, but support corporate welfare?
Thats what protectionism is. The government deciding that some jobs are more worthwhile than others and redistributing wealth to those special interest groups at the expense of others. Worst of all, protectionism is regressive. It places proportionately more of a burden on those with lower incomes.
There are two angles to fight poverty. One is to concentrate on the income side. While nobody is overtly anti-job, I think there are ways of increasing personal income and ways of creating jobs that most Republicans would dislike such as direct subsidies and make work jobs. A minimum wage falls into the misguided, but well-meaning category. Protectionism does too.
A second angle to fight poverty is to increase buying power by decreasing prices. What does it mean to be poor if you have a place to live, enough to eat and have cable tv? Cheap prices are the free trader's welfare system.
Sugar is the poster child for free trade issues. One famous case study is the move of the lifesavers plant from Michigan to Canada. Here are some of the factors involved in the decision to move from a progressive viewpoint:
Boyd said a recent survey by his firm indicates Life Savers will pay nonunion workers in Mount Royal about $12.50 an hour--$3 less than their counterparts in Holland. With the Canadian government picking up the tab for health coverage, the savings come to about $6.5 million a year.
"Labor costs dominate the equation," Boyd said. "They account for at least 70% of all operating costs. . . . That's the real driver in the site selection process."
Workers and city officials remain convinced that the culprit is sugar. They blame the closing on a combination of federal tariffs, trade quotas and loans that benefit U.S. sugar beet and sugar cane farmers by keeping the price of domestic bulk sugar at 21 cents a pound, compared to 6 cents on the international market. That makes a big difference to Life Savers, which uses 113 tons of sugar a day. Each Life Savers candy is 95% sugar.
Last year, Brachs candy cited high domestic sugar prices in announcing that it would close its 77-year-old west Chicago plant and move 1,100 jobs overseas, one of several candy-makers to do so. Kraft isn't saying how much it will save on the crucial ingredient. State and local officials estimate it will be $6 million a year.
Sugar prices may not be the only factor in this decision, but one thing remains clear. American consumers are over paying for sugar. Since a person can only consume so much sugar in a year (the 2001 average was 64 lbs of sugar and 81 pounds of corn sweeteners), this represents a regressive redistribution of wealth. The poor consumers of the US, of which there are many, are directly subsidizing the US sugar industry, of which there are few. Do you know anyone who works in the sugar industry? Do you know anyone who does NOT consume sugar?
Another example are the steel industry protections that Bush enacted in the middle of his last term in order to score points in politically valuable Pennsylvania. The result? A huge loss of manufacturing jobs further down the value chain in states like Ohio, which became the swing state in the election. It turns out that there are far more workers in the industries that use steel than in the industry that makes it.
Here is the thing, as consumers, we are all downstream in the "value chain." Protectionism harms the economy as a whole in order to favor special interest groups with political muscle.
That doesn't sound very Republican to me.
Well this weeks Carnival of the Capitalists was a day late and i'm a day late linking to it. This week's host, Accidental Verbosity highlighted some recommended posts, and I liked his recommendations. And I don't just say that because my Apple video iPod post was one of them. Yes, thats right, after weeks of linking to the Carnival of I finally submitted one of my own posts. I had intended to submit Closing the Feedback Loop for last week, but I missed the deadline. Speaking of missed deadlines, here, without further delay, are my top picks from this week.
- A random walk through the world of buying small businesses covers some of the process around selling a small business. Found the list of characteristics of unserious buyers especially interesting.
- The wisdom fallacy makes a good point about management. Everyone thinks they can do it. This isn't true about math and computer programming (or professional basketball). What makes management different?
- Are dense cities economically inefficient? I love theory #2. Its the chicken and the egg argument.
I am continuously impressed by how well run the new Apple is. I find it entertaining to follow the Apple pre-announcement rumor mill, but I was a bit busy for Wednesday's video iPod announcement. The television part of the announcement caught me by surprise. Most of the speculation that I had seen regarding a video ipod centered around movies or music videos. If it had been just that, I would say "so what" or "who cares?" There are many avenues of distribution for movies and movie downloads doomed to be slow and time consuming. No story here. I didn't even tune in.
Television is different.
The market for television episodes today parallels the market for songs when Apple first entered it with iTunes Music Store. Buying television shows on DVD is increasingly popular. Fox canceled the show 'Firefly' after showing only 11 of 14 episodes. Strong DVD sales, over 500,000, enabled the show to brought back this fall in the form of the Serenity movie. However, buying these television DVDs requires purchasing a season. Much like CDs are sold in albums. Apple's innovation is to offer the sale by episode, just as they offered to sell music by song.
Is there a demand for this? You bet. Through a Tivo overbooking I missed Survivor this week. I would happily pay $2 to see it before next week. Would I buy a survivor DVD? Not a chance. Is everybody at work talking about a show last night that you missed? Two bucks lets you see what you missed. A PVR doesn't help you if you don't realize that you wanted to watch something until after it airs.
The key is the content producers. Will they opt in? I suspect they will. Why leave money on the table? Its also another way to compete with the commercial skipping capability of PVRs. Mark Cuban calls downloadable television the Savior of Network TV.
Along with the video iPods, Apple released a new remote control and some media center control software. There are some folks lamenting that Apple did not go all the way and offer the ability to record broadcast television. I think Apple is smart to stay out of the treacherous and mildly profitable PVR market. The cable and satellite companies are strong competitors. The combination Tuner/PVR boxes work better. Until the alternative technology is ready (cable card), Apple is better off leaving PVRs to others rather than releasing an inferior product.
The other problem with an Apple PVR lies in how cable boxes are sold. The cable/satellite companies subsidize the initial box purchase with a subscription contract. It would be hard for Apple to compete up front with a more expensive box. I'm not sure that all of the conditions will ever be right for an Apple PVR. If the time ever does come, It is worth keeping in mind that Apple wasn't first with an MP3 player. They need not enter a PVR market early to do well.
Apple is better off creating a new market without competition than entering an existing market with strong competition and no clear advantage.
Ok, without competition may be a bit strong. Microsoft touts their available content in last week's announcement for Update Rollup 2 for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005. (Someone needs to teach Microsoft how to name things.) Topping the list is Akimbo, an on-demand video subscription service. Apple has beat out the subscription model with pay per download in music. Can they do the same in video?
Following up on the well run company theme, Chuq Von Rospach, a long time Apple Employee summarizes a history of Apple CEOs.
This weeks Carnival of the Capitalists is out. The five things I want you to read from this edition are:
- Let's Tax These Bubble-Driven Windfall Profits talks about an oil bubble.
- Regulation Begets Regulation tackles gas price regulation as well. popular subject these days with the capitalists.
- Improving Access to Advanced Degrees suggests subsidizing education rather than tourism as the path to economic growth.
- Sexist swedes reveals how regulation intended to help women in the workplace has unintended consequences.
- How the Internet Helps Pricing Efficiencies talks the internet and the used book market.
Colleges have had ratings systems for years, but it was never clear from the student's perspective that these resulted in any kind of action. Sites like RateMyProfessors introduce transparency to the process. By basing enrollment decisions on this information students add real weight to their feedback. Now their feedback cannot be ignored.
Some professors, probably the bad ones, aren't happy about their new informed, empowered customers -- I mean students. They aren't the only ones. The WSJ reports on doctors resorting to lawsuits to remove negative reviews from the internet. It seems that in order to thrive in the age of internet transparency many professions will have to learn skills that they haven't traditionally needed, such as marketing and customer service.
Perhaps some academics will have to concentrate more on returning graded homework on time and less on their patent and publishing portfolios. Perhaps my doctor won't leave me cooling my heels in his waiting room quite so long. Can this be a bad thing?
This is also the two year anniversary of the Carnival.
Without further ado, my selection of the four things from this weeks carnival that I think you should read:
- Water: The Only Market the Government Screws Up Worse than Oil - When I was rafting in Colorado, I ran into some of these western water rights issues. I'm amazed at how screwed up this is. But, then I live in Michigan, a state blessed with an abundance of water. (and no, you can't have any.)
- Sarbanes-Oxley Sucks - This post makes me so glad that I don't work in corporate IT anymore.
- top 10 reasons Air America may find themselves entering bankruptcy - Air america is the organization that conservatives love to hate. This post takes the top ten reasons why companies find themselves entering bankruptcy and illustrates each point with a link to a news story about Air America.
- Structural Failures of a Mass Evacuation by Automobile - Some interesting ideas here.
The NASA administrator is admitting that The space shuttle was a mistake. Nice to find this out $150 billion and 14 lives later. Time to park this thing in the museum of bad 70's engineering right next to the ford pinto. (Housed in a building with dreadful 70s architecture, of course.)
The problem is that the shuttle was built by committee to serve multiple masters. Is it a passenger vehicle? Is it a cargo vehicle? Its both. The overwhelming concern with getting people into space is safety. The concern with getting stuff into space is cost. The shuttle was supposed to be safe and cheap. It turned out to be neither.
The design geniuses at Apple can tell you all about the success of convergence products.
This week's Carnival of the Capitalists is a day late but full of juicy link goodness. Here are the tastiest picks from the smorgasbord:
- Tom delay and Budget Fat makes a great point using the example of milk. The government pays money to increase the price of milk. The government pays money so that the poor can afford the more expensive milk. You pay money in taxes and higher milk prices to keep the whole circle going.
- And yet, Poverty in the United States isn't what it used to be.
- The politics of science tackles global warming. I have to wonder if human caused global warming isn't the Phrenology or Phlogiston of the twenty first century.
- Demolition Bonds details an interesting way to change the behavior of construction. Could this be a solution to urban sprawl, urban blight and McMansions?
Welcome to my new blog. Lively Debate is an extraction of the "non-professional" content from my blog, Professional PHP. From now on, technical discussions will be there. Everything else is here.
In the course of redirecting posts from the old blog to this one, I've had to review many of my posts over the last year and a half. Here are some of my favorites that can be found at Lively Debate:
- Climbing the corporate ladder in sweat pants and bare feet - Where do reporters find these "representative" people?
- Competing with Wal-Mart - My direct experiences with Wal-Mart coming to town.
- Fast Food Outsourcing - May I take your order?
- Bush wins despite campaign mistakes - A day after wrap up of the election.
- The connection between gay marriage and terrorism - Things over heard.
- Offshoring is good for America - Free trade from a tech perspective. The sky is not falling.
- Carnival of the Metronome - My top picks from the Carnival of the Capitalists acts like a metronome, forcing me to post on a regular basis.
Grab a feed and stay awhile. Regular posting resumes now.
My last treatment of Crime in Britian has proven surprisingly popular with google. That post dealt with the consequences of banning guns.
Its not uncommon to hear the slippery slope argument against banning guns. Whats next? Banning knives?
Well, today, I ran across this recommendation to ban kitchen knives in Britian to reduce stabbings. Yikes! Where does the slippery slope lead after this?
"Stay away from my girl, or I swear I'll fetch the comfy chair!"
I've been out of town for a while, so this weeks Carnival linkage is way late. This weeks selections from the Carnival of the Capitalists takes on the theme of wasteful government spending.
- Bush should sign the highway bill looks at the benefits of the US highway system and suggests that this years highway bill would pay for itself in increased commerce and efficiency. The problem is that the highway bill doesn't necessarily only apply to highways. Instead, this bill seems to contain severe pork. (See this analysis)
- Until reading this post, I had no idea that the court had declared these kinds of tax incentives unconstitutional. Good for the court. Bribing businesses to relocate is not only wasteful of public funds, but unfair to the businesses that don't participate.
- And finally, Corporate Welfare and climate change. Innovation, not regulation is required for any realistically sustainable environmental effort.
The best of this weeks Carnival of the Capitalists presented in a timely fashion this week: