Saturday, July 11, 2015

When You See the Problem as Capitalism Instead of Corruption You Seek to Solve the Wrong Problem.

Capitalism has huge benefits and some issues. I am frustrated that we are allowing anti-capitalist ideas to be called capitalist. Those ideas are predominately about allowing huge businesses to subvert markets and corrupt the political process. That is not capitalism, that is corporatism.

Corruption in our political system which then allows corruption of free markets as favors to those giving politicians cash is not "Capitalism." It is corruption.

Free trade is good. The secret TPP and other corporate-welfare/copywrong-cartel bill is not.

What we need to do as a society is stop the corruption. If we allow corrupt people buying politicians to undermine capitalism we all suffer. If we allow those corrupt people to claim what they are doing is capitalism, we all suffer.

Throwing out the best economic model because some corrupt people bring harm society through corruption and try to paint that as capitalism we lose. The problem is with the corruption. We can't accept the talking heads supporting the corporate welfare policies that are anti-capitalism from claiming anti-capitalist policies as capitalist or we will make very bad economic decisions.

Because when we let people that think capitalism is the problem, we start with a bad problem statement and won't find good solutions. We would find solutions based on misstating what the problem is.

A fundamental tenant of capitalism is free markets (based on the idea of perfect competition) in which no actor has the power to subvert the market. This was foreseen from the very beginning (in Wealth on Nations by Adam Smith) as an important criteria without which society would not benefit from capitalism as powerful interests would collude to prevent markets from functioning.

Calling some setup capitalist that fails to make sure markets are not subverted in exactly the way Adam Smith said they would be if powerful interests were allowed to is pointless. I suppose you still the ability for private parties to own the means of production (which is also an important tenant). But properly functioning markets are essential to what capitalism has meant since Adam Smith. While some people have tried to eliminate that so that they can do exactly what Adam Smith warned would destroy the benefits provided by capitalism that isn't something we should do.

If they want to defend a new model of behavior where those with the power to subvert markets can, that is their right. We shouldn't allow that to be seen as capitalism though. If we do then we see the problem as a problem with the fundamental principles of capitalism. When instead it is a problem of allowing the corruption of the political system to throw away the benefits our society can gain from capitalism.

"Unfettered capitalism" isn't actually captialism. From the very beginning Adam Smith talked about the dangers of allowing markets to be manipulated by powerful businessmen/companies and businesses colluding to manipulate the markets.

The problem is people talk about things as if capitalism is the problem, when in fact it is our failure to enforce capitalist free markets (for example). I am not talking about the talking-head "free markets" which are in fact allowing businesses to disrupt the market because they have the ability to get away with monopolistic pricing. That is the very anti-thesis of capitalist system.

Adam Smith in the Wealth of Nations:

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise the prices

Today, they often short circuit the need for this by having so subverted the political process that one company can subvert the market all by themselves. They have subverted the protection that should prevent monopolistic power (anti-trust enforcement, requiring competitive markets, etc.) so that they don't even need to conspire with competitors (or need to do so in very small ways because they already have collected what are suppose to be competitors in a capitalist system into on monolithic entity that only needs to conspire against the public all by itself).

There is some part of the benefits of capitalism that Adam Smith saw and many people believe today (like me) that by encouraging prosperity in the economy everyone can be made richer. And in such a manner more good can be created for those in need than directly giving aid to those in need. Now I understand similar words to that have been distorted to mean let the modern day robber barons plunder the economy to enrich themselves.

That isn't what Adam Smith or I have in mind. The end is a better society with benefits to everyone. The means is capitalism. Just because today many plundering the wealth of society are senior executives instead of nobility Adam Smith would not see their actions in any more noble a light (hmm. noble - oh well).

It damages our society to allow those who seek to extract economic rents and gains from preventing free markets from functioning to define what they do as capitalism. If we accept that view we seek to dismantle useful economic measures.

What we need to do is recognize when capitalism is being subverted by those in powerful positions for their own benefit. They damage society and if we think what they are doing is acceptable capitalism we will not seek the appropriate solutions within how capitalism is suppose to function to address them.

Essentially we need to the extent possible prevent market dominating forces from acting. So boring things like trust busting, dismantling too-big-to-fail banks, regulating natural monopolies, regulating pricing power when the market is not filled with many competitors...

There are some issues that are not about making sure capitalism works but just about how we want our society to work. To maximize the benefits to society we want free markets (actually competitive markets not the let companies be free to subvert markets that Fox News and others talk of as if that is somehow capitalist).

But capitalism doesn't have an answer for how much health care we want to provide everyone, how much education... Those are political decisions and Adam Smith and sensible capitalist understand the difference between social decision and the economic model. That is however another thing that the talking heads have convinced a whole lot of those in the USA differently. They have sold the notion that capitalism means ethics and morals don't apply. That isn't the case.

Adam Smith was a moral philosopher, he would not see as acceptable the crazy notions many people today espouse as capitalism. It wouldn't matter if these people were tarnishing the reputation of a useless idea. But instead they are tarnishing the name of an extremely important idea. And we all lose if they win in their attempts to conflate capitalism and with cronyism and market domination by businesses that have monopolistic pricing power.

Related: We Need to be More Capitalist and Less Cronyist - Anti-Market Policies from Our Talking Head and Political Class - Failing to understand capitalism - Economic Freedom - Ignorance about Capitalism

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Preparing for a More On-Demand Employment Market

Responses to questions on Do you know how to leverage your skills?:

> Do you agree that we are moving to an on-demand-economy?

Kind of. I think the percentage of that in the economy will increase. It has always been there, it is just growing now.

> Is entrepreneurship, consulting and freelancing taking over from full time employment?

Kind of, it is increasing. I don't think it will constitute more hours than full time employment (for the next 20 years - in the very long term it is hard to predict). One thing that had been a nearly catastrophic macro-economic problem (and an actually catastrophic problem for many people) with this in the USA is how closely health insurance was tied to employment. The minor reforms to the USA health care system (it is only a tiny bit of what is needed - USA has, and still, costs twice as much for health care as other rich countries with no better results, hundreds of thousands of bankruptcies...) make significant strides in 1 area: making health care a bit less directly tied to your employer (largely by getting rid of pre-existing condition barriers). The USA system is still far too tied to your employer but it isn't as catastrophically bad as it was before the minor reforms.

> Are you already working as a consultant or freelancing?

> Have you thought about what your skills are and how they can be applied to other areas? If so,
> have you found any new areas of interest?

Not really, I do what interests me and take a bit of effort to focus on making some money. Though I could focus a bunch more on making money. Much of what I spend my time on doesn't make much but as long as the balance of what I want to do and having money to do it are pretty well in line I am ok.

Related: Global Workplace - More Flexible Work Schedules (soon to be retirees) - The Aim Should be the Best Life – Not Work v. Life Balance - Interview with John Hunter on Meet the Blogger Series

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Challenging Conventional Thinking

Comments spurred by discussion on a closed discussion board (which is why I am talking about RA Fisher - since it is closed to the web I don't provide a link to the discussion).

RA Fisher was an outspoken person and not easy to get along with. Being difficult to get along with isn't uncommon for people that do great things - I suspect those that are willing to subsume their opinion to make those around them more comfortable are less likely to find incredible breakthroughs.

Of course you can free your mind from the constraints of conventional thinking while being very friendly and sociable and likeable, it just seems to me not uncommon for people willing to challenge intellectual orthodoxy are also willing to challenge the thinking that social niceties are of utmost importance. They would be more able to win over more people more quickly with behavior based on "you catch more bees honey..." but that seems less common.

Fisher also much has achieved a very large amount of long lasting notoriety for his contributions. It is possible he was insecure but and worried about losing it, but more often it seems those with a history of great ideas just find that believing strongly (maybe too strongly) in themselves is better than listening the the chorus of disagreement. When over and over throughout their career they find those disagreeing don't bring much merit to the argument and they were able to make breakthroughs by challenging the accepted wisdom it isn't amazing they often pay less attention to critics than others do.

Of course, just because you have some good (or great) ideas doesn't mean every single thing you say is wonderful (or even right).

For people with the capability to achieve great things the most useful breakthroughs in thinking require the right amount of listening to people that offer good ideas on what they are thinking about about and good criticisms of their proposals without being so taken with criticism that they abandon the confidence in their own new ways of thinking.

Most people are better off paying a whole lot of attention to conventional wisdom and criticism of their thinking. We all benefit if few people that have the insight and drive to come up with incredible leaps away from conventional thinking in powerful ways. Throughout history these people have also has some pretty wacky ideas and engaged in some pretty crazy social behavior. Didn't Newton (and many others) have some pretty good examples of this genius leading to incredible ideas and a willingness to consider ideas most sensible people would find idiotic?

Related: The Illusion of Knowledge - How We Know What We Know - New Management Truths Sometimes Started as Heresies - Children are Amazingly Creative At Solving Problems - Your Brain Can Jump to Incorrect Conclusions

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Experimentation and Evidence Based Decision Making is Missing in Washington DC

Comments on: Solution-Jumping in the 21st Century

I found in Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-first Century... a lack of a clear problem statement, a lack of thorough problem breakdown, no clear target, at best tenuous links between root cause analysis and proposed solutions, and a lack of consensus-building effort around the preferred countermeasure. To be fair, Piketty never intended this book to be a practical problem solving primer. The topic he is addressing, of building a more fair and stable society through greater wealth for a larger number of people, is vitally important for our future. It deserves the best minds and the best approaches to problem solving. However, I am grateful both for the information and ideas presented in the book and for its problem solving flaws, as these flaws serve as a teaching tool for lean learners on how not to do practical problem solving.

I agree with much of what Jon said. One of the big problems with our current government and leadership of our governments is the lack of policies based on evidence. Policies should be experimented with and effective ones expanded and ineffective ones changed or abandoned.

There is a possibility for more of that within essentially our current political and government system. But there are big limits without some serious changes in that system. My guess is they would not have to be legal, but they would have to be huge. Fundamentally politicians and the political parties would have to put the well being of the country ahead of their own pursuit of power and cash.

It is hard to see that as likely given the current parties. And we don't seem to have any desire to vote out those people and put in people that put the well being of the country first. There are lots of ways the system encourages that behavior, still honorable people could stand up to pressures to be corrupted (however relying on that honorable nature of leaders has not proven very effective in human history).

In order to start moving to a more evidence based decision making system fairly fundamental changes are required in who is given power within the system. The current system gives power to those who can gain and wield influence and power. Those who can effectively improve the well being of the country don't gain much say in the current system. Until that dynamic is changed I am skeptical practical improvement methods will gain much sway.

There is a huge amount of room for improvement that has nearly no political ideology behind it. Granted in the current system everything has the political ideology angle emphasized to the hilt. There may well be political disagreements about the methods used but doing things like

- educating our kids
- paving our roads
- we can get medical care that is safe and effective (drug are reliable, experts are knowledgeable, hospitals are operated safely...)
- policing our streets
- providing health care to veterans
- operating our national parks
- ensuring the food we eat is safe (from things like e-coli)
- etc.

are things 90+% of the population agree we should do well. If we could use evidence based methods to have our government help be sure our society was having our needs met we would be better off. The political decisions about methods are going to get messy in some contentious areas. But we would be much better off if primarily we operated to produce the best results and only allowed politics to take the primary focus when it was really a contentious debate. Now we default to crony capitalism style political maneuvering and only rarely let evidence based methods seek to provide the best results for us.

Related: The estate tax is the tax most aligned with capitalism - The Aim of Modern Day Political Parties is To Scare Donors Into Giving Cash - USA Congress Further Aids Those Giving Them Cash – Risks Economic Calamity Again - "Bring Me Solutions Not Problems (“Having no problems is the biggest problem of all.” – Taiichi Ohno)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Ants and Traffic Jams

I have read numerous items discussing how ants avoid traffic jams. I don't recall those items discussing the fact that ants run into each other in head on collisions all the time. That the system ("vehicles", drivers, roads) seemingly suffer no ill effects (other than having to slow down to a stop each time this happens) from these "accidents" isn't something I hear people talking about in how we should adapt to learn from the ants successful methods.

Russell Ackoff actually touched on this a bit with designing the entire system so all vehicles had bumpers at exactly the same height. But this is far from completely crash-tollerant design.

There are tiny ants all over SE Asia that run amazingly fast. I can see why this is a big advantage. They cover lots of ground. When they find some yummy thing they get back home and tons of buddies follow them to the reward. It is amazing how fast they ram into each other.

These ants are pretty amazing example of evolution. But you also can see how a pretty simple tweak of trying to lay out "lanes" for travel could help. The ones I watch don't seem to use lanes at all, so they are constantly bashing into ants going the other direction. Which they seem to cope with perfectly fine, but it has to slow them down and waste energy.

Evolution is amazing but it does often also end up with designs that have bits you could intelligently tweak to seemingly great advantage.

Related: Why Don’t All Ant Species Replace Queens in the Colony, Since Some Do - Traffic Congestion and a Non-Solution - Symbiotic relationship between ants and bacteria - Amazonian Ant Species is All Female, Reproduces By Cloning

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Moz Page Authority and MozRank History for Some of My Web Sites (May 2015)

MozRank has stepped into the gap created by Google no longer publishing meaningful pageranks.

MozRank compares to Google's pagerank (a measure of the pages linking to the page, with greater value given to links from high ranking pages). Moz Page Authority is meant to more closely measure the importance of links by considering not just the number but also the quality of the links. This is oversimplified but essentially can be seen as if a page had a high number of links (even from other pages with high numbers of links to them) but those links were not deemed to be high quality the Moz Page Authority would be lower. So things like having links from trusted authority sites would pass on that trusted authority (a bit) to the linked site. And things that are seen as lower quality (could be lots of different things: poor links from that page, text that seems spammy or not of high quality, lots of pages without much content, slow loading site or things like Moz detailed in the Spam Flag Score, etc.) would harm the Moz Page Authority number.

Therefore, I would give priority to the Moz Page Authority number as more valuable. Note while Moz reports page authority as 0 to 100 I divide that number by 10 just to compare it to all the others which are between 0 and 10.

SiteMay 2015Aug 2014 (MozRank)Dec 2013
Feb 2013Oct 2011 Dec 2010
MozPA > 5
The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog6.4 (5.6)5.2 (6.0)5.5 [5]5.2 [4]--
John Hunter5.9 (5.2)4.8 (6.1)5.0 [5]5.3 [5]5.4 [4][4]
Curious Cat Management Blog5.8 (5.3)5.9 (6.0)6.1 [5]6.3 [5] 5.5 [5] [4]
Curious Cat Engineering and Science Blog5.7 (5.1)5.5 (6.0)5.8 [5]6.1 55.3 [6]4
Curious Cat Investing and Economics Blog5.5 (5.2)5.5 (6.1)4 [5.7]5.9 [4]5.3 [4][3]
@CuriousCat_com5.3 (3.5)5.8 (4.6)
Living in Malaysia5.0 (5.0)3.9 (5.8)4.0 [4]4.2 [4]4.1 [3]
MozPA > 4
My Kiva page4.9 (4.0)5.6 (4.7)5.8 [-]6.2 [-]4.0 [-][3]
Curious Cat Travel Photo Blog4.9 (5.0)5.0 (5.9)4 [5.0]4 [5.1]3 [4.9]-
Living in Singapore4.8 (5.0)4.0 (5.7)4 [4.1]4 [4.3]3 [4.0]
CSS 4 Free4.7 (5.4)4.4 (5.4)4.7 [5]4.9 [4]5.4 [4][4]
Curiouscat.com4.7 (5.2)5.0 (6.0)**5.4 [4]5.6 [4][3]
Curious Cat Code (programming)4.7 (5.0)3.8 (5.5)4.1 [4]4.3 [4]4.2 [4]--
Curious Cat Gadgets4.7 (4.9)3.9 (5.5)4.1 [4]4 [4.3]
Six Sigma Management Resources*4.5 (5.0)4.7 (5.6)4.9 [**]5.0 [4][4]
Architecture and home design inspiration4.4 (4.9)3.9 (5.5)4.0 [3]4.2 [4]--
Curious Cat Management Improvement Connections*4.4 (4.8)4.6 (5.6)3.3 [**]5.4 [4]5.5 [5][4]
Multi Site PageRank Checker4.0 (4.9)4.1 (4.9)4.1 [4]4.1 [3]4.7 [3][2]

SiteMay 2015 (MozRank)Aug 2014 (MozRank)Dec 2013
Feb 2013Oct 2011 Dec 2010
MozPA > 3.5
Investment Dictionary*3.9 (5.0)4.6 (5.9)4.8 [**]5.0 [4]5.2 [4]
Economic Strength Through Technology Leadership3.9 (4.8)4.1 [5.8]4.2 [-]4.5 [-]4.7 [4][4]
Curious Cat Management Comments3.9 (4.8)4.1 (5.0)3.9 [3]4.3 [4]4.5 [3]
The Future is Engineering*3.9 (4.3)4.3 (5.7)4.3 [4]4.6 [4]
Management Articles*3.8 (5.0)4.1 (5.5)3.9 [3]4.3 [4]
Good Process Improvement Practices*3.8 (4.8)4.2 (5.2)4.0 [3]4.1 [3]4.1 [3]
Management Matters (my book)*3.8 (4.7)3.5 (4.6)3.8 (5.4)3.8 [4]3.5 [4]---
Life and Legacy of William Hunter3.7 (4.9)3.7 (5.5)4.0 [4]4.1 [4]4.5 [4][4]
Curious Cat Travel Blog3.7 (4.9)New
Curious Cat Comments (this blog)3.7 (4.8)3.8 (5.1)3.9 [3]4.0 [3]3.8 [-][3]
Management and Leadership Quotes3.6 (4.8)3.6 (5.7)3.7 [4]4.0 [4]5.2 [2][2]
Freelance Lifestyle, Finance and Entrepreneurship Blog3.6 (4.3)new
Statistics for Experimenters3.5 (5.0)3.7 (5.7)3.9 [4]3.9 [4]4.5 [3][3]
Management Dictionary*3.5 (4.6)4.0 (5.4)2.6 [**]5.2 [5]5.4 [5][4]
MozPA > 3
Curious Cat Travel Destinations3.3 (4.9)3.4 (5.7)3.4 [3]3.2 [3]-
Justin Hunter (my brother)3.3 (4.9)3.3 (4.8)3.4 [-]3.4 [-]2.9 [2][2]
CuriousCat Wordpress3.3 (3.9)3.4 (3.8)3.5 [1]3.6 [-][-]
The Engineer That Made Your Cat a Photographer*3.1 (4.3)3.9 (5.7)4.1 [3]4.4 [4]4.7 [4][4]
Improving Your Search Engine Ranking Blog3.1 (4.1)New
MozPA < 3
Management Improvement Resources2.9 (4.8)3.0 (4.7)3.1 [3]3.4 [3]3.8 [3][3]

Curious Cat Travel Photos2.9 (4.0)New
Curious Cat Web Directory2.7 (4.2)3.1 (5.0)3.3 [2]3.6 [4]4.7 [4][3]
Deming's Management Method*2.5 (3.7)4.7 (5.3)4.9 [**]5.0 [3]4.5 [4][4]
Curious Cat Travel Destinations: Marina Bay Sands (Singapore)2.5 (4.1)2.9 (5.3)2.9 [2]3.0 [2]--
Johor Bahru Real Estate2.9 (4.2)2.8 (5.3)3.0 [2]3.2 [2]-
Hexawise.tv2.4 (4.9)2.8 (4.9)2.8 [2]2.9 [2]-
Public Sector Continuous Improvement Site*2.3 (3.6)4.8 (5.4)5.0 [**]5.1 [4]5.0 [5][4]
Curious Cat Travel Destinations: Australia11 (?.)1.5 (4.9)1.3 [-]1.8 [-][-]
Curious Cat Travel Destinations: France1.4 (3.6)1.4 (5.1)1.3 [-]1.9 [-][-]

* internal pages
** new url or old url forwarded (so Google losses track of the page rank for awhile)
- didn't exist yet or google didn't rank it for some reason
[blank] I don't know what the pagerank was, sometimes the site didn't exist yet.

Moz Page Authority is the measure that is equivalent to Google PageRank. So in the chart below the MozRank is shown inside ( ) for Aug 2014. [] indicate Google PageRank measures. Those without parenthesis are Moz Page Authority divided by 10 (because SEO Moz also decided to scale MozPA up to 100 while Google PageRank tops out at 10 and I already been listing the data listed in the 10 scale the last few years).

Related: Moz Page Authority for Various Sites (August 2014) - Historic PageRank and MozPageAuthority for Various Sites (December 2013) - Using Twitter Data to Improve Search Results

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Letting People Know You Appreciate Them

Thoughts on: Some Things Are Better Off Left Unsaid Or Unwritten

I think there are many things that we are all better off went unsaid. But there are times that people are too reluctant to speak.

I wrote about what happened after my father died on one of my blogs: I was constantly being told how thankful people were for how he treated them and what he did for them. This didn't happen for 1 or 2 months or even 1 or 2 years it went on for a long time.

It is true he was special but I also think many of those people didn't speak up directly to him (though some certainly did). We often are reluctant to directly tell people how thankfully we are for what they did. We would all benefit from people sharing those thoughts more readily.

Related: Acting Considerately - Helping Employees Improve - Appeasing Rude Selfish People Just Makes them Behave Even More Selfishly - Practicing Respect for People Requires Understanding Psychology