As part of my Neither right nor left mantra, another datum. Most people use “right” and “left” journalistically: to designate shifting bundles of social-political beliefs and attitudes. The bundles are usually not internally coherent. So more analytic thinkers try to bring order out of mush by identifying multiple dimensions of contrast: individual versus collective, liberty versus authority, majority- versus minority-rule, etc. They abandon the simple one-dimensional left-right spectrum and use Venn Diagrams and other arrays better to capture the realities. And/or they add adjectives to clarify the genus-species relations. For example, conservatives on the right become traditional conservatives, neo-conservatives, religious conservatives, and so on. And now we have Trump conservatives. Here’s an important quotation from this helpful article by Matthew Continetti on what the “Trump right” is: Beginning in 2016, intellectuals who favored Trump have been searching for a new touchstone for conservative thought and politics. These writers are often...
Google is once again in the US government’s antitrust cross hairs. In 2012, it was investigated by the Federal Trade Commission; now, a Department of Justice inquiry is expected, and a House investigation has been announced. The company has attracted hostility from the left (progressive presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren wants to break it up) and the right (President Donald Trump has accused it of bias). Yet users who choose Google every day should ask: Which would they be better off without—Google or antitrust? Other companies that shape our online world are being targeted too, and the precise contours of...
If you’ve read  Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, or ANTHEM: The Graphic Novel, you’ve  been shaped in some way by Ayn Rand’s captivating words. Even people who’ve never read her seem to be affected by her. In today’s culture, where people are always looking for a scapegoat,  Gen-Zers and Millennials, commonly (and mistakenly) associate Rand with greed, intolerance, and just plain meanness. I fear this baseless connection is turning youth off to Ayn Rand even before they pick up her novels. This past weekend I caught up with Jennifer Grossman at her 30th College Reunion at Harvard. Sitting in an old elegant lecture hall, a mixed group of alumni, one curious high school student, myself, and my coworker along for the ride, all decided to spend two hours of our sunny Saturday inside, pondering Ayn Rand. I couldn’t help but notice that much of the conversation centered around a simple question, “What would Ayn Rand think about________?” Attendees filled in the blank with topics about the current political climate, including the recent tax legislation. While a bit agitated that much of the conversation revolved...
To set up the climax of her 1943 novel, The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand had her protagonist, the genius architect Howard Roark, make a deal with Peter Keating to design Cortlandt Homes, a planned government housing project making headlines. Keating, who was a mediocre architect at best, wanted to win the prestigious commission, and he asked Roark to ghost a winning design. Roark agreed to the request under one very specific condition: that the housing project be built exactly as Roark designed it. Roark explained to Keating the terms of the deal this way: Peter, I love this work. I want to see it erected. I want to make it real, living, functioning, built. But every living thing is integrated. Do you know what that means? Whole, pure, complete, unbroken. Do you know what constitutes an integrating principle? A thought. The one thought, the single thought that created the thing and every part of it. The thought which no one can change or touch. I want to design Cortlandt. I want to see it built. I want to see it built exactly as I design it. Roark drafted a contract, which both men signed. Both men understood that the contract was not legally binding, but Roark made clear that he would not suffer the contract to be breached. Roark would design Cortlandt Homes, and Keating would take credit for the design, on the condition that the housing project be built exactly as designed. If Keating should renege, if he should alter or allow to be...
“Firing people was easily the worst part of the job.” Those are the words of a great friend of mine who for decades ran a very successful financial corporation. The sleepless nights that preceded gently telling people they weren’t measuring up were agony for him. The popular notion of indifferent-to-employee CEOs is so very divorced from reality. I’ve never met one who enjoyed being the bearer of bad news to workers who, in many instances, had dependents. The popular notion of indifferent-to-employee CEOs is so very divorced from reality. My friend ultimately devised a fix so that he could avoid what was so disagreeable. He designed a production-based compensation structure so that the employees could succeed or fail on their own. So quantitative was it that some of the highest paid employees worked the fewest hours, and vice versa. No sucking up to the boss, no necessary “face time” in the office, just production tied to compensation. And if they didn’t produce they would know this without being told. It would show up in pay. Basically, they would “fire themselves.” A "Sweatshop" That Fosters "Suffering"? Hall of Fame football coach Bill Parcells once said, “You are what your record says you are,” and this CEO essentially applied Parcells’s maxim to the workplace. He was able to sleep easier as employees self-selected out of his company as opposed to him having to tell them to leave. His employees were happy and so was he. All this came to mind while reading Matthew...

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