This week’s links: 17/11/19

Book notes on Alfred P. Sloan’s My Years with General Motors

As a company increases its productivity (either by more efficient processes, better technology, or other experience curve effects), how should the gains be distributed? I.e., if General Motors can produce a car for $35,000 one year and $30,000 five years later, but keeps the retail price constant over time, where should that $5,000 of profit flow? Perhaps to the consumer (lowering retail price), to the labor (increase wages), to other capital projects (re-invest in the business), to shareholders (buy back shares or issue a dividend)?

The Prescription Escalator

As the title reads, rising spend on prescriptions is driven by the number of prescriptions used as people grow older; not by the changes in prices.

Martin Scorsese on the Marvel Universe

“I don’t think they’re cinema… And if you’re going to tell me that [film-making is] simply a matter of supply and demand and giving the people what they want, I’m going to disagree. It’s a chicken-and-egg issue. If people are given only one kind of thing and endlessly sold only one kind of thing, of course they’re going to want more of that one kind of thing… But the most ominous change has happened stealthily and under cover of night: the gradual but steady elimination of risk. Many films today are perfect products manufactured for immediate consumption. Many of them are well made by teams of talented individuals. All the same, they lack something essential to cinema: the unifying vision of an individual artist. Because, of course, the individual artist is the riskiest factor of all… There’s worldwide audiovisual entertainment, and there’s cinema. They still overlap from time to time, but that’s becoming increasingly rare. And I fear that the financial dominance of one is being used to marginalize and even belittle the existence of the other.”

The Global Fertility Crash – Bloomberg

“Population growth is vital for the world economy. It means more workers to build homes and produce goods, more consumers to buy things and spark innovation, and more citizens to pay taxes and attract trade.” So why are birth rates falling across so many countries?

The Complacent Class by Tyler Cowen:

  • There’s a shift in advanced economies, societies from creation to optimization. “Rebellion into a vacuum:
  • Lost faith in the system, but without a strong ideology and a strong belief in the future, the vacuum can be filled by other, worse ideas.”

Interviews with HBS alumni entrepreneurs:

Includes Tom Murphy of ABC/Cap Cities, Dan Lufkin of DLJ, and other entrepreneurs behind Intuit, Bain & Company, and other VC/Finance firms

Peter Thiel’s Wistron Lecture

An interesting take on the ultimate power dynamics shaking out between US/China, as predicted by Lee Kuan Yew decades ago as the Prime Minister of Singapore.

The four vectors of globalization: movement of free goods (free trade), movement of people (migration/immigration), movement of capital (banking/finance), movement of ideas (the internet). Thiel posits that the US has maintained a stronghold on the movement of capital and ideas, but has retreated from its global leadership on free trade and immigration. Even then, sentiment towards finance and tech has waned. On the other hand, the largest container shipping ports are in China; the largest US port is in LA and is 11th largest in the world. Shenzhen and comparable cities have demonstrated immense migration of people, unseen on any similar scale in the US. Thiel concludes that the migration of goods and people, therefore, is not where the US should be competing.

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