April 7, 2014
Greed Is Good: A 300-Year History of a Dangerous Idea

Among MBA students, few words provoke greater consternation than “greed.” Wonder aloud in a classroom whether some practice might fairly be described as greedy, and students don’t know whether to stick up for the Invisible Hand or seek absolution. Most, by turns, do a little of both.
Such reactions shouldn’t be surprising. Greed has always been the hobgoblin of capitalism, the mischief it makes a canker on the faith of capitalists. These students’ troubled consciences are not the result of doubts about the efficacy of free markets, but of the centuries of moral reform that was required to make those markets as free as they are.
We sometimes forget that the pursuit of commercial self-interest was largely reviled until just a few centuries ago. “A man who is a merchant can seldom if ever please God,” St. Jerome said, expressing the prevailing belief in Christendom about the relative worthiness of a life devoted to trade. The choice to enter business didn’t necessarily deprive one of salvation, but it certainly hazarded his soul. “If thou wilt needs damn thyself, do it a more delicate way then drowning,” Iago tells a lovesick Rodrigo. “Make all the money thou canst.”
The problem of money-making was not only that it favored earthly delights over divine obligations. It also enflamed the tendency to prefer our own needs over those of the people around us and, more worrisome still, to recklessly trade their best interests for our own base satisfaction. St. Thomas Aquinas, who ranked greed among the seven deadly sins, warned that trade which aimed at no other purpose than expanding one’s wealth was “justly reprehensible” for “it serves the desire for profit which knows no limit.”
Read more. [Image: Library of Congress]

Greed Is Good: A 300-Year History of a Dangerous Idea

Among MBA students, few words provoke greater consternation than “greed.” Wonder aloud in a classroom whether some practice might fairly be described as greedy, and students don’t know whether to stick up for the Invisible Hand or seek absolution. Most, by turns, do a little of both.

Such reactions shouldn’t be surprising. Greed has always been the hobgoblin of capitalism, the mischief it makes a canker on the faith of capitalists. These students’ troubled consciences are not the result of doubts about the efficacy of free markets, but of the centuries of moral reform that was required to make those markets as free as they are.

We sometimes forget that the pursuit of commercial self-interest was largely reviled until just a few centuries ago. “A man who is a merchant can seldom if ever please God,” St. Jerome said, expressing the prevailing belief in Christendom about the relative worthiness of a life devoted to trade. The choice to enter business didn’t necessarily deprive one of salvation, but it certainly hazarded his soul. “If thou wilt needs damn thyself, do it a more delicate way then drowning,” Iago tells a lovesick Rodrigo. “Make all the money thou canst.”

The problem of money-making was not only that it favored earthly delights over divine obligations. It also enflamed the tendency to prefer our own needs over those of the people around us and, more worrisome still, to recklessly trade their best interests for our own base satisfaction. St. Thomas Aquinas, who ranked greed among the seven deadly sins, warned that trade which aimed at no other purpose than expanding one’s wealth was “justly reprehensible” for “it serves the desire for profit which knows no limit.”

Read more. [Image: Library of Congress]

April 7, 2014
The Great Living-Room War: Live TV vs. ‘App TV’

This is the Golden Age of Television—not only as the blooming of lush and addictive entertainment, but also as an arms race for the best living-room technology.
Just days after Amazon announced its new Fire TV box, the Verge snagged exclusive images of Google’s new Android TV product. Both services let couch-potatoes pull up apps like Netflix, Hulu Plus, or Amazon Prime Video on their TV screens, basically turning the idiot box into a big, smart iPad. Weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal announced that Apple, which has sold about 25 million Apple TV “hockey pucks,” is talking to Comcast about building a new streaming-TV service.
Fire TV, Android TV, and Apple TV all have the word TV in them, so you might easily confuse them for old-fashioned TV. But they’re not old-fashioned TV, at all. 
Read more. [Image: Reuters]

The Great Living-Room War: Live TV vs. ‘App TV’

This is the Golden Age of Television—not only as the blooming of lush and addictive entertainment, but also as an arms race for the best living-room technology.

Just days after Amazon announced its new Fire TV box, the Verge snagged exclusive images of Google’s new Android TV product. Both services let couch-potatoes pull up apps like Netflix, Hulu Plus, or Amazon Prime Video on their TV screens, basically turning the idiot box into a big, smart iPad. Weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal announced that Apple, which has sold about 25 million Apple TV “hockey pucks,” is talking to Comcast about building a new streaming-TV service.

Fire TV, Android TV, and Apple TV all have the word TV in them, so you might easily confuse them for old-fashioned TV. But they’re not old-fashioned TV, at all.

Read more. [Image: Reuters]

April 4, 2014
Google Is Trying to Trademark the Word ‘Glass’—and It’s in Good Company

Apple has tried to trademark “startup.” Facebook has tried to trademark “book.” 
Read more. [Image: Google]

Google Is Trying to Trademark the Word ‘Glass’—and It’s in Good Company

Apple has tried to trademark “startup.” Facebook has tried to trademark “book.” 

Read more. [Image: Google]

March 19, 2014
How ‘Male’ Jobs Hurt Female Paychecks

Why do women still earn less than men? No seriously, why? The gender wage gap has been a problem ever since I Love Lucy was a primetime hit, and we still don’t have a complete explanation.
"Because sexist bosses," is the knee-jerk explanation, but it’s actually far more complicated than that.
New research out this week from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a feminist think-tank, reveals some surprising, and dismaying, trends that perpetuate this disparity.
Women who worked full time in 2013 made 82.1 percent as much as their male counterparts, an increase of about one percent from last year, the IWPR reported.
That’s a major improvement from a few decades ago. In 1980, for example, women made just 63.9 percent what men did—$565 a week (in 2013 dollars) to men’s $885. The gender wage gap shrank rapidly from there because women started to earn more and more each year. Last year, women made $706 a week on average.
Men’s earnings, meanwhile, “fell, rose, fell, and rose again,” the organization writes, and ultimately stagnated. Last year they made $860—less than they earned in 1980. That is to say, the gender wage gap persists not because men keep earning more, but because women’s wages aren’t rising fast enough.
Read more. [Image: Christian Lutz/AP]

How ‘Male’ Jobs Hurt Female Paychecks

Why do women still earn less than men? No seriously, why? The gender wage gap has been a problem ever since I Love Lucy was a primetime hit, and we still don’t have a complete explanation.

"Because sexist bosses," is the knee-jerk explanation, but it’s actually far more complicated than that.

New research out this week from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a feminist think-tank, reveals some surprising, and dismaying, trends that perpetuate this disparity.

Women who worked full time in 2013 made 82.1 percent as much as their male counterparts, an increase of about one percent from last year, the IWPR reported.

That’s a major improvement from a few decades ago. In 1980, for example, women made just 63.9 percent what men did—$565 a week (in 2013 dollars) to men’s $885. The gender wage gap shrank rapidly from there because women started to earn more and more each year. Last year, women made $706 a week on average.

Men’s earnings, meanwhile, “fell, rose, fell, and rose again,” the organization writes, and ultimately stagnated. Last year they made $860—less than they earned in 1980. That is to say, the gender wage gap persists not because men keep earning more, but because women’s wages aren’t rising fast enough.

Read more. [Image: Christian Lutz/AP]

March 18, 2014
Doing Business With a Company That Took Jews to Their Deaths

It’s the image of the train. Holocaust museums and memorials are filled with pictures of cattle cars and passenger cars, packed with hundreds of human bodies, a single, meager waste bucket in the corner. It’s impossible to separate the memory of Auschwitz and Dachau and Bergen-Belsen from the image of trains, carrying millions of people across the borders of Europe to the camps where they would die. 
This is probably part of the reason why, 70 years after the Holocaust, survivors and their family members are still fighting for reparations from SNCF, a French train company that worked with the Nazis to transport Jews from southern France to the border of German-occupied territory, en route to death camps.
The battle is now playing out in a rather unlikely arena: the Maryland General Assembly. Keolis, a company that’s mostly owned by SNCF, was recently invited to bid on a public contract to build a new metro line, the Purple Line, in the Washington, D.C., area. But legislators and lawyers say that the company needs to pay reparations for its conduct during the Holocaust if it’s going to compete for a contract funded by tax dollars, particularly because a number of survivors and their family members live in the parts of Maryland where the line is being built. A bill being debated in the Maryland state house would require all companies that bid on public contracts in the state to report whether they were involved with Holocaust deportations; if they have not made reparations, they would be disqualified from bidding.
Read more. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]

Doing Business With a Company That Took Jews to Their Deaths

It’s the image of the train. Holocaust museums and memorials are filled with pictures of cattle cars and passenger cars, packed with hundreds of human bodies, a single, meager waste bucket in the corner. It’s impossible to separate the memory of Auschwitz and Dachau and Bergen-Belsen from the image of trains, carrying millions of people across the borders of Europe to the camps where they would die. 

This is probably part of the reason why, 70 years after the Holocaust, survivors and their family members are still fighting for reparations from SNCF, a French train company that worked with the Nazis to transport Jews from southern France to the border of German-occupied territory, en route to death camps.

The battle is now playing out in a rather unlikely arena: the Maryland General Assembly. Keolis, a company that’s mostly owned by SNCF, was recently invited to bid on a public contract to build a new metro line, the Purple Line, in the Washington, D.C., area. But legislators and lawyers say that the company needs to pay reparations for its conduct during the Holocaust if it’s going to compete for a contract funded by tax dollars, particularly because a number of survivors and their family members live in the parts of Maryland where the line is being built. A bill being debated in the Maryland state house would require all companies that bid on public contracts in the state to report whether they were involved with Holocaust deportations; if they have not made reparations, they would be disqualified from bidding.

Read more. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]

March 7, 2014
Dirty Money: From Rockefeller to Koch

Catholic University’s decision to accept $1 million from the Charles Koch Foundation to support the study of “principled entrepreneurship” is like a modern-day reenactment of 1905’s “tainted money affair.”
Read more. [Image: Library of Congress]

Dirty Money: From Rockefeller to Koch

Catholic University’s decision to accept $1 million from the Charles Koch Foundation to support the study of “principled entrepreneurship” is like a modern-day reenactment of 1905’s “tainted money affair.”

Read more. [Image: Library of Congress]

March 7, 2014
The Leading Countries for Leaning In

How women around the world are faring on wages, executive slots, and STEM careers.
Read more. [Image: Bazuki Muhammad/Reuters]

The Leading Countries for Leaning In

How women around the world are faring on wages, executive slots, and STEM careers.

Read more. [Image: Bazuki Muhammad/Reuters]

March 5, 2014
Redlining for the 21st Century

Using personal information gathered about you on the Internet to provide you with better choice is very different from using the same information to control your behavior. The former is a service to the consumer. The latter is exploitation. I call the use of big data to exploit consumers “personal redlining.”
The term “redlining,” which first emerged in the 1950s, referred to the practice of denying service or charging more for products to particular groups based on race, sex, or where they lived. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 made redlining based on race, religion, sex, and the like illegal in mortgage lending.
Personal redlining is not about using big data in clever ways to influence choice as has been discussed in a recent Atlantic article by Rebecca J. Rosen. It is about using big data to dictate choice. When companies engage in personal redlining they use big data to learn everything possible about you as an individual and then decide what information, products, and services you should have—and at what price. It is about limiting options and pressuring customers to select one of those options. 
Read more. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]

Redlining for the 21st Century

Using personal information gathered about you on the Internet to provide you with better choice is very different from using the same information to control your behavior. The former is a service to the consumer. The latter is exploitation. I call the use of big data to exploit consumers “personal redlining.”

The term “redlining,” which first emerged in the 1950s, referred to the practice of denying service or charging more for products to particular groups based on race, sex, or where they lived. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 made redlining based on race, religion, sex, and the like illegal in mortgage lending.

Personal redlining is not about using big data in clever ways to influence choice as has been discussed in a recent Atlantic article by Rebecca J. Rosen. It is about using big data to dictate choice. When companies engage in personal redlining they use big data to learn everything possible about you as an individual and then decide what information, products, and services you should have—and at what price. It is about limiting options and pressuring customers to select one of those options.

Read more. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]

March 4, 2014
RadioShack Is Doomed (and So Is Retail)

As ingeniously self-deprecating as RadioShack’s Super Bowl commercial was, its finances are sadly even more proficient at making a mockery of the company. Shares fell by a delirious 24 percent after holiday sales came in way under its (already managed) expectations. Today the company announced that it will be closing 1,100 stores, leaving it with 4,000 brick-and-mortar locations in the U.S.

(Aside: How in the world are there still 5,000 RadioShacks? That’s three times more than Chipotle.)

RadioShack’s long slide coincides the steep ascendance of Amazon as America’s great brick-and-mortar destroyer. In 2003, Amazon and RadioShack each had about $5 billion in sales, as WSJ business editor Dennis Berman pointed out. Last year, Amazon had $75 billion to RadioShack’s $3.5 billion.

Some further comparison is illuminating: At the end of 2013, RadioShack had 5,000 brick-and-mortar stores with 27,500 employees and $3.5 billion in sales, which is $127,000 in sales per employee. Its website is the 1,066th most popular in the world. At the end of 2013, Amazon had zero brick-and-mortar stores with 117,300 employees (full- and part-time) and $75 billion in sales, which is $640,000 in sales per employee. Its website is the 5th most popular in the world. 
What are people still buying at RadioShack? 
Read more. [Image: Reuters]

RadioShack Is Doomed (and So Is Retail)

As ingeniously self-deprecating as RadioShack’s Super Bowl commercial was, its finances are sadly even more proficient at making a mockery of the company. Shares fell by a delirious 24 percent after holiday sales came in way under its (already managed) expectations. Today the company announced that it will be closing 1,100 stores, leaving it with 4,000 brick-and-mortar locations in the U.S.

(Aside: How in the world are there still 5,000 RadioShacks? That’s three times more than Chipotle.)

RadioShack’s long slide coincides the steep ascendance of Amazon as America’s great brick-and-mortar destroyer. In 2003, Amazon and RadioShack each had about $5 billion in sales, as WSJ business editor Dennis Berman pointed out. Last year, Amazon had $75 billion to RadioShack’s $3.5 billion.

Some further comparison is illuminating: At the end of 2013, RadioShack had 5,000 brick-and-mortar stores with 27,500 employees and $3.5 billion in sales, which is $127,000 in sales per employee. Its website is the 1,066th most popular in the world. At the end of 2013, Amazon had zero brick-and-mortar stores with 117,300 employees (full- and part-time) and $75 billion in sales, which is $640,000 in sales per employee. Its website is the 5th most popular in the world. 

What are people still buying at RadioShack?

Read more. [Image: Reuters]

1:55pm
  
Filed under: Business RadioShack Retail 
March 4, 2014
Soon, Our Robot Baristas Will Only Brew Certain Brands

We American coffee-drinkers have known the Era of Starbucks and the Epoch of Sanka.  It seems, however, we currently live in the Age of the K-Cup.
And we’re about to discover everything that means.
Over the past half-decade, single-serve, instant-brew coffee pods—called K-Cups—have taken over more than a quarter of the U.S. ground coffee business. Last summer, the Wall Street Journal judged the K-Cup’s rise “unstoppable” and reported that product category was worth over $150 million. 
K-Cups and Keurig (the best-known brand used to brew them) are both manufactured by Green Mountain Coffee. That company—worth some $16 billion itself—owned the patents for its chalices of disruption, but they expired in 2012, and since then it’s had a problem.
It’s historically operated on a razor blade model: Its Keurig business makes real money not by selling machine brewers but by selling K-Cups. Now cheaper competitors have moved in. They sell inexpensive one-off cups and reusable, extensible cups—threatening the company’s business on both sides.
Read more. [Image:  Randy Read / Flickr]

Soon, Our Robot Baristas Will Only Brew Certain Brands

We American coffee-drinkers have known the Era of Starbucks and the Epoch of Sanka.  It seems, however, we currently live in the Age of the K-Cup.

And we’re about to discover everything that means.

Over the past half-decade, single-serve, instant-brew coffee pods—called K-Cups—have taken over more than a quarter of the U.S. ground coffee business. Last summer, the Wall Street Journal judged the K-Cup’s rise “unstoppable” and reported that product category was worth over $150 million. 

K-Cups and Keurig (the best-known brand used to brew them) are both manufactured by Green Mountain Coffee. That company—worth some $16 billion itself—owned the patents for its chalices of disruption, but they expired in 2012, and since then it’s had a problem.

It’s historically operated on a razor blade model: Its Keurig business makes real money not by selling machine brewers but by selling K-Cups. Now cheaper competitors have moved in. They sell inexpensive one-off cups and reusable, extensible cups—threatening the company’s business on both sides.

Read more. [Image: Randy Read / Flickr]

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