From the Times: Apple Stores’ Army, Long on Loyalty But Short on Pay. I’m really surprised that Apple Store employees are not on commission. I bought my Mac in 2008, and my salesman was really good–answering all my questions and even responding to e-mails. He was so good that to this day, I still remember his first and last name. Which is even more mind-boggling since he didn’t get paid extra for all the work he put into my sale.
Thanks to Eurasian Sensation, who posted this article: The One-Shot Society. The article is about the educational system in Korea, where students cram like mad for one college entrance test, a test which determines the career that they will have for the rest of their lives. In Korea, as the article mentions, people rarely change jobs, so it’s imperative that students get into the best university and then into the best company. We’ve spoken about this trend in Korea and how it limits their opportunities to make decisions later in life, which is why many Koreans try to become doctors.
Ha-Joon Chang’s book helped me to reconcile some differing but not mutually exclusive viewpoints that I’ve held in the past, namely that:
a) Education is oversold (also see here)
b) We need more education in the humanities (also see here)
In “Thing 17,” Chang compares the literacy of different countries and shows how increased literacy doesn’t necessarily mean that a country will do better. In 1960′s, for example, the literacy rate of the Philippines was 72% compared with a rate of 54% in Taiwan, and the per capita income of the Philippines was almost twice that of Taiwan, but Taiwan’s per capita income today is nearly ten times that of the Philippines (180). The main reason a nation’s economy grows, as Chang shows, is because of its government and institutions, not because of it’s education.
I just finished 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism. It’s a fascinating book about the perils of free market capitalism. Chang is pro-capitalism but anti-free-market. He makes a compelling case for government intervention in markets.
He writes about his country, South Korea, where the government put a damper on government economic intervention in 1997 and left their workers to the dictates of the market. Like the U.S., Korea has a weak welfare state, so if a Korean company goes under or sends a Korean employee packing while the economy is bad, that employee’s life will change in a big, big way.
I meant to announce this a few days ago, but Jeff Yang’s Asian Pop column has come to an end. Eight years of writing the biggest Asian American pop culture column, and it’s all over. The “Gatekeepers” decided that the finances didn’t make sense, so they canned the column. It’s a huge loss for them and a huge loss for Asian America. But I know that Jeff is going to move on to bigger and better things. I have faith, brother!
I know this is short notice, but I’m going to be reviewing Ha-Joon Chang’s 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism next week. If anyone wants to read it to discuss later, go buy it now. It’s a phenomenal book by a Cambridge economist who is against free markets. I’m usually not a big fan of simplified pop-econ books written by professors (didn’t care too much for Freakonomics), but this book is excellent. I will caution you: it’s actually not easy reading and takes a bit of extra effort to understand the points he makes. But it’s well worth reading, given the fact that we all need to be thinking about economics during these hard times. If you’re interested in reading it, post below. Learn more about Mr. Chang here.
Here are three Times articles that together make some very interesting statements about age and economics.
The first is an opinion piece by David Brooks, where he talks about how government is paralyzed because of the enormous pensions that government jobs offer. He writes:
New Jersey can’t afford to build its tunnel, but benefits packages for the state’s employees are 41 percent more expensive than those offered by the average Fortune 500 company. These benefits costs are rising by 16 percent a year.
This Op-Ed by David Brooks is the #1 most popular on the Times site today. In the Op-Ed, Brooks talks about the upsurge in American libertarianism with the Tea Party, and he presents an alternative, more communitarian approach that was posed by British writer Phillip Blond. (See the original Blond article here.)
Blond, according to Brooks, poses the problem:
Blond argues that over the past generation we have witnessed two revolutions, both of which liberated the individual and decimated local associations. First, there was a revolution from the left: a cultural revolution that displaced traditional manners and mores; a legal revolution that emphasized individual rights instead of responsibilities; a welfare revolution in which social workers displaced mutual aid societies and self-organized associations.
I just finished reading Paul Krugman’s The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008. It’s a great little book that takes novices on a quick walk through the history of economics since the Great Depression. Krugman argues that depressions and recessions come from runs (bank runs, shadow banking runs, house sell-offs), and that the remedy is to bring back confidence in spending.
I just saw this Washington Post article about how Wikipedia is trying to raise $6 million dollars this year to cover operating costs for its nonprofit website.
I’m reading a book called Wikinomics right now about how there’s a new economy coming out because of massive cross collaboration, but if Wikipedia, the poster child of the book, needs to beg people for money, I don’t see how this new economic model is going to survive.