recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : larrysummers   7

Mike Gravel on Twitter: "Why is the media so in love with Buttigieg? Because his resume—USSYP, elite college, Rhodes—is an exemplar of meritocratic success. He is the child and apparent savior of America’s meritocratic ruling class."
"Why is the media so in love with Buttigieg? Because his resume—USSYP, elite college, Rhodes—is an exemplar of meritocratic success. He is the child and apparent savior of America’s meritocratic ruling class.

Professional Democrats and elite journalists are largely in thrall to the cult of meritocracy, which is the solidification and beautification of inequality. It is inequality based on socially-defined merit—but inequality nonetheless. It is “talent” made god.

And because the new elite ostensibly owes its position to merit, rather than inherited privilege, it feels no sense of noblesse oblige that older aristocracies felt; as Christopher Lasch pointed out, there is no valor or chivalry in the new system, just Darwinian triumph.

Ultimately, as Lasch said, “meritocracy is a parody of democracy.” Meritocracy is an idea that allows the ruling class to hold on to power through the illusion that they deserve it because of merit (read Genovese). It tells the underclass—don’t worry, all is just in the world.

The popularity of true leftism seems to augur the return of old class-based politics, when Democrats were populists who fought for equality, not inequality under the veil of meritocracy. Buttigieg is the archetypal meritocrat—he is the perfect one to save the system.

It is the dream and hope of the meritocrats in journalism and politics that Buttigieg’s shininess distracts from the ravaged country that the current system, the one he clearly wants to perpetuate, has created.

The rule of the meritocrats, the “best and brightest,” has given us a country riven by rampant inequality, drug addiction, and endless wars abroad. Whether their name is Wolfowitz or Summers or Rubin, they’ve been in charge for decades—and look how far we’ve come!

To paraphrase Bakunin: “When the people are being beaten with a stick, they are not much happier if it is called ‘the Meritocratic Stick.’”

It’s time to return to a politics cognizant of class, one that is not obsessed with helping the best and brightest rise to the top, with making our unequal system more diverse, but instead concerned with leveling the system entirely. The promise of a good life for all."
mikegravel  meritocracy  elitism  highered  highereducation  2019  inequality  noblesseoblige  society  socialdarwinism  journalism  journalists  education  petemuttigieg  capitalism  liberalism  neoliberalism  class  classism  rankings  success  justification  talent  christopherlasch  chivalry  power  control  self-importance  canon  politics  policy  mikhailbakunin  paulwolfowitz  larrysummers  robertrubin 
april 2019 by robertogreco
“When You Get That Wealthy, You Start to Buy Your Own Bullshit”: The Miseducation of Sheryl Sandberg | Vanity Fair
"Harvard Business School invented the “leadership” industry—and produced a generation of corporate monsters. No wonder Sandberg, one of the school’s most prominent graduates, lacks a functioning moral compass."



"The truth is, Harvard Business School, like much of the M.B.A. universe in which Sandberg was reared, has always cared less about moral leadership than career advancement and financial performance. The roots of the problem can be found in the School’s vaunted “Case Method,” a discussion-based pedagogy that asks students to put themselves in the role of corporate Übermensch. At the start of each class, one unlucky soul is put in the hot seat, presented with a “what would you do” scenario, and then subjected to the ruthless interrogation of their peers. Graded on a curve, the intramural competition can be intense—M.B.A.s are super-competitive, after all.

Let’s be clear about this: in business, as in life, there isn’t always one correct answer. So the teaching of a decision-making philosophy that is deliberate and systematic, but still open-minded, is hardly controversial on its face. But to help students overcome the fear of sounding stupid and being remorselessly critiqued, they are reminded, in case after case—and with emphasis—that there are no right answers. And that has had the unfortunate effect of opening up a chasm of moral equivalence in too many of their graduates.

And yet, there are obviously many situations where some answers are more right than others. Especially when it comes to moral issues like privacy, around which both Sandberg and Facebook have a history of demonstrating poor judgment. While H.B.S. is correct in its assertion that it produces people who can make decisions, the fact of the matter is that they have never emphasized how to make the right ones.

Consider investment banker Bowen McCoy’s “The Parable of the Sadhu,” published in Harvard Business Review in 1977, and again 20 years later. It addressed what seemed, at least to the H.B.S. crowd, to be an ethical dilemma. McCoy was on a trip to the Himalayas when his expedition encountered a sadhu, or holy man, near death from hypothermia and exposure. Their compassion extended only to clothing the man and leaving him in the sun, before continuing on to the summit. One of McCoy’s group saw a “breakdown between the individual ethic and the group ethic,” and was gripped by guilt that the climbers had not made absolutely sure that the sadhu made it down the mountain alive. McCoy’s response: “Here we are . . . at the apex of one of the most powerful experiences of our lives. . . . What right does an almost naked pilgrim who chooses the wrong trail have to disrupt our lives?”

McCoy later felt guilt over the incident, but his parable nevertheless illustrated the extent to which aspiring managers might justify putting personal accomplishment ahead of collateral damage—including the life of a dying man. The fact that H.B.S. enthusiastically incorporated said parable into its curriculum says far more about the fundamental mindset of the school than almost anything else that has come out of it. The “dilemma” was perfectly in line with the thinking at H.B.S. that an inability to clearly delineate the right choice in business isn’t the fault of the chooser but rather a fundamental characteristic of business, itself.

Here’s a slightly more recent example: remember Jeff Skilling? Like Sandberg, he graduated from H.B.S. and went to work at McKinsey. And like Sandberg, he left McKinsey for a C-suite gig—in his case, Enron—that took him to the stratosphere. Again like Sandberg, he basked in adulation over his ability to deliver shareholder returns. Skilling had done so, of course, by turning Enron into one of the greatest frauds the world has ever seen.

One of Skilling’s H.B.S. classmates, John LeBoutillier, who went on to be a U.S. congressman, later recalled a case discussion in which the students were debating what the C.E.O. should do if he discovered that his company was producing a product that could be potentially fatal to consumers. “I’d keep making and selling the product,” he recalled Skilling saying. “My job as a businessman is to be a profit center and to maximize return to the shareholders. It’s the government’s job to step in if a product is dangerous.” Several students nodded in agreement, recalled LeBoutillier. “Neither Jeff nor the others seemed to care about the potential effects of their cavalier attitude. . . . At H.B.S. . . . you were then, and still are, considered soft or a wuss if you dwell on morality or scruples.”

Why do so many M.B.A.s struggle to make the ethical decisions that seem so clear to the rest of us? Is it right to employ a scummy P.R. firm to deflect attention from our failures? Is it O.K. if we bury questions about user privacy and consent under a mountain of legalese? Can we get away with repeatedly choosing profits over principles and then promising that we will do better in the future?

If you think this kind of thing isn’t still going on at Harvard Business School—or wasn’t going on when Sandberg graduated in 1995—I refer you to Michel Anteby, who joined the faculty 10 years later, in 2005. At first enthusiastic, Anteby was soon flummoxed by the complete absence of normative viewpoints in classroom discussion. “I grew up in France where there were very articulated norms,” he told the BBC in 2015. “Higher norms and lower norms. Basically, you have convictions of what was right or wrong, and when I tried to articulate this in the classroom, I encountered . . . silence on the part of students. Because they weren’t used to these value judgments in the classroom.”

Eight years after his arrival, Anteby published Manufacturing Morals: The Values of Silence in Business School Education. The book was not published by Harvard but the University of Chicago Press. Calling the case system an “unscripted journey” for students, it was one of the first times an insider had joined the chorus of outsiders who have long criticized the case method as one that glamorizes the C.E.O.-as-hero, as well as the overuse of martial terminology in business curricula. (The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Mark Zuckerberg currently considers Facebook “at war.”)

“H.B.S. studies everybody under the sun,” Anteby told me in early 2015. “There is no reason we should be off limits.” Alas, they were. Not long after his book was published, Anteby came to believe that H.B.S. would not grant him tenure, and left the school soon after. “He is an unbelievably productive and smart guy,” one of his supporters, the University of Michigan’s Jerry Davis, told me later that year. “And they fired him. Probably because H.B.S. wasn’t the right place to have a conversation about itself. It would be like being at Versailles in 1789, offering up leadership secrets of Louis XIV. The really unfortunate part is that he wasn’t as harsh as he should have been, because he was up for tenure.”

The absence of voices like Anteby’s are evident to this day, and an ongoing indictment of the culture that turned Facebook from a Harvard sophomore’s dorm-room project into what passes for a Harvard Business School success story. Return one last time to the H.B.R. Web site, and you will find a case study that was published just a few months ago entitled “Facebook—Can Ethics Scale in the Digital Age?” Set aside the abuse of the English language in the question—M.B.A.s specialize in that kind of thing. The mere fact that it’s being asked serves as resounding proof that the moral equivalence problem is still with us today. The question is not whether or not a company of Facebook’s size and reach can stay ethical. The question is whether it will even try."
harvard  harvardbusinessschool  ethics  sherylsandberg  facebook  2018  business  careerism  morality  hbs  via:nicoleslaw  leadership  billclinton  mba  mbas  harvardbusinessrevie  hbr  duffmcdonald  competition  competitiveness  winning  decisionmaking  billgeorge  larrysummers  abrahamzaleznik  johnleboutillier  jeffskilling  bowenmccoy  michelanteby  norms  values  capitalism  neoliberalism 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Spreadsheets of power: How economic modelling is used to circumvent democracy and shut down debate | The Monthly
[via: https://twitter.com/annegalloway/status/587013934143574016 ]

"Most people think it is hard to put a dollar value on a human life, but they’re wrong. It’s easy. Economists do it all the time.

Most people think that all human lives are equally valuable. And most think economic modelling is boring, irrelevant to their busy lives, and unrelated to how our democracy is functioning. They’re wrong about those, too.

About ten years ago, a lawyer rang to ask if I would do some (economic) modelling. “It depends,” I said. “What’s the job?”

“We want you to put a dollar value on the life of a dead mother,” said the lawyer. “We are suing a doctor for medical negligence, and the insurance company wants to value her life at zero because she wasn’t working. She had no future earning potential. Can you estimate the value of the housework she would have performed?”

I still feel sad when I think about it: for the family, for myself, and for a society in which asking such a question is not only acceptable but also necessary. The dilemma for the widower and the lawyer, and for me, was that if someone didn’t put a dollar value on the love and care that a mother gives her children, the father would wind up with even less money to care for the kids he would be bringing up by himself.

Of course, economists have no real way to value love and affection, so I valued ironing, laundry and child care instead. I got my hands on data about how mothers with three kids use their time. I found data on the price of buying individual household services like ironing, and the price of live-in maids and nannies. I forecast the age at which the kids would leave home. My forecast was based on a meaningless average of kids who do go to uni and kids who don’t. My spreadsheets were huge, complex, scrupulously referenced and entirely meaningless. Like all good forecasters I estimated the “value” of her life to the cent, and as happens in all good negotiations, the lawyers ultimately settled for a nice round number. The only good thing about the number was that it was bigger than zero.

The topsy-turvy “morality” of economics is built in to models that politicians, lawyers, economists and lobby groups use to persuade the public, in all parts of public life: models that say, for instance, that we can’t afford a price on carbon; that life-saving medicine for some people is “too expensive”; or that the loss of an entire species is justifiable if woodchip prices remain above $100 per tonne.

Everyone who uses economic models to excuse the inexcusable wants you to believe that the models are boring. The last thing they want you to do is to pay attention.

***

Many economists have calculated that it will be cheaper for the world to endure climate change than to prevent it. The models they use to draw this bizarre conclusion are built on thousands of assumptions about everything from the value of human life to the willingness of consumers to buy smaller cars if petrol becomes more expensive. If any one of those assumptions is wrong, the answer will be wrong. If hundreds of the assumptions are out, the answer becomes meaningless. (Some economists then argue that if hundreds of the assumptions are wrong then the errors might cancel each other out. Seriously.)

Imagine you were asked to model the costs of dangerous climate change. Imagine you were in possession of the likely number of people who will die as a result of storms, floods and droughts. Imagine you knew what countries they would die in, and how many years into the future. Would you value all of their lives equally? Would you assume that a Bangladeshi and an American life were “worth” the same? Would you think that the death of a child in 20 years’ time was worth as much as the death of a child in 50 years’ time?

In our democracy, these ethical questions are usually answered by economists, to two decimal places.

Most economic modellers do not assume that all human lives are equal. Bjorn Lomborg, for example, one of the world’s most famous climate sceptics, uses modelling that assumes the lives of people in developing countries are worth a lot less than the lives of Australians or Americans. While the US Declaration of Independence may declare that all men are created equal, most economic models assume that all men (and women) are worth a figure based on the GDP per capita of their country.

Late last year, Bjorn Lomborg asked to meet me, and I wondered whether talking to him would be good fun or a waste of time. It was neither: it was scary and illuminating. After 15 years as the smiling face of climate inactivists, Lomborg had raised his sights. His new mission was to ensure that governments also deliver inaction on global poverty alleviation, public health and gender inequality.

When we met, Lomborg proceeded to explain how his team of economists at the Copenhagen Consensus Center had decided that a number of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals weren’t worth pursuing. His tool of choice for defending such a position? Economic modelling.



You probably didn’t know economists had an assumption about humanity’s primary goal, did you? No wonder developing countries think that the developed countries don’t really care about their suffering as much as our inconvenience. We don’t.

Assumptions such as those made by Summers sit at the heart of the economic models that are regularly used to oppose carbon taxes, support free trade agreements and prevent the introduction of environmental regulations or more generous welfare safety nets.

Much of the power of economists is based on the public’s (understandable) lack of desire to read reports written in algebra. That’s why we like to use algebra.



In 2011, Denmark’s general election saw its centre-right government tossed out of power, to be replaced by a minority centre-left coalition led by the country’s first female prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

Bjorn Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus Center was one of the first casualties of the change of government. When it was announced that its more than $1 million in funding would be cut, Lomborg visited the new prime minister, urging her to reconsider the government’s decision. “I’d love to show you how the Copenhagen Consensus is a good idea,” he was reported as telling her.

“I think that probably might be right, Bjorn,” she reportedly responded to the sceptical environmentalist. “But I will just get so much more mileage out of criticising you.”

Costs and benefits can be calculated any number of ways, and the modeller’s assumptions are crucial to the end result. Lomborg had confidently assumed that the Danish taxpayer would continue to fund his work. His cost–benefit analyses had found that more effort should be put into free trade and less money spent on tackling poverty and climate change. But, as with all such efforts, garbage in, garbage out.

There is a role for economists, and economic modelling, in public debate. Its role should not be to limit the menu of democratic choices. Instead it should be to help explain the trade-offs.

Good modellers aren’t afraid of explaining their assumptions. The clients who pay best, however, don’t want the best modellers. They want people who can write a fat report to slam on the fucking table."
economics  power  democracy  control  2015  economists  ideology  modeling  morality  politics  policy  lobbyists  persuasion  climatechange  justification  capitalism  larrysummers  worldbank  welfare  humanism  humanity  ethics  neoliberalism  richarddenniss  bjornlomborg  copenhagenconsensuscenter  riotinton  consensus  petercostello  joehockey  australia  inequality  poverty  representation  environment  pollution 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Moral Aspects of Basic Income
"The fall of Adam and Eve is a metaphor for the demise of our hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Eden is the recollection of an oppressed peasantry of the more humane world of their happier ancestors. Before we bit the apple, we lived off the fat of the land. Hunter-gatherers lived longer, ate better, and worked less than their agriculturalist descendants. Average adult height, an excellent proxy for childhood nutrition did not return to levels seen in the Palaeolithic until a mere 150 years ago.

Archaeologists tell us the invention of farming may well have been the greatest calamity to befall our species. Kings and slaves, property and war all were by-products of agriculture. Even today, even when forced onto marginal lands, hunter-gather tribes often prefer to retain their old ways rather than till the soil. “Why work hard when god made so many mongongo nuts?” ask the !Kung of southern Africa.

The lifestyle of hunter gathers is much more easygoing than that of serfs and peasants. Subsistence agriculturalists worked from sunup to sundown. Hunter-gatherers “worked” a few hours a day. That was enough to feed and clothe and house their families. The rest of the time they could socialize, play games, tell stories. And “work” back then was hunting antelope with your mates or strolling through the savannah looking for nuts and berries. Farmers overwhelmed hunter-gatherers, not because their lives were more pleasant but because farming makes land so much more productive.

Of course, we cannot go back to those happier days. Farming can feed up to 100 times as many people from the same plot of land and soon farmers outnumbered hunter-gatherers. An expanding population locked humanity into a constant and arduous grind. Until now."



"A number of us here at Pieria have argued that a basic income guarantee (also called a negative income tax) will not only reignite the economy and overcome secular stagnation, it will be the salvation of capitalism. Yes, it provides a safety net for the most unfortunate and yes, it reduces inequality, but most important, by creating steady and dependable demand, it cures capitalism’s only weakness, over-production. By putting money in consumers’ pockets, a basic income guarantees consistent demand and so gives the private sector confidence to hire and invest.

The economics of this proposal strike me as clear and convincing. I want to focus now on its ethical implications. On the one hand, helping the poorest citizens seems the Christian (or Muslim or Jewish or   Buddhist or humane) thing to do. In a wealthy society, it is unnecessarily cruel   that anyone among us should lack shelter, warmth and food. A negative income tax takes care of our most vulnerable without creating another government bureaucracy."



"If a conservative is someone who cherishes the time-honoured ways, is a bit odd that conservatives should exalt free markets. After all, capitalism is the most revolutionary force the world has ever known. Whenever it meets a traditional society, it turns it upside down. The rise of fundamentalism, in the Islamic world, in America, in India, is a global phenomenon and so requires a global explanation. The simplest is that capitalism, by shattering age-old relationships leaves many of us lost and alienated without the ancient verities that gave logic to our lives. “All that is solid melts into air. All freed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify.”

Capitalism has been magnificent in producing wealth and increasing productivity. Unfortunately, It happily serves our baser instincts. GDP goes up whether we spend on guns and Internet porn or education and opera tickets. When money is the measure of the man, when consumption is our only goal our culture becomes shallower, and perhaps so do our relationships. And it is getting worse.

Thrift was the original capitalist virtue. According to Max Weber, upright burghers would limit consumption in order to purchase productive machinery or finance transoceanic voyages. By avoiding sumptuous consumption, our frugal protocapitalist could invest his capital and so increase society’s productive capacity. That was admirable. That was then.

Today, thrift is passé. These days, we serve capitalism by buying stuff, even stuff we don’t need. Thrift no longer has much economic purpose. We have a savings glut, we have a labour glut, what we don’t have is a consumption glut. The world economy doesn’t require prudent savers, it needs us to max out our credit cards just to keep unemployment below 7%. No wonder our children are obsessed with buying the coolest football boots or the dress they saw in Vogue. It is as consumers that we best serve global capitalism. Sadly this addiction to consumption may offer a bump to GDP but it does not create happiness.

What makes us happy, as Adam Smith recognized in The Theory of Moral Sentiments (the book he thought his masterpiece) is the regard of others. What brings me joy is not a new toy but the look on my wife’s face that tells me she loves me. What makes me happy at work is not the corner office but what that symbolizes: the sense that my boss admires and respects my talent and effort. A man buys an expensive watch because he thinks it will impress his mates but sadly, no one even notices. When a middle aged man pulls up in a candy red Ferrari, he rarely makes the impression he had hoped when he put down his credit card.

What we admire in others are not their possessions but rather the same virtues we admired back in the Palaeolithic: kindness, loyalty, bravery, generosity, beauty, strength and a sense of humour. Check out the personals ads: a sense of humour trumps an expensive watch every time. Today most of us work long hours, seeing our children less than we would like while others are utterly idle, unable to find work at all. We act as though we live in a world of scarcity when actually will live in a world our ancestors would have thought abundant beyond their wildest dreams. In terms of material comfort, you and I and even the guy in the hoodie down at the council estate live better than Charlemagne or Cleopatra.

Hunter-gatherers shared. Farmers and factory workers, for the most part, did not. In many tribes, a successful hunter would give away 90% of the meat from his kill. He certainly gained respect (and perhaps female companionship) for his prowess but the families of mediocre hunters also got to eat. Anthropologists suggest this propensity for generosity served everyone’s interests. Since no one family can eat an entire buffalo and even the best hunter sometimes goes a while without a kill, sharing the proceeds of a hunt is not just generous, it is an economically sensible insurance policy. So is a basic income guarantee.

We can afford a basic income guarantee. We can give every citizen enough money to survive. It will stimulate an economy starved of demand. It will make our society more equitable. It will feed the hungry and house the homeless. It respects the individual. It provides a constant level of demand that firms can depend on and so stimulate the animal spirits of businessmen. It will strengthen workers bargaining position because they will be able to tell their employers to “take this job and shove it.” It will also reduce labour costs since firms won’t be required to provide a living wage. It will give us more free time to dance and play and love our children. I would also suggest, it might just end up making us better human beings. "
economics  politics  universalbasicincome  christianity  ethics  morality  2013  maragretthatcher  larrysummers  labor  work  history  capitalism  freemarkets  markets  tomstreithorst  adamsmith  thrift  kindness  loyalty  bravery  generosity  johngrey  neoliberalism  malthus  karlmarx  capital  hunter-gatherers  ubi 
february 2015 by robertogreco
New Ways of Designing the Modern Workspace - NYTimes.com
"Adjustable desks, foldout benches & louvered shades have their place but…furniture is not the problem…But in the same way that bamboo floors, hybrid SUVs and eco-couture haven’t done much to curb carbon emissions, designing (& buying) more stuff for offices, no matter how sleek or sustainable it is, likely won’t help reset the culture of work.

Design itself is the problem because it is being used to solve the wrong ones…has to expand beyond noodling with the cubicle. I’m willing to bet that almost any office worker would happily swap Webcam lighting…for solutions to more pressing work issues like…burnout or fear of losing health coverage…

Two other factors often undervalued (and often ignored) in the workplace? Family and time…

We shouldn’t be rethinking the cubicle or corner office but rather rethinking all aspects of work…"
psychology  work  design  officedesign  allisonarieff  cubicles  classrooms  schooldesign  sustainability  productivity  life  families  parenting  time  workplace  workspace  nathanshedroff  furniture  homes  housing  babysitting  childcare  flexibility  coworking  efficiency  yiconglu  serbanionescu  jimdreilein  justinsmith  theminerandmajorproject  architecture  interiors  interiordesign  environmentaldesign  environment  broodwork  florianidenburg  jingliu  commonground  eames  froebel  kindergarten  andrewberardini  larrysummers  rachelbotsman  creativity  innovation  2011  autonomy  learning  workspaces  classroom  friedrichfroebel 
july 2011 by robertogreco
It’s been over a year since Obama was elected and while its an immense relief to be rid of the... | varnelis.net
"...awful regime that laid waste to this country for eight years, the disappointment about the current administration is starting to set in. I’ve been cautious from day one since I remember just how stupid the Clinton administration really was and observed that during the election Obama never offered compelling policies to match his oratory.
larrysummers  barackobama  harbard  finance  policy  us  politics  government  presidency  kazysvarnelis  disappointment  2009 
december 2009 by robertogreco

Copy this bookmark:





to read