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Breaking Up Isn't Hard to Do

Tuesday, 21 November 2017 16:00

The latest issue of The Chicago Reader had an article on the divide between downstate Illinois and metropolitan Chicago. The upshot of the article was that downstaters benefit more than they think from Chicago and should recognize that. An accompanying chart shows how much they would lose if the state were split in two. The article is wrong.

I'm not saying downstate Illinois would be so much better off without Chicago, but the result would be moe complicated than presented. The new, Chicago-free state could operate on a lower service, lower tax, lower regulation basis that would in many ways prove more beneficial for a slow-growth region. Companies do this all the time. Hewlett-Packard split itself up because the needs of its growing lines of business were different than the needs of printer and PC unit. 

Businesses change in many ways all the time, including their basic structure. In his book "Instant Replay," Jerry Kramer talks about the highlight of his New York trip being a trip to Abercrombie & Fitch to buy a rifle. Governments might change policies, but deep, foundational changes rarely happen. The last time a state's boundary's changed, for example, was 1861. 

If These Trends Continue...

Friday, 17 November 2017 13:53

My parents owned a copy of Linda Goodman's "Star Signs."  Astrology and fortune telling were all the rage in the late '60s and early '70s. Jeane Dixon was a regular best seller and even met Richard Nixon. Today, I own a copy of "Super-Forecasting," a book that uses a more scientific approach to predicting events. But is it really more useful?

A recent chart on the front page of the Wall Street Journal attempted to show the significance of the recent gubernatorial elections on national politics. What it showed is you can't divine anything from the results, but that didn't stop the article from trying to do so. If these trends continue... 

I hear many predictions that used-car prices will fall 10 percent in the next couple of years. These are solid predictions, based on plentiful data. But they could be entirely wrong. Let's say that next week San Francisco suffers a massive earthquake. This disaster takes thousands of cars out of the market and creates thousands of new buyers. That increases used-car prices. However, the financial repercussions cripple the economy. That's happened before. That drives prices down even more than 10 percent.

Even the best predictions are subject to chaos theory.

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Is Kinder and Gentler Really Better?

Thursday, 16 November 2017 13:37

Today's WSJ has an article about the new breed of baseball managers. It says these guys are more concerned about communication than they are about strategy. The days of the old two-fisted manager are over. A few years ago, the inexperienced manager was all the rage. That worked so well in Detroit

The article made me think of George H.W. Bush, and his promise of a "kinder, gentler America." Somehow that turned into a tax hike, a recession and so much military action that if you enlisted the year he was elected and stayed for the whole term, you could have seen combat on three continents. The promise was turned on him in Neil Young's anthem of irony and a sax-playing Bubba soon took the keys to the White House from him. Today, H.W. is best known for not wanting to eat his broccoli and, lately, other things

I'm not saying nice guys always finish last or that you need to be a tyrant. I'm reading Jerry Kramer's "Instant Replay" and he talks about playing under Vince Lombardi. He says Lombardi was master psychologist, "a child psychologist." Kramer says that in his first year, Lombardi rode him the whole time and made him feel like he couldn't even play. But then he came to him and said he saw the potential for greatness in him. Guys like that still win today. 

There Oughta Be a Law

Wednesday, 15 November 2017 12:58

You can make all the laws you want, but there are always two problems with any law. One is how will they be enforced. The other is that criminals, by definition, ignore laws. Take the Do Not Call list. Legitimate businesses with something to lose no longer use telemarketing as they did 30 years ago. But scammers keep calling. 

Last month, a Delaware car dealer was shot in the head by an acquaintance, Radee Prince. Prince also killed three of his co-workers during his spree. He had been arrested several times about 15 years ago and was sentenced to a long time in prison. That turned out to be two years. In 2016, he was arrested for multiple violations, but the prosecutor declined to pursue the case. 

Criminals ignore laws. The only was they work is if authorities enforce them. Otherwise, they are pointless. In the worst cases, they discourage legitimate behavior.