Posts tagged ‘Johnny Carson’

The Dangers of Trying To Reinvent An Industry, And A Few Notes on Tesla

I am often critical of Elon Musk and Tesla, and will be again later in this post, but I wanted to start by sympathizing with Tesla's plight.  As you may know, Tesla set out not only to produce a leading electric car (which it did) but also to reinvent automobile manufacturing (which it is struggling to do).  One of the hard parts about reinventing an industry is being correct as to what parts to throw out and what parts to keep.  Musk, I think, didn't want to be captive to a lot of traditional auto industry thinking, something anyone who has spent any time at GM would sympathize with.  But it turns out that in addition to all the obsolete assumptions and not-invented-here syndrome and resistance to change and static culture in the industry, there is also a lot of valuable accumulated knowledge about how to build a reliable car efficiently.  In Tesla's attempt to disrupt the industry by throwing out all the former, it may have ignored too much of the latter, and now it is having a really hard time ramping up reliable, quality production.  Musk even recently admitted it may have gone overboard on factory automation.

I don't agree with all the conclusions, but I thought this was an interesting article on Tesla vs. Toyota production practices and the industry lessons Tesla may have been too quick to ignore.  One quote I liked, “Machines are good for repetitive things… but they can’t improve their own efficiency or the quality of their work.”  I sympathize with Musk on this one.  You CAN"T upend an industry by copying everything it does -- you have to go off in a different direction, at least on some things.  It may be that Musk eschewed the wrong bits of industry practice, but this is an understandable mistake.

What is not understandable is Musk's lack of transparency, his self-dealing, his wild and unfulfilled promises, and his unprofessional behavior.  Some notes:

  • A few months ago, at the Tesla truck launch, I wrote:

But Tesla needs to stay hot. California is considering new vehicle subsidy laws that are hand-crafted to pour money mainly into Tesla's pocket. Cash is burning fast, and Musk is going to have to go back to the capital markets again, likely before the end of the year. So out came Musk yesterday to yell SQUIRREL!

Tesla's main current problem is that they cannot seem to get up to volume production of their main new offering, the Model 3. The factory appears to be in disarray and out of production and inventory space. They can't produce enough batteries yet for the cars they are already making. So what does Musk do? Announce two entirely new vehicle platforms for tiny niche markets.

I saw the truck launch as a cynical ploy to distract from Tesla's operating problems and perhaps to get a bit of financing in the form of customer deposits (a growing percentage of Tesla's available cash is from customer advance deposits).  There was no way it could do anyting with this truck, given its operating problems and lack of capital.  It seems that I was on target, because not even 6 months later Tesla has tired of pretending the truck is going anywhere.  After Telsa did not even mention the semi in their earnings conference call, Musk said in answer to a question:

I actually don't know how many reservations we have for the Semi. About 2,000? Okay. I mean, we haven't really tried to sell the Semi. It's not like there's like an ongoing sales effort, so sales – orders for Semi are like opportunistic, really companies approaching us. Yeah, it's not something we really think about much.

  • Elon Musk proved himself on the same conference call to be a spoiled brat who has spent too much of his time having people kiss his feet and compare him to Tony Stark.

One week ago, Elon Musk entered the history books for his unprecedented, petulant handling of "boring, boneheaded" questions from two sellside analysts, who merely wanted more details about the company chronic cash/rollout issues.  And no phrase captures Musk's descent better than "These questions are so dry. They're killing me."  That's what Musk told RBC analyst Joseph Spak in response to a question about Model 3 reservations.

My older readers will know that my dad was President of Exxon from the early 70's (a few weeks before the Arab oil embargo) until the late 1980's.  In that job he never had to do analyst calls, but he did about 15 annual shareholders meetings.  I don't know how they run today but in those days any shareholder with a question or a rant could line up and fire away.  Every person with a legitimate beef, every vocal person who hated oil companies and were pissed off about oil prices, every conspiracy theorist convinced Exxon was secretly formulating chemtrail material or whatever, and every outright crazy would buy one share of stock and show up to have their moment on stage.  My dad probably fantasized about how awesome it would be to just get asked dry financial questions about cash flow.  And through all the nuts and crazy questions and outright accusations that he was the most evil person on the planet, dad kept his cool and never once lost it.

If you asked him about it, he likely would not have talked about it.  Dad -- who grew up dirt poor with polio in rural Depression Iowa -- was from that  generation that really did not talk about their personal adversity much and certainly did not compete for victim status.  He probably would just have joked that the loonies at the shareholder meeting were nothing compared to Congress.  My favorite story was that Scoop Jackson once called him to testify in the Senate twice in 6 months or so.  The first time, just before the embargo, he was trying to save the Alaska pipeline project and Jackson accused Exxon of being greedy and trying to produce more oil than was needed.  The second time was just after the embargo, and Jackson accused Exxon of being greedy and hiding oil offshore in tankers to make sure the world had less oil than it needed.

Through all of this, the only time I ever saw him really mad was when Johnny Carson made a joke about killing the president of Exxon (he asked his audience to raise their hands if they thought they would actually get convicted for killing the president of Exxon) and over the next several days our family received hundreds of death threats.  These had to be treated fairly credibly at the time because terrorists were frequently attacking, kidnapping, and bombing oil company executives and their families.  We had friends whose housekeeper's hand was blown off by a letter bomb, and I was not able to travel outside of the country for many years for fear of kidnapping.  (For Firefly fans, if you remember the scene of Mal always cutting his apples because he feared bombs in them from a old war experience, you might recognize how, to this day, I still open packages slowly and carefully.

This is a long way of saying that Elon Musk needs to grow the hell up.

Best of Coyote VI

Well, it worked for Johnny Carson, why not for me?  Instead of
leaving you with dead air (photons?) while I am knocking the rust off
my beer pong skills back at Princeton, I will share with you a few of
my favorite posts from my early days of blogging.  Since most of these
posts were viewed by about 5 people, there is a certain temptation to
just recycle them without attribution, given the unlikelihood of
getting caught.  Instead, though, I will share them as my best of

Enough!  This series has slid well past the point of narcisism.   It has been fun setting this up, much like setting the light timers before I go away on a trip (for those that don't know, Typepad allows one to cue up posts with a series of future dates on which these posts appear.  I am actually typing this on Wednesday night.  The thought of light timers gets me thinking of home improvement, so in that spirit I will end with "Pocket Doors and My Manhood"

Our bathroom has a pocket door to save space - that's one of those doors that slide on a hidden rail in and out of the wall.
From time to time, usually because my kids go slamming into it, the
door comes off its rails and gets jammed, which is a problem as it can
bottleneck some very critical facilities.

The first time this happened, I tried to get it back on its track,
but I just could not.  The track is up in the wall and it is almost
impossible due to the lack of clearance to do anything with it.  I
checked in the Yellow Pages and saw there was actually a company that
specialized in pocket door repairs, so I called them out.  Well, Joe
(or whoever) shows up with his little tool kit, looks at the door for a
second, grabbed it in a certain way, and then gave it a quick jerk -
kabam - and it was back in its tracks.  It took him like 5 seconds. 

Well, there I stood, completely unmanned, right in front of my
laughing wife and family, by Joe the visible butt-crack guy.  Bummer.

Since that time, I have had the door come untracked two or three
times.  Thinking to save me further embarrassment, my wife tends to ask
any passing stranger to come in and fix it.  I can sit there for hours
fighting the thing, and then my wife brings in the guy painting the
house - kabam - fixed.  Next time she brought in the 60+ year old sales
guy who happened to be there - kabam - fixed.  I swear, if Paris Hilton
was dropping by for a visit she could probably fix that damn door.  It
is humiliating.

Well, this time I would not allow my wife get someone else to fix
it.  Every night, for about 10 minutes, I would take my innings with
the door, struggling to do what everyone else seemed to have learned at
birth.  I actually suggested to my wife that we should call out a
contractor and tear the thing out and install a real door.  She
suggested instead that she could have our 13-year-old baby sitter come
in from the other room to fix it.  Finally, tonight, when I was about
to give up, I tried holding it in a slightly different way and - Kabam
- fixed.  God I feel great.  My manhood is restored and I am at the top
of the world.

In case my plane is late and I can't blog on Monday - happy Memorial Day and many thanks to all those who have served in our country's military.

Best of Coyote V

Well, it worked for Johnny Carson, why not for me?  Instead of
leaving you with dead air (photons?) while I am knocking the rust off
my beer pong skills back at Princeton, I will share with you a few of
my favorite posts from my early days of blogging.  Since most of these
posts were viewed by about 5 people, there is a certain temptation to
just recycle them without attribution, given the unlikelihood of
getting caught.  Instead, though, I will share them as my best of

This post from last November was my first real research project I set for myself.  Today, there are a couple of flaws I see in it, and I would like to update it, but the results are still interesting.  Here is French vs. Anglo-American 'Imperialism'"

For some reason, a portion of our country has adopted France as the
standard bearer of "anti-imperialism" (or at least anti-US
imperialism). France publicly positions itself similarly, trying to
make itself the leader and counterweight to US "Imperialism". I will
leave aside for now the argument as to whether the US's recent actions
constitute "imperialism". I will instead focus on the French as a role

The first thing that struck me was how long the French tried
desperately to hold on to their colonial empire. Both the US and Great
Britain either liberated or came to an acceptable living arrangement
with their major colonies within a few years of the end of WWII. Both
seemed to come to terms with the fact that the colonial era was over.
The French, in contrast, were still involved in bloody conflicts in
Indochina and Algeria to retain their empire through the late 50's and
even into the early 60's.

So, I decided to do a little research to understand the relative
success of French and Anglo-American colonies. Of course, when judging
the success of a former colony, a lot of things come into play, and
certainly the freed colony must take a substantial amount of
responsibility for its own success and political freedom. However,
after a bit of research, it is instructive to see how well prepared for
independence Britain, France, and the US left their colonies. Did they
leave the country with democratic systems in place and a capable local
ruling class, or did they just suck the country dry and try to prevent
any locals from gaining any capability.

To make this analysis, I have selected a number of each country's
key colonies. Some of the smaller African and island nations have been
left out. I also realize that I left off some of the ex-British middle
eastern colonies, but I am too tired now to add them back in.

I have used two pieces of data to judge an ex-colony's success.
First is GDP per capita, corrected for purchasing power parity, found
in the 2003 CIA fact book via World Facts and Figures. The second is the Freedom index prepared by Freedom House.

The results are striking. When arrayed in order of GDP per
capita, ex-French colonies occupy only 4 of the top 25 spots. And, if
you leave out Louisiana and Quebec, which one can argue are much more
shaped by the US and British, and if you leave out Mexico, where there
is arguably little French influence and none in the last 150+ years,
then ex-French colonies occupy only 2 of the top 25 spots. When arrayed
by the Freedom Index, and again leaving out Quebec, Louisiana and
Mexico, ex-French colonies only occupy one of the top 25 spots! The
ex-French colonies occupy 14 of the bottom 20 poorest slots and 11 of
the bottom 15 least free slots.
Finally, one could argue that
none of the ex-French colonies have really grown up into world players,
while British colonies in America, Australia, India, South Africa,
Palestine (Israel) and even Egypt play a significant role on the world

Continue reading ‘Best of Coyote V’ »

Best of Coyote IV

Well, it worked for Johnny Carson, why not for me?  Instead of
leaving you with dead air (photons?) while I am knocking the rust off
my beer pong skills back at Princeton, I will share with you a few of
my favorite posts from my early days of blogging.  Since most of these
posts were viewed by about 5 people, there is a certain temptation to
just recycle them without attribution, given the unlikelihood of
getting caught.  Instead, though, I will share them as my best of

post was also from early December, and was my first step in writing about the roots of modern statism.  The post is called "progressives are too conservative to like capitalism".

Many in the left to far-left eschew the liberal title nowadays
(since they consider liberals now to be wimps and too moderate, like
that Clinton guy) in favor of the term "progressive".  This term has
gone in and out of favor for over a century, from the populists of the
early 1900's to the socialists of the more modern era.

Most "progressives" (meaning those on the left to far left who
prefer that term) would freak if they were called conservative, but
what I mean by conservative in this context is not
donate-to-Jesse-Helms capital-C Conservative but fearful of change and
uncomfortable with uncertainty conservative. 

OK, most of you are looking at this askance - aren't progressives
always trying to overthrow the government or something?  Aren't they
out starting riots at G7 talks?  The answer is yes, sure, but what
motivates many of them, at least where it comes to capitalism, is a
deep-seated conservatism. 

Before I continue to support this argument, I must say that on a
number of issues, particularly related to civil liberties and social
issues, I call progressives my allies.  On social issues, progressives,
like I do, generally support an individual's right to make decisions
for themselves, as long as those decisions don't harm others. 

However, when we move to fields such as commerce, progressives stop
trusting individual decision-making.  Progressives who support the
right to a person making unfettered choices in sexual partners don't
trust people to make their own choice on seat belt use.  Progressives
who support the right of fifteen year old girls to make decisions about
abortion without parental notification do not trust these same girls
later in life to make their own investment choices with their Social
Security funds.  And, Progressives who support the right of third
worlders to strap on a backpack of TNT and explode themselves in the
public market don't trust these same third worlders to make the right
decision in choosing to work in the local Nike shoe plant.

Beyond just the concept of individual decision-making, progressives
are hugely uncomfortable with capitalism.  Ironically, though
progressives want to posture as being "dynamic", the fact is that
capitalism is in fact too dynamic for them.  Industries rise and fall,
jobs are won and lost, recessions give way to booms.  Progressives want
comfort and certainty.  They want to lock things down the way they are.
They want to know that such and such job will be there tomorrow and
next decade, and will always pay at least X amount.  That is why, in
the end, progressives are all statists, because, to paraphrase Hayek,
only a government with totalitarian powers can bring the order and
certainty and control of individual decision-making that they crave.

Progressive elements in this country have always tried to freeze
commerce, to lock this country's economy down in its then-current
patterns.  Progressives in the late 19th century were terrified the
American economy was shifting from agriculture to industry.  They
wanted to stop this, to cement in place patterns where 80-90% of
Americans worked on farms.  I, for one, am glad they failed, since for
all of the soft glow we have in this country around our description of
the family farmer, farming was and can still be a brutal, dawn to dusk
endeavor that never really rewards the work people put into it. 

This story of progressives trying to stop history has continued to
repeat itself through the generations.  In the seventies and eighties,
progressives tried to maintain the traditional dominance of heavy
industry like steel and automotive, and to prevent the shift of these
industries overseas in favor of more service-oriented industries.  Just
like the passing of agriculture to industry a century ago inflamed
progressives, so too does the current passing of heavy industry to

In fact, here is a sure fire test for a progressive.  If given a choice between two worlds:

  1. A capitalist society where the overall levels of wealth and
    technology continue to increase, though in a pattern that is dynamic,
    chaotic, generally unpredictable, and whose rewards are unevenly
    distributed, or...
  2. A "progressive" society where everyone is poorer, but income is
    generally more evenly distributed.  In this society, jobs and pay and
    industries change only very slowly, and people have good assurances
    that they will continue to have what they have today, with little
    downside but also with very little upside.

Progressives will choose #2.  Even if it means everyone is poorer.
Even if it cuts off any future improvements we might gain in technology
or wealth or lifespan or whatever.  They want to take what we have
today, divide it up more equally, and then live to eternity with just
that.   Progressives want #2 today, and they wanted it just as much in
1900 (just think about if they had been successful -- as just one
example, if you are over 44, you would have a 50/50 chance of being
dead now). 

Don't believe that this is what they would answer?  Well, first,
this question has been asked and answered a number of times in surveys,
and it always comes out this way.  Second, just look at any policy
issue today.  Take prescription drugs in the US - isn't it pretty clear
that the progressive position is that they would be willing to pretty
much gut incentives for any future drug innovations in trade for having
a system in place that guaranteed everyone minimum access to what
exists today?  Or take the welfare state in Continental Europe -- isn't
it clear that a generation of workers/voters chose certainty over
growth and improvement?  That workers 30 years ago voted themselves
jobs for life, but at the cost of tremendous unemployment amongst the
succeeding generations?

More recently, progressives have turned their economic attention to
lesser developed nations.  Progressives go nuts on the topic of
Globalization.  Without tight security, G7 and IMF conferences have and
would devolve into riots and destruction at the hands of progressives,
as happened famously in Seattle.  Analyzing the Globalization movement
is a bit hard, as rational discourse is not always a huge part of the
"scene", and what is said is not always logical or internally
consistent.  The one thing I can make of this is that progressives
intensely dislike the change that is occurring rapidly in
third world economies, particularly since these changes are often
driven by commerce and capitalists.

Progressives do not like American factories appearing in third world
countries, paying locals wages progressives feel are too low, and
disrupting agrarian economies with which progressives were more
comfortable.  But these changes are all the sum of actions by
individuals, so it is illustrative to think about what is going on in
these countries at the individual level. 

One morning, a rice farmer in southeast Asia might faces a choice.
He can continue a life of brutal, back-breaking labor from dawn to dusk
for what is essentially subsistence earnings.  He can continue to see a
large number of his children die young from malnutrition and disease.
He can continue a lifestyle so static, so devoid of opportunity for
advancement, that it is nearly identical to the life led by his
ancestors in the same spot a thousand years ago.

Or, he can go to the local Nike factory, work long hours (but
certainly no longer than he worked in the field) for low pay (but
certainly more than he was making subsistence farming) and take a shot
at changing his life.  And you know what, many men (and women) in his
position choose the Nike factory.  And progressives hate this.  They
distrust this choice.  They distrust the change.  And, at its heart,
that is what globalization is all about - a deep seated conservatism
that distrusts the decision-making of individuals and fears change,
change that ironically might finally pull people out of untold
generations of utter poverty.

In fact, over the last 20 or so years, progressives have become
surprisingly mute on repression and totalitarianism the world over.  In
the 1970's, progressives criticized the US (rightly, I think) for not
doing more to challenge the totalitarian impulses of its allies (the
Shah of Iran comes to mind in particular) and not doing enough to end
totalitarianism and repression in other nations (e.g. South Africa,
Guatemala, El Salvador, etc etc) 

Today, progressives have become oddly conservative about challenging
totalitarian nations.  By embracing the "peace at any cost" mantra,
they have essentially said that they can live with anything, reconcile
anything, as long as things remain nominally peaceful (ie, no battles
show up on the network news).  Beyond just a strong anti-Americanism,
the peace movement today reflects a strong conservatism -- they want to
just leave everyone alone, no matter how horrible or repressive, and
hope that they will in turn leave us alone.  They fear any change that
would stir things up.

There are any number of other examples of the strong conservative
streak in the progressive movement.  Here are a few more that come to

  • Despite at least 40 years of failure in the public schools,
    progressives vociferously oppose any radical changes to the public
    education system.  In particular, they resist any program involving
    school choice, as they are totally condescending in their utter lack of
    faith in the average parent's ability to make the right choice for
    their family.
  • Progressives refuse to even consider the possibility that
    individuals should be trusted to make their own decisions regarding
    some portion of their Social Security retirement funds.  They can couch
    their opposition in a lot of fear talk about benefit cuts, but at the
    end of the day (and take this from someone who has had this argument
    with numerous liberals and progressives)  the argument always boils
    down to "we don't trust people to make investment decisions that are as
    good as the ones we would make for them".

Well, I have again written too long, and I'm tired.  If you are not
ready to rush to defend the barricades of capitalism, you might read my
post from last week called "60 Second Refutation of Socialism, while Sitting at the Beach".  Most of what I have written here has been said far more eloquently by others.  Of recent writers, Virginia Postrel, in the Future and its Enemies,
has written a whole book on not just capitalism but dynamism and
progress in general, and why people of all political persuasions tend
to be scared by it.  Brink Lindsey addressed many of these same issues
as well in his book Against the Dead Hand.  Of course, the Godfather of individual choice and societal dynamism is Friedrich Hayek.

As a final note, my ultimate statement on this topic is here, called Respecting Individual Decision-Making.

Best of Coyote III

Well, it worked for Johnny Carson, why not for me?  Instead of
leaving you with dead air (photons?) while I am knocking the rust off
my beer pong skills back at Princeton, I will share with you a few of
my favorite posts from my early days of blogging.  Since most of these
posts were viewed by about 5 people, there is a certain temptation to
just recycle them without attribution, given the unlikelihood of
getting caught.  Instead, though, I will share them as my best of

This post was from early December, and commemorated the 60th anniversary of a facinating event in Arizona history.  Many people are familiar with the movie the Great Escape or the TV series Hogans Heroes.  Few know, though, that there was really a great escape ... by German POW's in Arizona!  Here is my post "WWII Great POW Escape -- In Phoenix?"

Many people have seen the Steve McQueen movie "the Great Escape",
about a group of 60 or so prisoners who cleverly dug a tunnel out of a
German POW camp and escaped in various directions across Europe, many
of whom where eventually recaptured.

I don't know if such an event occurred in Europe, but an almost
identical real-life POW escape (tunnel and all) occurred right here in
Phoenix, Arizona almost exactly 60 years ago.

Like many isolated western towns in WWII, Phoenix played host to a
number of German POW's, in our case about 1700 in Papago Park.
Phoenix, and in particular Papago Park, with its arid climate and red rocks, must have been quite a culture shock to the Germans.

Anyway, I won't tell the whole story, but it is fascinating and you can read it all here.  A short excerpt:

German prisoners asked their guards for permission to create a
volleyball courtyard. Innocently obliging, the guards provided them
with digging tools. From that point on, two men were digging at all
times during night hours. A cart was rigged up to travel along tracks
to take the dirt out. The men stuffed the dirt in their pants pockets
which had holes in the bottoms, and they shuffled the dirt out along
the ground as they walked around. In addition, they flushed a huge
amount of dirt down the toilets. They labeled their escape route Der Faustball Tunnel (The Volleyball Tunnel).

dug a 178 foot tunnel with a diameter of 3 feet. The tunnel went 8 to
14 feet beneath the surface, under the two prison camp fences, a
drainage ditch and a road. The exit was near a power pole in a clump of
brush about 15 feet from the Cross Cut Canal. To disguise their plans,
the men built a square box, filled it with dirt and planted native
weeds in it for the lid to cover the exit. When the lid was on the
tunnel exit, the area looked like undisturbed desert.

is some dispute about how many people actually escaped -- official
records say 25.  Others argue that as many as 60 escaped, but since
only 25 were recaptured, 25 was used as the official number to cover up
the fact that German POW's might be roaming about Arizona.

The prisoners who led this escape were clearly daring and inventive,
but unfortunately in Arizona lore they are better known for their one
mistake.  Coming from wet Northern European climes, the prisoners
assumed that the "rivers" marked on their map would actually have
flowing water in them.  Their map showed what looked like the very
substantial Salt River flowing down to the Colorado River and eventual
escape in Mexico.  Unfortunately, the Salt River most of the year (at
least in the Phoenix area) is pretty much a really wide flat body of dirt.  The German expressions as they carried their stolen canoes up to its banks must have been priceless.

never occurred to the Germans that in dry Arizona a blue line marked
"river" on a map might be filled with water only occasionally. The
three men with the canoe were disappointed to find the Salt River bed
merely a mud bog from recent rains. Not to be discouraged, they carried
their canoe pieces twenty miles to the confluence with the Gila river,
only to find a series of large puddles. They sat on the river bank, put
their heads in their hands and cried out their frustration.

know how they feel every summer when we go to Lake Powell and find the
water lower than the previous year.  Anyway, we shouldn't just make
light of the escapees.  Apparently the prison guards made Sargent Schultz look like Sherlock Holmes:

the men left in the wee hours of Christmas Eve, the camp officials were
blissfully unaware of anything amiss until the escapees began to show
up that evening. The first to return was an enlisted man, Herbert
Fuchs, who decided he had been cold, wet and hungry long enough by
Christmas Eve evening. Thinking about his dry, warm bed and hot meal
that the men in the prison camp were enjoying, he decided his attempt
at freedom had come to an end. The 22-year old U-boat crewman hitched a
ride on East Van Buren Street and asked the driver to take him to the
sheriff's office where he surrendered. Much to the surprise of the
officers at the camp, the sheriff called and told them he had a
prisoner who wanted to return to camp.

of the last to be re-captured was U-boat Commander Jürgen Wattenberg,
the leader of the breakout.  Interestingly, Captain Wattenberg hid out
in the hills just a few hundred yards from my current home.

Best of Coyote II

Well, it worked for Johnny Carson, why not for me?  Instead of
leaving you with dead air (photons?) while I am knocking the rust off
my beer pong skills back at Princeton, I will share with you a few of
my favorite posts from my early days of blogging.  Since most of these
posts were viewed by about 5 people, there is a certain temptation to
just recycle them without attribution, given the unlikelihood of
getting caught.  Instead, though, I will share them as my best of

This post was from just after the last election, and was titled "Something Unusual Will Happen in 2008".  This was my first ever Instalanche (though the record books put an asterisk next to this one because it was from one of Glenn's guest bloggers) and I still think it makes an interesting point about the next election.

Assuming Cheney does not want to run for president, which I think is
a given, something will happen in 2008 that has not happened in 56
years since 1952: Neither of the two major-party presidential
candidates will be incumbents of the President or Vice-President jobs.
In 1952 we had Eisenhower vs. Stevenson. Since then we have always had
incumbents running, though not necessarily successfully -
1956: Eisenhower
1960: Nixon
1964: Johnson
1968: Humphrey
1972: Nixon
1976: Ford
1980: Carter
1984: Mondale and Reagan
1988: Bush
1992: Bush
1996: Clinton
2000: Gore
2004: Bush v 1.1

I guess the only exception you could make to this is if you called Hillary an incumbent.  Full list of presidents and VP's here


I didn't just bury the conclusion, but left it out entirely. The
point is that 2008 is likely to be a zoo. Not one but two wide open
nominating battles, plus of course the general election. Can we please,
please before then try to figure out a way to choose our candidates
other than just letting Iowa do it?


Welcome Instapundit (guess I need to send a check to my host for
more bandwidth). While you are here, you might check out my latest
roundup on Kyoto and Global Warming, as well as an interesting analysis on the economic and political success of ex-French vs. ex-Anglo/American colonies.  Short answer is that you didn't want the French as masters.


Check out the comments section, which has several good posts
handicapping the Republican candidates in 2008. Several people suggest
a Republican strategy to replace Cheney mid-term with their next
candidate. I know that the leadership of both political parties lament
their loss of control, due to the primary system, in selecting their
nominee, and this certainly would be an intriguing way of getting
around that and the Iowa/NH problem. However, the move is so
transparently Machiavellian, and I think unprecedented, that the first
party to try it will probably get punished in the court of public

Best of Coyote I

Well, it worked for Johnny Carson, why not for me?  Instead of leaving you with dead air (photons?) while I am knocking the rust off my beer pong skills back at Princeton, I will share with you a few of my favorite posts from my early days of blogging.  Since most of these posts were viewed by about 5 people, there is a certain temptation to just recycle them without attribution, given the unlikelihood of getting caught.  Instead, though, I will share them as my best of Coyote...

This post was from early last December, and is titled "60 Second Refutation of Socialism, While Sitting at the Beach":

Last week, there were several comments in Carnival of the
Capitalists that people would like to see more articles highlighting
the benefits of capitalism.  This got me thinking about a conversation
I had years ago at the beach:

out at the beach one day with a distant family member, we got into a
discussion about capitalism and socialism.  In particular, we were
arguing about whether brute labor, as socialism teaches, is the source
of all wealth (which, socialism further argues, is in turn stolen by
the capitalist masters).  The young woman, as were most people her age,
was taught mainly by the socialists who dominate college academia
nowadays.  I was trying to find a way to connect with her, to get her
to question her assumptions, but was struggling because she really had
not been taught many of the fundamental building blocks of either
philosophy or economics, but rather a mish-mash of politically correct
points of view that seem to substitute nowadays for both.

of the reasons I took up writing a blog is that I have never been as
snappy or witty in real-time discussions as I would like to be, and I
generally think of the perfect comeback or argument minutes or hours
too late.  I have always done better with writing, where I have time to
think.  However, on this day, I had inspiration from a half-remembered
story I had heard before.  I am sure I stole the following argument
from someone, but to this day I still can't remember from whom.

picked up a handful of sand, and said "this is almost pure silicon,
virtually identical to what powers a computer.  Take as much labor as
you want, and build me a computer with it -- the only limitation is you
can only have true manual laborers - no engineers or managers or other
capitalist lackeys".

Yeah, I know
what you're thinking - beach sand is not pure silicon - it is actually
silicon dioxide, SiO2, but if she didn't take any economics she
certainly didn't take any chemistry or geology.

replied that my request was BS, that it took a lot of money to build an
electronics plant, and her group of laborers didn't have any and
bankers would never lend them any.

too many defenders of capitalism would have stopped here, and said
aha!  So you admit you need more than labor - you need capital too.
But Marx would not have disagreed - he would have said it was the
separation of labor and capital that was bad - only when laborers owned
the capital, rather than being slaves to the ruling class that now
controls the capital, would the world reach nirvana.  So I offered her
just that:

told her - assume for our discussion that I have tons of money, and I
will give you and your laborers as much as you need.  The only
restriction I put on it is that you may only buy raw materials - steel,
land, silicon - in their crudest forms.  It is up to you to assemble
these raw materials, with your laborers, to build the factory and make
me my computer.

She thought for a few seconds, and responded "but I can't - I don't know how.  I need someone to tell me how to do it"

that is the heart of socialism's failure.  For the true source of
wealth is not brute labor, or even what you might call brute capital,
but the mind.  The mind creates new technologies, new products, new
business models, new productivity enhancements, in short, everything
that creates wealth.  Labor or capital without a mind behind it is

From the year 1000 to the year 1700, the world's wealth, measured as GDP per capita, was virtually unchanged.
Since 1700, the GDP per capita in places like the US has risen, in real
terms, over 40 fold.  This is a real increase in total wealth - it is
not money stolen or looted or exploited.  Wealthy nations like the US
didn't "take" the wealth from somewhere else - it never even existed
before.  It was created by the minds of human beings.

How?  What changed?  Historians who really study this
stuff would probably point to a jillion things, but in my mind two are

  1. There was a philosophical and intellectual
    change where questioning established beliefs and social patterns went
    from being heresy and unthinkable to being acceptable, and even in
    vogue.  In other words, men, at first just the elite but soon everyone,
    were urged to use their mind rather than just relying on established
  2. There were social and political changes that greatly increased
    the number of people capable of entrepreneurship.  Before this time,
    the vast vast majority of people were locked into social positions that
    allowed them no flexibility to act on a good idea, even if they had
    one.  By starting to create a large and free middle class, first in the
    Netherlands and England and then in the US, more people had the ability
    to use their mind to create new wealth.  Whereas before, perhaps 1% or
    less of any population really had the freedom to truly act on their
    ideas, after 1700 many more people began to have this freedom. 

So today's wealth, and everything that goes with it (from shorter
work hours to longer life spans) is the result of more people using
their minds more freely.

Look around the world - for any country, ask yourself if the average
person in that country has the open intellectual climate that
encourages people to think for themselves, and the open political and
economic climate that allows people to act on the insights their minds
provide and to keep the fruits of their effort.  Where you can answer
yes to both, you will find wealth and growth.  Where you answer no to
both, you will find poverty and misery. 


While it is not exactly a direct follow-on to this article, see my post Progressives are too Conservative to Like Capitalism
for an analysis of some of capitalism's detractors.  For yet another
way to explain capitalism, at least libertarian philosophy, here is a new-agy approach that is actually pretty good.  Finally, Spontaneous Order
has an interesting post comparing religious creationism in the physical
world with progressives' statism in the economic/social realms.