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Evaluating the “Creative Monopoly”

David Brooks takes a look at Peter Thiel’s career path and concludes that instead of becoming better competitors, we need to become better creative monopolists:

In fact, Thiel argues, we often shouldn’t seek to be really good competitors. We should seek to be really good monopolists. Instead of being slightly better than everybody else in a crowded and established field, it’s often more valuable to create a new market and totally dominate it. The profit margins are much bigger, and the value to society is often bigger, too…

You know somebody has been sucked into the competitive myopia when they start using sports or war metaphors. Sports and war are competitive enterprises. If somebody hits three home runs against you in the top of the inning, your job is to go hit four home runs in the bottom of the inning.

But business, politics, intellectual life and most other realms are not like that. In most realms, if somebody hits three home runs against you in one inning, you have the option of picking up your equipment and inventing a different game. You don’t have to compete; you can invent. Read more

iFoxconn: The Corporation’s Role and the “Harder Problem” of Wages – Part II

This is Part II of a two part series. Part I was published on Wednesday. This is a cross post with the Fordham Corporate Law Forum.

Questions arise as to whether to use all American laws, such as Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which includes rules about the minimum wage and guaranteed overtime, as standards to judge U.S. corporations that use suppliers in Asia for cheaper labor. Bringing these laws into the calculus may be going too far. Jagdish Bhagwati, a professor at Columbia Law, argued that “full Western-style protections are not affordable in poor countries which generally lack many of the protections that have come gradually with development.” Bhagwati qualified “that there are many low-cost protections which are well within reach and which every society today owes to its workers and citizens.” Read more

iFoxconn: The Corporation’s Role and the “Harder Problem” of Wages – Part I

This is Part I of a two part series. Part II will be published on Friday morning. This is a cross post with the Fordham Corporate Law Forum. 

A Foxconn factory likely created the device you’re using to read this post, as Foxconn manufactures over 40 percent of the world’s electronics for companies including Apple, Dell, Amazon, Sony, and Motorola. Headquartered in Taiwan, Foxconn employs over 1.2 million people, making it China’s largest private employer. Recent reports about Foxconn, summarized below, raise challenging normative questions related to the social responsibilities of corporations and separate yet related matters of international justice. More specifically, to what extent should a successful American company ensure that its suppliers and subcontractors are paying their workers fair wages and providing safe and comfortable working conditions? Read more

Kony 2012 “Cover the Night” a Flop?

Asch Harwood is the Council on Foreign Relations Africa program research associate. A version of this post originally appeared on Africa in Transition, a Council on Foreign Relations blog.

When Invisible Children released its call to “make Kony famous” on April 20, Malcolm Gladwell’s piece in the New Yorker about the inadequacy of social media to affect social change came immediately to mind. The Kony 2012 video, with its eighty million plus YouTube views, could easily be seen as a litmus test for his hypothesis: can online networks translate into offline action? Read more

One Day On Earth

Yesterday, “One Day on Earth” premiered at the United Nations and in countries around the world. The film compiled more than 3,000 hours of footage from every country on the planet shot on one single day, 10.10.10. Watching the film in the General Assembly, one couldn’t help feeling both small and grand. You become intimately aware that you are just one person, living on a massive planet of nearly seven billion, and that each person has their own stories, their own experiences on any given day. And yet, you feel connected because you share the same common bonds, needs, emotions, life experiences. You feel pain in the face of sadness, happiness as result of a smile. It’s clear that the culture we are immersed in and the structures that surround us are accidents of the time and location of our birth, but the larger connections that bind us together are no accident.

The film reminds us that on a single day, the world faces hopes and challenges: 230,000 people will meet someone they love and will eventually marry; 45 countries are engaged in armed conflict; 26.4% of the world is under the age of 14 but too many of them lack the basic necessities for a long, fruitful life; 1.3 billion people lack access to clean water; 45% of people live on less than $2.50 per day. And possibly one of the most hopeful facts from the film was that on 10.10.10, the average person had 60,000 ideas — ideas have the potential to change the world we all share.

Learn more about this incredible project at:

What I Wanted to Say to Grover Norquist

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to go to the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic’s New York Ideas event. The discussions ranged from the future of the American economy to health care to education, with every panel searching for novel, grand ideas to solve the issue. Well, almost every panel.

There was a discussion entitled “USA: Will a Divided House Come Back Together” featuring David Gergen, Katrina vanden Heuvel and Grover Norquist.  What had the potential to be a lively conversation on finding common ground in politics was reduced to a schoolyard quarrel by Mr. Norquist’s childish, petty tactics. Norquist had produced a colorful map, and like a 12-year-old child presenting classroom art to his parents, he giddily encouraged the audience to display it on their fridge. The map featured states that had both a Republican governor and legislature labeled in red and states with the same makeup for Democrats in blue. His map however left off the most important label, the United States, and it was clear why.  Mr. Norquist had no interest in unity, as he went on an incoherent rant about how the Republican states should go in one extreme direction, and the Democratic states should go in the opposite direction, to meet in his opinion, their ultimate failure as a result of their socialist ways. Read more

The Difficulty of Defining Political Centrism

A version of this post originally appeared on the author’s blog.

A common refrain heard during presidential races is that candidates must pander to the party extreme during the primary season and then lurch back towards the center after winning the nomination. Mitt Romney, having all but wrapped up the nomination, has already begun this radical and potentially painful change of course.

To whatever extent this conceptual framework accurately describes candidate behavior in election seasons, it is important to realize that it also assumes, none too subtly, that centrist voters — however elusive and poorly defined — are the gatekeepers to the presidency.  Read more

Immigration and the Future of the U.S. Economy

Jeremy Robbins is a Policy Advisor and Special Counsel in the Office of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, where he helps manage the Partnership for a New American Economy.

During a chaotic four years spent frantically trying to stabilize the U.S. economy, we’ve endured bailouts, the stimulus, a perilous debt ceiling negotiation, and countless other measures to defend against the financial catastrophe of the day.  These fixes may have been short term necessities, but they did nothing to ensure long term growth or to fix the structural problems with our economy.

If we want a robust economic future for this country, we first need to dramatically retool our workforce.  Many necessary solutions will be infeasible because of debt constraints, inflation fears, or a polarized political climate.  But there is at least one way to revamp our workforce that does not break the bank, does not pass the burden to the next generation, and does not divide the political parties:  We can be smarter about our immigration laws. Read more