Episode #50 - Free-Rider Friday - June 2015

Welcome to “Free-Rider Friday.” Most of our shows are “topic” driven, where we dive deep into one subject. Free-Rider Fridays are designed to be “event” driven—whatever issues are in the news that we (or you) find worthy of commentary.

In economics, free riding means reaping the benefits from the actions of others and consequently refusing to bear the full costs of those actions. This means Ed and Ron will free ride off of the news, and each other, with no advanced knowledge of the events either will bring up.

The song lyrics for “Free Ride” by The Edgar Winter Group. 

Ed’s Topic

The driverless car conundrum: should the car be programmed to swerve and kill 5 people, or to kill the driver? It’s a version of “Trolleyology” that we discussed on our August 22, 2014 show, Everyday Ethics: Doing Well and Doing Good.

It’s a fascinating question, and we discussed the ethics and legal implications of the driverless car.

Ron’s Topic

One traditional definition of “management” in older English dialects was, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, “to spread manure.”

According to David Whyte, a self-described corporate poet, in his book, Crossing the Unknown Sea:

Manager is derived from the old Italian and French words          maneggio and manege, meaning the training, handling and          riding of a horse.

It is strange to think that the whole spirit of management is          derived from the image of getting on the back of a beast,          digging your knees in, and heading it in a certain direction.

The word manager conjures images of domination, command, and ultimate control, and the taming of a potentially wild energy. It also implies a basic unwillingness on the part of the people to be managed, a force to be corralled and reined in. All appropriate things if you wish to ride a horse, but most people don’t respond very passionately or very creatively to being ridden, and the words giddy up there only go so far in creating the kind of responsive participation we now look for.

Sometime over the next fifty years or so, the word manager will disappear from our understanding of leadership, and thankfully so. Another word will emerge, more alive with possibility, more helpful, hopefully not decided upon by a committee, which will describe the new role of leadership now emerging. An image of leadership which embraces the attentive, open-minded, conversationally based, people-minded person who has not given up on her intellect and can still act and act quickly when needed.

Also, on work-life balance, our VeraSage colleague Dan Morris wrote a post back in 2006, “Work-Life Balance is PC for Slacker.”

On this topic, David Whyte also provocatively points out in his book The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship:

Poets have never used the word balance, for good reason. First of all, it is too obvious and therefore untrustworthy; it is also a deadly boring concept and seems to speak as much to being stuck and immovable, as much as to harmony. There is also the sense of unbalancing that must take place in order to push a person into a new and larger set of circumstances.

My mentor, George Gilder, says this with respect to work/life balance:

One of the things that really makes me laugh is when I hear about the “workaholic.” Workaholics are what the make the world go. Show me a success in any field, and I’ll show you an obsessive. If your life is “balanced” by languid afternoons at the museum, you cannot develop a new business, break an important story, or make a contribution to the world. …Our task on earth—laboring in the service to others—can only be satisfied thru hard and unbalanced work.

Balance is for ballerinas and tires.

Ed also talked about his new favorite word: Floccinaucinihilipilification, meaning “the estimation of something as valuless.” 

Ed’s Topic

Donald Trump announced his candidacy for US President to Neil Young’s song “Rockin’ in the Free World,” which created a controversy since Young doesn’t support Trump.

Ron’s Topic

We discussed The Economist May 23, 2015 article, “Democratising medicine: The crowd will see you now,” which talks about CrowdMed to diagnose rare diseases.

Ed’s Topic

The California Labor Commission ruled that Uber’s “independent contractors” are actually employees. This is an insane ruling, and another regulatory burden that the disrupter Uber will have to deal with.

Ron’s Topic

We discussed The Psychology of Pessimism, by Steven Pinker, from Cato’s Letter, Winter 2015. You can check out more of Steven Pinker’s work at Humanprogress.org.

If you are listening to this show in the year 2115, you will be worried about declining population! We don’t have an economic model for what happens when worldwide population declines, since it’s never happened in history.

Ed’s Topic

Since we pre-recorded this show before the Supreme Court ruling on the ObamaCare case, we discussed how might the court rule. Ron thought the court would let it stand, but tell Congress to fix it. Ed thought they’d overturn it, but tell Congress to fix it.

We were both wrong. Ed was wronger!

Ron’s Topic

We discussed price-match guarantees, since they prevent rather than provoke price wars, from The Economist, Free Exchange, February 14, 2015.

It’s a pre-emptive defense as it persuades customers they don’t need to shop around, since they can invoke the guarantee instead of switching.

The result: tacit collusion, without any explicit communication between firms.