Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Monday, February 25, 2008

I Just Discovered A New Church Webpage

I love that the Church is continually doing more to deliver its message. A new project is underway to publish everything written under the hand of Joseph Smith. The project has its webpage at That will get a link on the side of this blog.

Other new Church webpages are and

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Only Way To Get It Is To Give It Away

What do any of us want out of life?

Economics is the study of scarcity. To get things you have to be frugal, make choices between competing ideas, and live without certain things.

Looking at corporate America, it is very much a fixed pie scenario. There is only so much pie, and to "maximize your utility," as they say, you have to take it from someone else. This is not all cold and hard business, of course; different people want different things. There are opportunities to expand the pie in some cases.

The classic example from the negotiations class is two people who want a lemon. If they cut the lemon down the middle, each should be happy, right? Not if they want the lemon for different reasons. One person may want the juice for lemonade, and the other may want the skin for baking. Dividing the lemon according to pulp and skin is an example of trying to expand the pie.

Business easily misses ideal solutions because they are so intent on protecting their piece of pie. I think small business gets these things better, because it runs on a more personal basis, but business myopia is still hard to combat.

When most people discuss what really matters in life, it is not merely money and power. Some may not act like money and power are unimportant, but few people actually say the purpose of life is money and power. The problem with business becoming the purpose of life for so many people is that they think business principles apply to everything.

So, back to my original question: What do any of us want out of life? Almost everyone will list things like family, friendship, happiness, faith, hope, love, and the list could go on. The only way to get these things is to give them away freely.

In a terrific book called Six Events, Steven R. Covey describes the difference between a scarcity mentality and an abundance mentality. "People with a scarcity mentality," he says, "have a difficult time being genuinely happy for the success of others, even family members or close friends" (p. 53). What a sad state, yet it is so easy to feel that way.

On the other hand (now I sound like an economist), "Charity, or the pure love of Christ, produces an abundance mentality so that we're never threatened by the success of other people" (p. 54).

I am convinced that no matter what we really want in life, the only way to get it is to give it away and help as many other people find it as possible.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Business Strategy

I just got out of the most unique class of the MBA. It is a Business Strategy class and the first half of day one of the class was a discussion of the business genius of Madonna. She has been massively successful for longer than any other female act.

The professor said, "the first law of business is that sex sells."

That is the problem. Because people perceive that appealing to sexuality is the best way to sell anything, it adds to the coarsening of society. Sex may sell, but it is the cheap and easy way out of advertising. One of my classmates asked if there were any moral issues with selling with sex. The professor said it doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is using whatever strategic advantages you can to maximize profits.

In the professor's defense, I think she was exaggerating to make a point, but I see more clearly how vital the role is of Latter-day Saints and like minded people. Business has every incentive to appeal to whatever will increase profits. If sex sells, then they will use it.

I think the Saints' role is to lead. We must stem the tide of filth that is washing over society. It may be that we are fighting a losing battle, but it is a battle we must fight with all we have. Society may continue on its course of self destruction, but individuals can still be saved from that destruction.

Business is all about quantifying the benefits of this or that decision. Sex may sell in the short term, but there are lasting costs that reach generations into the future. People worry about the national deficit, but what about the moral deficit?

The fall of the family has dire consequences. Divorce and illegitimate births harm the way children grow up. They have higher risk of poverty, dropping out of high school, using drugs, being arrested, and having children of their own out of wedlock. It becomes a vicious cycle.

Of course, I am speaking in generalities. I met people in Philadelphia who pulled themselves out of poverty despite the culture around them. I know single moms who are miracle workers, and raise great kids. People can be transformational figures in their families and communities. But all that aside, the costs of drug abuse, criminality, and under-achievement are real and expensive.

I think business leaders and religious leaders have a responsibility to actually lead. The Gadarene Swine Law says that just because everyone is in formation, it doesn't mean they are headed the right direction.

Church leaders were right to warn us "that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets."

Monday, February 18, 2008

Three Worst Presidents

Jimmy Carter
James Buchanan
Lyndon B. Johnson
Explanation at American Thinker here.
(H/t NRO)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

What a Day!

I was at a seminar today in Dallas and was able to see Dick Hoyt speak. He is the father who competes in marathons and triathlons with his son, Rick, with cerebral palsy in tow. He drags his son in a boat for the swimming, has a seat on the front of the bike, and pushes a three wheeled wheelchair for the run. His story is inspiring. The website is here: They have competed in hundreds of races over the past 25+ years.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Oh, Happy Day!

As easy as it is to point out trouble in the world, there is some good news out there: baseball's spring training has started. No society can be all bad that comes up with spring training. Go Rangers!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Econ 101

Here is an interesting article on economics from Thomas Sowell. A few highlights:
My hope is that Economic Facts and Fallacies will expose some of the worst fallacies and leave readers sufficiently skeptical that they will take other political “solutions” with a grain of salt and stop to think before they join a stampede.

Fallacies can sound very plausible if you don’t stop to analyze what is being said and don’t bother to check out the facts.

Some of the fallacies examined in various chapters of Economic Facts and Fallacies include the following:

1. Government programs are needed to create “affordable housing.” (Actually, government intervention is what has made housing so unaffordable in places where even hovels are expensive.)

2. Employer discrimination is the main reason for differences in income between women and men. (Tons of evidence point in other directions.)

3. College tuition is going up so fast because of rising costs. (Only if you call voluntary increases in spending “rising costs.”)

4. Foreign aid helps poor countries become more prosperous. (Only if you don’t look at the evidence.)

5. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. (It all depends on whether you are talking about flesh and blood human beings or statistical brackets.)
Economic Facts and Fallacies is not just a demolition derby. It also brings out some facts that seldom get much attention in the media.
1. The poverty rate among black married couples has been in single digits since 1994.

2. The average income of the elderly is several times their earnings, and their wealth is far higher than among younger people.

3. Just as blacks are turned down for mortgage loans more often than whites, so whites are turned down more often than Asian Americans. (What does that do to racism as an all-purpose explanation?)
It stands out to me that societal problems become more apparent when we depart from the free market and the family in this country. There was a time when the black family unit was the strongest in the United States. Now, most blacks (African-Americans - I never know what I am supposed to say) are born outside of marriage. As I remember, whites and hispanics born outside of marriage have similar crime rates, high school drop out rates, and drug use rates as the blacks. The trajedy is not as racial as it is familial.

Should Mormons Consider Voting for Obama?

The short answer is yes. But to consider voting for someone and actually voting for someone is not the same thing. An old friend has given some thought as to why it would be good to vote for Barack Obama. I thought I would deal with some of the points he makes here.

I will start with some general observations about Obama. His tone is different than any politician currently on the national stage. Obama has an ability to connect with people who disagree with him. Case in point: me, I am considering voting for Obama. McCain, despite being the heir apparent of my party, is very much a cranky old man. His attacks on Mitt Romney infuriated me. But, I do agree with McCain on one core issue: the war in Iraq.

If anyone looks for coverage on Iraq in the newspapers, it probably won't be there. The old adage - if it bleeds, it leads - is true. Now that American casualties have dropped dramatically, the war is no longer on the front page. I have several friends here at A&M who are Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. One told me that the media does not get it. He said they don't understand the good or the bad that is happening on the ground. (Here is one website that has real reporting.) President Bush has already started drawing down the troop levels in Iraq. If the situation on the ground continues to improve militarily and politically, Iraq may not be that big of an issue come November. If that is the case, I will be more open to the Obama campaign.

Part of me also considers the delicious irony of a narrow Republican win (or dare I say, loss) in Utah. My problem with Republicans has been that they aren't really conservative any more. They presided over insane spending increases, from No Child Left Behind, to Medicare part D, to earmarks. Republicans are not supposed to preside over the massive expansion of the welfare state. (The joke goes: What is the difference between Republicans and Democrats? Republicans will raise spending, but tell you they feel terrible about it.)

The Huckabee sham makes me want to send a statement that says Mormons won't tolerate anti-Mormon behavior from a leading candidate. If Huckabee is McCain's running mate, I am even more likely to vote Democrat. I do not trust the Huckster.

In regards to government spending, the war effort is not that expensive compared to all the entitlement programs. I love the idea of government only buying what it can pay for, just like the rest of the nation. The best solution is to cut spending, not raise taxes. People living in Manhattan get farm subsidies. Soon, 70% of all government spending will be on entitlements. Government largesse does not satisfy the Christian imperatave to care for the poor and needy. I would far rather the government get out of the way of individuals and businesses, so that real assistance could be given.

Now, regarding taxes: the argument that people who make over $250,000 a year should pay more taxes is hollow. The expansion of the economy depends on the success of small businesses. Entrepreneurs may make that kind of money, but it is because they are the ones who are willing to take the risks. If they are taxed more, job creation will slow. Cutting corporate and individual tax rates will have a profound impact on capital investment. Capital investment means new factories, new jobs, and higher wages as skilled workers are in higher demand. (Yes, I am in business school, so my vision is colored by that experience.)

Immigration is a big problem. I know there are people in the Church in Texas who are in this country illegally. The problem is the other illegal activity they engage in. Illegal immigrants are massive perpetrators of identity theft. This harms real people. Illegals lower wages in inner cities. If people are really concerned with poverty, how about finding ways to naturally increase wages like limiting the cheap, illegal workforce. Law enforcement works. After states have increased enforcement of immigration laws, many people are returning to their homes. There is nothing dehumanizing about that. I welcome immigration, just do it right.

Interestingly, on many of the issues I am concerned about, McCain is not really that different than Democrats. I didn't get in to man-made global warming, judges, free speech, taxes, closing Guantanamo (I say leave it open - if those terrorists enter the American judicial system, they will have the rights of the very citizens they want to kill), and class warfare, but McCain has long parroted Democrat talking points.

My conclusion is, I have no conclusion. I don't know who I will vote for in November. I am open to being persuaded. But I am not just interested in style. I want substance, also. Who wins the Democrat primaries matters: I will vote against Hillary in a heartbeat. Running mates matter: Romney on the McCain ticket will help him in my view. John "Maverick" McCain vs. Barack "Audacity of Hope" Obama would be an interesting race. Many campaigns are a race to the edges to shore up the base. For the first time in a long time it could be a race to the middle to grap as many moderates as possible.

So, Mitt's Done

Now that it looks like John McCain is going to be my party nominee, I need to find a way to support him... or do I? I loved Mitt's speech at CPAC, and McCain's was actually one of his best. But one speech does not agreement make. As much as I like listneing to Obama, I don't know what substance he has. There is no way to really tell how he will actually govern.

A week ago, I would have said there is no way McCain could get my support and there is no way Romney could be the veep nominee. But the way Romney dropped out, it seems there is a door there where none was before. If Romney were on the ticket, I could vote for McCain without holding my nose.