Mike Kueber's Blog

December 31, 2013

Saturday Night at the Movies #95 – Hemingway and Gellhorn, Lovelace, and Invictus

Filed under: Book reviews — Mike Kueber @ 11:15 pm
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Hemingway and Gellhorn is a 2012 HBO film that focuses on the relationship of famed writer Ernest Hemingway and his third wife, war-correspondent Martha Gellhorn between 1939 and 1945.  Nicole Kidman as Gellhorn steals the show as a ballsy, idealistic adventurer, while Clive Owens as Hemingway is believable as a charismatic, dissolute rake.  Rotten Tomato critics and the audience give it mixed reviews – 50% and 46% respectively, but I found it both interesting and engaging at three stars out of four.  Its biggest drawback is that Hemingway didn’t deserve Gellhorn, as she concluded in 1945.  As she said in the movie (and in real life), she didn’t want her life to be a mere footnote to a famous man, and this movie helps her achieve that desire.

Lovelace is a 2013 dramatization of Linda Lovelace’s involvement in the porn business, most famously in the movie Deep Throat.  Lovelace is played by an exceptionally winsome Amanda Seyfried, and her loathsome pimp boyfriend/husband Chuck Traynor is played by Peter Sarsgaard.  Sharon Stone (Basic Instinct) and Robert Patrick (Terminator 2) play Linda’s old-school parents.  Lovelace debuted at Sundance and then only appeared in a limited release.  The critics enjoyed the flick at 54%, but the audience was only at 37%.  I thought the story was credible and interesting, and the cast was strong, so I give it three stars out of four.

Invictus is 2009 biographical drama that depicts Nelson Mandela’s use of South Africa’s rugby team to generate some national unity following the downfall of apartheid in South Africa.  My son Jimmy is a college rugby player and suggested that I would enjoy the movie.  He was mostly wrong.  Although the movie tells an interesting and important story, it has less drama than a well-done documentary.  Amazingly, Morgan Freeman earned a Best Actor nomination for his portrayal of Mandela and Matt Damon a Best Supporting nomination for his portrayal of South Africa’s Springbok team captain.  Neither actor did much to create an emotional connection with the audience.  Mandela comes across as a latter-day Jesus, or at least a saint, and that’s OK because of Mandela’s well-established reputation, but it would have been nice if Damon’s character had more depth.  Rotten Tomato critics liked Invictus at 76% and the audience was nearly identical at 75%.  I give it passing grades because of its story, but fail it for its execution as a drama – two stars out of four.

Incidentally, Invictus raises an interesting aspect of nation-building.  A couple of years ago, I blogged about this subject in connection with a book by George Friedman titled The Next Decade.  In the book, Friedman pointed out that:

  • A nation is group of people with shared values, identity, and interests; whereas a state is the established government in an area.
  • Most regions of the world are divided into nation-states.
  • Occasionally, a nation is governed by multiple states (the Koreas) or a state governs multiple nations (the Soviet Union), but generally the boundaries of the nation and state should coincide.
  • Outside of Egypt, the nation/state boundaries in Africa do not coincide.  Rather, the states of Africa are a reflection of the administrative boundaries established by the European empires that have now vacated the continent.
  • Chaos will remain in Africa until power is consolidated in states that govern coherent nation – “As harsh as this may sound, nations are born in conflict, and it is through the experience of war that people gain a sense of shared fate.”

Invictus makes me wonder if, as Mandela appeared to realize, sports teams can assist a state in nation-building.

December 30, 2013

Sunday Book Review #118 – The Kids Got It Right by Jim Dent

Filed under: Book reviews,Culture,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 11:15 pm
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The Kids Got It Right is a story about the friendship formed between two high school football stars – a black Jerry LeVias and a white Bill Bradley – and how that friendship jump-started the move toward athletic desegregation in Texas.

The backdrop for the book, as suggested by its subtitle “How the Texas All-Stars Kicked Down Racial Walls,” was an all-star football game called the Big 33 Football Classic between 33 Texas and 33 Pennsylvania high schoolers in 1965.  Pennsylvania won the first match in 1964 by a score of 12-6 because most of Texas’s best players were playing on that same day in a more important intra-state North South game.  To avoid a similar debacle in 1965, the Texas governor John Connally intervened to move the intra-state game to a week earlier.  For additional insurance against a humiliating repeat, the Texas coach Bobby Layne decided to include three black players, including speedster receiver/return-man Jerry LeVias.

The story reads a lot like Jackie Robinson in baseball, with Bobby Layne playing the role of Branch Rickey.  Bill Bradley is key because he helps incorporate LeVias into the team by being the only player willing to room with him.  (The other two blacks roomed together.)

The result – LeVias plays a strong supporting role to Bradley’s starring role in leading the Texans to a 26-10 victory.  Texas stomped Pennsylvania again in 1966 (34-2) and 1967 (45-14), after which Pennsylvania declared “no mas,” and started playing either Ohio or Maryland kids.  The current PA record is 1-3 against Texas, 12-13 against Ohio, and 7-2 against Maryland.  So much for a PA juggernaut!

Bill Bradley went on to play QB for the Texas Longhorns before being supplanted by James Street when Texas developed the Wishbone offense.  Instead of sulking in ignominy, Bradley moved to defense and became an All-American defensive back at Texas and an All-Pro safety for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Jerry LeVias went on to become the second black to play in the Southwest Conference and earned All-American honors at SMU and All-Pro honors for the Houston Oilers.

Bobby Layne was one of the greatest QBs in history (his number has been retired by UT and the Detroit Lions), but he had a problem with drinking too much and was unable to get a job coaching outside of this volunteer gig.  One of his best partying friends was Dallas neighbor Mickey Mantle, who stole Layne’s line, “If I’d known I was gonna live this long, I’d have taken a lot better care of myself.”  Layne died at 59; Mantle at 63.

The aspect of this story that struck me most was not the personal relationship between Bradley and LeVias but rather the so-called gentlemen’s agreement amongst SWC coaches, including my hero Darrel Royal, to not recruit blacks.  I guess it’s like Michael Jordan saying that he was trying to be a winner, not lead a social movement.  In fact, the Longhorns remained all-white until 1970, when black Julius Whittier joined the team.   Years later, Whittier told the NY Times, “I was a jock, plain and simple.  I didn’t care about civil rights or making a mark. I just wanted to play big-time football.”  Although some might argue that the Longhorns eventually had to integrate to keep up with other teams, it is worth noting that they won the football national championship in 1969, with the famous anointment by President Nixon after their game with Arkansas.

Incidentally, the Wikipedia write-ups on Jerry LeVias, Bobby Layne, Bill Bradley, and the Big 33 Football Classic failed to say anything about the specialness of the 1965 game.

December 27, 2013

Voting against your interests

Filed under: Economics,Philosophy,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 8:16 pm
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An extremely liberal friend from Ohio, Terry Bradford, posted something on Facebook yesterday about the irony that nine of the ten poorest states in America consistently voted for conservatives – “If conservatism is so great, why are the ten poorest states all red states?!?.”    I responded, “Duh?  Because conservatism equates to opportunity.”  A little later in the thread, I inserted “An American’s Creed” by Dean Alfange:

  • I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon. I seek opportunity to develop whatever talents God gave me – not security. I do not choose to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me. I want to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed. I refuse to barter incentive for the dole. I prefer the challenge of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the state calm of utopia. I will not trade freedom for beneficence nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any earthly master nor bend to any threat. It is my heritage to stand erect, proud, and unafraid; to think and act myself, enjoy the benefit of my creations and to face the world boldly and say – ‘This, with God’s help, I have done.’ All this is what it means to be an American.”

This is not the first time that liberals have complained to me about poor (dumb) conservatives who reject the liberal lure of free benefits.  Or as Alexis de Tocqueville said, “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”

Why don’t poor conservatives vote consistent with their selfish interests?  But the same thing could be asked of rich liberals – i.e., why are rich liberals wanting to tax themselves more so that government can give more to the poor?

There are numerous psychological studies assuring us that, although people may talk altruistically, they are fundamentally directed by their DNA toward selfish impulses.  But those studies also concede that an individual’s brain, when allowed time to reflect, can override their survivalist DNA.

I suspect a person’s political philosophy (and voting behavior) is one of those things that is not entirely selfish.  Of course, to my way of thinking,
conservatism is better not only philosophically, but also economically.

December 21, 2013

Sunday Book Review #117 – If Kennedy Lived by Jeff Greenfield

Filed under: Book reviews — Mike Kueber @ 1:55 am
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The concept for If Kennedy Lived is “alternate history” – i.e., how would America have changed if Kennedy had survived the assassination attempt in Dallas.  In the book, Greenfield gives us his opinion to the obvious questions, primarily would Kennedy have kept America from getting sucked into Vietnam and would he have matched LBJ’s achievements with civil rights?

Not surprisingly, liberal journalist Greenfield concludes that Camelot Kennedy would have pulled out of Vietnam (and thereby avoided the youth rebellion of the late 60s) and would have led the way on civil rights.  If Kennedy lived, America would be blessed with eight years of peace and prosperity, but the Democratic Party would not be assured success in 1968 because his civil-rights achievements would have driven the South into the hands of the Republican Party.

In one of the book-jacket blurbs, Bob Schieffer talks of “a trio of thought-provoking, interesting, and downright clever scenarios that remind us just how much individuals do matter”:

  • Regarding the three clever scenarios – I’m not sure what those scenarios are, but I guess they are:
    • In real history, LBJ was given a pass on a potential financial scandal when he became president, but in Greenfield’s alternate history, the scandal would have been scrutinized by the liberal media and ultimately LBJ would have been forced to resign before Kennedy’s re-election in 1964.
    • HHH would win the Democratic nomination in 1968, but as the anti-war candidate, while Nixon would be defeated by Reagan for the Republican nomination.  (Greenfield provides no credible rationale why Kennedy’s survival would shift the dynamics of the Republican nomination in favor of Reagan.)
    • I don’t know what the third scenario is.  Perhaps it is the most obvious – i.e., the plastic roof on the convertible deflecting the Oswald’s bullet.
  • Regarding whether individuals matter – futurist George Friedman does not agree that individuals do matter.  A few years ago, I wrote about Friedman’s book titled The Next 100 Years, and in that book he argued that geopolitics does not take the individual leader very seriously because leaders don’t have much latitude regarding their actions.  Greenfield is not credible when he posits that JFK would have latitude that LBJ did not.

The book is surfeited with little inside jokes that only political aficionados will catch.  I caught a few, while probably missing more:

  • Al Gore, Jr. explaining that his dad was asked to be HHH’s running mate so that the ticket could carry Tennessee – “Makes sense.  It’d be damn hard for a national candidate to lose his home state.”  (Gore, Jr. decades later lost him home state of Tennessee.)
  • Richard Nixon, fuming over a Kennedy power grab, complains that “Just because a president does it does not mean it’s legal.
  • JFK pooh-poohing the idea of Bobby running for Senator of NY – “Bobby as a NY politician?  With his accent, they run him out of town in a week.

The book was easy to read, but ultimately it was disappointing because I’m not much interested in the wishful speculation of a liberal journalist.

 

Saturday Night at the Movies #94 – Smashed

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 1:50 am
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Smashed concerns a young female teacher – played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead – who realizes she has a drinking problem and then finds her recovery complicated by a boyfriend – Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad – who is a slacker committed to a lifestyle that includes alcohol.  The movie debuted successfully at the Sundance Film festival, but returned less than $400k on a budget of $500k.  Rotten Tomato critics loved it at 84%, but the audience was less so at 68%.  I agree with the critics because the story is interesting and Winstead is winning.  Paul, though, seems indistinguishable from his Breaking Bad character of Jesse Pinkman.  I give it three stars out of four.

 

December 16, 2013

The imperial mayor

Filed under: Issues,Law/justice,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 7:06 pm
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The “imperial presidency” is a term that came into use in the 60s to describe the expanding powers of the American president.  Although some pundits felt that this growth was a natural evolution that reflected modern needs, it became a great concern in the liberal world when those expanded powers inured to the benefit of their archenemy Richard Nixon.  In 1973, historian Arthur Schlesinger wrote a book titled The Imperial Presidency that posited the Presidency had exceeded the constitutional limits.

Interestingly, one of San Antonio’s liberal columnists, Rich Casey, recently wrote in the Express-News that Mayor Castro had “brazenly violated the city charter last week.”  But instead of taking the liberal mayor to task for his imperialism, Casey opined that the real problem was the outdated charter.  According to Casey, the 60-year-old charter was designed “to fight corruption and inefficiency by trying to take politics out of City Hall.”  So, is that a bad thing?

The problematic provision in the charter provides as follows:

  • Members of the council shall not direct or request the city manager or any of his subordinates to appoint to or remove from office or employment, or in any manner take part in the appointment or removal of [the city attorney].”

The charter goes on to provide that the city manager should select a city attorney who has “practiced law for at least five (5) years immediately preceding his or her appointment.”  According to Casey, the people who drafted the charter “didn’t want just any hack who happened to be a favorite of the mayor to become city attorney.”  Again, is that a bad thing?

Casey concludes his column by saying that the mayor “should have a strong say in selecting the city attorney,” but fails to address the obvious question – why not amend the charter to enable this “strong say”?  An amendment requires a vote of the people, but why wouldn’t they approve such a common-sense position?

Surely, they would be OK with injecting politics into the City Attorney position and with removing the requirement that the City Attorney be a practicing attorney.

An even bigger question is – What good is a charter if the Mayor and the City Council are free to ignore it?  I am planning to file a lawsuit against the Council for the travesty it committed with the 2012 redistricting, clearly in violation of the charter.  This City Attorney matter is another issue crying out for litigation, but I’m not sure who would have standing to bring an action – possibly one of the 42 applicants who were rejected in favor of a non-practicing political hack.

In response to Casey’s column, I placed the following on-line comment:

  • Rick Casey has no problem with Mayor Castro blatantly violating the clear dictates of the City Charter by securing the appointment of a political hack to the position of City Attorney.  Although the term political hack (i.e., a machine politician) may be a pejorative, it fits.  Casey admits as much by noting that Greenblum has not practiced law for four years, and even before that, his practice was in a field unrelated to municipal law.  Apparently, Greenblum’s only qualification for this job is his political relationship to Mayor Castro, and that is enough for Casey. 
  • Instead of charging that the appointment is unsavory, unwise, and illegal, Rick Casey disparages the City Charter for directing that the City Attorney should be selected by a dispassionate City Manager based on merit and legal ability.  Good luck in getting the public to amend the Charter to reflect the current practice.
  • In his next column, perhaps Casey could explore what remedies are available to the public when a political machine blatantly violates the clear dictates of the City Charter.        

December 15, 2013

Sunday Book Review #116 – David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

Filed under: Book reviews — Mike Kueber @ 11:28 am
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Gladwell has become one of the most popular nonfiction authors in America.  Starting with The Tipping Point, he followed-up with Blink and Outliers, all huge successes.  His newest book, David and Goliath, as noted in the book’s jacket, continues Gladwell’s tradition of combining “history, psychology, and powerful story-telling.”

Outliers, which is my favorite Gladwell book, examined some of the underlying reasons for an individual’s success.  David and Goliath looks at that same issue from a different, narrower perspective.  Gladwell’s newest book scrutinizes situations where, ostensibly against all odds, an individual succeeds.

Obviously, the biblical tale of David and Goliath is the quintessential example of an individual succeeding against all odds.  But upon closer analysis, Gladwell concludes that the D&G matchup was actually a mismatch in favor of David and his sling, based on dynamics similar to the rock, paper, scissors game.

Rock, paper, scissors?  Let Malcolm explain.  In D&G days, there were infantry, cavalry, and projectile warriors:

  • With their long pikes and armor, infantry could stand up to cavalry.  Cavalry could, in turn, defeat projectile warriors because the horses moved to quickly for the artillery to take proper aim.  And projectile warriors were deadly against infantry because a big, lumbering soldier, weighed down with armor, was a sitting duck for a slinger who was launching projectiles from a hundred yards away.”

Gladwell analyzed other facets of the D&G fight, but this was essentially paper covering a rock.  Or in a similarly colorful Gladwell analogy, Goliath went to a gun fight with a knife.

Subsequent chapters in the book examined other situations (a) where the ostensible advantage was actually disadvantageous (sometimes called affluenza), or (b) where significant disadvantages forced individuals to be creative (think out of the box) and develop alternative strategies that enabled the person to overcome those disadvantages.  Being born with dyslexia, like famous lawyer David Boies, is an example of this latter situation.

I found the second and third chapters to be the most interesting.  The second chapter dealt with optimal class size in elementary and secondary schools.  Before directly addressing schools and class size, Gladwell showed how successful parenting is easier with more money, but only up to a certain point, where additional money does not help and eventually makes successful parenting more difficult.  Intuitively, that makes sense and is reflected in an inverted-U curve.  Gladwell extended the same inverted-U concept to schools.  Smaller class size facilitates successful teaching, but only to a certain point, beyond which there are a plethora of problems created by a too-small class; e.g., too dominated by a bully, no individual autonomy, less likely to find intellectual peers, not enough variety of opinions in discussion, etc.

The third chapter concerned whether an individual was better off getting into the best possible university.  According to Gladwell, there was strong evidence that kids were much more likely to succeed in life if they attended an average university where they were strong students instead of an excellent university where they would feed at the bottom of food chain.  The former kid will flourish; the latter will flounder.  An obvious application of this concept would be affirmative action, which Gladwell concluded was counter-productive.

From a personal perspective, there is an argument that this concept applied to me at the University of Texas Law School, an excellent university where I just barely achieved admission and where my studies floundered.  But I disagree with that argument as applied to me because I had already downgraded the importance of academic excellence before enrolling at UT, as reflected by my mediocre grades during my last year of college at UND.  And my self-esteem was fine during UT-Law days and I always felt that I could compete academically with my classmates if that were a priority to me.  But, in general, the concept makes sense.

As with Gladwell’s earlier books, D&G contains some weak chapters, but overall this book is well worth reading.

 

p.s., the following is an interesting tidbit from Gladwell regarding Harvard’s attempt to deal with class standing:

Affirmative action at Harvard

Malcolm Gladwell in his book David and Goliath described the psychological effect on kids in elite schools like Harvard when they find themselves a class position to which they are unfamiliar – i.e., bottom of the class:

  • By the way, do you know what elite institution has recognized this very fact about the dangers of the Big Pond for nearly fifty years?  Harvard!  In the 1960s, Fred Glimp took over as director of admissions and instituted that was known as the “happy-bottom quarter” policy.  In one of his first memos after taking office, he wrote: “Any class, not matter how able, will always have a bottom quarter.  What are the effects of the psychology of feeling average, even in a very able group?  Are there identifiable types with the psychological or what-not tolerance to be ‘happy’ or to make the most of education while in the bottom quarter?”  He knew exactly how demoralizing the Big Pond was to everyone but the best.  To Glimp’s mind, his job was to find students who were tough enough and had enough achievements outside the classroom to be able to survive the stress of being Very Small Fish in Harvard’s Very Large Pond.  Thus did Harvard begin the practice (which continues to this day) of letting in substantial numbers of gifted athletes who have academic qualifications well below the rest of their classmates.  If someone is going to be cannon fodder in the classroom, the theory goes, it’s probably best if that person has an alternative avenue of fulfillment on the football field.  Exactly the same logic applies to the debate over affirmative action.

Based on Gladwell’s book notes, this information came from a 2006 book by Jerome Karabel – The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton

Saturday Night at the Movies #93 – The Oranges

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 5:29 am
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I’ve gone from one unloved box-office flop – Not Fade Away – to another – The Oranges.  The two movies share several similarities:

  • Both movies focused on kids growing up in NYC exurbia.
  • Both movies were fronted by an adult TV star – Not Fade Away had James Gandolfini while The Oranges has Hugh Laurie.
  • Both movies were first shown at a film festival before a limited release that returned pennies on the dollar of their original cost, with The Oranges returning only $366k returned on a cost of $7 million.

At least the critics liked Not Fade Away (70% approval).  Only 33% of the critics liked The Oranges.  I agree with the 33%.

The Oranges is about two interesting couples and their kids.  Their seemingly idyllic existence is blown-up when one of their prodigal children returns home and kindles a romantic interest in one of the parents.  The prodigal is Leighton Meester (she is every bit as good as Bella Heathcoate in Not Fade Away), and she describes her on-screen relationship with Hugh Laurie as follows:

  • “This is not a relationship that’s meant to be lusty and inappropriate. It is a connection that the two of them have felt probably for some time; they’ve just never acted on it. He brings out the adult, grown, mature, developed side of her, and she brings out the free-spirited, happy-go-lucky kid in him.”

Well said.  One final similarity between the two movies – their weird endings call out for a sequel.  But what are the chances with an audience that didn’t enjoy it and investors who lost their shirts.

I give the movie three and a half stars out of four.

December 14, 2013

Saturday Night at the Movies #92 – Not Fade Away

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 9:32 pm
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After David Chase created and developed a TV show – The Sopranos – that many consider to be the all-time best, he next attempted to employ his talents by writing, producing, and directing the movie Not Fade Away.  The film is a music-driven coming-of-age story set in 60s NYC exurbia that focuses on three kids trying to become the next Beatles or Rolling Stones.

Rock ‘n Roll music permeates the movie and orchestrating the presentation is none other than Stevie Van Zandt, a guitar player for Springsteen’s E Street Band and a Soprano co-star.  Van Zandt is listed as the movie’s music producer and an executive producer.

Emphasizing the role of music in this movie, in the climactic final scene, the protagonist’s younger sister, who also serves as a narrator, addresses the camera directly and asserts that America’s two biggest innovations are nuclear weapons and rock ‘n roll, and she wonders which will win in the end.

Chase, however, sees the movie differently.  He describes it as “a post-war, post-Depression-era parent who has given his kid every advantage that he didn’t have growing up, but now can’t help feeling jealous of the liberated, more adventurous destiny his son is able to enjoy.”  Observers have noted that much of the movie appears to be autobiographical of Chase’s youth.  (The parent whom Chase is referring to is the movie’s co-star James Gandolfini, who was the estimable star of The Sopranos.)

Although I have always enjoyed music, I have never been obsessed with it the way the characters in this movie are.  Perhaps that explains why the non-music aspect of the movie is what attracted me.  Although the characters never really come-of-age by the end of the movie, I thoroughly enjoyed their journey as far as it went.  That is why I was not surprised that the movie was well-received by critics (70% on Rotten Tomatoes), but I was shocked by its audience rating of only 41%.  Despite a budget of $20 million, the film brought in only $600,000 with its limited release this past December.  (Despite the limited release, the movie was reviewed by 86 critics, an amount that is testament to Chase’s clout in the industry.)

Before its December release, the movie played on October 6 at the New York Film Festival, and I can imagine being a potential investor seeing the movie and deciding to invest heavily in the movie.  Boy, would I have been shocked at the box office result.  The only explanation I can think of for this result is that Gandolfini may have been central to Chase’s (and my) vision of the movie, but he was irrelevant to the music-driven part of the movie, and without him carrying the movie, newcomers John Magaro and Bella Heathcoate could not pull it off.  Magaro’s character is an interesting guy, but he looks like an undersized Howard Stern.  Heathcoate is attractive, but there is no chemistry with Magaro.

I give the movie three and a half stars out of four.  It is well worth seeing, especially if you enjoy music and revisiting life in the 60s.

December 13, 2013

The Pareto Principle and three paths to success

Filed under: Economics — Mike Kueber @ 10:45 pm
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Based on 60 years of experiencing the ups and downs of life, I have detected three ways for an individual to achieve success.  Two of them are based on Pareto Principle or the so-called “80-20 rule.”

The Pareto Principle (named after an Italian economist) has been modified to have a variety of applications in math, business, and economics, one of which suggests that 80% of the available information can be gleaned with 20% of the effort while the remaining 20% of the information will take 80% of the effort.  Based on this principle, an individual might be successful in some jobs doing 20% of the effort to obtain 80% of the relevant information.

Obviously, this strategy is highly efficient for handling a large volume of information and should be preferred whenever the omitted information is unlikely to be critical.  By contrast, other jobs place more importance on making perfect decisions and in these jobs it is dangerous to ignore any information.

My legal career has exposed me to both types of jobs.  Regulatory compliance typically involves a huge volume of transactions, and the costs associated with each one are relatively minor.  But litigation can produce dramatically different results that turn on little pieces of information, and this creates a huge incentive to be exceedingly thorough.

Personally, I preferred doing the 20% of the effort to obtain the 80% of the relevant information, and then applying some common sense and good judgment to make solid decisions.  I am reluctant to spend the 80% of effort to obtain the remaining 20% of the information because that seems so inefficient.  That explains why I was so happy in regulatory compliance and was so unhappy dealing with litigation.

There is a 3rd path to success that doesn’t depend on either solid 80-20 or 20-80 thinking, and that path is often called emotional intelligence.  There are lots of successful people who are not especially good at analysis – in quality or quantity – but who are highly effective because they are good at dealing with the personalities of subordinates, superiors, clients, co-workers, etc.  These people can achieve success through the work of others.  A head football coach might be a good example of this.

Because I am not good in dealing with others or in 20-80 work, I was lucky to end up in an 80-20 career.  Fortunately, our capitalistic system generally directs people to the kind of work they enjoy.

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