I publish WendellNotes for significant books I read to make their perspective available to friends and GIN subscribers who may not otherwise have time for them. Before I started writing WendellNotes in 2011, book notes were part of my Journal. [Brackets separate my comments from the author's.]
More from Less
[This book offers the best explanation I’ve seen for the recently observed US sustained economic health and low inflation relative to other countries’ economies that are less free, with weaker institutions.] I call tech progress, capitalism, public awareness, and responsive government the “4 horsemen of the optimist.” When there is more capitalism, there is more prosperity. Economic growth in America and other rich countries has decoupled from resource consumption. Institutions are the “rules of the game” for a society. What we’re doing is working and therefore we should keep doing it. Some of us are certain that fairness means equality while others are adamant that it means proportionality. Talent is equally distributed; opportunity is not.
More Guns Less Crime
Allowing citizens to carry concealed handguns reduces violent crimes, and the reductions coincide closely with the number of concealed-handgun permits issues. Of all methods studied by economists, the carrying of concealed handguns appears to be the most cost-effective method for reducing crime. By 2007, stories of people who had used guns to defend themselves had helped motivate 39 states to adopt nondiscretionary concealed-handgun laws. After Florida’s 1987 law, the size of murder rate drop corresponded with the number of concealed-handgun permits outstanding. Women and blacks both tend to be the strongest supporters of gun control, yet obtain the largest benefits from nondiscretionary concealed-handgun laws. Violent crime rates were rising consistently before the right-to-carry laws and falling thereafter. Gun elimination strengthens criminals relative to physically weak victims. Between 1977 and 1996 29 states changed their laws. The benefits from these laws increase over time as more people obtain permits.]
Multipliers: How the best leaders make everyone smarter
Some leaders seem to drain intelligence and capability out of the people around them, while others apply their intelligence to amplify others’ smarts and capability. Not only can you become a Multiplier yourself, you can find and create other Multipliers. Finding people’s genius begins by carefully observing them in action, looking for spikes of authentic enthusiasm and a natural flow of energy. Consistency creates predictability. Multipliers get more than 100% of people’s capability because they grow under the watch of a Multiplier. When the scoreboard is visible, people hold themselves accountable. Adopt the assumptions of a Multiplier and allow the behavior practices to naturally follow.
Myth of Equality
Racism in the US is worse than we thought and our responsibility is greater than we’ve been taught. The creation of a white standard in the world during the age of exploration and the white structural privilege prevailed for so long in America that it led to “white privilege.” It doesn’t mean your life isn’t hard—just that if you are a person of color your life might be harder. The word race can be traced only to the 16th century. Vagrancy laws lasted for over 60 years through 1927 across the South, enslaving hundreds of thousands of African Americans. The white American “creation story" is positive and exciting. The black American creation story is rooted in tragedy, kidnapping, enslavement, theft, coercion, rape, murder, genocide, inequality, exclusion, terrorism, and oppression in this country. Many things can only be seen through eyes that have cried. The greatest wounds and injustices in human history have happened through the institutions, systems, philosophies, cultures, religions, and governments of mankind.
The Good Samaritan was an immigrant to Judea who was kind to a local citizen victimized by an assault. The Bible is in many ways a book about immigration. God invariably takes the side of the immigrant over and against the local, more established populations. With an appeal to “homeland security,” the Egyptians enslave the descendants of Abraham. Christianity was largely illegal for the first 300 years after the life of Christ. Christianity became illegal during the Protestant Reformation. Those who sought to limit Geneva’s welcome of religious exiles used many of the same arguments employed by those who seek to close America’s borders today. Some Americans believe that while immigration was unquestionably wise for their own parents or grandparents, it really ought to stop now in another form of NIMBY. The Bible makes specific provision for the care of those who immigrate because they are poor and seeking a better life for themselves and their families. In the Old Testament, aliens were classified, along with widows and orphans, as people to be helped. Are international borders more deserving of protection than the humans who cross them? Justice is not the same as fairness. I’m not always sure what is fair, but it’s not hard to discern what is unjust. When discussions around immigration are educated, thoughtful, and separated from fear, prejudice, and xenophobia, consensus usually emerges.
New Jim Crow
This book is “being read from the hall of Congress to the statehouses across the country,” per a Newsweek article published 6/19/13. Mass incarceration in the US has emerged as a stunningly comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized social control that functions in a manner similar to Jim Crow. Studies show that people of all colors use and sell illegal drugs at remarkably similar rates. The stigma of criminality functions in much the same way that the stigma of race once did. Proponents of racial hierarchy found they could install a new racial caste system without violating the law or the new limits of acceptable political discourse by demanding “law and order” rather than “segregation forever.” Never before in our history have so many felt compelled to plead guilty, even if they are innocent. Although the majority of illegal drug users and dealers nationwide are white, ¾ of all people imprisoned for drug offenses have been black or Latino. Unbridled discretion inevitably creates huge racial disparities. Roughly 65M people have criminal records, including tens of millions of Americans who have been arrested but never convicted of any offense, or convicted only of minor misdemeanors. Laws that said nothing about race operated to discriminate because those charged with enforcement were granted tremendous discretion and they exercised it in a highly discriminatory manner. Whereas black success stories undermined the logic of Jim Crow, they actually reinforce the system of mass incarceration.
America's fundamental interests are the physical security of the US and a relatively untrammeled international economic system. The American presidency is weak at home but immensely powerful outside the US. How can the US espouse multiculturalism and then demand that other people select their leaders the way people do in Iowa? Conventional virtue is unacceptable in a president. The practical foundation of the modem economy is the corporation. Without this innovation, there would be no stock market as we know it, no investment in start-ups, and little entrepreneurship. The president's task is to protect the republic from a world full of people who are not virtuous in any conventional sense. In deciding to invade in 2003, George W. Bush placed his moral obsession above the fundamental principle of American strategy: maintaining a balance in each region without committing substantial numbers of troops. If a president is to lead a nation into war, he must crisply designate both the enemy and the end being sought. Only one country ever produced a nuclear weaponfrom scratch--the US.
Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment
[The way society wrestles with the judgment process is the fascinating subject of this book.] Noise audits suggest that respected professionals maintain an illusion of agreement while in fact disagreeing in their daily professional judgments. Underwriters who heard about the noise audit and accepted its validity never believed that its conclusions applied to them personally. Judgment is measurement in which the instrument is a human mind. Professionals are distressingly weak in what they often see as their unique strength: the ability to integrate information. The illusion of validity is found wherever predictive judgments are made. All mechanical approaches are noise-free and far superior to clinical judgments. Rules are transparent and easy to apply. Professional regard the idea of algorithmic decision making as dehumanizing and an abdication of their responsibility. Confidence is no guarantee of accuracy. Unknowns are characteristics of the task of prediction. Overconfidence is one of the best-documented cognitive biases. The future is unpredictable. However, the obviousness of this fact is matched only by the regularity with which it is ignored. People often mistake their sense of confidence for an indication of predictive validity. When they listen to their gut, decision makers hear the internal signal and feel the emotional reward it brings. Human judgment will not be replaced, so it must be improved. Causation implies correlation. Whatever the event, once it has happened, causal thinking makes it feel entirely explainable, indeed predictable. This continuous hindsight causal interpretation of reality is how we “understand” the world.
7 stages of organizational development: Idea, Start-up, Growth, Maturity, Decline, Turnaround, and Terminal. 5 capacity builders ~ programs, management, governance, financial resources, and systems. Realizing the goals of high performance, best practices, and organizational effectiveness are wholly dependent on capacity.
Alexis de Tocqueville came [from France] to America to learn how a fledgling nation, barely 50 years old, could already be competing with them on virtually every level. This was impossible. He was going to sort it out. We do not have to yield to pop culture, Hollywood, politicians, or the media who are enforcing political correctness. We need to simply ignore the “barking” and act like mature adults who can tolerate hearing something about which we disagree and still remain civil and open-minded. Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has. Bullying by the British was a major impetus for the resistance movement that resulted in our ultimate independence and the establishment of our Constitution. When the vision of the US government included guarding the rights of people but staying out of their way, America was an economic engine more powerful than anything the world had ever seen.
Other People's Money
[This is the best explanation I’ve found of what happened in 2008 and the culture that remains.] The functions of payments are the services that finance provides. Much of the growth of the financial sector in the last 3 decades is the consequence of the growth of derivative markets. Key insights were discarded as financialization exalted the role of traders and the overseers of the financial world assured each other that activities which in reality represented irresponsible gambling constituted a new era of sophisticated risk management. The immediate mistake was to believe that the risk transfer represented insurance rather than wagering. Investors look at economic fundamentals; traders look at each other; quants’ look at the data. [GIN looks at all 3]. Modern financial conglomerates are not so much engines generating large profits as institutions that suck up public subsidy. Expansion of the trade in securities grew, not the capital supporting it. The modern investment bank has retreated from search into trading with other people’s money for the benefit of its senior employees. The objective should be to address issues of structure and incentives rather than to intensify supervision and control. Society can shift consumption from one generation to another only by investing in, or running down, the physical assets of the nation. A linear financial system is one in which intermediaries deal with end-users, rather than each other, and are familiar with the needs of borrowers and/or lenders. The belief that the profitability of an activity is a measure of its social legitimacy has not only taken root in the financial sector but has spread its poison throughout the business world.
The effect of generations of Rapture eschatology seems to be that many Christians are characterized by despair, defeat, retreat, and doomed to failure. The eschatological issue centers on the fundamental point: Will the gospel succeed in its mission, or not? It was the utter confidence in the victory of the Christian faith that gave courage to the early missionaries, who fearlessly strode into the farthest reaches of pagan Europe. Capitalism—the free market—is a product of Biblical laws. All these things will come upon this generation (Mt 23-29-36). The generation that crucified the Lord and persecuted His apostles was the “terminal generation.” The Great Tribulation ended with the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 (Lk 21:5, 6). The disciples understood the significance of this, that it would signal the end of the age. The period spoken of as the last days, last time, or last hour is the period between Christ’s birth and the destruction of Jerusalem. Progressively, He is now engaged in conquering the nations by the gospel. Finally, the Day will come when Christ’s actual conquest of the world is complete. John stated that his book was intended for the seven churches which are in Asia (1:4). We Postmillennialists say that the Millennium refers to the period between the first and Second Advents of Christ: The Millennium is going on now, with Christians reigning as kings on earth. Jesus is reigning now and He will remain in heaven until the Last Judgment. Our rule is going on now, on the earth, and the extent of our rule coincides with the progress of the gospel. The New Jerusalem is a present reality; it is said to be coming down from heaven because the origin of the Church is heavenly. Jesus prayed that we would not be “raptured.” My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one (Jn 17:15).
Cycles of revival and backsliding will continue until all 5 of the Eph 4 gifts are restored to the church. APEST (apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, teacher) is the primary algorithm of the ministry of ecclesia. Without apostolic gifting present, it would be like having to run government with no executive powers. Ephesians 4 is not primarily a leadership text but rather a ministry text. Calling and ministry are different from leadership only by matter of degree and capacity. While the existence of conflict and opposition threatens a group’s life, the absence of the same forces is also a serious threat.]
Power of Habit
“Understanding habits is the most important thing I’ve learned in the army.” Craving drives the habit loop. Habits emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. The brain will try to make almost any routine into a habit. To change a habit, you must keep the old cue and deliver the old reward but insert a new routine. A habit cannot be eradicated—it must be replaced. “Keystone habits” shift, dislodge and remake other patterns. Small wins have enormous power. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change. Families who habitually eat dinner together seem to raise children with better homework skills. Self-discipline has a bigger effect on academic performance than does intellectual talent. Willpower isn’t just a skill. It’s a muscle and it gets tired as it works harder, the mind of the pupil must be prepared in its habits if it is to enjoy and dislike the right things. Your habits are what you choose them to be.
Prediction is the basis for human intelligence. Prediction accuracy enables machines to perform tasks once associated with human intelligence. Humans discriminate more than machines.]