Category Archives: Business

Recommended Podcast: Stanford Technology Ventures Program Entrepreneurial Thought Leader Lecture Series

I’m a big fan of podcasts. When you see me walking my dog, Sam, in Stockholm, I’m not listening to music. I’m listening to podcast lectures on current events, politics, art, books, etc.

Check out this recent podcast lecture from Stanford’s Technology Ventures Forum Entrepreneurial Thought Leader Lecture Series . The lecturer, David Rothkopf, is the author of SUPERCLASS: The Global Power Elite and the World They are Making. It’s a fascinating insight into the few people who hold nearly all of the world’s power and how they’re using it.

I’m not posting it with any leftist political agenda in mind — it’s just INTERESTING.

I just added the podcast to Rothkopf’s bio on Wikipedia.

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Will foreign governments be buying American companies?

The Financial Page
Sovereign Wealth World
by James Surowiecki

Another excellent essay from Surowiecki (link above). Living in Sweden, it is always fascinating to me that the “Kingdom of Sweden” owns some 250 for-profit companies, including Absolut Vodka, one of the top 10 spirits brands in the world in sales; it is remarkably efficiently run, and while the government is speculating on selling it to convert it to cash and ease the government into owning fewer assets, the truth is that despite Absolut being a government-owned company, it has defied the free market cynics and performed phenomenally — perhaps better than it might have were it publicly traded or privately held. When I asked the Chairman whether he would recommend selling the company now as the government intends to, were it not now owned by the government, he speculated that it would be unwise to sell. Basically, the company performs so well and generates so much cash flow that it has no strategic reason to sell, and it is possible that the highest bidder out there will not be paying what the company is really worth. Ironic, or simply a vindication for the free market cynics, that Absolut will likely be sold for political, rather than sound business reasons, at a price less than it might have been worth were it not owned by the government? A red herring of mine, as this article is about the implications of foreign governments buying private or publicly traded American companies . . .

James Surowiecki’s latest “Financial Page” essay on CEO and hedge fund manager compensation

The Financial Page
Performance-pay Perplexes
by James Surowiecki
November 12, 2007

Economist James Surowiecki’s latest essay on CEO compensation sheds light into how CEO incentive packages actually induce CEOs into taking risks that hurt their companies long-term.

He has written many of his New Yorker “Financial Page” essays on this exact topic over the past few years. Here are links to more of them.

January 22, 2007
The Financial Page
The Sky-high Club

August 28, 2006
The Financial Page
Private Lies

February 13, 2006
The Financial Page
Overcompensating

The Economist: The new wars of religion

Nov 1st 2007
From The Economist print edition

Here’s an interesting article about the impact of religious conflict on global politics and economics. This article is part of a larger series of articles in the November 1 issue. All of the articles are available online.

I’ve always wondered . . .
Does anyone know why the Economist never acknowledges the authors of their articles? What’s the journalistic thinking behind that? I’ve always wondered — and now I know! Here’s what Wikipedia’s listing for the Economist shows today:

“The Economist does not print by-lines identifying the authors of articles other than survey articles and articles written by outsiders “By Invitation”. In their own words: “It is written anonymously, because it is a paper whose collective voice and personality matter more than the identities of individual journalists.”[19] Where needed, references to the author within the article are made as “your correspondent.” Rare exceptions to this rule occur where there might otherwise be a conflict of interest such as when reviewing a book written by someone connected with The Economist.”

There is it.

The US dollar’s drop explained, and why Americans haven’t noticed yet . . .

The Financial Page
Greenback Blues
October 08, 2007
Article about the declining value of the U.S. dollar. “Once the embodiment of American financial strength, the dollar has spent the past five years getting sand kicked in its face by the world’s currencies, and in recent weeks, thanks to the Federal Reserve’s surprisingly big interest-rate cut…” by James Surowiecki.

I am a huge fan of James Surowiecki; his one-page columns about business and financial issues in The New Yorker is published every other week. If you like Malcolm Gladwell (The Tipping Point) or Steven Levitt (Freakonomics), you’ll really enjoy these insightful articles from James Surowiecki.

Living in Sweden for less than 2 years, I’ve watched my US dollar go from buying 7.8 Swedish Kronor to 6.3 Swedish Kronor. And to think, when Bush entered the White House a dollar bought almost 11 Swedish Kronor! The world cares not for our politics, and not for our dollars.

If you believe the pharma industry’s story that it spends generously on R&D . . .

. . . then this article might fascinate you, and give you an understanding of the market forces in play that actually eliminate the incentives for drug companies to innovate new drugs for serious diseases.  On the surface, the logic of the myth makes sense: pharma’s must charge high prices for drugs to afford to invest heavily in R&D.  Yet, with profits as high as 25%, that’s money that sounds to the layperson’s ears like the very money available to the drug companies to spend on R&D.  Not exactly.  That’s money leftover after the pharmas have already invested in R&D.  In other words, those profits could theoretically — at some point in the future — be funding used to invest in new drugs; or, it could also just be invested in whatever financial instruments bring in the most profitable returns, or just entirely turned over to shareholders.  And, as the authors of this rivetting article (Harvard Medical School professors and former editors of the New England Journal of Medicine) point out (it’s one of the most interesting reads I’ve found in years), most of the cost of drug research is, in fact, covered by us, the American tax payer.  This article is a little old, yes, but the issue is still current, and my blog is new and I need to fill it up with things from the files.  Download as PDF, print, and read before bed. Originally published in The New Republic, December 22, 2002. America’s Drug Problem