Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Niall Ferguson Is An Honorable Man

To my esteemed, award-winning colleague and friend, Niall Ferguson, I say:  Welcome back from the dark side.  It takes guts to admit one’s mistake as Niall did at the Milken Institute in December 2016, when he said he was wrong to oppose Brexit.  In future visits to Britain, he vows to spend more time in pubs and less time fraternizing with establishment politicians.

Niall also issued a sort-of meal culpa on Trump in praising the president elect’s nomination of our distinguished colleague, General James M. Mattis, as Secretary of Defense.

Perhaps it’s only a matter of time until he says he wrote his anti-Trump columns under duress.  C’est possible?

Niall Ferguson is also a Stephen Schwartzman Visiting Scholar at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China.  Niall can take comfort knowing that Schwartzman has agreed to chair a Trump Economic Advisory Panel of leading men and women, including Democrats, from the world of business.

Niall has also acknowledged that he is eating a plate of black crow in having been wrong in opposing Brexit.  (Crows are among the smartest birds in the world.  They can make 50 distinct sounds communicating with each other.)  But to secure his return from the dark side, he should top off his meal with several portions of humble (not mince) pie.

What’s next on Ferguson’s to-do list?  For starters, he might encourage his countryman and our distinguished colleague, Timothy Garton Ash, to turn from the dark side by disavowing his claim that Frau Merkel is now leader of the free world.

The Hoover Institution is home to a trove of Trump bashers, more than any other free-market, conservative think tank.  Altogether, fifteen fellows trashed Trump, some mercilessly.  Of those, 13 were Republicans/Conservatives; only 2 were Democrats/Liberals.  A few have softened their prior harsh criticism.  Others may be too proud to walk back their criticism, so we’ll have to wait and see.  I’m from Missouri, the “show-me state.”

To Niall I say, “May the force be with you!”

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Think Tanks On A Shoestring

Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, self-driving cars, robotic vacuums, sex dolls (sexbots), chatbots, waiterbots, and other robot applications are transforming the world.  Can think tank bots be far behind?

Thinks tanks are a HUUUUGE industry, two thousand-plus in the United States and seven thousand-plus worldwide.  They own billions of dollars of property and financial assets, spend billions in research and administration, employ several hundred thousand staff, produce trillions of pages of reports, studies, briefs, memorandums, tweets, blog posts, podcasts, videos, articles, and books—most of which are not read, heard, or seen.  They host thousands of seminars, speeches, lunches, dinners, retreats, and cruises.  This is an industry ripe for disruption.

I am reminded of the time I walked into the Bank of China building on the Bund in Shanghai in April 1981.  I saw 600 individuals sitting behind desks, each using an abacus to process information.  It seemed to me that one personal computer manned by one employee could replace all 600. 

Think tanks run the gamut from right to left in their political views, and vary in coverage from single issues to the full spectrum of domestic and international issues.  Some emphasize in-depth research, while others focus on daily issues.

Your friendly proprietor thinks there may be a better way to accomplish the objectives of think tanks, which would provide better analysis and commentary at a small fraction of the cost.  The task would require some initial start-up funding, an administrator, a couple of programmers, and two policy analysts.  That’s it.  (If you like what follows, let me know and we can get started right away.)

I’m going to describe the construction of a free-market think tank-bot.  Let’s abbreviate it as FMB.  I propose to take the works of Friedman, Becker, Stigler, Hayek, Mises, and the catalogue of several hundred Liberty Fund books and other free-market literature and feed them into the FMB.  Programmers will instruct the FMB to synthesize and curate the material to provide the best free-market response to any public policy issue, small or large, domestic or international.  They will feed the FMB carefully screened worldwide daily news.

The FMB will be able to supply free-market recommendations to any problem anywhere, with full (philosophical) explanation, evidence, and documentation.  It might offer a daily report on free-market solutions to ten pending issues free, but charge a modest fee for specific searches.

Total requirements are a staff of five—two programmers, two policy wonks, one administrator, a small workplace with furniture, computers, and other office necessities.  Once up and running, the FMB could function on an annual budget of about $1.5-2 million a year.  It should become self-sustaining in a short time, obviating the need for fund-raising, and even become profitable selling advertising.

Are you out there Peter Thiel?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Update: The Democrat Presidential Nominee in 2020 Will Be....

Mark Cuban or possibly Tom Steyer.  Tom Steyer, hedge fund billionaire, Stanford trustee, and fanatical environmentalist hints he may seek the Democrat nomination in 2020 to save the planet.

Other Democrat billionaires are likely to throw their hats into the presidential political ring in the next two years.  The new political order will be the struggle among the top 0.0001%.

The traditional election industry is withering on the vine.  Say goodbye to soon-to-be obsolete political handlers, pollsters, fund-raisers, pundits, and other relics of electing presidents.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Stanford University Faculty, Staff, and Students Living in Campus Housing Vote 91.6% For Clinton, 3.4% for Trump

From its founding in 1891, portions of Stanford’s land have been used to construct housing for faculty, staff and students.  Over 125 years, Stanford faculty and the University have built about 650 single-family homes, 250 condominiums, and 40 duplexes.  (More construction is currently underway.)

Stanford currently has 2,153 faculty members and several dozen top administrators who are eligible to purchase a campus residence.  Only about a thousand, 40%, live in the “faculty ghetto.”  The other 60% live in neighboring towns and suburbs.

Four precincts (Santa Clara County Precincts 2542, 2544, 2545, and 2546) circumscribe Stanford University.  Precincts 2542 and 2544 consist almost exclusively of graduate and undergraduate student housing.  Precinct 2545 consists solely of faculty/staff housing (F/S housing).  Precinct 2546 includes both student and F/S housing.  F/S housing is affectionately termed the “faculty ghetto.” 

Many undergraduate students are registered to vote in other states or other addresses in California. Most graduate students are not U.S. citizens and many U.S, citizens are registered to vote in other states. These facts explain why only a small fraction of students living in campus housing are registered to vote on the basis of their Stanford address.

Santa Clara County publishes election results by precinct.  Here are the results:

Precinct 2545 (all F/S):  Total 473 Votes

Clinton 426 (90%), Trump 27 (5.7%), Johnson 13 (2.7%), Stein 7 (1.5%)

Precinct 2546 (F/S and students):  Total 649 Votes

Clinton 609 (93.5%), Trump 17 (2.6%), Johnson 12 (1.8%), Stein 11 (1.7%)

Precinct 2544 (all students):  Total 720 Votes

Clinton 645 (90.0%), Trump 18 (2.5%), Johnson 31 (4.3%), Stein 26 (3.6%)

Precinct 2542 (all students):  Total 426 Votes

Clinton 398 (93.4%), Trump 14 (3.3%), Johnson 11 (2.6%), Stein 3 (0.7%)

All Campus Precincts:  Total 2268 Votes

Clinton 2078 (91.6%), Trump 76 (3.4%), Johnson 67 (3.0%), Stein 47 (2.1%)

Clinton voters outnumbered Trump voters 27 to 1. 

Stanford’s new provost, Persis Drell, said that free expression is one of her three cardinal principles of university administration.  We’ll see.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Democrat Nominee For President In 2020 Will Be......

Mark Cuban, or some other wealthy individual from the business community.

Even the Democrats will realize that the established political order has been overturned.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Update: Political Contributions from Stanford Faculty, Staff, and Students, October 1-19, 2016

During September 1-19, 2016, Stanford Faculty, Staff, and Students residing in campus housing (94305) made 109 separate contributions to Hillary Clinton. Some individuals made multiple contributions.


None was made to Donald Trump.

For the five and one-half months May-October 19, 2016, contributions totaled 489 for Hillary Clinton and 0 for Donald Trump.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Update: Political Contributions from Stanford Faculty, Staff, and Students, August 1-September 30, 2016

During August-September 2016, Stanford Faculty, Staff, and Students residing in campus housing (94305) made 116 separate contributions to Hillary Clinton and 51 to Democrat Party Organizations. Some individuals made multiple contributions.

None was made to Donald Trump or Republican Party Organizations.

For the five months May-September 2016, contributions totaled 380 for Hillary Clinton and 0 for Donald Trump.