But first . . .
Today’s post is long, so if time is short, just read Fareed Zakaria.
The United States had been watching the Taliban gain ground in Afghanistan for years now. It is rich and powerful enough to have been able to mask that reality through a steady stream of counter-attacks and air, missile and drone strikes. But none of that changed the fact that, despite all its efforts, it had not been able to achieve victory — it could not defeat the Taliban. Could it have withdrawn better, more slowly, in a different season, after more negotiations? Certainly. This withdrawal has been poorly planned and executed. But the naked truth is this: There is no elegant way to lose a war.
Steve P: “Afghan womanhood is once again threatened by the Taliban beasts. Well, yeah, they are beasts, and, yes Afghan women are again going to get the full Sharia law business. But, hopefully, we will have learned that, however badly Afghan women are treated by the Taliban, Afghan men and officials don’t give a fig and, may in fact, approve of traditional patriarchal handling of women as chattel. Afghan men are not rallying to protect their women-folk since we left and are not even standing to defend what civic infrastructure and institutions we set up for them over 20 years and more than a trillion US dollars. Biden is 110% right. The Afghans have to either fight for country or be once again ruled by a pack of primitive Islamic psychopaths. Some folks simply cannot be saved from themselves. Republicans will try to make this a ‘who lost Afghanistan’ moment. Don’t let them get away with it. Ask them what strategies we did not try over the 20 years that they think we should try now instead. We tried them all, short of carpet bombing that place. So did the British over a century ago. So did the Russians almost 50 years ago. And now us. The words of Kipling to British soldiers of his day ring in my head: ‘When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains, and the women come out to cut up what remains, jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains and go to your gawd like a soldier.’“
And now . . .
That unread book by Vivek Ramaswamy I plugged Monday — Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam — moved several of you to write.
The brilliant billionaire who urged me to read it . . . and who presumably read it in manuscript, as I am now reading Andrew Yang’s forthcoming book (he and I travel in different circles) . . . responded to yesterday’s criticism:
“Chris B, could not have read the book, as it just dropped today. I always thought you couldn’t judge a book by its cover? But, for haters, no facts matter.”
Chris B. is more of a gentle libertarian than a hater and based his harsh assessment of Ramaswamy not on the book, which he did not purport to have read, but on Ramaswamy’s writings and tweets.
Meanwhile . . .
Joel N.: “I’ve not read the book. I have no desire to read it. I personally interacted with the gentleman in question a couple of times for an hour or two each, related to one of his ventures which he was trying to push on us (he picked a very good target) during my stint in Cambridge. He is obviously highly intelligent (orders of magnitude more than me, and forgive me, I am not at the bottom of the heap), highly motivated (same), and highly successful (same). But in my own personal one-on-one interactions with him, the red alarm immediately came on. He came across as someone that wasn’t doing anything without an angle or for personal gain, and it’s clear from his track record he has an impeccable sense of timing. I’m not perfect at anything but I am rarely wrong as a judge of character. It would be exceptionally hard for me to believe that there has been a change in his character of the magnitude required for him to write the book, as your friend describes it, in good and sincere conscience.”
David G: “Since leaving Wall Street a decade ago, I went into academia and am now dean of a religiously based business school in Los Angeles — the first business school in the nation to be grounded in stakeholder capitalism/social impact/ethical values in every programmatic offering.
“Although Ramaswamy and I may hail from the same general hometown (Cincinnati), I had a very different upbringing. My parents weren’t in higher-powered jobs like his, and so I didn’t have the opportunity to attend the very best private school (or any private school, for that matter) in that city. This meant I lacked the tailwinds for easier access to some Ivy League institutions (such as the two from which Ramaswamy graduated) and the accompanying privileged networking opportunities with powerful people. I’m not complaining, solely contextualizing.
“Perhaps consistently being out-of-touch with “regular people” is why some of these questionable ideas would be raised by Ramaswamy’s book (obviously I haven’t read the book yet, either, as it comes out today, but I look forward to doing so).
“If you believe shareholder value maximization should be the sole or even primary analytic for corporate managers, rather than delivering value to a variety of stakeholders –including equity investors – then let me pose the following questions.
“Let’s say our business is considering a project that’s objectively harmful to the environment.
“For decades, business students have been taught that if the Net Present Value of that project’s expected future cash inflows and outflows is positive, then management ought to proceed with that project. Why? Because management’s primary goal is always shareholder wealth maximization, and this project does just that.
“But what we seem to gloss over is that some of the expected cash outflows in these projects *of course* include expected regulatory fines for environmental harm, legitimate lawsuits for wrongful death caused to folks in the community or actions for meaningful bodily harm to exposed employees, and more.
“So why is it wrong to actually consider the environment itself or the local community or employees as stakeholders of that business, since they’re all impacted by a business’s / manager’s strategic decisions that historically placed shareholder wealth maximization first and foremost in the decision analytic?
“And just who *are* these shareholders, whose financial interests must be placed ahead of all other stakeholders’ interests? According to recent publications, the top 1% of families based on net worth control 51% of the value of directly owned stocks, while the bottom 50% own approximately 0% of directly owned stocks and 1% of indirectly owned stocks. To contextualize further, Black families represent only 2% of Wall Street holdings and 1% of directly held stocks.+ I could go on….
“So when people challenge the idea that a manager’s primary job (and a corporation’s primary role) is to maximize shareholder value — but not the value of a broader group of stakeholders (that still includes its equity holders) — just what are we saying?
“After considering the foregoing and re-reading the snippet you quoted (Ramaswamy’s a ‘traitor to his class’? Really? ‘America’s elites may want to sort us into demographic boxes, but we don’t have to stay there,’ as if he’s not among the most elite of the elite given background and accomplishment? The mere existence of a counter-narrative to longstanding corporate governance structures and shareholder primary law is somehow considered a frightening ‘invisible force at work in our economic and cultural lives’?), I’d hope reasonable people would find those claims highly questionable.”
→ Ramaswamy will, at the very least, start a lot of arguments.
My guy: “The stock is being driven into the ground by short sellers. They are working overtime to spread FUD and appear to be succeeding. Here are the lies they are spreading. And here is the company’s response. I just bought more.”
→ I have no idea how this will turn out, but got some shares at $4.43 yesterday.
Quote of the Day
You know the old saying, 'Two can live cheaper than one?' It depends who the second person is.~A.T.
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