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A Nice Wrap Up

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

I think Charles Koch’s Science of Success was an excellent book to sum up our semester. As Dr. Fawson stated, Koch has synthesized the various aspects of the foundations of posterity and attempted to explain how they interconnect to create value that is based on the science of liberty. His book addresses all the various topics we have studied this semester and he has demonstrated why each is important to “creating” value. He examined self- interest, spontaneous order, the embracing of change, experimental discovery, innovation, visions, and virtues. He also went beyond these basics to explain that Market Based Management draws “lessons” from various fields and studies, thus illustrating that a successful business that brings value involves more than just managing.

Is the “science of liberty” necessary for the “science of success”? Obviously. As Koch explains, liberty is essential for success because it is the individuals’ liberty that drives the innovation, change, knowledge, and virtue that brings about creative innovations. Koch explains that the theory of MBM is “rooted in the Science of Human Action” (p 25). Thus, self-interested individuals can “create” more in a society that values liberty and freedom and makes it possible for individuals to create and compete. (I liked Kip’s example in this respect).

Crystals in a Jar

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Mr. Koch has compiled a great picture of The Science of Success. I can not see much that Mr. Koch has left out. One area in which I feel he has added or perhaps stated more clearly than we have seen before in our readings is “virtue and talents.”

I really appreciated reading Ender’s Game because I felt that the foundations of “virtue and talents” can be found there, and “decision rights” for that matter. But, besides that, the social aspects of liberty were often absent from our discussions. For that reason I appreciate the additions and explanations that we have gained from Mr. Koch.

A crux of this question is obviously that if we state that Mr. Koch has articulated these 5 principles that are “the Science of Human Action” then where is the evolution or innovation? It is imperative that we constantly remind ourselves that there does exist base organizational principles in which a society, business, or individual can and does grow and prosper most effectively. I must revert again to the crystal in the jar. Innovation and creative destruction were never meant to be holistic. Everything is not meant to be innovated or destroyed and replaced with something new or better. The structure that frames the most prosperous and free society must stay intact and unchanged. You may think this is a stasist statement, but it is perfectly consistent with what Postrel and Hayek have said in our readings.

Mr. Koch has outlined the model for success, but it can only be applied to a society when that society is ready for such responsibility. Any top down model, wether oppressive and tyrannical, or liberating and democratic, cannot work until the people of that society are ready for it.

The end

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

I thought that The Science of Liberty was a good culminating work for drawing together many of the concepts we’ve read about over the course of the semester. I read it over the summer, and liked it, but it was more interesting in context with the other readings.

The five dimensions identified by Mr. Koch did a pretty good job of creating a holistic system of values and concepts that could be applied at multiples levels of analysis.

The interdisciplinary basis of MBM appealed to me: economics, ethics, social philosophy, psychology, sociology, biology, anthropology, management, epistemology, and the philosophy of science.

He sure had some time on his hands to absorb all that plus running a business.

My favorite dimension was decision rights, because I saw a lot of applications to jobs that I’ve worked in. Some of the most enjoyable jobs were ones where I knew my role and expectations and knew who I was answerable to. I’ve discovered that I am frustrated when I don’t know what my RR&Es are. Some of the most dysfunctional working environments were where those were not clear. In fact, Even with non business relationships, RR&Es can be helpful: group projects, relationships with friends and family.

A Matter of Practicality

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

The Science of Success was a great summary and application of all of the ideas we’ve gained from the readings this semester. In trying to find an aspect of wealth creation Koch hadn’t addressed, I’ve come up dry. I don’t think this book introduced many ideas I wasn’t already familiar with, but Koch’s strength is in establishing a holistic system, which applies fundamental principles of economic theory in a relatively practical way. I use the term “relatively” because I still have a hard time seeing how all of Koch’s ideas can really be put to use. I am not familiar with the organization of Koch Industries (beyond what is briefly mentioned in the book), but it seems like it could turn into a fairly convoluted system in a hurry. With managers constantly reassessing the comparative advantage of each employee and adjusting roles and positions accordingly, it seems as though an enormous amount of effort would have to be exerted to constantly get “the right people in the right roles.” Also, is it not a contradiction to attempt to structure spontaneous order within an organization? I understand that such an environment can be fostered by allowing flexibility within general principles/guidelines, but is it really spontaneous?

The “science of liberty” IS absolutely crucial to the “science of success.” Although a few individuals are “wealthy” in societies that lack freedom, the wealth is not created, but rather transferred. Only in free societies are individuals given the knowledge (or at least the opportunity to gain it) and the possibility to take the risks required to succeed. The origin of all wealth can be traced back to some person recognizing an opportunity and having the ability (freedom) to take a chance on it. Without the amount of freedom required to take the risk, there would have been no possibility of wealth-creation. I’m sure there were plenty of people in the Soviet Union who thought, “I’ll bet I could make a lot of money selling comfortable boots in different sizes.” The problem certainly wasn’t a lack of entrepreneurial spirit, or any default on the part of the people, but rather a threatened and repressive government, which thwarted any possibility of individual wealth creation.

Just a guide?

Monday, November 30th, 2009

As I read “Science of Success” I found one potential problem. On the one hand, Mr. Koch emphasizes the need for change, transformation, and innovation. As a result, the application of Market-based Management should not be a goal but a guide (xi). However, Mr. Koch later states that Koch Industries strives everyday to apply MBM principles. That sounds like a goal, not a guide, to me. The only reconciliation I see between the two is if MBM principles are continually being innovated as they are being applied.

I have to admit I was very impressed with how Mr. Koch drew from the wisdom of many great thinkers and synthesized them into MBM principles. I believe he is on the right track, but that true key to success, as Mr. Koch himself declares, is innovation or, rather, recognition that change is inevitable. What seems best for societies, organization, and individuals now will change, and that may include a deviation from free-market and personal interest concepts. Overall, the science of liberty – “how humans can best achieve their ends through purposeful behavior” – is essential to the science of success as defined by Mr. Koch (25). Whether success truly follows MBM principles or not, humans have a striving towards something and reach to achieve that goal in the most efficient way possible. Consequently, this would lead to purposeful behavior.

Discussion post for The Science of Sucess

Monday, November 30th, 2009

In The Science of Success, Charles Koch has attempted to synthesize the classical foundations of prosperity and present them as a generalized process for creating sustainable value—in the case of Koch industries this is represented by an impressive history of wealth creation. As you reflect upon the readings this semester, and the foundations of “vision, virtue & talents, knowledge processes, decision rights and incentives,” presented in Science of Success I am interested in whether you think Mr. Koch has missed anything. Has he really created a generalized model of “success” that can be applied to societies, organizations and individuals? How important is the “science of liberty” to the “science of success?”

Do children have the right not to speak Klingon?

Thursday, November 19th, 2009


Ender Wasn’t A Child Soldier

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009
The ‘exploitation’ seen in Ender’s game is something that always has and always will happen to children who show unusual talent and promise.  The unusually bright and intelligent, elite athletes, and gifted musicians are singled out at very early ages, isolated form their peers and given special attention at the best schools and by the best coaches.  They spent hours after schools and during summers perfecting their skills, and are expected to perform and compete at a very young age.  It is true that they have failed to experience aspects of a ‘normal’ childhood, but no more so then any impoverished child who doesn’t have the same opportunities as most.
So there is nothing particularly egregious about Ender’s situation.  His parents consented, he continued to do what was asked of him, and in turn he received special skills and status that he used later in life.  This situation is touched upon by Valentine who tells Ender: “Welcome to the human race.  Nobody controls his own life Ender.  The best you can do is choose to fill the roles given to you by good people, by people who love you.”
That being said, the genuine exploitation of children occurs and occurs often and should be avoided by any decent society worth preserving.  It’s not necessary to specify childhood as a specific right, but the basic human rights of life and safety ought to be guaranteed to children, even when extraneous circumstances retract them from adults.  Enders game seems to have relevance to the practice of child soldiers, of whom here are an estimated 250,000 fighting in conflicts around the world.  There seems to be no justification to the placing of children in direct combat in the modern world.

Exploitation, Choice, and Sacrifice

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Like a few other Koch scholars, I too have a problem with the question itself. It seemed to me that despite the incredible pressure experienced by the children, there still existed a choice to be “exploited” for the greater good. To me, exploitation, no matter how distasteful, still requires a certain level of compliance from the exploited; without the consent of the individual, exploitation becomes sacrifice or slavery. For example, many today condemn the living conditions of the urban poor during the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain and the United States as products of “exploitation.” This claim often incorporates a view that the individuals who labored in the newly created markets of industry were somehow coerced or enslaved by greedy industrialists, as if the choice had never been made by the laborer. The repudiation of this time period has much to do with the confusion between exploitation and sacrifice. When someone is “sacrificed” for the greater good, coercion replaces the ability of the individual to choose and becomes something entirely different than exploitation.

The notion of whether or not an individual has a “right to childhood” certainly sparked my interest, as well. This is a problematic debate mainly because it is so hard to define “childhood” or related terms like “innocence.” While I can easily condemn crimes such as child pornography and statutory rape for stealing a child’s innocence, I still can’t clearly define “childhood” as something requiring protection. How should society codify such protections, if necessary?

Going back to the example of the Industrial Revolution, many children worked in sweat shops and weren’t able to obtain an education, was their childhood stolen away? Was this “exploitation” or something more hideous such as “enslavement?”

I wish I could present a well constructed argument either for or against this notion, nevertheless, I continue to be undecided.

Life Worth Living

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Yesterday I read an article in the New York Times about a current debate.  Last week the Supreme Court has been listening to arguments about whether or not children should be sentenced to life in prison without parole.  In 2005 the Supreme Court ruled that no person under 18 should be sentenced the death penalty, however the decision of life in prison is still under discussion.  The most interesting part of this argument is that if we are willing to imprison these children  like adults for their wrong deeds shouldn’t they also receive all the benefits of an adult. This article asks how would we feel if our children were treated the same as adults in bars, R-rated movies and strip clubs. It leaves a question about what rights children should be entitled to, and why.

Do children have a right to a “childhood”? I feel that once again we are running into unsteady waters as we all try to define just what a “childhood” should be. I know that my growing years were much different than yours but I also know I wouldn’t change them. Child labor laws are a heated argument, I also remember that I had strong opinions about age restrictions when I was too young to be hired for a job. Just as Richard said; every child is different and unique, growing and maturing at a completely different rate. There is no perfect age of maturation.

The truth is children are more educated than they were ten years ago. Well… I would at least argue that they are more aware of the world around them.  Our youth are also hitting puberty at an earlier age then in the past. We as humans are developing at a faster rate and we need to take these facts into consideration when we talk about what rights are and are not appropriate. 

 I don’t feel like this book is necessarily a good example of “children” being taken advantage of. A child is protected because of their ignorance and naivety about the world around them. In order to be accepted into the battle school these children were considered to be highly above average in their cognitive ability. Ender himself was said to be more intelligent than many of the adults back on Earth. I don’t believe that he was not logical enough to make a decision about what he was doing. More importantly he didn’t give up when the chance was given to him.

We need to protect our children, but we also need to protect them from someone taking away a life worth living.