The Death of Expertise

The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters

by Tom Nichols

This book is about the erosion of respect for facts, logical analysis, and critical thinking. Uninformed opinions carry the same weight as expert opinions. There is no vetting of dubious sources from credible sources. Beliefs are conflated with facts. It is in this climate that hoaxes, conspiracy theories, fake news, propaganda, and all manner of bullshit thrive. Tom Nichols, professor of national security at US Naval War College, examines this phenomenon and some of the causes, including higher education, technology, and the news media. Continue reading

101 Things I Learned in Business School

101 Things I Learned in Business School

by Michael W. Preis and Matthew Frederick

The study of business spans “such diverse disciplines as accounting, communications, economics, finance, leadership, management, marketing, operations… and strategy.” This book provides a thumbnail overview of variety of such topics. Here’s a sample of ten items covered in the book.

Micromanagement. “Telling others exactly how to do their work takes away their initiative, but giving them freedom to shape their own work allows them to become creative and to grow personally invested in the endeavor.” Managers should define the needed result on two levels: the general values (e.g. “make sure the product is fun to use”) and the specific requirements (e.g. “the product must weigh less than 13 ounces, it can’t be orange, the power switch has to be on the right, and all design work must be completed within exactly three months.”). Continue reading

The Laws of Wealth

The Laws of Wealth: Psychology and the Secret to Investing Success

by Daniel Crosby

Psychologist Daniel Crosby works in the field of behavioral finance. “Given that you, as a member of the human family, have tendencies toward impatience, arrogance and a fetish for complexity, it is very likely that you will screw this up… At my last count, psychologists and economists had documented 117 biases capable of obscuring lucid financial decision-making.”

Crosby presents 10 rules of behavioral self-management.

Rule #1 – You Control What Matters Most. “The behavior gap measures the loss that the average investor incurs as a result of emotional responses to market conditions.” As an example, the author notes that the best performing mutual fund during the period 2000-2010 was CGM Focus, with an 18.2% annualized return; however the average investor in the fund had a negative return! The reason is that they tended to buy when the fund was soaring and sell in a panic when the price dipped. More on volatility later… Continue reading

Affordable Excellence: The Singapore Healthcare Story

Affordable Excellence: The Singapore Healthcare Story

by William A. Haseltine

The Singapore healthcare system produces world-class outcomes at half the cost of Western European countries and less than one-fourth the cost of the United States: Singapore spends 4% of GDP on healthcare; the United States spends 18%.  The World Health Organization ranked Singapore 6th in overall performance; the United States ranked 37th. (See page 200, The World Health Report 2000.)

Looking at costs of specific procedures, ”an angioplasty in the United States is almost $83,000, while in Singapore the cost is about $13,000. A gastric bypass in the United States is almost $70,000, while in Singapore the cost is $15,000. (These figures are in US dollars and include at least one day of hospitalization).”

This book explains how the system works. Continue reading

Narrative and Numbers

Narrative and Numbers: The Value of Stories in Business

by Aswath Damodaran

Aswath Damodaran is a professor of finance who has written several books on business valuation, including The Little Book of Valuation: How to Value a Company, Pick a Stock, and Profit.

In this book, he computes valuation based on the business narrative. “One of the most important lessons I have learned is that a valuation that is not backed up by a story is both soulless and untrustworthy and that we remember stories better than spreadsheets.” Conversely, “when a storyteller has wandered into fantasyland, the easiest way to bring him or her back to Earth is with data that suggests the journey is either impossible or improbable.” Thus, “you need to bring both stories and numbers into play in investing and business, and valuation is the bridge between the two.” Continue reading

You’re Not That Great

You’re Not That Great

by Daniel Crosby

Psychologist Daniel Crosby tells it like it is in this book about the numerous ways human nature can work against us, not the least of which is egoistic self-absorption (solipsism).

“The biggest finding to emerge from the self-esteem movement was that praise did not predict self-esteem, accomplishment did… Many of the theories about self-esteem that had impacted policy were simply junk science.” Continue reading

Healthy Competition

Healthy Competition: What’s Holding Back Health Care and How to Free It

by Michael F. Cannon and Michael D. Tanner

Healthy Competition was published in 2005, but I pulled it off my shelf and reread it in early 2017, in the midst of the discourse about how to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare). Both the ACA and the proposed replacement focus on insurance, ignoring the exorbitant cost of health care in the United States. In this book, Cato Institute scholars Michael Cannon and Michael Tanner examine how the basic economic principles of price transparency, competition, and consumer choice could lower costs, reduce waste, and increase quality of care. Continue reading