Capitalism

4 posts available


When It's Inconvenient for the Company

capitalism entrepreneurship life zen

This is a post about striking the right balance between values and business needs.

A few weeks ago, I helped finalize the parental leave policy at Gruntwork and an interesting philosophical discussion came up: How many resources is the company willing to allocate to creating a humane parental leave policy?

Some larger companies like Netflix offer full pay for 1 year when your kid is born. As a parent, that kind of benefit is…amazing. If I were an employee of Netflix, I would revel in the idea that Netflix cares about me and my family, not just the next release milestone. It would make me feel a deeper emotional connecton to the company.

But Gruntwork is just 12 people total with 9 engineers, and while we’ve been profitable from Day 1 and growing fast, if one engineer were to leave for a year, that would reduce our engineering output by, on average, 11% while still having to carry that perons’s salary. Can you imagine what kind of impact an 11% engineering output reduction would have on NetFlix? Let’s say NetFlix has 2,000 engineers. That’d be 220 engineers gone for a year…while on full payroll!

The reality is that, as much as I personally want to support a year-long parental leave policy, the company simply can’t afford it right now. Or to be more accurate, if we chose to support a 1-year parental leave policy, we would have to increase our cash reserves to a point that would significantly slow down hiring and other initiatives requiring working capital.

Ultimately, having any parental leave policy at all is “inconvenient” for the company in the sense that it reduces your ability to pump out new features and bug fixes and/or puts additional load on the rest of the team. So…should we just have no parental leave policy at all?

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The Best Way to Buy a New Car

capitalism general lessons learned

I recently bought a new car.

It was my first car purchase in 8 years, and being the obsessive geek that I am, I researched every last detail of the optimal process for buying a new car. By optimal I basically mean “get exactly the car you want for the lowest possible price.”

Since I put in all the time to do the research, I figured I’d share everything I learned in the hopes that it helps someone out if they’re ready to buy a new car. That, and my Dad asked me for details, too.

Just to cut right to the chase, I wound up saving over $3,500 from the original price I was quoted (which included a trade-in of a 2008 BMW 328i Coupe). I won’t bother mentioning the specific car I bought because it’s not relevant to this post, but its MSRP was around $30,000.

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A Proposal for a new type of media source: "True News"

capitalism general lessons learned social dynamics

The November 2016 election has made me think about democracy, government, and our society in new ways for the first time in my life. One topic that seems to keep coming up is this idea of truth in the media.

I think most people would say they’d rather read news they know to be true than live in a fantasy world where they read news they like but which they know to be false. It’s basically an alternate take on the famous thought experiment, the Experience Machine, and comes to the same conclusion: truth matters.

In fact, truth may be the single-most important attribute of the news we read. And if you really start to think about it, truth becomes a really slippery concept.

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Democracy 1.0

capitalism general

Whoever you voted for in the recent election, most people agree it was one of the most negative elections in their lifetime. People on both sides of the ballot used words like “disgusted”, “exhausted”, and “embittered” to describe their state of mind come November 8.

The candidate who won the electoral college lost the national popular vote. Hundreds of thousands of people have come out to protest that the winner is “not my president.” As a result of the election, virtually all levels of government will be controlled by Republicans, yet Democrats represent roughly 50% of the electorate.

And if that’s not enough, people’s trust in the media and the factual accuracy of the information they read is at an all-time low.

It seems to me Democracy 1.0 ain’t working out so well.

Actually, most Americans call the American system of government “democracy”, but even that term is loaded with nuance. Technically, the USA is a “federal presidential constitutional republic,” owing to the fact that it is a federation of states, that the people elect a president in a fair and free election, that the rights of all citizens are guaranteed by a founding constitution, and that the people do not directly vote on government matters (usually considered impractical), but rather elect representatives who do that for them.

For the rest of this blog post, I’ll just use the term “democracy 1.0” to mean all the above since it’s simpler and more in line with how people use the term in everyday conversation.

So is democracy 1.0 failing us? I think it is in some profound and interesting ways, and the point of writing this post is to explore how.

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