Monday, March 02, 2020

Solving the anti-vaxer problem, Houston's dynamic culture, TX #1 food state but needs VC, city govt vision vs. competence, and CA ineptness

Before this week's items, my idea of the week: I'm probably treading on dangerous ground here with the growing coronavirus pandemic, but I've been thinking about the child vaccination problem (anti-vaxers) and new laws in some states requiring the vaccines to enroll kids in public schools, which is really causing a lot of turmoil with many families.  Now I'm a science guy all in favor of vaccinations (annual flu shot every Sept-Oct), but I also believe in more freedom and less government coercion (there are also some valid arguments on specific required vaccines and their timing).  My solution is this: ~95% of a population needs a vaccine to protect the whole population. Instead of requiring 100% of students to be vaccinated, auction off up to 5% exemptions at whatever price that clears the market.  The parents that really care the most about not vaccinating (vs. the more unsure/on-the-fence/going-with-the-herd ones) will pay that price for an exemption slot.  They may not be happy about it, but it's a better option than not enrolling their kids in school.

Moving on to just a few small items this week:
  • Great piece from Alain Bertaud in the MIT Press Reader: Do We Really Want Our Mayors to Have a Vision? Mayors and their municipal staff should not be considered visionaries, but a coordinated team of managers and janitors. Key excerpts:
"An unfortunate trend has developed over the past quarter-century: Many municipalities have begun describing their development plans as a “vision,” a word once reserved for spiritual gurus and artists. Calling a simple municipal action and investment program — such as collecting tolls on bridges — a “vision” is symptomatic of the grandiose misunderstanding that municipalities have concerning their role. A city, after all, is entirely created by its citizens’ initiatives. These citizens are required to act within a set of “good neighbor” rules, and to be supported in their endeavors by a network of physical and social infrastructure managed by a mayor and a city council. Mayors and their municipal staff, including urban planners and economists, should be considered not visionaries or rulers, then, but a well-coordinated team (one hopes) of competent managers and janitors.
Visionary leadership implies a top-down approach, in other words, but a city is mostly created from the bottom up.  A visionary mayor may feel compelled to impose her unique insights on the life of her Philistine citizens.
To be sure, a top-down approach is required to design infrastructure and services, but only as they are needed to support citizens’ activities. The support role involved in this top-down design is not trivial and requires good data and outstanding technical and financial skills, but a personal vision is not a requirement. It might rather be a hindrance.
They did not need vision, but something much less romantic: extreme competence."
"It’s a look at the role of the culture of cities in economic dynamism and resiliency. I examine a few case studies, and from these try to draw out some cultural traits that seem to be relevant to success, notably an open social structure, invested leadership and institution building by civic elites, and a high value placed on education."
Interested to hear your thoughts in the comments on how Houston does on those indicators?...

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At 4:46 PM, March 05, 2020, Blogger George Rogers said...

Closed vs Open Networks

At 2:54 PM, March 09, 2020, Blogger Jardinero1 said...

There is a mythology regarding venture capital which leads people to say, "We need more venture capital here." This mythology is baseless. Venture capital produces very poor ROI and few jobs for the economy compared to the ordinary capital markets.

Total capital spending in the USA is about 1.9 Trillion dollars per year. That is 1,900,000,000,000. Venture capital is about 110 Billion in the best of years. Venture capital represents less than six percent of total capital investment. 75 percent of venture cap startups fail. That means 82 million dollars per annum just evaporates. Statistically, venture capital is about as successful an investment tool as lotto scratch offs. By analogy, saying we need more venture capital is kinda like saying we need to be playing more scratch offs.


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