Welcome to the Carnival of the Capitalists, a traveling weekly roadshow that celebrates the many ways in which we earn, manage and spend money. This week features over 50 posts on everything from creative mortgage financing to disaster planning, from French economic policy to Ugly Americans, from crude oil to common courtesy.
Posts are self-selected, i.e., bloggers submit their best posts of the week, and all those that meet the guidelines are accepted. I have marked my "editor's choice" in each category with a simple asterisk (*) for those who may want to filter their reading a bit.
One further note before we dive in: About.com recently implemented framing of outbound links from our blogs. Very unfortunate timing, but it's not something I can personally change. I ran it by Jay and Robert who run CotC and they said to go ahead with it.
So without further ado, here's your weekly reading. I learned a lot - I'm sure you will to!
* Voting for Inflation looks at the history of minimum wage laws and shows how it creates a cycle of inflation that doesn't really help the lowest-paid workers. Well-researched, well-thought, well-written.
What Does China Admire Most About America? Jack Yoest laments the fact that the IRS and the American population's high rate of compliance to the tax code ranks high on their list.
Hu Jintao Lands on US Shores explores the main themes to be discussed in the Chinese president's visit to the U.S. this week.
France Retreats! bemoans the effect of "mob rule" on French politics and economic policy.
NAFTA's Impact on Canadian GDP and Wages: Research Commentary offers an analysis of NAFTA's impact on Canadians. The conclusion? Inconclusive, but it appears that most of the benefits may be going to foreign business operating in Canada and the Canadian government, not to wage earners.
Jobs for Mexico offers a possible market-based solution for reducing illegal immigration to the U.S. from Mexico.
Economics and Capitalism
* The Bottom Line of the Triple Bottom Line laments the lack of rigor in assessing the triple bottom line (ecological, social, economic) and corporate social responsibility (CSR). The blog post is a good lead-in, but be sure to follow the links to the related articles, especially the final one to another piece by the author.
Note to PR department: Global warming is hot. Steven Silvers says that doom-and-gloom predictions of global warming are based on mistaken assumptions of technology and practices continuing as they are today, but in reality that never happens. Conclusion: "[G]lobal warming reports stories like these sound suspiciously more like cause-related marketing publicity rather than new information serving the public interest."
Golden Fridays looks at the role of people as resources in the production process. It's sometimes neither a lack of raw materials nor a lack of technology that prevents progress -- it's a shortage of skilled, motivated labor.
Young People Receive Money From Parents. Yes, everybody knows this, but a recent NY Times article looks at how "extended education, the exploration of career options and delayed marriage are the causes of the long transition to self-sufficiency," and the fact that the income earned by young people is declining relative to older people.
Investing Mania - Lessons of the Tulip Bulb tells a cautionary tale of market mania from 17th-century Holland and draws parallels to modern day. A very entertaining read, even if the conclusion is a bit simplistic (short-term speculation = bad, long-term portfolio growth = good).
The Value of Money looks at the historical shift from money being an equivalent of gold, real estate, or other physical asset, to being an "idea".
Responsible Capitalism suggests that companies with employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) create "a more socially responsible variant of capitalism, where the interests of the stockholders and of the employees need not be divergent."
Due Compensation at Exxon? makes the argument that Lee Raymond, Chairman of ExxonMobil, is grossly underpaid, when you crunch the numbers. Sadly, even though this piece is satire, he makes a very compelling case. Fans of Colbert Report will enjoy tremendously.
Offer and Demand Law Examples plucks a couple of examples of this univerals economic law from the headlines and personal experience.
* Complacency Anyone? compares the "Wall of Worry" point of view with the "What, Me Worry?" outlook, making his case for the latter.
Toyota’s Dominance Shows in Share of Global Auto Market-Cap Pie compares the market caps of the major auto makers. Toyota eclipses #2 Honda by more than 3:1.
Secular Bear Market offers a look at returns on a hypothetical $1,000 investment in the Vanguard 500 Index Fund (a fund based on the S&P 500 index) made between 1990 and 2006 and draws some conclusions (besides the fact that 2000 was a lousy year to invest in the stock market).
The Week Ahead is Tom Hanna's weekly list of financial-related events to watch for, such as T-Bill announcements, earnings announcements, and various reports.
Reveling in High Gas and Oil Prices points out that those who have the good sense to invest in demand markets should be earning more from those investments than they're spending on higher gas prices. Higher gas prices? "Yippee!" says she.
* Rising Gas Prices offers an analysis of a topic that I know is heavy on everyone's mind at the moment. While base crude oil prices are certainly a factor, the author says that the one thing the U.S. Congress could do something to improve, they actually made worse in 2005.
Crude Oil and our Vulnerability reminds us that the U.S. imports over 60% of its oil, much of it from countries that have, as the author puts it, "opposing interests".
Fusion Anyone takes a look at the cost of building a fusion reactor and concludes that commercial fusion power won't be viable in the near future.
Career / Personal Development
* 10 Stupid Mistakes Made by the Newly Self-Employed - I'll confess to having made eight of these myself at some point in time. How about you?
Carnival of Entrepreneurship #12 - The weekly installment of the new Carnival of Entrepreneurship, features the top seven submitted posts on the topic of entrepreneurship each week. If entrepreneurship is one of your favorite categories in CotC, you'll want to add this to your reading and submission list.
Learning About the Ten Mistakes comments on the above post, adding her personal experience and insights.
Smart Man Online: Rich Sloan is a lively interview with the author of Startup Nation about the entrepreneurial process. On a personal note, I've been wanting to get in touch with Rich myself -- Startup Nation seems to be the book that Amazon thinks is the best match with my book, The Virtual Handshake. Seems like we should meet, doesn't it?
The biggest barrier to starting your own micro-business is mindset. This is a great guide for shifting from a corporate mentality to that of a business owner.
An Investment Platform for Independent Money Managers details how you can become an independent financial advisor using Scottrade's unique platform. The post has a healthy dose of shameless self-promotion by the author, but delivering a 16% return since January 1 and a 37% return since April 1, 2005, I think he's earned the right.
* Postcards From Over The Edge offers ten random (but insightful and entertaining) thoughts about working life, such as "When you've reached enlightenment, your boss will still be a jerk."
Personal Equity and Opportunity says there are three things you can do to "better your chances of earning top spots and having a rich and rewarding career."
Hybrid Skills for New Careers looks at how developing skills in multiple areas can prepare you for new roles that are emerging in business.
* The First Time: Project Management Jitters offers some helpful tips for first-time project managers
I'm Sorry, I Can't Hear You All the Way Over Here tells of McDonald's new experiment with handling drive-through customer service at a remote call center.
Humor: Monday Morning looks at the stupidity of some businesses' practices, like spending $20 in postage costs to remind a customer every month that they have a $5 credit on account from an overpayment.
Keeping the Shop Open During a Disaster calls to light the importance of having a business continuity plan in the event of a disaster.
In the Charmed Pot gives some insight into the thought process behind considering a deeper business partnership with an existing customer.
"She's not in right now, we're not sure where she is." If you've ever heard that phrase or anything like it, you'll appreciate this rant about pervasive lying to cover for people, when the truth delivered with courtesy will do.
Care for the Customers You Have reminds that it's much easier to keep a customer than to acquire a new one, but that doesn't mean you can just take them for granted and ignore them.
* Is Concentration the New Competitive Advantage? "When everyone is focusing on strategy, leadership, and technology as their sources of competitive advantage, will you be able to win by building a workforce that can execute because they can block out the mass of digital distraction and get things done?"
Preventing Team Problems offers nine practical tips for managing teams, some obvious ("Determine roles and responsibilities early and periodically review them"), some not so ("Establish team ground rules to determine how conflict should be handled.")
Fog and Friction extolls the virtue of slowing down a bit in a business -- long enough "to let the fog clear and the dust settle". Even if it seems like a waste of time, on the whole it will save money, time and effort.
Six Sigma @ Sun Chemical looks at the roadmap followed to successfully implement Six Sigma at a multinational organization with over 300 sites around the world.
Management Fad-Following muses on a quote from Peter Drucker.
* How the Techno-Geeks Kicked My Ass for My Own Good shows how to communicate with highly technical people, and it may not be what you would learn in a marketing, sales skills or communications workshop. In fact, it might be the opposite.
Caffe Latte Index is looking for your help in doing some market research on the price of a cup of coffee at various places around the world so he can set his prices appropriately. Take a minute and help!
* High Deductible High Jinks is an eye-opening look at high-deductible health plans and how the choices we make as consumers can make a difference of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
How to Become a Millionaire summarizes a recent article at Money Central with some both conventional and unconventional wisdom. The blog also features a collection of links to previous posts on the strategies mentioned in the article.
Monte Carlo Your Finances offers some resources for applying Monte Carlo Analysis, a financial simulation technique designed to avoid the pitfalls of traditional planning based on market averages, to your personal finances.
* Disclosure Issues and Failure to Disclose shows the significant potential consequences (besides just bad karma) that arise for both seller and agent from failing to disclose a known problem with a home.
What's a Piggyback Mortgage? A creative form of financing that borrows against your down payment to get you to a standard 80% mortgage. It might sound a bit odd, but it offers some advantages over buying the private mortgage insurance (PMI) that is normally required by lenders with less than 20% down payment.
The FHA Modernization Act advocates support of a new bill that would provide fixed-rate mortages to home-buyers with marginal credit scores at lower rates than the current sub-prime industry.
* What is Del.icio.us? No, the answer isn't "a Ham.burg.er". Andy Wibbels explains it, explores it and tells you how to get started with this popular social bookmarking service.
SEO for Non-profit Organization Blogs explains how a non-profit organization can gain value from search engine optimization "in the form of more membership, greater volunteer involvement, and better communications with members, the media, and the general public."
Thinking of pro-blogging as an option for freelancing? A growing number of people are making their living as full-time professional bloggers. Four experts offered their advice at the iblog2 Phillipine blogging summit.
* 10 Terms and Phrases to Be Wary Of explores the misuse of many common phrases by our leaders and media, including "economic equality", "income gap", "living wage" and "price gouging".
Bottom Up Monitoring in the Defense Department makes the compelling case that the recent spate of retired generals coming out both in opposition and in support of Rumsfeld represent a good combination of external monitoring and insider oversight in an organization in which "bottom up monitoring seems especially unworkable".
Ugly Americans reviews Ugly Americans: The True Story of the Ivy League Cowboys Who Raided the Asian Markets for Millions, calling it "Danielle Steel for finance readers. Sort of a trashy book masquerading as a savvy, informative one."
God and Mammon looks at the business of religion, a $10 billion industry. With 90% of what once was the realm of charity now provided by the government through taxes, what is the role of church in modern society?
Why Is Abu Ghraib a Cover Story Again, But Not Darfur? I almost cut this story, as it seems outside the scope of this carnival, but it was so good, and I am so personally appalled at the shocking state of affairs in Africa that we, the human race, allow to continue, that I just had to keep it in. Go read this.
That wraps up this week's Carnival of the Capitalists - I hope you enjoyed the show! Next week's carnival will be hosted at Interim Thoughts. To learn more about the Carnival of the Capitalists, including how to subscribe, how to submit a post, or how to host a future edition, visit TheCotC.com.