Saturday, December 11, 2010

Great interview with George Gilder

The last issue of World magazine was perhaps the best ever, in my opinion. Its focus: "Calling" or, to use the latinized word, vocation.

EXCURSUS on Calling

Traditionally, it has been understood that whatever one's "job" or "business" or "profession," that is one's vocation. And what one does by way of pure pleasure, is a hobby or avocation--literally, a non-calling.

I don't want to go too far into these matters, but it seems to me that one might pursue a "job" or "business" or "profession" not by way calling or vocation, but simply as a means to an end, a means by which one is enabled to pursue other, "higher" goals--either, simply, to "stay alive," "keep body and soul together" (because one can't find other work to do) or, perhaps--as is the case with many missionaries in limited-access circumstances--as a means by which to gain legal access to the area in which one actually senses he or she is called to minister.

"Calling," it seems to me--vocation--is something more akin to a compulsion, a "necessity laid upon" a man or woman to do something of great worth whether he or she feels a lot of pleasure from the activity or not, whether the activity is easy to do or hard, requires great courage or, almost, nary a second thought.

Whether one is engaged in one's calling or, simply, a "job" or "profession," I believe it is still incumbent upon us to do our work "with all our heart, soul, mind and strength" and "as unto the Lord." But I sense there is--and, rightly, we ought to recognize a distinction between vocation (or "calling") and job.

Okay. Back to the subject at hand.
So World had this great issue on calling.

Not exactly in line with the broader theme, but, I sensed, somewhat closely related, Editor in Chief Marvin Olasky conducted an interview with George Gilder titled Server system: The strength of capitalism . . . is that success depends on taking others into account.

I thought Gilder had much to say of interest and value and, certainly, worthy of being thought about.

Just a few points:
  • A lot of people think that capitalism can sometimes be productive, but it also has a moral cost. Profit means that you succumbed to greed.

    But those who look out for No. 1 are often not investing. They're buying gold or espousing theories of how to invest in a period of catastrophe . . . [that] are really anti-entrepreneurial. Their vision does not lead to bold investment in the face of obstacles. It doesn't lead to creative enterprise. It leads to a retreat from the marketplace.

    Capitalists have to operate in economies that are full of predatory governments and vicious people. They have to learn how to prevail over these obstacles—that is what entrepreneurs do.
  • Investors succeed by giving. This is what the investment process is. You give before you get a return; you are not guaranteed a return. Your success is completely dependent on how other people respond to the product you offer.

    One of the great delusions of economics is that supply and demand are equally balanced sides of economic transactions. No: What matters in economics is supply. Supply creates its own demand.

    Demand is like gravity. It exists everywhere: People demand things. But they can only receive products if they offer productive services. Production, innovation, invention, enterprise, service: Those make possible economic growth and advancement.
  • To say [self-interest] drives capitalism: How does that distinguish capitalism from any other­ system? Self-interest certainly could be said to drive socialism as well, because what a greedy, self-interested person wants is guaranteed returns. He thinks he is entitled. He seeks guarantees from the government. What is more greedy than a public-service union controlling the government and getting 70 percent greater salaries and benefits than comparable private-sector workers because of their political clout?

    Entrepreneurs don't have guarantees. They are willing to rise and fall on the basis of what other people think of their work.
  • Entropy measures the degree of surpris[e] in a communication: How much is unexpected, surprising? If I give a speech and if everything I say you knew already, no information has been transmitted. It's a zero entropy communication. Politicians seem so boring because they poll their audiences before they speak, and thus manage to achieve totally boring zero entropy communication: No surprise.
  • Entrepreneurs create new things, and whether they succeed or not is dependent on the willingness of other producers to exchange their production for the output of the entrepreneurs. If they produce high-entropy creations, they get a big response. The customers are surprised by the new iPod or whatever it is and are willing to exchange the fruits of their own production for the production of the entrepreneur.
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