Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Birth of Plenty - A Must Read

I spoke at a University of Waterloo Engineering Alumni event with CBET tonight. Good crowd. Great questions. I often find I am inspired to be even better organized and better in business when I talk. There is truth to the old adage "the best way to learn is to teach".

I read an awesome book on economics called THE BIRTH OF PLENTY - HOW THE PROSPERITY OF THE MODERN WORLD WAS CREATED by William J. Bernstein.

The gist of his message was very positive and gave me great hope. Strong economies and economic trade bring peace. As a business person it is always gratifying to know that you might be doing the world some good. More than just providing jobs but actually helping world peace. Commerce is the start of all peace in the world.

Throughout the book, he talks about four prerequisites for economic growth:

- Secure property rights, not only for physical property, but also for intellectual property and one's own person - civil liberties, safety. This speaks poorly for trade barriers and isolationism. This speaks poorly for countries with high corruption. Milton Freidman said, "You cannot have a free society without private property".

- A systematic procedure for examining and interpreting the world - the scientific method. The book gives many cases where parts of the worlds lose ground due to the banning of technology.

- A widely available and open source of funding for the development and production of new inventions - the modern capital marketplace.

- The ability to rapidly communicate vital information and transport people and goods. SYNNEX is a distribution company so we certainly contribute to this one.

One scary statistic was the earth's population. At the birth of Christ, there were was slightly more than 250 million people by 1600 there were half a billion. In about 1800 there was a billion and by 1960 it was 3 billion and there is currently about 6 billion people. Population is a world problem.

There was an interesting section on natural resources and the wealth from those and how they actually hurt economies (as a Canadian with natural resources, this is somewhat worrisome). The example they used were countries such as Nigeria who have abundant natural resources but lack wealth and have weak economies and countries like Singapore, Holland, Switzerland, and Japan have been economic powerhouses with few natural resources.

The author also pointed out that the lower the wealth of the country, the greater the economic growth. This means over time everything equalizes.

Near the end of the book, it pointed out the problem of wealth concentration. As a CEO, I have been a beneficiary of wealth concentration but have seen how it can be very damaging. Certainly it has been very damaging for the reputation of business people. I worry this will be a challenge we need to address (and I speak against my own self interest here).

This book is a must read. Read it!


At 8:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For an intriguing point of view, I'm recommending you have a look at Collapse, by Jaren Diamond. His other book - Guns, Germs and Steel - is very interesting also.

At 6:26 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Great presentation on Tuesday evening for CBET! You're an inspiration to those of us starting down the long road to becoming an overnight success. Your reminder to focus on unique abilities (and give the rest of the work to somebody who actually wants to do it) is a great piece of advice. Thanks for the reminders!

At 1:30 PM, Blogger Gerhard Peters said...

Jim you made two statements that got my attention.
"Commerce is the start of all peace in the world" Why do you think this and how would explain the statement?
"Certainly it [wealth concentration] has been very damaging for the reputation of business people"
In what ways has wealth concentration been damaging? Can you give an example?

I listen to the book a few weeks ago but it is the abridged version so I will have to read the book to get the whole message

At 1:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds like the "trickle down" theory of Reaganism. It does NOT work. The gap between the haves and the have nots continues to grow despite economic boom times. I shudder to think of what the price of fuel will do to the poor!


At 10:19 AM, Blogger rethinkable said...

Hi Jim,

this blogpost surprises me a little. I heard about your second book today from your brothers blog (http://www.biofuels.coop/windblog/?p=223)
about the "story" of a town with a local sustainable economy. I think we need to achieve a more local economy. "Shipping" our money to China in return of bad products and the loss of jobs at home does not really seem to do us any good. Maybe I should read the book though.

To "Mom": You are right that the cost of oil will cripple the poor. I think that it is more a result of greedy large corporations though. Companies need to care about the ell being of their employees and the local economy again.

A company that is a really good role model and well worth looking into (that unfortunately just had to close it's doors because of the lack of venture capital in it's second year of operations, do to the recession in the US) is nau.com.

Best Regards, Hans

Everything is Rethinkable!


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