3 Ideas

  1. MarketWorld - a growing class of elites who believe in creating win-win situations where they profit from making the world a better place.

    This phrase coined by Anand is the driving term for the book. It's a mindset that feels ingrained in the communities I grew up in, from Berkeley to the tech/finance sector. Everyone wants to help people and make the world a better place. It was a common question I got from potential Citadel interns and full-timers: how does working at a hedge fund make the world a better place?

    But reality isn't always a win-win. Sometimes making the world a better place means you don't make the 6-figure tech salary coming out of school. Maybe it's not making that app that helps people living paycheck-to-paycheck get an advance to pay the bills, but instead fight the systemic issues that caused that problem in the first place.

  2. Paying for simple solutions to systemic problems.

    Anand talks a lot about this concept of thought leadership - people paid to speak at prominent events about catchy, one-liner ideas that solve big problems. Examples of thought leaders are Simon Sinek's start with the why or Amy Cuddy's power pose.

    However, these simple solutions, bankrolled by the wealthy running these well-paying speaking engagements, are more band-aids to make us feel ok about the problem than critiques on the problems. Take Amy Cuddy's power pose. Gender discrimination in the workplace is a systemic issue. Yet we can "feel" better about it by talking about the power pose to empower women rather than truly addressing the issues.

    So we forget about the real problems. We keep the system in place that worked for the wealthy elite and we let the wealthy elite control the narrative.

  3. The disassociation of place.

    There is a disconnect from MarketWorld and reality, in terms of people and place. Corporations are no longer tied to a particular location, and that trend has only accelerated with COVID. Not being tied to a place is good for optimizing the bottom line, but destroys the social responsibility of building the community the company belongs to.

    The elites who run these corporations also turn their eyes past the problems of their local community. The focus is on global problems: climate change, clean water in Africa, or access to education in Southeast Asia. We're solving distant needs, but not of those in the neighborhood, because there is no neighborhood anymore.

    Even the people of MarketWorld, with access on-demand to a ride, grocery delivery, or house cleaning on demand, dehumanize the people not part of MarketWorld trying to make ends meet. Their labor is so commoditized they lose all leverage to fight for fair wages or benefits.

2 Quotes

  1. How technology has changed the dynamics of power:

    Power is defined by both profound concentration and by massive distribution. It can't be understood in simple either/or terms. Power and influence may yet become even more centralized than it was in feudal times and more distributed than it was in the most vibrant.

  2. Macieg Ceglowski on investing and central planners:

    Investing has become the genteel occupation of our gentry, like having a country estate used to be in England. It's a class marker and a socially acceptable way for rich techies to pass their time. Gentlemen investor decide what ideas are worth pursuing, and the people pitching to them tailor their proposals accordingly. The companies that come out of this are no longer pursuing profit, or even revenue. Instead, the measure of their success is valuation - how much money they've convinced people to tell them they're worth. There's an element of fantasy to the whole enterprise that even the tech elite is starting to find unsettling. We had people like this back in Poland, except instead of venture capitalists we called them central planners. They, too, were in charge of allocating vast amounts of money that didn't belong to them. They, too, honestly believed they were changing the world, and offered the same kinds of excuses about why our day to day life bore no relation to the shiny, beautiful world that was supposed to lie just around the corner.

1 Takeaway

The focus is on doing good in the world, but maybe we should focus on doing less harm. To take it a step further, the people who claim to be doing the most good in the world, are also causing the most harm.

We are at record levels of inequality. Today, 8 billionaires hold as much wealth as the bottom half of humanity. Larger portions of the population are struggling to make ends meet because the people who claim to do the most good are optimizing their businesses for the bottom line: cutting hours, contract work, dynamic shift scheduling, reducing benefits. And these large business are consulting McKinsey or BCG or forced through leveraged buyouts to pursue these directives.

Now, our solutions are apps, not solving the systemic issue. It's Uber so anyone can drive for money, Airbnb so people can rent out their spare room, and learning to code so you have a skill the economy values. We can't trust the government to solve these problems, because the wealthy elite have told us public institutions are too slow and inept to cause change.

But the ineptitude of government is a consequence of the wealthy trying to pay as little taxes as possible, bankrolling initiatives that undermine the influence of government, and lobbying for regulations (or lack thereof) that further inequality. Now instead of public institutions made to maximize social welfare, private interests are in charge. And that's why winners take all. They own the system, and that's what needs to change.

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