Will Musk come out of this?
The conflicts of interest certainly seem problematic—and not just for the shareholders. Consider the following: as the two companies, SolarCity and Tesla, were delaying operations and refusing to bargain with workers, Brad W. Buss received $4.95 million as a Tesla director in 2015 alone, on top of his $32 million as the Chief Financial Officer at the insolvent SolarCity. Antonio J. Gracias, founder and CEO of the private equity firm Valor Management, sits on Tesla’s board and owned 211,854 SolarCity shares at the time of the merger. Steve Jurvenston, another Silicon Valley venture capitalist, earned over $6 million as a Tesla board member in 2016 and owned over 417,450 shares of SolarCity during the merger. His investing firm, Draper Fisher Jurveston, put $18.9 million in SolarCity. Nancy Pfund, a venture capitalist at DBL investors, another equity firm, owned over 1.5 million shares of SolarCity at the time of the merger, and Pfund’s partner at DBL is Ira Ehrenpreis, who owns the map software firm MapBox and is also a Tesla director. (In 2015, he secured an agreement with the auto company to use his software, at a $5 million fee on top of sales.)
The complete article
Andrew Elrod — Boston Review
I’ve long questioned the value of economics as a profession. Most economists focus on the quantitative rather than the lived. They are also consistently unable to explain or predict economic movements. I think the former may lead to the latter. Indeed, in this piece in the Boston Review, the author examines professional economists’ opposition to Thomas Piketty’s focus on inequality:
But perhaps the greatest rebuke of Piketty to be found among academic economics is not contained in any of these overt or veiled attacks on his scholarship and interpretation, but rather in the deafening silence that greets it, as well as inequality in general, in broad swathes of the field—even to this day. You can search through the websites of several leading economics departments or the official lists of working papers curated by federal agencies and not come across a single publication that has any obvious or even secondary bearing on the themes raised by Capital in the Twenty-First Century, even in order to oppose them. It is as though the central facts, controversies, and policy proposals that have consumed our public debate about the economy for three years are of little-to-no importance to the people who are paid and tenured to conduct a lifetime’s research into how the economy works.
Read the full article at The Boston Review.
Marshall Steinbaum — Boston Review
Why are luxury goods priced so high and why do people want them in the first place. This needull looks ate different possible reasons for the lure of luxury.
Postrel quotes James Twitchell, in Living it Up (2002), talking about a visit to the Beverly Hills Armani store with his college-aged daughter. He describes how customers would stroke the suits and how his daughter, originally skeptical, found herself entranced by the items. Twitchell sees the attraction of such goods as rooted in self-image and personal identity, but for Postrel it is simpler than that: “People pet Armani clothes because the fabrics feel so good. Those clothes attract us as visual, tactile creatures, not because they are ‘rich in meaning’ but because they are rich in pleasure.” Twitchell’s daughter is captivated “not so she can impress anyone else or feel affiliated with prestigious brands. She wants these luxuries because they are aesthetically appealing, because they are, in a word, beautiful.”
The pleasure of these objects does feel immediate and sensual. But Postrel is too quick to dismiss Twitchell’s claim about meaning. The shoppers know, after all, that they are stroking Armani suits. Would they react the same way if reaching into the discount rack at Marshalls offered the same sensory experience?
The complete article
Paul Bloom — Boston Review