Sunday, January 11, 2009

Overnight success can be a long time coming

John Kay writes an article on why choice matters
Choice is not an end in itself, but a means to the good services everyone seeks. Choice is working best when no one wants to exercise it.
and on a pernicious myth about markets.
But those who defend the market system are often the system’s worst enemies. I recently listened to a group of businessmen deploring the anti-capitalist tone of much of what is taught in schools. They had a point. But they spoiled it by promoting a description of capitalism that was at once repulsive and false.

They talked about “wealth creation”, although most of what they described seemed to be a diversion of wealth for the benefit of particular individuals rather than the creation of new wealth. They thought private sector activities – such as securities trading and automobile manufacture – created wealth; while public sector activities – such as health and education – used wealth up. They stressed that financial rewards were the mainspring of innovation, apparently unaware that material gain was not even at the back of the minds of those who invented computers, discovered antibiotics or created green revolution crops.
Over at Coding Horror, Jeff Atwood perfectly illustrates this point
Honestly, I look forward to waking up someday two or three years from now and doing the exact same thing I did today: working on the Stack Overflow code, eking out yet another tiny improvement or useful feature. Obviously we want to succeed. But on some level, success is irrelevant, because the process is inherently satisfying. Waking up every day and doing something you love -- even better, surrounded by a community who loves it too -- is its own reward. Despite being a metric ton of work.
Wealth matters: it allows you to focus better on what you really want to do, but I would never be able to get any real work done if the only reason I had to do it was a bonus or promotion. Of course, to be able to take that attitude, you already need to have some amount of basic security.

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