"The comScore data is among the first to measure the reach of companies such as Slide Inc., RockYou Inc. and PictureTrail Inc., which create applications known as widgets that consumers can use to produce videos, photo slideshows and music playlists. These individual pieces of content can then be posted on blogs and social-networking sites such as MySpace, a unit of News Corp., NWS 1.13% and Facebook. So far, Slide and other widget makers have earned money mostly by selling ads on their own sites, but have found it difficult to generate revenue from the content created using their services and displayed on other sites."

'Widgets' May Snag More Ads - WSJ.com | June 13, 2007

The headline says "Business Helps Yellowstone," but the article body says “Of the $70,600 required [to plow the South gate], the [Teton] county tourism board offered to pay $56,000, while the local chamber kicked in $14,600.” The remainder was kicked in by a linens-supply company and a restaurant group.

Not to spoil a compelling narrative, but…

Counties are (state) government entities, and like all government entities, counties are funded by taxes. In this case, the Teton County tourism board is funded by the “Tax you don’t pay,” a 2% lodging tax levied on guests at local hotels, motels, and rental properties. The “Tax you don’t pay" moniker was coined by the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce's PAC, Citizens for a Sustainable Community, which was created to advocate for the lodging tax.

Why would a collective of job creators like the JH Chamber of Commerce be in favor of new taxes? Well, here are a few reasons:

  • Revenues raised by the lodging tax are pre-allocated: 60% must be spent on promotion, 30% on visitor services, and 10% on the general fund;
  • Funds dedicated to promotion are allocated by the Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Joint Powers board, an appointed group of “volunteers,” the majority of whom must come from the travel and tourism industry;
  • The tourism board (which is chaired by a former president of the chamber of commerce) funds the chamber to the tune of $350,000 annually, which happens to be the same amount allocated to the “general fund.”

In short, the lodging tax amounts to a publicly funded, privately administered means for Jackson Hole’s tourism industry to promote their services. Thus, an article ostensibly about private business gamely picking up sequester-imposed slack could also be read as an article about private business using public funds to pay for services that, were it not for lobbying by the business’s publicly-funded trade organization, would have been performed by the government. This isn’t a story about private business picking up public slack; this is a story about private business lobbying for a public tax to subsidize a private trade organization which then allocates the tax’s proceeds for the benefit of the organization’s membership. And lest you pity the hoteliers whose ventures would fail in the absence of such “help,” consider that per capital personal income in Teton County is amongst the highest in the nation, behind New York and just ahead of Marin. So it goes.

Lesson 1. Taxes are terrible, except when they’re used by private actors to promote private business.

Lesson 2. Private businesses can pick up the slack created by smaller government, so long as those businesses are supported by government funds.

Lesson 3. The narratives we believe are no more than stories: elided, incomplete, and misleading. Forge your beliefs accordingly.

Quote Iconin general, there is relative indifference to the history of America’s Third War — the 10-year campaign of over 400 targeted killings in non-battlefield settings that have killed an estimated 3,500 to 4,700 people. And that is puzzling, particularly since they have become a defining feature of post-9/11 U.S. foreign policy. Over the past few months, many stakeholders in and out of government have offered recommendations about how the Obama administration should change, limit, end, or enhance its targeted killing policies. However, there have been no calls for an official government study into the history and evolution of non-battlefield targeted killings. This is essential, since reforms must first be informed by an accurate accounting of how the policies were originally conceived, how they were implemented and altered based on updated information, whether they succeeded or failed at achieving their objectives, and what their intended and unintended effects have been.

A First Draft of the Third War - By Micah Zenko | Foreign Policy

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On the Integrity of Firms

Companies, like people, have an integrity all their own. To be clear, I don’t mean this in any moral sense, but in the latinate sense: the presence of consistency. A company with integrity fits together in the manner of a puzzle solved—everything in its right place, self-organized and systemically strong.

Notice that nothing in that definition admits morality. A company, like a person, can have morality, but it’s not a requirement for success. An amoral company with integrity is a more powerful engine than a moral company without. Nor does the presence of integrity imply the presence of any specific practice or process. There are as many ways for a company to have integrity as there are companies on Earth. When it comes to systemic consistency, there’s no right or preferred or best way—there’s just what has worked for others and what might work for you.

I say this all in the context of the Great Yahoo Centralization of 2013, in which Marissa Mayer decided that the integrity of her company was furthered when employees worked from the office, and the Internet decided that she was wrong. But it’s in the nature of complex problems to have no ready answers. What works for one person or company in one situation is unlikely to work for another person or company in another. Perhaps it’s true that this year’s studies tend toward remote work as the productivity question’s answer. Last year it was open offices, and before that it was private rooms. Before that, bullpens, and before that, ale houses probably.

Regardless, to say that you have the answer to Yahoo’s problems and Marissa’s is not it is egotistical in the extreme. Again, here I write in the latin sense: the drive to believe that the choices we’ve made are the right ones, not just for us, but for everyone. But there are no universal laws in startups, and no matter how many books Steve Blank sells, that is and will remain the case.

In business generally—and startups particularly—no decision is made in a vacuum; every choice resonates through every other. Culture informs hiring informs structure, and right back around again. There are any number of legitimate reasons for Yahoo to call its troops home. Whether that decision was “good” or “bad” won’t be decided by productivity studies or anecdotes about what works for one company or another. No, whether the decision was the right one depends on whether the action added to Yahoo’s consistency—whether it was made with an eye toward integrity. And that, for now at least, is a question none of us is in a position to answer.