Gongol.com Archives: August 2016
They've sold the landmark to a real-estate developer for $240 million. The two successor companies to the original Tribune Co. (one for newspapers, the other for broadcasting) will both operate from the building for at least a while longer, but they're now tenants, rather than owners. The story in and of itself doesn't necessarily mean much. But it is symbolic of two trends taking place in American business: One is the shift to an asset-light framework, the other is the demise of great proprietor-owned institutions. Asset lightness (that is, renting, leasing, or contracting out the things that allow a company to run, rather than owning them outright) seems like an odd strategy in a time of near-zero interest rates (and it may have other substantial shortcomings), but it is in vogue. The demise of proprietor capitalism, though, is more disturbing and may undermine some important aspects of our national character that could make America much stronger in the future. There aren't a lot of great family fortunes that are still tied to businesses run by the families as well. These dynasties have been replaced by venture capitalists, professional managers, and public shareholding. But the problem is that in the long run, anything other than proprietor capitalism runs a very high risk of succumbing to the problem of diffusion of responsibility. If everyone is just a fractional shareholder, then nobody's really in charge. If managers aren't really owners, then their interests are hard to align with those of the owners. If the objective is to cash out with a big IPO or some other short-term exit strategy, then nobody is really looking at the long run. This is not to say that every business should be privately-held, run by a family, and operated according to a 100-year business plan. But if nobody feels a compelling responsibility to a business as an institution worthy of preservation and improvement over a long period of time, then it's hard to see what incentive is created to make good long-run decisions. That's a problem for customers, employees, suppliers, and shareholders, each in their own way. And it's probably no good for a country that once depended upon companies like Tribune to contribute to the civic stature and well-being of their communities.
It took them long enough. The government doesn't have to regulate everything...but in those cases where it is obvious that they will impose regulations under the umbrella of a compelling public interest, it's best if they can move quickly to establish ground rules fast enough to permit the private sector to keep up the pace of technological development without obstruction. The government took way too long to acknowledge the reality of drones; they've been in the popular consciousness for years.
The Fort Calhoun plant (just a bit north of Omaha) is too small to operate competitively, so it's set to stop generating electricity on October 24th. But the full decommissioning will take two generations.
Truly some magnificent artwork
Either he's believed all along that Donald Trump is a fraud, or he's lying about it now. Either way, it doesn't look faithful to his listeners.