Monday, March 24, 2008

Big state wins matter more

The argument that winning big states is more meaningful than winning small states smacks of whininess -- the nomination rules are the rules. This argument is often conflated with, for Democrats out of coincidences of geography, "wins in Democratic states are worth more than wins in Republican states". However, I wonder if the arguments are doubly flawed.

One rationale for the argument appears to be: Obama's wins in traditionally Republican states are less meaningful than Clinton's in states where Democrats can reliably win. The argument would thus seem to be: if Obama becomes the candidate, our grip on those Democratic states will be put at risk. But isn't this backwards? Isn't it the case that Obama has stronger support in states that Democrats need to win (i.e., Republican or swing states) and thus wins in those states are more valuable? Especially to the extent that his wins come from drawing independent voters that Clinton was apparently less able to draw?

The other rationale is that primary wins in big states translate into wins in the general election. For this to be true, it would require either (A) that Democrats (in this case) turn against or choose not to vote for their party candidate in the general election and/or (B) that swing or Republican voters are more likely to choose the primary winning candidate than the alternative Republican. Because A seems unlikely, I think B is left as the rationale. A shaky rationale as B's accuracy depends upon the identity of the candidate fielded by the other party. Meaning that the right test is how the Democratic candidate matches up against a specific Republican in the various contested states.

Simply said, because (i) the primary process tends to produce candidates who have successfully presented themselves as a party standard bearer (meaning less centrist) and (ii) winning the nomination doesn't give a lot of insight into how a candidate will appeal to the general population, drawing any inferences or making predictions based upon success in a type of state is stupid.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

competition in the classroom

I've always been struck by how much more educated (meaning broadly knowledgable) many non-US educated people I've met are versus their US counterparts. Part of this comes down to selection bias (having the ambition and ability to practice law or investment banking on a global level, choosing to move to a foreign country, etc.) but I think there is more to it (I practice on those levels but do not feel similarly educated).

My guesses:

For the students at the highest levels, the university structure here pushes them to: (i) spend a lot of time getting to 99% knowledge; (ii) spend time on extracurricular activities as a resume filler; and (iii) learn some subjects (especially languages) late. The structure is the pyramidal hierarchy (and meaningful differences in outcome for different schools).

For most students, I think it comes down to weaker teachers, low expectations, and poor explanation of the reasons for education. Also, I believe that almost nothing is learned at the bulk of colleges.

Separately, I wonder how much the income disparities in the US play a role -- I'm especially wondering if teaching is closed off as an option to people who might consider it in other places with flatter income profiles.

I really have no idea but do wonder about how to improve basic and elite education.

Monday, March 3, 2008

international marketing

Why a unified global marketing campaign? I understand that there is only limited time for executives to review and approve materials but, given the importance of marketing, it seems wasteful in many cases to require a unified global campaign. I wonder if the desire is driven by the relatively uncommon travel profiles of senior executives - most customers will never see a campaign outside their home country - but senior executives are much more likely to see global brands in a variety of locations - and may be confusing their own rarefied experiences (and occasional jarring experiences where brands are positioned differently) with the everyday.

Mark your calendars

I would say the week around Monday, November 17, 2008, could be very interesting. About a week and a half before Thanksgiving. Let's see.

productivity in services

How is productivity in services (or improvements in productivity) calculated? More widgets, because of changes in quality, is already hard enough. More haircuts, difficult. But more legal work? Advertising? Software? I suspect that increases in productivity are often just increases in price (inflation). This is especially problematic when changes in GNP are attributed to increases in productivity - perhaps it's just inflation and an increase in nominal GNP? I'd look at this (from Brookings) to start - mostly because it was the first thing that popped up in Google.

spin momentum

Has the Clinton campaign successfully spun Texas and Ohio such that a loss in either by Obama will be seen as a large failure? If so, clever. Start by saying: "I must win" for a state you are likely to win. This gets transmuted into "If you lose, you have failed." Also, "If I win, I've won" even though, originally, must win meant simply to survive, not prevail. And if pre-meditated, very clever.