Friday, May 04, 2012

Small Businesses Need Help With Regulations More Than With Taxes

Sanders Daniel, a reader of the blog, sent me the results of a survey of small-business owners that his company,, did across the country.

The most interesting main finding, I thought, is this:

Small businesses care almost twice as much about licensing regulations as they do about tax rates when rating the business-friendliness of their state or local government.

This confirms something that my small business friends say - tax cuts will make no difference in whether they create jobs.  Tax cuts are really the hobby horse of rich individuals, not of actual job creators.

The survey also found that what helped businesses think that a state was friendly to them, and made them feel optimistic about the future, was if the state provided training in how to meet its regulations.  The government service of regulations - which benefits consumers, but is a pain to business owners - can be aided by the further government service of training owners in how to meet and manage the regulations.

And on training, alas, Kentucky rates a grade of F. 

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The Little Words Show a Couple's Mutual Interest

James Pennebaker, a U. of Texas psychologist, studies what happens to our use of function words - the, this, though, I, and, an, there, that - when we converse with other people.  He studied speed-dating couples. He found that when both used these words the same way and at the same rate, they were more likely to go on a real date.

This was not because, as I would have thought, these speech patterns showed an underlying similarity. Other studies have shown that couples with similarly complex vocabularies are more attracted to one another and make more stable marriages.  But that is not what is going on here.  Everyone uses function words.

Pennebaker concludes:
"When two people are paying close attention, they use language in the same way," he says. "And it's one of these things that humans do automatically."

Monday, April 30, 2012

Chinese Civil Rights Lawyer Chen Guangcheng is Halfway to Freedom

Chen Guangcheng brought a lawsuit against Chinese provincial officials for forced sterilizations and forced abortions as part of the one-child policy.  The Chinese government did what it usually does: it cracked down on both the bad officials, and the good citizen who exposed them.  Chen was sentenced to prison on trumped-up charges.  When his four-year term was over, he was (illegally) put under house arrest. 

This week, despite being under intense guard and being blind, Chen escaped from his village, was spirited away by the human rights underground to Beijing, and has taken refuge in the U.S. embassy.

I hope a fruit of the upcoming U.S./China economic talks will be that Chen can leave China for freedom, and that his family will not be retaliated against.

What I find particularly hopeful about this story is that Chen's activism took the form of a lawsuit.  The fact that it is even possible now for a citizen to file a lawsuit against the government is a hopeful step toward legitimate government in China.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Wheelan's Good Life Advice for Graduates (and Everyone)

I endorse Charles Wheelan's sentiments in his Wall Street Journal piece, "Ten Things Your Commencement Speaker Won't Tell You."

I particularly embrace #4, "Marry Someone Smarter Than You Are."  This paragraph is pretty much my life story, swapping "software company" for "education non-profit."

I do take issue with one element of #1, "Your Time in Fraternity Basements Was Well Spent." Wheelan is thinking of time spent building lifetime relationships, based on making "meaningful connections with other human beings." Merely drinking together will not do that.  And hookups have a negative effect.

Enjoy Commencement season.