Friday Ephemera

Valuable Knowledge

Human capital is the ability to create the material things that constitute wealth… A classic example: In the 1970s, Uganda decided that the Gujarati population, from India, were just too wealthy and controlled too much of the economy. The Ugandans expelled them and wouldn’t let them take their wealth with them. And so the Gujaratis arrived, mostly in England, destitute. Meanwhile, the Ugandan government had taken over all of this material stuff. A few years later, the Gujaratis were prosperous in England, and the Ugandan economy collapsed. Because they didn’t have people who knew how to do what the Gujaratis were doing. It’s also one of the problems of trying to finance things by confiscating the wealth of the wealthy. All you can confiscate is the material wealth. You cannot confiscate human capital.

Thomas Sowell on wealth, poverty and Flat Earth economics:  

Previously: One, two and three



I know at least half a dozen people of Gujarati descent, all earning £250k plus. All very driven individuals


The section starting around 28:20, on Hillary Clinton and her awful ideas, is also worth a squint.


Sowell nails it, time and time again.

'Cos he's black (although a little white around the head now) he can say things others might find more difficult. He gets dismissed as an Uncle Tom but he has the ability to analyse and explain so even the economically-challenged, such as myself, can understand.

He makes sense and to my delight is politely cruel to those who believe in the Magic Money Tree.

R. Sherman

Cargo Cult economics 101. You don't turn poor people into stalwart members of the middle class by just giving them middle class stuff. Whether it's Uganda stealing from the Gujaratis or governments taxing the productive to make transfers to the indolent, the end result is always the same.

Lab Rat

Common sense that the modern Left/Progressives do not or refuse to understand.


You don’t turn poor people into stalwart members of the middle class by just giving them middle class stuff.

Unfortunately, encouraging the cultivation of functional values is by no means fashionable. While leftist conceits and attitudes, which are in fashion, are very often antithetical to practical success and satisfaction. Ostentatious resentment, envy, whininess, a presumed entitlement to the labour and earnings of others, a general sneering at anything bourgeois – these attitudes are dissonant with, and often obstacles to, the kinds of life choices that ultimately, more often than not, seem to make people happy. Or happier, at least.

To pick an obvious example, Laurie Penny, linked above, says young people should want to “fuck social mobility” and wage “war” on capitalism. Sadly, this is not exactly catnip for a large majority of potential employers. To pick a more prosaic example, the people quoted here seem to have internalised a sense of entitlement and unrealism, and assume that their own choices, however stupid, should never have negative consequences or affect their employment prospects. To encourage others to cultivate those conceits and attitudes, as if they were some kind of solution and not part of the problem, seems rather perverse, even cruel.

[ Edited. ]

Lancastrian Oik

At 42.10:

"If he has more, then somebody else must have less"

Whereby Dr. Sowell nails the fallacy at the heart of Leftist economics, i.e. that we are playing a zero-sum game.

Lancastrian Oik

Sorry, that should read "...at 12.40". With 42.10 left to go.


R. Sherman

Whereby Dr. Sowell nails the fallacy at the heart of Leftist economics, i.e. that we are playing a zero-sum game.

I'm reminded of a commercial campaign for potato chips in the U.S. a few years back. The catch line was, "Eat all you want. We'll make more." That, in two sentences, is the glory of a capitalist economic system. Even the Laurie Pennys of the world know it to be true, which is why they fall back to harping about "excessive consumption and consumerism," "sustainability" and the like. They hate the fact that someone will always make more potato chips.

Fred the Fourth

An ex-colleague of mine was a youth when his family was expelled from Uganda. Went to London (legally), multiple-degree'd, married an English Rose, moved to the US (legally) and ended up in Silicon Valley. Two kids, both civilized and smart.
I only knew him as a tech manager in the 80s. I was AMAZED at the number and variety of folk who showed up at his memorial service, all with stories about his varied careers.
He and his family left behind basically nothing - they were not wealthy, just small-business owners. He personally left behind a few toys and books.
Uganda LOST a person who was capable of instantiating entire industries.

Fred the Fourth

Reflecting on the man I mentioned above led me to one of his obituaries, which rings completely true to me, and which I want to share:
A lover of books who forced the librarian at the U.S. Embassy in Uganda where he grew up to teach him how to read, Belmont resident Shashi Raval died Dec. 6 (2005) of complications from a two-year battle with leukemia. He was 55.

“He adored the library. He loved going every weekend,” his wife, Elsa, said. “The library would always save things for him and point out new things for him.”

Eagerly anticipating the Belmont library’s reconstruction, she said, he went to the San Carlos and Redwood City libraries in the interim. At lunch, he went to Redwood City’s to devour their collection of such BBC films as “I, Claudius.”

He read four newspapers a day — The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Financial Times and the San Francisco Chronicle.

“He went through them all,” his wife said. “I have never met anyone who read as voraciously as he did.”

Favorite books included “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and “Don Quixote,” and he had a particular love for Latin American authors, his wife said.

One of eight children whose parents emigrated from India to Kampala, Uganda, his family was so poor that each child had just one shirt and pair of shorts. None of the children attended school.

Discovering that the U.S. Embassy had a library, he sneaked inside, hiding in a corner with the picture books. The librarian who found him asked him if he had a library card. When he told her no, she asked him to leave.

Despite her warnings, he returned each day, until the librarian gave up and issued him a card. Realizing that he couldn’t read, the librarian taught him, paid for his first year of school and bought him shoes.

“He was always the quiet one who always had a book and always wasn’t there,” his wife said, referring to his penchant for sneaking away, even climbing into the family’s mango tree, to read.

He left Uganda for England as a teenager and graduated with a bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. in physics, as well as a law degree, from the University of London. He moved to Belmont in 1986 and pursued an MBA at Stanford.

He returned to England to work for Hewlett-Packard, but then came back to Belmont in 1991. He continued with Hewlett-Packard, developing a business later spun off with Agilent and then sold. He became the president of Templex Technology, an optics firm which was sold to Intel, and since March 2002, he was the CEO of Novariant, a GPS firm in Menlo Park.

A man of integrity and sincerity, CFO Prakash Ramachandran said, he grew the company from 15 people to nearly 100, and passionately developed new implementations of their technology in many different fields.

“He can talk about so many diverse subjects that he can easily relate to everyone,” he said.

He often helped young entrepreneurs flesh out their aspirations, too.

“He was very open to giving advice to them without expecting anything in return,” Ramachandran said.

Fred the Fourth

I want to note that Shashi's family left India during a period when India had policies to, among other things, severely restrict imports in order to "help" grow local businesses. "Unluckily" this was also the period when you had to a) comply with all kinds of helpful rules, and b) grease everybody's palm, to make any kind of business thing happen.
Amazingly enough, some folk decided this plan might not work, and bailed out for the siren song of opportunity in places like Uganda, which was then actively recruiting incoming talent.
Later, things changed.

Tim Newman

Uganda LOST a person who was capable of instantiating entire industries.

Meanwhile, the bloke responsible was eating people.


Didn’t Idi Amin claim that he’d been sent visions by Allah?


If you want to read some funny stuff when Punch magazine was taking the piss out of Idi, check this out: http://www.ourcivilisation.com/smartboard/shop/corena/


The genius of creation. The firework powered bicycle.
From China of course.



I guess a couple of points to take away from this is that one, immigrants can (not necessarily always) make a positive impact on their new home, and two, enforcing some BS notion of racial purity ("Keep Uganda black!") is really dumb.

Dr Cromarty

The media doesn't help with the kind of entitlement and narcissism it promotes. There's an advert on telly - I think for Zalando - where a model minces around and proclaims: "Respect my ideas". As if stupidity, folly, inanity or vacuous platitudes deserve respect simply by virtue of being proclaimed.

I respect your right to proclaim your ideas, but reserve the right to laugh, point and scoff.


Yes! Immigrants are valuable human capital, couldn't agree more. Someone let UKIP know.


Sowell is always good but Peter Robinson is underappreciated as an interviewer.


Morning news, at least for my time zone . . . .

Syrian Refugee Saves Stranger's Wedding, Proving Kindness Knows No Borders

Fred the Fourth

SOME LEGAL immigrants CAN BECOME valuable human capital, couldn't agree more. Someone let the US Executive Branch know (Congress has already passed plenty of relevant laws.)

Mr. Raval and kin immigrated to the UK and the US in full compliance with local law. I knew him well enough to be sure he would have told me that, if he behaved feloniously, he would have expected to be deported post haste.

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