The Mondragon Experiment – Corporate Cooperativism 1980


The Real Adam Smith

  • Part 1 of 2: Morality And Markets
    • SLIDES:
    • Smith was brightest lights of the Scottish Enlightenment
    • He called himself an ardent observer of everything more than anything else. His great gift was observation and study of human behavior and of society and creating principles and insights from his observation.
    • He firmly believed that division of labor leading to high productivity and specialization are key to wealth and prosperity
    • He said “Do what you do best and trade for the rest”
    • He was against Govt Intervention in controlling the market, and instead proposed that free markets driven by invisible hand of supply and demand are the best for the economy to thrive.
    • He’s called the father of modern world and father of economics.
    • Smith On The East India Company
      • EIC was according to Adam, a grotesque monopoly
      • It never made much profit, but it’s management thrived
      • It essentially became “Too big to fail”
      • It had it’s own army of 7K troops and its own Navy and ruled India
      • The British Govt had to bail it out and assist it on many occasions using public funds. One such incidence was when it was given rights to sell tea to American Colonies(US was a British Colony then) at a lower tax rate than the British Govts. local tax rate in Boston. This led to Boston Tea Party and was followed by the American Revolution.
    • Smith on Trade
      • Smith saw the formation of Britain in early 18th century and later the French Revolution
      • He was a fervent advocate of free markets and the power of invisible hand of the market
      • He was against the mercantile system and promoted open and free trade and not hoarding of wealth
      • Smith calculated and proved that controlling the colonies by extracting wealth would never be profitable in the long run due to the cost of Army and Navy to keep the colonies under the thumb. Instead he lobbied the british govt. to promote free trade and open migration between colonies. He even imagined US to be the future seat of the british empire.
    • He was equally a moral philosopher and a free market advocate
  • Part 2: Ideas That Changed The World
    • SLIDES:
    • More than a Economist, Smith was truly a social psychologist.
    • Benign neglect is a free market economic policy (along with no corruption, fair and swift judiciary and low and easy tax system) implemented first in Hong Kong in 1960s by their Finance Minister who was a follower of Smith’s principles. This caused their GDP to increase 10 fold in the next 40 yrs while Socialist China remained stagnant with its low performing state controlled industries. Soon China followed suit and is now a Capitalist Economy
    • Smith maintained that free market doesn’t promote selfishness but cooperation coz everyone is doing what their strengths are and sharing their talents and services and produce with others.
    • His key insight was that Competition is not a way of giving power to Companies, but a way of giving us power over them.
    • He was against special laws and subsidies for anyone coz it promotes lobbying as a means to make profit instead of innovation and in fact stifles innovation and alternate ideas.
    • A free market is one of the most powerful forces in the world
    • US Constitution is Smithian in it’s bones. Madison, Jefferson and Hamilton had studied and admired Smith.
    • 750 million people have been lifted out of poverty as global trade has increased from 2 trillion to 19 trillion $ in the last 40 yrs, just as Smith had predicted.

Resting and vesting

“Resting and vesting” is when an employee, typically an engineer, has an easy work load (if any job responsibilities at all) and hangs out on the company’s payroll collecting full pay and stock. Stock is often the bigger chunk of total compensation for a senior engineer than salary.

Once she was in rest-and-vest mode, this engineer spent her time attending tech conferences, working on pet coding projects and networking with friends, quietly developing an idea for her next gig, a startup.

Internally, these people are often referred to as “coasters.”

Microsoft used high-paying jobs strategically, both within its engineering ranks and with its R&D unit, Microsoft Research. The company, he says, would nab hard-to-find experts in up-and-coming fields like artificial intelligence, robotics, natural speech language, quantum computing and so on, often allowing them to collect their Microsoft pay while maintaining a job as a professor or researcher at a university.

“You keep engineering talent but also you prevent a competitor from having it and that’s very valuable,” he said. “It’s a defensive measure.”

Another person confirmed the tactic, telling us, “That’s Microsoft Research’s whole model.”

At other companies it’s less about defense and more about becoming indispensable.

For instance, Facebook has a fairly hush bonus program called “discretionary equity” or “DE,” said a former Facebook engineer who received it.

“DE” is when the company hands an engineer a massive, extra chunk of restricted stock units, worth tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s a thank you for a job well done. It also helps keep the person from jumping ship because DE vests over time. These are bonus grants that are signed by top execs, sometimes even CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself.

“At Facebook the ‘OGs’ [Original Gangsters] we know got DE,” this former Facebook engineer said. OGs refer to engineers who worked at the company before the IPO. “Their Facebook stock quadruples and they don’t leave. They are really good engineers, really indispensable. And then they start to pull 9-5 days,” this person said.

The 10x engineer

Other “rest-and-vest” types are part of a tribe in the Valley known as “the 10x engineer, ” a term used to describe someone said to be 10-times more effective than a so-called ordinary engineer.

Legend has it that a 10x engineer can do in one hour what it would take others 10 hours to do. Some of these folks are just plain brilliant. Others aren’t necessarily smarter but they know every detail of a critical system.

“When people have been there long enough, they often bring a value that’s not easy to see. They might know where the bodies are buried on some project, be called in as a last resort to debug a project, or they are known as a great pinch hitter,” describes the former rest-and-vest Facebook engineer.

Other members of the “rest and vest” set are the “coasters,” the long-timers who have reached a company’s top engineering ranks and don’t need to work hard to stay there.

They may not be 10x engineers, but they are institutional employees who know how to do just the right amount of work to get a good annual review and collect their next batch of stock grants.

According to all the folks we talked to, Google is known as a place where this type of rester-and-vester flourishes.

“Most of my friends at Google work four hours a day. They are senior engineers and don’t work hard. They know the Google system, know when to kick into gear. They are engineers, so they optimized the performance cycles of their own jobs,” one engineer described.

“At Google X, we don’t have a sense of budgetary concerns,” this person said. “Engineers get paid $250,00 to $600,000 range, but there’s no sense of urgency. It’s like a startup but not really. It’s like a startup with unlimited funds.”

“You get paid so much after a certain level at Google, that once you get there, there’s no real reason to work that hard. Life is good, you maximize your vacation. I’ll come in when I want to,” the X engineer said, estimating that very senior engineering positions can command up to $400,000- $600,000 in total compensation at X, including bonus and stock options.

“What incentive do you have to work harder when you are already making $500,000 in salary and there is no more upward trajectory?” this person explains.

“You have to be physically present,” this person said. But “there are so many distractions within Google” that it’s easy to come to work and still spend hours playing.

“You want to have lunch at a lovely cafe, or maybe attend a tech talk, or a class, or you want to go to a bodywork class at 6 p.m. or to get juice at the Slice Cafe and it’s on another campus. So you end up working 6 hours. There are times you have to put in nights and weekends, but in general, the company is so big and has so much money, you can work less,” this person told us.

Google certainly isn’t the only tech company to offer such distractions. Facebook has classes, a wood shop and a video arcade for its employees. Oracle has a sand beach volley ball pit and a swimming pool . Microsoft has a soccer and cricket sports field,plenty of Xboxes and an on-site day spa. We’ve been told rest-and-vest engineers can be found at all of these companies.



The Dark side of Corporations

The problem with Corporations is that they produce 1 thing and most of their effort is wasted in marketing that 1 thing and winning the competition against others making that thing.

Moreover, even if the corporation find out that their product might be bad for humans or env., they cannot close shop, coz the only reason for the corporation to exist is to make profit for it’s investors and shareholders…

What if there was no money and hence no monetary profit driving progress? What if everything was driven by science and rationality and AI and algorithms make every decision as rationally and scientifically as possible.

Then there will be no coal or oil extraction or manual labor. All jobs would be in automation and STEM and software etc. Moreover, as the algorithms become better, they’ll figure out more stuff, and course correct immediately as they figure out that the one thing that is in production is now found to be harmful per new discoveries. Within the hour, the production of this thing will be stopped and work will start in finding better solutions and of replacing that thing in the population with new better thing.

Stock Abstraction

A stock is like a living organism, a sparrow, say. And we are able to create an emergent-based abstraction of that sparrow, which closely approximates the sparrow itself, accounting for migration patterns, wind, weather, and other variables. We can create a similar abstraction of a stock, combining the information from the specific ETFs which represent its underlying dependencies. And if we apply this to the stock, we can predict its delta, following the path of its abstracted self because nature follows abstraction.