Family Firms, Chin P’ing Mei, Anders Breivik, Lobbying, W.B. Yeats, Pigments

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The Family Company

Adrian Wooldridge | The Economist | 16th April 2015

The modern theory of the firm assumes that public companies represent the end of corporate history; but outside Britain and America the family company is the dominant model, and looks set to remain so. The family company deserves more attention from business analysts, professional managers and management theorists. The power of capitalism and the power of the family make a formidable combination (1,560 words)

The Wonderfully Elusive Chinese Novel

The immense sixteenth-century Chinese novel, Chin P’ing Mei, tells of a corrupt merchant and his six wives steeped in "deception, bribery, blackmail, profligacy, flamboyant sex, and even murder". A further eight hundred named characters include "high officials, military commanders, peddlers, prostitutes, actors, tailors, monks, nuns, fortune tellers, acrobats, and cats and dogs". David Tod Roy's five-volume translation is a life's work (3,720 words)

One Of Us: The Story Of Anders Breivik

Åsne Seierstad | Literary Hub | 16th April 2015

Book extract. Before he became a mass-murderer Breivik was a gifted child, a graffiti artist, a day-trader in shares, a telephone salesman, and, while still in his teens, an activist in the populist Progress Party. He wanted to run for parliament, but the party turn him down. "He stopped going along to the offices or to their social events. If they didn’t want him, he didn’t want them either. He moved on, out into the world" (6,000 words)

America’s Lobbying Addiction

Philip Wallach | Brookings | 13th April 2015

Lobbying is an arms race. When you start, you can't stop. "There is so much lobbying that it is difficult to understand which efforts are really efficacious or worthwhile, and that creates a vicious principal-agent problem in which the lobbyists’ ability to exploit their clients’ uncertainty is nearly limitless. To the extent firms try to solve this by insisting on pursuing measurable impacts, they end up seeking highly particularistic outcomes" (1,900 words)

No Slouch

Nick Tabor | Paris Review | 7th April 2015

W. B. Yeats’s The Second Coming, written in 1919, may well be the most plagiarised poem of modern times. It went viral before there was an internet. "Things fall apart" is a quote from Yeats's poem; as are "the widening gyre", "the centre cannot hold", "the blood-dimmed tide", and "mere anarchy is loosed upon the world". Joan Didion opened the floodgates when she borrowed Slouching Towards Bethlehem from Yeats as a book-title in 1968 (1,760 words)

Blue Is The New Orange

Martin Bellander | I Cannot Make Bricks | 3rd April 2015

Downloading and sampling images of 100,000 paintings from 1800 to 2000 shows a clear trend in colour preference: Orange was the dominant colour throughout the 19th century, but in the 20th century its use diminished. All other colours gained ground, but especially blue. Why? Perhaps because blue was historically an expensive colour, but became cheaper as paints were produced industrially (2,070 words)

Video of the day: Seb Toots In Montreal

What to expect: Snowboarding. Starts to defy the laws of gravity around the 50-second mark (2'55")

Thought for the day

Society attacks early, when the individual is helpless
B.F. Skinner (

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