Dec 9, 2012

Facebook's present success and uncertain future

Facebook began as a social networking project for Ivy League students and has become a phenomenon in marketing that has transformed digital advertising and marketing. The social network has already surpassed 1 billion total users. Today, the average American spends 6.75 hours on Facebook per month, more than they spend on its closest competitors combined.

Samsung managed to launch a successful three week marketing campaign on Facebook for its Galaxy S III which generated an ROI of nearly 1200%. According to Carolyn Everson, Vice President at Facebook’s Global Marketing Solutions, the $10 million campaign generated $129 million in sales. Samsung was able to use Facebook to specifically target smartphone owners with their ads during the three weeks that Apple was releasing the iPhone 5. Successful campaigns like Samsung’s are made possible due to Facebook’s massive reach. According to Everson, the social media giant reaches three times the Super Bowl audience every day.

One of the advantages of advertising on Facebook is that it allows you to target a specific group or demographic with ease. Most Facebook users have filled out their profile and this includes information that can reveal their age, gender, location, languages, religion, or level of education. This information can be used to reach your target market with your advertisements. Advertisers can also use Facebook to target their ads towards users based on their searches or web browsing history. This is made possible by Facebook’s advertising platforms, which allow ads to be targeted based on many aspects of a person’s life such as the places a person visits. This allows advertising to reach a more specific audience than ever before.

Bradley Horowitz, Vice President of Social Products at Google, believes that Facebook has gotten the concept of advertising all wrong and accused his competitor of being a “social network of the past.” Horowitz feels that social media should be a space for people to socialize. He says that it would be rude to interrupt a conversation between two people to tell them to buy a sandwich from you.

“When you and I are having a conversation, the least opportune thing you could do is have a guy with a sandwich board run between us and try to sell me a sandwich. I’m trying to connect with someone. I’m trying to communicate in that sacred space of social connection. It doesn’t matter if I ‘like’ the sandwich. It doesn’t matter if it’s personalized with my favorite mustard. That is the wrong moment to try to dangle a sandwich in front of me.”

When Business Insider asked about his plans for Google+, Horowitz explained that he wants to create an integrated experience for users with Google+ as the foundation. His plans are to create a social network that encompasses everything you use on the internet, like in Google’s case, a search engine, Google Chrome, G-Mail, YouTube, et cetera, with Google+ as the foundation that links everything and personalizes the user’s internet experience. Horowitz feels that this is how social networking should happen in the future.

He also says that the way we look at advertising online must change. Rather than fill a person’s newsfeed with advertisements for products they like, social media must “fulfill a need that the user has when it’s useful to them.” In other words, Horowitz believes that successful social media marketing must move away from ads and focus on recommendations from friends during searches. If someone decides to browse for a place to eat lunch and they were to see that a friend of their recommends a restaurant, this would have a much more significant impact on the person’s decision than a sandwich ad that popped up in their newsfeed. Google is already working on this concept. As far as public knowledge is concerned, Facebook is not working on any such thing.

However, Facebook is developing new ideas that could help them move into the future. This year, Facebook tested a new feature that it is expected to introduce to its users in 2013. The new “want” button was tried out by Pottery Barn, Wayfair, Victoria’s Secret, Michael Kors, Neiman Marcus, Smith Optics, and This new feature allows a page’s followers to “want” a product by simply clicking on the “want” button on a photo of a product. The feature works just like the “like” or “recommend” features. If you “want” a product you can “unwant” it later on. You can also let your friends know why you “want” the product. Gene Munster, Managing Director and Senior Research Analyst at Piper Jaffray, predicts that Facebook will reach $10 billion in commerce-related revenue by 2015 if it launches the new feature in 2013. He also added that commerce-related revenue will become 30 to 40 percent of Facebook’s business in the long term.

One concern that seems to persist in the minds of Facebook users is privacy. Facebook’s management of the issue has not helped. Users complain of frequent changes to the privacy policy that sometimes go into effect with little warning. Facebook has developed a reputation among the press of simply selling their users’ privacy to advertisers. Regardless of how accurate this depiction of Facebook is, the company is in a precarious position regarding this issue.

One of Facebook’s more controversial applications is the Photo Sync option it offers to its smartphone users. The app automatically synchronizes photos taken with the phone to a private photo album on Facebook. The idea is to provide users with a back-up of their photos in case they ever lose their phone. However, many have raised concerns over privacy and feel that the application goes too far. Facebook can use the photo’s geolocation data to track you and know who you are posing with in the photo.

A similar application for Apple devices has already caused harm in Anderson, Indiana in October. The application copies every photo to every Apple device that the user has access to. A middle-school teacher who authorized a group of students to use her school-issued iPad was surprised when the students found a photo of herself “from the neck down, with partial exposure,” according to the Anderson police department. The teacher was not penalized because the photo was not nude and because the students accessed an application, iPhotos, which they were not authorized to use but nonetheless, this is an example of how far these kinds of applications can go in infringing the user’s privacy.

Facebook faces a dilemma. The company’s business model depends on the information they can gather about their users and sell it to advertisers but social network’s users have a strong need for privacy. If Facebook gives in to demands for more privacy it risks losing advertisers, their primary source of revenue. Generally, Facebook users have been somewhat tolerant of the lack of privacy in Facebook’s business model but this is an issue that is beginning to bleed the company.

Facebook is currently facing a class-action lawsuit in the United States, where it is charged with violating privacy rights by publicizing users' "likes" without giving them an “opt out” option. A judge has given his approval to a second attempt to settle the case by paying each user involved in the lawsuit up to $10 each out of a settlement fund of $20 million. Facebook has many more cases like this one. The privacy campaign group Europe-v-facebook has filed a list of 22 complaints against the company in the European Union and plans on taking Facebook to court. If these settlements and lawsuits begin to pile up, Facebook may become bogged down financially due to the legal costs. This is the dilemma facing their model. If they give in to privacy demands, their performance will suffer, but if they appear to move in the other direction, they will strain their users’ trust, which will also affect their performance as a company.

Facebook’s strategy has worked until now, but it can backfire at any moment because of the delicate balance it requires the company to keep between users and advertisers in order to remain profitable. Bradley Horowitz understands this strategy’s flaw and that is why he is avoiding this business model with Google+. Facebook can learn from this project. Facebook should keep in mind that past success does not guarantee future success.

Facebook is likely here to stay. However nothing guarantees that they will continue to hold the largest market share in the social media market. The experience of using Facebook is also likely to change for its users. Facebook must innovate new ways to become profitable other than just using its users’ information to bombard them with advertising. We will likely see more changes to Facebook than just the new “want” button. But Facebook will continue to face competition from Twitter and Google+. It’s hard to tell who will be the leader in social networking a few years from now but it depends on Facebook’s ability to innovate and think more outside the box than they’re doing right now.

Nov 27, 2012

Christmas toy catalogue switches traditional roles for boys and girls

If you get your hands on a Swedish Toys R Us Christmas catalogue this year you will notice something different. The children have all swapped their traditional gender roles. This is an effort by Top Toy, franchise-holder for US toy chain Toys R Us, to appeal to a market that has become increasingly aware of gender roles and stereotypes. The Swedish toy market has become so sensitive to these that previous Top Toy catalogues have fallen under criticism for depicting boys and girls in their traditional gender roles. The catalogue also depicts boys and girls playing together with the same toys.

"For several years, we have found that the gender debate has grown so strong in the Swedish market that we ... have had to adjust," Jan Nyberg, director of sales at Top Toy said. Nyberg's company was forced to rethink their entire advertising strategy in Sweden. They were reprimanded by Sweden's advertising watchdog, Reklamombudsmannen, in 2008 for using discriminating advertisements in their toy catalogue. Their wrongdoing? Launching a catalogue which depicted girls as princesses and boys as superheroes. According to the watchdog, this reinforces gender stereotypes.

This is not the first time that one of their sanctions catches the media's attention. Last year they decreed that an advertisement featuring a man in boxers was "offensive to men in general" because it portrayed them as "mere sex objects". But Reklamombudsmannen is only a reflection of the Swedish culture. Advertisements interpreted as reinforcing gender roles can find themselves on the wrong side of public sentiment in Sweden.

In fact, this has become such an important issue in Sweden that the release of a book, "Kivi and Monster Dog," by popular Swedish author Jesper Lundqvist in January sparked further debate on the issue. The children's book eliminated the use of the pronouns "he" and "she" and substituted them with "hen," a gender-neutral pronoun that has been proposed in Sweden as a substitute for gender-based pronouns. This is part of an effort to promote gender equality in Swedish schools. In 2008 the government spent $16.3 million on this goal and legislated requirements for teachers to actively reverse students' gender roles.

Faced with such a pro gender-neutral market, it would not have been wise for Top Toy to ignore Reklamombudsmannen's advice. According to Nyberg, "we have found that the gender debate has grown so strong in the Swedish market that we have had to adjust." He also explained that, "With the new gender thinking, there is nothing that is right or wrong. It’s not a boy or a girl thing, it’s a toy for children."

Here are some of the images from the Swedish catalague. First, a girl plays with a laser rifle. Second, a boy plays with a doll. And third, a comparison of Swedish versus the Norwegian and Danish Toys R Us catalogue images, respectively.

Top Toys went beyond gender roles and also took color into consideration. In the Swedish catalogue, few girls are seen wearing pink. They are wearing blue or more neutral colors like black or green. The same goes for the boys.

This represents a milestone in marketing and advertising. Top Toys may have only done this in Sweden but this reflects a general trend in Western culture to move away from traditional gender roles. It may occur consciously or not, but because of the complexity of life in the 21st century and its effects on family, gender roles are not as black or white as they once were. And as life becomes increasingly faster and more complex, as even more women join the workforce, and some fathers begin to stay at home these roles will become increasingly eroded.

The Swedish toy market may be ahead in this transformation, but other markets in other Western cultures will soon follow. We don't know which market will be next or in which country. We don't know how fast this change will occur, but we do know that it is happening and will change marketing as we know it. Marketers will have to change how they see gender roles in marketing. They will play a lesser role than traditional marketing is used to dealing with. This will also open up markets for more gender-neutral products than before. But a final word of caution, and one that Top Toy has already learned, as this change occurs marketers must be very attuned to the different markets and cultures. Some will change faster than others and what may be seen as acceptable in one may seem unsavory to others.

Sep 11, 2012

My Personal Recollection: 9/11 through the eyes of a Brooklyn teenager

It started out like an ordinary Tuesday morning. It was a warm, sunny day in September. People rushed about on their way to work. For the kids, summer vacation had finished last week and they were on their way to school, meeting new teachers and new friends. No one expected what was about to happen.
Dyker Heights Intermediate School

At Dyker Heights Intermediate School we had a second period class on American History with Mr. Oiring. I was looking forward to the class. I've always liked history. He always wore his black kippah to his classes. We all entered the room and took our assigned seats. Mine was the first seat in the fifth row. Once we were all seated Mr. Oiring, who was sitting at his desk with his hands folded together, addressed our class. "Ladies and gentlemen, there has been a terrible accident."

My innocent twelve year old mind thought, "did someone get hurt? what kind of an accident had happened? was it a car accident? how many people were involved? are they going to be OK?"

Mr. Oiring stood up and spoke again. "It seems that an airplane has crashed into one of the Twin Towers." He said that he had looked out the window and had seen one third of the World Trade Center hidden by black smoke. He said that he did not know any more details. The window shades were closed so there was no way of seeing what was happening, despite our fifth floor classroom providing a good view of Brooklyn and Manhattan.

This was a serious accident. Plane crashes always involve many deaths. I remembered TWA Flight 800. It had exploded over New York one evening in 1996. 230 people died and the tragedy was all over the news for months. Being just twelve, I used this tragedy as an example of what I could expect to learn about what had just happened at the World Trade Center.

Mr. Oiring began the class but I cannot remember what we discussed that day. Towards the end of second period Mr. Andros, the Gym teacher, showed up by the classroom door and called Mr. Oiring over. They exchanged words just outside the door for a few seconds and then Mr. Oiring returned inside. What he said next has become one of my most vivid memories of my time at. "Ladies and gentlemen, I have just been informed that another plane has crashed into the other tower. Both planes were passenger planes that had been hijacked. One of the towers has collapsed. Another plane has just crashed into the Pentagon and the Pentagon is on fire. One section of the Pentagon has partially collapsed. Ladies and gentlemen, we are under attack."

I was too busy trying to grasp the significance of what I had just been told to care about the other kids' reactions. We were being attacked by someone. Someone evil enough to have struck the World Trade Center and powerful enough to have struck the Pentagon. Clearly we were now at war, but with whom?

Mr. Oiring tried to start the class but there was another interruption. This time it was an announcement over the school's PA system. Madeleine Brennan, our school's Principal instructed our school's teachers to close all doors and not to allow any strangers to enter the classrooms. Later on I found out that this was due to dozens of parents frantically trying to get to their children. New York City schools have a very strict protocol for releasing minors into a guardian's custody during school hours. Mr. Oiring continued the class but there was another announcement. This time our Principal instructed teachers to leave their phone boxes open for the rest of the day.

As the morning progressed, we continued with our other classes as close to normal as possible. Every now and then the phone boxes would ring and our teachers would answer the call. They would call out a student's name and tell them that they were to report to the main office.

By lunchtime we still had very little idea about what was going on. We did find out that the North Tower had collapsed as well. We talked about what we thought this meant about the future. We all agreed that we would find out that many people had died and that we were at war. I compared what was happening in our city to Pearl Harbor. As we talked, our Dean, Mr. O'Farrell, would call out students' names from a list via a megaphone and instruct them to report to the main office, just like the calls in the classrooms. When lunch was over, we climbed up the stairs and I noticed a group of about forty kids all trying to huddle close to the hallway windows. I asked a friend of mine what they were doing and he told me that they were looking at the smoke and debris from the towers because it had reached downtown Brooklyn.

After lunch, our next class was Language Arts with our teacher Ms. Schimé. The phone rang just like it had in all the other classes and she called out my name. It was my turn to go to the main office. I met up with my mother who told me that she had spent the entire morning trying to get to me but couldn't because there were so many parents trying to get to their children as well. I identified her as my mother to comply with protocol and she signed some papers. I was now going home but I was still confused about what was happening. As she walked me to her car, she led me past a massive line of parents. The line started just outside the main office on the second floor, made its way down the stairs, into the lobby, out the front facade, and circled the school. These were the parents of the approximately 1700 students still inside.

When we got to the car my mother explained that she was listening to the radio when it all happened. She had stopped at a gas station in the morning that had a view of the towers and she saw the fire and smoke coming out of the towers. She told me the air over Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn was filled with smoke, dust, office paper and other debris. She told me that she had heard of the collapse of both towers and she said that the media had made a list of 100 likely targets that they thought might get hit if there were more hijacked planes. These targets included the Empire State BuildingBrooklyn Bridge, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, two nuclear power plants in the New York area, The Sears Tower in Chicago, the White House, the Capitol Building, and even targets as far away as the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico were feared as being in danger of attack. This was just after noon and no one knew much about what was happening which only added a sense of mystery to an overwhelming sense of peril.

The FAA had stopped all commercial and private planes from taking off and diverted every flight in the air to land at the nearest airport, something that had never been done before. But there were still about a dozen planes in the air that were out of contact with the FAA and were feared hijacked. Everyone feared the worst. As time went on, they were intercepted and told to land. The crews aboard these planes had not been informed of what was happening.

An Air National Guard F-16 Falcon flies
over New York City on Sept. 12, 2001.
I arrived home and would spend the next hours, late into the night watching what was happening on television. The two explosions and collapse were about to be played over and over for hours and days until they would become permanently etched into the minds of every New Yorker.  Initially, 50,000 were feared dead. Two aircraft carriers were stationed just outside of New York City. They said they were worried that a plane might try to hit one of the nuclear power plants. Soon after, F-16 fighter jet engines roared through the sky, reminding us of our vulnerability and turning the busy New York City sky from a commercial one into battlefield. The sound of commercial jet engines that is a part of the city's sound was replaced by the thunderous roar of war planes. Some flew so low and so fast that they shook the ground.

Early in the afternoon the New York City government decided to suspend classes for the rest of the day so that parents could pick up their children right away without waiting in massive lines. My father, a Dean at a different school, arrived home shortly thereafter. He had spend all day trying to get in contact with us but couldn't. The antenna at the top of the World Trade Center was an essential part of the city's communication network. The antenna's destruction affected phone, radio and even television signals. No one could get in contact with family members or friends.

Later in the afternoon, I saw as World Trade Center Building 7 collapsed on live television. I remembered the building from past trips that I had made to the World Trade Center, some as early as 1993. But the last trip I made was in June of 2001, just two months ago. It was a school trip that our sixth grade teachers organized. After the towers collapsed, news helicopters flew over ground zero and filmed the disaster from above. I remembered back to the school trip. I had leaned against one of the windows on the 110th floor and looked down at the city. It was the same exact view that I was seeing now as the helicopter looked down on ground zero, except the towers were gone and the rest of the buildings were severely damaged, but I was sure it was the same view. The surrounding buildings were all in the same spots and looked about as far down as I had seen them. This realization stunned me. Just two months before, I had stood not too far from where this helicopter was filming ground zero from.

View of WTC before and after September 11th, 2001

All schools would be closed the next day but a few hour into the night my mother insisted that I go to bed and stop watching the news. I tried to sleep that night, but the images and adrenaline kept me up.

Similar to what I saw over the city
Early the next morning, my father took me to a roof to get a clearer view of Manhattan. The sight was tough to bear. Where the towers had stood all my life now emerged a plume of grey smoke that rose as high as the towers had. It then extended through the horizon. It paralleled the horizon and was just as infinite. As we stood on the roof a flight of four fighter jets flew over us. The patrols would continue for months. New York City would never be the same.

Many people at home and abroad tend to politicize this issue. Nothing is going to bring back 3,000 dead or undo the horror we all witnessed that day. We can save the discussion about whether we need more or less civil liberties or whether we need more or less foreign intervention for another day. The dead deserve a moment of silence and let it be a silence of any political discussion. Today, let us remember the victims, celebrate the heroes, and support their families.

Sep 3, 2012

The End of the American Era?

The 20th century is referred to by many as the American Century. For the greater part of the century America was seen as the World's leader. As the world's wealthiest nation, we lead the world in economic growth and development. As a symbol of freedom, we were seen as moral leaders in world affairs. But many argue that America has lost this prestige.

In June, HBO Series The Newsroom aired an episode where news anchor Will McAvoy (played by Jeff Daniels) is asked in front of a full auditorium of college students by a sophomore student, Jenny, "Can you tell us in a sentence why America is the greatest country in the world?" McAvoy first dodges the question, giving the New York Jets as the reason. This is a foreshadowing of his next response since the Jets are not a bad team but are not exactly number one. They have not been to the Super Bowl since 1969. McAvoy is drawing a comparison between the Jets' status within the NFL and America's status in the world. When the moderator insists that McAvoy give an honest answer, he explodes into a rant where he gives his take on where America finds itself today. You can watch the video below if you haven't seen it yet.

The statistics that McAvoy lists show that America is no longer number one in the areas that it is proud of. He does mention three statistics where America is number one today and two are cause for great concern. We are number one in the number of incarcerated citizens per capita and number one in defense spending. Contrary to what McAvoy's colleague, Luis, answers, we are no longer number one in freedom, which was our main source of pride for the past two and a half centuries.

McAvoy ends by saying that we used to be the greatest nation but that is because we used to be informed. He also calls this generation the worst generation ever. I believe that there is still hope for this generation to become informed. But I believe that the problem goes beyond just one generation's state of awareness. We allowed our liberty to erode away and we will continue on a dangerous path if we do not act soon. Our loss of liberty has caused us to loose our stance as the world's leader.

For decades, America was regarded as the world's wealthiest nation and seen as an example. Americans lead the world due to hard work and a powerful sense of entrepreneurship. We still have examples of leadership in business. We've had people like Reed College dropout Steve Jobs, creator of the Apple franchise. We have people like Sara Blakely, the youngest self-made female billionaire who created Spanx with an initial investment of $5,000.Warren Buffet started out with $9,800 and today he is worth $40 billion. And if you feel that entrepreneurialism isn't for you, you can try becoming an intrapreneur.

Americans still work hard and want to succeed but some people feel that the only way to become successful is if you get lucky. The keys to success are still hard work, motivation, and a strong drive but it is harder today to start a business or hire employees than it used to be due to government's extent of involvement in the economy. Last summer, three Georgia teenage girls opened up a lemonade stand to make enough money to visit a water park. The police decided to shut down the girls' lemonade stand because they had not paid for a permit that would have cost them $50 dollars a day. The police said that the girls could not sell lemonade because they did not know what the girls had put in it. These girls came up with a business solution to their problem but a silly government regulation stopped them. They are not alone. In Las Vegas, Lissette Waugh and Wendy Robin decided to open up their own make-up artistry schools. They were told that if they did not have a cosmetology license, they would have to pay a $2,000 fine and shut down their schools. They were told that if they were granted the license they would have to teach a cosmetology curriculum chosen by the city government, a curriculum that has nothing to do with make-up or with the students' interests. The entrepreneurs decided to sue the city. Institute for Justice attorneys are currently overseeing Waugh v. Nevada State Board of Cosmetology.  Rather than protecting the right to earn an honest living, government is impeding it. We have allowed petty government regulation of the free market to stifle business growth and development. How can we expect to lead the world economy if it is harder each day to start a business or hire employees in America? This video shows the effect that economic freedom has on our economy and why America is loosing its footing on the list of attractive economies.

America has also lost social freedom. As McAvoy pointed out, we have the highest incarceration rate in the world. Even oppressive regimes like Iran, Saudi Arabia, China and the former Soviet Union have never imprisoned as many citizens as America does. For a closer look at this issue, visit this New York Times article. We also have to keep in mind that the Federal Government is doing everything in its power to restrict civil liberty today. It began with the PATRIOT Act but we've had Congress attempt to pass legislation like SOPA, PIPA, and ACTA, which threaten civil and economic liberties alike. The President now has the power to order the assassination of any citizen that he deems too dangerous. Under the NDAA, the President can have anyone detained indefinitely without trial and if you are suspected of associating with members of any group that is considered a threat, you can be arrested by the military and held "until the end of hostilities." The President signed this into law but a Federal judge ruled the provision unconstitutional. This is not the last battle that Americans will have to fight to protect their civil liberties. Congress is currently considering a bill, H.R. 3166, or the Enemy Expatriation Act, that uses similar wording found in the NDAA but goes further. If this bill is approved, it would give the Federal government the authority to strip citizenship away from Americans deemed dangerous. You would lose any protection of your civil rights granted by your citizenship. If we continue to lose our civil liberty, we will have no means left for defending our economic liberty. It is vital to the survival of liberty that we inform ourselves and take it upon ourselves to spread the word regarding these issues. Will McAvoy was right when he said that America was once number one because of an informed generation.

The final statistic from the HBO's The Newsroom that is important to understand in order to discuss America's decline as the world's leader is defense spending. The United States currently spends $711 billion annually on defense, compared to the world's second largest military spender, China, who spends $143 billion. In fact, the US military budget accounts for 41% of worldwide military spending. The only way this is morally or fiscally justified is if we plan on going to war with two thirds of the world in the near future, which is clearly not the case. Had we cut just half of that spending, we would have eliminated roughly one fourth of our $1.3 trillion deficit and we would have still had a military budget more than twice the size of any other nation's.

We must also consider the impact that this has on our foreign policy. America should have learned this past decade that enforcing policy through military intervention is counter productive. Instead we have been engaged in military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and Libya these past two years alone and our President is now threatening Syria with military action. We are surrounding China and Russia with military installations and we have already surrounded Iran. Our interventionist foreign policy is directly responsible for the instability in the Middle East that we have witnessed over the past decade. It is time that we realize that we must stop being an Empire because it goes against the values that we as Americans have been taught to value. We love liberty but we must introduce liberty to the world by our example as leaders. We cannot bomb weddings and funerals in poorer countries and expect them to become freer. We have turned the world against ourselves and until we realize that we have abandoned our own values we will not be seen as leaders again. My view of American foreign policy falls perfectly in line with a certain presidential candidate who can be seen below debating the subject in a 2008 Republican debate.

America is not the greatest nation on earth today. We have abandoned the principles that once made us that nation. We have forgotten about freedom, the rule of law, civil rights and liberties, capitalism, entrepreneurship and we have stopped leading through our example. The three points that I presented, economic freedom, personal liberty, and foreign policy are linked. When we start building a military empire overseas, we end up losing civil liberties at home. We must accept that our interventions in foreign countries have blow-back. We are destroying our national security by inflaming enemies that we created in the first place, we are sowing the seeds of the next threats to our civil liberties at home, and we are feeding an unsustainable deficit that will lead to increased inflation or higher taxes. We must learn that government cannot provide solutions to problems that it created. Instead, government should get out of the way and allow America to become a leader in business, enterprise, and liberty once again. As citizens, we must help put this nation back on track.

At the end of his explanation, McAvoy tells the college students that what once made America the greatest country was an informed generation. It is not too late. I invite you to explore the variety of issues that I presented in this post. Familiarize yourself with what is happening and then tell your family and friends about it. There is strength in numbers and if enough people wake up we can change this country back into what it once was. The answers to these issues lie in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence, except we have forgotten how to use them. Our Founding Fathers had just fought for their liberty and had just set up a new government. McAvoy called this the worst generation ever. I disagree. This generation has an opportunity to become the greatest country in the world once again. But it is up to us to act before it is too late and restore our way of life. Please take a moment to reflect on the meaning behind the following quote from Benjamin Franklin. At the closing of the Constitutional Convention a lady asked Franklin on his way out, "Well, Doctor, what have we got--a Republic or a Monarchy?" Franklin answered, "A Republic, if you can keep it."

May 26, 2012

Mao Yushi

Earlier this month, the Cato Institute awarded Chinese economist Mao Yushi with the biennial Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty, named after Nobel laureate Milton Friedman (1912-2006). This award is bestowed upon individuals who have made significant contributions to advancing liberty. You can watch Mao and his granddaughter speak at the dinner where the award was presented on May 4th at the Washington Hilton in Washington D.C. at the end of this post.

Mao has become an important figure in the Chinese transition from a planned economy to a market-based economy. He has used education and private charity as ways to ease this process. Mao has become an advocate for individual liberty and a market economy in China, a nation who's recent history has been devoid of both for decades.

Mao Yushi began as railway engineer during Mao Zedong's Anti-Rightist Campaign. He was identified as a rightist for his beliefs in 1960 and sent to a reeducation camp in Shandong Province where his punishment of forced manual labor was carried out. While there, he witnessed the deaths of hundreds of people who starved to death due to the conditions. Mao suffered because of his beliefs yet again when the Red Guard confiscated all of his family's property during the Cultural Revolution.

In 1978 Mao, now an economist, began educating people in the concept of free markets and personal responsibility. This later led him to found the Unirule Institute of Economics, an independent think tank dedicated to the growth of a market economy and Chinese government reform. He later established the Fuping Development Institute, a private organization dedicated to teaching the poor micro-credit skills and other skills needed to help themselves.

However, Mao's work has not been appreciated by everyone. Last year he wrote an article, "Returning Mao Zedong to Human Form," where he discussed the effect of the Chairman Mao's Communist policies in terms of loss of human life and decrease in per capita GDP. This was not well received by many in China where the Chairman still has many followers. 50,000 signatures were gathered against Mao Yushi because of his article. The signatures petitioned for his execution for treason. The essay was removed from Chinese websites. When asked by Forbes Magazine about the public outcry, Mao answered, "It’s totally beyond my expectations. I think all my points in the article should be agreed [upon]. It’s all based on facts. But Mao’s theory is very attractive, especially for the poor.… All over the world there is always a pursuit of equality, and this will always be a damaging force."

Mao has also authored 15 books including the best seller, "Economics in Everyday Life," where he explains market economics in terms that people who don't have formal knowledge on the subject can understand. A collection of his essays is being prepared for publication in English in 2013. He focuses his writing on trying to ease the Chinese government's transition from a planned economy to a market economy. Mao has been named one of China's 50 most distinguished intellectuals by Southern People Weekly and named one of China's most influential intellectuals of the decade by China Newsweek.

Mao argues that growing awareness of market forces have helped China move towards a different future. His work is focused on increasing that awareness. Mao says that "the more income an individual earns the more freedom an individual has." He has also called for freedom of speech in China. Mao says that this is an important step because it will give people the power to oversee the government, thus making it easier to reform it. The 83-year-old economist is likely to be remembered as one of the key voices that helped Communist China transition into a market-based economy.