Scott Galloway headshot with his ADRIFT book cover

Is American leadership ‘Adrift’?

The United States remains the central leader in one of the most economically dynamic periods the world has ever known. We lack an organizing principle and shared vision.

That’s the overall argument from Scott Galloway, the business-school professor and pundit, in Adrift, his 2022 book centered around 100 charts on economics, culture and life. It’s a thoughtful, fun and breezy read for heavy material. It reads a bit like a textbook for the digital age.

Below I share my notes for future reference.

My notes:

  • The Reagan tax cuts started push the American government into deficits
  • Reagan left behind what government is good for: minority and majority balance; invest where the markets don’t (education, infrastructure, research) and safety net
  • In 1966, the US invested 2.5% in infrastructure; during Nixon and Reagan got pared back to 1.3%
  • What comes to mind for me: Reasonable criticism of bad government spending was twisted into saying that all government spending is bad.
  • We de-institutionalized psychiatric beds but didn’t actually replace them with anything other than homelessness (for local governments to address)
  • In 1979, 8 in 100 members of 1% were in finance; by 2006 it was 14 in 100
  • Estimated we lose $600b a year in unpaid taxes and top 1% responsible for 28% of it , in 1960 we audited 3% of tax returns; now 0.5%
  • About half of Americans have stocks, up from less than a third in 1989, but progress slowed and top 1% have most; bottom 80% have 13% household stock
  • In 1980: 40% of the world lived in poverty, today less than 10%; in 1980 44% had no democratic votes, today it’s 25%
  • When the Soviet Union Paid Pepsi in Warships
  • Between 1990 and 2005, immigrants started a quarter of all venture-backed public companies in the US. And to 2018 immigrants found it or cofounded more than half of America’s unicorns, and as of 2020 immigrants to the US were starting businesses and nearly double the rate of people born here.
  • Keith Tantlinger and the shipping container
  • Bob Metcalfe: networks not just bigger (like Moores law)
  • “Endemic to tech culture is the conflation of luck and talent”
  • “In America it’s never been easier to become a billionaire, but it’s never been harder to become a millionaire.”
  • Most American policies are not to help get wealthy but how to stay wealthy
  • Rich kindergartners wirh bad grades have a better shot at graduating college than poor kids with good ones
  • Corporate profits and employee compensation no longer matched after dot com bubble burst
  • In 2010 we spent 3% of waking hours on our phones; now it’s 33% in 2021
  • YouTube videos that viewers describe as disturbing receive 70% more views than others
  • Jonathan Haidt strong democracies have strong institutions, shared stories and communities of trust. Social media hurts all three
  • Jonah Berger “what makes online content viral” April 2012: Anxiety (21%+), Awe (30%) and anger (34%)
  • MIT study of 2018: data of 126k tweets found falsehoods got to 1,500 people was six times shorter than truth
  • 80% of tweets come from 10% users
  • 64% of people who join extremist groups on Facebook got there from the algorithm
  • The only thing social media censors is what bores us
  • Online dating makes “small towns feel bigger by expanding personal networks and big cities feel smaller by connecting people with common interests”
  • Marriage rates at 5.1% per 1000 in 2020, lower than 7.9 in 1932
  • He calls China “the countervailing force” in a new post-Soviet duopoly
  • Peter Robertson: military purchasing power parity
  • CDC had 1% of defense budget to compete with something that killed more than all 20th century American wars
  • In 1969 the US spent 69% of the world’s R&D and did 30% in 2019
  • January 1, 1984: AT&T broken up by a decade of anti trust
  • “The three horsemen of riches” are plague, war and urbanization (on a study of black plague)
  • In 2013, Emily Bianchi Goizueta reviewed business school outcomes: graduating in a bad vs better economic conditions helps: “bright side of bad times”
  • Number of business applications growing since 2013/14
  • The US spends less on social welfare but typically grows more economically. We have a lower floor and higher ceiling
  • We’re more often wrong than bad
  • Clinton: “ there is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America”
  • A complex tax code is a tax on the poor
  • Early education and childcare spending are good investments
  • US rates  of apprenticeships are 3 in 1,000 but 33 p 1k in UK , 48 in Denmark and 32 in Germany and 23 in Australia

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