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Why capitalism will always outperform other economic models

"A rising tide lifts all boats," says Ken Langone, one of the co-founders of Home Depot as he makes his case for capitalism being the being the best economic model.

Ken Langone: Very simply, I could not have accomplished what I’ve accomplished, including my own net worth and including job creation, if I was raised in a country where free enterprise was not encouraged and free enterprise was not the order of the day. It wouldn’t happen.

There are people who legitimately can say they’re self-made, they did it all themselves.

I went out of my way in the book to point out the exact opposite, in my case and only my case, that I was anything but self-made.

I can think back all the way to my childhood to the people that were there that helped me, that encouraged me, that stimulated me, that motivated me, that picked me up when I was down, and maybe sat on me when I got a little too full of myself.

So I make reference to “self-made” as it relates to me and me alone. I am not self-made. That is not false humility, that’s just the truth.

I think a good start is: define self-made. That’s a good start. And I don’t want to go there because we could spend five hours arguing what it means.

In my case I know that, where I am today, without question, only happened because along the way I had any number of episodes in my life where if it weren’t for the intervention of somebody else, where it weren’t for the encouragement, whether it was my mom and dad, whether it was my wife, whether it was a professor, whether it was the guy that ran the liquor store in Roslyn, I can go on and on and on, I know each of those episodes was a building block for where I am today.

And I go out of my way not to determine who is self-made and who is not; I think that’s for each person to decide themselves.

I’m very comfortable saying that I have literally hundreds of thousands of people – you look at Home Depot, for example, I’m one of the co-founders. Why are we so successful? We’re so successful principally because when you go to a Home Depot store you feel wanted, you feel “I can get help”, you feel like these people care about you. There’s 400,000 of them! They all helped to make me successful.

Without them Home Depot would not have been the success it is, and probably I wouldn’t have been known, and probably I wouldn’t have written the book.

Look, I’m not stretching, I’m saying I look at the thing objectively, but again I swear off saying who is “self-made” and who’s “not self-made”. That’s all.

Well, I think capitalism will always do better than everything else for a variety of reasons. One, there is a downside, in other words nothing is certain and there’s a price to pay in failure in capitalism. You lose your business, your business doesn’t succeed, whatever.

The other thing is capitalism I think is a dynamic effort that can result—Bernie, Arthur and I and Pat Farrah founded Home Depot. Our hard work, our creativity, our ability to raise the money to start the company, all those things has resulted in 400,000 people having great jobs today.

But a better number for me: we have 3000 kids—and by the way, so nobody gets offended I’m 82, if you’re under 82 you’re a kid—So we have 3000 kids who started working for us fresh out of high school, didn’t go to college, pushing carts in, that’s the entry-level job, pushing carts in from the parking lot, we have 3000 kids today who are multimillionaires. That’s how capitalism is supposed to work. It’s a shared effort and the results should be shared.

I happen to think we all live better—the old saying a rising tide lifts all boats, I happen to say all of us live better in this country because we have a capitalistic system, a capitalistic system underpinning the whole nation.

I would say that most of us that have benefited mightily by capitalism I think there’s a moral obligation on our part to make sure we bring as many people to the party with us as we can.

Now, this is not judgmental, I’m not suggesting for a minute that what I do is the “right thing” and what everybody else does is the “wrong thing”, what I’m saying is simply this: I feel a strong moral imperative to share my wealth.

I believe in paying all the people—and by the way nobody works for me, everybody works with me, and I believe that—I think all those people have a right to know the better I do, the better they’re going to do, both in terms of lifestyle, in terms of remuneration, in terms of a future.

And that’s the moral imperative of being in a capitalistic system where you have succeeded.

I feel a lot better around all the people who work with me knowing that they have a better life, they live in a nicer home, they go on vacations that they otherwise would not be able to afford, they’re educating their kids—they themselves might philanthropically jump into the pond. So it’s that simple.

"A rising tide lifts all boats," says Ken Langone, one of the co-founders of Home Depot as he makes his case for capitalism being the being the best economic model. He co-founded The Home Depot with his friends Arthur Blank, Bernard Marcus, Pat Farrah, and Ron Brill back in 1978, and today it's a multibillion-dollar company. And while he agrees that capitalism has its downsides, he says that he can point to 3,000 people who started out with an entry-level position at a Home Depot that rose through the ranks and are now millionaires. Ken's latest book is I Love Capitalism!: An American Story.

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  • Does AI—and, more specifically, conscious AI—deserve moral rights? In this thought exploration, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, ethics and tech professor Joanna Bryson, philosopher and cognitive scientist Susan Schneider, physicist Max Tegmark, philosopher Peter Singer, and bioethicist Glenn Cohen all weigh in on the question of AI rights.
  • Given the grave tragedy of slavery throughout human history, philosophers and technologists must answer this question ahead of technological development to avoid humanity creating a slave class of conscious beings.
  • One potential safeguard against that? Regulation. Once we define the context in which AI requires rights, the simplest solution may be to not build that thing.

A new hydrogel might be strong enough for knee replacements

Duke University researchers might have solved a half-century old problem.

Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
  • Duke University researchers created a hydrogel that appears to be as strong and flexible as human cartilage.
  • The blend of three polymers provides enough flexibility and durability to mimic the knee.
  • The next step is to test this hydrogel in sheep; human use can take at least three years.
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Hints of the 4th dimension have been detected by physicists

What would it be like to experience the 4th dimension?

Two different experiments show hints of a 4th spatial dimension. Credit: Zilberberg Group / ETH Zürich
Technology & Innovation

Physicists have understood at least theoretically, that there may be higher dimensions, besides our normal three. The first clue came in 1905 when Einstein developed his theory of special relativity. Of course, by dimensions we’re talking about length, width, and height. Generally speaking, when we talk about a fourth dimension, it’s considered space-time. But here, physicists mean a spatial dimension beyond the normal three, not a parallel universe, as such dimensions are mistaken for in popular sci-fi shows.

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Predicting PTSD symptoms becomes possible with a new test

An algorithm may allow doctors to assess PTSD candidates for early intervention after traumatic ER visits.

Image source: camillo jimenez/Unsplash
Technology & Innovation
  • 10-15% of people visiting emergency rooms eventually develop symptoms of long-lasting PTSD.
  • Early treatment is available but there's been no way to tell who needs it.
  • Using clinical data already being collected, machine learning can identify who's at risk.

The psychological scars a traumatic experience can leave behind may have a more profound effect on a person than the original traumatic experience. Long after an acute emergency is resolved, victims of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) continue to suffer its consequences.

In the U.S. some 30 million patients are annually treated in emergency departments (EDs) for a range of traumatic injuries. Add to that urgent admissions to the ED with the onset of COVID-19 symptoms. Health experts predict that some 10 percent to 15 percent of these people will develop long-lasting PTSD within a year of the initial incident. While there are interventions that can help individuals avoid PTSD, there's been no reliable way to identify those most likely to need it.

That may now have changed. A multi-disciplinary team of researchers has developed a method for predicting who is most likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic emergency-room experience. Their study is published in the journal Nature Medicine.

70 data points and machine learning

nurse wrapping patient's arm

Image source: Creators Collective/Unsplash

Study lead author Katharina Schultebraucks of Columbia University's Department Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons says:

"For many trauma patients, the ED visit is often their sole contact with the health care system. The time immediately after a traumatic injury is a critical window for identifying people at risk for PTSD and arranging appropriate follow-up treatment. The earlier we can treat those at risk, the better the likely outcomes."

The new PTSD test uses machine learning and 70 clinical data points plus a clinical stress-level assessment to develop a PTSD score for an individual that identifies their risk of acquiring the condition.

Among the 70 data points are stress hormone levels, inflammatory signals, high blood pressure, and an anxiety-level assessment. Says Schultebraucks, "We selected measures that are routinely collected in the ED and logged in the electronic medical record, plus answers to a few short questions about the psychological stress response. The idea was to create a tool that would be universally available and would add little burden to ED personnel."

Researchers used data from adult trauma survivors in Atlanta, Georgia (377 individuals) and New York City (221 individuals) to test their system.

Of this cohort, 90 percent of those predicted to be at high risk developed long-lasting PTSD symptoms within a year of the initial traumatic event — just 5 percent of people who never developed PTSD symptoms had been erroneously identified as being at risk.

On the other side of the coin, 29 percent of individuals were 'false negatives," tagged by the algorithm as not being at risk of PTSD, but then developing symptoms.

Going forward

person leaning their head on another's shoulder

Image source: Külli Kittus/Unsplash

Schultebraucks looks forward to more testing as the researchers continue to refine their algorithm and to instill confidence in the approach among ED clinicians: "Because previous models for predicting PTSD risk have not been validated in independent samples like our model, they haven't been adopted in clinical practice." She expects that, "Testing and validation of our model in larger samples will be necessary for the algorithm to be ready-to-use in the general population."

"Currently only 7% of level-1 trauma centers routinely screen for PTSD," notes Schultebraucks. "We hope that the algorithm will provide ED clinicians with a rapid, automatic readout that they could use for discharge planning and the prevention of PTSD." She envisions the algorithm being implemented in the future as a feature of electronic medical records.

The researchers also plan to test their algorithm at predicting PTSD in people whose traumatic experiences come in the form of health events such as heart attacks and strokes, as opposed to visits to the emergency department.

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