The cigarette of the 21st century

Cartoon of a currywurstThe sausage will be the cigarette of the future, says a guy from a major German sausage factory (Ruegenwalder). He ought to know.

Despite it being so unhealthy (your cartoonist read recently that a sausage has almost no nutritional value whatsoever), Szpylbert misses the occasional good Currywurst. This is essentially a fried sausage with curry sauce, traditionally served with chips and mayo. You’ll get this if you order a “CPM” (Currywurst-Pommes-Mayo) or an “Asi-Teller” (something like “idiot’s plate”) at a German fast food place.




Hoard Instinct

Szpylbert’s favourite lefty rag, the Guardian, today featured an older article (“Blame the ‘bank of mum and dad’ for Britain’s growing inequality“) on their website. In the article, the columnist complains about the supposed unfairness of parents supporting their children financially.

To get things started, the columnist suggests we should get rid of terms such as “bank of mum and dad”. Instead, we are to acknowledge that this money really is unearned wealth and that passing it on is an act of rentier capitalism. Ugh! Szpylbert is allergic to being told what to say, so here’s a little comment.

First, this wealth will be quite the opposite of “unearned” in the majority of cases – it’s been earned by parents who choose to save it for their kids. Supposedly, this wealth has been built up from taxed income, so some redistribution has also taken place. Unequal? Tick. Immoral per se? Certainly not.

Second, to the ridiculous claim that giving money to children equates to rentier capitalism: here we have the usual objection from the hardcore left that having money allows people to make more money through “rental income”, supposedly without hard work – however that is defined.

The classic all-investment-is-evil argument ignores a key point, though. Since most people have access to funds through the financial markets, i.e. borrowing in one way or another, most people can also, if they have the skill (… and with hard work, perhaps?), generate returns from money. So really the criticism is that mum and dad put their kids in a better position to invest. Also no screaming injustice here, so Szpylbert’s opinion is: of course giving money to the kids perpetuates inequality. But lamenting it on moral grounds is misguided.


Little Britain

Szpylberg cartoon showing a British Bulldog

Today your cartoonist is risking a political post: how exactly is it “plucky” if one of the biggest countries in Europe walks away from its European partners (and friends!), as the Telegraph casually writes? Your cartoonist really, really doesn’t get what some media people in England have against the EU. Is it having the straightness of bananas regulated by a shared institution? Your cartoonist is serious about this. The EU has never been about taking power, it is about sharing power.

The Californian hypothesis

Szpylbert cartoon showing a one up mushroom

If the latest literature about information-based business models is anything to go by, the world of commerce is in for some big changes. Basically, the argument is that “platform” businesses (like FB or Don’t-be-evil) will beat more traditional “pipeline” businesses wherever they meet – fascinating and quite worrying! Of course, Szpylbert will keep reporting on this…

Why “Ecosystem” and “Democratisation” are fishy words in business

Szpylbert cartoon showing fish bones

Your cartoonist sometimes gets to go to places where business strategy is discussed. Always listening carefully, Szpylbert developed a pet hate for two particularly misleading words: “ecosystem” and “democratisation”. Both are supposed to somehow sound inviting and empowering – but in reality their meaning is very different.

Ecosystems are created by big businesses to get small companies to do risky things or stuff that they think is not worthwhile. Naturally, that includes the possibility of involuntary exit from the ecosystem, a.k.a. “death”. With survival being a struggle, an ecosystem is not a happy place!

Now for democratisation. This is normally suggested to entice amateur usership of technology or something without a proper value proposition, e.g. low-cost 3D printing or blogging. Of course, there is no real commercial opportunity here for the dilettante – and the money is made elsewhere. If there’s a gold rush, don’t join it. Sell shovels!

Something for the office

Szpylbert cartoon visualising Antagonism

Szpylbert’s been reading a lot of managment and economics books lately for work. One thing that is apparent is that seeking one’s own benefit usually comes at the expense of someone else. This has always been the case (think Sun Tzu’s The Art of War) and great efforts normally are made to hide this from the naïve. As the saying in poker goes, if you don’t know who the fish is, it’s you!

Trade secrets

Szpylbert_Better_Be_WrongFirst post of the year – your artist was quite busy feeling confused as a recently appointed academic lately. We start the year with a bit of wisdom from Szpylbert’s last summer intern: quizzed why engineering students always wear suits to interviews (and in academia almost no one wears a suit), the intern said: “If you are wrong and wearing a suit then at least you look competent, all engineering students know that”. This had your cartoonist thinking. Perhaps this was also the trade secret of all those bankers and politicians. Time to buy a suit.