May 9 2010

Leading With Two Minds

Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, ours, The Golden Age of Jewish Achievement, and several recent columns by David Brooks speak to the notion that culture matters. All three authors also support the notion that cultures can change – sometimes very quickly.

Gladwell writes of the cabin crews at Korean Airlines that dramatically improved airline safety after David Greenberg was brought in from Delta Airlines to change the cockpit culture. The Golden Age describes how Jewish culture was permanently altered when the Diaspora caused rabbinical Judaism to make literacy mandatory for all Jews.

David Brooks’ May 7, 2010 New York Times column (below) speaks to how quickly the culture of the U.S. Army has changed – in part because of the work of General David Petraeus.

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May 5 2010

The Limits of Policy

The following article was brought to us from the New York Times’ acclaimed political and cultural commentator, Jewish-American David Brooks, an insightful read we wish to share.

Roughly a century ago, many Swedes immigrated to America. They’ve done very well here. Only about 6.7 percent of Swedish-Americans live in poverty. Also a century ago, many Swedes decided to remain in Sweden. They’ve done well there, too. When two economists calculated Swedish poverty rates according to the American standard, they found that 6.7 percent of the Swedes in Sweden were living in poverty.

In other words, you had two groups with similar historical backgrounds living in entirely different political systems, and the poverty outcomes were the same.

A similar pattern applies to health care. In 1950, Swedes lived an average of 2.6 years longer than Americans. Over the next half-century, Sweden and the U.S. diverged politically. Sweden built a large welfare state with a national health service, while the U.S. did not. The result? There was basically no change in the life expectancy gap. Swedes now live 2.7 years longer.

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