How many stories did you run touting Internet dot-commers, multibillionaire 20-year-olds, and venture capitalists in the past five years ("The Future of California," Cover Story, Apr. 30)? The "latest bubble" was fueled not just by folks in California, those "cowboy VCs," and the Harvard and Stanford MBAs who decided to start companies instead of finishing their degrees. The business press contributed--a lot. Most newbies assumed that "things were different this time" and decided their investment on the assumption that the overvaluations in the public markets would last indefinitely.
San Ramon, Calif.
[To write about California's] problems and economy without a single reference to agriculture is unthinkable. California is the nation's leader in dairy production and ranks high in the production of nuts, grapes, garlic, citrus, and a variety of other fruits and vegetables.
Marco Island, Fla.
Your article implied that the tax-cutting Proposition 13 resulted in cutbacks in California K-12 per-student spending. In fact, using the federal government's National Center for Education Statistics figures, during the 21 years between the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978 and 1999, our per-student spending increased 39% in inflation-adjusted dollars. And contrary to the graph in your story, our K-12 per-student outlays now almost certainly exceed the national average, using the latest NCES figures and taking into account the extraordinary 8% increase in spending for the 2000-2001 school year.
California Parents for
San Francisco Despite what California's Gray Davis says, there were many votes against deregulation in 1996 ("At the mercy of forces that show no mercy," News: Analysis & Commentary, Apr. 23). I (and many others) voted against deregulation of power companies.
The market is working perfectly. What has failed is the political Establishment and its pathological desire to tinker constantly with the free market. The sooner Governor Davis and the state legislature start working with the market instead of trying to hobble it, the sooner the state can get on with encouraging the prosperity for which it has historically been known.
David C. Rode
Pittsburgh In "The company is not the stock" (Information Technology, Apr. 30), Jeffery P. Bezos of Amazon.com Inc. was asked: "Did you originally think of Amazon as just selling books?" Mr. Bezos replied: "It really was just books."
In my (unauthorized) book, Amazon.com: Get Big Fast, I quote Nicholas Lovejoy, Amazon.com's employee No. 5, who related a 1995 conversation with Bezos: "Books were always a prelude to other things. At that time, I was doing quite a bit of kayaking. [Jeff] would say: `In the future, when you come to Amazon.com, I don't want you just to be able to search for "kayak" and find all the books on kayaking....There should be everything to do with kayaking, and the same is true for anything.' That amazing vision was there then. No doubt about it: Books were just a starting point."
I'm a great admirer of Bezos, but he continues to proffer this fiction.
Seattle Rich nations have set tariffs on imports from developing countries at 30% higher than the global average ("Betting on free trade," International Business, Apr. 23). These discriminatory practices are especially common in the agricultural and textile sectors, which are the sources of income for many of the poorest people on earth. A level playing field is a bare minimum if the world's poor are to have any chance of benefiting from increased global trade.
Victoria, B.C. If you see Mary Meeker's head bowed, don't take it as some sort of tacit admission. She is merely resting between innings ("Tech's cheerleader won't say die," Information Technology, Apr. 30). The game will be long. It is early. You can rest assured that before we reach the seventh-inning stretch, Mary Meeker will have powered more balls out of the park than Mark McGwire. Way more.
Robert E. Cook
San Mateo, Calif. "How OPEC's price hikes sap growth" (Editorials, Apr. 9) failed to say that the OPEC nations are sovereign countries and we have no right to demand that they supply all the petroleum they can pump from their property to benefit the American consumer. It is arrogant to expect other countries to let the U.S. dictate policy.
This cloud may have a silver lining: One or two new energy technologies are close to becoming economically viable. The longer the current prices hold, the more chance these technologies have to get established. Recent advances in solar power and the emerging commercialization of wind power are the most striking examples.
Seattle The "Innovations" item on the effort to use miscanthus, the bamboolike grass, to make biodegradable car parts sounded familiar (Developments to Watch, Apr. 30). Way back in 1941, Henry Ford built a whole car with plastic made from sisal, wheat, and (mostly) hemp. The car's ability to absorb impact was many times greater than steel bodies. It was also designed to run on hemp oil.
Brooklyn, N.Y. "What's a fair price for drugs?" (Science & Technology, Apr. 30) didn't mention that patent protection covers a relatively short period of the useful production life for a drug. If the period was based on the point at which drugs were brought to market, companies would be able to plan their amortization much more effectively, because it would be consistent for all drugs.
San Carlos, Calif. Since executives in the loftier reaches of American business call each other by their first names, I can see no reason why the latest EMBAs won't be referring to America's latest merged graduate school simply as Harv and Stan ("When Harvard met Stanford," News: Analysis & Commentary, Apr. 30).
Richard V. Simon
Newport Beach, Calif. As a stockholder, I believe that the companies I hold benefit from a true diversity of views ("Wanted: More Diverse Directors," BusinessWeek Investor, Apr. 30). Ms. Gutner's all-too-conventional view of diversity--in gender and racial terms--would not ensure that variety of viewpoints. For an example that is more symbolic than substantive, how many boards consciously seek members who detest the game of golf?
Ron L. Promboin