Nothing is free

“OK, that is all fine and well, the founder of our nation, Nelson Mandela said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” And that always holds true. Knowledge really is powerful. It enables more people to uplift themselves out of abject poverty than any government program.”


 

To market to market to buy a fat pig Stocks rose in Jozi in the second half of the session, we closed one-fifth of a percent better on the day. And it was a whole point below 52 thousand, a level first seen at the beginning of February 2015. That is right, if you have been invested in “the market”, i.e. an index tracker since that point, you are essentially flat on your investments. The market highs are at April 2015. Since then we have seen a shunning of emerging markets, worries about downgrades in South Africa to junk, real downgrades a notch below a junk rating and political machinations that look like they resemble a Gary Larson cartoon. Bizarre to say the least. As we often say, at least democracy still works around these parts, we are a country that is about as diverse as you can get, and that should be celebrated and embraced.

All sectors did pretty well, inside of the top 40 there was an equal split of winners to losers, Anglo American at the top, South32 at the bottom. Go figure. The Rand is marginally firmer this morning to the Dollar, rates debate. Sigh. Over the seas and far away, in New York, New York, stocks sank all the way into the close of the session. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost just over seven-tenths of a percent, the broader market S&P 500 ended the session down 0.57 percent and the nerds of NASDAQ slipped by nearly two-thirds of a percent by the time all was said and done. The main talking point of the day was undoubtably Twitter. The stock surged over twenty percent as the news started to filter through that Salesforce was taking more than a cursory glance at the 140 character customisable news tool. And in the pre market Twitter was trading down, after some fellow had downgraded the stock on some concerns around continued growth and platform monetisation. Ai shem, not everybody has luck with timing!

The suggestion however is that it is not just Salesforce that is lining up. Whilst Twitter may be indispensable for many people who like news and can customise it to a tee, the service lacks global appeal. It is less about friends and more about connections. It is less about caring what other people think, Twitter has also suffered as a result of too many haters. I really don’t know what to think. I suspect that Twitter should continue to try and give it a go alone, in the end it is all about whether or not the shareholders of both what is being bought and being sold have the ultimate and final say on these matters, if the deal parameters are free of course. Short interest in Twitter, as per the data available at WSJ is 8.7 percent. It would take more than three days to cover all that interest.

There are several articles doing the rounds, Bloomberg Intelligence valued Twitter (on the same metrics used for the Microsoft purchase of LinkedIn) at around 16.7 billion Dollars. The current market capitalisation is more than that. So? The company may now attract more suitors, depending on whether someone wants the platform or not. I suspect that this may percolate for a week or two until something firm takes place, or there will be something firm before the markets opens today. It must happen that way if a deal is to take place. And whether shareholders like that or not, there is absolutely nothing that any of us can do about it, we don’t hold enough shares in any company to sway any board. I wonder what the users think? Ironically less than LinkedIn it seems.


 

I hear the students loud and clear. They want free eduction. Free for them. I hear their circumstances, we all live with the painful history, for many more people it is actually lived day in and day out. Struggles for many are more real than us who get to sit in nice air conditioned offices and don’t have to worry about bread and butter issues. My eldest daughter is a keen watcher of the Ellen show (yes really) and yesterday I caught a bit with Michelle Obama, who co-hosted the show. The first lady of the United States was from the South Side of Chicago, a rougher than usual neighbourhood and credited her parents with stressing that education is the great leveller. Nobody can take away your brain. Nobody can “steal” your knowledge. Once you have it, you will know that you need to continue to expand and broaden. The more you know, the less you know that you know. When I was twenty I knew everything. Later I realised that I knew very little at that age.

OK, that is all fine and well, the founder of our nation, Nelson Mandela said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” And that always holds true. Knowledge really is powerful. It enables more people to uplift themselves out of abject poverty than any government program. It enables. In South Africa, we have first generation graduates that when they get their first paying job, they are then the provider of resources to parents and grandparents. In that sense, we are a bit unique in the global context, the third generation is expected to improve the living standards of the previous two. That is very, very real for many, many South Africans, most of whom were dispossessed of land, of quality education and had terrible basic services and never had a decent chance to climb any corporate ladders, as they found themselves as second class citizens in their own land. These are all realities that we must confront a generation into our democracy.

As the late economist Milton Friedman (an economic Nobel Laureate) told us time and time again, nothing in life is for free. In fact, he took the older acronym TANSTAAFL (There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch) and popularised it. The whole idea that a free market should separate us all from one another and yet make us work together. Friedman is definitely not the cup of tea of the left, much of what he said isn’t popular with that segment of society. I am a fan of quotes, I am less a fan of publishing them all the time in an opinion piece (this is always an opinion piece), these two resonate well with me:
“The society that puts equality before freedom will end up with neither. The society that puts freedom before equality will end up with a great measure of both”

 

And then another one, that perhaps the mayor of Jozi knows so well:
“The great virtue of a free market system is that it does not care what colour people are; it does not care what their religion is; it only cares whether they can produce something you want to buy. It is the most effective system we have discovered to enable people who hate one another to deal with one another and help one another.”

 

S’true. So both suggest that people should have the freedom to choose whatever they want to. And invariably the reason why socialist countries unravel in time is as a direct result of suppressing the individual. You can never hold the individual down. You can try. You may win for 60-70 years, as a government, eventually you get eaten by those you ate. Still, that doesn’t suggest how we solve the current impasse. We all want our students to leave their institutions with more than life skills, to be 100 percent ready and hit the ground running. I sometimes think that globally there needs to be a proper overhaul of our higher learning institutions. The learning in work never ends. You have to evolve and know more each and every day.

The way that we still sit at desks and learn in the same fashion as we did 180 years ago, when we are 20 years into the internet era still amazes me. I know that there are many online universities, I know that there are many online places of learning, I know that many platforms afford you with the ability to study from anywhere. Surely it is time to advance the likes of UNISA in a more aggressive manner. For employers to get a little more creative and afford people studying online the relevant work experience at the same time. Getting paid and learning, more of those programs. Get students involved in generating revenues for themselves during their studies. Having a job on the weekend, or a couple of week afternoons, depending on their schedule.

Lastly, nothing is for free. There is an argument to be made that something free cheapens the end product. Why didn’t everyone adopt free and open source technologies (Linux) early on? Somehow, if something is for “free” there must be something “wrong” with it, we bought Microsoft and Macs instead. The biggest problem is that if you tell the folks who deliver the eduction that they are going to have to ply their trade (education) for less, for the advancement of society, you may well find yourself in a position of losing quality. It may be a noble idea, these are individuals you are dealing with. Eventually their futures will mean less quality. And the inability to fund institutions properly leads to leakage. And then the end product is badly diluted over time. Worse still, the students only have a timeline of a few years to half a decade.

The lecturers and educators and administrators and all the staff that keeps the institutions ticking will be there long after the students have left. They will have to deal with the realities of smaller budgets and limited resources and that will impact on the lives of the next generation. Which leads me to believe that there HAS to be some middle road on funding. I agree that we need a better outcome. This is roughly the spending breakdown (i.e. the cost) of all education in South Africa, from a couple of years ago:

We already spend a LOT on education in this country, a huge amount relative to the rest of the budget. For instance, if we drove MUCH better and obeyed all the rules (and enforced them properly) then much of the Road Accident Funding could be redirected in the direction of student funding. That is to change behaviour and to make sure that policing is not only visible, also it MUST be effective. I have the very best idea. Cut the Road Accident Funding in half as a result of better policing and enforcement, and hey presto, you have the money. That is a collective effort. See below what I mean, a transfer from the RAF to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme would make a world of difference to all and sundry. Look, it may have a negative impact on ambulance chasers, I am sure all of us can live with that:


 

Linkfest, lap it up

Reading this article all I could think was, unintended consequences and the resources (time & money) needed to implement this tax could be better used elsewhere – Vancouver mayor promises new vacant home tax by 2017.

September 8 years ago is when the bottom dropped out of financial markets – The 27 scariest moments of the financial crisis. When thinking back to 2008 it does not feel like 8 years have passed.

I wonder if this is a global trend or just an American trend? – Americans are ditching giant restaurant chains. I’m sure that the hipster, anti-mainstream trend is part of the reason. Maybe it is just that large chains have slacked off on creating a “new” and “original” dinning experience, being small means that you can shift your styles quickly.


 

Home again, home again, jiggety-jog. Temba Bavuma you beauty, and Quinny de Kock you biscuit. Both are Joburg’s finest of course, at rival schools not even across town from one another, within close proximity as far as our great city is concerned. We have good weather here, if only the rain could start falling, I would appreciate that a lot. There is some in store for later in the week. Apparently.


 

Sent to you by Sasha, Byron and Michael on behalf of team Vestact.

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