The Incentive Game

My friend Bob Litan, who is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, is worried about COVID-19 herd immunity. Specifically, Bob worries that the only way our population can reach the 60-70 percent immunity rate required to protect us all from the novel coronavirus is if some people are paid to take the shot. And Bob may be correct: a Gallup poll last month concluded that 35 percent of Americans would refuse to be vaccinated.

Uh-oh.

Bob thinks the way around this problem is to pay people, giving them an economic incentive to do the right thing. This got me thinking about the whole concept of […]

President Trump thinks he can shut down WeChat: It won’t work

Forty-five days from now, we’re told, President Trump will shut down TikTok and WeChat.

TikTok, maybe, but WeChat? Impossible.

Everything Donald Trump understands about the Internet could fit in a thimble. He’s a reckless leader who isn’t bothered by things like, well, facts, so it shouldn’t be surprising that he expects to command WeChat into oblivion. But what will happen to his already limited Internet authority when that doesn’t work?

What Internet authority?

Trump has a chance of taking down TikTok, the short form video sharing site, because that service is dependent on advertising. He can force the app out of U.S. […]

After switching to ARM, expect Apple to buy TSMC, too

Readers have been asking me to comment on Apple’s decision, announced at last week’s World Wide Developers’ Conference, to start switching to Apple-designed ARM processors for its Macintosh computers. I usually don’t like to do second-day (or, in the case, second-week) stories unless I can add something new to the discussion. Oddly, I usually can and that’s the case here, where Apple’s move to ARM has a big-picture strategy component that is absolutely vital to the company’s continued success. It also doesn’t seem to be covered yet anywhere but here.

Forget all the talk about Apple moving to ARM because the chips are better than Intel’s or consume […]

Jeff Bezos Can’t Lose

Big technology companies have been recently coming under increased scrutiny from federal regulators. Several tech companies are reportedly under investigation, but this column is only about Amazon, which seems to be in regulatory crosshairs in part because President Trump doesn’t like Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns one of Trump’s least-favorite newspapers, the Washington Post. Ironically, Trump’s goal of breaking-up Amazon would only make Jeff Bezos at least $35 billion richer.

It’s simple: Amazon is worth a lot more in pieces than it is as a single company.

Bezos is no fool, so he knows […]

Three Mile Island Lessons for COVID-19: FEMA and Me

Forty-one years ago this summer I was a young investigator working in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC for the President’s Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island, a big federal investigation chaired by Dartmouth Professor John Kemeny, who is best known as the father of the BASIC programming language. I learned a lot that summer and fall not only about nuclear accidents but about how governments and industries respond to crises. Some of those lessons apply to the current COVID-19 pandemic, which is also being poorly managed. This may surprise you (that 41-year-old lessons can still apply) but governments, especially, change at a glacial pace.

The two […]