Saturday, November 25, 2006

Why I Love Forbes

Every principled advocate of capitalism should work to continuously concretize those principles, i.e. see and digest real world business examples and then integrate those particulars back into their understanding of the principles. This process deepens understanding of the breadth of scope of applicability of these principles, and helps to counter claims that "capitalism only works sometimes" or "markets sometimes fail". I was first consciously introduced to the process of concretization in business school when exposed to the "case method" of study, whereby students learn and integrate key business principles by immersing themselves in a real world "case study" and attempting to apply those principles to decisions they would be faced with. I learned of the crucial importance of it during listening to Leonard Peikoff's The Art of Thinking.

Today the topic of business strategy and tactics is by far one of my favorites, and I continually try to expand my understanding of business by reading various journals. By far my favorite source of concrete examples of capitalism is Forbes magazine. Given the philosophical shortcomings of most defenders of capitalism today, I find that this magazine comes as close to being a principled surveyor of capitalism as one can find in the popular media today.

The magazine provides broad coverage or all aspects of business today. I am continually stunned by the variety of possible business models in practice today, and Forbes surveys them all, from technology, to commodities, to financial to entrepreneurial. Additionally, the story formats cover enough background and plotting to keep the stories interesting, while keeping the stories accessible to the lay reader.

The magazine conveys a tone of respect and admiration for business throughout. Successful business leaders are treated with admiration, and their insight and fortitude is celebrated. Business failure is analyzed, not as scandal or a pervasive blight, but honestly, and as an integral part of market function. Finally, the fruits of labor, material and spiritual happiness are celebrated rather than scorned.

The magazine argues from sound economic principles (albeit mixed philosophical principles). Steve Forbes is one of the premier advocates for the gold standard. Publisher Rich Karlgaard understands that it is man's reason and insight that drive entrepreneurs. The analysis of business structure is usually clean and essentialized.

Compare this treatment with Fortune, which treats business failure with the air of tabloid scandal, and successful businessmen as "players". Or worse yet, consider what passes for "business news" on NPR's Marketplace, whose broadcasts drip with contempt and sarcasm for the very object they purport to cover and serve, and who spend more time reviewing "market failures" than the markets themselves.

If you fancy yourself and advocate of Capitalism, whether you are in business or not, a subscription to Forbes is worth the price. It is accessible to the lay person. It will help you concretize the principles behind the workings of business, and most importantly, will give you a weekly shot of reverence for business and businessmen.


James Keith said...

Thank you for posting this review! I had written off those magazines as a waste of time, more interested in shock value than ideas. But I will pick up a copy of Forbes this week and check it out.

Kendall J said...

"more interested in shock value.."
You must be thinking of Fortune. ;-)

Kendall -

Anonymous said...

I recently read an issue of Fortune for the first time and I thought exactly the same thing!