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Book Review of: Flight Capital


For insight into where America's brainpower is going and why, read this book.

Flight Capital

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Review of Flight Capital, by David Heenan

Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 5,000 articles.

Shortly before reviewing this book, I attended a conference at which many of the attendees were executives. Conversation at breaks and during the lunch kept turning to a single topic not even on the conference agenda: "How hard it is to find people who can do the work."

Joe Salimando, an electrical industry analyst, predicted a shortage of electricians and project managers--more than ten years ago. That shortage has hit today, with a vengeance. The average electrician is in his mid-40s, and the average senior project manager is in his early 60s. The statistics are grim for other brainworkers--both in skilled trades and in the professions. The average nurse is 53 years old, for example. And try to hire a competent machinist--I dare you!

None of this should be surprising. In the 1970s, schools began to abandon properly equipping children for the real world. That is not to say that every graduate of the 1970s and later is inept. But what has happened is the best and brightest have had to succeed despite their "education," not because of it.

Another factor is 98% of American homes contain a brainwashing machine (also called a "television"). These machines expose their victims to a steady stream of anxiety-producing marketing messages, regularly scheduled depressing news, and a litany of falsehoods and propaganda. Which is why I haven't watched television since my early days of graduate school (oh, so long ago--and I don't miss it).

Compounding the difficulties, American corporations are run mostly by plundering executives and incestuous boards. The corporate practice of squeezing non-executive employees to pay for the lavish "compensation" of CEOs and key officers is still a problem, despite some recent federal cases. For example, Disney reneged on the performance bonuses they owed their Imagineers, but in the same year let Michael D. Eisner "earn" $830 million. Until enough Americans boycott Disney and demand a refund of that $830 million, we can't expect this kind of "Rob the poor to give to the rich" chicanery to stop. Among the collateral damage: Kids who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s to see their dedicated, hard-working parents discarded like yesterday's trash while the executives who ruined their lives were paid tens of millions of dollars. That's hardly very motivating, and it certainly has not engendered employee loyalty among those who are today's junior workers.

Another problem is the Internal Revenue "Service." (Not taxes, per se--though in sum, taxes work out to 70% to 90% of income and would be punitive even if cut in half. The federal government alone uses five different taxation methods on individuals, including national sales taxes and a flat tax.)

John Graver has interviewed wealthy expatriates and found that every one of them cited the IRS as the number one reason for leaving. Anyone who has been caught up in the machinery of this criminal-infested agency understands why. The GAO reports each year on IRS employee behavior that normal people would be locked up for (such as stealing 4300 computers from their own offices). Congress, however, pretends none of this is a problem. Congress is concerned about political infighting, not about engaging in productive use of their time. So, this problem isn't likely to go away any time soon. We are stuck with an unfettered, arrogant federal agency that is not only abetting individual criminal actions, but is also driving away the wealthy--who take their job-producing capital with them.

So now the chicken has come home to roost and the cost to America is staggering. The USA is losing its dominance in every area in which it now leads the rest of the world. We have societal, institutional, cultural, and other factors driving the knowledge workers away. This, despite the fact that the real wealth today is created in the knowledge economy. But the good news is  we may be able to do something to save ourselves and future generations. And therein lies the real value of Heenan's book.

"Flight Capital" consists of ten chapters. The first chapter explains the brain drain problem (quite well, I might add). Heenan tells us why this is happening, what forces are accelerating it, and what it is costing us.

Each of the next eight chapters examines a different economic competitor to the USA and how each is attracting human capital (as opposed to how the USA drives people away). A basic tenet in business is "Know your competition." Heenan has analyzed the competition, and provided minute detail on each of the eight selected competitors. He even provides a "guided tour" in each of many cities to the various restaurants, night clubs, and attractions. What I like about this aspect isn't so much the interesting read it provides, but the evidence that Heenan isn't some armchair analyst making generalizations. My confidence in his information is high.

The final chapter provides a mix of common-sense and insightful advice on how to get the USA back into the game. You might want to ask, "Who is Heenan to have the magic answers to our problems?" Actually, he doesn't claim that he personally has the answers. Remember, eight out of the ten chapters in this book examine the competition. Heenan developed his advice by looking at what works. This is much better than any theory. The untested educational theories of the 1970s and beyond are partly to blame for the brain gap problem we have right now. Heenan has refused to take the reader down that road again--instead, he focuses on facts and draws conclusions based on results. And aren't good results what we're really after, anyhow?

I'm glad I read this book, simply because it is a high-quality book. But what would really make me happy is if every leader in America--in government, academia, and business--also read it. And took it to heart. We, as a nation, must answer some tough questions in the very near future. Fortunately, the answers we need are in this book. Thank you, Mr. Heenan--you have rendered the nation a tremendous service.

A note on the writing: form is important, as it dictates readability. Fortunately, this book scored very well on substance and on form. This book actually uses Standard Written English (SWE). This was a refreshing change from the Pidgin English that so many of today's authors slop onto our reading palettes. The care taken in writing this book shows that the author and publisher actually cared about the reader. That's a huge plus.


About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or no substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably 20,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree and an MBA, among other "quant" degrees. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.

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