Sunday, February 18, 2018

Absolute Equality - A Useful Myth?

In virtually all natural and human-made systems, about 20% of the Population does around 80% of the Work. Yet, according to our Declaration of Independence, we believe:
“All men [and women] are created equal".

This Blog posting is based on a talk I gave to The Villages Philosophy Club on 22 February 2018.


ALL Great Human Groups are Founded on USEFUL MYTHS


(by “Human Groups” I mean Societies, Civilizations, Religions, Schools-of-thought, Philosophies, etc., and  by “Great” I mean groups involving large numbers of people over multiple generations – not necessarily groups you or I would want to join.)

“From Athens and Rome to the present day, all great societies have founding myths — stories they said tell themselves about who they are and where they came from.” (Newt Gingrich)

FOUNDER MYTHS: Stories about HEROIC founders, often said to be Super-Naturally inspired; such as Socrates, Moses, Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha …Washington, Lincoln, Lenin, Mao …

SACRED WRITINGS: Myths about and contained within Authoritative "Scriptures" and Behavioral Laws" and Inspired "Sayings" of the lawgivers; such as Hammurabi's Code, Solon Laws, the Hebrew Bible, Plato’s Republic … US Constitution, Communist Manifesto, Mao’s Little Red Book …

MYTHICAL FUTURE: Amazing projections for how the group will establish "Heaven on Earth" and/or guarantee group members who die an Eternal, Super-Natural Heaven with "God".


A MINORITY of CAUSES is responsible for a MAJORITY of EFFECTS

This concept applies to ALL Natural and Human-Made Systems. About 20% of the Population does around 80% of  the Work. (NOTE: it is not always 80/20, sometimes it is 90/10 or even more unequal. In other cases it may 70/30, or 60/40, but it is ALWAYS somewhat unequal.) 

Some Examples: Pareto’s Law, Zipf’s Law, Bentham’s Law, … And REAL statistics from ACTUAL systems.


In 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, an American social activist, slavery abolitionist, and leading figure of the early woman's movement, paraphrased and improved Jefferson's statement by adding "AND WOMEN". She wrote:

"We hold  these truths to be self-evident:
that all men AND WOMEN are created equal".

In 1961, President Kennedy's Executive Order stated clearly that the Laws of  the United States were to apply to all citizens "WITHOUT REGARD to their race, creed, color, or national origin."

In 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton's 1848 improvement of Jefferson's equality statement, adding "AND WOMEN". In 1961, President Kennedy's Executive Order stated clearly that the Laws of  the United States were to apply to all citizens WITHOUT REGARD to their race, creed, color, or national origin. Unfortunately, "WITHOUT REGARD" has been corrupted to EXTREME REGARD for differences that should have no bearing on any citizens legal and moral rights.

Kennedy's 1961 "WITHOUT REGARD" dictum was turned on its head within a decade or less. The US Government abandoned the idea that Justice was to be "colorblind" (and blind to other differences that had no bearing on legal and moral rights or the ability of an individual to do a job).

"Equal Justice" was turned on its head by "Affirmative Action" which paid EXTREME REGARD to these differences, tracked people at the individual level, and openly discriminated against members of identifiable groups that were "over-represented" in areas such as college admission and government-related employment. 

The excuse was that, unless people were computer-tracked, at the individual level, on the basis of each person's RACE, NATIONAL ORIGIN, and GENDER, the Government could not be sure their contractors were in compliance. 


I got caught up in the Affirmative Action program in the 1980's, when, as an employee of IBM Federal Systems, in Owego, NY, I was sent to the University of Michigan to recruit seniors in Engineering for possible employment at our company. 

I was told that, as part of my duties, I would interview about a dozen applicants, and that I WAS REQUIRED TO CLASSIFY THEM ON THE BASIS OF THEIR RACE, NATIONAL ORIGIN, and GENDER.

We were given the following list of RACE and NATIONAL ORIGIN codes I believe derived from a 1977 OMB regulation: “1) American Indian or Alaskan Native, 2) Asian or Pacific Islander, 3) Black, and 4) White. Additionally, two ethnicity categories were established: 1) Hispanic Origin and 2) Not of Hispanic Origin." We were to code GENDER as "M" or "F".

The only additional guidance we were given was that "Eskimos are to be coded as American Indian, Indians from India are to be coded as White, Hispanic Origin is based on the individual's surname, and use your best judgement on race and gender. You may not ask the individual for guidance on his or her race, national origin, or gender, nor may  you let them know you are classifying and coding them on this basis."

We were told we could invite one or two of our applicants for an expense-paid visit to Owego, NY, for additional interviews and possible job offers. However, we could only invite applicants who had at least a specified minimum GPA, unless they were "minorities" (i.e., American Indian, Asian, Black, Hispanic origin, or Female). "MINORITIES" COULD BE INVITED EVEN IF THEY HAD A LOWER GPA.

I was appalled that I, an Engineer with no training in racial or national origin discrimination and classification, was required to perform this task. How could I tell for sure if an applicant's surname was of the favored class (Spanish or Portuguese) or the possibly similar sounding, but un-favored class (Italian, Romanian, or whatever). How could I be sure a person with slightly darker skin was really "Black" and not simply of Mediterranean origin, or from India and therefore "White". And what, exactly, does an "Eskimo", or an "American Indian" for that matter, look like?   

My concern was further piqued when I looked at the list of my fellow recruiters. There, right next to MY name, was a set of code numbers, CLASSIFYING ME AS "WHITE, NON-HISPANIC, MALE".

One of my fellow recruiters happened to be of Chinese origin, and, next to his name was his  coded classification as "ASIAN, NON-HISPANIC, MALE".

That confirmed the code numbers next to our names signified our races and national origins. Therefore, IBM management, or at least the management at the Owego, NY facility where I worked, had, without asking or telling me and my fellow employees, classified us on an individual basis. They had made a database record of that classification in their Human Resources (HR) computer system.


The excuse they give for this type of computer tracking of the race, national origin, and gender of individuals is that, absent such tracking, the officials could not determine the level of compliance!

Was I also classified by Religion? Did IBM know that I was Jewish? (I make no secret of my religion, but would be quite concerned if IBM had an "official" record of it in their computers.)

As a child, my uncles told me there was (or had been) a quota system limiting the number of Jews at certain elite colleges, imposed because we were "over-represented" in certain fields of study. That is, if all applicants were treated equally (on the basis of individual High School grades, SATs, etc.) we would be admitted at a rate significantly higher than our proportion of the overall population. I had also been told that we were discriminated against by employers, specifically major corporations, like IBM. 

In prior years. I worked with and went on business trips with one of my fellow recruiters, a good engineer who happened to be ethnically Chinese. He even introduced me to his parents when they came to Owego, NY for a visit. It turned out they were from Hawaii, where he had been raised, and that they were quite wealthy, having benefitted from significant business and real estate investments. They were fine people - they gave me a nice bag of macadamia nuts.

On one business trip my Chinese associate and I dined at a Chinese restaurant and I showed him how to use chopsticks! My wife and I learned to use chopsticks as a result of the normalization of relations between the US and China accomplished when Henry Kissinger was President Richard Nixon's Secretary of State. At that time, our children were in elementary school, and one day they brought home chopsticks that had been provided by the Chung King company, along with coupons for the canned Chinese food made by that company. Of course, we bought the Chinese food along with more chopsticks, and we all became quite expert with them. Our children and grandchildren use chopsticks when we dine at Asian restaurants, and we used them exclusively on our visit to China last year, where one granddaughter was interning. (See

It was several years after the 9-11 World Trade center bombing and I was in New York City's Chinatown when I showed a Black woman how to use chopsticks! This happened because of the "Chinese Buses" (see: ) and my desire to pay my respects at the 9-11 site. 

My wife and I were visiting our daughter, our son-in-law, and our grandchildren in Andover, MA, and I decided to take a day-trip to New York City to see the 9-11 site. My daughter suggested I take the "Chinese Buses" rather than drive or use Greyhound or Trailways. She explained that the Chinese ran low-cost buses between Chinatowns in the northeast (Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington), and that anyone could buy a ticket. They saved money by avoiding major Bus Terminals. Instead, they sold tickets and picked up passengers at business such as grocery stores.  

My daughter drove me to a grocery store in a community near Andover where the Chinese Bus picked me up. The bus was large, modern, and very clean. About half the passengers looked Asian. On the way to New York City we made a 20-minute toilet stop at a McDonalds, where I bought my lunch. As we approached the snarled traffic that characterizes the Metropolitan area, I heard our driver communicate via radio, in Chinese, with other drivers, to determine the best route to Lower Manhattan and the narrow streets of Chinatown. The system worked extremely well and I was dropped off on schedule near Canal Street.   

I'm quite familiar with the Big City and its excellent subway system, h
aving grown up in Brooklyn and attended college in Manhattan. I walked to the World Trade Center area, gaped at the large area of destruction, and paid my respects to the thousands of innocents who died there.

Then, I hopped on the IND subway, zipped up to the 125th Street IND station in Harlem, and walked to the campus. I graduated from the City College of New York (CCNY) in 1961. Most of the buildings were familiar from my college days, but several were new. I entered Shepard Hall and was surprised that the lobby area looked quite a bit smaller than I had remembered. Also, there was an armed guard at the entrance and he checked my ID. I went to the shop in the Student Union and bought a CCNY cap and hoodie, both in my college colors, lavender. 

I walked to Amsterdam Avenue and the 137th Street IRT subway station for a nice ride down to 42nd Street, where I took in the familiar hustle and bustle at the very heart of New York City. Back to the BMT subway station this time for the ride back to Canal Street and the store in Chinatown that served as the terminal for my Chinese Bus.

I was about an  hour early, so I decided to grab dinner at a Chinese restaurant. The one I chose was a buffet, where you load your plate and pay based on how much it weighs. My plate piled high, I had to find a seat, but all the tables were occupied. I asked a Black woman who was sitting alone at a small table if I could join her, and she said yes. It turned out she worked for the New York City Transit Authority and she had been assigned to gather passenger and train data at the Canal Street station that week.

She noticed that I was using chopsticks and asked about them. There was a container with wrapped pairs of chopsticks near our table, and, rather quickly with my excellent instruction, she was using them quite adroitly. When it came time to leave, she picked up a couple of additional pairs of chopsticks and informed me she planned to take them home to show her children how to use them. 

By now, her children are in their 20's and may have children of their own. So, If you happen to be in a Chinese restaurant and see a young black family eating with chopsticks, it may be due to the efforts of Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon, and ME! 


Back to the original "Affirmative Action" storyline:

In succeeding years, my Chinese associate was promoted to a management position, and then further promoted to second and third level management jobs. It was an open secret that, as a government contractor, IBM Federal Systems had to show that "minorities" (employees who happened to be non-White and non-male and non-Hispanic) were "equally" represented in management and higher level technical positions. As a result, whenever a position opened up, HR would use their computer system to identify and give first consideration to any "minorities" who might possibly be in any way even remotely qualified. Some of these "Affirmative Action" beneficiaries turned out to be pretty good in their new jobs. However some, including one who was a pretty good engineer, and one who was both female and of an "under-represented" race, were less than sterling managers.

The lower part of the illustration above is a pathetic quote from a "prohibited employment discrimination" statement I found on the internet last week. It shows how "WITHOUT REGARD" has been replaced by EXTREME REGARD for EACH and EVERY DIFFERENCE that has absolutely nothing to do with a person's ability to do a job. I've underlined a few that are particularly galling to  me. Remember that the excuse for computer coding race, national origin, and gender at the individual level was that was the only way to assure compliance. Are they now coding and tracking RELIGION? CITIZENSHIP STATUS? (Should we track IMMIGRATION STATUS to assure "equal" treatment of undocumented immigrants?)

I find it ironic that a child of wealthy parents raised in Hawaii was given "Affirmative Action" preference over me by IBM because he was Asian. I was raised in a ONE-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. My brother and I shared the lone bedroom. My parents slept on a fold-out convertible couch-bed in the living room. My father was a letter carrier who walked his route carrying mail inn a bag on his shoulder.

NOTE: As part of my research for this Blog posting, I did a Google search on: {"Ira Glickstein" "Affirmative Action"} to unearth some of my prior  published writings on this topic. I found some interesting stuff, including a letter of mine published in The New York Times back in 1978 that got quoted in another publication. Please go to the bottom of this posting for some of that stuff. In this Internet Age, anything you have written that was published on the Internet, or, before the Internet-age in the print media, can and will be found by Google! 


In this Blog posting, I am using the word "WORK" in a metaphorical sense, not in the ordinary meaning of that word. Ordinarily, when we think of "work" we conceive of what might be considered "sweat labor" (someone struggling and getting their hands dirty in uncomfortable environments), or at least someone working long hours in an office under great time and psychological pressure (an important report or contract proposal is due on a short schedule and we will be fired, or our company will go out of business, if we fail to get it exactly right)

Under the ordinary conception of "work", we focus on the stressed and struggling worker, rather than on the free-market "value" of what is produced.

Yet, we know that some workers can and do accomplish extremely valuable WORK product without breaking a sweat or visibly struggling. We say they work "harder and smarter" than other employees who sweat and struggle much more to turn in much inferior WORK product.  

For example, the amateur or minor-league ballplayer may put in much more visible effort for free or much less pay than his major-league counterpart. And, he may have to work a factory job to make ends meet. Yet, in a free-market competitive sense, the major leaguer produces WORK product that is hundreds or thousands of times more valuable. Similarly for the struggling actress, who works so hard to master her craft, and may have to wait tables to earn a living. Yet, the professional actress may earn far more in much more comfortable environments for much less visible effort.

BOTTOM LINE: When I use the word "WORK" I am referring strictly to the value of the WORK product in a competitive free-market sense.


There are 118 known Elements, 90 of which occur naturally.  Of these, the two lightest Elements (Hydrogen and Helium) make up 98% of our Milky Way by Mass Fraction (ppm).

Of these 118 Elements, 25 (21%) occur in the human body, and the bodies of all biological life. Thus, a MINORITY of the Elements do virtually all biological WORK.  

Some 65% of biological life consists of Oxygen, and 18% of Carbon. Thus, the top two Elements in our bodies (8%) do 83% of biological WORK. The other Elements in biological systems are: 10% Hydrogen, 3% Nitrogen, 1.4% Calcium, 1% Phosphorus, and less than 1% Magnesium, Potassium, Sulfur, Sodium, Chlorine, Iron, Zinc … and 12 trace elements.

Vilfredo Pareto (1896) – Found that about 80% of the land in his native Italy was owned by around 20% of  the people. He thought this was unfair and checked other countries, finding similar statistics. This common inequality in different countries may be interpreted to confirm that there may be something universal about 20% of CAUSES being responsible for around 80% of EFFECTS. A short statement of PARETO'S LAW: 
20% of the POPULATION does 80% of the WORK
George Zipf (1935) – Found that the frequency of any word in English (or any human language) is INVERSELY proportional to its RANK in the frequency table. For example, only a tiny 0.14% (135 words) of a 10,000 word vocabulary do 50% of the WORK of spoken and written English. A short statement of ZIPF'S LAW: 
• WORDS are UNEQUAL. A tiny percentage does most of the WORK

Frank Benford (1938) – Found that the most likely first digit of any number is likely to  be “1”, and the least likely “9”. A short statement of BENFORD'S LAW: 
• NUMBERS are UNEQUAL.  “1” does more than 6 times as much WORK as “9” as first digit of any set of numbers.


I created an Excel spreadsheet based on Pareto's law. I started with five people and, in accordance with the "80/20" concept, I assumed the first person did 80% of the WORK and the remaining four, collectively, did 20% of the WORK of the group of five.

Then, I added 20 more people, to get a total of 25, and assumed the first five did 80% of the WORK and the remaining 20 did 20% of the WORK of  the  group of 25.

Continuing the iterative process, I added 100 more people, to get a total of 125, and assumed the first 25 did 80% of the WORK and the remaining 100 did 20% of the WORK of  the  group of 125.

This process eventually got me up to a total of 244,140,625 which approximates the working population of the United States. A key feature of my PARETO model is that, for any subset of people, 20% of that subset does 80% of the total WORK.

My good friend John Griffin sent me a link to a story in The Guardian (see that highlights what appears to be a severe case of Wealth Inequality in the United States. The top 0.1% have a net worth of 22% of total US wealth. That is equal to the 22% of total US Wealth owned by the bottom 90%. (Thus the middle slice, from 0.1% down to 90% own the remaining total US Wealth, or about 100 - 22 - 22 = 56%).

Wow! That does seem unfair. However, what does the Excel model of the 80/20 Pareto Law predict?

The graph above shows that, according to the 80/20 Pareto Law, the top 10% of the Population does about 72% of the WORK. Therefore, the bottom 90% do about 100 - 72 = 28% of the WORK. That is pretty close to the 22% reported by The Guardian. Actually, my analysis shows that the bottom 90% are being short-changed by about  28 - 22 = 6%

OK, what about the top 0.1% ?

Well, the graph above shows that, according to the 80/20 Pareto Law, the top 0.1% of the Population does about 38% of the WORK. That is somewhat higher than the 22% reported by The Guardian. Thus, my analysis shows that the top 0.1% are being short-changed by about 38 - 22 = 16% !

CONCLUSION: I admit my analysis is quite speculative. It shows that, if the 80/20 Pareto Law is taken as absolute truth (of course it is not) both the top 0.1% and the bottom 90% are being short-changed. That means the middle slice are being over-compensated. They own about 56% of total US wealth but, according to my Pareto model, are "entitled" to less, about 100 - 28 - 38 = 44%.
Ira Glickstein

APPENDIX - Some stuff found in a Google search 
NOTE: As part of my research for this Blog posting, I did a Google search on: {"Ira Glickstein" "Affirmative Action"} to unearth some of my prior  published writings on this topic. I found some interesting stuff, including a letter of mine published in The New York Times back in 1978 that got quoted in another publication. In this Internet Age, anything you have written that was published on the Internet, or, even before the Internet-age in the print media, can and will be found by Google! 

The Bakke Decision: Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, (/ˈbɑːkiː/) 438 U.S. 265 (1978) was a landmark decision by the Supreme Court of the United States. It upheld affirmative action, allowing race to be one of several factors in college admission policy.

QUOTING ME: "... my children, through no fault of their own, are members of a racial/ethnic/surname group that is overrepresented among applicants with high objective qualifications. If they receive negative diversity points (or fail to receive positive diversity preference, which is the same thing), we will sue. "-Ira Glickstein Apalachin, New York (New York Times, Letter to the Editor, June 29,1978)

Update: Fortunately, we did not have to sue. Our children were admitted to colleges of their choice and earned advanced degrees (one daughter earned a Masters, and the other two earned PhDs.)

The James Damore Firing by Google: James Damore, a Google employee was fired inn 2017 for publishing an anti-diversity manifesto. 

Damore, along with my wife and myself, are members of a group that is way-over-represented in High-Tech and Science (as well as virtually all professions requiring high levels of intelligence and creativity), namely Jewish-Americans!
Though constituting only a small percentage of the US population, Jewish-Americans make up an order of magnitude higher proportion of the student body at the best universities. Naturally, this carries over into employment in High-Tech jobs, like those at Google. (We have this in common with Asian-Americans.)

[Sarcasm ON] In the name of "diversity" should we institute an "affirmative action" program for non-Jewish Caucasians? [Sarcasm OFF]

(Do a Google on "over representation of Jews" and you will see such suggestions, and worse, from self-described "White Identity" racists.)

My wife and I had long, successful careers in High Tech, she as a Lead Software Engineer and I as a Senior System Engineer, both for IBM (and Lockheed-Martin) in Owego, NY. At that time, the imbalance between male and female employees in High Tech was greater than it is now. My wife and I have worked with highly qualified women in High Tech jobs, women who were at least as good as our male colleagues. My wife was well-recognized as one of the very best Lead Software Engineers by her fellow engineers, management, and customers!

Despite a strong "diversity" commitment by Google leaders over an extended period of time, male employees in Google High Tech jobs outnumber females about 80% to 20%. That is an over-representation factor of two compared to their percentage of the population. In non-High-Tech jobs at Google, the percentages of males and females are about equal.

As I read Damore's memo, he clearly has had a positive impression of his female colleagues. As far as has been reported, over the five years he has been employed at Google, he has not been charged with any sort of "sexism" or other bad conduct on the job.

His main point is that females, on average, have different strengths and weaknesses compared to their male colleagues, and that much of that difference has to do with basic biology. The Wikipedia account is here: Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber.

"WITHOUT REGARD" is obliterated by "Affirmative Action"

The only just way to end racial and gender discrimination is to stop discriminating on the basis of race or gender! How else to achieve equal opportunity?

At IBM, I saw women and minorities promoted helter-skelter to management positions. My dad was a lower middle-class mailman but I was passed over for a management job in favor of a less-qualified engineer whose father was wealthy, but happened to be a minority. IBM college scholarships were given to children of minority employees whose grades were below my daughters who got nothing. My grandparents came to the US with nothing and had no part or benefit from past racial discrimination. My parents taught me to treat everyone equally and we were horrified when blacks were ordered to the back of the bus when we crossed the Maryland line on our visit to Washington, DC when I was a kid.

It is unrealistic to assume that equal opportunity will result in equal results in one generation - or ever. For example, Japanese Americans who were deprived of their homes and farms and businesses and relocated and confined during WWII have never-the-less achieved the highest economic status of any identified racial group without any need for affirmative action! Some recent immigrants and their children, have, despite cultural and language impediments, risen to high academic and professional status. Others, whose ancestors have been in the US for many generations have not done as well.

Expectations of equal results are based on the false assumption that all racial and ethnic groups have the same distribution and selection of talents, temperaments and academic intelligence. While there is great overlap in capabilities among members of different groups there are also great disparities at the upper and lower limits. 

 Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best in his famous "I have a dream" speech. "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

"NURTURE" and "NATURE" Both Have Effects and Racial/National Origin Groups Differ

For source see: 

I agree getting good American students and employees is a serious problem. I have no doubt US primary education standards have declined drastically in the US during my lifetime. College-level standards are also on the way down.

Some my best fellow employees and students were not US-born. Many of the very best at Binghamton U. and IBM were Asian. [This opinion is based on the fact I was a part-time adjunct Professor at Binghamton University and the University off Maryland.]

It is not an accident East Asians have an average IQ about 1/3 of a standard deviation above the average Caucasian. Another group is about 2/3 of a standard deviation below average. 

Some of this is undoubtedly due to "nurture" which includes better pre-natal nutrition, infant care, and -especially- high expectations typical of immigrants and first-generation Americans.

Although it is not "politically correct" to say so, twin studies indicate that "nature" (genetics) plays a role at least equal to "nurture", which explains part of the excellence found in many Asians. Jews of European extraction score a standard deviation above other Caucasians.

For the past ten years, I have been teaching online graduate courses and have noticed a definite decline in the academic qualifications of many of my students. (Many of my students are excellent and I am proud to be part of their education.) There is a great deal of pressure for "student retention" which explains how some of them received their Bachelors degrees and why most will receive their Masters.

What is the cause? Well, part of it is that most immigrants and early-generation Americans have greater ethnic and parental pressure to work harder in school and follow through when employed.

Some children raised in the typical luxury of America do not clearly learn the connection between working hard and living and eating well. With everything handed to them "on a silver platter" they feel entitled to consume without any special effort. If they do poorly on a test they (and their parents) blame the teachers and the schools. Personal responsibility has gone down the drain in favor of all sorts of misguided welfare and administrative oversight and enrichment and so-called "affirmative action" (i.e., preferential treatment based on race or ethnicity) programs.

Part of it may be that students in some (most? all?) grade schools are no longer put on separate tracks according to their academic potential. The reason for this is that, when tracks are established, there is too little "diversity" (a nice "weasel" word) in the top track. Thus, our best young minds vegetate in mixed-aptitude classes where they find they can excel without much effort. When they get to a college with high standards and real competition, they are incapable of working as hard as those from less luxurious families.


Indeed, Socrates, ca 400 BC, noticed the same problem and is quoted as follows (Plato's The Republic, book IV): "... our youth should be trained from the first in a stricter system, for if amusements become lawless, and the youths themselves become lawless, they can never grow up into well-conducted and virtuous citizens. ... when they have made a good beginning in play ... in a manner how unlike the lawless play of the others ... Thus educated, they will invent for themselves any lesser rules ... I mean such things as these: --when the young are to be silent before their elders; how they are to show respect to them by standing and making them sit; what honor is due to parents; what garments or shoes are to be worn; the mode of dressing the hair; deportment and manners in general."

Ira Glickstein


Ira Glickstein said...



The following extracts from my memoirs might be interesting as a follow up to your recent presentation. One is about applying 80/20 to inventory control; the other to marketing strategy. I’ve often used it in marketing strategy in business.

Here’s an example about a capital fund drive for a social center for my church in SC where I lived before coming here. As the #2 man on the building committee and #1 on the fund drive, I met with the pastor and asked for the list of annual contribution amounts. I needed to set up parishioner classifications for different donor approaches. Annual donors of $5K or more were to be invited to a canapé and wine reception in which all details were presented, all questions answered and elitist type pressure exerted. Donors between $1K and $5K were to be visited in their homes by one of ten men I had qualified as experienced at that sort of thing. The remainder would be subjected to motivational mailers and phone follow up. The Pastor was horrified at the thought of my knowing what people gave and a discriminatory sales campaign. While he was saying no, the parish secretary was signaling (out of his view) she’d get me the information. We collected so much money we erected the entire building rather than the two stage building process we’d originally planned.

From my memoirs: ( Jack V. was the Chairman, etc. of Aerojet General Corp. I was the same for an Aerojet subsidiary group in commercial businesses. Jack was a lawyer by education.)

Gene M was upgrading inventory control and production scheduling. Neither was in horrible shape. Certainly, there had been no one kiting the inventory to generate false profit. Gene had the unexpected help of Jack V. He didn’t come around often but, on his first trip to Clifton, Jack displayed one of his idiosyncrasies. He’d heard about the 80/20 rule and became a fanatic fan, applying it to everything. Inventory control provided a classic application. It really wasn’t much different than the ABC technique that, properly applied, worked well. Gene was no dummy and recognized Jack’s obsession. He had no difficulty dividing the inventory 80/20, recognizing that dividing into two classes wouldn’t do the job. Therefore, he 80/20ed the 20 and then the 80 to get classes of 4%, 16%, 16% and 64%. Eyeballing the results, he found 4%, 16%, 24% and 56% fit the price groups of our inventory better. Jack was delighted and would always spend a few hours seeing how well that worked. Other AG divisions and subsidiaries hated HR for encouraging Jack in his pastime, which he then inflicted on them. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.


Ira Glickstein said...



A few pages later:

I’ll tell one more story about Jack’s idiosyncrasies; this one on his fascination with 80/20. He bought a company doing about $40 million in the auto aftermarket business. He (and the banks) owned this outright and he had his two young sons running it as he hovered closely over them. The company purchased brake parts, carburetors, water pumps, fuel pumps, etc. from junk yards to remanufacture and sell to independent auto repair garages. Even before decent computers and the internet, this was a great business. The company had a national sales force that knew about car repair and had developed a loyal clientele because they provided parts for just about every kind of car, certainly all those of American manufacture. (At the time I used an independent
service station in “downtown” Mountain Lakes and often was offered a better price if I opted for a remanufactured part over a new part from Ford, Chrysler or etc.)

Jack’s company was nicely profitable when he bought it but he was determined to make it much more profitable using 80/20 principles, which he did know. What he didn’t know was cars, repair of cars, car repairmen and small businesses. I doubt if Jack had ever looked under the hood of a car and probably never talked to an automotive mechanic. He hardly ever drove, preferring to be chauffeured in a company limo. Applying 80/20 to his new business, Jack separated the 20% of parts which generated 80% of his revenue and dropped the remaining 80% of the parts that made up 20% of his revenue. He felt this concentration would certainly reduce costs and inventory investment. Many of the garages had remained faithful to his company because it supplied all their needs. Now, 80% of the part types they needed had to be purchased from another supplier which opened Jack up to fierce competition on the 20% of parts he’d expected to drive his business. His business started to go downhill fast. I heard about this from the younger son who I knew from when he had accompanied his father on one of Jack’s three visits to my European “plantations” with me. I explained to the son what had to be done. I believe he convinced Jack because the company was still functioning under the Vollbrechts when Jack died in 2015. Jack could be stubborn to a fault but, basically, he was a bright guy.


Ira Glickstein said...

BILL: THANKS for your email showing some practical examples of the 80/20 rule (Pareto's Law) working (and one case that did not end as well :^(

Always great to hear from you.

Love, Ira

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