Ferguson’s critics have simply misunderstood for whom Ferguson was writing that piece. They imagine that he is working as a professor or as a journalist, and that his standards slipped below those of academia or the media. Neither is right. Look at his speaking agent’s Web site. The fee: 50 to 75 grand per appearance. That number means that the entire economics of Ferguson’s writing career, and many other writing careers, has been permanently altered. Nonfiction writers can and do make vastly more, and more easily, than they could ever make any other way, including by writing bestselling books or being a Harvard professor. Articles and ideas are only as good as the fees you can get for talking about them. They are merely billboards for the messengers.
That number means that Ferguson doesn’t have to please his publishers; he doesn’t have to please his editors; he sure as hell doesn’t have to please scholars. He has to please corporations and high-net-worth individuals, the people who can pay 50 to 75K to hear him talk…
Civilization actually contained a section called “The Six Killer Apps of Western Power,” which may be the purest expression of pandering to the speaker’s agencies I’ve ever read.
— I like this Wall Street Journal Marketplace story on Tootsie Roll Industries Inc., which is apparently a public company and has been run for fifty years by a now-92-year-old man and his now-80-year-old wife.
The Journal had to write around the company here:
How many licks does it take to get to the center of Tootsie Roll Industries?
No one really knows. The 116-year-old company, run by one of America’s oldest CEOs, has become increasingly secretive over the years, severing nearly all of its connections to the outside world. Tootsie Roll shuns journalists, refuses to hold quarterly earnings calls, and issues crookedly-scanned PDFs for its earnings releases. The last securities industry analyst to maintain coverage of the company stopped last year because it was too hard to get information.
The Journal was able find one person to talk to:
“Their age is no concern, none whatsoever,” said Jerry Schmutzler, 70, who works the midnight shift in the boiler room of Tootsie Roll’s Chicago factory.