My name is Gerry Hoffman. I have been a scientist, an engineer and an entrepreneur. You can find details of my career on my website ghco.biz.
A friend and colleague who read a draft of this post suggested that I add information about myself, in particular what biases and prejudices might influence my work. I freely acknowledge the biases listed below, but I assert that they are biases, not prejudices.
A prejudice is a judgment formed before the facts are known. I try not to have any. A bias, on the other hand, is a mental leaning in a particular direction which might influence a judgment. I have a lot of biases, based on my life experiences, my observations of others’ experiences, historical evidence and my belief in individual freedom.
- Individual freedom is the highest good; any infringement of it should viewed very skeptically and avoided if possible.
- These are some activities that must be performed by goverment, e. g., national defense.
- Activities that can be performed either by government or by the private sector are almost always done more efficiently and effectively by the private sector.
- Competition in every sphere of life creates more public goods (economic, moral, political) than an administered system.
- Regulation always increases costs.
- Large bureaucracies – public and private – are designed to prevent change, and are usually successful in doing so. A consequence of this is that any policy change requiring bureaucratic change will meet enormous resistance and require substantial resources to succeed.
I suspect that I have other biases of which I am unaware. I am confident that followers of this blog will call them to my attention.
. . . . .
In addition to being a scientist and an engineer, I am a woodworker. I make bowls, boxes, kitchen implements and furniture such as tables and chairs. I enjoy executing the entire process from end to end. Typically I start with a log, machine it into lumber, use the lumber to make a product, apply a finish of stain or varnish or shellac or paint, then use it or give it to someone else to use.
I am mostly self taught. In the past I have attended a few workshop/seminars and used some instructional videos. Now when I need to learn a new skill I attend the University of You Tube.
Woodworking informs and enhances my analytical activities by providing a microcosmic view of business and social activities. I try to make things which are useful or beautiful or – ideally – both; I don’t always succeed. I am constrained by the properties of the material I use, by the tools I have at hand, by my own skills and by my scarce resources – time and money. I must choose not only the object to make but also select the wood, which involves a complex tradeoff among appearance, workability and price, among other things. It often requires a make/buy decision about tools, fixtures and jigs. On the buy side, I need to make decisions based partly on price but also on information and service provided by the vendor. And at the end, who will use the product, who will delight in owning it? During this process I discover beauty hidden within the tree as well as the beauty of the evolving forms. And I learn to appreciate the results of my own labor.
I see the larger economic and social issues I write about through the lens of this work. In the course of my woodworking I personally execute many of the activities of our complex society and economy. I experience how things work, how decisions are made, I see the beauty of scientific discovery and of engineering achievement, and I see the societal effects of what I do. All of this helps me understand how the larger world works and how it might be improved.