Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Malcolm Gladwell on "The Magical Year 1975"

In his New Yorker Festival talk, Malcolm Gladwell argued that 1975 was the watershed year that talent in America started to get paid what it was worth.

Predictably, he spoke at some length about Marvin Miller, the visionary leader of the baseball players' union who led the ballplayers from indentured servitude to a promised land of princely riches.

In an early meeting with San Francisco Giants players at their spring training camp in Scottsdale, Ariz., Miller was having trouble convincing his charges that they were entitled to earn more than the relative pittance to which they had grown accustomed.

Miller singled out Bobby Bonds, then one of the best players in the game, who like many players often had his young son in tow around camp. The younger Bonds was already showing signs of baseball greatness.

Miller told the players that if they followed the template set by other American labor unions, and if Bonds' son one day made it to the major leagues, he would earn more in one season than his father had made in his entire career.

Not only did that come to pass, but the $22 million that Barry Bonds earned in 2002 was more than Bobby Bonds and all of his teammates made in their entire careers combined.

Gladwell also described the frosty relationship between the feisty, confrontational, Fu Manchu-mustachioed Miller and baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, whom Miller viewed as an effete, weak-willed, bow tie-wearing, whisky-sipping Ivy Leaguer.

At one point Kuhn complained that Miller would not join him for a friendly meal. Miller responded that Kuhn merely wanted to pick his brain, and that the prospects for a reciprocal benefit were slim.

Gladwell also told of the current irrationality of both income and perspective at the highest levels of the American economy:

1 comment:

Elaine said...

Awesome bit of his presentation. "Taxes are the price we pay for civilization." I think that was Mr. Justice Holmes... And the US is one of the less-taxed nations...yet people constantly complain about taxes instead of feeling fortunate at what they provide...