Showing posts with label profit margin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label profit margin. Show all posts

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Should Government Really Be Run Like a Business?

In a previous post, we noted that, from an Intellectual Property and legal perspective, American voters are treated as consumers, and politicians can become trademarks.

We were sent a thought-provoking and interesting video by, which creatively argues that government should not be run like a business:

This video advances a few arguments comparing businesses and governments generally.

First, it notes that the core purpose of government is fundamentally different from that of a corporation.  For example, it argues that the U.S. federal government is responsible for managing the divergent, competing priorities of over 300 million Americans, and it alone must secure the general welfare by building and maintaining roads and bridges, providing for the common defense, and the like. The video contends that voters are "people," which are more important than "profits."

If a government becomes profitable, it argues, that government is probably hording tax dollars for no good reason. In contrast, a corporation is legally bound to advance one goal: amass profits, and a massive cash reserve can promote its positive fiscal growth.

While it is generally true that government serves a different legal and social purpose than a corporation, this video misses the mark.

First, it ignores the reality that the U.S. federal government has clearly become a major player in the commercial sphere, in its own right. The U.S. Treasury Department reports that current federal expenditures affect huge swaths of the private, domestic economy with trillions of dollars spent each year by the federal government on private defense contracts, the post office, as well as social program spending.

The Treasury Department also notes that federal spending is anticipated to exponentially increase in the decades ahead, mostly to service interest on the debt, to pay for existing expenditures.

Therefore, the video's general proposition that the federal government should not be concerned about amassing profits is not a realistic assessment of the current situation anyway.  The government's budget should at least be solvent, if not profitable.

It is worth noting that the U.S. federal government's budget is currently much larger than that of dozens of mega corporations combined, and its decisions have major fiscal as well as political consequences.

Indeed, a recent story on NBC News noted that the federal government is better at creating low-paying jobs than Wal-Mart.

Therefore, the government MUST be run like a mega corporation, if it is going to act like one.

Further, another argument that the video advances is that shareholders and citizens have fundamentally different "rights" within their respective systems.  A minority shareholder in a corporation, for example, has no meaningful say in whether to remove a failing CEO, the video argues.  

This analogy is weak and imperfect.  Within a larger framework of a properly functioning stock market, a shareholder can always choose to "vote with his feet," and sell his share in the corporation to someone else.  Therefore, his potential impact is greater in affecting change in that manner in that particular corporation, than his shareholder proxy "vote."

If such an aggrieved minority shareholder, along with thousands of other shareholders, chooses to dump and sell his stock, presumably the failing CEO will be fired or forced to resign.  Consequently, the value of a single share in that company will decrease if the CEO is doing a poor job at managing it.

In comparison, an American citizen cannot "sell his vote" in quite the same way, since he has limited options.  Because the federal goverment holds a constititional monopoly on power, there is no competition with it.  Ironically, the aggrieved American voter is in an actually weaker position than a minority shareholder in a corporation, at least in comparison.

Finally, at least with respect to presidential elections, it is worth noting that a large segment of the American populace is effectively disenfranchised because of the Electoral College.  Democratic voters in "red states" and Republican voters in "blue states," have effectively no vote in the Presidential election.

In summary, the debate will continue to rage on as to what extent government should emulate private industry, and vice-versa.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Online Counterfeiting Likely to Escalate

Numerous federal lawsuits have been filed by Intellectual Property owners in recent years to attempt to address the intensifying online threat from "rogue websites."
Additionally, the US Department of Justice and US Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement have seized millions of dollars in assets, as well as shuttered many such websites by utilizing existing criminal laws in the ongoing Operation In Our Sites.

However, while Internet traffic to these sites has been measured and determined to be substantial, little research has been done to empirically survey the existing body of data related to this phenomenon.

A comprehensive empirical survey of over 3,000 Internet websites that federal courts have ordered shut down because of their sale of counterfeit goods has revealed that online counterfeiters can collect immense profits by generating over $10,000 in sales with a $1,000 initial investment.

An analysis of an online counterfeiters' potential profit margin can be summarized in the sample breakdown of typical revenue and costs as follows: The average cost of registering a single Internet domain name: $10-$20 per domain name, annually. The average cost of hosting multiple e-commerce websites on a shared server: $120 to $160, annually. International shipping is either paid for by the customer, or absorbed by seller if it is a nominal cost (less than $10 per item). Credit Card/online payment processing fees: 3-5% of sale price. Wholesale cost of counterfeit goods varies by brand and product category.
For example, a typical counterfeit coat has a $40-$50 wholesale cost, retails for $230-$300 on a rogue website. A typical counterfeit handbag: $40-$50 wholesale cost, retails for $200-$300 on a rogue website. A typical counterfeit bracelet: $10 wholesale cost, retails for $70-$80 on a rogue website. A typical counterfeit watch: $10 wholesale cost, retails for $160 on a rogue website. 

Therefore, starting with a $1,000 investment, if one sets up a hosted e-commerce website ($160) linked to five domain names ($100), and invests the remaining funds ($700) in selling and shipping wholesale counterfeit goods, one could generate: Up to $11,200 by selling 70 counterfeit watches (11.2x the initial investment); Up to $5,600 by selling 70 counterfeit bracelets (5.6x the initial investment); or Up to $4,200 by selling 14 counterfeit coats or handbags (4.2x the initial investment).

This low-risk business model offers a comparable return on investment (ROI) to trafficking in illegal narcotics.  Because of this dramatic ROI, online counterfeiting networks are exponentially spreading on the Internet like an infection. For example, the ROI from a single successful website selling counterfeit products encourages the creation of many more such websites.

Skilled programmers who have access to sophisticated technology and an extensive supply of counterfeit products are creating and operating these sites. To protect their business model, they are employing a variety of creative tactics to frustrate efforts to monitor them and remove them from the marketplace.

For example, they dynamically redirect their websites across multiple servers located in different countries. Significant server bandwidth is dedicated to hosting such sites, with large blocks of server space and IP addresses dedicated to managing the Internet traffic to them. Counterfeiters' websites are creating significant actual consumer confusion. One reason is that prices for counterfeit goods are designed to be credible to suggest genuine, discounted products rather than low quality counterfeits. Goods received are typically shipped directly from locations throughout China and Hong Kong, and

China is the country most often named as the country of the Registrant. However, Registrants do not usually provide legitimate or consistent contact information when registering new domain names, often using gibberish, nonsensical words and false addresses. Further, some Registrants are using the "Privacy Protection" services offered by Registrars to purchase a cloak of further anonymity. Software applications make it easier for infringers to create, register and warehouse thousands of domain names that contain permutations of trademarked brands. These conclusions make it likely that "rogue websites" selling counterfeit goods will likely continue to proliferate, demanding that legal action be taken by brand owners.