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What Lawyers, Farmers, and Factory Workers Have in Common

Try to imagine a group of aging rock stars putting on a benefit concert to assist lawyers who have lost their jobs. Admittedly, this is not a likely scenario. Yet it seems that even lawyers are feeling the consequences of technology-based efficiency gains, just like farmers and factory workers before them.

With respect to lawyers (for those who still respect them), new, advanced software can review thousands of documents infinitely faster and much cheaper than their human counterparts. As the New York Times described in a recent article, law firms can dispense with highly-paid lawyers poring through files in large litigation and use "e-discovery" at a fraction of the cost.

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Questioning Common Knowledge—Part III

After exposing a few myths recently, this next one is going to shock you: "America remains the world's leading manufacturer by far.  In fact, if U.S. manufacturing were a national economy, it would be the eighth largest in the world," according to Robert Turner, chairman of Turner Investment Partners in an article in Institutional Investor

Turner explains that domestic manufacturing is not dying, it's changing.  The U.S. is "making products that require a high degree of innovation and technological content," which is subject to less foreign competition. Inevitably, "some low-value-added commodity products like textiles, toys and TVs are being made in [other] countries" where workers earn lower wages.

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Questioning Common Knowledge—Part II

More and more, we base our investment decisions on our reading of the global political and economic scene.  Due to the varied and ever changing landscape, we can easily depend on common wisdom to help sort through the mess.  Unfortunately, these shortcuts can be incorrect and lead to mistaken responses.

For example, the link between poverty and terrorism appears reasonable—poor, uneducated people, with little hope of economic advancement, seem more likely to commit such acts than their more fortunate brethren.  Yet, as an article in The Economist points out, this is not necessarily the case. 

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Questioning Common Knowledge—Part I

For those of us whose ancestors came from Europe many years ago, the family often has a story explaining how their surname was changed upon coming to America.  For example: "My great-grandfather was called Rogarshevsky, but when he arrived at Ellis Island, the immigration officer couldn't understand his accent.  So he just wrote down 'Rogers,' and that became my family's name."

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Pundits Pontificating: Notes from the Schwab 2011 Investment Outlook

Nothing beats heading up to Baltimore on a cold, rainy February day. But the pleasantries of the Charm City would have to wait; an assortment of mutual fund managers and analysts were making prognostications about the 2011 investment environment in an all-day event.

For the most part, the panelists were quite bullish on the U.S. economy and the stock market. They made nods to the ballooning U.S. debt and looming inflation, but they also pointed to growth in business investment, consumer spending, and exports.

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