Molly Munger, The PTA & The Shoe Button Complex

I’ve previously posted about what I believe is the California PTA’s major error in aligning themselves with billionaire Molly Munger and her ill-fated effort to increase taxes for schools in the fall ballot in our state.

Her self-funding of this alternative to Governor Brown’s proposal is pretty much the only thing giving legitimacy to her effort. Not only is it doomed to fail (which was predictable and is being shown in respected surveys), it’s dragging down the Governor’s proposal — which is what the Governor, the California Teacher’s Association, and many other supporters of public education feared.

Today, I learned about The Shoe Button Complex. It’s a lesson that Ms. Munger’s father (Warren Buffet’s associate and the source of her wealth) used to guide his career:

Munger’s grandfather had managed to corner the market on shoe buttons back around 1900. The grandfather exercised a virtual monopoly over their production and sale. Emboldened by his business acumen, the old man grew to believe that he not only knew more than anyone about shoe buttons but that he knew more than anyone about anything—and he preached and proclaimed at length on such. Munger and Buffett named the syndrome the Shoe Button Complex, and they encountered it frequently in their dealings with successful business practitioners.

(Another source says Munger learned this story from a college classmate).

It appears that Ms. Munger did not learn this lesson from her father. And, since the initiative petitions have already been submitted, even if she takes it to heart now, it apparently will be too late to help our schools, anyway.

It’s not too late, though, for the California PTA to abandon her to proceed on her Quixotic quest alone and maintain their political credibility.

I can only hope that the Governor and organized labor (including both teacher’s unions) will be enough to off-set the damage she’s causing.

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