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So, it’s time to ask: How might history remember this man?
He made his name in one of America’s most important industries. A consummate salesman and brash self-promoter, his outsize ego was matched only by his ambition.
His companies built things with steel and glass, reflecting the tastes of the time. He was a patriotic pitchman, never skipping an opportunity to extol the superiority of American enterprise. At the same time, he shrewdly negotiated government loan guarantees to fund high-stakes projects.
He became a household name in the 1980s, known as much for his wealth as anything else. Never shy, he put himself in a starring role in his company’s promotional materials and made cameos on TV shows. “A corporate capitalist with populist appeal,” wrote Time magazine.
His sharp tongue meant he was always good for a quote, and expensive tastes helped hone his larger-than-life profile. “Every day he gets up and every day he attacks,” said a contemporary.
He became something of a sex symbol. He married three times.
His successes made big waves in business, and his failures—there were plenty of those, too—became a source of ridicule. He could be hard to work with, burning bridges with several partners over the course of his career. He was “too conceited, too self-centered to be able to see the broad picture,” said one.
He filled a bestselling book about his life with stories and advice drawn a career of dealmaking. And, as could be expected from a master marketer with one of the most recognizable names in America, he waded into politics. He lamented wasteful government spending, high interest rates, and US industry’s loss of competitiveness to Asian rivals (with thinly veiled racial undertones).
Both Republicans and Democrats, he wrote, “must embrace the end objective, which is to make America great again.”
Lee Iacocca died this week, at the age of 94. The legendary Ford and Chrysler executive considered parlaying his popularity into a run for president in 1988. But in the end, “you can be a success in business and not have the temperament to be president,” he wrote in 2007. “For myself, I concluded long ago that to run for president you’ve got to be overambitious or just plain crazy.” —Jason Karaian
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Smells like toxic masculinity. Instagram superstar Dan Bilzerian—whose 27 million followers are treated to a regular stream of the 38-year-old surrounded by women with butt cheeks bared to the camera—is getting into the grooming industry. He told Quartz’s Jenni Avins his success is built on the sexual frustration of his followers. Now, with a new line of products, he’s betting the $7 billion US men’s beauty business could boost their confidence—along with his own bottom line.
Sorting it out. In most places, failing to sort recyclables correctly won’t do you much harm. But in parts of China, it could dent your “social credit rating,” which could make it harder to get a bank loan. Starting this month, that’s the reality in Shanghai, where residents are grousing about strict (and confusing) recycling rules that are already having unintended consequences, including lower tea consumption and the creation of a new job category, writes Echo Huang.
No longer fringe. Almost every mainstream economist in the world derides the gold standard—but an increasingly vocal minority is calling for the US to give it a second chance. Trump’s latest Federal Reserve nominee, economist Judy Shelton, is among them. Gwynn Guilford and Natasha Frost take a closer look at why interest in the gold standard hasn’t died out, and whether the system warrants reevaluation.
Spreading their wings. Just outside Rwanda’s capital Kigali, a university is training Africa’s future tech leaders at an impressive new campus. But far from being homegrown, it’s an offshoot of Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University. As Abdi Latif Dahir writes, its value—and that of a growing number of programs offered by Harvard, Stanford, and others on the continent—is only strengthened by the Trump administration making it harder for African students to get visas to the US.
Oil’s uncertain future. No oil company knows how to plan against the climate crisis. But Vicki Hollub (Quartz member exclusive), the only female CEO of a major international oil company, bets that the way for her industry to survive climate change is to produce “carbon-negative oil” (membership). That might sound incredible, but so is her rise in a male-dominated industry.
Five things elsewhere that made us smarter
Disembarking from surveillance. Travelers are increasingly having their faces scanned before boarding flights. While the process is touted as a way to improve convenience and security, privacy advocates are wary. In Wired, Allie Funk describes the hassle of trying to opt out of a scan and worries that “we’re sleepwalking toward a hyper-surveilled environment,” as our faces become yet another form of data shared among companies and government agencies.
Your workout on Mars. So you’re rich enough to relocate to a bustling new colony on the Red Planet. Congratulations. But did you think everything through? How, for instance, are you going to stay in shape? As Shannon Palus writes for Slate’s Future Tense, extraterrestrial exercise takes some creativity. Outside excursions require a buddy for safety and bulky spacesuits. The aerial yoga indoors, though, beats your routine back on Earth.
Caribbean changeup. The British Virgin Islands has long been the jurisdiction of choice for shady characters involved in tax evasion and money laundering. But change is in the sea-scented air. Last year, the UK parliament voted to force transparency on the BVI and other British Overseas Territories. For Bloomberg Businessweek, Stephanie Baker meets islanders angered by such legislation and the man who helped create today’s offshore industry.
What a viral video about birth control says about Gen Z. Within days of it being posted, a teen girl’s 15-second video of her painting a baby-tossing stick figure on a birth-control packet gathered over 2 million views. In The Lily, Lena Felton examines why it took off, noting among other things that it appeared on TikTok, a social network that’s soared in popularity among teen girls, right as the abortion debate was raging across the US.
To whom do I complain? App-based services have undeniably made our lives easier, from catching a ride to ordering dinner. But good luck finding help if something goes wrong. As Katherine Bindley writes for the Wall Street Journal, customer service is carefully hidden, and the issue you’re facing is often not described by the drop-down menus offered to report a problem. In the end, grousing on Twitter might be your best bet.
Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, Gen Z explainers, and customer-service numbers to firstname.lastname@example.org. Join the next chapter of Quartz by downloading our app and becoming a member. Today’s Weekend Brief was edited by Steve Mollman and Holly Ojalvo.