Enlightened Conflict

How do you solve a problem when one half absolutely hates the other half?

February 10th, 2017

Polar Opposites conflict



I want people to think about our politics here in America, because I’m telling you guys that I don’t know of a single nation in this history of the world that’s been able to solve its problems when half the people in the country absolutely hate the other half of the people in that country.

This is the most important country in the world, and people in this body cannot function if people are offending one another.

Marco Rubio






Polarization can create some pretty foul conduct.


Polarization can bring out the worst in people.


Polarization can create stillness within turmoil when movement within teamwork is needed <and desired>.



Polarization within leadership is a virus that infects everyone in the organization … not just in leadership.

marco rubio speech on respectful conflict

I was reminded of this as I watched a completely underreported and under the radar speech Marco Rubio gave on the senate floor after <I believe> Elizabeth Warren had been asked to stop speaking.

Warren gained all the headlines where Rubio actually had the words we should have all been listening to. It is maybe 8 minutes long and worth every second.



Please note that I believe this message is more important than just one directed toward the Senate … it is a message which all Americans should take note of.

We are fortunate to have the privilege of freedom of speech & thought and we should embrace that freedom as one to permit healthy discussion, debate and disagreements … all of which should enable healthy, positive decisions.


Freedom is a tricky thing. In the United States of America we have the unique opportunity to “criticize a president without retribution.” <as past President Obama said to a group of military people at MacDill Air Force base>.


But our freedoms are being challenge by Trump and his attitudes & behaviors in ways we haven’t really seen in a very very long time.


The Trump Affect ripples way beyond simple executive orders and specific friends unfluencers ripples2actions that will have an impact on the people of the country. The more dangerous ripple effect is one of attitudes & behaviors.

Within this dangerous Trump affect ripple,  the freedom to freely criticize is a little less secure … and the way we criticize, debate & discuss in the Trump era appears to be one of not listening, not respecting and not believing that there could possibly be a way to do something differently than the way “I believe.”


Trump and his merry little band of morally corrupt liars suggest that there is no middle ground for “ladies & gentlemen to disagree with ladies & gentlemen” <note: this is a rip off of the Ritz Carlton motto>.


The Trump Affect has trickled down into his direct organization … the congress.


And within that ripple Republicans either embrace the bully opportunity or simply privately watch in horror as leadership decorum and leadership example <which, by the way, IS important as impressionable children and adult seeking cues on how to be leaders watch closely>.

And within that ripple Democrats screech & gnash their teeth in impotent frustration over not only having no power to shift the tides of change but also because, in their heart of hearts, they know this is not the way business should be conducted.


Balance has disappeared.

compromise balancing actWhile people can bitch & moan that decorum, in the past, has only encouraged stagnancy & lack of action they should not confuse with what business is conducted and how business is conducted.

Just as I am more accepting of my high school football coach if we have a losing season but the players play with respect & dignity and go to class and show signs of growing up with a healthy personal responsibility … I am less accepting of the coach who permits poor behavior & lack of respectful competition even if they win more.

You can have all the good in this case. But balance has been lost.


In fact.


We should face the fact that balance deserted us the day Trump stepped onto his golden Trump Tower escalator last year to announce his candidacy.


And that is why Rubio’s speech is so important. Without actually saying it he suggests that we shouldn’t let Trump drag us down into some dysfunctional squabbling amorphous blob of indignant jerks.




“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do.

Both are nonsense.

You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”



Rick Warren



I like conflict and I think conflict is healthy.

creative spark light bulb

It is a basic Life truth that conflict is the positive friction that often creates innovations and new thinking and new ideas.

But, as with most things in life, there are degrees of conflict.


The kind of conflict we need now, more than ever, is the productive type.


We need to better embrace the valuable contradictions in life.

Things like:


Smart and funny.

Silent but says a lot.

Liberal conservative.

Cynical optimist.




And enlightened and conflict of course.


We need to better embrace the fact that contradictions are powerful.

They create a chemistry ending in positive friction <when done right> and the fire for innovative thinking and thoughts.


In general I believe contradiction not only make life & people interesting but they also forge the kind of decisions that become the iron construct for a solid culture, civilization and country.


We need to embrace that conflict is part of life and not treat it as only a negative thing.


void embrace the unknownHumans are neither passive nor stagnant. We move. We do. We think.


Combine that fact with individuals are unique <although they may group together> and inevitably there is some conflict. It can simply be healthy competition or it can be staggeringly evil intended activity <i.e. there will be conflict because your point of view and thoughts shouldn’t exist and I am going to extinguish them>.


We need to embrace the fact that conflict can be “managed”.

Maybe call it competitive camaraderie. I call it enlightened conflict. I believe if people know more about stuff <I don’t really believe it needs a technical term> then conflict will be conducted with knowledge.


I would suggest that ignorance, and being close minded, guides conflict toward evil interactions … while knowledge guides conflict to responsible interactions.




We need to embrace that enlightened conflict is really some version of pluralism.

A pluralism in that it encourages, and embraces, freedom to learn and freedom to think different thoughts.


In the end I imagine what I really care about are people’s actions. They can remain mute as far as I am concerned as long as their actions respect others opinions and others lives and meets global responsibilities.




enlightened conflict ideasIt is silly to think that conflict doesn’t exist as part of our natural behavior <I apologize to all the “why can’t we all get along” groups>.


It is silly to think that friction between beliefs and causes is not the spark for something better.


It is silly to think conflict and friction is not good.

Good conflict leads to positive friction and ideation and evolution of ideas.


But it needs to be conducted with respect. Respectful disagreements & debate lead to two things:


  • Positive friction.


  • Enlightened conflict.



The first is based on curiosity plus friction equals better ideas and thinking.

The second is lack of ignorance plus conflict equals respectful competition.


We here in the United States have an incredible privilege … a freedom to say what we want and disagree and criticize whomever we want. We shouldn’t abuse that privilege by not understanding that it creates good conflict which enlightened conflict thinkenables ‘gooder’ ideas.


Marco Rubio did something in his speech which I endorse wholeheartedly … he tried to make an impact on his own little corner of the world … encouraging positive friction for enlightened conflict.



Marco Rubio had a stellar enlightened conflict moment … and more people should see it and listen.


“Enlighten the people, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.”

Thomas Jefferson




the ethics of addressing ‘what you deserve’ promises

June 22nd, 2016


what you get what you deserve



“… it’s time for me to push you out of your comfort zone. It’s time for you to be 100% honest with yourself.

You’ve had your entire adult life to accomplish your financial goals.

I’m looking at your profile and you’re not even close to where you need to be, much less where you want to be.

It’s time you fix your broken plan, bring in Mr. Trump’s top instructors and certified millionaire mentors and allow us to put you and keep you on the right track. Your plan is BROKEN and WE WILL help you fix it.

Remember you have to be 100% honest with yourself!”




Trump University Playbook




“It is never hopeless.

But sometimes I cannot hope. I try always to hope but sometimes I cannot. “



Ernest Hemingway




“Do you like living paycheck to paycheck? … Do you enjoy seeing everyone else but yourself in their dream houses and driving their dreams cars with huge checking accounts?

Those people saw an opportunity, and didn’t make excuses, like what you’re doing now.”




Trump University Playbook




I deserveOk.


Let’s address the elephant in the room … we all, all of us, believe we deserve some things.






Opportunity in Life. Keep what we have. Earnings for work … and more earnings if we believe we are producing ‘harder work.’ Happiness.


All of those things … plus … whatever you may want to add.


I state that as a Life truth so I can talk about the responsibility of a ‘promiser of things’ to us. Because if what i have outlined in the ‘deserve column’ is a Life truth, an accepted attitudinal thread in society, then someone seeking to tap into that thread bears a responsibility.


So let me talk about this responsibility.



An empty promise may be the worst promise someone can ever offer you.

I turn your back true-falsesometimes call it “false hope.”


And let me be clear … lots of people, myself included, find any promise of hope so attractive that it is incredibly easy to not look behind the promise to see if it is full or empty.


Inevitably the people who accept this empty promise are the ones most likely to feel a need. And when I say “feel” it can very easily edge into the personal “what I deserve” mental space.


This is also a very common space for a lot of people … we see the promise and look around us and … well … say things like:


“I am smart enough.”


“I am capable of this.”




“I deserve this” … well … as much as anyone else … particular the ones I am looking at who have it.


In the marketing and behavior world this is called “managing the need perception.” Conceptually … the higher someone drives up someone’s “I need” attitudes … the more likely they are see ‘something’ instead of ‘empty’ in the promise.


At its core … this is not about risk in choices <the downside to my choice>. T

his is more about embracing hope <the upside of my choice>.


And that is where ethics and morality come into play for the ‘promiser.’


I feel qualified discussing this because the majority of my business career has been all about ‘offering promises and hope for something.’


You learn very very quickly that as a promiser you can sometimes become blinded to the potential emptiness aspects of what you will offer and there is a natural allure to focusing solely on potential of the ‘better or best’ aspects of what you will offer.


I imagine the decision on what to do with your promise is a combination of integrity and true business. Because, yeah, I want people to buy my shit … to see the promise that resides within what I have to offer. And, yet, experience shows you thru customer feedback and the retail clerks dealing with past buyers and online forums that not everyone you sold your promise to actually had their hopes met.


Those weigh on you.





They weigh on you … if you have any ethical compass.


The ones who have no, or little, compass are the ones who adamantly state one of two things :thoughts are dangerous


  • Some people are not happy with anything <”they are being unrealistic”> – i.e., “ignore the bitching”



  • Look at how many people are not saying anything bad – i.e., “the sales justifies my behavior





I am not suggesting this is as easy as I just pointed out.


As someone who has sat in boardrooms and looked at increasing sales and complaints and reviews … it is incredibly easy to justify your own beliefs in your own products, services or company.


It is inherent in your business acumen if you are even worth a half a shit … because part of what most likely makes you successful in business is belief in yourself, your business and your idea.


That said.


The best of the best business people constantly weigh how they manage what people think and what they are going to be asking someone to do when they make their personal commitment to your business, product & idea.


The majority of us business schmucks wander somewhere in the middle.

Sometimes getting it right and sometimes getting it wrong <in the balance> but inevitably our pendulum swings mostly in the middle of fairness, honesty and ethical.


The worst of the worst, the snake oil salespeople, never weigh what they are asking people to do and solely focus on ‘promise fulfilled’ … and damn the ones who didn’t, or couldn’t, attain the promise of what could be.


I admired the first group. They had figured out how to be steadfastly ethical and successful in business. Kind of the no compromise, in a good way, candidate.


I struggled to deal with the last group. They believed a sale was a sale, any profit was good and the burden of responsibility resided solely on the buyer.


All that said.


Trump is a snake oil salesman.

Just as a reminder, during the depression when times were hard people bought snake oil as a hopeful salve for whatever was troubling them.


They were con men dedicated to an unethical targeting of a slightly naïve, hard working, mostly struggling but good hearted people who desired some easy salve for some of their ills.


And, yeah, someone could argue “buyer beware.” But that is at its core … well … bullshit.

Sellers actually have, and should have, more responsibility than the buyer.


A seller, more often than not, knows what someone can afford and what they cannot afford … as well as whether their hopes are even in the realm of possibility.


This means … if as a promiser you see that they have little or no chance and that a bad decision on the buyer’s part would have a high likelihood of not only not delivering upon their hopes but actually could tangibly negatively affect their lives … the promiser has a responsibility, no, an obligation to do what is right.


Using Trump as the example I could suggest he is only really guilty of unethical opportunism.


However … I would actually suggest he is guilty of 2 things:


<1> assuming his life objective should be the life objective of everyone <winning is all that matters>, and


<2> moral relativism – which he disguises within what he calls ‘not political correctness.’


But opportunism, at its soul, is directly related to what we people believe we deserve.


We people inherently build blocks on which we stand of things we believe we deserve.


The basics … food, health, education, place to live.


But it gets a little trickier once we actually get, and have, something.

We believe we deserve what we work for … and once we attain something that ‘level’ is the new normal for ‘I deserve.’


That is something psychologists call “hedonistic adaptation.”


And this happens at all income levels because anyone at any level can feel stretched or challenged economically <while still actually being rich beyond deserve want fair more than that lifebelief in terms of what is available to all of us 24 hours a day>.  All people are seemingly continuously seduced by the urge to acquire … and acquire more … and indulge <when the opportunity arises>. All people attach the thought of ‘deserve’ once they have acquired some level, some things or some status. You earned it <in your mind> therefore it is yours.


I don’t have anything against it. And I certainly understand the psychology of ‘once you have something not only do you not want to not have it anymore … but you want more’ <or the next step up>.


Money leads to lifestyle upgrades. But, once again, that is fraught with conflict. Once you achieve the income you desired … well … you go back to desiring more. And imagine if you become stagnant? Yikes. Our natural ‘adaptation’ anger kicks in.


But this also means that people inherently overreach … because we try and reach out for ‘more than what I have.’


We inherently believe we are smart enough and capable enough to be better than what we are today.



If only we had the opportunity.


This belief, oddly enough, is exacerbated by failure <sometimes>. The more we fail when attempting to reach something we believe we inherently deserve … well … we will overreach even more to compensate for the time we didn’t have what we deserved <psychology research shows this>.


And this is where the true slippery slope of unethical opportunism rears its ugliest head.


What this means is that unethical opportunism is most often driven by digging into what we believe we maybe not deserve … but what we would naturally attain if given the opportunity <this is a sly version of ‘deserve’>.


Most of us simply feel we deserve a chance. Deserve a chance for something better. The ‘degrees’ of what someone feels they will deserve will vary by person.

And suffice it to say there will always be a group of people who believe they deserve significantly more than what they have and because of it will roll the dice <although they will not see it as much of a gamble as someone else>

But the bottom line is that 99% of us feel we deserve something better.


everybody needs what i am selling deserve lifeThe Trump ‘promise’ sounds big and luxurious and exclusive … but it fails the majority and rewards the minority.



In a country in which maybe our most impending problem is massive inequality between the haves and the have nots … well … that kind of sounds like a recipe for disaster.


At minimum … it is guaranteeing false promises to the majority.


And Trump gets a little worse in this scenario than the typical ‘empty promise’ seller. A president cannot simply promise people wealth, opportunity for growth if they invest in him, cash their check as they cash in on the ‘promise’ and then ignore their ultimate result <success or failure> while moving on to the next scheme or promise.


Well. He could. Shit. He has <in business>.


But that is not what presidents or good leaders do.


And it certainly is not what America deserves.


In the end.


When you feel like you are getting screwed or that the system is rigged in some way against you … your sense of ‘I deserve more & better’ is heightened.


We all do it.

It is difficult to fight that feeling.


And, you know what? Sometimes we will not be successful fighting the “I deserve” monsters in our heads.

And maybe that is my biggest point.


A good leader knows we will not be successful fighting them off all the time and will not take advantage of our weakness.


Trump, all his career, has fed off the carcasses of weakness. I don’t mean weak people … just the natural weak moments in human nature.


He is a taker.


The world will always have takers and the world will always fall for takers. That doesn’t make being a taker good.


Nor does being a taker mean you would be a good leader.




“I believe the world is divided in three groups: givers, takers and the few that can balance both impulses. If you are a giver, it is wise to define your boundaries because takers will take what you allow them to; all givers must learn to protect that about themselves or eventually, there is nothing left to give.”



Tiffany Madison






Here is the biggest problem with trying to sell empty promises.compromise give away


It builds cynicism and erodes hope.

While I could certainly highlight ‘lost lives’ I will instead highlight ‘killing hope.’


That is the biggest price we pay for buying empty promises.


And, I have to tell you, that is why I hate, abhor and despise people who purposefully, and knowingly, sell empty promises and false hope.


We all deserve opportunities. And we all deserve receiving something as a result of hard work.


We do not deserve empty promises.  And we certainly do not deserve someone who suggests a future in which the majority will most likely sit back in their worn chairs and think … ‘sometimes I cannot hope. I try always to hope but sometimes I cannot.’

finding a better version of capitalism

May 28th, 2016

 capitalism conspiracy elite



“The combination of technology and capitalism has given us a world that really feels out of control.”


Jonathon Franzen




 “Communism forgets that life is individual. Capitalism forgets that life is social, and the Kingdom of Brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of Communism nor the antithesis of capitalism but in a higher synthesis.”



Martin Luther King 1967




Why am I writing my umpteenth article on capitalism?


capitalism kills loveI saw a number from some USA research the other day … something like 50% of people under the age of 30 do not believe in capitalism.




Capitalism is good.


Capitalism is not bad.


Just wanted to get that out of the way.


But that does not mean there isn’t always a tension between good and bad in the soul of capitalism. It is an incredible wealth-creating & life bettering mechanism and, yet, left to its own devices can run off the tracks <morally and financially>.


Capitalism needs guard rails. Or some smart guy called it “embedded countervailing power.” It needs guard rails because humans will be humans.


When business is good, human beings become greedy.

When business is bad, human beings become fearful.


And I would like to remind everyone that culture is created by … uhm … human beings.

I say that not to be a smart ass but to suggest there is a real culture war in America, maybe the world, and it is occurring in the business world.


I purposefully use ‘culture’ because it has to do with some ethics or moral fortitude, some personal responsibility and some pragmatic hope for the future.

In fact … if we fix how capitalism works <systemic & infrastructure aspects> the net result is addressing income inequality, wage stagnation and overall economic prosperity as well as some individual “self-stuff” <kind of all the big societal issues we tend to discuss>.




A moment on the role of government.

trust the government society young

It is both a fallacy to believe Government is not the problem nor believe they are the solution.

We have a mixed economy < I stole that term from Foreign Policy magazine>.


Capitalism is not a governance system which is about maximizing corporate profit at the expense of the citizenry. Effective government curbs greed obejectives & regulates capitalism so that it does the good things it is supposed to do <innovate & bring prosperity to many> and it doesn’t do the bad things <be driven solely by greed>.


Let’s be clear.


America is not based on an unfettered capitalism nor has it ever been <nor was it ever meant to be by the founding fathers>.


It is a managed capitalism system <always has been … I say that to head off any of the ‘government is too involved’ today talking heads>.


Government attempts … sometimes better than other times … to put reins on humans within a capitalistic society.  Let’s say it’s something like giving enough range for wild horses to run free … but not to trample the gardens and lawns of the surrounding areas.


This ‘fettered’ managed capitalism idea is not perfect. It ebbs and flows and morphs into different shapes as time passes.

But it IS an effective economic and political system.


I would suggest that while polarizing … capitalism is balanced … when balanced.

But a better version of capitalism really is not dependent upon governance and laws <and putting banks out of business> but rather personal decisions, choices & responsibility.  Yes. I just suggested <again> that people, not the system, will define the better version of capitalism.


Adam Smith suggested the three pillars of a society are: prudence, looking after oneself as best as one is able; justice, keeping the law of the land; and reflection people imperefcetbeneficence, caring for others and society where there is need.


Clearly our main issue is not how to survive on true scarcity <that is not a perceived scarcity or a “less than” scarcity> but rather how to live well with plenty.


To date we have chased double digit growth and higher GDP all the while seeking higher material happiness <sometimes confused with higher standard of living>.


We have become societally insatiable.


In other words … we cannot have enough.


This funny Maslow chart reflects that as additional personal needs are fulfilled it induces new needs <which we, as humans, constantly improve ourselves in order to further attain these ‘self actualization’ activities>.  Think about this from a non-funny sustenance perspective in growing from poverty to non poverty <but the dimension perspective will always reside in the human mind>.

money puzzle-maslow


Yes. Capitalism has certainly vastly improved our lives and our means to live.


But it has also fed this insatiability.


Some guy named Sandel wrote in “what money can’t buy … the moral limits of markets:”


  • the more things money can buy the more the lack of it hurts.


  • buying and selling can change the way a good is perceived (he used “giving children money as incentive to read a book may make reading a chore rather than a simple pleasure”).


This all leads to an overall attitude that endless <and double digit> growth is essential to maintain and improve our quality of life. While I will not go into the detailed debate … that is simply not true <this is a standard efficiency versus effectiveness argument>.


Now. All that said.


The issue is really about the attitudes & attributes we are attaching to capitalism.


As I share some thoughts to try and address the young’s lack of belief in capitalism I will lead with two things:


  • Communism promises to make everyone equally rich and instead makes everyone equally poor.


  • Youth thinks it invents the world. Maturity respects the world it finds.


Suffice it to say that Capitalism is becoming some evil entity in the minds of many young people. In addition, aspects of other ideologies <communism being one> are being used relatively flippantly as ‘better than’ what is occurring within capitalism.

I actually believe it is a lack of understanding … but it is also quite possible there is a deeper lack of faith with capitalism.


If you step back you can see why the young <and the shallow thinkers> feel this way.


  • Real unemployment is nearly in double digits. Most Americans think the economy will recover next year, but only 2% think it will make a complete recovery.


  • On average, according to Gallup, Americans believe that 50 cents of every dollar the federal government spends is wasted. Democrats, who are supposed to believe in big government, guess that 41 cents of every federal dollar is wasted. Republicans think it is 54 cents, and independents put the number at 55 cents in the dollar.


  • A poll found that most Americans would rather their government did less. Some 57% said it was doing too many things that were better left to individuals and businesses. Only 38% thought it should do more.


And many people have genuine complaints. Many working-class men have lost their jobs. Those who are still employed have seen their wages stagnate. And overall they don’t trust government not to make it worse.


This is a sad state of affairs <for government who CAN make shit happen> because regulations can positively address stagnation & inequality without intervening in entrepreneurial decisions or in the price/profit mechanism.


The harsh black & white truth no one wants to say is that regulation is what makes free markets … well … free <free markets cannot sustain themselves>.



moral crossraodsI have been thinking about capitalism for a while nudging my mind toward discussing morals and character <society & culture>.


I found it interesting to think about Schumpeter when addressing the youth capitalism challenge.


  • what Joseph Schumpeter called ‘the cultural contradictions’ of Capitalism


One of the cultural contradictions <I believe he outlined 5> was … Rationality.

In that Capitalism encourages rationality in behavior. And that culture creates, and demands, a natural conflict by insisting on some ‘irrational’ behavior.


Rationality comes to life as the “maximization” of particular interests of individuals and groups.

This same rationalization then bleeds into both personal lives <family & home> and ultimately becomes embodied in some form or fashion into cultural forms.


Children become quasi economic assets <or their rearing incorporates rational ‘maximization’ theory embedded in capitalism>.


At its extreme … maximization bleeds into soulless wealth and extreme consumption thereby substituting saving and societal salvation.


Oddly, but fairly, he suggests consumption wins against accumulation. This leads to a certain diminishing of the desirability of incomes above a certain level.


At the same time, however, when the breaks of certain values associated with ethical or religious tradition fail <called the sophrosyne: Greek philosophical term meaning healthy-mindedness and from there self-control or moderation guided by knowledge and balance. Roman poet Juvenal later interpreted sophrosyne as “mens sana in corpore sano” – “a healthy mind in a healthy body”> individuals and groups come into natural conflict with capitalism. The basic human instinct is one of core values <in some degree within everyone> and therefore the natural contradiction forces some balance within capitalism.


This means that the irrational components of behavior are critical for capitalism to emerge and withstand rational arguments … especially when based on long term considerations.



That said.




“This is the genius and the Achilles’ heel of American culture. We … have a strong belief in self-determination and agency, even when our expectations fly in the face of reality,”


Katherine Newman, who studies social mobility




Capitalism in America is not functioning efficiently for a variety of reasons … but that doesn’t make it bad.confuxed


The issue of Confused capitalism … or being confused by capitalism.


No matter how altruistic and non-materialistic you may be … the issue is simple … as we sit perched on a stool at the bar of society where we can scan the room and see the danger of those who have nothing or little … as well as those who have the most <and lots of most>.


If the majority of us begin to look like we are either nearing the dangerously ‘nothing people’ or, contrarily, appear to be too distant from those who ‘have the most’ <no matter what your exact status is> we get nervous … if not angry.


Materialism, culturally, is therefore naturally cyclical in that it will always seek to balance itself. For we always ‘want’ … but most of us want it to be within the realm of ‘hopeful that we can get more’ … without appearing too greedy. Hence that is fairness.

Give me a chance for something more than I have … and give me more and I won’t be too greedy.


While everyone can debate the role of money with regard to people’s happiness … it is true that economic health does make people happier <more secure, more comfortable, more sustenance>.

This actually means that free-market capitalism is not devoted to integrity and a reliance on trust but rather economic growth.


And this suggests the people need to be regulated.


Why do we balk at regulation?


The US has always been a wide-open, free-wheeling country, with a high tolerance for big winners and big losers as the price of equal opportunity in a dynamic society. If the US brand of capitalism has rougher edges than that of other democracies most people inherently believe it is worth the trade-off for growth and mobility.

Buut while we like the free wheeling we also recognize that we are going through some type of crisis. It just becomes a discussion on what type of crisis.


Some think it is a crisis of capitalism. <I don’t>


Others think the crisis is moral. <I do>




“Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate.”



Bertrand Russell



First there is attitude. What is maybe a disregard for societal fairness versus what could be construed as individual ‘winning’ or ‘what I deserve.’


A lot has been written about the effects of globalization during the past generation. Much less has been said about the change in social norms that globalization enabled. Many people, particularly people in power positions, took the vast transformation of the economy as an excuse to rewrite the rules that used to govern their behavior.


I say that because while there will always be isolated small groups of lawbreakers in high places what truly destroys morale is a systemic corner-cutting, rule-bending, self interest behavior type of construct.


I have thought about how and why this happens.


It starts early.

As young children we start off with a healthy core of greatness, but before long it gets covered in layers of doubt, fear and guilt. Often this is caused by people we trust most like parents, teachers and managers who put us down in subtle and less subtle ways. It’s as though people were flicking bits of mud at us until our core of greatness is totally covered. Even worse, we flick mud at ourselves by accepting smaller versions of ourselves through negative self-talk and poor thinking; and we become a tiny fraction of the potential that once existed.


Once potential is curbed we seek to find success in other ways … sometimes circumventing “what is right” to make small excusable steps in our behavior to attain ‘small personal successes.”


repair faults consumerism

Second is our propensity to consume <and its self perpetuation>.

Our propensity to consume without thought for the planet, the poor or even the person next door is a sign that greed and fear are the motives of the moment.


Freedom certainly creates problems (inequalities most notably), but it also solves them.

But the central aspect of freedom advanced by these thinkers was the market, or what Adam Smith had described as the propensity to truck, barter and exchange. In this area, freedom allowed dispersed individuals—disposing of their own resources and choosing for themselves what they want to buy—to generate a level of prosperity that has had no precedent in human history. And the pricing system that emerges from the market—that is, from the push and pull of supply and demand—provides the indispensable knowledge needed to guide the economy.


So. All that said.


I would tell young people that Capitalism is not the issue.

It is the people within the system <and young people can fix that by entering the system>. The system can work just fine … it is simply being abused at the moment.


Capitalism needs to be managed to be more oriented to the long term and socially more responsible.


Interestingly … Richard Branson has formed an initiative to do just this … but I found it interesting that initially he sought to have a board of Business Elders … but  there were too few candidates from the business world of sufficiently unimpeachable character to staff it <insert ‘oh my’ here>.


Anyway <to conclude part 1>.


Since World War II in particular, America has been on a consumption surge/binge. While wages have certainly stagnated family disposable income has grown, life standards have improved, health has improved and overall quality of life has improved <and showed a continuous growth>. Unfortunately, at the same time, while families busily lived their lives they also had access to the finest inventory of toys capitalism could provide. Each generation was doing better than the one before, life was good and standard of living acquired a layer of ‘non essentials’ as part of how the people lived a successful & happy life.

At the same time.

Televisions starting bringing news, influential people talking and capitalism toys into the family living room. Television allowed busy families the opportunity to be exposed to complex issues through professionally crafted sound bites and talking points. People were now becoming more informed from a larger perspective, not just local perspective, and we ushered in the inevitable “keeping up with the Joneses” aspect.

What we face is the natural rising tide of ‘better than before’ facing the ebb and flow of time. The waters being drawn backwards is not appreciated by those standing in a spot washing their feet in the surf. Is it greed for most people? No. it is simply a desire for the status quo – “better is a right not a privilege.” Therein lies the social & cultural task at hand.


Anyway <to conclude part 2>.


Doing something.Accountability where you stand




I write and post on my blog. And speak about it wherever and whenever I can <especially to young people>.


It is easy to talk about it because it seems like if we take a moment and reflect on the problems in the world today we might easily come to the conclusion that it is mainly due to deterioration of our morality compass.

It seems like everywhere we see people filled with greed and intent on self-gratification.

It seems like people are always willing to compromise on values/morality to make personal gains.


If we start talking about values and create some sort of awakening in the minds of people.


Will everyone do it? of course not.

But someone has to go first.


Someone has to become the catalyst for change.


Why not the youth? We should encourage them to enter the system and build what they desire from the inside out rather than simply breaking the system as unfixable.

people progress and timeless things

November 6th, 2015


===life present future

Standing in this ancient cave I wonder about the people who created the beautiful carvings and markings.

I find this thought extraordinary, that people who lived under these circumstances, in a cave where for but a few hours a day if the opening were situated just so, there would be enough light shining into the cave … otherwise only gloom … created things we marvel at even today.

Like everyone else, I suppose, I thought of cave dwellers as primitive creatures of subnormal intelligence.

But they couldn’t have been.

They must have been able to see beyond the walls of the cave, in their minds at least.

The people who lived in these caves who created the beautiful things we see had brains the same size as ours.

They must surely have loved and cared for their children, and found some way of working together, or we would not have survived as a species.

And if that was true, maybe I would have to rethink my idea of progress, that Darwinian idea, or at least everyone’s interpretation of it, that we were becoming increasingly advanced and civilized.

What, after all, made us more advanced?

Was it technology?

Perhaps we should be judged not just by the fact we had it, but by the purposes to which it was put. Were we increasingly more generous toward our fellow man? I hardly think so.

Were we any less superstitious than the people who lived in this cave? Not if daily horoscopes and such were anything to go by.


“It is an error to imagine that evolution signifies a constant tendency to increased perfection.

That process undoubtedly involves a constant remodeling of the organism in adaptation to new conditions; but it depends on the nature of those conditions whether the directions of the modifications effected shall be upward or downward.”

Thomas H. Huxley




progress the world


Progress is an interesting discussion … particularly in today’s world.



Let me state upfront that I am going to suggest that true progress, societal and civilization progress , does not move forward … in fact … true progress is unmoving and timeless.



Go ahead.



Scratch your head. I puzzled over this a long time.



It is natural to think that time and evolution would drive us closer & closer to ‘perfection’ with regard to progressive thinking and enlightenment.


And then I saw Huxley’s words and all of a sudden … it kinda hit me that if we are constantly adapting than maybe much of our progress is not really progress but rather simply adapting.



With that.


Let me begin.



I don’t think if anyone truly thinks about the topic seriously they can’t debate that quality of Life has progressed exponentially.



Any other point of view is kind of crazy thinking.



No one will certainly debate that technology has advanced us in terms of efficiency and quality of materialistic life <I would also suggest possibly mental intelligent life but will hold back for the moment>.




But those are “trappings” type progress things <let me call this a “with-out perspective”>.



The true question of progress is whether we have become more advanced … more civilized from a ‘within perspective’?






That is the real progress question.



Civilization always progresses with innovations and new shit to make our lives easier or more productive or more wealthy.connect future internet words thoughts


That is kind of the natural progression of … well … making shit <things>.



And before someone suggests technology represents social progress let me share a thought from a computer scientist named Kentaro Toyama:





… while some of our projects improved lives, most had little long-term impact.

When I looked back at our 40-odd projects, what I saw was that it wasn’t the technology that decided whether the outcomes were good or bad, it was us and our partners. When we were committed and worked with capable partners, our technology augmented their impact. But when we had corrupt or inept collaborators, the technology aggravated the dysfunction.

In other words, technology doesn’t add a fixed benefit.

Instead, it amplifies underlying human forces.

Amplification is a simple idea, but it’s powerful.

It explains a broad range of man-machine interactions.

It explains why the internet boosts free speech in America but stifles dissent in China and spreads misinformation in Russia.

It explains why massive open online courses (Moocs) are completed mostly by well-educated professionals with good habits of adult learning, not jobless high-school dropouts.

And, it explains why a technological golden age in the world’s richest country isn’t enough to end poverty – Americans don’t seem to care enough about it as a nation.

Amplification also means that while technology can lead to some kinds of progress, meaningful social change isn’t up to gadgets.







While I am not particularly a fan of self-reflection … I think cultural, or societal, reflection with regard to progress is interesting especially if you look at it thru the lens of the opening quote I shared..



It makes you think … how much progress have we made?

And is progress really about gaining things … or just making sure you don’t lose the truly important things?



And then I thought about this topic even more as I scanned a report from Chatham House – Human Development as Positive Freedom: A World View Since 1870 <author: Leandro Prados de la Escosura>.



What I found is that we have a slightly odd grasp of what is happening in the world and how we view progress.



We look in the way back machine and see ‘good ole days’ and good things <yet people were clearly not as well off as we are today> and yet we see today <where people are significantly better off than they were> as “the decline of civilization”.



I tend to suggest that our view of progress has its behavioral roots in a ‘state of perpetual dissatisfaction.’ Or maybe ‘hedonistic adaptation’ modeling … without the hedonism and simply call it ‘the democratization of survival basics.’







The Chatham House report clearly shows that well-being improved significantly and across the board.



Significant progress in life expectancy and education, and therefore in human development, took place across all regions between 1920 and 1950 <it has flattened somewhat since then>.


The interesting thing?



It appears that economic growth and human development do not always go hand in hand.



In addition … systemic implementation <ideological driven initiatives like socialism> and individual outcomes are not always linked.




Chatham report:

suicide questionThis points to a development puzzle.

Why are trends in GDP per capita and human development uncorrelated over long periods of time when increases in per capita income would surely contribute to better nutrition, health and education?

Does the explanation lie more with public policy (e.g. public schooling, public health, the rise of the welfare state), or with the fact that medical technology is a public good?








The report concludes that the choice of economic and social system had a negligible influence in human development across countries.


Socialist and capitalist models implied different health and education policies, as well as different economic policies, and yet well being fared no long term differences.



In other words, despite their initial success as providers of ‘basic needs’, countries that embarked on socialist initiatives failed to sustain momentum and became stagnant and fell behind capitalism countries.



Social systems are not better than capitalistic ones in lifting human well-being.



Uh oh.


Hold on one second.


Before capitalism people start yelling with glee … apparently the report also shows that a capitalistic system is not necessarily better than a socialistic system <if it has no opportunities for easy access to health & education>.



<note: regulated capitalism appears to enhance, and sustain, human development>



Ideologies aside … interestingly, stagnant incomes did not affect real human development achievements. The income dimension plays a much lower role than one would believe with regard to human development.






As Chatham developed its report it noted three different approaches to assessing well being:



–    welfare economics weights the various non-monetary dimensions of quality of life



–     Subjective well-being places life satisfaction at its center



–     Capabilities is well-being dependent on a combination of progress is progress‘functionings’ <what you can do and who you can be> and capabilities <the freedom to choose among alternative bundles of functionings>.



It is within the “capabilities” discussion where we get a true sense of how progress occurs within civilization.



Simplistically … it appears that enlarging people’s choices of enjoying a healthy life, acquiring knowledge and achieving a decent standard of living leads to a heightened sense of well being <even if they do not actually improve their status in Life>.



This means we humans can be quite happy even if we do not move up the social & economic ladder.


More importantly.


This means providing individuals with freedom to choose, opportunities to succeed and opportunities to ‘live lives they have reason to value’ is at the foundation of progress and well being.



Let me explain the capabilities thing <as best I can>.progress  people report


At its core it is an assessment of the ability to pursue and realize goals beyond ‘basic needs.’

These functionings are tied to whatever life people actually lead <achievements> while capabilities <ability to achieve> are connected with the freedom people have in the choice of life or functionings.



Therefore achievements <health, access to knowledge> in and of themselves are less value to well being if they are not tied to freedom to choose functionings.



Overall wellbeing is only attained by balancing human needs <basics> and human development <things that encourage some achievements> and the freedom to pursue any and all aspects of well being.



Here is the danger in assessing wellbeing.



It only assesses progress in tangible aspects <education, health, life expectancy> … important shit … but not the shit that morally makes civilization a better place.


In fact.


I could argue that we could make exponential leaps in ‘well being’ at the expense of moral fortitude.



Progress is not only challenging to measure but in our pursuit of measurement maybe we look at the wrong things.



Progress is not easy and never will be.



We will never be satisfied with our current lot in life always seeking more an better.




immensity of life is hard

“It hasn’t been easy, and it never will be.

After all, every day is also a chance to slide back into the darkness. To live in ourselves and our regrets, instead of this moment. To run away from those that would help us and let self-hatred drive us back into isolation, despair, and destruction.”


Nick Spencer








Suffice it to say progress is a tricky topic.



Many people argue we have regressed on some things and progressed on others … only to have someone take an exact opposite view.



All I know is that some things are timeless. Things like ….



They must have been able to see beyond the walls of the cave, in their minds at least.

The people who lived in these caves who created the beautiful things we see had brains the same size as ours.

They must surely have loved and cared for their children, and found some way of working together, or we would not have survived as a species.





I say all this to suggest that maybe we should assess progress a little differently <on occasion>.



We have always, then & now, had an innate desire to be needed, included and to cooperate within a social structure. we are not hardwired for selfish out- for –ourselves behavior … we actually have to work to be that way <kind of like working to be an actual asshole>..



Therefore, progress is defined more by the group, and the feeling of being part of something larger, than it does something based off the individual <individual success, individual wealth, individual anything>.



Therefore … progress is found in the inherent conflict between restriction and personal liberty and the inherent conflict enjoying pluralism <in the good way> and enjoying individualism.



By the way … this also suggests entrepreneurship is only positive with regard to progress if it benefits the whole … not just the individual.



Regardless … the bottom line is that the Chatham House report suggests that freedom has the highest correlation with well being <the totalitarian experiences and their suppression of individual freedom prevented real achievements in human development>.



We love personal liberty.


We love the notion of personal freedom but truly thrive when limits or responsibilities appear.



Progress is measured not by individual leaps of functions or capabilities but rather by societal well-being.


This is not socialism.


This is acting responsibly with personal freedom.



With that … I circle back to where I began:




Like everyone else, I suppose, I thought of cave dwellers as primitive creatures of subnormal intelligence.

But they couldn’t have been.

They must have been able to see beyond the walls of the cave, in their minds at least.

The people who lived in these caves who created the beautiful things we see had brains the same size as ours.

They must surely have loved and cared for their children, and found some way of working together, or we would not have survived as a species.

And if that was true, maybe I would have to rethink my idea of progress, that Darwinian idea, or at least everyone’s interpretation of it, that we were becoming increasingly advanced and civilized.

What, after all, made us more advanced?

Was it technology?

Perhaps we should be judged not just by the fact we had it, but by the purposes to which it was put.




Progress is not measured by things or ideologies or even successes & achievements … progress is actually measured NOT in movement but rather … well … an unmoving consistency. An unmoving consistency of caring & the intangible soul of what makes humans good.



Progress is solid and timeless.


Progress is protecting & forwarding overall wellbeing … of one and all.

the best things

Progress is having & viewing purpose beyond ourselves.


Progress is …


see beyond the walls of the cave, in their minds at least



create beautiful things



love and care for our children <our youth>



find some way of working together






If we can do these things as well as the cave people … well … that is progress.

national economics, debt & fallacies

June 25th, 2015


economics principles

“When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is.”


Oscar Wilde


“There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”


Milton Friedman









Economics, money, individual needs & wants and public perception … this is a recipe for disaster.




Discussing money on a personal level is uncomfortable at best.


economics types


Discussing money, and deficits & debt, on a country or government level is absurd the majority of the time.



It becomes absurd mostly because the easiest way for everyday schmucks like me to try and understand it is to conceptually think about it on a household level … thinking of a government budget & expenditures kind of a micro level assuming that it translates to the macro level.



This conceptual thinking is not only fraught with peril it is flawed.


And because it is flawed the larger dialogue <mostly driven by politicians> becomes useless and more often misdirected.



Economists try and explain complex dynamics in which it is a discussion sparsely strewn with absolute truths.


And politicians do whatever is needed to gain and stay in power and trot out the simplistic garbage … believing that using the household finance analogy will help overcome the vast difference between a country’s finances and the ordinary voter’s household.



All in all … we get overwhelmed and bamboozled with an inane false narrative under the guise of appealing to our common sense.



It all suggests that leaders & politicians don’t trust us every day schmucks to be smart enough to have a proper discussion about economics in which we can all admit that it’s way more complex than household finance & budget management <with a web of various dynamics consisting of connecting taxes, consumption and borrowing>.
And then I found a very well written article from a guy who understands economics & economies … and how it all works … and explains some of the fallacies to what we are being told by politicians day in and day out <and most of us are buying their bullshit hook, line & sinker>.



I have simply cut & paste the article because I have nothing to add.






some common fallacies about austerity

economy hey look


author: Robert Skidelsky


Propositions in economics are rarely absolutely true or false – what is true in some circumstances may be false in others.

The period since 2008 has produced a plentiful crop of recycled economic fallacies, mostly falling from the lips of political leaders.

Here are my four favourites.


The Swabian Housewife

“One should simply have asked the Swabian housewife,” said German chancellor Angela Merkel after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.

“She would have told us that you cannot live beyond your means.”

This sensible-sounding logic currently underpins austerity.

The problem is that it ignores the effect of the housewife’s thrift on total demand. If all households curbed their expenditures, total consumption would fall, and so, too, would demand for labour. If the housewife’s husband loses his job, the household will be worse off than before.

The general case of this fallacy is the “fallacy of composition”:
what makes sense for each household or company individually does not necessarily add up to the good of the whole. The particular case that John Maynard Keynes identified was the “paradox of thrift”: if everyone tries to save more in bad times, aggregate demand will fall, lowering total savings, because of the decrease in consumption and economic growth.

If the government tries to cut its deficit, households and firms will have to tighten their purse strings, resulting in less total spending. As a result, however much the government cuts its spending, its deficit will barely shrink. And if all countries pursue austerity simultaneously, lower demand for each country’s goods will lead to lower domestic and foreign consumption, leaving all worse off.


The government cannot spend money it does not have:

This fallacy treats governments as if they faced the same budget constraints as households or companies. But governments are not like households or companies.

They can always get the money they need by issuing bonds.

But won’t an increasingly indebted government have to pay ever-higher interest rates, so that debt-service costs eventually consume its entire revenue? The answer is no: the central bank can print enough extra money to hold down the cost of government debt. This is what so-called quantitative easing does.

With near-zero interest rates, most western governments cannot afford not to borrow.

This argument does not hold for a government without its own central bank, in which case it faces exactly the same budget constraint as the oft-cited Swabian housewife. That is why some eurozone member states got into so much trouble until the European Central Bank rescued them.


The national debt is deferred taxation:

According to this oft-repeated fallacy, governments can raise money by issuing bonds, but, because bonds are loans, they will eventually have to be repaid, which can be done only by raising taxes. And, because taxpayers expect this, they will save now to pay their future tax bills. The more the government borrows to pay for its spending today, the more the public saves to pay future taxes, cancelling out any stimulatory effect of the extra borrowing.

The problem with this argument is that governments are rarely faced with having to “pay off” their debts.

They might choose to do so, but mostly they just roll them over by issuing new bonds. The longer the bonds’ maturities, the less frequently governments have to come to the market for new loans.

More important, when there are idle resources (for example, when unemployment is much higher than normal), the spending that results from the government’s borrowing brings these resources into use. The increased government revenue that this generates (plus the decreased spending on the unemployed) pays for the extra borrowing without having to raise taxes.


The national debt is a burden on future generations:

This fallacy is repeated so often that it has entered the collective unconscious.

The argument is that if the current generation spends more than it earns, the next generation will be forced to earn more than it spends to pay for it.
But this ignores the fact that holders of the very same debt will be among the supposedly burdened future generations.

Suppose my children have to pay off the debt to you that I incurred.
They will be worse off.
But you will be better off.
This may be bad for the distribution of wealth and income, because it will enrich the creditor at the expense of the debtor, but there will be no net burden on future generations.

The principle is exactly the same when the holders of the national debt are foreigners (as with Greece), though the political opposition to repayment will be much greater.





what look

Economics is luxuriant with fallacies, because it is not a natural science like physics or chemistry.

Propositions in economics are rarely absolutely true or false.

What is true in some circumstances may be false in others. Above all, the truth of many propositions depends on people’s expectations.

Consider the belief that the more the government borrows, the higher the future tax burden will be. If people act on this belief by saving every extra pound, dollar, or euro that the government puts in their pockets, the extra government spending will have no effect on economic activity, regardless of how many resources are idle. The government must then raise taxes – and the fallacy becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So how are we to distinguish between true and false propositions in economics?

Perhaps the dividing line should be drawn between propositions that hold only if people expect them to be true and those that are true irrespective of beliefs.

The statement, “if we all saved more in a slump, we would all be better off,” is absolutely false. We would all be worse off. But the statement, “the more the government borrows, the more it has to pay for its borrowing,” is sometimes true and sometimes false.

Or perhaps the dividing line should be between propositions that depend on reasonable behavioural assumptions and those that depend on ludicrous ones.

If people saved every extra penny of borrowed money that the government spent, the spending would have no stimulating effect. True. But such people exist only in economists’ models.

The End
======================hope light at end of tunnel



Let me add … government finances are dynamic amorphous beings that live, eat and breathe.



They are most successful when using a combination of austerity and investment.



I always get a little grumpy when a discussion I am having turns to a “we need to do this or that” type solutioning.


Complex dynamic systems need complex dynamic solutions.


We may seek simplicity.


We may suggest we need simplicity.


In the end … only complexity will maintain progress and explain what needs to be done

capitalism made simple

September 1st, 2014

capitalism cynicism






I admit.




This is silly.



But for Labor Day <here in america> I thought I would share something labor-like. Say … capitalism.





Capitalism is so often defined as some machine manufactured assembly line item which in and of itself is a flawed widget.



I imagine the real point of this silliness is that capitalism comes in a variety of flavors.


Each society & culture uses the ‘widget’ in a different way … based on their culture norms, attitudes and ethics.





Therefore behaviorally capitalism comes to Life so many different ways … well … it kind of suggests capitalism isn’t the root of all evil … maybe it is the people who are the ‘root’ of any and all things that happen <whew … there is a philosophical thought that suggests some responsibility … huh>?>






Here is the silliness <with a tint of truth>:





 growing up sucks Grownup-Snoopy

You have two cows.

You sell one and buy a bull.

Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows.

You sell them and retire on the income.







You have two cows.

You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows.

The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company.
The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more.

Sell one cow to buy a new president of the United States, leaving you with nine cows.

No balance sheet provided with the release. The public buys your bull.






You have two cows.

You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows.

You are surprised when the cow drops dead.



You have two cows.

You go on strike because you want three cows.






You have two cows.

You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk.

You then create clever cow cartoon images called Cowkimon and market them World-Wide <and make gobs of money with the cow product line extensions>.





You have two cows.

You re-engineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk themselves.


toddler feeding a cow



You have two cows.

Both are mad.





You have two cows, but you don’t know where they are.


You break for lunch.





You have two cows.

You count them and learn you have five cows.

You count them again and learn you have 42 cows.

You count them again and learn you have 12 cows.

You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.





You have 5000 cows, none of which belong to you.

You charge others for storing them.




You have two cows.

You have 300 people milking them.

You claim full employment, high bovine productivity, and arrest the newsman who reported the numbers.




You have two cows.

You worship them.





You have two cows.


One is milked using highly inefficient methods using underage <not to mention underpaid!> labor. The milking process is done by 100 people, 2 of which does the actual milking while 98 are consultants from some overpriced global consultant.


The milk is sold to two companies owned by your sons and daughters at slightly above cost, who exports them to Singapore at triple the price. The milk is then refined in Saudi Arabia, and then re-exported back to Indonesia under a foreign brand name and sold to regular customers at an even higher price.
The other cow?

Gone with the flood.



Cary Town Council - Wellness Morons




I thought it was funny.




Whether you rant about capitalism or not … it is everywhere in some form or fashion.




And while we like to paint ‘capitalism’ as some black & white evil economic machine … it is colored by each culture that works within its construct.

discussing capitalism and habits

April 16th, 2014


 capitalism anarchism





Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief … which will you be today?”


I am going to attempt to discuss capitalism objectively.

I will admit … I am getting better at doing so mostly because so many young people question me on the benefits <as well as the seemingly endless array of drawbacks>


Communists view capitalism the most cynically.



“Capitalists are no more capable of self-sacrifice than a man is capable of lifting himself up by his own bootstraps.”

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin



Schumpeter viewed capitalism with a practical and realistic eye.



“There exists a parallel between education and the scale of moral values in the intellectual sectors and the administrative or bureaucratic sectors against the values and technical criteria of the economic system as it operates.”

Joseph Schumpeter






I am not sure there is a more polarizing or oft-discussed issue in today’s world than Capitalism … its merits and its flaws and its effect on society & culture.


Capitalism seems to get wrapped up in right versus wrong and morals and greed and a bunch of other things.

I have said it before … and will say it until the day I die … capitalism is simply a system in which people work and think and behave.

It may encourage some things … and discourage some others … but in the end … it is a system in which people make choices.


That said.


Stephen Covey’s <author of ‘7 habits of highly effective people’> relatively recent death made me think about business and capitalism.


I admit I originally wasn’t a big fan of Covey and thought “7 habits of highly effective People” not only a vapid read but the kind of tripe that encouraged non-effective people to think they were effective simply because they ‘implemented’ what effective people seemed to do <rather than make their behavior extensions of their general being>.


capitalism personal gain integrityBut I also admit that i believe almost any business book with regard to ‘what makes people successful’ tripe and relatively useless in the scheme of things <in that people tend to use them as a ‘how to be successful’ rather than thought pieces>.

So … this was nothing against Covey in particular.





In hindsight I think I missed the real point of the book (and Covey).


I read the book as “a things to do” primer.


By the way … my fear is the bulk of readers did as I did.


My point?


I should have taken note that he really was arguing less about discipline but more about characteristics of personal character and purpose <beyond dollars and cents>.


He was adamant that employees were not merely pistons in a machine … powered and oiled to efficiency through rewards and punishments but rather employees were people. And even better … individual people <not flocks of sheep>.


I should have taken note that he drew inspiration from researching the past. He read almost 200 years of “success literature “.  He discovered that for almost 150 years the most common theme in American business leadership literature was character.

And that it was only after the Second World War it switched to touting superficial qualities such as appearance and style.


I should have taken note when he added an 8th habit … “find your voice and inspire others to find theirs.”


I believe in hindsight I should have taken note of much he discussed … that I didn’t.


I believe in hindsight I should have taken note of his steadfast belief in character above all else.



The Economist wrote this about him: “… he tried to rescue the notion of character from both the simple minded purveyors of self-help (who imply that you can change your character as easily as your underpants) and the social service establishment (which ignore questions of character by blaming everything on the system).”capitalism kills culture



And maybe what I wish the Economist writer had noted … is that it seems like we have become a working society of “how to” lists.


How to get things done.


How to be a better person.


How to be happy.


How to be a good leader.


Even … how to be effective.



And I wish Covey were still alive because once he saw how we have become a ‘how to’ society <rather than one which learns how to on their own> I tend to believe he may have just gone back and written a new book called “oops, 7 equals zero if you don’t understand the notion of character.”


In my pea like brain I see the issue as this.


Today’s business world has become a person silo business issue.





Silo one- I am a person of character.


Silo two – I am a person who can drive profit.



And both silos are in one business person.


And what this means is exactly how we get these crazy cause related business issues.


What I mean is that the profit person is in one room and then goes to another room and says “well, let’s do something good.” And good is just something else you check off your list so that your character person can pat itself on the back and say “yup, I do have character.”


Do I know how to solve it?



I know I do not believe Lenin ‘Capitalists are no more capable of self-sacrifice than a man is capable of lifting himself up by his own bootstraps’ because while I do agree that no one can lift themselves up by their own bootstraps I don’t agree that capitalists are not capable of self-sacrifice.


I also know that I wish I could send an email to Stephen Covey or even Peter Drucker.

They would know what to do and what to say.


Maybe they could address the natural challenges capitalism offers to businesses and business people … that, in general, it is system that is not needs based but rather profit based.


capitalism self sacrificeAnd that translate into despite the fact we have huge needs that don’t get filled our business world seems to remain mostly all about the profit.


Capitalism … at its worst … focuses money, profit and success on the already successful.

It doesn’t oppress the poor … it simply ignores the poor as the rich get richer.


Historically speaking this bears out.


Corporations used to be ‘collective’ enterprises … for the people and the people’s people <society>.


Well into the 1970’s companies still defined themselves in terms of products/services offered and overall contribution to society. It was beginning in the 1980’s when finance capitalism drove vision and shareholders profits to become the ultimate objective <trumping even quality of offerings>.


Raakesh khurana <Harvard> stated at a business roundtable in 1990:


“Corporations are chartered to serve both their shareholders and society as a whole.”



But then in 1997 he denied responsibility beyond that of the shareholders.


“The notion that the board must balance the responsibility to stakeholders other than shareholders fundamentally misconstrues the role of directors… “



I am not picking on him … he was simply reflecting upon the current status of the business world.


What this really means is that companies … and people in companies … focused on the mere aggregation of financial assets.



This also means business simply stressed every man for himself.


And CEOs have certainly thought of themselves.

Between 1965 and 2000 the ratio of CEO pay to the typical worker expanded from 24:1 to 300:1.

Maybe more concerning is the spread increased significantly between the CEO and the 3rd in command.


CEO’s, due to income alone, became isolated from the real worker as well as the real world.

They started living in their own bubble <or some version of a business hell>.


By the way … this aggregation of financial assets also means management became inherently more short term focused … and ended up rejecting slow thoughtful methods of decision making and became enamored with gut & instinct.


An outcome of this trend?


Leaders became charismatic … not thought leaders.

They became more inspirational … and less rational.



capitalism cynicismIn the end I will state the obvious … the pursuit of wealth … or profit … for its own sake suggests a lack of morality.


And I will also state the obvious … pursuit of wealth and profit is a complex formula.


It is very <too easily I may add> to make it an “I” issue.


As in ‘person decision’ which inevitably leads to some random ‘psychopathic’ type discussions … but it really isn’t.


It is a societal and cultural multi-dimensional issue … as in … ‘I do some things because external factors either encourage or demand it <in business and every day Life>’.


My last comment on this part about capitalism is that any crisis we may believe we have with regard to capitalism is first and foremost a crisis <or some derivative of crisis> of character.


And that is why I thought of Covey.


Effectiveness and ‘greatness’ in leadership begins … and ends … with character.


Despite what some boardrooms suggest … and some ‘results based’ ideology … profits do not measure true effectiveness.





I will close with something David Simon <producer of The Wire> said very well about capitalism:


Mistaking capitalism for a blueprint as to how to build a society strikes me as a really dangerous idea in a bad way. Capitalism is a remarkable engine again for producing wealth. It’s a great tool to have in your toolbox if you’re trying to build a society and have that society advance. You wouldn’t want to go forward at this point without it. But it’s not a blueprint for how to build the just society. There are other metrics besides that quarterly profit report.


The idea that the market will solve such things as environmental concerns, as capitalism and poor but moneyour racial divides, as our class distinctions, our problems with educating and incorporating one generation of workers into the economy after the other when that economy is changing; the idea that the market is going to heed all of the human concerns and still maximise profit is juvenile.”




…. the idea that the market is going to heed all of the human concerns and still maximise profit is juvenile.



Rationalizing what is happening in today’s society is a natural tendency.

And it is much much easier to focus on ‘capitalism’ rather than suggesting any dysfunction as effects of modern society: over-stimulation, consumerism, something in the water, the kids today, or too much television <despite the fact we often do>.


But …. I find it difficult to believe there was ever a time … within any economic system … when people weren’t constantly running afoul of their own basic human traits.


What do I mean?


We tend to rationalize the pursuit of our own drives. We always have and always will.


We tend to … well … denounce, condemn, criticize, censure, attack, rail against, lambast, vilify, revile <pick whatever word you would like> other people for pursuing theirs if theirs happens to oppose ours.


All this natural conflict of … well … our ‘humanness’ leads to general unhappiness with ‘the system.’


But before we start wagging our finger at capitalism as if it has been a naughty little boy … we should be looking in the mirror.

We should be examining our character.




So I close this brief discussion on capitalism with words from a USA State of the Union address:



“… wheel of progress – to create and build and expand the possibilities of individual achievement; to free other nations from tyranny and fear; to promote justice, and fairness, and equality under the law, so that the words set to paper by our founders are made real for every citizen. The America we want for our kids – a rising America where honest work is plentiful and communities are strong; where prosperity is widely shared and opportunity for all lets us go as far as our dreams and toil will take us – none of it is easy.”



Sometimes we take things for granted.

character stood up best

We certainly take capitalism for granted … and when things don’t go well we lash out in a seemingly indiscriminate fashion.


We look at big things as little things we deserve.


We see what others have and expect that we should have it also.


That isn’t capitalism’s fault … that is our <people’s> fault.


Honest work.



That takes character.


There is something to consider.

Enlightened Conflict