Enlightened Conflict

balanced versus proportional

June 7th, 2017

balance proportion life business things

 

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“You cannot live without establishing an equilibrium between the inner and outer.”

 

—–

Paul Auster

 

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“I used to think of you that way, you know. Like the sun. My own personal sun. You balanced out the clouds nicely for me.”

 

He sighed.

“The clouds I can handle. But I can’t fight with an eclipse.”

 

 

Jacob

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“The idea that talent is directly proportional to your trophy cabinet is one I oppose.”

 

—-

Alex Turner

 

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Ok.

 

balance elephantI have been extremely consistent over the years with regard to my belief that I think balance is the key to almost any successful endeavor – in life & in business.

 

Suffice it to say … I am a big balance person.

 

And, yet, the other day during a business discussion it occurred to me that I may not be using the right word or even have the concept correct.

 

I may actually be a ‘proportional’ advocate.

 

Business, more often than not, is about assessing the correct proportional value of a topic, fact or idea and assigning the correct proportional response to that value.

 

Sure.

 

That may inevitably arrive at something we could call “a balanced response” but to get to the so-called balance we need to think about proportions.

 

I imagine, in my head, this means I need to stop viewing things as a zero sum balance but rather as proportional to the situation in hand.

balance and proportion graph

 

I did some research and back in 1975 a guy named Piaget described the essential characteristic of proportional reasoning as it must involve a “relationship between two relationships.”

 

Now.

 

I am not really sure what that means but I am guessing it means that proportional assumes some dimensional aspects while balance is simply a relationship between two more concrete things.

 

He also suggested that proportional involves something called “additive reasoning” which, to me, explained my misrepresentation of balance.

 

Balance suggests an either/or trade off … something like teetering on a balance beam … proportional suggests a more spatial trade off … or maybe ratio based trade off. What I mean by that is I can add one thing as part of a compromise and its true value is a zillion and give up one thing as part of the same compromise and its true value is 1/10th of a zillion.

 

I balanced my response but gained a proportional advantage.

 

There is even something called ‘the constant of proportionality’ but that becomes too complicated for my pea like brain so I will let you google it and see if you can explain it.

 

balance wheel of life proportionateI imagine my real point is that most of us, most likely, are proportional thinkers and not balance thinkers <although we say we are balanced>.

 

More often than not we invariably assess things through assimilation and the synthesis of multiple things <numbers, ratios, tangible, intangible, and … yes … even missing information & components>. Our decisions are a messy mix of analyzing a series of unequal and equal things shaping them into the proper proportions to make a … well … proportional response.

 

All that said.

 

Here was the bigger epiphany to me.

 

While balanced may be the improper term the more I focus on it the higher the likelihood I would actually end up doing the wrong things.

Huh?

If you focus on balance you will inevitably try and force equality in all things. That may sound good but it ain’t really reality. Simplistically it means you are focused on the wrong outcome & objective.

 

Instead, if you focus on the best proportional response to every situation, you may not end up with a one-to-one balanced relationship on any one comparison you review <which creates issues in its own right> but you will end up with a balanced relationship on any given series of comparisons.

 

That last paragraph may actually showcase why most people focus on balance. In a simplistic measurement business world we are almost always demanded to show one-to-one or linear explanations.

 

Balance does that.

 

Proportion does not.

 

This means to embrace being proportional means you will have to accept the burden of explaining the more difficult to explain, to showcase asymmetrical as actually being simple and dimensional can actually reflect symmetry.

 

Nothing in what I just shared in that last paragraph is easy. Particularly in thoughtful rabbit idea quick slowtoday’s business world.

 

All I really know is that whether I like it or not I am actually a proportion person and not a balance person.

 

It only took me over 25 years in business to figure that out <no one has ever suggested I am a quick learner>.

 

Think about it. You may actually be a proportional person too.

where Obama administration never got enough credit (a business perspective)

March 29th, 2017

 

balance strategy results business

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“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

 

Harry Potter Chamber of Secrets

 

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“Little by little, a little becomes a lot.”

 

Tanzanian proverb

 

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Ok.

 

product of my decisions circumstancesBusiness is always about choices.

Mostly hard and difficult choices.

 

Of course … a business leader can make some easy choices and avoid the more difficult ones.

Simplistically, the novice business leaders see a prize and set about attempting to attain that prize.

Let’s call that ‘tunnel vision objectives’.

 

Frankly, if that represented the best of the best in terms of leadership … running a business would be fairly easy and almost anyone could run & manage a business.

 

But. That’s not reality. That’s not really the way it works. Rarely are things as simple as they appear and even more rarely is something a simple cause & affect, do this and get that, without any unintended consequences.

 

I thought about this as I watch the Trump administration take some fairly extreme steps to <as Ted Cruz seems to have patented> “take the boot off the necks of businesses.”

The Trump administration is bringing a sledgehammer to business regulations.

 

I have actually have little doubt that the measures the moral-less Trumplestiltskins will actually make the American economy grow more easily sledge-hammer-maze-business-get-shit-doneand possibly even create some higher growth than we have been enjoying.

 

But, that is easy.

 

That is something a beginner would do because it is obvious and, if your only goal was to show “wins & results” that is what you would do.

 

The more difficult thing is to create a menu of objectives, balance them all out as important, and set about a plan of action to attain them in which you remained positive on almost all fronts and accept the fact you will sacrifice some ‘higher highs’ on some items on the menu for positives on all fronts.

This business management choice is more difficult because anyone with half a brain could pull out one thing on the menu and point out how it could be done better and be doing better.

 

Shit.

I did that crap when I was in my 20’s. It is a cheap way of scoring points and showing you can drive some specific results.

 

And it is on this greater point where I believe the Obama administration doesn’t get enough business credit.

I will not argue they didn’t overreach on some regulations and some initiatives … because I believe they did. And, yet, even with the overreach, which obviously constricted business & economic growth, they still left the reins loose enough for the business & economy to grow at a quasi-healthy rate.

 

Could someone suggest it was an “anemic healthy” rate? Sure. That is if you viewed it by ignoring any restrictions and any other objectives and any other priorities they outlined. And if you did that I would argue you were either lazy or self-serving.

 

The Obama administration demanded business growth and yet demanded a gartner long termlonger term action plan to accommodate the environment, climate, immoral business practices and, in general, a variety of activities which girded the economy and the country for the long term.

 

The economy did grow. Unemployment did decrease. Wages did slowly increase.

And at exactly the same time regulations were put in place to steer desired long term behavior.

 

Basically … from a business perspective … the Obama administration managed to figure out how to meet short and long term objectives at exactly the same time.

Were they perfect? Of course not.

Could they have managed the balance differently? Sure.

Did they balance it well enough? Yeah. the results prove it out.

 

In business we always need to strike a balance between doing what is best for our business and doing what customers want and doing what our customers need … and all within short term needs and long term demands.

 

And, yes, customers are more empowered today than ever before but as a business leader you view what the customer wants through a lens of “what is best for the business itself.”

 

The Obama administration appeared to balance what the customer wanted, and needed, with what the country <the business> needed & wanted.

 

Not to get into business management weeds but this shows an ability to assess the greater opportunity cost for all things considered in attaining all objectives. What this does, when you do it well, is to insure you view the ‘easy’ choice you are sure to assess how fast the ‘costs’ accrue against all objectives <not just on the choice itself>.

A good business person always assesses the overall impact on your business with every choice.

 

Ultimately, it is a balancing act to insure everything you do should produce value for your business and for customers.  This is not easy and it doesn’t beget a shitload of easy decisions. But it does make for balanced strategies and balanced tactical executions.

 

I do not see any of this with the Trump administration.

A good business person wouldn’t bring a sledgehammer to existing rules, regulations and initiatives but rather a scalpel – and surgically assess and slice out specific items which would increase the overall flow of the lifeblood of the economy <without killing the body>.

 

But, apparently there are no good business people in this new administration <despite what Trump says about himself>.

 

Look.

 

You can argue with the objectives the Obama administration prioritized and spock live longyou can argue over any specific priority <or depriotization> but given the objectives & priorities they selected … they attained what almost any business leader would kill for – a win on almost everything.

 

In a world in which we almost demand singular focus the administration said “no” <philosophically I agree with that mentality> and developed multiple objectives and managed them all relatively equally.

 

All I really know is that the Obama administration most likely did not get enough credit business & economy-wise.

 

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

February 10th, 2017

Polar Opposites conflict

 

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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

 

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Well.

 

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>.

And.

 

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.

 

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“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

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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.

 

Oh.

 

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.

 

Lastly.

 

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.

 

Look.

 

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.

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

Thomas Jefferson

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wearable technology and everyday schmucks

October 28th, 2016

A19D55 COMPUTER CIRCUIT BOARD WITH BINARY CODE

 

 

“… technology companies want us to think that by engaging in self-monitoring and self-care practices using wearable wireless technologies we will be empowered to “take control” of our health.

“These apps and devices also sometimes ‘push’ or coerce us into using such technologies in the interests of other actors and agencies”, raising questions about their potential for “economic and social discrimination”.

 

—-

Deborah Lupton, a sociologist who has made a critical study of the digihealth market.

 

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Well.

 

strategy think anger angry business ideas filterI am not a sociologist and I am not a wearable technology expert.

 

And, yet, for some reason I find myself in another discussion where I have been asked about some futuristic type stuff including:

 

What do I think will be the future of healthcare?

 

What do I think about artificial intelligence and the workplace?

 

What do I think about tomorrow’s business organizational model?

 

What do I think about 3D printing and its effect on manufacturing?

 

What do I think about Wall Street and the overall financial industry

 

What do I think about globalization and its effect on individual country’s business ,and jobs>

 

What do I think about the young <in business, in education, in critical thinking>?

 

And.

 

Now … what do I think about wearable technology.

 

Let me be clear.

 

At best … I am 50% right on thinking thru innovations success <maybe the last I got right was the double edged razor>.

At best … I am 50% right on thinking thru the future of entire industries.

 

But … that doesn’t mean I do not have an opinion … and I do know some things about people’s behavior and what they like and dislike <from a usage standpoint> … so here goes on wearable technology.

 

I read somewhere that 2014 was greeted as ‘the Year of the Wearable.’

 

Well.

 

That’s a little over-the-top nuts to me.

 

As most over-the-top futuristic type things are … someone has decided to make some over-the-top claim about an innovation and the future of “the next hot thing” <which is most likely tepid at best>.

 

I think wearable technology is going to have some major complications as it tries to become integral into people’s lives.

 

Why?

 

Well.

 

As people try to cram more and more stuff into whatever they are already doing and what they want to do there will be two main decision criteria for anything trying to work its way in to someone’s routine:change-people-technology

 

  • Lubrication:

 

We all have gobs of things to do and a to-do list longer than time available. In most cases we are not seeking to add things but are more than happy to utilize techniques & tools which make what we have to do get done more efficiently.

That’s Life lubrication.

 

If someone or something can convince me that buying it & using it will lubricate everything I already have on my plate … well … they can have my money.

 

And if it actually DOES lubricate? Well. They will continue to not only get my money but I will use the product/service on an ongoing basis because it … well … has shown value.

 

Everyone should note that the link between purchase & proof of value is tenuous between innovations and people/users which is why many them look good in trial but die overtime.

 

I will admit … for the life of me I cannot figure out why futurists or the blowhards who espouse ‘year of anything’ with regard to an innovation ignore this.

 

<on a separate note: that’s why I believe smartphone telehealth is the next generation of general practitioner medicine … it lubricates Life on a valuable consumer need>

 

 

  • Enhancement:

 

Sticking with my to-do list or stuff I do daily <regularly> … if something can

improve, maybe make more effective, something I am already doing … it is an ‘enhancer.’ In most cases we are always looking to subtract something if we can add something better. Or even better … enhance something we are already doing that we like <better because that incorporates less change in our Life and it suggests what we are already doing was smart>.

That’s Life enhancement.

 

If someone or something can convince me that buying or using it will enhance my life, make it better or more enjoyable or ‘fuller’ on an ongoing basis … well … they can have my money.

 

And if it actually DOES enhance? Well. They will continue to not only get my money but I will use the product/service on an ongoing basis because it … well … has shown value.

 

All that is kind of basic but for some reason gets overlooked.

 

That said.

 

Wearables, for the most part, neither lubricates our life nor enhances it … they simply educate us on how effective, or ineffective, or how efficient, or inefficient, we are already managing our Life.

 

It simply adds shit to what we are already doing and … well … adds work.

 

It simply provides information.

 

Good information? Sure.

 

But all it will either do is piss me off or show me what else I need to be doing.

 

Look.

 

I have more than enough things, and access to a zillion things, which will tell me what I am doing wrong or what I could be doing better … and all for less than $300.

 

If wearable technology would actually change shit without me having to do shit <kind of like a morphine drip without the morphine> then maybe it would meet lubricate/enhance criteria.

 

At the moment all wearable technology does is highlight the eliteness of the super fit and the rest of us every day non super fit schmucks.

 

They are certainly cool … but in today’s world ‘cool’ doesn’t get you too far in the marketplace. It can gain you a business niche but if the cool doesn’t Life lubricate or Life enhance … it will gain nothing more than a niche.

 

By the way.

In the business world a niche model can be quite lucrative.

 

Anyway.

 

I hesitate to jump on board the ‘digital wearable technology revolution.”

At least from a mainstream consumer choice perspective.

 

Now.

 

Let’s take a minute on corporate wellness or health or maybe … the “digitally health and fitness continuumengaged patient.”

 

Let’s say wearers can earn discounts of as much as 15% on their health insurance premiums. Well. That sounds appealing … and not just to me … 70% of consumers surveyed by PwC said they would wear a device to reduce payments.

 

Let’s say that wearable applications become more practical as both hardware and software develop where the devices can measure temperature and blood chemistry which would permit doctors to monitor patients from afar. Well. That sounds appealing … and not just for me … doctors love the idea and for people with chronic illness it could be life-saving or at least life-changing.

 

Let’s say wearable devices, which could include a smartphone that can measure blood-oxygen and blood-glucose levels <key if you’re diabetic>. Well. That sounds appealing.

 

Let’s say that a wearable device can monitor your ECG linked to an app that can tell when you’re running low on heart medication and need to order up a repeat prescription. Well. That sounds appealing.

 

Some of these devices are already on the market or coming soon via private health providers. And some people envision a time not in the not-so-distant future when physical activity and vital sign data will be collected seamlessly from devices planted on or in our bodies without our having to do anything mobile-technology-phones-antennamuch at all. Well. That sounds REALLY appealing from a lubrication and enhancement viewpoint.

 

Fitbit, and other wearables, don’t really seem that viable to me, however, they do appear to be on the leading edge of what will be valuable to us.

 

 

 

I imagine that if you have some extra money to waste or you are one of the superfit obsessed with maximizing every little edge out of your body then a wearable is well worth pursuing.

 

But for us every day schmucks who are comfortable getting what little we can out of our bodies when we do choose to do some exercise or like to take it easy on Sundays in front of a TV watching other people exercise … well … my wearable is much more likely to be a ‘cold one’ in my hand then some $300 wearable on my wrist.

 

finding a better version of capitalism

May 28th, 2016

 capitalism conspiracy elite

 

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

 

Jonathon Franzen

 

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 “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

 

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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.

 

Ok.

 

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>.

 

Anyway.

 

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>.

 

Anyway.

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.

 

But.

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>

 

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“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

 

Me?

 

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.

Enlightened Conflict