Communism, Socialism, Capitalism, And Me

I have an ongoing conversation going on with a couple of people about Capitalism versus Socialism. I feel compelled to discuss this a bit in this venue. I always think it is important to define terms when discussing a topic that is controversial, especially in the Portland/Vancouver area where small business is greatly appreciated but big business is not. As Robert D. Johnston discusses in his book “The Radical Middle Class: Populist Democracy and the Question of Capitalism in Progressive Era Portland, OR” there is a difference between Petit Bourgeois and the Haut Bourgeois, but that will be a discussion for a later date. First, let’s define terms.

Investopedia defines Capitalism as “an economic system in which capital goods are owned by private individuals or business partners. The purest form of capitalism is free market or laissez-faire capitalism, in which private individuals are free to determine where to invest, what to produce or sell, and which prices to exchange goods and services.” Seems like a good definition to me, but I’d like to review a couple of other perspectives.

The World Socialist Movement (WSM) gives an expanded definition of Capitalism describing it as a social system. “Capitalism is the social system which now exists in all countries of the world. Under this system, the means of production and distributing goods are owned by a small minority of people. We refer to this group of people as the capitalist class.” WSM argues the motive for producing goods and services is to sell them for a profit, not to satisfy people’s needs.

Whether we see Capitalism as an economic system or a social system, or both, the fact is that the strength of Capitalism is its focus on private ownership of the means of production, and its weakness is the inability to distribute the profit in an equitable manner.

The second term to define is Communism. I would equate Communism as the extreme opposite of Capitalism. According to the Britannica Communism is “the political and economic doctrine that says to replace private property and a profit-based economy with public ownership and communal control of at least the major means of production and the natural resources of a society.” According to the Britannica Communism is a higher and more advanced form of Socialism. Marx tended to use the terms synonymously.

The Library of Economics and Liberty states, “Before the Russian Revolution of 1917, socialism and communism were synonyms. Both referred to economic systems in which the government owned the means of production.

According to the Catholic American Thinker, “Communism is the strictly theoretical system imagined by Karl Marx in which all of society, all of economics and all politics are combined into one, perfect, classless, automatic, government-less system based on common ownership of all economic means of production, and social sameness.” The authors go on to say that Marxist theory proposes that the only way this can happen is through a violent revolutionary defeat of the Bourgeoisie. This will occur, according to Marx, after a “preparatory stage of Socialism alternatively called the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.” Some would argue that true Communism has never existed, and all previous Communist expressions are just Socialism in practice.

The final term to be defined is Socialism. According to Britannica Socialism is a “social and economic doctrine that calls for public rather than private ownership or control of property and natural resources.” Because none of us live/work in isolation, according to its proponents, Socialism is the right social system to adhere to. “Furthermore everything that people produce is in some sense a social product, and everyone who contributes to the production of a good is entitled to share in it. Society as a whole, therefore, should own or at least control property for the benefits of all of its members.”

Ok, I think we now have our terms defined. I recognize there are many variations in between these examples. Now we come to the part where I talk about me. What do I think about these things? Knowing that my grand parents escaped from Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution tells me that they recognized the Dictatorship of the Proletariat was not something they wanted to partake in, so knowing how hard my grandfather worked to become a successful businessman I have to question the validity of what was to become Communism is Russia.

Also, the usual examples of Denmark and Sweden are given as exemplars of a successful socialist economy. However, when one looks at the economy of these countries they are actually a middle road between Socialism and Capitalism. In fact, none of the Scandinavian countries have created centrally planned economies where the people, or government, own the means of production. But, Denmark and Sweden, and the others, consider equality an important part of the economic puzzle.

Denmark has a population of 5.614 million, and the United States has a population of 320 million. The GDP of the United States is $17.9 Trillion and Denmark’s is $342 Billion. GDP growth is 2.43% for the US and 1.18% for Denmark.

Denmark is known as the happiest country on earth, and recognized by Bernie Sanders and Joseph Stiglitz, an Economist, as a “model of equality and social welfare that the U.S. should follow.” Denmark taxes all of its citizens much higher than what we are taxed; The total tax revenues in Denmark represents 49% of its GDP, with the United States at 25.4%, with a top tax rate of 56% compared to 39.6% in the United States; which is how the Denmark government pays for its wonderful social safety nets.

However, things are changing in the Scandinavian countries. The Social Democrats were kicked out of office in June of 2105, there is growing inequality, and people are not feeling as connected as they once were. Even the NY Times, in 2015, raised the question can the United States be more like Denmark? The conclusion, we could but it would take all of us paying more taxes, not just the wealthy. Also, if we wanted to go in this direction we would need raise our sales tax to be similar to the 25% value added tax charged in Denmark.

Here in the US we talk about affordable housing, but in Denmark housing is more expensive. Education in Denmark is free, but there is no choice between public and private institutions. Nor are Denmark students free to study what they want. Peter Baldwin states, “and how hard it is for high school graduates to study the subject of their choice depends on whether the Ministry of Education thinks the country needs more graduates in that field.” There is not freedom of choice within your education, but government controlled.

So the well-meaning Facebook posts that compare Denmark to the United States don’t quite tell the whole story. However, the question now is what do I think? I think we can do better than Scandinavian countries.

First, instead of using labels like Socialism and Capitalism, let’s figure out a meaningful middle way. I am not too sure the progressives or conservatives are able to accomplish that. Second, instead of denigrating our market system, create educational opportunities for people to better compete within the market. I am positive that business would pay a tax to provide vocational training for future workers. Millions of jobs go unfilled each year because there are no skilled workers available. Third, quit equating the free market with large corporate excesses; many small businesses suffer due to regulations focused on big business. Fourth, reform the tax system. Instead of trying to piecemeal change, do a complete redesign. Fifth, create citizen watchdog groups to monitor and control inefficient government spending. On and on I could go. However, business also needs to do something to change the public’s mind about it.

Harvard Business Review published an article in 2011 titled “Capitalism For the Long Term” in which the author, Dominic Barton, argued for three changes to Capitalism in the United States that must occur. First, don’t give in to the tyranny of short-termism. A recent survey has indicated the 55% of people do not trust business. In fact, in the latest rendition of The Magnificent Seven an evil businessman is the antagonist. Business must focus its action on the long-term rather than short-term profits. This assumes better care for the workforce, better stewardship of the planet, etc.

Second, serve stakeholders, enrich shareholders, in other words, by serving stakeholders, anyone who has a stake in the company (including employees, the community, customers) there will be a return to the business owners. Third, act like you own the place. In other words, business ownership must be focused on running a long-term business, not just getting what we can get and moving on.

The United States has its problems, and instead of looking at Europe or Scandinavia for solutions, let’s work together and figure out our own middle road. Instead of inefficient bickering it is time to stop wasting time and money spending to cover up our problems, it is time to create new solutions, and if we need to pay more taxes so be it, but time is awasting.

And that is my thought for the day!

Who Am I?

Once upon a time, there was a young man born in Alliance, Nebraska. He spent the first few years of his life in the Chicago area, but around 1959 his family moved to Southern California. He spent his formative years in the South Bay area, spending a lot of time on the beach. Eventually he would grow his hair long, wear round glasses, smoke pot, inhaling, and basically party.

When it came to economics, politics, and social issues, he was quite naïve. His parents were registered Democrats, but when his father would drink, he would call his son a Communist. This young man’s early adult life out of high school began with one year of college, but eventually dropping out and going to work. This young man would tell people he just wanted to have fun.

Eventually, he would marry and move his family to Huntington Beach, California, start a business, close down the business, and go to work as an Inspector, which would eventually lead to a job in the Pacific Northwest, back to college, where he earned a Certificate in Supervisory/Management, Associates in the Arts, BS in Business Administration, MBA, and finally a PhD.

During these young adult years, he would get saved, change careers, Pastor a Church, divorce, remarry, and eventually settle into two great careers, one as a manager and the other a professor. During this time, this now older man developed his philosophy/worldview that influences his decisions in life. He is now a senior citizen, and is reflecting on the world around him. He does not want to become his Dad standing on the front porch, calling people Communists.

What has this man reflecting in this manner? It began when he heard a speech where the speaker stated that as an academic institution “we do not want to just prepare our students to be middle class.” This is what got this older man to begin thinking about the purpose of education.

An additional current event that has this man thinking about life is the racial debate in this country. Words like colonization, racism, and white supremacy are part of our national dialog. This older man now is thinking about what does one do in light of the current review of history.

Lastly, the political situation has been an event that has initiated hours of thought into what this older man believes. Bernie, Hillary, Johnson, Stein, or Trump? Where does one throw one’s support, and what is best for the United States of America.

All of this, at least according to this man must be filtered through the lens of faith. How does his faith, as a Christian, influence his choices? There you have the reflections of an old man who cares.

What constitutes middle class? We hear this term being thrown around. Sometimes it is a pejorative. Other use the words petite bourgeoisie, or lower middle class. Karl Marx used the phrase to describe a transitional class. Others would describe it as a “social class comprising of semi-autonomous peasantry and small scale merchants,” who in contrast to the haute bourgeoisie, or high bourgeoisie, those of the upper middle class which own “cultural and financial capital.” Today we don’t use the term bourgeois; we say upper middle class and lower middle class.

The man who is reflecting on this subject is solidly middle class. He has had wonderful opportunities, and is very thankful for those privileges, but is working hard, earning enough money to living comfortable, a bad thing? This is discussion usually occurs in juxtaposition with those in poverty. It is now accompanied with words like privilege, colonization, racism, and other inflammatory language. However, this discussion always includes a slam associated with the excesses of Capitalism, or the free market.

As the older gentleman in question reflects on this discussion, he has read how even certain economists have decided not to use the word Capitalism anymore. The reasoning involves the level of disdain associated with Capitalism and business in general. This gentleman we are discussing has asked individuals why they are so against Capitalism, the answer always focuses on the excesses of corporations and the exploitation of the worker. However, these same individuals usually have no qualms with asking a rich person for money for their cause. So it seems to our protagonist, that the issue is not with the economic system, but the application of the system.

It is so easy to focus on the excesses of large organizations, because their systems are so large that mistakes can be easily made. Also, when there is so much money and power involved evil lurks just around the corner. As the Apostle Paul tells us “the love of money is the root of all evil.”

However, we must remember that the metaphor of Joe the Plumber from 2008 represents the fact the organizations with 500 employees or less produce 46% of private economic output. This equates to about $7.82 Trillion. Small to midsize businesses also supply 33% “of the value of U.S. exports” according to Nitin Nohria in today’s WSJ.

In 2011 the National Bureau of Economic Research published a paper. “Erik Hurst and Benjamin Wild Pugsley of the University of Chicago found that most of the people running these companies are content to stay small and continue offering the same kinds of products or services as competitors.” Most small business owners just want to make a good living as petite bourgeoisie. Even the majority of haut bourgeoisie just want to have a good career and make enough money to live well.

So why is there some many people angry with our economic system that even economists would not use a term that people see as inflammatory? This is what our gentleman is question has been thinking about.

What do people want out of life? According to the Huffington post they want happiness, money, freedom, peace, joy, balance, fulfillment, confidence, stability, and passion. According to clinical studies people want love, health, high paying jobs, looking better, losing weight, learning new things, living longer with families, being safe, being comfortable, and enjoying pleasure.

It seems like all of us want to same thing. So the question then becomes how do we make it more accessible to those with less opportunity? This is the greatest complaint against Capitalism. And as we all know Capitalism is a great system for creating wealth, but not for distributing it. Thus, it seems like, as a Democracy, we could figure out how to better handle our immense wealth.

Often in this modern age Adam Smith is discussed in derogatory ways as the father of Capitalism. However, the man that described the invisible hand:
The rich consume little more than the poor, and in spite of their natural selfishness and rapacity…they divide with the poor the produce of all their improvements. They are led by an invisible hand to make nearly the same distribution of the necessities of life, which would have been made, had the earth been divided into equal portions among all its inhabitants, and thus extending it, without knowing it, advance the interests of the society, and afford means to the multiplication of the species.

Is also the man who said:
What improves the circumstances of the greater part can never be regarded as inconveniency to the whole. No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the greater part of the members are poor and miserable.

So my dear friends, the older man in question has decided he is solidly a proponent of a free market governed by the process of the invisible hand. But he is also solidly pragmatic when it comes to distribution of the benefits of the free market. We need to personally and as a government figure out how to create more opportunities for those with less privilege.

If all people want the same things, and there are some who have more opportunity than others, then why not help those who have less to find the very same things you experience? To quote one of our current Presidential candidates, and this is not an endorsement, “what have you got to lose?”

And that is my thought for the day! The first in quite a while.

Corporations And The Election

This morning I played eighteen holes of golf with a couple of friends. One of them asked me what I thought of a local county commissioner. I told this friend that I do not vote for someone just because the person claims to be a Christian. I will research the background and position of a person and then vote my conscience. I pray for guidance and make my choice. I am not too sure my friend liked what I had to say, but I feel strongly about this.

The fact is, I am at a quandary concerning whom to vote for in the Presidential election. I am positive I am not voting for crooked Hillary. I am positive I won’t vote for Trump either, so where do I go? My conservative friends tell me a vote for anyone but Trump is a vote for Hillary, and my liberal friends ask how can you vote for someone who hates people.

President Obama responded to Trump’s speech at the Republican National convention by saying that our society is not as bad as Trump has described. President Obama said that it is not that bad for most Americans. There are two decisions I have made during this election. Nothing is as a bad or good as each side of the argument has described, and you can’t trust any media outlet to be impartial and without bias. Fox, CNN, and all of the others display micro-aggressions against the other, whoever that other is. Frankly, to join the many college campuses across the United States, I find it offensive. The loser in this election year, if there has to be one, is the American public.

However, William Galston has identified another loser in this process. In fact, Galston says that no matter who gets elected this entity will suffer loss. “We may not know who will win the 2016 presidential election, but we already know who has lost it: Corporate America.”

On the left corporations are vilified being blamed as the “source of all social-ills associated with working and middle-class Americans.” Galston describes what he thinks will happen if a Democratic President is elected. “A Democratic victory in November would guarantee moves to rein in the financial sector, heighten scrutiny of mergers and acquisitions, and put the squeeze on corporations that shift jobs and profits overseas.” If a Republican is elected “there will be a turn away from free-trade and welcoming immigrants” to closed borders and protectionism. Galston adds, “the Corporate sector favors moderation in social policy and steady internationalism in foreign policy.”

I have also seen in my students a chilling to working within large companies. The Pew Research Center has published polls on how Corporations are viewed in our society. In 1999 73% of Americans viewed Corporations positively, while in 2008, after the start of the great recession public opinion had shifted. 47% of Americans viewed Corporations favorably. In 2011 that number dived to 38% in 2011.

Much of the reasons for this loss of love can be squarely placed at the feet of managers who think in short-term, profit motivated, ways. This is also reflected in recent Gallop polls that recognize that American firms are doing a “poor job of balancing the interest of the United States and American workers with the best interests of their company.”

Corporations remind me of men who come home from work one day and their wives tell them that they want a divorce. The men stand there and go why, what did I do that was so wrong? “In a modern Democracy, a stable relationship between citizens and corporations rest on a tacit compact.” If you take care of me, I will support you and give you the freedom you need to be successful. If not then we are going to have issues.

The Social Contract between large companies and the people of the United States has, in the past, been strong which has led to a successful relationship, especially for those who have worked within those large companies. However, many believe this relationship has diminished leading to a distrustful and tenuous affiliation.

Corporate leaders use the global competitive argument for justifying the moving of jobs to other parts of the world. Some of these companies are guilty of what Marx said Capitalism accomplishes, by using subsistent wages, the creation of an army of unemployed workers, dependent on those minimal wage structures, and keep labor demands in check. Galston recognizes this when stating “It is hard not to conclude that many firms have taken advantage of soft labor markets to keep worker’s wages and benefits low.”

The fact is all of the players in this sorted affair are only in it for what they can get out of it. To our politicians it is about power, money, and office. Actually accomplishing something that helps people is an after thought. Corporate leaders are only in it for their bonuses. Who cares about the people of America? Eventually someone is going to need to step and say what about America? John F. Kennedy said at one time, “ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what can you do for your country.” I think that is just as true today as it was in the 60’s.

I think Corporations are necessary for an affluent society, but there needs to be some refocusing of the why behind what they do.

And that is my thought for the day!

Organizational Theory, Cops, and Race

A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll reported that 73% of the electorate “believes the United States is on the wrong track.” This is what Daniel Henniger stated in his opinion piece “A Nation at Half-Mast.” The first thing that came to mind when I read this: what electorate, people that read the WSJ? If so then the data will be skewed to the right. The second thing I thought about was whether the respondents were focused on the election, disliking the choice between crooked Hillary and racist Trump; or the direction of the country as a result of eight years of President Obama and an ineffective congress? Whenever I read something like 73% of people think something, I have to assume there is a purpose for framing the conversation a certain way.

As I dug into the opinion article it did seem to me his point about gravitas was important, but I also think he tended to push things to the right a bit instead of trying to find some common ground. This is similar to what everyone’s doing today: polarizing around different narratives. In light of today’s event in Florida, where a black man laying on the ground next to a young man who is autistic and is shot by police, we have to say enough is enough. We need to figure out a new way.

Peggy Noonan in her opinion piece on Saturday titled “Three Good Men Talk About Race,” helped me to see how this polarization could be happening. She identified what seems to a big issue in our society, we want to talk, but you need to listen. She rightfully states, “even though everyone on media asks for a conversation about race, most of them don’t really mean it.” Parenthetically, I really think the media is the biggest instigator of racial issues in this country. Keep the situation enflamed so we can have more people watch our shows, use our social media, or buy our papers. Most people who are pointing out the issues of racism on camera just want to yell, not find really compromise and solutions.

The fact of the matter is I have never, nor will be, a black man in the United States. How can I even think I understand what a black male experiences day to day in this country. All I can do is listen. I have never been, nor will I ever be, a policeman walking a beat within the inner city. I don’t know what it is like to walk up to a car in the middle of night not knowing what may happen. But, I do know that I am trying to process racial issues in our country.

Tim Scott, a U.S. Senator who is black, has been pulled over multiple times while in Washington, DC, as many as seven times in one year. I have talked to several black men that I know and each of them had the same experience. In the neighborhoods where they live, driving on I-5 in the state of Oregon, or in Vancouver. I have asked black fathers if they had the discussion with their sons about interacting with the police. Each of them said they have. I know that all of us have conversations with our children about respecting police, etcetera, but the conversation of a black parent with their son could be the difference between life and death.

Police Chief David Brown, Dallas, has recently made some very interesting comments highlighted by Peggy Noonan in her Saturday editorial. Brown stated during a press conference, “We’re asking police officers to do too much in this country. They’re paying the price for every societal failure. Not enough mental health funding? Let the cop handle it. Not enough drug addiction funding? Let’s give it to the cops. Here is Dallas we’ve got a loose dog problem. Let’s have cops chase loose dogs. Schools fail? Let’s give it to the cops. Seventy percent of the African-American community is being raised by single women – – let’s give it to the cops to solve that as well.” David Brown would eventually say, “Society has to step up.”

If there is one thing I have learned as a businessman, entrepreneur, and college professor, there are always two sides to every story. If only we would listen to each other? Maybe we could come up with better solutions than we have in the pas

The last man Peggy Noonan mentioned in her article was Brian Williams. He was one of the trauma surgeons in the ER during the Dallas shooting. This is a man who is used to “multiple gunshot victims.” However, as he noted, “the preceding days of more black men dying at the hands of police officers affected me.” Williams is a black male, and similar to those shot by police, and even this surgeon had been pulled over by police just because he was a black male, “once thrown spread eagle on the hood of a cruiser.”

However, Williams also recognized the plight of the police. “I abhor what has been done to these officers.” He ended up standing in line with the police line of honor for those police shot and killed.

People tell me that it will never change! This has been going on for over 100 years! I have people yelling in my right ear black people kill more black people than the police do. I have people in my left ear telling me that the police are racist. I know police officers and they are not racist. Both of these comments are shortsighted and incorrect. The black community, the white community, and the police all have systems in place, systems that have developed over the years, and these are systems that can change. It will take more than platitudes and assurances. It will take more than empty liberal promises, and it will take more than conservative ignorance. It will take real progressive, not the phony stuff, thinking that has the ability to hear the other. Only then will we be able to make a difference.

Business people know about this. We study change methodology. We study systems thinking. So much of that theory applies to what is occurring. Instead of seeing business as the enemy, why don’t we look into the theoretical foundations of organizational theory and then apply that to our communities. Maybe, just maybe we will be able to create large-scale societal change.

And that is my thought for the day!

Team Literature, Police, and Inner-City Communities

I, like many others, are shaking our heads and going tsk, tsk, tsk over the events occurring throughout our country. Anger is all around us, and the pessimist within me is concerned over the future of our country. However, the positivist within me sees this as an opportunity.

What I would like to do with this blog today is apply elements of team management to the events occurring between the African-American community and the police. I do think this relationship, which is tenuous at best, is indicative of our country as a whole. Liberals are demonizing conservatives, conservatives are demonizing liberals, cops are feeling picked on, and the African-Americans are feeling attacked. It seems like there is a line drawn down the middle of our country and we are choosing up sides.

The first thing we do is try to fix blame. It’s Mr. Obama’s fault. I am amazed that the author that said this described President Obama as Mr. Obama. I think that was on purpose, and very disrespectful. Whether I agree with President Obama or not, he is my President. I will respect his title.

We can blame the cops. We can call them racist, and with the amount of police throughout this country, I would assume there are racist cops, but I can also assume there are racist African-Americans, as well as white people. So trying to fix blame on either cops violence, or black-on-black violence, is counter-productive.

Or what about inflammatory language? There is no accountability for what we put out in social media. We post crazy stuff, thinking there is no ramifications, and then complain because people use language that is hurtful.

During a segment on Good Morning America, several panelists were discussing next steps, as a result of Dallas, and all of the steps began with recognizing what the other is saying. Until we stop talking past each other we will never change. Bottom line, I think there are lessons to be learned from team literature that could help.

There are a plethora of team theorists to choose from, so when I say there are six elements that affect team performance I am giving my opinion. I do believe that Leigh Thompson is correct when describing the context leading to successful teams. It starts with the organizational context. The environment involves policy, infrastructure, and skill needed for teams to thrive. If an organization wants successful teams then a culture must be developed to allow those teams to emerge. Before we an even begin to discuss how change occurs we need to change the context.

I am an older white male. I have spent the summer thinking about what I, as a Christian, should do regarding race in this country. I had a friend tell me one time, “why is it that the only people who complain about racism in the United States is black people?” I am not saying this to put that person down, but I share that to indicate the lack of understanding within certain segments of our community.

I am a white male who lives in the suburbs. I have no idea what it is like being a young black male growing up in the inner city. I have been semi-mugged, but I have never experienced serious violence. I have been in fights before, but never life threatening. So I don’t know what it is like to experience that in school and on a daily basis. I don’t know what it is like to have someone look at me and crossover to the other side of the street because of my color.

As an old person, I have experienced other people’s assumptions. It really irritates mean when someone assumes I drive slow, or I can’t hear, but that is nothing compared to the institutionalized assumptions some people have about African-Americans. So, my conclusions over the summer include to decision that white privilege is a reality. Now what do I do with it? Let me go through the six elements that I think are important to successful teams to describe my conclusions about how team literature can apply to the negative relationship between the police and the African-American community. I know there are many others more qualified to discuss this, but I am a businessman and I think that communities are organizations too, just larger and more diverse.

First, for a team to be successful there needs to be a clear charter, not one that is just handed down by management, but one that has resulted from open dialog and analysis. The open dialog allows for the team to make sure there is a common language within the team that defines the assignment in common language. Seems to me that for racism to be conquered in our nation we need to have the uncomfortable conversations. I have had them in my classes and it is not comfortable for me, but I think it is important.

Second, there needs to be clear metrics. In any organizational situation if one does not know what needs to be done, then nothing gets accomplished. The concept of Management By Objective (MBO), states the best objectives are jointly developed between management and employee. I think this concept can be applied to our communities. The police and the community come together to decide how measurements will be developed and monitored.

Third, the dialog must be continuous, and there must be training. For teams to flourish they need time to develop. This is where organizations often fail. Management doesn’t allow the team to take the time to develop the common language and measurements. Our community needs to see change, but it needs to recognize that change takes time. Often helping people to see short-term gains is a good way to create patience.

Fourth, in organizations expansion of responsibility is a result of good performance. When teams take responsibility and demonstrate good decision-making they are rewarded with an expansion of decision-making freedoms. This would be an interesting concept applied to inner city law enforcement. Hmm, I’m going to have to think about that a bit.

Fifth, for any team to be successful, any employee for that matter, there needs to be rewards. These rewards are critical to the productivity of an organization. So how could that work within a community? If the community team meets is goals, whatever those are they get more money for schools? Health care? I do know that when communities become safer business begins to move into those areas, and people get better jobs. I don’t know what those rewards could be, but the community teams could develop those rewards.

Sixth, remember how I discussed culture above? An open culture, with a foundation of trust, is critical for the advancement of a team. Everything I’ve read about the police and the African-American community tells me the trust between those players is non-existent.

So there you have it. I am tired of the current rhetoric. If we are to rise above the problems facing us collectively, then we need to work at this collectively. I do think it is possible, and we have come a long way, but we have so much farther to go. As a Christian, I do believe it is what we are called to do, among other things.

And that is my thought for the day!

Introduction To My Book

Introduction: Business and Personal
This book has evolved out of a desire to make a difference. I began my career in 1969 at a Chain Saw manufacturer in Los Angeles, California, and have worked in industry for almost 50 years. During that time I learned many lessons, ones that I would like to pass on to my readers. Somewhere along the line I figured out that I would need to get an education, which I did, and have been blessed through the process. I went back to school in 1988, and continued my studies for about 16 years, from certificate to doctorate, finishing my degrees in 2003. During this time I was many things, father, husband, to a couple of wonderful ladies, Pastor, employee, manager, and Professor. The consistent message I heard through all of those roles was the message of relationship.
I have continued to reinforce this truth in my role as professor and department chair. I have been teaching adult business classes since 1997 and traditionally aged students since 2006. Adult students return to school for various reasons, but one that seems prevalent is the desire to be a better manager than what they had experienced. Many of them have not been managers at the time of their pursuit of a degree, but the desire for promotion was there. Many had experienced poor leadership and wanted to do something different; something that not only made their career more enjoyable, but also the life of their employees.
A While back I heard a speaker say that he had over 7,000 books. This was amazing to me, until I heard that Pope Francis has over one million books. My meager 1,500 seems insignificant, but reading these books have given me a level of understanding that I would never have developed if I had not read them.
Through my pursuit of knowledge, my desire has been to discover what it means to lead and manage well as a practitioner, and pass that knowledge on to my students, and now my readers.
Many statistics are reported on how well, or not so well, organizations are led or managed. Some say that 60% of all employees feel their organizations are not well led, others report different numbers. My experience within the workplace, and listening to my students, demonstrates that the number of bad leaders within organizations is pretty high, which, with all the money that organizations pay to educate and train leaders, seems tragic to me.
Within this book I will explore what I think the reasons are for this reality, and then argue why good business, and leadership for that matter, requires good relationships.
I thought of this the other day when I caught the end of Liam Neeson’s movie Taken. There is this great scene where Neeson’s character has broken free from his capturers and confronts the man who has just sold his daughter to a wealthy sheik. The man who had sold Neeson’s daughter states rather mournfully that it was just business, and as Neeson shoots this man he states, “to me it was all personal.” All of a sudden I saw the essence of the tension we are experiencing. To leaders and managers it is just business, but to the people affected by these changes it is all personal. This tension is why organizations appear to be poorly led.
In Europe people are protesting the reduction of pensions and the increase in retirement age. In Wisconsin people are protesting reduction of wages. Both are the results of austerity needs in response to bloated budgets created during boom times. Governments operating with higher tax revenues due to better economic conditions were able to offer contracts to people that were generous. Money was plentiful, which was like floating a boat down a river. The water was high, therefore all the rocks were covered and the leader could navigate the ship freely to its destination. However, when the water level was reduced, recessionary tax revenue reduction, all of a sudden the rocks are exposed. What we are observing is the result of the lowering of available money. Now we see all the rocks, all the problems of overspending and mismanagement. To me these events illustrate the importance of operations management. Organizations (for profit, not-for-profit, NGO’s, or governmental) need to be run well. Efficiency and effectiveness is just as important today as any time in the past. However, as we move down this road of economic adjustment we need to remember that organizations are made up of human beings: human beings that are afraid of the future. During this chaotic moment of change, managers, leaders must remember to care; let me emphasize this, they must never forget to care.
This book is about how to lead an organization in a manner where people feel valued, instead of exploited. Karl Marx’s critique of Capitalism argues that the process of gaining profit encourages the Capitalist to exploit the Proletariat, the worker, to gain surplus profit. This exploitation has been expressed in many different ways throughout history. The most recent would be sweat shops, etc. But the fact is, exploitation is still prevalent in this country.
The enlightened manager takes this reality seriously. They don’t just want to get the task done, they want it to get done well. To get the task done well, means people engaged within the process to complete the task well. Exploitation won’t accomplish this, but coaching and support will.
Good leadership is not about making business decisions that hurt people, good leadership is about creating good relationships with all stakeholders associated with the organization. That is what this book is about. How to accomplish this!

Freedom And The Entrepreneurial Mind!

I have my thought topic for summer break. School is over, I am finishing up some final meetings, and then I am free to prepare for my Fall classes. The cycle doesn’t end. I usually spend my summers doing research that ultimately informs what I teach in my classes, and this summer is no different, and I have found my topic.

As my last blog stated, my trip to Kazakhstan had an immense impact on me. I am still thinking about the soviet hangover I observed in that country. I am still searching for logical reasons for my assumptions, and this process will continue all summer.

I am also quite concerned about our political situation. We have angry people across our land who are not thinking clearly. We have many people that are feeling the Bern while rejecting an economic system based on the excesses of large-scale corporatism, not thinking through the alternative loss of freedom; and the other side, rejecting the inevitable changes of a multicultural experiment that is becoming a reality. The acceptance of a Fascist nationalism also leads us away from the freedom that we have held dear.

The previous paragraph includes initial thoughts on the subject, but seem to express my emotions and not logical thoughtfulness. My logic wants to focus on the relationship of traditional liberalism and entrepreneurial thinking. In essence what all of us as Americans seem to hold dear. The ability to be free, the ability to do what I want within reason, and the ability to work as hard as I want to earn a living.

I guess I should spend a few moments defining terms before I go any further. Deidre McCloskey makes a claim in her book, Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain The Modern World. She states, “I claim that a true liberalism, what Adam Smith called ‘the obvious and simple system of natural liberty,’ contrary to both the socialist and conservative ideologue, has the historical evidence on its side.” The question in my mind is what is meant by a true liberalism?

According to the Oxford Dictionary of Politics “Liberalism in general, the belief that it is the aim of politics to preserve individual rights and to maximize freedom of choice.” I have also read that as a political philosophy liberalism focuses on the ideas of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free markets, civil rights, democratic societies, secular governments, and international cooperation.”

Adhering to classical liberalism means taking seriously the role one plays as a member of a free society. The idea emerged from the age of enlightenment as a rejection of the feudalism and the monarchies of old.

When I stood in Red Square in Moscow, Russia and walked around Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan I observed the modern result of the lack of liberalism and its resulting inability for people to participate as free citizens. I think that many today have forgotten what it means to be free and how the ability to produce, and experience its reward, is central to the ability of people to improve themselves.

McCloskey states in Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital Or Institutions, Enriched The World, that the Great enrichment occurred with a revaluation of the Bourgeois life. This life is observed as a dignity enjoyed by commoners as a result of “egalitarian accidents” encompassing both newfound freedoms and “ideas in the heads of entrepreneurs.” In other words, it was the combination of liberalism and the entrepreneurial mind that brought forth the progressive results of history.

McCloskey discusses this as an antagonistic concept to the nationalism or socialism of an elite clerisy. I will define the term clerisy at a later date. Trumpism and feeling the Bern are both leading us away from the freedom to believe and do what was, and is, critical to our advancement as a country.

I have defined what liberalism is, but what is an entrepreneurial mind? I think we need to first revise what we mean by the term entrepreneur. I know that Henry Ford was an entrepreneur, and I know that his company grew very large. However, at one particular time in history it was small. Jobs was an entrepreneur and Apple is a very large company, but it too began small; as did Microsoft, Google, and other large entities today.

Each of the above examples began as creative endeavors that eventually found a customer base, thus enriching their lives. Therefore, the first thing we need to realize is the entrepreneurial mind is a creative mind. Each of the above endeavors were opportunistic in the sense that the originators observed how people did things and figured out a better way of doing the activity. Therefore, the second element of the entrepreneurial mind is innovation. Entrepreneurs are innovative.

According to Roger Martin and Sally Osberg entrepreneurs have the distinct ability to see how a process is occurring and can create a new, and higher performing, way of accomplishing the task. So, the entrepreneurial mind is creative, innovative, and exploitive. However, most importantly, the entrepreneurial way of thinking is a result of a free system that allows creativity and accomplishment. In other words, a result of a liberal society that believes in freedom.

Is there an example of an economy in the world that demonstrates this powerful relationship? Is there a country that cherishes freedom, but also is entrepreneurial? I think you’ll be surprised at my choice. Sweden is an incredible expression of a free society with a strong free market.

According to the Guardian Social Entrepreneurship is on the rise in Sweden. “Swedes are innovators, especially strong on the digital market.” It is very clear that Swedes trust their government to take care of the social issues facing their country, but there is change occurring. Rather than institutions taking care of people social entrepreneurs are demonstrating the power of individuals taking care of people, in other words the entrepreneurial mind.

Sweden has reformed its economy in a way that it has reduced its national debt, maintained low and stable inflation, and created a healthy banking system. This occurred in response to the financial crisis of the 1990’s. “The road back to stability was not easy for Sweden. But by pursuing inventive and courageous reforms and sticking to them, Sweden has transformed its economy and stayed strong in the face of the new global recession.”

I know Sweden has a smaller population than we do, but I do think there is a lot to learn from the Swedes. A strong free market, social safety nets, and the expression of entrepreneurial thinking all demonstrate that we need to look a little closer at Sweden.

In America we have many more issues that Sweden, but I think we have a lot of entrepreneurial thinkers that could help us create new ways of dealing with these problems. Instead of feeling the Bern or following Trump’s fight, we need to re-embrace our freedom and think of new ways to deal with our country’s problems. This is what the entrepreneur would do, and would be free to do it.

And that is my thought for the day!