Civility And The Death Of Social Media

I don’t know how many times I’ve said, and observed others say, I think I am going to take a break from Facebook. It usually follows some event on social media that elicits horrible, and divisive, posts. Recently, the drive by some to secede from the United States and become a part of Canada was one of those events. Calexit has elicited cruel comments that demonstrate the darker side of our nature. A friend of mine, who did not like the election results, stated she was happy the west coast states were going to become a part of Canada. She was not serious, but several folks made comments, resulting in her stating that she will only post pictures of puppy dogs from now on, and how she is debating with herself to about giving up social media for a while.

I have noticed several of my “friends” have ben absent from the common areas of discussion, and I could only guess that they are fed up as well. As I ponder this, I reflect on previous discussions I have had about vanishing civility in our common areas of discourse.

Several years ago my wife went to a theater to see a popular movie. As the lights went down, and after the ubiquitous encouragement by the theater to turn off cell phones, several cell phone lights could be seen. There were several young people in the theater, who it appeared were attending together. With the lights down they began texting one another. Next thing you know there was giggling, and someone, obviously older, loudly stating to be quiet. One of the younger people said F _ _ K you, and the older person yelled back “shut up you skank.” Then the movie started.

The lack of civility in our society has continued to degenerate over the years, which is evident in our common areas of discourse found on social media. Because our comments are thrown out with very little thought, we think we can get away with this incivility, not realizing the effects it has on our society.

There have been many events in history that has demonstrated human kinds ability to demonize the other, and maybe it is just because I am now that old guy that sits on the porch yelling at people walking by, but it does seem to be getting worse. Instead of respectfully disagreeing with one another, we have to destroy each other. It is not good enough to win the argument, we have to obliterate the other. Or, just because one is black there are this, or because one is white they are that. I mean come on, lets be civil. We can disagree and still be civil with each other.

This very same discussion occurred back in 1998. Stephen Carter, one of my favorite authors back in the day, wrote several books on conditions in our country. “The Culture of Disbelief,” “Integrity,” and “Civility” ¬were all social commentaries of the day. His book Civility: Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy¬ had much to say about our current situation.

Carter said this, “So where did all the civility go? And when?” He continues this quote by mentioning the decline of religion, the rise of television, geographic mobility, and the end of the Cold War. However, he decided to focus on the birth of postmodernism in 1965. “That was the year that . . . many venerable American traditions – some wonderful, some horrible – all withered at the same time.” I would agree that some of our moral common ground has eroded, and is even non-existent in the social media realm.

Yesterday in my class we discussed organizational culture. We focused on many aspects, but one element is relevant to this discussion. Culture within organizations help to create an internal unity. Culture involves shared values, norms, and behaviors. In all organizations there is multiculturalism, but there is an overarching culture that creates unity of purpose. There is no reason that we cannot achieve that in the United States of America.

Carter states, “There is a well-known line from The Brothers Karamozov: If God does not exist, everything is permitted.” I, as a believer in Jesus Christ, would obviously gravitate to that comment, but in a multicultural United States that does not see God the same way I do I think we can find a common unifier. Carter describes it as “the singular meaning.”

I believe that the concept of servant leadership is critical as we move forward. I think that embracing the other we can create a more civil discourse, because if we don’t our discourse will continue to erode. Carter states, “The alternative is to continue our destructive tendency to engage in behavior aimed only at satisfying our own wants or needs. In our rush to self-fulfillment, we forget the crucial civilizing insight of the enlightenment – that human freedom is good because it is better to do right voluntarily than be coerced into doing it.”

That last comment resonates with me. If we don’t learn how to have a discourse in public arenas, who knows what type of control will be initiated to ensure public safety. But if we chose to be servants, concerned about the other while giving our opinion, just maybe we can have a democratic dialog leading this country to a new understanding of singular meaning. If not we just may be witnessing the death of social media, and maybe more.

And that is my thought for the day!

Democratic Capitalism And My Future

I saw a Facebook post from a friend of mine where he mentioned Democratic Capitalism. I know where this friend stands about the excesses of capitalism, but I do think at times he, and many others in Portland, look at the excesses of capitalism and large-scale corporatism as the end of the discussion. I did not want to raise this point in response to his post, because his post was in a larger context of personal responsibility in our community, specifically about foster children. His care for young people and children is admirable. However, it did get me thinking about Democratic Capitalism.

Francis Fukuyama, in his 1992 book “The End of History and the Last Man,” stated that “what we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period in post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western Liberal Democracy as the final form of human government.” In a 2014 Atlantic article looking at Francis Fukuyama’s essay, there is an interesting discussion about Fukuyama’s logic and how “liberal capitalist democracy allowed people to thrive in an increasingly globalized world, and that only the steady advance of laissez-faire economics would guarantee a future of free democratic states, untroubled by want and oppression and living in peace and contentment.”

As I read through the article discussing the relationship of capitalism, democracy, and liberalism I began to recognize familiar arguments. Its examples illustrate taking advantage of a free-market system to gain as much as they can at the expense of others. This win-lose perspective is demonstrated in some areas of our society. I also see the argument, usually accompanied by quotes from Thomas Piketty, about how capitalism has only enlarged the gap between rich and poor. I also see the emphasis on economic interventionism and nationalism. The arguments found within this article are no different that what we experience now in our common spaces for discussion.

Personally, after this current political debacle I have decided to throw labels out the window. The labels of Liberal, conservative, Republican, and Democrat are almost useless now. We have become so polarized that we have lost any ability to come to consensus. So, I am working on finding common ground that I may serve those around me. For the purpose of this discussion I will describe the terms capitalism, democracy, and liberal.
Capitalism is an economic system based on private ownership of the means of production. Its focus is on profit by effectively and efficiently using the resources associated with the business. This is a simple definition for a complicated topic that includes, capital accumulation, wage labor, voluntary exchange, a price system, and markets. It is a system based on individual choice and freedom to produce whatever the market demands. We can call this a free market, which is the opposite of a centrally planned market. Socialistic markets which are centrally planned have been traditional inefficient and have demonstrated an inability to create growing individual incomes.

Democracy is a system of government whereby the citizens of a particular country elect representatives to govern. It usually involves the rule of the majority through free elections. People within a Democracy are free to move where they want, when they want, vote for whomever they want, and marry whomever they want. It is a government of individual choice.

I know the term liberalism is wrought with meaning, but I like how the Atlantic article discussed liberalism. “It is, of course, true that liberty can be read in many ways. . . it is perhaps more useful to think back to the writings of Voltaire. . . and remind ourselves that liberty in its purest form – both positive and negative – can be thought of as the realization of man’s inherent dignity as a human being.”

No one can deny that the excesses of wealth distribution, consumerism, and selfishness in our society. Many decry the inequalities found in our society. Parenthetically, the paradox of Michael Moore, a multi-millionaire who at one time had several houses worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, who can decry the 1% when he is one of them, is very interesting. But, we must never forget the importance of individual choice.

We must never forget the discussion of inequality, consumerism, and wealth can never occur outside of the recognition of the fact the we are a fallen race. Mankind fell at the time of Adam and Eve, and that impact continues to feed our ability to create chaos out of goodness.

I see many people around me decry the injustices of society, and do nothing about it. I see many protest this inequality and yet nothing changes. We still have inequality and impoverishment. There are some people like my friend who are led by God to do something about it, by creating internships for young people of color, and trying to get more homes for foster children. I have seen his vision and it is good.

I feel a change coming on in my life. I have no idea when, or how, but I know that complaining about capitalism is not the answer. Even suggesting some other political system than democracy is futile. But, we need to do better.

Jesus Christ said this, “Then the king will say to those on his right hand, Come you blessed of my Father inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me” (Matthew 25: 35-40). He said if you have done this to the least of these you have done it to him.

So, we have an economic and political system that allows us to enjoy liberty. Let us use that liberty for the good of others. Those of us who have, let us give to those that don’t have. And those who need to hear about Jesus, let us tell them through our actions and words.

And that is my thought for the day!

It’s Business And Personal

It is Saturday morning, and I am sitting in front of my computer. I am thinking about the purpose of It’s Business and Personal. Believe the best business practices are those that put people first. Good business does indeed mean good relationships.

I met with a group of prospective students yesterday and told them my thoughts about business. I think most of them heard what I had to say, but who knows. I wanted them to know that business, although you need something left over, is not just about profit. It is about relationships.

As we are recovering from this election, it is time to reiterate that relationships are more important than profit and politics. Peggy Noonan in her editorial, What Comes After the Uprising, stated “We have witnessed something epochal and grave. It is the beginning of a new era whose shape and form are not clear, whose personnel and exact direction are unknown. But something huge and incalculable has occurred.” In all of this I hope we don’t forget that all of us are human, and the other is not the devil.

I support an individual’s right to protest, but I don’t support the destruction of private property. Part of me says it is ok for the young people to express their disgust with the political process, but the other side of me wants to tell the “everyone gets a trophy generation,” that it is not all about them. But, anger is not just a millennial or boomer trait. It occurs in all of us. So expend your energy, get yourself arrested, but just like Lincoln’s inauguration when he had to sneak into Washington D.C., Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States.

If my blog is about people and management, then how should Trump, the CEO of our country, deal with the big five social issues: 11 million undocumented immigrants located in the United States, abortion, the Supreme Court, taxes, and Social Security. My conservative friends will not be happy with some of my thoughts, nor will my liberal friends be happy with some of my thoughts. However, I want to take a humane and practical approach to solving these difficult issues.

First, lets discuss immigration. Talk about a broken system. I agree we need to make sure the only people that come to live in the United States follow a robust and accurate process. All countries in the world need to control its borders. In our case though we have millions of people who were born here to people that came across our southern border, or in other ways, and are deathly afraid they will be sent to a country they have never lived in. Don’t give me rhetoric or some uncaring comments, what are we going to do to ensure these individuals are safe?

My recommendation is a path to citizenship. Stop the flow of undocumented residents, but allow the one’s that are here and have been working, and even paying taxes, the ability to earn citizenship in this country. Both of my parents had ancestors who immigrated to this country. On my Dad’s side his great great great grandfather stowed away on a ship from Scotland to come to the United States in 1741. My grand parents on my mother’s side came from Russia during the Bolshevik revolution. My grand parents had their papers, but Mr. McArthur probably did not. So I think a path to citizenship is the right thing to do.

Second, what should we do about abortion? My wife and I used to like to watch Scandal. It was one of our guilty pleasures. We watched faithfully for several years until the final episode a couple of years ago. Olivia Pope, the protagonist, was pregnant. She and the President were going to have a baby. She chose to abort the baby. The final scene showed her laying on a table, while a Doctor’s arm was moving back and forth, with a vacuuming sound occurring, implying Olivia’s baby was being dissected and removed from her womb. That scene so disgusted us that we have not watched that show since.

So many of my liberal friends talk about wanting to be the voice of those who cannot speak for themselves, while they ignore the millions of babies unable to speak for themselves. I have decided to speak for the children of the silent scream. However, those on the conservative side, who cry out against abortion, forget about support for low-income women who have babies. Therefore, I think we need to limit abortion and improve adoption and financial support for women. Don’t get me wrong a woman has the right to choose what to do with her body, but I think that choice to dissect a child needs to be limited.

Third, what needs to be done with the Supreme Court? I believe it needs a Ying and Yang. I think there should be four liberals and five conservatives. This will always lead to healthy debate. I think when you have all justices with the same perspective, groupthink will occur. You need balance.

Fourth, what about taxes? We need tax forms that can be filled out on a stamp. I know that is an exaggeration, but it symbolizes the need to simplify. I think the wealthy need to pay more taxes, but business needs to pay less. I think the tax system should support a strong social system that includes healthcare for the poor. I also think we need to have a tax system that gives strong support to education. However, I believe the we should have a voucher system that will allow parents of inner city children to choose for their children to go to Charter Schools if those provide better opportunities.

And Last, what about Social Security? I don’t think Social Security should be privatized. However, I think the more people make during their earning years, the more they should pay to support the system. I also think raising the retirement age to 68 will help defer some of the expense.

So my agenda, should Trump ever want to read it is pragmatic, and has enough in it to anger everyone. Remember, it is about relationships, and we should care about our neighbors and the unborn.

And that is my thought for the day!

Now That It Is Done!

As I sit at my desk, pondering the events of yesterday, I am thinking about what is next. Now that we have a President that most didn’t like, where do we go from here? Concerning the divide in the country my son asked me how can the divide be fixed? Great question, and I have been thinking about it all day. I would have written the same message if HRC had won.

I even discussed the election in my leadership class. At first I asked the students to reflect on what happened last night. It began to get a little heated, so I asked them, “it is done, now what does the new President need to do to move the country forward?” Our topic for today was being a transformational leader. So, with the great divide in our country today, how can this President create a shared vision that unifies and brings our citizens to a consensus? The students had a hard time getting beyond the narrative created in the media, but for us to move forward it is time to end the narrative of hatred, and demonizing the other, and create an narrative of forgiveness and consensus.

To describe what I think needs to be done, I am going to apply my dynamic realization model to this event.Picture a cube with the words Dynamic Realization on top. Also, visualize Trust on the bottom of the cube. On the front of the cube is a quadrant. The top left quadrant says Servanthood. The top right has the word authentic. The bottom left has the word reflective. And the bottom right has the word transparent.The right side of the cube has several words: Entreprenuerial Thinking, Innovation, vision, agility, commitment, and resilience.

I have chosen a cube to reflect a three dimension open system. Trust as the foundation for the model. The front of the cube is what the leader needs to become. The top of the cube is the result, dynamic realization. The right side is what the leader must do to create a dynamic, alive, organization that is high performing (for Trump, fill in country).

The leader must be reflective. This means that a leader must be thoughtful, self-aware, and aware of others around them. Trump needs to think through what he did during the election and reassure those around him who are afraid. And people, there are those around us, our friends of color, LGBT, women, and Muslims who are afraid right now. They are afraid not just because of Trump but the many people who voted for him. We need to recognize that and deal with it.

The leader must be transparent and authentic. A leader must have a true north, and act consistently with that truth north. A good leader will not be afraid to be honest when they know what to do and when they do not. Trump has said many things, and many of those things will never occur, but he needs to bring the right people around him that will help him be authentic and transparent if he truly wants to be a President for all Americans.

A leader must be a servant. In our Democracy the President was hired by the people to serve the people. Trump must learn what that means. He has been a top down CEO for a long time, and has fired many people. Now he needs to figure out how to serve and remove barriers for all Americans. As he becomes the leader all America needs, he then has a job to create a climate of trust. Everything about his Presidency will prosper or fail by his ability to create trust. In my model trust is the foundation of the cube. In other words, if he doesn’t work on mending fences and creating relationships of trust, his Presidency will be a huge failure.

To bring this divided country together it will take thinking differently than we have in the past. This will require entrepreneurial thinking. In other words, having the ability to see the current situation, but not stop there, have the ability to see a better way. He needs to infuse this hope within the country. To accomplish this we will need to be more innovative than we ever have been in the past.

The vision Trump presented during the election only represented one side of the equation. He will need to create a vision that can be shared with more people than a certain portion of our population. This means a new vision, one that can be communicated and presented in a manner that more than just one portion of our community can accept. Our social contract in this country means that none of us get everything we want. We compromise and come to consensus. If Trump ever expects to be good President he needs to hear “the other.”

Agility means creating systems that can adjust and continuously improve. This means creating diverse systems that are inclusive with many voices improving the many systems like immigration, taxes, and the economy. All of which needs improvement.

To accomplish this will take commitment. I just heard two of my colleagues in the hallway say they are confused, sick, and did not get any sleep last night. They represent the half of the country that did not vote for Trump. So Mr. Trump, you need to create some kind of consensus that American’s can commit to.

And by the way Mr. Trump, you need to demonstrate resilience, and help our country persevere. Resilience is necessary for us to deal with the many divisive issues facing this country.

My message to a President Trump: You need to do some work on yourself. Your business persona will not work running a country. You need to learn to be a true servant leader. You need to think about what you did and what you need to do to change and be the leader all Americans need. You need to be transparent and apologize for some of the language you used during the election. If you can be an authentic leader, then start doing it.

Mr. Trump you have a lot of work to do to create trust between you and America. The people that voted for you don’t trust you, and the people that voted against you don’t trust you. So you got your work cut out for you.

And to the American people, do what Hillary said, give him a chance. Maybe, just maybe he’ll surprise us. And, to all the hate mongers on both sides, knock it off. Stay off social media. Start posting pictures of animals and your children. We need to be nice to each other. It is time to stop hating one another and start loving.

And that is my thought for the day!

Dynamic Realization And Servant Leadership

I haven’t blogged in a while, but today is a rainy day, and it seems appropriate to spend a few minutes creating an offering. In fact, this blog is the new theme for my book. All the work I have done on the book up to now will actually be adjusted to fit into this frame. I do believe this will be the thrust of phase three of my life.

All organizations are involved in some element of dynamic realization. Let me explain what I mean. Organizational Systems are in place to transform inputs into outputs. This transformation includes the people of the organization, the formal structure of the organization, the culture, and the critical tasks required to complete the transformation. For an organization to effectively and efficiently accomplish this dynamic realization, the components need to operate in congruency. System theorists have been arguing this since 1938 with Chester Barnard’s Function of the Executive. Let me develop the concept of Dynamic Realization a bit more.

The output of any organization will always be dynamic. This is due to the external generative order that is filled with uncertainty and constantly changing variables. If the organization operates with disparate continuities for an exorbitant amount of time, the organization will set itself up for failure. It fact research has demonstrated that an organization out of step with its environment will cease to exist.

Therefore, dynamic realization is critical for the sustainability of the organization. I do want you to realize that I am purposely using the word organization rather than business. Although all organizations have a business component, it is the organization that has the responsibility to complete its mission, whether it is a for-profit, not-for-profit, educational institution, etc. Dynamic realization is the completion of the mission.

The term realization comes from accounting. It refers to the moment when revenue from a sale is realized; when the sale is complete, the good has been transferred, or the service finished. Up to that moment the achievement of the goal is not considered ¬finis coronat opus. Thus every organization should be concerned with dynamic realization.

As I reflect on Dynamic Realization, I am wondering about the affects of leadership on this event. I do not think an organization can experience dynamic realization without good leadership. If good leadership is not in existence, the organization will actually fail. Therefor, what does a good leader need to do to support an environment that produces dynamic realization?

This process begins with the leader herself/himself. In involves four things: reflection, transparency, authenticity, and ultimately being a servant leader. Let me explain.

All one needs to do is look at Social Media, the people around us, and within ourselves and see the despair associated with our current election cycle. This results in a common theme represented by Peggy Noonan’s comments, “God is in charge of history. He asks us to work, to try, to pour ourselves out to make things better. But He is an actor in history also. He chastises and rescues, He intervenes in ways seen and unseen. Or chooses not to. 2016 looks like a chastisement. He is trying to get our attention.” As Joseph Rago argues that this is not the first time the United States has had a divided political situation. In our history, we have fought a war and a President had to sneak into Washington, D.C. for his inauguration, both symbolizing a political system that was broken. Neither of our major political choices is known for their humility and professional will. One is viewed as a bully, and the other a liar. This symbolizes a system that is broken and doesn’t know what servant leadership is.

What is needed to be a good leader? First, a leader needs to be reflective. Reflective Leadership has been around for several years, but I am not too sure how much it has sunk in. Reflective Leadership is a self-awareness element where the leader understands themselves and the people around them. This is an activity emerging from the theoretical framework of Emotional Intelligence. The leader is constantly creating personal mastery and a presence in the moment.

Because the leader is self-aware, cognizant of their strengths and weakness and a strong sense of personal mastery, the leader feels comfortable with the second element associated with the needed leadership style that supports dynamic realization, Transparency.

Forbes reports that employees want transparency within their organizations. Forbes states, “Just think of how many careers would have been salvaged and discovered if transparency had been a part of the cultural equation.” However, for an organization to have a transparent culture it needs to begin with the leader.

A transparent leader is one that is predictable and consistent. The transparent leader is approachable, a good communicator, reliable, able to paint a clear “big picture,” and treats employees with humility, interest, and respect. With a transparent leader, what you see is what you get. However, transparency is not enough. The leader needs to be seen as authentic.

Bill George, an American businessman and academic, that has popularized the concept of Authentic Leadership. I have always stated that a leader cannot be one way at home and another at work. Typically when I talk with my students about this I use Kenneth Lay as an example. To be fair I didn’t know the man when he was alive, but actions do speak louder than words. He taught Sunday school at home, but led a company that stole from its employees. A real leader will not be inconsistent in this manner.

Forbes reports that authentic leaders are self-aware and genuine, mission driven and focused on results, lead with their heart, and focused on the long-term. I have worked for a leader that was all of these things, reflective, transparent, authentic, and she made the last three years of my Boeing experience memorable. She truly was a servant leader.

Reflective, transparent, authentic are elements that support the prescriptive should of the modern leader focused on dynamic realization. That should is Servant Leadership.

Robert Greenleaf popularized the concept of Servant Leadership. He argued that a good leader is first a servant. In other words, they recognize their sole purpose is to ensure the other is successful and self-actualized. “The servant leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. While traditional leadership generally focuses on the accumulation and exercise of power by the one at the top of the pyramid, the servant leader focuses on helping people develop the skills needed to do their job well, removing barriers so they can be successful, and sharing power with the other for the good of the organization.”

Dynamic realization will only occur through good leadership. Good leadership involves reflection, transparency, authenticity, and ultimately being a servant. Good leadership begins first with an internal self-analysis and subsequent behavior, and then specific activities the support the creative culture and action of the organization. That will be the discussion of my next blog.

And that is my thought for the day!

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.