The Protected And Unprotected

I really like reading Peggy Noonan’s opinion articles in the Wall Street Journal. I find her to be smart and fair in her assessment of our society. Her article this morning was very interesting. The title, “Trump and the Rise of the Unprotected,” almost drove me away from reading the piece, but as I read her article I began to see the poignancy of her premise.

Noonan writes, “Last October I wrote of the five stages of Trump, based on the Kubler-Ross stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.” I thought that was an interesting way of looking at this phenomenon occurring in front of us. Noonan continued, “Most of the professionals I know are stuck somewhere between four and five.” The professional world, which she later defines, is depressed because of the Trump phenomenon. Noonan argues that they are moving to acceptance, but I don’t think that is the right word, I think resignation is.

However, what caught my eye in this article was what she wrote next. “But I keep thinking of how Donald Trump got to be the very likely Republican nominee. There are many answers and reasons, but my thoughts keep revolving around the idea of protection.” What she wrote next reminded me of other writings I have devoured dealing with Marxist class struggle, but it may actually be closer to Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Instead of calling the protagonists Bourgeoisie and Proletariat she calls them protected and unprotected individuals.

She defined protected individuals as those who are “accomplished, secure, and successful.” She is not just describing wealthy people , she is dealing with the elitism associated with those who are protected from the world’s problems. However, the most poignant element of her definition was “they are protected from the world they created.”

Next she defines who the unprotected are. They are the people who live in the world and are affected by the policies created by the protected ones. As I write this, I am thinking about when I was a union member. When we went out on strike, union officials and management negotiators were paid their salaries, regardless of how long the strike happened (they were the protected), while those of us affected walked the picket line earning a minimal strike benefit (the unprotected).

Noonan continues to describe the unprotected as “one with limited resources and negligible access to power – you have absorbed some lessons from the past 20 years’ experience.” Noonan then discusses undocumented immigration as an example of how the protected doesn’t care about the unprotected; none of the protected need to deal with the issues of immigration because it doesn’t really impact them personally. So Democrat’s politicize the issues to make Republicans look bad, and Republicans are afraid of seeming liberal so they do nothing.

Another example she gives is in the area of education. The protected do not need to deal with the issues of education. Our public school system is erratic at best. Inner city schools do not get the resources they need, thus the children that attend suffer. The protected see the issues with the public schools in their neighborhoods and rather than stay and fight, they send their children to private schools. They don’t have to deal with it.

Why do you think Bernie and Trump are rising to the top? Because the unprotected is fed up! It is not that we are finally talking about issues that are causing this angst. Many people feel unrepresented and unprotected. “It is the rise of people who don’t have all that much against those who’ve been given many blessings and seem to believe they have them not because they are fortunate but because they’re better.

Noonan’s editorial reminds me of a recent Thomas Friedman article in the NY Times. In “Who Are We?” Friedman writes how he too finds this election bizarre. He identifies three sources of America’s greatness: “a culture of entrepreneurship, an ethic of pluralism, and the quality of governing institutions.” Additionally he notes how our leading presidential candidates are all trashing the three elements that made our country great.

Trump is spending his time saying that he wants to make America great again, but then he trashes the one thing that has made America great, immigration. All of us have family members who have come from other countries. Therefor, E Pluribus Unum, one from many, is our motto. When did we forget this and become the gangs of New York?

Bernie is spending his time bashing business, and for some reason young people in our country do not connect jobs and business. Friedman states, “I’d take Sanders more seriously if he would stop bleating about breaking up the big banks and instead breathed life into what really matters for jobs: nurturing more entrepreneurs and starter-uppers.” We need to remember where jobs come from. “They come from employers – risk-takers, people ready to take a second mortgage to start a business.”

Cruz, is attacking our government. He is spending a lot of time trashing Washington D.C. Don’t get me wrong there are many problems with our Federal government, but there are reasons why we have emerged as one of the strongest counties in the world. I totally agree with Friedman when he states, “America didn’t become the richest country in the world by practicing socialism, or the strongest country by denigrating its governing institutions, or the most talent-filled country by stroking fear of immigrants.”

What in the “hell” is going on? Have we all gone nuts? The protected is taking the Ayn Rand road of disassociation, telling the unprotected you are on your own. Let me tell you, there are many lessons from history that demonstrates what happens when the unprotected feels despair. I for one think it is time for the protected people to wake up and smell the roses. Instead of telling the unprotected to eat cake, lets figure out how to ensure our social protection systems are strong.

Let’s quit bashing what has made this country great and figure our how to adjust and stay great. As I stated in one of my previous blog posts, “A billionaire in New York made this comment, “I hate it when the stock market goes up. Every time I hear the stock market went up I know the guillotines are coming closer.”

And that is my thought for the day!

I Like Nordic Capitalism

Last week the Wall Street Journal reported the 2016 Economic Freedom Index, which I found very interesting. The index was created in 1995 by the Heritage Foundation and the WSJ to “measure the degree of economic freedom in the world’s nations.” According to the report the United States is ranked 11th in the world, which is up one spot from the 2014 number.

When I saw the report I immediately looked at who was in front of us? Who would be considered more economically free than the United States? In the number one spot was Hong Kong. I found that very interesting because several years ago, 1997, Hong Kong, which was a part of the United Kingdom, was aligning with main land China. The debate involved whether Hong Kong would lose its economic freedoms, which according to this report Hong Kong is just as free as the past. In second place is Singapore, which is no surprise. In third place is New Zealand; fourth, Switzerland; fifth, Australia; 6th, Canada; 7th, Chile; 8th, Ireland; 9th Estonia; and 10th the United Kingdom. Following close behind the United States is Denmark at number 12.

The next thought I had was, what does this measure? “The creators of the index took an approach similar to Adam Smith’s in The Wealth of Nations,” in other words, it looked for nations that support “the liberty of individuals to pursue their own economic interests that result in greater prosperity for the larger society.” In 2008 the Heritage Foundation defined economic freedom as providing “an absolute right of property ownership, fully realized freedoms of movement for labor, capital, and goods, and an absolute absence of coercion or constraint of economic liberty beyond the extent necessary for citizens to protect and maintain liberty itself. The index itself measures business freedom, trade freedom, monetary freedom, government size and spending, fiscal freedom, property rights, investment freedom, financial freedom, freedom from corruption, and labor freedom.

The next thought I had was focused on Hong Kong, Ireland, Canada, and Denmark. Each of these has very different tax systems and social programs. Hong Kong has a flat income tax of 15 and 16 percent. All people who are employees are taxed 15%. All corporations of business owners are taxed 16%. However, the gap between those that have and those who have not is huge. The government provides health care, education and housing. “The health care system, which provides high-quality standard services, is accessible to the entire population.” The health care system is not free, but it is subsidized and low-cost. Probably the biggest reason they continue to be successful is their high quality education system free to children up to the age of 15. Then it must be paid for, but is subsidized by the government.

Ireland’s situation is a little different. Its per capita income is around $39,250. It has been said that Ireland’s economy is the fastest growing in the Euro zone. The top personal income tax rate in Ireland is 41%, and the corporate tax rate is 12.5%. One report I read about Ireland is that half of its population is on welfare. When my wife and I visited Ireland many people we talked to were receiving a child benefit that could equal $45,000 (US) per year. Business owners I talked to were struggling with government intrusion into how their businesses were run. Ireland has socialized medicine, but those who can afford it can jump to the head of the line.

Then there is our neighbor to the north. Canada is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Canada has a very interesting combination of private and public enterprises. The public enterprises include strong social and welfare programs to deal with the economic inequities associated with Capitalism. Its economy is strongly aligned with the United States. Canada has a single-payer healthcare system, which the doctors I have talked to did not like. However, the government is trying to prevent an Irish system that allows those with more resources to jump to the front of the line. Canadian tax rates for 2016 are 15% on the first $45, 282, 20.5% up to $90,563, 26% between $90,563 and $140,388, 29% from $140,388 to $200,000, and 33% over $200,000.

Then there is Denmark, and I will lump all of the Nordic economies into this discussion. The Economist in 2013 reported that Nordic Countries are the next supermodel. They are saying this because Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland “are doing rather well.” In fact, The Economist says we may want to become Vikings, and not the football team.

After reading this article, I must say I think the Scandinavians are just good managers. They stepped up to the plate and hit a homerun by creating a lean Nordic model. “The idea of lean Nordic government will come as a shock to both French leftists who dream of socialistic Scandinavia and to American conservatives who fear Barack Obama is bent on Swedenisation.” To accomplish this several steps were taken.

Government spending in Sweden was cut by 18% points; which demonstrates how serious the government was with improving the country’s economic situation. This spending level is now lower than France. The corporate tax rate in Sweden is 22%, which is lower than the United States. I guess what the Swedes have done is balanced the books. “While President Obama and Congress dither over entitlement reform, Sweden has reformed its pension system. Its budget deficit is .3% of GDP,” ours in 2013 was 7%. The article goes on and mentions other elements of the Nordic improvements, but the last paragraph sums up my point of this discussion.

“The main lesson to learn from the Nordics is not ideological but practical. The state is popular not because it is big but because it works. A Swede pays tax more willingly than a Californian because he gets decent schools and free health care. The Nordics have pushed far-reaching reforms past unions and business lobbies. The proof is there. You can inject market mechanisms into the welfare state to sharpen its performance. You can put entitlement programs on sound foundations to avoid beggaring future generations. But you need to be willing to root out corruption and vested interests. And you must be ready to abandon tired orthodoxies of the left and right and forage for good ideas across the political spectrum.”

Nothing demonstrates this reality in our country more than our Congress. Rather than finding solutions to our problems, they continue to dither and navel gaze. I agree with our English cousins when they say the Nordics get something out of their taxes and we don’t. I know that is a huge generalization, but think about our increasing gap between the wealthy and the working class. Think about how our educational performance continues to decline. We need our government to be better managers like the Nordics. I really like the balance they have struck in their economies. So when I say I like Nordic Capitalism I am embracing a system that works.

And that is my thought for the day!

Greetings From Sam Washington (An Allegory)

Hi, my name is Sam Washington. You may have seen pictures of me. I am a tall slim older gentleman with bushy hair and a white goatee. I usually wear clothing made up of some combination of red, white, and blue colors with stars. I am Caucasian, but I have adopted children of all colors, races, and religions. I am a very wealthy person, but there are times when I reflect on my history and realize that some of that wealth was earned by doing some not so nice things. I may not sound familiar to you, but all of my friends call me Uncle Sam. I really like that name, and I am proud of what I have done with my life.

Some people are saying that I am having a nervous breakdown. I am older now, but my family is kind of crazy. Even though I am wealthy I have a lot of debt, but I do have a lot of income. At this point in time in my life I am trying to figure things out a bit. I have two natural children, and many adopted children. I’d like to tell you about them.

The names of my natural children are Demi Crat Washington and Ree Publican Washington. Both of them love me, but they really look at things so differently. Demi is my second child, and has changed over the years. I used to think she was from the Southern part of my business. She used to be very angry because I adopted some children she didn’t like, but now she is much more inclusive. She does like to spend money though and really doesn’t care how she gets it, which may be because of her new boyfriend Bernie.

Ree used to be more like Demi, but now I am not too sure what he is doing. He is my oldest child, but seems to be hanging out with some very crazy people. Ree tells me he believes certain things, but his actions tell me something else. I think his new friends are a bad influence on him. Their names are Rush, Glenn, Ted and Donald (I will tell you I really don’t like those boys) and are filling Ree’s head with nonsense. Neither one of my children really care for my adopted children. Demi says she does, but she only says she does because she wants to make Ree look bad. And Ree, who knows what he is thinking, seems like he just doesn’t care.

Let me tell you about my business. I have been in business for a long time. I have been very successful; my business has a revenue stream of about $17 Trillion. I feel pretty good about that, but I also have about $19 Trillion in debt. I don’t feel very good about that, but I am not too sure what to do about it. I was hoping Demi and Ree would come up with some good ideas but they are too busy hating each other. As a result many of my other children are suffering.

I was reflecting the other day about how my business got to this point. Some of it I am quite proud of, but other parts of my business model were not so good. There was a time when I actually owned people. I am really not too proud of that, and some of my children experience high levels of guilt over the situation. I want everyone to know I care about the one’s I used to own and have adopted them as my children. However, some of my other children didn’t like that so they worked with others to exploit my new children. This has had an on going effect that continues to have a negative effect on those children.

I have to admit in my past I was very competitive. When I was just starting out there was huge potential in the North American market. There were other competitors fighting over North American resources. There were English, French, Spanish, and Mexican companies fighting over the land. However, I believed I had a manifest destiny to increase my hold over those resources. I defeated my competitors and sent them packing. Some think I took advantage, but I feel I was just doing what I was supposed to do.

However, as this was occurring there were human beings who didn’t enjoy the competition. These were indigenous resources that were overrun by my managers. My managers did not think they could do the work we wanted them to do, so we sent them to different parts of our company that were less important. We have kept them there, hoping they’d quit and go somewhere else. However, their working conditions just get worse and worse. I actually feel pretty bad about that, and feel my managers took advantage of them. I’d like to adopt them as my children, but they don’t trust me. I wonder why?

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, it seems my friends throughout the world think I am having a nervous breakdown. I believe they feel this way because of my children Demi and Ree. Actually, I am telling you this because I am reflecting about my life. I want to figure out how to repair my relationship with my adopted children who I once owned and now want to help. I also want to adopt those indigenous resources so they can experience a better family life. I want all of my children to have equal opportunity.

I really think I am experiencing the eighth stage of Erik Erikson’s psychosocial development model. According to Erik when people reach a certain age they are considered mature, and at this point there is a crisis that is experienced. He actually called this the wisdom stage. The existential question of this time in life is “is it ok to have been me?” I think that is the question I am wrestling with right now. I am looking at the good and bad of my accomplishments and trying to figure out how to reconcile my actions. I did good and I did bad. I have feelings of contentment and I have feelings of disgust.

What appears to others as a nervous breakdown is nothing more than trying to figure out where my family needs to go from here. I have no doubt we will figure it out, and I trust my children to sit down and discuss this. However, I think Demi and Ree need to see a counselor. I think they are nuts right now. Ree needs to stop talking to Glenn, Ted, Donald and Rush. Demi needs to quit playing with Bernie because he is bad for her and my family. However, I think the biggest culprit is Jimmy Olson the news reporter. He is a sensationalist, and I think he likes the conflict. It sells more of his papers.

I hope you don’t mind the musings of an old man. I love my family and I know we will figure this out. Tell everyone Uncle Sam says hi.

And that is my thought for the day!

Business Education: The Progression Of Thought

Over the last couple of weeks I have had the opportunity of being observed in my classes by my mentor. After watching me profess in the classroom, my mentor and I would go have a cup of coffee and discuss education.

Dr. Foltz is an Anthropologist and I am a Business scholar-practitioner. One would think two different subjects, needing two very different styles. However, through our conversations we found an amazing common ground.

When we started this process Dr. Foltz asked me who the major theorists of Management were? I spouted off Mintzberg, Schien, Maslow, Herzberg, and many others. Then we began to discuss the process of teaching business to students. I have developed a style over the years, but in discussing developmental theory with Dr. Foltz, he has both validated and enlightened me on how to do a better job educating my students.

As we have progressed through this discussion I have been thinking about the different ways business classes should be taught. Teaching business is both theoretical and practical, and this relationship is applicable at all levels of classes we teach. But how is the rigor of a 100 level class different than a 400 level class? My conclusion is that there is a difference, but there are similar application elements too. So what does this look like?

I think it is difficult to break business classes into a traditional Liberal Arts understanding of lower division and upper division. However, I do think that Bloom’s revised taxonomy applies to business classes. 100 level courses are more about remembering and understanding the theories and practices of business, while a 200 level course involves the understanding and applying of business concepts. 300 level courses involve applying and analyzing the results, thus determining the value of cause and effect. 400 level courses are where the outcomes are more evaluating and creating results.

However, William M. Sullivan in his excellent book “Rethinking Undergraduate Business Education,” explains a different way of looking at how business education evolves through the four years a student is at our institution.

In our lower level business classes our outcomes are focused on the developing of analytical thinking. Sullivan states, “This emphasis reflects the fact that Analytical Thinking lies at the heart of scientific inquiry and the technological innovations that flow from it. It is a critical skill for democratic citizenship as well and the basis of rational discourse in every domain.” This type of thinking is foundational to a solid business education and career.

“Analytical thinking involves the formulation and rigorous application of abstract concepts. It requires students to understand particular events as instances of more general concepts and learn how to formulate claims and make valid arguments using those concepts.” At the 100 level, business classes focus on the general and broad elements of business. An example of this is how BUS 101 deals with the introductory concepts of Economics, Management/Leadership, Law, Accounting, Finance, Marketing, and Entrepreneurship. The student’s thinking “is simple,” but the application is where the complexity begins to emerge. However, analytical thinking progresses into our 200 level courses too, such as BUS 211/212 where we introduce our students to accounting. In this 200 level course the student demonstrates analytical thinking by reviewing general accounting principles, and observing how the theory works in a demonstration by the Professor; the student practices these concepts by filling out of worksheets or electronic spreadsheets. At the end of the process the student then discusses what the numbers mean.

However, when students enter our 300 level courses they begin to develop the ability to see the possibility of multiple outcomes in given situations. In other words the students are learning how to “allow for multiple solutions” to given business problems. As Sullivan states, “The need for this kind of Multiple Framing in advanced intellectual work makes it clear that Analytical Thinking as powerful as it is, does not provide all of the intellectual tools needed to negotiate today’s complex world.” How this looks in a 300 level course involves what is called double-loop thinking. Take for example my Organizational Behavior class. Today we discussed attitudes in the workplace. We reviewed the ABC model of understanding attitudes. We could have just focused on the value of a good attitude on organizational productivity, thus single-loop thinking, but we used double-loop thinking when we discussed what Sullivan called the “historical roots of the assumptions underlying business concepts.” We questioned the historical assumption of productivity and profit as the only valid reason for creating a positive work environment for employees.

Using double-loop thinking, or multiple frame thinking, business scholar-practitioners are learning how to reflectively explore the greater meanings behind the practice of business. I really think if one teaches 300 level business classes like this it prepares the student to perform at the higher level of thinking associated with a 400 level course.

A 400 level business course involves practical reasoning. If we teach our students to analyze, use multiple frame thinking, reflect on the why, they should be able to recognize the theoretical concepts associated with business, as well as have developed the knowledge and skills needed to practice business. This type of learning demonstrates the positive relationship between Liberal Arts and a business education, while helping business students embrace the liberal values associated with good citizenship to ethically practice business.

Business 100 at our institution is our introductory business course. It begins by educating our students concerning the general concepts of business. It gives the students an overview of all of the subjects they will study in our program. Our 200 level courses continue to help our students develop analytical thinking. However, in both our 100 and 200 level courses our students are demonstrating how they remember, understand, and apply the concepts they are learning. But, it is when they get to the 300 level courses that they are not just analyzing, but creating multiple frames of interpreting the practice of business. They truly are analyzing and evaluating, reflectively, the value of business. When they get to our 400 level courses, they have a foundation for the practical reasoning they will need to demonstrate and create a relationship between the theory and practice they will be using in the real world.

I think that Business education is a little different than other subjects taught at a liberal arts institution. However, I think business professors focus too often on just the practical elements of business and not enough on characteristics associated with multiple framing and reflective analysis questioning the why behind business. Until we do that, we will continue to do the same thing but expect different results, which is not what our society needs at this time.

And that is my thought for the day!