Democratic-Capitalism: Imperfect But Has Potential

I remember a few years ago, when I was Department Chair of the Business Department, I asked an adjunct professor to teach a marketing class for traditionally aged college students. He taught in our adult program. Our traditional classes were sixteen weeks long, and our adult classes were five weeks long. Both paid the same amount. Some of my younger adjuncts taught at several institutions, so the opportunity to teach on a traditional campus was very attractive. Their willingness to take a risk paid off and several are now teaching full time. However, back to the gentlemen I mentioned earlier, he was a little older and told me he was an unabashed capitalist. He said “Roger, why would I teach a sixteen-week class for the same amount as a five-week class?” Made sense to me. Even a colleague of mine from the humanities discipline told me he can teach three classes in the same time as a sixteen-week class and make three times as much money. Even though he would not claim to be capitalist, he behaved like one.

To get to my point, I am an unabashed Democratic-Capitalist. I like the free market and the potential of it to bring financial benefits to all who work hard, but I also like the Democratic portion, because we-the-people can make sure that all have the same opportunities, and those who are hurt by the system can receive help. In my last blog I referred to the invisible hand of the free market. In this offering I want to warn of what is the equivalent of crony capitalism, or in the words of Phil Gramm and Michael Solon, medieval royal charters.

In the early years of this country we were influenced by both Puritanism and the Enlightenment. “18th-century Enlightenment liberated mind, soul and property, empowering people to think their own thoughts, worship their own gods, and benefit from the fruits of their own labor and thrift” (Gramm and Solon, WSJ, April 16, 2019). The Puritans of the same time, as Max Weber accurately described as the Puritan Work Ethic, believed in industriousness and thrift. As Benjamin Franklin, not a Puritan in any respect, reflects “early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy wealthy and wise.” As an old curmudgeon I worry that the younger generation has lost that work ethic. In fact, yesterday, Richard, the guy working on my gutters, asked me if I had observed a change in young people over the two decades that I had been teaching. I told him that I don’t want to generalize. Some seem lazier and entitled and some still work hard.

However, I do think there is an unseen force trying to drive us into more dependence on a centralized government, and one that is attempting to undermine our strong work ethic. An example of this unseen force is found in Elizabeth Warren. As Gramm and Solon rightly point out, “Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s Accountable Capitalism Act would harness large American corporations by imposing new federal charters under which businesses would swear fealty to stakeholders: the general public; the workforce; the community; the environment; and societal factors.” This is just like the devil, give 90% truth and 10% error, but that 10% is a killer. It is one thing for a corporation to choose to give credence to stakeholder theory, but it is a total different thing for government to mandate it. Those that argue for this see it as giving the fruit of labor back to employees, I see it as government intrusion into the free-market.

As a Democratic-Capitalist I agree with Gramm and Solon, “History teaches that if we want to be prosperous and free, within the rule of law, we must let private-enterprise create wealth and reap the rewards. Only after wealth has been created should we debate the costs and benefits of redistributing it to our desired social ends.” You might ask, Roger what does this look like?

Typically, redistribution involves taxes, charitable giving, and education. Let’s start with taxes. I think the current tax rate for corporations is fine. It is in line with the rest of the world, and it does not encourage corporations to redistribute earnings to tax havens. However, I do think the wealthy can pay more taxes than they are. Even Buffet, Gates, and others say they can pay more. It is the middle person that I am worried about. I have a friend in Sedro-Woolley who has his own business and is constantly concerned about increased regulations and taxes. Often our politicians think they are impacting the big company but end up hurting the small and middle size companies. Ultimately, I think we can raise a bit more revenue with higher taxes for the wealthy.

However, I agree with Bobby Jindal when he stated in his WSJ article on April 9th, “Modern liberalism has broken from its roots by focusing on groups rather than individuals, reimagining Western history as irredeemably corrupt, and celebrating victimhood.” Leviathan wants us to become completely controlled by government, instead of being personally responsible for our actions. The United States is the most generous country in the world. As I stated in a previous blog we give over $400 Billion to charity each year. This provides churches and non-profits with the funds needed to help those who have been less fortunate or struggle with various issues in their lives. I do think we should look at those charities that give people the skills needed to thrive in our new economy. Millions of jobs are not being filled due to the lack of needed skills.

Once again Leviathan, that daemon in our society that wants to destroy humanity, wants to take away from the poor those things that will help them advance themselves in our society. A free-market holds companies accountable for their actions. But, our education systems in this country do not want to be help accountable. Inner city schools suffer from the lack of funds and unions that want more money and less accountability. Don’t get me wrong teachers work hard and inner-city schools don’t have the teachers or enough resources, but to eliminate those competing opportunities like charter schools is a travesty. I think competition in our educational system is a good thing. I also think that inner-city children should have the same educational choices that wealthy children have. Charter schools are the current tool to provide that opportunity.

Democratic-Capitalism gives us the financial resources and collective will to provide opportunities for all. The only thing that is holding us back is a political climate that does not have the ability to legislate. I hope we-the-people have the will to keep our republic strong, and not give in to Leviathan. There is a story about Benjamin Franklin that I think is appropriate here. He was approached by some folks who wanted to know what kind of government the leaders had just created. He responded, “a republic, if you can keep it.” When I hear words like make America Great, or we are fighting for America’s soul, I worry. I know what we are capable of doing, both good and bad, history is filled with it.

And that is my thought for the day!

Democratic-Capitalism, Boeing, Notre Dame, And HBCs

I have to say, free-market commercialism, Capitalism, is the most efficient and responsive economic system. There is no perfect economic system, but the one we have chosen over the years, coupled with an overseeing government provides necessary protection and opportunity for all. Yes, there is meritocracy, but that encourages incentive, and without incentive we would not have the largest GDP in the world.

Two recent examples of the ability of free market commercialism to direct market resources are Boeing and Notre Dame. Each demonstrates the power of incentive, the invisible hand, and personal choice. I’d like to start with Boeing.

As we all know, the Boeing 737 Max is struggling a bit right now. Boeing is trying to repair the 737 Max computer system associated with two crashes. However, there are disagreements between countries about how much simulator time will be required to prepare pilots. There is also a parallel issue with Boeing involving the separation of CEO responsibilities from the Chairman’s role. Currently, Boeing’s CEO, Dennis Muilenberg, like other before him operate as both CEO and Chairman of the Board. Boeing is not the only company to practice this, and this common action has been debated for years by academics and practitioners alike. Now, with the 737 Max issue, Boeing is being advised by “proxy advisory firms,” to split the roles. As the WSJ reports, “Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. recommended in a note earlier this month that Boeing shareholders vote for a proposal that would split the leadership roles at the Chicago plane makers annual meeting on April 29th.” If you are familiar with agency theory, I think combining the two roles involves a conflict of interest, therefore they should be separated. I will vote my proxy shares for the split.

The fix for the 737 Max is turning out to be a bit complicated, but what is great is how we can see the invisible hand of the market drive Boeing to do what it needs to do. “Before the planes were grounded last month, passengers told airlines they didn’t want to fly on them” (Daniel Michaels and Robert Wall, WSJ, April 17, 2019). Michaels and Wall also reported that pilots criticized Boeing for the lack of training associated with the new software. These actions are driving Boeing to make needed changes. I have argued that Boeing should have taken the initiative and get out in front of this situation, but my argument in this post is the market will make sure the appropriate change occurs. If Boeing does not make changes that placate the market, then Boeing’s profits will take an even more substantive hit. The work of the invisible hand pushes the appropriate corporate action. I love it.

In all fairness Boeing’s CEO has stated, “that Boeing held some blame for the crashes.” And, he stated what I know to be true having been a Boeing employee, “We know every person who steps aboard one of our airplanes places their trust in us. We’ll do everything possible to earn and re-earn that trust and confidence from our airline customers and flying public in the weeks and months ahead.” Thus, the power of the invisible hand.

However, another benefit of free market commercialism is the fact we have profit. In other words, we have something left over to, of our own choice, give to meet the needs of people. In 2017 Americans gave $410.02 Billion to charity, and as reported crossed the $400 Billion for the first time. Compared to other countries the United States shines as a city on a hill. Although, there are no official numbers for global charitable giving reports show that Russia gives the equivalent of about $2 Billion, China about $13.2 Billion, Switzerland about $1.8 Billion, UK about $12 Billion, and Australia about $103 Billion. So, the United States does well.

Although, many people hate the rich, I really can’t say I hate the rich. I know a few rich people, but they are amazingly generous. But, I am sure there are some very greedy people out there. The WSJ today reported that some very wealthy people have donated about 850 million Euros to rebuild the Notre Dame cathedral. Some very nasty people have stated that the Catholic church is worth $35 Billion so why donate to rebuild Notre Dame. The only problem with that statement, the church does not own the building. The nation of France doe, so the anti-religionists lose again. I think it is amazing that people who have been fortunate enough to create wealth for themselves and the people who work for them see the importance of giving to help others. This is how Capitalism is supposed to work.

As a wonderful side note. Because of the level of giving to rebuilding Notre Dame, the GoFundme account for rebuilding the three historically black churches in Louisiana now stands at about $2 Million. Hate crimes will never win, they will only make us stronger.

I am a strong believer in the free market. I am also a strong believer in the fact that human nature is flawed. Therefore, I am not naïve when it comes to the goodness of people. There is greed and selfishness that impacts our ability to care for those who are in need. This is why we need government oversight of big business, to some level. Of course, even those in government can be corrupt, but this is the best we can do given our flawed nature.

In his excellent book, Big-Business: A Love Letter To An American Anti-Hero, Tyler Cowen states, “We live in an age when the reputation of business is under siege. Among Democrats, for instance, the world socialism now polls better than does capitalism. But Republicans, while they pay lip service to some business ideals, are not in practice much better. Many of them have quite readily followed President Donald Trump into his attacks on free trade, immigration, outsourcing, and the American Media (which is labeled enemy of the people) – all fundamentally anti-business stances.” Business is being attacked from both sides. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you, literally. Business makes and sells us what we need, and it employs us. This allows us to live our lives comfortably and care for our families. Yes, it could do better, but I’ll tell you, working for a large company like I did, it worked hard to promote on merit only, not race or gender, it worked hard to pay its employee’s the same wage for a job, no matter if you were black, brown, or female. It worked hard at employing the right person for a job nor matter gay or straight. Yes, it was sued, and yes it paid out money for infractions, but that is the power of Democratic- Capitalism.

And that is my thought for the day!

Boeing’s Lesson That Our Government Should Learn From

My current read is a book by Tyler Cowen. Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero. It is described as “An Against-the-grain polemic on American Capitalism.” I am enjoying this book, especially because it reinforces my experience working for a large company. My career at Boeing was fruitful, and my experience with Boeing was positive. Boeing is not by any stretch of the imagination a perfect company, but it was a good one to work for.

Today’s WSJ had a very interesting article about Boeing today. “Boeing to Solicit Overseas Blessing For 737 Mac Fix.” The article goes on to explain that this is not normal for Boeing, but with shareholders now suing the company it is a necessary step to restore its reputation with its customers.

The trust issue that Boeing is having with its customers may not be just because of the Max, it may represent a greater resentment that culture has with those in a position of status. The police throughout the United States are struggling with its relationship in communities. The incident in Chicago is probably an exemplar of this. Our politicians have lost, and continue to lose, our respect. Instead of finding ways to positively lead our country they investigate even though we are tired of the phony charades and narratives created by both sides of the aisle. Even the Evangelical church has taken a hit because of how a part of the church supported Trump. All around our country Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) has kicked in creating a negative vibe impacting normally cogent individuals.

Tyler Owen in his book discusses the 2016 Gallop poll about the “relative trust Americans have in a variety of institutions.” Congress was on the bottom, which is no surprise to me. Zero of us trust congress a great deal, while only 6% trust congress quite a lot. I am not too sure what these phrases meant to the researchers, but congress’s abhorrent reputation is even lower than the President’s. Big business is the second lowest, third lowest is the news media, and then we have the criminal justice system. Our society does not trust those in power of status.

Boeing recognizes the problem it has with the trust of its customers and sees this overseas blessing as necessary to restore confidence in its product. Andy Pasztor, Andrew Tangel, and Robert Wall describe this in their article, “The strategy stems from a recognition by Boeing’s management and agency leaders that an impartial, outside group’s endorsement is essential to restore trust in the planes.” Some would see this as extreme, but I think it is a wise move. The leadership of Boeing in the aerospace industry has been damaged, therefore there needs to be some serious work done to repair Boeing’s reputation. Boeings stock is down, and its 737 Max has been grounded for a month, this is a huge hit to their bottom-line. This is why Boeing stockholders are suing the company.

This event, and the disgusting behavior of our politicians, got me thinking about what is needed for those in power and status to restore trust between themselves and the rest of us normal people?

First, I think the powers-that-be need to recognize that it took us years to get to this point, it will take a while to repair the situation. Second, there needs to be some recognition of the mistakes done. Biden did invade personal space, Trump did say some atrocious things, Warren did use her 1/1264th heritage to get ahead, and many others. Third, some may need to step down for the good of the whole. Maybe Trump, AOC and Ilhan need to step down for the good of the whole? Fourth, a sincere apology for bad behavior is critical. I have a fantasy where Pelosi and Trump stand up before the nation in a joint media event and tell everyone how sorry they are about their infantile behavior and all though they don’t agree on everything will work to find compromise that will be the best for all the country.

I do think Boeing is trying to repair its reputation. I know the motivation is part financial, but we live in changing times. More is demanded of companies by the consumer. We want a high-quality product, at a decent price, made in an ethical manner.

I agree with Tyler Cowen’s premise that American business has certain virtues. In fact, Boeing works hard to ensure it has a diverse workforce, paid a competitive wage, with the best benefits available. I know they provide that because they did for me. They paid for all of my education from BS to PhD. I am very pleased with my career at Boeing. Even as I say this, I know the comeback for Boeing will be difficult. As will the comeback of our political leaders.

It will take good management of systems. The productivity of our country is always higher when we have good leadership. When this occurs then trust will increase. We will be able to delegate to our political employees much easier if we trust them. Boeing and American business in general “has never been more productive, more tolerant, and more cooperative” than right now. Boeing has been productive for years and will regain its form. Will our government? I hope so, because we are all paying the price right now for our poor leadership.

And that is my thought for the day!

Monday Musings!

Monday morning! Now that I am retired I love Mondays, but even better I love Sunday evenings. When I was still working fulltime, Sunday evenings would often be filled with tossing and turning while trying to sleep. I would worry about many different things that never came to pass. Today, Sunday night sleep is usually not too bad. However, as every older male knows, sleep is often interrupted with a trip to the little boy’s room. Other than that, my sleep is usually uneventful.

Today’s blog offering is just a series of short comments on the plethora of editorials I read this morning. All of them reflect on our changing nation. There is no doubt in my mind that our country is changing. I don’t care who you are, it is our country. It is one out of many, and diversity gives us our strength as a nation. There are basic fundamentals that are critical to our continued success, but as a whole we are changing. This is not a quality statement, just a recognition of reality.

I am now a senior citizen who is sitting on his porch watching the world go by. I have enjoyed my life, and as the characteristics of my city and nation changes I mourn the loss of the past. Mick Jagger had heart surgery. Billy Graham is now with Jesus. Louis Palau is aging. Life goes on. I don’t recognize the music the youth seem to enjoy, the skinny jeans don’t fill my boat, and the manbun definitely is a no-go for me. Of course, at my age I am a bit follicle challenged, so the manbun is out. Maybe I am jealous.

The fact is the world turns. New generations rise, and old generations pass away. It is inevitable, and until the end it will continue on. So, what can I do about this? As the song says, “Absolutely nothing, say it again!” But I can scream from my front porch, watch out! This doesn’t seem right! Be careful! Today’s blog will be just that, a scream from my front porch to watch out for the cultural revolution, the true costs of increased minimum wage, and gum balls and immigration.

Anastasia Lin is a very interesting woman. She is a Chinese-Canadian woman who is a human rights activist. In 2015 she won the Miss World China pageant and was supposed to represent Canada in the subsequent competition that was to be held in China. However, China would not allow her to enter the country due to her human rights work highlighting abuses in mainland China. She warns North America of a Cultural Revolution that has emerged in North America.

She warns about online mobs and other mechanisms used by people to silence those with contrarian beliefs than the majority. “The presumption of innocence is a fundamental tenet of Western law. Yet, it is increasingly abandoned in the rush to force orthodoxy and destroy political enemies. The mobs pile on, destroying lives, careers and reputations with gleeful abandon. They claim to act in the name of tolerance, compassion and diversity, but their commitment to these principles is purely abstract. In practice, they are intolerant and cruel, and they demand total conformity.”

As I ponder those words I think of an event I was at several years ago. Our group was deciding whether to recognize someone for a life time of accomplishments. One person in the room said, “but this person doesn’t represent our politics.” That was the moment I knew our world was changing. The other now is being demonized to a point of exclusion. Even this move to eliminate the Electoral College is a move to negate those that don’t agree with what appears to be the majority perspective. Warning Will Robinson, danger, danger!
My next concern involves the fight for a $15 minimum wage, a worthy cause for sure. We all want to help the little person. But, I think we need to remember why the minimum wage was created. It is a short-term protection, so people can adjust their work skills and find better employment. When we start setting wage floors the substitution effect comes into play. Employers with look for other ways, usually involving technology, to provide the same services. Thus, the fecal infested kiosks of McD’s. As the WSJ demonstrated in its editorial this morning, “trying to increase low-skilled pay by political fiat isn’t a free lunch.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that in 2018 sit-down restaurants in New York City had 167,900 employees. This number has been reduced, as of January 2019 when the minimum wage increased to $15, to 161,700. A reduction of 3.7%, “when overall city employment increased by 2% year over year.” New York restaurant owners warned of this and continue to express their concerns. “The New York Hospitality Alliance surveyed 324 full-service eateries late last year. Nearly half, 47%, planned to eliminate jobs in 2019 to deal with higher labor costs. Three-fourths expected to cut employee hours, and 87% said they would raise menu prices.”

Once again, something that was meant to do good, is hurting the ones that need the help. I am all for increasing the minimum wage to a point connected with some index. However, I don’t want to reinforce people in a situation where they don’t want to improve themselves. Help them get the job skills they need to get a better paying job. Help them to rise out of a low-skilled job. This would have a longer-term effect for them and our nation.

My last scream from the porch deals with a point that Mary Anastasia O’Grady makes in today’s WSJ. The title of her piece is “Why Hondurans Flee For The U.S.” Once again she hits the nail on the head. However, it reminded me of a wonderful presentation I saw on YouTube. Roy Beck gave an amazing presentation on “Immigration, World Poverty and Gumballs.” I have discussed this before in my blog, so I don’t want to go too deep into it. But the fact is, more can be done to help others in their countries. However, Honduras politicians need to take the initiative to want to deal with their issues. They need to help their people, not just line their own pockets.

There you have it. I am screaming from my porch. Warning everyone! There are problems here, and new ones coming. But you know what? When I was young the older generation did the same thing. Watch out young people the road is treacherous. There are many IED’s out there that can devastate your movement forward. I can only hope this younger generation listens, but probably not. Because we didn’t! Warning, warning, warning!

And that is my thought for the day!

Last Words For Your Kids

Yesterday I had a great lunch discussion with my Pastor. He wanted to discuss my statement of faith that I had sent him. It was something I had written in one of my blogs several weeks ago. We also discussed other topics, but I think the best part is that he paid for lunch. You see I am retired and on a fix income. Haha, just kidding. However, I am not kidding about how positive the experience was, I really enjoy meeting with this young man.

As I peruse Twitter and Facebook simultaneously getting enraged, encouraged, and enlightened I am amazed just how easily our current culture wants to deconstruct the past as it rages against injustices. However, as I think about this, and remember the daemon at war in this age, Leviathan, I realize this is an important strategy. In the past, conquerors of cities would move all the people from those vanquished diacritics to a new location to control them by eliminating hope. Today, we need to doubt all institutions, especially the church, because they were all colonizers whose only purpose was to oppress people they were colonizing.

Don’t get me wrong that happened, but that is not the complete narrative. There is a greater narrative bigger than one focused just on humanity. As many rightly point out the problems of our past, I worry, because there is this underlying theme initiating distrust in basic human values that have been written on our hearts by our creator. What got me to thinking about this was a story I read about the elders of a small island of Simeulue.

Mark Sayer in his wonderful book starts the section “The Partnership of the Generations” with, “When the Asian tsunami of 2004 hit Aceh in Indonesia, over 167,000 people tragically died. Yet on the island of Simeulue just off Aceh only seven people perished. Why?” It turns out the people on the island practiced a storytelling process called smong. This is where the elders tell stories to the children of the island, but end all of the stories with the warning, “if a strong tremor occurs, and if the sea withdraws soon after, run to the hills, for the sea will soon rush ashore.” When this happened in 2004 people ran to the hills, because they had been warned.

This got me to thinking about when I am on my death bed, what would I tell my children? What warnings would I express? I think if I wait until then, I am too late. Thus, the need to create the narratives now to help my children be prepared for the coming apex of humanity. I would love to lay out warning signs of the coming tribulation, but that is not the purpose of this particular blog posting. This one is what I want to tell my children to prepare them for a good life. It is a simple mantra: Love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, and mind. And love your neighbor as yourself. I don’t think it gets any simpler than that.

What does it mean to love God? First of all, it is an exclusionary relationship. There is a cost. Grace is extended to all, but only those who respond experience it. If there is one thing I have learned in 68+ years of living is nothing compares to the love of God expressed in Christ Jesus. This is not some ethereal Christ essence, it is a real relationship between the God of the universe and me. One that I cannot earn, but one that completes me and encourages me to do good things in my life.

To love God is to be a disciple. It is to study to show myself approved. It is to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within me. It is to stand firm putting on the whole armor of God. It is to pray, adoring God, confessing my sins, being filled with thanksgiving, and supplicating for others and myself. It is to pick up my cross and follow him, knowing that the world system does not lead one closer to God, but away from Him. It is to, as Francis Schaeffer once said, be co-belligerent with those who fight against injustice, but be careful with whom you align. We are warned about being unequally yoked.

When we think about what it means to love with all our heart, soul, and mind, we realize how imperfect we are. We realize just how shrouded that window is that we look through to find God. We strive and wrestle with our evil nature as we seek to serve God. But this truly is the good fight. One we should never give up. Peter was asked by Jesus if he was going to leave. This was a question posed after a very difficult teaching moment where Jesus told his followers that if we do not eat his flesh and drink his blood we have no part in him. This illustrates the debt of commitment we are to have in our relationship with Jesus.

Lastly, loving your neighbor as yourself. This is an incredible level of commitment to those around us. This is not bowling alone, but an amazing statement about how God wants us to behave as we interact with those around us. You talk about counter-culture. However, for this to be real and meaningful it needs to be holistic. It might be good to go back to the Bebbington Quadrilateral: Biblicentric, crucicentric, conversioncentric, and activistcentric.

There are so many today that just want to be activists. They individually choose what causes they want to get behind. It doesn’t make any difference who they partner with to get the job done, just do it. I really think that is problematic. For me my activism is tied to the Bible, the centricity of Jesus, and the need for people not just to have a fairer situation, but that they also are introduced to the only one who can meet their true needs. Because of this I limit my actions to those aligned with my worldview. I make no apologies, it is not a different time, the truth is still the truth. Don’t ask me to align with those who don’t hold the same love for God that I have, but if you are asking if I can be co-belligerent with you, that is a different story. I mourn for all of the injustices in this life, and I am aligned with various organizations that I think can alleviate those injustices, but I will be very careful with whom I partner.

So kids, there you have it. The only wise thing I can say to you; the only useful advice I can leave you; the most helpful lesson in life I can share with you is love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind; and love your neighbor as yourself. It doesn’t get any wiser than that.

And that is my thought for the day!

Boeing And Johnson&Johnson: Two Different Responses To Crisis

Over the last few months we have observed two horrible plane crashes, both involving a new plane, the 737 Max. Two national carriers, one Indonesian and one Ethiopian, experienced fatal crashes killing all passengers on board. Quickly air safety agencies all over the world began to ground the 737 Max, but Canada and the United States were hesitant. Eventually the FAA and Canada followed by grounding the planes. This blog post is not about those actions, but about the actions of the company, Boeing.

First, I am a Boeing retiree. I loved my career at Boeing, working there for 30 years. I am still friends with many of the people I worked with, and during the summer play golf with many who still work for the company. Just because I am writing about a serious shortcoming of the company, does not mean I am not thankful for the wonderful career and retirement Boeing has given me. Now let’s get down to the issue, Boeing’s arrogance.

The arrogance of Boeing can be a strength and a weakness. Resilience is a result of self-confidence. Self-confidence can be seen as arrogance, but when arrogance leads to ignoring or not listening then you have an issue. In the late 70’s when Airbus was emerging from the shadows, I asked one of my bosses what he thought about Airbus. He said they would not be able to compete. I think he was reflecting the overall sentiment of the company at the time and was extremely shortsighted. Later, after Airbus received a big order from Eastern Airlines, this same boss would say, “let’s see if they can deliver on time,” once again reflecting the sentiment of the company. The rest is history, and Airbus emerged as a strong competitor that, on the positive side, has driven Boeing to be less arrogant and more flexible. That is until now.

Old habits die hard, and arrogance is a habit that I thought Boeing had put aside, but it seems its demise was overstated. The headlines of today’s WSJ, “Between Two Deadly Crashes, Boeing Moved Haltingly.” It took several days for Boeing leadership to make a public statement on the tragedies, and other comments appear to place the blame on the pilots of Lion Air and Ethiopian Air. As the WSJ notes, “After the first crash, a top Boeing official told a gathering of U.S. pilots they wouldn’t encounter similar problems, contending they were better trained than their counterparts in other countries.” Pilots are not necessarily the most humble people, but this seems a little over the top for me.

Boeing has since made public comments about the crashes to attempt to repair its damaged image. “A Boeing spokesman said Monday the company is continuing to work with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and other world regulators on the software and related changes.” The spokesman then rightly stated, “Safety is our first priority, and we will take a thorough and methodical approach to the development and testing of the update to ensure we take the time to get it right.” Having worked at Boeing, having shown videos on the work Boeing has done in the past to find why crashes occur, I know this statement is true. I also know, that the people of Boeing who work in every facility, every assembly line, and every office feel horrible when what they work on hurt people and their families.

I’d like to contrast Boeing’s response to this event with the response of Johnson and Johnson to the Extra Strength Tylenol scare of 1982. On September 29, 1982 our greatest fear became true. Someone had poisoned Tylenol capsules resulting in seven deaths. Twenty years later the New York Times would write an article, “Tylenol made a hero of Johnson and Johnson: The Recall that Started Them All.” Johnson and Johnson took immediate action on the situation by choosing to pull “31 million bottles of Tylenol capsules” from the shelves in stores. This event cost the company $100 million but endeared the company with the world. I’d like to say Johnson and Johnson has been perfect since this time, but no company is. At that time though, James Burke, company chairman, exercised admirable leadership in how he communicated with the public and took action.

Boeing’s action was a little different. “Days after Lion Air flight 610 crashed, the company and the FAA maintained the 737 Max model was perfectly safe, so long as pilots precisely followed emergency procedures on which they were trained.” That comment sounds like a cover-your-butt comment to ensure people wouldn’t be able to sue Boeing. The WSJ notes after the Ethiopian crash, “Boeing publicly announced the final details of its planned software update that went beyond what many industry officials familiar with the discussions had anticipated.” Seems like a little too late.

The New York Times article that praised Johnson and Johnson noted that normal procedure for companies when facing a crisis is “fiddle while Rome burns.” I think that is the case with Boeing’s slow response to the crashes. There is always a contrarian view to this. Of all the new Max’s out there, only two crashed. Does that constitute a crisis? Should all Max planes be grounded? Prudence is the greater part of valor. I also know the company takes these things very seriously. I just think they could have responded a bit differently than what they did.

Although the company started working on a fix right after the Lion Air crash, was there a sense of urgency? I think if Dennis Muilenburg, CEO, would have appeared to discuss the first crash and outline actions being taken the image of the company may not have been shaken. And after the second crash, if he would have been a bit more proactive in communicating to the world how the fix would be the primary goal of the company, they could have been seen as a current Johnson and Johnson. Instead, Boeing’s stock took a hit, and its image tarnished.

Take heart children, Boeing will get this issue fixed. Flight safety will be enhanced. And as the WSJ reported, “engineers working with regulators and suppliers, were careful not to rush the fix through rounds of deployment, testing and tweaking before more testing as the changes evolved.” This is the company I know and love, but leadership could have been a bit more out-front dealing with the situation giving the flying public assurances needed to support a very good company and airplane.

And that is my thought for the day!

Bebbington Quadrilateral, Gnosticism, and The Quadruple Bottom Line

Have I told you lately how much I enjoy retirement? I mean, I am working a little bit, I am playing a lot of golf, but I am also voraciously reading. I love to read and think. Some would say I am not a very good thinker, but I am, to the best of my ability, trying to think things through according to my worldview.

As a business manager who cares about stewardship and the efficient use resources, I love discussing those topics with anyone who wants to listen. I had breakfast Wednesday with a very good friend and we both agreed that the most important resource is our people. How we lead them is critical to the success of the organization. This is why I think the Quadruple Bottom-Line is so important. I have previously written about this but would like to reinforce why I think it is important for those of us who believe and follow Jesus Christ to adhere to the quadruple bottom-line.

Although there are many versions of this concept, I adhere to the following: Providence, People, Planet, and Profit. I thought about calling this the 4P’s, but that would be confusing due to marketing theory. The question is what do each of these words mean? I’d like to define the word providence first, and then give an illustration from the Bebbington Quadrilateral.

The definition of providence encompasses one thing, “the foreseeing care and guidance of God.” If I think this is true then it should guide how I run my business, or how I manage the organization I am responsible for. Another way we could look at the word is “a prudent management of resources.” I find that very interesting. As a Christian I think it is critical for me to properly manage resources in a prudent manner, because it is the right thing to do as I live out faith in my life. You see I have been saved by grace. As a result, God is working in me to do good works. How I run my business is a part of those good works. How I view the world is a result of my philosophy being aligned with Biblicism, Crucicentrism, Conversionism, and Activism.

Obviously, my leading my organization in a godly manner is part of my activism. Activism is about doing good and creating a better world. However, if my motive is to create just a better world then I am missing the most important part. You see, my willingness to run my organization well is a result of my faith in God that has grown due to my understanding of God’s word the Bible. So, the Bible is central to my life. What is also central is the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and His resurrection. Without either of those Christianity is worthless. However, if I run my business well, but never care about the eternal destination of the people I come in contact with, then I am doing less than required. Don’t worry, I don’t think I as a manager should put pressure on my employees to “get saved,” but I will live my life in a manner where they know what is important to me. And I will be constantly praying for each of them.

Most views on the Quadruple Bottom-line will have eternity, or providence, as the fourth part of the bottom-line. I think it should be first. All or our actions come out of that very important relationship. We do because we first are. Then we can take care of our people, our planet, and properly use the profit that we are entrusted with. Providence must be first to provide the best motivation for the other three P’s and stay away from modern Gnosticism.

Mark Sayers in his wonderful book, “Disappearing Church,” gives a great illustration how in this post-Christian era that many are retreating from providence to a modern expression of Gnosticism. What he calls contemporary Gnosticism is described as extreme individualism where you find victory over a life that is inferior and mundane, and personally growing past a strong Christian view, to one of spirituality. Subsequently one moves to “fulfillment” by deconstructing the past, leaving traditional Christianity, and creating your own sense of belief. In the table where Sayers compares contemporary Gnosticism with the Gospel, he states “it is all about you.” This is why I think providence should be first. It is not about me, it is about God first, and then His work in me, leading to activism.

I believe that business, especially business-as-mission, can create positive social change. If we as believers use a philosophy and a quadruple bottom-line worldview we can ensure the world is a better place.

And that is my thought for the day!