Where Are We Headed

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Wed, Oct 29, 2008, 9:58 pm  //  Craig Mayberry

The fundamental question this election has been what kind of change do we want. It is difficult to dissect what each candidate means by change, so let’s start with some high level conversation about where we should be headed. The stereotype is that Republicans support small government and big business while Democrats support big government and oppose big business (granted these are huge stereotypes that do not hold for everyone and recent actions by both parties suggest their respect leaders like big government and big business). There are a couple of fundamental laws at work when it comes to big business and big government. One is an organizational law and the other is a law of power. To simply say we support big business and not big government or vice versa is to ignore these fundamental laws.

The first issue is determining the fundamental difference between big government and big business. Yes, big business seeks profit and big government is seeks the will of the people, but the reality is there is no meaningful difference. Big business and big government both have a hierarchical organization structures, and individuals employed by governments and businesses will seek out their own interest before that of the organization. These two facts have a much greater influence over behavior then profit seeking versus tax seeking. In fact there is no real difference between a big business seeking higher profits and government seeking higher tax revenue. Both actions are in the self interest of the individuals running the organizations.

As organizations get larger they become more bureaucratic, in other words policies and procedures play an increasingly larger role the bigger the organization becomes. These increasing policies and procedures have two impacts. First, they are designed to maintain the status quo and minimize innovation. Second, they are designed to protect the employees (of either government or business) from having to deal with real customer problems. Customers of big business and big government are disempowered from having any influence on the organization without exerting tremendous time and energy that makes most people unwilling to try. In large measure, most employees are also disempowered from having any influence on the company as well.

The second law relates to power. The larger an organization becomes the more power it will want to accumulate in order to maintain their position. The accumulation of resources (both people and money) is the most obvious form of the accumulation of power. Big business and big government now have substantially more power then every before, because the amount of financial and people resources they have are higher than they have ever had before. We are naïve if we think that business or government will then not use their financial resources to maintain their position. The fact is the U.S. government has more money and power than any organization on earth, and no matter who is in charge of it they will work to accumulate more power. Many like to blame Bush for the current position, but the reality is it would not matter if it were Gore or Kerry, we would be in much the same position we are today (yes, we can debate whether we would be in Iraq and other seemingly big issues, but fundamentally on the things that really matter there would be little difference).

So given the laws of hierarchy and power, where do we go from here. Society has gotten very complex and the issues we are dealing with require new ways to think about them. These problems will not be solved by big government and big business, as their primary function is to maintain the status quo. Changes will have to come at the local level, by local people, and local organizations. If we want change, then we need to empower local organizations and people to solve them. These organizations do not have the same level of hierarchy and therefore are easier to manage and promote innovation. The second thing is that power needs to be redistributed back to the people. Obama likes to talk about redistributing wealth (although Bush and McCain are not far behind), but fundamentally it is about power. The fact that individuals have millions of dollars is irrelevant compared to business and government having billions of dollars at their disposal. The federal government needs to push responsibility back to the states, and states need to push it back to local governments, and the tax dollars need to follow. Moving money from big business to big government, or vice versus, does nothing to change the power structure; nor does moving money from rich individuals to poor ones. These are simply shell games to divert attention away from the real problems.

From a big business standpoint, we need to sanity check the bigger is better mentality and only have large companies in those industries that really make sense. Banks, insurance, health care, agriculture, media and many other core necessities do not require big business to be efficient, in fact they are more inefficient, which is why many of them need subsidies to survive. The number of multinational companies should be a very short list and tightly regulated, while the number of local, private own businesses needs to substantially increase with greater access to financial resources.

For those out there hoping for change, you will get to wait a while longer, it will not matter who gets elected next Tuesday. The state and federal government and multinational companies will keep getting larger and accumulating more power along the way. The real solutions to problems like health care, education and poverty will remain undiscovered by the federal government and big business, not interested in innovation and change. Eventually people will start to realize what the fundamental issues are, and then from the bottom up we can promote change; but it will occur much faster when both political ideologies realize their respective errors in their assumptions and work together to redistribute power.

Scott Wicklund  //  Thu, Oct 30, 2008, 12:13 pm

Craig,  Have you been napping all during this long campaign?  I had hoped you were going to tie in the Palinistas in your scenario, if for nothing more than the entertainment value.  Here is that left wing organ The Economist’s endorsement.  At least they are more aware of what this is about….

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Chris Matthews recently noted how many Republicans have peeled off their uniforms on the battlefield because the dogfood they have been selling stinks so bad.  Be honest with us and tell us who you will vote for.  That will say all that you need to say…


Bob Aegerter  //  Thu, Oct 30, 2008, 6:42 pm

Craig,

Parts of what you say sound good. 

Why don’t we rewrite the basic laws about corporations so they no longer have the rights of individuals and are able to dominate the political process with the money they have available?

What if corporations and individuals were morally, ethically, and financially responsible for what they say, publish and post?

What if voters had to take a course on propaganda and the importance of emotional context in their political decisions?

Are you sure you really support change?


Craig Mayberry  //  Fri, Oct 31, 2008, 9:31 am

Yes, I do support change, but the devil is in the details of whether change will occur.  You bring up some reasonable solutions that will have some impact, but there are many others that may have more impact.  What about public campaign financing (as being done in AZ and Maine) which takes all special interests out of the election cycle.  What about not letting companies get that big to begin with, we easily let companies merge with no real thought to the real consequences.  What about providing more financial resources to local businesses instead of large companies.  I do agree with not having corporations be individuals in the eyes of the law.

I appreciate the perspectives that the politicians and voters can fix this (if they were just more intelligent), but the results are driven by an overall system that is fairly complex and even if you change politicians (or voters) and do not change some of the fundamental system level issues you are not going to get any change.  You also cannot lay all of the problems at the feet of multinational corporations.  The federal government is just as culpable, if not more so, given they have more power and resources than multinational companies. 

That was the point of the first paragraph, liberals look to multinationals as the primary source of the problems and conservatives view government as the primary source of the problem.  The problem is both of them, and liberals need to acknowledge that big government is just as dangerous as big business and conservatives need to admit that multinationals are just as dangerous as big government (by the way many conservatives are now in that camp).  I will give you a perfect example, once the election is over, in regards to health care, and how this would play out.

You bring up “What if corporations and individuals were morally, ethically, and financially responsible for what they say, publish and post?”  The problem with this approach is it is a slippery slope to violations of the first amendment.  My first response is are we going to do the same for government.  The second response is who is going to decide what is moral and ethical- government?  That is like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse.

Ultimately it is about educating voters and politicians on what is really driving the problems.  I get the sense we all agree on the problem statement, but neither party has a clue as to the solutions.  This is primarily driven by a lack of systems level thinking, which is where the education needs to come in.


Bob Aegerter  //  Fri, Oct 31, 2008, 1:44 pm

I agree that god is in the details.  Every action seems to have unintended consequences.

I support public financing of campaigns if we can work out lots of bothersome details.

Multinational Corporations have more power than the government.  They own both parties in the US.  We do not have a two party system, we have a money party system.  They will not give up their power without a huge fight.

Those in control of the parties are smart. They do not need education, they need to see significant numbers of voters who participate and care. They know how to stay in control, follow the money.

I am not opposed to people saying whatever they want.  That is free speech.  But if they lie or are deceptive, they should be called on it and face the consequences.

I look forward to you post on Health Care. Any solution must deal with the fact that costs are out of control and the results in the United States are not as good as other countries with much lower per person costs.

You have more faith in “systems level” planning than I do.  The plans are all on the shelves. What we lack is political will.

Thank you for posting and for responding.


Scott Wicklund  //  Fri, Oct 31, 2008, 6:42 pm

Sarah has identified a problem with the First Ammendment which may need to be addressed.  You can listen to the audio here:

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“So stupid, it hurts!”

After this long campaign, it really amazes me that Craig cannot come out and tell us why he is voting for McCain/Palin.


Craig Mayberry  //  Sat, Nov 01, 2008, 12:08 am

Bob,

I agree on the political will.  I suspect the politicians are too hyperpartisan at this point that system level solutions are not viable in their mind, even though I think a pragmatic solution that can be coherently presented to voters would easily get support and the first party that comes up with them will dominate the political landscape for many years.

Scott,

In answer to your question.  As I clearly articulated, I do not think it will matter much who wins, nothing much is going to change for the better.  We have two choices, neither of which is my preference and in large measure it is figuring out who is the least of the two evils.  I do believe that Obama has far more risk associated with his Presidency than McCain.  I believe from a foreign policy standpoint he is similar to Carter, which didn’t work, and from an economic standpoint I think he will take a bad economic situation and make it far worse through his tax and spending policy (keep in mind that I have taught economics for a few years so I understand economic principles fairly well). 

I voted for McCain for two reasons. First, I would rather deal with the devil I know, than the devil I don’t know.  Second, at the end of the day we have to cut government spending and balance the budget and although I am not overly optimistic that either will be able to do it, I believe that McCain has a better chance.  Pretty much all of the other issues were just noise to me, and I do not believe the campaign promises of either one so I had to look at their histories and how they responded to various situations in their political careers.

So now that I provided my rationale for my vote, why did you vote for Obama (and don’t give me the hope, change and great uniter rhetoric, you have to be intellectually honest and come up with something better than that)?


Scott Wicklund  //  Sat, Nov 01, 2008, 7:00 am

This election is just a referendum on the last eight years.  For any rational person, there is no reason to vote for more of the same.  Social conservatives have aligned with the Republicans who have pandered to them, even as they too know of the extreme incompetence they offer.  If you give someone the keys to your boat and they put it on the rocks, it is not a good idea to let them steer anymore.
That is where we are.
John McCain has had high quality government provided health care since conception.  He just does not want anyone else to have it.  His tax on health care benefits shows what he is about.
Government is never perfect, but this time we need to break away from the record of the last eight years.  Look in your rear view mirror for one last look at Dubya and John McCain.
I am voting for Barack Obama and Joe Biden, along with a majority of thoughtful folks who see what this is about.


Scott Wicklund  //  Sat, Nov 01, 2008, 1:02 pm

Craig,  I almost overlooked your assertion of predictability for John McCain did not include Sarah Palin.  What is up?  Do you now have second thoughts?

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Was the disclosure of Wasila Mayor Palin charging rape victims for their forensic kits a contributing factor?


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