Unfortunately All Too Similar Prognostications

The Doomsday Clock has been recently set at 90-seconds. Why 90-seconds?  Let’s name just a few interrelated reasons: increased probability of nuclear escalation from a Ukraine war that continues without noticeable significant talks for peace; unabated warming of the climate thus diminishing the viability of a life on this planet; continued loss of biodiversity; continuing  pollution of air and water; disregarding the need to mitigate the emergence of infectious diseases such as COVID-19.  As Rachel Bronson, Ph.D. (president and CEO, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists) said: “We are living in a time of unprecedented danger, and the Doomsday Clock time reflects that reality. 90 seconds to midnight is the closest the Clock has ever been set to midnight, and it’s a decision our experts do not take lightly.”

Yet, given this frank reality, few have been paying attention. Could it be that people are so consumed by the rat race (possibly even addicted?), in the day-to-day getting and spending to meet their basic needs?

Humans aren’t inherently consumed by or addicted to things, rather such behavior is a (tacitly) learned behavior in relation to that thing.  It is learned behavior through constant practice/experience—habitual behavior.  The constant practice and experience of capitalism has by design made for an un-attentive, if not apathetic, citizenry.  Most all industrialized societies are in different degrees capitalistic.

In the U.S., essentially since the early 70’s–following the blueprint put forth in the Powell Memo—the captains of business & industry (a.k.a. professional management class, the business-minded class) have successfully captured (and defunded) the public sphere. Effectually, making the political class a class of business-minded sycophants, turning main stream news and healthcare into profit seeking enterprises, remaking public education into a test-taking training space yielding an uncritical thinking citizenry, and turning higher education into an economic hardship for most.  In short, keeping people concerned about meeting their basic human needs—see  so they don’t have time to place focused attention to what’s really happening to them.

Management’s use extrinsic motivation (a.k.a. reward/punishment, operant conditioning) techniques as the way to incite desired behavior among those they have legitimate power/authority over is capturing us as individuals as well.  That is, many of us experiencing extrinsic motivation management practices which Ryan and Deci (2020) found that over time we internalize these extrinsic motivating sources.  The implication of extrinsic motivation becoming internalized is that individuals come to believe that the external sources are internal—that the motivation is coming from within them—when in reality the motivational stimulus is coming from outside of us, thus supplanting the emergence of inherent need for development—we become alienated from our very own humanity.  No wonder so many of us don’t experience the vitalizing spirit and joy from the work we do—and sadly we are unaware as to why.

Having captured society’s institutions, if not much of society itself, capitalism’s intent of wealth accumulation through each atomized individual pursuing unlimited material growth has created a general disregard for life itself.  Business as usual translates into societal suicide. 

It is long overdue that we think critically about what is actually happening and to do what we can to make this world a very human world, and reject the capitalistic “what’s-in-it-for-me-world’.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of people aren’t even paying attention or capable of thinking critically. For them the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists is no different than the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. 

Reference

Ryan, R.M. & Deci, E.L. (2020). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation from a self-determination theory perspective: Definitions, theory, practices and future directions. Contemporary Educational psychology, 61, 1-11.

It’s About Being Responsible

The intent of this site is to offer an informed perspective on the business of business.  That said, the following, while at first glance might seem to not align, a little further critical thinking places it squarely within the realm of the business of business, more specifically the identification of the responsibility business or more accurately is it a problem of irresponsibility with business as practiced.  

If we continue to ask why, then we often get to the root toward a better understanding.

A Problem 

After a mass shooting event—and there are many each year—the go-to-utterance “our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the victims”, is heard from the public office holders we see at the other end of the camera.  But then, without missing a beat, their go-to-response to the shooting in the moment they unflinchingly offer their questions of exploration into why this particular tragic event, placing the sole blame on the shooter.  It is the mass shooting version of pilot error, disregarding the entire system facilitating it happening.

Mass killing-by-gun happens so often it is endemic in the U.S.—no other industrialized country comes close!  The U.S. presents the context (a.k.a. system). No, the U.S. doesn’t have a higher incidence of mental illness but the U.S. does have a higher market penetration of gun sales/ownership.  Moreover research has shown that most people with mental illness are not violent and so the link between mental illness and mass shooters is a weak one at best—far more other factors are involved.

The U.S. has the highest per capital firearm ownership in the world.  A PEW Research Center survey found thirty-two percent of U.S. adults are gun owners, yet the number of guns per 100 people is 120—a little over one gun for every person.  Clearly, gun ownership in the U.S. is highly concentrated within a segment of the population.  What a profitable business strategy, getting your customers to buy more of your stuff—now that’s customer loyalty!

Why?

Why do these mass killings continue to happen?  As noted above, the avoidance tactic of placing focus solely on the specific shooter in moment,  diverts attention and effort away from actually understanding the facilitating system that makes it possible, if not probable.  With each individual presenting his unique story, we never really get to understanding the epidemic of mass shootings and gun violence in general.  Yet, increasing the number of guns in the mix by arming teachers, resource officers and additional police presence are offered as the solution.  This will likely increase gun sales, but it doesn’t get at the root.

So, the story line is that there is not enough political will (a.k.a. moral courage) to stop it–to make it so that he can’t or is far less likely to happen!  

Why?

What’s influencing the political will?  Agency theory: Industry money flowing to elected officials with authority over policy transforms elected officials from agents of the public (i.e. care and concern for people’s well-being) to agents of the industry (i.e. care and concern for an industry’s profit ).  

Why?

Why the change in agency? There is just too much money to be had from those in pursuit of profit through growth in market penetration.  We mustn’t forget, how much money one accumulates (a.k.a. wealth) is the measure of success in capitalist society. There is little to be had in caring for peoples’ well-being and a boat load to be had in facilitating the intent of business.

Why?

Why is this continuing to happen?  

The simplest, logical and most obvious answer is because they can: that is to say, the system is facilitating industry, political officials—as well as shooters—so they can?

It’s just business (ah hum, ‘what’s in-it-for-me’), nothing personal!  

The Overarching Question

Since the above applies to all types of industry—all industries have lobbyists—we must ask, what is the meaning of corporate social responsibility when the intent of business is the maximization of short-term profit?  In effect, with the corporate intent not encompassing responsibility to society—actually running counter to it—then corporate social responsibility is an oxymoron. To the business minded a society (of people) is a resource for exploitation, not a responsibility—no different than any and all other resources (think Nature)!  

So here is something to think about: Should business/industry adapt to and meet the needs of people in society or should people in society adapt to and meet the needs of business/industry?

Wrong-headed Decisions

In regard to the health and well-being of society, most decisions made by those in both politics and business are wrong-headed (self-serving) decisions. A narrow focus of attention can’t help but to lead to far too many unintended consequences!

Examples are everywhere and emerge almost daily—in regard to healthcare, climate crisis, education, economy, etc.  Let’s look at just one: the current rise in consumer prices (a.k.a. inflation). Evidence shows that the vast majority of large corporations—those providing products and services to people in society—are realizing remarkable increased profit while at the same time consumers are finding meeting basic needs is costing more. Application of a little logic leads one to conclude that the large gains in profit are the result of increased prices.  Moreover, as Dean Baker’s analysis shows, with a declining wage share of corporate income inflation can’t logically be influenced by wage growth. 

Corporations are profit maximizing entities—the intent of business—and thus it is the primary reason why corporations increase the price of their products and services.  You can rest assured, that the business-minded understand this relationship between prices and profit quite well!  

So what has the political class decided to do in the face of this inflation?  Raise interest rates.  Why? It gives the impression of doing something without (actually) doing anything to address the problem. It is a decision that preserves profit making for corporations while intensifying the negative impact of higher prices on the public. Let’s not forget that price is not automatically/mysteriously set by some dynamic in the ether, but rather by people in the corporations—that is, the corporate decision-makers.

Accordingly, the malarkey unquestioned by the press and offered to the general public is that the reason there is inflation is that demand is too high and so there is a need to place downward pressure on demand.  So who winds up paying for this price hiking profit maximizing scheme (a.k.a. profiteering)?  The consuming public, who repeatedly pays—first for having basic needs (like the demand for food, shelter/housing, transportation to get to work, etc.) and in turn for continuing in seeking to satisfy these basic needs.

Moreover, there is little indication that the cost to consumers informs decisions and that the health and well-being of society is a concern. There is absolutely no evidence supporting the notion that these decision-makers are thinking critically; since doing so would necessarily mean that they’ve considered and assessed a wide range of perspectives.  But to the contrary, in essence, the decision-makers are saying to the general public, it sucks to be you!

What are we to do?  

There are two options:
1) Change minds of the decision-makers
2) Change the decision-makers

The first option is to provide the learning experiences that would change the thinking, knowledge, understanding and values held in the minds of the decision-makers. This of course will only be effective if the mind of the decision-maker is open to learning things that challenge, if not run counter to, the beliefs they’ve long held.  How do you change the mind of someone whose career success depends on no such change happening?

The second option is to replace the decision-makers with decision-makers who are of a different mind. That is, replace a mechanistic material-based minded person with a living system people-caring minded person. Unfortunately, there are so few of these both critical and systems thinking people.  Moreover,  those of such a mind likely have very little interest in business school and/or have a slim chance of rising in the hierarchy—perhaps this is why there are so few people of such minds in business, or politics for that matter.  

Correspondingly, in America’s two-party political system, wherein each party is beholden to their very own group of oligarchs, realizing such a replacement among the political class is very near impossible.  Why is it that a politician espousing business needs is applauded while a politician supporting people’s needs is disparaged and scoffed at?  

I repeat: A narrow focus of attention can’t help but to lead to far too many unintended consequences!

If only people understood!So, what might be a third option?  Could it be that we, the people, need to learn, to think critically?  

When Profit & Power Matter Most

The lack of action, on the part of adherents of capitalism (in its many versions), in the face of today’s life-threatening situations (climate change, COVID-19, nuclear proliferation) parallels a Jack Benny comedy bit between a street robber and Jack Benny, which went something like this:


Street Robber: “don’t make a move, this is a stick-up!”

Jack Benny:  “what?”

Street Robber: “you heard me!”

Jack Benny: “mister, put down that gun!”

Street Robber: “shut up, now come on…your money or your life!”

Jack Benny:  there is an extended period of silence

Street Robber: “look boss, I said your money or your life!”

Jack Benny: (slight pause) ”I’m thinking it over!”

Think this is a stretch?  Think again!

Facing the impending doom with (our) time running out, no meaningful significant change has taken place on climate change.

COVID-19 vaccines have not been universally produced and distributed to all to stop the spread and emergence of mutations.

Nations are not cooperating and collaborating to dissolve our common problems, but rather competing and showing/exercising (their) muscle over others toward gaining more wealth and power.

Yup, the adherents of capitalism are thinking it over, as they double-down.  

Could it be that capitalism has captured us all?

Sustainability, But of What

Sustainability is something we often read and hear about, especially lately.  More to the point, many are concerned about, if not interested in acting to reduce and/or remove the factors that diminish the sustainability of a healthful environment.  If you aren’t among the concerned many, then likely you are among the willfully blind or willfully ignorant. Continue reading

Presence of Fear Requires Courage

Fear is an emotion, a type of energy we all have available to us to help protect us against threats and danger. Thus the emotion of fear can be quite useful, unless of course it is the only or predominate energy that animates us. A fearful person—one largely motivated by it—will likely see danger and threats to him/her self everywhere and in most every other person. Moreover, when every other person is a potential threat to ones’ success toward fulfilling one’s goal in life, then fear of others—especially those not like oneself—inevitably emerges. Continue reading

Potential Psychopaths Us All

In the article Three Things to Know to Hold Wells Fargo Accountable the author Lynn Parramore (Senior Research Analyst at Institute of New Economic Thinking) relays what William Lazonick (Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts Lowell) identified as the three things we need to know: 1) American businesses have become stock manipulation machines; 2) focusing on short-term stock prices leads to corruption; and 3) punishment means little until executive pay is understood. The first essentially speaks to the profit maximizing intent of business and its executives and the second to the importance of it happening now if not sooner while the third is that the entire scheme is ultimately profitable because of the enormous size of the gains. So now that we know these things, what are we to do about it? Continue reading

A Drowning Class and the Invisible Hand

Whether as a symptom of or as a commentary about the state of affairs of the U.S. economy we hear many (pundits especially) say the middle class is declining… if not disappearing. A growing number of people the state of affairs is quite stormy as they are finding it harder and harder to stay above water, yet for a select few who are smoothly sailing along it has never been better. Continue reading

A Theory for Leadership for a Human World

Leadership, according to Peter Northouse (2010, p 3), is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal. So then is evidence of leadership the achievement of a goal by a group? Does the goal matter? Do the means matter? Continue reading

Leadership Untainted

When most people talk of leadership what they are really speaking to is the highest levels in the management hierarchy. They are talking about the legitimate authority positions in an organization. They speak of leadership as if it was a noun, a name we attribute to a person or position. Continue reading