Jul 312012
 

I would like to have one more go at the effects of the core philosophies of the elites among us. I have described those working from an early “Puritan Ethic” of community betterment and their opposite, those working from an early “Plantation Ethic” of being above the law with the freedom to control and exploit others and their property at will. How is this playing out in 2012?

The Republican Party seems to have been seized by elites with the Plantation Ethic during the past few decades. They love their money and privilege and will do anything to protect their private advantages. They have been preaching a host of destructive circular arguments. Here are a few examples:

They describe government as being out of control and being the root of all evil. They say that government needs to be slashed, reduced, and killed. No joke. Grover Norquist, the lobbyist and conservative “No Taxes” activist said, “… I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” Then they work to systematically cripple government so that it has trouble doing the good things that government is supposed to do. Finally, they point at this damaged government and say, “See, government really is worthless.”

They describe our government’s financial, pollution, and safety regulations as being out of control and the root of all evil. They say that government regulations are preventing businesses from making a profit and so there are fewer jobs. They have been working to systematically cripple important regulations so that financial, pollution, and safety issues pop up more often. Then they point at these preventable problems and say, “See, government really is worthless.”

They describe our public schools as being ineffective and the root of all evil. They work to underfund schools and lay-off teachers while burdening them with mountains of paperwork. With teaching becoming a thankless struggle against parental and community apathy, overwork, and buying your own books and supplies, good teachers give up. Then the elites point to these problems and say, “See, public education really is worthless.”

What is their alternative? Well, of course: contracts for private companies to provide services that were previously provided by public employees. Now, do you think that a corporation with these private contracts will actually work in the best interests of their employees and of those they “serve?” Or, will they work to maximize profits? Color me real skeptical. I absolutely believe that there are some things that public agencies and public servants are better able to do, and one of those things is caring for neighbors. The “public sector” isn’t just some big anonymous bureaucracy; it’s your neighbors and mine. When was the last time that a big multinational corporation brought you a casserole or tutored your child for free after class?

And, have you forgotten that “the love of money” is named as the root of all evil? While our economy is still struggling to recover from the last big private adventure in financial risk-taking, corporate profits are at a record high and employee wages, as a proportion of our economy, are at an all-time low. Yeah, tell me that the “job creators” need more tax cuts so that they can create more jobs. We’re fools to keep on thinking that the moisture we feel is the start of trickle down from the corporations who love us. I don’t think its trickle down; I can tell when I’m being pissed on.

© 2012, David Satterlee

[amz-related-products search_index='Books' keywords='America elites business government' unit='grid']
Jul 312012
 

You have seen me struggling to make sense of the differences between conservatives and liberals, the balance between personal liberties and public responsibilities, and persistent class differences in America. Today, I read an article that suggested a difference between American elites that fills in a gap in my thinking. Naturally, I’m excited and want to share.

Despite our belief that all men are created equal, we have always understood that some of us have advantages of education, wealth, connections, and influence that are not shared equally. And, as a competitive capitalistic society, we mostly accept these class differences in the hope that someday we, or our children, might get rich and powerful too. We expect to always have our elites.

 

The thing that got my attention was the idea that, in America, there are two major background philosophies among our elites. Some derive their life-views from Puritan thought while some get their thinking from Plantation attitudes. This makes a difference in how a person of privilege thinks about what they do with their wealth, what responsibilities they feel for others, and how they define liberty and freedom.
The Puritan ethic emphasizes community and the conviction that those having wealth and power also have the responsibility to use some of it to improve their societies. Historically, they typically responded to an inner call to community service and doing good for others. They have endowed universities and public libraries. They have endorsed government policies that improve the lot of the common man. The Roosevelts and Kennedys have fit this mold. People like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are determined to use their fortunes for good.

Holders of the Plantation ethic are very much different. Sara Robinson’s article describes its origins in the West Indian slave states and its “…utter lack of civic interest, its hostility to the very ideas of democracy and human rights, its love of hierarchy, its fear of technology and progress, its reliance on brutality and violence to maintain “order,” and its outright celebration of inequality as an order divinely ordained by God.”

David Hackett Fischer further describes Plantation Elites that, “…always feared and opposed universal literacy, public schools and libraries, and a free press… they… sank their money into ostentatious homes and clothing and pursuit of pleasure – including lavish parties, games of fortune, predatory sexual conquests, and blood sports involving ritualized animal abuse spectacles.” They held themselves to be unaccountable and above the law.

In the Puritan Ethic, both liberty and authority reside with the community. Individuals are expected to balance their personal desires against the greater good and occasionally make sacrifices in behalf of others. This kind of support maximizes each citizen’s liberty, dignity, and potential. In the Plantation Ethic, one’s sense of liberty depended on their God-given place in society, and gave them the freedom to “take liberties” with the lives, rights, and property of other people. This results in their feeling the right to dominate, exploit, and abuse others and their property with impunity. This defines them, in their own eyes, as “free men.”

What sort of elites do you want writing your laws and running your government?

© 2012, David Satterlee

[amz-related-products search_index='Books' keywords='american elites wealth' unit='grid']
Apr 252012
 

Please watch and share these trailer videos about the activities of the Koch Brothers to undermine important functions of our Americans government for their own profit.

[amz-related-products search_index=’Books’ keywords=’koch brothers alec’ unit=’grid’]

Mar 082012
 

Senator Barack Obama gave the keynote address at the 2004 DNC Convention in Boston.

  • America as a beacon of opportunity. Humble beginnings in Kansas.
  • ”My parents shared an abiding belief in the possibilities of this nation.”
  • ”In a generous America, you don’t have to be rich to achieve your potential.”
  • ”We have more work to do.”
  • “People don’t expect government to solve all their problems. But they sense, deep in their bones, that, with just a slight shift in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America can have a decent shot at life.”
  • “It is that fundamental belief: “I am my brother’s keeper. I am my sister’s keeper.” that makes this country work.
  • “[E Pluribus Unum] is what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, and yet still come together as one American family.”
  • “The audacity of hope [faith] is God’s greatest gift to us – the bedrock of this nation.”
[amz-related-products search_index=’Books’ keywords=’obama inspired’ unit=’grid’]
An appeal to national unity.
Feb 042012
 

It occurred to me a while back that the conservative ideal of “individual freedom,” taken to its logical end, promotes anarchy. If everybody does only what appeals to them as being in the best interests of themselves, their family, or their tribe, it prevents them from fully engaging in the interests of broader civic and societal responsibility. If you are primarily looking out for yourself, you aren’t being a good citizen.

Of course, it also occurred to me that the liberal ideal of “common good,” taken to its logical end, promotes totalitarianism communism… or maybe the kind of selfless love of neighbor that Jesus endorsed. None of these extremes seem practical for America at this point in history.

Isn’t there some balance, some moderate center ground where we can meet and agree to compromise if not find consensus? If you consider American political history during the last few decades, an interesting dynamic appears. It used to be that both the Democratic and Republican parties had their liberal and conservative wings. However, increasingly, the Republican party has been swinging more and more to the radical right and adopting rigidly-held extreme positions and an unwillingness to compromise. At the same time, the Democratic party has been edging more and more toward a moderate center and adopting positions that already have compromise built in.

But, I digress. It seems that the Republican party is structured for divisiveness and conflict rather than constructive citizenship. They are a loose coalition of conservative interest groups, each tightly focused on their own subset of specific issues. They lack unity on almost every philosophy except “leave me alone.” Commentators have described these factions, giving them names such as: traditionalists, conservatives, neoconservatives, paleoconservatives, fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, moderates, and libertarians.

For example, there is the religious right that doesn’t want to have anyone disagree with their [conservative Christian] religious convictions while insisting that they press their values on others. There is the individual-liberties right that just doesn’t want to be told what to do about anything, such as register their guns or wear a motorcycle helmet. There is a blue-collar economic right that doesn’t want to have taxes collected that benefit anybody but themselves. There is the elite financial right that doesn’t want anyone to interfere with their pursuit of short-term profits. Each of these positions seems to make sense if repeated often enough and without a discussion of broader context and consequences.

This conservative disposition tends toward “Leave me alone, I’ll take care of myself and you take care of yourself,” or simply “fuck you.” (Witness the audience’s unsympathetic reactions during the GOP debates to the hard consequences on disadvantaged citizens of some candidates’ policies.) The moderate liberal center, however, tends toward “we’re all in this together.” Oddly, while this conservative position pointedly rejects the interests of others, the liberal position embraces and empathizes with the interests of others including, ironically, conservatives.

Why would the kind of conservatives described above want to get involved with any civic sacrifice that didn’t promote the interests of themselves or someone who is part of the limited group that they consider to be “us.” The difference is that liberals have a broader perception of “us.” While liberals can still embrace an appreciation for personal liberties, the moral benefits of religious faith, and the importance of family values, they are more likely to also feel heightened responsibilities for the needs of their communities, their overall nation, and others with whom they share this planet.

Very few Americans want “communism” as practiced in the former Soviet Union or in China under Chairman Mao. Nore are there very many Americans who want the kind of “cradle to grave socialism” of some European countries (despite the recent name calling against liberals by conservative candidates). But, as Albert Einstein, and generations of Complex Systems and Developmental researchers have pointed out, the significant problems that we face can not be solved at the same level on which they were created. We must come together to solve problems that are bigger than ourselves. That is why we form communities and that is why we need government. That is why we should (and do) sacrifice individual liberties for the greater good of ever-larger populations. That is why we give governments limited power to regulate our affairs and tax us so as to act for our collective welfare.

The bottom line is that, between impractical extremes, there is an important place for layers of community and government. In the balance between individual liberties and and the state’s ownership of all means of production, there exists a range of options that allow for our pursuit of happiness while remaining interested and involved in our common good. It is the urge to active citizenship. It is the position of empathy, moderation, compromise, and consensus.  It is the sweet spot of the modern American Democratic Party.

[amz-related-products search_index=’Books’ keywords=’active citizenship’ unit=’grid’]

Dec 302011
 

Source: Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy by Bill Clinton
Abstracted from pages 34-35

From 1981 to 2009, the greatest accomplishment of the antigovernment Republicans was not to reduce the size of the Federal government but to stop paying for it. As a result, the national debt more than quadrupled from 1981 through 1992, then doubled again between 2001 and 2009, even before the financial meltdown, which then required more government spending—the financial-system bailout, increased unemployment, food stamp, and Medicaid expenditures, and the stimulus– to put a floor under the downturn.

At the same time, tax revenues declined as unemployment rose, businesses closed, and American spent less.

The PAYGO rule, which had done so much to ensure fiscal discipline, was scrapped, allowing the administration and Congress to enact both big tax cuts and big increases in spending on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan… We did all this on borrowed money, increasingly from overseas…

What did we do with the money? We didn’t invest it in new scientific and technological research, in rebuilding our manufacturing base, in reversing our fall from first to twelfth in the percentage of young adults with college degrees, in creating the millions of jobs that would flow from a serious response to climate change. Instead, we consumed it, in ways that distort our economy today and cloud our children’s tomorrows.

[amz-related-products search_index=’Books’ keywords=’banking crisis’ unit=’grid’]

Dec 292011
 

Source: Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy by Bill Clinton
Abstracted from pages 17-18

I believe the only way we can keep the American dream alive for all Americans and continue to be the world’s leading force for freedom and prosperity, peace and security, is to have both a strong, effective private-sector and a strong, effective government that work together to promote an economy of good jobs, rising incomes, increasing exports, and greater energy independence.

All over the world, the most successful nations, including many with lower unemployment rates, less inequality, and, in this decade, even higher college graduation rates than the United States, have both. And they work together, not always agreeing, but moving poured common goals. In other countries, conservatives and liberals also have arguments about taxes, energy policy, bank regulations, and how much government is helping an affordable, but they tend to be less ideological and more rooted in evidence and experience. They focus more on what works.

That’s the focus America

needs. It’s the only way to get back into the future business. In the modern world, leaned too few citizens have the time or opportunity to analyze the larger forces shaping our lives, and the lines between news, advocacy, and entertainment are increasingly blurred, ideological conflicts effectively waged may be good politics, and provide fodder for the nightly news, and columnist, that they won’t get us to a better future.

Our long antigovernment obsession has proved to be remarkably successful politics, but its policy failures have given us an anemic, increasingly unequal economy, with too few jobs and stagnant incomes; that is at a competitive disadvantage compared with other nations, especially in manufacturing and clean energy; and left as a potentially crippling debt burden just as the baby boomers begin to retire.

By contrast, other nations, as well as cities and states within the United States, with a commitment to building networks of cooperation involving the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, are creating economic opportunity and charging into the future with confidence.

My argument here isn’t that Democrats are always right and Republicans always wrong. It’s that by jamming all issues into the antigovernment, antitax, anti regulation straitjacket, we hog-tie ourselves and keep ourselves for making necessary changes no matter how much evidence exists to support them.

The antigovernment paradigm blinds us to possibilities that lie outside its ideological litmus tests and prevents us from creating new networks of cooperation that can restore economic growth, bring economic opportunity to more people and places, and increase our ability to lead the world to a better future.

[amz-related-products search_index=’Books’ keywords=’private public sectors’ unit=’grid’]

Dec 292011
 

Source: Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy by Bill Clinton
Abstracted from pages 12-14

We live in the most interdependent age in history. People are increasingly likely to be affected by actions beyond their borders, and their borders are increasingly open to both positive and negative crossings: travelers, immigrants, money, goods, services, information, communication, and culture; disease, trafficking in drugs, weapons, and people, and acts of terrorism and violent crime.

People everywhere face severe challenges, most of which can be grouped into three categories.

· The modern world is too unequal in incomes and in access to jobs, health, and education.

· It is too unstable, as evidenced by the rapid spreading of the financial crisis, economic insecurity, political upheavals, and our shared vulnerability to terrorism.

· And the world’s growth pattern is unsustainable, because the way we produce in use energy and deplete natural resources is causing climate change and other environmental problems.

Because the world is still organized around nations, the decisions national leaders make and citizen support today determine tomorrow’s possibilities. For poor countries, that means building systems that give more people a chance to have decent jobs and send their kids to school. For rich countries, it means reforming systems that once worked well but no longer do, so people can keep moving forward in an increasingly complex and competitive environment.

That’s what America has to do. We have to get back in the future business. Over the last three decades, whenever we’ve given in to the temptation to blame the government for all our problems, we’ve lost our commitment to shared prosperity, balanced growth, financial responsibility, and investment in the future. That’s really what got us into trouble.

[amz-related-products search_index=’Books’ keywords=’future challenges’ unit=’grid’]

Dec 292011
 

Source: Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy by Bill Clinton
Abstracted from pages 27, 28

Contrary to the current antigovernment movement’s claim to represent the intent of the framers [of the U.S. constitution], our founding fathers clearly intended to give us a government both limited and accountable enough to protect our liberties and strong and flexible enough to adapt to the challenge of each new era.

In other words, our constitution was designed by people who work idealistic but not ideological. There’s a big difference. You can have a philosophy that tends to be liberal or conservative but still be open to evidence, experience, and argument. That enables people with honest differences to find practical, principled compromise.

On the other hand, fervent insistence on an ideology makes evidence, experience, and argument irrelevant: if you posess the absolute truth, those who disagree are by definition wrong, and evidence of success or failure is irrelevant. There’s nothing to learn from the experience of other countries. Respectful arguments are a waste of time. compromise is weakness. And if your policies fail, you don’t abandon them; instead, you double down, asserting that they would have worked if only they had been carried it to their logical extreme.

[amz-related-products search_index=’Books’ keywords=’tea party ideology’ unit=’grid’]

Dec 292011
 

Source: Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy by Bill Clinton
Abstracted from pages 4-6

How do we ensure America’s economic, political, and security leadership in the more competitive, complex, fragmented, and fast-changing world of the 21st century? The 2010 election involved inflated rhetoric and ferocious but often inaccurate attacks that shed more heat than light. The attack proved to be very effective in the election, but I thought it was all wrong.

First, the meltdown happened because banks were overleveraged. In other words, there was not enough government oversight or restraint on excessive leverage.

Second, the meltdown did not become a full-scale depression because the government acted to save the financial system from collapse. Of course, the stimulus didn’t restore the economy to normal levels. It wasn’t designed to. You can’t fill a several-1,000,000,000,000-dollar hole in the economy with $800 billion. The stimulus was designed to put a floor under the collapse and begin the recovery.

Third, according to most economic studies, the stimulus, along with the rescue and restructuring of the auto industry, succeeded in keeping unemployment 1.5 to 2% lower than it would have been without it.

In other words, the crash occurred because there was too little government oversight of and virtually no restraint on risky loans without sufficient capital to back them up; the recession was prevented from becoming a depression because of a government infusion of cash to shore up the banking system; and the downturn hurt fewer people because of the stimulus, which is supplemented wages with a tax cut, saved public jobs, and created jobs through infrastructure projects and incentives to create private-sector jobs, especially in manufacturing.

[amz-related-products search_index=’Books’ keywords=’economic meltdown’ unit=’grid’]

Dec 022009
 

Source: Good Reads

image_thumb[2]Dan’s articles on business and technology appear in many publications, including The New York Times, Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, and Wired, where he is a contributing editor. He has provided analysis of business trends on CNN, CNBC, ABC, NPR, and other networks. Dan also speaks to corporations, associations, universities and educators about economic transformation and the new workplace.
A free agent himself, Dan held his last real job in the White House, where he served from 1995 to 1997 as chief speechwriter to Vice President Al Gore. He also worked as an aide to U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich and in other positions in politics and government.
He is a graduate of Northwestern University and Yale Law School. To his lasting joy, he has never practiced law.

“Dan Pink takes what most of us already know about what motivates us to perform and puts it in terms that are easily applied to our daily lives. In short, if we exist without autonomy, mastery and purpose, we’re discontented. And often, extrinsic rewards backfire – instead of encouraging us to look for creative solutions, we’re herded down a predictable path that takes us away from a state of flow and leaves our world a little less fun and a lot more "flat". If you’re a team leader who wants to encourage team members to learn and grow – or are curious about what motivates us – this is a good source.”

Source: Amazon Editorial Reviews

  • “My favorite business book.” Thomas L Friedman, author of The World Is Flat
  • "Pink’s analysis–and new model–of motivation offers tremendous insight into our deepest nature."
    Publishers Weekly
  • "Important reading…an integral addition to a growing body of literature that argues for a radical shift in how businesses operate."
    Kirkus
  • "Drive is the rare book that will get you to think and inspire you to act. Pink makes a strong, science-based case for rethinking motivation–and then provides the tools you need to transform your life."
    -Dr. Mehmet Oz, co-author of YOU: The Owners Manual

 

Shop at Amazon for:
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
by: Daniel H. Pink