Saturday, August 20, 2011
© 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
We once generated a post, Where Have You Gone Joe DiMaggio? At the time, we felt that the nation’s lonely eyes were searching for someone like the Yankee Clipper.
If one were to believe the rants and raves of many out there, one might be hoodwinked into thinking that the solution to our leadership vacuum lies with them. They have all the solutions (although few of them are willing to assume leadership roles), and they are so sure of their positions. To them, pulling us out of economic quicksand is a simple task (not to mention getting other world leaders to go along).
We hate to throw slop on their parade, but we have concerns about their qualifications, motives, and quite frankly, thought processes. We’d rather place our faith in the young and the untested, namely the college students to whom we direct our messages about personal responsibility. We find them less extreme in their ideological leanings, more pragmatic, and in possession of more common sense.
Recently, folks have been comparing Obama to Jimmy Carter. Both rode into office with high expectations and a message of change. Many expect Obama to join the ranks of the one-term presidents, and he probably will, although even Carnac the Magnificent figured that out before Obama was elected. Anyone with any sense knew that the global economy, of which oh by the way the U.S. is a part, was not going to significantly pull out of its slump within 3 years. There was simply no precipitating, motivating factor down the pike.
Unfortunately, the President recently made a reference to American society’s malaise. He obviously did not learn anything from Carter. A leader cannot place any responsibility or blame on the American people for the condition in which they find themselves, even if it’s true.
So we’ll do it. Simply put, we Americans became fat, lazy, and greedy. The title of this post, Pigs Get Fat; Hogs Get Slaughtered is a quote from Reggie Fountain, the Richard Petty of speedboat racing.
The former multi-millionaire, having fallen on hard times leading to bankruptcy, was asked about his demise. He said he lived too high and too fast for too long, and became bloated. His summary of his experience is the title of our piece.
Part of our problem is that we can’t handle a straight shooter. We want someone to tell us what we want to hear. George Kennedy was a friend of fellow actor Jimmy Stewart. Turner Classic Movies is currently airing a mini-biography of Stewart, narrated by Kennedy. During the piece, Kennedy refers to Stewart’s “everyman” image. What is interesting is that he refers to “how Americans wanted to see ourselves,” not who we actually were.
We talk a lot about being the greatest country in the history of humankind, but there are some very common sense things we ignore which complicate that assessment.
In the world of business, when a company performs poorly, management re-examines its business model. In the world of governance, the last thing we examine is our governance model.
What we have here - is a failure to appreciate.
Appreciate that there are limitations associated with ANY governance model.
Several (well, maybe more than that) points:
1. In terms of education, we were never really as smart as we claimed to be;
2. When you allow people to live where they want, pursue whatever educational pursuit they desire, marry who they desire, pursue whatever vocational pursuit they want, and retire when they want, you are going to have difficultly managing them. We are a very conflicted people;
3. When you allow or encourage your work force to retire when they still have valuable skills, knowledge, and experience to offer, you become less efficient and you take a loss;
4. You can’t as a people take children out of the work force and continually drive down the number of hours worked from 70, to 60, to 50, to 40, and then 35, and expect your global competitors to do the same;
5. You can’t place the burden of inspiration and motivation on the shoulders of elected officials. Either individual citizens are sufficiently motivated and ambitious enough to pursue their goals, or they are not. And oh by the way, many are not;
6. Spending more than you have coming in only works for so long;
7. When it takes one 30 to 40 years to pay for something, one should re-consider whether it is worth purchasing, since it assumes that you will have 30 to 40 years of steady income;
8. Alexis de Tocqueville warned us in the 1850s that there would be long-term negative consequences associated with slavery. That we engaged in this treatment of other humans for over 200 years says much about us as a nation;
9. When people do not care enough about their personal health to eat properly, exercise, and avoiding smoking and use of certain substances, you really can’t expect them to care about other things in life;
10. It was only so long that we could continue to make millionaires out of people betting on and selling intangible and illusory products;
11. Something is seriously “something” about a country which fought communism so vigorously, abhors socialism, and yet allows the largest communist country in the world to have it by the economic balls (and we’re not referring to Cuba); and
12. Our last point came to us during us during an exchange with a friend. He said that he knew something was shaky about America when his university offered a course entitled, “The Challenge of Leisure.”
Any one of these issues would be a problem for any country. We have all of them at work.
We’ve got some work to do.
P.S. The Roman Empire lasted how long?
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