Saturday, October 20, 2012

Post No. 179: Neither Republican, Democrat, nor Libertarian are We

© 2012, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

We try to stimulate thought, particularly among college students, by providing a forum where diverse ideas are discussed with a tone of civility. We hope the leaders of tomorrow will develop new ways to address societal issues. We also believe that if we individual citizens take more responsibility for our actions, societal problems will decrease in number and significance.

We try to walk down the middle of the road. We have all types of social, political, economic, and philosophical views here at the Institute. Each one of us has been a business owner with varying degrees of success. We’ve been solo, with mid-size firms, and with the big, bad bullies of industry.

Yesterday, President Obama joked that his opponent, Governor Romney, changes his position on issues for political expediency. He described the condition as “Romnesia,” and suggested the Governor has difficulty remembering past statements and positions.

While one might question a change of position over a period of weeks or even months, as business owners we understand someone changing or taking different positions over a period of years. Why? Because that’s what business owners and managers do in the economic theater – a different dance like Fred Astaire, depending on whether it is Ginger Rogers or Cyd Charisse.

On moral / religious / social issues, we understand why private citizens tend to stick to the same positions they held as grade school children, especially if there is some familial, religious, or community peer pressure.

One of the 27+ problems politicians have is trying to navigate a double black diamond slope with one economic snow ski, and one social ski, while shaking the hands of those on both sides of the Swiss-Italian border, and smiling for the camera.

Earlier this week, we heard a political ad where the candidate said he wanted the government off the backs of businesses so that they could “prosper.” We often joke that during good times, when we had numerous employees in branch offices, we were Republicans. Trying to deal with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, and the California Family Leave Act, complicated making a profit.

However, during the lean times while operating with few employees and struggling to survive, we were more likely to embrace Democratic positions. But then again, we aren’t politicians.

Recently, we’ve been thinking about the extent of government regulation we embrace, if any, or whether we want the government off of our backs entirely. We concluded that it is a complicated decision, and one not taken lightly. Consider the following:

(a) The contraction of salmonella from miniature turtles by young children. It appears that the Food and Drug Administration previously banned the sale of turtles less than a certain length because they are more likely to carry bacteria;

(b) A report revealing that 97% of on-line pharmacies are illegal in the U.S., and that many sell fake products;

(c) The outbreak of meningitis and resultant deaths as a result of contaminated vials of steroids produced by a Massachusetts compounding lab; and

(d) Seats on American Airlines Boeing 757 planes, which became loose during flights because of some fastening issues.

We had a heated discussion, resulting in fisticuffs, about whether the free market should be allowed to fully operate and industries be left alone to police themselves. Some argued that the civil legal system adequately addresses problems, and others suggested that there is a deterrent in the form of potential criminal prosecution, in the case of egregious conduct.

(Shortly after we started writing this post, we heard that a 4 mile oil slick was discovered in the Gulf of Mexico, and efforts were being made to determine whether it was connected with the BP - Deep Water Horizon explosion several years ago.)

Republicans argue that “excessive” regulation discourages business investment, hurts profits, reduces jobs, and drives companies to other countries. Interestingly, non-politician CEOs throughout the U.S. claim they have jobs, but that American workers in those geographical areas where jobs are located are not qualified or properly trained.

Should government be involved in training or encouraging these prospective workers, or should the government stay out of that arena? Should government assist qualified workers in relocating, and leaving their families and homes to work in other regions where the jobs are?

Just yesterday, we heard that businesses and local community colleges are working in tandem to address staffing needs, and that billions in federal dollars are being distributed to community colleges to train workers in those regions where the businesses claim they have openings.

To what extent should government regulate or be involved in our lives? We suspect that it varies depending on the subject at hand, and the location of those affected. But there is a concept in life called a continuum.

One thing we know for sure – the amount of government regulation of businesses is not one, hard and fast, absolute position embraced by either political party.

Just imagine the captain of a ship in choppy waters being restricted in thought and action while navigating his ship across the Atlantic Ocean, with crew members criticizing his every move and decision. Yep - - That’s a boat that we want to be on….


  1. We are not going to do anything but continue the downhill slide in this country until we stop speaking of and thinking of "the government" as an entity completely separate from "ourselves." WE are the government. And if that statement is not true, then non-participation and/or revolution is the only valid response of a free man.

  2. A very astute observation Rodak, and one which few seem to consider in their analysis of government. To what do you attribute this "demonization" of a "subset" of our society, which, in theory, is designed to serve us all?

  3. No Rodak, 'we' are not the government. Also 'I' am not. 'you' are not, nor anyone else we know. But the government has to be there to stop me and you doing what we like as individuals - this, in the interest of many others. And to stop entrepreneurs and corporations from doing whatever they want for short-term (non-market) profit. Corporations especially are ruled by the most egocentric, selfish, antisocial beings nature can produce. 'Good' people are soon pushed aside by these perverts.

    Government needs to train so that big companies cannot control this and starve the competition of input and benefit.

    Hideous monstrosities like Monsanto should be destroyed for the death and destruction it has caused in the developing world for the sake of its balance-sheet. (instead of promoting traditional methods for the sake of local populations, and profiting reasonably from increased production locally)

    The great American arms industries are now big enough to create its own markets abroad - help create strife - arm both sides - divert taxes to bribery. They don't need controlling?

    If 'we' were the government you would call it a democracy!

  4. Rodak and CorfuBob: Thanks go out to both of you for your contributions. A couple of observations:

    1. Right now, we are listening to a doctor being interviewed on National Public Radio about surgical and other medical related mistakes in hospitals. He claims that there is a disconnect between managers and administrators of healthcare facilities, and the doctors, nurses, and other hospital personnel on the front lines. They have different goals.

    2. A former National Security Advisor noted that when we look at large organizations throughout history, what we see is that when they were small, and more manageable, there was more of a coherent vision and appreciation of the mission of the entity. However, as the entity grows, and the bureaucracy grows with it, takes on a life of its own, and does whatever is necessary to ensure its survival, and moves further and further away from the mission of the larger entity.

    3. In many governmental agencies, some people are elected. If they do not perform to the satisfaction of the electorate, they are removed. However, many are also appointed and serve at the pleasure of some board, commission, or elected official. They are insulated from the public and are therefore not accountable. To further complicate the issue, many of the rank and file workers in the agencies may stay on for 30, 40, or 50 years, and have no accountability and may be protected by civil service laws or unions.

    4. The National Security Advisor to which we previously referred also noted that as a bureaucracy grows, the managers and supervisors become very protective of their turf or baliwick, and less concerned about the goals of the larger entity. Additionally, many of the workers become less interested in standing out by suggesting changes and promoting introspection, but rather hide away and try not to draw any attention to themselves out of fear of being criticized or watched closely.

    5. How does all of this relate to governmental regulation? We, the electorate, become frustrated about the operation of the government, its slow responsiveness or non-responsiveness, its detachment from reality, and a sense that sometimes it controls us instead of serves us.

    All of that being said, the thing to do is to change the systems involved. The government is supposed to be of the people, for the people, by the people, and we have to power, even though we may not exercise it, to change it. In the world of business, management has to be nimble, and react to sudden changes. We regularly expect changes in the business model. In the world of public governance, there is very little change, and the change that occurs takes place at a very slow rate.

    The Republican complaint is that government gets in the way of business and that they should be left to their own devices and police themselves. The Democrats feel that businesses will run amok in pursuit of profit without regard for the public good. Somewhere in the middle we need to identify a happy medium. Unfortunately, the drive for profit motivates a corporate entity to pursue just about anything that it can without getting caught, and even getting caught has a dollar figure associated with it. It's called risk management. Additionally, insurance and outside attorneys are responsible for reducing the amount of money paid out to the public for corporate missteps.

  5. They deserve their demonization, because they are bought and paid for. But they are still "us" because they are elected to represent us. As long as we participate in the system we validate that representation and those whores as our proxies. The cure for the ills of our politics would be public financing of elections. A Koch brother should have no more say in who gets tapped to run for office than I have. Private money--at least private money over and above what any citizen could afford if he wanted to spend it that way--should be taken out of the game. We can haggle about the details of how this could be done, and how it would be regulated to make it fair and to lessen the inevitable attempts to corrupt it, but public funding is the only answer.

  6. You will not get an argument from us Rodak regarding campaign financing. We absolutely agree. Just this morning, we heard a report that EACH candidate, at the current pace, is expected to raise over 1 BILLION dollars in connection with this election, and that does not include the money from the Super PACs!!! Imagine how 2 billion dollars could otherwise be used.

  7. We just heard a new report that indicated that "federal regulators" have greatly expanded the list of contaminated drugs produced by the Massachusetts compounding company. We'd like to hear from those who claim that the drug industry is subject to too much regulation, and advise us as to what you recommend we do at this point in time with respect to the current regulations. Should we call off the regulators, and let the compounding industry police itself?

  8. I’ve never been to college, and I’ve never been a businessman, but I used to be a big “no regulation” guy.
    I thought the markets would take care of themselves, Alan Greenspan was a God, and the bad guys-- guys that cheated and didn’t put fail-safe systems on oil wells, and guys that manipulated an industry to siphon money, dudes in suits that put together fancy packages of "tin whistles" and sold them like they were made of gold, you know THOSE kind of guys—would get caught and be punished in such a way as to deter the next guy.
    But that was nuthin’ but a sweet dream wasn’t it?

    After the Wall Street and housing melt-downs, it seems like the only people that got punished were janitors and maids that worked two jobs. And the entire middle-class.
    I need my regulations.
    The fact is without regulations people get hurt before anyone can even figure out who the bad guy is.

  9. Bulletholes,

    Your story sounds much the same as mine -- and we have reached largely the same conclusions.

    How do you feel about the usefulness of a Third Party to approach regulation from a new perspective and, hopefully, accomplish what the entrenched Republicrat establishments cannot?

    The Independent Cuss

  10. I don’t know. A Third Party?
    That’s kind of like just adding more bureaucrats to the bureaucracy isn’t it?
    I’m hoping that enough of the ones we have in place right now will recognize and remember what went down with banking and credit swaps and deregulation the last 15 years. If we can get through the cycle, and avoid another meltdown like we just had for another 40 years or so, before people forget and relax regulations again, then I would consider that a major victory.
    Maybe a Third Party would help.

  11. We have posed these questions several times in the past. Now that Hurricane Sandy is upon us, and causing significant damage, should any level of government respond to the natural forces at work, and if so, which level(s)?

    Should American families or businesses affected by these forces "be allowed to fail?"

    Does government assistance in response to natural disasters constitute "excessive governmental involvement in our lives?"

    Does your view of whether the government should be involved turn on whether the "cause" of distress is natural in origin, as opposed to economic, or as opposed to management in origin?

    Should we leave disaster relief and assistance to the private sector, and let the free market mechanism work?

  12. There is a new "superbug" appearing in U.S. medical facilities. There is no drug in our current antibiotic arsenal capable of killing it. The drug-resistant organism is CRE. Should the federal government avoid taking any action, and leave it to the states to combat, or should all governmental entities leave it to the private sector to address?


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