Sunday, July 10, 2011

Post No. 168: Our Dissatisfaction with "Something" in America

© 2011, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

These days, virtually all we hear is noise – people complaining about this and that. While we appreciate the many factors contributing to their discomfort, and their concerns about the future, as one of our former Fellows used to say, “Bitching gets no one anywhere fast.”

Crafting solutions to problems requires a constructive mindset. We recently saw a movie on Turner Classic Movies which reminded us that (a) sometimes we have to let go of those things important to us individually to advance the interests of those around us; and (b) we need not feel like Communists when doing so.

The movie is The Yearling (1946), starring Jane Wyman and Gregory Peck. It’s the story of a young boy who adopts a wild fawn as a pet, and falls in love with it. Because the family lives in the woods and has little contact with people, the parents permit the relationship to evolve, despite the fact that the fawn threatens to destroy their crops as it gets older and hungrier. Over time, the family employs all sorts of approaches in their effort to keep the fawn, and their farm. At some point, the boy has to make a decision so that the farm survives. He comes to learn that time and emotions change, and people have to make adjustments.

In the mindset ether, we all might consider the following:

1) The concepts of “freedom” (particularly its link to “pursuit of happiness”) and “governance” are contradictory. Governance is about managing (euphemistically) or controlling (no B.S.) people. In theory, we hope that our government achieves the optimal balance. However, that is an educated crap shoot every day, there are hundreds of thousands of factors which go into the equation, and reasonable people will differ as to what they want and what they are willing to accept;

2) The United States is particularly complicated by virtue of its 50 different states and cultures. At one time, that complexity appeared to be a good thing; but nothing in life remains the same for very long, and now the benefits of complexity are not so clear. However, stop and think about what would happen if we divided the States, and allowed each one to function as a separate nation. In the short term, each new nation might rejoice; but in the long term, each would develop a better appreciation of cooperation, unity of purpose, and how every segment of society has a valuable contribution to make;

3) When citizens generally speak of correcting problems in this nation, the conversation always gets muddled because it’s based in emotion, and each faction cites examples of things that work and don’t work, tailored to support their particular arguments. Rarely is the discussion about the entire system or the big picture and how it affects us all;

4) Money (or something of value) is always going to be needed to do anything in the Universe. Because some segment in society is disappointed with the results they see does not mean that we should stop doing something. Although permanently outlawing marriage outright, thereby eliminating all of the negative consequences which flow from it, might not be a bad idea; 

5) In our view, the real issue is how the funds are used, and when they are used. When one buys into the democratic, free market, representative leadership governance model (which we refer to as the “herding cats” model), one should realize that society will not implement pro-active policies, but rather after-the-fact, too late and far more costly, band-aid policies. Additionally, society and government rarely do what we advise individuals to do, namely plan for the future. We’d rather see social program dollars spent on kids ages 0-3, than the problematic citizens ages 21 onward. We’d venture to guess that dollars spent early (like tune-ups and oil changes on automobiles) lead to less dollars (costs) on the back end. A society does not have to spend more. Just take those dollars spent on the back end and transfer them to the front. Talk about reducing the debt;

6) Everyone dislikes something about America. That “something” is magnified in significance when economic times are bad, and people ignore or diminish the significance of that “something” when economic times are good. However, in reality, the problems were there all along;

7) Victims be victims; if you think you’re insignificant, you will be; and every day Jerry makes a fool out of Tom. People change when they are sufficiently motivated to change. We’re going through a period of insufficient motivation right now. We, as a people, are not even motivated to stay healthy, and yet everyone bitches about the opposition’s approach to health care. Imagine a “three-peat,” world champion team getting old, not bringing in new talent, not practicing as much, putting on more weight, and then losing the championship the following year and bitching at the coach, the opposition, and expansion teams;

8) If the complainants in American society really want to do something, invent something, be creative, figure out a way to become sufficiently motivated to kick some Chinese economic ass. As Donny Deutsch recently told Pat Buchanan on “Morning Joe,” bitching about the corporations taking jobs offshore ain’t working;

9) If you are a member of the school of thought that one President, one political party, one act or event, or one policy created the economic conditions extant in the U.S., you are an idiot. This economic evolution has been going on at least 35, and perhaps 50 years, if not longer, and all of us contributed to it and are responsible for it; and

10) Where we find ourselves today is global in nature, if not Universal.

For those who aren’t fans of movies, there are two books of note, the first being Paul Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: 1500-2000, and the other, From Third World to First, by the Prime Minister of Singapore who marshaled Singapore’s emergence as a world player.

To pervert a line from our former Fellow, “[This] bitching [will get] no one anywhere fast.” And that’s just plain Common Sense.


  1. ‘Spector,

    Hmm . . . I wonder if any bitching occurred immediately prior to the American Revolution. Evidently not . . .

    And what of Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses? Just a bunch of bitching – didn’t change a thing.

    The Independent Cuss

  2. We just find inventing something, creating something, starting a business, and assembling venture capital as preferable to bitching. However, reasonable people can differ.

    We have lots of people bitching out there these days. We need more inventors.

  3. But isn't writing a blog about what one thinks a society should do, as opposed to what it actually seems to do, constitute "bitching?"

  4. Douglas:

    Thanks, once again, for keeping us on our toes. We agree with you that a blog about what society should do, as opposed to what it is doing, might be viewed as "bitching." However, as we've mentioned on numerous occasions:

    1) We rarely, rarely, express our personal views on this blog, even when people ask us directly (with the exception of the elimination of marriage, which we believe has too many societal costs);

    2) We rarely, rarely express what we actually think society should do. There are people far more qualified and knowledgeable whom seem to want to play that role;

    3) We play devil's advocate probably 93% of the time, and simply raise issues;

    4) We believe that there are more than 2 or 3 ways to view any issue; there are at least 27; and

    5) For purposes of this blog, we do not care what society does, as long as the decision making process is reasoned, objective, and stems from the consideration of the various, competing factors. We are not fans of goal oriented reasoning. We are not fans of party lines. It drives us absolutely nuts that political parties expect people to march lockstep with party principles and party platforms.(BTW, we actually believe this.)

    There ought to be numerous times in one's life when what one thinks (through reason and objective analysis) is diametrically opposed to what one feels. By recognizing this, we can better appreciate and respect the views of those with whom we disagree.

    Thanks for reminding us to stay true to our blog philosophy.

    Trust, us, "This Ain't Us Talking." Like professionals in many areas, we think that we do a disservice to our readers when we tell them what we personally feel. It's not about us.

  5. That's strange... my definition of "bitching" is just what you described as what this blog does: offer complaints and questions and no solutions.

    What does a "decision making process [that] is reasoned, objective, and stems from the consideration of the various, competing factors" look like? I have never seen one in my life that had more than one person involved in it. And rarely when it was only one person making a decision.

  6. We do not claim to offer solutions, although we occasionally raise structural, systemic alternatives.

    If the above is your interpretation of what our blog does, and indication of how you view the decision making process, good for you Douglas, if that works for you.

  7. During the 1980s, we traveled to Mexico on numerous occasions. During the winter months, many Canadians travel to Mexican resorts and stay there for two weeks to escape intense winters.

    We became friends of many Canadians, and started visiting Canada regularly. Despite our similarities in appearance, our two cultures are dramatically different. What we also found is that the highly ambitious and highly motivated Canadians had a tendency to prefer our country, and those who desired a higher quality of life, particularly the time spent with family, had a tendency to avoid the US and preferred Canada.

    We are often reminded of a question we used to pose to cab drivers all over the US who previously lived in the former U.S.S.R.: Which country was preferable? The response which perhaps summed it up best: If you were an ambitious, highly motivated person, the U.S. was better. If you wanted your essential needs met, and were interested in a consistent, guaranteed quality of life, the U.S.S.R. was better.

    Perhaps we should divide the U.S. into the highly motivated and the less so. Would that address many of our culture clashes?

  8. Didn't we try to do that once? Well, not that particular difference in attitude but another one. There were a couple of Compromises, as I recall, that addressed. They were unsuccessful in the long run and we ended up with a terrible conflict.

  9. Actually, if you watch the History Channel's series, "How the States Got Their Shapes," you'll note the large number of times that individual states tried to separate and form their own states.

  10. I was referring, of course, to the Missouri Compromise. I might also bring up the Great Compromise of 1787. We did try letting states do as they will, be sovereign... under the Articles of Confederation. The Constitution tried to fix that.

    But I don't need to give you a history lesson.

  11. Later this evening at 8:00 pm EDST, Ralph Nader will discuss his book, "Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us." He will discuss his thoughts with Ted Turner and peter Lewis. "Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us" 8pmE; CSpan2BkTV;

  12. If you want to check out a film which reflects some of the complexity of America, check out "The Misfits" right now on Turner Classic Movies. It's not too late to gain an appreciation of the film.

    Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe are special in this one.

  13. 'Spector,

    Thanks for the links.

    The Independent Cuss

  14. Later today at 8:15 am EDST, on CSpan2 Book TV, a book discussion will be held where the author explains why he believes that the 1980s explain the politics, culture, and everything extant in our society today.


"There Are More Than 2 Or 3 Ways To View Any Issue; There Are At Least 27"™

"Experience Isn't Expensive; It's Priceless"™

"Common Sense Should be a Way of Life"™