30 June 2007

Creativity & Inspiration

Somedays it clicks. Somedays it clunks.

Updike on Modern America

John Updike is one of our most amazing writers. His new paperback, Terrorist, includes this brilliant little riff from one of the characters.

Bush complains about Putin turning into Stalin, but we’re worse than the poor old clunky Kremlin ever was. The Commies just wanted to brainwash you. The new powers that be, the international corporations, want to wash your brains away, period. They want to turn you into machines for consuming – the chicken-coop society. All this entertainment – Madam, it’s crap, the same crap that kept the masses zombified in the Depression, only then you stood in line and paid a quarter for the movie, where today they hand it to you free, with the advertisers paying a million a minute for the chance to mess with your heads.


[the TV programming – sports and comedies and talk shows] It’s slop. And Leno and Letterman, more slop. But the commercials, they are fantastic. They’re like Faberge eggs. When somebody in this country wants to sell you something, they really buckle down. They get intense. You watch the same commercial twenty times, you see how every second has been weighed out in gold. They’re full of what physicists call information.

29 June 2007

Fortress America - the Bi-Partisan Fantasy of Globalization Deniers

Globalization is a reality that activists on the right and left deny. Globalization deniers on the left fear shadowy groups of corporate elites who conspire to suppress wages and destroy jobs. Globalization deniers on the right fear shadowy groups of radical Muslims who conspire to suppress freedoms and destroy lives.

Globalization is a reality. Today, a guy in the Ukraine and a gal in Fresno can collaborate via the web to create a new product and then subcontract to a company in India to manufacture it. If this new product is better or cheaper than what is currently designed in Germany and made in Mexico, Germans and Mexicans will lose their jobs. It’s not clear that anyone is going to reverse the technological advances that have led to this reality.

Globalization is a reality. Every year, there are about 172 million people coming into the United States across our borders. Nearly 6,000,000 visas are granted each year. Our economy depends on the tourism revenues and the cross-pollinating of business and academic professionals. It's not clear that anyone is going to shut down our borders in order to eliminate illegal immigration.

Any policies that pretend to reverse globalization ought not to be taken seriously. The bad news? We can’t isolate ourselves from the rest of the world. The good news? We can’t isolate ourselves from the rest of the world.

Organizational Goals are Meaningless Goals

Organizational Goals are Meaningless Goals

I've become an officer for a local Toastmaster's club and we officers are supposed to articulate club goals next week. I have a problem with this, one that is not specific to Toastmaster's but applies to organizations in general.

Faithful readers of this blog - you two know who you are - have read previous posts in which I've talked about a corporate revolution that, in part, turns the corporation into a tool for the individual, reversing the current order in which the individual is a tool for the corporation. Such a shift suggests a change in emphasis, or sequence, for the articulation of goals.

To me, there are few things as meaningless as organizational goals. As near as I can tell, "organizations" are abstractions that have no real interest in whether these organizational goals are met or not. People, though, do have goals and can be seized by care or apathy. Stockholders have goals for returns by a certain date. Employees have goals for engaging work, development, and income. Customers have goals for convenience, affordability, and enjoyment. Management is an art of creating relationships between these parties, making trade offs when needed and but generally designing solutions that allow all of these parties to meet their goals in ways that they couldn't in isolation from one another.

The more management knows about individual goals, the more they can make organizational design and priority decisions that enable these goals. The miracle of an organization is that it enables the realization of individual goals. The opposite, that the miracle of the individual is that s/he enables the realization of organizational goals, is false.

So, let me go back to the Toastmaster's example. Throughout the year, we get probably 40-80 first-time visitors. Of that, we probably gain about 20 new members while losing about 20. Individuals come to the club with particular goals in mind. Some want to learn how to engage audiences as they deliver regular reports. Some want to overcome stage fright, hesitancy, or rapid-fire delivery. Others want to learn how to read an audience, vary the pace, persuade, or simplify complex ideas. The club, or organization, will thrive if its leadership can figure out how to meet those needs. But before it can meet such needs, it needs to determine those needs.

Currently, there is far more emphasis on having new members learn the Toastmaster's process than there is in having Toastmaster's learn the goals of new members. To talk about organizational goals like signing up 20 new members or getting 5 existing members through the competent communications manual seems to me meaningless. Better to translate the goals of real people into organizational events, actions, and forums that enable the goals of individuals. An organization that does this is going to thrive. It may be transformed - may even change regularly - but it will thrive.

Organizations don't have goals or needs. People do. An organization's only justification is as a means to realize the goals of real people. As soon as leaders forget that and begin talking in abstract terms, they risk drifting into irrelevance and eventual obsolescence.


It's official: I have idearrhea - a compulsion to generate and share ideas. This is my 400th post to a blog started 300-some days ago.
For those of you keeping score at home, posts tagged "absurd" outnumber posts tagged "social evolution" by 66 to 64.

28 June 2007

The Problem with Moderates

The problem with the moderates is that they are just too moderate.

Extremists seem emboldened to start wars, slash or jack up government spending, seize businesses or give them carte blanche to do what they'd like. Extremists are first seized by wild ideas and then try to seize power. They succeed at a rate all out of proportion to their numbers. We've managed to largely rid ourselves of godless communists and now find ourselves confronting Godly warriors who would attack or defend us.

Extremists are the temperamental toddlers in a room of third graders, throwing tantrums and getting their way as moderates simply try to placate them.

I'm tired of it. It's time that we moderates became extreme. As a drunk Barry Goldwater might have said, "Extremism to promote moderation is not really that extreme."

If these extremists want extreme, wait until they see what 83% of the population can do when provoked. Moderates always outnumber extremists, whose only real advantage is their passion. If we can match their passion, the clash between moderates and extremists would be like the clash between a grizzly bear and a Chihuahua.

And then, once we moderates become extremists.... Wait. Then they'll have won. Never mind.

Blair & Cheney in Purgatory Avoidance Talks

Yesterday, Blair stepped down as Prime Minister of Britain and promptly accepted a role as envoy to the Middle East. [Full story here.]

"He will spend significant time in the region working with the parties and others to help create viable and lasting government institutions representing all Palestinians, a robust economy, and a climate of law and order for the Palestinian people,"

An unnamed source claims that Blair is doing this in penance for his previous work in the Middle East with George Bush. If he tries to mediate peace between Israelis and Palestinians for 4 years, his time in purgatory will be reduced from 2,000 years to only 900, claimed a spokesman for an unnamed agency. Should he actually succeed at creating lasting peace, his time in purgatory will be merely 67 years.

Meanwhile, this same unnamed source said that negotiations between Dick Cheney and representatives from this agency broke down when Cheney announced that God no longer had authority over his soul. "It's some guy named Lenny," Cheney said. Having lost his soul to Lenny in an all-night poker game in the 1970's, Cheney claims that he now no longer has to serve time in hell or purgatory as a consequence of any of his actions. "It doesn't matter what I do," asserted an unrepentant Dick. "Shoot lawyers, grant no-bid contracts to the company in which I still have stock options, or vote against funding for kindergarten. I'm a free man."

"Of course, it would be harder for Dick to do penance," this spokesman continued. "Having Cheney try to broker peace in the Middle East would be rather like having Hugh Hefner design a new line of Burkas."

27 June 2007

Policy for Two-Parent Families

"Parental involvement means not only a preparatory effort to help our parents get up to snuff, but also to make sure that we do everything we can to have two-parent families."
- Mitt Romney

Left to speculate about the policy implications of this kind of statement, I will do my best to fill in where Mitt left off.

Of course, it's a catch-22. If you want to have children, to take responsibility for launching a life into the world, you obviously lack the judgment needed to actually raise them. Yet there is no reason to single out child raising. Misinformed optimism is the catalyst for all projects.

Many candidates talk about the importance of a child having two parents. I agree. Not only do I think that children should have two parents, but I think that the rich do it right: children deserve nannies and a parade of private tutors to complement their parents' limited repertoire.

In order to ensure that children are raised properly, we could neuter each infant at birth. They could be neutered by a simple procedure that can be easily reversed once they have demonstrated financial and emotional stability and passed a series of courses on parenting. The license to reproduce should be harder to get than a license to drive or hunt pigeons. We could even make financial independence a prerequisite to reproduction, thus ensuring the above-mentioned childhood nirvana of nannies and support staff.

Obviously, this could create some issues. Birth rates may drop precipitously. One can easily imagine a future in which the few qualified to be born would be hounded by calls from worried pensioners, concerned about stimulating enough economic activity to generate deposits into social security in a world with 100 retirees for every 1 working stiff.

And of course, if reproduction were outlawed, only outlaws would reproduce, suggesting a society even stranger than this one.

But these are merely details and I’ve contacted the campaigns emphasizing two-parent families for clarification of how such issues would be addressed. You can be reassured that their emphasis on traditional families are not just empty words, designed to trigger head nodding. There must be policy implications – or why would they mention such issues? I'll keep you posted as I learn more. I can hardly wait.

26 June 2007

In the Garden - Van Morrison

In spite of a brief interruption by an announcer, this should give folks a sense that Van Morrison is so much more than "Brown Eyed Girl." My own prediction? In 100 years, folks will have forgotten about Billy Graham and the Dali Lama and think that Van Morrison must have been a religious figure.

Why Americans are More Religious than Europeans

Ross Douthat writes in the latest issue of The Atlantic
Nothing divides the United States from Europe like religion. America has its public piety and its multitude of thriving sects, Europe has its official secularism and its empty, museum-piece churches. Ninety percent of Americans say they believe in God, while only about 60 percent of Britons, French, and Germans say the same. American politics is riven by faith-based disputes that barely exist across the Atlantic, while European debates take place under a canopy of unbelief that’s unimaginable in the United States, where polls show that a Muslim or a homosexual has a better chance of being elected president than an acknowledged atheist.

Americans don't just say that religion is important. We head off to church with greater regularity than our peers in other developed nations, as reported here:

Fully 44 percent of Americans attend church once a week, not counting funerals, christenings and baptisms, compared with 27 percent of people in Great Britain, 21 percent of the French, 4 percent of Swedes and 3 percent of Japanese.
Moreover, 53 percent of Americans say that religion is very important in their lives, compared with 16 percent, 14 percent, and 13 percent, respectively, of the British, French and Germans.

Among the variety of reasons for this, I would put entrepreneurship at the top of the list. I've previously argued that an entrepreneur is someone who establishes a new organization in order to institutionalize a solution to a need or want, and / or to realize a personal vision. By this definition, Martin Luther was an entrepreneur, as was Joseph Smith and John Wesley.

Beliefs, like taste in shoes, come in a variety of shapes and sizes. In Europe, if your particular beliefs don't fit, you're unlikely to translate your belief into religious practice. Within a generation or two, your children and grandchildren are unlikely even to express a spiritual belief. In America, by contrast, a religious entrepreneur is more likely to create a religion that matches your own belief. Supported by a religious practice, your spiritual belief is more likely to be passed on to later generations.

At Adherents.com, they have listed "distinct religious movements and their countries of origin." India and England are near the top of the list, each with six (e.g., Anglicanism, Quakers, Hinduism, and Buddhism). At the top of the list? The U.S., with 11! (e.g., Latter Day Saints, Southern Baptists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Black Muslims, and Scientologists).

If pop music selections were limited to just 50 Cent and George Strait, many people might conclude that they don't really like music. But with today's wealth of musical choices, it is the rare person who can't find something to enjoy. The more diversity we have in music, the higher the percentage of music lovers. I'd argue that the same holds in religion.

In the United States, we've done more to translate our religious dissatisfaction into new religions. I would argue that this, as much as anything, contributes to a higher percentage of the population practicing religion and expressing a belief in God.

25 June 2007

BZZT - 21st Century Media

Concision has won.

If you are not concise, you can't be heard. There are 6 billion people on this planet and you can't expect to hold anyone's attention for more than about 30 seconds (oops - there goes another reader - already I've used too many words, taken too long to make my point).


Couple the information age with globalization and suddenly we have so many sources to check for so many stories that we simply haven't the time to explore things in depth. We'd finish the book we're reading but we have a coffee date at Barnes & Noble and while we're there we'll likely pick up a new book or magazine.


Even when we're stuck in traffic, we have this frenetic vibe that comes from too much caffeine and content. We're a nation of channel surfers, web surfers, replacing quiet Sufi wisdom with noisy surfer info, working our way down the food chain from wisdom to understanding to knowledge to information to data as we find ourselves less and less able to find patterns in the haystack, the do-it yourself worldview with easy-to-assemble instructions now in pieces in the floor, us with no instructions, and a sense that we'll never figure out how it all fits together.


Something big is happening, likely, but we haven't time to sort it out. Instead we play an increasingly difficult game of keeping up with data streams, emails, instant messaging, phone calls, news feeds. We're living in an age where information has displaced understanding. We all speculate and when we're tired of listening to ourselves, we have hundreds and thousands of options from which to choose for professional speculation.


Universities and think tanks and research labs are full of highly intelligent people who speak too slowly, who consider too many variables, who talk in careful and nuanced tones that make them undesirable for the ratings whores who've kidnapped our media. When a signal is pulled out of the noise, it all takes too long to explain.


Our media was never designed to convey understanding anyway. It was designed to hold our attention between commercials, open up our minds to messages that look alluring before suddenly switching us from news about our finances to promises to cure erectile dysfunction, getting us just when we’re vulnerable and open to new information. The content is there just to soften us up, so to speak. It was never meant to be taken seriously.


Already I've taken too long. Already I've said too much. Already, 83.2% of the readers who began this posting have clicked through to another site, one better geared to the mysterious impulses that Freud tried to explain, sites that explain conquest, competition, sex, social standing, and the celebrities who embody these and other impulses.


Charlie surfs. Nowadays, everybody does.

Insecurities Trader

Bernard is a kvetch. Listen to him long enough and you realize why his ex-wife once told someone at a party that he was "an insecurities trader."

A Wave of Disintermediation

Jeff Jarvis writes

I just saw a Piper Jaffray PowerPoint (sorry, I lost the link) that said that time spent on "user-generated content" sites soared from 3 percent in April of 2005 to 31 percent now: a tenfold increase in just two years and a now huge proportion of time spent online.

Banking disintermediation has provoked lots of analysis and writing in certain circles. I still think that Ron Chernow, in his book House of Morgan and his follow-on clarification The Death of the Banker has done the best job of explaining this. Put simply, an intermediary comes into between two people. A banker takes deposits from Jack and makes loans to Jill. Before the information age, the value of knowing that Jack has money and Jill needs it is valuable. Very valuable. After the information, Jack and Jill just might find each other without the banker. Bankers as intermediaries become less important, less powerful. Hence, banking disintermediation, a revolution in finance.

But it suddenly occurred to me that the role of intermediary is eroding everywhere. Bands can now put their music out to the public without using a record label. Individuals can post news or commentary on the web without the sanction of a newspaper or book publisher. It could be that we're witnessing media disintermediation.

What is next? Perhaps corporate disintermediation, a phase of economics when the corporation no longer plays intermediary between the customer and the employee who creates value for the customer. Or perhaps politics that cuts out the politician and is replaced by participatory democracy.

Stage one of the information age has been laying in place the infrastructure and technology that connects everyone with everyone. Stage two of the information age may well be a spate of self-organizing complexity that displaces the old organizational and process structures that depends upon a lack of information and concentration of decision-making.

24 June 2007

Bulimic Shopper

Bernard was complaining about his wife the other day. "She's a bulimic shopper," Bernard said. "On Friday she'll spend $800 and on Monday she'll get take back $750 of it."

Speaks on Planes!

I had a flight of about four hours Friday night, and ended up next to a guy who couldn't stop talking. I enjoy a conversation and music more the average person but find it hard to explore four hours worth of nuance on the topic of 80s rock bands. My knowledge of acts like Cheap Trick and Billy Squire is paltry but is still much greater than my curiosity about them. I cannot remember when a conversation actually made a flight seem longer, but this one did.

For the next flight, a mercifully short hop from Phoenix to San Diego, I boarded after my buddy and co-worker Bill who, it turned out, was seated in the window of the same exit row with my aisle seat. In the middle seat was a man I'd never met. As I took my seat, both Bill and this stranger already had their books out and were engrossed in reading.

As I sat down, I leaned forward, looking back into their faces, and said, "Uh, were you guys just going to read the whole flight? Because I was kind of hoping that we could sing campfire songs together to help make this flight go faster."

The poor guy beside me barely looked up from his book, made a smile that very quickly turned into a grimace of fear, and then quickly tucked his head back into his book. He didn't say a word for the entire flight. Left free to read my book, it made me wonder why I hadn't thought of this 5 hours earlier.

21 June 2007

Confidence in a Police State?

A number of articles and opinion pieces are making a big deal out of the fact that Congress's approval rating is at an all-time low, according to a new Gallup poll. The fact that the presidency and Congress is so low seems to me to miss the point. The point seems to be that Americans have lost their confidence in the pillars of our republic.

Americans expressing a great deal of
or quite a lot of confidence in …

Military 69%
Small Business 59%
Police 54%
Organized Religion 46%
Banks 41%
U.S. Supreme Court 34%
Public Schools 33%
Medical System 31%
Presidency 25%
Television News 23%
Newspapers 22%
Criminal Justice System 19%
Organized Labor 19%
Big Business 18%
Congress 14%

Americans have little trust in the three branches of government that define our government. Congress, the presidency, and the Supreme Court have a combined approval rating of 73% - a rating just barely better than that of the military alone.

What does this suggest? What is the real story? It doesn't take a great leap to suspect that Americans are at the stage of serious flirtation with the idea of a police state. Weary of democracy, we are ready to hand ourselves over to the guys with guns, like Spain under Franco. Unable to export our own democracy to Iraq, we’re now leaning towards simply throwing it away. One can't help but wonder whether we might find ourselves in a police state should the combined approval rating for our three branches of government should ever slip below that of the military.

As a side note, only 34% of Americans still feel a great deal of confidence in polls, a number you’ll never see reported by the pollsters for obvious reasons (and, of, course, the less obvious reason that I simply made up the number).

Curiously, Gallup failed to inquire about the level of confidence in blogs, an institution apparently too new to deserve its own score. it may be that the sarcasm, wit, and insightful prose of bloggers is the only thing that now stands between us and a coup in which the military is welcomed as leaders.

20 June 2007


This week I'm in a little burg outside of Indianapolis. When we first pulled off Hwy. 70 and came to the motel, I was very unimpressed. Chain restaurants. Industrial park style buildings. It turns out that this was the "new" part of town.

Later, we drove into the old city center and my opinion of Greenfield radically changed. The old buildings were beautiful. As near as I could tell, they had been built for beauty and not cost savings. The difference was remarkable.

I would never trade a typewriter or car or drug from 1920 for those available today. So why is it that buildings from that period look so much better?

And it made me wonder: have we given up esthetics for progress? Are block building WalMarts really what we want in lieu of Victorian homes. Do we want architecture approved by accountants rather than architects and artists?

19 June 2007

Guess the Number of Cells in George's Brain!

George Bush is set to veto his third bit of legislation in six years. For a second time, he's opposing stem cell research.

At the point at which embryonic stem cells are useful to researchers, they have multiplied into only about 30 cells. It is this small cluster of cells to which George has imbued the sanctity of life. By contrast, a fly has about 100,000 brain cells.

On a related note, it is worth remembering that George W's most distinguished accomplishment before the age of 40 was frequent bouts of binge drinking. Research indicates that "a few days of binge drinking can lead to the almost immediate death of brain cells ..."

Researchers have failed to specify whether the brain cells killed by binge drinking are closer in number to the cluster of stem cells George wants to avoid exploiting or the cells in a fly's brain. There is some indication that whatever the number, it is enough to impair judgment later in life, confusion that can lead one to conclude that cells are more important than lives.

18 June 2007

Transformation for (Rather Than Of) the Self

“Infinite nuances are needed if justice is to be done to individual human beings.”
- Carl Jung

Transformation has historically been worked outward to in. That is, the individual is expected to aspire to excel within the games, the institutions, given by society. We live in a time when that can change.

At every level of society, institutions seem enamored of process. Religious rituals, manufacturing processes, standardized testing in schools - all of these show the triumph of proven processes aimed at creating conformity rather than genius.

It would seem though, that progress is marked by increased diversity, an impulse that moves in the opposite direction of the curve of the past 100 centuries. As this diversity continues, the game will change from measuring how well one does within a particular system than in how well the system does in drawing out the individual.

It seems the oddest kind of lunacy that corporations, schools, and governments have been so utterly disinterested in the individual realizing her or his potential. We will know that the final chapter of the economic transformation has begun when our institutions have become tools for the individual to realize potential rather than the individual harnessed as a tool to realize the goals of the institution, goals that invariably are more directed towards continuity and predictability than the unfolding of self.

Seeds are little things that bring forth entire plants. The details of the individual are the little things pursued that unfold into potential. What a fascinating community in which to live if we learn how to transform for the self rather than expect tranformation of the self. Sadly, such a goal still seems years away, perhaps further proof that we're still preoccupied with getting more out of the old system rather than creating a new one.

Lessons from Nature

I've written frequently in this blog about the importance of what I'd call "soft technology." That is, the changes in social institutions, behaviors, and norms that define the shift from one period to another. It seems to me that the emphasis placed on hard technology like engines and computer chips is disproportionate to that placed on transforming society.

But the two actually move together. The steam engine and railroad play along with the creation of capital markets and national governments. The internet fuels non-governmental agencies that coalesce out of shared interests rather than shared geography. Here is a reminder that hard technology is an integral part of any transformation in society.

Janine Benyus, in this video from TED, makes the point that from nature we have 3.8 million years of design experience to draw from. Life creates the conditions for life, a lesson not just in habitat preservation but habitat creation from which we could learn. Enjoy.

Bernard's Living Will

My friend Bernard recently shared his living will with us. I can say this for it: it is simple.

"If I should become a vegetable, I want to be taken off life support, but if I should become a fruit instead, OH DARLING, LET ME LIVE!"

17 June 2007

Oops! We Must Have Shipped Iraqis Democracy 1.0

Those of you who have installed old versions of software know that you can find yourself battling bugs that have been addressed in later versions.

The problems in Iraq, the insurgency and the fighting between Shiites and Sunnis, probably have to do with the social dynamics in Iraq. Or, it might have to do with the version of democracy that we've shipped into Baghdad.

Not having used the "establish democracy" function of our version of democracy in centuries, we forgot that our version includes ethnic cleansing: a little bug that the West has tried to design away, with varying levels of success, in subsequent Democracy releases. Sadly, someone in DC forgot to ship the Iraqis one of the newer versions.

16 June 2007

Globalization Through the Lens of 2 Million Year-Old Genes

Q: Why do men have bigger brains than dogs?
A: So they won't hump women's legs at parties.

Jesus taught about the dangers of the world and flesh. Csikszentmihalyi, who I would judge to be an agnostic based on his writings and conversations with him, warns about how capitulation to social conformity (i.e., the world), or genetic impulse (the flesh) distracts from the engagement that characterizes our most productive, creative, and enjoyable moments. Doctors tell us that genetic impulse can be a misleading guide in a world of abundance - an environment with more sugars, fats, alluring foods, and drugs than at any time in evolution's long history.

Whether it is drawn from religion thousands of years old or research only days old, the advice seems to be the same: distrust the genetic impulse that would turn us into rotund, chemically-dependent, serial adulterers or serial killers, leaving behind us a trail of broken promises, broken relationships, and broken zippers.

Yet the genetic impulse need not trumpet its influence. It can be subtle. We're wired for relationships, not abstractions. We're wired to respond to the individual rather than the statistical norm. Research has indicated that we're more likely to respond to the plight of an individual ("This little girl is an orphan. You can feed her for only $2 a day.)") than to a group ("This people has been through a devastating catastrophe. It has left thousands orphaned. Please help with a donation of $2 a day.") This genetic impulse can be at least as harmful as the impulse for excess food or drugs.

What this means in practical terms is that Princess Di still gets more news coverage than 8 million dying each year because of extreme poverty. Paris Hilton's ... well, you get the point. We're absorbed in personalities and their dramas, the resolution of which will have no impact, and ignore issues that might actually make a difference to real lives, lives that appear to us in more abstract form.

We do make some attempt to warn - even legislate against - the genetic impulse when it comes to issues like rape, obesity, alcoholism, drugs, and violence. We seem less generally interested in warning against genetic impulses when they have to do with the alpha male impulse for place, or the tribal instincts that disregard the abstract issues that define our fate in a world of global interconnections and dominoes that fall over the horizon of time and space. Yet it is likely that history will show these genetic impulses to have robbed us of more years and more quality of life than those against which we've placed prohibitions.

15 June 2007

I Know Where the Nazis Went

Today, my son graduated from high school. With six to seven hundred kids in his class, the ceremony was remarkable for three reasons: 50 minutes of speeches that sounded suspiciously like "blah, blah, blah," 25 minutes to read names, and the presence of teachers who patrolled the area as if they were at a prison camp and not a high school graduation.

Lined on either side of these neat and orderly and darling young adults were teachers - about four per side and various ones walking down the middle, patrolling. This in addition to police and private security. The odd message seemed to be, you may be ready to be pronounced adults but we still can't trust you.

In his program, there were these simple instructions: please refrain from applause and other distracting behavior.

After years of forcing these kids to take standardized tests, banning innocuous fashion statements (technically, hats and t-shirts with messages are against school rules), and blatantly ignoring the fact that these are individuals struggling to emerge, this declaration that acknowledgement of a significant milestone ought to be done with the discretion of a Japanese tea ceremony. Sad.

Apparently, not all of the Nazis fled to Argentina. Some apparently made it into school administration.

Listening to the blah blah speeches, my wife asked me, what would your valedictorian speech be? My response? "2.5? None of you could have done better than a 2.5 GPA? What were you smoking?"

Blake rather amazingly checked the boxes without completely buying into the whole game. He seems to have done a better job of playing the game while knowing it was game than I did. I was never quite able to buy into the game in high school, although I did rather enjoy it by the time I got into college and even more so by graduate school. Sure, it's all games, all made up. But some games are simply more fun to play. The tough thing is remembering that it's just a game and then remembering that you're supposed to take it seriously. I can usually do one of those but rarely both.

Here's hoping that Blake finds a game that both draws him in and creates something of value.

Oh. I nearly forgot. Congratulations Blake!

14 June 2007

The Opiate of the Masses

Marx only said that religion is the opiate of the masses because he died before the invention of television.

This week I found myself playing pop culture catch up, sitting in a hotel room channel surfing. What I again found most dismaying is that the most inane shows are the so called news shows. In depth coverage of Paris Hilton's battle with depression and spirituality dominated. On news shows.

I realize that this drives ratings, but it rather reminds me of what has become quaint advice from mothers to daughters. "Sure, all the boys like to date girls who are easy, but when it comes time to marry, they won't be interested in you." One can almost hear the editors telling the business executives, "Sure, the audiences will all tune in if we cover inane topics that titillate but are of no consequence. But when it comes time to choose politicians or policy, they won't be interested in our station. When they want something serious, they'll go elsewhere." But what if all the news stations have become tabloids? What happens to democracy then?

The Mad Math of American Foreign Policy - or, Why "They" Hate Us

The advertisement said, "Save $2,000 on Mediterranean Cruises." Given my savings goal for the year was $10,000, I bought five.

Tom Peters writes
"Haven't gotten anything but grief - vitriol overseas as an American of late. In the past, overseas, I've observed dismay at the resident of 1600 PA Ave. But this time it's inclusive — we are all getting grief."

American has been infected by a virus of mad calculation, a virus that seems to transcend the Bush's administration's transient hold on the White House. It's a madness that goes some distance towards explaining why "they" hate us.

On 9-11, terrorists killed more than 3,000 Americans. By contrast, more than 65,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed as a consequence of our military intervention. The vast majority of the terrorists came from Saudi Arabia, none from Iraq. The invasion of Iraq was not an act of revenge or retaliation. We invaded Iraq because we couldn't let 9-11 happen again. The invasion of Iraq was an act of prevention. (Itself a non sequitur I haven't the inclination to delve into right now.)

So here we have the math madness that has come to define American foreign policy. We will kill 20 foreign civilians in order to prevent the killing of one American. (65,000 Iraqi civilians / 3,000 American civilians) We will kill 60,000 foreigners to save the lives of 3,000 Americans. Or, by extension, we will kill 600,000 foreigners to save the lives of 30,000 Americans, or kill 60,000,000 to save the lives of 300,000 or - and this is the kicker - 6,000,000,000 (6 billion!) foreigners in order to save the lives of all 300,000,000 (300 million) Americans. Using the logic of post 9-11 foreign policy, American policy makers are basically saying that to make lives of us 300 million Americans more secure, they are willing to kill everyone else on the planet. I doubt that Randy Newman could have ever guessed that any administration would take his satire so seriously.

This is madness. Sadly, George is not the only one infected with this disease. Can we truly wonder why the world's estimation of our country has plunged so precipitously? Is it any wonder, Tom, that we are all getting grief?

12 June 2007


The level of interest that employees show towards customers rarely exceeds the level of interest that employers show towards employees.

11 June 2007

Brushes with History - Kennedy, Cash, Nixon & Kurt

I've had a variety of serendipitous moments in my life, times when I was at the right place at what felt like a momentous occasion.

In 2003, I was in on a business trip when I awoke to the radio news announcement that Johnny Cash had died. My hotel was in Folsom, CA. Although I wasn't imprisoned, I did feel blue.

In 1994, I was standing on the steps of the Hanoi Opera House when I first heard that Richard Nixon had died. The Vietnamese government offered a fairly terse comment on his death, something akin to "We have heard that Richard Nixon died. Apparently he is dead now." I was part of a group hosting a trade show featuring American companies. I was told that it was the first time the American flag had flown beside the (formerly north) Vietnamese flag in Hanoi. It felt to me as though an era had passed, the conversion of communists by Pepsi and Post Cereal instead of guns and tanks.

In early June of 1968, Robert Kennedy came to my little town of Yuba City to deliver a speech. I was 7 and my father, who I have since learned is a fairly staunch conservative, was curious enough to take me and my sister to the center of town to hear Kennedy speak. After he spoke, I rather inexplicably broke away from my father in the midst of what might have been the largest crowd I have ever seen, and pressed towards Kennedy. I still remember the details of "shaking hands" with Kennedy. He was riding in a big convertible and was leaning out of the car to shake hands, and people were actually gripping his waist to keep him in the car. I was amazed to see two things - one, he wasn't really shaking hands so much as touching as many people as he could and, two, people were literally tearing at his cuff links, pulling souvenirs of the man off of him as if he were a store mannequin. Days later, he won the California primary and was assassinated.

This brings me to this week. As readers of this blog will know, Kurt Vonnegut was one of my best friends in high school (not having met me, he didn't realize this). Heading to Indianapolis this week for a business trip, I'd forgotten that this is Kurt's hometown. I'd forgotten until spotting "The Last Interview" with Kurt Vonnegut in the US Airways magazine. This is my first trip to Indianapolis and I'll likely be out here 6 to 12 times over the next few months. What year did I finally visit my old friend's hometown? In the "Year of Vonnegut." Somehow, given I missed his childhood here, the timing felt right.

And just to close the loop, Robert Kennedy first heard of Martin Luther King's assassination here in Indianapolis. Speaking to a largely black audience, he spoke movingly and spontaneously about Martin Luther King, race, and the importance of getting beyond violence. Most major American cities had race riots in reaction to the news of King's assassination, but Indianapolis did not. Many attribute this to Kennedy's speech.

Some days just feel like now. Other days actually feel like history. Yesterday offered such a moment.

09 June 2007

The End of Economics

Economics is the study of scarcity. By 2050, in many parts of the world, scarcity may well be transcended. At that point, economics will be history.

In an agricultural economy, there is a very real question of starvation. Subsistence living was reality for the vast majority of the world's population only 1,000 years ago. In Europe, it was not unusual for groups driven mad by starvation in the months leading into harvest to form suicide pacts.

In an industrial economy, food production is less precarious and scarcity typically shifts from food that might feed one to the products that do things like clothe, house, entertain, transport, or inform one. In agricultural economies, the rich are fat and the poor are thin; in developed nations, the poor are fat and the rich are thin. Eating the right amount is a product of will power rather than crop failure.

In an information economy, even a scarcity of goods becomes history as landfills, garages, and closets become increasingly packed and cluttered. What is scarce is the economic freedom that allows one to pursue avenues of engagement, contribution, and meaning that seem pushed to the periphery of life for many focused on making mortgage payments, college loan payments, 401(k) contributions and insurance payments.

Already, G-8 countries are building something new atop the information economy, just as they did with the industrial economy around 1900. An entrepreneurial economy is emerging, an economy in which the roles that are typically ascribed to entrepreneurs are made more popular, more common. The wealth that will be generated in this economy, wealth driven by and driving further advances in resource availability and use (problems of the agricultural economy), manufacturing and distribution (problems of the industrial economy), and problem-solving and design (problems of the information economy), will create abundance inconceivable by most of the current generation.

Humanity will still face problems. The problem of being human, the problems of finding happiness, meaning, engagement, and healthy relationships will all still be with us. But these dramas will be played out free from the fear, or overhang of scarcity. Measures like GDP growth will become as nonessential to the measure of progress as caloric intake has become to the developed nations. We will have moved beyond that.

Before about 1000 - 1300 AD, tradition rather than economics defined society and its changes. Since that time, the West has been transformed by economic forces. By the middle of this century, those of you who are still alive will get to witness the end of economics. Historians will look back to the period before 2050 as a time when humanity was so consumed by fear, scarcity, and competition for goods that our humanity was largely subsumed to Freudian impulses. Once economics has ended, we'll live in a true renaissance, a time when a majority of humanity can properly focus on what it means to be human.

The end of economics. It's just decades away.

07 June 2007

My ASD - Attention Surplus Disorder

I've realized that I have an attention problem. Most literature focuses on ADD - attention deficit disorder. Yet the problems stemming from ADD seem hard to recognize. Flitting from topic to topic, inability to stay focused ... all seems perfectly fitting for a culture made up by surfing the web, channel surfing, and the modern style of ping pong conversations that bounce from topic to esoteric reference to topic. ADD is less likely to make one a pariah than to make one fit in.

By contrast, I have ASD - attention surplus disorder. I find myself absorbed for hours by good books. The 15-page articles in the Atlantic or Foreign Affairs strike me as scarcely long enough to do justice to the topic. When I find myself wanting to relax in a hotel, I invariably find myself tuned to PBS or HBO because the incessant commercial interruptions elsewhere drive me to distraction and even if the movie or documentary is bad, I'm likely to watch it simply because it has a large enough canvas to actually paint something that isn't the time equivalent of a miniature.

This can work to my disadvantage. I've long ago learned to resort to quips and quick observations in conversations. Any arguments that take more than 4 minutes to unfold, or involve more than 2 points, are likely to leave people with a glazed look, so I typically avoid those. Those suffering from ADD can be the life of the party; those of us with ASD suck the life out of parties.

Had my case of ASD been coupled with sufficient intelligence, I could have become one of the disillusioned intellectuals who write long and ignored books. Fortunately for the world, my case of ASD has been paired with sufficiently less intelligence and its damage is limited to a smaller radius of friends and family, usually manifest through conversations or blog postings that go on for too long.

Like anyone suffering from the human condition, those of us suffering from ASD need your compassion. Pretend to listen to us. Nod and say, "That's really a good point," when we stop to catch our breath. When that fails, send us to the corner with a fascinating book. It'll be hours before we look up. Until then, you're safe.

The Future of Business: Developing Next Generation Soft Technology

Most attempts by business to understand the future rather seem to miss the point. They come across as technology plays, predictions about which breakthroughs are likely to come to fruition and how they'll parlay these into products. This is fine if you are head of a research lab, but has less obvious application if you are tasked with other management positions. If your job is to head up a business or function, you're likely looking - if indeed you are looking at all - at the wrong kind of technology.

Some should focus on the evolution and change in hard technology - changes in cars, computers, drugs, and telephones. Most managers should be focused instead on soft technology - changes in culture, behavior, roles, beliefs, and organization. It's true that in practice these two, the hard and soft technologies, play together. It's also true that any one individual is likely to focus on one dimension. Thanks to roughly a century in the evolution of the formal role of scientists and engineers, we have clearly defined the tasks associated with the development of hard technology. By contrast, roles for developing soft technology are less clearly defined. Indeed, what plays catalyst for the shift in public opinion or new practice often seems unpredictable and random. Of course, so is the development of hard technology, but that doesn't stop societies from investing hundreds of billions into its development.

Most management types should be looking at the future of organizations, work, and society. It is not that they should remain willfully ignorant of the hard technology, but often there is little that a CEO or VP of, say, Human Relations can do about furthering the next generation of web development software. They can help to develop the organization.

There is so much that can be written about this, but I will for now limit myself to this. There are a variety of questions that anyone in management - from small business owner to CEO - can ask, questions that intelligent and imaginative people scattered throughout the organization can answer more creatively than me. Managers should be regularly asking these questions.

1. How do we more fully engage our people in work? What work place designs, chunking of tasks, and communication protocols should we use to encourage focus?

2. How do we clarify consequences? What can we do to more clearly link the work of the individual to the value created by the organization?

3. How do we more clearly tie together individual effort, longer term consequences, and organizational performance? Are there lessons we can draw from market economies?

4. Are we prepared for the devolution of power and decision making as accords with self-adapting complexity and market dynamics that might follow from designing a system that allows individual initiative in place of central controls? What are the consequences of creating such a system? How would we make this operational? What are the practical obstacles to moving in this direction today?

5. Are our people motivated by a vision of their future? Do they see this organization as a place of possibility or are they even interested in realizing their own potential? Why or why not? What would we have to change about our organization to allow a critical mass of our employees to realize their potential?

6. Who in the organization is tasked with coaching our people towards the realization of their potential? What is the lost revenue resulting from our lack of interest in this?

I would argue that seriously pursuing questions such as this could be the catalyst for developing new organizations, for creating the next generation soft technology. If your business is hard technology, you are likely focusing an enormous amount of energy on creating the next generation of your products. If you expect to remain competitive as a senior executive, you should be just as focused on creating the next generation of soft technology.

Replacing Iowa with Virtual Primaries

Primaries are supposedly designed to choose the candidates for each political party. Iowa and New Hampshire have for decades had disproportionate influence over national politics because their primaries are first in the nation.

But is this the best formula for helping each party choose the candidate most likely to represent the nation? A century ago, it was party elders who decided on this issue - not the rabble that needed to be won over on election day. In that sense, we've made progress.

But geography seems increasingly unimportant as we stroll into these latter days of the Information Age. The Internet has allowed a geography of ideology, a clustering of worldviews that transcends traditional geography. How much more interesting would it be to have a "virtual" primary in which candidates representing various ideological clusters were sorted through?

The polity could be diced and sliced in a variety of ways: religious affiliation, income, foreign policy or domestic policy philosophies, etc. When we have information technology that makes place irrelevant, why limit ourselves to primaries in states whose population is less than that of our major cities? We could have a variety of primaries, a smattering of which might look like this:
the evangelical primary,
the secular humanist primary,
the conspiracy theorist primary,
the parades and patriots primary
the legalize pot and provide free rock concerts primary, and, my favorite,
the apoliticals primary (the most sparsely attended and yet most representative)

Geography is so 20th century. It's time to go virtual, to embrace the geography of ideology. What better place to start than the presidential primaries?

06 June 2007

iPope and the Portable Mosh Pit

According to a surprising announcement by a Vatican spokesperson, Pope Benedict is entertaining requests to turn the pope mobile into a portable mosh pit.

"This might be a great way to connect with young people," Girolamo Savoyunecka told reporters after an incidence with a German man who tried to dive into the car with the pope. "We realize that in many parts of the world there is already excited talk about pope mobile diving as a new form of recreation, and the pope is seriously considering allowing this during public appearances."

Observers noted two things about the pope's reaction to the German's attempt to dive into his pope mobile. One, he didn't even react to the commotion behind him. Two, he appeared to have ear buds from an iPod peeking out from under his vestures, something that might explain his failure to hear the gasps of surprised bodyguards.

Asked about this, spokesman Savoyunecka volunteered that the pope loves a variety of German music - composers like Beethoven, Bach, and Kraftwerk. "He often resorts to use of his iPod during stressful public appearances that involve simply waving at crowds. He's actually a bit of an introvert," Savoyunecka added. "Around the Vatican we often refer to him as the iPope."

Just as Savoyunecka was elaborating on how the pope intends to connect with a new generation of believers through what he called "pope-casts, downloadable sermons," the pope's actual spokesperson stepped into the press conference, obviously surprised to see that Savoyunecka was speaking on behalf of the Vatican. Seeing that his cover was blown, "Savoyunecka" dove into the crowd of reporters before taking advantage of the temporary confusion to disappear.

05 June 2007

Quality of Life is More Important Than Life Except When Quality of Life is Less Important Than Life

In tonight's Republican debate, the hopefuls were asked about the most pressing moral problem: other than Ron Paul, all singled out the reverence for life, a reference to anti-abortion. The quality of the life of the mother deserves no consideration if pursuit of that threatens the life of a fetus.

Ron Paul, however, was just rude. He claimed that the most pressing moral problem was that his fellow Republicans wouldn't rule out a preemptive nuclear strike against a country that was no direct threat to us.

There are, last I heard, children in these countries we have bombed and would be willing to bomb. Why do we accept this "collateral damage" in the execution of war? Because we feel that people in these countries deserve freedom and deserve economic prosperity. That is, quality of life is more important than life itself.

If you can crack the code on that one, you might have a future as a Republican candidate.

The Pay as You Go Ammendment

I've an idea for a new amendment to our constitution, one likely to greatly reduce the incidence of wars. It is simply this. In order to start a war, congress and the president have to hold a different kind of election. In fact, it would look more like a fund raiser.

If you wanted to start a war, you'd have to convince people to pay for it upfront. If that money ran out, you'd have to come back for more. Pentagon officials and White House spokespeople would sound like the folks at PBS during pledge drive week.

"Folks, this war is really important. If you have a family of four, all we need from you is $6,000. Now that keeps our troops equipped with the best and fed healthy food."
"That's right, Jim. But we need you to send more than $6,000. $6,000 would cover a family of four if every family chipped in. But we now that some folks can't afford that."
"And, ehem, others have, uh, different values and simply won't pay for war."
"That's right, Jim. And we need you to help offset that. We need you to send in $12,000."
"It's a real bargain, really. For less than the cost of an apartment, you can say that you've helped to create democracy in the Middle East."
"Oops! Old script, Jim. We're not so sure that they're going to opt for a democracy. You can say that you helped the Iraqis to establish a standing army."
"Sorry Kaitlin. I'd forgotten. Another option,, is that for just $15,000 a month, you can sponsor one soldier."
"Yes, you can provide money for his equipment, his food, clothing, and medical."
"So call our operators. They're standing by."
"Remember, if you don't send the money, we can't have this war."

The pay as you go amendment. Sure you want war, but do you have the money on you? If not, maybe your war will just have to wait.

Cost of the War in Iraq
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04 June 2007

Iraq & the Clash of Myths

It is possible that the seeds for the insurgency in Iraq lay, not just the poor execution of the Bush administration's strategy, but, instead, in overlooking the importance of myth in nation building. Creating nation-states has always heavily relied on myth and still does, even in this age of science and technology.

The myth of Iraq as seen by Bush was that America would liberate the Iraqis from an evil dictator and they would celebrate their freedom by embracing capitalism and democracy.

But when it comes to nation building, myth has to make you the hero, not the rescued victim.

I went to Vietnam in 1994. I was working with a group founded by a trio of Vietnamese-Americans putting on a trade show featuring American companies. The group I was with was largely made up of people who fled their homes when Saigon fell to the communists. All of us felt trepidation as we stepped off the plane in Hanoi.

There were so many remarkable things about this trip, but one that stands out was the reaction of these Vietnamese-Americans when we visited Ho Chi Minh's tomb. It was obvious that mingled with their fear was real pride in "Bac [Uncle] Ho." Here was a Vietnamese who defeated two of the most powerful nations in history - sending French and American troops back home in the struggle for independence. Before that – hundreds of years before - they had gained their independence from the Chinese. This contributed to the myth that defined the Vietnamese: a people who resisted foreign occupation even in the face of incredible odds.

One vital contribution to the emergence of nation-states like England, France, and Germany was the cultivation of myth. Stories of national identity gave the individual a sense of national pride and distinction from other peoples. The discovery, in 1455, of Tacitus's Germania from Roman times helped to provide a sense of unity and superiority to a people governed by 300-some different governments. Stories of King Arthur and Charlemagne (one fabricated and one revived) helped to create a sense of national destiny that predated the recent history of division in what became England and France.

Iraqis were never particularly likely to gain a sense of national identity from George Bush's rescue myth. It's hard to found a country on a shared sense of rescued victim. Founding myths have to provide a sense of distinction and pride.

The insurgents are now creating a myth that could feed a strong sense of national identity. How intoxicating to be part of a force that "defeated" the most powerful military in world history? Rather than lead to the embrace of Western culture and institutions, this kind of myth is likely to frame this Iraqi war as proof of the corruption of Western institutions and people who, in spite of their obvious advantages and technological superiority, were unable to overcome the Iraqi people who kept themselves pure of Western influence.

In this time of science, technology, and economic theory, it is easy to dismiss myth as inconsequential and misguided. Yet we need shared stories, we need myths that provide a sense of identity. If a people can't share stories, it's hard to share much else - especially something as ethereal as a nation-state.

Do You Remember Life Before the Segway?

Given the rapid pace of technology changes, sometimes it's good just to reflect on how far we've come.

In The Know: Do You Remember Life Before The Segway?

Courtesy of The Onion.

02 June 2007

Individuals & Heroes

"I asked myself 'What is the myth you are living?' and found that I did not know. So ... I took it upon myself to get to know 'my' myth and I regarded this as the task of tasks ... I simply had to know what unconscious or preconscious myth was forming me."
- C.J. Jung

Charles Tart makes the point that a hypnotist, in a matter of minutes, can program you to do things. How much more powerfully can society program you during the course of your life?

The purported purpose of life until now has been to be a good Christian, a good citizen, a good employee. That is, purpose has been given to the individual by social institutions.

The genuine individual distances himself from these institutions to do the hard work of defining herself with a degree of autonomy from them. The hero comes back from this shape-shifting exercise and transforms these institutions. It's hard work - and nobody's got to do it.

The Future of Advertising

It gets harder and harder to capture your attention. The competition is fierce, funny, and shocking.

In the future, folks strolling through public areas will be hit with pop-up holograms advertising products. They'll be suddenly, and unexpectedly, confronting a catchy spiel from a supermodel or popular athlete who is close enough to touch. Given that collision avoidance technology will be so robust by this point, these pop ups will even bombard us as we drive, placing celebrities in a lotus position on our hoods as they tell us about the miracle of whiter teeth, thicker hair, or smaller feet.

Obviously, these shocking interruptions will be unsettling. The advertisers will know this and the most popular products advertised in this fashion will be powerful stress-reduction drugs.

01 June 2007

The Policy That Matters Most

The policy that will most impact the average person is business policy, not political policy.

Federal policy matters. So does state and local policy. Education policy matters more than most people seem to appreciate, but even that does not seem to have as immediate and as real an impact as the policies of heads of business.

It's worth remembering that when Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton first came to national prominence, his story had some simple themes. One, he'd gotten rich by cuttings costs and prices. He not only offered his customers bargains, but he traveled from store to store in an old pickup. Two, he made his employees partners in the creation of wealth. Even people working jobs like cashier were making enough money to send children to college, to buy vacation homes, or to retire early.

Some leaders are inspired by a variable sum ideal. They believe that they can create wealth that didn't previously exist. Other leaders are inspired by a zero sum ideal. They believe that gains and losses add up to zero - whatever I get comes at your expense and what you get comes at my expense. At best, these leaders take from competitors; at worst, they take from their own employees, firing employees and / or reducing wages and benefits in order to drive up profits and their own pay.

Some corporate leaders have created wealth and brought along a group with them. People like Bill Gates of Microsoft or Robert Beyster of SAIC not only founded companies that made them wealthy: they made thousands of employees millionaires as well.

Others have merely shifted wealth. 'Chainsaw Al’ Dunlap, in less than two years as head of Scott Paper, fired 11,000 employees (one-third of the workforce), slashed the research budget, moved the world headquarters from Philadelphia (where it was founded in 1879) to Boca Raton, Florida (where he has a $1.8 million house), eliminated all corporate gifts to charities, and barred managers from being involved in community affairs. Then he sold what was left of the company to Kimberly-Clark, which promptly announced it would cut 8,000 of the combined companies’ workforce and close Scott’s new headquarters in Boca Raton. For his labors, Dunlap has just walked off with a cool $100 million. ” [Robert Reich, Locked in the Cabinet (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997) 294.]

The policy proposals and consequences of government officials receive enormous scrutiny. By contrast, the policy, philosophy, and abilities of corporate executives seem to escape notice from most of the media. And yet, just as the choices of a government leader can determine whether a person lives in the midst of war or peace, the choices of a corporate leader can determine whether a person lives comfortably or in a state of constant financial stress. The difference between working for a company where, in her 40's, the stock price raises by 500% or where, in her 40's, an employee is forced to change careers is the difference between affluence and poverty.

More could be done to highlight the importance of corporate policy. The media could do more to shame and praise corporate leaders. Mutual funds could also do more to publicize the consequences of poor policy choices, and use their massive investment power to influence policies. Politicians, too, could bravely criticize and praise corporate leaders. Finally, savvy corporations will themselves begin to create conditions akin to a free press within their walls, working towards the adoption of policies that make everyone wealthier - customers, employees, suppliers, and yes, even the corporate leaders.

Corporate policy will determine things as varied as the quality of our goods and services, environment, and careers. It deserves much greater scrutiny and attention.