State of the World Review
I was invited by the Governor of the Moscow region present how the Adizes Institute could help improve the services the government provides its citizens and his region could serve as an example for the whole of Russia on how to rejuvenate the nation’s bureaucracy. I was given one half hour to make a presentation. My audience: the top twenty directors of the different Moscow regional administrative departments.
I followed my standard pattern: I asked everyone in the room to write down the top five problems in his or her department. Then I asked my audience which of those problems they thought could be solved by any individual. The response was the one I hear everywhere in the world: none.
Then I asked, how many of the problems listed can be solved if everyone on a team cooperates, works together? “All” was the answer. So far so good, I thought to myself. No surprises.
Then I asked the next (usual) question: “Why should people cooperate?” There is a general answer we almost always receive in response to that question. Namely that it is in their own self-interest to cooperate because the other person will offer his cooperation in return when it is needed. One hand washes another….no?
This time, however, I got a surprise. The Governor spoke confidently, as though the answer was self-evident. “They will cooperate because it is for the common good.” Oops, that was not in my script.
His reply left me with the following insight: What is the difference between capitalism and socialism? It is the relationship between the individual and society. The focus is different. The priorities are different.
In capitalism, the focus is on the individual. It is expected that in a perfectly operating market mechanism social good will emerge. The focus, therefore, is on fulfilling the needs of the individual or corporation. Thus the famous expression during President Eisenhower’s eight years in office (1953-1961): “What is good for General Motors is good for America.”
In socialism, the focus is reversed. It is on the society, on the totality. Individual interests are derived from the social interest, not driving it.
If this insight is true then it seems that the creeping socialist trend in America did not start with President Obama, something he is constantly accused of by American right wing politicians. It began with President John F. Kennedy who legitimized it in his inauguration speech: “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
That was the beginning. It opened the door to an emphasis on social good, even though its impact could affect individual interests adversely. But is socialism working?
It has failed in Europe, and today many political leaders see it as an anachronistic system. So why is it creeping forward in America? The reason is capitalism is not working well either.
Both systems have faltered—indeed are failing— in the intensive changing environment in which we live. They are incapable of dealing effectively with the rate and complexity of change the modern world is experiencing.
Change causes disintegration (it is a centrifugal force) and the emerging disintegration requires regulation. Thus, government intervention.
But an intervention by the government—any government— is accompanied by values that govern its decision-making. If the government has a leftist orientation, its focus is on how to increase intervention (by the government of course) for the good of society while taking the focus off the good of the individual, which it is assumed will be taken care of because of the emerging common good.
If the government is driven by right wing politicians, a different set of values swings into play. Here the effort is to dismantle government intervention and focus on individual and/or corporate needs assuming that market forces will regulate the unwanted side effects of rapid change.
Neither solution is working. That it is not working can be evidenced by the declining trust of people in their elected officials, and by the declining rate of people who vote. By the occupy Wall Street or whatever syndrome. And it is accompanied by a continuous witch-hunt of leaders everywhere in the world.
No one can lead anymore without a constant debilitating criticism. We witness people everywhere taking to the streets and by doing so demonstrating their loss of trust and hope in the system.
I am speaking about both the East and the West. Leftist as well as in rightist governments. I cannot point to a country where the populace says: “We got it. We have it. Our system works. We love our leader.”
People everywhere, in all continents; continue to search for a paradigm shift in the system of governance. What I think they—we—are looking for is a new political road or so called “third way.” Is there one?
We already know that left and right solutions do not work anymore. And that the attempted solutions increasing or decreasing government regulation have been unsuccessful. With more regulation, we seem to stifle development and innovation. The due bills of a welfare society have become prohibitive, the cost of government mushrooms and the national debt is overwhelming.
But reducing government, something those on the far right and those with a libertarian orientation propose, does not work either. Who will regulate the naturally imperfect markets; and not just markets but the emerging technologies of the day?
We must find a way that reduces government involvement, but at the same time provides the regulation that a chronically changing society needs. Is there such a system?
Yes, there is. And I strongly believe in it. It is integrated decentralization. Self-Management. Industrial Democracy. Different names for a similar economic-political system.
I believe, however, that we are not ready for a paradigm shift in our thinking. Not yet. The situation is not bad enough. When the ultimate crisis finally comes and our value system, whether it is in favor of the left or the right, more or less government finally capitulates, we will be ready to think outside of the box.
Or so I hope.
Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes