Dr. John Psarouthakis, Executive Editor of www.BusinessThinker.com, Founder and former CEO, JP Industries, Inc., a Fortune 500 industrial corporation, Adjunct Professor(ret.), Ross School of Business, University of Michigan.
With ideological shouters exhorting the citizenry toward one precipice on the left and another on the right, a polarized America seems poised for a rocky demise, probably in answer to a Last Days tweet. Worse, this critical mass appears sufficient to drag us all down. The debt bomb and the entitlement bomb, to say nothing of other bombs, wait for no man. Depending which true-believer cliff one leans toward, America is descending into either a communal hell of withering fortune and lost freedoms, or an eternal blue flame of capitalist greed. If you find the shouters outrageously out of touch (not in their Doomsday forecasts, but in their self-fulfilling gridlock), you obviously are not alone. So where can a reader turn to find a compelling centrist message for our generation, or even a little book of bull’s-eye polemic? Where is Frank Capra when you need him, someone who can make us believe in the American Dream even as the 21st Century limps on.
It seems unlikely that such a message might emanate, with any ecumenical credibility, from an author whose credentials point full-bore to the either side of our cloven political and economic rhetoric. What I mean here by “full-bore”? Try this: Someone who landed in Boston from Greece with 15 dollars and scant English, graduated from MIT, worked in the ’60s space program, departed to test the private sector, founded a Fortune 500 company on my dining-room table, and . . . oh yeah . . . helped perfect the turnaround investment strategy now known as “equity capitalism.” Even 2016’s Republican presidential aspirants, after all, found themselves tossing grenades at one of the best-known capitalist in their ranks. Meanwhile, the American Dream saga feels a bit threadbare when millions of citizens are struggling to find jobs that will sustain even a modest lifestyle. This certainly doesn’t feel like a time anyone but John Psarouthakis’s own choir is likely to pause and listen to his message. That might be a mistake, on several counts.
Well, Frank Capra is not with us to be of help. Enter J. Donald Trump.
First, It’s the Livelihood, SECURITY, and GREATNESS AGAIN Stupid is indeed an audacious policy. Anyone with working-class credentials who approaches this policy with a “You expect me to believe this stuff?” attitude is advised that, yes, President Trump does try Fully, and with determination to convince the listener. At times, in fact, his pronouncements and arguments ring with all the fervor and ineluctable logic of Jefferson Smith, the senator Frank Capra’s movie sends to Washington. Beyond any doubt, listening to Trump trumps the dull drumbeat of politicians and talking heads warning against “punishing the job creators.” But Trump’s ideas about jobs creation, what happens to those jobs over time, and how best to optimize that cycle amid explosive technological advances and irreversible globalization will stand some hairs on end, right and left.
Second, I fancy myself a centrist. This definitely would appear to be a dicey spot to stand on. Center is relative in any geometry, and relative center for a CEO tends to be different than relative center for, say, a factory rat. But have lent citizen support to politicians from either side of the aisle, depending on the programs proposed. In any case, if one’s vision is radical enough, then positioning it relative to the “center” of what used to be true becomes irrelevant. My vision is free-market capitalist while at the same time flying faster than the Starship Enterprise toward a bold new paradigm for distributing income. This, I say, is made inevitable by technologies that ultimately will be able to do the things most people do, cheaper, and often better. So forget “centrism” and settle in for an engaging idea, then ponder where “center” might be.
I am a scientist and technologist by schooling and early career experience, I never really thought of himself as a businessman. It’s a mindset that informs the cornerstones of my thinking. I see nothing good or bad in technology: “It is what people make of it. We can build passenger planes and we can build bombers. It is impossible to measure our improvements in communication breadth and efficiency. The internet is not to be blamed for hits on porn sites anymore than it is to receive a Nobel for democratic movements thriving via social media.”
Throughout my discussion of technological impact upon society, one finds a channel for thought that a young mechanical engineering student would encounter while studying thermodynamics—the fact that some actions are reversible, and some are irreversible: “I spent a long time pondering that word, ‘irreversible.’ It’s a very important word. An irreversible genie cannot be put back in the bottle, and we are living amid a powerful array of them. Robotics. Flexible manufacturing. Communications devices that give junior-high kids access to people and places that the commander-in-chief did not have a few decades ago. We all know this. But when it comes to the economy, our society and our politicians ignore what we know.”
That’s because there is a world of bad news in the irreversible new order, if one insists on viewing life through the old “business cycle” prism. People don’t want to hear bad news. Politicians refuse to say things people don’t want to hear—which obviously means politicians don’t do anything about the things people don’t want to hear.
Trump understood that and got elected by speaking in his crude way the reality.