It’s the Livelihood, Stupid:

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JP Bio PhotoDr. John Psarouthakis, Executive Editor of www.BusinessThinker.com, and Founder and former CEO, JP Industries, Inc., a Fortune 500 industrial corporation

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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 future.  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 into adolescence?

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 do I mean here by “full-bore”? Try this: Someone who landed in Boston from Greece with 10 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 his dining-room table, and . . . oh yeah . . . helped perfect the turnaround investment strategy now known as “equity capitalism.” In 2012 even Republican presidential aspirants, after all, found themselves tossing grenades at the best-known equity 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.

First, It’s the Livelihood, SECURITY, AND GREATNESS AGAIN Stupid is indeed an audacious plicy. Anyone with working-class credentials who approaches its pages with a “You expect me to believe this stuff?” attitude is advised that, yes, the author does. Fully, honestly, and with determination to convince the reader. At times, in fact, his prose 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, reading Psarouthakis trumps the dull drumbeat of politicians and talking heads warning against “punishing the job creators.” That familiar sound bite does in truth state, fairly if simplistically, where the author stands. But Psarouthakis’s ideas about how jobs are created, what happens to those jobs over time—and how best to optimize that dynamic 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 sell. 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. 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 increasing employment and distributing income. This is made inevitable by technologies that ultimately will be able to do the things most people do, adding as much or more value at lower cost.

As a scientist and technologist by schooling and early career experience, I never really thought of myself as a businessman. That’s a mindset that forms the cornerstones of my thinking. I see neither good nor 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 recent improvements in communication breadth and efficiency. The internet is not to be blamed for scores of millions of hits on pornography sites anymore than it is to receive a Nobel Prize because democratic movements thrive on social media.”

My thoughts of technological impact upon society and the economy took form throughout my adult life by a seemingly simple truth thrust before me as a young mechanical engineering student studying thermodynamics at MIT: “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 his bottle, and we are living amid a powerful array of irreversible genies, i.e. Robotics, Flexible Manufacturing. Social, Economic and Technical Globalization. Communications devices that give junior-high kids instant access to people and places that professors and generals and presidents did not have a few decades ago. We all know these things. But when it comes to the economy, our society and our politicians ignore things we know. Irreversible things.”

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—meaning politicians don’t do anything about the things people don’t want to hear.

It’s the Livelihood, Stupid ad we seek with zeal, to help make America accept irreversible facts and focus on best possible paths forward, rather than trying to summon the past from its grave. Some of my own experiences as a CEO doing what equity capitalists do—a process that has, as I usually say, “both economic and moral components.” Most of you readers will be surprised to see what happens when, for example, all the pieces of bringing in advanced technology to make the factory competitive are set upon on a balancing scale. It is not only possible, but common, that a town’s factory loses some or even most of its jobs, . . . but the net social value of that company’s sphere tends to be greater in five or ten years than if the technological “infusion” had not been made.

 

 

 

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