A Nice Boss and an Easy Life will make you Soft and Fill you with Apathy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 14th, 2013

Week in Review

The movie Full Metal Jacket made R. Lee Ermey a star.  Who, you may ask?  Gunnery Sergeant Hartman.  Oh, that guy, you say.  Yes, he was a real ass.  A mean, callous, heartless bastard.  But he was good.  He trained his Marines so hard and so well that they would rather face the enemy on the field of battle than train with him.  That’s why the Marines are so good at what they do.  Their training is so intense and their DIs are so good that actual combat can be easier than training.  Which is how you want to train your Marines because combat is a stressful, exhausting, frightening, horrific hell on earth.  And you want to send people into combat who already have been to hell.  So they can take whatever the enemy throws at them.

Life is hard.  It’s not as hard as combat.  But it can overwhelm you at times.  And if you grew up in a pampered cocoon life will chew you up and spit you out.  America’s military is the best in the world.  But America has grown soft.  Because we pamper our kids today.  Give them participation trophies instead of letting them win and lose.  To know the thrill of victory.  And the agony of defeat.  To borrow the opening from the Wide World of Sports.  Could the current generation produce the citizen soldiers that took out Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany?  Could we even pry them away from their smartphones long enough to go through basic training?  Probably not.

Making life easy is not good.  For it makes us weak.  That’s why we have the expression ‘That which does not kill us makes us stronger’.  Courtesy of Friedrich Nietzsche.  The more arduous the journey the more we learn and stronger we grow.  That’s why Gunnery Sergeant Hartman was such a mean, callous, heartless bastard.  To give his Marines the best chance of survival.  Because that journey with him was so arduous.  If you want to bring the best out of someone you can’t make life easy for that person.  Whether it be going to combat.  Or building a career (see Your Nice Boss May Be Killing Your Career by Greg McKeown posted 9/4/2013 on the Harvard Business Review).

Over a twelve-month period I have gathered data from 1,000 managers about their experiences at over 100 companies including Apple, Cisco, HP, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Novel, and Symantec. I wanted to understand the conditions under which people did the very best work of their careers. What I expected to find were examples of over managing, controlling, tyrannical managers. About half of the participants confirmed this assumption. The other half surprised me: what they described were managers who were nice but weak.

I once spent two days running a strategy session with just such an executive. He spoke with a soft, quiet voice. He never interrupted anyone when they were speaking. When he walked into the meeting he had a “nice” word for everyone. Every time the team became “positively frustrated” and ready to make the change necessary to get to the next level he would stand up and say sweetly, “Oh, I just wanted to remind you all of how far we have come.” And after a few more sentences the spark of aspiration was gone from the room. He unintentionally signaled the status quo was plenty good enough. There was no need to try harder or change how things were going. He reminded me of what Jim Hacker (the fictional politician in the English cult classic “Yes, Minister“) said to his bureaucratic colleague, “You really are a wet blanket, Humphrey, you just go around stirring up apathy.”

Apathy.  Yes, that’s what you get when work (and life) gets too easy.  When life gets too easy people get lethargic.  They get soft.  And become a less likely candidate for a high-stressed position that will help them up the corporate ladder.  And it is the same for the welfare state.

Everything that weakens an employee because work is too easy is true when we make a person’s life too easy with a generous welfare state.  They get lethargic.  Soft.  And fill with apathy.  Which is why when you make welfare too comfortable people are less willing to get off of welfare.  And when they do they parallel what a worker gets with a nice boss.  The worker gets a dead-end career.  While the person on welfare gets a dead-end life.

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Obamacare may cause up to 65,000 Needless Deaths based on what’s happening in the NHS

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 14th, 2013

Week in Review

The problem with national health care is simple economics.  Supply and demand.  Things that cost more are in lower demand.  Things that cost less are in higher demand.  And free things are over consumed.

In Britain they have the NHS.  The National Health Service.  It’s not health insurance.  Like Obamacare is.  It is health care funded by the taxpayers.  What they designed Obamacare to become.  After causing businesses to drop costly mandated health insurance for their employers.  And making it near impossible for private health insurers to remain in the insurance business.  Once they meet these objectives then the government can transform Obamacare more into something like the NHS.  Where people get ‘free’ health care.  Paid for not by private insurance policies.  But from the tax revenue of the federal government.  Where they can over consume all the free health care they can get their hands on.  Such as demanding antibiotics every time they get the sniffles.

Sounds good to some.  Primarily to those who don’t have health insurance.  Because they choose not to pay for it.  Why?  Because it is so expensive.  And it’s so expensive because health insurance is no longer insurance.  Because it covers almost everything.  Instead of just the large, unexpected, catastrophic expenses.  The things insurance used to pay for.  While we paid for checkups and routine doctor visits out of pocket.  So we paid for the little things that we could expect and budget for.  While buying insurance for the things we could not expect or budget for.  And the system worked.  It kept costs under control because we were paying for most of what we were receiving.  Creating a direct relationship between the services we received and the money we spent.  Which introduced market forces into the equation.  But ever since health insurance became an employee benefit there have been fewer and fewer market forces in the equation.  Which has lead to the explosion in health care costs.

Nationalizing health care only removes market force from the equation further.  Which will, of course, raise costs.  As there will be nothing to keep health providers efficient while maintaining high standards of quality.  For if their customers aren’t paying them they don’t have to please their customers with efficiency or high quality care.  They just have to meet the minimum state requirements.  And keep asking the government for more money.  Until the government has no money to give.

And as a large health bureaucracy develops things become more impersonal.  More machine like.  Where patients are units of input.  That have to be processed according to strict bureaucratic guidelines.  Not necessarily what’s best for the patient.  The amount of paperwork rises.  And health care providers spend more time pushing paper than interacting with units of input.  Patients.  People at the hospital must bow to the distant health care authority.  Often following rules and regulations that don’t make sense all of the time.  Frustrating them.  And making them apathetic in their jobs.

Then efficiencies fall.  And costs rise.  Health care providers are forced to do more with less.  Spreading their limited resources over more and more patients.  Unable to provide high quality to everyone they do just the minimum for everyone.  While their apathy turns to indifference to their patients’ wellbeing.  You create an environment like this eventually over time you get this (see ‘Up To 13,000 Needless Deaths’ In NHS Hospitals posted 7/14/2013 on Sky News).

Up to 13,000 people may have died needlessly in NHS hospitals since 2005, according to a report to be published in the coming days…

The report, to be released on Tuesday, will criticise care standards and management failures, fuelling concerns about a problem with the NHS’s culture where whistleblowers are afraid to speak out and regulators often fail to do their job…

Sir Bruce examined not just mortality rates, but measurements including infection levels, the number of patients suffering from preventable and potentially fatal signs of neglect, and the numbers harmed by so-called “never events” such as operations on the wrong part of the body, or surgical instruments left inside a patient.

National health care will eventually poison the greatest assets of the health care system.  Its people.  Taking a good system and making it bad over time.  And you know it’s bad when ‘surgical instruments left inside a patient’ is a metric they track.  Apparently because it happens so often that it is something that they can count.

So take a good look.  This is national health care.  The ultimate destination of Obamacare.  Which will kill some 65,000 people over 8 years (the U.S. has about five times the population of Britain so they will have five times the number of needless deaths).  That comes to about 8,125 a year.  Which isn’t that far below the national homicide rate.  Imagine that.  Raising deaths in our health care system to near the national homicide rate.  That’s what we can expect with Obamacare.  As our health care system struggles to do more with less.  Overwhelming our heath care providers.  And making them grow ever more apathetic.  Just like they have in Britain.

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Primary and General Elections

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 15th, 2011

Politics 101

The Founding Fathers pledged to each other their Lives, their Fortunes and their Sacred Honor

People have protested and died fighting for the right to vote throughout history.  The American Revolutionary War was over taxation without representation.  Meaning that the American colonies wanted representation in British Parliament.  Something the British government did not allow.  Worse, they started taxing the Americans.  Who had no representation in Parliament.  And this did not go over well with the American colonists.  They had had enough.  They wanted a say in their government.

So the Founding Fathers committed treason.  They signed the Declaration of Independence.  And fought 8 years to have that say in their government.  It took awhile.  And a lot of the signers of the Declaration of Independence suffered for their treason.  They lost their property.  Their wealth.  And even their families.  Who suffered all sorts of brutality at the hands of the British.  These traitors.  Who defied their king.  But the cause persevered.  And the Americans won their independence.  As well as their right to self-government.

Back then people cared.  Enough to pledge to each other their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.  But today?  People have other priorities in life.  Where reality television is more important in their lives than having that say in their government.  For they have no idea what the Founding Fathers paid to give us this cushy life of plenty.  And just assume the good times will continue to roll.  Especially if they keep voting for whoever promises to give them more free stuff.

Candidates move to the Center after Winning their Party’s Nomination and become someone Completely Different

In the country that struggled for 8 years to get the right to vote.  In the country that inspired people all around the world to follow them in the pursuit of happiness.  In the very bastion of liberty and self-government.  In America.  Guess how many people vote today in a typical presidential election.  Little more than half of eligible voters.  And that’s in the general election.  It’s far worse in the primary election.  Where we see maybe half of that turnout.  Which is rather sad.  Considering that these are the people who actually pay attention to politics.  For this is where a political party chooses their candidate for the general election.  You see, each party has a platform.  A set of political ideas.  Their core philosophy.  And the people choose who they think will best advance their party platform in the primary election.

So during the primary election candidates try to be that candidate.  The one who will best advance the party platform.  Typically the conservative moves as far right as possible to show his or her conservative bona fides.  And the liberal moves as far left as possible to show his or her liberal bona fides.  Here they’re trying to appeal to the party base.  The hardcore.  Those who are as far away from the political center as is possible.  Those who don’t give a whit about compromise or bipartisanship.  They want a purebred candidate that will take the country where they feel it should be.  They don’t want someone who will reach across the aisle and compromise away their most cherished principles.

The population roughly breaks down to 40% conservative, 20% liberal and 40% moderate/independent.  Which is all fine and dandy during the primary election.  But it’s a bit of a problem during the general election.  For that 40% moderate/independent forms the political center.  That area the candidates run away from during the primary election.  So they must scramble back to it after winning their party’s nomination.  And hope that most of those in the center didn’t pay attention during the primary.  To make the lying easier.  To no longer be who they said they were during the primary.  But to be someone completely different.  Someone who can reach across the aisle.  Someone who can compromise away their base’s most cherished principles.  Someone who believes politics should be bipartisan.  Or, better still, nonpartisan.  In other words, the last person their base would want.

When the Choice is between two Moderates, Democrats will always Choose the Democrat Moderate

Liberals have to run to the center.  For their base only amounts to about 20% of the electorate.  But it’s not quite the same for conservatives.  At 40% of the electorate they don’t have to run the center.  They only need another 10% or so of the vote to win.  So running to the center actually hurts them.  Because a lot of that political center is Democrat.  And if the vote comes down to 2 moderates they’re going to vote for the Democrat moderate over the Republican moderate every time.  Because all things being equal, a Democrat will vote for a Democrat.

When the Republicans ran a moderate who campaigned as someone who would reach across the aisle and compromise away his base’s most cherished principles, John McCain didn’t get the moderate vote.  They voted for the Democrat.  Who lied during the general election and ran as a moderate.  Sometimes he even talked like a conservative.  Even though Barack Obama was as liberal as they came.  At least based on his voting record in public office.

When Republican Ronald Reagan won his party nomination he didn’t run to the center.  He remained a conservative.  And he won.  Because a lot of Democrats voted for him.  The Reagan Democrats.  Because there was a real difference between him and Jimmy Carter.  There was a conservative and a liberal.  And the Reagan Democrats decided to vote for the conservative because they liked the conservative message better than the liberal message.  But when the choice is between two moderates who promise to reach across the aisle more than the other there’s no real difference between the candidates.  And no reason to vote for the other guy when he or she is no different than the one from your own party.

Ignoring the Primary Elections ignores the Philosophical Debate and turns the General Election into a Populist Contest

It is a shame the level of voter apathy in the country that stands for self-government.  Almost half of the eligible voters ignore politics 3 years out of 4.  And only vote in the presidential general election.  It’s a shame because we have a 2-party system.  Like it or not.  There are only two core political philosophies to choose from.  For those in the middle don’t have a philosophy.  A party.  A party platform.  A primary election.  Or a political convention.  They only get involved once every 4 years at the general election.  And ultimately end up voting for a Democrat or a Republican.  Even though they refuse to identify themselves with either party.

But ignoring the primary elections ignores the party platforms.  The meat and potatoes of the philosophical debate.  And turns the general election into nothing but a populist contest.  True democracy.  Mob rule.  With the winner often being the one who promises the most to the least politically informed.

Politics has come a long way since the Founding Fathers pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.  It’s probably a good thing they’re not here to see what has become of their self-government.  They wouldn’t like what they would see.  Especially the voter apathy.

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Third Party

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 1st, 2011

Politics 101

Representative Government changed Government to Serve the People instead of the Other Way Around

Politics can be confusing.  And dirty.  Which tends to put most people off.  Many only get involved during big elections.  And even then voter turnout can be low.  In addition to the confusion and dirt there’s a feeling of apathy.  Nothing ever changes.  And they feel that it really doesn’t matter if they vote or not.  So many don’t.

They feel that it doesn’t matter who you send to Washington.  Because once there even the honest become corrupt.  Republican.  Or Democrat.  They’re both the same.  Rich and powerful.  Joining other rich and powerful.  In their little games.  So this feeling of apathy is understandable.

But politics matter.  Because it is and always has been a power struggle.  And understanding the essence of this power struggle is important.  For throughout time this struggle has been between competing oppressors who wanted to establish minority rule over the masses.  So the few could live comfortably at their expense of the many.  And it was like this for a long, long time.  Until representative government.  When government began to serve people.  Instead of the other way around.

Third Party Candidates often Rise up from Voter Apathy and Anger

Of the two major political parties, one is for the growth of government.  And one is for limiting the growth of government.  One is for higher taxes.  One is for lower taxes.  One is for higher regulation of the free market.  And one is for rolling back excessive regulation.  One is for transferring wealth from the private sector to the public sector.  And one is for leaving wealth where the wealth creators created it.  In the private sector.  One party serves those within the party (by growing government).  And one party serves the people (by limiting government).  Disagree?  If so I’m guessing you still know which party we’re talking about.  Even if you do disagree.

So there is a difference between the two major parties.  Sometimes it’s hard to see because of the game of politics.  Winning elections.  And many believe the way to win elections is by buying votes.  And both political parties do this.  Spend a lot of taxpayer money on projects for their home district to make their constituents happy.  Grateful.  And, hopefully, in a ‘return the favor’ frame of mind at election time.  But to get pork for your district you often have to let others get pork for their districts.  A little you vote for my pork and I’ll vote for your pork.  Which puts a lot of people off when it comes to voting.  Gives them the feeling that all politicians are the same.  And leads to all that apathy.  Setting the field for third party candidates.

So what is a third party candidate?  They are many things.  But one thing they are not is this.  Winners.  Because they don’t win elections.  Third party candidates often rise up from that voter apathy.  And anger.  Fed up with their party, they split and form a third party.  Thinking they know how best to beat the opposition candidate.  Because they know what single issue will carry the election.  Or so they think.  But all they do is help the opposition candidate they so loathe to victory.  By splitting the vote against the opposition candidate.  Because they don’t think.  They feel.  And let their passion for a singular issue overcome rational thought.

The Majority of Voters Vote to either Expand or Limit the Role of Government in our Lives

And then you have the fringe ideologies so far out of mainstream thought that they don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning a national election.  Such as the Green Party.  The Reform Party.  The Libertarian Party.  The Socialist Party USA.  The International Socialist Organization.  The Socialist Labor Party of America.  The Socialist Workers Party.  The Communist Party USA.  The People’s Front of Judea.  The Judean People’s Front.  The Judean Popular People’s Front.  And, of course, the Popular Front of Judea.  Splitter!

Okay, the Judean stuff is from a scene in the classic movie Monty Python’s Life of Brian.  But it illustrates as well as belabors the point.  Third party candidates are destined for failure.  Because there’re too many of them.  And they don’t differentiate themselves enough to make significant numbers of people leave either of the main two parties.  At least they haven’t yet.  And probably never will.  Though, surprisingly, Ross Perot came closer than most to winning a presidential election.  But he and his Reform Party soon faded to political oblivion.  Which was far less surprising.

You see, the majority of voters don’t base their vote on these fringe, single issues.  Or extreme ideologies.  Instead they vote to either expand the role of government in our lives.  Or vote to limit the role of government in our lives.  For more of a nanny state.  Or less of a nanny state.  For a Democrat.  Or a Republican.  It’s that easy.  And with the large amount of voter apathy and anger that’s enough politics in their lives.  Either the Democrat bum if you want more free stuff.  Or the Republican bum if you are optimistic but expect to be disappointed later.  When you see your limited government candidate expand government, albeit smaller than what the Democrat candidate would have done.

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