Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The mismanagement of institutions we rely on

The lives of ordinary people in America and the world have been affected by mismanagement of institutions that they rely on.

The failure of management in the financial industry was, and still is, dramatic and nearly catastrophic (catastrophe is still a possibility, however).  By creating opaque and impossibly complex financial instruments that grossly inflated the housing bubble, the wizards of Wall Street created two things:  massive fortunes for themselves and massive unemployment and underemployment for their societies.

The failure of management in government was to lower the standards for loans for home-buyers, and to reduce the financial regulations and government oversight of the financial industry.  This started the housing bubble and gave the financial industry the ability, and even permission, to transform itself from a service industry, designed to help business and the economy grow, into becoming an end unto itself whose nearly sole purpose was, and still is, to create Pharaoh-like wealth for themselves and their progeny.

These two very badly managed institutions teamed up in a negative synergy that has threatened the way of life in America and the developed world.  It looks like we are in a long period of struggling and perhaps even failing economies.  

I am just starting to read the brilliant Michael Lewis's latest book "Boomerang." At this point it looks like his main point is that the financial crisis in the world is a series of financial crises country by country, and each country's crisis is a function of its national character.  In addition, David Brooks writes in today's New York Times that America is turning inward to restore more prudent and thrifty values to their own lives and thus are in the process of a culture change that hopes to create a zeitgeist that obstructs such greed driven excesses in the future. 

In the famous old words of Pogo "We have met the enemy and he is us."  But we can change, and we are doing just that. This is an internal process, individual by individual, that creates real change from the ground up.  It is not a political movement, but a look-in-the-mirror-come-to-your-senses moment for individuals that end up in a value shift of a country.

It is going to work, and we are going to transform our world into a better place to live, one person at a time, I believe.