Category Archives: ethics

A nixed economy – From a defunct mixed economy to a bionic economy

The $700 billion bionic economy

In the 1970s television series, The Six Million Dollar Man, test pilot Colonel Steve Austin was nearly dead from a test flight crash. Deciding that “we have the technology to rebuild this man”, the US government rebuilds Austin, augmenting him with cybernetic parts giving him superhuman strength and speed. Austin becomes a secret operative, fighting injustice where it is found.

Thirty years later in 2008 in the real world, the US economy has crashed from profit testing gone wrong and was on the verge of collapse. Deciding that “we have the means to rebuild this system”, the government decided to rebuild a defunct system and turn it into the $700 billion bionic economy. Augmenting it with taxpayer dollars, top executives of irresponsible financial institutions received $1.6 billion USD worth of super-economic strength and speed, like bonuses, home security systems, private chauffeured cars, club dues, and private financial planners–no irony there– just to name a few. The bionic economy became an overt government operative, rewarding financial injustice where it was found.

Definitions of a nixed economy, a defunct mixed economy, and a bionic economy

nix: to stop, prevent, or refuse to accept something (Source: Online Cambridge Dictionary)

nixed economy: an economic system which has been stopped, prevented, or refused to accept the consequences of its own behaviors

defunct: no longing existing, living, or working correctly (Source: Online Cambridge Dictionary)

mixed economy: an economic system in which some industries are controlled privately and some by the government (Source: Online Cambridge Dictionary)

defunct mixed economy: a mixed economy that no longer exists, lives, or is working correctly, whereby major industries are controlled by the government

bionic: using artificial materials and methods to produce activity or movement in a person or animal (Source: Online Cambridge Dictionary)

bionic economy: an economic system in which major industries are controlled by the government through the use of artificial materials and methods to produce desired activity in an otherwise defunct economy

A nixed economy: The Free World not living in accordance with a mixed economy

Oil surge and Iraq War
From the mid-1980s to 2003 a barrel of oil had remained around $20 to $40 USD. The energy crisis from 2003 to 2008 culminated in a barrel selling at a record high of $147 USD in July 2008. On March 20, 2003, the United States coincidentally began its invasion of Iraq, based on false intelligence–the world’s No. 4 in oil reserves. In May 2007, as the barrel of oil was soaring, the Iraq Oil Law was proposed. The law intended to give major western oil companies long-term contracts and a safe legal framework to manage oil fields in Iraq. Due to internal conflicts this proposed law triggered–further inciting instability in the region–no law was passed.

Oil prices from Jan. '03 to Dec. '08 contributing to a bionic economy
Oil Prices from Jan. 2003 to Dec. 2008. Source: Wikipedia

The Housing Bubble, Subprime Mortgage Crisis and Market Crash
On September 15, 2008, Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The financial services firm had a whopping $600,000,000,000 in assets–the largest bankruptcy filling in US history. In a bid to save an ostensible global collapse of the banking and economic system–since it is unknown how a mixed economy would have handled the situation–the Bank Bailout Bill was submitted to the House of Representatives on September 21, 2008. But many in Congress felt it was forcing taxpayers to reward bad banking decisions. The House voted against it on September 29, 2008. The result: That same day the stock market crashed. The Dow fell over 770 points, the largest point drop in any single day in history and global markets plummeted.

The Senate quickly re-introduced the proposal by attaching it to a bill that was already under consideration. The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 was approved and signed by President Bush on October 3, 2008. Less than two months later on December 30, 2008, the housing market also met its fate. On this date, the Case-Shiller home price index reported the largest price drop in its history.

The subprime mortgage crisis was in full swing between 2007 to 2010. During this time period over 60 notable financial institutions worldwide–including the likes of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and American International Group–the two alone had a combined value of nearly $200 Billion USD–were either acquired or went bankrupt. From 2006 to 2012, half of the United States–this writer was almost a victim as well–would be affected by the credit crisis and bursting of the housing market bubble. In 2008 alone, 3.1 million Americans filed for foreclosure, which at the time was one in every 54 homes, according to RealtyTrac. The repercussions were long-lasting. By 2016, homeownership in the U.S. had dipped below 63% – a 50 year low. (Read more at Investopedia)

Auto industry bailout
It is surprising that from 2008 to 2010 the auto industry would take a turn for the worse, with the “Big Three” approaching Congress in November 2008 to request an over $80 Billion government bailout or face bankruptcy? A major tenet of Capitalism is limited government intervention whereby free markets are free from any government intervention. Unless one views the $80 Billion bailout from January 2009 to December 2013 as “limited government intervention”, then by these definitions neither the rules of capitalism nor mixed economy was followed.

Timeline of Complete Economic Failure in 2008

July ’08 – A barrel of oil sold at $147 USD – Highest price in history

 September ’08 – Lehman Brothers files Chapter 11 – Largest bankruptcy filing in US history.
Emergency Economic Stabilization Act is not passed by the House and the Stock Market crashes – Historic one day 770 point drop

October ’08 – Emergency Economic Stabilization Act – Financial Institutional $700 billion USD bailout signed

November ’08 – $80 Billion auto bailout – Largest auto bailout

December ’08 – Largest home price index drop in Case-Shiller history

The dangers of a bionic economy

The imminent danger of having an artificial economy is that those who interfere with free or even mixed economies ultimately control the parts. When a bone breaks and heals naturally, then the body itself is in control of the healing process. When that part is artificially replaced, as was the case in 2008, then it is no longer a natural healing process. It is an unnatural intervention with predetermined goals serving the interests of those in charge of the replacement.

No one will ever know what the aftermath would have been like had the nixed economy taken its natural course. The “Great Recession of 2008” showed a complete and utter economic collapse. Was it a sign that a new system is needed?

Who benefits from a bionic economy? According to a Federal Reserve Bulletin published in September 2017, as of 2016, the richest 1% of Americans owned 38.6% of the wealth. The bottom 90% owned only 22.8% of the wealth. That is nearly twice as much. The three richest Americans hold more wealth than the bottom 50% of Americans. And the wealth gap is only widening.

A bionic economy devalues money and human life

Check out the article November 2017 Market Watch article titled, Here’s all the money in the world, in one chart. The ratio of hard currency–$36.8 Trillion, compared to non-tangible wealth–$1.2 Quadrillion is mind-blowing! In other words, physical money consists of only 8% of all worth in the world. The non-physical “money” makes up 92% of all wealth.

Here is more sobering news about the bionic economy. Global debt is estimated at $215 Trillion ($250 as of 2019). That means global debt is almost seven times greater than all the hard cash in the world! How would the average person be treated by a financial institution asking for additional funding if, for every dollar he had, he already owed seven?

Ready for another amazing bionic economy feat? $70 Trillion (33%) of that debt was accumulated in the last decade alone. Despite a recent warning of a global debt crisis from the World Bank, the bionic market keeps ongoing. How long and on what foundation can the bionic economy perform as it has been? What value does money really have and who is benefitting from this bionic economy?

Remember the 3.1 million Americans whose dreams of homeownership were used to lure them into a borrowing financial trap? Where was their bionic compensation for being negligently counseled and losing their home? Where was their bionic loan to bring them back to life and save them from foreclosure, bankruptcy, and emotional hardship? Interesting how the mixed economy was good enough for the millions of victims to recover naturally, but not for the perpetrators! A bionic economy not only questions the value of money, but it seems to call into question the value of human life as well.

About the author

Jean-Pierre Kallanian is a Process Facilitator and Human Systems Expert. He accompanies organizations in fully integrating their human resource potential by facilitating group processes that foster authenticity, intention, and collective wisdom. He is also the author of What You Can Learn from Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth.

North Korea Solution – Step back and demilitarize

North Korea

In the shoes of North Korea

In June 2009, I participated in a Negotiation training at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington DC. North Korea had just pulled out of the Six-party Talks two months prior and one of our exercises was to bring North Korea back to the negotiation table. Sound familiar?

One by one participants volunteered to represent the United States, China, Russia, South Korea, and Japan. When it came to North Korea the room went silent. At this point in my career, I was managing a group home for youth in conflict with the law and had been in the counseling psychology field for over a decade. I sat for a moment and thought about it. North Korea now had an eager representative.

I do not remember the exact details of the negotiation process, other than it ended quickly and without an agreement. The frustration in the room was palpable. I was in control because there was nothing to negotiate. They wanted something from me (at least a few did), but I didn’t need anything from them. I said what I wanted and no one could do anything about it. My sense of perceived power was immense. The greater their frustration, the more emboldened I became. Sound familiar?

How the US could deal with North Korea – A Case Study

Fast forward several years later. I was still the director of the group home and in came a referral from Boston. “Jerry” was short and stocky in stature and was as tough as they come. He was heavily gang-involved and had recently survived multiple gunshot wounds. His gang allegiance was so strong, that he’d rather return to be with his crew and possibly get killed than stay in the program. He didn’t care. He wanted out and started behaving accordingly.

Jerry immediately began threatening and posturing towards staff. I went to have a look. It did not go well. My presence escalated the situation. Jerry felt more threatened and as a result, he started threatening me. I had to keep my ego in check and depersonalize the situation. Had I taken a similar threatening approach, having over 600 pounds of combined staff weight near me, it would have ended in an ugly and potentially dangerous physical restraint. The risk of injury to either Jerry or my staff was extremely high. No one wanted that.

I could sense Jerry’s rational state was deteriorating and his desperation was increasing. This young man had everything to fight for and nothing to lose. A physical intervention would have only condoned an old pattern of using threats and violence as a method to fulfill needs. Such a response would have been at a physical and psychological cost, as well as a potential financial and legal cost. Furthermore, how as role models could we help Jerry if we behave exactly as he does? Sound familiar?

Jerry needed to feel safe and assured that we were doing our best to de-escalate the situation. So what did I do? I left. As the director, my responsibility was to ensure everyone’s safety and doing so required me to step back and withdraw. My job was to build trust and model the behavior I was asking of Jerry. Before leaving, I told Jerry that we would do our best to work with him and that his cooperation would be appreciated. Jerry left the next day to another program which he ended up completing. Win-win.

Although a different situation, there are some similarities and key takeaways for how the US could choose to deal with North Korea. As this is a multi-party affair, let’s look briefly at the five other countries to better understand their perspective and consider alternative peaceful solutions.

North Korea

What does North Korea really want? Ostensibly to become a nuclear power equal to the US and not be threatened by potential US military action. Why does North Korea feel so threatened by the US? First, the United States and South Korea have had a military alliance since 1953. Second, nearly 30,000 US troops are in South Korea, regularly conducting extensive military drills on North Korea’s doorstep. Third, Japan, which is only 600 miles away, hosts the largest number of US military in a foreign country–nearly 40,000 troops–and hosts the Seventh Fleet, the largest of US navy’s sea forces. Lastly, is the island of Guam, which hosts a US military base of about 4,000 personnel and is about 2,000 miles from Pyongyang.

Whether real or imagined, North Korea most likely interprets this robust military presence–which could easily attempt to invade a small country–as an imminent existential threat. This fear needs to be acknowledged and seen as a trigger for North Korea. Former US President Jimmy Carter said it best, “Until we’re willing to talk to them and treat them with respect as human beings, which they are, then I don’t think we’ll make any progress.”

Japan and South Korea

From the North Korean perspective, Japan and South Korea are most likely viewed as extensions of the US military arm and threat. One can assume that both Japan and South Korea want peace and security in the region. Kudos to Japan for keeping its cool and not responding in a rash way or with retaliatory comments in light of the two recent missile launches over its country. There is something to learn from their outward show of calmness in an otherwise tense situation. Japan and South Korea are wisely looking for a peaceful global response, and not solely relying on American muscle.

Russia and China

From the outside, both Russia and China hardly appear to be encouraging North Korea to stop their nuclear development and testing. According to a Chinese spokeswoman, “The situation on the Korean Peninsula is complicated and sensitive.” Is it really? It only appears complicated for the US, South Korea, and Japan. China and Russia are barely batting an eye, although they both have a better relationship with North Korea and can be most influential in bringing peace to the region. As for North Korea, their nuclear capabilities are only improving.

Both Russia and China are most likely also not pleased with America’s extensive presence in the area. It could be advantageous for Russia and China for North Korea to have nuclear capabilities. For the two superpowers, North Korea is a check and balance on the peninsula and a thorn in the side of the US.

Recommendations to De-escalate tensions with North Korea

De-militarize the area and step back

The United States must lessen its perceived threat to North Korea by stepping back from discussions and reducing its military presence in the area. Lowering fear and anxiety increases the level of safety in a crisis situation and makes the possibility of dialogue more likely. Russia and China would likely approve of such measures as well and the US could no longer be blamed for raising tensions and escalating fears.

China and Russia need to take a more active role with North Korea

US Secretary of State Tillerson aptly responded after a missile launch over Japan in 2017 when he said, “China and Russia must indicate their intolerance for these reckless missile launches by taking direct actions of their own.” Russia has been relatively quiet stating that more sanctions are not the answer. China only states that “all parties should exercise restraint”, however, North Korea seems to be exempt from this plea. One begins to wonder what they both truly want as an outcome.

As long as the US, South Korea, and Japan continue responding in kind with threats and displays of military might, China and Russia can continue watching a game that has been playing since 2003 when North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). The second benefit of the US stepping back and demilitarizing the peninsula and area is that China and Russia will be put in a position to act and not just make comments about what others need to do. The international community would then soon see whether both China and Russia want peace and stability in the area or not.

Positively encourage North Korea to denuclearize

There is a third benefit of the United States taking a back seat and de-militarizing the peninsula and area. North Korea would have a difficult time justifying its reason to continue its nuclear weapons program. This increases the chances of them reducing weapons testing and manufacturing. It also increases the chances of them coming back to the discussion table. If North Korea still continues on its current path, then international consensus could put pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

US and Russia need to take action on Pillar 2 of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)

The United States and Russia need to show the world, not just North Korea, that they are serious about global denuclearization. Why should a country disarm when the ones telling them to do so do not do it themselves? Why should some countries be allowed to have nuclear arms and others not?

The Second Pillar of NPT is Disarmament. It states “all Parties undertake to pursue good-faith negotiations on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race, to nuclear disarmament, and to general and complete disarmament.” The second and third points of this pillar must be the focus for all nine nations in possession of nuclear weapons, especially the United States and Russia who each have a nuclear arsenal of around 7,000 capable weapons. Of these, each has around 1,800 that are operational. Next, come China and France with about 300 nuclear weapons apiece.

The North Korean nuclear weapons crisis can happen anywhere, therefore, the threat of nuclear weapons needs to be broadened beyond North Korea. Let North Korea be a reminder of what is at stake if all nations, especially those with nuclear capabilities, do not take the mandates of NPT seriously. Let North Korea be a reminder of how nuclear armament threatens regional as well as global peace and development.

Progress begins when the US does exactly what it is asking of North Korea–denuclearize. The United States, Russia and China must lead by example and fully comply with the NPT mandates. This is active leadership. This is being a leader in a nuclear world.

About the Author

Jean-Pierre is a Process Facilitator and Human Systems Expert. He optimizes employee engagement and leadership potential by counseling leaders and enhancing group dynamics. He is the creator of the youth inspired EPIC Model of development and the author of What You Can Learn from Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth.

A warning about the use of labels on people

labeling
Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Product labels have their place

Product labels have become increasingly important the more conscious we become about what we consume and purchase. A healthier lifestyle, environmental concerns, and social responsibility are a few reasons we search for and read labels. One ingredient, one raw material, or even a product’s origin is enough for a consumer to disregard an otherwise appealing product. This use of labeling is for both the benefit of the individual and the community. This is, however, where the benefits of labels stop.

Labeling allows us to discern information, however…

In an age of overwhelming access to information, the desire to share knowledge increases, as does skepticism around accuracy and its source. Everyone can’t be right, so who is telling the truth? There is some truth on all sides when we listen without judgment to find common ground and seek understanding.

Humans instinctually discern the goodness and value of the information we gather from our senses. From an evolutionary standpoint, a slip in judgment could have been a matter of life or death. The problem is, too often we make rash one-sided judgments of people and therein lies the danger of labels.

Labeling people leads to dehumanization

labelsOpposing views, as displayed in the political arena, are usually not resolved through inquisitive processes to further understand the other(s). Rather, people with differing viewpoints are labeled in dismissive and demeaning ways. The goal is to diminish their worth and tarnish their reputation. Dialogue under these conditions cannot take place.

Name-calling is unpresidential

Small leadership gestures have a big follower impact. On a larger scale, leadership under an umbrella of fear, threats, and verbal aggression slips into dictatorship. Such a manner of conduct breeds animosity and divisiveness. The contentiousness that results has the propensity to lead to violent behavior and clashes.

Believe it or not, Wikipedia has a “nickname” page for Donald Trump. The list is surprisingly (or not) extensive. This a dangerous political method of dealing with opposition. Labeling systemically condones an “us versus them” mentality, allowing it to become the accepted way of dealing with differences. We are witnessing the damage this divisive behavior brings to our diverse communities.

Labeling places people at risk

Once labeled, a person is reduced to several unflattering stereotypes. Once dehumanized that person is perceived as less than human. Their needs, voice, and value are diminished. Susceptibility to discrimination, mockery, oppression, neglect, and abuse (physical, verbal, and emotional) increases.

In extreme cases, significant harm and even death can result. One needs not to look too far in the distant past to see how hateful and dehumanizing language can lead to an act of genocide. The Rwandan Genocide of 1994 is a stark reminder of how the Tutsi minority for decades prior was verbally degraded and labeled as cockroaches and snakes. What does one do with cockroaches and snakes?

Read product labels, stop labeling people

Continue reading labels on products on shelves and on racks. They hopefully make you a more informed consumer.  A label on a bag of organic apples grown from a local farm helps the consumer determine the value and worthiness of the purchase.

Degrading labels on people are not accurate and only decrease a person’s value. This can become a slippery slope leading to oppression and the likelihood of injustice to arise. Use great caution before consuming a demeaning and dehumanizing label placed on a person. Rather than labeling people seek to understand and find common ground. Take the time to look into what is not on the label.

About the author

Jean-Pierre Kallanian is a Human Systems Expert, Process Facilitator, Youth Specialist, and Speaker. He accompanies organizations in fully integrating their human resource potential by facilitating group processes that foster authenticity, intention, and collective wisdom. He is also the author of What You Can Learn from Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth.