Posts Tagged ‘business’

Shady Park

28 October 2010

Dear J-

If you ever come south to San Diego and head over to SeaWorld, you’ll probably want to go see the famous Shamu (and despite the Shamu Stadium name and Shamu Rocks show, it’s more of a stage name nowadays, handled by such orcas as Corky and Kasatka) and some of the other shows dotted around the park — every time we go figgy is obsessed with seeing the new Blue Horizons and I like the Sea Lions Live as well — those are some smart, athletic sea lions they’ve got, Clyde and Seamore. The mission of the park is ostensibly to educate and inform through entertainment and for the most part they do just that; head out to the east end, though, and there’s the multistory roller coaster called Journey to Atlantis, which has no educational value that I can discern. I remember the controversy that surrounded it when SeaWorld applied for construction permits, how they said it had no business being in an edutainment park, but now nearly ten years later it’s no big deal.

And if you have been following politics at all, here in California we have the megabucks race to be governor and the slightly-less-bucks race to be Senator — high-profile positions, and the candidates have spent accordingly. One of them, Meg Whitman (for Governor), has cemented her place in public consciousness through a relentless media blitz* touting how her business experience and acumen will translate into a successful political career. Like a roller coaster at SeaWorld, one’s got nothing to do with another (except maybe that at the top, you’re so insulated from the line by your handlers and advisers that it doesn’t really matter what you do); effective leadership has nothing to do with personal charisma (looking at you, Mr. Schwartzenegger) or efficiency (Gray Davis). I’d go so far as to say it’s almost more circumstantial than anything: how did the governor contribute to the housing bubble? How about the tech bubble?

If you’re going to use business as a farm-team feeder for big-league politics, you’re essentially saying that businesses, legal constructs to leverage money and profit, are the model for how government should be run. Lean-government activists will beat that point in all day long, but how true is it? If you’ve ever heard the term “public servant” you’d know that businesses have no place in politics; government serves the greater public welfare while business seeks to maximize profit at the expense of competitors. We’ve had politicians who sought to run government like a business, and it turns out that these ex-CEOs ended up selling the government wholesale to their former companies and cronies (hello Dick Cheney) without compunction or remorse.


* Although I appreciate the difficulty of getting the message out, you can’t turn on the radio, watch TV, read a newspaper, check the mail, or answer the phone nowadays without being told who to vote for. My solution? Restrict spending and force candidates to write a statement that doesn’t have the phrase “my opponent”, include that statement in the voter’s guide, and ban those darn phone calls.


Business Classy

24 September 2008

Dear J-

There’s nothing quite as American as assessing blame; we delude ourselves into thinking that it’s a human trait, but it’s so ingrained in our culture that we just assume everyone else works the same way.  When we call for the presidential candidates to assume the mantle of leadership by finding someone to blame for the financial crisis, we forget what good leaders do:  instead of pointing the finger, they lift their hands and direct the recovery.

Leadership has more to do with taking action and being involved, being intimately familiar with what your team does and how they do it.  So while it’s fun — for a few hours — to point the finger at greedy CEOs and unscrupulous lenders, ultimately it does nothing to resolve the problem (how about this, if your company has screwed up badly enough to receive a government bailout, the folks responsible for business direction forfeit their last ten years pay as restitution?).  Yet we don’t have to accept a hasty plan, as we’ve accepted rushed decisions after last-minute decisions with little time to blink.

Who stands to benefit from the way the bailout is structured?  There are alternate proposals that deserve reasonable consideration; we do not have to accept the first blank check that comes across our plate.  Do you still believe in an unfettered business class?  With the opportunity for real reform, we still stand to lose at this; we still run the risk that the tenets of business first and always will carry the day.  Remember this:  if the failure of the company is spectacular enough to roil the economy, why did we let the company get that big and important in the first place?  When did private business interests start to trump the greater good?