To many of us, top politicians, collectively, are a big disappointment; they appear quite incompetent in some cases. Confronted, thusly, how might businesspeople cope?
Three Categories of Humans
First, I would like to suggest how I see things. The competent people in this world in all walks of life are a minority, numbering approximately 10% of the population. Often in this group are professionals – accountants, doctors, scientists, engineers, lawyers, business leaders, managers, etc. (Naturally, among every group are some incompetents, but they are few in number and not representative of the trades.) Then there are the aspiring and elected politicians, which number at about 1% of the population. The remainder, which by simple arithmetic, numbers at 89%, represent the bulk of the population (2), the ones who actually swing the votes for the politicians. Let’s look at a sketch of it.
Of course, other key parts of society such as government, non-government enterprises, the entertainment field, and sports industries could form part of this sketch, but I have chosen to keep the picture simple in order to explain my point. Let’s look at the three groups:
Industry/Business: This 10% is where everything is done. Every cell phone, bridge, tunnel, brassiere, cereal, hot dog, aircraft and battleship, happens only through the business channel. The television you enjoy, your jeans, the 50-story skyscraper, and your svelte suit, come from this productive side of society which is managed by 10% of the population. However, the general
population (89%) gets to choose what works and what does not work among these products by its buying level. The benefit to the industry producers of their efforts (besides the important aspect of
1 As you might suspect, these numbers are top-of-the-head guesses.
2 Many of the 89% general population are highly capable, but usually such individuals lack significant influence.
satisfying their intrinsic motivation) is a small part of the overall money in the mix, called profit, which historically runs at 5% of the selling price of all goods and services. Thinkers and doers feel a sense of helplessness as their effort to think, to do, and to produce, seems to be thwarted by so many politicians3. It is not unlike the days in Europe when soldiers were led into battle not by seasoned warriors, but by men rich enough to buy commissions. Scientific American in its June 2018 edition parallels this paragraph’s thought by noting the helplessness felt by scientists, today, over the global warming issue, when many, including the President of the U.S., seem to ignore our difficult situation.
Politicians (1%): Many animals need leaders, which include humans as well as both wild and tame beasts. That is, whether or not we like politicians, we humans continue to structure our societies with people being chosen to lead us. If we look around us, country by country, state by state, province by province, politicians today appear to be a sorry lot. Often leaders win elections not because they are deemed ‘good’ but because they are deemed ‘better’ by the population that is tired of the awful mess left by the ones that preceded the current bunch. Leaders in non-democratic countries frequently bully their way into the job. This disaster is further compounded because we idolize bad leaders. Our history books are full of commanders who have wreaked disaster on our societies: war mongers like Napoleon, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Lenin, Stalin4, and leaders of democracies as well. Quick: Who is a key leader in Israel? Who is the leader of Switzerland? A little bit of thinking might have brought in Netanyahu of Israel and most of us haven’t a clue of who runs Switzerland. What is the difference between them? One engages in war; one does not. Which one gets all the glory? The quiet Swiss leader runs the country effectively, has greater stability, and a larger population, but that fails to get our attention. The warmonger is noted, if not admired more.
My point is that this very small club of politicians (1%) has the greatest influence on our society, and is led, frequently, by people unable to consistently demonstrate competence. Some never were able to hold a job until they became president or prime minister. Of course, there are exceptions; some politicians are competent, but we don’t hear about them so much and they are not praised for their achievements5. The keen, competent, politicians often remain in the background because their responsible ideas fail to appeal to their bosses or to the masses (e.g. a balanced budget).
General Population (89%): It appears that this large group consists of lemming-like creatures that will follow the popular trend happily, without too much thought. That is, they follow their emotions above all else. This is the group that makes jeans with holes in them a must-wear garment, that prefers gas gobbling monster SUVs all the while protesting about pollution, that makes breast implants a billion-dollar industry, that supports daily inane TV advertising, etc. Is it a coincidence that every U.S. President elected since George Washington was the better looking male in the campaign? The 89% of the population emotionally vote for leaders who tell the nicest story or make the most wonderful promises. Meanwhile the 89% population avoids voting into office, truthful candidates when they suggest it is time for tough medicine.
Conclusion: My advice to business leaders is to recognize the world as it is. Remain diligent as you work around any political demons that you encounter. Have faith that irrespective of bizarre political decisions, you will get great things done, although perhaps, not at your chosen pace.
3 Request the paper: “The Political Map”, April 2019, by W. Caswell, which shows incompetence of the heads of 26 leading countries, alphabetically from Argentina to Venezuela, overseeing 95% of the world’s population.
4 Stalin was responsible for the death of 40 million people during his tenure, mostly citizens of his own country.
5 Notably impressive politicians are: Anwar Sadat of Egypt who had the courage to befriend Israel after losing a war to Israel which included the death of Sadat’s own brother. F. W. de Klerk of South Africa was prepared to work himself out of a job as President in favor of leading the black population of South Africa towards the right to vote. Samuel de Champlain (although never elected), the founder of New France (Quebec) in the 1660’s set the pace for inter-racial cooperation. He admired ‘Indians’ and had his soldiers intermarry with the indigenous population.