Since time immemorial, world populations have engaged in power struggles of one group against another. While history lessons have shown us the entanglement of one nation against another, the world’s power struggles ebb and flow as societies evolve into many different formats. So today, we have struggles of drug lords against government, doers against non-doers, Democrats vs. Republicans, indigenous people vs. invaders, women vs. men, government-favored bodies against the public-at-large, politicians against the population. Business may feel in a quandary.

Government-Favored Bodies

India’s 1.2 billion phone accounts are second only to China’s; WhatsApp has 400 million users while YouTube boasts 265 million subscribers in the sub-continent1.  On the surface this would seem to be a very healthy market.  However, the leading politician, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has set up his government to favor a new player, Jio, by giving Jio rights to a telecom spectrum for what many observers called a giveaway price, which challenged the existing telecom success stories: Vodafone Ideas, Bharti Airtel and RCOM.  Then in October 2019 India’s Supreme Court ordered Bharti and Vodafone to pay more than $10 billion against its past charges to clients, including assessments on fees never collected by the phone companies.  Result: the three leaders, Vodafone, Bharti and RCOM reported combined losses of $14.5 billion for a recent quarter.  Jio opened its shop by charging next to nothing for new subscribers.  The competitors slashed their rates to survive (causing revenue per user to fall by 1/3 from its former amount) and during the struggle, Vodafone lost 100 million customers in one year.  Already negative results are showing by RCOM filing for bankruptcy this past February (thereby, stiffing its investors and lenders); and like concerns are being issued now by Bharti.  Dozens of related companies caught in the swamp, have fled the caustic telecom environment. The public suffers not only from the loss of these service companies, but also from calls dropping off and stalls during downloads.  Government-favored enterprises, while a tiny minority, exist all over the world.

Other common government-favored bodies are hospitals, schools, police, banks, courts, etc. which have engaged in struggles against the rest of the population for decades.  Many of these organizations resort to blackmailing the public to ensure they obtain the wages and benefits (well beyond the national average) by employing tools such as teachers’ classroom strikes that punish innocent students.

1 The Economist, December 14, 2019, p.57

Drug Lords in Mexico

A recently interviewed drug lord in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico, made it clear that his attempt at achieving a drug monopoly in the area was no different than the power struggle of politicians against the needs of the general population.  We watch helplessly while President López Obrador declares a battle against the cartels.  He seems to be unaware of the uselessness of his threat, or any action in that direction, because, even if his clever army could destroy every druggie in Mexico, a new crop of bandidos would rise to fill the gap.  That is because drug usage is driven not by the drug lords, but by the huge demand of the U.S. and other countries’ populations for illegal drugs.

Women vs. Men

For 700,000 years men’s greater physical strength encouraged them to develop a sense of superiority over women.  That is until 20,000 years ago when farming had humans fix their locations and, thus, form societies.  Thereupon it became apparent that, other than in physical strength, women were (and are) equal to men.  But 700,000 years of conditioning does not erase easily, especially for those insecure males with low self-esteem who, like all bullies, attempt to devalue, trivialize, pummel, and abuse their opponents.  To this day, women continue to struggle for power against such ancient-thinking males.

Politician against the Population

While politicians make up only 1% of our society, they are responsible for most of its general direction.  The overwhelming qualification for success in the political arena seems to be the desire for power, which minimizes the need for cleverness, knowledge, or thoughtfulness towards others.  As we look around the world today, it is easy to see what a sorry mess these leaders have created.  In my opinion the largest countries in the world are poorly led, i.e. U.S., China, India, and Russia.  Unfortunately, 80% of society who deign to follow whatever is in vogue and which requires no thinking, vote for the politician who conveys the most attractive message, irrespective of its practicality.  Meanwhile the doers, the 20% of society who actual create and execute what must be done (especially those running businesses), quietly carry on with their progressive directions.  This ongoing power struggle boils down to the politicians’ not-well-thought-out dreams vs. the doers’ struggle to maintain reality.

The Lesson for the Businessperson

While honest businesspeople struggle against one another for market share, the battles typically follow a set of rules that most businesses agree to, and employ, so that casualties are minimal.  The public usually ends of being the winner because a supplier succeeds only by being able to better meet the needs of the consumer (while most businesses that fail, have not been able to sufficiently please the market).  Meanwhile the power struggles described above, wage around well-run businesses.  We, in business, are influenced by the news reports of the direness of the turmoil and often carry a sense of despair about our world.  But rest assured, business remains responsible for at least 90% of the world transactions, that is, of its resulting beneficial products and services.  You probably have more influence (and are doing better) than you realize; so, clear your confused conscience and carry on with your good work.