Articulating the issues of Occupy Wall Street and possible solutions

The Problems with Occupy Wall Street

Whenever I see the news about the demonstrations on Wall Street, commentators ask questions about demands and conclude with statements like ”the demonstrators have no clear demands” but frequently point out that they share common frustrations.

The challenge lies in the complexity of the situation which has several underlying and intertwined causes. Although they perceive an injustice somewhere in the economic structure, they don’t know exactly where to place the blame, and they don’t appear to know what to do about it other than voicing their anger. I have yet to hear any suggestion on what they want done or who they expect should do it.

In this article, my attempt is to articulate what I believe are some of the underlying issues and a few potential solutions along with who should take action.

» Continue reading “Articulating the issues of Occupy Wall Street and possible solutions”

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Economic Policy, Gold Standard, Global Currency and Sustainability

The massive move to unbridled consumption began in the developed countries before 1971 and resulted in the decoupling of the US dollar from the gold standard. According to Mike Sheldock (MISH) in his article Hugo Salinas Price and Michael Pettis on the Trade Imbalance Dilemma; Gold’s Honest Discipline Revisited and Hugo Salinas Price’s article The gold standard: generator and protector of jobs, the Bretton Woods Agreements of 1944 held that the US currency was the standard currency based on the concept that, at any time, if any country had an excess of US currency, they could demand an exchange of Gold from the US Reserves. Accordingly, every country would at least make the attempt to maintain a trade balance. In 1971, Nixon declared that the US would abandon this agreement and no longer pay back demands for gold at any price because they had already accumulated substantial debt through the printing of US currency to pay for their growing needs, essentially giving themselves credit that was backed up, until then, by their gold reserves.

Prior to 1971, as a result of US money being backed by gold, all other countries followed the US dollar. The US had an obligation to try not to allow themselves to get too far out of alignment. However, as the US continued to allow their trade deficit to grow, being the only country with the right to print US currency, they eventually found themselves with a substantial trade deficit. So much US currency was in the hands of other countries that they could not be able to pay it back in Gold without bankrupting or substantially depleting their gold reserves. As a result the US dollar was sharply devalued against gold and the price of gold has continued to rise ever since.

By abandoning the gold standard, the US opened the doors to printing as much money as they wanted giving themselves unlimited credit and an unlimited trade deficit. Now that severe trade imbalances are showing up everywhere, it is becoming more and more difficult to reconcile accounts without extreme devaluation of certain currencies and getting hold of trade imbalances.

What Mike Sheldock and others are advocating is a return to the gold standard. The problem with the gold standard is that it would still be essentially controlled by one country and the temptation for that country to print money would still be more than it could bare. Would he advocate that standard if Chinese currency was the central currency? Probably not. » Continue reading “Economic Policy, Gold Standard, Global Currency and Sustainability”

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Human Security and Peacebuilding (Part 2)

I’ve just completed my first residency in the Human Security and Peacebuilding MA program.

To date, the program has been fascinating and it had a great cohort comprised of Diplomatic, Disaster Management and Business Consultants, Military Officers, NGO leaders and a few recent graduates all of whom were delightful people. What they share most in common is that they all deeply care what happens to other people in the world and they all share very unique perspectives on the world, born of their unique experiences. I’m looking forward to working with each of them in the field of action and learning.

What did we cover? Dr. Hrach Gregorian took us through topics such as Globalization in it’s many dimensions, Economic, Logistics, Global Security and the Right to Protect (R2P), Food Distribution, Global Financial Institutions, Civil Society Institutions, NGO’s, the UN, World Bank, G8, G20, IMF, Businesses and others, outlining the theme of how interconnected the world is. We looked at how even the best laid plans to make things better have unintended consequences on Human Security due to the complexity of linkages.

We looked at how Aid sometimes did more harm than good, and at the various examples of Truth and Reconciliation commissions, the history leading up to them, how they did their work, and the outcomes. » Continue reading “Human Security and Peacebuilding (Part 2)”

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Human Security and Peacebuilding

Among the many aspirations of my own life are personal goals for learning. My current learning initiative involves studies at Royal Roads University, a Masters degree in Human Security and Peacebuilding.

While I begin to dive into this effort, I hope to share with my readers some of the learning and insights I gain. This learning will focus primarily in one or more threads of articles, but I’ll be certain to ensure that all entries will be listed in the category of Human Security, Peacebuilding or both, along with the category on Personal Learning.

Learning at the best of times has been provided to us in the form of classes that are taught to us by our Teachers and mentors. In post school years, much of our learning is in books and for those who don’t read, it has been filtered down to a form of entertainment through news media and other forms of educational programs and documentaries. But excellence is ultimately developed through an on-going effort of learning through personal investigation, the application of learning in action, and the refinement of learning through reflection.

As I go through this program, I will periodically share thoughts on the learning process as well as the specifics of what I’m learning about.

My initial learning to date is opening my mind to the many contexts of globalization.

These include: economic, military, peace efforts, humanitarian efforts, water security, food security, industrialization, logistics, ecology, climate science, climate change mitigation, war, terrorism and other interdependencies which impact our current world situation.

Further to this is the consideration of formulating research questions in areas related to human security. What constitutes a good research program, how is it structured, how is it focused and what are the applications of it’s outcomes?

For now, I’m just started in the program (this is really my first day of immersion) so I’ll stop here.  There will be many more related entries to come over the next few years.

As I proceed, I will make an offer to any organization, be they business oriented, religious, social (NGO) or governmental, who are interested in learning more about human security or peacebuilding to share questions they might like to be researched in related areas, especially if they are willing to sponsor that research.

In addition, I would be very happy to speak to any organization on learning related to either my own research, my others areas of expertise in coaching, relationship development or leadership, or any other related topics. Not only will speaking act as a compliment to my studies but as an implicit contribution to my work as Executive Director at Partners for Prosperity whose goal is to create the capacity for global prosperity individually and within communities. Hopefully, it will also serve the dual purpose of supplementing my personal finances (which are limited while I study) while contributing to your organization’s collective wisdom and capabilities.

While I’m not yet in the position to adopt a specific research question, having access to a specific application of research outcomes certainly makes the effort more interesting.

Keep reading and keep learning,

Garth Schmalenberg

 

As always, if you wish to share this article, please feel free to do so.

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Building Lasting Prosperity

Although most of my past articles have been addressed in some way to Business leaders who aspire to create sustainable value in their organizations, my readers have come from a wide array of people, some business leaders, some professionals in various fields, and many others.  I wanted to acknowledge all of you and hope that you continue to enjoy reading.

In my last article, I talked briefly about an organization called Partners for Prosperity. You may remember a Remington Shaver commercial where the President came on the television and said “I liked the product so much I bought the company”.  Well, in my case, I didn’t “buy the company” but when I understood what Partners for Prosperity was striving to achieve I “bought” the message and when they found themselves with an opening, they invited me to join them as their Executive Director and I accepted.

Does that mean the end of my coaching practice? Well, no. There are still individuals and organizations that can benefit from my coaching right here in the Cowichan Valley or in Vancouver or other locations and as long as some of my time is available, I’m still willing to serve those needs. Having said that, I’m very much looking forward to my work with Partners for Prosperity.

Since I’ve started with them, I’ve had a lot of questions about what Partners for Prosperity does and what it stands for. In order to explain that, it’s worth getting an understanding of what we mean when we talk about prosperity.

In the traditional sense, prosperity has been based on an economic perspective. When you run a business, prosperity is usually tied to making money. It means having assets or financial ability and that in turn translates into having the freedom to do whatever one chooses.

For us, prosperity is a little different. It’s still about freedom and the ability to choose but not quite so much in an economic sense. It is more about freedom to express culture diversity, to have food security, descent housing and infrastructure, gender equality, availability to education, fundamental freedom of choice with regard to religious belief (or not) without persecution, freedom to investigate and learn, and freedom to develop and share arts and culture.

» Continue reading “Building Lasting Prosperity”

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Partners for Prosperity

Since moving to Vancouver Island, I’ve had many great privileges and opportunities. The first, without question, is the opportunity of being closer to my family. My parents are recognized by many as celebrated community members who have provided many years of constant service, music and friendship. The second is that I have moved to a community where interculturalism is experienced and celebrated. The third is getting to know community and regional leaders who are involved in creating a more sustainable community. The fourth is enjoying the music, the arts and the beauty of the island. And last, but certainly not least, is the opportunity of getting to know many First Nations friends, attending their events, learning of their suffering and challenges, benefiting from the wisdom and the experiences of their elders, feeling embraced by their warmth and friendship, and witnessing the love and compassion that many friends are sharing with them in the healthy development of capacity and culture in their youngest generation. These children are, without any doubt, learning to be both the spiritual and intellectual the leaders of future generations.

Since arriving here, I have also had the great privilege of participating with and offering my assistance to a wonderful organization called Partners for Prosperity which I’ll speak more about later and provide a link to for those who are interested in learning more. » Continue reading “Partners for Prosperity”

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The 99 Dollar Laptop and the Impact of Technology on Poverty Reduction and Global Markets

Several years back, Nick Negroponte (of One Laptop per Child), began his quest to develop a laptop that was affordable for distribution to children in developing nations and which could use local wireless networking. While the program had it’s ups and downs, it did produce a positive result and assisted in helping many school children to have access to computers that were interconnected. What’s more important is that, in targeting a $100 laptop, he and other like him, set a benchmark for all laptop makers, who at very least, had to sit up and take notice. Bill Gates and others in the hardware and software industry at the time understandably were critical of the idea. They may not have believed he would reach this target, but they could be certain that he would try and this meant that the approach to driving revenues from software and hardware would need to evolve from a high cost per user to high number of users at a very low cost. And by setting this goal, a new paradigm was established for all hardware and software companies, especially those who wanted the program to succeed.

While we could have predicted the reduction in price of laptops anyway, as a result of continued exponential advances in technology, targeting $100 was, at the time, aggressive to say the least. Having said that, the only real question was “how long will it take”? At long last, several computer makers are building $100 laptops (netbooks) including Cherrypal and others albeit generally on an Android platform rather than Windows. 

After, more or less achieving the initial goals of OLPC, Negroponte is targeting a new $75 price point for OLPC based on a tough, ultra low energy, solar powered tablet computer with an 8GHz processor by 2012. Immediately critics of his goal cry foul stating the obvious, that he isn’t a technology expert and that an ultra low power 8GHz processer will likely not be available at such a low price by 2012. But they are forgetting the fact that this is a paradigm setting goal and, for Negroponte, I suspect it is more about setting the target than it is about his personal success at reaching the goal.  If anyone reaches the goal, the children and youth of the world are still the beneficiaries and Negroponte wins.

And, not to worry, at the same time Negroponte is announcing his goal, the  Indian Institute of Technology has already announced its’ intention of developing a $35 (about 1500 rupees) solar powered tablet which will be available for Indian students along with wideband networking at it’s 22000 universities. This goal is from a country with a 63% literacy rate and success in developing a $2000 car for the masses. What is beginning to emerge is radical life changing technologies that will not only revolutionize the fortunes of India, but of the rest of the world. Computing power and access to information will soon be in the hands of every child and every person who wants it and, I for one, couldn’t be happier.

What are the impacts on the world? » Continue reading “The 99 Dollar Laptop and the Impact of Technology on Poverty Reduction and Global Markets”

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A Reflection on Trends towards Happiness and what it means to Business

As I’m reading and studying trends related to various world issues, I noticed a few trends that gave me cause to ponder. Beyond speculation, these trends may also give us clues as to how we might organize our businesses to contribute to the betterment of the world.

For example, on reading the World Values Survey, there appeared to be a trend toward individualism and secularism until 1980, after which the values seemed to take a little bit of a reversal at least in most cases. While there was no discussion on this point in the chart, I have to wonder if there was a pause to re-think the issue of continued movement towards secularism and individualism.  

What’s even more interesting is that the Happiness Index taken by the World Values Survey suggested decreasing happiness in the US until 1980 (this same period of trending toward secularism and individualism) after which there was a reversal. The US happiness index also increased from 1980 onward peaking at 2006 during the Bush administration, although perhaps by that point with the anticipation of change on the horizon.
happiness-in-us
 Still, I have to wonder whether the reversal in trend toward secularism and individualism suggests. » Continue reading “A Reflection on Trends towards Happiness and what it means to Business”

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The Future of Leadership

This article is written on the premise that we can’t know exactly what the future of leadership will be, but I’m going to share some ideas based on personal observations of trends in pshycology, technology and my experience with leadership to date.

Until now, leadership in business could be thought of as contributing to an organization by creating a vision, developing strategies and directing employees to move the organization forward by inventing, discovering, developing, creating and selling products and/or services used by it’s customers, ensuring the company’s on-going viability through financial management, and by creating shareholder value. From an inward looking view, this is a reasonable description.

On a macro scale, however, life is a little more complex. In the global perspective, we have to begin looking at things like, entrepreneurial aspirations (i.e. the wish for employees to lead themselves) and the increasing number of entrepreneurial companies, environmental considerations (i.e. we can no longer operate in ignorance of the impact we have on the earth and the impact the earth has on us and future generations), the need for agility (i.e. the ability of a company to rapidly adopt new ideas, methodologies and technologies) and a search by many, especially the underprivileged in the world and others on their behalf, for justice and freedom in the light of new technologies which are exposing the most egregious discrepancies in the world’s distribution of wealth and infrastructure, even in the most technologically deprived countries.

People everywhere are searching for new meaning and happiness in their lives. They are beginning to recognize that we are all working together on a relatively small planet and their place of employment is more often becoming either the place where they find meaning or the place they eventually abandon. More and more people are willing to work for NGO’s at lower salaries simply because they feel they are serving a greater purpose and, if you doubt this trend, read Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawkens which gives an indication of the massive growth in the numbers of non-profits in recent years. There are even new classes of organizations arising which are somewhere between “for-profit” and “not-for-profit”, which are for-profit but specifically focused on serving the greater good.

What is the Future of Leadership? » Continue reading “The Future of Leadership”

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Individual (Legal?) Responsibility and Liability for Global Economic Justice

Over the weekend, I had the great privilege of attending a conference on “Rethinking Human Nature”, an incredible array of scholars and activists who, rather than protesting in the streets, demonstrated, by their examples of dedicated service, through their studies and their occupations, their deep and abiding concern for humanity. The conference theme was about evolving and developing the capacities of the higher human nature.

Among the many brilliant presenters was a young lady who is working on her PhD thesis whose presentation was entitled “What Can Justify Duties of Global Economic Justice? Individual Responsibility, Human Consciousness, and the Oneness of Humankind”. Her name is Shahrzad Sabet. In asking the question, she began by sharing with us the globally accepted UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights. She the began to dissect the responsibilities for the implementation of these rights. To be fair to Shahrzad, I will state that the remaining text is my perhaps feeble understanding of the arguments she so simply and brilliantly presented and perhaps, at some point, I will have a chance to speak with her further to clarify or to refer on-line to her thesis work, but I can only say that after hearing what she had to say, I was completely overwhelmed by her convincing arguments recognizing that there really isn’t a minute to lose in beginning to bring this argument forward on a wide basis, and I am also quite convinced that someday this young lady will be amongst the Nobel Peace Prize winners because these same arguments will force all nations and all people of conscience to take action. Such action will come in the form of adopting laws and practices which will require all citizens of the world (or at least those who have the freedom to vote or make buying decisions), all business leaders and all government leaders to act forcefully in upholding these Human Rights by taking practical, direct and personal responsibility for implementing Global Economic Justice through their votes for responsible government representatives, those who will make the necessary revisions in government institutions, and in turn, through laws which will require all people to make these Human Rights a reality.

In nations such as Pakistan, Haiti, India, Indonesia and many others, billions suffer under the oppression of poverty, the lack of a suitable infrastructure, and through catastophic environmental impacts, while much of the world continues to enjoy their freedoms without paying much attention and governments pay immense amounts of money towards military spending and the expansion of environmentally destructive practices which only serve to further human suffering.

Her arguement goes something like this: » Continue reading “Individual (Legal?) Responsibility and Liability for Global Economic Justice”

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