Who gets what

by Paul Burmeister

Is it interesting that Ramesh Ponnuru, a Roman Catholic and conservative, Bloomberg View columnist, claims that Pope Francis confuses the free market with abuses of extreme individualism? Ponnuru claims that history is on his side when he argues that free markets can "enable a creative form of community." Whatever that means must include a trust in self-interests of the rich naturally creating economic benefits for the poor. Does he mean self-interests unrestrained or uncorrected by government and regulation?
Tony Judt has questioned whether our free-market pursuit of economic self-interest has ever been connected to such things as altruism, self-denial, and collective purpose. He asks, from historical perspective, why have the potentially self-destructive systems of the free market lasted. . . . "Probably because of habits of restraint, honesty and moderation . . . values derived from longstanding religious and communitarian practices." If he were alive, Judt might clarify the Pope's argument and push back against Ponnuru's assertion that free markets can be trusted to build community.

Disability and dysfunction

by Paul Burmeister

Why is it so difficult for us to even imagine a different society?
Why does it seem beyond our reach to conceive a different arrangement of things for a common benefit?
Why must we doom ourselves to lurching between a dysfunctional present and fear of a changed future?

("Our disability is discursive: we simply do not know how to talk about these things any more." Judt)

Tony Judt frames these questions in the context of economic politics—the so-called free market versus so-called socialism. I think these same questions are useful to most organizational systems and can be effective to analyzing operational and philosophical issues as they relate to change.

The state and collective good

by Paul Burmeister

When an elected leader of the state says that top priority for social programs run by the state is to safeguard taxpayer dollars and not to make sure people get help, he is misplacing the state's mission in providing protections for its citizenry.  When he calls out a distinction between people who warrant the state's help and people who don't by using peculiar definitions for categories of "able-bodied" people, his rhetoric suggests that all people are in control of their own welfare, which is specious, in view of experience that shows many people are not, for a variety of reasons.

If help is to be good and effective, both for the giver (as a noble burden) and for the receiver (as needed aid), then it must necessarily involve a degree of messiness or looseness not comfortable to business models of efficiency or accountability. The more one's help for another is restrained by business concepts or by warrants the more help becomes limited—philosophically and practically. Help becomes less noble for the giver and more stigmatized for the receiver.

(This post prompted by Tony Judt's Ill Fares the Land, 2010.)