Still pondering our country's big problems and possible solutions. One of the functions of us older folks is to do our best to pass on our knowledge and best wisdom to the next carriers of civilization's torches lighting the ways into the futures.
A major problem is that America has been losing the great powerhouse of its middle class individuals, the nation becoming divided into a wealthy class and a working class; in simpler terms, we are already far into being divided up into the have's and the have not's, the middle class disintegrating, and with it the powerhouse that had propelled America into true greatness.
Forces that have been making this disintegration of the American middle class happen, it seems to me looking back over the time period in which it happened, have been many, yet there also seems to me that there is a common thread among them. And that thread now hints at an inspiration toward a solution to the problem.
Symptoms are many, and getting worse by the day. Slow disintegration of the delicately balanced ecosystem here on Earth that provides the substance of our life and fortunes; apathy of what remains of the middle class toward being able to do anything about their predicament, burying their awareness in TV and keeping up with the Joneses as distractions. The do-it-yourselfers have largely vanished, based on the vanishing of suppliers: few home hardware and lumber stores remain, the electronic suppliers for repair and hobbyists have almost vanished, for examples.
The middle class had many subclasses, but the ones I was most familiar with were the ones who worked for an employer, especially for the corporations. Although some great advances in technology happen as a result of teamwork and megabuck research projects, the key inspirations at all levels still tended to come from the individuals, often the ones on the sidelines, creatively able to see from wider viewpoints.
But as far back as I can remember, corporations as employers usually had something called an "Employment Agreement " or "Patent Agreement" which every new employee had to sign or else not be hired; and so go without work, and thus without food and shelter, so the pressure was intense to sign. Those "Agreements" typically could be boiled down to making the employee promise that he/she would not come up with any new idea while working for the company, unless the company specifically was requesting solutions to some very specific problem as part of the job. The agreement made the employee feel like he was considered a thief there to steal the company's ideas, and probably management really believed that was the case, generally not comprehending the technological creative processes.
Management was there to make a specific series of steps to happen as smooth as possible, to make a pre-conceived product be designed, manufactured, and get into the hands of those who would use or re-sell the product. Any idea not directly in line with the carefully thought out management trail, was disruption; nevermind if it would have made a better product than was the original company vision, or would provide new avenues for the company to explore in the future. A manager's worth was based on his/her success in making a specific series of things happen to provide a specific goal's achievement, and was required to do it with tunnel vision.
The working middle class, the people who were intimately involved with the subject matter including doing the machining, soldering, shaping, assembling of the parts of whatever was being prepared. That is where the creativity ground is, the hands-on level, be it assembler or engineer. Those people had their hands tied regarding any spontaneous creative idea that occurred to the individual, on or off the job; yet, eventually the person would learn to drop every idea, since experiments with submitting an idea to the company almost invariably resulted in it vanishing along with any compensation hopes for having made the idea.
And thus the source of basic technological creativity was snuffed out, the famed Yankee Ingenuity suffocated throughout the nation by the very employers that were based on prior aggregate technological creativity of those of the past.
There are many other paths of the phenomenon, but these are major ones.
Why would corporations act to snuff out the basis of their corporate technological roots of life? It seems likely that it was because of lack of the wider vision of the system in which they existed and lived, just like individual people tend to be much of the time. There was a substitute bottom line parameter: the profit the company achieved. This was enforce by the investors, who cared little for the company's product, they wanted that investment profit to buy their good life, that is all.
It is a lot easier to focus on just one aim overall, since people tend to focus only on one thing at a time; even a housewife with children "multitasking" has a small range of focus at any given time. And so, it was the achievement of dollars that was the ultimate sought item. Free enterprise in a competitive market looked like it would provide all that was needed at lowest cost, in theory anyway.
But the reality is that when a CEO has the choice between two mutually competitive products: one which would make a product that provides less utility for the user but makes the company greater profit, than does the alternative product which would give the customer greater utility at lower cost, but would make the company less profit ... the CEO has little choice but to choose the path that leads to the inferior product, or get replaced with a CEO who will maximize the profit. Thus the products that get provided are chosen by this kind of process, and those are the products upon which are built the next products, the defects and incapacities multiplying dysfunction as compared to what might have been.
So the solution that has inspired me now (not being bound by anyone's "Employment Agreement" anymore), is to include in the bottom line another item, called perhaps a "chit". This would be a money-like item based on the overall potential increase of value to Americans, the world of people, the world of nature. How to calibrate the "chit" and how to use the chits to benefit the corporation as a parallel to money, is a subject with lots of thoughts needed, maybe I will explore more of that here later. And as to who defines the valuation of the chits, would need to have their motives factored into the valuation results.
(The format to be used here is the three-part form consisting of the context in which the subject holds; the forces that are involved in and as the problem; and proposed ways to balance the forces of the problem. Context, problem, solution, for short form.
The context here is the country in which I am part, America, USA, which looking to ever wider context is in turn part of the world community, and the solar system of which Earth is part. And so on. Context looking smaller-wise from the country level, there is the politics, corporations, states, societal groups, special interest and enthusiast groups, neighborhoods, families. All loosely but very glued together, more or less.)
Jim Cline on 20060618