Friday, September 21, 2012

Flights of Fantasy

As I listen closely to the arguments being made by the two major candidates for the Presidential election this fall, I'm hearing two very distinct visions for how America can "get back to work:"

  • Increase taxes on the richest Americans (i.e., increasing revenue)
  • Reducing taxes on all Americans and businesses (i.e., freeing up money for investment)
Neither of these visions come close to resolving the issues that are structurally strangling America's economy.

Due in part to this vapid debate at the top of the ticket, there are big, powerful movements behind each candidate that are advocating political arguments to bolster their viewpoints:
  • Conservatives blame an entitlement and regulatory culture for America's cultural and economic issues.
  • Progressives blame an unjust tax policy, lack of investments in strategic initiatives, and a lack of regulations that favors the rich at the expense of the middle class (and poor). 
There's the problem: both of these views sound great, but both are based on fantasy.  As long as we argue fanciful flights of fiction, we will continue to feel moral, just and courageous while actually throwing ourselves under the proverbial bus.

Due to these grand-scale philosophical arguments driving the debate, politics has become a lot more like organized religion than organized civic governance.  We argue ideas in concept, and attempt to interpret these ideas to fit our per-ordained and desired outcomes.  We no longer consider fact-based arguments to be satisfying, because we no longer really believe in facts.  We have essentially decided that facts are simply agenda-driven tidbits designed to re-enforce an existing belief. 

In other words, facts have evolved from being assessment tools to belief ammo.

It's ironic that businesses work so much more on facts -- measurement of all things important to the success of the organization, including project deadlines, ROI, performance ratings, etc. -- yet the very business executive running for office has decided to run as a philosophical conservative that debates big ideas (using facts as belief ammo) versus the very thing we need more of in our government: accountability to facts, and measurement transparency.