What's New Lately?
Why Government and for What 3/27/14, Ideology dictates views on why we need government and for what purposes. Libertarians think "as little as possible" and only for national defense and defense of personal property and that business competition produces the best outcomes. Communists think that government should own the means of production and that redundant competition produces inefficient redundancies. Both have a point with the former focusing on the individual and the latter on the collective.
We argue, even war over, which is correct with little of the liberal understanding that we must do both and of the understanding of systems principles that inform us as to when we must also attend to the collective to avoid systemic failures that bring failure to individuals through no fault of their own.
The major takeaway from this is that, just because a policy is needed that addresses the collective need to prevent systemic failure, does NOT mean it is simply a pejoratively-labeled "socialist policy"; it's pragmatic and necessary for a well-functioning society and economy.
Reality: The Dagger in the Black Heart of Libertarian Ideology,12/24/13. The dagger in the black heart of libertarian ideology is reality: the reality that systems have emergent properties, that is, properties of the whole that are not properties of the parts. This means that for a well-functioning society we must attend to both the individual and collective aspects of reality. Libertarians deny that there is even such a thing as the "collective," maintaining there are only individuals.
Conservative Collectivism, 3/30/13. Those who call themselves, "conservative", profess to hate collectives, but they love collectivism when necessary to support their economic interests and ideology. Examples: "support the troops" and corporations.
US Oil Exports Soar, 1/4/13. U.S. oil imports have been steadily decreasing from 2005 through 2011, with U.S. exports steadily increasing by lots more. Current-trend projections show the U.S. will be a net oil exporter by around 2017. Incredible. That's got to be a shock for those who chant "Drill, Baby, Drill" and "Drill Here, Drill Now", thinking that increased U.S. production will be used here to reduce gas prices.
Bush Deficits Blamed on Obama: Deficit & GDP Data, 10/19/12. Data shows that deficits are greater under Republican presidents than under Democratic presidents. Deficits increased drastically under Bush. The deficit for fiscal 2012 is 32% lower than Bush's last budget year, 2009. As of Sep 12 employment has increased 68% of the way back to what it was in Nov 2007 at the beginning of the Great Recession.
Colorado Springs Conservative Crazy, 5/23/11. Colorado Springs, ruled by "conservatives" for decades, has enormous infrastructure backlogs and dust bowls as parks. But somehow we're in a financial mess because liberals have been in charge?
Oil Drilling Deception, 4/21/11. "Drill Here, Drill Now" for more oil to the U.S. market? Don't be silly. Since 2005 oil exports rose by 483M barrels while imports fell by 377M barrels. The result: net petroleum (imports minus exports) coming into the U.S. was 25% less in 2010 than in 2005. Market manipulation plunders public resources for private gain.
Petroleum Prevarication, 5/10/08. Updated 3/39/11: U.S. petroleum exports are about 11% of imports [UPDATE: NOW in 2010 it's 24%!!! A 150% increase over 3003!]. Want to increase U.S. oil supply by 11% [24%]? Stop exporting it. Drill in ANWR? No; that oil would likely be exported.
'Free Market' Fundamentalism, 2/13/11. It's not either "free market" or "government". It's both-and. What's called the "free market" does not solve all problems and, in fact, creates many problems.
Colorado Springs: A Broken Region, 10/26/10. While it's true that Colorado Springs government is broken, it's worse than that. The whole region is broken; its policies are structurally unsound. Here's why:
Fiscal Deficits! Who's Responsible?, 8/31/10. Fiscal deficits were exploding and 4.3M jobs had been lost before Obama took office. Fiscal debt as of Sept 09, 8 months after Obama took office, was $11.9 trillion. "Trade" deficits subtracted $5.8 trillion from GDP from 2000 through May 2010. Democratic tax increases on the wealthy led to a boom and Republican tax cuts for the wealthy and not-paid-for spending led to a bust. The economic downturn, Bush tax cuts and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq explain virtually the entire deficit over the next ten years.
Jobs & 'Trade' Data Update Jun10, 8/2/10 Irrational belief in the infallibility of the "free market" and "free trade" has led to devastating offshoring of good-paying manufacturing & IT jobs and resulted in enormous "trade" deficits. This has undermined the US economy and is the root cause of the economic crisis. This documents the losses & deficits.
Colorado Springs Jobs: As of Jun 2010 Colorado Springs has lost over 54% of its Mfg & IT jobs since Jan01; that's 14,300 Mfg & 7,800 IT jobs lost. Computer & Electronic Products Mfg jobs are down 69% since Apr01. Overall there are 19,500 fewer non-farm jobs than in Nov 07 ... about the same number of jobs as in July 1999.
Colorado Jobs: CO has lost 155,800 jobs since May08. The number of CO jobs now is less than the number of jobs in May 2000.
National Jobs: There are 7.4M fewer jobs than in Nov07. That's 1.3M better than the Dec09 loss of 8.7M jobs. "Official" (U-3) unemployment was 9.5%, with the more realistic expanded measure of U-6 at 16.5%. But 'real' unemployment is now ~24%. Jun10 U-2, job losers, was at a yearly rate of 5.9% of the civilian labor force (1.17M lost their jobs in June), compared to 6.7% in Oct09.
Trade Deficit: A major drag on GDP and employment is the continuing offshoring of jobs as evidenced by the again increasing trade deficit. From 2000 through May 2010 the cumulative trade deficit (trade debt) has been $5.8 trillion; that's how much GDP has been reduced by this insane policy. Since 1980 it's $7.7 trillion of debt to other nations. There's no possible amount of stimulus that can make up for this drain on GDP.
ATP Trade: The Advanced Technology Products trade deficit is $56.6B/yr projected based on the Jan - May data. In 1991, the U.S. had a $38.4B ATP surplus. The loss of high-tech jobs and intellectual capital has been enormous and continues despite the economic downturn.
Jobs & 'Trade' Data Update Oct09, 11/19/09. Economic crisis root cause: massive offshoring of good-paying manufacturing & IT jobs. Economy: increasingly unstable as U.S. wages systematically undermined. As of Sep09 Colorado Springs lost over 50% of Mfg & IT jobs since Jan01 with overall jobs lost at 14,600 since Nov 07. Colorado has lost 120,000 jobs since Aug08. Nationally in Oct09: 8.4M fewer jobs than in Nov07; "official" (U-3) unemployment rose to 10.2%, with the more realistic expanded measure of U-6 at 17.5%. But 'real' unemployment is now ~25%, approaching Great Depression levels. U-2, job losers, increased to 6.9% of the civilian labor force.
Taxes: 2C or Not 2C?, 10/27/09. Sean Paige's appointment to City Council wasn't just a jolt ("Turn the Paige" 10/22); it adds insult to injury. It's exactly libertarian ideology that's led to Colorado Springs' economic collapse. This explains how.
Single-Payer Health Insurance, 10/25/09. Privatized health insurance without universal coverage doesn't work. Why? First, it's fatally flawed because of adverse selection. Added to that are a bunch of other reasons. When privatized there's less U.S. innovation, higher costs, personal bankruptcy, death, corporations between patients and doctors, obscene CEO pay, and high overhead & profit. Because the new law keeps private insurance companies, it isn't what we need, but it is Constitutional.
Response to 'The Commons: What Tragedy? by Wilton D. Alston' 8/12/09. A libertarian praises the right of the "free market" to destroy a common resource: "Why do these specific fish need to be preserved? Who gets to decide? How do they know? Who should pay because of it? Why?" It's this kind of "thinking" that made Easter Island uninhabitable and will do the same to the planet, if not successfully opposed.
From Growth to Overshoot & Collapse 8/13/09. This reviews structures associated with exponential growth, limits to growth, & overshoot & collapse. In this last case, we have experienced ocean fish depletion and making Easter Island uninhabitable. We're doing the same to Earth itself.
Jobs & 'Trade' Data Update Jun09, 8/2/09. Economic crisis root cause: massive offshoring of good-paying manufacturing and IT jobs. Economy: increasingly unstable as U.S. wages systematically undermined. Colorado Springs lost 47.2% of mfg jobs as of May, nationally 32.8% as of Jun. As of May, Colorado has lost 96,700 jobs since Aug 08 and Colorado Springs has lost 12,400 jobs since Nov 07. Nationally there are 6.5M fewer jobs than in Nov 07. U.S. "official" (U-3) unemployment rose to 9.5% in May, with the more realistic expanded measure of U-6 at 16.5%. But 'real' unemployment is now ~23%, approaching Great Depression levels. U-2, job losers, remains at 6.2% in Jun 09. [Added: Who's responsible for how much of projected deficits.]
Data on Income & Tax Distributions, 7/17/09. Shows CBO data on the distribution of income & describes the policies that drive most of the population into poverty. Relevant to the proposal to tax the Top 1% to 7% to pay for public option health insurance. Appended to Wealth Happens on the dynamic driving the concentration of wealth. From 1979 to 2006, real income of the lowest quintile (Bottom 20%) increased by 11%. The real income of the Top 1% grew by 256% ... and they already made 23X as much in 1979; in 2006 it's 73X as much. It's not that those with lower incomes are overtaxed; it's that they're underpaid thanks to wage suppression and policies that distribute income to the top.
Health Care Dynamics, 2/17/03. Topic of Current Interest -- The death spiral of our current, fundamentally free-market-based, health care system is due to our focus on the individual, rather than the whole. The reasons are described in this paper and the structure is described in detail in the linked document. Any approach to addressing the health care crisis that doesn't deal with adverse selection is doomed.
Economic Development: What to do locally? 5/29/09. This article uses an economic development model to describe what can be done locally to respond to massive regional manufacturing and IT job losses. The same principles apply to the U.S. economy.
I Can Disprove 'Progressive' Anti-think, 3/28/09. A libertarian ignores reality, blames "free market" failures on government, and "disproves" what he refers to as "so-called 'progressive' anti-think" by making a false analogy between progressively taxing income and progressively taxing intelligence & performance. I describe the "path dependence" dynamic that makes progressive taxation necessary to avoid extremes of poverty and wealth.
Rep Doug Lamborn on 'Free Trade', 3/16/09. Notes from a meeting 5/30/08 with Rep. Doug Lamborn and NAM on manufacturing, "free trade" and other issues.
Freedom? Liberal vs. Conservative, 3/01/09. Conservatives and libertarians have a limited, and therefore false, view of "freedom". They see those who understand the need to use government to improve peoples' lives as "socialist authoritarians." Such distorted thinking would similarly call gardeners, "socialist authoritarians" comprising a "socialist mob". That's just plain crazy.
Smoot-Hawley Fiction, 2/15/09. Smoot-Hawley tariff "protectionism" is continually being blamed for the Great Depression: "OMG, that would start a trade war and hurt our exports. After all, doncha know that caused the Great Depression?!!!" Trouble is, our enormous trade deficit shows we've been in, and lost, that war. Creating balanced trade and Buy American are perfectly consistent with fundamental economic development principles and are not simply "protectionism." "Free trade" proponents commit economic treason by perpetrating pro-"free trade" propaganda. Not to put too fine a point on it, they're lying. Here's why it's obvious. And it wasn't FDR's New Deal that prolonged it either.
The 9/22/08 Economic Crisis, 9/24/08, What's at the root of the 9/22/08 economic crisis? An explosion of "trade", fiscal, and personal debt encouraged by government and Federal Reserve policies. Why? Compensation growth has fallen far behind productivity growth. Why? Five factors.
Trade Truth #3: 'Trade' Talking Points, 6/12/08, Here are concise responses for those who wish to be effective in opposing "free trade" rhetoric.
Ignore Externalities, 5/24/08, Some libertarians admit there are positive and negative externalities, but complain that taking them into account would create more harm. That's wrong. They don't believe that in a democracy we can decide what, if anything, to do about them.
Objection to 'Explaining Liberal Principles', 5/20/08, A great example of "conservative" denial of reality that proffers the "simple" as truth and points out the "depth of depravity of liberal 'logical thinking' when it comes to principles."
Petroleum Prevarication, 5/10/08, U.S. petroleum exports are about 11% of imports. Want to increase U.S. oil supply by 11%? Stop exporting it. Drill in ANWR? No; that oil would likely be exported.
Trade Truth #2: The Dollar & The Deficit, 4/27/08, The falling dollar did not increase the rate of goods export growth as pro "free trade" advocates maintain it should. The trade balance was less negative by $50B in 2007 because of increased growth of services exports and decreased growth of goods imports. Oil is a problem, but it's less than 20% of the trade deficit. The petroleum deficit fell in real dollars by $4.6B in 2006 and $3.9B in 2007 despite rising oil prices. There's a major structural problem driving the U.S. toward economic collapse.
Trade Truth #1: The NAFTA Nemesis, 4/18/08, After NAFTA, exports have suffered relative to imports no matter how one looks at the data. "Free trade" fundamentalists totally ignore that imports have slammed exports on all counts: absolute level, growth, and acceleration. The result? Destructive debt that's sinking the U.S. economy.
Collectives, 4/2/08, Libertarians say that any idea of a collective dimension of reality is the ridiculous creation of a "socialist mind" and that anyone who thinks otherwise is a common fool. Hardly.
Libertarians: Unbalanced & Deranged, 3/31/08, The commentary, "The Liberal Mind: The Psychological Causes of Political Madness," presents a laughable caricature of what it is to be liberal. Its dream: a grand, idealized libertarian, nightmarish, dystopia that creates hardships and inflicts wounds. This is dangerous, tragic, and sick.
Fascist "FreedomWorks", 3/20/08, "FreedomWorks" promotes the Alice-in-Wonderland idea that liberals and the "left" are fascists. Organizations like "FreedomWorks" are irrational to an extent that makes them, quite literally, insane. The root of that insanity is that they don't believe this: The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. This means that, at times, taking individually-logical actions can be collectively (for the whole) irrational. Tragic and dangerous.
The Invisible Hand, 3/25/08, This "invisible hand" is the core of what's known as "Economics 101."
Invisible Hand Drops Ball & Economics 101, 3/24/08, "Conservative" economic policies deliver dysfunctional results. They should have the courage to admit that's what they want.
Employment & Unemployment, 3/19/08, Unemployment is much greater than officially reported. Job growth has not kept up with population growth. US job growth has stopped.
Denver Post 'Trade' Deception, 3/3/08, The media doesn't allow the unbiased facts to be presented about what "free trade" is doing to our economy. It isn't in their corporate interest. "Free traders" talk about the glory of export growth, but not about the overwhelming growth of imports, the high-paying jobs lost, and the impact of those losses.
'Free Trade' and the Environment, 2/28/08, What's called "free trade" has enormous negative effects on the environment.
The Plunge Protection Team, 2/04/08, It manipulates U.S. markets. The economy & the dollar may possibly "hang on" through 2008 due to this market manipulation, but they will surely be allowed to collapse once a Democrat is elected.
Albert Einstein on Socialism, 1/24/08, Einstein reflects on capitalism, on socialism, on what he calls the "economic anarchy of capitalist society," and on what to do about it. I add comments.
Heresy, 1/24/08, The origin of the word, heresy, is "choice." That's not allowed.
'Cliff Oil', 7/10/06, They call it "peak oil," but the decline will feel more like "cliff oil."
John Edwards on 'Trade' - Why We Need Edwards for President, 1/18/08, Of the top three Democratic candidates John Edwards is the only one who understands the "trade" problem and has appropriate policies.
Are Poverty Wages for Ag Workers Necessary? No. 12/13/07, Corporations maintain agricultural workers must be paid poverty wages and therefore we "need" illegal immigrants to do this work because Americans won't. It's false. Pay could be 10X at a nominal increase in prices.
Beyond Six Sigma: Systems Thinking and Six Sigma Shortcomings, 11/30/07, Is it possible to go beyond Six Sigma? Well, yes. Use systems thinking.
Principles of Economic and Workforce Development, 11/29/07, A systems thinking perspective is necessary for understanding the dynamically complex challenges that face our organizations, our community, and our society.
The Death of the Middle Class, 11/3/07, Response to DLC Democrat Stephen J. Rose's WSJ commentary on "The Myth of Middle-Class Job Loss."
"The Problem is Bigger than the Loss of Manufacturing", 8/28/07, Contains updated charts on the U.S. "trade" deficit and Colorado jobs through July 2007 plus a summary of the main points on what to do about 'trade', taxes, and health insurance.
The 'Fair Tax', 8/21/07, The "Fair Tax" isn't. It would require a 56% sales tax to be revenue neutral promoting a hyperactive black market. It's class warfare with the primary goal of eliminating taxes on dividends and capital gains.
Market Failures: Health Insurance & TABOR
Website Traffic Increasing at a surprising rate.
Response to a Conservative on economics, 'trade' & jobs.
Populism, 'Trade' and Jobs recent data on 'trade' & jobs and the need for populism ... updated 8/28/07.
Employment & Trade Papers
Presentation on "Offshoring and Trade" at the Magellan Center on 11/9/06 posted at The Trade Deficit and the Fallacy of Composition
Manufacturing Task Force material on "trade" and jobs: Manufacturing Task Force on Loss of Manufacturing 6/3/06, KZNT 1460: Business Initiative Show
Material covered in Labor Market 4/1/06, KZNT 1460: Business Initiative Show.
A report on The State of Colorado Employment. The job backlog as of Jun 05 is between 140,000 and 228,000 jobs. New data added showing Dec 05 U.S. job backlog and realistic measures of unemployment ... the "official" U-3 is a vast understatement.
The 5/5/05 Manufacturing Task Force presentation on The Trade Deficit and the Fallacy of Composition and the Magellan Center's Magellan Explorer magazine article: "Is Our Trade Deficit Sustainable: A Systems Thinking Perspective on Trade." Page updated on 5/4/06 showing the Advanced Technology Products trade balance trend and deficit associated with petroleum. Also added a link to a pdf of Warren Buffett's Fortune article on what to do about this.
What's This Site About?
I've been told that it's difficult to figure out what this site is about. Here goes.
It's about applying systems thinking to organizational and social issues. OK. But what does that mean?
It means examining the "structure" of the system in order to understand its "behavior," where "structure" means the feedback loops in the system ... positive and negative ... or reinforcing and balancing. Nothing grows (or declines) without a reinforcing feedback. And nothing grows forever, there's always a balancing feedback that will (eventually) limit growth. And long-lived systems have an overwhelming number balancing feedbacks that make the system stable ... and resist change. Even when we want to improve behavior, these balancing loops will "rise up" to oppose change. So we'd better understand them or change initiatives will fail.
Unless we understand these feedbacks we really don't know what policies to adopt or what actions to take to change the system's behavior. I was told recently that changing policies doesn't necessarily change behavior. While that may sometimes be true, we're more driven by the systems around us than we tend to think.
In our society we've adopted a false belief: that of radical individualism. It's a myth. The fact is that, while we're both individuals and members of a collective (... it's not "either-or," it's "both-and" ... thinking otherwise is the logical fallacy of the false dilemma). The influences of structure (including policies) and the collective is more powerful.
The idea is to expand the boundary of the system until we can identify structures that create observed behaviors. This describes a theory of the system for comparison against the data of reality (... that's the scientific method). Note that "data" is more than numbers in a database, it includes "mental models" that determine how we humans interact with and influence the system (soft data).
If we implement policies and actions that be believe should act on the structure to produce the desired change, and it does not, then we've either got some more work to do on the theory or we need to examine the validity and appropriateness of the data. It's just like science ... it's social science.
So you'll find papers here on organizational behavior, on social behavior, and on economics ... and on the structures that are responsible what's happening.
It's an amazing lens through which to examine the world and understand what's going on ... a necessary precursor to figuring out what to do.
Start Here: What is Systems Thinking?
Click on the link above for an essay on what systems thinking is about, but first read the insightful quotes below.
Systems thinking is seeking to understand system behavior by examining "the whole," instead of by analyzing the parts. That the whole is greater than the sum of its parts isn't just a "slogan;" it impacts our lives in a very real way. That's because living beings, organizations, and societies are systems. We need systems thinking to understand and improve the behavior of organizations and social systems. This article explains why we need it.
The power of "the whole": "The compatibility between the parts and their reinforcing mutual interactions create a resonance, a force, which will be an order of magnitude higher than the sum of the forces generated by the separate parts. Systems Thinking, Jamshid Gharajedaghi
If the systems approach seems unnecessary, please keep in mind: "Acceptable ideas are competent no more, but competent ideas are not yet acceptable. This is a dilemma of our time." Stafford Beer
"Conventional wisdom is like an old guard; it would rather die than surrender." Systems Thinking, Jamshid Gharajedaghi
On mental models: "The inertia of culture is manifested by public and private images acting as filters, developing a selective mode of reception. This tunes the receptors for particular messages. Those consistent with the image are absorbed and reinforced, while contradictory and antagonistic ones have no significant effect. This phenomenon, although an impediment to change, acts as a defense mechanism and structure maintaining function. Furthermore, since truth is commonly identified with simplicity and comprehensibility, what one does not understand is simply rejected as false." Systems Thinking, Jamshid Gharajedaghi
If this seems complicated, please keep in mind: "My worry when executives say, 'Keep it simple stupid,' is that they're underestimating the complexity of their own organizations and environments." From "Sense and Reliability, A Conversation with Celebrated Psychologist Karl E. Weick", Harvard Business Review, April 2003.
Next Here: The Pain. The Practical Remedy.
Organizational behaviors drive us crazy (see some of them when you click on this article link). We can overcome them if we "learn how to learn" using both single- and double-loop learning.
Systems thinking is extremely practical, even though to many it appears academic and theoretical. It's practical because systems thinking helps us deal with dynamic complexity (multiple feedbacks with delays) ... a challenge as great as detail complexity (to which we invest billions of dollars).
|Organizations can greatly improve performance. We make it look easy; & it's fun, too! [And talk about performance! Here Scuba plays Frisbee.]
The materials on this site explain how we make it practical ... and creative ... and fun. They show specific applications of this approach to common and important organizational challenges; and they describe structures responsible for organizational behaviors.
Picture this: A
Gary Larson “Far Side” cartoon shows two horn-helmeted Vikings looking ahead from the dragon-headed prow of their armored vessel. Behind them there are four rows of oarsmen, two per row. On the left side of the vessel are big, burly men; on the right, slight skinny guys. One says to the other, “I’ve got it, too, Omar -- a strange feeling that we’re just going in circles.”
|... for policies that work!
The Point? Many organizations have a Mission that explains why they exist and a Vision that describes where they want to go, but that’s not enough. The organization must understand its structure to understand the observed behavior. Understanding structure allows the organization to change its structure and redesign its policies to create the desired behaviors and outcomes.
For an example of structure using the causal loop language that describes "stories of structure," click on "Reading Systems Diagrams" for a story about a popular restaurant.
Why ST? Professionals Rank It: Very Important!
Here's how project managers, quality professionals, and business students have ranked the importance of systems thinking relative to other considerations.
Reading Systems Diagrams
Here's how to read the diagrams.
Why Exponential Improvement?
We chose the name "Exponential Improvement" for this site because feedback produces exponential behavior.
Contact Bob, About CIA
Continuous Improvement Associates uses the lens of systems thinking to facilitate exponential process improvement and strategic alignment.
Why Use CIA Consulting?
Looking for fundamental, long-term organizational improvement? We can help.
Client & Workshop Comments
Client and workshop comments.
Website Traffic Increasing
Website Traffic has been increasing at what is, for me, a surprising rate.