Sunday, October 25, 2009

Special Interests and Lobbyist

A common refrain in the political debate is the accusation that special interests and lobbyists are behind any attempt to express opposition to any particular plan or idea. A special interest is a group of individuals that have a common interest. Lobbyists are paid by special interest groups to exert influence on members of Congress to push forward their desires. Having political office holders complain against the special interests and lobbyists is like an alcoholic complaining about having cirrhosis of the liver. Lobbyists have influence because Congress and the political parties let them have influence.

Our political leaders should listen to special interest groups. They should be aware of the effects of legislation on different groups and special interest groups are able to represent the views of the people they represent. The problem is that our elected leaders let money influence their decisions and this is the problem. If an alcoholic wants to avoid getting cirrhosis of the liver, they can stop drinking. If politicians want to lessen the influence of special interest groups and lobbyists, they can simply stop taking their money. They should still listen to the viewpoints of special interest groups - that is their job, but they don't need to be influenced by how much money they can give to the candidate.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Lively Debate

In 1787 at the beginning of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, John Rutledge of South Carolina stated the following, "Only by taking a position and then engaging in lively debate to defend it do we find its weaknesses and flaws. And once such flaws are discovered, prudent men change their minds accordingly."

We have many issues in this country. We have had lively debate on health insurance reform, cap n' trade, troops in Afghanistan and this should be encouraged. Unfortunately, I've seen a lot of name calling instead of debate. Stop making it personal and make it about the issues. If we cannot have honest and open debate about the issues, we are never going to find solutions without flaws. If you cannot defend your position in a debate, then maybe your position is not right? If you can defend it, then maybe it is a solution to a problem.

This week we have seen officials at the White House resort to attacks on Fox News. If they don't agree with the views expressed on Fox News, then debate those views with them. Resorting to non-specific attacks does not help any of us. Only through lively debate will we figure out the solution to our problems.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Keeping your Eye on the Goal

There was another lesson I relearned while participating in my daughter's Crash Avoidance class last Saturday. There were a few exercises we did which helped to reinforce the idea that for safe driving, you should look well ahead of where you are. You are much better able to stay on course during routine driving or when avoiding an obstacle by keeping your eyes focused on where you want to go rather than where you are.

This is a good lesson for government and business. If we make decisions based on where we want to be years down the road rather than what we want right now, we will make better decisions. Politicians and business leaders too often make decisions based on short term gains. As citizens and shareholders, we should demand that our leaders think long term by keeping their eye on the goals rather than what is only right in front of them.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Defensive Driving School

As part of my daughter's driver education training, she signed up for a defensive driving and crash avoidance course. A parent was to attend with her so I had that duty yesterday on a Saturday morning. I was not excited about taking the course but knew that it would be good for my daughter's education. As it turned out, I learned a lot from the course and feel I am better prepared for my own driving.

The course involved a number of exercises in the car to give you the skills and knowledge to avoid an accident in different situations. The exercises became increasingly difficult as the morning went on. In the latter exercises, all of the students (myself included) failed on the first few attempts. As we practiced, however, all of us became proficient in a driving skill that would help us avoid an accident.

The instructors were asking us to do hard things and they knew we would experience early failure. If they had let us get away with failure, we would not have learned these important skills. Through practice and repetition, we eventually succeeded.

There are many important lessons we learn from failure. It is only through failure that we learn hard things and achieve success. We should celebrate failure if we don't give into it and use it as merely a stop on our journey towards something great.

Our politicians need to learn that a society that tries to make it so everyone succeeds without failure is a society that will fail. Only through the consequences of our failures will we learn to overcome our weaknesses and make them strengths. Americans throughout their history have risen above failure to accomplish great things. The government should stop trying to take care of us by protecting us from failure but rather allow us to succeed which will only come through our failures.