Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Maximizing participation - in all ways

Pursuing leadership is about understanding leadership from a variety of perspectives.  Lately I've become more curious, and concerned, about economic and political leadership because of what I fear is a dangerous trend of growing privilege held by few and maintained/exaggerated by an oligarchy of political influence.  Before pointing any fingers, I own that I am privileged by comparison to many in the world.  I also want to assert that there isn't anything wrong with wealth, as long as it came deservedly to those who work hard, innovate, and contribute to the public good while privately benefiting from their effort.  It is isolated and protectionist wealth that concerns me.

Nick Hanauer refers to himself as a plutocrat who was lucky by birth, experience, and opportunity.  And he warns his fellow plutocrats that "trickle-down economics" never has, nor will, work and that maximizing participation for those who are not part of the plutocracy is the only way to create sustainable prosperity for all. He's the one who is advocating for an increase in minimum wage so that more people can have the means to spend into an economy that can grow.  He owns that he makes 1,000 times the average worker and then makes the logical assertion that there is no way he could spend all he has.  The only way to increase economic vitality is to spread wealth, rather than holding it and using it in ways that exacts "rent" from those who are not so privileged.

Responses to Nick Hanauer's TED talk have been mixed, with one criticism in Forbes being very strong.  The claim is that Hanauer's analysis is shallow and more about taxation than economic participation.  It's probably worth reviewing both perspectives.

I plan to come back to this topic after finishing Joseph Stiglitz' The Price of Inequality.  Stiglitz makes many of the same points as Nick Hanauer but with more evidence.  Once I finish my reading, I'll again post my thoughts on maximizing participation as a critical and necessary part of economic and political leadership in today's world.

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