Cooperative capitalism is not an oxymoron. It is something we should strive for if we are to move forward as a nation and as a people. We have been so brainwashed by the notion that capitalism and “socialism” are so diametrically opposed that any action that “smells” of the latter is out to destroy the affluent society capitalism has allowed us to build. Bill Stierle and Tom demolish this line of thinking and assert that cooperation, collaboration, equity and inclusion do and must have a place in capitalism. America’s polarized state of affairs is a sad testament of what we need to focus on to bring these things about. Do we want a stable and unified nation? Of course we do. The real question is how do we get past all the divisiveness and let the healing and restoration ensue?
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Truth And Cooperative Capitalism: America Must Have A Place For Cooperation, Collaboration, Equity And Inclusion
We’ve got a good topic that we were inspired to talk about because of a YouTube video about a talk by someone named Jonathan Haidt called Two Incompatible Values at American Universities. There’s a lot of information about who Jonathan Haidt is and there’s a bio in the YouTube video. He published this video before Donald Trump was elected. It’s important to say that this was not a new concept or idea just because Donald Trump came to be in November 2016. This video was published a month before that and talks about the incompatible values. There’s this thing we’ve talked about in the past about power over a situation that we’re all living now. It’s the opposite of cooperation and collaboration, which many people think we need in order to get through. Bill, help take us through what this is all about.
I appreciate setting the foundation for how do we get our economy to work collaboratively and cooperatively. There is a competition piece that happens in sports. Both teams play by a set of rules and through that process, it’s the skill, mastery, wits, and intelligence of the coach and the players in order to win the contest. Once we moved away from the game setting and we moved into a functional, stable, healthy society, there is a sense I want to work hard against a product or service that’s in competition with me or is looking for, “Am I going to sell this software program? There’s then another software program that’s similar to my software program and I’ve got to get as much market share as I can.”
This other product is going to work hard and they’re going to try to get as much market as they can. There is a competitive element between those different companies in those different products. We have sat in various chairs. Some chairs are more comfortable and some chairs are not. Some chairs cost a little bit more and some chairs cost a little bit less. It doesn’t mean that when you necessarily buy the expensive chair, that is going to give you the same level of value as the cheaper chair does. Although it might last longer and might have better parts, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there isn’t a burn rate for that product or service.
With that as a general premise is that we, as a society, struggle with the idea that capitalism and socialism are competing with each other. They’re not supposed to compete with each other. One is built for stability and the other one is built for growth and affluence. I don’t think we’ve ever talked about that. The socialism part of it is built for stability. The capitalism part is built for growth, diversity, and affluence. One of the things that I liked about Jonathan Haidt’s video is that he was demonstrating how the universities are getting themselves in a pickle because they’re promoting truth. They’re trying to get the best scholarship or the best thinking about that subject matter or whatever. Nowadays, as soon as somebody brings up a dissenting message about truth, people make the whole thing as if the whole thing is not true, rather than having a safe, honest discussion about how to find the truth from a different perspective. There is no rigor, resilience or safety in talking about dissension.
There’s no safety in talking about something that’s a belief bias and calling the person out on it. It is an interesting bias, but it’s not fully the truth that you’re saying there. People are going to prefer that bias, but that’s not fully the truth. In communication, Tom, we try to find what is the motive of us as a human being, but also what is the motive for this industry vertical. What is the value that most drives something? If I say the medical system, what do you think might be 1, 2 or 3 values that the medical system should stand for at the top of their list? What would they say they mostly stand for?
They’ll stand for healing, health and providing care, but we see all the time how much they are also at the corporate level stand for profit.If you put the word profit ahead of the word value, you're valuing revenue over life. Click To Tweet
You’re making my day a little bit because that’s one of the things that Jonathan Haidt points out in his thing is that the motive from a business standpoint if you go to the business school versus you go to the medical school. In the business school it’s, “How do you generate profit and/or value with the thing that you’re offering to the environment?” When capitalism starts getting too much food or feeding because it grows to the place of affluence, it starts influencing these other different societal challenges or issues. You can see that and Jonathan Haidt points this out. If profit and value are important business attributes are inserted and put in front of health, healing, nurturing, caring, the system doesn’t do as well because the health, healing, nurturing and caring are put secondarily to what the business system is inserted into it.
To illustrate this point, we have an example in our news in our world in the United States, it came out again about this proposed settlement between Purdue Pharmaceuticals and all the states over the OxyContin drug. There’s a proposed civil settlement where the family who owned Purdue Pharmaceuticals, who enriched themselves to the point of $10 billion over the years due to these drugs. They have proposed a $225 million settlement in the bankruptcy court. The company is going bankrupt. There are a lot of people unhappy with that, especially about this conflict. There’s evidence that doctors were paid money directly to prescribe OxyContin. There are a lot of people whose lives were negatively impacted because of addiction. There are people that have died because of this addiction. People have lost their lives. This profit motive was not in alignment with the health, healing, caring, nurturing of people that needed medical help.
It is an important, scary, honest discussion to say, “What’s the value?” If you put the word profit ahead of the word value, you’re not valuing life. What you’re doing is you’re valuing revenue. I’m not making revenue bad. I’m saying the values, that institution, a business vertical or sector needs to be at the primary front of things.
There’s nothing wrong with revenue and profit. It makes the world go round and we all need that in our economy. There’s nothing wrong with making a fair profit for providing a product or service. What’s tricky is when it comes at the expense of something else of one of these values. Does that sound right? Is that what Jonathan Haidt is talking about?
Yes. They’re infusing whether it’s business and trying to push into medical and medical trying to influence business. You can see where it goes sideways. You mentioned the justice system, the legal system, their primary motive, or need that they’re looking to stand for is justice.
The family has been enriched to the tune of $10 billion as the number that’s widely reported.
The legal justice system says, “How about $250 million?” People feel furious because that doesn’t look like justice. It most certainly doesn’t look like fairness. The profit and the value motive inside the capitalist system are now dictating like, “I’m sorry, the justice system is awarding this.” All they’re doing is trying to get a number less than $1 billion because they’re still sitting with $9 billion. There’s this unsettling and tenuous experience of our society going like, “We need to proportionalize and balance our values better.” That’s why this is a communication show. Even though we are presenting it in a judgmental way at the moment, the compassion and empathy that goes with this are that I feel wonderful about my business generating value. There is a profit motive that goes with that. There is a revenue generation that leads to, “If I do my entrepreneurial job, there are going to be jobs that I provide for other people. There are going to be taxes that I pay. I’m building the value, the profit, the numbers and making those work, not at the expense of my customers.”
That’s the unfortunate thing. In some of these examples, it’s directly at the expense of the customers.
Also at the expense of life, family and stability in society like, “Do you want to traumatize a family? Kill the oldest son with an overdose of OxyContin. That whole family will be psychologically disturbed and it destabilizes the nation moving forward.” It’s not a natural death. It is one that they knew was coming and it was caused and there was a profit motive behind it. Energy gets riled up because my own needs are getting activated by it. That means my body is working perfectly. I’m not ranting. I’m talking like, “I’m feeling sad and disheartened about how to get justice to take place, how to do truth in a way that’s proportional that has a perspective to it.” That makes this rant, as people could call it that way. They’re not talking about this in a holistic sense. Anybody that wants to argue or push back in my direction is going to try to pick one of those other value sets and then ram that into the discussion saying, “No, they did it legally.” They did it legally, but it wasn’t moral or ethical. You will notice that the law sits at one level and ethics and integrity, sit at another level. No one gets prosecuted for an ethics or integrity breach.
Didn’t they use to, Bill? I understand in the literal sense they don’t get prosecuted for that, but how many times have we had a senator be forced to resign by their party because of an ethical or moral breach?
There was a punishment but in this modern-day, the punishment is not in a place equitable. It doesn’t have a diversity piece to it. It doesn’t have inclusion. Those marketplaces that are taking advantage of how can I get profit and promote value, even though it’s not valuable? Because this consumer doesn’t have any other place to go, then you got all kinds of problems from a societal standpoint to make it stable. Let me do another example. Let’s say we have a grocery store chain and this says, “We’re going to put stores throughout different strategic locations in different cities.” Whole Foods says, “We charge a higher price for things. We’re going to put ourselves in zip codes of those higher price pieces because the people around will pay the higher price because they can’t go or don’t want to go to any other place.”
Also, inverse takes place. Here is a low-value grocery store. None of the other competitors are wanting to go into a lower-income neighborhood. They dropped their grocery store there and charge as much or even more money than the high price store because the people can’t go anywhere and they’re going to get a lower value. You see my need for justice. Equality is starting to run a little bit. My social justice energy is starting to bring up and I’m going to get aggravated. My body is working perfectly. It’s in my voice. You’re agitating in your chair for those of you who are reading. We’re agitated all over this place because we’re taking this video and bantering these four different points of view, education, business, medical, and social justice. We’re bantering them back and forth against each other and working ourselves up.We have a society on the mend, but right now, cooperation and collaboration are sitting at the back end. Click To Tweet
At least we’re being honest. We can see the good reason why they’re doing it because when we look at trying to create a stable society, we have to start thinking more in an inclusionary way. We need to step more into being mindful of how we can make the USA one nation under God, indivisible. We have to put some pressure on the word ‘indivisible.’ We need to create all kinds of lines of equity and lines of inclusion so that one part or one group of people in the nation isn’t dry dragging behind 5, 10, 15, 20, 100 years behind it. We can’t do it. We’ve got to grow up a little bit as a nation and can’t say, “No, I’m taking my marbles and going home.” It’s not a healthy conversation. I’m monologuing here, but you can see that there is a tension between all of these different values and the different needs that caused the emotion.
There is tension. One of the things that we’ve seen happen in years since this Jonathan Haidt video was published is that this polarization, this disconnect, and lack of cooperation and collaboration has gotten worse. It’s gotten more distinct. Everybody talks about how America now is polarized. That’s talked about in a political sense of the right versus the left. That is more so than the cause is a symptom of all of this that you’re talking about and that Jonathan Haidt talked about.
What happens is they are not emotionally or financially safe to step up and speak out with different people even in the PR business. It’s like, “A person posts on Twitter and they say, ‘Black Lives Matter. I’m with you.’” There’s all of this coming in their direction. The sponsor doesn’t want to fund that person. They pull their funding because they don’t want to send that. Instead of the sponsor going like, “I stand with that too. I’m going to fight the backlash and I’m going to step up into it.”
That is what Nike did. Nike hired Colin Kaepernick as a spokesperson or at least a symbol that they align with, took a position on that.
They did take a position on it. I don’t know what the financial cost or the financial gain is of that. The idea is if we stand on the side of truth, we’re going to get a financial gain. Regrettably, in our society, you stand up and you stand for a value called inclusion or equanimity. When you stand up and you make a statement, you’re on the pedestal. It’s easier for social media to shoot at you and they do. This person’s voice is giving the same credit as this other person’s voice. This person’s standing on integrity and value, and this other person is saying, “Sorry, I am going to cut you out. I’m going to erase you. I’m going to take away your income because you’re expressing that point of view.” It’s not to say things don’t happen on the right and don’t happen on the left. This is why this is a communication show. There’s a little skill out there to hold the space for both. That’s what I propose and my narrative is hold space for both. You can say that you know something about a subject, but it’s not in the same alignment as somebody that’s been studying 25 years and rewritten three books on that subject. You don’t get the same level of value because the other person did some.
If in the book, they’re full of it, then you question them. You can say, “You said this thing in your book and disagree with this. How did you come to that?” If that professor or that author is authentic, they’ll fall on the sword. They’ll say, “When I wrote the book years ago, that was a point of view that I was holding and my bias and my influence was telling me this. Years later, I am on your side with that. I can’t fix that thing at that point of view that I had back then, but I have grown and changed and developed since that moment.” That’s called the moment of truth, scary honesty, equanimity justice because you pointed out the mistake. Justice because I’m a human being and I’m doing that. That’s where our dialogue needs to return to so it becomes healthy because it’s not healthy now. That’s the thing that we need to step into and step at so that we can do that purchasing truth tour of reconciliation and restoration that needs to take place at some time. I’m going to shrug my shoulders and say, “Whoever gets elected, you still need restoration work in this nation.”
My concern is depending on who gets elected, are we either going to have some healing and restoration in the short-term or are we going to have another four years of carnage before there’s healing and restoration?
I’m wondering if there is going to be enough courage that a university or a business picks a value and starts fighting for not just their value, business fighting for profit, and medicine fighting for health. The legal system starts restoring justice that has been taken away. In certain cases, education started to fight for truth and going, “A student complained about this professor. We need a reconciliation for what that professor said or did. We’re getting the student back in and anybody that’s concerned, and this is how we’re handling the restoration.” That’s what good PR is. You step into it like, “If you have a complaint, if you’re complaining about a professor, we’re going to take the parties that are concerned. You’re going to bring things. This is how this person got affected. We’re going to increase a safe dialogue between those different parties that are oppositional or appear to be oppositional. We then got a society on-demand but now, cooperation and collaboration are sitting in the backend.
We’ve been seeing the perfect case study of lack of collaboration and cooperation in the Senate hearings regarding Amy Coney Barrett. Not to get too specific political in this episode, it’s a good example because here you have the Republican saying, “We have the power to do this and work on doing it. We’re going to have these hearings. We’re going to have a vote on her.” Even though we said years ago, “We shouldn’t have a vote on a nominee in an election year,” they did it. What happened then was there was a vote in the Senate Judiciary committee where all of the Democrats on the committee boycotted the vote. They put up large posters size images of people that they feel are going to be hurt by this justice. People that have issues with this justice probably will decide against it. They weren’t there to vote. Only the Republicans were there to vote. It’s very much what Jonathan Haidt was talking about, that you’ve got these completely different perspectives, agendas and actions being taken. There is no talking between these opposing sides. There is no collaboration, discussion or cooperation.
It is too dangerous to speak up. If you think about this a little bit, if we go back to Clarence Thomas, he has voted conservatively for all the years. He’s been on the bench with the rest of his colleagues. Why hasn’t he spoken up? Why hasn’t he taken a stand on certain things? All he’s doing is voting and then not fully writing dissension. It is because it’s been hard to stand up on both the right and left to have a healthy dialogue. In order to have a healthy dialogue, as a human being, you’ve got to check your biases and check your beliefs and question them in reference to justice and what is going to be the impact of this decision.
Abortion, Roe v. Wade, the women’s right to choose, that’s what a thoughtful decision and writing about the good reason why the court voted to say, “We’ve got to do this because this is not good for society to have the government meddling in the decision of a woman by making it illegal and not available in the States. We can’t have this psychological and physiological carnage take place between an unwanted pregnancy. We can’t do that.” Nobody likes abortion, but at the same time, one of the highest Republican values is, “Government, stay out of our choices, except for abortion.” It’s not congruent because there are a lot of votes there.
That’s the primary reason. There are a lot of votes, but nobody likes that it’s a part of the difficult decision that a woman needs and chooses to make. I’m talking between all of this little legal piece, social justice piece, and medical piece. What are we going to pay for? What’s the value to society about making a safe place medically for women, specifically rape and incest but also, “Economically, I can’t afford this child. I’m having the experience of poverty and the system doesn’t want to help me. I got to protect myself from the poverty part because I can’t afford to do this?”In order to have a healthy dialogue, you have to check your biases and beliefs and really question them in reference to justice. Click To Tweet
It is a complex issue.
Tom, when you think about making decisions for your business and for your family, you get pinned between different values at different times. You’ve got to pick a financially fiscal choice, you have to figure out an integrity choice, or you have to pick a truth and trust choice. Your family doesn’t like all your choices, do they?
No, they don’t. It’s difficult lots of times to square the financial choice with the choice from your heart.
If the financial choice is, “Do I buy medicine or do I buy food?” I went right to the point. Do I get the medicine I need? Do I steal the medicine I need from a drug store? I got justice, medicine and money fighting against each other. If I stick a social justice piece, it gets worse.
What about your doctor prescribed OxyContin, you become addicted to it and you either steal that drug because you can’t get more prescriptions or you can’t afford to buy it? You become addicted to that so you commit some crime in order to feed the addiction. You get put in jail for stealing in order to feed the addiction, but the people that write the prescription are sitting on the beach and going on vacations and getting paid more by the pharmaceutical company. It’s complex stuff.
I remember they filmed a circle of an addiction group and they were talking that their initial entry was OxyContin. There was all OxyContin piece. The question was, “What was the drug of choice after? How many of you are using heroin at this time?” All twelve people raise their hands because it was less expensive. It was giving a similar level of relief that the OxyContin was giving. The illegal drug trade between Georgia and Florida has been well-documented of people running OxyContin back and forth across state lines to feed the habits of different groups of people. It’s unsettling to do some scary honesty. I am not going to stick it on the addict because I’m somebody that has provided support to help people get off that stuff. It’s not easy to do because of the physiological response that those medicines have on the body and the cellular grip that it has on that person. It has nothing to do with a weak-minded person. It has to do with your cells adjusted to a medicine that was so much of a draw. It was difficult.
I remember having my own surgery in 2007 and being prescribed some strong painkillers after the surgery, which I needed for a period of time. I remember weaning myself off of them and that was not easy. It wasn’t OxyContin, but there are other powerful drugs. I may not be predisposed personally to addiction or have whatever genetic conditions make you more susceptible. I suspect but scared the heck out of me and my wife a little bit. I’m like, “We’re going to stop this now.” Fortunately, I could but I can see how easy it is for people to this wall like, “It’s prescribed by my doctor. What am I supposed to do?” They’re then down this rabbit hole.
I appreciate the video that we’re exploring how these different values banter across each other. When we get into a discussion about purchasing truth, you can see how truth gets influenced when each one of these different academic value sets tries to cloud the issue inside that various marketplace or that different vertical that has a value. The legal system is supposed to be about justice. The social justice system is supposed to be about equality, whether it’s racial or other kinds of social justice. Health is supposed to run medicine, not profits, but then the insurance is in the middle of that. That is challenging. Next time, Tom, we need to continue to peel back about how to have a healthy dialogue with these different values and not shy away from it and say, “Winner takes all, whoever has the most profit wins or whoever raises the most money and gives is given the bigger platform, gets to run the country.” We can’t do it. How about money or business inserted into politics? That’s another thing.
That’s a whole huge thing.
It’s important for us to continue the dialogue to get better communication so our nation can get back to the restoration and the healing it needs.
I look forward to that
More to come. Thanks, Tom.
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