Cultural

The Connections Between Strategy and Morality

When I read stories films about beastiality at Sundance or about university professors engaging in public masterbation or about this, my first thought is how this type of decadency strategically weakens Western society. While the founder of Sundance, Redford, attacks Bush for the war in Iraq, Dinesh D'Souza is more correct in his analysis in this article, that America's decaying morality is used by Islamicist to justify the War on Terror though his conclusions in his recent book that that moral decay is a "cause" for Islamist extremism is nothing but a publicity grab. Our immorality helps extremists, but certainly doesn't justify them. Those such as the ACLU, who defend such "unpopular," that is, immoral acts as the finest flowers of liberty and free speech, are truly the enemies of freedom, not its champions. They corrupt the entire idea of freedom and free speech into something that no one is willing to die to defend. Once people are unwilling to die to defend the values of a given society, that society is doomed. People often equate good strategy with a Machiavellian, pragmatic, and even immoral mindset. Nothing is further from the truth. The fact is that good strategy is very closely connected to and dependent on traditional ideas of morality. This is why Sun Tzu made a philosophy of unifying ideals the core of his strategic system. We live in a society that disparages the idea that moral decadence leads inevitably to the decline of a civilization, but in this post we examine why traditional morality is not a matter of religious superstition but strategic necessity. This is not a matter of government legislating morality but of what individuals are willing to accept. People simply are not willing to make the sacrifices necessary for the success of organizations whose values make them uncomfortable. If the people who frequent your favorite restuarant start shooting up drugs and masterbating at the surrounding tables, you will find somewhere else to go no matter how good the food is. Actually, seeing this behavior accepted makes you wonder how good the food is, really.

The Origins of Civilization and Your Personal Freedom

In TCS Daily, I ran into this post about Iraq's "Natural State." This led me to this longer article by North, Wallace, and Weingast (referred to as NWW from here on) on their theory about the natural development of civilization from a limited-access state (elite controlled) to open-access (free) societies. In this second article, NWW propose that a limited-access state can only change into a free society under certain conditions. These conditions come down to the elites, in their own self-interest, creating the basis for freedom because of the requirements of industrialization of the 18th and 19th centuruies. The problem with NWW's theory is it mistates the historical basis for human freedom in civilized countries, which goes back much further in time, even before Sun Tzu's period. In the following post, I offer a less myopic view of the "natural state" and the role of freedom. If you want to preserve your freedom, you should correctly understand history. You will find that your freedom itself is very closely connected to the emergence of Sun Tzu's strategy.

Desire, Denial, and Responsibility

I just saw a television commercial where a group of (supposed) Wal-Mart employees complain about how terrible it is to work at Wal-Mart. They complain about the pay, the hours, and the benefits. When I watched this commercial, my only thought was, “If you people hate working at Wal-Mart so much, why don’t you find another job?” Instead, of taking personal action, they want to advertise their “plight” so that someone else—the consumer, the government, or whoever—will step in and fix Wal-Mart’s employment practices for them.

The Big Picture of the War Between Philosophies

Strategy teaches that all wars are essentially battles between philosophies. Most of these philosophies are very short lived, but I really like this 90 second animation of the growth of the great religions over the last 5,000 years. This animation leaves out the lesser religions that have come and gone as temporary flares that bloom and die. Adding these lesser religions would illustrate how even ideas that become very popular can die, sometimes very quickly.

Using the News Media to Establish a Strategic Position

As I think about my next book on strategy, the Power Curve, it occurs to me that instead of simply analyzing how easy it has become to manipulate the media and generate publicity by playing to the media's prejudices that I should take the opportunity to join in the manipulation. So, in that book, I am planning to use three manipulation techniques whose use has grown quite common in the media, but gone unrecognized by the media.

Freedom, Creativity, and the Fear Mongers

As we mourn the death of one of the great champions of freedom, Milton Friedman, (a great article by Thomas Sowell here, a summary of many of his ideas on freedom here) we should recognize that champions of strategy must also be champions of freedom. I thought of Friedman while I read about a new process for inexpensively processing oil shale. This process could lower the price of a barrel of oil to as little as $17. How would such a breakthrough benefit the economies of the world? How would it undermine state tyrannies based on the control of oil? More importantly, what role does freedom play in these innovations and how does regulation prevent them?

The Non-Competitive World of American Politics

Why is politics so frustrating for the average American? I believe it is not because politics is so competitive but because too many politicians come into power too well insulated from competitive forces. In every area of society where there is serious competition (sports and business, for example) all contestants are forced to get better. However, in areas where there is little competitive choice (government services and local utilities, for example), the people and institutions involved become indifferent to the needs of their customers. Democracy was designed to introduce choice and competition into government, but the politician in America have worked for two centuries to create their own version of a local monopoly. The result is a system that fails even when it works.

Elections, Rumsfeld Firing, and the National Strategy

I want to offer a few random thoughts about strategy based on the recent election and related events. Whenever there is an election, I always find myself appreciating the wisdom of the American people. The beauty of any good system is that it is flexible. Unlike most forms of government, the philosophy of republic is to adapt to changes in climate rather than to fight against them. Whatever my opinions before an election, afterward I find myself appreciating the sensibility of the majority of Americans. I believe that their collective judgment is better than my own individual judgment, at least in terms of what the real priorities for the nation should be.

How Christian is the War?

A reader writes the following:
I have been passionate, persistent, and consistent against the war in Iraq...My observations, fact-gathering, and what I believe to be sound discernment, finds the Iraq War unjust, immoral, unethical, and evil. I must also ask you how you reconcile Christ’s teachings with our war on Iraq. I find it very disturbing that so many “Christians” in America were pro-war on Iraq.
Wars are not generally fought for altruistic reasons, but America's wars, in general and including Iraq, always seem very altruistic to me. In general, starting with the Civil War, America has had an incredible tradition of sacrificing its life and treasure for the freedom of others, recognizing that, in the long run, our own freedom depends on the freedom of others. This makes America unique in human history. Since WWI, America's main strategy for defense has been spreading its system of government. As far as reconciling Christ's teachings with the war in Iraq (or any war), there is a simple answer and a more complex one.

Science, Strategy, and Climate

As we have noted before, one of the most basic principles of strategy is that we have to adjust to changes in the climate. This principle is based on the fact that any type climate--economic, business, political, or physical--is too large and complex for anyone to change. Climate, by definition, involves a interaction of every part of that environment. Even the smallest elements may have a huge impact. Today, science studies this principle under the heading of "chaos theory" and "complexity," but the idea remains the same in the 2,500 years since Sun Tzu articulated it. Today, the political "global warming" movement attempts to stand this simple fact of nature on its head. It calls upon us to believe that a world government of some sort could actually pass legislation that can control the climate. The consequence of acting as if you can control the climate are always disasterous. Science is designed to leverage the natural forces of nature (both human and otherwise), not fight agianst these forces. The "global warming" movement illustrates the impossibility of fighting against the forces of nature and how destructive such a battle is. In this case, the credibility of the scientific community is at stake as many within that community seek to change science into a political force. A great recent article explains how "global warming" politics are corrupting the scientific community.

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