What's the Problem?
A very wise consultant to the health care industry shared with me a conversation he had with a hospital board of directors facing bankruptcy: “What do you think caused the financial difficulties of the hospital?” he asked. “The labor unions wanting too much, the doctors demands, and the patients who can’t pay their bills.” “No,” said the forthright consultant, “the cause of this difficulty is your greed, selfishness and disregard for the needs of your community.” How could that be true? These were all well-educated, well-respected citizens of their community who saw themselves as charitable and responsible. Yet true it was. And one-by-one, they opened their eyes to how they had ignored the clear needs signaled from the community, remained adversarial in talks with doctors and support staff, ignored the need to invest in new systems, equipment and procedures. All these decisions and behavior were justified at the time they were made by the self-interested, culturally approved “need” to hold on to profits. In the face of the current economic crisis, unstable stock market, businesses like the auto industry facing bankruptcy, and the financial challenges of individuals, the cry that emerges from the news media is “what are we going to do about this?” “Who is to blame?” and “What will president Obama do to save our economy?”
Just as the above hospital board of directors facing bankruptcy of their organization, the country is desperate for a quick fix, for a ‘to do’ solution, for a hero to reveal a formula that will distribute over a trillion dollars to the right places.
Money is Not the Problem
Money is viewed as the source of and solution to our problems. Yet, perhaps the problem is thinking that money is the solution to our problems. The view that money is both the source and solution to our problems has brought the nation to a no-win situation: We need money to solve our problem of lack of money, but taking money from ourselves will continue the problem of lack of money.
Money is Not the Solution
All attention seems focused on money – where is it, who has it, who spent it, who needs it, how can we get it to those who need it, and those who will spend it wisely? There are many concerns being voiced about the “Big-Money Rescue” solutions being promoted such as: -limiting entrepreneurs from the “reward” of money by ‘spreading the wealth around’ through high taxes will de-incentivize the business people who generate the wealth of this country -“rescuing” those who squandered the money under their responsibility by giving them more is not intelligent -renegotiating with those who have bought what they cannot afford will encourage more irresponsible spending All of these concerns are legitimate, and all see the economy as based on the generation, accumulation and distribution of money.
Money is a Tool
The truth is that any use of money will result in some good and some bad, depending on the clarity, motivation and honesty of those given the responsibility to spend it, which is everyone, as everyone uses money.
A Climate of Greed
The view that The Economy=Money promotes a climate of greed, which is what the economy is acutely suffering from now. When money is seen as the source and goal of business (and thus, of life), then business people focus on making money for themselves, their stockholders, and their businesses. In this climate inventiveness and ideas are channeled toward making money and the more the better. Certainly some good, useful and creative ideas have been generated from this climate, but the ‘side-effect’ is greed and corruption. Anything to ‘make money’ becomes justified, and acceptable. Just as in medicine, sometimes the “side-effect” can be more deadly than the disease.
What is the purpose of business?
The purpose of business is not to make money, nor to lose money. The purpose of business is to see a real need and fill it with a reliable product or service through an efficient organization. The result of good business is prosperity for all. Those who run the business, produce the product or service, and those who purchase the product/service. There need be no limit on wealth for those stewarding a useful, efficient business. Everyone benefits. Individuals, communities, nations and the global community are joined in the endeavor to meet real needs and prosper, individually and collectively. This is economy based on the idea that what is truly good for one is good for all. This idea is one that cannot be legislated, regulated or manipulated. It is an idea that when understood by an individual/entrepreneur/businessperson, guides and inspires their activities. Any individual living this principle will be trustworthy, and the needs of their business will be met.
This is the heart of the American Dream. The opportunity to see a real need, develop an organization to serve the need and benefit from the prosperity that is generated for all. This points to individual motivation as the source of our problems and the source of our solutions. A trillion dollars can be thrown into the system, and where personal gain and greed is the underlying motivation, the economy will continue to suffer. On the other hand, prosperity will spread where there is motivation based on good will.
The challenge then is not what “to do,” but rather to understand and face the real problem and cultivate an economy of prosperity based on solid, time-tested principles of good business and good living. Afterall, it is not individuals who can be blamed for being influenced by the climate of greed, yet it is individuals who can see the problem and participate in the solution. This is called Spiritual Economics as it is based on what cannot be legislated, manipulated, regulated or contracted. It is based on something non-material, yet something that we have the capacity to recognize when we see it. The truth of it is undeniable. It may be argued that it’s idealistic – that most of business-as-usual is greedy and that’s just the way it is. But if we accept that as truth, we are doomed to continue a downward spiral of constant gain and loss, and continuous struggle between those who have and those who have not. There are numerous examples of entrepreneurs, scientists, inventors, educators, legislators, who have seen real needs, responded with an idea, product or service and prospered. Those who have prospered from knowing this truth are not primarily motivated by money. They are motivated by good ideas, efficient systems and personal excellence. This is spiritual economics as it is based on something intangible yet substantial, imperceptible yet knowable, unseen yet recognizable.
These same individuals who accumulated great wealth from implementing good ideas plow their wealth back into the community through charitable and altruistic visions. This is the continuation of valuing good ideas, efficient systems and personal excellence.
The Good News
The good news is that to get the economy back on the right track does not require us to wait for the “trickle down” when someone figures out what to do and does it. It is something we all can be attentive to right now. When frightened about financial issues wake-up! It’s not money that is the source of intelligence and creativity. And, it’s not fear that will generate good ideas. It’s the God-given gift of open-mindedness and receptivity that allow good, new ideas to flow right to the challenging situation of the moment. This is priceless.