As we start the second decade of the new millennium, innovation is understood as a critical driver to overcome the economic malaise plaguing the global economy. Economic stasis and political factionalism has made it increasingly evident that faltering economic and social institutions cry out for sweeping reform. These reforms can only be achieved with innovative approaches in policy and practice. Innovation is realized by giving flight to uninhibited thought and the clear application of ideas with decisive action. Though most agree that we badly need reform, we remain at painful odds as to what those reforms should be and how to implement them. The destructive legislative debates on health care and the ugly political theater of town meetings that occurred in the United States over the summer accomplished little in regards to meaningful reform. The exercises only served to drive a deepening wedge into the ability of a democratic culture to form a transformative consensus.
Our society is a complex ecosystem comprised of many competing interests. The classic definition of politics, “the means to decide how limited resources are allocated to disparate interests” is clearly a truism that must be applied if we are to realize the reform that we desperately need. In a post scarcity society that definition may seem a bit crude or antiquated. America’s history is marked by a culture of innovation and the incubation of industry. Innovation and its commercial expression in entrepreneurialism is a national asset that tempers the hard edges of stringent allocation or resources and has been the source of our great social wealth. Democracies continually require citizens to arbitrate how competing interests are reconciled and converge. As a self professed democracy the United States must break down the barriers that inhibit innovation by confronting the challenges posed by convergence.
Convergence has been the watch word in the tech industry for the past few years. Convergence aggregates, joins and aligns discreet trends, competencies, technologies and missions to spawn innovation and progress. Masters of business innovation understand that a precondition of convergence is the ability to collaborate. Collaboration requires extended conversations and dialog to understand how competing interests can be reconciled and brought together so that innovation and progress can be achieved. Marketeers invent neologisms like coopetition to brand the idea and lend heft to its thrust. We believe that innovation borne from convergence is the path to rebuild our economy, heal cultural wounds and take a step toward political maturity the United States needs to sustain the great experiment of our democratic republic.
With that in mind we offer a list that outlines the inhibitors to innovation. It is hoped that our nations leaders and people can begin an earnest conversation to address these barriers to growth. Maybe I’m wrong with offering this modest list but I remain willing to discuss it, hopeful that people of good will with a different viewpoint will be open to correct my thinking and contribute to my enlightenment.
1. War: War is inherently wasteful. The current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are grievous examples of waste and national distraction that hampers the United States economic recovery. At an Ecumenical Memorial Service held at Yankee Stadium following the 9/11 terror attacks a Buddhist Monk stated that he believed “it was wiser to drop refrigerators on Afghanistan then bombs”. Almost a decade later and two wars on I can’t help but to think what a meager $100 billion investment in Afghanistan would have returned to the United States tax payers. More importantly it would have shown the world that above all else America values the sanctity and preservation of life. It would have also minimized the rising toll of casualties of both citizens and soldiers. We developed some great bunker buster bombs but we can’t figure out a way to stop a suicide bomber with exploding underpants. We succeeded in stirring up a hornets nest of angry insurgents and failed to build innovative pathways to peace with steadfast bridges to secure allies and pacify combatants.
2. Politics: To be sure politics is omnipresent but the politicization of faith institutions and government functions is a great separator of people. When politics infects faith institutions their ability to breach the social divide and join people together is seriously compromised or downright destructive. The Catholic Church’s practice of denying the Eucharist to parishioners based on political biases of the communicant places politics at the center of the Lords alter. The recent occurrences of radical Islamists burning down Christian Churches in Malaysia is tragically ironic. The violence, a response to the Christians appropriation of the word Allah as a name for God; is a violent rejection of language convergence of two great faith traditions. It would seem that unity is a threat that God cannot abide and is a growing threat that must be abolished. In the secular world government agencies were instructed to withhold scientific climate change research of the National Science Foundation because it did not conform with the politics of the party in power. The extent of the politicization of the judicial branch of government under the Bush Administration was a seditious move worthy of dictatorships. Innovative application of constitutional law in defense of civil liberties is one of the greatest challenges the war on terror poses to this country. The creation of kangaroo courts to support the politics of the ruling party would undermine our system of justice. It would transform our judiciary into a repressive apparatus of the state, our laws into stale dogmas ill suited to meet the legal challenges of our time and a justice system that is indistinguishable from the justice offered by our opponents.
3. Ideology: Only good ideas need apply. Deng Xiaoping said it best “does it matter if its a communist or capitalist mouse trap. The question is, does it catch mice?” Seeing this as a threat, Mao Zedong unleashed the cultural revolution and routed the capitalist roaders as a threat to the Great Proletarian Revolution. After the death of Mao, Deng would be rehabilitated and play a key role in China’s adoption of a market economy and its current ascendancy as a world economic power. In my mind there is a striking resemblance to the debate about heath care. Socialized medicine is bad. Do you want to turn into France? Canadian health care is too expensive. UK heath care system is overloaded and can’t cope with demand. These problems would be solved however after the death panels had a chance to meet and decide who shall live and who must walk the plank.
4. Entrenched Commercial Interests: Though we are ardent believers in capitalism as an engine of innovation the dictatorship of ROI, entrenched concentrations of capital and an unwillingness or inability to adopt longer term investment horizons hamper innovation. The failure of the United States automobile industry to develop fuel efficient vehicles is a good example of market intransigence. The development of junk bonds by Michael Milken and Drexel Burnham Lambert dismantled the manufacturing base of the US economy accelerated the countries decline as a net exporter of products creating the foundation of a debtor nation. During the presidency of Jimmy Carter solar panels were installed on the roof of the White House. The succeeding administration had them removed. Imagine where the alternative energy industry would be today had it developed this leading edge idea and capitalized on this first mover advantage.
5. Unbridled free markets: The economic carnage of the banking meltdown is a startling example of the excesses the pursuit of profit will create. The boom in commercial and residential real estate construction created massive stocks of unused inventories that misdirected and wasted enormous resource. The energy and capital expended on these wasteful endeavors misdirected funds and created huge social hazards that requires massive amounts of capital to mitigate. Also worth mention is the development of video gaming. Lots of energy and creativity is being expended on the best techno music to use while your Mafia Avatar bashes open the head of your opponent with a baseball bat. We are not suggesting censorship or a prohibition of video games nor centralized economic planning. Its a compensation and social value issue. Perhaps a communicants denial of participation at the Lord’s Table lead them to leave the church and miss the message about social values.
6. Technology: It may seem odd to include technology as an inhibitor to innovation but technology for technology sake may inhibit the development of innovative applications solutions that are not technological in nature. The technorati of the world is transforming technology into a religion. Deprived of its human dimension it can become a dogma that grows in an antagonistic relationship with its human masters. The United States continues to trumpet its technological prowess as the deciding factors in its war in Afghanistan. But that paradigm was explored during the war in Viet Nam where pungi sticks ultimately trumped napalm bombs. The power of an idea and how it connects and motivates people is force that is mightier then the sword.
7. Fundamentalism: The Pharisees once asked Jesus, “is it lawful to heal on the sabbath?” Jesus answered that it was always the right time to heal those who are sick. The world recoils in horror at the capacity for destruction fundamentalism regularly visits upon the world. The denial of equal civil rights to LGBT people creates a bifurcated system of citizenship. It is an ugly stain on our democratic heritage. The gravest peril to democracy is the abridgment and denial of civil rights to any group of citizens. Democracy necessitates that all republicans enjoy equal access and rights in order for it to function. The denial of that right based on a fundamentalist reading of religious scriptures makes it particularly abhorrent because civil rights of citizens in a secular democracy is not an issue that is decided by theologians or the adherents to a particular theology.
Tolerance and consensus are both antithetical to the precepts of fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is not the sole province of religion. It has its secular and ideological adherents as well. Fundamentalism is a pillar of dictatorship; either of a political or theocratic nature both are enemies of secular democracy. Secular democracies require tolerance to respect the diverse ideas and competing viewpoints require in the democratic process. Secular democracies require the trust to converse and hash out the best ideas that serve the greatest good. This is only possible if consensus can be achieved. It is how “out of many becomes one”. It is the true genius of America. It is a worthy innovation of governance that every freedom loving citizen should jealously guard and consciously pursue.
8. Public Education: The public education system that the United States built is the true arsenal of democracy and the nations source of wealth and its many contributions it has made to the world. Without the vast network of learning institutions built and supported by successive generations of Americans the worlds great experiment in representative democracy would have long ago perished. The public schools sole charter is to create an enlightened citizenship with the skills to discuss, discern and decide in a civil and constructive manner the ever evolving dialectic of a democratic consensus placed at the service of the republic. It is one of the true geniuses of America and remains her enduring strength.
Today public schools are under attack by forces whose agendas are the pursuit of parochial goals that first and foremost seek their enrichment and interests at the expense of the greatest good of the republic. The charter school movement is a trend that threatens the public school system by privatizing some of the systems assets and draining away much needed resource and financial support. It forces public schools to dispense with curriculum offerings like music and arts, sports programs and civic excursions that will convey an understanding of how institutions interact and support the greater social good. This aspect of the educational experience is supplanted by an exacting examination regime that destroys the love of learning. Secular learning is also being threatened through the introduction of theological precepts like creationism into the science curriculum of public schools. Religion and faith are important precepts to offer in a public educational curriculum; however theology that masquerades as science is an ideological stricture that has no place in public schools. These trends are pose great challenges to the public schools mission to form enlightened citizens free to think and free to act in the sole service of liberty and participatory democracy. Innovation and progress is in danger of becoming a secular sin a disease of the soul that needs to be eradicated from the public schools as its threatens to infect the greater body politic.
You Tube Music Video: Louis Armstrong, I Get Ideas
Risk: innovation, convergence, progress, tolerance
We honor the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by calling on our fellow countrymen to dedicate a portion of their time, treasure and talent as a service offering to our communities and to those in need.
The harvest is great, but the workers are few. Be mindful of those whose apportionment of the means of subsistence needs a greater measure of attention, care and substance.
One persons efforts can make a world of difference.
You Tube Video:Mavis Staples, Eyes on the Prize
Risk: poverty, ignorance, non compassion
We would be greatly remiss if we failed to mark this day, the 204th anniversary of the famous duel that mortally wounded Alexander Hamilton – our inspiration and the founder of the original SUM. Alexander Hamilton was an important visionary whose actions and ideas played a pivotal role in creating America. Alexander Hamilton was a forward looking progressive force, considered the father of industrial capitalism and an author of Federalism in the United States.
Hamilton along with James Madison and John Jay wrote the Federalist Papers to outline the form, function and philosophy of a strong central government and the necessity of Federalism to assure the survival of our yet to be born republic. Arguing against Federalism was Thomas Jefferson who advocated a more decentralized government that favored state sovereignty.
Sum2 takes its name from the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures (S.U.M.), S.U.M. was founded by Alexander Hamilton in 1793. The purpose of S.U.M was to promote useful manufacturing by using the water power generated by the Great Falls. S.U.M was the first planned industrial city in North America and should rightly be considered the cradle of industrial capitalism in North America. The area of S.U.M.’s founding was later incorporated as the City of Paterson New Jersey, which would grow to become a major industrial center from the 1800’s through World War 2. Paterson was a key munitions, textile and locomotive manufacturing center during the Civil War and thus played a pivotal role in helping preserve Alexander Hamilton’s conception of a Federalist Union of States.
Though the landscape of industrial capitalism has changed, Sum2 was founded to continue the useful and visionary work of the original S.U.M. Sum2 recognizes the strategic importance of manufacturing and will seek to build our business by creating proprietary content, innovative delivery capabilities and mission critical products to implement corporate sound practices for our clients.
“These are times that try men souls, ‘begins Thomas Paine’s The Crisis papers. Paine wrote these lines as General Howe’s Redcoats and their paid mercenary armies of Hessian’s were chasing the rag tagged band of revolutionaries through the meadows and marshes of Hackensack, New Jersey. General Washington and the Continental Army had just lost battles in Long Island and Brooklyn. They fought the Hessians to a standstill in Harlem, then got routed in the Battle of White Plains. In order to survive Washington gave up control of Manhattan for the duration of the war; barely escaping General Howe and total destruction by slipping across the Hudson to the safety of New Jersey. Thomas Paine realized that the Revolution was in trouble. The egalitarian dream of a people yearning to be free from the shackles of monarchism and colonial rule was in dire jeopardy. America’s war for independence was on life support and the slightest added tribulation could have crushed our beloved republic while it was still in the womb of Mother Liberty waiting to be born.
Thanks to patriots like Thomas Paine the revolution survived. Paine’s clarion call to his countrymen exhorted them not to shy away from the call to struggle for liberty. Paine writes,“The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.”
Common Sense December 23, 1776.
The Crisis 1, Ft. Lee NJ
What an inspiration this foreign born American provides for his fellow countrymen 232 years after he has penned these words to call compatriots to action. It is with great reverence that I evoke Paine’s words hoping that it will stir my countrymen from ambivalence and apathy. Paine’s words reach across two centuries to call his countrymen to take action to defend our country from the threat of unending military conflict, economic debasement, vanishing liberty, cultural warfare and growing civil strife.
On this 232nd anniversary of our nation’s birth I call on my country’s patriots to come to the defense of our beloved country for which so many gave the last true measure of their devotion. This day is not about presidents, political parties, social classes, religious affiliation, generals or statesmen. This day is about the American people. This day is about our ideals, values, faith and the actions and sacrifices we are prepared to make to protect these values to guard our liberties. All societies are judged by what they value and uphold. America’s values are a bright beacon for the world. America is a nation of laws.
We are a participatory democracy. We uphold freedom of expression and the free practice of faith. America is a country of opportunity. America is a country of free people. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms offers fundamental freedoms humans “everywhere in the world” ought to enjoy: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear are values we must jealously guard with constant vigilance. Our freedom does not consist in our ability to choose from six different brands of breakfast cereals. Freedom to consume what we choose to purchase is not the liberty that we are speaking about.
Our freedoms cannot be devalued to reside in a Dollar Store discount bin. Our freedoms are beyond a value recognized by a bar code scanner at Wal-Mart. Our freedoms were purchased by generations of struggle and hardship on battlefields, factory shop floors, class rooms, pioneer trails, Native American reservations, cotton fields, company board rooms, inventor’s tools shops and in so many everyday extraordinary places. Our country is confronted with great challenges to the economic security of the people. We are threatened by crisis’s in devalued housing prices, rising prices for gas and energy, creeping inflation for foodstuffs and uncertain credit and labor markets. Patriots must come together to share responsibility to solve these problems and equitably share access to our country’s resources and abundant bounty to assure freedom from want for everyone.
American’s freedoms are based on law. We are a country of laws. Our law is based on constitutional rights guaranteed to all citizens. That right includes trail by a jury of our peers and the right of habeas corpus. We do not practice vigilante justice or the right of the stronger. The genius of our constitution is that it confers no special privilege to the strong and extends the same rights and protection to the weak. As a nation of laws we allow no gulags or special prisons. We uphold the right of trials for individuals and the Supreme Courts decision that ruled Gitmo unconstitutionally withheld this right was an affirmation of this American ideal. Patriots guard their civil liberties and fight to protect these liberties for their countrymen. As patriots we must ask why America imprisons more people then anywhere else in the world; and why are these people primarily people of color?
Freedom of expression extends to unpopular ideas, faiths and beliefs. Subversive ideas run counter to the norm, the prevailing state of conditions. If people surmise that the prevailing state of being is intolerable subversion is well advised. What some consider subversive today becomes the law of the land in the future that enriches the liberty of everyone. Abolition of slavery, women suffrage, 40 hour work week, ending of Jim Crow laws, social security and environmental protection laws were all once considered subversive. Who among us today denies how these movements extended freedom for all Americans; and upheld our country as an example for freedom loving people throughout the world?
The FISA law is a threat to individual’s right to privacy, speech and free association. Patriots must work to protect these freedoms. Freedom from fear can only be realized through the courage carried in all patriots’ hearts. FISA is born from fear and begets fear. American’s are not fearful people. It is our birthright to be free from fear. FDR exhorted his countrymen to action to meet the challenges of The Great Depression with the reminder that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” How prescient is this advice for American’s today?
Our country was the crowning political expression of the Age of Enlightenment. Ours is a land of opportunity. America values and rewards risk takers and entrepreneurship but opportunity is not solely defined by the ability and talent for acquisition and control of hard assets. Opportunity is an egalitarian idea where society offers all people the basic tools to succeed and thrive. Those include education, health, safety and equality of access. Blind pursuit and acquisition of wealth is a poor mans treasure. Freedoms value is not measured by the ledgers of commerce but what people will sacrifice in the service of their country. America’s celestial balance sheet of service and liberty has enriched our nation beyond all measure.
Real patriotism is not demonstrated by wearing a lapel pin, flying flags from your side car windows or claiming with bravado that America can conquer the world with its army. Real patriots dutifully serve on jury duty when they are called. They make it a point to vote in elections and take time to study the issues and deliberate the problems that confront our nation. Patriots make their voices heard in the marketplace of ideas and listen to the voice of others and respect the right of dissenters to freely express theirs.
Patriots don’t exploit low information voters. They don’t guide them to a decision with clichés and guile that appeal to baser instincts and prejudices. Nor do they use obfuscation and empty symbolism to cloud issues to confer power to a stronger party. Patriots protect the weak, speak truth and place the interests of our country above party interests. Patriots need to be conscious stewards of our land.
We honor our founding fathers enduring contribution to our republic because they created and framed our constitution. We can make an enduring contribution to the future generations of Americans by protecting and preserving the natural beauty of this country. We cannot ground down our purple mountain majesties to crumbling bits of rubble to squeeze out the last bits of shale oil. Nor can we drill in Anwar and lose our abundant natural bounty of beauty nor drill off the continental shelf to forever stain our shining seas. We must believe and understand that America is a sustainable dream that can be lived by our many generations that follow. Patriots need to employ our God given talents of industry, diligence; focus and creativity to solve our energy problems to wean ourselves from our dependency on fossil fuels and create an energy infrastructure to assure that the next century continues to be America’s century.
Patriotism requires commitment to our unique social contract. Lady Liberty asks the world to send us your poor huddled masses yearning to be free. We cannot wall off our ideals to others and must join the community of nations as a sovereign dignitary and light to the world. Patriots affirm in practice that indeed America is a special place. America guarantees all citizens equal access and the rights and privileges of all its citizens. The full enfranchisement of our LGBT citizenry is the civil rights struggle of our day. All freedom loving patriots who love liberty must stand to achieve those rights for all citizens regardless of their sexual orientation. Patriots must become mentors, teachers, Sunday school instructors, coaches, helpers to the poor and homeless to insure that our social contract is a rock solid commitment to the value and sacredness of each and every life.
Patriots must secure and protect the secular nature of our political system. Tyrants and dictators use religion and state ideology to rule over oppressed and exploited people. Free people cannot be imprisoned by the whim and fiat of oligarchs, castes, privileged classes and philosopher kings. Theocracy endangers democratic ideals, principles and practices; and should be relegated to history’s dustbin with the other relics of the feudal era. The horrid excess of religious fanaticism visited the shores our country on 9/11 with terrible and catastrophic effect. The Taliban in Afghanistan demonstrate how theocracies denigrate the human spirit and demand servitude and compliance to a potentate’s interpretation of God’s will and enforces it with stick and sword. Such practices are antithetical to our understanding of how religion intersects and informs our principles of governance for free people.
We must not allow our revulsion to the excess of theocracies to impede the free practice of faith or non-faith by our citizens. Religious liberty needs to be protected and strengthened. Our faith traditions call us to be more and America is a special place on God’s earth where we are allowed to be more. No religion or unbelief is Un-American or dangerous as long as it remains a personal guide to a life of faith and is not used as a political ideology. Lastly patriots need to work for peace. The world is more interconnected today then at any time in its history. The promotion of peace that embraces the community of nations and engages individuals, communities, corporations and nation states need to become sustainable enterprises that can build and deliver the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for the many generations to come is a divine endeavor.
To close we’ll salute one of our nation’s greatest native sons with Aaron Copeland’s “Lincoln Portrait.” Abraham Lincoln is “everlasting in the memory of his countrymen. Abraham Lincoln, protector and savior who fought to insure that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth. I offer prayers and extend best wishes of our fondest hopes for my beloved country and fellow countrymen and to all people yearning to be free and the patriots working for liberty everywhere. God’s blessings to all.
Risk: political apathy, totalitarianism, social unrest