Friday Five

Here are my Friday Five for March 21, 2014.

Good leadership starts with knowing yourself – at least this is what psychologist Sherrie Campbell asserts in her 2012 book. This is in keeping with my Christian Business Reference Architecture that first places an emphasis on who the business owner is before looking at what s/he can do. When you stop to think about it, running a business requires two core skills: competence in a given area and leadership. Publishing your leadership philosophy and then sticking to it is key to being a good leader – and that requires that you know yourself well enough to live out your philosophy.

Our national debt stands at $17,546,932,628,558.05. Assuming all my math is right (remember, I had two years of Algebra I in high school…), this represents an increase of $35,273,033,264.06 in the last 7 days. At 168 hours, this represents an increase of $209,958,531.33 per hour or $3,499,308.86 every second. By way of comparison, in 1950 – a mere 64 years ago, the entire Federal budget was only $42,562,000. We now borrow in roughly 10 days the equivalent of what we spent in an entire year in 1950.

Hawaii police want to keep their exemption to have sex with prostitutes while performing their job. I can’t imagine a situation in which having sex with someone who was probably forced into the sex trade to begin with even comes close to “doing their job” to protect and serve. Hawaii officials should recognize this for what it is and end the exemption.

The bootlegging of cigarettes is increasing as states apply higher and higher taxes to this vice. There are several principles in play here, some of which we, as a society, simply need to admit to ourselves and “deal with it”. First, the basic analogies remain true: if you want to encourage a behavior, then subsidize it. If you want to discourage a behavior, then tax it. Secondly, the latter principle has fulcrum that causes the board to fall the other direction *if* demand for the unwanted behavior remains high and the taxes to discourage that behavior become more costly than illegal means of engaging in that behavior. This is precisely what’s happening with cigarettes – some cartons are taxed as a high as $15/carton, so it might be cheaper to buy them on the black market. Thirdly, black markets always attract the criminal element which means that in our well-intentioned tax policies of trying to save people from themselves, we’re also creating a larger area in which the criminal element can thrive. The last principle is this: freedom is messy. I think freedom means that we allow people to make poor choices for themselves that might also harm other people. Freedom doesn’t relieve people of the consequences of their choices. Freedom means that we help each other, for sure, but such help is voluntary, not coerced. Forced charity is not charity – it is socialism. The states should recognize that those who smoke are going to do so either with legally or illegally obtained cigarettes. Taxing them to discourage the behavior is a good policy in my estimation, but it must be kept at a level that a black market isn’t created, which causes an even more set of problems for society than have some who smoke on a regular basis.

Lastly, telecommuting is a growing trend in American business. But the emerging results from this trend are mixed (here and here too). It seems that the best balance is for those who work some at the office and some at home.

Bill English, CEO