One thing that can be said for certain about the American public is that they are not afraid of change; if that suits their short term economic self-interest so much the better, even at the expense of the long term impact. This sub-text would appear to be often missed in the analysis when looking at the current appeal of the Donald Trump campaign.
The traditional belief was that the Americans loved big U.S. made cars even if they were gas guzzlers. This resulted in U.S. automakers expecting their customers to buy a new car every three to five years. “Planned obsolescence” was part of their strategy, without regard to its long term consequences.
The US customers were eager and ready to switch to smaller Japanese cars when such cars offered better fuel economy, higher reliability and lower cost. The loss of jobs for US auto workers was never a concern that stopped them from flocking to the Japanese auto dealers and later to other lower priced imports.
The traditional belief was that America was the manufacturing capital of the world. The products made in China and elsewhere were considered cheap but of poor quality. Yet, when companies like Walmart could import Chinese made products at lower price, the impact of which can be readily seen in any one’s pocket book, the switch was imminent and seamless. Never mind the loss of millions of jobs and the economic and wage stagnation for many.
Any one working in import/export business knows full well the difficulties in selling into Japan, and China than it is to import from these countries. Such trade may not be open and free as assailed by Mr. Trump. But the unfair trade has been embraced and not rejected by the US business community for their short term gains. It is disingenuous now for this business leader to blame the foreign governments without himself looking at the mirror and asking his fellow business leaders to do the same.
The lure of cheap labor and tax incentives and tax free infrastructure investments from China and other countries were sufficient for thousands of investors and their CEOs to switch their US production to these countries. The favorable impact on their short term profits and balance sheet was adequate for such switch. Never mind the hollowing out of the middle of every kind in the US economy.
Converting all fixed costs into variable cost was seen as a business strategy, promoted by business consultants, never mind the impact on loss of skills and capabilities required for long term sustainability of their client companies.
US consumers were not averse to sub-prime home mortgage loans, never mind their long term inability to pay for such loans.
We see the same emphasis on the short term economic self-interest at work in many other facets. US Congress is stagnating because the representatives in the Congress place greater emphasis on their re-election and primary fights than advancing national policies and programs. Wall Street may be greedy, but behind the Wall Street are men and women with greater emphasis on short term needs never mind their long term impact.
Apple claims to be fighting for the protection of first amendment rights, but one can wonder how much of this resistance has to do with protecting their current overseas sales?
Income from their overseas operations is parked by many companies outside the country because they don’t want to pay the current US taxes.
It may be the short term self-interest that drives Mr. Trump in his quest for Presidency as well as his supporters to the polls. The same short term self-interest may keep the Republican candidates against coalescing around a consensus anti-Trump candidate for the long term benefit of the Republican Party.
Let us be clear about one thing: It may be only a minority of the US population that is so focused on short term self-interest. But Democracy is a system of Government where the majority protects the interests of the minority.
Perhaps the current discussion in the presidential primaries should be expanded to include the role of the minority and their economic self-interest and how it can co-exist with the needs of the majority or the nation as a whole. Such a holistic view – system thinking – will be a welcome change that every American can embrace?
It is the reality now that being born in the US or any other developed nation by itself is not a guarantee for economic success. One would hope that many of the Trump’s supporters would see this writing on the wall. Also one who has been playing by the rules of crony capitalism can not change over night to become a populist and fighter for economic equality for all, as Donald Trump promises to be.
Yes, the US population seeks a change and ready to embrace it. But the change has to come from within each individual and their passion for success. But emphasis on the economic self-interest of every individual also requires them to focus their short term efforts on System Thinking and Transformational skills. This change which in turn will lead to their long term competitiveness and success in the global economy.