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Snake Oil, Capitalism and the New Science

Barron's, the conservative but well respected investment newspaper, published an editorial this week, titled "The Crash Must Come". It's a stanch defense of the "boom and bust" ways of the capital market despite the worst and unfolding economic crisis engulfing the world since the Great Depression. It has a vital point: relying on bigger government and more regulations, which are all the talk these days, has a darker side worse than the current pains. It might deliver a quick and short-term cure but an addiction with far more devastating consequences than the current economic woos. We are talking about wars and collapses of civilization on planet Earth. History is full of such episodes of big promises, corruptions and collapses. Capitalism was the recipe and blessing to humanity that succeeded in getting rid of the ancient ailment. Naturally, capitalism has its own problems but must be addressed with next generation medicines other than the old snake oil long popular with Kings (we call them Presidents or Prime Ministers these days) and priests (we call them managers or administrators these days) alike :) It's to be expected at time of crisis that we'll see more snake oil sales man or woman crowding city squares in the old days and congress/senate these days. For that reason, I told Doug several months ago that I would probably vote for John McCain if Hilary Clinton won Democratic nomination. That was before “Mr. Independence” started to bend backwards and ultimately picked Sarah Palin as his running mate out of desperation against Obama, thus potentially placing a snake oil sales woman closer to the highest office of this country than any other time in the 200+ year history of America. It revealed part of the character in John McCain not seen before. As a British tourist in Chicago said last week, when asked to comment on the inconveniences and costs of maintaining tight security around Obama and his residence, "it's worth it, we need this man at this time."

Now back to the problems of capitalism. If snake oil is not the cure, what is? What the Barron's editors did not see and could not see from their blind spot of capitalism (field 2 in terminology of the theory U) is an authentic solution that transcends capitalism in the way that a caterpillar turns into a butterfly. Looking at the butterfly alone, no one could have guessed its origin in the caterpillar. Yet, anyone who bothered to observe and trace the facts would not deny its truth. The problem is that far too few people could see the butterfly beyond the old caterpillar called capitalism. That's where the new science comes in. These days, science has been so engrained in and reduced to objectivism that few people are even conscious of the fact that such separation of objectivism and subjectivism is alien to the true scientific spirit and methodology (please refer to the quotes by Albert Einstein on our Home Page). Every idea or concept that we take for granted today started its day as a hypothesis. Over time, when it has proven useful for comprehending and organizing our experiences, it gets incorporated into a system of logical connections that serve our best representations of reality. Heck, even the old snake oil theory was once the most effective defense against human ignorance and hysteria before the age of Enlightenments. However, to deal with the wastes of capitalism – over population, pollution, global warming, etc – snake oil is completely useless or even harmful in that it creates a false sense of security and expectations which will eventually come crashing down in a bigger wave than ever before. What we need is a new science to reframe the problems of existence and reality so that we can fight the real enemies and address root causes instead just putting bandages over the old wounds as most contemporary economic and social programs are doing, from “globalization” (e.g., new capitalism in China) to corporate sponsored "green" iniatives (e.g., carbon-neutral emissions), to free AIDS drugs in Africa. As I mentioned in a previous blog, the greatest danger of our time is capitalism, not terrorism. And we must fight it with a new science, not snake oil. Theory U is a step in the right direction. In the context of One Authentic Swing, the main objective of the Discovery phase is to expose the new enemy and stay away from the snake oil remedies (e.g., leadership development programs that pampers self-centered security or merely teaches skills of growing bigger caterpillars - bigger sales and territories). The Transformation phase is to understand the new science or architecture of reality in order to empower the true self and will to change the world. In Mastery, we focus on practical strategies of making such changes stick wherever we find ourselves, whether the CEO of a multi-national corporation, a middle manager, an office worker or even a shoe maker as Spinoza did several centuries ago.

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