May 09, 2008

Stephen Harper, Prime Manager: The Problems with Only Managing Issues

It's funny that Harper endorsed the entire 'Dion Is Not a Leader' campaign when in fact Harper himself has also not been a leader within Canada. Rather he has only been a manager - much like he has been with his party. Yet, it's one thing for Harper to be a manager over his people it's another for him to approach government and policy the same way. Management of government and policy is ineffective and self-destructive. The downfalls of managing issues is rooted in two things: efficiency and reason.

When managing an issue, rather than dealing with the root causes of the problem, only the symptoms or the current manifestations of the problem are dealt with. This means that while the government has reacted with a policy or strategy to tackle what's making headlines, the underlying issue still exists. The real problem with the managerial approach is that the symptom itself is also only being dealt with the quickest shortcut to cover it up - as efficiently as possible. This should be a serious concern to everyone because it also means that it is unlikely that the symptom itself was effectively dealt with and the root cause will spring up somewhere else.

Much like how the few problem Conservative members have continued to pop-up and will likely completely explode somewhere down the road, so too will the issues that aren't being dealt with. Take the equalization program and its restructuring or the softwood issue. Both of these programs have underlying problems that haven't been addressed and the symptoms were given band-aid solutions. Both areas are seeing other symptoms arise and in some cases, it's the same or very similar problems that were 'dealt' with prior. Now picture the same scenario with poverty or the environment. These two issues' root problems haven't ever been truly addressed and under Harper and the Conservatives they are being talked about at best. This has to do with the stream of reason that they're applying.

Unfortunately being as efficient as possible doesn't work, not when you're working with complex social and economic issues. There are too many extremities and variables that need to be considered. Finding the easiest or quickest method to make the issue 'go away' doesn't consider the problem in the long term. This is much like the problem that one faces when they rely on reason alone.

The second major problem with pure management is the reliance on reason. It's not that reason is a problem in of itself. Rather, using reason alone is a flawed strategy because it leaves other qualities aside (i.e. creativity, emotion/empathy, common sense). Pure reason can only be truly effective inside a vacuum of sorts. This vacuum must contain simple absolutes. Facts that are true 100% when they are applied or are universally applicable. The problem is that in society, absolutes don't really exist. Again, not all people are the same or share the same experiences or develop the same understanding. Therefore, reason itself would dictate that if people aren't the same then neighbourhoods, cities, societies, etc. are definitely not the same or universal. These differences can range from tiny little details to massive generalizations. And consequently, there can be no universal answer. The smaller the base is and the fewer details that need to be accounted for, the more applicable pure reason is. Social and economic cases have huge bases and far too many details for pure reason to work - there can be no silver bullet solution, which is what managers look for.

The problems that arise from the managerial approach are exacerbated when ideology is put into play. Ideology is simply the marginalized use of reason to package a perspective and sell it as something significant. In turn, applying ideology to a problem relies on using a twisted concept of reason, usually based on personally accepted, yet often warped, assumptions of truths or absolutes. The scariest part of this type of thinking is that while itself is marginalized, its application will marginalize its targets as well. This is especially true in cases where theoretical concepts (i.e. economics, political theories/sciences) are applied, which hold little weight beyond the paper they were printed on. Issues only become even more confused and are left to drift in the ether until there's another flare of the symptoms or the issue grows beyond its tipping point and explodes into a pandemic of sorts.

Harper faces this dilemma. He is a notorious manager of both his party and our government. Unfortunately for Canada, his ideology dictates to him that he should be hands-off when it comes to economic and social problems, that everything will magically work itself out on its own, which is why we see extreme efficiency and twisted reason at work. Too bad it isn't true (that everything just works out). Why? Because there are forces of interference or influence at work. Whether these are other nations, other ideologies, cultural influences, corporations, or whatever, they exist and have effect. The response can only be about creating a buffer made up through a combination of common sense, reason, creativity and so forth.

There is a reason why no economic or political theory has ever truly worked; People and nations do not exist in vacuums. In fact, there is enough evidence to suggest that when the 'governing by not governing' approach is taken, problems generally get worse and people are marginalized in part due the lack of response by the so-called leaders and the invasion of outside influences. This is the complete opposite reason why we typically want to elect our governments, which is to provide a form of stability against these outside influences. For people to prosper and our nation to progress there has to be leadership at the top developing ideas that take many facets and variables into considersation so we can continue in the long term and not just exist in the short. Those are things that leaders do for us and why Stephen Harper is nothing of the sort.

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Quotes from people smarter than me...

"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich" ~ JFK

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. " ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. " ~ Benjamin Franklin

"First it is necessary to stand on your own two feet. But the minute a man finds himself in that position, the next thing he should do is reach out his arms. " ~ Kristin Hunter

"When you're a mayor and you have a problem you blame the provincial government. If you are provincial government and you have a problem you blame the federal government. We don't blame the Queen any more, so once in a while we might blame the Americans." ~ Jean Chretien

"Which is ideology? Which not? You shall know them by their assertion of truth, their contempt for considered reflection, and their fear of debate." ~ John Ralston Saul

"It is undoubtedly easier to believe in absolutes, follow blindly, mouth received wisdom. But that is self-betrayal." ~ John Ralston Saul

"Everybody dies, Tracey. Someone's carrying a bullet for you right now, doesn't even know it. The trick is to die of old age before it finds you." ~ Cpt. Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly, Episode 12)

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