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Arenas of Power—Strategic Drivers:

The next level of the triangle consists of the arenas of power that act as strategic drivers in determining goals. These primarily involve three major factors: economics, politics and media/culture. Traditionally, these have been the three areas of interaction that have brought impact upon society and the direction it is trending. They interrelate with each other in many ways. Today politics divides liberal vs. conservative, and economics divides rich vs. poor. Only culture that divides conscience vs. convenience is not necessarily competitive and is the arena of power where consensus and understanding is more easily achieved. A fourth area is often mentioned, information/technology, because of its impact in modern times. Traditionally it has been looked upon as a vehicle to enhance the other three rather than as an area of power itself. I have treated it that way in the diagram, but it most certainly has more impact now than it has ever had in the past. I have substituted culture with media because we have moved from an era of a dominance of a few broadcast sources of information to a greater narrowcast set of options where people can find their information on a great variety of sources. The Internet will only move this trend further. Existing media will have to adapt more to the cultural wishes of the people to survive economically, and so the cultural perspective will dominate media more than it has in the past. If we want crudeness, media will provide it. If we want excellence, it will be provided as well. We make the choices cumulatively and that will set the balance and trend of society.

The key point of the triangles is that we need a simple diagram to help compare different cultures and to understand how our own market economy works. Economics is driven by markets which are as effective as the competition within them. If cultural values do not overcome corruption then markets are ineffective. Asset values are really discounted opinions of the future, politics and culture then shape them. Cultural values are affected by Maslo’s Hierarchy of Needs so economics plays a part in shaping as does the nature of politics in the size of government. The culture determines whether the people use individual responsibility at lower levels and have a smaller government or push all issues to the judiciary and large government. A good example of the inter-relationships within any society is a close companion to a human body. The blood is the economics, the muscle is the power of politics, and the discipline of the mind is the culture. They all have different functions, but greatly affect each other. But like people, differences are founding the nature of societies.

When the Rosetta Stone was discovered in the Nile in 1799 by one of Napoleon’s engineers, it had three languages on it that by composition let the ancient hieroglyphics be deciphered. We must find approaches that make not a physical but a metaphysical companion of global cultures and to do that we must define the sectors and drivers of our society.

Politics also affects the risk of investment in the economic system with dramatic results. Latin America’s booms and busts often trace to government policy and have the effect of creating volatility in the economy with crashes that prevent business from fully expanding – it scares investors which impacts growth and opportunity and thereby jobs. History can remember these busts for generations. The key point is that solid sustained growth is a lubricant to keep society together. If you have good growth more benefit can be given to the less fortunate of society. If you do not have growth it has to be taken from someone which destroys incentive which is the key, or the magic, of market economics.

Media is either controlled or free and that has much effect on politics and culture. In a free press there is a concept of sunshine on politics and limits corruption and enlightens on problems. It adds further dimension, however, in that it often makes for more negative politics as consultants push to get attention. It also focuses upon the unusual

Economics is now dominated by the market economy in the world although there are rising questions as to its effectiveness. Personally, I believe that market systems provide the mechanism that does the most good for the most people in the long run. However, Adam Smith, who wrote The Wealth of Nations explaining the significance of self-interest, did so only after a careful analysis in his previous book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Markets much have a concern for morality. Markets only succeed when they have efficient competition and the level of that competition is determined by the moral nature of the market in that it does not have inside information, corruption or other inefficiencies. The growth of a society comes from the creation of wealth not its distribution. As Winston Churchill noted, “We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself by the handle.” Similarly, markets work very closely with politics. Politics also affects the risk of investment in the economic system with dramatic results. Latin America’s booms and busts often trace to government policy and have the effect of creating volatility in the economy with crashes that prevent business from fully expanding – it scares investors which impacts growth and opportunity and thereby jobs. History can remember these busts for generations. The key point is that solid sustained growth is a lubricant to keep society together. If you have good growth more benefit can be given to the less fortunate of society. If you do not have growth it has to be taken from someone which destroys incentive which is the key, or the magic, of market economics. Government sets the stage for the degree of opportunity within the system by its regulatory effect on competition. Regulation favors big business over free enterprise – small business. Imbalances within economics, such that there is not a strong middle class, have tremendous impact upon the nature of politics, particularly if you have a democracy. If you have a great disparity in wealth, you set the stage in politics for change. There is a place for government regulation to avoid fraud, inspire fairness, and guarantee the opportunity but not the result. These are cultural values that should be appreciated as such because they set the goals for society. Politics is used generally to cover all the actions of the authority/discipline of society such as legislative, executive, and judicial. The media / culture is a critical vehicle that provides the enlightenment aspect of these two intertwined arenas and helps society choose the balance that much be found. The character perspective is critical because in economics it both helps defend the necessity of morality in markets as opposed to greed and the fairness that keeps stability in the system. While in politics the common good and the Golden Rule combine to try and create a middle class with both education and opportunity being provided to allow a positive set of prospects for the future. Economic values are heavily dependent upon that vision of the future, and so the interconnections tie each to the other. Media is either controlled or free and that has much effect on politics and culture. In a free press there is a concept of sunshine on politics and limits corruption and enlightens on problems. It adds further dimension, however, in that it often makes for more negative politics as consultants push to get attention. It also focuses upon the unusual. Media has to be understood in its context. If 100,000 men go to a bar in a city and one is killed, the media the next day doesn’t report that 99,999 men went home and only one person was killed. They report the unusual which creates our impressions in many cases. The media commentaries have become more entertainment. If we want change, we need to support and develop constructive concepts and vehicles to educate the next generation. We need to support the creation of vehicles that further the values we respect and cherish so that they can be passed on. Today often other’s values dominate political correctness for political ends, and unless we make an active effort to explain the reason and importance of certain values, they will be lost to the next generation no matter how much we appreciate them.

Tieman H. Dippel, Jr.
August 2002
 
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