Peter Drucker, the famous management consultant, who is credited with creating the professional field of management, died a few years ago at age 95. He was the quintessential non-emotional thinker—a voracious reader who observed dispassionately what was going on around him without bias or preconception. He invented the word “knowledge worker” decades before it became a reality.
When asked how he could “see the future,” Drucker is reported to have said that he didn’t see the future; he simply saw what already existed today that others could not and would not see.
While attending university in Germany, Peter Drucker worked as a journalist. Adolf Hitler had already clearly outlined his vision of the world he wanted to create in his book, Mein Kampf, and Drucker had read every word.
As soon as Hitler took office as Chancellor of Germany in 1933, Drucker left Germany because he “saw the future.”
Instead of wishing and hoping that Hitler would not be as bad as his book indicated he would be, Drucker dispassionately evaluated the situation as it was. By acting unemotionally on the facts at hand, not what he hoped the facts would be, Drucker escaped the fate of 12 million people who later died in German concentration camps.
Our current national debt is $10.6 trillion and fast approaching $11 trillion.
Many politicians and pundits are blithely suggesting that we should spend almost another trillion more. Our economy is currently about $14 trillion and appears to be shrinking. Logic and common sense tells us that we are on an unsustainable path as our debt grows ever closer to the same size of our entire economy. It should be obvious to anyone who is observing dispassionately that we are headed for a fiscal train wreck. The federal government cannot replace the U.S. economy and if a socialist economy worked, Russia and the former Soviet Union countries, China, and India would not have found it necessary to switch to more market-oriented economies in the past two decades.
No matter how much we wish and hope that the federal government can rescue us from our financial profligacy, we cannot change the facts as they currently exist today.
That doesn’t mean giving up hope and belief in the future. It means giving up the wishful and magical thinking that the government is going to “fix” this economic problem without any pain to the population. There is going to be pain and a lot of it because that’s what happens when a population borrows too much money, takes too many risks, becomes too complacent, takes their freedoms for granted, and accepts unethical conduct as the norm in their country’s social, political and economic institutions, instead of insisting on high ethical standards of conduct, not talk.
Only when we are all willing to face the cold hard reality of where we are today will we be able to do the hard work and heavy lifting necessary to get our fiscal house in order.
Only when one set of ethical rules applies equally to everyone in the country—from CEOs to janitors, from test pilots to teachers, from Presidents to mayors, from nonprofits to unions, and from Democrats to Republicans—will we be able to restore the trust we need to make the tough choices ahead (and there will be many).
So here’s what you need to know about the future—it’s already here.
Linnea B. McCord, JD, MBA, is an associate professor of business law at the Graziadio School of Business and Management.
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