The great, irrelevant beer battle

October 18, 2017 by Denis Pombriant

Thomas L. Friedman is one of the savviest op-ed commenters on the scene today. He writes of the intersection of business, society, technology, and global movements fluidly and is especially insightful when discussing the middle east, a topic he’s written about at book length several times. In his post at the New York Times today, Friedman takes on Donald Trump’s lack of a central animating principal that’s beyond his penchant for disrupting everything Barak Obama did. He writes about the danger inherent in ditching the systems that make the world work and get along, thereby destabilizing it. He writes,

What is driving so many immigrants and refugees in Africa, the Middle East and Central America to try to get out of their world of disorder and into America and Europe and the world order?

Answer: It is a cocktail of climate change, environmental degradation, population explosions and misgovernance in these countries. So Trump’s policy is to throw away every tool we have to mitigate climate change and population growth and try to build a wall instead, while also trying to bully Mexico’s unpopular president into trade concessions, which could help elect a radical populist in next year’s Mexican election — a successor who would be anti-American — and destabilize its economy as well.

This is all well and good and true but I think it also does all of us a disservice if it represents the critical thinking of that layer of our society that runs things.

You see, we are stuck in the mode of diagnosis and while each attempt might bring us closer to some perfect truth, each is also taking us further from any resolution. Like a missile reaching its maximum altitude our velocity slows and our once vertical trajectory is falling over to the horizontal in anticipation of the plunge back to earth. It’s time to put diagnosis aside and to focus on the greatest truth that I know.

We’re at an important inflection point where government can do little save get in the way and the most important actions are being taken in the free market without the support or interference of governments or politicians. The situation in so many areas is dire enough that entrepreneurs and inventers see profit-making opportunities.

Advances in technology are bringing forth a cornucopia of inventions—both products and strategies—that will contribute to solving so many problems. There are alternatives for energy generation, better consumption models, approaches to water provisioning and food production, and much more that are on the cusp of major market uptake. For instance, announcements from Ford, GM, Volvo, and others make clear that the era of carbonless driving will dawn in the next decade. Natural gas and renewables are out competing coal on price signaling its death spiral.

The biggest thing we can do now is not to over diagnose the problems we face as a global community but to begin actively discussing the solutions that are sprouting all around us. Failure to do so leaves us impaled on the horns of a dilemma like the low calorie beer commercials of the late 20th century. Tastes great or less filling? We know we can have both if we’re just open minded enough to engage at that level.

It’s time to put aside diagnosing the problem because we’ve done that and more of the same won’t improve our lot. But prescription is the beginning of solution and we need to put more wood behind that arrow.


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