23 January 2011

Who has the power?

The company that I work for is a relatively small company with about sixty five employees. However, almost all of the companies with whom we do business are very large U.S. corporations and since we are a service business operating hundreds and even thousands of miles from their corporate headquarters we have only a limited knowledge of their inner workings. Nevertheless, every now and then a tiny window opens and gives us a fleeting glimpse into their day to day operations and decision making and we are amazed at the internal struggles for power within their organizations. This generally sets off a discussion among us as to who really has the power in their corporate system. It seems as though these large organizations are giant crucibles who take people in and grind them up and spit out all except those who know the secret of power. I have sometimes wondered about power and if it comes mainly from money, or good looks, or influence, or family ties, or intelligence, or wisdom, or knowledge, or altruism, or greed, or divine appointment, or ruthlessness, or just plain luck. Perhaps it is a combination of all of these. I like to imagine that if one could get a handle on the formula for power one might be able solve some of mankind's most pressing problems.

The biggest question about power is how to regulate it. It seems to be a tenet of human nature that unregulated power leads to corruption and that is why we are now collectively questioning the wisdom of an unregulated free market. In our current democratic situation the strong seem do what they can get away with and the weak suffer what they must in order to get by. In our electoral process the average citizens or "little people" tend favor the charismatic contender whether or not he or she is the best candidate for the job. Is this how a country should be governed? If we allow the public to vote for those "in power" based on their emotions rather than on a well informed and carefully thought out decision making process it may only further the pickle that we seem to be in.

This morning I was listening Fareed Zakaria, the editor-at-large for Time Magazine and the host of CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS". He gave a simple definition of power that stuck with me all day. He said "Power is the ability to obtain the outcome that you want". That is simple but it is also genius in my opinion. Instead of asking "Who has the power?", we need to ask instead, "Who has the ability?". This Tuesday, January 25th, Barack Obama will give his second State of the Union address to Congress. We are at a critical point in time. Polls show that impatience, frustration and anxiety are at an all tine high. I think that I can safely say that not only American citizens but people the world over want the United States of America to return to a path of steady growth and prosperity because the American model is still the desired hope and dream for billions of people.

Does Barack Obama have the ability to obtain the outcome that we want? I think that he does. I will be glued to the T.V. set to hear what he has to say. Does the U.S. Congress have the ability (and the guts) to obtain the outcome that we want? I think that they do if they sincerely believe that the trust their constituents have placed in them to do the right thing is sacred. If that is the case...if both the President and the Congress have the ability ( i.e., the power) to obtain the outcome that we want then what are we waiting for? Let's get this show on the road!

1 comment:

Howard said...

I share so many of your observations it is scary! But I think you are a little light on one point regarding the ability to obtain outcomes. There are some people in the world who are very good at obtaining the outcomes they want.
Read this (and similar) articles and you will see the obstacles that men like you and me face.

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.