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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Age of Humans: Snuffing Our Species Out

With California entering its fourth year of severe drought and the planet having its warmest August and September since records began in 1880, one scientist at NASA’s Institute for Space Studies said in 2014 that the warm data points “point toward the long-term trends.”[1] At the time, scientists were already claiming that the planet had entered a new era—that of the Anthropocene—noted for the impact of the homo sapiens species in altering Earth. The implications are profound, even if the huge shift has not fully registered in human consciousness.

Source: “The Age of Humans.”

[1] Nick Visser, “The Planet Just Had Its Warmest August on Record,” The Huffington Post, September 15, 2014.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Stifling Change: Columbus Day and Thanksgiving

In Canada, Thanksgiving is celebrated at harvest-time, on October 12th, rather than a week before the first month of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. For the States south of Canada, whether their respective peoples are cold or warm on the third Thursday in November, the holiday’s date is etched in stone, given the illustrious aura of the U.S. president who had enshrined the date in the midst of a horrendous war between the USA and CSA in the 1860s. Few people would dare even entertain the natural assimilation of Columbus Day and Thanksgiving Day on October 12th. So, well after harvest in most of the States and bunched in with Christmas and New Years—effectively ridding the latter of any left-over enthusiasm—people in the States in the northern climes are consigned to stuff themselves like Turkey birds while the surviving natural turkeys shiver outside. Human nature itself may be hardwired against change, and the massive scale of modern political association may exacerbate the paralysis. 

The full essay is at "Stifling Change."

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Gandhi's Philosophy of Nonviolent Defiance: A Way to Freedom

Film is indeed an art form, but the medium can also function as a teacher in how it conveys values and wisdom. Both of these features of film are salient in Gandhi (1982), whose director, Richard Attenborough, says in his audio commentary that the film has done much keep Gandhi’s philosophy alive in the world. In using the film’s star protagonist to explain what is behind his approach, viewers become, in effect, students. The strength of film here lies in its use of both audio and visual means to engrave the lessons in memories. In Gandhi, the main concept to be explained and illustrated is nonviolent active non-cooperation or defiance of unjust laws or regimes.

The full essay is at “Gandhi

Friday, October 3, 2014

Religion and Business Clash at a Church’s Food Pantry

The sacred and the profane are like oil and water—oil for anointing and water for cleaning. The viability or value of the sacred does not depend on denigrating that which is exogenous to it. In other words, praising the sacred does not require trashing the world. Being in the world but not of it does not imply that the world is necessarily bad. From this perspective, the sacred and profane can both be viewed as viable in their own rights, respectively. The inevitable distance that distinguishes them so starkly is breached only with great difficulty, even if pressed out of sheer practicality. For example, a theological interpretation undergirding a religious organization’s food pantry can clash with a business calculus such as would be held by an auditor pouring over the numbers and procedures. As theology and business enjoy their own, sui generis (i.e., of its own genus or type) bases of justifications or rationales, unraveling a clash can be notoriously difficult for want of a common denominator. 

The full essay is at "Religion and Business Clash."

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A Hometown Work Ethic: Help Not Wanted

Looking at violent crime, unemployment, foreclosures, net migration, income and property taxes, and house prices, as well as commute times and weather, Forbes put out its ranking in February 2013 of the most miserable medium and large cities in the U.S.[1] My hometown came in as the third most miserable city. In 1996, Money magazine had ranked the city last in quality of life. Scratching beneath the figures used in the Forbes study by speaking with managers of local businesses while in town, I saw the metrics as superficial and thus incomplete as a measure of just how bad the local work-force had become in terms of attitude. To point merely to a lack of work ethic due to laziness or contentment with one’s current station in life is itself a superficial gauge of what ails so many people there.

The full essay is at “A Hometown Work Ethic.”

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Political Protests in Hong Kong: The Market Overreacts

Geopolitical risk is essentially uncertainty to the market. Given the nature of human fear, the psyche can add a “multiplier effect” to an objective calculation of uncertainty. Just as we are naturally so close to human nature that its most ubiquitous tendencies eclipse our notice, so too do we tend to assume that the market’s assessment of a political risk is accurate, given the efficiency and effectiveness of the stock market. The market’s initial reaction to the political protests in Hong Kong in September 2014 may demonstrate that the market’s participants even routinely overstate both the probability and severity of the downside of a mass political event.

The full essay is at “Political Protests in Hong Kong

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The New York Fed: A Case of Regulatory Capture

According to The Wall Street Journal, a study sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in 2009 uncovered “a culture of suppression that discouraged regulatory staffers from voicing worries about the banks they supervised.”[1] Whereas the report points to excessive risk aversion and group-think as the underlying problems, a fuller explanation is possible—one with clear implications for public policy.

The full essay is at "The New York Fed"

1. Pedro N. Da Costa, “N.Y. Fed Staff Afraid to Speak Up, Secret Review Found,” The Wall Street Journal, September 28, 2014.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Steward Leadership: Duty-Based Fidelity

In the ancient Middle East, “steward” (oikonomos) most often applied to the position of household manager.[1] Economics in the ancient context, such as is described in Aristotle’s Oeconomica, concerned the household, which extended beyond familial relations, as the unit of production and managed by the head of household. According to Higginson, Jesus had this role in mind.[2] “Steward” may thus apply in a Christian sense more appropriately to managers than leaders, and more particularly to ethical leaders.

The full essay is at “Steward Leadership

[1] Richard Higginson, Transforming Leadership: A Christian Approach to Management (SPEK: London, 1996), p. 50.
[2] Ibid.


If you are not careful, you could come away from the film, Proof (2005) as a scientist, for the scientific method enjoys a starring role, albeit mostly in subtle undertones rather than in stark instructional flourishes in Technicolor. Essentially, the message is that confirming proof eludes the human mind and its scientific method. Yet interestingly, the film also captures genius, even if its source cannot be proven.

The full essay is at “Proof

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Conformity on Children: Socialization into a Hometown’s Dysfunctional Culture

Conformity can be understood as an adherence to a widely-shared way of doing something, perceiving the world, or valuing some things or principles over others. In contrast, individualism balks at such adherence, preferring the road less travelled to one whose grooves are already well-worn. I suspect that whether a young child is a conformist or individualist has more to do with intuition than intention. To be sure, a person’s innate tendency can be overridden by external forces.

The full essay is at “Conformity on Children

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Minimizing the Gap Between CEOs and Workers

According to one study of people around the world, people of different cultures, incomes, religions, and other differences show “a universal desire for smaller gaps in pay between the rich and poor” than was the actual case at the time of the survey in 2014.[1] Interestingly, the respondents didn’t have a clue how much of a gap actually existed in their respective economies. The difficulty in estimation means that the public discourse on economic inequality has been rife with erroneous assumptions. Where the error lies in the direction of minimizing the gap, we can postulate that public policy allows for greater economic inequality than would otherwise be the case.

The full essay is at "CEO/worker Pay."

1. Gretchen Gavett, “CEOs Get Paid Too Much, According to Pretty Much Everyone in the World,” The Huffington Post, September 24, 2014.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Last Emperor: A Curious Case of Limited Absolute Power

People either obey a powerful government official or rebel. A rebellion does not typically include continued loyalty to the sovereign. The French Revolution demonstrates this point. Yet in China in the 1910s as the Qing dynasty lost power, the authority of the emperor became more complex—or maybe it had been so throughout the dynasty.

The full essay is at “The Last Emperor” 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Ethical Leadership: Pruning Off the Debris

As business practitioners grapple with the intangible yet potentially valuable notion of ethical leadership, it is left to scholars to assess whether those practitioners are “coloring within the lines.” It is admittedly all too easy to draw in exogenous material that is pleasing to the eye; it is all too easy to deem such material required for ethical leadership rather than ballast weighing it down, unnecessarily. One business practitioner characterizes ethical leadership as that which “inspires the behaviors in people necessary to create competitive advantage.” As achieving a sustainable competitive advantage is the task of strategy, inspiration alone can be extracted as that which is particular to leadership. Strategy is what is left once one has extracted inspiration from the characterization.

The full essay is at "Ethical Leadership: Pruning Off the Debris"

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Can Ethical Leadership Be Taught?

In the typical business school, this question would be interpreted, or “refurbished.” Can students be trained to become ethical leaders? While often conflated contemporaneously, these two questions are indeed distinct. Instructors, professors and school administrators should first decide which question is more relevant to their purposes. The question chosen should fit with the education, pedagogical method, and philosophy of education of not only the instructor or professor, but also the school itself. In this essay, I distinguish the two questions in order to unpack them with their full significance.

The entire essay is at “Can Ethical Leadership Be Taught?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Son of God: Comparative Religion in Film

The 2014 film, Son of God, follows a familiar trajectory well-known to viewers who had seen films such as George Stevens’ The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). Watching the Passion story yet again, I could not help but take note of the repetitiveness from sheer likeness. Yet one scene sticks out among the usual denouement—that scene in which Jesus in the wilderness, the high priest in the Temple, and the Roman Pontius Pilate with his wife in their chambers pray in their own ways and with differing assumptions about divine intent toward a petitioner. The interplay of petitions plays like a tutorial for the ears and eyes on comparative religion, found here even within a religion.

The entire essay is at “Son of God.”