Day 2 of 21 days with Chuck’s new book.
Jerry Garcia said, “Too much of anything, is just enough.” But “Big” is one of the core business diseases of the Industrial Age; a very new business solution devised by Industrialists to serve themselves. Big has big problems that Small will never experience.
It took a long time for us to fall in love with Big, in the 1970s, almost at the very end of the Industrial Age. But since then, we’ve become addicted to big. We can’t help ourselves. Big “anything” is just too cool for school.
Why is Big so Big Now?
Big Government has been around a long time, but Big Business as a dominant force is brand spanking new. There are just 167 companies in the world older than five hundred years, and only one of them has more than 100 employees. The rest are Smalls. After thousands of years of running economies on the backs of the Smalls, we now just assume Big is the best and only way to go.
The Problem With Big
Big has special problems that it doesn’t share with Small. Whether it is business, government, dinosaurs, hurricanes, or snowstorms; the really big ones have two intrinsic problems that Small doesn’t have:
1) The bigger they are, the more problems their complexity creates, for themselves and the world around them.
2) The bigger they are, the greater impact their mistakes and problems have on themselves and the world around them.
In 2008, one giant financial institution, Lehman Brothers, collapsed, which created a domino effect, threatening the entire banking system. As a result, in 2009, and for almost two years after, the U.S. economy was stunningly rated by the National Security Agency as the highest threat to U.S. national security, higher than terrorism or any other outside threat. The United States addiction to Big had become our own worst enemy.
Big is Bigger Than Ever
How did the two Bigs (business and government) respond to this internal threat to our nation’s security? Big Government gifted hundreds of billions of dollars to a few giant banks without so much as an I.O.U. Free money with no strings attached. Big government had to do it. Big business was holding the government and the entire country hostage by sheer virtue of its size. The big banks are now all bigger than they were when they were “too big to fail.”
What did the giant banks do with the bailout gift? They put it in their pocket and stopped lending to small business. Small business in America was crippled by this one act which went largely unreported by big media, and is still the largest underlying cause of the slow recovery.
As this shows, the reach of bad decisions by the Bigs can be devastating. When Big does something stupid like Lehman Brothers, the impact is global. When Small does something stupid or intentionally detrimental, it’s no less acceptable, but the scope of the damage is localized and controlled. It’s the difference between the mistaken detonation of a hand grenade or a nuclear bomb. Both are bad, but only one is global in scale.
Big Has a “Get Out of Jail Free” Card
And too often, when Bigs get stupid, they get a pass. In 2012 the U.S. Justice Department found that HSBC, one of the world’s three largest banks, had “spent years committing serious crimes”, regularly laundering money for terrorists and drug cartels. But the Justice Department decided HSBC was “too important to subject them to disruptions”, and shielded them from any criminal prosecution.
Micro-solutions for Micro-problems
Another problem with Big is that it creates macro solutions for micro problems. Even with the best of intentions it is simply too big a task to ask macro-entities to solve local problems. The problem is not the systems, but the size of the systems; the size of business, size of government and the resulting accumulation of power and decision-making into those few hands.
The reason size is a problem is simple. The old adage is that “all politics is local.” The same is true for problems – “All problems are local.” Big never solves local problems.
Does small always work better than big? No. It is easy to find both local businesses and local governments that make self-preserving decisions that aren’t in the best interest of their constituency, just like the Bigs. But because they are small and local, the negative affects are never as damaging.
Returning to local government and local business for answers to our local problems would push as many decisions down the food chain as possible. This is difficult if not impossible for both national politicians and big business leaders to accept, because they would lose control over their own macro-power.
There is a place for both Big Business and Big Government, but experience says we would be better off, and certainly safer as a nation with less of both.
Tomorrow we’ll discuss why greed doesn’t drive Wall Street; it’s something much bigger.
This is a summary of a chapter from Chuck’s new book, “Why Employees Are ALWAYS a Bad Idea (And Other Business Diseases of the Industrial Age)”. Click here to pre-order this new ground breaking book at a discount on IndieGoGo.com until July 28.