Friday, June 3, 2011
As a simple example of how problematic behaviors in these dimensions permeate society, consider recent, popular radio and television ads that appeal to people who are over their heads in debt (or owe money to the IRS). Companies promise to intervene on their behalf to reduce debt by, as one puts it, “up to 50% or more.” Another will let you in on the secret credit card companies don’t want you to know. Ads don’t continue to run unless they show results, so what does this simple ad tell us about Americans?
It starts with people who are weak in the dimension of discipline. They have spent more money than they had because they were unwilling to put off buying, to delay gratification. Continued spending has left them seriously in debt. Furthermore, the same cultural assumptions that got them into trouble encourage them to look for a quick fix, an easy answer. This is a discipline-related failure.
That easy answer comes from companies who persuade them that it isn’t their fault. Some secret information has been withheld from them. It lets them off the hook from taking responsibility for their actions and paying in full what they legally owe.
Not enough of the remaining population understands the nature of the economic process. It is not the credit card companies or banks or IRS who are ultimately paying when accounts are settled for pennies on the dollar. They account for such contingencies in their pricing structure. It is the rest of us who share the burden through higher interest rates and fees to cover the costs when these companies negotiate away the debts of others.
Finally, those words “up to 50% or more” are totally meaningless. It may sound impressive, but critical thinkers know that up to 50% includes everything from zero to one half. “Or more” covers the rest. By vaguely referring to all possibilities, they specify nothing.
Such ads are indicative of serious problems in the US, the core problems. They appeal to a lack of discipline and responsibility. At the same time, the rest of us accept or ignore, rather than resent them, showing a broad lack of understanding of the economic process. They go even further to insult our intelligence by their presentation. Worst of all, they don’t solve the problem. The borrowers still have problems with discipline and responsibility. Odds are they will regress into the same financial position within a few years. The remainder of the population has been charged indirectly to support only a temporary bailout.
This example may seem trivial, but it clearly shows the existence of problematic behaviors that help create and perpetuate many of our big crises. What happens when you apply an understanding of the economic process to high gasoline prices; when you apply critical thinking to gun control? What happens when you apply responsibility to the abortion debate, discipline to the obesity epidemic, or perspective to social security issues or when you use a combination of dimensions to investigate health insurance, energy policy or immigration? It becomes clear that most other problems stem from consistent failures in these critical dimensions.