Scott Walker's certainly wrong about the dangers of business uncertainty | Wis.Community

Scott Walker's certainly wrong about the dangers of business uncertainty

[img_assist|nid=80164|title=Risky, but good|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=122|height=184]I'm back a third time to talk about the currently fashionable Republican notion (at least, fashionable among Republicans) that reducing business uncertainty is the only real way to fix America's economic woes. Sorry if I seem tiresome and pedantic on this issue, but I really do think it's important and instructive in many ways. This time, I present yet another reason why Scott Walker is certainly wrong about uncertainty

This idea of uncertainty holding back job creatjion is, as I've noted, one that has been adopted wholesale by Walker, as when he commented on the state Department of Revenue's decision to slam small "roll your own" cigaret shops:

"What we hear from employers all the time … is they want the certainty of knowing what the law is, what the rules are, that they're applied universally and across the board."

It's not hard to believe that business owners think certainty is the way to prosperity, but some of the best thinkers in business economics believe quite the opposite. After all, capitalism is built on risk-taking. Progressives are well aware that corporate interests are big on privatizing profit and socializing costs, and they are also big on socializing risk -- indeed a national business organization recently insisted that businesses should be guaranteed a right to earn a profit, which sounds more socialistic than capitalistic. But this kind of coddling of businesses is exactly the wrong thing to do if you want to promote innovation in the society and a dynamic economy that benefits all.

From a review of a book entitled "Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance," by Jonathan Fields:

Jonathan Fields knows the risks-and potential power-of uncertainty. He gave up a six-figure income as a lawyer to make $12 an hour as a personal trainer. Then, married with a 3-month old baby, he signed a lease to launch a yoga center in the heart of New York City. . . the day before 9/11. But he survived, and along the way he developed a fresh approach to transforming uncertainty, risk of loss, and exposure to judgment into catalysts for innovation, creation, and achievement.

Properly understood and harnessed, fear and uncertainty can become fuel for creative genius rather than sources of pain, anxiety, and suffering. In business, art, and life, creating on a world-class level demands bold action and leaps of faith in the face of great uncertainty. But that uncertainty can lead to fear, anxiety, paralysis, and destruction. It can gut creativity and stifle innovation. It can keep you from taking the risks necessary to do great work and craft a deeply-rewarding life. And it can bring companies that rely on innovation grinding to a halt.

That is, unless you know how to use it to your advantage.

Nor is Fields a lone voice in the wilderness on the subject of his book. Fields quotes many others. The way Fields sees it, jumping out of a perfectly good airplane with a parachute on your back isn't desperation, it's a good thing. You can read a selection from his book, including supportive quotes from others, for free at the Amazon.com web site here:

http://www.amazon.com/Uncertainty-Turning-Fear-Doubt-Brilliance/dp/15918...

Now, a caution: It's also true, as political analyst Naomi Klein has written, that reactionary politicians like to use fear, uncertainty and doubt as tools to enact their regressive agenda. She calls that the "Shock Doctrine" and refers to the business version of it as "Disaster Capitalism." However, as I noted in my earlier post, Scott Walker and his pals are almost completely hypocritical on this issue. Businesses, goes the Walker thinking, should get government help to reduce uncertainty even while his policies steer 99 percent of Wisconsin residents toward more uncertainty.

That in itself doesn't invalidate Fields' premise. Individuals and families can only tolerate a modicum of uncertainty, and while there's a definite breaking point, Americans are pretty durable and resilient, as we are now seeing. Businesses and communities of individuals, on the other hand, often thrive on uncertainty, because it drives innovation. And collective organizations are able to weather the occasional failure or set-back on the drive toward greatness. They are, for good reason, the natural risk-takers in our society, and it's even okay to help them out on occasion -- as long as they help the society at large in turn with some of the profits they've collected at our expense.

In overpursuing this reasonable approach, Walker and his cronies are trying, as usual, to help the exact wrong group of people. Businesses faced with uncertainty will in more than enough cases work through it and thrive. Individuals often cannot, which is why we have a social safety net and should have a stronger one, not a more porous one.

Published

October 7, 2011 - 6:42pm

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