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I posted some time back about the Steve Jobs biography.  

I wasn't really a fan of the man when he was alive but the book changed my mind somewhat.  After 600 pages plus I came to admire him from the business management standpoint.  In may ways he was a rebel from that angle and I liked that.  He wasn't a traditional manager and he rebelled against traditional management.

Peggy Noonan alluded to that very thing in a November column.  

He (Jobs) has a theory about “why decline happens” at great companies: “The company does a great job, innovates and becomes a monopoly or close to it in some field, and then the quality of the product becomes less important. The company starts valuing the great salesman, because they’re the ones who can move the needle on revenues.” So salesmen are put in charge, and product engineers and designers feel demoted: Their efforts are no longer at the white-hot center of the company’s daily life. They “turn off.” IBM and Xerox, Jobs said, faltered in precisely this way. The salesmen who led the companies were smart and eloquent, but “they didn’t know anything about the product.” In the end this can doom a great company, because what consumers want is good products.

I remember reading that passage and saying to myself that Jobs was dead right. He perfectly described why American business and industry is and has been in decline. I have seen it up close and personal and on the national stage as well.

Ms.  Noonan thinks the same thing applies to American politics:   

America is in political decline in part because we’ve elevated salesmen—people good on the hustings and good in the room, facile creatures with good people skills—above people who love the product, which is sound and coherent government—”good government,” as they used to say. To make that product you need a certain depth of experience. You need to know the facts, the history, how the system works, what the people want, what the moment demands.

I think she's dead on as well.  Unfortunately both Congressional leaders and Obama appear to be good examples.  And that combined with how I feel about the decline of American business makes me pretty depressed.  When both economic leadership and political leadership is failing it paints a rather bleak picture for the future.  

Nevertheless I retain some optimism.  The last time I saw something like this was during the Carter years.  Ultimately that led to Ronald Reagan and a revival of the American spirit in both areas.  Let us all hope someone similar is out there just waiting to come on the scene and change our fortune again.

January 13, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink


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