It's Always the Individual


Most arguments of what should be, exist at the macro level. It's easier for the simpler, and often wrong, argument to exist there. It's easier to stay in the self-righteous there. Yet the real problem, which is apparent, is often exposed at the micro-level.

And more often than not, problems which are blamed on a business or even a large corporation, are really produced, exacerbated, or at least the solution hindered because of the individual. In other words, if individuals acted more ethically, with more thought for other individuals, and without false entitlement, the problem would be solvable or diminished.


I was just speaking to a friend about the economics of food. this is a subject that interests me and my wife and I work hard to make food choices that are healthy for us, benefit the environment, and benefit the economies of those who produce food in more friendly ways. These are extremely important decisions to us.

My friend runs a catering company that serves lunches to the employees of a large IT company. These employees demand that certain products are organic and properly sourced. A reasonable request.

So to make that happen the economics must work. Not difficult, prices can be adjusted to match. The caterer can make a profit and the consumers can get what they want. That is capitalism and it is good.

However, there is a problem. The lunches are subsidized by the IT company. 

I don't know what it is about when there is a third party involved but in my observance, this creates a risk for things to go badly. And in this case, it did. The employees, seeing that there was high-quality honey, coffee, and whatever else, began stealing the products. Making the economics of the endeavor fail.

These were not street urchins, these are employees of a tech firm. People earning large salaries. Yet they steal and think nothing of it.

The argument is then made again that the caterer should provide high quality, yet he is stuck. They are stealing his profits. He can't get the explanation of the real problem across to the subsidy provider. They don't care. So he is in a conundrum. Likely his only response will be to do something underhanded himself, like substitute inferior products. And if that is discovered he'll be the only one to receive blame. This is how these things often go.

The employees will go on to require the products they want. The problem will be assessed to be profit mongering on the part of the caterer. And the issue will persist. Unsolved.

This is a case where much good can be done. Good vendors could be supported leading to all sorts of good things. The employees could get healthier food. The caterer could make a little better profit for taking the extra effort to ensure higher quality. But none of this will happen. Everyone will be at each other's throats, allaying blame where it does not belong.

And the true problem, the pilfering, will persist.

This is just a small example. These problems can be cited all day long. And if we dig into the weeds we will always find the true problem to be with the individual.

This is why I:

1) Never get involved in these macro-arguments that dismiss the true issue due to oversimplification

2) Work very hard to help the individuals under my influence to develop into better individuals.

3) Support the Sheng Chi Foundation

Maybe the next time you find yourself in an oversimplified macro-argument which misses the real problem and will solve nothing, you can instead remove yourself and do something that will do good. Imagine if that happened even ten percent of the time. How better off would we all be? 

Don't argue. Do something good. Study Shou' Shu', it's the best personal development tool there is.



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