One of the most upsetting articles I have read in recent years was written by Charles M. Blow and appears in the Saturday, February 19, 2011, edition of The New York Times.
Whatever (if any) bias you may ascribe to Blow and/or to the Times, it should be noted that most of the information referred to in the article is provided by these sources: The C.I.A.’s “The World Factbook,” the unemployment rate from the Bureau of Statistics, The Economic Intelligence Unit’s “Democracy Unit 2010,” Gallup, King’s College London’s World Prison Brief, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Program for International Student Assessment.”
Here’s the article.
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It’s time for us to stop lying to ourselves about this country.
America is great in many ways, but on a whole host of measures — some of which are shown in the accompanying chart — we have become the laggards of the industrialized world. Not only are we not No. 1 — “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” — we
are among the worst of the worst.
Yet this reality and the urgency that it ushers in are too hard for many Americans to digest. They would prefer to continue to bathe in platitudes about America’s greatness, to view our eroding empire through the gauzy vapors of past grandeur.
Republicans have even submitted a draconian budget that would make deep cuts into the tiny vein that is nonsecurity discretionary spending, cuts that would prove devastating to the poor and working class.
At the very time that many Americans — and the very country itself — are struggling to emerge from a very deep hole, the Republican proposal would simply throw the dirt in on top of us.
This cannot be. Financing for education and social services isn’t simply about handouts to the hardscrabble, it is about building an infrastructure that can produce healthy, engaged and well-educated citizens who can compete in an increasingly cutthroat global economy.
One of President Obama’s new catchphrases is “win the future,” but we can’t win the future by ceding the present and romanticizing the past.
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Those who challenge the data provided by the article’s sources are urged to suggest other sources whose data are more reliable. Meanwhile, click here to see a graphic explanation of how the United States compares/contrasts with other advanced economies.
Charles M. Blow is The New York Times‘s visual Op-Ed columnist. His column appears in The Times on Saturday. He joined The New York Times in 1994 as a graphics editor and quickly became the paper’s graphics director, a position he held for nine years. In that role, he led The Times to a best of show award from the Society of News Design for the Times‘s information graphics coverage of 9/11, the first time the award had been given for graphics coverage. He also led the paper to its first two best in show awards from the Malofiej International Infographics Summit for work that included coverage of the Iraq war. Blow went on to become the paper’s Design Director for News before leaving in 2006 to become the Art Director of National Geographic Magazine. Before coming to The Times, Blow had been a graphic artist at The Detroit News. He graduated magna cum laude from Grambling State University in Louisiana, where he received a B.A. in mass communications. He lives in Brooklyn with his three children.
The title of this post is one of the 52 “truths for winning at business” that Alan M. Webber discusses in Rules of Thumb, published by HarperCollins (2009). Here is a composite of brief excerpts from the book.
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So what do American voters want?
I’d start with the most fundamental of all qualities: Americans are uniquely practical. We want things that work…We Americans pride ourselves on our ability to get things done. We do what it takes to make things happen, and we want products and services that do the same.
The second fundamental American attribute is adaptability. Among all nations in the world we are unique in our steadfast belief that everything, including ourselves, can be made better…
Third, we Americans have always been obsessed with innovation. What’s new, what’s next, what’s never been done before – these are intrinsically American concerns…
What do voters want from our companies?
We want things that work. We want to be able to make them work better. And we want to find things that both work better and are innovative. Three qualities that aren’t mutually exclusive. They’re mutually reinforcing.
Have you got what the voters want?
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Alan M. Webber is an award-winning, nationally-recognized editor, author, and columnist. In 1995, he co-founded Fast Company magazine with William Taylor. In 2000 the magazine was sold to Gruner + Jahr. Last year Webber stepped down from his full-time editorial responsibilities, but has retained his title and contributing role as founding editor.
Previously, Webber was managing editor and editorial director of the Harvard Business Review. Stone. In addition to Rules of Thumb, he co-authored Changing Alliances and Going Global. His articles and columns have appeared in The New York Times Sunday magazine, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times, among other publications.
He cordially invites you to visit his website.
Thanks to McKinsey & Company and its Quarterly, those of us who admire Dan Ariley and his work have access to an especially enlightening interview (February 2011).
To see it, please click here.
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The behavioral economist explains why executives need to recognize—and embrace—the irrational forces that affect themselves and their employees.
Although Dan Ariely is an academic by trade, he is a pragmatist at heart. The Duke professor and best-selling author brings his theories to light through practical applications and behavioral experiments, where irrationality is almost always certain. Ariely has written two books on the subject — Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality — and recently sat down with Olivier Sibony, a director in McKinsey’s Paris office, to share his insights into human behavior that can help companies make better decisions.
Watch the conversation in our video interactive, or download a PDF of the transcript.