April 24, 2017
It has been noted that the only constant in life is change, and that our real challenge is how well we adapt and adjust to personal and professional change. If the American workplace is truly in the throes of epochal change (and I believe that it is), it requires a new and fundamentally different approach to how we execute policy for this new paradigm, My fear is that anachronistic policy constructs and petty partisan divides will continue to inhibit the open-minded and far-reaching conversations that need to occur at all levels of government, in partnership with the private sector, if this new era will become a force for societal good rather than bad. Belief in the American Dream, the single idea that truly separates us from other peoples of the world, is in peril. Income inequality; wage stagnation; partisan polarization; a return to protectionist tendencies; and more; further corrode that Dream and with it the waning hopes of many Americans.
Individuals, as well as the institutions that help frame our lives, such as churches, community organizations, educational institutions, and more, can play a role in ameliorating this dangerous trend. At its’ core, however, the challenges posed by the “disruptive era” to which Senator Sasse refers, will be determined by how effectively all levels of government respond to these realities. American innovation and commercial energy remain one of the marvels of our world, with the capacity to elevate many lives. It’s truly time to begin a different discussion between government and business, one that accepts the painful realities of this “disruptive era” by pursuing difficult but necessary discussions that challenge existing norms. Is the minimum wage, a 1938 artifact of the New Deal created to provide income support for a working America that was largely white, male, non-portable, and focused on agriculture and manufacturing, truly the most effective income support for the workforce of 2017? Do the overwhelming majority of labor regulations, written some sixty or more years ago, accurately capture the contemporaneous dynamics of the modern employer-employee workplace? Service and sharing sectors dominate American economic vibrancy; how well, if at all, do governmental policies capture their unique needs as well as their potential?
I commend to you a wonderful thought piece that Senator Ben Sasse ( R-Neb ) recently authored. His message is clear: embrace change or suffer the consequences. My belief is that the disruptive era to which he refers can become the era when all things become possible. To accomplish that, all parties must surrender past biases and open themselves up to the power of possibilities. The German philosopher, Schopenhauer, expressed it best when he wrote that “one of the great tragedies of life was that most men accepted the limits of their own vision to be the limits of the world”. The policy possibilities remain endless; we remain trapped, however, by our past biases and fears. It’s past time for all of us to begin dreaming big dreams anew.