Thursday, June 11, 2009

ORDER OUT OF CHAOS - A Socio-Economic and Behavioral Commentary

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Throughout the United States and the rest of the world that surrounds us (I sound a bit paranoic, don't I?), people are frightened. The economy is in a contractionary state; many formidable and once-credible "bedrock" institutions have failed amid allegations of major misjudgments and corruption -- and the distinctions between the public and private sectors are becoming increasingly unclear. People tend to be frightened by rapid change and general uncertainty.

Panic makes for some terrible decisionmaking, while maintaining a calm and analytic state of mind while those about us are in a state of irrationality can reveal some contrarian investment bargains. While fear has locked many investors and businesses into a paralytic holding pattern, a distinct minority, virtually a special social class, is quietly buying up controlling stakes and future monopolistic positions in a variety of industries, companies and commodities. This minority, for the most part, is comprised of very wealthy, privileged families...families who have prospered through generation after generation, almost regardless of the political or economic environment. We will refer to them (for the purposes or simplicity) as dynastic families. Their blueblooded names are familiar to many of the rest of us, and they have held tremendous power for quite some time -- centuries, in fact.

I am betting that amongst the pedestrian, "common" population, fear is a far superior motivating force than the promise of an opportunity for gain. I believe that we travel long, circuitous routes in order to avoid confrontation, pain and loss, while we seldom leave the living room couch for an opportunity, which might require effort on our part. Inertia, indolence and a lack of ambition combine to work against the potential efficacy of positive reinforcement, while fear actually creates a physiological reaction (i.e., the secretion of adrenalin, cortisol, etcetera) which actually produces the means for rapid movement in a "fight or flight" response.

The endorphin "rush" produced by the mind's complex neurochemical apparatus is, in contrast, usually much slower to gain a foothold and much weaker in terms of its sway over our responses to the environment and circumstances. It is interesting to note that fear is regarded by many as a visceral reflex, while ambition, and the excitement that accompanies it, is seen to be more of a cerebral, learned action.

Is it possible that the actual physiology of the members of these dynastic families has changed, through some sort of evolutionary genetic mechanism, over the generations? Is it possible that the progenitors who spawned these imperial families started out with an anomalous physiological/ psychological makeup which permitted them to seize ever-increasing stakes of wealth and power while others panicked and fled? Is there a "contrarian gene" that makes these people different, or is it a function of a learned response which is handed down from each generation to its successor?

These few have triumphed through virtually every tragic chapter in the course of Humanity's erratic, ungainly evolution. I am fascinated by the fact that such a small group of persons can continually control the bulk of the world's resources.

These dynastic families all have one thing in common -- they are not motivated by fear.

I am equally fascinated by my almost dull, ho-hum, all-too-calm expectation, in my dual roles as a Strategic Planner and a Futurist, that these dynastic families will become even wealthier and more powerful as a result of the severe economic recession that has befallen us; and that they will emerge, as they always have, with an even greater percentage of the world's wealth when the current crisis has ended. The irony is that these families always benefit by their uncanny ability to maintain their cool in the midst of the confusion -- to make order (and money) out of chaos. This observation has made conspiracy theorists out of many of us. We are indeed, by and large, a fearful group of primitives running from the lightning, while these others are out flying their kites.

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