In my last post I talked about the importance of assumptions. My first assumption is that success is good. We want to be successful in our lives and we favor policies that promote success, for ourselves, for those we care most about, and for the population as a whole. The term “success”, however is a very vague term. Success can be valued in terms of money, fame, professional achievement, impact on the lives of others, personal happiness, etc.
Moreover, the perception of success is highly relative, depending on our own expectations and the expectations of others. For example, most people would say that a baseball player who makes the major leagues and plays at that level for many years is highly successful. However, if this player was touted as the next Willie Mays and he spends his career as a bench player batting .250, many would consider him a disappointment.
When I speak of success in these blogs in terms of political policies, I am primarily referring to economic success. Political decisions in economics help determine the overall wealth of the nation and how this wealth is distributed. Economic success in terms of income and/or net worth is the only practical way to measure the results of economic policies. While some may say that even though a policy is making people poorer, it is also making them happier, I think most people would be happier with a bit more money.
When I speak of success in terms of personal life, I mostly think of self actualization. Self actualization is best described by the marine corps slogan “Be all that you can be!”. This is extremely subjective, but here we are talking about personal decisions. When we talk about improving the lives of others, we need to be more objective so we can measure results. When we talk about our own life, we can use our own definitions.
In my personal opinion, success derives from setting and achieving goals. I will talk about this more next time.
As I am still at the stage of this blog where absolutely nobody is reading it, I am laying a foundation before I actually say anything interesting (assuming I ever say anything interesting).
There are three authors who have profoundly influenced my thinking. In future blogs I may not adequately give them credit. Sometimes I am not sure where their thoughts stop and my thoughts begin.
The first author is Dale Carnegie. Dale Carnegie wrote the most insightful book ever on human relations, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. There is not a day where my interactions with others are not affected by what I read in this book, although sometimes I will confess they are not affected enough. Right after college when I moved to St. Louis I was pleased to drive by a Dale Carnegie Institute. I took the base course and then I was a graduate assistant for another instance. I had been incredibly shy. This course brought me out of my shell and gave me the confidence to talk to people. I will forever be grateful to Dale Carnegie.
The second author is Thomas Sowell. Dr. Sowell is an economist and a columnist. His book “Basic Economics” is a masterpiece in defining economics in plain text without supply and demand charts, etc., so the lay person can understand the key principles. He then looks at different issues using these basic principles of economics to show the hidden as well as the obvious consequences of different policies. He then uses these principles as the basis for analyzing issues in his other books. In short, he trains you on how to think about issues.
The third author is Ayn Rand. Rand, in both in her non-fiction books on philosophy and her fiction such as “Atlas Shrugged”, starts from the very beginning and logically builds the philosophy she calls Objectivism. I can’t count the number of times I have heard her name trashed by people saying how horrible she is, but I have yet to ever see anybody rebut her logic. I would actually welcome an attack on her logic, and I have searched for one, but have yet to find it. I have always been pro-capitalist but I thought that while socialism just didn’t work in real life, it was morally superior. Rand taught me that capitalism is morally superior as well as pragmatically superior.
Additionally, I’d like to give an honorable mention to Malcolm Gladwell. At the suggestion of my cousin Bob Kaiser, I have just started reading his books. Gladwell gets you to think about issues as you have never thought of them before.