Cause and Effect in Current Events

by Stever Robbins

Don’t be surprised when you get the expected result.

Stupidity is running rampant, world wide. It’s frustrating, because the mistakes aren’t rocket science. They’re really simple stuff. People forget their actions have consequences. Let’s explore some cause/effect you should keep in mind, through the lens of current events. Think how these apply to you, so you aren’t surprised by the utterly predictable.

(This is going to be a provocative article. If it offends you, recommend me to all your friends. The provocation may cause many unsubscribes from my list from people who would rather indulge in knee-jerk responses than think for themselves. Oops!! That sentence just lost a dozen, right there…)

Ignore the competition and you’ll lose. Detroit has been whining about how they couldn’t have forseen the current downturn. In business school in **1989**–twenty years ago–we did cases about how uncompetitive the car companies were, and how they were ignoring foreign competition, etc. Anyone who lived through the gas lines and 50+ mpg Honda Civics of the late 70s and hears Detroit complain that they can’t get 30mpg by 2020 should have nothing but utter contempt for the executives running the Big Three.

If you hit people, they won’t sit there and take it. Hello, Israel and Hamas. Are you listening? Kids beat me up in grammar school. It didn’t make me like them. And if I’d been bigger and stronger, I would have hit back. When Hamas broke a cease-fire and sent rockets into Israel, what did they expect to happen? It isn’t a matter of history, or who deserved what. Just that simple question: what did they expect to happen, other than violent retaliation? (Terrorists knocked down two of our office buildings seven years ago, and we started two wars over it, with a body count that some say is over 100,000 civilians. Clearly, if you swat someone who has more firepower, they just might swat back.)

Debt is bad if not managed wisely. Learn this: if you spend $10 today that you don’t have, how can you expect to have $12 to repay it with interest tomorrow? This only makes sense if you invest the $10 with the expectation of making $12 or more. Thinking of credit cards as free money is dumb. Thinking of a $1 trillion yearly budget deficit being used to fund expenses (e.g. war) rather than investment (e.g. R&D, research, education, infrastructure repair) is dumb.

Deliberate get-rich-quick stupidity will be appropriately rewarded. Banks have a thousand-year history of how to evaluate good credit risks. When they write mortgages to people they would never lend to under prudent guidelines, they shouldn’t be surprised when it all collapses. And by the way, every manager involved should be fired. I’d rather have a high school student running the bank than someone with proven bad experience.

Pay current expenses with current dollars. People get so upset and angry about tax levels. Get over it, people. Borrow-and-spend is _more_ toxic than tax-and-spend; you have to pay back with interest. Unless you are spending on investment that will generate a return, tax-and-spend is a much, much healthier policy. In any event, tax vs. borrow is just a financing detail. The problem is *spend*. (And anyone who still believes either party is more fiscally responsible than the other needs to have their head examined. As far as I can tell, the Repubs are abhorrently irresponsible, while the Dems are despicably irresponsible.)

Don’t borrow if you can’t repay. See the previous paragraph. This applies to credit card holders, home owners, governments, and investment banks. If you borrow $100, you have to pay back $110 next year, or even more in following years. Borrowing gives you the illusion that you have a higher standard of living than you can afford. The world will happily correct that misapprehension.

People do what you pay them for, especially if there are no perceived consequences. I’ll let you find the examples for this one. Just look at politicians, lobbyists, and CEOs of failed banks. (Why, please remind me, are any of those people still there? Aren’t we supposed to fire people who demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt their utter, complete, and total incompetence to run a solvent business?) This applies to politicians, too. If we connected their pay and career paths to desired national outcome measures, you would likely suddenly see a whole different set of conversations in Congress.

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