There’s a silence surrounding me, I can’t seem to think straight, I’ll sit in the corner no one can bother me. I think I should speak now. I can’t seem to speak now. My words won’t come out right, I feel like I’m drowning. I’m feeling weak now, but I can’t show my weakness. I sometimes wonder, where do we go from here? In putting together messages, I often feel like the protagonist from this great 1994 Pink Floyd classic. The opening lyrics of this song bring to me at least, the importance of ensuring that our messages are important to others, and how we are weak and lost if we just focus on ourselves, our issues and our own industry.
As many of our readers know, most of my staff studied economics at the New School in New York City. This program focuses on classical economics – not the doctrinal Keynesian or Austrian stuff taught in most programs. This means that we all read many of the classic economic treatises as part of our education, and it upsets me when people cite Lord Keynes, or Karl Marx or Joseph Schumpeter without having even read their works. Over this holiday period I am reading Friedrich Hayek’s Road to Serfdom having realized that while I poured through Schumpeter (another Austrian School economist) I had never read the person who is now most identified with this school.
In the Introduction to Hayek’s book he quoted Lord John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, a 19th century English historian in saying, At all times sincere friends of freedom have been rare, and its triumphs have been due to minorities, that have prevailed by associating themselves with auxiliaries whose objects differed from their own; and this association, which is always dangerous, has been sometimes disastrous, by giving to opponents just grounds of opposition. This quote, which came from Acton’s speech, The History of Freedom in Antiquity, was part of a discussion on how people give up so much of their freedom to strongmen and “deceivers” particularly during difficult times. However, like the quote from Pink Floyd, I think it also underscores just how important it is for all of us working on government affairs issues, or other areas where there may be conflict and disagreement need to ensure that we reach out to and cultivate potential allies.
This will be extremely important in the coming election year. Already, the distinctive lines are drawn between Republicans and Democrats in nearly every state and at all levels of government. This means that positions will be hardening on both the left and right of the spectrum which will make it difficult to pass important initiatives this year. Trying to engage in this environment will be much more difficult. While the economy and “jobs” will continue to be important messages, those organizations that continue to talk about their own jobs – the me, me, me argument – will likely be less successful than those that can bring out bi-partisan, multi-regional, and multi-industry arguments.
Its not about my industry’s jobs, but about my supplier firms, my customers, my regional markets and my workers (unionized or non-unionized). Its not just about jobs and taxes, but about reducing problems in a district, or creating structures for growth in the future. These types of arguments require numerous voices, numerous messages and multiple constituencies.
Those organizations that are successful in 2012 will likely be those who are best able to leverage “auxiliaries” whose objectives might be different than their own, and that don’t sit in their own corner where no one can bother them.