I want to be the moderator at the next Presidential candidate debates. There are a couple questions I would like to ask about their plans for creating national wealth.
In this age, the well-being and security of the country are not determined by the number of tanks or airplanes, but by the human capital, the spiritual wealth, the intellectual competence of our people, and by the degree to which people in other countries and cultures feel affection rather than alienation from us. The wealth of our country is not merely the measure of GDP or national debt. It can be measured by the five forms of capital described in previous posts on this blog.
So, I would like to judge our candidates by the quality of their thinking about the wealth of our country and how they will enhance it. OK, so now I am going to get to be the moderator of one of their debates. Here goes…
“Dear Candidate, given that the President is the Chief Executive of our government, and given that it is well accepted that CEOs should have a strategy for increasing the net value of that over which he or she is “Chief,” what is your overarching strategy for increasing the total wealth of our nation? I have a few follow-up questions after you provide an over-arching framework.”
We can then assume response that has little to do with our question, but will surely touch on the three talking points, which the candidate’s polls have indicated are the hot buttons for their most important interest groups. It would be a shock if the question was answered with an actual strategic framework… but, we can hope.
“Thank you. I would now like to ask you about some of the specific aspects of your strategy. We know that democracy relies on internal sociability or what de Tocqueville called the “art of associating,” a characteristic that has proven to be a leading indicator of economic well-being. What is your understanding of the trend regarding this quality, and what would you do to improve this foundation of democracy and free enterprise?”
“Well, that is an interesting approach. You have obviously given some thought to how you may influence the culture of our nation.”
“This brings me to the issue of our external relations with the rest of the world. As you know, most corporate strategy includes a plan to improve the brand-equity, the market’s perception of the firm’s brand. As a nation, our ability to gain support on issues of security or trade, our ability to attract the best minds, or sell our products, is largely based on the degree to which we are trusted by the leaders and citizens of other countries. How would you go about improving the value of our nation’s brand?”
Of course, our candidates would surely have given great consideration as to how they might improve both the internal and external social capital of the country and their answers would no doubt be illuminating. So we will now turn our attention to human capital.
“Madam Candidate, I would now like to ask about education and the competence of the American (insert your own country’s name) workforce. As I am sure you know, China is now graduating three times the number of engineers, more MBA’s, and the trend is similar in other countries. Given that our economy is built, as I am sure you agree, on the foundation of knowledge and technology, what is your strategy for ensuring that our country maintains its competitive advantage?”
Well, you get the idea. Is it unreasonable to judge candidates by the quality of their thought, for the logic of their plans, to improve the well-being of our country? I think not. Is it unreasonable that the legislative branch attempt to assess the wealth of the country in a comprehensive manner and develop a plan to increase all forms of wealth? Again, I think it is not unreasonable.
The skeptic is likely to resist the idea of a national strategy to address the five forms of capital due to the absence of a clear and universally accepted system of measurement and accounting. I will suggest that this is a lame excuse for failing to seek to improve the very qualities upon which our future economic well-being and security depend. Can we accurately measure our military might relative to other countries in any reliable way? I would argue that we cannot. The number of bombs, planes, or missiles was not predictor of success in Vietnam and it is likely not a predictor of success in Iraq or elsewhere. We don’t know how to measure genuine military power. That has not stopped us from investing in military power. Why should it stop us from investing in social or human capital?
If I were President or King for a day, I would create an Institute of National Wealth Strategy (INWS, of course, it must have an acronym! Everything in Washington does.) I would charge the director of this new agency (it can be small in numbers and costs, by the way) with developing an index to measure each of the five forms of wealth, along with a strategic plan for the improvement of each. I would then charge each cabinet member with the task of defining his or her plans in light of the overall strategy to increase aggregate national wealth.