What failed Mitt Romney?

mitt romney

 

 

The story of how the presidential candidate, despite his decades-old expertise in business consulting and economic analysis, failed the election of 2012 against Barack Obama.

Hint: looking back at your past success was not always a guarantee you could win support among your voters.

Read the full article on Bloomberg Businessweek, originally published in November 2012.

 

Excerpt:

 

By the time Romney left Harvard in 1975, a wave of entrepreneurialism was changing how businesses were run. Large but poorly performing companies, undervalued by a nervous market, saddled with expansive bureaucracies and expensive labor issues, struggled to compete, and became easy targets for mergers and consolidations. Panicked executives turned to firms like BCG for answers, and Wall Street opened up to new kinds of people.

“It was a time of great foment and thinking about strategy,” says William Sahlman, a classmate of Romney’s and now a Harvard Business School professor. “American business hadn’t really had to compete for a long period of time. That whole period was the origin of the shift in the economy toward knowledge workers and gave rise to a meritocracy where anybody who was really smart could get a job and do well.”

Romney had plenty of connections to the old pedigreed world. But his acumen, more than anything else, brought him success in the new one. Working with CEOs, strategic consultants guided businesses through corporate successions and transitions, focusing them on doing a few core things well. If a company was underperforming, a good consultant could figure out why and advise on which divisions to shed. If a new product was under consideration, he—and it was then almost entirely men—could study the market and the competition to determine how, when, and where to launch it.

To an almost unimaginable degree, given their age and experience, consultants still in their twenties and thirties reset the course of major American businesses (including Chrysler), helping many CEOs twice their age survive by forcing them to confront the realities of a new marketplace. A colleague of Romney’s from this period, seeking to convey the challenge consultants faced, says that Chrysler executives firmly believed people would continue to buy Chryslers because they had always bought Chryslers. Consultants found that this was a common tendency among executives: the belief that past success was a strategy for the future. Romney shone as someone possessed of both the analytical ability to find the right answer and a presence that inspired trust in more experienced executives.

Analyzing Kafka

kafka

 

 

This is how Kafka interprets the world: a man wakes up to find himself transformed into a huge bug (literally) with no obvious cause. An ordinary employee was, against his own destiny, detained by unknown agents, and put into trial for unclear reasons. A lonely old man is disrupted by two rolling balls with origins totally unknown. And these all resonate pretty well with the oftentimes disturbing, and incomprehensibly enigmatic, reality of our universe.

The Atlantic provides an in-depth analysis of Kafka’s literary realm. Read the full article here.

Excerpt:

Kafka created “obscure lucidity,” Erich Heller wrote in his book on Kafka. “His is an art more poignantly and disturbingly obscure,” he added, “than literature has ever known.” One thinks one grasps Kafka’s meaning, but does one, really? All seems so clear, yet is it, truly? A famous aphorism of Kafka’s reads: “Hiding places there are innumerable, escape is only one, but possibilities of escape, again, are as many as hiding places.” Another runs: “A cage went in search of a bird.”

As with Kafka’s aphorisms, so with his brief parables. The parables, Walter Benjamin wrote, are “never exhausted by what is explainable; on the contrary, he took all conceivable precautions against the interpretation of his writings.” Whatever these precautions may have been, they were inadequate, for the works of Franz Kafka—apart perhaps only from the Bible and the works of Shakespeare—may be the most relentlessly interpreted, if not overinterpreted, in the modern world.

Analyze this – is Indonesia a failed state?

 

Are we living in a failed state? With all the topsy-turvydom we are being served, quotidian, throughout the mass media, ranging from riotous demonstrations, mob-ruled brawls, shameless deeds on corruption, acts of religious intolerance and pervert racism, our relatively unstable food sovereignty, political catfights, and still a very long list to go, we could have concluded that the question actually provided a self-fulfilling prophecy of its own.

A piece of news, afterwards, came as a shockwave for our country’s officials. Or perhaps, instead, it has been our nation’s characteristic to have always rebutted and dismissed all the sombre criticism originating from other nations. As though innocent, the parliament simply put the blame on Corruption Eradication Commission (CEC) (Bahasa Indonesia). On the other hand, some others pointed out Indonesia’s economic success and significant public service reforms (Bahasa Indonesia) in recent years. Attempting to provoke public attention, some mass media outlets even openly discredited government in their so-called ‘uncompromising failure’ in protecting its own citizens, in their editorials. Thus, who should we really put our trust on? The officials, with a very high probability that they never (and won’t ever) mention their miscarriages, or the opposition, who seemingly knows nothing but all the bad things about the current government, or the mass media, openly backed-up by conglomerates?

Fund For Peace (FFP), a non-profit organization dedicated to global affairs and international security analysis based in Washington D.C., was where the startle began. It placed Indonesia on 63rd rank (those graded 1st to 60th are categorized as ‘failed states’) out of 178 in the annual Failed States Index list this year. In the researchers’ perspective, this was a slight downgrade, given that the country was once one seat above its current position in 2011. Having glanced at the number, we could precinctly conclude that Indonesia is not a ‘failed state’ after all, but rather one on ‘warning’ list. But seeing our state obtaining almost the similar red scores as Gambia and Fiji did (Fiji had been severely degraded due to its political instability, and frequent internal conflicts between race-based factions) was one worth reminding. Despite the economic bustle, Indonesians felt a high sense of insecurity, either political or social, in their daily lives.

Let us take a look at how researchers in FFP assessed Indonesia, based on 12 indicators used.

There were 6 of those where the government was, as the social scientists said, considered to have ‘moderately improved’, most of which were related to economic growth.

  1. Refugees & IDPs (as summarized in the report, a large number of East Timorese refugees had repatriated. Nevertheless, there were ongoing conflicts in both Maluku and East Java)
  2. Human flight (what they refer to as ‘brain drain’, an emigration of professionals, intellectuals, and political dissidents. As put in their statistics, the outflow is steadily decreasing, but compared to many other nations, Indonesia’s one is still relatively weak)
  3. Uneven development (thanks to the implementation of decentralization and improving economic stability, social inequality, as they outlined, had gradually decreased. On the contrary, poverty remains high)
  4. Poverty and decline (As many as 100 million Indonesians have ‘upgraded’ themselves into middle class. Minimizing poverty, however, remains government’s long-term challenge)
  5. Public services (bureaucracy, as they pointed out, has been significantly reformed. Transparency International rated Indonesia on 100th position in its Corruption Perception Index in 2011, up 10 numbers compared to that in 2010. Bribery and graft, on the other hand, remain commonplace)
  6. External Intervention (International agencies have much more confidence in Indonesia than they used to in the prior decade. For instance, World Bank had pledged further financial assistance for 19 of Indonesia’s economic projects in the near future)

Add 3 more factors where government’s performance underwent little or no changes at all.

  1. Legitimacy of the state (it could be inferred that too many instances had occurred where state was seemingly ‘nonexistent’. Majority of the public loses confidence in state’s ability to protect them in case the worst scenarios happen. In short, justice is no longer served, but reserved)
  2. Security apparatus (In the report, researchers mentioned Law of State Intelligence as their main analysis. The policy, aimed to combat terrorism and other state-threatening crimes, as of their views, is flawed, as it lacks coordination between judiciary and legislative branches, and is vulnerable to power abuse by military intelligence)
  3. Factionalized elite (that is, political rivalry. We have seen those all the time in TVs, like a never-ending family-conflict-themed TV serial, and we don’t have to include it further here anymore)

And the last 3 blackspots where Indonesia is ‘actually’ deteriorating.

  1. Demographic pressures (the example is not quoted in the report, but given Family Coordination Board’s little success in reintroducing the widely-acclaimed 2-children-only policy once in its heyday during Soeharto’s era, Indonesia’s population is expected to double to between 450 and 500 million in no more than 40 or 50 years. Which means providing 200 million new human beings with adequate food, health, and housing, but with inadequate state funding)
  2. Group grievance (that is, the rate of group violence. Either religiously or ethnically motivated, the occurrence is on the rise. The researchers quoted examples from Muslim-Christian conflicts in Maluku and Muslim-Ahmadiyya melee conducted by firebrand extremists in West Java as their main reference)
  3. Human rights (And the academicists, as has always been whenever Indonesia is mentioned, places Papua as their utmost priority. But what primarily concerns them, of another similar importance, is their partial unwillingness in reopening the investigation of human rights abuses in the past.)

In conclusion, when it comes to reporting, it may be so sagacious that we use no ‘blind-men-and-the-elephant parable’ while assessing this evaluation.