Wednesday, February 12, 2014

THYME Magazine: A Case for Vision V

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VII,Issue VIII

A Case for Vision V

In their book: The Poverty of Nations [click to read], Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus describe what they call: "The amazing process of creating value that did not exist before." Using the example of a woman in a poor country who takes three dollars' worth of material and sews it into a shirt which she sells for thirteen dollars, the authors point out that she has created a new product of value. She has made that cloth ten dollars more valuable than when she bought it. She has also contributed ten dollars of value to the total value of everything her nation will produce that year, the GDP of that nation. In Zambia, at a place called Grippis Farm, people are learning to sew. They begin with plastic snack bags as they build their skills to the point where they can work with the actual valuable fabric. In fact, Grippis Farm, which receives support from people in American churches, is putting into practice what The Poverty of Nations preaches.

Grippis Farm provides education for the young people of the community. It supports sustainable advances in agriculture as well as incubating the fledgling sewing business. Angus Buchan, who fled Zambia for South Africa buring its previous period of political unrest, has created a similar community of opportunity of opportunity at Shalom Ministries. Asmus and Grudem point to examples in history of nations that have become prosperous by producing more goods and services. England during the Industrial Revolution invented machinery for efficiently weaving cotton thread, thus revolutionizing the clothing industry. "The principle product of the new technology that we know as the Industrial Revolution was cheap, washable cotton, and along with it mass-produced soap made of vegetable oils. For the first time, the common man could wear underwear, once known as body linen because that was the washable fabric that the well-to-do wore next to their skin... Personal hygiene changed drastically, so that commoners of the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century often lived cleaner than kings and queens of a century earlier.

By producing immense amounts of cotton and then other desirable products (such as high quality steel and machinery), England became the world's wealthiest nation. Income per person in England doubled between 1780 and 1860, then between 1860 and 1990 it multiplied another six times!" -- David S. Landes, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, (New York, W. W. Norton, 1999), 154, 190-94. [1.] The authors go on to cite post World War II Japan and modern China as having become similar productive societies. The Congressional Office of Management and Budget has just released projections showing massive shrinking of America's employment resulting from the so-called "Affordable Care Act's" implementation. [2.] That is on top of an already documented decline that began around 2007. Employment percentages often hide the fact that many employable people have given up and are no longer counted. Employment as a percentage of actual population in the United States has reached a new and dismal all-time low.

A White House spokesman's decree that: "now more Americans are no longer tied to a full-time job and are free to pursue their dreams." rings hollow. Most creative ventures in following dreams, after all, began as night and weekend enterprises begun by people in regular jobs. My own venture into enterprenuership began over thirty years ago. I was frustrated in a position where my creativity was dismissed and their was no prospect of growth in career stature or compensation. My best designs often ended up on the cutting room floor, so to speak, as the man I worked for desired quick and dirty... and made that fact very clear. He was a good man, but saw no need for vision when what worked twenty years ago would, he surmised, serve quite adequately. I began with my little studio in a spare bedroom. I would pick up my assignments before and after work, and often missed lunch to meet with clients. I would do the actual work in the evening. My little daughter was a baby and often I would share a tender moment with my beautiful wife at the 2:00am feeding!

I gave my employer a month's notice. I thought he would like for me to train my replacement. No one ever showed up to shadow me; Instead, I remember the afternoon I was taken to a very nice lunch by my bosses who proceeded to tell me that I would most certainly fail at my new venture. I should stay where I was! That I "failed" for thirty years at it I do wear as a badge of honor. I have had a handful of brilliant young people share with me in the process of learning the art of visualization. That has been the greatest honor I have received in the process. I once won a PIVA award for one of my brochure designs for a major development company and they misspelled my name! I think of the young people like my last assistant who mostly taught themselves while in my company, and I feel that having somehow enabled their greatness to shine is my most fulfilling reward! These are the honors that gather no dust sitting on your sideboard.

So, we must ask ourselves: "What are we bequeathing to these brilliant young souls?" My nephew works in Baltimore at the sugar refinery. He sent me an article not long ago talking about how they were tearing down the Sparrow's Point Steel Mill and selling the demolished machinery for scrap value. Management saw the need to create one last bit of profit by making men who had lovingly maintained these machines and used them to make a living now tear them apart and sort them into scrap bins! One man saw some sander disks and though they were industrial quality, they would fit on his home sander. He asked his immediate supervisor if he could have them. When his supervisor agreed he threw them in the open bed of his pickup only to be fired by a higher-up manager later that day for stealing company property! The man did not steal the disks, he asked first. Most of us will read this and see the higher law that should govern, but the manager only saw what should have been added to the gross tonnage of scrap 'misdirected' to an employee's vehicle.[3.]

If one looks at the percentage of growth in private employment compared to government employment, the picture is bleak.[4.] Government does not produce, it can only tax and procure. Furthermore, look at communities that have been "freed from work" and subsist on government programs. Are they hotbeds of entrepreneurship (other than the drug trade)? A friend of mine shared with me a video about an inner city ministry in Brooklyn, New York. They did home visits and you see disturbing footage inside a dirty, roach infested apartment. A young child still plays but an older sibling stares vacantly from a couch. There are no dreams here to be pursued! Generations have known nothing but government dependency. Is this the vision our leaders have for our great nation?[5.] More and more Americans are on food stamps now. But here, amid the bleakness, one finally sees the hope. While most states have lackluster private employment growth or outright decline, South Dakota stands out like a bright beacon. Though the current administration has done everything to stifle domestic energy production on public lands and the Keystone Pipeline, PRIVATE lands have never been busier. The Dakotas and parts of Texas as well have become boom economies. You can go there and sign on with an oil company and soon be making a six-figure salary. Workers are so desired that you can make seventeen dollars an hour at Wal Mart! The point is that in this one sector of the country there are workers creating value that wasn't there before... and they are being rewarded for it.

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