Reciprocal Obligations Benefit Self, Others & Society

In The Future of Capitalism: Facing the New Anxieties, Paul Collier recommends the need for reciprocal obligations and less individualism. In law, a reciprocal obligation, also known as a reciprocal agreement is a duty owed by one individual to another and vice versa. It is a type of agreement that bears upon or binds two parties in an equal manner,

The idea of reciprocal obligations are what can make lives worth living. Simon Sinek suggests that reciprocal obligations can benefit others because what we do for others has a direct impact on how we feel about ourselves. In other words, reciprocal actions can give our lives meaning because they provide us with a way to have a positive impact on others and the world. Reciprocal obligations can provide a way to exhibit Selfish, Selfless, Synergy. It is an action that is intrinsically rewarding, extrinsically beneficial and also helps move society forward.

I was reminded of these ideas when I read the story of an epilepsy patient, Epilepsy treatment side effect: New insights about the brain, by CARLA K. JOHNSON and MALCOLM RITTER Associated Press. In the article she states,

Looking back, she said she’d encourage others to take the same step (letting researchers study her brain). “It is something you feel good about later,” she said. “Let your life be defined by the lives that you change”…Contributing brain cells to science “makes me so proud and so satisfied,” she said. “It makes me feel more connected to the human race.”

Please remember, a negative does not become a positive. As I noted in Make 2020 Your Best Decade Yet…

We cannot turn a negative into a positive. The best we can do is learn from a bad event and make things better in the future. For example, my Dad passed away last year and he had Alzheimers. It is a terrible disease because it turned him into a person we could not even recognize and everyone suffered. After seeing the terrible event, I have learned a lot more about brain disease and brain potential (see links and video’s by Merzenich and Doidge below). This does not make his death a positive, it will always be sad. I am however using that event to inspire me to learn more so I can design a better future for everyone and everything. This future will also make Alzheimers less likely as a by-product.

We all have an innate need for fairness, even for ourselves. We don’t want things we do not deserve. I guess this means to feel good, we should do good because doing good helps us earn the right to feel good.

In another take on Reciprocal Obligations, the Friday February 21st Daily Podcast, “The Field: An Anti-Endorsement in Nevada – The state’s largest labor union has fought hard for health care. And now its fighting Bernie Sanders” outlined the concern the union had about losing their healthcare insurance. As they explain in the podcast, most think it would be better if all had good insurance, Medicare For All, and not just them. This also shows the pull of loss aversion, that is the innate concern of losing what they have.

As Kahneman & Tversky, Barbara Fredrickson and Corey Keye’s research demonstrates, along with what I show in my work…negative events have a stronger impact than positive events. The general understanding is that we need to have a 3:1 ratio of positive to negative events to be thriving or to feel as if we are flourishing.

Understanding that all could benefit, not just them, is an example of reciprocal obligations because people are looking out for the greater good more than self-interest. For me this is an example of selfish, selfless, synergy because individuals are better when the whole is better. I was moved by those that understood and believed it to be more important for all to do well than it was for them to personally benefit. It makes sense because in the end working for the greater good serves self-interest more effectively.

Overall it is an example of practicing paneugenesis because it is an example of generating comprehensive improvements by creating of pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits.

Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!

Please share your thoughts below. If you have questions or ideas to share, please contact me:

History Can be Deja Vu All Over Again

I am sometimes amazed by what happened in the past. Usually I am amazed because I cannot understand how it could have happened. I catch myself thinking, “how could that be true?” I am now learning it wasn’t true, I misunderstood what actually happened.

Prohibition, or the outlawing of the sale of alcohol, seems like an anomaly in our past and is something I thought, “how could that be?” Its seemed especially odd since it was during a time called the “Roaring ’20s“. I have now learned, it didn’t happen as I had thought. The biggest misperception I had was that it was a reaction to too much drinking or religious fundamentalism. According to the January 17, 2020 NYTimes  article, “Why Americans Supported Prohibition 100 Years Ago“, prohibition was enacted to stop big business from profiting on poor addicted people. As noted often in the article:

Temperance crusaders weren’t crackpots. They were fighting the business of making money off addiction.

Specifically, it was a move against Saloons that became too powerful and were taking advantage of poor. As it explained

…prohibition (was enacted) “for the safety and redemption of the people from the social, political and moral curse of the saloon.”

I had also thought, due to movies there was a rush to get alcohol. The articles states it was met more with yawns than yelling. It states:

…there was no mad dash for hooch on the night of Jan. 16, 1920, no “going out of business” liquor store sales on Prohibition Eve. The United States had already been “dry” for the previous half-year thanks to the Wartime Prohibition Act. And even before that, 32 of the 48 states had already enacted their own statewide prohibitions.

They said it was not a big issue because…

…with debates over ratifying the Peace of Versailles and a war scare with Bolshevik Russia, the 18th Amendment was barely front-page news.

They did note:

A few restaurants and hotels held mock funerals for booze, but the city’s saloons had long since been shuttered, and “the spontaneous orgies of drink that were predicted failed in large part to occur.”

False beliefs exist now about why prohibition was enacted. I know I had an incorrect understanding. Prohibition happened because of something that sounds far too familiar. Prohibition was intended to push back against…

…powerful business interests — protected by a government reliant on liquor taxes — getting men addicted to booze, and then profiting handsomely by bleeding them and their families dry.

As most of us know, when we fail to learn from history, it has a tendency to repeat. It is hard to know what happened if we weren’t there so it is valuable to educate ourselves. The article suggests…

Our inability to comprehend the past comes from taking current worldviews and projecting them backwar

…are opioids deja vu all over again?

If you have time, I encourage you to read the full article at the NYT. For me it was thought provoking article. Please share your thoughts…

Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!

Thank you for reading, please comment below and contact me:

Must Generate More Good, Less Bad Insufficient

Prevention programs, by definition, are about less bad, not more, net-positive good beyond the absence of problems. Evidence has clearly demonstrated, less bad is insufficient if we want real, net-positive improvement. #SelfishSelflessSynergy W. Edwards Deming famously proclaimed that a transformation, or a thorough, dramatic change was necessary to improve business because…

Solving problems, big problems and little problems, will not halt the decline of American industry.

The statement above goes against common sense. When a transformation happens, what was common sense no longer seems logical. Deming’s Quality Management methods made the use of Process Behavior Charts the new norm and it became common sense though unfortunately still not common enough.

Dr. Deming explained and his success has confirmed, less bad is not enough. Jeffrey Hollender, the former CEO of Seventh Generation Inc.,  explained in a 1 minute and 57 second summary why we must generate more good, not just less bad. His description shows he has been transformed. (Also see  Less Bad ≠ More Good – We Must Create Good).

I was again reminded about the insufficiency of attempting to make things less bad, or an approach aimed at primarily solving problems, when I read the January 21, 2020 NYTimes article, The Road to Auschwitz Wasn’t Paved With Indifference. As it stated,

…It never works to participate in a terrible thing in order to try to make it less bad. It’s tempting, and can seem like the right thing to do…

Lösener’s attempted to make it better by changing the law. He…

Bernhard Lösener, a lawyer in the Third Reich’s Ministry of the Interior, relays how he hurriedly traveled through the night to get to Nuremberg in time to write the Nuremberg race laws so that the rule of law would be preserved, and how he fought to have the race laws written to count as Jewish those with three Jewish grandparents rather than those with one drop of Jewish blood. Lösener’s race laws included fewer people than a one-drop rule would (though that had negligible effect).

In other words, he tried to make it less bad by having fewer classified as Jewish. As is also noted in the article, bad things don’t just happen because people do nothing or the false belief that bystanders will do nothing in the belief others will. People are generally good. As noted:

Bystanding is not the problem. What we need to guard against is hate and collaboration with hate. It’s rare for people not motivated by hate to casually witness a serious crime and do nothing about it. (The notorious case of Kitty Genovese, the woman stabbed to death in 1964 in her apartment building vestibule, while supposedly dozens of people within earshot of her screams did nothing, is a case of false reporting.)

People do not stand by as bad happens. It also seems logical and morally right to attempt to cause less bad. Unfortunately, history has demonstrated that less bad often makes things worse and cannot cause more good. As noted:

History shows that when you participate in an atrocity together with the perpetrators, in an attempt to make it somehow a little less horrible, in the end you’re still participating in the atrocity — and it is no less horrible.

It is great to be a hero, though we must remember: Less Bad ≠ More Good.

What history teaches us is: Don’t perpetrate; don’t collaborate. If you can be heroic, that is laudable… Just don’t welcome the murderers, don’t help them organize the oppression or make it “less terrible” (that won’t work anyway)

Working to make it less bad is almost always insufficient. Rather than focusing on how to make it less bad, more good comes by working at the iterative process of generating comprehensive improvements by creating pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits, or by practicing paneugenesis.  I look forward to hearing about how you help everyone and everything benefit!

Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!

Thank you for reading, please comment below and contact me:

A Way Forward Provided in “The Future of Capitalism”

In a very interesting book, The Future of Capitalism: Facing the New Anxieties, Paul Collier addresses capitalism and explains how it can work better.  Bill Gates provides an interesting review in his GatesNotes Blog, Is there a crisis in capitalism?, as does Bloomberg news in The Future of Capitalism, and the New York Times review, Saving Local Communities in a Globalized World.

To me, it provided many good ways to move forward so we are more likely to generate comprehensive benefits from pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits. In the book he indicated that Social Democratic approaches worked from 1945-1970 because this was a time where these societies created policies for health care, pensions, education and unemployment. He suggested these methods moved society forward but it does not work anymore because our thinking became overrun by oppositional ideologies. In other words, as I noted in the post MLK Day FOR Everyone’s Benefit, people were more concerned about individual rights than benefiting the whole. He connected this with how many had adopted Milton Friedman’s proclamation that the only goal of an organization was profit. As we all now know, this type of thinking is incomplete and harmful.

He repeatedly emphasized how pragmatism, the practice of determining the best way to get things done, had been overtaken by the ideologies of “utilitarianism”, “populism”, and “Rawlsian”. From my understanding, utilitarianism is about maximizing individual parts without regard the whole and therefore does not account for system effects. “Populism” presents the people  as a morally good force and contrasts them against the elite who are portrayed as corrupt and self-serving. And “Rawlsian”, something I do not fully understand, sees fairness as equal basic rights, equality of opportunity and promoting the interests of the less advantaged members of society. He suggested that a problem with ideologies is that they often create an enemy and an us vs. them mentality. These ideologies make it difficult to find beneficial approaches.

He explained that ideologies are problematic because they are often blind and do not change course when reality does not match what the ideology predicted. For instance, although it has become abundantly clear that “trickle down” economics is ineffective, some ideologies still promote it as a solution. He explained, ideologies were incomplete because they generally offer either an incomplete headless heart or a heartless head solution. We are all in this together and nobody will make it alone so we must develop better ways to cooperate so we all benefit.

He cited that we must create a society that generates belongingness and esteem because these are our basic hardwired human drives. He also suggested we develop better narratives because it is stories, thus emotions, not facts, that move people because stories become the new facts. He also convincingly documented the need and benefit from government. We need regulations. Just as Dov Siedman analogized, we could not move on our streets without regulation. Governing signs and rules of road that we have all agreed to follow allow traffic to move much quicker and better than if there were no rules of the road.

With regard to his recommendations, he emphasized the need to reinstate reciprocal obligations. As he explained, obligations are to rights what taxation is to public spending. Obligations yield more revenue and more rights yield more spending. As W. Edwards Deming dictated,

Defend your rights, you lose

Reciprocal obligations, after all, help us feel that we are a part of society because we contributed. Fulfilling these obligations generates both belongingness and esteem, our basic drives. He even demonstrated how obligations, and the need to fulfill obligations, are more important than our wants. In many ways this parallels how workers now have greater and greater specialization. Paradoxically, specialization makes people more, not less, dependent on the complementary skills of others.

He helped me better understand our current big divide in people. He showed how the divide is now between the educated and the non-educated and how this then leads to higher and or lower paying jobs. These jobs also, because of automation, relate to the amount of contributions that they can make from their job which then impacts belongingness. When people are able to contribute to society, they feel more ownership in society. This also supports esteem. It also supports the need to protect what we have because of innate “loss aversion”.

Through the book he explains the need and value of an Ethical Family, Firms, State, and the World. Although many may disagree, he explains the current world is more ethical than the world of 1945. Even though it is better, to improve on our current state, he has many good suggestions.

To improve he suggests building commitment and putting more taxes on activities, such as financial transactions, that are zero sum interactions. With this he is suggesting when funds or assets are just changing hands to enrich the winner, these activities should have higher taxes than transactions that benefit society. To help close the divide, he also suggests we should work to build capacities of inequality more than address income inequality because if capacities are improved, the situation can right itself.

He supports capitalism because it is the only economic system that has been able to produce mass prosperity. Despite the value of capitalism, he says it needs to be put right again with more pragmatism and less ideology. Overall he suggests building relationships because relationships mean reciprocal obligations and reciprocal obligations can generate belongingness and esteem. To help make this happen, laws and regulations that had changed to favor the individual over the family and the “economic man” led to weakened employer/employee obligations. These laws can and should be shifted to support the use of reciprocal obligations. Along with these, he suggested it would be vital for leaders to share better narratives to build a shared identity. He cites a shared identity as the foundation for far sighted reciprocity.

His analysis indicates building belongingness and esteem with better laws and regulations will help people be more engaged and fulfilled.  Fulfilling these obligations can help generate comprehensive improvements from the creation of pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits. The by-product…a Happier Society.

Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!

Please share your thoughts below. If you have questions or ideas to share, please contact me: