I read Paul Krugman’s July 27, 2020 New York Times (NYT) Column: The Cult of Selfishness is Killing America: The right has made irresponsible behavior a key principle. I found it interesting, and disturbing. Can’t we do more than complain? What was his recommended course of action? Seeing an opportunity, I put together a response to his column that I pasted below. I also encourage you read is column. #SelfishSelflessSynergy
Dear NYT Editor,
I think we can all agree, there must be a better way. Most of the NYTs articles published complain about the outcomes from current societal responses. With interest I read Paul Krugman’s July 27th article, “The Cult of Selfishness is Killing America”. I agree with Krugman’s suggestion that America’s response has been a lose-lose for individuals and society.
Mr. Krugman suggested impatience and the rush to reopen was part of the reason we are getting a lose-lose instead of a win-win outcome. He suggested the economy and the well-being are worse and that we are losing the battle because we are using a selfish plan, rather than a selfless plan that would help those hampered by the virus. He says this approach has hurt the economy and the well-being of Americans.
He then suggests the cult of selfishness and the fight for rights was hypocritical because while it proclaimed wearing a mask was a right infringement, a blind eye was given to the rights of protesters being tear gassed. As W. Edwards Deming prophetically proclaimed, “Defend your rights, you lose”. This proclamation decried attempts for individual rights over efforts focused on improving the system. To confirm Deming’s hypothesis, Krugman ends by explaining how these selfish acts to open the economy to get more, cause them and everyone to get less.
It seems this was a sophisticated attempt to tell others that one way was right, and the other way was wrong without offering a better way? The reader is left believing the only option is to agree not wearing a mask was wrong and wearing a mask was right. Unfortunately, this approach generally does not inspire people to change, rather it causes people to dig in their heels. The 3rd Alternative, as suggested by Stephen Covey, in a book by the same name, seems needed.
A 3rd alternative does not mean your way, or my way, but instead it is about finding a better way. It also is not a compromise where each side gets less of what they want, but it is a mashing of both ideas, so both get more of what they want. If they don’t, it is not a better way. If we step back, most will realize we all want the same things: a more active economy, jobs, open schools, lower risks and less virus cases and deaths.
In other words, we all want selfish benefits that can only result from selfless acts (i.e. wearing masks and social distancing) to generate synergistic results, a healthier, functioning society. Synergistic results are better results than could be achieved by either method alone. This means the way to generate comprehensive benefits, more jobs, a better economy, safe schools, and lower virus incidences can only happen from people engaging in Selfish, Selfless, Synergistic interactions from which everyone and everything benefits.
To move society forward, Paul Collier’s recommendation of reciprocal obligations, which are duties owed to one another such that it binds them, offered in “The Future of Capitalism”, seems useful. Reciprocal obligations are doing things such as developing and implementing or following traffic rules, paying for and or providing quality products or services, or just saying thank you when others provide help, feedback, assistance and or constructive criticism. Complying with current virus tracing efforts provides an opportunity. Collier clearly explains, obligations are akin to societal revenue just as rights are societal costs. Using the idea of reciprocal obligations can create a “richer” and more fulfilling society that yields more rights to all…as a by-product.
There is no downside to this approach. Everyone gets selfish benefits, a fulfilling interactive life, jobs and less sickness, selfless benefits, people can feel good for contributing and for doing good which will mean all can benefit from this synergy or a society that is more than the sum of its parts. Reciprocal obligations will enable all to be selfish, selfless and synergistic. This is Paneugenesis which literally means creating all good. (Pan = all, eu = good, genesis = creation) #SelfishSelflessSynergistic
Unfortunately, I had not read the instructions related to writing letters to the editor at the NYTimes. The instructions explain that letters are to have only 150-175 words, not the 600+ I offered. I therefore cut it down to less than 200 words and submitted it. I tried to keep the message , however I think something was lost in its brevity. I am therefore sharing this with you. What do you think?
I will keep you posted if my shortened letter gets published.
It was not published. Oh well, I will try again.
Either way, I think we can all agree that it would be good if we all start generating comprehensive benefits by creating pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits. What is our option?
Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!
Please share your thoughts and questions below.
Contact me: BeWellr@gmail.com