National Orientation

Fabius has an interesting post today where he notes that we have tried 16 remedies for our deteriorating financial condition, all of which fall into the “too little, too late” category.  To paraphrase his conclusion, the financial environment is operating inside our OODA loops.  This isn’t anthropomorphism but a shorthand way of saying that financial conditions are changing more rapidly than we can understand what’s going on and craft effective actions.  The effects, however, are similar to those produced by a human antagonist:  confusion and disorder, which can lead to loss of cohesion and ultimately collapse (see, for example, chart 132 of Patterns of Conflict).

How did we get ourselves into this condition?  It isn’t lack of gray matter — Ben Bernanke was a professor and respected academic at Princeton and Hank Paulson was a standout in one of our most competitive professions.

Typically, problems like these are, as Fabius hints, caused by a failure of Orientation, more specifically, failure to keep Orientation, or in the case of groups, a common implicit orientation, well matched to the dynamic and unfolding environment.  Bernanke and Paulson know what to look for, so how did this happen?

A clue appears in an opinion piece by Thomas Frank in today’s Wall St. J.:

Over many years of ascendancy, conservative Republicans have filled government agencies with conservative Republicans and proceeded to enact the conservative Republican policy wish list — tax cuts, deregulation, privatization, outsourcing federal work, and so on.

And as a consequence of these policies our conservative Republican government has bungled most of the big tasks that have fallen to it. The rescue and recovery of the Gulf Coast was a disaster. The reconstruction of Iraq was a disaster. The regulatory agencies became so dumb they didn’t even see the disasters they were set up to prevent. And each disaster was attributable to the conservative philosophy of government.

Before proceeding, I want to admit that I consider myself quite conservative and firmly believe that 28 years of largely liberal Democratic rule would likely have produced equally dysfunctional, albeit different, results.  With that out of the way, note the phrase “they didn’t even see the disasters they were set up to prevent.”  This is a key symptom of a disease of the OODA loop called “incestuous amplification.”

It’s the same phenomenon you may remember from holding a mike too close to the speakers — a feedback loop that escalates out of control.  In the OODA loop, it’s the feedback from Orientation back to Observation, where Orientation controls Observation, where what we believe controls what we see.

Why does this happen?  One common cause is an internal focus, which often manifests as a loyalty check to a powerful leader or to the institution itself.   Another is an unshakable faith in an ideology.  In either case, what becomes of overriding importance is maintaining fidelity to the leader, institution, or ideology.  Data that doesn’t fit is either explained away, recalibrated, or not observed at all (“they didn’t see …”).  In groups, peer pressure from other true believers reinforces the effect.

The result is an Orientation that doesn’t accurately represent the changing external environment, and actions coming from such an Orientation are often inappropriate, ineffective, or late.   Just like what we’re seeing today.

It’s quite amazing, if you look at the comments on Fabius’s site, how many people are more intrested in ideological purity — most often of the “free market solves all problems” variety — than in trying to mitigate what could become a cataclysmic shock to the international economic system of which ours, and this bears repeatng, is a part.  Should we enter a period of bank failures (e.g., your VISA card doesn’t work) and 25% unemployment, the political fallout is impossible to predict — “socialism” may seem quite innocuous compared to what emerges from the other side.

Incidentally, 25% was the max unemployment at the height of the Great Depression (1933) and that figure doesn’t include farmers.  There are many people alive today who remember that time.

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Filed in Uncategorized | 49 responses so far

49 Responses to “National Orientation”

  1. doscoon 08 Oct 2008 at 2:43 pm 1

    Agreed that this is not necessarily a Republican or Democrat problem.

    I suspect it has more to do with the purchase of power by wealthy individuals and corporations, who in turn receive preferential lawmaking and favors from those in power.

    I also think that the problem is a moral one … I hesitate to use the term but IMO it fits in with Boyd’s ideas. By making bad business deals inspired by greed, the businessmen responsible for making the “toxic” debt instruments have lost the moral high ground.

    Now trying to cover their collective butts by pulling strings in DC, it’s no surprise the entaglements between the businessmen and politicians has caused our Government’s OODA loops to “lose track” of what’s happening in the real world.

    I hope that our “friends” in DC are reading and planning on implementing Nouriel Roubini’s recommendations … otherwise things could get very ugly.

  2. […] Update:  For a deeper analysis of the OODA loop’s relevance to our financial crisis, see Chet Richard’s article at Defense and the National Interest. […]

  3. Duncan C Kinderon 09 Oct 2008 at 12:14 am 3

    The three basic inputs into the economy are land, labor, and capital.

    To oversimplify only a bit, the economic policy of the Democratic Party from FDR until about Carter was Keynesianism. That attempted to boost the economy by boosting demand, i.e., labor. For complex reasons, that broke down in the mid ’70’s. Keynesianism simply assumed that, so long as you stimulated demand, supply would take care of itself. Since the mid-70’s, it has become increasingly apparent that the responding supply could just as well come from Japan, from China, from Mexico or elsewhere rather than from the USA. The malaise of the Democratic Party along with other phenomena such as tort abuse and political correctness has resulted from the inability of liberalism to assert itself in a coherent, workable, credible fashion in this post-1970’s era.

    The Republicans, beginning with Reagan, responded by instead emphasizing supply, i.e., capital. For equally complex reasons, it has recently become the case that when you attempt to stimulate supply, there is no reason to assume that the resulting investment will take place in the USA rather than, say, Bangalore. The conservatives, accordingly, have begun to face problems analogous to those that have been plaguing the liberals.

    Two of the three inputs, labor and capital, having been nixed, we are left with the third, land. And note that “land” includes commodities, the fruit of the earth. Oil is the big bad commodity. We are entering an era where some sort of earth centered strategy is appropriate. And this involves cultural changes. “The land was ours before we were the land’s” Robert Frost stated. And that was during Kennedy’s inaugural; during the height of Keynesianism.

    Well, now we are the land’s.

  4. Maxon 09 Oct 2008 at 7:20 am 4

    A simpleton’s perspective.

    We are simply witnessing an advanced phase of the collaphs of a world superpower come empire.

    Although I agree with many of the opinions offered here and on Fabius Max. All the expert analysis available boils down to that simple fact, a world
    empire in it’s death throws.

    Will the United States Of America survive ?
    Sure, in one form or another.
    Will it continue to dominate the world ?
    Not as before.

    And just in time for Halloween.
    If this dosn’t scare you to death,
    you arn’t paying attention.

    Luv max.

  5. Maxon 09 Oct 2008 at 10:20 am 5

    “the financial environment is operating inside our OODA loops.”

    Is it ?

    Is it really ?

    “the finaincial enviroment” is a thinking cognitive entity ?

    [CR: Do you understand what “This isn’t anthropomorphism” means?]

    Or has it behaved as a natural disaster ?
    One where the forcasts were ignored ?

    Nobody saw this coming, and the changes we’re seeing ?

    Or, is it a conciquence of entrusting our economic leadership
    and politics to be undermined by fools, cheats, and liars, amoung those who prey on the lowest common denominator of human nature ?! Greed, fear, and hubris.

    Mistakes and poor judgement are part of the human condition,
    the trick is to develop a system that in as much as possible
    is flexable, adaptive and safeguarded to mitigage those mistakes.


  6. Maxon 09 Oct 2008 at 11:26 am 6

    CR: Do you understand what “This isn’t anthropomorphism” means ?

    Of course, who dosn’t ? It comes up all the time in everyday
    conversation, specially on Fox News.

    Let’s see, you anthropomorphism on your way to work each day,,
    or I’ll be sure to anthropomorphise you over the holidays next month,,,

    [CR: Whoda thunk it — Max a fan of Fox News? As Boyd used to say, can’t restrict your field of observation … I guess]

  7. Newjarheaddeanon 09 Oct 2008 at 1:48 pm 7

    AHOY, maybe you all well be kind and see this post as in “from the mouths of babes” perspective. Maybe some well say he is crazy! ANYWAYS! I was watching that closing day when things started going wrong the New York stock exchange had the Olympic champions ring the closing bell with all their metals on, made of the raw materials this whole system use to be based on. IMO on 9- 17 -01 when market opened under what ever agreement was made with who ever made it they broke the rules to all stay afloat and the moral high ground had been lost the black market and white market were equals. Another wards the private sector said if the Fed is okay with this then why should we care about book keeping. It took 7 years almost to the day from 9-11-01. The GRATE NEWS IS IMO we are witnessing nothing more than a reshuffling of the deck, we well all get another deal. Come on petro dollar we can do it! G-day!

  8. John Seileron 09 Oct 2008 at 2:18 pm 8

    Interesting to use an OODA loop on the economy. I think it works like this, seeing the economy as an Economic Airplane.

    After 9/11, Greenspan and Bush panicked and inflated the currency, gold going from $300 to $900 an ounce — effectively increasing the speed of the Economic Airplane as it was off kilter. Bush also accelerated the Economic Airplane by blowing out the federal budget, borrowing massively from foreigners, with wild spending on the Iraq War, every expensive DoD toy Bill Lind Says we don’t need, and the highest increases in domestic spending since LBJ.

    Because the Economic Airplane was moving faster, it seemed like it was going higher. But all the while we were moving inside the OODA Recession/Depression Loop. Eventually, in Oct. 2008, the wings snapped off the Economic Airplane.

    What we should do now is hit the silk. Get out of the Economic Airplane. Let it crash naturally, then rebuild. As the Austrian economists say, the “malinvestment” has to be wrung out of the economy, the sooner the better. Ron Paul has been explaining this.

    Instead, our pilot — Bush-Paulson-Bernanke-Pelosi-Reid-Obama-McCain — is staying in the Economic Airplane as it crashes, coming up with gimmick after gimmick that only makes things worse, while forcing us to crash with them as passengers. They won’t let us out, either.

  9. Paraluson 09 Oct 2008 at 5:08 pm 9

    The key to the Franks’ piece is the question of legitimacy. In Fourth generation warfare terms, the state’s inability to secure the population from the threat of a Fourth Generation opponent results in the population relying less on the state and taking their security into their own hands.

    In a similar sense, if we extrapolate the issues of legitimacy to the issues that Franks cites ‘The rescue and recovery of the Gulf Coast was a disaster. The reconstruction of Iraq was a disaster. The regulatory agencies became so dumb they didn’t even see the disasters they were set up to prevent’, we see how much damage can be inflicted by an ideology which devalues the role of the state as well.

    In addition to botched military adventures, we can now add to the list botched natural disaster response and economic upheavals as factors that contribute to a state’s crisis of legitimacy.

    We as a society entrusted the functions and operations of government to an ideology that doesn’t believe in government’s purpose or efficacy (save for military interventions).

    The old Reagan quip that the “scariest words in the English language are, ‘I’m from gov’t and I’m here to help’ ” sums up perfectly the past eight years of the Bush Administration. If the party that controls government doesn’t even believe in the role of government in society, then is it any wonder that it elects a Dubya and in turn stocks that government full of the well-connected and completely inept Mike Browns of the world?

    By placing so much faith in that ideology, by forging ‘ahead’ regardless of signs that contradict it, our society has aided in creating its own crisis of legitimacy.

    And so who do we place our faith in these days? A Congress so compromised it has an approval rating nearing the single digits and President that is only respected by the hard-core ideologues of his own party.

  10. gdonovan54on 09 Oct 2008 at 8:13 pm 10

    Duncan gives a nice summary of the conflict between labor (demand side) and capital (supply side). The advent of globalization, enabled by the growth of technical means has

    – allowed the flow of capital around the world (principally by means of information technology)
    – permitted the relocation of the factors of production (by means of automation, cheap transportation and information technology)

    and resulted in a global economy that renders our collective decision-making mechanism — constructed in an earlier time and based on a rough equivalence between national boundaries and the elements of capital formation and production — quaint. Our system of governance is predicated on the entirely correct principal that the best way to manage a dynamic and threatening environment is through the mediation of conflict between opposing interests and perspectives. Chet is exactly right — the dominance of a red team over a blue team simply produces a different kind of maladaption. It is the institutional mediation of that conflict that is at the heart the evident failure of our national orientation.

    Standard systems theory draws a distinction between self-regulating and self-organizing systems. A self-regulated system has a fixed strategy for reacting to competing signals from the environment. When that environment changes in ways unanticipated by the design of the system, it undergoes, successively, oscillation, distortion and eventual breakdown. This is the essential importance of the orientation step of the OODA loop. A self-regulating system has a fixed orientation. It can no longer collect all the critical observations from the environment and makes increasingly inappropriate decisions that result in self-defeating actions. Nothing could give greater testimony to the applicability of this principal than the depressing spectacle of a weeks delay in enacting the legislation for the recent, (and wholly inadequate) $700B asset purchase legislation in order to provide sufficient time to negotiate the district-by-district sweeteners necessary to push the thing through.

    I fear for my country.

  11. armsmerchanton 09 Oct 2008 at 8:58 pm 11

    Nice theory, but as Fab says, where’s Frank’s evidence? The Dems presided over the whole Fannie and Freddie mess, and I doubt very much that there is much ideology among those geniuses who leveraged their companies 30 to one with derivatives and then decided to rush for the door when the housing market faltered. I challenge you to find very many “conservative Republicans” in Washington, D.C. Certainly neither Bush nor any of his buddies are conservative as defined by a limited role for the federal government, limited government spending, limited intervention in other countries, and truly free and transparent markets (as opposed to the blatant corporate welfare we see from the Bushies). There may very well be an incestuous feedback loop but we could just as well blame “big government interventionists.”

  12. jaylemeuxon 09 Oct 2008 at 10:47 pm 12

    “By placing so much faith in that ideology, by forging ‘ahead’ regardless of signs that contradict it, our society has aided in creating its own crisis of legitimacy.”

    Is there really a crisis of legitimacy though? Most Americans still seem to accept the two-party system on face value. I see a whole lot of people who are upset about the way things are but still think (or hope) the next president is going to solve the worst problems. How many people even remember that Katrina happened?

    [CR: I accidentally spammed your other comment. Sorry about that. If you still remember what you wrote, please send it in again. Wait — I was able to recover it from the email notification:]

    you’ve seen an F-22? In an everyday setting? I have no aviation background whatsoever, but from the layman’s perspective it seems like the F-22 is pretty stealthy-it’s just that its stealthiness is irrelevant unless the Soviet Union rises from the dead.

    [CR: Yes — I live in Atlanta and used to work at the Lockheed Martin plant where it’s assembled. It’s a big airplane for a fighter.]

  13. Maxon 10 Oct 2008 at 11:19 am 13

    “A Congress so compromised it has an approval rating nearing the single digits and President that is only respected by the hard-core ideologues of his own party.”

    Well put, and the previous airplane analogy quite good.

    I see the current economic crisis as a really big ship
    sinking, and bringing down everything, to some extent,
    in the suction.

    Not forgetting that the US has military bases in something like
    791 locations across the world, and economic involvement
    practically everywhere.

    What I find fasinating, is how this has played out since
    9-11, not-withstanding the wholesale slaughters in Iraq
    and Afganistan, all signs point to Bin Laden’s agenda,
    coming to fruition, as if he were in charge all along.


  14. Maxon 10 Oct 2008 at 11:24 am 14

    I’m listening to CNN in the background (not Fox ;0))
    and thier commentator is bewildered as to why financers
    are reluctant to lend money at the moment, despite
    US government loan gaurantees.

    It’s clear, that a large segment of the population still simply
    dosn’t get it !


  15. Kevinon 10 Oct 2008 at 6:02 pm 15

    Regarding the issue whether or not it’s necessary (and then appropriate) to ‘anthropormorphize’ the financial market in order to apply the OODA Loop model to understanding the current situation:

    1. Boyd’s theories (all of which, in my view, can be boiled down to and framed in the OODA Loop process through which human beings take decisions and actions) are robustly descriptive of decision-making and behavioral dynamics in any situation where actors are attempting to ‘flourish and grow in a many-sided, uncertain, ever-changing’ environment. So, pretty much every human decision or action.

    2. OODA theory doesn’t require that a decision-maker be directly opposed by a single ‘thinking cognitive entity’. If any quality of the environment creates both menace and uncertainty, then that quality/entity poses the potential to dislocate one’s orientation, drive a mis-match between decisions/actions and actual environment….creating a cycle which, if uninterrupted, eventually leads reduction of one’s executable options (given dislocated orientation) to either unreasoned flight or paralysis. One would want to avoid this end-state whether playing a football game, resolving a bar-room dispute, leading a company in the Ardennes…or providing safety for one’s familiy when a Hurricane floods the neighborhood. The threat doesn’t have to be ‘thinking’ for it to collapse one’s orientation (‘operate inside one’s OODA Loop)

    3. So the OODA framework is relevant to a range of challenges, whether or not there’s a conscious enemy on the other side. As Bernanke and Paulson attempt to eliminate the ‘threat’ of a very rapid and high magnitude reduction in the nation’s wealth (and nation’s prospects for future generation of economic surplus), they have observed market phenomena, oriented/interperated those phenomena, made decisions and acted. Given the accelerating rate of decline in wealth, one could argue that the ‘threat’ is beating them in this process. Three reasonable OODA interperatations:
    a. Paulson and Benranke are not accuratley observing the threat (100% certainty of this–markets are complex and opaque, most data is trailing, etc…)

    4. Therefore

    4. I think

  16. Kevinon 10 Oct 2008 at 6:15 pm 16

    Sorry, accidentally hit submit before ready….and too long a post….
    b. Paulson and Bernanke are not effectively orienting (i.e., not interpreting market phenomena accurately). This is certain because markets are adaptable systems…what works to drive market actions yesterday WILL NOT work today precisely because the market evolves and abritrages away opportunities to move it ‘the same way twice’. Having said that, there are degrees of effectiveness in orientation–and I think it’s fair to argue that current decision-makers are egregiously mis-interpreting the phenomena that they are observing in the market, and therefore designing ineffective solutions. Whether their failure in interpretation is because they are anti-regulatory dogmatics, dyed-in-the-wool monetarists, or have come to over-associate pain-for-Goldman with pain-for-the-nation is immaterial—you could argue that they aren’t orienting effectively and that therefore their decisions & actions are addressing ‘the threat as they interperate it’ as opposed to the ‘threat as is’
    c. Paulson & Bernanke’s orientation & then decisions could actually be optimal, but they still might be acting too slowly. Lag between orientation & action is such that the threat has evolved before their actions are in place. I think this is Fabius Maximus’ contention in his post

    So I’d agree that ‘financial markets’ are in Paulson & Bernanke’s loop. But I think OODA offers a much richer interpretation of what’s going on. I’ll submit as another post so that Chet doesn’t ban me (I hope that works)

  17. Kevinon 10 Oct 2008 at 6:56 pm 17

    Real interesting thing to me about interpreting this crisis through OODA-lens is that the markets are composed of millions of independent actors, who are also OODA-ing—and it appears that the majority (by weight of dollars behind their decisions) have hit the ‘flight’ or ‘paralysis’ outcomes (particularly as equity valuation multiples have started to sink below long-run averages, and many fixed-income securities are reasonably likely to have been discounted well below fundamental value).
    And those who have not hit the unreasoned ‘flight or paralysis’ stage are absolutely willing to initiate further flight because they think their peers will be running soon, and they don’t want to be last in line.
    Reminds me of reading Rommel’s description of Italian behavior in 12th battle of the Isonzo (first collapses of a handful of gap-guarding outosts lead to snowball effect, where both Italian senior officers and Italian soldiers couldn’t orient to the menacing and surprising presence of a handful of German companies behind their lines, and therefore surrendered or ran, thereby inducing their neighboring units to emulate the routed, or maybe even try to beat them to the punch).
    There was clearly ‘harmonizatoin’ of OODA Loops among the Italian soldiers, but it was going in the wrong way–if Italian leaders could have arrested this phenomnea (no easy feat, but conceivable), the battle would have gone very differently. In fact, the retreat was eventually stopped–by German need to consolidate, and by the reduction of menace as space between Italians and Germans grew, and by the presence of Italian reserves who could allow fleeing troops to get their orientation back together and use space and time to get somewhat aligned/harmonized in the right direction
    In Benranke and Paulson’s case, the people who they need to get ‘pointed in the right direction’ and ‘harmonized’ are ALSO THE PEOPLE ENHANCING THE THREAT. Paulson takes some action (maybe good, maybe bad). A bunch of investors respond in a surprising way, thereby surprising their peers…the whole combine to completely surprise Paulson, he makes another response, cycle continues, and eventually he has no more moral or intellectual authority, and maybe no capital (so no reserves). Result–everyone is still running in the same (wrong, or at least threat escalating) direction. No one can get away from the threat and take time to orient clearly because the threat is right there with them, aligned to the right as all run together. Brave generals could show up and try to rally them, but good luck, because the fundamental risk is no longer external (i.e., thousands of attacking Germans, who have been left in the dust by the speed of retreat and who could be counter-attacked), but it is being left behind by your peers. And, there are no real reserves—only fiat reserves, which are ultimately worthless if everyone continues to run.
    The reflexivity here boggles the mind (two mirrors pointed at each other)…and shows what a challenge U.S. decision-makers have right now. Pretty tough to throw a surprising counter-attack at the attackers (get in their loop) when there’s no difference between the people you are trying to save and the people who are attacking the system
    Anyway, I guess I have two points:
    1. Thinking of ‘OODA Loop’ as a commander vs. commander, or chess player vs. chess player, or a policy-maker vs. national disaster’ lens is inadequate. The real issue in competing as part of groups of people (whether leading a business, leading a rifle company, or leading a ‘market’ during a fat-tailed time of turmoil) is how to harmonize orientations of all members of the organization/system, and then point them in the right direction. Boyd’s got a lot of recipes for harmonizing orientation, but the most important one is the emphasis on moral trumping mental and physical. First, it promotes trust, which is evidentally critical for leaders to be able to rally the routed. Second, if you care about ‘doing what’s right’ more than you care about any particular risk, then ‘uncertainty and menace’ have less weight, and it’s easier to keep your orientation robust and relatively accurate
    2. If anyone out there has further insight into the challenge of harmonizing OODA-cycles among multiple members of an organization or system, would love to get your thoughts.
    Thanks, sorry for the prolixity

  18. Punditarianon 10 Oct 2008 at 7:06 pm 18

    The drop in the market over the past week or two is not even as severe as the dot-com collapse of just a few years ago.

    “Living memory” is awfully short.

    You don’t need to invoke John Boyd to recognize what happens when a bubble is punctured.

    There have been stock panics almost every 20 years for almost 200 years.

    It is exactly this sort of boom & bust that Karl Marx thought he could understand & fix.

    100 years of “scientific socialism” shows however that the results of a command economy are much more dismal than those of the market economy, even with its ups & downs.

  19. Maxon 10 Oct 2008 at 7:13 pm 19

    Agreed, however for the OODA process to function
    to one’s advantage, one must percieve accurately, not
    from a delusional, or wishfull perspective.

    If you asking moi, that’s where the reaction to current scenario
    maybe too little and too late.

    “you’ve seen an F-22?”

    I have as well, more than once, it’s in the same class as the F-15,
    and although it’s direct frontal aspect is flatened, as soon as it manuveres and exposes it’s planform, or flashes the tails and wing surface, it’ visually conspicous and unmistable to anyone who knows what they’re looking for.


  20. Maxon 10 Oct 2008 at 7:17 pm 20

    “Paulson & Bernanke’s orientation & then decisions could actually be optimal”

    Not sure I can agree.
    The US federal government IS THE PROBLEM, in and of itself.
    GWB and HIS pepole coming to the rescue is like sending
    the Titanic to pickup suvivors from the HMS Hood.

    If you catch my drift.

  21. Kevinon 11 Oct 2008 at 9:26 am 21

    Punditarian: I agree that Boyd isn’t needed to ‘understand’ financial panics–it’s virtually a trusim that rapid over or under-valuation (bubble or panic) are ‘psychological’ phenomena…so saying it’s a problem of ‘orientation’ doesn’t seem to add much to the discussion. However, I think military historians and theorists could say the same thing about panic in infantry formations in, say, Italy in 1917-18….but the OODA-theory enriches our understanding of that phenomena, and and provides a theoretical framework for thinking about how influence the outcome when leaders, individuals, and organizations are coping with menace and uncertainty in a time-competitive environment. The theory can do the same thing for financial events as well. (In particular, the ‘run or be paralyzed’ result of collapsing OODA Loop offers a somewhat different interpretation of a market panic than the conventional mix of crowd psychology and a view that ‘people are unreasonably afraid…so individuals recognize this and then act rationally when they try to sell in advance of others’ fear). Two specific opportunities from looking at this panic in light of Boyd:
    1. Use the current panic to test/refine/extend OODA theory–particularly the potential for developing prescriptive guidance for leading/coordinating actions of many individuals who are also OODAing
    2. Inform policy decisions (including the decision on how rapidly to implement a particular policy action) so that they promote a coherent, positive shift in market-participants ability to orient, rather than degrade that ability.

  22. Kevinon 11 Oct 2008 at 9:37 am 22

    Max–I’m not trying to argue that Bernanke and Paulson are achieving ‘optimal’ orientation–I’m just saying that OODA theory could be descriptive of their ‘failure’ even in a case where their orientation is the best possible–specifically, they could derive a policy action from an orientation that is reasonably consistent with reality, but their effort could still fail because they are too slow.
    I think you’re right that dogma, of any type, inhibits one’s ability to orient when the actual threats, and potential solutions to them, don’t match the dogma.
    But that problem doesn’t just apply to dogmatics–the most open-minded of folks use mental filters that we develop through experience/education….and application of filters tends to intensify when circumstances are changing rapidly and decision-speed is at a premium.

  23. Chet Richards » Orientation and GEon 11 Oct 2008 at 6:23 pm 23

    […] pattern of confronting problems only after they could no longer be fixed” had developed. As I’ve noted before, one of the symptoms of a locked orientation is failure to see (not just interpret) mismatches […]

  24. loggie20on 11 Oct 2008 at 7:36 pm 24


    “100 years of “scientific socialism” shows however that the results of a command economy are much more dismal than those of the market economy, even with its ups & downs.”

    Do you have any substantiation for this?

    Would like to review something to support your statement.

    Is there a study you refer to and if so what were the assumptions and the statistical levels?

    For example, would Russia be better off if the Whites had won their civil war? How would your study do that?

    I am sure you have support for the quote from your post, please link to it.

  25. Punditarianon 12 Oct 2008 at 6:13 am 25


    I agree that the erratic behavior we see in many market traders during a panic is similar to the psychological state of defeat that Boyd thought could be induced in an opponent by repeatedly hammering him with surprising blows that each land before he has a chance to react to the previous ones.

    Now, what did Boyd have to say about getting out of that panicky state when your opponent is hammering you so swiftly?

    Is there a defensive application of the OODA Loop?

    Perhaps more relevant to a panicky market, can you defend against events which do not arise from the strategic actions of a conscious opponent?


    The evidence for the economic failures of command economies is all over the world, in every economy for which the commands of a bureaucracy are substituted for the influence of market decisions. The so-called Austrian school of economics amply documented this with respect to the European socialisms of the 20th century. THe impoverishment of bolshevist Russia and its satellites, the perpetual near-famine in North Korea, the grinding, miserable poverty of Cuba — all of these are amply documented. Res ipsa loquitur. In contrast, the unprecedented Chinese economic boom that began with the reforms of Deng Hsiao Ping demonstrates how allowing people actually to own what they produce in even a moderately free market creates prosperity.

    You will find much the same, by the way, in Governor Bradford’s diary of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Pilgrims originally set themselves up as a commune, and starved. It was only after Governor Bradford allowed them to establish private economic holdings (garden plots, mainly) that prosperity ensued and the holiday of Thanksgiving was established.

  26. loggie20on 13 Oct 2008 at 7:07 am 26


    “Res ipsa loquitur”.

    Not so fast. Austrian school does not apply to the US, UK, or EU.

    The Austrians are an old and libertarian school. They do not, from the little I know of them, care for the externalities and banalities of fiat currency, and the traps debt/leverage. See the news lately.

    While you observe the failings of command economies in the Soviet Bloc, what about the other European “command economies”: fascist Italy and nazi Germany?

    The main difference between Hitler and Lenin was Lenin killed the economic elite, Hitler partnered with them and allowed them to prosper.

    The difference is the use of fiat and the debt cycle. I suggest you google ‘mefo’ and see how the nazis traded bonds with the arms dealers to use debt and hide the rapid militarization of Germany. The need for cash and so forth was an underpinning of liebensraum. Hitler needed land and slaves when the piper came for his due.

    When the concentration of wealth bubbles up, you evolve toward a command economy, not scientific socialist but not really better.

    Think in terms of state capitalism, we are seeing today the influence of the concentration of wealth to the degree where the common good gets trashed by mistakes among the state capitalists. The revolving door between treasury and wall street.

    And markets at the garden plot and (Boston) commons do not work when state capitalism drives the deals through collusion with the money supliers and purveyors.

    Austrians I suspect are opposed to the rise of state capitalism.

    Point about China is well taken, flowed from communism to state capitalism smoothly with very little economic or military upheaval.

    Debt eliminates options for future youth.

  27. Punditarianon 13 Oct 2008 at 5:38 pm 27


    We’ve strayed from the original discussion, but perhaps Chet will allow me to make 2 points.

    Your comment about the National-Socialist Party’s toleration of the nominal owners of the enterprises that made up the German economy is interesting, but does not I think contradict the fact that the National-Socialist economy was basically socialist and statist. Even the Chinese Communists tolerated the “national capitalists” when it served their interests.

    State control of the economy is a problem in any such system, however. No gang of bureaucrats, no matter how many Nobel Prize Winners are among them, can make economic decisions as wisely or as efficiently as a free market.

    Secondly, I wanted to bring up the example of Korea in more detail.

    Up until 1945, the Korean people and the country of Korea had a single history. This is the most ethnically homogeneous country in the world (60% or so of Koreans have one of 3 surnames). The country is small, and almost without natural resources. If anything, the resources of the northern provinces, in terms of industrial base and educated workforce, were somewhat better than the resources of the southern provinces. The climate is somewhat colder in the north, but not extremely different than the climate in the south.

    In 1945, a line was drawn across the country at the 38th parallel. And the country then went through nearly 10 years of conflict and outright war, leaving it entirely devastated. The country, both north and south, was not poor, but destitute.

    In 1960, S0uth Korea was at the approximate economic level of the Sudan.

    But here is your “experiment of nature:”

    Divide this homogeneous, destitute country more or less in half, and put one half under communism while giving the other at least a partially free market and see what happens.

    The results are clear, I think.

    The North is a starving despotism, and the South now has an EU level economy, the 11th largest economy in the world, I believe, and has become more and more democratic with an increasingly free press, an independent judiciary, and legally binding elections.

    Freedom isn’t free, but it also has its material advantages.

  28. Kevinon 13 Oct 2008 at 9:05 pm 28

    Punditarian: Your question: ‘is there a defensive application of the OODA Loop’ and corollary: ‘how do you defend’ against a non-thinking opponent are the right ones. I’ve been trying to figure out the former for years, and the latter is what prompted my post.

    First-order understanding of Boyd basically says ‘stay externally focused, turn the table on your opponent, and do something to get inside his loop’ Try to think two steps deeper in distance/farther in time and launch an executable action that he will not expect and will dislocate him sufficiently to force him to have to orient on a changed environment. Basically, if you can’t get cycle parity with your opponent in the close fight, you have to do something in the deep fight that compels his attention, and gives you space to recover in the ‘close’ fight (or, even better, causes his collapse so no more close fight). This is a key reason to keep reserves in hand–so that you have some resource with which to try to turn the table on the opponent, even when it’s tough to think intelligently about how to optimally employ that resource.

    Second-order understanding of Boyd offers some ‘defensive’ application. It’s the importance of the moral over the mental and physical, need for trust and implicit communication, with a two-pronged end-state: One, a unit, made up of independent actors that shares relatively harmonized OODA Loops (which promotes ability to respond by executing fast-transits, with variety, when an opponent gets in the unit’s cycle). Two: those independent actors have strong ‘moral’ focus such that the physical meance they feel when confronted by a surprising and threatening enemy is minimized. Basically, if you believe in something that the opponent can’t threaten, then a portion of your orienting ability is much less vulnerable to being shut down–and you don’t end up in paralysis. Trust and love for one’s fellows, and trust in leadership, are qualities that can drive this type of ‘defensive belief’. Commitment to cause is probably another (depends on how cause is defined, though–if getting beat in a fight also raises the immediate prospect of the cause being defeated, then physical menace and ‘moral’ menace correlate, which means belief doens’t provide much additional defensive value). Firm belief in a higher power is probably the strongest way to ensure the enemy can’t threaten a fundamental aspect of one’s world-view/orientation.

    FYI: The latter point may be me taking some license with Boyd. I suggested it to Chuck Spinney years ago, don’t remember if he had a definitive answer on whether Boyd would have agreed.

    Anyway, these ‘defensive’ steps are things that generally have to be prepared over a considerable amount of time, before you’re in the fight. Cue arguments that the public has not had a high reserve of trust in the Bush administration (to do the right thing, to have an intelligent plan, or to be honest) for quite some time—therefore, public is not well prepared to defend against any type of threat

    And now we get to the problem of the ‘public’ that needs defending is also the threat (standard panic interpretation)….and I don’t have an answer. The last thing policy-makers should want to do is create more surprise….but they do have to force re-orientation away from the meance and create some time-space to for panickers to: a) reasonably believe that their peers will pause in their flight as well, and b) have some time to actually re-orient in the new environment, and do some advanced thinking so that likely immediate-future events are not as surprising.

    It seems to me that coordinated monetary & fiscal authority actions over the weekend did something like the above. Global coordination reduced the likelihood of attacks from an uncertain direction (e.g., capital flows from one country to another to take advantage of higher deposit guarantees, thereby rendering the banks in lower-guarantee coutnries cash-insolvent), and the two days of closed markets gave people time to digest the news. If the policy action had happened early last week, it’s possible that markets still would have been down on the next day, driving lack of trust in the solution, and continuing the vicious cycle beyond the ability (limits of financial resources of countries participating) of the new plan to contain the damage.

    Sorry for length Chet

    [CR: I make exceptions from time to time. Regarding your point that:

    Firm belief in a higher power is probably the strongest way to ensure the enemy can’t threaten a fundamental aspect of one’s world-view/orientation.

    I never heard that particular claim, which doesn’t mean that you’re wrong, of course. Robert Coram says in his bio that the last known time that Boyd indicated a religious preference, it was “agnostic.” Boyd does suggest that:

    A review and further manipulation of the ideas and thoughts that make-up these different ways suggests that, for success over the long haul and under the most difficult conditions, one needs some unifying vision that can be used to attract the uncommitted as well as pump-up friendly resolve and drive and drain-away or subvert adversary resolve and drive. In other words, what is needed is a vision rooted in human nature so noble, so attractive that it not only attracts the uncommitted and magnifies the spirit and strength of its adherents, but also undermines the dedication and determination of any competitors or adversaries. Patterns, 143

    In other words, a higher purpose, if not necessarily a higher power.]

  29. loggie20on 14 Oct 2008 at 6:33 pm 29

    I appreciate the long post, command economics may be relevant to this thread.

    If the Chinese and Japanese stop underwriting the USA….

    We will see how the command economics of US and Euro zone banks work in the coming months.

    Who will perform due dilligence on the “equity” sold to the taxpayers of Europe, andthe USA?

    I hope you are wrong because if right the first world is heading toward N Korean standards.

  30. Ed Beakleyon 15 Oct 2008 at 2:11 pm 30

    Chet, Punditarian, Kevin,
    You have established a thread of great interest to me which discussion of departs from the subject of the current post, so I will keep this brief with desire to establish an e-mail link for further discussion with possibility of opening another post by Chet. To point I have discussed with Chet off line the ideas/issues of a “negative start OODA Loop” and have been researching and writing with intent to publish a winter edition of Project White Horse with working title “the fight to re-orient and regain relative superiority” – after the shovel to the back of the head.

    By way of background, the F-86 vs. MiG 15 beginning analogy by Col Boyd for the OODA process is in my opinion a defensive application. Creating air superiority over the Korean battlespace was an offensive mission in which the defender – the MiGs- endeavored to show up behind the attackers. Converting from offensive mission to defensive postion to offensive action – the “40 sec Boyd” process – is the genisis of seeing the Mig better (F- 86 bubble canopy vs. small MiG canopy) and continuing the cycle to kill. The beginning is a much richer – with lessons to be learned/transfered – story than many give credit.

    I have extracted key elements from your comments and would like to exchange thoughts. E-mail:

  31. Punditarianon 15 Oct 2008 at 7:03 pm 31

    Ed Beakley,

    It would be an honor to continue the discussion of these applications of Colonel John Boyd’s thinking.

    Re-orienting and coming back after that shovel to the back of the head would indeed be great!


    Your long post is thoughtful and apropos. The importance of preparing the ground for the eventual necessity of a desperate defense can not be overstated. I am thinking of Antonio Gramsci here, too, and his strategy for undermining our society.

    In a situation of widespread panic, I am not sure what the individual can do effectively. If I had been safely installed in a small redoubt, but out of sight of the rest of Hardee’s Corps, the appearance of the entire Army of the Cumberland rushing up Missionary Ridge behind little Phil Sheridan would certainly have been unnerving, particularly as the rest of the line began to evaporate. The psychological impact of that attack (completely unsuspected by Grant as well as Bragg!) would have been difficult to prevent, although forewarning and anticipation might have helped.

    In a financial panic, the individual investor does not have enough leverage to effect much change, and the actions open to her may not even allow her to escape unscathed. Whether the leaders of the Nation can do better than that is debatable. But all panics have ended, and after the dust settles, someone is usually willing to take credit for saving the day!

    Boyd’s recognition that what a fighter pilot does is indeed strategic I take as a major contribution to the history of strategy as a Western discipline. Strategy had always been taken to be the work of Generalship, and even the conduct of an actual battlefield was often considered “grand tactics” rather than “strategy.” Boyd, however, perhaps like Musashi in Japan, recognized that the intellectual problems confronting an individual combatant are the same problems that confront the leader of an army, or a nation.

    The scope of an individual’s actions are just much more limited than the scope of a commander’s actions. What is needed is the influence that might favor those actions that will re-orient the actions of large numbers of participants in a more favorable direction.

    [CR: VERY well put. Boyd was a big fan of Musashi and of the “samurai” approach to conflict as explained in Cleary’s The Japanese Art of War.]

  32. Cheton 17 Oct 2008 at 3:43 pm 32

    For those who are interested, I’ve inserted a rather long (seems fitting, somehow) observation to Kevin’s comment of 13 October 9:05 pm (the 4th above this one).

  33. Punditarianon 17 Oct 2008 at 4:03 pm 33


    You are I think correct that a “higher purpose” will do if there is no “higher power” in which a man can believe.

    Kevin’s point, and Boyd’s point, as I see it, is that if we expect Horatio to die at the bridge, then Horatio needs some reason to do so beyond satisfying his own immediate survival needs and desires.

    Or as Dr. King put it, if you don’t have something you’re willing to die for, you don’t really have anything to live for.

    An appeal to that transcendent value, whether it be Unit, Corps, God, or Country, whether it be freedom or bolshevism, will surely help keep one’s orientation compass-steady.

    My quibble with Boyd’s grander strategy, is that it seems to offer only the possibility of winning a global popularity contest.

    [CR: A higher cause certainly seems to be a strong motivator. Giving up one’s life absent such a cause seems almost pathological. Van Creveld makes this point in Transformation of War when criticizing those who see war only as a continuation of policy: Dying for an “interest”, particularly someone else’s interest, seems absurd.

    On your last point: One could argue that in many cases, winning a global popularity contest would be sufficient. And even when it’s not, Boyd talks about pumping up our resolve and draining away that of the adversary (Patterns, 139). So you might want to elaborate a bit.]

  34. Punditarianon 17 Oct 2008 at 7:42 pm 34

    How does one measure popularity? Should it be measured by reading the pronouncements of the world’s intelligentsia, or by the numbers and provenance of immigrants flocking across our borders?

    Senator Obama has said that his father came to the United States from Kenya when America was a well-respected and well-loved beacon of hope to the world, in contrast to our allegedly pariah status today. In fact, however, the Eisenhower administration program which brought Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., to the University of Hawaii was intended as a way to counteract the image of the “ugly American” and gain at least some minimal headway against the tide of pro-Soviet socialist enthusiasm that was sweeping the world in the first few decades after the Second World War. It seems to me that political power, hence military power, is useful precisely when you can not persuade or convince the other guy to come over to your side. As a good Confucianist disciple of the Master Sun, I acknowledge that it is far better never to be forced to deploy any power, political or military, at all.

    I think of Colonel Boyd’s apothegms regarding the grand overall strategy for the United States in the context of the Cold War. Throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s, the Soviet Union enjoyed enormous prestige in the developing world. Almost all of the nations that became independent during those decades embraced socialist ideals and socialist governments. Most American experts seemed convinced that communism was working, and that the United States would eventually evolve into a more socialized society itself. The problem for the United States and its allies was how to remain strong, free, and independent, while seeking to weaken the enemy wherever possible, fighting bitter and bloody wars in Greece, Korea, Malaysia, and Vietnam in order to buy time and breathing space for free societies to develop. In that context, I think Colonel Boyd sought an over-arching theoretical structure that could encompass both military and non-military engagements.

    The world situation today is similar, although the forces of socialism are weaker now than then, and the emergence of Islamist jihadism as an ideology of statist totalitarianism poses new challenges. But we still seem to have no unifying strategic focus, and the Pentagon and Foggy Bottom often appear to be at odds.

    As a society, we need self-confidence in order to prevail over adversaries who are supremely self-confident themselves. We need a leadership that can articulate what it is that we think is worth fighting for, worth dying for, and worth emulating. However, throughout the 20th century, the major institutions of Western culture — the arts, the Universities, journalists — have become alienated from the great underpinnings of Western culture, and are often the West’s active opponents. The message that our own cultural institutions project to the rest of the world is an often caustic, vitriolic catechism of our weaknesses, faults, flaws, foibles, high crimes, and misdemeanors. We can’t expect the world to flock to that banner.

    [CR: Well put — and a good summary of Boyd’s grand strategy.

    So you’re proposing what? A government agency to ensure that our universities and artists adhere to an approved “Western” cultural line? Can I think about that one for a while?]

  35. Punditarianon 18 Oct 2008 at 5:29 am 35


    No, we shouldn’t need a government agency for that . . . the “trahison des clercs” is evidence of a decadence at the heart of the West. Without getting too Spenglerian here, I don’t think a government agency would be an appropriate or adequate remedy.

  36. Maxon 23 Oct 2008 at 11:59 am 36

    “A government agency to ensure that our universities and artists adhere to an approved “Western” cultural line? Can I think about that one for a while?]”

    They have similar in Canada.
    Where they subsidise and try to promote a Canadian idenity,
    and struggle distigish themselves from the USA.

    My impression has long been, it’s all nothing more than pure pork,
    start to finish.

    Whereby the US has it’s Mil. Ind Warfare state, which we discuss,
    and know and love (sarc).

    Canada has it’s cultural subsidies, along with something called
    “offical bilingualism.”

    However, at least the Canadians don’t kill pepole with all that though, they just run themselves broke.


    [CR: No, MaX. If it’s important to preserve Western Culture, then we can’t leave it to chance. All I’m suggesting is to follow the model of the French with the Academie Francaise, but considering the seriousness of the situation, to endow it with certain “enforcement” powers. A modest proposal, I’m sure you’ll agree. As in so many other areas involving culture, the Europeans are far ahead of us.]

  37. Maxon 24 Oct 2008 at 7:54 pm 37

    “If it’s important to preserve Western Culture, then we can’t leave it to chance. All I’m suggesting is to follow the model of the French with the Academie Francaise,”

    I could argue your model is based on THAT countries tradition of fundemental insecurities. Some might characterise as having
    a chip on thier shoulder a mile wide.

    The last thing America needs these days, is yet another mass phycosis.

    Gee, Chet we’ll have to sit down face to face sometime.
    Way too much to cover on this topic here.

    And this subject ties in very directly with concepts of a variation 4th generational warfare.

    There maybe the issue of the extension of political correctness,
    and the percieved, by some, assault on Christian traditions, most notably Christmas amoung Christian/Judail values in western culture.
    That’s one thing.

    If your talking about a mechcansism to promote the Engilsh language
    and/or supress others, particuarly under the circumstances of the prevelence of Spanish in certian areas of the US, that’s another story as well.

    And yet I can relate to, and have a feel for the frustrations
    and insecurities involved.

    The difficulty I have with the English first, and only, sentiment in parts of the US, is that it is preciecely the reciprocal of the Quebec French Canadian program to deliberately supress the use of English in that provience.

    I know it was wrong there, and on a fundemental level, for several reasons, that makes it wrong, to a large extent, everywhere.

    Yours Sincerely,

    [CR: See — that’s exactly what I mean. Western Culture is on life support. If MaX had a solid liberal arts education grounded in the Western literary tradition, he’d know who Jonathan Swift was.]

  38. Maxon 25 Oct 2008 at 5:16 pm 38

    “CR: See”

    Exactly !
    I’d also be unemployed, and/or driving cab.
    Instead of a dumb Engineer working 7 days a week.


    [CR: We’re proud of you. What does that have to do with preserving Western culture?]

  39. Punditarianon 25 Oct 2008 at 10:53 pm 39


    The Academie Francaise is an interesting institution. If something like that were set up in the USA, it would look very different, but as the modesty of your proposal indicates, might not be any more successful. There are actually a dozen or more French academies for various arts and professions, although of course the A.F. is the most prestigious.

    The French however are fighting a losing battle to preserve the status of their beloved language. French is a primary language in France, Belgium, Quebec, parts of southern Louisiana, and a dwindling number of African ex-colonies. It is rapidly fading, I think, in Southeast Asia and in Pondicherry. French is no longer the language of international diplomacy.

    Moreover, at least this reader’s impression is that recent French literature is mostly unreadable drivel and drool.

    It is great fun, however, to read computing literature in French, and to take cognizance of the various clever coinages the French Academicians have developed so that common English words such as “e-mail” won’t have to be used.

    The fact is that –despite the fact that the culture which gave it birth has been abandoned by the American and British intelligentsia– English is the linguistic expression of the most vigorous culture in the world, and it is English that is supplanting French and German, and making significant inroads in Chinese and Japanese, as well. One of the great bastions of Anglophone culture is of course India, which has also inherited the great Anglo-Saxon legal and political heritage. Pakistan has been inhibited, I think, by its insistence on maintaining a monotonous Sunni hegemony, in Urdu rather than English.

    At any rate, how the American public can encourage the development of a vigorous, self-conscious but self-affirming American culture is clearly worthy of serious thought and discussion. Should it be through a quasi-governmental agency? The artists are happy to accept the public’s money, but usually use it to castigate in the most vitriolic terms imaginable the beneficient public itself. So that doesn’t seem to work.

    The WPA guidebooks are an example of a relatively high level of literary quality married to an unabashed appreciation for good things about American life. (But perhaps that was allied to a certain undercurrent of “socialist realism.” I have often thought that FDR was forced to ally himself to the Soviet Union if for no other reason than to ensure the willing cooperation in the war effort of Hollywood, the Universities, and the Press.)

    [CR Have you all gone brain dead? Did you catch my mention of Jonathan Swift? Does A Modest Proposal mean anything to you? Did you sleep through Sophomore Lit? Did you take Sophomore Lit?]

  40. Punditarianon 27 Oct 2008 at 5:53 am 40


    No I haven’t gone brain dead, as you can see from what I wrote, i.e.:

    “as the modesty of your proposal indicates”

    But even though you wrote tongue in cheek, the ideas you raise are worth discussing.

    I do think the fact that since the advent of artistic and cultural “avant garde” in the late nineteenth or early 20th century, first western high culture but then even popular culture has identified opposition to the cultural norms of western civilization as its quintessential content. And I think we are seeing the results of that in the widespread disaffection and desertion of those who should be leading the cultural struggle to preserve our way of life.

    How to mitigate that is certainly worth discussing.

    [CR: Does this mean that you won’t support my initiative to mandate the teaching of Anglo-Saxon in elementary schools?]

  41. Punditarianon 27 Oct 2008 at 7:13 am 41

    By the way, Chet, are you familiar with “Values for a new millenium” by Robert L. Humphrey? From a Natural Law or Universal Values perspective, he advocates an approach that may be in harmony with Colonel Boyd’s general prescription for a grand strategy for the United States. (I have not yet completed reading the entire book, and I don’t necessarily agree with everything I have read so far, but I think the ideas are of interest.)

    [CR: No, I haven’t — can you be talked into a review?]

  42. Punditarianon 28 Oct 2008 at 5:59 am 42


    I’m working on it! Read a few more chapters today . . . more to follow.

    As far as mandatory Anglo-Saxon, all I can say is “HWAET!”

  43. Maxon 29 Oct 2008 at 8:54 am 43

    “The French however are fighting a losing battle to preserve the status of their beloved language.”

    English is the adpoted language of commerce, big and even many small bussiness those who deal with larger entities, science and technology, and most recently international deplomacy.

    Besides morphing and adopting new terms more quickly than any other language (see OODA loop) English text fits more efficiently into computer memory and drive space, than other widely used languages.
    (Where you really notice that is on signage at an international airport.)

    So, if you’re XYZ company and you insist on doing business in French,
    Spanish, German, etc, you’re costs of computer storage are higher than a compedetor, working in English. Wich of course if you’re talking
    about a bank, or company with thousdands of clients, and mega-muti-terabytes of information, that becomes a significant compedetive factor.

    Now that dosn’t mean they arn’t still speaking German, on the shop floor at BMW. More than most, it’s the French seem to sensetive about the issue.

    And with the exodus of cheap labor from the S.West, USA, Spanish
    is under real threat of losing it’s status amoung professional lawn mowers and landscapers.

    Like it or lump it.


  44. Keith Eric Granton 09 Nov 2008 at 1:28 am 44

    George Packer, in the New Yorker, just provided an interesting comment on “orientation feedback”.

    “The problem with strategic communications is that the White House that lives by it slowly becomes incapable of dealing with reality. When bad news comes, the impulse is to deny it, and that impulse turns into a mental habit. Eventually, those in power are the last to figure out the truth (in this sense, Katrina was a direct result of the kind of mentality that had already led to disaster in Iraq). The Administration can’t answer the arguments of its critics because it has long since stopped listening to them. It finds itself increasingly isolated, not just from potential supporters, but from the truth.”

    [CR: Excellent example. Same thing appears to have infected the US automakers.]

  45. […] Seen in terms of John Boyd’s Observation – Orientation – Decision – Action loop, excessive optimism creates a “locked orientation.”  The result is an Orientation that doesn’t accurately represent the changing external environment, and actions coming from such an Orientation are often inappropriate, ineffective, or late. Just like what we’re seeing today.   {Chet Richards, source] […]

  46. […] Seen in terms of John Boyd’s Observation – Orientation – Decision – Action loop, excessive optimism creates a “locked orientation.” The result is an Orientation that doesn’t accurately represent the changing external environment, and actions coming from such an Orientation are often inappropriate, ineffective, or late. Just like what we’re seeing today.   [Chet Richards, source] […]

  47. senor tomason 12 Nov 2008 at 12:48 pm 47

    “Same thing appears to have infected the US automakers.”

    Might be good if the big three failed. They are dinosaurs. They build overpriced, uninteresting cars. They function as a welfare source for the UAW more than anything else.

    [CR: No argument, except that I wasn’t aware that the UAW designed the uninteresting cars that GM’s been trying to sell. I don’t think they designed the production system that builds them, either. Jack Welch, in Winning, repeats an aphorism that is true nonetheless: Any company that has a union deserves it.]

  48. senor tomason 12 Nov 2008 at 5:34 pm 48

    “I don’t think they designed the production system that builds them”

    Union work rules do significantly impact the production system. But I guess the point I was – unclearly and clumsily – trying to make is that without the big three the UAW is nothing. The Toyota plant in Mississippi is not about to let the UAW in.

    [CR: Your point is well taken.

    By the way, the plant that is arguably the best in the US, NUMMI, is a UAW shop. It runs the Toyota Production System.]

  49. Punditarianon 16 Nov 2008 at 2:53 pm 49


    I am still working on the Humphrey book.

    In the meantime, I have made a preliminary reconnaissance of Roger Scruton’s book, “Culture Counts.” He gives a good account of the “culture of repudiation” — the Western elite’s repudiation of its own culture. And with it, repudiation of the virtues and values that are peculiar to that culture. And since that culture is perhaps the only framework in the world in which the individual human being has paramount value, the elite repudiation of Western culture should be of concern. Note that the “culture of repudiation” has become the dominant discourse in almost all Western institutions of higher learning.