Monday, January 30, 2017

Thinking About Consequences

In a Public Radio interview this morning, Aaron Levie, CEO of cloud storage company Box, had this to say about Trump's immigration directive:

"I'm very sensitive to the need to keep the U.S. secure, and also highly driven by data and logic and thinking that through. There's no data to suggest that anything about this particular ban would improve our security.  In fact, most of the bright minds on the subject reinforce and suggest this will harm our security in its ability to fan the flames of our enemies and, importantly, divide us from our allies."
(Listen to the Marketplace Podcast here).

This is a particularly brilliant quote from a CEO of a successful enterprise. Note the emphasis on something radically missing within the current administration: let's start with DATA, rather than campaign rhetoric; let's apply LOGIC and THINK THINGS THROUGH; let's consider the consequences of our actions; let's check with the BRIGHT MINDS, people who actually know how things work and have demonstrated a tendency for incisive and rational thought.

Mr. Levie and many other leaders in the High Tech sector understand something that President Trump and his Cabinet simply do not: that U.S. isolationism is not an option in today's global economy. Sadly, the incompetence with which Friday's new immigration rules were put into place is fast becoming the hallmark of Trump's administration. With the most experienced people gone, and with ideologues and propagandists calling the shots, no one bothered to consider the difficulties that might be caused by the Presidential Order, or even whether the order could pass constitutional scrutiny.

I've written before about manufacturing in the 21st century, which is often a global process for even the simplest of products. Many service businesses as well are international in scope, and many more rely on the free travel of sales people, scientists, and technical experts from around the world. A large part of the grocery business in the United States relies on imported goods. The administration seems unwilling to acknowledge that basic facts of modern life. Or perhaps modern life itself is what they want to stop. 

In the hands of amateurs such as now govern these United States, there is grave danger. The complex web of exports and imports of goods and services has never been planned out at a high level. It has, rather, developed organically, emerging from millions of independent decisions to buy a certain product from a certain source or hire an individual with a specific set of qualifications. By changing the flow of personnel, altering the availability of information, and changing import taxes, the Trump administration is making massive changes in the economic web, apparently with little thought to the consequences. The economic web will respond as organically as it developed. Markets will seek lower costs, new sources and new customers will be found, tariffs will be met with tariffs, qualified experts will go to different employers. This will happen nation by nation, company by company, and buyer by buyer, and not even President Trump can stop it.

I hope Americans are willing to give up their bananas, avocados, and cellphones.


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