The Positivity That Kills Us

Georges van Hoegaerden
Georges van Hoegaerden
Founder, Author, and Managing Director of methodEVA.

Populist positivity amidst severe economic malaise is a charade. A pageantry of false positivity, even seeping through Larry Summers’ short letter to President Barack Obama.

Every day now I see people attach the populist reference of “positivity” to themselves or others. To urge everyone to take it all in strides. By working hard, smiling always, and playing nice regardless of the circumstances.

Populist positivity is lazy

To be surrounded by other positive people, and carry on. Genetically stimulated by the advice their parents and Thumper in The Walt Disney cartoon Bambi gave them early; do not say anything when you have nothing nice to say. As if the voluminous declaration of such simplistic positivity is bound to save them, their offspring, and the world automagically.

Those people could not be more wrong; laymen’s positivity kills them, along with the naïve followers left blissfully in the lurch of their pyramid-scheme of positivity. They have all just succumbed to the greatest form of social control. The social control that prevents us from reinventing ourselves, in and on-time.

Populist positivity is mediocre

As a self-proclaimed innovation economist, I can give you a “technical” explanation for the genesis of such behavioral compliance to positivity. For the pursuit to carry on in yet another sub-optimization of downstream innovation is more comfortable, more predictable and less threatening, than the impactful change induced by imminent upstream innovation, bound to reset all rules and merits.

We can and must accept not everyone can fundamentally reinvent themselves. Few can. And I mean that non-condescendingly. Imagine the chaos if we were all Einsteins, collectively drowning in a never-ending normalization of relativity without the plethora of useful implementations we derived from his imagination.

The evolution and skill to drive downstream innovation are just as crucial as upstream. One ignites the other, and we need both to evolve. But we cannot accept our leaders to focus solely on continuous downstream economic innovation. For such governance will prevent our renewal and thus our evolution.

Populist positivity of economics

Our governments are responsible for guiding the development of the bigger picture our countries and its citizens as participants in nature represent. To ensure we continually and collectively balance our freedom and prosperity, within the context and requirements of a renewable evolution of nature.

So, to drive renewable economics means our government needs to understand the notion and be capable of balancing the need for upstream economic innovation with downstream. And decide at what point the sub-optimization of downstream economic innovation has become a dead-end street, and ignite the interest and pursuit of upstream.

The genuine interest of the world’s greatest governments to reinvent the economics of their countries is telling. The Chinese government (through an economic development organization) has invited me to come out and explain renewable economics to them, alongside the biggest minds in the world, fully paid. While our American government system requires me to spend thousands of dollars of money to have special-interest lobbying groups unclog their deafened ears.

Our government still does not take the need for upstream economic innovation serious, as they continue to lean further on downstream economic innovation for “recovery”. They still waddle in populist positivity.

Populist positivity of leaders

As Einstein once said, one cannot institute real change with the people who created its imperfect past. And the letter Larry Summers sent to Barack Obama, in withdrawing his nomination as the president of the Federal Reserve, highlights how our government is stuck in populist positivity.

Larry’s letter was short and concise, so I feel empowered to quote and analyze pieces of it without taking its meaning grossly out of context:

…as you led the nation through a severe recession into sustainable economic recovery…

Nonsense: sustainability cannot exist without renewability, and since we have not deployed renewable economics, our recovery will not be sustainable.

…built on the policies to promote employment and strengthen the middle class.

Yes, but those policies are flawed. Class systems and their protections are from colonial times, not to be confused with the free-market systems in which all participants are treated equally. The role of government is to govern the compliance to free-market principles, not to adjust dials to influence an artificial outcome unilaterally.

This is a complex moment in our national life.

Yes. It is extraordinarily complex when you, as a tenured economist responsible for our flawed economic principles, are stuck in a dead-end alley of your own downstream economic making and do not know which way to turn. I get it, Larry, thanks for your services.

…efforts to strengthen our national economy by creating a broad base prosperity and to reform our financial system…

Nonsense: to-date we have done nothing to reform our financial system, and instead punished those who we discover have taken its lack of sensible guard rails for a prosperous ride. Meaningful (upstream) financial reform requires changing the rules of the game, so the extreme excesses of a financial system eleven times the size of production are automatically and continually calibrated by the marketplace, rather than by nanny-state governance.

The positivity derived from the foolish faith in continued downstream economic innovation along the lines of the past is exactly what perpetuates our downward spiral.

Once a community organizer, always a community organizer?

Now, even though I expect exceptionalism from our leaders and thus I am harsh in my review of their actions, I can imagine how hard it must be to promote fundamental economic reinvention from within an equally economically flawed political system. Somehow, I do not feel sorry for the fate of politicians, what have they done for us lately?

Steering politics successfully requires our President to keep his eyes on the prize. For Barack Obama, as a former community organizer, not to let go of his skills to put band-aids on our economic performance, to prevent a steep slide in faith. But to also take seriously the advice his wife Michele appeared to convey right before his reelection.

To seek advice from people who, unlike the ones he employs today, can reinvent our country’s economics anew.

Real positivity

The mistake the many fools of populist positivity make is to believe their opponents, therefore, must be negative. I remember David Axelrod, senior advisor to the President, who I mostly side with in sensibility (not always on execution), utter a stunning remark to that effect.

I offer David to take the following quote to heart:

“There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who believe there are two kinds of people in this world and those who are smart enough to know better.” — Tom Robbins

Meaningful innovation is not borne out of populist positivity. It can only be derived from realism or a highly reliable proxy thereof.

Real entrepreneurs, like Steve Jobs, may have an outward appearance of being extremely critical and harsh, as they internally stitch together a disruptive strategy hinging on new and higher levels of normalization, and take on the immense burden of reinventing the world they have an influence on, anew. The greatest form of positivity.

To that point:

“An inventor is a man who looks upon the world and is not contented with things as they are. He wants to improve whatever he sees.” — Alexander Graham Bell

So, I suggest we stop the populist positivity charade, wipe the botox-ed smiles off our faces, and get real.

For only realists can reinvent our world to yield a new and better proxy of reality nature imposes upon us.

The sign of an intelligent nation is its willingness and ability to reinvent itself, upstream. Let’s inspire the world with new rigors of excellence we first and successfully apply to ourselves.

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