Despite some strong personal feelings, I have attempted to keep politics out of our discussions here, but the current tactic being used by John McCain and his surrogates serves as a great example of the fundamental difference between the philosophy of a bureaucrat and that of an entrepreneur.Apparently desperate to derail the Obama momentum, John McCain has jumped on comments Obama made to “Joe The (faux) Plumber” on your right.
In the course of a short encounter Obama told Joe that his philosophy was to “share the wealth” with all Americans. McCain now seeks to twist this remark in an effort to paint Obama as nothing but a godless, dreaded Socialist. McCain wants us to believe that such a philosophy has no place in America. And that anyone who would utter such a belief is, as McCain surrogate Congressperson Michele Bachmann (R-Minn) said, is “anti-American.”
I beg to differ. From my point of view the comments of Barack Obama actually expose him as a dreaded “E” person. The fact is Barack Obama’s comments reveal a philosophy very close to that of most real entrepreneurs.
The essence of the “American dream” is to have the opportunity for everyone to share in the wealth of the nation. America has always been held out as the land of opportunity where the wealth of the country can be “shared” by anyone who has the ability to create wealth. That is what Obama actually said to Plumber Joe (see for yourself).
The truth, the very core of a true entrepreneurial philosophy is the concept of sharing the wealth. It is the bureaucrat who seeks to concentrate the (power) and wealth in the hands of the very few at the top—those who also determine how wealth should be distributed. It is this stilted bureaucratic philosophy – endorsed by McCain and profligated by minions like Bachmann – that is destroying the balance of wealth, economic competitiveness and financial future of this country.
If Barack Obama is an anti-American socialist then I am as well. It has always been my philosophy in business to share the wealth. It is a philosophy I have lived and preached for decades and is called creating “parallel interests.”
When I helped to found LifeUSA, the primary operating concept of the company was to “share the wealth” with those who helped create the wealth. To achieve the objective of putting all those associated with the company in “parallel” so they could share the wealth, everyone become an actual owner of the company. If the company was successful then everyone benefited and one could not benefit unless all benefited.
LifeUSA was a start-up life insurance company and the only difference between it and other insurance companies was the concept of “share the wealth.” With this philosophy LifeUSA became one of the fastest growing and most successful companies in the industry. When Allianz acquired LifeUSA for over $500 million, everyone associated with the company shared the wealth. Nothing could dissuade me from the belief that the primary reason for the success of LifeUSA was the “socialist” concept of sharing wealth.
My belief is that, if people have the opportunity and ability to add value, they will be encouraged to do so if they are allowed to share in the value they help create.
On the opposite side of the coin is the attitude of the bureaucratic corporate culture that believes the few at the top know what is best, have all the answers, and are the sole reason for the success of the organization. With this philosophy is it any wonder that we have seen the compensation of senior executives become so bloated and out of line with the compensation of the people actually doing the work? Is it any wonder that employees lose incentive and a desire to see the company become successful?
The Political Dividing Line
Of all the differences between Barack Obama and John McCain, this philosophy of “share the wealth” is the starkest. Sharing the wealth of opportunity is what America is supposed to be about and it should hold sway in our corporate world as well as society overall.
John McCain seems to endorse the corporate bureaucratic concept of concentrated wealth and to legitimize it across American society. Barack Obama seems to endorse the very concept that made America strong: everyone has the equal opportunity to create and share the wealth. It is this philosophy that provides incentive for people to add value and build wealth.
Despite what John McCain would want us to believe, the philosophy of “share the wealth” is not socialism nor the dreaded “S” word. It is the greatest and most powerful form of entrepreneurialism and Americanism.