Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Five Imperatives

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Oct 27, 2000

The President and CEO of the Business Council on National Issues, Thomas P. d'Aquino, had a two pronged message for delegates: first, he wanted to outline five imperatives for a prosperous society, and second, he wanted to caution delegates that globalization is not inevitable.

Let me begin by outlining the five imperatives:

  1. Social organization - a society must have law and order, corruption must be minimized or absent, government must be stable, and people must be educated and healthy.
  2. Adaptability to change - a society must respond well to changing circumstances; it must be ahead of the crowd, focusing on efficiency, innovation, an investment in people and learning, and flexibility.
  3. Private sector - the society must value and encourage the private sector, where wealth is created. It should have low taxes, no quotas on production, imports or exports, it should avoid monopolies and encourage competition.
  4. Culture of entrepreneurship - innovation and risk taking should be rewarded in society, practiced at all levels of society (including government), and taught in schools.
  5. Collaboration - a society should value the creation and sharing of knowledge, it should identify a national mission (such as Kennedy's "We choose to go to the moon"), it should embody this in educational standards, ongoing education, and international testing.

Canadian society is moving toward each of these five imperatives, but only in the first - social organization - is it outstanding, d'Aquino said. Canada can be rated as average at best with respect to the other four categories, especially when compared to other industrialized nations.

Part of the move toward globalization is a move toward a greater emphasis on those four other categories. A nation will be successful in a global environment only if it can adapt to change, promote the private sector, foster entrepreneurship, and build a knowledge-based economy. But this move toward globalization is not unfaltering.

As much as business leaders prefer to deny it, the anti-WTO demonstrations in Seattle and other centres have had an impact. These demonstrations point clearly to the fact that, as d'Aquino says, the disenfranchised are the newly empowered. Using internet technologies, they were able to organize and mount a mass protest against globalization.

The lesson for business, said d'Aquino, is two-fold. First, don't take globalization for granted. People can and will derail the process if they believe they are being left out. And second, as a consequence of the first, we must practice corporate social responsibility.

In my opinion, d'Aquino misrepresents the protesters' objectives. As I have pointed out elsewhere, the protesters are not against globalization per se; they are opposed rather to a particular flavour of globalization. They are concerned that corporate interests - to the exclusion of public interests - are being promoted. Or, in terms of d'Aquino's five points, they are concerned that globalization reflects an emphasis on efficiency, privatization and entrepreneurship at the expense of social stability and education.

And - in my opinion - the protesters have a point; and while it can be agreed that no society can provide for its citizens if it is not prosperous, it must also be agreed that no society can be prosperous if it does not provide for its citizens.

The discussion does not end hereÂ…. It gets started here.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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