Pajama Power

While capitalism is clearly the only realistic system for running an economy, it has its problems. Based on the idea that individuals, and by extension their organizations, will do what's in their own self interest, capitalism is only as good as people are. And people are dysfunctional - we often resist our own, obvious, self-interest.

For years I remember sitting around in our pajamas and watching sports with my brothers and wondering why teams didn't do obvious things that could improve their results. Why do they always run on first down, we'd ask, when they can never get more than a yard? (The Patriots weren't so impressive back then.) If the two minute drill works so well in the last two minutes, why don't they do it at other times?

The teams were run by morons - but they were the insiders who 'knew the game.' They competed against teams who hired people who were equally lacking in imagination, so there was no visible downside to using the same tired formulas that were being used against them - "this is how it is done!"

That's the downfall of capitalism - it depends on human beings, so it falls victim to human foibles. The good news is that, eventually, a Bill Belichik works his way into a position of power, and everyone else in the industry is forced to respond. That's where capitalism finds its strength.

Everyone knows that newspapers have been struggling in recent years, with huge drops in circulation reported quarterly. But news entrepreneur Rupert Murdoch says there's nothing wrong with the business of newspapers, there's just a problem with the people in it - they're used to running monopolies, and they haven't taken well to competition.
"It used to be that a handful of editors could decide what was news-and what was not. They acted as sort of demigods. If they ran a story, it became news. If they ignored an event, it never happened. Today, editors are losing this power. The Internet, for example, provides access to thousands of new sources that cover things an editor might ignore. And if you aren't satisfied with that, you can start up your own blog and cover and comment on the news yourself. Journalists like to think of themselves as watchdogs, but they haven't always responded well when the public calls them to account."
Murdoch says the industry has been complacent and condescending.
"The complacency stems from having enjoyed a monopoly--and now finding they have to compete for an audience they once took for granted. The condescension that many show their readers is an even bigger problem. It takes no special genius to point out that if you are contemptuous of your customers, you are going to have a hard time getting them to buy your product. Newspapers are no exception."
He cites a pretty good example. Dan Rather, who lost his job after he fought to defend a story attacking President Bush's National Guard service that was based on forged documents.
"Far from celebrating this citizen journalism, the establishment media reacted defensively. During an appearance on Fox News, a CBS executive attacked the bloggers in a statement that will go down in the annals of arrogance. '60 Minutes,' he said, was a professional organization with 'multiple layers of checks and balances.' By contrast, he dismissed the blogger as 'a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas writing.' But eventually it was the guys sitting in their pajamas who forced Mr. Rather and his producer to resign.
There's no question that pajamas, and the people wearing them, are often undervalued. Regular folk tend to see, and understand, what's wrong with the world. As a radio talk host, I look forward to the calls from truck drivers, who for some reason always seem to have the answers. It's the 'smart' industry insiders, with preconceived notions drilled deep into their skulls, who most often have trouble seeing the obvious. Or, when they do see what needs to be done, they are confined by the status quo and lack the courage to insist on change.