Tuesday, 30 March 2010

‘Lechon’ or chocolate cake

John Mangun
Outside the Box
Business Mirror

A new scientific study has come out that confirms something I have known for years. People are basically divided into two groups; those with a “sweet tooth” and those with a “fat tooth.”

Think about it. Given a choice between a fabulous chocolate dessert from a five-star hotel cake shop and a plate of lechon from a mall food-court stall, which would you choose?

Most of us do not even have to think about it. We know instantly. Yes, I am a “lechon man.”

Who would you rather listen to:The Beatles/Pink Floyd or Elvis Presley/Michael Jackson? Would you choose a comedy film or an action movie to watch?

We tend to divide the world and people in general into two distinct groups, almost regardless of what we are talking about. Quiet; talkative. Serious; relaxed. Optimistic; pessimistic. Big spender; thrifty. Intellectual; emotional.

As you read the list above, certain characteristics probably brought a negative thought to your mind. But in fact, neither side of those seeming opposites are good or bad. They are just different. We tend to view as negative those traits which we do not hold to ourselves.

I used to know a man who really liked to scold me about my eating habits, telling me that I was going to an early grave as I eagerly enjoyed my roast-pork rice topping. He said this while noisily slurping a Mucho Grande mocha latte with caramel sauce and extra whipped cream. And eating a butterscotch fudge bar.

But you know? Both of us are pro-bably just as right and just as wrong about the way we eat.

Another study found that people can be divided into two more groups: those that are “savers” and those that are “spenders.” Now you might immediately think that the “savers” are the ones that we should follow because that would seem at first to make the most financial sense. Yet what was discovered was that the “savers” were not good spenders. Yes, the savers planned carefully how much money to put away and were much better at figuring out where they should save their money—time deposit or a normal savings account—and these people were not interested in pyramid schemes and other get-rich-quick plans. Yet, for all of their supposed expertise with money, savers tend to be bad spenders. That is, the spenders were much better shoppers. The spenders knew prices better, could identify real bargains, and received more value for their money when they made a purchase than the savers.

That is probably why most well-run corporations have a financial controller, the saver, as well as a finance officer, the spender.

I know one businessman who separates the hiring and firing responsibilities for his employees. It is a rather small company, but one person is accountable for the final hiring decision while another is in charge of making any final dismissal decision. His feeling is that one person cannot do both since the bias and the skill to determine who would be a good employee and who should be terminated are different.

With regard to economics and economic policy, the world, too, is divided into two distinct groups. One group believes government can best do the job of running the economy; the other believes that the collection of individuals and businesses—the free market—can best determine how an economy should function. This dividing question has probably never been more important today than in the last 100 years.

Prior to the 20th century, the relationship between the government and business was closer than now. Business directed the economic policies of a nation through the government. Look at the age of exploration. Private individuals and companies from Europe colonized a large portion of the world, claiming land like the Philippines in name of this king or that queen.

But in truth, all of this was done to further specific business interests, whether for the British East India Company or by Magellan. Magellan was contracted by a Spanish government-owned company, La Casa y Audiencia de Indias. And he was working for money, not glory. Magellan received a monopoly of the discovered route and 5 percent of all future trading profits.

Today we are looking at a rapid expansion of governments trying to control economies without the historic partnership between government and business interests, a move that has accelerated over the last 40 years.

This partnership preceded amazing advancements in the quality of life. Government did nothing to create the mass production of the automobile. Yet government eventually built the road infrastructure that those cars use. Government did not participate in the development of mass communication like the telephone, radio and television. But government regulation brought order to the chaos of every telecom business doing its own thing with regard to wired and wireless infrastructure.

Now we have all these great and, in my opinion, completely foolish debates. Mining development versus the environment. Free markets versus more government control. Pro-business versus pro-people.

It would be nicer and easier if the world operated so simply and everything was black or white, totally good or totally evil.

And we ask silly questions along these same lines of our politicians and candidates. And they themselves characterize themselves as pro-this or anti-that. Foolish and lacking any common sense.

You know what does make sense? A wonderful meal of lechon de leche followed by chocolate cake with ice cream. You just have to show some moderation in your eating habits, just as you have to show some moderation with your economic theory. What works in one sector will not in another. There is no one-size-fits-all economic program. And those who believe there is probably never eat lechon or chocolate cake.

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