The concept of an economy being ‘goal oriented’ is not novel. However, the academic practice of exploring the inner workings of economies through this lens is, to my knowledge, a new endeavor. We do it, but we don’t explain it as such.
Plenty has been written on the subject, but it has been glancing blows rather than a direct hit. It is obvious that goal orientation is everywhere in the economy, and to a large extent drives the world we live in. This contrasts with the ‘naturally ordered’ views of the market, and a self-determinant economic system. The truth is, it is always human aims that drive the outcome of human endeavors, whether at a micro or macro level.
Consider the following:
- Nearly every person who is an economic driver is a deeply motivated and goal driven individual.
- Nearly every organization is driven by a well laid out strategic plan that guides the co-operation of its contributors.
- At the very highest level, it is economic policy and regulation enacted by governments that creates the very environment in which businesses can function.
- Governments themselves are created and dissolved around political aims, and the collective societal aims of the population.
We live in a world that has been deeply organized around explicit and expressed goals. By understanding what the goals are, and the methods of enactment, we will better understand what to do in that environment.
Academic inquiry into the economic sphere has recently been focused on a false dichotomy between market and centrally planned systems. The reality is that all modern economies blend these approaches to manage their economic sphere. Additionally, there are ebbs and flows in the requirement of goal orientation based upon the emerging environment of threats and opportunities.
There are many instances in which even the most ‘laissez-faire’ market economies require a planned approach to certain areas of endeavor. By shedding our ideological restrictions, we can have a better look at these instances and understand why.
I’ve mentioned WW2 as a very interesting example of the goal orientation of modern economies. It is by no means unique, but it bears a closer look through this lens.
A short history re-cap: at the very highest level of understanding, we can look at the rise of the NAZI regime as a fundamentally goal driven organization. This forced neighboring societies, both market and centrally planned systems, to adopt goal-oriented approaches to combat the NAZI threat. The resulting ‘total war’ scenario which developed pitted multiple goal-oriented systems against each other.
Ultimately the systems that could muster the most effective strategy and bring the most resources and best technology behind their goals won. In this situation, we see that market and centrally planned economies of the world adapted goal-oriented strategies almost overnight. They were forced to do that by their situation, it wasn’t a choice.
The NAZI strategy was to will their victory through the most complete realization of a goal-oriented society that they could muster. They sought to overwhelm their adversaries, whom they regarded as soft and unorganized, through sheer force of will and co-operation around their common goals. They gambled that their enemies would not match them in this, because it was obvious that the vast resources available to the US, UK and USSR would come to bear if they did.
In the case of WW2, it was extremely foolish to think that other societies would not fight back against the NAZI threat with everything they had. After all, they were promised annihilation and slavery should they lose.
Admittedly, the WW2 example is an extreme version of the concepts I wish to convey.
Perhaps closer to our contemporary experience is the example of the ‘space race’ between the USA and USSR between 1955-1975.
What we know as the ‘space race’ was a mutual response and goal orientation around the development and adoption of space technologies. The subtext was that space technology=military technology, and that by falling behind in the ‘space race’, either society would fail to contain the others’ dominance.
I mention the ‘space race’ as an interesting example because it allowed both societies, through methods of goal orientation, to divert immense sums of resources towards developing advanced technologies. Such a vast diversion of resources would not have been possible under normal circumstances, with solely the profit motive of business at play.
The result of this focus was incredible technical advancement that continues to impact the economy and society to this day. So many of the technologies that define the post-modern age were created during this intense competition. It is fair to say that the application of ‘space race’ technologies created advancements unique to the USSR and USA that no other countries have since been able to re-create.
Throughout this work, perhaps hidden from view, I am postulating that a self-preservation mechanism exists within communities that requires a goal oriented response to any emerging situation. This ought to be a comforting conclusion to the anxious among us.
In this philosophy a danger exists when we fail to understand emerging threats, or underestimate the resources required to move towards meeting those threats.
At the start of the 21st century, society is confronted with many emerging threats to our existence, the most critical of which may be climate change.
By knowing how societies have dealt with such changes in the past, and where they have failed to do so, we can begin to understand what needs to be done in our present situation.
It is incumbent upon leaders to stay vigilant and carry their communities through troubled times. And most importantly, to correctly identify and meet emerging threats by employing goal-orientation whenever necessary.
I hope you will continue to join me in this work.