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An informal, stream-of-consciousness reflection on business ideas, events and issues in modern business, modern life and with some specifics to the web-software industry by Paul Tomori, Internet Entrepreneur

Acting On Principle
By Paul Tomori
Friday, April 10, 2009 at 16:37:08 (EDT)

With great interest, I have been watching the developments in the economy of late and am quite taken by all the debate about government bailouts. In particular, I have been intrigued by the principle of a government stepping in to bolster a company or an entire industry that has suffered due to bad conditions, poor upper management judgement, the greed of a few bad people, and unions who demand more than what an industry can realistically provide.

In the United States, the founding fathers set forth an integrated collection of guiding principles that would differentiate their country from the oppressive governments of the dark ages. They created a doctrine that allowed for the "pursuit of happiness" with a tremendous emphasis on freedom of the individual. They spoke of "inalienable rights".... and "self-evident" truths. Thomas Jefferson is credited as the primary writer.

For many years, the US followed the basic tenets with some exceptions, for example, when they indulged slavery. Abraham Lincoln righted many things according to the philosophy of the founding fathers. He returned to that document and interpreted it for its clear guidance on how people should live in a free and democratic society... a society built on rock solid principles.

Hey... just because the Americans failed on several occasions to live up to the founding fathers' vision, does not make that vision problematic.

As I have written in past blogs, freedom comes with a LOT of responsibility. Freedom affords one the power to succeed and also the power to fail. One can rise or fall more or less on one's merits. We see proof of this everywhere. Many great people have risen from extremely humble origins. An impoverished start in life does not condemn one to a lifetime of poverty.

The whole notion of living by principle means that one has a kind of internal guidebook by which one determines his/her actions. Instead of assessing each event anew... using a kind of "situational ethics", a person of principles appeals to a rule that applies, then acts accordingly.

Take an anti-gambling principle for example.

If you know that someone doesn't play blackjack at the local casino "on principle", you can probably conclude that he doesn't buy lottery tickets either. And this principle can extend further to other areas where risk is prevalent. Smoking or not. Eating poorly or not. Getting exercise or not. Choice of friends... Choice of mate. There are risks in each of these areas. A person who by principle is not a gambler, probably will not try to defy the odds when it comes to all areas of their life where risk presents itself. And they will prosper or fail accordingly.

I have always found in my life that where I have made blunders or missteps, it was because I either ignored my principles or tried to defy them.

So, what I find extremely mystifying about the American political response to the current economic crisis is this: why do they seem to be coming up with new solutions and new responses to the various situations as they emerge? Why is there such little cohesiveness to the decisions? And, why do they respond in a way that does not appeal to known political and philosophic principles outlined by the founding fathers? I fear that the lack of a principled response is going to come back in a big way to haunt all of us as we will all carry the tax burden of such horrendous missteps.

So, this is an appeal to everyone... In your own life, recognize when and where your principle comes into play, then follow it. In business, abide by an ethics that will allow you to thrive with both self-respect and external admiration. And in government, don't make knee-jerk reactions using situational judgement. Find the underlying principle that should guide your decision, then act... with confidence.

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