The US government has continually avoided the need to address the economic security and freedom of the American People. America’s leaders have continually ignored the need to address the consequences of growing income, wealth, and opportunity inequality alongside rising living expenses. The US avoids growing levels of poverty, because it is far more rewarding to simply focus on other issues. During the Labor Movement, American leaders faced political pressure for their failures to address the financial wellbeing of average workers. Back then, it was also far less costly to advocate for things like social welfare, which was seen as a way to alleviate the burden of the poor. Today, it is too costly in political terms to confront a ballooning National Debt while it is far too rewarding to embrace unresponsive government, an increasingly regressive individual tax code, an increasingly regressive business tax code, and an illiberal global trade regime that favors international corporations and state-sponsored firms over domestic workers and businesses.
In other words, government has learned to avoid the problems that have the greatest impact on those they allegedly represent and serve. Government does not exist to solve every problem of every person. It does, however, exist to empower people and cultivate a social environment that empowers people to solve their own problems. Sometimes, this mean government needs to step in and solve the common problems shared by a significant portion of a population. Instead of addressing the common interests of individuals, however, modern government has a way of avoiding the “localized” problems of individuals by drawing attention to the “globalized” problems of the nation and world with grand public policy debates and solutions that ultimately do little to solve real world problems. Public policy prescriptions continually fail, because their proponents are not actually solving problems. They are avoiding them by refocusing public attention on alternative issues and flashy options.
Avoidance, specifically the avoidance of problems, is the natural impulse that compels all people from birth to escape uncomfortable circumstances. It also happens to be an impediment to human progress and social development. Problem avoidance is the bane of government, business, and all other social institutions. After all, these organizations exist solely to solve problems for people and their communities. At times, the dysfunction of problem avoidance is the product of a toxic organizational environment so punitive that members of the organization can only survive by avoiding problems. If mistakes and poor decisions are simply met with the harshest of reactions and punishments, people are only going to confront “problems” they can solve. More importantly, “zero tolerance” environments stunt personal and processional growth by making learning impossible. People are trained by slowly reshaping their behavior via a multitude of interactions, which is not possible when a deathblow is the consequence for a misstep.
Others times, unchecked problem avoiders in positions of influence are to blame for an institution’s avoidance issues. This issue can only be addressed by empowering problem solvers and confronting problems wisely. Ultimately, problem avoiders do not want to deal with the discomfort of stubborn problems nor do they want to deal with the consequences of their inability to solve stubborn problems. It is why, if they do not outright bury issues, problem avoiders tend to “punish” those who bring problems to the light of day. Whistle-blowers may not face outright retaliation, but problem avoiders will react by calling out whistle-blowers for their shortcomings or disempowering them. Avoiders will also “muddy the water” to obscure the true sources of problems and blame individuals who are undesirable, problematic, in their eyes. They will then embrace whatever superficial “solutions” sound appealing and create the least amount of disruptions. Problem avoiders, even if they claim to be problem solvers and/or continually seek improvement, do not like to confront issues nor do they like the drama of others confronting issues, which is why they intentionally and unintentionally suppress problem solving.
A culture of avoidance can exist for a number of reasons, but overcoming it is always a challenge that can only be achieved by cultivating a culture of problem solving. This requires empowering actual problems solvers, i.e. people who confront problems. Problem solvers are willing to admit when they make mistakes and when they need to find better answers. It also requires problems to be addressed in ways that they do not create costly controversies as avoiders will simply react as though they are under attack. In the case of government and the need to secure the financial wellbeing of average people, power is derived from the People and the influential, thus a critical mass of social pressure is needed to add a substantial cost for failing to confront economic issues. When political leader attempt to distract the Nation by prioritizing national and global over more local, individual issues or roll out flashy, feel-good options, a critical mass of people need to react negatives then steer these avoiders toward actual solutions. Above all, the public debate must be framed to continually draw people toward viable solutions that actually solve underlying issues.
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