Who Are the Real Modern Day “Tyrants”?

June 1, 2002
In this issue:

1. Newsbrief: Executive Excellence magazine on the Conscious Organization
2. June Editorial: Who Are the Real Modern Day “Tyrants”?
3. Newsbriefs: Rave Review for Getting to the Better Future; John to Speak in Australia
4. Next Month’s Editorial: Finding the Treasures in the Shadows: How Consciousness Organizations Can Reap Huge Rewards.


Executive Excellence magazine on the Conscious Organization
The May 2002 issue of Executive Excellence magazine features an article by John entitled “Conscious Organizations” – one of his favorite topics this past couple of years. He defines this as an organization which seeks out dark or dysfunctional behavior much like antibodies seek out viruses in the human body.


Back in the middle ages, royalty was assumed to be either divine or very well-connected to the Gods in what has become known as the “Divine Right of Kings.” Kings and queens could do all sorts of nasty things and everyone excused it as “willed by the gods” or some such rationalization. This was the assumption everyone had grown up with. This assumption was passed on from one generation to the next, one century to the next, pretty much unchallenged. People went along with tyrannical behavior, social injustice, unfair application of the laws, and even tolerated absolute madness, assuming that this was the way it was supposed to be. No one questioned it. Then, one day, someone said – “hey, why are we going along with this?” (Thomas Paine and his crowd) and democracy was born.

Once this long-held assumption was questioned and perceived as having no real validity in fact, the divinely-endowed rights and privileges associated with royalty started becoming things of the past.

Today, we have a new class of privilege, a new group of tyrants who only possess the rights they hold because the rest of us allow them to by granting them the same sense of legitimacy that our forefathers and foremothers granted their royalty. Similar injustices and inequities exist in the world because a new generation of tyrants is being allowed to run roughshod over the vast majority. A new “madness” is being condoned by the masses who don’t appear to be challenging the underlying assumption that this is “willed by the gods” and, thus, we think we have no power to change it.

The dictionary defines tyrants as people who are unrestrained by law, who usurp sovereignty and are harsh users of power and authority.

We tend to think that the real power resides with our national leaders – like heads of state. Look at how much power we give to our U.S. President. Lots of people agree that “the most powerful man in the world” is George Bush. Before him, “the leader of the free world” was Bill Clinton. This is the way most people think about where the power is and the media keeps this assumption alive by serving as the gatekeeper of this way of thinking.

But let us look deeper. Students of systems thinking know that answers to questions in complex problems are rarely obvious.

Most will agree that the economic system has the greatest impact on global society than any other system in the world. Let’s look at what players within the economic system are having the most negative influence. Who are the least restrained by law? Who are the harshest abusers of power? Who are greatest usurpers of sovereignty?

The tyrants of today are the people who are engaged in pure financial speculation, without having any loyalty to any person or any organization except making the most money in the shortest time. Like casino gamblers, their actions wouldn’t be particularly harmful if the winners reaped the rewards from knowledgeable players – where all parties know the rules of the game they are playing.

These people have redefined “short-term’ to a ridiculous mutation of what Adam Smith envisioned several hundred years ago when he wrote The Wealth of Nations. Smith must be rolling over in his grave after two and a half centuries of using his “invisible hand” rationale to justify all sorts of perverse behavior.

Enron – an organizational trader – is a perfect harbinger of this perversion, as I made the case last month. When the fifth largest company in the U.S. can get the largest consulting company in the world and a major law firm to justify the most devious and deceptive practices, it is a sure sign that the system is dysfunctional. Enron is a trader but in stark contrast to most traders, it was a highly-visible organization, so its dysfunctionality became public and, therefore, a major scandal. But how many other Enrons – corporate and individual – are still out there?

Like it or not, traders are driving the “train of capitalism” – the most dominant economic system in the world. CEOs, directors, executives with vested stock and holding options, investment bankers, brokers, and investors of all sizes are merely passengers on this “train” which traders are driving faster and faster. No longer is it sufficient to own a good sound investment in a company that is producing a decent product. These players require minute-by-minute stock evaluations which drive their decisions (often programmed by computer) which in turn has all the rest of us jumping through hoops. CEOs, directors and major investors sometimes think they are in control but the people most influential in this craziness – those who are really pulling the strings and manipulating stock values – are the growing cadre of day traders who are taking bigger and bigger profits in larger and larger numbers in shorter and shorter timeframes.

I don’t mean to imply that traders are consciously doing something malicious. But they are having a huge impact on the rest of us. The time is here for all of us – traders, doctors, merchants, consumers and teachers – to be responsible for our choices and accountable for our actions.

Few people realize that the “economy” that most of us think about (the exchange of real goods and services) is a mere fraction of the amount of financial transactions taking place in the world every day. More than 90% of the world’s economic activity has nothing at all to do with any exchange of value; it is all about trading – betting on fluctuations and making huge fortunes as quickly as possible. The economy that most of us are part of could be compared to the vending machines income as a part of the total gross revenues of a Las Vegas gambling casino. It is part of the total revenue but a very small part.

Like the kings and queens in centuries past, traders are simply going about their lives taking their nobility for granted – oblivious to any negative impact they might be having in the world. But if you accept that we all have impact on each other – and that we have some impact even if we sit in our room every day and “do” nothing – then what is the impact these traders have on the rest of the world, particularly those in other parts of the world, who are so heavily influenced by American capitalism?

The other day, I saw an infomercial on television that was pitching a system which you could purchase and become an overnight stock trader! Doesn’t this suggest that we are rapidly becoming a society of traders instead of investors? So who has to work anymore? Let’s just sit home and trade all day! There’s no sense working at a job making something that people could use to better their lives. There’s no need to leave the house and sweat for a living building a house or providing a service that people might require. Let’s make a few trades and make a ton of money sitting on the couch. Hey, who needs to work anyway?

The above is excerpted from a longer article by John. Anyone wanting the original article (over 2,400 words) can get an electronic copy.

NOTE: John recommends The Divine Right of Capital, by Marjorie Kelly (Berrett-Koehler, 2001)


Rave Review for Getting to the Better Future

Long Range Planning (published in the UK), the leading international journal in the field of strategic planning, will soon be publishing a “rave review” of John’s book – Getting to the Better Future; the book was reviewed by Barry Hopewell. The book can be previewed at Getting to the Better Future. Want a copy of the review?  Want a copy of the book…a real bargain at $13.50 plus S&H (and tax for CA residents)? You can purchase from Amazon

John to Keynote Australian Conference

Scheduled for December 6-9 on the Gold Coast of Australia, the sixth annual Spirituality Leadership and Management (SLaM) conference will feature John as a keynoter.


NEXT MONTH: Finding the Treasures in the Shadows: How Consciousness in Organizations Can Reap Huge Rewards.

About John Renesch

Better Future NEWS is prepared monthly by John Renesch, a San Francisco writer, business futurist, and consultant/executive coach. His latest book is Getting to the Better Future: A Matter of Conscious Choosing. For a list of all the SERVICES John offers, go to Services.

Posted in

John Renesch

John is a seasoned businessman-turned-futurist who has published 14 books and hundreds of articles on social and organizational transformation.

Mini Keynote Archives