"The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all." H.L. Mencken
I suppose I am not unlike most other Americans in that I undoubtedly take the freedoms that I have pretty much for granted. Not that I'm proud of it, but when I look in the mirror I have to admit that it isn't something that I go to bed at night or wake up in the morning thinking about.
That said, as I was on the treadmill at the gym this morning and watching the news and listening to the commentary surrounding our latest poster children for ego driven greed (i.e. Bernie Madoff and Allen Stanford) two thoughts kept surfacing in my mind and as they did, I kept getting madder, going faster and sweating more.
The first thought as I've already said was the anger I felt at listening yet once again to the how these two guys had betrayed the trust of others.
The second, however, was about how they had thrown away the opportunity that living in this country had given to them.
Maybe the second thought came because the 4th is this weekend when we are all reminded of just how fortunate we are to live in this country. It was this second thought that led me to the Mencken quote up top of this post.
Since I have spent my entire career in the business world, and most of that interacting with senior level business leaders, I have had my share of experience in dealing with the "scoundrels" on a personal level as well as reading and hearing about the all too many others (i.e. Ebbers, Lay et al.)
But as I was "cooling down" from my workout, and thinking about these SOBs and what they had elected to do with the freedom and opportunities that living here had given them, I thought to myself that as bad as they were and are, in terms of those who lead businesses in this country (both large and small) the over-whelming majority of them don't really need to be "regulated."
As I think the Mencken quote suggests, laws are written to try and protect the rest of us from the few who choose to use the freedom we enjoy to satisfy their own greed as opposed to using the opportunity they have been given to give back in a way that helps us to grow as a society and country.
Maybe all this sounds rediculously idealistic, however, I have certainly been around long enough to know that like it or not, we actually do need the laws and regs to protect us from the preditors. Caveat emptor hasn't been around as long as it has just because back in the day someone thought it was a clever phrase.
But even with all this "evil" surrounding us why am I optimistic? Because I really do believe that there are far more leaders out there (even lots whose first name might be Bernie or Ken) who lead their departments, divisions, SBUs and companies who have taken advantage of the freedoms we enjoy to lead in a way that make us proud to not just be part of their organization but proud as well to be a citizen of the greatest country on earth.
Enjoy your holiday.