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Visions 2000.

Nile leading figures in business, politics, law, academia, science, and education focus their sights over the horizon to guide CEOs toward the new century.

Chief Executive asked Walter Wriston, Sir Michael Howard, Diane Ravitch, Pete Wilson, and Tony O'Reilly to reply to a group of critical and related questions on the future: "From your perspective, what is the greatest challenge we face as a society? Will we meet this challenge? If not, why? If so, how?" Their answers follow in Part One of a two-part series. Part Two, which will appear in the next issue, will feature the responses of Intel's Andy Grove, Fifth Circuit Federal Judge Edith Jones, Harvard historian Daniel Pipes, and Cal Tech computer scientist Carver Mead.


Electronic technology and the information explosion have created a situation that might be described as the twilight of sovereignty. This does not mean that the nation state will disappear, indeed we will see more countries formed, but the power of government is attenuating.

What is already happening is unique in the history of the world. The concept of human freedom is a virus, a virus that is spreading across the global telecommunications network, and all governments are learning that there is no antidote for freedom. Barbara Ward observed that revolutions don't occur until people learn that there is an alternative to their way of life. The news about these alternatives now bounces off satellites, and moves across movies screens all over the world. Indira Ghandi once said that when a peasant in India sees a movie in which a housewife opens the door of her refrigerator and there is food in the refrigerator, that is a revolutionary statement. Today, everybody in the world can watch on television the destruction of the Berlin Wall or see the Soviet Union in turmoil. The result is that the concept of freedom is spreading, the dictatorships of the world are all crumbling. For the fist time in history, the ordinary person in the farthest reaches of the world knows there is an alternative way to live. This is the most important thing that has happened in our century. And it is going to keep right on happening. The path to freedom for the people of the world is not going to be smooth, and there will be setbacks, like Tiananmen Square, but at the end of the day the movement is absolutely irreversible.

The second great tide running in the world is that almost nobody believes in the socialistic experiment anymore. It doen't feed the people. So in one form or another the market economy is being tried almost everywhere in the world. People are learning that a free market economy and a free populace go hand in hand. This news is also traveling on the global network of telecommunications, and creating a global market for ideas and capital that is so poweful that while individual governments may interrupt it for short periods of time, in the end they cannot stop it.

In the international financial arena, the world now operates on what I call the information standard, which is more draconian than the gold standard. If the President of the United States goes out in the Rose Garden and makes an announcement, there are about 250,000 screens in trading rooms in the world that will light up with the news. And traders buy or sell the dollar depending on their evaluation of whether the new policy is good or bad for the value of the dollar. The actions of all governments are now subject to the same global inspection, and are immediately rewarded or penalized. Today everything that happens in the world feeds into the global telecommunications network, and governments are powerless in the short run to influence the exchange rate of their currency. The good news is that the only way they can affect the value of their currency positively is to pursue sound economic policies. So I would argue that the market over time will force governments that have bad policies to reverse them. An example of this was Mittrerand, who came in as President of France as a socialist, and nationalized everything. France immediately lost about a third of its foreign exchange reserves. The information standard so penalized France that Mitterand reversed his policies. That is a tremendous discipline on a government that is happening everyday.

Governments do not willingly accept the idea of the information standard because they like to preserve the illusion that they can manipulate the exchange rate, but today central bank intervention just turns into an expensive failure. This is true because the market transactions in one day exceed the reserves of all the central banks of the world. Unlike the gold standard or Bretton Woods, nations cannot resign from the information standard. There is no place to hide. No matter what governments do, the screens in the trading rooms will continue to light up, and the market will reward sound policies and punish the bad.

Today this global electronic market allocates money capital across borders as if they did not exist. Capital moves toward the best blend of return and safety. It cannot be driven by government; it can only be attracted. Although money capital will always be important in building the world's economy, intellectual capital is now arguably becoming the most important form of capital. People who can write complex software programs or design the wing of a new airplane can walk across national borders and tell customs officers, "I have nothing to declare." Their minds alone hold true wealth-creating capital. Our laws are designed to prevent the movement across borders of physical goods, but as borders become porous to the movement of ideas and money, they become less important. The telecommunications network is doing what politicians couldn't--making a global market.


One of the most remarkable events in human history occurred, first in Western Europe and then on the Eastern seaboard of the United States, in the 17th and 18th centuries: the scientific revolution, itself part of a total transformation in the way people looked at the world. It challenged the assumption that God, or gods, had determined the way in which things were going to be, and that mankind had to learn about it through the medium of a church and live their lives in accordance with precepts handed down from on high and interpreted by some sort of shaman. The new concept was that individual people themselves have valid perceptions and reasoning processes. These reasoning processes compelled them to abandon their old presuppositions, whether they were about science or about politics. This new outlook eventually led to scientific and technological development on an enormous scale, and, of course, that technological development led to political revolution.

But the impact of new ideas on traditional societies was, and is, always deeply disruptive. They have always provoked reaction and confusion until ultimately, with luck, a synthesis emerges between these revolutionary concepts and the traditional societies on which they impact. This has been going on for 300 years, and is still happening today. The diffusion of rationalism, technology, democracy and human rights always causes profound disruption to traditional ways of life. The nature of the confusion and the dislocation varies in different parts of the world, but all developing societies have somehow to find their way through it.

One result of the technological revolution has been overpopulation. The majority of mankind no longer dies in childbirth. Even in Central Africa the life expectancy is now up to forty or fifty years, which means that many more people are around. In a horrible way, AIDS is doing something to redress the balance, much as the Black Plague did in Europe 600 years ago. AIDS is a disease which we seem unable to check, as we have all others in the past. It is perhaps significant that AIDS is connected with the dissolution of sexual mores, which have always been central to traditional values in all cultures.

If I have a vision at all, it is of a society that has solved these problems. But my prognosis is that these issues are going to keep us busy for a long time. They will appear in different forms, each more difficult than the other. Their impact on politics will be continuous. We must face the fact that we have a very different century in fron of us. So I am less concerned with goals than with the struggle itself.

War is a spinoff of the conflicts produced by these problems. Many of the wars of the 19th and 20th centuries arose from the impact of the ideas of the American and French revolutions on other societies, and the turmoil that those revolutions created within them. National socialism was a reaction in Germany against all the ideas of the western world, all the norms and values of democracy and human equality, which had come to be taken for granted in the societies of western Europe and the United States. It was also the result of the economic confusion which itself was the result of the First World War. War is like the eruption of a skin disease, which breaks out in an unhealthy society.

We shall still be faced with international conflicts which some people will try to resolve by the use of armed force, as Saddam Hussein did in the Gulf. The only justification for the maintenance of armed forces is to deter such people from using force to solve their problems. So long as such problems do exist, the possibility of force being used as a short cut will still be there; which means that we must still siphon off some of our resources to maintain a military structure. But the purpose of that structure is the maintenance of a stable order that will enable us to deal with the huge problems--political, social, economic, and ecological--that will continue to confront mankind, not only in the next century, but the one after that.


I am most interested in education because it is the lever to every other kind of change. I'm not sure we can accomplish what we should accomplish by the year 2000, but I am absolutely certain that we must try. As a major nation in a post-industrial, highly technological world, we have to develop our human resources. And we are now in a situation where very significant numbers of our kids as well as our adults don't understand the world that they live in, or are afraid of it. They don't understand change, they're overwhelmed by it, they're frightened by it. Education is one way of learning to change. The biggest challenge we all have is that change is happening so fast that it is frightening. If you are on top of things, it's a little scary, and if you're not on top of things, it has to be totally frightening, because the pace of change has accelerated in our life time beyond anything that any other generation has ever had to experience.

We're in a world where technology, science, all products of the above, are changing the conditions of life. Family relationships are changing, they are much more fragile than they have been in the past. People are much more mobile than they have been in the past, and a lot of people find it very hard to cope with the stresses of modern life. Knowledge and information, both are unique kinds of personal power in these changes. The more you know and the more you understand, the more you are able to deal with your life, and make good choices, and that basically is what education is about.

One of the problems with our current educational system has been a focus on too much functionalism--preparing for a specific role in the job market, or to carry out some specific function. Education is basically the result of a predisposition to want to learn more, and it's really hard to get that across to people that just that is what it is all about. Most people today say they are going to school to get a piece of paper, and when they get the piece of paper, their education is finished. But the way the world is changing today, the need for life long learning is greater than it has ever been. We are seeing people today going through career changes with a fair amount of frequency, which would have been unthinkable forty years ago. In post-industrial society, you begin your education with school, but you then find yourself, through education, changing roles throughout life. Said another way, the thing you are preparing yourself to do may not exist by the time you are ready to do it. This makes an absolute demand that you be prepared to learn to do different things. Interestingly, society is teaching this lesson more than the schools are. Kids look around, and they see what is happening to their own families. They see it reflected in television, and they see it in real life more than they see it in schools.

If the schools really understood what was happening in society, they would be much more willing to stress a liberal education. The very thing that was considered an academic education, with a generalized set of knowledge and skills to prepare you for every occupation is what is needed. But the schools have been wedded to preparing students for specific occupations, and that turns out to be not very relevant, because the very occupations they are preparing kids for may be the ones that are disappearing. You would be better prepared for modern life if you had read War and Peace, for example, than if you took a vocational training program. You would understand something about history and about change and how to understand what is going on about you and how to understand politics. A really great novel like that tells you more about life--anywhere--than a how-to book that was written last year. For a long time the people who thought like this and favored a liberal education were encouraged to get out of the education field. Now there is a growing number of people who clearly see the need for this type of approach.

For the year 2000, we could have a real change in attitudes about education in this country if parents really got involved with their kids, and understood that they were responsible for their mental and emotional and physical well being up until the time they are young adults and able to take care of themselves. If schools could be places where there is a joy in learning, and the benefits of education could be spread across the whole population for both the young and the old--that would be a pretty fantastic thing. I don't know if this is likely to happen, but as I said at the outset, we sure have to try.


My vision of the future is of a "We" decade devoted to helping people help themselves. We won't warehouse human failure, we'll use creative approaches to unleash the human spirit. Many of these new ideas will come, as they always have, from America's business leaders.

History tells us it is more cost-effective and infinitely more humane to prevent problems early, than to try to remedy them later. Does this mean that in an era of tight budgets, we must boost preventive solutions at the expense of remedial programs? The answer must be "yes."

After all, how much better to provide pre-natal care to assure 50 or 60 healthy new babies, than to pay for neo-natal care for only one unhealthy baby? So, in California, we've expanded and strengthened the ultimate preventive approach--pre-natal care. How much better to, provide counseling in early pregnancy to get drug-using mothers off drugs, so they won't give birth to drug-addicted babies?

To that effort we've dedicated $25 million to expand treatment for substance-abusing mothers. We've also added $15 million to fund an education campaign to prevent teen pregnancy, and another $10 million is targeted to prevent unmarried teens and substance-abusing mothers.

But this is only the beginning of our program to prevent problems before they escalate in financial and human cost. Obviously, it is better to prevent learning disorders than to engage in compensatory education. So we're bringing mental health counseling to the schools, to catch the problems of children early enough--so that we don't waste a precious decade of a child's learning experience.

And rather than leave our kids to the streets, we want to encourage volunteer mentors; so every school-aged child will be supported by a caring adult. I've been inspired by the work of a group called The 100 Black Men of Los Angeles. They've made a difference in their community. They've reached out to help young black students and guide them to adulthood. And their success is phenomenal. They've doubled the number of young black men from Los Angeles County admitted to the University of California.

Some libertarians see this and say: "Private sector groups like The 100 Black Men can do the job. Let's stop the growth of government." Liberals say: "Only government has the resources to solve problems." But the real answer is to energize our existing institutions, public and private, to mobilize people with ideas, and to promote the values of hard work and self-discipline that make the American Dream a vibrant reality. These are the values that make for successful entrepreneurs and business leaders. And these are values business leaders can help spread.

Ultimately, our goal must be to help people gain sovereignty over their own lives, to give compassion practical force, and to never forget to cherish the day and plan for the future.


The biggest opportunity facing us in the West is the most immediate one, that is assisting the restructuring of what was Soviet Union, and what is now a loose confederation of Republics, the greatest of which is mother Russia herself. And we've got to help in every way. First, the situation this winter is very, very serious. Famine in the Soviet Union would become the enemy of democracy and the friend of every militarist. Famine is a very real likelihood because of their bureaucratic farming failures. Moreover, it is the distribution system as much as the production. It's pretty frightening when you see how hard it is to get product to market in a place like Moscow, and the extraordinary paucity of product available. Shopping is a daily humiliation for the Russian housewife.

Secondly, we have the opportunity to use American management know-how and organizational savvy to give the Republics a banking and accounting system, which they desperately need, and to assist rapidly in the provision of everything from a bill of rights to a proper jurisprudential structure that gives them courts they can trust. We can help them understand the definition of the separation of powers, so essential to democratic process. So I think there is ten years work there, and if we got to the year 2000 with a confederation that is an extension of Western Democracy, we would have probably performed the most significant feat, allowing for the two wars, in the whole of the 20th century.

In a wider sense, the opportunity of the next ten years is to capitalize on the growing awareness that we all have of the futility of war, and of the prosperity that could be born of peace. So I would feel that all our people, the successful businessman, the young student, our athletes, artists, our teachers, should be considering how they can best display the mantle of democracy to that most important part of the world with its 290 million people, and its history both of isolation and autocracy.

Nothing less than a massive Western assistance effort will respond to this opportunity. I think we have been very pusillanimous so far, and I would like to feel there is going to be mobilized the sort of action that George Marshall fronted after World War Two. I wrote to Deputy Secretary of State, Larry Eagleburger, and I quoted the British Treasury Secretary, Trevelyan, whose response to the question of assisting the Irish in 1845 at the onslaught of the potato famine, was that we should not rob the people of their pride by giving them food. So as a result, two million people died, and two million people emigrated, and the course of Anglo-Irish relationships was never the same again. So I suggested to Mr. Eagleburger that it was possible to make a miscalculation of the scale of Secretary Trevelyan if nothing was done to help the Russians this winter.

Perhaps it's hard for Americans to feel that yet again it is the U.S. that has to lead. Why not the European Community? After all, Europe is more proximate, and just as rich. However, the net result may be a vacuum in leadership, both here and in Europe, and we'll all pay the price of inaction.

It should be recommended that Chancellor Kohl has shown strong leadership in relation to Eastern Germany. Although the Germans will have funding problems for the next five years, in ten years time Kohl will be revered for his leadership and foresight. Right now unity is causing the German people a lot of problems, and they are paying with dearer money and higher taxes for the mistake they made in setting the exchange rate too high for East Germany. However, broadly speaking, the Germans will get it right, and they will have a very powerful country by the year 2000--with up to 80 million people. This is a country that can play the key leadership role in Europe, and a world leadership role almost independently of its European role.

But I return to my thesis that America has to provide world leadership because it is so technically proficient, and because almost every political, social, and economic experiment you want to conduct has been conducted here. We know what furthers democracy and stability in a vast geographical area: a pluralist constitution, separation of powers, a single currency, central policing, and a common culture. It is only when you see what America has achieved with such disparate cultures that you realize how far many other countries have to go. If we don't respond, the world could conceivably, although one rather doubts this, break into three blocks: A teutonically-dominated European block, a Japanese-led Asian block, and a U.S.-led Americas block. Then we would begin to think in terms of competing spheres of power, rather than as citizens of the world. But I don't think that is going to come to pass, because I hope we will implement the necessary measures including generous aid programs to the poorer regions, and global trade liberalization to create a new community of nations that will begin an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity.
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Title Annotation:part 1; renowned figures share their views of potential challenges facing CEOs in the 21st century
Publication:Chief Executive (U.S.)
Date:Nov 1, 1991
Previous Article:To Russia, with love.
Next Article:Beyond the bar code.

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