Archive | July 2011

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee


Psychologist William James offered this simple but extremely accurate observation about the human species, “Compared to what we ought to be, we are half awake.”

Most of us are sleep walking through life. It is only when we are provoked from our slumber that we take a look around at the new world we wake up in and ask, “Where am I and what am I doing?” That provocation most often comes in the form of adversity. Adversity is like a slap in the face.

Mild adversity may only interrupt our slumber long enough to make us roll over and go back to sleep. Severe adversity or a succession of adversities may cause us to sit up, get up and do something. Therefore adversity performs a valuable function in our lives. It is a road block that forces us to detour from our regular path.

In the absence of adversity we most often choose the path of least resistance. The danger in this is that we become so comfortable that we fail to realize there is another path. This is the path of change. When presented with this option it’s easy to offer excuses of why we can’t or won’t choose the path of change. That is our choice. What’s interesting is the number of people who not only choose not to change but then criticize those who do.

As an example I offer a bit of basketball trivia. March 11, 1995 was a significant date in the history of girls high school basketball. On that date the last game of 6 on 6 girls basketball was played in the state of Oklahoma. From that date forward girls played the same 5 on 5 game that boys play. There were a number of coaches in the state that had adamantly opposed the change for years. So much so that Oklahoma was the last state to make the transition. College basketball made the switch to 5 on 5 in 1971 as well as most states at the high school level.

I remember one die-hard high school coach in Oklahoma telling me that girls were not capable of playing 5 on 5. He said they didn’t have the stamina to play the same game as the boys – even though they had been proving they could for 24 years!

The issue really wasn’t whether it was possible or impossible. The issue was the coach didn’t want to change. Change meant he had to learn a new way to coach. He would have to change everything he was doing. He would have to wake up and smell the coffee. Wouldn’t it be much easier to pass off the brave new world of girls basketball as a bad dream, roll over and go back to sleep?

In my work as a consultant, I encounter people who remind me of the coach who saw no need to change. They don’t want to change, they don’t want the organization to change, they want to do things the way they always have and they find all the reasons why they – and everyone else – should continue on the path of least resistance. They find reasons why they can’t do something even while others are doing it.

“Two roads diverged in the wood,” wrote Robert Frost. “And I, I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference.” The path of least resistance is the road most traveled. If you want to go through life half awake that’s your choice. But don’t criticize those who are brewing the coffee while you sleep. They are the ones who are making a difference.

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By Dennis T. Avery

CHURCHVILLE, VA—I’m tired of reading about the American economy’s “mysterious” non-recovery. The lack of recovery isn’t mysterious at all. The economy hates uncertainty, and Obama has introduced more economic uncertainty than we’ve had since Hoover and Roosevelt started violating the law of supply and demand 80 years ago.

Our present crisis was caused by federal policies demanding that banks make bad housing loans to people who couldn’t afford their mortgages. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s $500 billion in mortgage losses still haven’t been added to federal red ink totals—and both are still out there incurring more losses. Consequently we don’t know what a house is worth, now or tomorrow.

Obama doubled the uncertainty about Bush’s costly Troubled Assets Relief Program—spending nearly a billion dollars in big-city Democrat “stimulus” gifts that didn’t create any real jobs. (Neither did Roosevelt’s “pump-priming” in the 1930s.) After TARP came the Democrats’ massive federal budget increase, sending our national debt into the stratosphere for at least a decade to come. How can we possibly pay for this without stealing investment from the private sector?

Since the stimulus failure and the soaring debt, Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geitner, keeps demanding still another massive stimulus, without even a clear idea where he’d target renewed debt-spending. Senator Harry Reid recently jumped on his bandwagon. Obama would sign whatever they could pass on the Hill.

Nobody understands Obamacare yet either—but it will impact one of the biggest and fastest-growing U.S. industries. The 1400 waivers granted so far make us wonder whether every existing private-sector health care program in the country will be dumped into the federal lap. The similar Massachusetts health-care program has ramped up government health-care costs without covering many more people or reducing emergency room visits.

Our President keeps touting the wonders of Green Jobs, but so far most of those have been created in China. Even companies he’s used as press-event backdrops have gone belly-up. Meanwhile, the global temperatures haven’t increased for the last 15 years. How long, O Lord, before we admit the climate future is uncertain—as it always has been?

Our Environmental Protection Agency’s new limits on coal-fired power plants are likely to boost U.S. electric bills sharply in 2014—as the first round of Obama’s promised emission cuts. He’s threatened coal companies with bankruptcy. Energy Secretary Chu said we needed gasoline prices as high as Europe’s—or about $8 per gallon—to prevent a global warming we aren’t getting. The Feds have now shut down coal and oil wherever they could, the better to get gas at least back above $4 a gallon.

What will electricity and gasoline cost five years from today?  Those are very basic uncertainties. The public is ambivalent about giving up fossil fuels, but they already see it will be very expensive. British “energy poverty” will more than double, especially since we’re all supposed to keep slashing fossil fuel use until we reach zero.

People think Franklin Roosevelt “corrected” Hoover’s policies and ended the Depression. Wrong. Both Hoover and FDR were radicals. Hoover gave us tariff wars, government wage controls, an uncertain fiscal policy and big spending on “infrastructure.” Roosevelt drew praise for his constant “bold, persistent, experimentation.” Both gave us high tax increases, even bigger budget deficits—and more uncertainty. Job creation came at the price of the 2nd World War with its millions of deaths and the devastation of Europe.

Why would anyone investing today expect profits in America or Europe?  China is a better bet—and more of the world’s investors are making that bet.

DENNIS T. AVERY, a senior fellow for the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC, is an environmental economist.  He was formerly a senior analyst for the Department of State. He is co-author, with S. Fred Singer, of Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Hundred Years, Readers may write him at PO Box 202, Churchville, VA 24421, email to, or comment on