Old sailing ships a lesson for today

Posted: Monday, March 23, 2009

Two hundred years ago, ships sailed around the world. There were no navigational sytstems. They relied upon pilots with a basic knowledge of celestial navigation. On the main masts, lookouts watched for reefs, rocks and possible dangers. In command were individuals who had weathered storms at sea and had survived dangerous situations. Some of the old sailing ships ended up as shipwrecks or disappeared at sea. Others made voyages around the world and returned home successfully. They were acclaimed and honored.

Today, the economic world also is unexplored. There are legal, political and economic seas that have never been encountered before. This is an era of "globalization."

Large corporations and major companies have been "shipwrecked." Their cargo - investors and common people alike - have perished. Now the officials, supposedly knowledgeable people, are trying to tell us that the failures and shipwrecks are our responsibility, and that we, our grandchildren and future generations must reimburse them for the failures of their ships and crews.

They say that they have had to pay their captains and officers "bonuses" to have the "best and brightest." But those "best and brightest" have shipwrecked the economy. They have caused people to lose homes, jobs and even family relationships. Where were these great economic pilots, those forecasters standing on the mainmast, to warn of dangers? Were they asleep below decks or just enjoying a glass of fine wine, good food and looking forward to even greater pleasures? Two hundred years ago, those in command understood the dangers. They accepted responsibility. They knew that if the ship went down, they went down with it.

Today, the captains of industry are not so accepting or responsible. If they survive, they want others to pay for their ships, their cargo and reward them for their incompetence.

Perhaps today those of us standing on shore, not always knowing exactly what is happening on the high seas of finance, may have to mourn the shipwrecks of some corporations or companies. But we cannot be expected to search the seas to recover all that was lost.

Wally Olson

Auke Bay





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