Thursday, June 12, 2014

And Behind Door Number 2

Monty Hall is synonymous with most generations as the host of “Let’s Make a Deal!” Average folk are given the opportunity by the host to choose one prize over another. Sometimes the items are fabulous, and sometimes they’re “zonks.” Contestants wear outlandish costumes to get the hosts attention. The show has been on the air for more than 50 years on various networks in multiple of configurations. 20 non-U.S. countries have their incarnations, though it’s only currently in Egypt and Indonesia. Afghanistan is not one of the places the show has ever aired, though the Taliban have shown remarkable adeptness at the concept.

Bartering is the fundamental premise of a capitalist society. One thing has a certain value and it is exchanged for something else of a similar value. I started my consulting business on a barter – a friend’s company was in distress and asked if I thought I could help. I did – in exchange for 3 in person referrals since they didn’t have cash. And, like the old Prell commercials, they told 2 friends, and so on and so on and so on.

Today running a not-for-profit feels often like the days of bartering, especially when the auction season kicks in. We’ll give you ___ from our organization if you give us ____ from yours.

In the workforce, internships are another form of barter. People without direct experience will trade long hours and little to no pay for the opportunity to learn, gain experience and the potential of being hired. Many a Hollywood career was born out of lowly internships in mailrooms.

Applying the same concept towards diplomacy seems to have ruffled feathers. Conservatives who usually have capitalistic principals as the bedrock of their values are beside themselves that the President swapped 5 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay for 1 American, the only known U.S. prisoner of war. According to some it was a great deal, saving the life of a soldier and not leaving a man behind. Others have suggested this is ‘treason’ and an impeachable offense. Beyond the hyperbole- there’s no actual law saying whom the President can or cannot talk to, despite longstanding protocols. He’s entitled to change them. In this case he actually told everybody he would. (This is, in fact, in line with the transparency he promised, that so often has gone missing.)

The frothing at the mouth and the near round-the-clock ‘analysis’ is curious. Candidate Barak Obama in 2007 whipped up some excitement when in response to a question of whether he would ever negotiate with the leaders of North Korea and Iran. He said “I would.” It was his whole premise that personal diplomacy and negotiation would be a marked contrast to President Bush (43) who seemed to choose military action over diplomacy. There was a lot of discussion at the time. In fact, some think that the President’s Nobel Prize came in part from his willingness to embrace discussion over bombs.

My own antipathy towards war makes these analyses more difficult since the easy answer is that if the U.S. hadn’t barreled into a military conflict, there wouldn’t have been a prisoner of war to have to rescue. Since that’s a bit too convenient, being able to rescue an American without additional bloodshed makes sense. It seems that this individual may not be the piece of Apple pie that the Obama marketers were hoping for. That shouldn’t matter.

Now that the world sees that the President is willing to give a little to get a little, perhaps the Republicans can barter a little more like the Taliban. Nah, that’s like  Door #3. 

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