by Richard Martin

When the Soviet Union broke apart in 1991, there was neither the will nor the capability in the Kremlin to oppose it in an effective manner. Eastern Bloc countries and the former Baltic Soviet republics asked and were admitted to NATO.

The Russian grand strategy since 1991 has been to reclaim – explicitly or implicitly – the breakaway republics in what they call their “near abroad.” Anyone remember Georgia (Chechnya)? Just last week, Russian troops and resources, including a massive airlift of equipment and airborne troops, assisted the dictator of Kazakhstan in the bloody repression of a popular uprising against rising prices, corruption, and repression. Thousands are reported killed.

A plausible reconstruction of the word “Ukraine” is “borderlands,” or “frontier.” I believe this is what is behind the insistence of Ukrainians that their country should be called “Ukraine,” not “the Ukraine,” as was the tradition. In other words, “Our country’s name is Ukraine, not ‘The Frontier of Russia’.” Ukraine has tried to join NATO for years, and to remain autonomous and independent. But Russia has hindered that possibility every step of the way, including through subversion (of which they have much experience), political interference, propaganda, media operations, ideological warfare, psychological warfare, cyberwarfare, economic warfare, false flag operations, and even outright invasion and combat operations followed by annexation of the Crimea. 

The Russians are fixing to make a significant move against Ukraine. From the Russian standpoint, Ukraine is home territory. There are good reasons why most ethnic Ukrainians wish to be as independent of Russia as possible. But something like 40-50% of the population is ethnically Russian (similar to Kazakhstan). Ukrainian independence from Russia is like Texas separating from the US. The official Russian line is that they are the Old (Great) Russians, the Russians proper, Ukrainians are Little Russians, and Belarusians are White Russians. Do we think Russia will let Ukraine go without a fight? A Russian trope is that it is the continuation of Rome and Byzantium, the bastion of Christianity against the Asiatic hordes. This is what we’re dealing with.

Meanwhile, below the public’s radar the U.S. and the UK have been signalling the Russians for over a month now. US Navy activity and USAF command and control and nuclear readiness have been heightened since before Christmas. USAF nuclear C2 planes have been “squawking” in the clear so the Russians can see them. The Chief of the USN has announced the presence of Ohio-class cruise missile armed subs and Trident-class subs, including port calls in New Zealand, on Twitter no less. Roughly half of the US’s amphibious capability has been deployed. This is in addition to many other measures that are being deliberately telegraphed in the open. NATO and UK planes are also in action.

Russia will act; I have no doubt about it. The West will huff and puff and will do nothing beyond symbolic moves, such as sending some ammo to Ukraine, providing training cadre, and economic/financial sanctions. Biden’s Freudian slip yesterday about Russian invasion shows that will be the case. Upon specific request, the UK is sending antitank missiles to Ukrainian forces. The same request to the Canadian government has met with humming and hawing by our boy wonder PM Trudeau. Just yesterday he told reporters that sending Canadian ammo to Ukraine would just exacerbate the problem and give an excuse to the Russians to invade Ukraine. Appeasement anyone?

The line is in the Baltics and the rest of Eastern Europe. Will the Germans, the French, the Italians, the Greeks, the Turks, the Dutch fight for the territorial integrity of the Ukraine? Allow me to doubt it. They need Russian gas too much, and the Russian market. The Romanians, Poles and Baltics may be willing to fight against outright aggression, but will they go to war for the Ukrainians, when there are still centuries-old grievances between these lands. Perhaps, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Copyright 2022 Richard Martin

By Richard Martin

The fundamental law of economics is that of supply and demand. The price for any commodity is set at the intersection of customers’ desire to acquire the commodity and its availability for purchase. The market price thus brings together sellers and buyers and is constantly adjusted to value which customers attribute to a commodity and the price which sellers are willing to accept.

What we are seeing right now in the Covid-19 pandemic is a breakdown, or rather the failure, of the natural workings of the market system. The pandemic has caused and continues to cause a surge in demand for medical care, especially acute care as represented by ICU bedspaces. Unfortunately, the medical supply system has failed to respond to those surges other than at the margins, by calling in retired medical professionals, converting some space, and deferring other potentially life-saving interventions (e.g., cancer and cardiac treatments).

To see how the market can respond in a rapid and effective manner, we only have to look at how private sector enterprises have been able to rapidly switch production lines to serve surging needs in many areas. Numerous manufacturers converted and ramped up production of surgical masks, respirators, nitrile gloves, clear plastic faceguards, medical garb, to name a few of the most needed items. While not instantaneous, the shift happened at light-speed by the standards of the medical community.  Private operators understood the commercial opportunity and reacted accordingly to meet an unfulfilled demand, without any prompting by ponderous government overseers.

The same has occurred in the field of DNA tracking, infection testing, contact tracing, and, most important of all, vaccine development. It is a wonder to behold how rapidly and effectively biomedical and IT companies have focused their efforts on developing treatments and counter measures. All is not perfect, but compared, once again, to the habitual inflexibility of existing medical care systems, the progress is nothing short of miraculous.

Except it isn’t miraculous. The adaptations that have successfully arisen over the last year are due to three key factors. First of the these is a new, unfulfilled demand.  The second is private initiative to satisfy that demand. And third is competition. Even public sector labs and research institutions have gotten in on the game, seeing who can come up with an effective treatment or vaccine first. A small manufacturer in Quebec came up with an innovative and elegant solution to filter out at least 99% of particles in the air. It was only the workplace safety bureaucracy in Quebec that was refusing to approve the new type of mask because it didn’t conform to antiquated and inflexible regulations, despite the proven effectiveness of the design by federal lab tests.

I present these various private and competitive initiatives to illustrate that the solutions for the surge in demand for acute medical care being adopted around the world are stuck in the past and completely incapable of adapting to the reality around them. Early in the pandemic, in the spring of 2020, there were signs of hope. Despite all the criticism he received, President Trump was the only head of government in the developed world to order the mobilization of military medical know-how. He despatched two massive hospital ships, one to New York and the other to Los Angeles. The Javits Center in New York was converted by the US Army Corps of Engineers into a multi-thousand-bed hospital. Trump also initiated the set-up of field hospitals throughout the US. As far as we know, none of these emergency facilities were used much as the first wave subsided over the summer, and we have heard nothing of them since.

We can criticize Trump’s political skills and incessant Tweeting all we want, but we cannot but acknowledge his response  in the manner of an entrepreneur. If the demand for your products is through the roof, you invest as quickly as possible in new capacity. The fact that he used the US military to do so also shows that the military approach to medical treatment is highly appropriate in a pandemic. Military planners are taught to anticipate and estimate casualties resulting from operations and to concentrate medical assets to absorb the shock.

What happened during the summer of 2020? Most of us deluded ourselves into believing that the worst of the pandemic was over. We thought we could go back to business as usual and just wait for a vaccine to be available. Our government and medical leaders instituted lockdown measures in the spring and early summer of 2020 to “flatten the curve.” Most of us accepted the logic of the decision as a temporary measure. The federal government and most of the provinces instituted financial assistance to those most in need. We can argue about whether either set of measures was effective and appropriate, but at least they tried to defend against the worst effects of the shutdown.

However, as any military strategist or entrepreneur will tell you, defence is only a temporary measure to reconstitute forces and plan for a counterattack. Eventually, all protective barriers are breached; all business success is undermined by competitors. Thus, when the going is good, or there is a lull in the battle, that is the best time for planning to go back on the offensive.

In the case of the pandemic, our governments should have done everything possible to go on the offensive. Vaccine development has led to the first immunization campaigns, but it’s still way too early to see if the strategy will be effective. The 2020 summer lull in the pandemic presented an opportunity to build up capacity in the medical system. No doubt there was trimming and tugging around the edges of the system, but nothing like what was already then being anticipated as needed.

The Trump administration’s mobilization of military medical expertise is indicative of the type of campaign that should have occurred. In Canada, Quebec and Ontario asked for, and got, the temporary assignment of Canadian Armed Forces personnel to clean up the mess in nursing homes and long-term care facilities that had been neglected for too long. But that was only a stopgap measure. The premier of Quebec, François Legault, did launch an emergency campaign over the summer of 2020 to recruit and train 10,000 new caregivers for the province’s long-term care facilities. He did this despite resistance from within the provincial health department and unions. Part of the program involved offering much more enticing salaries. The program has not been perfect, but it has been largely successful and continues to fill out the ranks of the provinces long-term care facilities. Is it happenstance that Legault is a former businessman?

Instead of just mailing cheques to individuals and businesses, the Trudeau government should have ordered a massive campaign to mobilize the military to provide medical expertise and field engineers to the provinces to build standard field hospitals, complete with emergency facilities, ICUs, and casualty transportation and evacuation. The military was against using the armed forces in that manner, citing the need to maintain “preparedness.” However, this is like cutting off your nose to spite your face. The country, the entire world in fact, was engaged in a battle where time and resources were of the essence. The Prime Minister should have overruled the Chief of the Defence Staff and the Minister of National Defence. The war was happening, and the main resource that the nation has was busy practising manoeuvres in Wainwright Alberta. It reminds one of the joke extant within the professional officer class at the end of the First World War: “Now, we can finally get back to real [i.e., colonial] soldiering”.

Meanwhile, the most imaginative solution that anyone in government and in the medical system can come up with is to shut down society, by force if necessary. Thus, confinement, lockdowns, and even curfews are in effect everywhere, not just in Canada and the US. Instead of really going on the offensive against the pandemic and investing massively in upgrading and supplementing medical infrastructure, our leaders in government and medicine have chosen to blame the victim and make him/her pay by suppressing their liberty, freedom of movement, and right to earn a living and associate.

The population has by and large complied, at least in Canada and Europe. The only exception is the US, where the natural rebelliousness of the people and willingness to risk arrest and even death has meant that a large percentage of the population is actively resisting the lockdowns.  There is a logical argument to be made in favour of lockdowns and restrictions of movement and human contact. However, to the best of my knowledge, there is no scientific, evidence-based demonstration of their effectiveness to stop or resist the spread of the virus. The effectiveness of such radically disruptive and impoverishing measures is just assumed, apparently based on nothing more than common sense and that everybody is doing it.

I’ve proposed in this article an alternative solution, to be used instead of or in combination with any number of other measures. The lack of imagination of our health care and governmental leadership is breathtaking. On the other hand, we have seen what can be done when private initiative and competition are allowed to seek out solutions to obvious problems. Selective restrictions to contact and movement, as well as medical triage are no doubt needed and valuable. But they can’t be the only solution. We need to go back on the offensive, relaunch society and the economy, allow people to earn a living, and force our medical practitioners and administrators to stop dictating how to fight the pandemic.

We can see that the lockdowns and curfews are of dubious value while generating massive direct and opportunity costs for individuals, families, whole industries and countries. We will regret the restrictions because we’re not maintaining and upgrading the wealth and systems in a timely and effective manner. Moreover, we’re hoping that vaccination and immunization hold the key. But what if they don’t? What if in a year people are still dying and we still don’t know how to eradicate the disease? Shouldn’t our leaders, our governments, our doctors and medical administrators be looking for other options?

The author is an expert in crisis leadership and a former officer in the Canadian Army, with over 26 years’ experience in various missions around the world. He is currently the president of the Canadian Academy of Leadership and Development of Human Capital ( and principal of Alcera Consulting Inc. (, a firm that helps executives and organizations exploit change to grow and prosper. He is the author of Brilliant Manoeuvres: How to Use Military Wisdom to Win Business Battles.

© 2021 Richard Martin

By Richard Martin

For about two centuries now, the political, social, and economic “left” has been saying that they are at the forefront of progress. Whether the socialist millennium will come as a result of the inevitable forces of “History,” or by the disruptive, revolutionary, or evolutionary actions of a completely devoted proletarian vanguard, the claim has been, “We, the Socialists, are the Future!”

Socialism, in theory and practice, is the most reactionary and regressive doctrine of all. It seeks to undermine and overthrow the will of individuals who are trying to make themselves, their lives, and their surroundings better. Socialism is collectivism, and collectivism is the entire history of humanity, ever since the first Homo or Australopithecus started to climb down from the trees and walk on the open savannah.

The development of mankind is a succession of attempts by individuals to gain more and more independence in their own lives, to make decisions for themselves and those they choose to help and support. The driving force in humankind’s growth and evolution has been and will continue to be, as long as human beings have individual will, reason, and emotions, the drive to succeed and make a better life for oneself and for one’s loved ones.

Against this expression of individual will, autonomy, independence… and freedom, is arrayed a phalanx of do-gooders, busy-bodies, coercers, and autocrats. These despots will stop at nothing to impose their will and personal values on others. In its least socially destructive form, these authoritarians are willing to make the lives of their immediate neighbours, friends, colleagues, even family members a living hell. They badger and harass them into submission. They use their influence and authority, such as it may exist, to coerce those closest to them to submit to their personal will.

At the other end of the spectrum are the totalitarian psychopaths, the Hitlers, Maos, Pol Pots, Maduros, Castros, Ho Chi Minhs, and Stalins. These monsters use violence, fear, and destruction to impose their “revealed truths” onto society as a whole, through the power of the state and armed gangs. They create a rule of terror for their own profit, all the while proclaiming the noblest of aims, the freedom of the “the People.”

Whether at one extreme or the other, the goal is to interfere with the lives, the will, the happiness, the property and the freedom of others. They can’t stand to see others succeed, much less do things in their own way, using means they own, for their personal ends.

The Protestant Reformation set in motion a movement of personal freedom, will and self-determination. The Enlightenment questioned all claims of divine or “natural” authority, that the existing order is the best one possible in the best of all possible worlds. The American Declaration of Independence and the subsequent revolution have yet to be surpassed in assuring the dignity of the individual against the onslaught of do-gooders and tyrants, petty or monstrous. It is an imperfect solution, but it’s the best we have. The proof is that it has been imitated around the world, if not in deed, then in word.

We must continue to build the Radical Individualist Commonwealth. This is the commonwealth of free individuals, seeking to better their lot through personal responsibility, private property, free trade and capitalism. Anything else is conservative and, yes, reactionary.

© 2020 Richard Martin

By Richard Martin

What is the radical centre? For most people, the centre is associated with moderation. There is no real way to characterize the conventional centrist position other than to say that it eschews extremes and claims moderation. Unfortunately, most centrists tend to hold non-principled beliefs. They take a smorgasbord approach in supporting various political and economic positions. A bit from this party, a bit from that, some left, some right, maybe more or less of either. This isn’t to imply that centrists are unprincipled. My claim is merely than in most cases they don’t base their positions on well articulated principles and axioms.

There is nothing inherently wrong with that type of centrism. It’s just that it can be vulnerable when the political and social wind changes. Moreover, while conventional centrism draws on left and right policies and beliefs, most centrists would be hard pressed to express why they have decided to believe something in the political or economic sphere. It’s impressionistic and intuitive, based on what seems right at the time. I believe conventional centrists are actually mostly apolitical. They don’t adhere to political, economic and social positions from specific, well-articulated principles, which puts them up for grabs by politicians and activists of the left and right.

Instead of conventional, unprincipled, improvised centrism, I’d like to propose the concept of a Radical Centrism. To call it Radical is to say it articulates positions from clearly articulated principles or beliefs. Radical means “root.” If you have stong principles and they are well articulated with an understanding of how they influence beliefs and actions, this makes one more resilient in the face of changing opinions, political rhetoric, and even brow-beating by activists of all stripes. Furthermore, it provides a counter to confirmation bias, the well-known logical fallacy of seeking evidence to confirm an existing belief, rather than trying to determine the logical implications of one’s principles and axioms.

This is different from conventional centrism which is mostly apolitical, picking and choosing from a menu of options and positions articulated by the political Left and Right (whether moderate or extreme). On the other hand, it is Centrist because it places the Individual at the centre of things. Call it selfishness or egoism, the reality is that everyone is selfish. That’s how we exist and thrive. In other words, Radical Centrism is unabashedly individualistic.

As a matter of fact, Individualism is the number one principle and axiom of Radical Centrism. Only individuals exist. Collectives such as “society,” “race,” “class,” etc., only exist to the extent that they form patterns of behaviour and action of individuals. To quote Margaret Thatcher, “There is no such thing as society.”

This entails methodological individualism in the human sciences, such as economics, politics, ethics, etc. I could go even further and claim metaphysical individualism, but that more extreme stance is not needed to draw useful inferences and conclusions that are relevant to reasoned discourse and action.

I’ll be adding more principles over the next little while. In the meantime, feel free to comment and add your own thoughts. I’d like to get a dialogue and conversation going on this. Please refrain from emotion and rhetoric and try to keep things civil.

© 2020 Richard Martin

#radicalcentre #personalfreedom

By Richard Martin

There’s a lot of screeching and prancing about going on right now about COVID-19 numbers, mainly in the US, of course, but also in Canada and elsewhere.

I’m not saying any of the numbers are necessarily wrong. On the other hand, we don’t necessarily have the information to make a judgment about their validity. Here are some questions I’ve been asking myself, to which I don’t have the answers. If anyone does, I’d appreciate any references.

Question 1. Are they being counted in the same way in different jurisdictions? There are over 30 countries in Europe, 50 states in the US, 10 provinces and 3 territories in Canada. Are the accounting methods sufficiently similar to make useful and valid comparisons?

Question 2. What is the error margin? We’re familiar with this concept from announcements of public survey results. For instance, Gallup will say that their survey results for a specific survey are within a certain margin of error 19 times out of 20. So, they’re saying that there is a possibility of inaccuracy and that close results shouldn’t be taken as gospel truth. This kind of transparency about results is par for the course in quantitative science. Astronomers report their results with a margin of error. So do particle physicists, biologists, and chemists. Even psychologists and cognitive scientists give a margin of error. This is because error is inherent in any measurement process. It can be minimized and estimated, but never eliminated. This is the a fortiori the case for COVID-19 accounting.

Question 3. What are the relevant rates? Even assuming we had reasonably accurate and comparable numbers of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths, and they were comparable between jurisdictions, that doesn’t necessarily mean the numbers are inherently meaningful, especially as a guide to action or policy. The best example of this is that we lack the denominator in many cases to establish reasonably accurate rates: of contagion, of infection, of morbidity, of mortality.

Question 4. How “granular” are our numbers? In other words, who is spreading, who is getting infected, who is getting sufficiently ill, and who is dying? In Canada, 80 % of deaths are in nursing homes, and these mostly in Ontario and Quebec, by far the two most populous provinces. Anecdotal evidence tends to suggest that this percentage is accurate (but I could be wrong of course), but is it reasonable to compare this figure with those in other countries? Maybe, maybe not, but this is something for public health scientists and epidemiologists to evaluate. It’s probably too early to get definite answers, while generating interesting paths and hypotheses to investigate. Time will tell.

Question 5. How valid are international and interjurisdictional comparisons? I was reading a FB post this morning showing that the death rate in Canada is much lower recently than in Florida, Texas, and other US states. The graph also showed that Canada’s population is about 50% greater than either of those two states. However, Texas and Florida are also a lot more densely populated than Canada. You’re comparing two completely different geographic and demographic profiles. That’s not even taking into consideration cultural, political, economic, and social differences. We can’t simply assume that different countries and regions have similar bases for comparison, no matter how similar they may appear on the surface. A fortiori for intercontinental comparisons. They’re not devoid of interest. It’s just that they usually don’t mean what rhetorical flourishes claim for them.

These are just some questions I’ve been asking myself. I suspect others have too, although they haven’t articulated them as such. Feel free to add your own, but please refrain from conspiracy theories. If we’re going to have rational policy and action, these must be based on reason and prudence, not gut feel and wild swings of passion and emotion.

© 2020 Richard Martin

Maps of Meaning provides the philosophical, psychological and anthropological underpinnings to Peterson’s outlook. Not just for 12 Rules for Life, but also for his speaking and teaching as a whole. Maps of Meaning explores symbolism in the history of western civilization and ties it into psychology, neurology and other human sciences.

Simplifying greatly, his thesis is that we view the world through two lenses, one as a realm of objects, and the other as a stage for action. It is the latter that is developed in depth in Maps of Meaning. The two fundamental categories of action are order and chaos. Society, family, routines, tools, traditions, culture provide us with a protective cocoon of order so we can survive and thrive. But this order can be disrupted at any time by chaos: natural disasters, famine, war, violence, disease, accidents, and any other misfortune. We strive to maintain order in the face of change and disruptions to our plans for action. Peterson often refers to order as “explored territory” and to chaos as “unexplored territory.”

Order in the world and society is symbolized by the Father, who can appear as either the benevolent, Wise King or the oppressive, Tyrannical Father. Chaos, or nature, is symbolized by the Mother. She can appear as the Nurturing Mother or the Terrible, Devouring Mother. As we can see, both archetypes have a positive and negative aspect. Moreover, in myths, legends, religion and art, order is almost always portrayed as male and associated with the sun, day, sky, dry land, ships, castles, and walled cities. Chaos is represented as female and associated with the moon, night, chthonic forces, the forest, the desert, the sea, flooding, and deluges. Throughout history and prehistory, humans have contended with these two cosmic forces. (As an aside, the Greek root of cosmos means order, while chaos means disorder.)

The Hero is the Divine Son. He is the offspring of the Father and the Mother. He is the one who walks the fine line between order and chaos, exploring the unknown to bring back new knowledge and creating order at the edge of the known. Hero myths and legends (actually, myth in general) are highly condensed distillations of the recognition of the need for exploration in the face of the unknown, and to create and sustain order in the face of disruptive change. The hero is the one with the courage to venture beyond the borders of the kingdom to gain a great boon from the dragon’s lair. The dragon is the symbol of everything that humans find troubling and frightening in the unknown. The great boon is usually portrayed as a beautiful princess or a unique jewel of inestimable value. This is St-George slaying the dragon. Sometimes the hero fights against the gods instead of a dragon or serpent, in order to gain a valuable technique or tool. Think of Prometheus (which means “foresight” in Greek) stealing fire from the gods, then sentenced to have his liver eaten every day by an eagle. Even more powerful, especially for us, is the reluctant hero. This the person who, despite himself, ends up battling the forces of evil or destruction for the good of humankind. This is Frodo who must leave his cozy shire to battle Sauron for the Ring.

This is all quite esoteric, which is why I venture Peterson wrote 12 Rules for Life as a practical guide. The sub-title is instructive: An Antidote to Chaos. The thesis is this. We need rules for living, especially when we feel most at sea, confused, and disillusioned. We live in a time when traditional social roles and rules are upended. Many people find this disorienting and demoralizing. We can quibble about whether this is indeed the case or not, but there are nonetheless a significant number of people who feel lost and without meaning. Peterson isn’t advocating a return to the good old days, when men were men and women knew their place. He is, however, saying that we need a playing field with lines and goal posts, and rules to guide the game. If you skim over the 12 rules, many of them may appear trite. I prefer to see them as simple. But that doesn’t mean they are easy. In the army I learned 10 principles of leadership. The most important one is to always lead by example. Couldn’t be simpler, but if we look at failures of leadership, many and perhaps most start with the leader not following his or her own directives, breaking the rules, and putting themselves on a pedestal. Does that sound like the Clintons, or perhaps Carlos Ghosn?

Peterson’s work has enriched my experience and thinking considerably. As with many thought leaders, he can be infuriating and is certainly controversial in many respects. Isn’t that the point? The fact that some people see him as a guru says more about them than about him or his writings and talks, and possibly our society. Most of his critics don’t seem to have read or listened to him much, and I venture that is possibly also the case with those who wish to elevate him onto a pedestal.

© 2018 Richard Martin

I like Jordan Peterson’s work. In my opinion, he is a thought leader, in that he makes me (and hundreds of thousands of others) think. He’s become something of a cultural icon over the last 2 years. I believe there are four key reasons for this:

  • He has reinvigorated the practice of “moral examination,” which has ancient roots in classical civilization and was advocated by Ignatius de Loyola as part of the Catholic Counter-Reformation. In fact, Peterson’s book 12 Rules for Lifeis actually a distillation of timeworn wisdom about how to live one’s life and interact with others through moral examination. Rule 1 is “Stand up straight with your shoulders back.” Another of the rules is “Clean up your room.” If someone takes that only literally, then they need to think more. One of the more provocative rules, in my opinion, is “Don’t let your children do things in public that would make you hate them if they were someone else’s kids.” The fact that these are basic is important, because who doesn’t need a good reminder once in a while. I certainly do. Just because something is simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. That’s why we quote the Bible so often: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Or, “No one is a prophet in his home” (or words to that effect). This leads to the next point.
  • His basic message is that meaning comes from taking on responsibility. This seems to resonate particularly with young men. I believe that this comes from the general lack of a framework for transitioning men from boyhood to manhood in the Western world these days. This is the kind of tough love, teamwork, and mentoring that is provided by team sports and that comes from a coach who is a role model for youths. I got this in the army, and I think it is missing for many young men who are, let’s face it, raised surrounded by women. Not all, but many.
  • Peterson is also defending traditional Western, Judeo-Christian values, many of which have come under attack in recent decades, especially in the face of political correctness, islamophobia, ideological feminism, resurgent anti-Semitism, and cultural Marxism. Many on the Left hate this aspect of his writings and speeches, for obvious reasons.
  • The final point, which is a major aspect of the previous one, is that we risk much when we throw out ancient traditions, cultural, social and religious. Amongst other things, he claims that there is much wisdom in the Bible, if read in a symbolic, allegorical frame of mind. He has also said that nobody knows what effects recent social changes will have on our society. I see that as an antidote to the conceit of many social justice warriors, university professors, and other miscellaneous social engineers and junior dictators. These are the same people who tar anyone who questions the zeitgeist as fascists, authoritarians, and anti-this and anti-that.

All of this makes him something of a “cultural” conservative, and I, personally, find that resonates with me. It also resonates with many others. I realize that’s only an ad populam argument, but it does explain much of his appeal around the world. 12 Rules has sold over 2 million copies and is being translated into 40 languages. He’s been on speaking tour around the world for all of 2018 and has been engaging with large, enthusiastic audiences, as well as with cabinet ministers, heads of government, and deep thinkers in many other domains (e.g. Sam Harris, Roger Scruton, Camille Paglia, etc.)

He may prove to be a flash in the pan, but I sincerely hope not. Shouldn’t we at least find out what all the fuss is about?

© 2018 Richard Martin

The following quotes are from Rebel Sell: Why the Culture Can’t Be Jammed, by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter (HarperCollins Canada, Kindle Edition).

I couldn’t say it better myself. Heath and Potter have identified the underlying motivation and process of how individualism shades into narcissism. This is what happens when identity politics and self-centredness go too far. It’s what Jordan Peterson talks about as being analogous to the extreme right’s focus on group/ethnic identity. However, it’s not about equality of outcome. It’s about narcissism and wanting everyone to conform to your personal wishes and to pay the price for your idiosyncrasies.

“Whenever you feel that society is forcing you to conform or treating you like a number, not a person, just ask yourself the following question: ‘Does my individuality create more work for other people?’ If the answer is yes, then you should be prepared to pay more. Most institutions in our society have a system that they follow. At the fast food restaurant, at the bank, in a hospital, there is a standardized system for interacting with clients and delivering services. Such a system is generally designed to maximize the service that can be provided at a given price (or given certain budgetary resources). Individuals who refuse to follow the system not only cost more to service, they often gum up the works for everyone else. In this context, individualism often shades over into narcissistic disregard for the needs of others.” (Kindle Locations 3730-3736)

“While there is nothing wrong with individualism per se, it is important that no one person’s individuality be secured at the expense of other people’s time and energy.” (Kindle Locations 3747-3748)

“If your individuality is such that it requires other people to wait on you hand and foot, then you should be prepared to pay an arm and a leg.” (Kindle Location 3752)

by Richard Martin

At the beginning of this new year, among the economic priorities in Quebec must be included the improvement of leadership and an increased investment in human capital with the aim of increasing permanently the productivity and profitability of small business in Quebec. This will help attract greater capital to our small businesses for purposes of investing in new techniques and technologies. Greater profits also would allow small business to increase wages and salaries, which will affect positively its capacity to attract qualified employees and managers, who would then be dedicated and loyal to their employers.

According to Statistics Canada, small business constitutes 92% of all private sector employment in Quebec. This surpasses somewhat comparable figures for the rest of Canada and, by far, figures for other G7 countries, including those of the United States. The predominance of small business in our economy explains in a large measure the relatively low productivity and profitability of Quebec companies and their limited capacity to attract investment. Small business in Quebec must compete against competitors who feature much greater economies of scale. These economies permit greater and quicker return on investments in research and development and capital goods including application of new, high technology.

Surveys by the federal Business Development Bank (BDC) clearly demonstrate that the two greatest problems for leaders of small business in Quebec are the shortage of capital for investment projects and the necessity of increasing long term profitability. Obviously, one can’t happen without the other. In short, small business is the motor of both the Quebec and Canadian economies, but it competes in a hostile environment where big business enjoys important economies of scale making it more productive and profitable.

Furthermore, in addition to imperatives of competition, productivity, and profitability, increasingly small business in Quebec has to compete with big business for skilled workers and managers who are becoming rarer, hence, the object of greater competition. There is nothing new about interesting pay and working conditions for attracting personnel. Moreover, some big businesses now offer their staff the possibilities of unlimited vacations and allowing employees to work a part of their paid employ on useful projects of the employees’ choice. Small business in Quebec must not only compete for clientele but also for the best workers and managers.

In spite of all this, small business in Quebec does have one superior advantage. What might appear to be a weakness can actually be a strength. Big business can display a tendency to become bureaucratic and slow to change direction. It can also become disconnected from customers, employees, and business allies and partners. On the other hand, small business can substitute cohesion, speed, adaptability, and agility to the size advantages of big business. In order to survive and prosper, small business in Quebec must employ its size to its advantage. The shareholders of a small business can often include its founders, or its second or third generation owners, besides operating as its leaders. If they know how to lead and mobilize their personnel, an entrepreneurial spirit and culture can thrive at all levels of the company. The business’s leaders, whether they be company founder or son or daughter or even grandchild of the founder, shareholders, or managers working for company owners, can easily get to know all employees. This can allow them to appreciate their strengths and shortcomings, talents and individual goals in order to obtain their best possible performance by supporting employees’ personal and professional development.

Exceptional leadership and organizational mobilization thus can constitute significant competitive advantages for Quebec small business. For this to occur business owners and leaders must produce useful, mobilizing mission statements. They must lead their employees towards ever-increasing levels of quality, productivity, and profitability. Businesses wherein leaders know how to breathe the entrepreneurial spirit into their companies while setting good collective objectives and encouraging individual initiative can be flexible and able to recognize and pursue opportunities and to resist threats. This will permit short term increases in productivity without immediate recourse to capital investment. The resultant, increased profitability can happen more quickly. Increased profits can be directed to improving pay and benefits, greater investment in human capital, in addition to technological productivity. This can also make companies more attractive to new labour and managers, which can further increase productivity, thus, profitability.

Two examples serve to display the links between leadership and mobilization and increased quality, productivity, and profitability. Firstly, assume an employee knows his or her essential role in the business. Such is an employee’s dedication and motivation that he or she will treat customers well with courtesy and professionalism. As well, an employee who recognizes the need to economize rare financial and material resources will be able to recognize and indicate waste, and seek to eliminate it.

In a second example, a well-motivated and mobilized employee will know and understand the vision and mission of the company. The employee knows where its leaders wish to lead the company. Using these, the employee can propose new ideas with respect to products, customers, techniques of production, and the sharing of information and knowledge within the company. This will be the case especially if he or she knows the ideas will be valued and implemented. These ideas need not imply additional financial layout; for example, a new method on the production line might bring savings and improved quality and quantity of products.

In fact, capital investments simply materialize someone’s previous, good ideas external to the company. The good leader can transform good industrial relations to company objectives. Only a few large companies can so motivate their employees—for instance, Apple or Google—but these are only transitory phases in the lives of these companies that are often provoked by inspirational, charismatic leaders. All the above principles are available to small business in Quebec. What is needed is the necessary will to undertake the required changes.

Richard Martin is a management consultant and trainer living in Montreal who works locally, nationally, and internationally. He is the co-founder and president of the Montreal-based Canadian Academy of Leadership and Development of Human Capital (CANLEAD Academy). He envisions performing organizations that are lasting, cohesive, and adapted to change that invest in human capital. Mr. Martin assists ambitious entrepreneurs and leaders surpass themselves in terms of organizational cohesion, growth, and performance. His advice and training come from a long career building, leading, and mobilizing organizations composed of Quebeckers. Much of his experience was gained as an officer in the Canadian Army operating peace support missions, conflict management, humanitarian assistance and reconstruction in hostile environments that were uncertain, risky, dangerous, and chaotic. In such environments dedication, cohesiveness, and inspired teamwork were essential to the success of missions.

© 2018 Richard Martin. Copying and sharing permitted subject to normal attribution.