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    Spare Change?

    Peter
    Buffett, son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, is an Emmy
    Award-winning composer, NY Times best-selling author and noted
    philanthropist. Currently, he is releasing socially-conscious music and
    touring his “Concert & Conversation” series in support of his book
    Life Is What You Make It.

    On panel four
    of the Jefferson Memorial there is this quote:

    “I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws
    and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the
    progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened,
    as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions
    change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to
    keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat
    which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the
    regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

    Why are we afraid of change? I know–the answer is fear of the unknown. We hold on to
    things we know because they’re comfortable…. safe. Even if we’re still wearing
    the ill-fitting coat of childhood that Jefferson talks about.

    It’s why we stay in a bad relationship too long.

    My dad looks back on American history as proof that
    we’ll weather the storm … any storm. Based on economic indicators that define
    his livelihood, he sees a system that will make it through the tough timesWorld Wars, depression, etc.

    It’s the view he has from the world he lives in. His
    success is based on his dispassionate, über-rational look at decision making.
    People’s welfare isn’t actually involved.

    But
    he also points out that, given this country’s GDP
    (which, by the way, puts some very negative things in the plus column)
    we
    should not have people going to bed hungry and the depth of poverty that
    we see, both urban and rural. It’s not like he doesn’t see how out of
    balance the
    system is.

    From my vantage point, this is the result of a different
    set of observationsthe ones I’ve written about in this column. They include: this country was founded as a commercial enterprise; domination and
    exploitation was and is the rule of business law in an effort to maximize
    profits and shareholder value; and externalities like social and environmental
    degradation don’t hit the bottom line.

    Add to this the mass distraction of media and consumerism
    and you’ve got the equivalent of the family going to the movies as the house is
    on fire. Or maybe at this point, the family at home in front of as many screens
    as there are people while the house is burning around them.

    We’re in a bad relationship. This coat doesn’t fit
    anymore.

    This country is not the country that Jefferson
    inhabited.

    “With the change of circumstances, institutions must
    advance also to keep pace with the times.” 

    I think it’s safe to say that circumstances have
    changed. Are we going to be fearless enough to do something about it?

    What do you think? Share your story at changeourstory.com. Visit www.peterbuffett.comto learn more and Change Our Story to
    join the conversation on how we all can become active participants in shaping
    our future.

    Image courtesy of dbkinglicensed under Creative Commons.

    Published on Jan 23, 2013
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