Archive for the ‘regulations’ Category

Reimagining Capitalism Again, Part III: Reflections on Greider’s “Bold Ideas” in The Nation

September 10, 2011

And so, The Nation’s “Bold Ideas for a New Economy” is disappointing for not doing more to start from the beginning identified by its own writer, William Greider. The soul of capitalism needs to be celebrated and nourished, if we are to make our economy “less destructive and domineering,” and “more focused on what people really need for fulfilling lives.” The only real alternative to celebrating and nourishing the soul of capitalism is to kill it, in the manner of the Soviet Union’s failed experiments in socialism and communism.

The article speaks the truth, though, when it says there is no point in trying to persuade the powers that be to make the needed changes. Republicans see the market as it exists as a one-size-fits-all economic panacea, when all it can accomplish in its current incomplete state is the continuing externalization of anything and everything important about human, social, and environmental decency. For their part, Democrats do indeed “insist that regulation will somehow fix whatever is broken,” in an ever-expanding socialistic micromanagement of every possible exception to the rules that emerges.

To date, the president’s efforts at a nonpartisan third way amount only to vacillations between these opposing poles. The leadership that is needed, however, is something else altogether. Yes, as The Nation article says, capitalism needs to be made to serve the interests of society, and this will require deep structural change, not just new policies. But none of the contributors of the “bold ideas” presented propose deep structural changes of a kind that actually gets at the soul of capitalism. All of the suggestions are ultimately just new policies tweaking superficial aspects of the economy in mechanical, static, and very limited ways.

The article calls for “Democratizing reforms that will compel business and finance to share decision-making and distribute rewards more fairly.” It says the vision has different names but “the essence is a fundamental redistribution of power and money.” But corporate distortions of liability law, the introduction of boardroom watchdogs, and a tax on financial speculation do not by any stretch of the imagination address the root causes of social and environmental irresponsibility in business. They “sound like obscure technical fixes” because that’s what they are. The same thing goes for low-cost lending from public banks, the double or triple bottom lines of Benefit Corporations, new anti-trust laws, calls for “open information” policies, added personal stakes for big-time CEOs, employee ownership plans, the elimination of tax subsidies for, new standards for sound investing, new measures of GDP, and government guarantees of full employment.

All of these proposals sound like what ought to be the effects and outcomes of efforts addressing the root causes of capitalisms’ shortcomings. Instead, they are band aids applied to scratched fingers and arms when multiple by-pass surgery is called for. That is, what we need is to understand how to bring the spirit of capitalism to life in the new domains of human, social, and environmental interests, but what we’re getting are nothing but more of the same piecemeal ways of moving around the deck chairs on the Titanic.

There is some truth in the assertion that what really needs reinventing is our moral and spiritual imagination. As someone (Einstein or Edison?) is supposed to have put it, originality is simply a matter of having a source for an analogy no one else has considered. Ironically, the best model is often the one most taken for granted and nearest to hand. Such is the case with the two-sided scientific and economic effects of standardized units of measurement. The fundamental moral aspect here is nothing other than the Golden Rule, independently derived and offered in cultures throughout history, globally. Individualized social measurement is nothing if not a matter of determining whether others are being treated in the way you yourself would want to be treated.

And so, yes, to stress the major point of agreement with The Nation, “the new politics does not start in Washington.” Historically, at their best, governments work to keep pace with the social and technical innovations introduced by their peoples. Margaret Mead said it well a long time ago when she asserted that small groups of committed citizens are the only sources of real social change.

Not to be just one of many “advocates with bold imaginations” who wind up marginalized by the constraints of status quo politics, I claim my personal role in imagining a new economic future by tapping as deeply as I can into the positive, pre-existing structures needed for a transition into a new democratic capitalism. We learn through what we already know. Standards are well established as essential to commerce and innovation, but 90% of the capital under management in our economy—the human, social, and natural capital—lacks the standards needed for optimal market efficiency and effectiveness. An intangible assets metric system will be a vitally important way in which we extend what is right and good in the world today into new domains.

To conclude, what sets this proposal apart from those offered by The Nation and its readers hinges on our common agreement that “the most threatening challenge to capitalism is arguably the finite carrying capacity of the natural world.” The bold ideas proposed by The Nation’s readers respond to this challenge in ways that share an important feature in common: people have to understand the message and act on it. That fact dooms all of these ideas from the start. If we have to articulate and communicate a message that people then have to act on, we remain a part of the problem and not part of the solution.

As I argue in my “The Problem is the Problem” blog post of some months ago, this way of defining problems is itself the problem. That is, we can no longer think of ourselves as separate from the challenges we face. If we think we are not all implicated through and through as participants in the construction and maintenance of the problem, then we have not understood it. The bold ideas offered to date are all responses to the state of a broken system that seek to reform one or another element in the system when what we need is a whole new system.

What we need is a system that so fully embodies nature’s own ecological wisdom that the medium becomes the message. When the ground rules for economic success are put in place such that it is impossible to earn a profit without increasing stocks of human, social, and natural capital, there will be no need to spell out the details of a microregulatory structure of controlling new anti-trust laws, “open information” policies, personal stakes for big-time CEOs, employee ownership plans, the elimination of tax subsidies, etc. What we need is precisely what Greider reported from Innovest in his book: reliable, high quality information that makes human, social, and environmental issues matter financially. Situated in a context like that described by Bernstein in his 2004 The Birth of Plenty, with the relevant property rights, rule of law, scientific rationality, capital markets, and communications networks in place, it will be impossible to stop a new economic expansion of historic proportions.

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LivingCapitalMetrics Blog by William P. Fisher, Jr., Ph.D. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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Debt, Revenue, and Changing the Way Washington Works: The Greatest Entrepreneurial Opportunity of Our Time

July 30, 2011

“Holding the line” on spending and taxes does not make for a fundamental transformation of the way Washington works. Simply doing less of one thing is just a small quantitative change that does nothing to build positive results or set a new direction. What we need is a qualitative metamorphosis akin to a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. In contrast with this beautiful image of natural processes, the arguments and so-called principles being invoked in the sham debate that’s going on are nothing more than fights over where to put deck chairs on the Titanic.

What sort of transformation is possible? What kind of a metamorphosis will start from who and where we are, but redefine us sustainably and responsibly? As I have repeatedly explained in this blog, my conference presentations, and my publications, with numerous citations of authoritative references, we already possess all of the elements of the transformation. We have only to organize and deploy them. Of course, discerning what the resources are and how to put them together is not obvious. And though I believe we will do what needs to be done when we are ready, it never hurts to prepare for that moment. So here’s another take on the situation.

Infrastructure that supports lean thinking is the name of the game. Lean thinking focuses on identifying and removing waste. Anything that consumes resources but does not contribute to the quality of the end product is waste. We have enormous amounts of wasteful inefficiency in many areas of our economy. These inefficiencies are concentrated in areas in which management is hobbled by low quality information, where we lack the infrastructure we need.

Providing and capitalizing on this infrastructure is The Greatest Entrepreneurial Opportunity of Our Time. Changing the way Washington (ha! I just typed “Wastington”!) works is the same thing as mitigating the sources of risk that caused the current economic situation. Making government behave more like a business requires making the human, social, and natural capital markets more efficient. Making those markets more efficient requires reducing the costs of transactions. Those costs are determined in large part by information quality, which is a function of measurement.

It is often said that the best way to reduce the size of government is to move the functions of government into the marketplace. But this proposal has never been associated with any sense of the infrastructural components needed to really make the idea work. Simply reducing government without an alternative way of performing its functions is irresponsible and destructive. And many of those who rail on and on about how bad or inefficient government is fail to recognize that the government is us. We get the government we deserve. The government we get follows directly from the kind of people we are. Government embodies our image of ourselves as a people. In the US, this is what having a representative form of government means. “We the people” participate in our society’s self-governance not just by voting, writing letters to congress, or demonstrating, but in the way we spend our money, where we choose to live, work, and go to school, and in every decision we make. No one can take a breath of air, a drink of water, or a bite of food without trusting everyone else to not carelessly or maliciously poison them. No one can buy anything or drive down the street without expecting others to behave in predictable ways that ensure order and safety.

But we don’t just trust blindly. We have systems in place to guard against those who would ruthlessly seek to gain at everyone else’s expense. And systems are the point. No individual person or firm, no matter how rich, could afford to set up and maintain the systems needed for checking and enforcing air, water, food, and workplace safety measures. Society as a whole invests in the infrastructure of measures created, maintained, and regulated by the government’s Department of Commerce and the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). The moral importance and the economic value of measurement standards has been stressed historically over many millennia, from the Bible and the Quran to the Magna Carta and the French Revolution to the US Constitution. Uniform weights and measures are universally recognized and accepted as essential to fair trade.

So how is it that we nonetheless apparently expect individuals and local organizations like schools, businesses, and hospitals to measure and monitor students’ abilities; employees’ skills and engagement; patients’ health status, functioning, and quality of care; etc.? Why do we not demand common currencies for the exchange of value in human, social, and natural capital markets? Why don’t we as a society compel our representatives in government to institute the will of the people and create new standards for fair trade in education, health care, social services, and environmental management?

Measuring better is not just a local issue! It is a systemic issue! When measurement is objective and when we all think together in the common language of a shared metric (like hours, volts, inches or centimeters, ounces or grams, degrees Fahrenheit or Celsius, etc.), then and only then do we have the means we need to implement lean strategies and create new efficiencies systematically. We need an Intangible Assets Metric System.

The current recession in large part was caused by failures in measuring and managing trust, responsibility, loyalty, and commitment. Similar problems in measuring and managing human, social, and natural capital have led to endlessly spiraling costs in education, health care, social services, and environmental management. The problems we’re experiencing in these areas are intimately tied up with the way we formulate and implement group level decision making processes and policies based in statistics when what we need is to empower individuals with the tools and information they need to make their own decisions and policies. We will not and cannot metamorphose from caterpillar to butterfly until we create the infrastructure through which we each can take full ownership and control of our individual shares of the human, social, and natural capital stock that is rightfully ours.

We well know that we manage what we measure. What counts gets counted. Attention tends to be focused on what we’re accountable for. But–and this is vitally important–many of the numbers called measures do not provide the information we need for management. And not only are lots of numbers giving us low quality information, there are far too many of them! We could have better and more information from far fewer numbers.

Previous postings in this blog document the fact that we have the intellectual, political, scientific, and economic resources we need to measure and manage human, social, and natural capital for authentic wealth. And the issue is not a matter of marshaling the will. It is hard to imagine how there could be more demand for better management of intangible assets than there is right now. The problem in meeting that demand is a matter of imagining how to start the ball rolling. What configuration of investments and resources will start the process of bursting open the chrysalis? How will the demand for meaningful mediating instruments be met in a way that leads to the spreading of the butterfly’s wings? It is an exciting time to be alive.

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LivingCapitalMetrics Blog by William P. Fisher, Jr., Ph.D. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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Subjectivity, Objectivity, Performance Measurement and Markets

April 23, 2011

Though he attributes his insight to a colleague (George Baker), Michael Jensen has once more succinctly stated a key point I’ve repeatedly tried to convey in my blog posts. As Jensen (2003, p. 397) puts it,

…any activity whose performance can be perfectly measured objectively does not belong inside the firm. If its performance can be adequately measured objectively it can be spun out of the firm and contracted for in a market transaction.

YES!! Though nothing is measured perfectly, my message has been a series of variations on precisely this theme. Well-measured property, services, products, and commodities in today’s economy are associated with scientific, legal and financial structures and processes that endow certain representations with meaningful indications of kind, amount, value and ownership. It is further well established that the ownership of the products of one’s creative endeavors is essential to economic advancement and the enlargement of the greater good. Markets could not exist without objective measures, and thus we have the central commercial importance of metric standards.

The improved measurement of service outcomes and performances is going to create an environment capable of supporting similar legal and financial indications of value and ownership. Many of the causes of today’s economic crises can be traced to poor quality information and inadequate measures of human, social, and natural value. Bringing publicly verifiable scientific data and methods to bear on the tuning of instruments for measuring these forms of value will make their harmonization much simpler than it ever could be otherwise. Social and environmental costs and value have been relegated to the marginal status of externalities because they have not been measured in ways that made it possible to bring them onto the books and into the models.

But the stage is being set for significant changes. Decades of research calibrating objective measures of a wide variety of performances and outcomes are inexorably leading to the creation of an intangible assets metric system (Fisher, 2009a, 2009b, 2011). Meaningful and rigorous individual-level universally available uniform metrics for each significant intangible asset (abilities, health, trustworthiness, etc.) will

(a) make it possible for each of us to take full possession, ownership, and management control of our investments in and returns from these forms of capital,

(b) coordinate the decisions and behaviors of consumers, researchers, and quality improvement specialists to better match supply and demand, and thereby

(c) increase the efficiency of human, social, and natural capital markets, harnessing the profit motive for the removal of wasted human potential, lost community coherence, and destroyed environmental quality.

Jensen’s observation emerges in his analysis of performance measures as one of three factors in defining the incentives and payoffs for a linear compensation plan (the other two being the intercept and the slope of the bonus line relating salary and bonus to the performance measure targets). The two sentences quoted above occur in this broader context, where Jensen (2003, pp. 396-397) states that,

…we must decide how much subjectivity will be involved in each performance measure. In considering this we must recognize that every performance measurement system in a firm must involve an important amount of subjectivity. The reason, as my colleague George Baker has pointed out, is that any activity whose performance can be perfectly measured objectively does not belong inside the firm. If its performance can be adequately measured objectively it can be spun out of the firm and contracted for in a market transaction. Thus, one of the most important jobs of managers, complementing objective measures of performance with managerial subjective evaluation of subtle interdependencies and other factors is exactly what most managers would like to avoid. Indeed, it is this factor along with efficient risk bearing that is at the heart of what gives managers and firms an advantage over markets.

Jensen is here referring implicitly to the point Coase (1990) makes regarding the nature of the firm. A firm can be seen as a specialized market, one in which methods, insights, and systems not generally available elsewhere are employed for competitive advantage. Products are brought to market competitively by being endowed with value not otherwise available. Maximizing that value is essential to the viability of the firm.

Given conflicting incentives and the mixed messages of the balanced scorecard, managers have plenty of opportunities for creatively avoiding the difficult task of maximizing the value of the firm. Jensen (2001) shows that attending to the “managerial subjective evaluation of subtle interdependencies” is made impossibly complex when decisions and behaviors are pulled in different directions by each stakeholder’s particular interests. Other research shows that even traditional capital structures are plagued by the mismeasurement of leverage, distress costs, tax shields, and the speed with which individual firms adjust their capital needs relative to leverage targets (Graham & Leary, 2010). The objective measurement of intangible assets surely seems impossibly complex to those familiar with these problems.

But perhaps the problems associated with measuring traditional capital structures are not so different from those encountered in the domain of intangible assets. In both cases, a particular kind of unjustified self-assurance seems always to attend the mere availability of numeric data. To the unpracticed eye, numbers seem to always behave the same way, no matter if they are rigorous measures of physical commodities, like kilowatts, barrels, or bushels, or if they are currency units in an accounting spreadsheet, or if they are percentages of agreeable responses to a survey question. The problem is that, when interrogated in particular ways with respect to the question of how much of something is supposedly measured, these different kinds of numbers give quite markedly different kinds of answers.

The challenge we face is one of determining what kind of answers we want to the questions we have to ask. Presumably, we want to ask questions and get answers pertinent to obtaining the information we need to manage life creatively, meaningfully, effectively and efficiently. It may be useful then, as a kind of thought experiment, to make a bold leap and imagine a scenario in which relevant questions are answered with integrity, accountability, and transparency.

What will happen when the specialized expertise of human resource professionals is supplanted by a market in which meaningful and comparable measures of the hireability, retainability, productivity, and promotability of every candidate and employee are readily available? If Baker and Jensen have it right, perhaps firms will no longer have employees. This is not to say that no one will work for pay. Instead, firms will contract with individual workers at going market rates, and workers will undoubtedly be well aware of the market value of their available shares of their intangible assets.

A similar consequence follows for the social safety net and a host of other control, regulatory, and policing mechanisms. But we will no longer be stuck with blind faith in the invisible hand and market efficiency, following the faith of those willing to place their trust and their futures in the hands of mechanisms they only vaguely understand and cannot control. Instead, aggregate effects on individuals, communities, and the environment will be tracked in publicly available and critically examined measures, just as stocks, bonds, and commodities are tracked now.

Previous posts in this blog explore the economic possibilities that follow from having empirically substantiated, theoretically predictable, and instrumentally mediated measures embodying broad consensus standards. What we will have for human, social, and natural capital will be the same kind of objective measures that have made markets work as well as they have thus far. It will be a whole new ball game when profits become tied to human, social, and environmental outcomes.

References

Coase, R. (1990). The firm, the market, and the law. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2009a, November). Invariance and traceability for measures of human, social, and natural capital: Theory and application. Measurement, 42(9), 1278-1287.

Fisher, W. P.. Jr. (2009b). NIST Critical national need idea White Paper: metrological infrastructure for human, social, and natural capital (Tech. Rep. No. http://www.livingcapitalmetrics.com/images/FisherNISTWhitePaper2.pdf). New Orleans: LivingCapitalMetrics.com.

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2010, 22 November). Meaningfulness, measurement, value seeking, and the corporate objective function: An introduction to new possibilities. Available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=1713467.

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2011). Bringing human, social, and natural capital to life: Practical consequences and opportunities. Journal of Applied Measurement, 12(1), in press.

Graham, J. R., & Leary, M. T. (2010, 21 December). A review of empirical capital structure research and directions for the future. Available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=1729388.

Jensen, M. C. (2001, Fall). Value maximization, stakeholder theory, and the corporate objective function. Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, 14(3), 8-21.

Jensen, M. C. (2003). Paying people to lie: The truth about the budgeting process. European Financial Management, 9(3), 379-406.

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LivingCapitalMetrics Blog by William P. Fisher, Jr., Ph.D. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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Assignment from Wired’s Predict What’s Next page: “Imagine the Future of Medical Bills”

March 20, 2010

William P. Fisher, Jr.

william@livingcapitalmetrics.com
New Orleans, Louisiana
20 March 2010

Consider the following, formulated in response to Wired magazine’s 18.04 request for ideas on the future of medical bills, for possible use on the Predict What’s Next page. For background on the concepts presented here, see previous posts in this blog, such as https://livingcapitalmetrics.wordpress.com/2010/01/13/reinventing-capitalism/.

Visualize an online image of a Maiuetic Renaissance Bank’s Monthly Living Capital Stock, Investment, and Income Report. The report is shown projected as a vertical plane in the space above an old antique desk. Credits and debits to and from Mary Smith’s health capital account are listed, along with similar information on all of her capital accounts. Lying on the desk is a personalized MRB Living Capital Credit/Debit card, evidently somehow projecting the report from the eyes of Mary’s holographic image on it.

The report shows headings and entries for Mary Smith’s various capital accounts:

  • liquid (cash, checking and savings),
  • property (home, car, boat, rental, investments, etc.),
  • social capital (trust, honesty, commitment, loyalty, community building, etc.) credits/debits:
    • personal,
    • community’s,
    • employer’s,
    • regional,
    • national;
  • human capital:
    • literacy credits (shown in Lexiles; http://www.lexile.com),
    • numeracy credits (shown in Quantiles; http://www.quantiles.com),
    • occupational credits (hireability, promotability, retainability, productivity),
    • health credits/debits (genetic, cognitive reasoning, physical function, emotional function, chronic disease management status, etc.); and
  • natural capital:
    • carbon credits/debits,
    • local and global air, water, ecological diversity, and environmental quality share values.

Example social capital credits/debits shown in the report might include volunteering to build houses in N’Awlins Ninth Ward, tutoring fifth-graders in math, jury duty, voting, writing letters to congress, or charitable donations (credits), on the one hand, or library fines, a parking ticket, unmaintained property, etc. (debits), on the other.

Natural capital credits might be increased or decreased depending on new efficiencies obtained in electrical grid or in power generation, a newly installed solar panel, or by a recent major industrial accident, environmental disaster, hurricane, etc.

Mary’s share of the current value of the overall Genuine National Product, or Happiness Index, is broken out by each major form of capital (liquid, property, social, human, natural).

The monetary values of credits are shown at the going market rates, alongside the changes from last month, last year, and three years ago.

One entry could be a deferred income and property tax amount, given a social capital investment level above a recommended minimum. Another entry would show new profit potentials expressed in proportions of investments wasted due to inefficiencies, with suggestions for how these can be reduced, and with time to investment recovery and amount of new social capital generated also indicated.

The health capital portion of the report is broken out in a magnified overlay. Mary’s physical and emotional function measures are shown by an arrow pointing at a level on a vertical ruler. Other arrows point at the average levels for people her age (globally, nationally, regionally, and locally), for women and women of different ages, living in different countries/cities, etc.

Mary’s diabetes-specific chronic disease management metric is shown at a high level, indicating her success in using diet and exercise to control her condition. Her life expectancy and lifetime earning potentials are shown, alongside comparable values for others.

Recent clinical visits for preventative diabetes and dental care would be shown as debits against one account and as an investment in her health capital account. The debits might be paid out of a sale of shares of stock from her quite high social or natural capital accounts, or from credits transferred from those to her checking account.

Cost of declining function in the next ten years, given typical aging patterns, shown as lower rates of new capital investment in her stock and lower ROIs.

Cost of maintaining or improving function, in terms of required investments of time and resources in exercise, equipment, etc. balanced against constant rate of new investments and ROI.

Also shown:

A footnote could read: Given your recent completion of post-baccalaureate courses in political economy and advanced living capital finance, your increased stocks of literacy, numeracy, and occupational capital qualify you for a promotion or new positions currently compensated at annual rates 17.7% higher than your current one. Watch for tweets and beams from new investors interested in your rising stock!

A warning box: We all pay when dead capital lies unleveragable in currencies expressed in ordinal or otherwise nonstandard metrics! Visit http://www.CapitalResuscitationServices.com today to convert your unaccredited capital currencies into recognized value. (Not responsible for fraudulent misrepresentations of value should your credits prove incommensurable or counterfeit. Always check your vendor’s social capital valuations before investing in any stock offering. Go to http://www.Rasch.org for accredited capital metrics equating information, courses, texts, and consultants.)

Ad: Click here to put your occupational capital stock on the market now! Employers are bidding $$$, ¥¥¥ and €€€ on others at your valuation level!

Ad: You are only 110 Lexiles away from a literacy capital stock level on which others receive 23% higher investment returns! Enroll at BobsOnlineLiteracyCapitalBoosters.com now for your increased income tomorrow! (Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Your returns may vary. Click here to see Bob’s current social capital valuations.)

Bottom line: Think global, act local! It is up to you to represent your shares in the global marketplace. Only you can demand the improvements you seek by shifting and/or intensifying your investments. Do so whenever you are dissatisfied with your own, your global and local business partners’, your community’s, your employer’s, your region’s, or your nation’s stock valuations.

For background on the concepts involved in this scenario, see:

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2002, Spring). “The Mystery of Capital” and the human sciences. Rasch Measurement Transactions, 15(4), 854 [http://www.rasch.org/rmt/rmt154j.htm].

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2005). Daredevil barnstorming to the tipping point: New aspirations for the human sciences. Journal of Applied Measurement, 6(3), 173-9 [http://www.livingcapitalmetrics.com/images/FisherJAM05.pdf].

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2007, Summer). Living capital metrics. Rasch Measurement Transactions, 21(1), 1092-3 [http://www.rasch.org/rmt/rmt211.pdf].

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2009, November). Invariance and traceability for measures of human, social, and natural capital: Theory and application. Measurement (Elsevier), 42(9), 1278-1287.

Fisher, W. P.. Jr. (2009). NIST Critical national need idea White Paper: metrological infrastructure for human, social, and natural capital (Tech. Rep. No. http://www.livingcapitalmetrics.com/images/FisherNISTWhitePaper2.pdf). New Orleans: http://www.LivingCapitalMetrics.com.

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2010). Bringing human, social, and natural capital to life: Practical consequences and opportunities. Journal of Applied Measurement, 11, in press [http://www.livingcapitalmetrics.com/images/BringingHSN_FisherARMII.pdf].

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LivingCapitalMetrics Blog by William P. Fisher, Jr., Ph.D. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at livingcapitalmetrics.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.livingcapitalmetrics.com.

Draft Legislation on Development and Adoption of an Intangible Assets Metric System

November 19, 2009

In my opinion, more could be done to effect meaningful and effective health care reform with legislation like that proposed below, which has fewer than 3,800 words, than will ever be possible with the 2,074 pages in Congress’s current health care reform bill. What’s more, creating the infrastructure for human, social, and natural capital markets in this way would not only cost a tiny fraction of the projected $847 billion bill being debated, it would be an investment that would pay returns many times larger than the initial investment. See previous posts in this blog for more info on how and why this is so.

The draft legislation below is adapted from The Metric Conversion Act (Title 15 U.S.C. Chapter6 §(204) 205a – 205k). The viability of a metric system for human, social, and natural capital is indicated by the realized state of scientific rigor in the measurement of human, social, and natural capital (Fisher, 2009b). The need for such a system is indicated by the current crisis’s pointed economic demands that all forms of capital be unified within a common econometric and financial framework (Fisher, 2009a). It is equally demanded by the moral and philosophical requirements of fair play and meaningfulness (Fisher, 2004). The day is fast approaching when a metric system for intangible assets will be recognized as the urgent need that it is (Fisher, 2009c).

At some point in the near future, it can be expected that a table showing how to interpret the units of the Intangible Assets Metric System will be published in the Federal Register, just as the International System units have been.

For those unfamiliar with the state of the art in measurement, these may seem like wildly unrealistic goals. Those wondering how a reasonable person might arrive at such opinions are urged to consult other posts in this blog, and the references cited in them. The advantages of an intangible assets metric system for sustainable and socially responsible economic policies and practices are nothing short of profound. As Georg Rasch (1980, p. xx) said in reference to the stringent demands of his measurement models, “this is a huge challenge, but once the problem has been formulated it does seem possible to meet it.” We are less likely to attain goals that we do not actively formulate. In the spirit of John Dewey’s student, Chiang Mon-Lin, what we need are “wild hypotheses and careful tests.” There is no wilder idea with greater potential impact for redefining profit as the reduction of waste, and for thereby mitigating human suffering, sociopolitical discontent, and environmental degradation.

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2004, October). Meaning and method in the social sciences. Human Studies: A Journal for Philosophy and the Social Sciences, 27(4), 429-54.

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2009a). Bringing human, social, and natural capital to life: Practical consequences and opportunities. In M. Wilson, K. Draney, N. Brown, B. Duckor (Eds.), Advances in Rasch Measurement, Vol. Two (p. in press). Maple Grove, MN: JAM Press.

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2009b, November). Invariance and traceability for measures of human, social, and natural capital: Theory and application. Measurement (Elsevier), 42(9), 1278-1287.

Fisher, W. P. J. (2009c). NIST Critical national need idea White Paper: Metrological infrastructure for human, social, and natural capital (Tech. Rep.). New Orleans: LivingCapitalMetrics.com.

Rasch, G. (1980). Probabilistic models for some intelligence and attainment tests (Reprint, with Foreword and Afterword by B. D. Wright, Chicago: University of Chicago Press). Copenhagen, Denmark: Danmarks Paedogogiske Institut.

Title xx U.S.C. Chapter x §(100) 101a – 101k
METRIC SYSTEM FOR INTANGIBLE ASSETS DEVELOPMENT LAW
(Pub. L. 10-xxx, §x, Intangible Assets Metrics Development Act, July 25, 2010)

§ 100. New metric system development authorized. – A new national effort is hereby initiated throughout the United States of America focusing on building and realizing the benefits of a metric system for the intangible assets known as human, social, and natural capital.

§ 101a. Congressional statement of findings. – The Congress finds as follows:

(1) The United States was an original signatory party to the 1875 Treaty of the Meter (20 Stat. 709), which established the General Conference of Weights and Measures, the International Committee of Weights and Measures and the International Bureau of Weights and Measures.

(2) The use of metric measurement standards in the United States was authorized by law in 1866; with the Metric Conversion Act of 1975 this Nation established a national policy of committing itself and taking steps to facilitate conversion to the metric system.

(3) World trade is dependent on the metric system of measurement; continuing trends toward globalization demand expansion of the metric system to include vital economic resources shown scientifically measurable in research conducted over the last 80 years.

(4) Industries and consumers in the United States are often at competitive disadvantages when dealing in domestic and international markets because no existing systems for measuring intangible assets (human, social, and natural capital) are expressed in standardized, universally uniform metrics. The end result is that education, health care, human resource, and other markets are unable to reward quality; supply and demand are unmatched, consumers make decisions with no or insufficient information; and quality cannot be systematically improved.

(5) The inherent simplicity of the metric system of measurement and standardization of weights and measures has led to major cost savings in certain industries which have converted to that system; similar savings are expected to follow from the development and implementation of a metric system for intangible assets.

(6) The Federal Government has a responsibility to develop procedures and techniques to assist industry, especially small business, as it voluntarily seeks to adopt a new metric system of measurement for intangible assets that have always required management but which have not yet been uniformly and systematically measured.

(7) A new metric system of measurement for human, social, and natural capital can provide substantial advantages to the Federal Government in its own operations.

§ 101b. Declaration of policy. – It is therefore the declared policy of the United States-

(1) to support the development and implementation of a new metric system of intangibles assets measurement as the preferred system of weights and measures for United States trade and commerce involving human, social, and natural capital;

(2) to require that each Federal agency,by a date certain and to the extent economically feasible by the end of the fiscal year 2011, use the new metric system of intangibles measurement in its procurements, grants, and other business-related activities, except to the extent that such use is impractical or is likely to cause significant inefficiencies or loss of markets to United States firms, such as when foreign competitors are producing competing products in non-metric units; and

(3) to seek out ways to increase understanding of the new metric system of intangibles measurement through educational information and guidance and in Government publications.

§ 101c. Definitions

As used in this subchapter, the term-

(1) ‘Board’ means the United States Intangible Assets Metrics Board, established under section 101d of this Title;

(2) ‘engineering standard’ means a standard which prescribes (A) a concise set of conditions and requirements that must be satisfied by a material, product, process, procedure, convention, or test method; and (B) the physical, functional, performance and/or conformance characteristics thereof;

(3) ‘international standard or recommendation’ means an engineering standard or recommendation which is (A) formulated and promulgated by an international organization and (B) recommended for adoption by individual nations as a national standard;

(4) ‘metric system of measurement’ means the International System of Units as established by the General Conference of Weights and Measures in 1960 and as interpreted or modified for the United States by the Secretary of Commerce;

(5) ‘full and open competition’ has the same meaning as defined in section 403 of title 41;

(6) ‘total installed price’ means the price of purchasing a product or material, trimming or otherwise altering some or all of that product or material, if necessary to fit with other building components,and then installing that product or material into a Federal facility;

(7) ‘hard-metric’ means measurement, design, and manufacture using the metric system of measurement, but does not include measurement,design, and manufacture using English system measurement units which are subsequently reexpressed in the metric system of measurement;

(8) ‘cost or pricing data or price analysis’ has the meaning given such terms in section 254b of title 41; and

(9) ‘Federal facility’ means any public building (as defined under section 612 of title 40) and shall include any Federal building or construction project: (A) on lands in the public domain;(B) on lands used in connection with Federal programs for agriculture research, recreation, and conservation programs; (C) on or used  in connection with river, harbor, flood control, reclamation, or power projects; (D) on or used in connection with housing and residential projects; (E) on military installations (including any fort, camp,post, naval training station, airfield, proving ground, military supply depot, military school, any similar facility of the Department of Defense); (F) on installations of the Department of Veterans Affairs used for hospital or domiciliary purposes; or (G) on lands used in connection with Federal prisons, but does not include (i)any Federal building or construction project the exclusion of which the President deems to be justified in the public interest, or (ii) any construction project or building owned or controlled by a State government, local government, Indian tribe, or any private entity.

§101d. United States Intangible Assets Metrics Board

(a) Establishment. – There is established, in accordance with this section, an independent instrumentality to be known as a United States Intangible Assets Metrics Board.

(b) Membership; Chairman; appointment of members; term of office;vacancies. – The Board shall consist of 17 individuals, as follows:

(1) the Chairman, a qualified individual who shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate;

(2) seventeen members who shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, on the following basis-

(A) one to be selected from lists of qualified individuals recommended by psychometricians and organizations representative of psychometric interests;

(B) one to be selected from lists of qualified individuals recommended by social scientists, the scientific and technical community, and organizations representative of social scientists and technicians;

(C) one to be selected from lists of qualified individuals recommended by environmental scientists, the scientific and technical community, and organizations representative of environmental scientists and technicians;

(D) one to be selected from a list of qualified individuals recommended by the National Association of Manufacturers or its successor;

(E) one to be selected from lists of qualified individuals recommended by the United States Chamber of Commerce, or its successor, retailers,and other commercial organizations;

(F) two to be selected from lists of qualified individuals recommended by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations or its successor, who are representative of workers directly affected by human capital metrics for health, skills, motivations, and productivity, and by other organizations representing labor;

(G) one to be selected from a list of qualified individuals recommended by the National Governors Conference, the National Council of State Legislatures, and organizations representative of State and local government;

(H) two to be selected from lists of qualified individuals recommended by organizations representative of small business;

(I) one to be selected from lists of qualified individuals representative of the human resource management industry;

(J) one to be selected from a list of qualified individuals recommended by the National Conference on Weights and Measures and standards making organizations;

(K) one to be selected from lists of qualified individuals recommended by educators, the educational community, and organizations representative of educational interests; and

(L) four at-large members to represent consumers and other interests deemed suitable by the President and who shall be qualified individuals.

As used in this subsection, each ‘list’ shall include the names of at least three individuals for each applicable vacancy. The terms of office of the members of the Board first taking office shall expire as designated by the President at the time of nomination; five at the end of the second year; five at the end of the fourth year;and six at the end of the sixth year. The term of office of the Chairman of such Board shall be six years. Members, including the Chairman, may be appointed to an additional term of six years, in the same manner as the original appointment. Successors to members of such Board shall be appointed in the same manner as the original members and shall have terms of office expiring six years from the date of expiration of the terms for which their predecessors were appointed. Any individual appointed to fill a vacancy occurring prior to the expiration of any term of office shall be appointed for the remainder of that term. Beginning 45 days after the date of incorporation of the Board, six members of such Board shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of any function of the Board.

(c) Compulsory powers. – Unless otherwise provided by the Congress, the Board shall have no compulsory powers.

(d) Termination. – The Board shall cease to exist when the Congress, by law, determines that its mission has been accomplished.

§101e. – Functions and powers of Board. – It shall be the function of the Board to devise and carry out a broad program of planning, coordination, and public education, consistent with other national policy and interests, with the aim of implementing the policy set forth in this subchapter. In carrying out this program,the Board shall-

(1) consult with and take into account the interests, views, and costs relevant to the inefficiencies that have long plagued the management of unmeasured forms of capital in United States commerce and industry, including small business; science; engineering; labor; education; consumers; government agencies at the Federal, State, and local level; nationally recognized standards developing and coordinating organizations; intangibles metrics development, planning and coordinating groups; and such other individuals or groups as are considered appropriate by the Board to the carrying out of the purposes of this subchapter. The Board shall take into account activities underway in the private and public sectors, so as not to duplicate unnecessarily such activities;

(2) provide for appropriate procedures whereby various groups,under the auspices of the Board, may formulate, and recommend or suggest, to the Board specific programs for coordinating intangibles metrics development in each industry and segment thereof and specific dimensions and configurations in the new metric system and in other measurements for general use. Such programs, dimensions, and configurations shall be consistent with (A) the needs, interests, and capabilities of manufacturers (large and small), suppliers, labor, consumers, educators,and other interested groups, and (B) the national interest;

(3) publicize, in an appropriate manner, proposed programs and provide an opportunity for interested groups or individuals to submit comments on such programs. At the request of interested parties, the Board, in its discretion, may hold hearings with regard to such programs. Such comments and hearings may be considered by the Board;

(4) encourage activities of standardization organizations to develop or revise, as rapidly as practicable, policy and IT standards based on the new intangibles metrics, and to take advantage of opportunities to promote (A) rationalization or simplification of relationships,(B) improvements of design, (C) reduction of size variations, (D) increases in economy, and (E) where feasible, the efficient use of energy and the conservation of natural resources;

(5) encourage the retention, in the new metric language of human, social, and natural capital standards, of those United States policy and IT designs, practices, and conventions that are internationally accepted or that embody superior technology;

(6) consult and cooperate with foreign governments, and intergovernmental organizations, in collaboration with the Department of State, and, through appropriate member bodies, with private international organizations, which are or become concerned with the encouragement and coordination of increased use of intangible assets metrics measurement units or policy and IT standards based on such units, or both. Such consultation shall include efforts, where appropriate, to gain international recognition for intangible assets metrics standards proposed by the United States;

(7) assist the public through information and education programs, to become familiar with the meaning and applicability of metric terms and measures in daily life. Such programs shall include –

(A) public information programs conducted by the Board, through the use of newspapers, magazines, radio, television, the Internet, social networking, and other media, and through talks before appropriate citizens’ groups, and trade and public organizations;

(B) counseling and consultation by the Secretary of Education; the Secretary of Labor; the Administrator of the Small Business Administration; and the Director of the National Science Foundation, with educational associations, State and local educational agencies, labor education committees, apprentice training committees, and other interested groups, in order to assure (i) that the new intangible assets metric system of measurement is included in the curriculum of the Nation’s educational institutions, and (ii) that teachers and other appropriate personnel are properly trained to teach the intangible assets metric system of measurement;

(C) consultation by the Secretary of Commerce with the National Conference of Weights and Measures in order to assure that State and local weights and measures officials are (i) appropriately involved in intangible assets metric development and adoption activities and (ii) assisted in their efforts to bring about timely amendments to weights and measures laws; and

(D) such other public information activities, by any Federal agency in support of this subchapter, as relate to the mission of suchagency;

(8) collect, analyze, and publish information about the extent of usage of intangible assets metric measurements; evaluate the costs and benefits of that usage; and make efforts to minimize any adverse effects resulting from increasing intangible assets metric usage;

(9) conduct research, including appropriate surveys; publish the results of such research; and recommend to the Congress and to the President such action as may be appropriate to deal with any unresolved problems, issues, and questions associated with intangible assets metric development, adoption, or usage, such problems, issues, and questions may include, but are not limited to, the impact on different occupations and industries, possible increased costs to consumers, the impact on society and the economy, effects on small business, the impact on the international trade position of the United States, the appropriateness of and methods for using procurement by the Federal Government as a means to effect development and adoption of the intangible assets metric system, the proper conversion or transition period in particular sectors of society, and consequences for national defense;

(10) submit annually to the Congress and to the President a report on its activities. Each such report shall include a status report on the development and adoption process as well as projections for continued progress in that process. Such report may include recommendations covering any legislation or executive action needed to implement the programs of development and adoption accepted by the Board. The Board may also submit such other reports and recommendations as it deems necessary;and

(11) submit to the President, not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of the Act making appropriations for carrying out this subchapter, a report on the need to provide an effective structural mechanism for adopting intangible assets metric units in statutes, regulations, and other laws at all levels of government, on a coordinated and timely basis, in response to voluntary programs adopted and implemented by various sectors of society under the auspices and with the approval of the Board. If the Board determines that such a need exists, such report shall include recommendations as to appropriate and effective means for establishing and implementing such a mechanism.

§101f. – Duties of Board. – In carrying out its duties under this subchapter, the Board may –

(1) establish an Executive Committee, and such other committees as it deems desirable;

(2) establish such committees and advisory panels as it deems necessary to work with the various sectors of the Nation’s economy and with Federal and State governmental agencies in the development and implementation of detailed development and adoption plans for those sectors. The Board may reimburse,to the extent authorized by law, the members of such committees;

(3) conduct hearings at such times and places as it deems appropriate;

(4) enter into contracts, in accordance with the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949, as amended (40 U.S.C. 471et seq.), with Federal or State agencies, private firms, institutions, and individuals for the conduct of research or surveys, the preparation of reports, and other activities necessary to the discharge of its duties;

(5) delegate to the Executive Director such authority as it deems advisable; and

(6) perform such other acts as may be necessary to carry out the duties prescribed by this subchapter.

§101g. – Gifts, donations and bequests to Board

(a) Authorization; deposit into Treasury and disbursement. – The Board may accept, hold, administer, and utilize gifts, donations,and bequests of property, both real and personal, and personal services, for the purpose of aiding or facilitating the work of the Board. Gifts and bequests of money, and the proceeds from the sale of any other property received as gifts or requests, shall be deposited in the Treasury in a separate fund and shall be disbursed upon order of the Board.

(b) Federal income, estate, and gift taxation of property. – For purpose of Federal income, estate, and gift taxation, property accepted under subsection (a) of this section shall be considered as a gift or bequest to or for the use of the United States.

(c) Investment of moneys; disbursement of accrued income. – Upon the request of the Board, the Secretary of the Treasury may invest and reinvest, in securities of the United States, any moneys contained in the fund authorized in subsection (a) of this section. Income accruing from such securities, and from any other property acceptedto the credit of such fund, shall be dispersed upon the order ofthe Board.

(d) Reversion to Treasury of unexpended funds. – Funds not expended by the Board as of the date when it ceases to exist, in accordance with section 105d(d) of this title, shall revert to the Treasury of the United States as of such date.

§101h. – Compensation of Board members; travel expenses.- Members of the Board who are not in the regular full-time employ of the United States shall, while attending meetings or conferences of the Board or while otherwise engaged in the business of the Board, be entitled to receive compensation at a rate not to exceed the daily rate currently being paid grade 18 of the General Schedule (under section 5332 of title 5), including travel time. While so serving, on the business of the Board away from their homes or regular places of business, members of the Board may be allowed travel expenses,including per diem in lieu of subsistence, as authorized by section5703 of title 5, for persons employed intermittently in the Government service. Payments under this section shall not render members of the Board employees or of the United States for any purpose. Members of the Board who are in the employ of the United States shall be entitled to travel expenses when traveling on the business of the Board.

§101i. – Personnel

(a) Executive Director; appointment; tenure; duties. – The Board shall appoint a qualified individual to serve as the Executive Director of the Board at the pleasure of the Board. The Executive Director, subject to the direction of the Board, shall be responsible to the Board and shall carry out the intangible assets metric development and adoption program, pursuant to the provisions of this subchapter and the policies established by the Board.

(b) Executive Director; salary. – The Executive Director of the Board shall serve full time and be subject to the provisions of chapter 51 and subchapter III of chapter 53 of title 5. The annual salary of the Executive Director shall not exceed level III of the Executive Schedule under section 5314 of such title.

(c) Staff personnel; appointment and compensation. – The Board may appoint and fix the compensation of such staff personnel as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of this subchapter in accordance with the provisions of chapter 51 and subchapter III of chapter 53 of title 5.

(d) Experts and consultants; employment and compensation; annual review of contracts. – The Board may (1) employ experts and consultants or organizations thereof, as authorized by section 3109 of title5; (2) compensate individuals so employed at rates not in excess of the rate currently being paid grade 18 of the General Schedule under section 5332 of such title, including travel time; and (3) may allow such individuals, while away from their homes or regular places of business, travel expenses (including per diem in lieu of subsistence) as authorized by section 5703 of such title 5 for persons in the Government service employed intermittently: Provided, however, that contracts for such temporary employment may be renewed annually.

§101j. – Financial and administrative services; sourceand reimbursement. – Financial and administrative services, including those related to budgeting, accounting, financial reporting, personnel, and procurement, and such other staff services as maybe needed by the Board, may be obtained by the Board from the Secretary of Commerce or other appropriate sources in the Federal Government. Payment for such services shall be made by the Board, in advance or by reimbursement, from funds of the Board in such amounts as may be agreed upon by the Chairman of the Board and by the source of the services being rendered.

§101k. – Authorization of appropriations; availability.- There are authorized to be appropriated such sums as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of this subchapter. Appropriations to carry out the provisions of this subchapter may remain available for obligation and expenditure for such period or periods as maybe specified in the Acts making such appropriations.

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