In my column this week at Forbes, I discuss my New Year's Resolution, which has not changed over several decades, and how it helped me this year to solve some difficult philosophical issues regarding my business.
Almost exactly thirty years ago, I read Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, probably the single most influential book I have read in my lifetime. Before I read it, I was on a path to becoming a traditional Conservative in the mold of my parents, and in retrospect my thinking on a lot of issues was quite muddled.
I am no longer the exclusive Rand fanboy I was back in college, if for no other reason than I have since found many authors who come at the topic of capitalism and freedom from many different angles, but Rand was certainly my gateway drug to liberty.
Like many people, around the new year I set various goals for myself over the coming year. Some I have achieved (e.g. getting myself out of corporate America and into my own business) and on some I have fallen short (e.g. learning to play the guitar). But every year I have renewed just one resolution, which I took from Atlas Shrugged. It is
I swear"“by my life and my love of it"“that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.
I then discuss this resolution in the context of approaches my business has had this year from lobbyists. I discuss how lobbyists have approached me about an effort to make some tweaks to the health care law (it is particularly punitive to our labor model where we hire seniors part time and seasonally) as well as efforts to promote privatization of recreation (my business) and to help me obtain new contracts. The article has much more discussion about details, but my resolution for a lobbying policy turned out as follows, in a rough parallel to the resolution above:
"We will use lobbyists to defend ourselves when the government is trying to gut us like a fish, but we will attempt to do so with generic amendments rather than through special exemptions for our company alone. We will not use lobbyists to create new business opportunities, even when the legislation to do so is consistent with our principals."
By the way, I actually sent notes to several readers out there (you know who you are) asking them their opinions on some of the ethical issues I saw in these issues, and I appreciate the feedback from all of you.
Happy new year to all of you.