Working under big-boy rules and, "Did you bring enough for everybody?"

Bottom-up vs. top-down. Capitalism and libertarianism vs. socialism or authoritarianism. Flat vs. hierarchical organizations. Decentralization vs. centralization. Leader-to-leader. Mentor-to-mentor. Parent-to-future-responsible-adult.

Those ideas represent a common theme in my favorite books: respect and admiration for the individual and her/his freedom to choose, along with the responsibility for what happens because of that choice.

On leadership, such an attitude induces reciprocation. Furthermore, such an attitude encourages others to treat yet more others in the same way. The result is massive productivity, with everyone working to create more rather than waiting for orders or sandbagging to avoid getting the fruits of his labor stolen from him.

Some of my recent books (I re-read or re-skim now and then) that capture this theme:

How to Win Friends & Influence People (1981), D. Carnegie

Influence (2006), R. Cialdini

The Economics of Freedom,, selected works of F. Bastiat

The End of Power (2013), M. Naím

The Law, F. Bastiat

The Starfish and the Spider (2006), O. Brafman and R.A. Beckstrom

• and on…

You’re probably wondering about How to Win Friends & Influence People and Influence. Dale Carnegie titles part 3 chapter 7, “Give a Dog a Good Name,” and shares several stories of successful influence that begin with admirably illustrating someone’s reputation to him, and then encouraging him to live up to that reputation.

I think Robert Cialdini’s principles of both reciprocation and commitment/consistency apply. Treating someone like a leader encourages him to behave as a leader (vs. a follower) – to behave as a giver (vs. a taker), a producer (vs. a consumer), a responsible adult (vs. a child).


I got a text from daughter number three, age 11, the other day asking for my political party and why. I replied, “Libertarian [lowercase “l”]. Because it’s your money and your body, therefore your choice and your responsibility.”

She replied, “Thanks”

I figured she needed a quick response for some school homework assignment.

Libertarianism equals capitalism: (1) private property; (2) property rights; (3) and, most importantly, voluntary exchange. Emphasis on voluntary as opposed to involuntary or coerced.

In a perfectly free world, what types of exchanges would occur between persons? Only those that both occurred voluntarily as well as mutually beneficial (each party leaves the exchange with more). The result is wealth creation, or net gain.

Of course, the question isn’t whether to choose between perfect models that will never exist, but whether to choose between imperfect models. I support that of the two, the freedom of the individual to pursue his ends while also enjoying a freedom from abuse, that proves more meaningful.

In an involuntary exchange, one benefits at the expense of the other. Typically, one takes a benefit, the other suffers the cost; although it’s possible for it to happen the other way around, whereby one takes a cost so that others may benefit. The result is wealth redistribution.

Think of government taxes, murder, rape or theft. One benefits. The other pays.

A few weeks ago my wife and I got into a fight over my firm treatment (she would say unfair or maybe harsh) of our 14-year old nephew. She accused me of being hypocritical and “not being very libertarian.”

The fight had to do with granting him access to wifi, so that he may veg out playing internet games on his phone or consume video mindlessly. I asked for something in exchange. True, there’s really no added marginal cost to using the wi-fi – I have Google Wifi, and it’s amazing.

But what does the small cost to me matter? What makes him so entitled to someone else’s property whereby that someone else loses the freedom to say no? Or at least, to ask for something in exchange?

Wouldn’t that be like saying it’s okay get raped a little bit vs. a lot of bit? How about not at all?


Reminds me of the times I eat at work. Someone invariably asks, “Did you bring enough for everybody?”

The implication is that simply because he feels hungry and I have food, I therefore owe him some of my food. But he’s hungry! Just give him some!

Isn’t that like saying, simply because a man feels horny and that a woman has a vagina, she therefore owes him sex? But he’s horny! Just give him some!

And? So what of his feelings? What does he have that I want that’s worth some of what I have?

So entitled.


Maybe because I just re-read L. David Marquet’s Turn the Ship Around! (2012) that I’m now seeing this leader-to-leader model and its effects everywhere. It’s my RAS, or reticular activating system.

I think such an attitude of entitlement results from a leader-to-follower model, or parent-to-child model. “What other model is there?”, you ask?

How about, parent-to-future-responsible-adult? If we want our children to grow one day into future responsible adults, then why keep treating them like children?

Now, being treated like a child is unavoidable. And crying for what one wants and demanding it simply because one wants it, is therefore also unavoidable. It’s how we start out in life.

But we must unlearn it. Better yet, we must unteach it after a certain point in development if we want our children to succeed.

How did we learn it in the first place? As a child, we have no other way to communicate explicitly our wants or needs other than by crying. And as such, our parents condition us to expect to get what we want because we’re crying for it, because we simply want it or need it, whatever it is.

Additionally, I believe, because our common senses limit to only what we can sense (and struggle to sense what doesn’t exist, doesn’t exist yet or doesn’t exist anymore – such as the very real opportunity costs forgone), we therefore find it difficult to mind whether someone else pays the cost of our benefit.

Just watch kids play with toys. They enjoy the benefit of playing with the toys, but scatter to the winds when the time comes to pay the cost of cleaning up.

It takes a lot of sophistication to persuade children to want to clean up. So much so that we default to authoritatively directing them to do so or face the threat of punishment.

It’s the same where I work.

I frequently hear the saying big-boy rules in describing the work environment within the special operations community, as opposed to the conventional military (everyone else). It means, not being treated like children who must be closely supervised scolded, and disallowed most freedoms to choose because they’re not smart enough or mature enough to choose for themselves.

This attitude begets this attitude. It leads to job dissatisfaction. It leads to incredible amounts of lost productivity.