History in the Digital Age

Big Red Car here.  Hey, it’s in the 40s today but in a couple of days we’ll be back to the 70s.  So. it’s not quite convertible weather for me and the housekeeper.

So, The Boss and one of his brilliant CEOs are talking the other day and it gets around to the impact of history on business and politics.

The Boss is just seasoned enough — 33+ years as a CEO — that he has seen some stuff that youngish CEOs have not.  It is called history.

The impact of history on life

History is written by the victors.  At the end of the Civil War, it was illegal for a Confederate officer to write his memoirs during the period known as Reconstruction.  There are damn few contemporary Southern views of the Civil War as a result.  [The Big Red Car is not lobbying for a Confederate view of things just using it as an example.]

Reconstruction was that period of time when the Union Army occupied the eleven Confederate states under the guise of guiding them back into the Union.  From 1863 (Emancipation Proclamation) until 1877, the South was occupied by Union military forces and, in many states, martial law was imposed.

To not know this period of time in our American history is to fail to understand how Democrats became the virulent opponents of the rights of freed slaves and that the party of Lincoln, the Republicans, became the champions of civil rights.  You would never know that today.

Today, folks would have one think that the Democrats passed civil rights legislation and the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the US Constitution.  Well, Old Sport, it was the Republicans.  The Southern Democrats were too busy filibustering and joining the Klu Klux Klan.

It is a very complex period of time but it is critical to understand from whence we have come, where we are and where we are heading.


Richard Milhous Nixon is known for his resignation of the Presidency under the pressure of Watergate.  Watergate was a third rate scandal with a first rate cover up.  It was small potatoes until everybody started lying and then it became all about the lying.  Watergate dwarfed and obscured everything.

In many ways that is the specter that the Obama administration wrestles with now — Fast & Furious, IRS, Benghazi, etc.  Petty ante scandals with huge cover ups?

Nixon, to many, was a blackguard but his accomplishments as President dwarf many other more respected leaders.

Nixon arguably ended the war in Viet Nam.

He was the only President to deliver a balanced budget during the time period 1961 to 1998.

China was opened to the West under Nixon’s initiatives.

He negotiated the first SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty) with the Soviet Union’s Prime Minister Leonid Breshnev.

The Israelis, Syrians and the Egyptians made a peace of sorts.  Egypt became an American ally and was pried from the claws of the Soviet Union.  The Obama administration is in the throes of undoing all of this as they apparently do no know the history of this region.

Nixon dramatically reduced the mandated Federal sentencing guidelines on marijuana from 2-10 years to a single year which could be waived by Federal judges, instituted meaningful rehab programs and appointed a medical doctor to head the law enforcement program indicating a huge shift from incarceration to treatment.  And, yet, many folks would attribute the initiation of the War on Drugs to Nixon.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Nixon energized the EPA and formed the Office of Management and Budget.

In many ways it is a shame that his legacy is so completely tainted by Watergate.  Don’t get me wrong, he should have taken a lick.  He lied to the American people just like our current President.

Business history

Many similar things in business history have happened and continue to happen.  We are collectively often ignorant of our business history.

The other day, The Boss recommended a bit of Peter Drucker to a brilliant young CEO.  The brilliant young CEO:

“Who is Peter Drucker?”

Figuratively speaking, remember:

“Your generation did not invent sex or business.  Neither did mine.”

We are all held hostage to the knowledge that has accumulated from those whose shoulders we stand upon.  Read and know history.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway?  I’m just a Big Red Car.  Be good to yourself and stay warm.  It’s cold out there for a Big Red Car and you too.





6 thoughts on “History in the Digital Age

  1. That last question/answer epitomizes the ignorance of many young startup CEOs pertaining to management practices. They want to reinvent everything, instead of “reading everything” first. I wonder if that person knew who Marshall McLuhan was.

    • .
      Indeed and you, my friend, are creating a great historical record at StartupManagement. Keep it up.


      Keep crushing it.


  2. Hey BRC—I thought from the title this was going to head in another direction. In today’s modern digital age where information is a mere click away ignorance of history is particularly nettlesome. Revisionist history allows facts to be distorted and stacked to the forefront of SEO in this day of digital manipulation. The structured study of history is HARD WORK and requires research that few today show either a propensity to perform or a knowledge of how to do it. Today’s social trending dispenses historical “facts” in a digital pablum suitable for spooning down the slurping throat of an ignorant public. The ease of obtaining one data point and running with it is much too tempting for a lazy constituency. Researching issues and understanding their genesis is a lost discipline.

    You have done a great job illustrating my paranoia through your discourse surrounding both Reconstruction and the full Nixon legacy. One era I learned through my studies and the other era I experienced firsthand. In the absence of experience, we must all turn to a solid understanding of history to have a fighting chance to extrapolate the probable outcomes of current actions. Is that not the true reason why we should pay accurate attention to history?

    • .
      I could not possibly agree more with you. Contemporary events when morphed into “history” with the passage of time and the special sauce added by the victors has a tendency to be slanted and self-serving.

      Clinton — the greatest retail politician of our times or an accidental construct of Ross Perot’s vanity run for President which siphoned off votes that would have been cast on the opposite side of the ledger for others? The truth is known by persons who lived through and the history is something else altogether.

      Of course, you are a guy who marched in the second Nixon Inaugural, no?


    • .
      You, my friend, are one of the victors and are writing a brilliant history with Garden Design. Keep crushing it.


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