Bruce, Great extra questions!
> Concerning growth systems that killed themselves, why
> not just look at a few major corporations (which are in
> essence, growth systems) and see what happened to them?
> Anyone remember Montgomery Ward? Where are they now?
Like most classic American businesses it grew quite large and then
stabilized, became a ‘cash cow’ for feeding investments in other things,
and by the time it’s owners recognized the shape of threatening new
competition it was too stuck in old habits and couldn’t adapt. It had
to be broken up for parts.
> How about General Motors (”What’s good for General
> Motors is good for the USA”)? How are they doing now?
GM is a more modern company. My sense is that it’s been remaking itself
about every 20 years, more or less successfully. Modern businesses try
to encourage new ventures within their own organizations, trying to
remain ‘forever young’. That’s very hard to do when whole industries
come and go ever more rapidly with continuously multiplying amounts of
money feeding into investments to replace everything doing the
production… (That’s one of the weirdest one’s to me! You wouldn’t
want to stop change, but it’s worse to endlessly accelerate it.)
> Let’s go back further to the East India Company or the
> Hudson Bay Company. What’s happened to them?
I’m sure there are great books on each. It’s always a compelling story
of visionary people doing great things that turn out not to be so useful
anymore down the road. Time passes them bye.
> Look at Ford, IBM, or a host of other companies that
> made up the Dow Jones industrials just 50 years ago. Most of
> them are gone or in deep trouble.
There are a number of the giants companies that are struggling, and a
number that are adapting to become more versatile and creative.
> Or, perhaps look at dynasties the once ruled the earth
> (or some significant portion of it): Persia, Rome, Greece,
> Egypt, Babylonia, the Norse Vikings, the Ottoman Empire,
> Spain, England, China (which is the only one on the ascent
> again at this point), etc. They all had their day in the sun,
> and where are they now?
Come and gone… It certainly is curious why each of these long stable
ways of living seemed to loose interest and vanish. Good modern
examples of this that are just a little more dramatic, but the same
thing I think, are the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union and the
sudden collapse of the NYC crimewave. In both cases it strongly appears
that the social cultures turned off to their former way of life and let
it just fall to pieces.
> Will any of those suffice for your purposes? If not,
> let’s all try again.
Well, actually, you picked wonderful examples, but not a one that had to
do with failure caused by uncontrolled growth (from growing competition,
yes, but not from its own growth). A couple from history would include
the Biblical reference to a Tower of Babel and multiplying languages and
the California gold rush disasters.
> Bruce Barnbaum