People are not keen to be reminded of the limitations of their cognitive abilities. That’s a psychological problem. It’s a matter of self defense in those who are not fully conscious of what they are thinking and why, and who are unable to distance themselves of their own thoughts and to rationalize them separately. Those people usually mistake the critique in flaws of their thinking as personal attack. Me, on the contrary, a rational thinker through and through, I’m happy to learn about flaws in my thinking. I eagerly accept any substantial critique.
That said, I want to turn to a subject that is often treated irrationally because so many zest and fanaticism involved that blinds out the view to the most obvious facts. I’ll talk about war and more precisely about those who profit from it. I call it sutlerism. Sutlers are merchants that go along with an army providing combatants with all kind of services from food, through sorcery all the way to prostitution. Sutlerism is almost neglected in history books, but it is as old as the war itself. The first time, I learned about it actually was in a play written by Bertolt Brecht “Mother Courage and Her Children” which not only exposes the incentives to stay in that business but also the tragedy and personal conflict involved. Mother Courage first enthusiastic about the war that generated her so much profit lost all her children to it which eventually changed her mind. She is a metaphor for all those Germans who at the beginning of WW2 believed to become rich and prosperous by the war but lost everything at the end.
Sutlerism has changed in modern times. Two aspects that actually changed are dimension and character.
Dimensional changes are easy to spot. While in Roman times the weaponry was limited to not much more than a sword and a shield, the diversification of weapons today offers much more possibilities for profits. Also the front lines are easier to cross and arms dealers usually make businesses with both sides. That arms are sold to both sides in a grand style became first obvious in WW1 when France and Germany attacked each other with poison gas from the same production. In an even grander style profits are made by banks and other money lenders when giving money with hight interest rates to the fighting parties. That all wars are bankers wars today is well illustrated by this video that I want to recommend here.
By contrast, the character changes are more difficult to spot. In particular the service provided for the participants has improved substantially. It includes all kinds of superficial entertainment and distraction, the psychological manipulation is accomplished by a huge machinery of propaganda, and plundering and looting is obfuscated by an intricate system of money laundering. In fact a huge obfuscation and diversion industry accompanying each war evolved stealthily.
Usually the whole war industry has a bad reputation. Naturally, people don’t like it because not only they have to pay for it but also have to suffer its consequences. Anyway its an industry as many other that make their profits in the market, and though it not might be so obvious but many other industries cause damage, environmental and otherwise.
My point is a different one. The lack of rationality. I hate irrational people everywhere, but obviously they are most common in the war industry. To give an extreme example just to illustrate my point. A professional killer gets about 50,000$ per victim if we are inclined believe Hollywood movies. By contrast, a soldier in a war kills many more for just a small portion of that amount. Usually, a soldier’s job is much more dangerous being killed every moment, still some even volunteer. What is going on here can only be explained by profound irrationality.
That such irrationality exists not only with soldiers but also with other branches of the war industry, I became aware of when I read about a film project that asks for sponsorship. Again if in Hollywood a film like this would easily get millions of dollars, but the humble producer of that film modestly asks for just a few thousands. In order to help those hapless amateurs in that business and to improve their returns, I composed the following recommendations.
- Analyze the parties who are in conflict. Who are they and what are their goals? This question might be a little bit tricky as those who fight on the battlefield are just the puppets. This first analysis has to find out those who pulls the strings and who eventually profits the most.
- Next you have to find out how strong the interests of the parties are. For instants, an arms dealer who makes businesses in the millions wouldn’t hesitate to support a promotion by hundreds of thousands. And just to mention the margins in money laundering are well above 10% up to 50% even depending on the risk involved.
- Study your competitors. Of course, it is not good to have too many competitors, so you have to check if there are possibilities to reduce the number. There are two ways to eliminate them. You can kick them out of business or cooperate. If killing is not an option, shaming might be quite efficient too. If not feasible either and if possibilities for a division of labor exist try to join forces. That is, by the way, the most effective way to develop a successful business into the future and it gives you a stronger position in the next point.
- Finally you have to carefully fine tune your business offer to the goals of your prospective client. This might be the most trickiest part for a beginner, as a beginner feels motivated by some “holy” interests. You have to shed these remnants of irrationality and instead rationally focus on your business exclusively. That gives you the upper hand in all negotiations.
If you have studied point 2 carefully you know what you can ask for. I would even encourage you to break up negotiations if the offer is inappropriately low, when your business partner returns you will be in an even stronger position.
Though I don’t know if the film is worth it, it was definitely worth to give it a thought. It is always a winning game if rationality is promoted not only personally to stay undisturbed by any critique in you opinions but also socially by evolving a society that is more predictable.