If You Can’t Solve it, Redefine it

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Recently, a Wall Street Journal headline grabbed my attention. “Obama Resets War on Terror”.  The article observes that since there seems to be no end in sight on how American (and its allies) is going  to put an end to terrorism, he is redefining what our role should be. By limiting the extent to which we must fight terrorism (e.g., less international exposure), we can set achievable goals.

It reminded me of previous “resets”.  Nixon wanted to end of the Vietnam war, so he declared victory and with the world watching the US left South Vietnam. It took about 24 hours before the North Vietnamese overran South Vietnam.   Reagan didn’t like the high unemployment rate that he inherited – which included all people out of work who can’t find it. He decided to “reset” the official Labor Department definition  of unemployed to only include those who are “actively looking” within the first 6 months. Suddenly, the rate of unemployment which is reported monthly dropped.

Unfortunately, resets don’t really address the core issue. Indeed, during the just completed recession almost every thorough reporter noted the extent of the non-job crisis by noting the official unemployment rate and economists’ estimates of those no longer counted. Mr. Obama may decide that Al-Qaeda is no longer a threat, but does that make terrorism any less a threat when other groups are inspiring hatred which individuals adopt, as evidenced most recently in Boston and London.

It made me wonder how prevalent this “resetting” practice is both in public policy and in business. What cases come to your mind?  With the Affordable Care Act taking effect, we may see many instances of resetting. Pay attention and share with us all.