A woman who appeared to be fifty-something straddled the doorway through which she had just entered the room, opened the folder she was carrying, raised to her eyes the glasses strung around her neck, scanned the contents of the folder, looked around the room, and, then, settled on a man sitting in the corner reading a magazine. “Mr. Carlyle?” she said somewhat hesitantly.
The man reading the magazine looked up, smiled and replied: “That’s me.”
The woman motioned for him to follow her into the area beyond the reception area. Mr. Carlyle placed his magazine on the table by his chair and did as requested.
On the other side of the door was a corridor leading to a number of interview rooms. The woman looked back over her shoulder to make sure that her charge was still in tow and proceeded to walk down the corridor until she reached a door marked ‘C’, turned the knob, and disappeared.
When Mr. Carlyle reached the doorway to Room ‘C’, he found the woman waiting for him by the door in the room’s interior. She smiled in a perfunctory manner and urged the man to enter the room.
Pointing to a chair, she invited Mr. Carlyle to be seated. She, then, navigated her way to a chair opposite the man on the other side of a medium-sized table in the middle of the room.
Placing the folder before her, she sat down. She interlaced her fingers and rested her elbows on the table.
She began with: “Hello. My name is Helen Anderson. I assume everything has been explained to you by Mr. Townsend. However, just to be clear about things, I’ll outline the purpose of our meeting.”
She continued on with: “This meeting is stage 5 of our vetting process. You already have been given a battery of intelligence, psychological, aptitude, and personality tests. Those tests have now been scored and analyzed.
“Obviously, people here have liked what they have seen so far in relation to your scores. Otherwise, you would not have been invited to this session.”
She had the polished, somewhat detached delivery of a person who had said the same words a thousand times before to other candidates. Her manner was neither friendly nor hostile but, rather, geared toward the sort of neutrality which is intended to perform a task efficiently, with as few human entanglements as possible.
She proceeded on with her introduction. “I am not an employee of the organization which is expressing an interest in your services. I am an independent contractor whose task is to conduct an interview and make recommendations on the basis of that exchange with respect to your possible ‘suitability’ for the position in question.
“I urge you to speak forthrightly about anything I may ask. Everything which takes place in this room is being recorded, and I can assure you that the consulting company for which I work will spare no effort to authenticate whatever statements, comments, or claims you may make during this interview.
“Do you have any questions about the purpose of this meeting or in relation to anything which has been said so far?" When she saw Mr. Carlyle shake his head in the negative, she said: “Good. Let's move forward.”
She opened the folder in front of her, picked up the top sheet, perused its contents, and placed the piece of paper face down on the table surface to the left of the folder. She, then, placed her forearms across the top of the folder. Her palms were slightly raised above the table with her forefingers directed toward Mr. Carlyle.
“Tell me about your marriage, Mr. Carlyle,” and as she spoke her eyes studied the man with a gaze trained to miss nothing of what might be manifested by the interviewee.
Mr. Carlyle thought for a moment and shrugged a little. “I’m not sure what to say.” But a few seconds later he became somewhat more expansive in his response.
“We’ve been married for seven years and have three children ... two boys and a girl. Because of the nature of my work, we have had to move a few times ... which has carried some stresses with it, but, on the whole, I would say that my wife and I enjoy a very good, loving relationship.
“When at work, I call her four or five times a day just to see how she and the children are doing ... to see if there is anything I can do. I like to know that everything is okay at home as well as what people are up to ... you know, stay on top of things.”
Ms. Anderson interjected with: “How do you and your wife make decisions?”
Not much time had passed before Mr. Carlyle said: “We always consult with one another about the decisions we make, but, to tell you the truth, Jean, my wife, usually likes to defer to my wishes in most matters affecting the household. She seems to be comfortable with my actively taking charge ... and, I do feel that ‘leadership’ is one of my strengths – whether at home, or at work, or in the community.”
The woman conducting the interview opened the folder before her and fingered her way through a few sheets in the folder before arriving at what she was looking for. She picked up the piece of paper, looked at Mr. Carlyle and said: “I understand that five years ago there was some sort of domestic dispute. What can you tell me about that?”
The man paused for just a second and, then explained: “It was a misunderstanding really. My wife and I had been discussing something – and, quite frankly, I forget what we were even talking about. The discussion got kind of loud and animated, and, at some point, I’m not really sure how it happened, but my wife got in the way of one of my hand motions, and she fell down, knocking over a table lamp in the process.
“Well, some of the neighbors got a little overexcited about all the commotion and phoned the police. However, when the police arrived, the situation was all under control, and my wife gave the police the same account I just gave you.
We – both my wife and I – have gotten much better at handling situations since then. She knows what she has to do, and I know what I have to do to make sure things don’t get out of control ... and, I guess we have been pretty successful because no one has had to call the police since that one incident.” He gave a rueful smile as he said this.
Ms. Anderson’s face remained impassive. She listened but did not react.
Returning to the folder on the desk once more, she rifled through a few more pieces of paper and, then, pulled another sheet from the pile. She studied the material briefly and asked: “What are your economic views?”
The man raised his eyebrows, exhaled through pursed lips, and commented: “Wow, that’s a pretty broad question,” and looked to the woman across from him for further cues. When none were forthcoming, he looked down to the hand resting on the table, examined the fingernails of his right hand for a few seconds, and, then, looked back at Ms. Anderson.
Starting slowly and gradually picking up speed as he went along, he said: “I believe in capitalism. I believe in the profit motive. I believe in the sanctity of private property. I believe in the importance of working hard and using one’s God-given talents to help make the world a better place. I believe that business leaders should be permitted, with minimum interference to do what they do best ... which is create wealth that can be distributed across communities and nations. I believe that the limited liability corporation is one of the great innovations of modern history and through this invention incredible technological and organizational strides have been taken to help humankind prosper materially and politically.”
Mr. Carlyle was about to go on when Ms. Anderson asked: “Do you believe there is any limit to what can be accomplished through capitalism? Do you believe that, eventually – and sooner rather than later – everyone will be able to share in the wealth?”
“Absolutely” Mr. Carlyle replied.
“So,” Ms. Anderson responded, “you believe that everyone will achieve the same standard of living as a result of the distribution of wealth made possible through corporations, the captains of industry, as well as via the movements of the invisible hand that guides free markets?”
With a faint hint of annoyance, Mr. Carlyle said: “No, obviously, not everyone will be able to enjoy the same standard of living. The people who put up the capital, the people with the innovative ideas, the individuals who have the organizational skills to put the capital and ideas into a productive format ... these people are entitled to a greater share of the wealth which is created.”
“Why shouldn’t the general workers benefit from all of this as well?” inquired Ms. Anderson.
Initially, the man looked at her like she was asking a question for which the answer was so obvious that it didn’t deserve an answer. Thinking a bit more about the situation, Mr. Carlyle responded simply: “Without capital, an idea, and organization, nothing gets done.”
“Well”, countered the woman, “couldn’t one also say that without workers, nothing gets done either? If you have capital, an idea, and organizational skills, but you have no workers, then, how is the latter less important than the former?”
The man shrugged his shoulders. “Coming up with an idea, raising money to implement that idea, and organizing things so that the idea will come to fruition ... all these things are the catalysts which start the economic engines.”
To which Ms. Anderson responded with: “And workers are the catalysts who help finish things. If you start a process but can’t finish it, then, how is starting things more important than finishing things?”
The man shot back: “If not for the wages which owners pay workers, the workers would be without food, clothing, and shelter. Owners give workers work.”
Without the slightest trace of rancor in her voice, the woman replied: “Owners don’t give workers anything for which those owners do not receive something in return. More specifically, without the profits that workers help make possible, then, capital, ideas, and organizational skills are worth very little.”
Mr. Carlyle acknowledged the point being made but qualified things with: “Naturally, workers deserve a fair wage for a fair day’s work.”
“How does one calculate what is fair ... either with respect to wages or the work expected for those wages?” Ms. Anderson wondered.
“Law of supply and demand,” the man remarked. He added: “If there is a large supply of labor, then, the price of wages goes down, and if there is not a large labor supply, then, workers are scarce and, as a result, their bargaining position is stronger.”
“What does the law of supply and demand have to do with the issue of fairness concerning wages? Irrespective of how many workers there are, shouldn’t anyone who works be fairly compensated for the work they do?” she inquired.
“Look,” Mr. Carlyle began, “the profit motive and good business practice demands that the owners of a business should try to maximize profits. Consequently, one of the degrees of freedom with which they have to work in order to be able to maximize profits is to play hardball with workers and get the latter to work as economically as possible.
“This is at the heart of the issue of productivity. The more productive the work force is, the more profitable a business tends to be.
“Costs are one of the variables of productivity. If one can cuts costs, then productivity should be enhanced.”
Ms. Anderson commented: “If I understand the logic of your position, then, if one could, somehow, get workers to work for nothing, then, presumably this would be a sort of paradise for the owner because one would have totally eliminated one source of business costs entirely. I guess the only thing which might be better from the perspective of owners is if they could induce workers, say through taxes, to hand over some of whatever money workers had managed to acquire so that the government could help subsidize those businesses to be more profitable ... at least for someone.”
“You make it sound like owners are engaged in criminal activity or something,” sniffed Mr. Carlyle. “All they are trying to do is earn an honest buck and help others along in life as well.”
Impassively, Ms. Anderson followed up with: “This brings us back to the issue of what exactly is necessary for someone to get along in life. Would you say that helping workers to acquire health care, or to enjoy safe working conditions, or have access to livable retirement packages, or to be free of ecological problems as a result of economic activity ... would you say that all of this is part of fair wages?”
Mr. Carlyle reflected on what had been said for a short period and indicated: “If you undercut profit too much, then, capital, ideas, and organizational skills have no reason to put forth an effort. You have got to reward these elements of the economic equation, or the raison d’être for such activity disappears.”
“What’s a fair reward for such efforts, Mr. Carlyle? And, how would you differentiate the fairness with respect to this kind of reward from the fair compensation package to which a worker might be entitled?”
With a certain degree of exasperation, Mr. Carlyle replied: “By law, corporations must maximize the profits for the shareholders of a company. So, legally speaking, the first among equals in the apportioning of the economic pie are the shareholders.”
“And what is it that shareholders do exactly? How did they earn this right to have their financial rights protected above that of workers?” asked the woman.
“They supply the money which greases the wheels of industry,” the man remarked.
“Other than in the case of something such as an initial stock offering, this is not entirely true, is it, Mr. Carlyle?” mused Ms. Anderson. “I mean, most of what is traded on the stock market is, in reality, just the moving around of money from one stockholder to another rather than the introduction of new cash into the system.”
“Furthermore,” she stated, “people buy stocks at a certain price, and they sell them at a certain price. The people who sell the stocks get to keep the money – minus, of course, the government’s cut of the action through such things as capital gains tax.
“If the price of stocks rise, then, so do the level of dividends to the stockholders as well as the level of returns for those who sell their stocks ... such as CEOs who often get millions of dollars worth of stock options in exchange for helping the price of a company’s stock to increase in value. Incidentally, if the cutting of costs is so important to productivity, then, why don’t companies decrease the salaries and pay-out packages to CEOs and other financial officers?”
“Surely,” he retorted, “you can’t expect such people to work for little or nothing.”
“Why not,” she wondered? “Many corporations and businesses don’t seem to have any problem with this logic when it comes to regular workers.”
“In any event,” she noted, “with certain, limited exceptions, once a company goes public, it acquires the majority of its investment, research, and operating cash through avenues other than the stock market. And, consequently, I’m still trying to figure out the nature of the constructive component that stockholders add to the economic equation other than to make money from the whole process – often at the expense of workers, the community, and the environment? What gives them the right to be first to the feeding troughs?”
Mr. Carlyle shook his head slightly in a sort of manner of disbelief. “The stockholders represent one of the ways through which the wealth that is created by industry and commerce is distributed. Everybody has a chance to benefit from this process through engaging in the stock market. When profits grow, so does the wealth which can be distributed among shareholders.”
“Is this wealth distributed evenly among those who are stockholders?” she asked.
“Every share is worth the same as every other share,” he informed her. “The only difference is due to how many shares of any given stock one owns.”
“Wouldn’t this mean that if one had little, or no, money to begin with, then, the egalitarian nature of individual share prices would make little difference to the impoverished?” she offered.
“Some people are better than others in managing their wealth. You can’t fault the system for the failings of individuals. Besides,” he added, "little by little more and more people are being encompassed by the spread of wealth.”
“So,” Ms. Anderson queried, “how long before we can anticipate that everyone will be safely ensconced within the protective womb of the egalitarian justice of the invisible hand of the marketplace?”
“Obviously, no one knows,” he answered. “However, corporations and businesses are working night and day to make this time as short as possible. People have to be patient, work hard, and wait for their opportunity. People have to be willing to make sacrifices ... progress demands sacrifice from everyone.”
The woman paused for a moment and said: “Does this mean that the owners, stockholders, and leaders of the business world are willing to make as many sacrifices as the workers are being asked to make? Are these ‘leaders’ willing to forego the raises, bonuses, pensions, stock options, dividends, health benefits, premium parking spaces, and other perks associated with their positions so that the burden of progress is borne by everyone equally? Don’t you think that if the quality of life of the leaders were tied to the quality of life of the poor that advances in economic progress might happen that much more quickly?”
“That is not how the system works,” the man said somewhat wearily. “The invisible hand of the market must be permitted to operate in accordance with its own principles of distributing goods and services rather than be forced to follow the arbitrary dictates of this or that political or social policy. If left alone, the free market would serve all of our needs.”
“How do we know this would be the case?” asked Ms. Anderson.
“Has there ever been a time in which the markets have been left alone to go where they will and, thereby, proven that what you are saying is true?”
“This is precisely to the point,” Mr. Carlyle said triumphantly. “The economic and political mess in which we find ourselves is directly due to the manner in which the invisible hand of free enterprise has not been permitted to move society in the direction of greater wealth for all.”
“Really?!?!” Ms. Anderson said partly as an exclamation and partly as a question, and, then, she remarked “If history teaches us anything, isn’t it that when self-interest is permitted to serve itself in a relatively unrestrained fashion, humanity tends to end up with oppression, dictatorship, fascism, and cartels who are not interested in distributing wealth and power but, rather, in monopolizing these commodities to the great disadvantage of the majority and to the considerable benefit of only the few?”
Mr. Carlyle was about to respond when he was cut off. “Before moving on to other topics, I have one last question to ask you in this general area. Let us assume, for the moment, that all you have said about economics is true. Let us further assume that all that is necessary is for time to be extended to the invisible hand of a free enterprise marketplace and, as a result, everyone eventually will be able to join in the prosperity. Where are the resources going to come from which will permit everyone – all seven billion of us – to have houses, cars, appliances, clothes, luxuries, food, and the like and to continue to have these things into the indefinite future?”
He shrugged his shoulders. “Obviously, not everyone can have everything they want. The marketplace will determine what is feasible. Moreover, the marketplace will engender the innovations and breakthroughs which are necessary to solve these problems. Whenever there is an opportunity to make profit, well, this is the mother of all invention.”
“If what you say is true,” hypothesized Ms. Anderson, “then, why doesn’t the opportunity to make a profit make inventors and entrepreneurs of us all?”
“God helps those who help themselves,” Mr. Carlyle quipped.
“Are you saying those who are not successful in business don’t try to help themselves?” she inquired.
“Are you saying those who are not successful in business don’t try to help themselves?” she inquired.
“Let’s just say,” he responded, “that I have never come across anyone who was willing to make the necessary effort who wasn’t rewarded for the efforts expended. People make their own luck and destinies.”
Ms. Anderson followed up with: “Where does God fit into your vision of things? Does Divinity have nothing to say about who gets what and when?”
“Naturally, God is the ultimate arbiter in these matters. However, I believe that God favors certain individuals and societies over others – that is why some people flourish and others do not, but even among those who are successful, efforts have to be made.”
“How,” she wondered, “do you know that what you call success and flourishing are signs of God’s favor rather than Divine wrath? After all, I have heard it said that when the ego is enhanced, then the spirit is diminished. Isn’t it possible that worldly success is merely a prelude to a spiritual fall?"
“Not necessarily,” he replied. “God guides those whom Divinity wishes. One can have worldly success as well as success in the next life ... if God wishes. People who are sincere with God ... well, God is sincere with them.”
“How does one know when one is being sincere with God?” she asked.
“God discloses signs to the chosen,” he remarked.
“But, how does one know what constitutes a sign, or, more importantly, what that sign means?” she pressed.
“One has to have faith that one is on the right path,” he said. “If one is, then, understanding the signs is made clear to one’s heart, mind, and soul.”
“Isn’t this somewhat circular reasoning?” she wondered. “Not if one is right,” he stated.
“And, if one is not right?” she countered.
Mr. Carlyle shrugged his shoulders and said: “I believe in a forgiving God.”
“But what if the choices you make end up hurting other people?” she asked. “Are they required to forgive you as well?”
“I hope they will, but whether, or not, they do, the only thing of importance to me is my relationship with God.”
“But,” she queried, “what if God is not prepared to forgive you for the harm you do to others unless those people are willing to forgive you for what you have done ... then what?”
While Mr. Carlyle was thinking about the matter, Ms. Anderson changed directions slightly. “What do you think about the war on terrorism?”
“It is very necessary,” he replied. “Why?” she asked.
“For a variety of reasons,” he said, and, then, he began to speak to some of those reasons. “First, it is better to fight terror where it is being bred than in our own country.”
He was about to go on when she interrupted: “It is better for whom and in what sense?”
He quickly responded: “Why, better for the people of this country, of course. Moreover, why should we put our society at risk unnecessarily ... let’s get the job done now so that we do not have to become further entangled in these matters such that our society ends up being as chaotic as some of the places where the terrorists are busy trying to undermine peace and justice.”
“What about the innocent people whose lives are destroyed ... physically, emotionally, psychologically, economically, and spiritually ... in the areas where the terrorists are going about their business by means of the war on terror? Don’t they get to chose how to go about things? Why must they be required to accept our way of handling the problem?"
“Yes, it is a shame,” he commented, “that innocent lives are caught up in this war, but whether those people understand it or not, we are fighting for their freedom ... so they can be secure ... so they can improve the quality of their life ... so they can be free from brutal dictatorship.”
She replied with: “Personally, I have difficulty understanding how such people might come to appreciate what you are claiming when they are dead as a result of our actions. Furthermore, even with respect to the ones who are still alive ... they are not free ... they are not secure ... the quality of their life has not improved but deteriorated ... and they have seen one brutal dictatorship go, only for it to be replaced by another.”
“Well,” he retorted, “these things take time, and people have to be willing to make sacrifices to win their freedom.”
She said: "What chance did we give them to make their own choices about such sacrifices before we imposed our final solution upon them? How do you get a people to choose to be free when the methodology that is used to accomplish this is one of force and oppression ... how does democracy get engendered through tyranny? Why are we so willing to sacrifice their life to protect our own?
“If the situation were reversed, do you really think that people in this country would appreciate the fact that some army from another country invaded us, killed thousands of innocent people, maimed untold thousands more individuals, destroyed our infrastructure, ruined our economy and our communities, imprisoned our people on mere suspicion, tortured us, humiliated us, and put into power a puppet government that they could control, and, yet, they said the reason they were doing all of this was for our own good and that we must be prepared to make sacrifices ... do you really think that people here would say: ‘Hey, what a great idea. Thanks’?
“Look,” he responded, “I understand what you are saying. I really do, but, sometimes, with greatness goes great responsibility. Leadership must be permitted to lead so that the vision of such leadership can be realized. I hate to sound so trite, but there is a real truth in the fact that in order to make an omelet, you gotta break some eggs.”
“But,” she inquired, “what if he rest of the world doesn’t want an omelet? What if they don’t want to break any eggs? What if they don’t like the way we make omelets?”
He shook his head in a dismissive manner. “This is where leadership and the vision of leadership come in. The great leaders always lead people where they need to go even if the people don’t want to go to where they are being led.”
“How do we know where people need to go?” she asked
“Well, that’s the issue, isn’t it?” he remarked. "Visionaries know and the generality of humankind do not. So, sometimes, the former have to kick the latter in the rear end to get these people moving in the right direction.”
“Are you certain of this?” she challenged.
“As certain as I am that I am sitting in front of you.” he responded.
She followed up with: “Of course, you do realize that people who are delusional and/or suffering from various kinds of mental disorder tend to feel, believe, and understand that what they claim to be true is just as true as what you believe to be the case about marriage, economics, religion, and terrorism.”
“Are you saying that I am delusional or insane?” he asked.
“That’s not my call,” she indicated. “My job is to evaluate you with respect to your possible suitability for a given position. And I believe that I now have enough information on which to make a decision concerning you. So, if you will return to the reception area, there are a few administrative items which I have to clear, and, you will be notified shortly about the decision.”
She rose, invited Mr. Carlyle to do the same, she, then, escorted him through the door, down the hallway and to the passageway leading to the reception area. She said good-bye and thanked him for being candid during the interview.
She returned to Room ‘C’, sat down, and began to write: “Mr. Carlyle has tendencies toward abusive behavior and, as well, is inclined toward being controlling of others. He is delusional, possibly a sociopath. In addition, he is a true believer in the phenomenon of leadership, rather dogmatic about many things, presumptuous, somewhat ethically challenged, and willing to sacrifice others to further his own beliefs. Finally, he has great difficulty seeing events from any perspective but his own. I believe he will make an excellent candidate for the job opening that exists in the terrorist organization which contacted you recently. I believe he has all of the qualities necessary for a first-rate terrorist.”
After re-reading what she had just written, she gathered together the papers scattered about on top of the table, stacked them neatly together, placed her assessment on top of this pile, and, then, she closed the file on Mr. Anthony Carlyle.
Another job completed. Productivity was on the rise, and if things kept going this way, the stockholders would be very happy when dividends were declared in the next quarter.