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View from the Cordillera

A Commentary on Achieving Excellence in Local Government
Read by Municipal Leaders on 4 Continents
Published by the Cordillera Institute

What Can We Learn from ... ?
Bob Proctor (Vol. 1, Issue 8)
This issue is a report on an evening spent listening to Bob Proctor.  For those who don't recognize the name, he is perhaps best known as a motivational speaker.  But, he is much more than that.  Among his many accomplishments, he has improved the performance of hundreds of organizations and thousands of individuals all over the world.  His extraordinary achievements are even more amazing when you hear how he started his life journey.  During his presentation, he shared 2 of his key elements of success, revealed how to overcome roadblocks, and ended with some sound advice on building a culture of continuous improvement.  It's all in this issue.

Ricardo Semler (Vol. 1, Issue 12)
Does the name Ricardo Semler sound familiar?  He runs what many think is 1 of the world's best employers.  And, his approach to building a win-win organization offers valuable lessons to all employers, including local governments.  Semler is a Brazilian whose father founded a company, now called Semco SA, to manufacture marine and industrial pumps.  When he took over as managing director, the younger Semler transformed the company.  Since the turnover, he has empowered everyone to play a major role in their own success.  By giving employees access to virtually all financial information, together with the training to understand it, each person was able to see their own impact — and that of their co-workers — on the bottom line.  Armed with that knowledge, they were able — and motivated — to make changes which improved their productivity.  By rewarding employees for their efforts, Semco ensured that productive innovation became an important part of their organizational culture.  Today, employees have gained full responsibility for their performance improvement — as individuals, as team members, as members of their business units, and as associates of the organization.  Their amazing results over the past 20-plus years speak for themselves.  This issue could also have been listed in the Building a Win-Win Organization category.  For that is precisely what Ricardo Semler has accomplished.

Frédéric Bastiat (Vol. 1, Issue 36)
Frédéric Bastiat, whose life spanned the first half of the 19th century, was much influenced by the events of his time and by those which immediately preceded his birth.  This era witnessed the American Revolution and the subsequent drafting of the Constitution, the French Revolution, the seizure of the French colony of Haiti by slaves, the rise and fall of Napoleon Bonaparte, and the trade-stifling protectionism which spread across Europe after the Napoleonic Wars.  It was this latter situation which caused Bastiat to question the motives of government.  At first, his efforts were directed at re-opening trade among nations.  But, as he delved further into his subject, he broadened his studies to include all forms of government participation in the lives of its citizens.  This culminated in the publication of The Law in 1848.  Calling on the lessons of history, both ancient and recent, and his keen observations on the nature of man and government, he produced the best definition of what constitutes good government that I have found to date.  In this issue, we touch on the events which shaped his thinking; see what lessons those events teach; examine the causes of what he called legalized plunder; and conclude with an assessment of the validity of his observations today.
Bastiat Responds to His Critics (Vol. 1, Issue 37)
Frédéric Bastiat challenged much of the conventional wisdom of his day and punctured many popular myths.  This made him a controversial figure in his time.  But, his grounding in principles, his astute observations, his careful reasoning, his sound logic, his insightful analyses, and his command of language all combined to produce very persuasive arguments.  And, by the end of his career, he had won over to his viewpoint many former opponents.  When you read his writings 150 years later, you may be struck to find that the problems he identifies and the solutions he proposes are very relevant to local government today.  Yet, when people first encounter his ideas, there are often some who are put off by what might seem to be his harsh criticisms of government.  Reaction to Issue 01.36 was no exception.  You'll see what the critics said and, using Bastiat's writings, see how he would respond to them.
Hernando de Soto (Vol. 2, Issue 9)
In this issue, we introduce Hernando de Soto.  No, this is not the 16th-century Spanish explorer of Florida.  This modern-day Peruvian economist is an expert on creating economic opportunity for the poor.  He has advised the governments of several 3rd-World nations on how to improve economic prospects for their citizens and has written extensively on this subject.  So, you may be wondering, what does this have to do with local government in the developed world?  Well, it seems that several of the barriers which make it difficult for the poor to advance in less-developed nations are present in our own back yards.  And, local-government agencies may be involved in creating or maintaining them.  In our western democracies, there is a multitude of government regulations, rules, restrictions, ordinances, by-laws, policies, guidelines, and advisories which control the use, sale, trade, mortgage, lease, or rent of property.  Each of these diminish the ownership — and the value of — property.  Yet, few offer any compensation to the property owner.  While these restrictions may originate with senior governments, many of them are enforced by local governments.  This issue offers ideas to save your municipality from taking actions which may block some family's path out of poverty — or grease the skids for another family struggling to keep from slipping back into poverty.

Our Elders (Vol. 3, Issue 33)
Whatever the state of our economy, we can always continue our learning. So, this issue is another chapter in our What Can We Learn from ... series.  However, it is not about anyone you will find in your encyclopedia or have heard about in the news.  Inspired by the time spent recently at the bedside of a dying friend, it's about our elders.  Since they are likely unknown outside a small circle of family, friends, and co-workers, we may tend to take them — and what they have to offer us — for granted.  We shouldn't.  While they may have nothing to tell us that will solve that problem we face at work tomorrow, their wisdom can make us better people.  In this issue, you'll meet those who provided the following life lessons:
• make the most of your experience;
• be productive;
• results rarely exceed expectations;
• keep moving the goal posts;
• freedom begins at the bank;
• bring your lessons home;
• the greatest gift you can give a child ...;
• anything from the hand of man ...; and
• that final gem — a piece of yellow yam and a pork bone.

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