Notes on Negotiation

Tips on getting what you want, and getting what everyone wants, in negotiations.

Tips on getting what you want, and getting what everyone wants, in negotiations.

When Eisenhower became President, Truman was rumored to have said, “Ike can’t just tell people what to do like he could in the Army. When you are president, you only get what you can negotiate.” Whether this story actually happened is irrelevant. In life, you only get what you negotiate.


  1. Limited authority – “Sorry, I don’t have the authority to make that decision. Let me talk to my manager…”
  2. Missing person – “Sorry, the boss isn’t here right now, so I’ll have to get back to you and on what you want.
  3. Good cop, bad cop – One negotiator on the team is rude and demanding, while another on the same team buddies up to you.
  4. Reverse auction – Bargaining down, such as when a man goes to a car dealership with a rock bottom price advertisement from another dealership and says, “how close can you get to this?”
  5. Nibble at the end – One side is just about ready to sign a contract, and then they suddenly stop and say, “You know, if we could just have this last, small item (concession/whatever).”
  6. Take it or leave it – pushing for a final decision or concession in a negotiation. Walk away, but leave your card.
  7. Split the difference – perceived by most people as fair, this is how two-sided negotiations usually end up, more or less. However, this may not be fair if one party has a huge power or knowledge advantage over the other. For example, if a jewelry store is asking $1,000 for a necklace and the real price is $200, selling it for $600, a 200% markup, may not actually be fair.
  8. Funny money – using non-monetary inducements to seal a deal
  9. Garbage on the lawn – often used in real estate and used car negotiations, this entails finding anything and everything wrong about an item and disparaging it to try to get a better price.

Why do most people think that they are not good negotiators?

  1. They fear failure – they fear being taken advantage of.
  2. They have not prepared enough.
  3. They have no good BATNA – best alternative to a negotiated agreement

Motivation – Everyone is motivated by something and for something, but no one can entirely motivate someone else.

Positional Negotiation – avoid these

  1. Taking a position and holding to it doggedly until forced back.
  2. Paying more attention to the position than the people involved and even the issue being discussed.
  3. Identifying your ego, your personal value, with your position (“If I lose this position, I am a failure.”)
  4. Requiring a solution that will “save face.”
  5. This will sometimes result in a mechanical, “splitting the difference” solution rather than a creative, “everyone wins” solution.
  6. Arguing over positions threatens relationships, which are needed for long term stability of existing agreements and the possibility of future agreements.

Key behaviors in successful negotiation

  1. Listening without judging
  2. Knowledge of the subject
  3. Knowing how to expand the pie

Power in negotiations

  1. Each side is always aware of their own limitations far more than the other sides’. Even if they were equally aware, they would think more of their own.
  2. If you think you have no power, you don’t.
  3. You always have more power than you think.
  4. If you have power but aren’t aware of it, you don’t have power.
  5. 75-85% of outcomes in negotiations are determined before the negotiation begins. The military strategist Sun Tzu said the same thing about war.
  6. The first offer and the first concession determine the course of the rest of the negotiations. You can just about predict the final outcome from these.

BATNA – best alternative to a negotiated agreement

  1. Most negotiators have two facts in mind when they enter negotiations, the goal and the walk-away.
  2. Set your facts (goal and walk away) with facts (industry standards, market-based pricing, supply and demand), not guesses
  3. Having a good BATNA is like having a good Plan B – if you can’t get house A for a good price, you may still be able to get house B.

The Psychology of Negotiations

  1. Negotiations are messy, with verbal and emotional twists and turns that seem unnecessary and bizarre. German Prime Minister Otto Von Bismarck said, “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.” Negotiations are the same way.
  2. Negotiations are not events, they are processes. Even those not immediately involved in the negotiation are part of the process.
  3. The feeling of participating in the process is one of most important factors in determining if a negotiator accepts a proposal. Book – Getting to Yes.
  4. Don’t offend. Years ago, I was watching a group of American tourists dickering with an Arab merchant over an item. They berated his merchandise (the “garbage on the lawn” strategy) that he became angry and chased them out of his shop. Both sides left grumpy.

Negotiation is about ego, expectation, and satisfaction – not about money, goods, and services.

  1. Ego – As Columbo always said in the police drama, “Looking smart is dumb, but looking a bit dumb is smart.” Try asking “Can you help me out here?”
  2. Expectations – Get the other side to reveal their needs and their deadlines. You don’t get credit for meeting unknown needs.
  3. Satisfaction – You must make the other side feel satisfied with the work they must do to meet your demands. Whenever Person A makes an offer and Person B immediately accepts it, Person A feels let down, like they left money on the table. Don’t let this happen. Even if you love the offer, don’t jump at it. Ask for a little more. Ask for and make concessions in a way that satisfies the other side.

Negotiations are a long-term relationship

  1. Important phrases, signs, and signals in negotiations
  2. That’s a good point – a sign that you are a good and fair-minded listener.
  3. You’re right about that – a signs that you can see other positions and ideas and are open to them.
  4. Please correct me if I am wrong – a sign of humility
  5. Quick negotiations are dangerous to one side. Skilled negotiators have an advantage.
  6. Beware telephone negotiations

Using time in negotiations

  1. “Push” theory of negotiations – if you use all the time available, you usually have a better chance of pushing the other side to the limit.
  2. Bargaining down – Each side will negotiate their side down naturally over time. This means that once a person makes Offer A, he immediately begins to think of why the other party won’t take it. In his mind he consequently thinks Offers B and C, less and less favorable to himself. Wanting to make the deal, he convinces himself to make Offers B or C if A is rejected.
  3. Use body language to pause.
  4. Negotiators will often push deadlines (the “11th hour agreement”) because it appears to their sponsors and other stakeholders that they have done all they can do.

Questions in Negotiation

  1. What do you want?
  2. What do they want?
  3. What could you trade?
  4. What will you trade?

Preparation checklist

  1. What do you want to happen?
  2. What are the negotiable issues?
  3. Rank each “want” in importance to you – high, medium, or low. Set a range for each want.
  4. Entry and exit (“walk away”) limits
  5. Plan how you will describe to the other side what you are seeking (general agreement, detailed agreement, fairness, etc.)
  6. Draft an MOU that you think will cover all of the pertinent points and expected outcomes. Modify this MOU to meet terms agreed upon during the negotiations.

Summarizing during negotiations

  1. Simplify complex issues
  2. Refocus wandering negotiations
  3. Reassures both sides that they are being taken seriously
  4. Gives you time to think

Ending negotiations

  1. Summarize
  2. Write a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that both sides sign

How to save money when shopping

  1. When to buy – end of day, week, month, or year
  2. Businesses have quarterly goals and quotas. Buy close to 31 March, 30 June, 30 September, and 31 December.
  3. If you don’t know what to pay
    1. Bid 40% of list price
    2. Pay up to 60% of list price.
  4. Shopping Discounts – always, always, always ask
  5. Repeat customer
  6. Pastor/Rabbi discount – fake, but funny. Can lighten things up with a store manager
  7. Bulk discount

Negotiation Planning Questions

1.     Issues (Why we are meeting) – Me/Other party

2.     Objectives (What is wanted) – Me/Other party

3.     Perceived Needs and Interests (Feelings) – Me/Other party

4.     Potential Concession (Things I am willing to give up) – Me/Other party

5.     Settlement Options (Possible to solutions to the issues) – Me/Other party

Government Officials and Flights – Abuse of Money and Power?

The dangers of making decisions too quickly, with too little information, or with too much emotion.

The Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Tom Price, was forced to resign after revelations that he took charted civilian and military aircraft on trips that were of debatable value to the US taxpayer. The price tag was over $400,000 for the civilian flights and about $500,000 for the military airlift. Since his tenure in office was about eight months (10 February to 29 September 2017), Price spent over $100,000 per month for these flights alone; seemingly an impressive rate of burning taxpayer money. This appears to be prima facie evidence of corruption, or at least rank insensitivity to the needs and resources of the American people.

Price is not the only one. According to the New York Times[1], Secretary Ryan Zinke (Interior), Administrator Scott Pruitt (EPA), Secretary David Shulkin (VA), Secretary Steven Mnuchin (Treasury), and others also garnered criticism for flights from Las Vegas to Europe. These accusations are serious, as public service is a public trust and leaders must act with discretion. Several of these Cabinet members protested that they followed proper procedures, and they may have, but the damage remains. In this time of enormous Federal deficits, and national debts, leaders must not only be squeaky clean; they must appear squeaky clean.

But we the people are responsible to calmly and carefully gather the facts in each case, then make and communicate our own opinions. Since by and large the media gave up the calm and careful approach long ago, we citizens are left to our own resources. Just as we don’t allow people in court to be judged, sentenced, and executed without due consideration of the facts, we must do the same for our elected leaders. They are, after all, just people – other citizens like us to whom we have entrusted powers and resources.

From my limited investigation, I am not sure that any of these trips were irresponsible or an abuse of power. Consider the following:

  1. Civilian charter aircraft are used when an executive has a tight schedule and cannot reasonably travel commercially. Cabinet members are busy people, having many demands on their time. If one has a meeting with the President at 1000 in DC and a meeting with the Governor of California at 1600 in Sacramento, a charter may be the only option.
  2. Highly visible leaders make lots of enemies, both through commission and omission. William McKinley was a popular president who loved meeting with the public. He was widely regarded as a nice man and couldn’t understand why anyone would be angry with him, much less want to kill him. Nonetheless on 6 September 1901, the anarchist Leon Czolgosz fired the shots that would kill him. Charter aircraft are generally more secure than commercial aircraft.
  3. Trips that may appear to be a boondoggle often have genuine political and government value. Members of Congress and their delegations go on CODEL trips all over the world. The cost is phenomenal, with dozens of people involved, including staffers, security, crew, and military personnel. Yet, these trips are important. Don’t we want leaders who are familiar with the people and places that we trade with, or send our soldiers to?
  4. Military aircraft are a special case. Pilots and crews are required to get around 20 flight hours every month. They can get these flight hours on a bona fide mission (combat, transport, reconnaissance, etc.) or on a training mission (touch and goes, approaches, flight maneuvers, etc.). The cost to run the plane may be $20,000 per month, but it is a sunk cost; taxpayers will pay the same whether the crew is on board alone or whether a Cabinet secretary and a few staffers are sitting in the back. In fact, any active or retired service member and their families can ride for free on a military aircraft if they travel when and where there is space available. Even if the political leader asks for a special flight, it provides worthwhile training for the crew. Most military crews in peacetime complain of getting far too few flight hours, not far too many.
  5. The amount of money involved is very small relative to the overall budget. Many people will not bend over and pick up a penny off the sidewalk – to them the effort is not worth the reward. Real corruption must be rooted out, but we as citizens must ask ourselves if tightening regulations to limit travel in government, and expelling officials, is worth the reward.

Leaders in government often make far less than they could in a comparable civilian job. As a result, good and capable people often do not enter government service. Some that do volunteer get their reputations sullied and lose their effectiveness due to baseless charges. Only the accusation, not the resolution, makes the news.

We as citizens need to investigate allegations of misconduct, or have the appropriate authorities do so. Only when we have calmly and carefully gathered the facts in each case should we make a decision and act on it. We harm ourselves and our Republic if we crucify people for legitimate work, and we should give the benefit of the doubt about what is legitimate.

This is hard work, but America is worth it.

[1] Health Secretary Tom Price Resigns After Drawing Ire for Chartered Flights,

Understanding Authority

The US Founding Father Benjamin Franklin is alleged to have said “It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.” Whether he said this or not, the idea of questioning authority has woven itself into the DNA of American culture. But the idea of questioning authority is not new; indeed, it is as old as man. Since the serpent convinced Eve to question God’s authority in the Garden of Eden, sinful man has questioned authority. Even more, we have an inherent dislike of it. The idea that anyone or anything should be “over” us in some way is anathema to man, especially individualistic Americans.

Before we continue, we must define our terms. For our purposes, “to question” will be “to ask” or even “to challenge” authority but not to automatically reject it. We will define “authority” as “the power to give orders or make decisions: the power or right to direct or control someone or something.”[1] Note that authority is not the same as power. Power is simple ability, while authority is ability plus legitimacy. A man holding a gun may have the power to take your money, but he doesn’t have the authority to do so. A tax collector in a democratic government has both the power and the legitimacy, hence the authority, to take your money.

The Bible claims to be an authority in its own right and makes many statements about authority. Matthew 8:5-13 contains one of the most fascinating stories in the Bible. A centurion, a young Roman officer roughly equivalent to a company commander in the modern US Army, had a sick servant. He came to Jesus and asked Him to heal the man. When Jesus offered to go to his house to do so, the centurion refused and replied “Lord, I know how authority works. I am not worthy to have you come to me. Just say the word and my servant will be healed.” Jesus was amazed at the centurion’s faith, a reaction He had to no one else in Scripture. This young Roman leader understood authority, and he knew that Jesus had it.

This article will discuss where authority comes from, how we know when someone has authority, how to respond to authority, and how to wield authority.

The Source of Authority

All authority comes from God. He is the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, and His nature forms the informational and moral basis for existence. He is the Supreme Power and the Ultimate Authority. It really cannot be any other way. Christians understand that the second person of the Godhead, Jesus Christ, has all authority (Matthew 28:18-20). Judging by the texts of the two documents, the Framers of the US Declaration of Independence[2] understood this but the Framers of the Declaration of the Rights of Man[3] apparently did not. The results of this were clear to see – the American Revolution ended in the world’s first constitutional democracy, the “last, best hope of mankind.[4]” The French Revolution ended in the First Republic (1792-1799) and the Napoleonic Empire (1799-1815), during which millions were slaughtered.

God gives authority to man. In one of the first acts of creation, He commanded Adam and Eve to rule over the earth and to take care of it (Genesis 1:27-28, 2:15, 9:2-3). The Lord also ordains governments to regulate the affairs of men (Leviticus, 1 Samuel 9:16-17, 16:1-13, Romans 13:1-7). Governments in Biblical times were generally despotic, benevolent or not, but God’s authority is not limited by the form of government. He exalts and humbles leaders in democratic governments as well. The same goes for businesses and all other organizations; authority is given by the Holy One (John 19:11).

The Lord gives authority to man in three ways. First, God’s authority is fundamentally based in His character, and so God gives man authority by transforming his character to be more like His. The character of the Holy One is marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23), and so shall be the character of the man or woman to whom He has given real authority. It is an active process, with God and the person working in tandem (Philippians 2:12-13). Godly character is the foundation of all real authority.

Second, the Lord gives authority to man by helping him or her to do things in fulfillment of His will. He teaches doctors to heal, lawyers to argue, leaders to speak, pilots to fly, and businessmen to negotiate. God gives fathers the ability to protect their families, and mothers the ability to nurture them. The list is as endless as the Lord’s will is broad, from artists reflecting beauty to zookeepers tending animals. God has commanded us to keep the earth as a gardener tends her beloved garden, so He gives us the power and legitimacy, the authority, to keep His commands. Knowledge and experience are primary ways that the Lord confers these abilities.

Third, the Lord gives authority to man by providing resources. He gives most people enough money to survive, and to some He provides great wealth. God gives most people positions in the family, the tribe, the business or the government where they can command enough resources to fulfill their purposes, and some He calls to be presidents, prime ministers or kings. To whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48).

One may object that many people use their authority for wicked purposes. This is as true as it is tragic, both for the person and for those harmed by their evil. This paper will not address theodicy, the problem of evil in the world. Nonetheless, what people do with the authority that they have been given has little to do with how they are given it. A person’s importance has nothing to do with his or her abilities, resources or position; a taxi driver who is fully in the will of God is more important in the eternal schema than a president who is outside.

One may argue that authority comes from the people, whether an army which is supporting a dictator or a voting bloc which is supporting a candidate. This argument is partly true but it is limited, because men and women help each other gain authority in far more than just governance. Mentors help men and women develop good character, teachers build knowledge and skills in their students, investors and customers provide money, and voters provide votes. This argument is also partly false because individual actions make the crucial difference between a champion and a ne’er do well. Men and women take what they have been given and transform their lives into gold, silver and precious stones or wood, hay and stubble (1 Corinthians 3:12). In a real sense, man creates his own authority. And behind it all is the sovereign grace and power of God.

Another problem with the position that people are the ultimate source of power is that this position mistakes recognizing authority with conferring authority. God is the one who gives a man the raw material (health, intelligence, etc.) with which he works and enables him to develop into who he becomes (intelligence, skills and character). These characteristics enable a man to “direct or control someone or something.” God confers authority. Other people recognize the man’s intelligence, skills and character, the real source of authority, the “power or right to direct or control someone or something.” But even if Man A fails to recognize Man B’s authority, that fact in no way diminishes Man B’s authority, because in the final analysis Man A didn’t give it to him…God did.

Jesus is the ultimate example. He is God incarnate, the rightful Ruler of the Universe. He possesses ultimate authority, and yet many of the people failed to recognize Him. That does not diminish His authority. It only eliminated the blessings that His doubters would have received by following Him.

There are many other examples. Moses had no votes, no army, and no money compared to Pharaoh’s awesome power, but who had the greater authority, whose work changed the course of history? Paul had none of these things compared to Emperor Nero, who had him beheaded. But Paul’s labors have lasted for millennia and Nero’s perished when he did. Augustine, Aquinas and Luther were neither kings nor princes, boasting of little wealth and station, but they tower in the annals of mankind. Even today, who had more eternal significance, Billy Graham or Pol Pot? People did not give these men the authority that they commanded…God did. At first, people did not even recognize the authority that God gave them, but that fact did not decrease their power. Sometimes the man who is passed over for a position, whether by jealously or fortune, holds the real authority.Remember, the things that we hold as most powerful, armies and nations, are little more than nothing in the eyes of God (Isaiah 40:15-17). He does not evaluate the world as we do (1 Samuel 16:7).

The best that people can do is to confer what authority they can wisely, in all of the ways mentioned above, and recognize that God, not man, is the ultimate source. In democratic governments, voters hopefully will choose the leaders with the greatest industry, skills, intelligence, and most importantly, character. They will thus select through the popular vote the leader that God, who wants the best for their nation, had chosen for them.

This truth does not negate the value of democracy but endorses it. The judgment of a godly people must be heeded. As hard as it can be to determine the will of the Almighty, the vote is the best way yet devised to choose leaders. It is better to have many people participate in selecting their government than just a few. Also, the separation of powers is the best way yet devised to limit the abuses of government.

Viewed from another angle, the German sociologist Max Weber identified three sources of authority. The first was rational-legal authority, such as a sergeant has over the privates in his squad. The second was traditional authority, such as that of a king over his country or a father over his family. The third was charismatic authority, such as that a religious leader claims God gave him over his followers. In actuality, God is the prime mover behind all of these types of power, using them for His purposes.

How do we know when someone has authority?

The first test of a man or woman’s authority is his or her character. God confers authority to all who will serve Him ably. Followers of Christ exhibit the “fruits of the Spirit” noted above, including love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Those who seek leaders with God-given authority must look for these traits. Of the current American presidential candidates, the current front runners show the least fruit, which is probably an indictment of the American electorate, the media, or both.

The second test of someone’s authority is the results of their work. A doctor whose diagnoses and treatments are sound and whose patients get better is a doctor with authority. A preacher whose parishioners learn the Bible and grow in their faith is a preacher with authority. A chief executive officer whose customers are satisfied and whose business makes money possesses authority. The results confirm the blessings of God, the ultimate source of authority, on their actions. Jesus’ success in teaching and healing was proof of His authority.

The third test of a person’s authority is their knowledge and experience. God is the source of all knowledge and experience, and He confers authority on this basis. I have authority in medicine, the military, and Christian ministry by virtue of 27 years of training and experience. Because of decades on the Supreme Court, Antonin Scalia has authority in the realm of US law and government. Alan Greenspan has authority in finance and Warren Buffet in business for the same reasons. In every case, the Lord provided knowledge and experience in various areas to people, thus giving them authority in what He called them to do.

The fourth and least important test of a man or woman’s authority is the position he or she holds. We also know when a person has authority by the position that God gives them. When He places a person with inherent authority by virtue of their character into a position of authority in a society, such as a governor, that person receives additional authority from the consent of the people (at least some of them). Most inhabitants from the lowest to the greatest recognized the rational-legal authority of the centurion in Matthew 8, but some Jewish nationalist zealots did not.

Consider again the example of the centurion. He recognized Jesus’ authority in His character, His knowledge and His ability to teach and work miracles. Though without formal education, Jesus had awesome personal authority (Mark 1:27). The centurion himself had authority in his character (he cared for his servant), his abilities (he picked the right guy to ask for help), and his position (a leader in the Roman army).

How do we respond to authority?

The first thing that Christians must do is question authority, to seek its source in leaders we encounter. Jesus did not ask others to accept His authority blindly. Rather He lived a sinless life, spoke powerful words and performed mighty deeds, attributing His power to God the Father. Jesus based His claim to authority on the evidence of who He was (character) and what He could do (abilities), despite His lack of wealth or position.

Doctors and other professionals claim power to heal, teach, practice law, or whatever they do, on the basis of training and experience. Bureaucrats and businessmen base their claims on the positions or money they hold. If a person claims charismatic authority, they had better be prepared to back it up with Scripture, or other evidence that God has really called them. None of these, however, have real authority unless they have godly character, as reflected in their actions. We shall know a tree by its fruits (Luke 6:43-45).

Questioning authority is an ongoing task. Mankind is nothing if not unstable, and the best leaders can go rapidly astray. Followers must ensure that their leaders stay accountable to the pertinent laws and to the needs of others. Peter was a mighty man of God and worked amazing miracles, but he needed to be rebuked by Paul when he fell into sin. King David is another tragic example.

Once we are convinced that a leader has authority, we must follow him or her. Our words must support our leaders, and our acts must align with their priorities. Whether or not we like our boss, our governor, or our president, we must pray for him or her. Insofar as leaders have authority over us, we must follow them. In Romans 13 Paul taught that Christians should obey those placed in authority over them. The only exception is when a leader says or does something which is clearly against the will of God. In that case, Christians must disobey the leader and face the consequences (Acts 5:29).

Christians should be slow in giving their loyalty to others, but slower in taking it away. There is no perfect leader on the earth, and we should expect none. There is also no perfect follower. Sometimes leaders make mistakes, and sometimes they intentionally do wrong. Sometimes followers misinterpret a leader’s action as a mistake or an intentional wrong when in reality it was the best that anyone could have done in that situation. Sometimes leaders do the same vis a vis their followers. Rather than discard relationships like yesterday’s newspapers, followers of Christ must show grace towards one another and stay together unless it becomes impossible to do otherwise.

How do we wield authority?

Everyone has to be a follower at some point in life, and everyone has to be a leader. Whether a garbage man or a general, a homemaker or a high ranking bureaucrat, everyone follows someone and everyone leads someone.

As God is the ultimate source of authority and will remove it eventually from everyone who misuses it, the way to wield authority is to do so as God does. Jesus had the power of the Almighty, even over life and death, and yet He used it to bless others. He fed the hungry, healed the sick, taught the confused, forgave the sinners and raised the dead. While our power is limited, we must do the same. God never gives power so that a man can enrich himself; He always empowers someone to accomplish His work.

Therefore, leaders must wield authority with character – the fruits of the Spirit. We must demonstrate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in all of our actions. Sometimes I give money to the needy, an act of authority since God has provided me enough money to give. However if I remind the receivers of my largesse towards them, I am not wielding my authority properly.

Whether a leader’s authority is based on their knowledge, experience, position, or (more likely) a combination of these, they must also wield their authority in such a way as to produce good and enduring results. Good intentions do not equal good results, as President Ulysses S. Grant realized. An executive might throw open the doors of her hospital and provide free care for all comers, but bankrupt the hospital in a few months. She exercised authority but not in a way that produced enduring good results.


Authority, the power or right to direct or control someone or something, is a great mystery. To varying extents everyone wants it, everyone needs it, and no one wants others to have it over them. God holds all authority and dispenses it to men for a time as He sees fit. Authority comes from God through what a man is (character), what he can do (training, experience), and what resources he controls (wealth, position). Christians must question authority, follow authority, and wield authority for the glory of the Lord and the good of others. We must never wield it for our own selfish good.





[4] Annual Message to Congress 1862 — Concluding Remarks,

Values-Aligned Investing

Investments should make money, but they should also reflect a person’s values. Money invested in a country or company helps them accomplish their mission, and their mission may not the same as yours. Investors should be aware of the moral underpinnings and ambitions of companies, countries, and individuals in which they may invest or with which they may do business.

Companies that promote societal stability, individual initiative, and personal responsibility generally do better in the long run, both for their stakeholders and their nation. Therefore, investing in companies that promote family-friendly values provides the greatest chance for a reasonable long term return on investment. Long term growth, not “getting rich quick”, is the goal.

Countries that promote these same things, and allow religious freedom, also prosper compared to their more dictatorial counterparts. As a result, investing in companies and sovereign debt in these countries may be prudent. No nation is completely consistent. Germany, for example, is terrific on religious freedom but not as good on family values and personal responsibility.

Individual action also matters. No business is more than the sum of the people who work there, and company leaders sometimes support bad causes in their work, as well in as their personal lives. No real conservative would argue that they don’t have the right to do what they want with their own money, because conservatives believe in private property and individual liberty. However, we all have a right to know where the rich and famous are putting their money, and then decide whether or not to support them and their causes.

The information below can help you make the best investment and purchasing decisions.

Companies 1. Political bias – Review websites including political donations, public statements, etc. The Center for Responsive Politics has very good information, including an organization donor site.

2. Personal Experiences (good, neutral, bad)

3. Recent events

Countries 1. Religious freedom – US State Department International Religious Freedom Report 

2. Personal Experiences (good, neutral, bad)

3. Recent events

Individuals 1.      Political bias (conservative vs. liberal) – review of websites including political donations, public statements, etc. The Center for Responsive Politics has very good information, including an individual donor site.

2.      Personal Experiences (good, neutral, bad)

3.      Recent events

Presidential Campaign Bloomberg News – Presidential Money Map 2015

2nd Vote has a mobile device application that ranks companies on their support of conservative or liberal causes. Companies in green such as Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A support family friendly issues, while companies in red such as Starbucks and the United Way do not. These guidelines are hard to follow when it comes to shopping. If you wish to buy a computer, for example, all of the manufacturers support anti-family causes, so conservatives are forced to pick the least bad company. Investing is more flexible.

No man’s life is merely about money; it is about contribution to causes greater than himself. Investing is as much a moral decision as a financial one. As people weigh priorities about where to invest (and to shop), they would do well to consider all of the factors, not only the monetary ones.

Useful Quotations on Money, Poverty and Wealth

Pithy Prose for Politicians, Preachers, Professors, Pundits, and Public Speakers.

Mark 10:29 – Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake,

30 – but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.

31 – “But many who are first, will be last; and the last, first.”


“I’m living so far beyond my income that we may almost be said to be living apart.” E E Cummings (1894-1962)

“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

“If you can count your money, you don’t have a billion dollars.” J. Paul Getty (1892-1976)

“Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another, but let him work diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built.” Abraham Lincoln (1809-65), U.S. president. Speech, 21 March 1864, in reply to committee from the New York Workingmen’s Association.

“Probably the greatest harm done by vast wealth is the harm that we of moderate means do ourselves when we let the vices of envy and hatred enter deep into our own natures.” Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U.S. Republican (later Progressive) politician, president. Speech, 23 Aug. 1902, Providence, R.I.

“The forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.” Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), U.S. Democratic politician, president. Radio broadcast, 7 April 1932.

How to Improve your Health and Health Care

Throughout Central Asia, the Middle East, and much of the developing world, people have told me that they cannot get good medical care. In some cases good care is too expensive, in other cases medical care is affordable but poor quality, and in still other cases medical care, good or bad, does not exist. Some friends with significant health care problems labor in austere conditions never knowing when a medical emergency will strike, and if they will be able to get help when and where they need.

Some people have similar problems in the developed world, even including the United States. America has been swept by debates about health care, especially about how to make quality health care available to all Americans. Medicare is a government single payer program for the elderly and Medicaid is the same for the poor, but these programs pay providers too little and yet are unsustainably expensive for the nation. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was the most recent Federal attempt to improve Americans’ health, but the results have been mixed. Fundamentally the ACA was health insurance reform, not health care reform, and providing someone with an insurance card is not the same as providing them with health care. Hence we have millions who lost their insurance, millions who got new insurance, and millions waving their new insurance cards in the air who cannot get care because it doesn’t exist in their area, wait times are too long, or the system pays so little that providers cannot afford to take these patients.

Britain’s National Health Service, and single provider or single payer systems in Canada and Europe, also attempt to get health care to everyone in their population. While some of their outcomes are good, these systems ration care by long waits and care denials. Despite sometimes draconian cost saving measures such as denying cancer and heart disease treatments to the very old, these systems are still increasingly unaffordable.

Everyone needs health care, at least at home, in their lives, and most people need professional health care, such as that provided in clinics and hospitals, at some point. Professional health care must be affordable to the patient and family. Most people have neglected seeing the doctor, getting medications, or getting a blood test because in their perception the cost was greater than the benefit.

In some cases the needed professional health care is simply not available. As noted above, many Western expatriates in the developing world have no way to get Western quality medical care. Some people in rural areas throughout America and the world must travel hours or days to get to clinics or hospitals, and many don’t go as a result. This article will describe things that people can do to improve their health and health care.

How to Improve your Health

Historically, most medical care has been nursing care and has occurred in the home. The human body has a remarkable ability to heal itself, as long as it is well fed, sheltered and clean. The vast majority of routine illnesses and injuries will heal on their own without any intervention by the medical system.

Healthy bodies heal better and faster than unhealthy bodies. Volumes have been written about getting healthy, including the value of a good diet, exercise, and sleep, and the importance of avoiding tobacco, alcohol, and other unhealthy behaviors. This article will not revisit these messages. Clearly the most important way to improve your health care is to improve your health.

Having a healthy home is the second most important part of good health. Homes that are clean, safe and harmonious are generally homes with healthy people. When a parent smokes, the whole family is harmed by the smoke. When a parent uses alcohol, the whole family is more likely to suffer because of alcohol. When a home is dirty and unsafe and food is poor, everyone has a greater risk of illness and injury.

Another important factor in health is having a healthy and safe neighborhood. Accidents are the most common cause of death in children, and injuries afflict all ages. Yards, sidewalks, homes and schools should be safe and neighborhoods clean and well lit. More than governments, residents are responsible for the safety and health of their neighborhoods.

Certain lifestyle practices are associated with good health. We frequently hear that smoking and drinking alcohol are bad and exercise is good, but there are some more surprising changes that people can make to be healthier. Married people generally enjoy better health than unmarried ones, and people who attend religious services regularly are healthier than those who do not. Children also help people be healthier.

How to Improve your Professional Health Care

The Internet contains great information about health and health care, but it also contains misinformation. While proper use of the Internet can help people manage their care at home, misuse can cause anxiety, poor decisions, and bad health. The most important consideration in using the Internet for health care is to use reputable sites. The Virtual Medical Center at has reliable sites for patients, providers, health care administrators, and public health professionals.

Suppose your toddler has a fever and is fussy and you go to You click on the “symptoms” button and go to “fever in infants and children”. You then follow the algorithm. It tells you what to do for your child, when to seek care, and what kind of care to seek. These algorithms have been validated by many studies usually involving thousands of patients and you can rely on them.

For most people with a medical concern, their first reaction is to seek professional care; usually a visit with a provider. However there are many ways to get care without an appointment. Health care organizations often have telephonic Nurse Advice Lines where patients can get professional advice and care from registered nurses. Patients can often also call their primary care clinic to ask questions. Many medical practices have an online presence; websites that allow patients to check labs, renew prescriptions and ask questions in a secure web site. Many health care organizations allow patients to book appointments online. Some physicians even have online visits, in which patients can get an office visit from the comfort of their own home or office. Ask your doctor if he (or she) has an online presence and how you sign up for it.

For simple and short duration symptoms such as a cold, small retail clinics manned by midlevel practitioners such as physicians assistants and nurse practitioners provide reasonable service at bargain prices. They often also provide preventive health services such as sport physicals, but are not intended to manage complex medical conditions or long term care.

For most problems, go to a primary care clinic. Your primary care physician can handle over 90% of the most common concerns. Most patients do not need to see a dermatologist to remove a mole nor a gynecologist to perform a pap smear. Primary care physicians manage uncomplicated high blood pressure as well as cardiologists do, and early diabetes as well as endocrinologists. Neither uncomplicated acute back pain nor a sprained ankle requires a visit to an orthopedist. Insisting on a referral to a sub specialist wastes time and money for the patient, the practice, the community, and the health care system.

Take responsibility for your own health care. No one can coordinate your medical care better than you can, and no one will. Medicine is complicated but can be understood by anyone with the will to try. Those with genuine cognitive problems such as learning disabilities or early dementia may need family members or friends to help them, and communities, churches and other charitable groups can assist those truly alone. Medical practices, often caring for thousands of patients, can help, but no one can take the place of family and friends in assisting individuals in taking responsibility for their health.

At a visit, make sure that you fully understand your doctor’s instructions before you leave the office and understand how these instructions fit in with the overall plan of care. Shop for the best deal for ancillary studies like laboratory and radiology. If your doctor tells us that you need an MRI, ask him (or her) what vendors are available, what their quality is, and how much they charge. Just like you would do for any service, go to the place that best balances quality and price. If you are prescribed medications, ask your doctor to use generics and cheaper medicines when possible, as these are generally as effective as expensive, name brands. As a rule, do not ask for antibiotics; a competent physician will prescribe them when required. If not prescribed, they are probably not required.

Don’t neglect your preventive care. Immunizations are vital for good health, and vaccinations are generally safe. School and sports physicals are important for children, and prenatal care is indispensable for pregnant women and their not yet born children. Patients with chronic medical problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol need routine follow up.

Communicate with your professional health care team. Years ago I took my father to see his doctor. He had complained of fatigue and shortness of breath for months, but when his physician asked how he was doing, he replied “fine”. The doctor looked at him, undoubtedly wondering why he had scheduled the appointment. Unwilling to lose the opportunity, I listed dad’s real concerns and the visit became productive. Find a primary care practice that you like and stick with it, because consistent care is better and less expensive care. Many advisors tell patients to make a list of their health questions and worries and discuss them all with their doctor. While this may be reasonable, providers typically have no more 15-20 minutes with each patient and so may ask you which is the highest priority and handle only that one.

Unfortunately, some people have health care needs such as cancer which are beyond the ability of a primary care practice to manage alone. These patients should be managed jointly between their primary care provider and their subspecialty provider, like their oncologist. The need for routine primary care never goes away, so even patients with serious medical problems requiring specialty care need a primary care doctor. Medicine is more than a business, it is a relationship between a group of medical professionals, their patients and those patients’ families. Healing is physical, mental, social, and even spiritual. That is why for millennia and in every culture, the healer was often the priest, and the work of healing was associated with the transcendent power of God.

For people whose professional health care needs exceed the capability of their home and the local clinic, charitable and other private hospitals provide the best care. With some exceptions, such as combat casualty care and long distance medical evacuation, health care provided by governments is more expensive and less efficient than that provided in the private sector. Even for the sickest people, however, good health, home care, preventive care, and primary care are indispensable.

How to Save Money on Health Care (partly drawn from Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Oct 2014)

Health Care and Ancillary Care Providers

  1. Pick a HCP in the network for your health plan. Your deductible and out of pocket expenses will be much lower.
  2. Find out which physicians are “super-preferred” providers in your health plan, usually because of high quality, cost efficient care. You may pay even less.
  3. Comparison shop between radiology centers. The stand-alone centers are often cheaper and have greater price transparency.
  4. If you need a surgery, ask your surgeon about which ones have the lowest cost while maintaining high quality.
  5. Investigate which hospitals and urgent care centers are in the network for your insurance when you first get the policy. That way you will know where to go when the urgent problem strikes.
  6. Independent labs, like independent radiology centers, often have greater price transparency and lower prices than hospital based ones while maintaining high quality.
  7. Consider telemedicine, which uses technology to produce virtual doctor visits and video visits, often at a lower price than going to a clinic.

Medications and pharmacies

  1. Compare costs for drugs just like you do (or should) for everything else.
  2. Use generic drugs whenever possible. Also, patents for brand name drugs expire and generics appear all the time. Watch for when your medications will become available as generics and switch as soon as you can. Finally, many generics cost less if you pay for them yourself rather than paying the copay and charging insurance. Some drug stores charge $4 for a 30 day supply of generics, while the copay alone might be $10 if you used insurance.
  3. Use therapeutic equivalent drugs, those with the same effects but lower costs, whenever possible.
  4. Use preferred pharmacies in your network, or order prescriptions through the mail.
  5. If your doctor agrees, cut your pills. If you can get a prescription for twice the strength and half the quantity, you can save money.
  6. Know the rules that your insurance company has in place for prescriptions. Some insurance companies require that for certain conditions, drug A must be tried before drug B. If your doctor doesn’t know this and prescribes drug B, you may pay an unnecessarily high price.
  7. Get prescriptions for expensive over the counter drugs. That way you may be able to get reimbursed from your health savings account and get a tax advantage.
  8. For people with rare or severe medical problems such as pulmonary hypertension and some types of cancer, special drug programs can help defray part or even all of the medication costs.

Preventive Care

  1. Get your preventive care with no out of pocket costs. Insurers must provide such programs under the Affordable Care Act.
  2. When a doctor orders a test at a preventive care visit, make sure that the test is covered under such a visit by your insurer.
  3. Large employers often have wellness programs that pay cash or provide reduced insurance premiums for employees that meet certain health goals like losing weight or stopping smoking. Participate in these programs whenever available.

Medical insurance

  1. Compare costs when buying health insurance and get only what you need. Be sure to consider your kids health needs, because they can stay on your policy until age 26. Research fair prices for the coverage that you need and comparison shop.
  2. Change to a high deductible policy, and make sure you get credit towards your deductible for all your care. Even if you pay for something out of pocket, file a claim so you get the rate negotiated by your insurer. Schedule procedures towards the end of your deductible year, and do so ahead of time so you can get them when you want them.
  3. If eligible, get a health savings account (HSA) with the highest contribution limit allowable. If possible, get contributions from their employer as part of your employee benefits. You can also save in your tax bill by making a one-time roll over from an individual retirement account (IRA) to an HSA. You can’t contribute to an HSA after signing up for Medicare, but you can use the money for deductibles, co-payments, vision and dental care, and long term care. Finally, if you are self-employed you can deduct health insurance premiums from your taxes.
  4. Negotiating care – Ask your doctor’s office for a discount if you pay cash. If your insurance company denies a test or procedure, reconfirm the need with your doctor and then appeal it. Also ask for an itemized bill when you are hospitalized and watch for common billing errors,


For the past two hundred years, people in Western nations have expected someone else, usually their government, to provide medical care for them. This has never worked well, and is working less as time passes. Health is never perfect, and death still happens, but the real key to having the best possible health lies first with the individual, then with the family, then with the church and community, and lastly with government. Each person is ultimately responsible for him or herself, but by doing what is listed above, we can all have our best possible health.