(MoneyWatch) New year's resolutions tend to be more positive and forward-looking than reviews of the annum past. Yet it's still worthwhile to look back and see what we might have learned from the last 12 months, as follows:
1. Companies should pay taxes. Companies that resort to elaborate legal and other means to dodge taxes will come in for increasing public scrutiny and attack.
2. The U.S. remains a hub for manufacturing. I'm struck by the number of companies, such as Apple, Eileen Fisher and many more, that are discovering that they can still make goods in the U.S. and be profitable. It will be great if we can see more of this next year.
3. Banks are still too big. We've seen huge fines levied against large financial institutions, but this won't help investors or customers. Investors, not the bankers, will pay the fines and customers will see higher charges. This is a failure on every front. Worse, financial penalties over the years have proven a poor deterrent to corporate misconduct.
4. We are all mutually dependent. No nation can go it alone economically. And yet most companies in the U.S. don't export or have any kind of overseas strategy. This is a lost opportunity. There is a world beyond China.
5. There's money in simplicity. The companies that can make complex tasks simple will make out like bandits. Mobile applications, software and customer service operations that make life simpler and easier for consumers will thrive. The ByPost app is a classic example of a product that transforms a fairly laborious process -- take a picture, print it, write a message, find a stamp, stick it in the mail -- into a simple one. It's an inspiring model.
6. You may as well live. Since American incomes have not increased in real terms for most people in the last 30 years, perhaps we should all reconsider how we spend our time. If we aren't going to get rich, maybe we can try to get happy. It could even make you more productive.