September 22nd, 2010 // 4:00 am @ Oliver DeMille
A revolution is needed.
Not just any revolution, mind you, but a specific kind of freedom shift that will make the critical difference.
In order to progress, we need a renaissance of the entrepreneurial mentality and many millions of entrepreneurs in our society.
The recession has already helped increase awareness of this need. The Information Age is naturally offering many improvements over the Industrial Age, but simple access to more information is not enough.
What we do with the increased power of widespread information is the key.
The great benefit of the Nomadic Age was family and community connection and a feeling of true belonging, while the Agrarian Age brought improved learning, science and art, and eventually democratic freedoms.
The Industrial Age allowed more widespread distribution of prosperity and social justice, and many improved lifestyle options through technological advances.
Unfortunately, during the Industrial Age many freedoms were decreased as free nations turned to big institutions and secretive agencies for governance.
The industrial belief in the conveyor belt impacted nearly every major aspect of life, from education and health care to agriculture, industry, business, law, media, family, elder care, groceries, clothing, and on and on.
Whether the end product was goods or services, these all became systemized on assembly lines—from production to delivery and even post-purchase customer service.
At the same time, we widely adopted certain industrial views which became cultural, such as “Bigger is always better,” “It’s just business,” “Perception is reality,” and many others. In truth, all of these are usually more false than true, but they became the cultural norm in nearly all of modern life.
Perhaps the most pervasive and negative mantra promoted by modernism is that success in life is built on becoming an employee and its academic corollary that the purpose of education is to prepare for a job.
Certainly some people want to make a job the focus of their working life, but a truly free and prosperous society is built on a system where a large number of the adult population spends its working days producing as owners, entrepreneurs and social leaders.
Producer vs. Employee Society
A society of producers is more likely to promote freedom than a society of dependents. Indeed, only a society of producers can maintain freedom.
Most nations in history have suffered from a class system where the “haves” enjoyed more rights, opportunities and options than the “have nots.” This has always been a major threat to freedom.
The American framers overcame this by establishing a new system where every person was treated equally before the law.
This led to nearly two centuries of increasing freedoms for all social classes, both genders and all citizens—whatever their race, religion, health, etc.
During the Industrial Age this system changed in at least two major ways.
Rather than simply protecting all investors (rich or poor) against fraud or other criminal activity, in the name of “protecting the unsophisticated,” laws were passed that only allow the highest level of the middle class and the upper classes to invest in the investments with the highest returns.
This created a European-style model where only the rich own the most profitable companies and get richer while the middle and lower classes are stuck where they are.
Second, the schools at all levels were reformed to emphasize job training rather than quality leadership education.
Today, great leadership education is still the staple at many elite private schools, but the middle and lower classes are expected to forego the “luxury” of opportunity-affording, deep leadership education and instead just seek the more “practical” and “relevant” one-size-fits-all job training.
This perpetuates the class system.
This is further exacerbated by the reality that public schools in middle-class zip codes typically perform much higher than lower-class neighborhood schools.
Private elite schools train most of our future upper class and leaders, middle-class public schools train our managerial class and most professionals, and lower-class public schools train our hourly wage workers.
Notable exceptions notwithstanding, the rule still is what it is.
Government reinforces the class system by the way it runs public education, and big business supports it through the investment legal code.
With these two biggest institutions in society promoting the class divide, lower and middle classes have limited power to change things.
The Power of Entrepreneurship
The wooden stake that overcomes the vampire of an inelastic class system is entrepreneurial success.
Becoming a producer and successfully creating new value in society helps the entrepreneur surpass the current class-system matrix, and also weakens the overall caste system itself.
In short, if America is to turn the Information Age into an era of increased freedom and widespread economic opportunity, we need more producers.
How do we accomplish this Freedom Shift?
First of all, we must get past the obvious wish that Congress should simply equalize investment laws and allow everyone to be equal before the law.
Neither government nor big business has a vested interest in this change, and neither, therefore, does either major political party.
Nor does either side see much reason to change the public education system to emphasize entrepreneurial over employee training.
Either of these changes, or both, would be nice, but neither is likely.
What is more realistic is a grassroots return to American initiative, innovation and independence.
Specifically, regular people of all classes need to become producers.
A renaissance of entrepreneurship (building businesses), social entrepreneurship (building private service institutions like schools and hospitals), intrapreneurship (acting like an entrepreneur within an established company), and social leadership (taking entrepreneurial leadership into society and promoting the growth of freedom and prosperity) is needed.
Along with this, parents need to emphasize personalized, individualized educational options for their youth and to prepare them for entrepreneurship and producership, rather than cultivating in them dependence on employeeship.
If these two changes occur, we will see a significant increase in freedom and prosperity.
The opposite is obviously true, as well: The long-anticipated “train wreck” in society and politics is not so difficult to imagine as it was twenty years ago.
The education of the rising generation in self-determination, crisis management, human nature, history, and indeed, the liberal arts and social leadership in general, is the historically-proven best hope for our future liberty and success.
If entrepreneurial and other producer endeavors flourish and grow, it will naturally lead to changes in the commercial code that level the playing field for people from all economic levels and backgrounds.
Until the producer class is growing, there is little incentive to deconstruct the class system.
More than 80 percent of America’s wealth comes from small businesses, and when these grow, so will our national prosperity.
Today there are numerous obstacles to starting and growing small businesses. There will be many who lament that the current climate is not friendly to new enterprises.
Frontiers have ever been thus, and our forebears plunged headlong into greater threats. What choice did they have? What choice do we have? What if they hadn’t? What if we don’t?
The hard reality is that until the producer class is growing there will be little power to change this situation.
As long as the huge majority is waiting for the government to provide more jobs, we will likely continue to see increased regulation on small business that decreases the number of new private-sector jobs and opportunities.
The only realistic solution is for Americans to engage their entrepreneurial initiative and build new value.
This has always been the fundamental source of American prosperity.
The Growing Popularity of Producer Education
Consider what leading thinkers on the needs of American education and business are saying.
In Revolutionary Wealth, renowned futurist Alvin Toffler says that schools must deemphasize outdated industrial-style education with its reliance on rote memorization, the skill of fitting in with class-oriented standards, and “getting the right answers,” and instead infuse schools with creativity, individualization, independent and original thinking skills, and entrepreneurial worldviews.
Harvard’s Howard Gardner argued in Five Minds for the Future that all American students must learn the following entrepreneurial skills: “the ability to integrate ideas from different disciplines or spheres,” and the “capacity to uncover and clarify new problems, questions and phenomena.”
Tony Wagner wrote in The Global Achievement Gap that the skills needed for success in the new economy include such producer abilities as: critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, leading by influence, agility, adaptability, curiosity, imagination, effective communication, initiative and entrepreneurialism.
Former Al Gore speechwriter Daniel Pink writes in A Whole New Mind that the most useful and marketable skills in the decades ahead will be the entrepreneurial abilities of high-concept thinking and high-touch leading.
There are many more such offerings, all suggesting that the future of education needs to emphasize training the rising generations to think and act like entrepreneurs.
Indeed, without a producer generation, the Information Age will not be a period of freedom or spreading prosperity. Still, few schools are heeding this research.
CNN’s Fareed Zakaria has shown in The Post-American World that numerous nations around the world are now drastically increasing their influence and national prosperity.
All of them are doing it in a simple way: by incentivizing entrepreneurial behavior and a growing class of producers.
Unlike aristocratic classes, successful entrepreneurs are mostly self-made (with the help of mentors and colleagues) and have a deep faith in free enterprise systems, which allow opportunity to all people regardless of their background or starting level of wealth.
Entrepreneurs and Freedom
History is full of anti-government fads, from the French and Russian revolutionists to tea-party patriots in Boston and anti-establishment protestors at Woodstock, among many others. Some revolutions work, and others fail.
The ones that succeed, the ones that build lasting change and create a better world, are led by entrepreneurial spirit and behavior. As more entrepreneurs succeed, the legal system naturally becomes more free.
As more people take charge of their own education, utilizing the experts as tutors and mentors but refusing to be dependent on the educational establishment, individualized education spreads and more leaders are prepared.
With more leaders, more people succeed as producers, and the cycle strengthens and repeats itself.
Freedom is the result of initiative, ingenuity and tenacity in the producer class. These are also the natural consequences of personalized leadership education and successful entrepreneurial ventures.
For anyone who cares about freedom and wants to pass the blessings of liberty on to our children and grandchildren, we need to get one thing very clear: A revolution of entrepreneurs is needed.
We need more of them, and those who are already entrepreneurs need to become even better social leaders. Without such a revolution, freedom will be lost.
Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.