June 17th, 2011 // 11:11 am @ Oliver DeMille
We have a problem. We have a big problem. Or, as the old quip put it, “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”
As an optimist, I am usually skeptical of anything that sounds overly negative. However, I recently read a list of statistics in the Harper’s Index that I think is cause for serious concern.
Two items on the list have received a lot of press:
- Standard and Poor’s “revised its U.S. debt outlook to ‘negative’” on April 18, 2011.
- It has never before ranked the U.S. anything but ‘stable.’”
This should give us all pause. But this is a fixable situation, one which can be solved by a return to American entrepreneurialism, initiative and ingenuity.
The increase of unemployment once again in May 2011 can likewise be effectively overcome by government policy changes that incentivize private investment and spending. Many corporations are sitting on significant surpluses right now, but they are loathe to spend them without a real change in the way the U.S. government spends money and treats business.
In short, our current economic problems can be dealt with by the principles of freedom and free enterprise—if only Washington would give freedom a try. Note that neither Republican nor Democratic presidents have taken this approach for over two decades.
American vs. Chinese Views on the Free Market
But these aren’t the statistics that should worry us most. The figures which really concern me have gotten little media attention:
- Percentage of Americans in 2009 who believed the free market ‘is the best system on which to base the future of the world’: 74
- Percentage of Americans who believe so today: 59
- Percentage of Chinese who do: 67
If this trend continues, we’ll face drastically worsening major problems.
Unease about the growth of China’s power has been increasing in the U.S. for some time, but the concern has mostly centered on America’s economic decline versus the growth of China as a major totalitarian world power.
Add to this the knowledge that over two-thirds of Chinese believe free enterprise is the key to the future—at the same time that American belief in free enterprise is waning—and our sense of what the 21st Century will bring takes on a new direction.
In the United States, youth are widely taught that the key to life and career success is getting a good job, while in China an emphasis for the “best and brightest” in the rising generation is to engage meaningful entrepreneurship.
If this continues, the status and roles of these two nations will literally switch in the decades ahead: China as superpower, the U.S. as a second-rate nation with a stagnant and struggling economy. Many experts point out that China has a long way to go to “catch up” with the U.S. in military strength, but how long will this take if the U.S. economy continues to decline while China’s booms?
I have two main thoughts on this: First, good for the Chinese people! If they can consistently nudge their society and government in the direction of increased freedom, they will join or possibly even become the world’s most important leaders. The truth is that freedom works—in China as much as everywhere else. Second, and most importantly, America needs to give freedom a chance.
A majority of Americans believe in free enterprise, but many in Washington seem convinced that the government can do things better than the American people. The future of our freedom and prosperity depends on a flourishing environment of freedom.
Government can do us all a great service by altering its current policies and removing the numerous obstacles to free enterprise. This one significant shift is vital. The fact that many of our national leaders seem committed to avoiding such changes is a big problem. The longer this lasts, the bigger the problem becomes.
He is the co-author of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller LeaderShift, and author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.
Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.