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Review of Don Peck’s “Can the Middle Class be Saved?”

August 29th, 2011 // 2:00 pm @

This article in The Atlantic by Don Peck is a must-read for those who are interested in the future of American freedom and prosperity. Highlights from the article include:

  • The United States is “now composed of two distinct groups: the rich and the rest. And for the purposes of investment decisions, the second group” doesn’t matter.
  • The new name for this state of society, coined by three analysts at Citigroup, is “plutonomy.”
  •  “A 2010 Pew study showed that the typical middle-class family had lost 23 percent of its wealth since the recession began, versus just 12 percent in the upper class.”
  • The lifestyles of non-professional college graduates now more closely resemble those of high-school dropouts than of the professional class.
  • The meritocracy is increasingly only a meritocracy of the upper classes.
  • “Among the more pernicious aspects of the meritocracy is the equation of merit with test-taking success.”
  • “For the most part, these same forces have been a boon, so far, to Americans who have a good education and exceptional creative talents or analytic skills.”
  • Most Americans don’t want the middle class to disappear or continue to shrink, and such a development would certainly bring a drastic change to the people-based freedom that has characterized the historical successes of the United States.
  • These trends, and the growing divide between the rich and the rest, are increasing the longer the economy remains sluggish.

Peck gives a number of suggestions for improving this situation, including:

  • Increasing the funding for effective job training and education.
  • “Removing bureaucratic obstacles to innovation is as important as pushing more public funds toward it.”
  • Changing our public policy to accelerate innovation.
  • Significantly improving our schools.
  • Creating clear paths of training and skilled work for those who don’t go to college.
  • Altering current immigration policy to allow more “creative, highly skilled immigrants” to come to the U.S. more easily.

Whether or not you agree with Peck’s recommendations, one reality is clear: The success of these things ultimately depends on incentivizing entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity and economic growth.

By spurring significant economic growth, we will directly and indirectly address most of our national economic problems.

On the other hand, if government policies continue to thwart major innovation and growth, little can be done.

Peck makes a case for higher taxes, but hardly mentions that Washington has a serious spending problem.

Democrats typically argue for tax hikes, while Republicans now mostly champion spending cuts.

Most Independents, in contrast, would likely support both—as long as the tax hikes on the professional class were used not to increase or maintain federal spending but rather to directly help put America’s financial house back in order.

Whatever your view on this debate, it is a discussion desperately needed right now.

Too much of the rhetoric on this topic is just that—two sides deeply entrenched and firmly committed to one view only.

We need fresh ideas and inspiring leadership to move beyond this gridlock.

With all this said, Peck’s article is mandatory reading. Every American should think about its main points.

Most will find things to disagree with, perhaps, but the dialogue is needed.

If the middle class is to survive and thrive, it must increase its role of deeply considering, thinking about and making its views felt on important economic and other national issues.

Freedom only works when involved citizens of all socio-economic levels actively participate in such important national discussions.

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odemille 133x195 custom Egypt, Freedom, & the Cycles of HistoryOliver DeMille is the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

He is the co-author of 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.

Category : Aristocracy &Book Reviews &Community &Culture &Current Events &Economics &Family &Featured &Statesmanship

19 Questions Answered in FreedomShift

August 13th, 2011 // 1:56 pm @

  1. Following historical cycles and trends, we have recently experienced a significant recession and major unemployment. According to the patterns of history, what is the third major economic challenge which is just ahead? (Learn what it is so you can prepare for it before it comes.)
  2. Based on the lessons of past generations which faced major economic problems, what are the twelve things every family should do to deal with the economic challenges ahead?
  3. What are the three major choices which American citizens need to make to overcome our nation’s economic problems and restore economic growth and increased freedom?
  4. Where did Tocqueville say that the greatness of America lies? (The answer may surprise you.)
  5. What exactly is a FreedomShift and how is one accomplished?
  6. What is “the Law of the Vital Few?”
  7. How is this law drastically changing America today?
  8. What are the three top problems that are keeping America from fixing its problems right now?
  9. What are six predictions of the Anti-Federalists from the founding generation that have come true today and are causing major problems in Washington D.C.’s ability to lead the nation?
  10. Is our society being run by the cultures of our Elementary Schools, High Schools, Colleges & Corporations, Government Officials, or the Adults in our society?
  11. How can we move back to adult culture, especially in Washington?
  12. What are the three major groups in the Republican Party, the three major groups in the Democratic Party, and the other major groups running our nation politically?
    (We are much more complex than the historical two-party system that dominated during the Cold War, and only those who understand these splits in the parties will know what is really going on in the nation.)
  13. Who is the new group that is literally running the United States now? (Hint: it’s not the Tea Party, socialists, environmentalists, the religious right, liberals or even conservatives. The answer is surprising and deeply important.)
  14. What are the nine types of people who run both of the two major political parties?
  15. How will they impact the election of 2012?
  16. What should we expect in the upcoming election?
  17. What are the eight kinds of freedom, and which have we already lost in America?
  18. Which of the eight are we now losing?
  19. What does this loss mean directly for your family and the economy?

These challenges can be dealt with positively, but only if we know what is coming in the decade ahead.

For the answers to these questions and more on how “regular” people like you and me have all the power to refresh our liberties, read FreedomShift: 3 Choice to Reclaim America’s Destiny, available in paperback, pdf and Kindle editions. (Audiobook version, read by the author, coming soon!)

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odemille 133x195 custom Egypt, Freedom, & the Cycles of HistoryOliver DeMille is a co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

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.

Category : Aristocracy &Blog &Citizenship &Community &Culture &Current Events &Economics &Entrepreneurship &Featured &Government &Independents &Leadership &Liberty &Mini-Factories &Politics &Prosperity &Tribes

World Stats

August 5th, 2011 // 9:57 am @

Sometimes a few statistics and quotes tell us a lot more than any commentary. Consider the following:

  • “Percentage by which a couple is likelier to divorce if one partner has a commute greater than 45 minutes: 40” (Harper’s, August 2011)
  • “Estimated percentage of the U.S. college class of 2011 who are moving back home after graduation: 85” (Harper’s, August 2011)
  • The average 2011 college graduate has $22,000 in student loan debt, even though jobs are especially scarce for this group. (The Huffington Post, July 2011)
  • “On any given day, 1.6 million of us are blogging, 27 million are tweeting, and 1.5 billion are posting on Facebook. We’re emailing during meetings, texting during lectures, and talking on our cell phones as we tackle rush hour traffic.” (Spirituality & Health, July/August 2011)
  • Americans were asked in a poll who is the most trusted political journalist. The number one answer was, “Don’t Know,” and number two was, “None.” (Harper’s, August 2011)
  • More than half of Americans do not know the recession is over. (Harper’s, August 2011) Part of this is rooted in the way economists define growth and recession. It takes 2.5% growth in the economy just to keep up with the natural growth of the working population, and we haven’t seen 2.5% economic growth for some time. So even though we haven’t technically been in “recession” for over a year, we are still falling further and further behind.
  • “By 2010, [federal entitlement] payments to individuals were 66% of the federal budget, up from 28% in 1965. We now spend $2.1 trillion a year on these redistribution programs, and the 75 million baby boomers are only starting to retire.” (Wall Street Journal editorial, July 29, 2001; cited on Meet the Press, July 31, 2011.)
  • The real unemployment rate in July 2011 is over 20%, including those unemployed and underemployed. (The Huffington Post, July 2011)

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odemille 133x195 custom Egypt, Freedom, & the Cycles of HistoryOliver DeMille is a co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

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.

Category : Blog &Citizenship &Community &Culture &Economics &Family &Featured &Leadership

Family Roles

July 9th, 2011 // 4:00 am @

 

Nothing will have more impact on the future of the world than the future of families.

This truism is sobering as we watch the decline of the family.

As we consider the industrialized world, it is disturbing to note that even amongst those who espouse, promote and live a strong family lifestyle, some of the most basic roles have been lost.

For example, consider the following from an editorial by John Rosemond:

“A journalist recently asked me to name the number one problem facing today’s family. I think she expected me to address education, the economy, or some other “hot” topic. To her surprise, I said, ‘A confusion of roles.’

“In today’s parenting universe, married women with children think of themselves first and foremost as mothers. This is confusion. If you are married with children, you are first and foremost a wife or a husband. In your wedding vows, you did not say, “I take you to be my (husband, wife) until children do us part.” Those vows, many generations old, read the way they do for a reason.

“I’ve been telling recent audiences that parenting has become bad for the mental health of women. Today’s all-too typical mother believes that whether her child experiences success or failure in whatever realm is completely up to her. If she is sufficiently attentive to her child’s needs and sufficiently proactive in his life, he will succeed. If not, he will have problems. The natural consequence of this state of over-focus is anxiety, self-doubt, and guilt.”

Marriage is the central relationship of society, and in society, no roles are more important than husband and wife.

As I talk to young people about their plans for life, career is usually the first thing they mention.

Once in a while, a young man will mention that his main goal is to be a good father, and a little more frequently a young woman will say that she really wants to be a great mother.

But I’ve never heard the following: “I want to be a great wife,” or “my most important goal is to be a great husband.”

This is a concern. In a way, feminism has had moved society by persuading our generation to focus on parenthood even more than marriage.

I’m convinced that most people who say they want to be great parents just assume marriage as part of it. But that’s the problem. Just assuming marriage isn’t enough. It reflects a lack of emphasis on our primary roles.

The future of the world certainly depends on the quality of fathering and mothering in the twenty-first century.

The quality of marriages is even more important. The state of the world ten, twenty, even seventy years from now will be determined by the depth and quality of our marriage relationships. Parenting will largely be determined by the level of success our marriages attain.

The recent politicization of the institution of marriage raises concerns in the minds of virtually everyone, no matter where they stand on the issue.

Of most concern to me is that 64% of married women and 82% of married men responded to a survey in the early 2000’s that they had been unfaithful to their marriage vows.

I see no greater threat to the institution of marriage than the tepid level of commitment of the spouses, and the way they characterize and fulfill their roles.

Marriage is hard work, worthy work–the work of a lifetime. If there is one thing we should teach our youth, it is the value of building a great marriage.

More precisely, we need to teach—by precept and example whenever possible—that “wife” and “husband” are vital roles to society, requiring preparation, consideration, emphasis and great effort.

Once married, these must always be the primary roles of each individual—not secondary to career, social endeavors, or even parenthood.

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odemille 133x195 custom Egypt, Freedom, & the Cycles of HistoryOliver DeMille is a co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

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.

Category : Blog &Community &Culture &Current Events &Family &Featured &Generations

A Battle Ahead

June 18th, 2011 // 11:16 am @

A review of The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution by Francis Fukuyama

Francis Fukuyama’s recent book is an excellent commentary on the history of politics and the underpinnings of our current political systems. Readers may find things to disagree with in a book that covers so many periods of history, but this well-researched work sparks a lot of deep thinking about important and timely topics.

Three Major Advancements

Ultimately, Fukuyama sees the development of political society from tribal through modern times as the result of three major advancements. The future, he suggests, belongs to societies that maintain and effectively institutionalize all three of these organizational advantages. This view flies in the face of some widespread views, but Fukuyama’s arguments are compelling.

Consider, for example, the following likely characteristics of the decades immediately ahead:

1. The invention of centralized governments which allowed societies to grow beyond families and small tribes

The industrial age created an expectation (especially in the British and American worlds) of “sustained intensive economic growth.” Today we feel entitled to unending economic expansion. Any downturn in the economy is seen as a reason to blame our political leaders. We seem to believe that a high level of consistent economic growth is our birthright.

This is a significant development. Never has a generation in the past held such expectations. No longer are citizens content with the up-and-down economic cycle that has characterized all of history. Whether this new expectation can be maintained remains to be seen, but this is our expectation now, and we’ll continue to punish any government official who doesn’t both promise and deliver sustained economic growth.

If it turns out that constant growth is unrealistic, that there really is a natural economic cycle of ups and downs, we’ll consistently elect and then dump every politician from every party—the voters will never be satisfied. With such feelings of entitlement, we’re destined to be perpetually angry at and disappointed with our government.

Globalization has created a world of independent international elites and locally-dependent middle and lower classes.

“In the days when most wealth was held in the form of land, states could exercise leverage on wealthy elites; today, that wealth can easily flee to offshore bank accounts.”

2. The establishment of “uniform laws that apply to all citizens

This is a world-altering event in human history. The advent of widespread human freedom and prosperity came as a result of uniform laws that applied to all citizens—regardless of status, wealth, race, gender, ability or religion. Globalization trumps all this, allowing a global upper class to operate largely above the law while the masses are required to follow the laws of their local nations.

The economic benefit of being in the upper class under such an arrangement is huge—the gap between rich and poor will drastically increase as this reality grows.

Hardin Tibbs wrote:

“The proportion of people in cities is growing rapidly, and the numbers of people left in the countryside are falling. The sprawling urban megacity—somewhere like Sao Paulo, where you’ve got densely populated shantytowns right next to the enclaves of the super-rich—is a growing phenomenon around the world.” (EnlightenNext, Issue 47, 2011, pp 29-41)

3. The creation of governments which are “accountable to their constituents

Two groups will be the winners in the new system: mostly the mobile global upper class, and secondarily the masses in nations where the government is truly accountable to the people. This will impact nations around the globe, as we are already witnessing in the Arabic world.

For China, this is either good news or really bad news. If China’s government remains unaccountable to the people, its economic and military strength will at some point become a weakness. If, on the other hand, the Chinese government reforms and becomes accountable to the people, China may well become the great superpower many have predicted.

According to Fukuyama, the centralized structure of an authoritarian system can seem to “run rings around a liberal democratic one” for a time, because the leaders face little opposition from checks, balances, or other obstacles to their decisions. But this is a frailty if ever the leaders make bad decisions.

A few bad leaders or choices can bring down such a system very quickly. Societies with effective checks and balances on the centers of power are more resilient and less prone to huge decline in a single generation or even decade.

As for the United States and Europe, they must reverse the decades-old trend of centralizing power away from the people.

In short, we are seeing the rise of a global class system with increasing divisions between the haves and the have-nots. Major characteristics of this new reality include the unrealistic expectation of constant economic growth, a global upper class that is increasingly above the laws of nations, the growth of drastically divided cities, and governments that are widely controlled by the wealthy.

One great battle of the 21st Century will likely be about who controls government, the wealthy class or the people as a whole. As Fukuyama shows, through history the nations where government was accountable to the people ultimately achieved the most social success, freedom and prosperity.

The Origins of Political Order is the first of a two-volume set, and hopefully the second volume will tell us more about how the people can win this coming battle.

As the mathematical cosmologist Brian Swimme wrote: “the universe is not a place, it’s a story…” (EnlightenNext, Issue 47, 2011, pp. 52-63) The same can be said of the 21st Century, and our story will likely hinge on whether government is ultimately accountable to the people or to a small group of elites.

This is an old battle, but this is the first time it is global in scale. The challenges are thus increased and the stakes are high.

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odemille 133x195 custom Egypt, Freedom, & the Cycles of HistoryOliver DeMille is a co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

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.


Category : Aristocracy &Blog &Book Reviews &Business &Community &Economics &Tribes

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