April 19th, 2017 // 8:05 am @ Ian Cox
by Ian A Cox
The Biggest Question
Wow! That’s deep.
The thought kept recurring as I read. The article, written by an innovator, filled me with numerous ideas—old and new—about Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience. The author showed how this classic work, and others like it, are relevant to national events right now, including the famous–not to mention great–maxim: “That government is best which governs least.”
The author showed how this applies to our current national challenges. The biggest question that came to me as I read was something we all need to consider:
“How can we increase our influence in a world that seems to be heading in the wrong direction?”
This isn’t just a rhetorical question. We have more power than we might realize. The struggle for freedom resets with every new generation.
We are always one generation away from potentially losing our liberty. Education is key, and understanding freedom is a must for those who hope to protect and spread freedom.
Moreover, the battle for freedom resets in certain predictable ways. In his book We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident, Oliver DeMille gives some perspective on this fateful struggle for freedom in the United States after we gained our independence.
Here’s a summary:
- The House of Representatives was the first to vie for power, as early as the 1790’s. But the executive branch flexed its muscles as well and managed to stop the over-reaching House.
- In the early 19th Century the Marshall Court pushed for widespread control, but the Presidents during the time were able to largely obstruct court expansion (checks and balances = obstruct).
- Next, the mid-19th Century saw a resurgence of local governments as prejudices ran rampant and public servants and jurors turned a blind eye to injustice. This was eventually curbed by the exodus of many oppressed groups and minorities to the west, which created new regions and states, increasing the federalizing power (the Electoral College).
- The States then pushed for dominance of power in the mid-to-late part of the 19th Century, but were beaten by the combined federal powers of the three branches of government.
- An Aristocratic Senate was the leading power center of the early 20th Century, but it only gained influence where the Court allowed.
- The Executive branch stole the baton from the Senate in the settling dust of the Second World War, and this continues today. In fact, its aggressive competitor for power is the Supreme Court—both take turns usurping influence.
A great strength of the United States Constitution is the multi-layered governmental system it created, including a network of intricate checks and balances, as outlined above. The price of human nature and usurping freedoms from others is that power doesn’t decrease; it only transfers to other branches that tend to increase their power in order to bring back a proper balance. In each of these eras a complete takeover was thwarted, but power was centralized and freedoms gradually slipped away.
Deciding Our Fate
This power pendulum persistently swings back and forth, from one group to another, until more individuals take up their true duties as citizens (real influence).
This can occur 1) peacefully, 2) when a violent reset happens (like the Civil War), or 3) when our society collapses and something new is established out of the ashes.
The peaceful option is clearly preferable.
These issues and problems are not merely something we need to think about for today and tomorrow. We must embrace these things with a generational perspective. Because they exist on a grander scale, we have to ask the important questions. Are we solving the problem, or are we stopping one problem by creating a new one?
For example, the Civil War was practically written into the original Constitution; it was a paradox in the fabric of the whole system. Either the joint founding ideals of “all men are created equal” and “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” had to be done away with, or slavery had to go. Both could not ultimately flourish together.
Likewise, the Mexican-American War (against Spain) was guaranteed as soon as the Monroe Doctrine was adopted. And, once we decided that extensive international relations via broad treaties were in our best interest, we accepted the wars of Europe as our own.
Phillip Bobbitt’s Shield of Achilles shows how we inadvertently embed the battles that future generations must fight into the chinks and weaknesses of the systems and programs we create today. The establishment of organizations like the Federal Reserve, Internal Revenue Service, and International Monetary Fund created the inevitable outcome of hyper-inflation, boom-bust cycles, and fiat currency, to name a few.
To a great extent, we are always creating our future crises.
Is this the society and government we want to fund with our taxes? Is this the group we want to endorse with our good name? To stand with confidence, with a clean conscience, and to fulfill each of our moral obligations, we must ask ourselves the hard questions. Here I reiterate the innovator’s call to action; we must not be the ostrich with our heads buried in the sand–but we also must avoid falling victim to a conquering Caesar (or a Byzantine bureaucracy).
There are a few options that have historically worked in changing a society’s fate. Some of these alternatives are still very possible today, while others are becoming less and less available to most people. Here’s a breakdown of the top three from history:
You pack up and leave, in hopes of finding a better place to restart. This has happened successfully many times in many cultures, but it is risky. Today there are very limited options for this choice. We have different forms and styles of government to pick from, but there isn’t untamed land that can be cultivated and founded from the ground up.
This is probably the most common form of rebellion. A group raises up arms and fights, in hope of overthrowing or removing tyrants. This method usually fails—not that it doesn’t remove the tyrants from power, but it typically breeds revolution after revolution and more often than not, ends with some new tyrant. In most cases, little actually gets fixed.
3) Civil Influence
In the modern world, civil influence has become the regular, expected, and non-violent form of change. This was brought about in large part by the spread of more democratic forms in societies and governments. As the people’s standard of living, education, and access to information worldwide increases, so does their ability to get involved and flex their muscles as the first and foremost branch of any governmental form. This is the at times slowest method of change, but often the most successful in the long-term.
Where civil influence was once answered with the death sentence (if you weren’t in the ruling class), it is now a real and viable option for any member of society to initiate the spark of change. This requires us, as John Locke argued, to be tolerant. Like the original thirteen colonies, we have now reached a point where the regular people need each other in order to get the right things done. This means we need to work with people who don’t always perfectly agree with us in every detail—or even in many details.
Now, this doesn’t mean we don’t stand for what is right or shirk our moral duties, but rather that we pick our battles. If we are constantly coming out against everything that peeves us, nobody will listen when it really matters (e.g. “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”). Some things will absolutely happen in society that we dislike. But we can’t let disagreement make us disagreeable. It’s actually good that there are differing views on important issues. In fact, we should have a Hamilton and a Jefferson at each other’s throats in cabinet meetings, Congressional floor debates, and Supreme Court decisions–because it leads to more considered and effective solutions in the end.
More importantly, to really have influence, it is helpful not to be the guy who people hate at parties, always harping about the latest issue. Build friends, foster relationships, and focus your political influence when the time and topic are right. That said, be ready and watchful. The right time and topic will come.
Hope for a Better Future
A government by the people will largely be a reflection of the people. It could be a great government if a Moses, Marcus Aurelius, George Washington, Confucius, Muhammad, Cincinnatus, etc. is at its head; but as history has shown, it wouldn’t last. Maintaining a long-lived and successfully free society demands that a lot more citizens think and understand the principles of freedom (at the same level as, or better still, higher level than, our political leaders).
If you and I do this and we invite our communities to do the same, if “we the people” take on the responsibility to govern ourselves, we can and will have the best type of government—one that need only govern least. We must stop passing the buck on the hard things, or someone else will gladly take them up and decide for us. We the people, the first and original branch of government, have always had the most power to check and balance our government, and that hasn’t changed in today’s world.
An elite class can only rule when most of the citizens don’t have the same level of learning.
With persistence, civil influence really can provide proper checks and balances against the potential threats to freedom that naturally exist wherever power resides. In truth, it’s ultimately the only thing that does. It can be difficult. It takes patience, vigilance, study, understanding, and sacrifice.
But it does work.
 See, for example, the struggles of ancient Greece to unite city-states (unity vs. sovereignty), and the same issues in the nations of Europe and later the American colonies.
 A much more likely outcome in our situation.
 Consider the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Revolution, etc.
 From the American Revolution to Brexit.
About the Author
Ian A Cox is an entrepreneur and consultant who mentors leadership and the Liberal Arts for students and business men and women of all ages and levels. Ian is a popular keynote speaker at educational and business events. He loves reading, basketball, and discussing deep ideas on history and political science. Ian and his wife Emma have two sons.
April 11th, 2017 // 10:40 am @ Oliver DeMille
“No business plan survives
first contact with the customer.”
Party and Purpose
Alexis de Tocqueville famously taught that all governments and societies are divided into two major parties—the party of aristocracy and the party of the people. Another way to describe this reality is that one party is always the party of elite governance, while the other is the party of democracy.
The first, run by elites, seeks to keep things the same, consistently increasing its own power little by little. The second sees the current government and system as overreaching, corrupt, and untrustworthy, and wants to shake things up in order to give more power and economic opportunity to the masses.
This battle is constantly in motion. Sometimes it fights openly, while at other times it simmers and strategizes below the surface. But it is always there, the elite side strategizing ways to gain an edge, move ahead, and increase its influence over the regular people.
Most people see national political party divisions in literal terms—the Tories vs. Patriots, Federalists pitted against Anti-Federalists, Democratic Republicans against the Whigs, Republicans vs. Democrats. But the real battle—between those angling for elites to obtain more power, and those seeking more power for the people via a reduction of elite influence—is seldom the same thing as a clean divide between official parties.
The Five-Headed Monster
Today the Democratic Party is divided between the elitists (e.g. Obama, Clinton, Schumer, etc.) and the revolutionaries (e.g. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, etc.). Likewise, Republicans face a similar divide: elitists such as Bush, McCain, Paul Ryan, or Mitch McConnell versus revolutionaries like Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, or Newt Gingrich.
Moreover, because revolutionaries are…well…revolutionary, they care less about teamwork and more about principles and goals. This means they are constantly pointing out the differences between themselves and others, picking fights not just with the other party but with members of their own party as well. Indeed, Rand Paul or members of the Freedom Caucus often have more in common (in some ways) with Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren than with institutionalists (and fellow Republicans) like Paul Ryan or John McCain.
Add President Trump to the mix, with his blend of generalized idealism and big-idea pragmatism, and his inner team is far removed from the other four groups:
1) the Paul Ryan/Mitch McConnell/John McCain wing (Republican, elite)
2) the Rand Paul/Ted Cruz/Freedom Caucus wing (Republican, revolutionary)
3) the Warren/Sanders wing (Democratic, revolutionary)
4) the Schumer/Pelosi/Obama/Clinton wing (Democratic, elite)
This fifth group, the Trumpites (Republican, revolutionary), share neither philosophy nor methodology with the Ryan/McConnell group, nor philosophy, methodology, or even the ability to be civil with the Pelosi/Schumer/NBC/CNN group. On the other hand, they share a revolutionary “power to the people” approach—but almost nothing else—with the Paul/Freedom Caucus and Warren/Sanders groups.
Our government is now a five-headed monster, with constant battles between these five factions. Indeed, one of the biggest ironies of our time is that all four of the other groups battle against the Trump Administration—in differing ways, to be sure—without working together or agreeing with each other. There is, apparently, no coordination between the four groups; they largely despise each other. They seem to like Trump even less.
Even More Factions
A sixth group consists mostly of long-term bureaucrats who fill various government positions and make up the large bulk of federal employees—and do the lion’s share of the actual day-to-day work, in all three branches of government. Some of these are aligned with one of the other five groups, but many are more focused on their own agendas and aggressively (or, when it suits them, passive-aggressively) pursue their own interests. This is known by revolutionaries as “the deep state.”
There is, in fact, a seventh group with yet more conflicting agendas: the various special interests, lobbying organizations, agents of corporations and numerous non-profits, and others who keep K Street and its offshoots busily attempting to sway the government this way and that. The combined numbers of this many-tiered faction (in personnel and budgets) rival and in some things outpace that of the federal government. Add the national media from all sides, with myriad projects and agendas, to make an eighth powerful influencing faction.
The resources and expenditures that go into all eight groups and their efforts are astronomical. This is clearly the kind of “booming, buzzing confusion” that establishment thinkers in the 1970s predicted would allow the elite classes to rule the nation—quietly, firmly, from behind the scenes. The reason all eight groups (and the many splinters and sub-groups) consider such Herculean effort and expense worth pursuing is that the spoils—federal dollars and global power—are even more excessive.
Eisenhower called the 1950s iterations of this kind of governance “The Military Industrial Complex”, what Emerson had earlier referred to simply as The Establishment. It has grown exponentially since these phrases were coined. More recently, Donald Trump referred to it as “The Swamp”, and promised to “drain” it.
But we’ve heard such promises before. Reagan assured us that he’d do the same thing, but instead the size and scope of government greatly increased during his tenure. This is a recurring theme. Candidates have frequently promised to prune the national debt and the out-of-control federal Leviathan back to more manageable levels, but once elected they have been unable to stem the tide of growing government.
Bill Clinton even claimed that the “era of big government” was “over”, just at the time he presided over a huge expansion of Washington’s Byzantine federal bureaucracy, debt, and reach. Both parties have exacerbated this problem. So far no party or leader—in the White House or on Capital Hill—has reversed or even noticeably slowed the growth of government overreach or the national debt.
How to Evaluate a President
How is President Trump doing? Forget how the media—liberal or conservative—answer this question. The truth is that our leaders can only be truly measured against this one great national imperative: get a handle on the out-of-control expansion of debt, bureaucracy, and big government. It is in this context that President Trump, Republicans in Congress, and all who lead the federal agencies and state governments must be judged.
No presidential administration or Congressional tenure since the 1920s has effectively scaled back the federal government or its mounting debt. During the Obama era, we more than doubled our troubling national debt. Before that, the Bush years had a similar disappointing record (much of this was hidden by keeping around $3 trillion of expenditures in Iraq and Afghanistan officially “off budget”; add this number and all other “off budget” expenses to any national debt figures provided by Washington).
In short, the elites are winning the war for the future of our nation. If they get their way, the government will continue to grow, continue to increase our debt, and elites will keep consolidating their influence and power over the masses. Indeed, most people don’t clearly understand the reality: The government taxes the middle class to pay its debts—most of the money is owed and paid to members of the elite classes (both in the U.S. and abroad).
For elites, in other words, a growing national debt is their personal asset, an IOU from the American middle class and our children and grandchildren.
The mainstream media generally ignores this real story, instead preferring to issue reports such as the following:
- “Trump’s failing presidency has the GOP in free fall” (The Washington Post)
- “After 10 weeks, Trump teeters on the brink” (CNN)
- “Trump’s outlook going from bad to worse” (CNBC)
More conservative outlets, such as Fox News, who first pointed out the three headlines listed above as a growing trend, show a more balanced view, but the other networks and publications aren’t convinced. Listen to mainstream media reports and you’d think the Trump Administration is facing a full implosion.
But this simply isn’t true. The White House reports are very different, and conservative media reports are the opposite. For example, a Fox report, citing Pew Research, noted that 58 percent of Americans now think the current economic situation is good, while only 40 percent see it as bad. This marks the “best economic assessment since 2007” and “manufacturing optimism is at the highest level in twenty years.” (Fox) Why doesn’t the mainstream media report this openly? It’s some of the best news that’s occurred in a decade. Apparently only Fox and other conservative media are even interested in what’s actually happening on this front.
For many years I have recommended that people get their news from both liberal and conservative outlets, carefully comparing the differences in tone, what is reported as fact, and what is left out of the news. Now such an approach is essential. Those who only listen to the mainstream media only hear a selectively chosen portion of reality.
But the worst problem in all of this is the inability of Washington to tackle and solve big challenges. Why are the eight groups listed above unable or unwilling to come together and fix things? Why, when anyone sincerely attempts to solve our problems and get things going in the right direction, do so many block the path and refuse to allow real change?
The answer is, as one senator put it long ago in response to Andrew Jackson’s election win: “To the victor belongs the spoils.” Indeed, as long as the elite classes and their professional/expert/media collaborators enjoy wealth, status, influence and power from the current system, the less interested they are in change. They like the current system—in this system they rule and the masses unwittingly serve them.
Roadblocks and Bridges
Anyone (Left or Right) who effectively attempts to change this will face the full wrath of elite power: media, money, litigation, vilification, etc. The elite power machine is now in full swing. Indeed, it has been for a long time, consistently increasing elite power and influence, moving always toward higher levels of elite rule over the regular people.
If the masses knew what was happening to them, some say, they wouldn’t stand for it. But the people have their own struggles in today’s world. Specifically, a large majority of the people want the government to scale back and end government overreach, but they don’t agree on what budgets and programs should be cut. Nearly everyone wants major changes in our government, but almost no individual voter supports a reduction or termination of any government program that directly benefits him/her personally. Thus, no deal gets done, not in any big or lasting way.
Given all this, here’s what we now know about the Trump years, even though we’re only a couple of months into his presidency:
- The intense media war against anything and everything Trump is just warming up. It will last a long time. Indeed, those fueling it will never give up. The truth is, the intensity is going to drastically escalate in the months and years ahead. If you think it’s been bad so far, just wait.
- The good news in all this is that more and more citizens, on all sides of the political aisle, are realizing just how untrustworthy much of the media actually is. The mainstream media is losing its once-solid monopoly over the way most people think about important issues. This is a win for the people.
- The battle between those who want to increase elite power and those who want to increase the power and economic opportunity of the masses is the real issue, and it is much bigger (though not nearly as open or vocal) as the conflict between Democrats and Republicans. In fact, the partisan battles and skirmishes are largely a smokescreen, a distraction meant to keep the American people from focusing on the real problem and the real goal: to bring more power back to the people.
- Both of the major political parties are dominated by elites, who support elite goals and don’t want the system to change very much. The Establishment is strong and growing stronger.
- The Establishment is, in fact, much stronger than candidate Trump realized, or at least more than he let on. His promise to bring real change to Washington is going to be monumentally difficult. Candidate Obama also once promised real change, and assured us that “Yes We Can.” But the problems, debts, and divisions in Washington got much worse during his presidency. The same happened to Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, Johnson…
To Fix or Not To Fix
To get different results, the Trump Administration will have to do something different. Probably, to be realistic, it will need to do something drastically different. It is unclear what this will be, or if they’ll figure it out. But this is the only thing that will make the years just ahead any different in substance than the last four decades. According to the media, nearly everything about the Trump era is different. But according to the size of the federal government and our national debt, things are still headed in the same direction. The real Trump legacy will depend on whether or not the President can actually reduce the debt and downsize Washington.
To start this process, for example, it is likely that the new Administration will now seek friends and allies in surprising places. The first attempt at repealing and replacing Obamacare showed the White House that there is more going on beneath the surface in Washington than the obvious division between Democrats and Republicans.
Much more. And as long as those who want to reduce elite power and give more power and opportunity to the people do things the same old way, they’ll get the same old results. The glaring truth: Elites in the GOP are as much the enemy of needed change as Democratic elites.
Again, to really bring change, something very different will be required.
The question is, has the new President and his team figured this out yet? And do they know what to do? Truly out-of-the-box originality is needed if they are to actually deliver on their promises. We don’t know how President Trump is doing so far, because we don’t know if the President and his team have made this transition yet—or if they ever will.
I think it’s possible that they are trying. They showed a penchant for surprising innovation and inventiveness during the election—bringing a win that shocked the old-way establishment. But bringing real change, and making it actually work, with so much stacked against them, so much leaning in the other direction, is going to take a miracle.
So, am I hoping the new Administration pulls it off and reduces the size of government and the national debt? Absolutely, yes. First, because our nation desperately needs it to happen—whoever leads it. I would have been thrilled if Obama, Bush, Clinton, or anyone else did it. It simply must be done. Our future literally depends on it.
But there’s a second reason I hope the Trump Administration succeeds and makes it happen. Regardless of how anyone feels about Donald Trump, a lot of people voted for him as a last ditch effort to bring real change. In specific terms, this means reversing the debt and decreasing the size and overreach of government.
If this doesn’t happen, a lot of voters are going to entirely give up. If and when the regular people in America lose hope and decide they’ll never get the kind of government they want, we’ll see the full implementation of elite rule. If this happens, we’ll be an aristocracy, in law as well as culture, within a few short years. Such a development will spell the end of the American Founders’ dream, and the end of many of our freedoms.
April 5th, 2017 // 7:42 am @ Oliver DeMille
“Regular people were cheering me on.
Elites were shouting me down.
I knew I was on to something.”
The Plan vs the Goal
Obamacare is a disaster. Rising premiums, decreasing quality of care, overreaching regulatory coercion, major expense increases to taxpayers, government red tape that is hurting the economy—and will do even more damage when new mandates kick in this fall. None of these are helpful.
But as problematic as Obamacare is, the last thing we need right now is another bad health care law, one steeped in government regulations, confusing, and hastily thrown together—leaving executive branch bureaucrats to fill in the blanks.
The Freedom Caucus was right. We don’t need another bad healthcare law. Such a result would be a disaster for conservatism, and a disaster for the entire nation and our economy.
The new healthcare proposal was significantly better than Obamacare. But this shouldn’t be our standard for something so important. Yes, Republicans promised to fix healthcare, but doing so piecemeal and hurriedly—mainly to score political points—isn’t the right approach. The goal should be an effective, well-conceived healthcare system that really works.
The Freedom Path
Leaving so many things out of the bill, to be later decided by the implementing agencies, means that when the other party wins an election, it can significantly restructure the whole healthcare sector without any say from Congress. This approach creates uncertainty, meaning that health/insurance companies and businesses won’t fully invest in lasting solutions. Not a good start to important legislation.
We need to get this right. And that means the legislative branch should do what it does best: think through every conceivable possibility, argue the varying sides of the issue, and draft a plan that has broad and deep support. Ramming something through more quickly might impress the voters, but that only lasts if the product is effective and sustainable.
Congress has time. Not a lot, but enough. It needs to work on this vigorously until it gets done—but do it right.
On an even larger scale, the initial failure of this bill to even come up for a vote may indicate of a larger victory for the American people: the rebirth of the House of Representatives.
For years the House has played bush-league ball, afraid to take on the major league challenge of the White House–or ineffective when it tried. The media has repeatedly put pressure on the House any time it attempted to use the purse strings (it’s most important Constitutional check on the Executive Branch), and, all too often, the House has caved.
But this time, when the opponent wasn’t the media but rather the White House and the House leadership, the supporters of freedom held firm and refused to allow a bill that would have failed to truly fix the problem. That’s a victory, no matter how the media or the White House spins it.
Purpose and Leadership
It raises serious concerns, such as 1) Why can the House stand against the President, but not against the media or the Court?, and 2) Why is the House leadership so determined to fight against real change?
But even with these problems, it’s nice to see the House reasserting itself in national leadership. Remember: the framers made the House the true arm of the people on the federal level. When the House doesn’t stand up against usurpations by the Executive Branch (as well as against the Senate, the Court, and in the face of an antagonistic media), the whole nation is drastically weakened.
That said, this is only a small victory. It remains to be seen whether this spark of House leadership will be fleeting or something more permanent. It is also unclear whether the House will now continue to lead on the issue of Health Care; it defeated one bad plan, but will it go on to effectively pass a good plan? That’s the real test.
If it does, we may be at the cusp of a new era of leadership from the House. If not, it will emerge from this year’s failures weaker than ever.
March 23rd, 2017 // 11:35 am @ Oliver DeMille
Why Did the American People Give Donald Trump the Presidency?
(If you haven’t read Part One of this article, do so here. This installment is a continuation of that article.)
The Big Question
Now that you’ve read Part One of this article, let’s dig deeper into why the American people elected Donald Trump, and what they expect of him in office. Michael Polanyi brings us to bedrock with another key question: What is freedom for? In other words, what is the true purpose of freedom? We can only understand the differences between the masses and elites (or translate between them) if we know how the two groups answer this profound query.
Is freedom for prosperity of the masses? Or the wealth of a few? Is the purpose of freedom to give power to the few? Or power to the masses? Is freedom for the protection of the people from every challenge or difficulty that might arise? Or for protecting the inalienable rights of all? What is freedom for?
Is its purpose the improvement of the world? Answer: Yes. But how?
This is a deep question. One of our most pressing modern challenges is that elites and the masses answer it very differently. In other words, they see the purpose of freedom very differently. The American founding fathers knew this, and they gave the masses the voting power specifically to ensure that the masses won this conflict. They believed—based on history—that if elites ever won the tug-of-war between the elites and masses, freedom would drastically decline.
Elites naturally view the world in one of two ways:
(1) the superiority of the upper classes; or
(2) the superiority of the upper classes combined with the concept of noblesse oblige.
In the first of these, elites see themselves as better than the masses—in other words, they believe that as the more educated, wealthy, and sophisticated group, they know what is best for the rest of the nation. Some elites add to this the view of noblesse oblige, meaning that they feel they have a responsibility to take care of, protect, guide, and help provide for the rest of the people—those they consider their inferiors in this world.
Thus Elite Group 1 believes that the purpose of freedom is to allow the fittest to thrive, the richest to get richer, the more powerful to exert their will on the world. In contrast, Elite Group 2 sees the purpose of freedom as the powerful and wealthy taking care of the rest of us, making sure we treat each other well, ensuring that the poor are financially supported by the middle class. Group 1 could hardly care less what the masses do, they are instead focused on getting more power and wealth for themselves. Group 2 are the opposite: like helicopter parents, they want to exert power in every aspect of our lives, using the authority of government to ensure that they are taking good care of us in ways they “know” we need—ways they believe we are too ignorant or confused to take care of ourselves.
The masses are also split into two major groups: (A) the Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren wing of the masses, who are against Elite Group 1 but seek the support and leadership of Elite Group 2. (B) The other wing of the masses, most of whom supported Donald Trump in the last election, are adamantly against both Elite Groups.
This is the biggest divide in modern American politics and society. Note that the mainstream media is overwhelmingly in support of Elite Group 2. They sincerely believe they know what is best for the masses, and they consider any other view unenlightened, lacking, even dangerous.
The irony purported by such elites is palpable. For example, as recently pointed out by various commentators, on the one hand they decry a wall on the southern border as “racist,” “non-inclusive,” and “uncaring”, while on the other hand many of these same people live in restricted, elite, gated communities. They aren’t against walls per se. Indeed they surround themselves with walls—to keep out the unwanted from their homes and yards.
Likewise, many of those who adamantly call for increased gun control and restrictions on firearms are personally surrounded by well-armed bodyguards, and their estates and homes have the latest security measures and teams of gun-wielding security teams.
Another example: some rail on anyone who supports school choice or wants regular people to be able to send their kids to private schools, as if public school is the only good choice, and then they send their own children to prestigious private schools or hire expensive personal tutors. Apparently private school is great for them, but not for regular Americans. There are many other examples of such hypocrisy in Elite Group 2.
Keys and Locks
In all this, many elites seem to sincerely believe that while they, with all their “superiority” and “entitlement”, deserve such protection (walls, private school, and guns galore), the regular people are racist and intolerant to seek the same thing. Do they actually believe that because of their wealth and status they deserve the special tax breaks and tax shelters they use each year, while the regular people are required to just ante up and pay their full share? Really? This is precisely the attitude and aristocratic smugness the framers wanted to avoid when they refused to let elites choose our elected officials.
Again, the specific reason the American Framers gave the voting power to the masses is to give them power over the elites. This is exactly what elites find most objectionable about the Constitution, the main reason they want to use Supreme Court decisions and treaties (both of which thrive on the kind of fine print that most of the masses never read) and any other means they can discover to change and circumvent the Constitution.
Note also that in modern times large majority of experts—in various fields—have joined the elite classes, both in term of attitudes and values. More national mainstream media experts have become elites than perhaps any other field.
What They Want
But back to the key question: What is freedom for? To elites, the purpose of freedom is almost universally to increase their station. For the masses, in contrast, it is to pursue their happiness—in whatever ways they choose. Once again, these two groups are opposed. To increase their station, elites need the masses to remain below them on the socio-economic scale. To pursue happiness, the masses need the freedom to reach whatever status they seek. Some care about status, others don’t, but the freedom to pursue it, and whatever else they want (as long as they don’t violate the inalienable rights of others) is closely governed by elites in our world. To this end elites have erected numerous systems (including the rules of education, career, promotion, investing, starting businesses, the courts, etc.) that make it easier for their own offspring to attain status, and more difficult for the masses and their children to do the same.
All of this has a direct influence on what the American people now expect of President Trump. The elite classes want him to tack back to the center, meaning they want him to moderate his attacks on things the elites cherish (such as the mainstream media, bigger and bigger government, and national reliance on experts in every walk of life), to talk and act more like elites (they call this “appropriate”, “decorum”, or “presidential”). They want him to get little done in actual policy, to blame Congress or K Street for not really accomplishing what he promised during the election. To be clear, the more the Trump Administration delivers what it promised, the more the power of elites is dismantled. Whether you personally like or dislike president Trump, know this: Elites don’t want to be diminished, so they’ll fight Trump at every turn—and in whatever ways they think might work.
Those who elected Trump—not just his adamant supporters but many others who voted for him, or anyone else besides Hillary Clinton, because they saw a Hillary presidency as true disaster—want him to take on our biggest current national problem: too much elite influence in our society. Elites now control most media, most of academia, most of our leading cultural institutions (e.g. Hollywood, television, pop music, etc.), most government agencies, and a lot of finance and business. The power of elites in the federal government has become stifling, and threatens our Constitutional way of life. Moreover, as we’ve already discussed, they use their power to rig the systems of education, career, investment, etc. in ways that benefit their own children and increase the difficulties of the masses and their children trying to live the American Dream. More and more people now realize, or at least suspect, that the system is rigged against them.
The voters want Trump to reduce elite power over government and give it back to the people. Or, failing this, to at the very least reduce elite power over government. To do something that effectively gets rid of the rigged system. If he does this, the elite media will become even more extreme and increasingly vicious in its attempts to stop him.
Note that the elite classes argue for something similar. They want to use American institutions to equalize the American masses with regular people all around the world. This would leave them—the elites—in charge, but put all the masses of the globe on the same footing.
Few Americans who understand this situation support this elite agenda. Trump at least says that he’s trying to put regular Americans on the same footing as elites, not put them on the same footing as the masses around the world—with the elites in charge of us all. This is the great battle.
The media, or course, as a key arm of elites, doesn’t clearly tell the American people that this is occurring. But it is, and it presents a clear and present danger to our society.
The elite classes, including mainstream media, operate using what Polanyi called “the chisel of skepticism driven by the hammer of social passion.” This is a powerful way to see elite and media actions for what they really are. The social passion they cherish is that elites must take care of the rest of us, that they know better than the rest of us, that they—as our superiors—have the training, wisdom, status and wealth to do what we really need, and as their inferiors we should be happy to follow their lead and grateful that they care for us and are guiding us along.
Anyone who sees this kind of smug arrogance for what it really is (…smug arrogance…) is immediately branded “angry” and “ignorant”. Those who persist on this path can expect to be called bigoted, racist, narrow-minded, and eventually evil. This is the social passion of today’s elites, including much of the elite media.
But note: The way elites implement this is to use as much skepticism as possible. Skepticism is often confused with objectivity or journalistic fairness, so even a mainstream media that has long since lost much of its objectivity is able to appear removed and analytical simply by remaining deeply skeptical. This is, in fact, how many in the media are trained. They ask tough questions, but with a skeptical tone, and respond to the answers with even more skepticism. To their audience, this frequently appears to be good journalism.
But those reporting the news get to choose what questions to ask anyone they interview, and as long as they retain a skeptical tone, many listeners don’t realize that people who agree with the reporters are asked easier questions while those with a differing view are asked questions designed to entrap or frustrate. A nod or frown allows media members to sway the audience, yet media skepticism convinces many listeners that the media is treating everyone the same. The same skeptical tone frequently masks the art of spin, even deception. Note also that even media anger sells well as long as it comes in the tone of skepticism.
Skeptical tone allows the mainstream media to continually claim that their focus is truth and justice. Fairness and objectivity, they claim, are their driving purpose. But their definitions of fairness, objectivity, and justice are skewed. The old American Founding view of freedom (to do whatever you want as long as it doesn’t take away the inalienable rights of anyone else) is minimized by the ploy of skepticism. The new definition is to just quit thinking and instead follow the lead of our “betters”—the elite and their paid staffers (most of the experts).
Plans and Purposes
Despite all this, in the last election a majority of people in a majority of states saw through media spin and supported the candidate they considered most likely to oppose and decrease elite power—either Bernie or Trump. And here is the deep reality: if the Trump era boasts a major economic upturn, bringing more financial power to the masses, he will likely maintain such support. If not, it will dwindle or crash. The American masses want reduced power of elites, but they measure this largely in terms of increased economic power in their own personal lives.
These two things, above all, are what his supporters expect from a Trump presidency—or anyone they lift to office: (1) a reduction of elite power, and (2) increased economic well-being for the masses.
There is a third desire, and a fourth. As Polanyi put it: “The ideal of a free society is in the first place to be a good society.” Once again, elites and the masses define this very differently. Elites see good society as one that follows their ideas of what is good, including letting them (as superiors) rule, and letting them redistribute wealth as they see fit (meaning from the middle class to the lower classes, but leaving elite wealth largely—and conveniently—in the hands of themselves).
The masses, in contrast, see good society as one where they (the masses) rule, so they can keep elites from dominating, a society that benefits everyone and maintains freedom and true opportunity for all. Indeed, throughout history elites have used their rule to keep the masses from wealth and power. The masses see good society as one where people, communities, and groups voluntarily (not by forced government) take care of others and help those in need. The masses also believe that a good society gives them the opportunity to pursue improvement—personal or economic—as they will, as long they don’t violate the rights of others.
When the masses rule, through election that puts in leaders who do what they promised, and the people take care of others and love others voluntarily, and each individual has the freedom to pursue his or her goals without government or class hurdles, the masses see this as freedom. They also see it as good society.
If elites have too much power, the government intervenes in too many things, or the government or elites block our moral pursuit of improvement and advancement (using regulations and requirements, all of which are designed to benefit the elite classes), the masses see this as a loss of freedom and less-than-good society. This, by the way, is where the majority of people in the majority of states see our nation today.
Finally, the masses want safety. They want national security to be effective and consistent. They don’t want to wonder about who our allies and enemies are, or feel confused about the gap between the White House’s words and its actions regarding national security.
Answers Through Asking
Note that on this topic, the flyover states (and back-road locales that have more electoral college votes than liberals want them to) have also provided more than their share of the military personnel for the nation. When soldiers serve and pay the ultimate price for our freedoms, these flyover parts of the nation and their families provide much of the giving and suffering.
Such people are willing to die, or let family members die, to keep our nation free. Again, the framers knew what they were doing when they established the electoral college—keeping these people relevant in electing the commander in chief.
Contrast this to what the elites seek: to maintain and increase elite power and wealth, and to patronizingly take care of the rest of us. The framers got it right. They gave the masses—not in sheer numbers, but a majority of people in the majority of states through the electoral college—the final election power. They did this on purpose. They did it to keep elites—any group of elites—from getting too much power. This is what elections are for! This is precisely what “democracy” requires. Any arrangement that doesn’t put the regular people in charge of elections is some brand of aristocracy or other elite rule.
The Real Question
What then, can be done between elections to give more power to the masses, less to elites? The answer to this question brings up difficult and disturbing realities. Let’s put this in very simple terms:
- Are our most important institutions in society supporting the increase of elite power or the increase of power to the people?
- Specifically: Are we teaching (schools), raising (families), inspiring (parents, churches, entertainment, media), and training the next generation to be independent and wise thinkers (power to the people), or rather to focus on the twin goals of (1) fitting into the system, and (2) getting ahead in the system (more power to elites)?
- Are we teaching, raising, inspiring, and training them to question and improve the world (more power to the people), or simply to accept the world as it is and try to rise in status and promotion within it (more power to elites)?
- Do we mostly pass on the values elites want the masses to hold: seeking status and prestige (as doled out by elites), the government as the answer to most problems, the main life goal of being an employee, risk avoidance, trying to impress our “superiors”, and “this is just the way the world is”?
- Or do we effectively pass on the values of the American framers and modern freedom: service, independent thinking, moral purpose, “your mission in life is the key to your career”, entrepreneurialism, acquisitiveness, innovation, ingenuity, tenacity, and personal sacrifice for God, family and country?
- Do we most vigorously promote institutions (power to the elites), or principles of truth (power to the people)?
- Do we believe mostly in experts (power to elites) or the common sense of the people (power to the people)?
- Do we trust the mainstream media (power to elites), or do we generally distrust the media—just like the American founders did (power to the people)?
This entire question can be summed up by how we educate:
- Do we educate our young surrounded by the system established by elites for the education of the masses, focused on textbooks, reliance on experts, grades (designed to sort the masses based on their potential usefulness to elites), lectures, grade levels, pressure to fit in and conform both socially and intellectually, and controlled by bureaucracies?Is our educational emphasis mainly what Toffler called the real curriculum of most modern schools: rote memorization, training rather than education, obedience to superiors, and being on time to work?
Let’s be clear. This is a system designed to increase the power of elites. (However, ironically, almost none of the elite class educate their own children this way.)
- Or do we choose the kind of education that has always created nations and generations of leaders, using great books, great ideas, original sources, focus on principles, individual mentors, personalized learning, and lots of discussion and depth? Is our goal to educate young adults who are deep thinking, independent minded, creative, innovative, entrepreneurial, and effective leaders in their chosen work and lives? This is what brings power to the people—those who get such an education.
Indeed, this is the very type of education the elite classes provide for their own children.
What do we want for our future?
On the one hand:
Rote education for the masses, and at the same time quality Leadership education for the children of elites?
Or, on the other hand:
Leadership education for all?
This is the true dividing point.
This is our fork in the road for America today.
Which path will we choose? This choice is the deeper reality than what goes on in elections, or in Washington.
This is also the pivotal question of our individual power—are we using it to build the rule of elites, or the rule of the people? The reason elites have repeatedly won this battle throughout most of history is simple: they convinced many of the masses to join them, to focus not on making a better system for all, but rather to focus on trying to seek promotion and status in the education-career-governmental system set up of elites, by elites, and for elites.
Which side are you building and strengthening each day?
Regardless of how you feel about the last presidential election or the current administration, this is the great question of our time. It is vitally important right now, today, because how we answer this question will determine the future for our families and our nation.
March 14th, 2017 // 4:52 pm @ Oliver DeMille
Why Did the American People Give Donald Trump the Presidency?
The mainstream media doesn’t get it. Why did the majority of people in the majority of states—enough to win the Electoral College—vote for Donald Trump in the last national election? For much of the elite class, not just in national newspaper offices and television network suites, but also in Hollywood circles and the halls of academia, the election of Trump makes no sense. They blame flaws in Hillary’s campaign, or Jared Kushner’s algorithms, or even Putin’s hackers.
The underlying belief among much of the elite is, “Someone smarter than the masses must have made this happen; the people certainly didn’t do this all on their own.” For elites, the explanation is still as shocking and elusive as it was on election night. The impossible happened, in their view. Therefore something must be amiss.
The truth is much more simple. The American people chose Donald Trump, for better or for worse, because they saw something the media and other elites never grasped—and still don’t. Love Trump or hate him, or anything in between, but it’s important to understand what happened, to know why voters put him in the Oval Office. We need to understand what they wanted, and what they’re still expecting from him today and in the years ahead.
Powers Big and Small
To get to the bottom of this blue-state mystery, we first need to reject the typical media attempts to explain something they don’t really understand. Simplistic rationalizations such as “white backlash” or “the rise of the angry-uneducated-poor” lack comprehension. These types of analysis show just how deeply most elites misunderstand the situation. Their shocked faces on election night demonstrated the level to which they lack clarity on what occurred—and is still occurring.
The problem is a huge gap of understanding between elites and the masses. The rift between these two groups is extreme—and widening. Today there is a great need to translate the view of the masses on freedom and progress to the elite classes (who are deeply dipped in the sauce of university-ism, careerism, and professionalism, all of which color their attempts to understand).
To begin with, the great challenge of freedom is that it is vulnerable, as Michael Polanyi assured us in his 1951 classic The Logic of Liberty. If freedom isn’t protected by the vigilance, sacrifice, and wisdom of the masses, it is even weak. Note that it is the vigilance and sacrifice of the masses that matters, not the training or sophistication of the upper class. Indeed, freedom is vulnerable and even weak precisely because the elite classes exist—and are always trying to take over. When elites of any sort rule, freedom declines for the large majority of people.
Thus the American framers gave the voting power–ultimate sovereignty and control over the government–to the masses. Not to the popular vote, but rather to the majority of people in the majority of states (through the electoral college). They did this so that a few of the most populous states couldn’t combine as a kind of elite ruling group. The framers not only wanted the people to rule, but for all people, even in little towns and on the back roads, to have a real say in government.
Why? History is clear on this: whatever group is in charge treats itself better than other groups. Always. Thus the solution to dominating rule is to have the masses govern. But even this would lead to some corruption, so the framers had the masses rule certain things (locales, states, the House, the purse strings) while elites in each state were allowed to rule other things (the Senate, foreign relations, protection of the states). National elites were given no direct power under the Constitution because the framers considered them too dangerous.
Checks in Action
Freedom is vulnerable, even weak, unless the people keep elites in check–but how? Answer: Elections. The framers knew that the masses understood something the various elite groups would never quite grasp: what the people really want. Of course, elites always think they know what is best for the masses, believing that somehow their “superior” education, training, views or wealth make them better able to tell their “inferiors” what is needed. This was arguably the framers’ biggest worry, that such elites would rule (e.g. Federalist 1,10,14,17-20,51).
Elections were designed precisely to put down such elite power.
The elite classes certainly dislike this arrangement. Who wouldn’t? But it is the very arrangement the framers gave us, and for this precise reason: to keep elites in their place. That the elite establishment is still shocked when it happens is ironic. No matter how often they think they’ve finally circumvented the Constitution and replaced chaotic Jeffersonian-society with clean, ordered aristocracy (though they never openly use this term), elections somehow keep coming along and disrupting their plans. Madison must be grinning from beyond the grave.
In the 2016 presidential election, the framers’ system once more stood up and rocked the institutions of the elite. That they’ll fight back is clear. But what will they fight against? It isn’t Trump that did this. Madison did. Hamilton gave it eloquence, Franklin added gravity, and Washington provided clout. And here’s the rub: few elites even understand why it happened. They fight it in a rage, but what, exactly are they fighting against? Most aren’t sure…
In contrast, most of the masses do understand. It was time to reduce elite power.
There is a reason most elites struggle to cut through the clutter and understand what happened. Their language isn’t designed to explain this. Their training never included it. They grasp at straws, like sophomore students of Mandarin, content to memorize vocabulary but only vaguely aware that the tone of each word drastically alters its meaning. For elites, today’s political tone from middle America is distant, unclear, alien. Most aren’t even sure it is real.
They prefer to explain away the masses as “angry.” But ask them what causes the anger, or why so many people thought Trump was the solution. The elites don’t know how to explain this to their children, much less articulate it fluently to themselves. It is a mystery… something most modern elites deeply resent and consider inferior. Not quite tangible.
With all their training, status, and cosmopolitanism, why are many elites so clueless about the masses? Because most non-elites communicate their political views in a different language, something elites find strange and unexpected. Also, partly, because most elites have spent a lot of personal and institutional effort trying to climb the status ladder away from the masses. To “rise above” their roots. To leave the crowd, which they largely, as mentioned, consider inferior.
Once they’ve “arrived” and become part of the professional and elite classes, the thought of going back, or, even worse, of realizing that the masses have something elite culture doesn’t—or, horror of horrors, that it might even be better in some ways—is largely unacceptable to them. The socialization of professional and elite culture makes people almost purposely unable to understand what is going on among the masses.
In other words, modern professional/elite education and training customizes people with a certain way of seeing the world. As a result, they frequently believe nobody has more wisdom than they do—certainly not people who weren’t trained to see things in the same way. But people who don’t bother or don’t know how to analyze certain things in the accepted academic way aren’t less intelligent, they just aren’t trained to respond to things in the prescribed academic format.
Instead, they use their intelligence in other ways—analyzing, considering, noticing, and responding to myriad additional clues in their search for understanding. As such, they naturally come up with different conclusions than the proscribed expert/professional method.
Who is to say their way is inferior? The truth is, the framers believed that the masses should be given more power than elites in electing our political leaders. The framers knew that the American masses would be best at knowing what is best for the American masses.
It’s really very simple. The masses vote for what they want, and elites sometimes don’t understand it because the elites want something very different. Specifically, the 2016 election meant the following to the masses:
- America was on the verge of turning its entire government and culture over to elite domination, and we have been heading in that direction ever since the end of Ronald Reagan’s tenure.
- It was time to reverse this trend, to reduce the power of elites and give more power back to the people.
Like the shocking upheavals that lifted a Jefferson, Jackson, or Reagan to the presidency (tearing down the growing power of elite groups, even wreaking havoc and division, but the very kind of chaos and division that drastically reduces elite power) the majority of people in a majority of states turned to Trump. Indeed, if the masses in the Democratic Party would have had their way (without the elite-class power of super-delegates), Bernie Sanders, another anti-elitist, might well be the president right now.
Two Different Elections
To the professional/elite classes this all made little sense. Accustomed by educational training and long years of seeking status in the world, the elite classes computed the election using the accepted tools of academia, career, and government. The masses had no such blockage. While the establishment shook its head in dismay, saying “he’ll bring chaos,” “he’s a blowhard,” “he’s so offensive,” “he’s spreading hatred,” and so on, many of the masses said, “He’s not one of them. He doesn’t talk like them. He doesn’t think like them. We need to stop them.”
The elite class voted based largely on the issues. They emphasized facts, figures, policies, and specifics. That’s what all politicians do—at least those who appeal to the elite classes (including most of the mainstream media).
In contrast, the masses voted to reduce the increasing power of elites.
Read that last sentence again. That’s what happened in the 2016 election. The masses wanted someone to fight against elites. They chose a Jackson. Hated by the establishment. Hated even, perhaps, by a majority of the masses. But seen as one who hopefully might be able to stand for the majority of people in the majority of states—against any more power to the elite class.
Elite culture wanted someone who appealed to them, their standards, their values, their tone, their club—a Gore, a Bush even, a McCain, Romney, Biden, Kerry, Rubio, or Clinton. Someone who played the establishment game—universityism, careerism, professionalism. Put very simply: They wanted someone who believed in and trusted experts.
According to all their metrics, Trump wasn’t even qualified to run for president. But to the winning voters, only one qualification mattered: Can he stop or slow the increasing power of elites? Not all voters articulated their feelings this way, but it was the pivot-point of the election.
First, however, such voters wanted to be sure he wasn’t actually one of them, one of the elites. He was a billionaire, after all. How could they be sure he wasn’t just pretending to be against elite rule? They found their answer in his speeches, in his language. Where the elite classes hated Trump’s imprecise language (his penchant for ignoring the facts and even stating wrong facts as long as they supported his narrative), this very approach convinced the masses that he isn’t one of the elites. Not for more elite rule. Rich, yes. But not one of them.
The more the media railed against him for his imprecise language, “tenuous connection to the facts”, and “outlandish claims and attacks”, the more secure the masses became. “He’s not one of them, he’s on our side,” they said. This continues long after the election, and most of the elite media still seem to have no idea it is happening.
The People’s Goals
A lot of voters hoped Trump could stop the power of elites, including many who disliked his personality or disagreed with him on the issues, or worried that he might turn authoritarian. Truly effective CEOs, Peter Drucker taught, are selected not on the basis of their overall strengths (the “impressive” candidate) or for their lack of weaknesses or personal flaws (the “affable” candidate), but because they are the most likely to accomplish the one biggest thing the organization most desperately needs.
Many American voters saw Trump in this light: Stop or slow the spread of elite power.
This changed the whole equation—but in ways the professional/elite/expert-loving class couldn’t even fathom. It was so far outside of their training that they laughed when Trump’s name came up, from the beginning of his campaign right up until late evening on election night. Even then, they refused to believe what they were witnessing.
Once he won, their laughter turned to anger. But they still didn’t understand. The American people elected Trump precisely because these laughing elites and professionals wouldn’t like it. He was elected to reduce their power and influence, to keep them from becoming any more powerful. To block them, thwart them, weaken them. To give the economy and our national destiny back to the masses, not leave it to the whims of the few in elite conclaves of power and influence.
The masses want change. They want to remake the economy into a nation for all, not just a nation for elites or those who play the education/career game outlined by elites (mainly for the benefit of elites).
As the establishment slowly figures this out, the more enraged and extreme their reaction becomes. The election was a referendum on them! Thus their angry opposition in the media will continue.
“Did the masses even understand candidate Trump’s position on the issues?” elites ask. Answer: Yes. They understood that his take on the issues was mostly the opposite of what the elites stand for. That was enough.
Questions and Answers
But there is more. What exactly is it that the masses understand in their non-establishment-style assessments of the election? What wisdom do they have that the elites simply can’t grasp—and that isn’t being reported in the media? What are those who put Trump into office actually seeking? On the one hand, it’s simple: reduce the power of elites. On the other hand, now that the election is over, what the masses want from Trump is deeper than the elite classes realize. What is it?
The answer to this question will be discussed in Part II of this Article, out next week.
For now, the glaring reality of the election stands, and there are those who know what it is, and those who don’t. To repeat: Voters elected Trump to reduce the power of elites.
Those who understand this, understand the election. They also understand why the media is so extreme and angry right now, and why this extremism will continue. Those who don’t understand this don’t understand the election—or current politics in Washington and around the nation.
Those who understand this also know that the elite media will do everything in its ability to get back its power. Everything. We no longer have anything resembling an objective mainstream media—it is now the leading arm of elites on the warpath. We need to see everything coming from the elite media in this light.