August 29th, 2011 // 2:00 pm @ Oliver DeMille
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.
Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.
August 26th, 2011 // 6:00 pm @ Oliver DeMille
Pollster Frank Luntz says that to be real contenders for the U.S. Presidency, candidates
must have what he calls “the three P’s”:
1-A credible Plan to lead the nation
2-The Political prowess to be elected in the general election
3-The fight to stand for the values of the Party base
Add to this a fourth and fifth P, and you have good criteria for measuring the candidates:
4-The reality that the swing voters in the 2012 election will most likely be, as George Will put it, “independents in Northern cities” and Florida (most of whom are Professionals)
5-Comes across Positive to the voters
For example, President Obama has 2 and 3, but is weak on 1 and 4. Still, this puts him ahead of almost everyone else.
A clear, concise White House plan for America’s economic growth and a Positive approach to leadership could make him strong in 1, 5 and possibly even 4.
Expect his advisors to steer him in this direction in the months ahead.
According to recent polls:
- Paul is strong on 1, weak on the rest
- Romney is strong on 2 (and maybe 4), weak on the rest
- Huntsman is strong on 2 (and maybe 4), weak on the rest
- Bachman is strong on 3, weak on the rest
- Perry is strong on 3 (and potentially 2 and/or 4), weak on the rest
- Santorum is strong on 3, weak on the rest
- Cain is strong on 3, weak on the rest
- Palin is strong on 3, weak on the rest
- J. Bush is strong on 2-3, weak on 1 (though this could be remedied), and very weak on 4
- Giuliani is strong on 2 and 4, weak on 1 and 5, very weak on 3
There is, of course, a lot of time left before the election and things will likely change more than once.
For example, Romney could outline a strong national economic/jobs plan to counter the Obama jobs plan (if one is presented) and also work to become the voice of Positive in the election.
Perry would need to downplay the socially conservative issues (his Party base would vote for him anyway) and strongly emphasize his record on jobs (under his leadership Texas created over 1/3 of the new jobs in America during the recovery).
There is real potential for Perry to become stronger on 1, 2 and 4, Romney to become stronger on 1 and 4, or Huntsman or Bachman to gain strength on 1 and/or 4.
To win, Bachman would also have to become strong on 2 and Huntsman would have to become strong on 3.
Note that two potential candidates who haven’t joined the race yet are doing the best of all.
- Christy is strong on 1-4, weak on 5
- Ryan is strong on 1-3, might become strong on 4-5
Whether Christy or Ryan will run, and whether either would remain strong in the challenges of active campaigning, remains to be seen.
Ryan could probably become the voice of Positive and economic growth, while Christy would probably do best to push business-friendly economic policy and jobs as loud as possible.
Either could likely run on a strong economic platform with good results—the same is true of Perry, Romney, Huntsman and maybe Bachman.
What It All Comes Down To
If Luntz is correct (4 is really just a function of 2, and 5 doesn’t really matter to voters—despite what they say in the polls), the strongest positions right now belong to Obama, Christy, Ryan, Romney and Perry.
If it all comes down to 4, Christy or Ryan have a slight edge over Obama while Obama is ahead of Perry and Romney right now.
Still, there is a lot of campaigning yet to come, and some polls have both Romney and Perry ahead of Obama in head-to-head contests.
It is unclear exactly how this will all work out, but as we get closer to the election the savvy voter will do well to keep an eye on how each candidate measures up to these 5 criteria.
Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.
August 13th, 2011 // 1:56 pm @ Oliver DeMille
- 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.)
- 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?
- 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?
- Where did Tocqueville say that the greatness of America lies? (The answer may surprise you.)
- What exactly is a FreedomShift and how is one accomplished?
- What is “the Law of the Vital Few?”
- How is this law drastically changing America today?
- What are the three top problems that are keeping America from fixing its problems right now?
- 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?
- Is our society being run by the cultures of our Elementary Schools, High Schools, Colleges & Corporations, Government Officials, or the Adults in our society?
- How can we move back to adult culture, especially in Washington?
- 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.)
- 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.)
- What are the nine types of people who run both of the two major political parties?
- How will they impact the election of 2012?
- What should we expect in the upcoming election?
- What are the eight kinds of freedom, and which have we already lost in America?
- Which of the eight are we now losing?
- 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!)
Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.
August 1st, 2011 // 10:22 am @ Oliver DeMille
The Third Party Solution
Our government isn’t broken.
It is just caught in the past.
Specifically, the current divide between the parties is a mirror image of the country.
Politics is a reflection of society, and the bickering right now in Washington is a direct projection of the nation.
There is one big exception.
The nation is divided into three major political camps.
The problem is that the two smallest camps (Democrats and Republicans) have party representation in Washington while the largest camp (independents) does not.
In short, it’s not that our government is broken, but rather that we are stuck in a twentieth-century structural model even though the society has fundamentally changed.
Instead of a two-party nation sending its representatives to Washington, we now have a three-party society where the biggest “party” must divide its representation between the two smaller parties.
It’s not broken, it just acts like it.
The Great Fall
This situation began to develop when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.
Up to that point, the two-party model was a natural reflection of a nation engaged in a long-term Cold War with an enemy capable of destroying our entire civilization.
This omnipresent reality colored all policy for over four decades.
Having sacrificed greatly to overcome major conflicts in WWI and WWII, the large majority of citizens from both parties stood firmly together against the Soviet threat.
When the Cold War menace significantly decreased, Americans took a long sigh of relief, and then they reassessed their priorities for government.
Some felt that the needs of big business were the top priority, others considered moral issues the lead concern, while still others deemed an increase in social justice the major challenge.
The first two pooled resources in the Republican Party, while social liberals and those emphasizing social justice combined in the Democratic Party.
The largest group of Americans rejected both of these extremes, feeling that government should indeed fulfill its role to corporations, societal values, and social justice, but also to a number of other vital priorities including national security, education, and fiscal responsibility.
But, because independents come from many viewpoints and also because they have no official party apparatus in Washington, the biggest political group in our nation today has little direct political power except during elections.
The consequence is that subsequent elections tend to sway widely in opposite directions.
When independents put Republicans in power, they are naturally (because they are not Republicans) frustrated with how the Republicans use that power.
When, in contrast, they vote for Democrats, they find themselves discouraged with what Democrats do in office.
This is a structural problem.
When Democrats elect a Democrat, the elected official can swing to the center once in office because while supporters may dislike their Democratic official’s actions they will almost always still vote for him/her in the next election—after all, in their view the Republican would be worse.
The same applies to Republicans electing a Republican.
All of this changes when independents put a Democrat, or a Republican, in office. Naturally, the elected official will disappoint supporters in some way, and independents are as likely as not to believe that a candidate from the other party will do better.
When similar historical realignments of politics with cultural shifts have occurred, a major new political group in society reformed one of the big parties to fit its new views.
For example, when the Declaration of Independence and hostilities with Britain changed the old Tory versus Whig debate, the Loyalists mostly joined the new Federalists while the Whigs split between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists.
When the new U.S. Constitution changed the makeup of society and made the Federalist versus Anti-Federalist debate obsolete, most of the Anti-Federalists joined the Jeffersonian Democratic Republicans while the Federalists split between the Democratic Republicans and the Federalists.
Other such changes have happened several times in American history, most notably in the 1830s, 1850s, 1910s, 1930s and 1960s.
Note that in the twentieth-century shifts the names of the parties (Democrat and Republican) did not change even though political philosophies were significantly altered during these periods of realignment.
The current repositioning may or may not adopt a new name for one of the parties, but a philosophical shift is occurring nonetheless.
Some believe that this shift is fundamentally rooted in social concerns, from issues of gender and sexual preference to values debates and immigration.
But this is a view left over from the twentieth-century style Democrat-Republican argument.
The rise of independents is not a morality-driven movement.
It’s mostly about the economy.
The New Party
The new party of the twenty-first century will emphasize economic growth and getting our financial house in order.
Many independents will flock to this party, whatever its name—Democratic, Republican, or something else.
This is the party of the future.
And while analysts say that independents are not joiners, it is likely that many would join such a party.
Note that a real three-party system is not likely to last.
A third party may arise, as Thomas L. Friedman and others have suggested, but history suggests that t will eventually take the place of one of the top two parties.
There is an important reason for this.
The American framers did not want the U.S. President to be elected by a plurality of the nation, so they wisely structured the Electoral College in a way that the President can only be elected by a majority of electoral votes.
This means that any third party will eventually have to gain the support of one of the other parties in order to win the White House.
This constitutional reality is one of the most important things keeping America strong.
Without it, any extreme party might win a given election and take the nation in even more drastic directions than we’ve witnessed to date.
To sum it up, the frustration with two-party infighting is a positive thing.
The framers rightly foresaw that the greatest danger to America would be an apathetic citizenry, and the Electoral College requirement for majority has caused a no-party or two-party structure and also incentivized citizens to stay informed and involved.
When a powerful third party arises in America, it has always come in response to a change in society and it has always worked to reform the two existing parties in ways that better reflected the desires of the people.
This is a huge positive, as chaotic as it may seem at times.
Today, it is independents that most dislike the party bickering, and as a result independents are more actively involved in government.
This is a powerful check on the aristocratic-political class, and shows once again the brilliance and inspired effectiveness of the U.S. Constitution as established by the framers.
Our government isn’t broken, but the current two-party system is outdated.
Neither party truly represents the views of the largest political “group” in America—independents.
Until this problem is fixed, the entire political system will look untenable and appear unable to solve major American problems.
But such realignment is already occurring, albeit slowly, and the future belongs to whichever party—Democrat, Republican or a third party—gets serious about three things:
- A moderate view that government has an important role to play in society and that it must also be limited to the things it really should do like national security, schools and basic social justice
- Actually getting our financial house in order
- Creating the environment for widespread enterprise and a true growth economy
The party that effectively and consistently champions these things will be the leading political group in the years ahead.
In other words, some major shifts in the parties are ahead.
July 11th, 2011 // 11:40 am @ Oliver DeMille
A Review of Henry Kissinger’s On China
America is interested in China. Intellectuals have long criticized the citizenry of the United States for being self-absorbed and comparatively uninterested in world affairs. Many Americans have only given close attention to international events that directly impact them. In the case of China, it seems that Americans are deeply concerned not about what has occurred, but rather about what may come.
Henry Kissinger’s book On China is an excellent primer for any person who wants to know more about China.
There is much here for the beginner, and also a number of items of personal interest for the scholar of modern Sino-American relations.
Here are thirteen ideas from the book which sparked my thinking:
1- Exeptionalism and Singularity
Americans often talk about exceptionalism, the things that make the United States different from other nations. For the Chinese, the foundational concept is singularity. This may sound similar to exceptionalism, but it is almost the opposite.
Where America sees its founding coming after long millennia of human history, benefiting from the experiences of historical civilizations and rising above all of them, the Chinese notion of singularity stems from the view that China has no founding—that it has existed longer than written history, that it maintained a long set of traditions from before recorded annals to the present, and that it is the only modern civilization to have done so.
While many Americans claim universal principles of freedom that all nations should adopt, China claims universal principles of society that it has always used.
The Chinese language is as old as written history.
According to Kissinger, its characters were developed at about the time of ancient Egypt.
While the Western nations have used and then moved beyond ancient Egyptian, Greek, Latin, and the numerous European languages, China kept and deepened its language.
Only Hebrew, of all the Western languages (if Hebrew can even be considered Western), is as old, and its spoken form had to be resurrected in the twentieth century.
While the culture of Western Civilization has used many languages, the Chinese Civilization has used basically one written language. Our Western classics, myths, and major political documents are mostly translations from a host of languages.
Chinese classics are nearly all studied in the original.
The result in China is a profound sense of continuity with the past and a closer connection to its traditions than experienced in any Western nation. It is hard for Westerners to even grasp the lasting significance of this reality.
The Western political experience includes a long cycle of declining current powers eventually replaced by rising new powers—Egypt, Israel, Greece, Rome, Spain, France, Britain, and the United States, to mention a few.
Each rises, leads the world for a time, then declines. A new power seems to arise every couple of centuries.
In China, where history goes back past the time of the Egyptian dynasties, the cycle is different, and the differences drastically impact the way Chinese leaders view the world.
The Chinese cycle includes a period of internal division and inner conflict, then an era of unity and dynastic rule, then another time of division and conflict.
This cycle in China usually takes three to nine hundred years to run its course, and today’s Chinese see themselves just sixty years into a new dynastic rule that will once again put China at the center of world power—for the next five hundred years or more.
4-The Center of the World
Until the nineteenth century, China never had to deal with a civilization or nation of “comparable size or sophistication….As late as 1820, it produced over 30 percent of world GDP—an amount exceeding of Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and the United States combined.”
It has historically always considered itself the center of the world and felt deeply humiliated by its loss of dominance to Western powers in modern times.
According to Kissinger, China has always been a secular empire.
Unlike the West, religion, religious wars, and conflicts between major religious views have played little part in China’s political history. Spirituality has historically centered on restoring the principles and ideals of a Confucian-style past “Chinese Golden Age.”
Learning was seen as the key to this objective, and also to personal advancement. The goal of Confucian-Chinese spirituality, learning, and politics has usually been “rectification, not progress.”
The main principle in this order was to “know thy place.”
The pinnacle of society was the Emperor, who was both a political leader and a spiritual-religious symbol. He was considered “the Emperor of Humanity” on earth and “Son of Heaven” as man’s “intermediary between Heaven, Earth and humanity.”
This tradition of the great Emperor above all mankind, his bureaucracy to maintain order in all things, and each person fulfilling his proper place in society created a certain kind of culture that has lasted for a very, very long time through various outward governmental structures and forms.
Most Americans disagree with the basics of this model, but we must not discount the power of its history and tradition.
“If the Emperor strayed from the path of virtue, All Under Heaven would fall into chaos. Even natural catastrophes might signify that disharmony had beset the universe. The existing dynasty would be seen to have lost the ‘Mandate of Heaven’ by which it possessed the right to govern: rebellions would break out, and a new dynasty would [eventually arise to] restore the Great Harmony of the universe.”
Government was supreme.
6-Monarchy and Aristocracy
Where the West was dominated by aristocrats in nearly all countries, with a host of peasants and occasionally powerful kings, China was run by an Emperor and his army of bureaucrats (mandarins).
The provinces (cantons) were likewise ruled by the mandarins, and the outlying (non-Chinese) nations were considered tributaries to the central Emperor.
Kissinger doesn’t mention that these are the two great types of historical governments:
- Monarchy ruling through bureaucratic management
- Aristocracy ruling through class dominance.The American founding created a third system:
- The Federal Democratic Republic ruled by constitutionally separated branches and levels of government all limited by checks, balances and periodic elections.
7-Sino-centric World History
Many modern Chinese see the history of the world as three distinct eras:
- China’s world prominence until the nineteenth century
- A “century of humiliation” from the early 1800s until the communist revolution in the 1940s
- A rebirth of China’s proper world role beginning in the 1940s and still developing today
8-China’s Grand Strategy
China’s grand strategy has traditionally revolved around playing foreign powers against each other.
During the modern era, Britain, Russia, France, the United States, Japan, the Soviet Union, Korea, Vietnam and India have all been impacted by the Chinese strategy of “using barbarians against barbarians.”
Through it all, China has held mainly to its traditions rather than joining the West (or attempting to join it) like most nations have done.
For example, while most Westerners might agree that with three superpowers during the Cold War an alliance of two would be the strongest position, China followed its traditional non-Western approach by keeping the U.S. and USSR strongly pitted against—and focused on—each other rather than China.
9-The Communist Era
The pain of the communist era in China is felt by nearly every family and person in China. All suffered. Communism united China under central control, leading to increased power. But the pain of totalitarian communist rule created a modern generation hungry for freedom and economic opportunity.
This era also changed the Chinese psyche from “fit your place in the system” to one of regaining China’s place in world prosperity, power and leadership.
10-Leadership through Symbolism
Chinese leadership often operates with an emphasis on making impressions rather than literality.
This tactic includes attempting to make things seem a certain way as a means of influence—regardless of whether or not the reality actually resembles the perception.
In short, symbol is often more highly prized and utilized than the literal reality in Chinese culture and diplomacy.
Western leaders and citizens who don’t understand that most Chinese leaders assume the symbolic over the literal frequently misunderstand Chinese motivations, actions and words.
11-Contemporary Chinese Literature
Two current Chinese-written bestsellers (in China) include China is Unhappy: The Great Era, the Grand Goal, and Our Internal Anxieties and External Challenges by Song Xiaojun (2009) and China Dream: Great Power Thinking and Strategic Posture in the Post-American Era by Liu Mingfu (2010).
“Both books are deeply nationalistic. Both start from the assumption that the West is much weaker than previously thought, but that ‘some foreigners have not yet woken up; they have truly not understood that a power shift is taking place in Sino-Western relations.’ In this view it is thus up to China to shake off its self doubt and passivity, abandon gradualism, and recover its historic sense of mission by means of a ‘grand goal.’”
Liu advocates a Chinese return to a ‘martial spirit’ and a military rise along with its economic rise.
“If China in the 21st century cannot become world number one, cannot become the top power, then inevitably it will become a straggler that is cast aside.”
Kissinger writes that these books:
“…could not have been published or become a national cause célèbre had the elites prohibited publication. Was this one ministry’s way of influencing policy?”
He notes that official government views differ from the tone of these books, but doubts that this debate is over in China.
12-War on the Economic Front
Still, Kissinger says:
“A country facing such large domestic tasks is not going to throw itself easily, much less automatically, into strategic confrontation or a quest for world domination….The crucial competition between the United States and China is more likely to be economic than military.”
After the Great Recession, this may be exactly what has so many Americans deeply concerned.
As for the rise of China, Kissinger wisely suggests that America has the ability to substantially determine its own future regardless of what China does.
We should worry less about China than about how to overcome our own nation’s challenges.
Peace and cooperation between these two cultures and nations is, as Kissinger puts it, “inherently complex.” It is important to the future of both nations that our citizens and leaders approach relations wisely and in principled fashion.
13-A War of Ideals
“The United States bears the responsibility to retain its competitiveness and its world role. It should do this for its own traditional convictions, rather than as a contest with China. Building competitiveness is largely an American project, which we should not ask China to solve for us.”
I agree. Our biggest problem is Washington, not Beijing, and if we as the American citizenry handle Washington correctly, China will never be the threat it could become if Washington is insolvent or weak.
As I said above, Kissinger goes into depth on a number of additional topics, all of which are valuable to the American citizenry.
These thoughts are just a few of the many covered in On China.
As a group, we don’t know enough about China. Kissinger’s analysis is astute and timely, based on both research and long personal experience. This is an important book, and it is a valuable addition to the prudent citizen’s reading list on China.