August 19th, 2015 // 2:36 pm @ Oliver DeMille
Steps to Freedom
I read another great book today, and it rekindled my sense of hope for the future. If you care about freedom, you’ve got to read it! This new classic is Liberty’s Secrets by Joshua Charles, and it is…
But I’m getting ahead of myself. There’s a story here, an important one. And I need to tell it in order to do justice to this book. In a world of brief sound bites and too frequently shallow media and educational conversations, a great book is easily overlooked. Such greats all too often go unnoticed because we live in an era of constant—aggressive—distraction. So to introduce a genuinely great book, we need to get this right. Here goes…
I. The Great Books
I was a young boy when first it happened, old enough to ride my bicycle to the library on hot summer afternoons and find interesting books to read, but young enough that high school sports and summer trainings weren’t yet part of my daily routine. One day under the memorable breeze of the town library’s large swamp cooler I came across a long shelf of books that boldly called themselves “The Great Books”. I stopped and stared. I re-read the title, then pondered.
“These can’t be the only great books,” I reasoned to myself. “There must be others.” Intrigued, I pulled out a volume and perused the title page, then skimmed through several chapters at the beginning of the book. I was impressed by the small print, the columns and footnotes, and the sheer quantity of big, unfamiliar words. They were downright intimidating.
I marveled a bit, rubbing my fingers along the cloth-covered bindings. I knew I would read these books some day. I just knew it.
I remember nothing specific about which volumes I investigated that day, but I skimmed many of them, reading a sentence here and another there. The afternoon passed, and I eventually returned the last volume I’d removed to its place on the shelf and went to the front counter to check out the L’Amour novel I’d selected for the week’s reading.
We lived in the desert, and it was a very hot summer, so during the exertions of my bike ride home I forget about the “Great Books”. But each time I returned to the library, I noticed them again. It seemed like none of them were ever checked out, and I could well believe it. They were truly daunting, with their gold foil lettering, fancy author names, and massive domination of shelf space.
II. Fast Forward
Today I just finished reading a truly great book on freedom, and I smiled widely as I completed the last few lines and closed the book. I removed the dust jacket and ran my fingers over the sleek black hardcover with the red foil print. “I was right, that day,” I thought to myself.
Then I realized I had been right on both counts. I would, in fact, come to read the whole set someday. I couldn’t have known at the time that I would re-read The Great Books many times, teach them extensively in multiple university, high school, and graduate level courses, and spend many hours discussing their content with colleagues, business executives, students, professionals, family members, and friends. The Great Books volumes have become dear friends over the years, and I have returned to them often for heated debates with their authors or to rehash unfinished questions in the “Great Conversation”.
But I was right about the other thing as well: there are great books beyond those in Britannica’s 54 volume set. And when I encounter an additional great book, I always feel a sense of excitement. Great books are great because they are important. That’s the major criterion. They have to be truly significant, to add meaning to our world—to innovate something that wasn’t there before the book brought it to life.
III. What Makes “Great”?
Over the decades I’ve experienced several great books beyond those from the “official list,” and they always leave an impression. Like The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom, The Third Wave by Alvin Toffler, or The Five Thousand Year Leap by W. Cleon Skousen. Such books, like those by Bastiat or Austen, simply must be added to list. Along with Solzhenitsyn’s works.
In recent years I’ve come across several additional great books, like Andy Andrew’s The Final Summit, Chris Brady’s Rascal, Stephen Palmer’s Uncommon Sense, Orrin Woodward’s Resolved, Judith Glaser’s Conversational Intelligence, or Henry Kissinger’s On China. I also studied an old great book I hadn’t ever read before, The Early History of Rome, by Livy, and found greatness in its pages as well. When you read a book that is truly great, it’s a moving experience.
Such books come along rarely, so when they do it is important to pay attention. But what makes a book genuinely great? After all, greatness is a very high standard. It can’t just be good. As Jim Collins reminded us, good is too often the enemy of great.
Nor can it simply be well written. It can’t merely be accurate, detailed, beautiful, or interesting. More is necessary. It can be one, a few, or all of these things, but to be truly great, it must be also be transformational. It must change you, as you read.
IV. A New Great Book!
When I started reading Joshua Charles’ book a few days ago, I didn’t know I was in for such a treat. I had already enjoyed his earlier bestselling work, so I was ready to learn. I got my pen and highlighter out, and opened the cover. But as I read I realized that this book is truly very important. Needed. And profound.
Then, as I kept reading, I noticed that I was feeling something. A change. A different perspective. A re-direction. I was experiencing…the feelings that always accompany greatness.
Charles notes in several places that as a member of the Millennial generation he felt compelled to share this book with the world. Why? Because, in his words: “I wrote this book for one reason, and one reason only: to reintroduce my fellow countrymen to the Founders of our country and the vision of free society they articulated, defended, and constructed, in their own words.”
As a member of Generation X, I was thrilled to see a Millennial take this so seriously—and accomplish it so effectively. Even more importantly, as I read I noticed something very important, subtle but profound. Charles doesn’t make the mistake of so many modern authors who write to the experts and professionals in a field. His scholarship is excellent, and he goes a step further. He has a more important audience than mere political or media professionals. He writes to the people, the citizens, the voters, the butchers and bakers and candlestick makers—the hard-working people who make this nation go, including the artists, scientists, teachers, executives and leaders.
In so doing, he is a natural Jeffersonian, speaking the important principles of freedom, culture, economics, and leadership to a nation of people—not merely to politicos or aristos, but to everyman. To underscore this (and I doubt it was a conscious decision on his part, but rather his core viewpoint), his word choice refers not to “the American voter” but rather to “we the people.” He considers himself not merely the expert, but one of us, one of the people.
I could have hugged him for this, had he been here in person. We have far too few freedom writers today who see themselves truly as part of the citizenry. When they do come along, albeit rarely, I feel a sense of kinship and I know that their hearts are in the right place. Jefferson would be proud. For example, Charles wrote:
“We no longer know where we came from, the grand story we fit into, and the great men and women who inspired the noble vision which birthed the United States of America, the first nation in history to be founded upon the reasoned consent of a people intent on governing themselves….
“Additionally, few of us are well-read enough (a problem our educational system seems blithely unconcerned with) to discuss the lessons of the human experience (often simply called ‘history’)…”
Freedom, the classics, voracious reading, leadership, and the future—all rolled into one. “This is my kind of author,” I realized, once again. “These are the themes I emphasize when I write.” So did Jefferson. And Skousen, and Woodward. No wonder I love this book.
The Current Path
More than profound, Charles’ book is also wise. Belying his Millennial generation youth, he speaks like an orator or sage from Plutarch when he warns:
“Liberty is difficult work. It is fraught with risks, with dangers, with tempests and storms. It is a boisterous endeavor, an effort for the brave and the enterprising…”
These latter words have stayed with me since I read them several days ago. I keep remembering them. Boisterous. Brave. Enterprising.
These are the traits of a free people. In classical Greece, among the ancient Israelites, in the Swiss vales, the Saracen camps, the Anglo-Saxon villages, and the candlelight reading benches of the American founders—wherever freedom flourished. Yet today we train up a nation of youth to be the opposite. To fit in (not boisterous). To avoid risk (not brave). To focus on job security above all else (not enterprising).
If this trajectory continues, our freedoms will continue to decline.
Where and When
Speaking of freedom, Charles calls us to immediate action with his characteristic humility, depth, and conviction: “We either pass it [liberty] on to our posterity as it was passed down to us, or it dies here and now.”
Here and now? Really?
Is it that immediate? Is it truly this urgent? Is it really up to us?
The answer is clear: Yes.
Yet, it is.
“He gets it.” I smile and take a deep breath. Then I whisper to myself: “Another great book!”
I hold the book sideways and look at the many pages where I have turned down the corners. Dozens of them. Just for fun, I open one of them and read:
“…we have every reason to be doubtful of, skeptical about, and disdainful toward the notion that Caesar [government] can solve all our problems.”
I nod. When freedom is under attack, leaders rise up from among the people. This book is part of that battle.
“The Great Books indeed.” I grin as I say the words.
I turn to another page with a dog-eared corner and read Charles’ words:
“‘Society is endangered not by the great corruption of the few, but by the laxity of all,’ Tocqueville had noted, and on this he was in complete agreement with the Founders.”
And now, I note, with at least one Millennial.
I feel a sense of building hope for the future. “The Millennials are beginning to lead,” I say with reverence.
“This is big. And if this book is any indication of what’s to come…
“It’s about time,” I say aloud.
Then, slowly, “Everyone needs to read this book.”
*Liberty’s Secret by Joshua Charles is available on Amazon
August 19th, 2015 // 2:10 pm @ Oliver DeMille
The Three Republican Parties
There are now three Republican parties. One is the Republican Establishment, a group that basically stands for maintaining the status quo (with one change: a Republican White House). This is the party of Nixon, Ford, Bush I, Dole, Bush II, Romney, Chris Christie, and Bush III.
This group can best be described as fiscally conservative, internationally aggressive, moderate about immigration, supportive of Common Core and other centralized plans for education, and socially moderate. It is also a group that will increase spending and the size of the federal government.
A second group in the GOP is made up of Deep Conservatives: fiscally frugal on the surface, focused on limited government, aggressive on conservative social issues, strongly supportive of Israel, against Washington-run education plans, and hawkish on national security and immigration. This is the party of Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Rick Perry, and Bobby Jindal.
It is the Eisenhower/Reagan wing of the party. If the historical pattern holds, this group will unwittingly increase the cost and size of government, though it will likely shift spending a bit from liberal programs to more conservative priorities. It tends to talk a lot about fiscal responsibility, but when in office it just can’t seem to reverse federal spending—it always increases the debt. People in this group are often referred to as “the Republican base.”
The third segment of Republicans could be called the “Coalition of Change”. Members of this group are deeply frustrated with the status quo, with Washington’s refusal to do what the voters want, and with the fact that government grows and grows under both parties—Republicans just as much as Democrats. They dislike Common Core, No Child Left Behind, and the Department of Education, and are split on immigration and international interventionism.
This group includes the Tea Parties, a lot of other people who feel that Republicans have repeatedly promised to repeal Obamacare and reduce the national debt but never actually do it, and also a lot of non-Republicans who don’t like the GOP brand very much and prefer to be independents (but typically vote for the Republican presidential nominee rather than the Democratic candidate).
Numerically, the third group has the most voters—and the most passionate voters of the bunch. This advantage is based largely on the enthusiasm of Tea Partiers and also the large number of independents who vote Republican during presidential elections.
But this third segment of the GOP isn’t big enough to determine the election all on its own. All three groups will be needed for any candidate to win the White House.
The bigger story is that an interesting trend is now part of the Republican landscape: over the past two decades, this third group is growing. Between 1952 and 2004, GOP primaries were a battle between groups 1 and 2 (the Republican establishment versus social conservatives); but in 2008 the third group had significant influence. Its power grew in 2010, 2012, and 2014, and it is now largely driving the Republican primaries in 2015.
What this third group will accomplish in 2016 remains to be seen. But few people are clear about what, exactly, these “different kind of Republicans” actually want. What do they really stand for? Most Americans, even most Republicans, aren’t sure.
What Group 3 Really Wants
There are two things to consider here. First, in what ways are this third group of voters like the other two major segments of the Republican Party, and second, how are they different?
All three groups agree on the following: fiscal conservatism and strong national defense. Only group 1 is generally happy with the status quo, as long as Obama can be replaced by a Republican. Only group 2 cares deeply about social issues as a central part of the presidential race, and only group 3 fully intends to cut entitlements and drastically reduce government spending. These are the major policy differences.
But the real divide between group 3 and the others is found on matters of tone and scale. This third, largest, group that votes Republican wants the following:
- To actually, significantly, reduce the national debt and see the debt clock going backwards. Not just more fiscal responsibility, but a literal and lasting reversal of the debt.
- For the number of federal departments, programs, and employees to decrease. A lot. But even a little change would be a good start.
- For states to stop giving more and more power to Washington, and for the federal government, in fact, to send a number of powers back to the states. Not in a merely symbolic way, but in tangible, practical, realities.
- To reduce the amount of job-killing, business dis-incentivizing regulations from Washington and state governments, in order to attract more investment into the U.S. economy, spur the entrepreneurial sector and catalyze a new era of American small business innovation, and boost sustained economic growth and better jobs for American workers. This includes actually repealing and replacing Obamacare. Nothing less than real results will do.
- To change the regulatory mess that has put U.S. businesses on unfair footing with their international competitors. And to put America back in its superpower role by drastically improving our economy—as a direct competitive victory against China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Mexico, Iran, ISIS, and the European Union.
- Real change, something genuinely different in Washington–not just more growth of government and debt that has occurred for nearly thirty years under both Democratic and Republican administrations.
This can all be summed up in the phrase: “Make America Great Again.” (This phrase isn’t original to Donald Trump, but he saw its popularity and adopted it. Many in group 3, and a lot in group 2, appreciate this and agree with him.)
Members of group 3 want these things for real—not just as campaign promises that are forgotten after election day. They are tired of empty promises. They want action, and they want results.
Moreover, they are increasingly convinced that the typical brand of Republican candidates will never get us there. They want something different, led by someone different than the historical mass of normal politicians, and they want it now.
The Two Wings of Group 3: Thinkers vs. Fighters
At an even deeper level, Republican group 3 voters—and quite a few in group 2—are divided into two main camps: those who want an anti-big-government Fighter to lead the change, and those who believe a truly conservative Thinker will be more likely to actually bring genuine change.
The “Thinker” wing of group 3 tends to support the following candidates:
Ben Carson. If Trump weren’t in the race, it is likely that Carson would perform much higher in the polls. Or, possibly, he is benefiting from the growing sense that an outsider might actually have a chance. Many Trump supporters cite Carson as their second choice. His non-political background and soft-spoken, articulate defense of freedom and common sense principles are alluring to many group 3 voters. He also has significant group 2 support. He is definitely not a status-quo candidate. Carson would certainly be a different kind of president, a plus for those in group 3.
John Kasich. The Ohio governor is painted as a group 1 Establishment Republican by the media (based on his resume in Washington and Columbus), but he touts himself as a strong “Federalist” whose main focus is reducing the power of Washington and sending health care, education, law enforcement, tax funds, and other issues back to the states—getting the federal government out of our lives. Whether this can catch on in an electorate conditioned to think about everything in national terms remains to be seen, but if any Americans can get behind this “Federalist” change it is group 3 voters. Kasich is also seen as a fighter as well as a thinker, and an optimistic fighter to boot. He could be a formidable general election candidate, and could appeal to some voters in all 3 groups. He is also a proven budget balancer at both state and federal levels. But many in group 3 worry that he is too much like other group 1 candidates, too much the normal politician, and they worry that his conservative talk will turn to Bush-like establishment governance once in office. For this reason, he probably won’t get a lot of group 3 votes.
Rand Paul. In the tradition of his father, Ron Paul, the medical doctor and more recently Kentucky Senator cites the Constitution on numerous issues and appeals to those who care deeply about the future of freedom. On the “Thinking” basis, he is in the top tier of freedom supporters, right along with Ben Carson. On the other hand, Paul’s emphasis on national defense over global interventions weakens him with groups 1 and 2, and many in group 3. His words are often more popular to group 3 voters than his persona—many wish he were more effective as a fighter. Others think his Constitutional approach is exactly right. Paul has also worked hard to appeal to a number of voters outside the traditional Republican tent in a general election.
As for the “Fighter” wing of group 3, the most popular candidates are:
Donald Trump. His talking points and stump speech are a point-for-point summary of what many in group 3 want. And he’s been saying the same kind of things for thirty years. In addition, his intensity, unscripted candor and clear passion for American exceptionalism and America’s future are exciting to many group 3 voters—and some in group 2. The big challenges for Trump are that (1) many voters are put off by his brash approach (though this is exactly what many of his supporters like), and (2) he’ll probably get very few, if any, group 1 votes during the primaries. His success or failure in the Republican primaries will likely depend on how many group 2 and group 3 voters he can sway to his side. Major threats in international affairs could also increase his popularity among such voters.
Carly Fiorina. She has struggled to get her message across and gain wide name recognition, but like Carson and Trump she is a non-politician who focuses on real change in Washington. Fiorina is also popular among conservative policy wonks and some policy-oriented major donors. She is gaining a reputation for being succinct, articulate, and master of the issues.
Ted Cruz. The Texas Senator was the pre-Trump “extreme” candidate, but with the intensity of Trump’s run Cruz is now considered more mainstream by the media and many in group 2. Trump’s involvement could be a real benefit to him. If Trump drops out (doubtful), Cruz could become a favorite of many group 3 voters—and he’ll be more appealing to some in group 2 than Trump. (Neither is likely to appeal to group 1.) He is outspoken, reveres the Constitution, and in many ways is both a “Fighter” and a “Thinker.” Like Trump, he sometimes comes on very strong and makes enemies at the same rate that he attracts support. Whatever happens in this election, Cruz is likely to be a rising star in group 3.
Can a Candidate Gain Support From All 3 Groups?
There may also be some crossover candidates, those who appeal to group 3 and also to one of the other main segments of the GOP. But first, let’s make it clear that Jeb Bush will never appeal to group 3, simply because he’s not seen as a “Fighter” or a “Thinker.” He’s establishment all the way. Many voters in group 3 would vote for him if it came down to Bush vs. a Democrat, but many others would vote Democrat or even “write in” someone else.
If given a serious third party option versus Bush, many in group 3 would vote for, say, an independent Trump bid for office, even though they know that the “Ross Perot effect” would sweep a Democrat to victory. Still, in their mind, “This might teach Republicans a lesson, and Bush isn’t much better than the Democratic nominee anyway. In fact, he may be worse than a Democrat because with a Bush-style Republican in office we’ll have little support for real change in the midterm Congressional elections.” Few in group 3 believe that Bush would seriously repeal Obamacare or reverse the national debt.
Chris Christie scores strong on “Fight,” but group 3 sees him as just another establishment candidate. He’ll get very little support from group 3.
Group 1 or 2 candidates who could get some crossover support from group 3 voters include Mike Huckabee and, perhaps, Scott Walker, who are seen as “Fighters.” Another candidate who might be able to garner some group 3 support as a “Thinker” is Marco Rubio. Rubio has two other things going for him from a group 3 viewpoint: 1) the fact that he’ll likely appeal to a lot of young voters (who have supported Democrats in recent elections) and 2) his strength with Latino voters (who will likely determine who wins the general election in the tightly-contested swing states).
Group 3 would discount these things if Rubio were more of an Establishment Republican, but his Tea Party roots give him some street cred and he would likely receive strong group 3 support in a general election. Indeed, the Clinton and other Democratic campaigns have expressed a real concern about running against Rubio as the Republican nominee. But in the primaries, Rubio sometimes comes across too “establishment” to many in group 3.
How the 3 Groups See Each Other
Group 1: Establishment Republicans want to win the White House, rebuild and maintain America’s military and spread U.S. power and presence in the world, promote centralized controls over education, and increase the fiscal responsibility of the federal government. They are moderately concerned about the border.
Group 2: Deep Conservatives want to re-strengthen the military, and tackle budgets and debt. They also promote significant conservative social changes in the nation (desiring to alter regulations concerning abortion, gay marriage, anti-religious policies, etc.). They are against Common Core, and want to effectively secure the border with Mexico. Most of them are more interested in national defense and support of our allies (especially Israel and Britain) than in aggressive international military outreach.
Group 3: Republicans who want major change, Tea Parties, and Right-leaning independents who desire real change in America. They want to actually cut government departments, spending, and programs in significant ways, stop Common Core and secure the Southern border, reverse the national debt clock, and catalyze a major boost to the economy by changing anti-growth regulations and encouraging more entrepreneurship and investment. They want to make America great again.
Group 1 tends to see group 2 as too idealistic and too distracted by social issues, and group 3 as too extreme in both policy and tone.
Group 2 tends to see group 1 as too focused on winning (victory above principles), and group 3 as too revolutionary (not realistic about what can get done). Group 2 also considers both other groups too lukewarm on important social issues.
Group 3 tends to see the other two groups as “politicians,” “the status quo,” “more business as usual,” “more talk than action,” and “never going to actually change things.” Group 3 voters are tired of Republican campaign promises that don’t bring any real change after the election. Many of them consider group 1 voters to be closer to Democrats than to themselves.
In short, group 3 voters (and an increasing number of voters in group 2) are only going to support a candidate who is actually different from the norm. (Thus the strong support for Fiorina, Carson, Trump, etc.) The media, on the other hand, tends to think that only candidates with traditional government resumes should be considered for the presidency. This view is shared by most professional politicos, and by many centrist voters in both parties.
The Coming Future
It is these two views that are on a history-making collision course with each other:
(1) “A Republican in the White House”
(2) “Make America Great Again”
For group 3 voters, this means Typical Politicians vs. Anti-Politician candidates. Group 3 wants a true, authentic change in what kind of person leads this nation. They don’t care all that much about what policies the candidates say they support, because they’ve heard good policies from candidates before—and then watched the same candidates change their views once elected. Instead, they want a different kind of person in office. This includes the non-politicians and also, depending on who you talk to in group 3, anti-Washington candidates like Cruz, Rubio, Huckabee, and possibly Walker or Kasich.
This is very difficult for the media or mainstream to grasp, but it is real. And support for this change is growing.
Whether this gets worked out in 2016 will depend on how much traction Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, or structural reformers like Rand Paul, John Kasich, or Ted Cruz can get—and maintain. Together these candidates are receiving well over half of Republican support in the polls, and Trump himself gets the highest numbers. In contrast, Bush and Christie combine for less than 10% in many polls.
Here’s the main point, and anyone who is interested in America’s future would do well to consider it carefully: If we don’t elect someone very different, a non-politician or at least a very different kind of politician, the growing sense of frustration with our government will only deepen and spread.
This is real, and it is a major cultural phenomenon. In fact, it is as powerful on the Left as on the Right (e.g. Bernie Sanders, the Occupy Movement, the passion for words like “Hope and Change,” etc.). At some point, if not in 2016 then in the years ahead, this drive for a real change in Washington is going to gain enough momentum to fundamentally alter our government. It has already won major victories in 2006 and 2008 (by Democrats), and in 2010 and 2014 (by Republicans). If current growth continues, it will eventually dominate one of the parties, or create a bigger third party that ends the reign of either Democrats or the GOP.
If this passion ever builds enough support to take the White House along with Congress, it will mark a new era in America. The key words of this movement are quintessentially American: innovative, pioneering, entrepreneurial, fighter, free-enterprising, tough, exceptional, great, strong, chutzpah,…and free.
July 30th, 2015 // 1:04 pm @ Oliver DeMille
Lines and Questions
I was in a long line at WalMart, and I started talking with the man standing next to me. We spoke about a number of topics, including politics, and in passing I mentioned that except for military and law enforcement, private enterprises are always better than government programs. He took issue with this, arguing that the government does most things better than private entities.
When I pressed him on this, he said that of course Washington does things better than people or businesses, because the government can keep spending as much as it wants until it gets things right.
I just stared at him.
“Seriously? It can just keep spending as much as it wants until it gets things right? That’s your big argument for the effectiveness of government?”
“Of course,” he replied. Then seeing the look of amazement and incredulity on my face, he asked, “Why? What’s wrong with that?”
“You realize that your model wastes a lot of our money, right?”
“Sure, but so what? I don’t make much, so I don’t pay much in taxes. Other people pay for government programs, so why should I care?”
I shook my head. Then I asked, “Okay, but tell me: what programs has the government got right?”
Over and Under
He cocked his head and tried to think of some.
After a bit he laughed. “Well, that’s why we’ll just have to keep trying.”
My amazement grew.
I told him the following statistics I had just seen on a news broadcast of Special Report:
Between 2008 and 2013 the Social Security Administration overpaid people in the amount of $128.3 million. That’s quite a chunk of taxpayer money. To right this wrong, the government went after these overpayments and managed to recover $109.4 million.
That’s pretty good, right? Not totally efficient, but not bad.
Then the rest of the information came out. The cost of recovering this money was $323 million, making the total loss for the taxpayers a huge amount: $213.6 million plus $18.9 million in overpayments.
Go back and look over these numbers again. It’s just plain amazing!
I could see that even the man in line thought this was ridiculous. He shook his head and sighed. “Well, we’ve got a long way to go…”
It was his turn to check out, so we left it at that.
I wonder if he votes? Or serves on juries?
Education of our citizens matters.
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Black Belt in Freedom On-Site Seminar
Saturday, September 26, 2015
RESERVE YOUR PLACE TODAY
9-10:30am: Session I
10:45am-12noon: Session II
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1:30-3:00pm: Session III
3:15-5pm: Session IV
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April 17th, 2015 // 8:33 am @ Oliver DeMille
(How the White House is Touting Misleading Economic “Recovery” Numbers)
Lies and Facts
Mark Twain popularized the idea that there are lies, darn lies, and then statistics. The implication is that statistics are often the worst lies of all, because most people don’t really understand what they mean.
Lenin added that when money is part of the equation, very few people understand the numbers and what is really going on.
To bring this home, the White House keeps assuring us that the Great Recession is over, and that the U.S. economy is now doing much better. In the 2015 State of the Union Address, for example, President Obama tried to put the nation at ease about the economy. He told us that the economy is in recovery, the worst is past, and we can turn our thoughts to other topics.
Since that speech, the White House has repeatedly reassured us that the economy is now doing well.
But the facts simply don’t tell the same story. In fact, they tell a different tale indeed.
Recovery and Disaster
One of the biggest statistical “lies” is that unemployment is now under control. But this a purely statistical fiction, based on the way the government calculates unemployment numbers.
Officially, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate is now down to 5.5. To compare, the average unemployment rate under the Bush Administration was 5.3, and under the Obama Administration it has averaged 8.3. So getting down to 5.5 is good. But it’s also misleading.
The 5.5 rate is this low only because the Labor Participation Rate (the number of people who have a job or are actively trying to get one) is way down. It’s currently only 62.7%, matching the lowest since 1978, which means that a lot of unemployed people have given up trying to get a job.
As columnist George Will put it: “If the work force participation today were as high as it was on the day Barack Obama was inaugurated, the unemployment rate in this country would be 9.7%.” That’s not a recovery, it’s a major economic disaster. And it’s getting worse, because the participation rate is going down.
Numbers and Reality
Also, a large number of those who are now “employed” according to the government statistics are actually working in jobs that pay much less or offer a lot fewer hours than those they had before the downturn. Such people don’t consider themselves out of the Recession—and won’t until they get back to making as much as they did before.
For example, counting a person who lost his or her $32,000 a year job and is now making $11 an hour for a shorter work week as “employed” might make sense on the statistical report, but it’s not good for the worker or his/her family. They’ve taken an almost 50% pay cut, while the cost of living is still going up. And given the new Obamacare regulations, the number of hours isn’t likely to go up for these people.
The current unemployment statistics may look good on television, or play well in White House press briefings, but only because most people don’t know what the statistics actually mean or how they are configured.
A lack of real, widespread education makes a people easy to sway, and easy to control. Too many of today’s citizens are accustomed to simply accepting whatever the experts and officials say without really thinking or even questioning. This reality makes freedom a lot more difficult to maintain.
March 31st, 2015 // 5:57 am @ Oliver DeMille
(Transportation without Representation)
It’s a big thing in the print media, right now. It shows up in article after article. Where do property rights end and airspace rights begin? When the jet planes or smaller Cessna’s were flying above at 21,000 feet or even 900 feet, most people didn’t care if they went directly over one’s property.
But what happens in the coming Drone Era when drones fly 10 or 20 feet above your backyard on their way to deliver a book, a box of peaches, or toilet paper to your neighbors? (Popular Science, January 2015, page 71) Is that a violation of your property? Or your privacy? Certainly, if they run into your tree or hit your power line, you’re going to call it a bit intrusive, but what if they just fly past?
And, as more people are asking, how can you tell if they are simply delivering the morning paper or taking video of your family as they fly by? Or both? And who owns that drone that will be flying past, anyway? Amazon? WalMart? The government? Which government—state, local, federal? Or a private individual, like your teenage daughter’s stalker who is hoping to catch a glimpse of her in a swimsuit?
Sound creepy? A lot of people think so. In fact, Audi has taken advantage of this rising realization that drones are going to be part of our lives and made a commercial—a “horror” commercial, if there is even such a genre. Here’s how it unfolds:
A group of business people are standing in a lobby, waiting to go to the parking lot. A company spokesman tells them to act normal, “don’t run.” We all wonder what he means. Then the crowd leaves the building and we see the menace: a fleet of drones hovering above the parking lot like attackers in Hitchcock’s classic horror film “The Birds.”
“Stay calm,” everyone is told. But, of course, they all run away instead—sprinting for their cars, briefcases and handbags with coattails flapping in the wind as they go. There is screaming, drones dart down at the people like fighters on a sci-fi movie; everyone panics.
Except one guy. He quickly but calmly opens the door to his car, which just happens to be an Audi, and gets in. He tells the car computer to plot him a course to what seems to be his off-the-grid getaway—a cabin by the lake.
As he drives, the car is pursued by attacking drones, targeting it like an army of invading Cylons, or like X-wings racing along the surface of the Death Star. “The force, Luke. The force…”
But the Audi evades them, causing two of them to crash into each other. And “Luke” races off to safety. The voice in the commercial tells us that some technology is very helpful—no need to be afraid. If technology attacks, other, better technology will help us fight back.
It’s funny. It’s catchy. And it hits on a theme that is all too real for many people: Do we really want drones invading our personal airspace, every few minutes, all day long? Is there anything we can do to stop it? Or is it just a fait accompli?
Big Brother is Coming?
For decades, Hollywood has sold the dangers of technology gone wrong. The huge, awkward “communicators” of 1970s Star Trek have become a reality; in fact we now have phones much tinier than those once imagined on screen. On the one hand, technology is fascinating, and interesting to us all. On the other, are there real threats? Could fleets of robots be flying past our homes every day, every hour, without our permission? Answer: “Yes. Absolutely.”
Is this just “A Happy March to the Future” or should we be sounding the alarm, Paul Revere-like: “Big Brother is Coming”? Is it “A Better World!” or are we facing a major case of “Transportation without Representation!”?
Will the government be the problem in the Drone Era (sending its drones to spy on its own citizens), or will it be the solution (protecting us from private drone infringements)? Here are three thoughts on this:
- 13% of those polled by The Atlantic believe that within ten years 75% or more of Americans will own a personal drone. (The Atlantic, November 2014, page 84)
- Instead of checking your bags and paying the extra fees, travelers might be able to ship their luggage directly via their personal drone—the bags will be waiting for you at your hotel’s front desk. Nice.
- From an article in Popular Science: “Humphreys [director of the Radionavigation Laboratory at the University of Texas] thinks regular Joes will want to defend their privacy too [just like governments and corporations do].” Humphreys said: “I have a sense that a shotgun is going to be first thing they’ll grab…” (op cit., Popular Science) Joe Biden will prefer a double-barreled shotgun, no doubt.
But just like in Biden’s neighborhood, in many places shooting within city limits or populated areas is illegal. And shooting the drone itself is illegal as well. (Ibid.)
Behind the Curtain
So, what about your property and privacy rights? There are a lot of questions here. If the government considers a foreign drone flying over U.S. airspace a breach of national security, how can it logically argue that a drone flying over your private property doesn’t reduce your rights—especially if it is taking pictures or shooting video?
But make no mistake, this is exactly what governments are going to argue. If the water and mineral rights for your property are separate from land ownership, for example, why would airspace be any different?
Maybe there will be an airspace market, with special plat maps and zoning commissions, and lots of extra fees paid to attorneys—so that some people can own their own, personal airspace above their yards. Certainly the Clintons and Bushes will want to get in on this, just like they owned their own computer servers.
And, if airspace goes up for sale on the private exchange, maybe some of your neighbors—and various corporations—will want to license or own the airspace just above your yard.
In all of this, one thing seems to stand out: it’s not really the drones that are scary. Audi got it wrong. It’s the people who make the decisions. Heck, now it seems that they even own the air…
Checks and balances could help. If only the majority of voters truly believed in them anymore.
Only parents and educators have the real power to resurrect a society that truly believes in checks and balances. This is a generational battle, and if we lose it again in the current generation (like we did in the last 2), it will likely remain lost for a very long time to come.