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Jefferson-Madison Debates: Mobs, Mobs, Everywhere

October 24th, 2018 // 7:31 pm @

Rising Emotions, Rising Problems

If you’ve watched the news recently, you’ve seen a lot of protestors. They protest policies. Proposed policies. People. Statues. History. Elected officials. Nominated officials. The police. Men. Women. Business and University heads. Visiting speakers. Other races. Other religions. Government officers having dinner with a spouse. The national anthem. Wall Street. Bill Clinton. George Bush. Barack Obama. Donald Trump. Obamacare. The latest war. The list goes on and on.

When the Left agrees with something a big protest is promoting, they frequently call it a Peaceful Protest, even if the reality is a bit less than “peaceful”. If they disagree with the group, like during the height of Tea Party demonstrations, they call it a Mob. The Right often does the same thing–Peaceful Protests if they agree, Mobs if they don’t.

Of course mobs, demonstrations, and protests have been around a long time. In ancient Greece, they were seen as the most dangerous threat to any established government. In modern-day Europe, they frequently take on a highly violent tone–at times moving from Protests to full-blown Riots in just minutes. And who can forget the symbolic power of great protests in history, like students gunned down at Kent State, or the man who stayed in front of the tank in Tienanmen Square and put his own life on the line for change?

But are mobs, or protests, effective? Do they typically achieve the things the marchers want? Indeed, do they ever really obtain the stated goals? Tienanmen Tank-Man isn’t running China today, the Tea Parties didn’t get Obamacare repealed or Obama to scale down his rhetoric. Trump isn’t caving in to protestors either, and the Supreme Court is made by elected officials, not mobs. Even the truly violent riots in Europe have resulted mainly in hiked-up budgets for police and military response units. The one exception to this rule seems to be on American campuses, where many universities routinely change policies, leadership, direction, and even what they teach as facts (!) in the classroom in the face of mob demands. Elsewhere, however, protestors seldom bring lasting change.

What Next?

I recently read a very thought-provoking article on this topic, and I recommend it for all Madison-Jefferson Debate readers. If you’re like me, you won’t agree with everything you read in it, but you’ll agree with some, and it is full of ideas that are poignant and timely. The article is in the October 2018 issue of The Atlantic: “James Madison vs. the Mob”, by Jeffrey Rosen.

Enjoy the read. And ponder, debate, and think about this. It’s a true sign of our times…

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/10/james-madison-mob-rule/568351/

 

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The Madison-Jefferson Debates: What Isn’t True

August 7th, 2018 // 1:22 pm @

Reality or… Not?

Some things just aren’t true, even if we think they are. Even if we are assured that “everyone” says they’re true; and even if the experts—almost always unnamed—have formed a consensus on the matter. Actually, the more you get know the experts, the more you realize they aren’t in consensus on almost anything.

Now, let’s be clear. A lot of what we’re told is true. But not everything. And that’s why sometimes it’s important to take a step back and really dig into things. Research. Find out. There are whole websites dedicated to setting the record straight about urban myths, generally accepted “truths”, quotes that are attributed to someone who never said those words, etc. We give “Pinocchios” to politicians who fib, and “Fact Checker” is a growing career field in the Information Age. (Is it really? Or does it just seem like it? Ask the question on Google and you can spend hours studying the various listings. Or ask the same question on social media and wade through hundreds, or even thousands, of opinions.)

Falling for Everything

Here are few items that most people consider truth. Unassailable. Set in stone. Incontrovertible.

  • Lie Detector Tests
  • DNA Evidence
  • Election Polls
  • Carbon Dating

Which are sure? Which are certain? Not all. Do you know which of these are fully accepted by the experts in the field—no exceptions? Answer: none. All of the above are rejected by at least some experts, even where a majority of experts agree. Have you studied the arguments, evidence, tests and conclusions on each? Or any? Note that even where the science is firm, like with DNA evidence for example, the way experts present such science is at times incomplete or misleading. Or, another example, even if the statistics used in a pre-election survey are accurate, the wording of a specific survey question can skew the entire result; and what if survey respondents are afraid or ashamed to tell the truth, like in the 2016 U.S. presidential election when many voters didn’t want people to know they planned to vote for Donald Trump? In such cases, the math and the science can be technically correct, but the way experts use them turn out “wrong”, because all the variables aren’t controlled.

In short, on many things we simply know less than we need to. And yet most people are comfortable making decisions based on things they know very little about—just taking someone’s word for it. It’s a habit for most people.

But things are not always what they seem. Truth isn’t always what the experts claim. This doesn’t mean that every crackpot theory questioning the experts is correct. But it does suggest that we should be independent thinkers who read the original data or studies where possible and scrutinize things for ourselves. Independent thinking is required to maintain independence. This is obvious, isn’t it? But most people don’t follow this approach.

Time to Think

For our Madison-Jefferson conversation this week, I’m recommending the attached article. It is a great read, and an important one. It demands that we look at things more deeply, and think more wisely. It calls us to research more, question more, dig deeper, and not just accept conclusions at face value. It is one of those articles everyone should read and deeply consider. Agree or disagree, this article will make you think!

Enjoy…

How Social Science Might Be Misunderstanding Conservatives >>

 

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“The Coming Tide”

July 25th, 2017 // 7:22 am @

A Prediction

For decades the Democrats proudly saw themselves as the party of the little guy and the working poor. Republicans were considered the party of Wall Street, white collar professionals, and big business. But these alignments have changed during the opening years of the 21st Century. The Democrats are now, as The Atlantic put it, “a coalition of Millennials, minorities, and white professionals.” The Republicans consist of whatever is left over, which amounts to a majority of people in the large majority of states.

Perhaps the most striking thing about this new political arrangement is that so many white-collar professionals are now Democrats. Moreover, a large number of them are genuinely liberal, even progressive. This is a major departure from historical trends.

The most obvious reason for this shift is something members of the professional class have in common: years of participation in and graduation from the modern American university system. To find success in today’s campus environment often corresponds with embracing academe’s general values, processes, and views. When such views emphasize diversity of thought and vigorous debate of different ideas, the result is a certain kind of learning—and a certain kind of graduate. This approach helped make American universities the best in the world.

But when such views and values include rejection of diverse ideas, religious values, and pressure to adopt one overarching political and cultural perspective (pervasively advanced by the Left), a different result is natural. A different kind of typical graduate is also inevitable. This is where we find ourselves today. As the American campus has moved increasingly Left, the culture experienced and accepted by a large number of its participants has followed suit.

College Flight

This leaves many conservative or religious families, and others who aren’t particularly conservative or religious but don’t want their college youth to be ridiculed for their views or indoctrinated with blatant liberalism, with a difficult choice. College, long considered a required rite of passage into adulthood by many families, is becoming less attractive to a lot of people. The rebuttal is that the financial rewards of a college degree make it unavoidable. This boils down to two widely accepted but currently weakening views:

  1. College leads to financial success
  2. Financial success requires college

Perception is never quite as accurate as reality. Belief #1 (college leads to financial success) is a partial truth. It turns out to be true for some people, not true for others. In the 2010s, it is false for more than half of college graduates. Belief #2 (financial success requires college), on the other hand, is patently false. There are many people with financial success and means who dropped out of college or never enrolled at all. Indeed, many business owners who never finished college find their company bombarded with resumes and applications of those who did.

Certainly college is an effective path to career for many people. However, a downside for parents who aren’t committed liberal ideologues is the worry that many of today’s universities will turn their children into exactly that. And the biggest losers in the current system—even in the few schools where religious or conservative values are acceptable—are students whose focus on career prep distracts them from getting a truly great education. Sadly, this describes a significant majority.

II.

To be clear, all of this is part of a much larger national context. The bigger trend is that Americans are increasingly rejecting the 1960s promise of a society of experts who wisely and efficiently fix everything. The golden era of the American university was an outgrowth of this post-World War II zeitgeist: that everyone could participate in a society of experts, and that expertise and institutions held the solutions to all our national, world, community, material, and even personal problems.

Increased medical expertise and technology would make us truly healthy; better law schools and lawyers would ensure true justice to everyone; advanced technology and training in journalism would bring a golden age of media full of light and truth; business advances and expertise would eradicate poverty and bring prosperity to all. And so on….

The promise of what experts would bring the world was exciting, even intoxicating. True political experts, we were assured, would bring lasting peace, end conflicts, and spread happiness to every city and town. The Fed would ensure a stable and growing economy at all times, using modern expertise and financial algorithms to save us from major financial challenges. The promises were endless.

Over fifty years later, none of these expectations have been realized. Not even one of them. The entire “experts will fix everything” project is a bust. Just look at the current state of our politics, from the Clinton era to the Bush years, from Obama to Trump. Problems are far from solved. Many of our great national institutions, both public and private, have declined or lost their way. The citizenry’s trust of our government, and of experts in general, is lower and lower each decade.

In truth, the era of the expert is insolvent. It’s well past bankrupt, to be precise. We’re still training more experts, but they still haven’t solved the problems that caused us to want more of them in the first place. A lot of things have gotten worse. In short, something else is needed…

And soon.

What’s Next?

While national debts continue to skyrocket (more than doubling in the past 8 years), markets show increased volatility, and governmental credit ratings are downgraded, many of the experts assure us that things are getting better. But all they’ve shown is that they don’t really know what they’re doing. They know how to keep themselves well paid and in power, but beyond that, they haven’t fulfilled their purpose.

For example, imagine what would happen if we faced an economic depression like those the U.S. suffered in the 1930s, 1860s, or 1780s. When the Great Depression came, most Americans trusted the government, our leaders, and our national institutions. Today most citizens have very little trust in any of these; indeed, over sixty percent of Americas don’t trust the government to do the right thing most of the time. If crisis comes in this atmosphere of mistrust, few solutions from Washington will find enough traction to be successful.

This is a dominant characteristic of our times: We can’t seem to solve our national problems, big or small. We are mired in political squabbles, both between parties and within parties, and Washington accomplishes very little that actually helps the American people. It often causes harm, in fact.

As a people, we have largely lost trust not only in governmental officials and institutions but also in the media, Wall Street, Hollywood, the schools, big business…the list is long. Whom do we really trust as a people? Whom can we turn to in crisis—with real confidence they’ll fix things? In short, which experts do we really believe have our backs anymore?

If the promise of “experts will save us, and all our youth should become experts” doesn’t ring true anymore, what does? What is the answer? From the founding era through westward migration and the Industrial Revolution, the overarching goal of most Americans was to build a business and raise a family. This was our drive, our agenda. It was our national project, carried out by myriad individuals and families.

Then after World War II we turned our gaze in another direction: the career, a profession, education as job training, and daily life spent meeting the needs of the corporation or whatever organization employed us. In short, experts ruled and most people wanted to be experts. If they couldn’t swing it themselves, they at least tried to make it a reality for their children. Even family goals were expected to bend or give way to the interests of employers. Schools, likewise, were reorganized to separate, grade, sort, and point young people in the direction most likely to meet corporate needs. Experts oversaw the entire process, literally from cradle to grave and almost everything in between.

As the evidence of expert limitations grows, and as our national faith in the power of experts to solve our problems erodes and crumbles, what is left? Where will we turn? A whole generation of Millennials grapple with this situation in their work life, and more decide to opt out of the system than join it. Where are we headed?

III.

So far, nobody can definitively answer these questions. Time will tell, but in the meantime we must do our best to understand and prepare for the economy and world that is emerging in the post-faith-in-experts era. My opinion is that the most likely path forward is to reconnect with our American roots and turn our sights once again toward entrepreneurship. Business ownership is, in fact, the historical American pastime. The fact that many people abandoned it for half a century only worked because a few business owners did things on a big enough scale to employ the many.

But eventually, like any system where the many depend on the few for survival and progress, the few began taking more and more of the profits and power for themselves. In history this was called aristocracy, in more recent times it has been called socialism, and in our day it often gets away with calling itself capitalism. But whatever we call it, such a model is a far cry from the free enterprise system that turned America into a world leader—based firmly on freedom and the goal of most people to be independent owners and build their own businesses.

If and when this goal once again permeates our national mindset and our people’s choices, we’ll see the rise of a nation of problem-solvers. At that point, we won’t be dependent on politicians to fix things, and as a result, things will actually get fixed. In the process, we’ll naturally see a decreasing attachment to political parties and the rise of a non-political majority of business owners and family raisers.

There was once a name for just such goals: “The American Dream.” It’s time to bring it back.

To put it succinctly: Experts won’t save us. Politicians won’t fix what ails our nation. The solution will come, if at all, from a cultural change that marks the resurgence of a certain kind of person. At one point in history, people around the world had a word for such independent-thinking mavericks who took risks and then worked incredibly hard to make their businesses flourish and grow. They called them “Americans.” What qualified one for such a title? A burning drive to build and lead one’s own business, and to raise a family and community of young people with the same goal.

I think we’ll witness the rebirth of this same “tide in human affairs” very soon. In fact, I believe it’s already begun. But it faces strong headwinds blowing in the other direction, so we need to do better if we want the American Dream to succeed again. This is our key to the kind of future we want to pass down to our children and grandchildren.

Families, schools, communities and parents can either raise a nation of “independents” or a society of “dependents.” One will bring freedom and opportunity, the other won’t.

It’s our choice, and the decision won’t be made in Washington — or even at the ballot box.

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How to Get the Real News

April 27th, 2017 // 8:39 am @

“Wait!” she said. “Where did you hear that? That’s the opposite of what the news is telling people.”

“Of course it is. I didn’t get this from the news. Or social media.”

Long pause…

“Where did you get it?”

Part I: Conclusion

For many years I’ve recommended that people get their news in a special way: read 2-3 liberal publications, and also 2-3 conservative ones. Pay close attention, and note how both sides spin things. Watch for their assumptions and media agendas. Think about what you read, and draw your own conclusions.

But in the Trump era, it’s no longer this simple. The media has become so biased, so angrily bent on waging war against the current Administration, that even the conservative press frequently joins the mainstream media in its attacks—or in fighting them.

Objectivity in media reports is almost extinct. Manipulative spin is now the one constant in our national–and much of the local–media.

So, where should today’s concerned citizen get the news? The answer to this question is enlightening. In the new era of media—what could arguably be called the post-journalistic era—it’s not just about where you get the news. It’s more about how you read the news. Those who read it the right way will learn what’s really going on. Those who don’t, won’t….

Part II: Example

I open the magazine and read the first article. It’s a liberal magazine, and, like always, I’m enjoying it. Reading what people who disagree with me have to say about the current state of the world is invigorating.

When I was younger, it sometimes made me angry. A decade later it made me want to argue. Nowadays, I find myself laughing a lot. Or, once in a while, surprised by a new idea that deserves serious consideration.

For example, the first magazine I read begins with a long editorial about how the economy is “on the rise.” Markets are getting more good news than they have since 2008, and not the “media-spin economic upturn news” that Washington loved during the Obama years, but that always turned out to be false. This time it’s about a real upturn it seems.

Still, the editorial warns, the danger is that people are going to think that things like Brexit and actions of the Trump Administration are responsible for the good economic news. These are all coincidences, apparently, according to the article. Any intelligent person, the magazine seems to be communicating, will clearly realize that there is little or no correlation between Obama/European Union policies and the economic malaise that accompanied them, and the a significant economic upsurge following Brexit/Trump.

My grin turns to laughter. Are they serious? No correlation? Funny. Ironic, but humorous. The same magazine issue has the following question on the front cover: “Is the pope Catholic?” Note that the word “pope” isn’t capitalized. The article takes this question seriously—analyzing the ways the current Pope is rehashing many ideas long considered sacrosanct at the Vatican. This part isn’t funny. Interesting, and important. But I’m pondering, not laughing.

Another article proclaims: “From deprivation to daffodils… All around the world, the economy is picking up.” The cause of this, we are assured once again, has nothing to do with Brexit or conservative policies. In fact, we’re told, these things caused “jitters” and kept the economy from improving sooner.

In the same magazine, we are warned about populist uprisings from the Netherlands, Mexico, and Scotland—all part of a “dangerous” trend. (In fairness, if you favor the elite classes and a system that benefits elites above all others, it actually is a dangerous trend.)

I finish this magazine and pick up the next one. Its purpose, apparently, is to find clever and original ways to criticize Donald Trump and anyone who didn’t happily vote for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. A very popular hobby these days.

But this publication does it in such cerebral language that it’s really fun to read—as if reading it, just soaking it all in, must mean you are one of the smart people, the enlightened, the few, the wise. I do enjoy the creative, engaging writing, even as I find myself disagreeing with much of the content.

I start laughing again. After all, the articles work so hard to sound impartial, journalistic, even erudite. But their frustration and anger with the last election, and the current Administration, shows through on nearly every page.

For example, I read paragraph after paragraph of seemingly objective, unbiased prose (“Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts…”), then I run into words like “vengeful,” “binge,” “vindictive.” The reader is being swayed by largely journalistic writing peppered with emotional triggers. I like it. I mean, it’s interesting, and funny. Besides, the American people are smart enough to see right through this kind of bias, whatever elites think of them. Still, this kind of spin is an art, and the articles I’m reading are skillfully crafted to sway their reader—just like most of the television media.

Pundits on the Right try to do this as well as those on the Left, but the Left has more true artists—masters of this process. Good for them.  Seriously. I’m genuinely impressed. Conservatives really do need more effective artists, and more appreciation for well-crafted symbolism.

The End of the Expert

On the less artistic, more direct side of things, one article calls President Trump: “an untruthful, vain, vindictive, alarmingly erratic President.” My first thought is that this is mean-spirited. But wait. I re-read the list of criticisms more carefully. Actually, I tell myself, most of this is fairly accurate, with one exception: What liberals call “untruthful” in Trump is often more a case of inarticulate.

President Trump frequently uses imprecise language, to the point of confusing. It’s a wonderful blessing for his opponents. But I don’t think he knowingly lies as much as the media claims (not in the way career politicians so frequently lie: “If you like your health care provider, you can keep your health care provider” or “insurance premiums will go down,” or “the Benghazi attack was caused by a video made in California,” or “I did not have sex with that woman.”)

But the other things on the list are fair game. Vain. Vindictive. Erratic. The President has exhibited all of these traits at times. I’m laughing again as I ponder this twist—because the real joke is on elites. Seriously: Why did the American people elect someone who is so openly vain and vindictive at times?

This is pretty funny, when you think about it. Liberals want these things to convince Americans that he shouldn’t be president. But those who elected him don’t really care about these things.

In short, liberals seem to want a president they can look up to, hold up as a role model, even canonize (e.g. FDR, Obama). Like medieval courtiers at the palace, they want to put their king on a pedestal. “He’s such a good and great man. She’s such a good and great woman.” They want Josiah Bartlett back in the White House. Or at least Michael Douglass. Or, better still, Kevin Klein’s “Dave”.

Conservatives aren’t thinking of anything so lofty. They don’t need a prophet or a saint in the Oval Office. They just want a president who will reboot the economy and make us safer in the world. Even if he acts like a jerk sometimes.

Liberals don’t seem to get the joke. It’s funny. Think about it: the voters in a majority of states preferred someone who is sometimes vain and vindictive over the elite’s favorite choice—a lifetime politician who checked off all the boxes and did everything the Establishment considers necessary to be in the Oval Office. The voters wanted the exact opposite. The irony is rich.

I finish the second magazine and take a long, deep breath before picking up the next one. But something I just saw keeps nagging me, so I go back to the magazine and look for a certain ad.

Ah…there it is. A promotion for online courses from Julliard. Open to all. “Learn from the Julliard faculty,” the ad proclaims, “classes include…Music Theory 101, Sharpen Your Piano Artistry…. No audition required.” I can hardly believe it. Doesn’t this fly in the face of the elite prime directive: “Rule By Experts—In All Things”? Do we really live in an age where MIT, Harvard and Julliard offer open enrollment classes to everyone? What happened to rule “of the experts, by the experts, and for the experts”? Elites are using technology to promote the appearance of democracy while still focusing on elite rule in every sector.

I open the third periodical in the pile. The lead article picks up right where the other magazine left off: “How Americans Turned Against Experts.” I study this article closely, taking notes in the margins, and then I read a half-dozen others. Apparently, the people just aren’t all that impressed with rule by the experts anymore. (“What have all those experts done for us?” millions are asking. “And why can’t they fix our national problems? What’s taking so long? In fact, why do things keep getting worse in so many ways? If these Ivy-trained experts with all their lofty titles and salaries are so good for America, why don’t they fix things?”)

Cause and Effect?

Finally, I pick up the last magazine in today’s stack. Several of the articles are intriguing. For example, I read: “Poverty has profound effects on the size, shape and functioning of a young child’s brain. Would a cash payment to parents prevent harm from the experience of being poor?” At first blush, it is sad that economic struggles have negative effects on early childhood. It is also not surprising that progressives think passing out money would fix this problem—easily and effectively.

But there’s more to this than initially meets the eye. I’m reminded of the economic idea of “helicoptering”: if the economy is struggling, dump cash from helicopters to poor families. They’ll spend it, and this will provide increased demand, supply, more jobs, and an improved economy. Of course, economists don’t suggest literally throwing cash out of helicopters (like turkeys on WKRP in Cincinnati), but rather depositing money directly into the accounts of people below a certain income level.

Conservatives tend to reflexively balk at such proposals, because they believe in the law of unintended consequences. In other words, paying people without asking them to work for it makes more people want to do nothing, and more citizens become increasingly dependent on government handouts—leaving the productive people to fund it all. Not good for society.

On the flip side, I like to point out to conservative friends that one of the early proponents of such financial “helicoptering” was Milton Friedman. Why? In truth, the direct cost of giving money to poor parents is far less than the amount currently spent by governments to provide all the services they and their children receive.

If we’re going to offer a lot of socialist programs, let’s at least be efficient.

The real answer is to get rid of socialism altogether. Besides, in the long term, there’s a deeper problem. The idea of giving cash to poor parents in order to help their kids either assumes that the parents will spend it in ways that actually address the problem, or assumes that the government will monitor such spending and force parents to use it “effectively” (an escalation from helicopter parenting to “helicopter government”).

Reading the article even more closely, it becomes clear that there “are dramatic differences from person to person.” Meaning: Some people raised in poverty have normal or even above-average brains, but on average they are smaller, less developed. I’m not laughing anymore. This is deep, and important. The biggest challenge seems to occur where single parents are forced to work so much to pay the bills that there is little time for interaction with young children. The negative consequences last for generations.

Surely our society can find ways to deal with this. Sadly, in our modern world, any talk of real problems seems to turn into demands for more government programs–as if government is the only way to fix anything.

We’re all at fault here: liberals tend to want government to solve everything, and conservatives often fail to provide non-governmental solutions to real challenges that should be addressed by the private sector. Both sides just end up pointing fingers and criticizing, while the problems remain (or grow).

The article provides a lot of interesting details and proposals. I don’t agree with everything I read, but it makes me think outside the box. I finish the magazine and lean back in my chair.

The New News

We have a major problem today with media, but it’s not what most people think. The biggest issue is the fact that few of us are reading enough news. Forget the electronic news. And forget newspapers. Both are too trapped in today’s 24-hour news cycle—and the race for ratings. We need to read bigger ideas, and from a variety of sources.

Readers of quality news magazines and journals are less easily manipulated than those who get their news from TV or social media. Such readers can more adroitly identify spin or media agendas and see right through them—then grin, or laugh, or decide to study more about a certain topic.

If you’re getting most of your news from TV, newspapers, online headlines, or social media—consider moving on. Start reading longer articles, in publications or posts that treat things more deeply, like Foreign Affairs, The Economist, The Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vital Speeches of the Day, and issue-oriented online sites and articles.

Read things that make you think, really ponder and analyze. And read a mix of conservative, independent, and mainstream sources.

If you do decide that you prefer to get your news from TV or online news sites, go to the business news. Where the regular news tends to focus on network political agendas, thereby frequently skewing the day’s news stories, the business news will tell you how the economy is actually doing and how today’s events impact it; this is nearly always a more accurate indication of whether to be worried or optimistic about the news of the day. The business news usually tells the story more directly, with less partisan slant.

Whatever your political views, knowing how to get the real news, to see through the media and understand what’s really happening in world events, is part of being an informed and good citizen. All of us benefit from people who do media right.

These two simple changes (1-Reading deeper issue-oriented articles rather than watching or reading the daily event-focused articles, and 2-Going to the business media rather than the political media for a clearer understanding of the news) will drastically increase how well each person understands the news and knows what’s actually happening in the world.

If you stick with the daily TV news or newspaper (or online equivalents), you are always in danger of being another one of those people who actually believe what they hear on the nightly news. In other words…grossly misinformed.

*****

(For further helps on where and how to get the real news, check out my Current Events Course at The Leadership Education Store.  This will help you significantly upgrade your ability to see through media spin and know what’s really happening in the world.)

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Understanding Trump’s Election, Part Two

March 23rd, 2017 // 11:35 am @

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.

Differing Goals

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.

Using Skepticism

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.

Two More

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 Next?

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.

 

 

(For more on this great current battle for freedom, and how to help the right side win, see The Coming Aristocracy by Oliver DeMille. You can purchase it HERE>>)

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