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Generations

Is Government Broken?

October 26th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

Is our government broken?

More and more people think so. The current presidential administration makes periodic claims that we are in an economic recovery, but at the same time growth is still slowing and unemployment figures stay around ten percent.

With more American deaths in Afghanistan during the last week of July than any week to date, things seem to be deteriorating at home and abroad.

To make matters worse, few people believe that the opposing Republican Party has much more to offer than the Democrats.

With neither side poised to really fix things, few Americans have a lot of hope for the future of government leadership. Here a few of the issues vexing citizens.

A Missing Recovery

First, even though many politicians have been claiming that we are experiencing an economic recovery, it doesn’t feel like it to most Americans.

The Obama White House doesn’t seem very friendly to small business.

Most of the entrepreneurs and businesses who do hold cash aren’t about to hire or expand in an environment where their taxes and regulatory burden could be increased at any point by an unfriendly Administration.

Ironically, Washington is responding by promising to increase taxes and regulations. Understandably, those who hire are skittish.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Giethner said in July that we’ve reached a point where private hiring—rather than government spending—is the answer to economic growth.

But until the government starts supporting small business, and as long as it refuses to incentivize free enterprise, the economy will struggle.

Author Arthur Brooks argues that the nation is 70% in favor of free enterprise and about 30% opposed, but that the 30% are in charge.

The 30% has gained much influence over citizens by convincing them that it was private business that caused the recession in the first place.

Somehow, this view has successfully convinced much of the public that the Bush Administration, big banks, Wall Street and all small businesses are the same group.

Those who read the fine print, however, are clear that policies from the Clinton and Bush Administrations led to the mortgage crisis.

Moreover, big government and big business together caused the recession. In the meantime, both ignored small business and continue to do so.

As a result, the 70% is confused and unable to keep the 30% in check. So more government policies hurt the economy and make it unwise or unfeasible for small businesses to hire and grow.

In the meantime, much of the Right is busy labeling Democrats as “socialists” rather than helping incentivize growth and prosperity.

Both sides seem to mean well, but one has unbounded faith in government and the other is preoccupied attacking that faith.

While the two sides posture, the plight of small business is sometimes discussed but remains unaided.

What the Citizens Want

Second, this problem is deeper than most people realize.

Since World War II, the United States has promoted a mixture of free enterprise and big government. In history, societies typically emphasized one or the other.

When big government ruled, enterprise was highly regulated and taxed; where free enterprise was the focus, taxes were small, regulations were minimal, and governments were limited in size, scope and budget.

But in modern America, no politician from any party can claim success unless he/she has “done something in office.”

And to nearly all Americans, “doing something” means increasing government action to benefit the pet cause or regional constituency.

If President Obama doesn’t pass much of his agenda, his political friends and competitors alike will label him ineffective.

Americans in general want their politicians to do a lot and are disappointed when officials fail in this.

The irony of the American voter is that “doing a lot” immediately earns most politicians a place on the voters’ list of officials to vote out.

Americans today want the impossible: low taxes and lots of government programs.

The Economist summarized it this way:

In the end, the question of whether a country is governable turns on how much government you think it needs. America’s founders injected suspicion of government not only into the constitution but also into the political DNA of its people. And even in the teeth of today’s economic woes, at least as many Americans seem to think that what ails them is too much government, not too little.

“But there is a catch. However much Americans say they want a small government, they seem wedded to the expensive benefits of the big one they actually have…With deficits running at $1 trillion a year, and in order to stay solvent, they will have at some point to cut spending, pay more taxes, or both….To balance the books, politicians have sometimes to do things the people themselves oppose—even in America. That will be the true test of whether the country is governable.”

Americans must either choose big government and be willing to pay for and submit to it, or they must move toward smaller, less intrusive government and be willing to enjoy fewer government programs.

When voters want the prosperity of freedom along with the bread and circuses of massive government, every election is a referendum on incumbents.

Eventually, though (and the day of reckoning appears to be close on the horizon), something will have to give.

Unfortunately, few societies make such hard choices until they are forced upon them by war, depression, pandemic or other major crises.

Sadly, few nations have the leadership or the fortitude to adopt the simple solution of spurring major growth and prosperity by de-regulating, de-taxing and freeing up the economy.

Freedom works, but few in history have been willing to adopt it.

Lost Leaders

We are unable to overcome these and many of our deepest challenges because of the way we distribute leadership in our society.

The American founders envisioned a truly great educational system, built around schools in every locale, to train their youth in the great ideas of mankind’s history, as well as the latest practical arts and sciences.

They built the early American schools to train empowered citizens who would protect freedom, foster prosperity, leadership, and character in all walks of American life.

They wanted an educational system that prepared their youth to become effective in their families, communities, and careers.

This vision helped create a nation that by 1946 produced over half of the world’s goods and services with only 6% of the globe’s population.

Freedom works, and the success of the American constitutional-free-enterprise model was spectacular. In the process, this system over time addressed, and — in some cases, even began to resolve its biggest negatives, including slavery and other inequities.

Unfortunately, by the late 1930s, the citizens and leaders who built this great model of success, freedom, and prosperity sent their children and grandchildren to schools which rejected this system, and instead adopted a new style of education focused mostly on career training.

Sadly, these American schools established by the our founders were replaced after World War II by the German model which was based on socio-economic class divisions.

In the “new” system, the elites still received leadership education (like all citizens had before 1939) while the middle and lower classes were educated only for jobs.

As this system grew, a Germanic-style grading system reinforced class-society advancements among the youth.

The maladies of credentialism, class divisions, and reliance on experts made their way into mainstream American culture. From 1939 to 1979, these contagions grew and infected the Founders’ classless and “free American” vision.

In such a system, the motto was: “A students work for B students.” The concept of “The Company Man” spread and Americans became addicted to big institutions.

Freedom and entrepreneurial values gave way to competing for executive positions and benefits packages. The goal of employeeship replaced the American dream.

Career became the purpose of schooling in almost everyone’s mind, and ownership and leadership values begin to literally disappear.

Eventually big institutions became truly massive, and anything except employeeship was considered inferior and backward.

In this environment, young people with a sense of leadership, idealism and ambitions to make a great impact on society split between the Left and the Right.

Those coming from traditionally conservative families tended toward majors and careers in business, while youth from more liberal backgrounds leaned towards the media and legal professions.

Most of today’s national leaders were part of this split.

The Reagan era ushered in a revolution of support for and promotion of free enterprise ideas and values.

Numerous non-traditional business models (like multi-level and network marketing) put individuals at the center of building a personal business rather than working as an employee, and eventually non-traditional educational options (from private and charter to home and online opportunities) grew in popularity.

Employeeship was still the dominant view, but a rising minority embraced the freedoms and prosperity of entrepreneurship. The dot.com boom and Roaring 90’s soon followed, and the entrepreneurial sector slowly grew.

Today a new culture of education and business is evolving out of the Great Recession and all that led up to it. A new maxim seems to be much more complex than in past generations:

  • B students work for C students
  • A students teach or work in government
  • Those who cared little for grades and a lot about learning are building small businesses

Note that “those who cared little for grades and a lot about learning” often come from non-traditional private, charter, home and online learners, as well as from immigrants who are leading in entrepreneurial successes. And more than a few come from the traditional schools.

Since small business accounts for 80% of America’s economic growth, this is a significant development. Unfortunately, the number of people in the entrepreneurial sector is still very small.

Whether purposely or as a side effect, we are still training the overwhelming majority of our youth to believe that being A students means getting a good job and that employeeship is the greatest goal for education and even lifestyle.

Satirist P.J. O’Rourke addressed the problem this way:

America has made the mistake of letting the A student run things. It was A students who briefly took over the business world during the period of derivatives, credit swaps, and collateralized debt obligations. We’re still reeling from the effects…

“It was a bunch of A students at the Defense Department who planned the syllabus for the Iraq War….The U.S. tax code was written by A students….Now there’s health care reform—just the kind of thing that would earn an A on a term paper from that twerp of a grad student who teaches Econ 101…

“A students must do what teachers and textbooks want and do it the way the teachers and texts want it done….Such brisk apple-polishing happens to be an all-too-good preparation for politics. This is because a student’s success at education and a politician’s success at politics are measured mostly by input rather than outcome.”

Perhaps even more disturbing is that most of our Idealistic youth with ambitions to improve the world are still going after jobs in big business or big government.

The thing is, working for a big corporation or in a government job are unlikely places to really make a positive difference in the world.

We are distributing leadership in the way aristocratic and socialistic societies always have, and the future will unfold accordingly unless something changes.

We desperately need a rebirth of the entrepreneurial ideal.

The New Religion: Employeeship

Unfortunately, it’s not just the schools and universities that are continuing this outdated focus on jobs as the end-all of education and life.

Movies and television often demonize entrepreneurs while dedicating most of their time to stories about employees.

Full-time sports channels seem to dedicate as much time to the business side of athletes as to the entertainment, making sports role models as valued for their lucrative contracts as for their abilities on the playing field.

Even elected officials more typically refer to their role as a job than as public service.

Recent administrations and the media have referred to the constitutionally-titled commander in chief as the nation’s CEO. There are many other examples.

Because the “job-is-life” view is so prevalent, it has even become normal for successful entrepreneurs to see their work as done as soon as they can live comfortably.

In earlier generations (those that built and maintained American freedom), such successful entrepreneurs considered it their duty to spend the second half of their life helping society greatly improve.

Perhaps only parents and community leaders can effectively counter this trend and help more youth who want to help improve the world seek a true leadership education and seriously consider engaging in entrepreneurial careers.

Repairing the Break

So, to answer our question, yes, government is broken. The break is repairable, but it will take some major work and effort on the part of this generation.

When freedom is decreasing through constantly increasing regulations, government is broken. When the free enterprise system is under attack from our own government, government is broken.

When a tenth of our working society can’t get a job, and when the government responds by increasing taxes and regulations on those who could provide the jobs if they were free to do so, government is broken.

When two parties hold a monopoly on government, and where both increase spending and regulation no matter who is in office, government is broken.

But all of this misses the real point.

When most of society seeks employeeship above all else and every facet of life revolves around employeeship, much more than government is going to be broken.

Employeeship certainly has a place in effective nations, but it should be prioritized behind things like family leadership, citizenship, and private ownership.

Another name for these is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (or alternatively, as Jefferson originally wrote, “life, liberty and property”).

A successful society is made up of at least the following things:

  • Effective parents, grandparents and other family leaders who help raise good, wise and industrious adults to take their place
  • Citizens who are well-educated in freedom and leadership and who keep government, business and other officials in check so the society can remain free and prosperous
  • Owners who improve the prosperity of society, in a free enterprise system where all can be owners
  • A constitutionally guaranteed freedom where all are treated equally before the law and all are protected in their inalienable rights

How the President Can Repair the Economy

In the 2008 election President Obama was supported by the Left (who loved his promises of economic liberalism), but he was elected by independents who saw in him a possible end to the corruption of the Bush years and a potentially great leader for the United States.

The “Leadership Thing” swept him into office. Now, the Obama Administration could greatly boost the economy by deeply promoting entrepreneurship—both symbolically and in reduced taxes and regulations.

Such incentives would spur more hiring, investment and expansion, and a recovery would follow that Americans could really believe in.

In fact, the President could probably accomplish this without changing any policy at all, simply by warming to small business and genuinely becoming friendly to entrepreneurs.

As a friend, a member of a minority, told me about President Carter:

“I didn’t agree with his politics or policies, but I just feel that he loved me and my people and cared about us. I never felt that from Reagan or Bush, and so I voted Democratic even though I was more aligned with the politics of the Republicans.”

An old advertising proverb says that people make choices emotionally and then use logic to defend it.

No matter what Washington says, and no matter what the economic numbers show, most entrepreneurs are unlikely to increase jobs and boost the economy through investments as long as they think the man in the White House basically dislikes and mistrusts them.

Even liberal-leaning businessmen are worried that the President isn’t supportive.

The White House could drastically help the recovery simply by changing its bias against small business. If this is just a perceived dislike of business, not a real one, they can simply change their message.

If, on the other hand, the Administration really does mistrust or dislike small business, it should reconsider. After all, unlike Wall Street, big banks and big corporations, small business simply cannot be blamed for America’s economic challenges.

It has been the victim of the mistakes made by both big business and past government. Yet it keeps plugging along, keeping the recession from being much worse.

And small business certainly is the group most likely to overcome high unemployment.

Indeed, when the economy does make a serious comeback, entrepreneurs will be leading the way. Hopefully, the Obama Administration will extend its “Yes, We Can” philosophy to those who have the most potential to drastically grow our economy.

Conclusion

It is time for all Americans—from the White House to our individual living rooms—to pour out a deep, genuine and heartfelt admiration and “thank you” to those who run small businesses.

Whatever the politicians of any party do, the greatest need is for parents, grandparents and all of us to rekindle an excitement for entrepreneurship in the youth.

The future of America’s freedom and prosperity may well depend on it. As long as free enterprise isn’t flourishing, our government will be broken.

***********************************

Oliver DeMille is the founderof the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Business &Constitution &Culture &Current Events &Economics &Education &Entrepreneurship &Generations &Government &History &Leadership &Liberty &Politics

Language is Destiny

October 21st, 2010 // 4:00 am @

How a New Generation is Taking the Reins of American Leadership

In the twentieth century Richard Weaver famously taught that “ideas have consequences.”

He turned this thought into a book and eventually a philosophy, one which entered the general culture as the idea that “words mean things.”

Together these two concepts informed a society dominated and run by the Baby Boomers–those born between 1946 and 1964.

As we transition to a society run by the Latch-key or X Generation, born between 1964 and 1984, a new dominating viewpoint is gaining control.

As usual, most of media, academia and government have not yet fully caught on or understood the influence of the coming shift.

A powerful way to understand the rise of a new thought-generation is the OSA, or Over-Stated Acquiescent. This occurs where a person communicates agreement with what is being said by overstating the point.

Today’s OSAs include, “I know, right?” “Oh yeah, good point,” and “uber- ” [fill-in-the-blank].

These OSAs are sarcastic and manage to communicate irony and skepticism even as they convey assent.

This is a major shift from the past two generations, whose OSAs were nearly all positive, optimistic, guileless, and straightforward: “Groovy,” “Cool,” “Far Out,” “Rad,” “Awesome,” and so on.

Note that these older-generation OSA’s expressed a positive view of the future, a general sense that the world is good and getting better, and a naïve and infectious happiness of youth.

In contrast, the rising generation’s post-9/11 OSA’s are edgy–waiting for the other shoe to drop on our society, and just trying to get by until it does.

The older OSA’s come from a generation raised by parents, a cohesive high-school community and mostly homogenous values, while the new OSA’s express a society raised by television, factionalized and competing cliques, and conflicting diversity.

The old OSA’s were popularized by older youth (16-19) who wanted to hang on to carefree adolescence into their twenties and even thirties, where the new OSA’s reflect a younger group (10-13) who grew up too fast and were sophisticated before puberty and involved in adult issues and relationships by ages 14-16.

Destiny Lost

If you doubt how much OSA’s can teach us about generational psyches and therefore the future, consider their counterpart: the Under-Stated Denial (USDs).

The new USDs are once again ironic, skeptical, grown-up-too-fast, cosmopolitan, and sarcastic: “Not so much,” “A Little Bit,” “Shut Up!” and “-ish.”

Each is nuanced, meaning that none of these actually mean what they say. In the new language, words still mean things–but not exactly.

“Shut up,” here doesn’t mean to stop talking, but rather “totally!” Likewise, “A little bit” actually means, “Yes, a lot!” The older generation would have said, “duh!” instead of “A little bit.”

And “Not so much” would be translated by older generations as, “Of course not, stupid. How ridiculous! Isn’t this obvious? Come on, use your brain. For heaven’s sakes!”

The old generation of USDs was predictable, straightforward and obvious. “No way!” “No,” “Never,” “Negative,” “Not very much,” and other USD’s left little room for doubt as to their meaning.

In fact, they were more “stated” than “understated.” In contrast, the new USD’s are ripe with non-verbal meanings. The old way was to say what you mean, and even say it more strongly than you mean it.

The new way is to say what you don’t mean in a way that means what you mean–kind of.

If this is confusing, welcome to the future.

A: “So, do you like him?”
“He’s dreamy!”

B: “So, do you like him?”
“A little bit.”

These actually mean the same thing: the responder is smitten! But only “A” says so. In fact, “B” actually seems to say the opposite.

C: “Did you have fun on your date?”
“It was cool.”

D: “Did you have fun on your date?”
“ish.”

Again, C and D mean basically the same thing: “The date was okay, nothing great, but not terrible.”

But “cool” leans positive, just like the Boomer generation as a whole, while “ish” tends negative, glass-half-empty, like Generation X.

“Cool” means “I’m glad I went and I’d go out with him again,” while “ish” communicates the opposite.

Note that it is the expressions a generation uses in its adult years, not its youth, that carry the most weight, since language mirrors (and even, to some extent, defines) internal thoughts.

It is adult generations that wield real — as opposed to symbolic — power in businesses, governments and other major societal institutions.

So, while Gen X may have used older-style OSA’s and USD’s in its youth (“cool,” “awesome,” etc.), in adulthood it is now firmly planted in the new language used by its children (“I know, right?” “not so much,” “a little bit,” etc.). Its future will most likely follow the new model.

Interesting sidebar: it is not an anomaly that some of these phrases come from the growing Latino culture.

Business, Government, & Societal Applications

The ramifications for business, relationships, career and government are numerous.

For one, a society run by Boomers is willing to keep trying the old ways while Generation Xers won’t persist on a path they don’t trust or consider faulty.

Once Xers think something won’t work, they switch to something new. And where Boomers believe in the principles of the past and hesitate to try unproven policies, Xers are quick to try new things even when the risks are high.

The old model valued clarity, optimism and idealism, and supported progress toward the ideal–whether your ideal was Woodstock or Reagan.

In contrast, the new values are multi-layered, complex, nuanced.

They resonate with a cosmopolitan mix of pragmatic and symbolic, like American Idol or Obama. Things must be real and extremely symbolic at the same time.

In this new model, Republicans and Democrats are fake and lacking in symbolic sway, while Tea Parties and Obama are reality television and big-time icons combined.

Rush Limbaugh and Joe Biden are the old–straightforward, pushy, dogmatic, proletarian–while Glenn Beck and Rachel Maddow are the new: complex, many-layered, broadly-read, cosmo, iconic. It’s George Strait and The Rolling Stones versus Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga.

The old says what it means, the new sparks the imagination.

At first blush, it may appear that the old model is fundamentally conservative–preserving values, honoring the past–while the new is wildly liberal–risking new options, and open to untried possibilities.

But that’s the view from the “words mean things” side of the fence.

On a deeper level, where things (all things, not just words mean things, the new OSA’s and USD’s signal a breath of life into the stagnant and unproductive war of words between the two major political parties and, more importantly, the two warring economic classes in our society.

We are increasingly a class society, split between uber-haves and the rest of us.

While the new “say what you don’t mean” generation may not appear to accept any of the wisdom of past generations, the opposite is actually true.

The older generations emphasized saying what you mean, and in doing so split into two rigid camps roughly understood as conservative and liberal.

These two camps then set out to beat each other in every walk of life, from the pulpit to the campus and from the big screen to the White House.

One major casualty in this battle was many of the best principles and ideas from the past. Indeed, both sides promoted their own version of what the greatest thinkers of history said, so that by the 2000’s both Democrats and Republicans could claim to be promoting Jeffersonian principles of American freedom.

Ultra-conservatives and liberal extremists carry around quotes from Plato, Jefferson, the Federalist, Tocqueville, Lincoln, Churchill and others–many taken largely out of context, each supporting some current pet viewpoint.

Both sides de-emphasized the need to go read Plato, Jefferson, the Federalist or others in depth and in total.

As a result, the great freedom principles and ideals of the past were forgotten, touted by all, and followed by none. This is the actual legacy of much that calls itself conservatism or progressivism.

Do our modern traditions preserve the best principles of the past? Not so much. (Translation for Boomers: “Not at all. And that really stinks!”)

Do they simultaneously claim the authority of the great ideas and patently fail to understand them? A little bit. (Translation for Boomers: “Totally. How ridiculous!”)

Is conservatism even conservative any more, and is progressivism even progressive? -ish. (Translation for Boomers: “A little, but not really. What’s wrong with these people, anyway?”)

Destiny Reconsidered

That said, there is much to be learned from the new destiny of language caused by the rise of Gen X.

While the obvious change is an openness to the new, even if it is untried and risky, there is a simultaneous return to the wisdom of the past.

More and more people, whatever their political or religious views, are returning to the old classics. And they are reading them in full, in depth. They are talking about them, blogging about them, and thinking about them.

As a result, they are getting a dose of quality thinking in a modern setting.

Something very interesting is coming out of this return to the great books and ideas. Conservatives are learning real conservatism and progressives are understanding real liberalism.

The potential of this renaissance is staggering. It turns out the problem of the great ideological divide was less conservatism vs. liberalism and more a reliance on superficiality.

Conservative and also progressive societies can both be greatly free, but shallow-thinking and poorly-educated societies cannot. They always deteriorate into less-than-free countries.

Indeed, when one actually reads Washington or Adams or Jefferson or the Federalist, it becomes clear that the American founders and framers were truly uber-conservative and uber-progressive.

They didn’t pick either side, but rather pulled the best conservative and also the best progressive principles and applied them all.

For example, when I first attended major home school conventions in the early 1990s there was a generally accepted viewpoint–shared by liberal hippies and right-wing evangelicals and seemingly everyone in between–that the American founders were against government-funded public schools and for privatized, parent-run schools.

In my youth, I had been taught a different view: That the founders established government-run public schools as the bastion of American strength.

When I read the collected writings of Jefferson, all twenty volumes, for the first time, I was shocked to read what he actually said about schools.

The first time I read the collected works of Washington and Adams, my surprise deepened and my views changed.

It turns out that both modern perspectives were shallow.

What the founders actually wanted was a flourishing educational environment with numerous public and private options all offering the deepest quality of education.

The founders described mentoring, the vital role of the greatest books and other works of mankind, and numerous educational ideals.

Their grasp of principles was broad, and their suggested innovations numerous. They believed in promoting the best conservative successes of the past and initiating progressive innovations to continually improve learning.

I had a similar experience as I read the original writings of the greats on numerous topics, from the Constitution to international relations to economics, and so on.

Depth always trumps shallow, and indeed many current debates between shallow conservatism and shallow liberalism are simply a problem caused by shallow understanding–when depth is added, many of these debates disappear altogether, and the rest have some actual chance of productive discourse that leads to improvement and change.

Shallow isn’t Education

The job-training focus of schooling since 1941 has, despite its admitted positives, had the negative effect of promoting shallow leadership and citizenship education.

The internet age has continued this downward trend to the extent that people have turned from books to e-surfing as a replacement for deep, quality education.

This applies to both formal youth schooling and informal, on-going adult learning.

A nation of free citizens is always a nation of adults continually learning at a deep level and thinking about new ideas in a continual national debate about the truly important things.

When only a small percentage of the adult population is engaged in this debate, freedom quickly declines, as the views and desires of the dependent masses are at odds with the principles of freedom.

In our day, the spread of the internet has significantly increased the number and percentage of the population that is actively involved in the national dialogue.

What is less obvious, but even more profound, is that we are also witnessing a growth in the number of people reading, studying and thinking about the great classics–not just limited quotes in textbooks, but in the original and complete form.

While the internet age has caused the death of the newspaper and, currently, the looming demise of many book publishers, it has coincided with a resurrection in reading the great classics.

This is a huge victory for freedom, though the consequences won’t likely be fully understood for many decades.

E: “Did Generation X get trained for jobs?
“A little bit.”

(Translation for Boomers: “Absolutely! If anything, it got more than enough. And, at the same time, other types of quality education suffered greatly.”)

F: “Did Generation X get a truly quality education for life and leadership?”
“Not so much.”

(Translation for Boomers: “Not at all. What a tragedy!”)

G: “Is Generation X prepared for the mantle of leadership now falling on its shoulders?”
“-ish.”

(Translation for Boomers: “Not really. But it’s coming anyway, so we’ll do our best. But it sucks that we weren’t educated for leadership in the first place!”)

H: “Look, Gen X isn’t any better than the Boomers and will have just as many problems.”
“I know, right?”

(Translation for Boomers: “Of course it will. In the meantime, let’s smile and make the best of it. In fact, let’s be happy about it. We might as well. Life stinks sometimes, but there is a lot of good too. Stop taking everything so seriously or you’ll die of ulcers.”)

I: “If Gen X doesn’t grow up and get serious, things will get a lot worse.”
“Oh yeah, good point.”

(Translation for Boomers: “No they won’t! Relax. I mean, yes, technically you are right. Real problems require real solutions. But stop over-stating it. Of course we’ll have to get serious. Of course we have to grow up. But in all your serious, grown-up leadership, you still managed to mess up the world a lot. Yes, you did some good things too. Thank you for those. Really, thank you. But our biggest problem with you is that you did everything with a frown on your face. We’ll deal with the real world in serious and grown-up ways, but don’t expect us to scowl our way through life. We prefer to smile, to laugh, to enjoy the journey–however difficult it may be.”)

A Boomer/Gen X Dialogue

I recently had a talk with a Boomer-age mentor who helped me a lot in my youth.

He commented on my latest book, and while he agreed with the conclusions two things baffled him.

First, why did I say, “God, or the Universe, whichever is most comfortable for you…” instead of just “God”?

Second, why did I say, “Whatever your politics, conservative or liberal or moderate or whatever, if you support freedom then we are on the same side…”?

I found myself as baffled as he was. Why wouldn’t I be inclusive instead of divisive?

I asked if my words made it sound like I don’t believe in God.

“Not at all,” he said. “But, it’s…squishy.”

“Squishy?” I asked. “I believe in God. I made that clear in the book, right?”

“Yes.”

“So, do you want me to go a step further and say that everyone who doesn’t believe in God is wrong and shouldn’t work with me on promoting freedom? Do you actually believe that?”

“Well, no,” he said. “But you should just say it like it is.”

“Okay,” I said, “here is how it is. If those who believe in God and freedom keep fighting against those who believe in freedom but not God, then will freedom win or lose?”

He just looked at me

“Or if conservatives, liberals, libertarians, environmentalists, moderates and independents who believe in freedom keep fighting against each other, does freedom gain or lose?”

He was shaking his head, so I tried a different tact.

“Is freedom losing so much ground because we’ve failed to show the evils of the other side or because we’ve failed to get more people to stand up for freedom? Which is more important?”

“Getting more to stand for freedom. That’s the whole point,” he said.

“Does freedom need more allies or less?” I asked.

“More. A lot more.”

“Do your allies have to agree with you on everything, or just on supporting freedom?”

“Well, I guess just on supporting freedom.”

“So why do you want me to argue with them on everything else? I mean, if freedom wins, we can all argue for the rest of our lives about everything from religion to politics to the Lakers. But if freedom loses, none of us will be able to stand for what we believe. I am proud of my friends who stand up for their beliefs that are different than mine. I want my grandchildren to live in a nation where all religions and political views and ideas can still believe what they want and express it openly and argue with each other. Don’t you?”

“Yes,” he said, “But it is possible to be so open-minded that your brains fall out.”

“True. It is also possible to be so closed that you make enemies of real friends.”

He pondered that, and began nodding his head.

“I can see that,” he agreed.

“Let me ask you a question,” I paused. “Is the need to attack different views actually part of your religion? Or part of your political ideals?”

“Actually,” he said after a few seconds, “my religion teaches just the opposite. For that matter, so do my political principles.”

He thought for a minute and I remained quiet. “It’s just that politics has been this way for so long, so much argument, cutting down the other side, getting them before they get you.”

I responded, “I know, right? But I have so many friends, really close friends, people I love and deeply respect, who disagree with me on religion or politics. But I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t really care about freedom. I just want all those who stand for freedom to at least try to work together.”

I later had an almost identical conversation (though the labels were different) with a woman who, by her account, had been raised a socialist in Brooklyn in the 1950s.

She spoke fondly of socialist summer camps as a youth and of being called a “pinko” when she went to college.

In the end, as I listened to her for over an hour, she was no socialist at all. She believed in the principles of freedom, despised government over-reach, and saw Washington D.C.’s excesses, regulations, high taxes and interventions in the economy as the great evil.

Her name for all this big-government domination was “capitalism.”

While many may disagree about the labels, she believed in freedom and deeply yearned to see the end of big-government growth.

I’m so glad I really listened to her instead of jumping to conclusions when she first called herself a “socialist.”

Once I understood what really mattered to her, I really enjoyed sharing what I thought about the current battle for freedom.

After she listened to me for a long time, she agreed that her labels were faulty and that we had a lot more in common than in disagreement.

Destiny Reborn

In the end, part of the Boomer generation’s way of doing things was to divide, label and battle. This system picked a side, gave positive names to its own side and negative labels to the other side, and went to war.

In this model, few people ever crossed the aisle or admitted good in the other side (or bad from its own side).

It put people in one camp or the other. “If you aren’t with us, you’re against us” was the operating motto.

There were many positives in this system, and perhaps coming as it did after the Hitler era it was necessary.

But this generation still runs Washington and much of the media and academia.

A new model is rising, however, with a different language and a different destiny. As the Xers increase their influence, the debate will likely be more sarcastic, ironic and complex.

This may turn off those who want politics and societal debates to be loving and kindly.

Others may be frustrated by the impact of Reality TV-style politics, and its ironic blend of reality with symbolism.

Put simply, presidential politics will likely be more and more like high school elections–too often all about appearance and popularity.

But the dialogues of the future will inject more humor and a relaxed attitude. They won’t take the political parties or candidates so seriously.

Freedom will be the serious issue, and policy, but not so much the candidates and parties.

They’ll elect Presidents like High School Prom Queens, but they’ll watch everyday government policy like Madison or Franklin.

They’ll care less about who is in the office and a lot more about what the officeholders actually do.

In a significant way, that’s a step in the right direction. And more importantly, Gen X politics is increasingly more participative–meaning that more citizens are closely involved in elections and also in everyday governance.

This is a huge step forward. Above all, the citizenry itself is slowly and consistently increasing its depth.

More regular people are reading the old classics in detail, thinking about the greatest ideas of mankind and comparing them to our modern institutions and leaders.

The old model was run by fewer, straightforwardly-involved but shallowly-engaged citizens. The future model appears to be developing toward more citizens involved and also more who are deeply engaged in the classics and great ideas.

The biggest criticism of the Xers–their skepticism–turns to a positive when applied to citizenship. Because they are skeptical they keep a closer eye on politics, stay more involved, and are less swayed by the next politician promising a grand program.

They are still second-in-command to the “Big Program” Boomers, but their day is coming.

If you want a citizenry that simply votes and then leaves everything else to Washington, you will be disappointed. The generation of “Awesome!” is being slowly replaced by a generation of uber-citizens.

If the trend continues, future Americans will be more like the American founding generation than any citizenry in nearly two centuries.

If this continues, the future of freedom is significantly brighter.

Or, to put it succinctly: “America’s future?”

“I know, right?”

***********************************

Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Culture &Generations &Government &Liberty &Politics

Reclaiming Adult Society: The 4 Cultures Corrupting America & What Must Replace Them

October 19th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

Click Here to Download a Printable Version of This Article

Every child looks forward to the freedoms and responsibilities of being an adult.

Liberty is a blessing of maturity, and a free society is only maintained by a culture of adults.

This may be obvious, but it has become a challenge in our day.

The term “adult” has come to be commonly defined as anyone above a certain age–and has largely lost its qualitative nuance; but of course not all people older than twenty-one are free.

True adulthood requires more than maintaining a heartbeat for two or more decades.

To achieve and perpetuate freedom, societies need a culture which accepts and exhibits the responsibilities and leadership of adulthood.

This is more difficult to achieve than first meets the eye.

When the general culture isn’t up to freedom standards, it is easy for people to go along with the norm.

Indeed, one reason freedom is historically so rare is the difficulty of changing cultural norms.

Let’s consider four cultures that have widespread influence today.

Elementary Culture

The culture of grade schools has huge impact beyond the schoolyard.

Elementary Culture values the following:

  • Staying in the good graces of those above you, especially the authorities
  • Reliance on experts
  • Dependence on basic needs and remedies being provided
  • Playing
  • Having good toys
  • Learning and following the rules
  • Getting rewards from the authorities by meeting their expectations

As good as these things may be for classroom and playground management, they are less enchanting as cultural underpinnings for adult neighborhoods, towns, cities, and nations.

Free citizens are not exactly marked by their desire to please government authorities or being dependent on state programs.

Nor is liberty positively promoted when the citizens focus mostly on play, getting the best toys (from cars to computers to vacations) in life, or seeking rewards from upper classes or government officers.

Obviously, order and cooperation are desirable shared values in a society.

But there is a huge difference between free citizens who have a significant say in establishing the rules and dependent citizens who are hardly involved in governance.

One of the great heroic roles in our modern culture is found in elementary teachers who work, serve and sacrifice to help to raise the next generation.

For example, 63% of public grade-school teachers spend their own money buying food for at least one hungry student each month.

This amazing statistic shows much of what is right, and wrong, with modern America.

The individual voluntarism and selfless service by such teachers is a foundation of freedom.

When parents don’t own their responsibility to care for their children (which is the case in at least some, perhaps many, of these cases), our moral imperatives demand that we must.

And when adults act like children, the state steps forward to feed and care for them.

Think of the great freedom cultures of history–from the Hebrew and Greek golden ages to the free Saracens, Swiss, English and early Americans, among others.

These citizens were not dependents and not particularly interested in pleasing the authorities.

In fact, they held the government dependent on the people and required government officials to please the citizens.

They made family and work the center of adult life, as opposed to the “bread and circuses” of Elementary Cultures in Rome and other less-than-free societies.

High School Culture

Some adults live more in a High School Culture which, like Elementary Culture, does not promote free society.

High School Culture generally values the following:

  • Fitting in
  • Popularity
  • Sports
  • Cliques
  • Class systems
  • Disconnection from adult society

Sometimes even teachers side or identify with certain cliques and basically join this culture. The currently popular television series “Glee” typifies this sort of class system.

When applied to adult society, this creates a culture that hardly deserves and never maintains freedom.

In many towns, for example, high school glory days represent all that is right and good, and success in sports is seen as success in life.

There are three major types of life success in High School Culture:

  1. Doing well in school and sports
  2. Raising children who do well in school and sports
  3. Having grandchildren who are succeeding in school and sports.

This is High School Culture indeed. In fact, in many places the activities of the local high school are the actual center and high point of culture and activity.

This happens in many traditionally conservative cultures such as many small and mid-size towns, much of the American West, Texas and the plains states, and also in traditionally liberal populations like in the South, the Appalachians and the Midwest.

Whatever they call themselves politically, the dominant culture in such places often centers on the high school and reflects high school values.

Adults living High School Culture focus on their local and private issues and hope to ignore political society until it forces itself into their lives.

At such times, the typical response is anger and rebellion.

Unfortunately for freedom, seeking to fit in, be popular, join the best clique and thereby win the caste battle, and stay as disconnected from politics as possible, do not tend to promote free society.

Whether or not these things are good for youth is arguable; but they are certainly not foundations of liberty or the ideal goals of free adults.

College-Corporate Culture

Nor is College-Corporate Culture naturally supportive of freedom.

Just as high school usually has more freedoms than elementary, college and work culture sometimes feels free in comparison to high school society.

College-Corporate Culture is usually more dominant in bigger cities than in small towns, though of course there are people from all cultures living almost everywhere.

College-Corporate Culture values the following:

  • Personal success
  • Career preparation and advancement
  • Non-committal relationships
  • Entertainment
  • Status
  • Pursuing individual interests
  • Spending on lifestyle

People and places which adopt College-Corporate values experience more personal freedom than citizens living elementary or high school lifestyles.

But they are unable to establish or maintain freedom on the large scale over time, and they are usually not interested in trying.

“Me” and “I” dominate the perspectives of Elementary, High School and College-Corporate Cultures.\

Official Culture

In elementary and high schools there are principals, administrators, teachers and other officials who take care of the little people.

In the adult lives that mirror grade and high schools, regular citizens see themselves as being taken care of by officials and the officers see themselves as taking care of the people.

Since they value class systems and popularity, the people tend to regularly give in to those they consider in charge.

Many even feel resentment towards those who seem to rebel against the (“adult”) officials.

Woodstockers, John Birchers, the “-ism” extremists and other “rebels” are seen like druggies, gangsters and other unsavory high school cliques.

The “good” kids don’t fight the system.

College, university and corporate officials are often seen as distant, professionally rather than personally interested, upper class, and probably self-serving.

“They ignore us, and we ignore them,” is the operating principle of the regular people.

“We’re too busy pursuing our own success and fun to worry about them anyway–except to impress them.”

The officers, in contrast, see the regular people as functionaries to help them achieve big goals and successes.

Official Culture values the following:

  • Respect of those in authority
  • People following the rules
  • The infallibility of the rules
  • The need to lead significant, bold change
  • Overcoming the roadblocks which the regular people naively call “freedom”
  • Keeping the system strong
  • Promoting support and respect for the system
  • Really helping the people
  • Giving the people what they really need, even if they “think” they don’t want it or understand how much they need it

These have little likelihood of promoting long-term freedom.

Note that the official value of really helping the people is nearly always truly sincere. They really mean it.

While some may consider this patronizing, like the noblesse oblige of upper classes, we can still admire those who genuinely seek to serve and help people.

For freedom to succeed, however, the majority of the people must move beyond being cared for by experts and instead adopt and live in Adult Culture.

Freedom is lost in cultures dominated by Official Culture.

For that matter, freedom cannot survive in a society run by Elementary, High School, College-Corporate and/or Official values and systems.

Adult Culture

As mentioned above, freedom is incredibly rare in history.

It occurs only with an extremely high cost in resources, blood, sacrifice and wisdom, and it is maintained only when the citizenry does its job of truly leading the nation.

Regular people must understand what is going on at the same or a higher level than government leaders, or the leaders become an upper class and the people are relegated to following child-like as submissives and dependents.

To elect and become the right leaders and support the right direction in government, the people must study, watch, analyze and deeply think.

They must study and understand the principles of freedom, and they must get involved to ensure that these principles are applied.

Adult Culture values those things which keep societies free, prosperous and happy. Such values include the following:

  • Being your genuine self and therefore not easily swayed by peers, experts or anyone else
  • Actively and voluntarily contributing to society’s needs
  • Accepting responsibility for society and its future
  • Appropriately and maturely making a positive difference in the world
  • Accepting others for who they are and respecting their contributions
  • Spending wisely and balancing it with proper savings and investment
  • Consistently saving and effectively investing for the future
  • Dedicating yourself to committed relationships
  • Helping the young learn and progress
  • Providing principled and effective assistance to those in need
  • Influencing the rules, policies and laws to be what they should be, changing bad ones, and following the good ones
  • Sacrificing yourself for more important things
  • Taking risks when they are right
  • Respecting those in authority, earning and expecting their respect in return, and holding them accountable to their proper roles and duties
  • Balancing relationships and work with appropriate leisure, entertainments, sports, toys, hobbies and/or relaxation
  • Openly discouraging and, if needed, fighting class systems and unprincipled/unjust inequalities
  • Helping influence positive change while keeping the things which are positively working
  • Never allowing “progress” to trample freedoms
  • Promoting support for and respect of the system as long as it is positive and improving
  • Really, sincerely helping the people while respecting them as adults, individuals and citizens worthy of admiration and esteem

Any move away from these adult values is a step toward less freedom.

And let’s be clear: Most people naturally want to be treated like adults.

For example, there are now more independents than Republicans or Democrats in part because the political parties so often seem to exhibit elementary and high school values.

Populist movements nearly always arise when governments seem to adopt Official Culture.

The anti-Washington populism which swept President Obama into office was largely a response to perceived officiousness by President Bush and Vice President Cheney, just as Tea Party populism arose when many felt that the Obama Administration was treating regular Americans like inferiors.

Any sense of arrogance, superiority, smugness or overwhelming and unresponsive mandate by political leaders quite predictably spurs frustrated reactions.

Both parties routinely fall short in this arena, however, as do many in non-public sectors.

All of us would do well to guard ourselves against pride, which is perhaps the most negative High School value.

When combined with the harmful College-Corporate values of pushy ambition and myopic self-centeredness, pride wreaks havoc on societal leadership, prosperity and freedom.

In contrast, adult societies value relaxed confidence, poise, genuine humility, and authentic strength.

Adult Culture benefits from such values as elementary sharing and playing, high school enthusiasm and idealism, college self-improvement and dedicated learning, corporate hard work and excellence, and official emphasis on the rule of law and authentic caring for others.

However, each of these is optimized and put in context in an adult society–the only culture which can build and retain lasting freedom.

The Hidden War

Sadly, High School and College Culture have created a war brewing between the generations.

This is not a generation gap or a simple matter of the old not understanding the young.

It is an actual financial war between today’s children and their parents and grandparents.

But the youth aren’t engaged–they are simply the victims.

For example, as The Economist wrote of Britain:

“Half the population are under 40 years old but they hold only about 15% of all financial assets. People under 44 own, again, just 15% of owner-occupied housing….If pensions are counted, the situation is even more skewed.”

In the same article, entitled “Clash of Generations,” The Economist cites Member of Parliament David Willetts in his concern about the growing financial abuse of the young by older generations.

After noting the wealth of the baby-boomer generation, the article says:

“Young people have little chance of building up similar wealth. They are struggling to get on the housing ladder, though close to a fifth of the people between 49 and 59 years old own a second home…

“On top of this, older baby-boomers have dodged two speeding bullets, leaving their descendants squarely in the line of fire.

“The first is the bill for bailing out the financial sector; the second, the effect of climate change on the cost of energy, water, flood-prevention and the like.”

Former Reagan speech writer Peggy Noonan wrote in The Wall Street Journal:

“And there are the moral implications of the debt, which have so roused the tea party movement: The old vote themselves benefits that their children will have to pay for. What kind of people do that?”

Certainly not those with adult values. As The Economist put it:

“There is an unvoiced contract that binds the generations. Parents look after their children, with a view to helping them do at least as well as they themselves have done, and grown-up children look after their parents, in the hope that their children will do the same for them one day.

“But there is now a ‘breakdown in the balance between the generations…’ Mr. Willetts cites, approvingly, the way some American Indian tribal councils used to take decisions in the light of how they would affect the next several generations.In Britain, alas, it is painfully hard to see beyond the next election.”

The same problems are widespread in the United States.

The tribal approach mentioned clearly comes from a society with adult values, unlike the philosophy guiding much of Anglo-American financial policy.

No Chewing Gum!

Besides self-centeredness, another high school value is that the “good” people always follow the officials.

John Dewey taught that the most lasting lessons learned in schools are the non-academic cultural values taught.

While it has been famously said that all one ever needs to know he learns in kindergarten, one lesson which seems to have most taken hold is that the teacher (or president, expert or agent) is always right.

This falsehood has always been the end of freedom.

Consider how recessionary times impacted the current generation of youth (ages 15-29) raised with jobs as the central goals of their life.

They know how to stay in line, not chew gum in class, stick to their social clique, and leave decision-making to the officials.

But not only have innovation and leadership not been highly rewarded in their young lives, they are alien to most of them.

Speaking of the current generation of college graduates, the experts have written:

“You’d think if people are more individualistic, they’d be more independent. But it’s not really true. There’s an element of entitlement–they expect people to figure things out for them.”

[Source: Jean Twenge, quoted in Don Peck, “How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America,” The Atlantic, March 2010.]

In the workplace, they

“need almost constant direction….Many flounder without precise guidelines but thrive in structured situations that provide clearly defined rules.”

[Source: Ron Aslop, quoted in Don Peck, “How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America,” The Atlantic, March 2010.}

“This is a group that’s done resume building since middle school. They’ve been told they’ve been preparing to go out and do great things after college. And now they’ve been dealt a 180 [by high unemployment rates].”

[Source: Larry Druckenbrod, quoted in Don Peck, “How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America,” The Atlantic, March 2010.]

“Trained through childhood to disconnect performance from reward, and told repeatedly that they are destined for great things, many are quick to place blame elsewhere when something goes wrong, and inclined to believe that bad situations will…be sorted out by parents or other helpers.

“All of these characteristics are worrisome, given a harsh economic environment that requires perseverance, adaptability, humility, and entrepreneurialism.”

[Source: Don Peck, “How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America,” The Atlantic, March 2010.]

A generation of assembly-line education has failed to prepare today’s youth for the real world.

The simple solution for the generation now between ages 15 and 29, and for a lot of other people, is more jobs.

This requires more entrepreneurial action. As Don Peck wrote in The Atlantic:

“Ultimately, innovation is what allows an economy to grow quickly and create new jobs as old ones obsolesce and disappear.”

Entrepreneurship requires adult values, not people full of high-school risk aversion and dependence.

Calling All Adults

Today we need a drastic return to the adult values in our society.

Insecurely seeking to fit in, searching for popularity, sports and toys as measures of success, dependency on government and officials, class systems, pleasing those in charge, waiting for others to structure your success, feeling entitled, thinking your resume should create success, expecting a lottery or reality TV show to bail you out, and blaming others when things go wrong–these are not things free people cherish.

The question for our generation is: Can we regain our freedoms without putting aside childish things and becoming a society of adults?

Click Here to Download a Printable Version of This Article

***********************************

Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Citizenship &Culture &Economics &Featured &Generations &Government &Liberty

The Latch-Key Generation & Independents

September 16th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

The rise of Independents isn’t an accident. It is the natural result of both major parties emphasizing politics over principle and ideology over pragmatism.

A third reason for the rise of Independents is the widespread loss of blind faith in man-made institutions (like government and corporations) as the answers to society’s challenges.

These institutions have failed to perform, over and over, causing many of even the staunchest state- and market-loyalists to feel skeptical.

Fourth, the e-revolution has created a technological power of the citizenry, at least in the ability to widely voice views that diverge from the mainstream parties.

The Internet gave Independents (and many others) a voice. People who believed in common-sense pragmatism and principled choices over party loyalty have been around for a long time, but the e-revolution was needed to give them group influence.

But all of these reasons are really just after-the-fact justifications for why so many people are no longer channeled politically through one of the top parties.

They explain why people aren’t Republicans or Democrats, but they don’t explain why Independents are Independents.

Some Independents are actually from the far right and just anti-liberal, and others are leftists who are Independents because they are anti-conservative. Some are one-issue Independents, emphasizing the environment, feminism, race, the gold standard, etc.

A growing number of Independents, however, are Independents because they believe in a shared new ideal.

They have faith in both government and the market, but only to a certain extent. They are truly neither liberal nor conservative, but moderate. They want government and markets to work, and they want to limit both as needed.

Still, they are not just moderates, they are something more.

Three Versions of Management

What makes these Independents tick? They are motivated by a new focus, a set of goals surprising and even confusing to anyone who was taught that American politics is about right versus left, conservative versus liberal, family values versus progressivism, religious versus secular, hawk versus dove, and all the other clichés.

Independents are something new.

Daniel Pink argues that business is going through a major shift, that the entire incentive landscape of employees, executives and even owner-investors is changing.

Our ancestors were motivated mostly by “Management 1.0,” Pink says, which was a focus on physical safety and protection from threats.

“Management 2.0” came when people learned to produce things in a routine way, from planned agriculture to industry.

People became more motivated by a “carrot-and-stick” model of “extrinsic motivators.” Managers, teachers, parents and politicians created complex systems of rewards and punishments, penalties and bonuses to achieve results in this new environment.

In this model, conservatives are 1.0 because they want government to limit itself to protecting its citizens from external threats, to national security and legal justice.

Liberals support a 2.0 model where the role of government is to incentivize positive community behaviors by people and organizations, and also to enforce a complex system of punishments to deter negative behavior.

In education, 1.0 is the one-room schoolhouse focusing on delivering a quality, personalized education for each student.

In contrast, 2.0 is a conveyor-belt system that socializes all students and provides career rewards through job training, with benefits doled out based on academic performance.

The problem with 1.0 is that education is withheld from some based on race, wealth and sometimes gender or religion.

The 2.0 version remedies this, ostensibly providing democratic equality for students from all backgrounds; but the cost is that personalization and quality are lost, and a de facto new elite class is created by those who succeed in this educational matrix.

On the political plane, 1.0 promoted freedom but for an elite few, while 2.0 emphasized social justice but unnecessarily sacrificed many freedoms.

Version 3.0 combines freedom with inclusion, and this is the basis of the new Independents and their ideals.

It may seem oxymoronic to say that pragmatic Independents have ideals, but they are actually as driven as conservatives and liberals.

Independents want government, markets and society to work, and to work well. They don’t believe in utopia, but they do think that government has an important role along with business, and that many other individuals and organizations have vital roles in making society work.

They aren’t seeking perfect society, but they do think there is a common sense way in which the world can generally work a lot better than it does.

Mr. Pink’s “Management 3.0” is a widespread cultural shift toward “intrinsic motivators.” A growing number of people today (according to Pink) are making decisions based less on the fear of threats (1.0), or to avoid punishments or to obtain rewards (2.0), than on following their hearts (3.0).

This isn’t “right-brained” idealism or abstraction, but logic-based, rational and often self-centered attempts to seek one’s most likely path to happiness.

Indeed, disdain for the “secure career path” has become widely engrained in our collective mentality and is associated with being shallow, losing one’s way, and ignoring your true purpose and self.

This mindset is now our culture. For example, watch a contemporary movie or television series: The plot is either 1.0 (catch or kill the bad guys) or 3.0 (struggle to fit in to the 2.0 system but overcome it by finding one’s unique true path).

Settling for mediocrity in order to fit the system is today’s view of 2.0.

In contrast, the two main versions of 3.0 movies and series are: 1) Ayn Rand-style characters seeking personal fulfillment, and 2) Gene Rodenberry-style heroes who “find themselves” in order to greatly benefit the happiness of all.

Where the Greeks had tragedy or comedy, our generation finds itself either for personal gain or in order to improve the world.

Whichever version we choose, the key is to truly find and live our life purpose and be who we were meant to be.

And where so far this has grown and taken over our pop-culture and generational mindset, it is now poised to impact politics.

Few of the old-guard in media, academia or government realize how powerful this trend is.

Generations

Independents are the latch-key generation grown up.

Raised by themselves, with input from peers, they are skeptical of parents’ (conservative) overtures of care after years of emotional distance.

They are unmoved by parents’ (liberal) emotional insecurity and constant promises. They don’t trust television, experts or academics.

They don’t get too connected to any current view on an issue; they know that however passionate they may feel about it right now, relationships come and go like the latest technology and the only one you can always count on is yourself.

Because of this, you must do what you love in life and make a good living doing it. This isn’t abstract; it’s hard-core realism.

Loyalty to political party makes no sense to two generations forced to realize very young the limitations of their parents, teachers and other adults.

Why would such a generation give any kind of implicit trust to government, corporations, political parties or other “adult” figures?

Independents are more swayed by Google, Amazon and Whole Foods than Hollywood, Silicon Valley or Yale.

Appeals to authority such as the Congressional Budget Office, the United Nations or Nobel Prize winners mean little to them; they’ll study the issues themselves.

Their view of the experts is that whatever the outside world thinks of them, they are most likely far too human at home.

Officials and experts with noteworthy accolades, lofty credentials and publicized achievements make Independents more skeptical than star-struck.

They grew up with distant and distracted “corporate stars” for parents, and they aren’t impressed.

Having moved around throughout their formative years, never allowed to put down deep roots in any one town or school for long, why would they feel a powerful connection to country or nation?

If the government follows good principles, they’ll support it. If not, they’ll look elsewhere.

They understand being disappointed and having to move on and rely on themselves; in fact, this is so basic to their makeup that it is almost an unconscious religion.

If this all sounds too negative, consider the positives. The American founding had many similar generational themes.

Raised mostly by domestic help (parents were busy overcoming many out-of-the-home challenges in this generation), sent away to boarding schools or apprenticeships before puberty, the founders learned loyalty to principles over traditions, pragmatic common sense over the assurances of experts, and an idealistic yearning for improving the world over contentment with the current.

Today’s Independents are one of the most founders-like generation since the 1770s. They want the world to change, they want it to work, and they depend on themselves and peers rather than “adults” (experts, officials, etc.) to make it happen.

Independent Philosophy

There are many reasons why Independents don’t resonate with the two major parties, but this is only part of the story.

Most Independents aren’t just disenfranchised liberals or conservatives; they are a new generation with entirely new goals and views on government, business and society.

This is all hidden to most, because the latch-key generation isn’t vocal like most liberals and conservatives.

Trained to keep things inside, not to confide in their parents or adults, growing numbers of Independents are nonetheless quietly and surely increasing their power and influence.

Few Independents believe that there will be any Social Security monies left for them when they retire, so they are stoically planning to take care of themselves.

Still, they think government should pay up on its promise to take care of the Boomers, so they are happy to pay their part. Indeed, this basically sums up their entire politics.

They disdain the political debate that so vocally animates liberals and conservatives, and as a result they have little voice in the traditional media because they refuse to waste time debating.

But their power is drastically increasing. The latch-key Independents raised themselves, grew up and started businesses and families, and during the next decade they will increasingly overtake politics.

Like Shakespeare’s Henry V, they partied through the teenager stage, leaving their parents appalled by generational irresponsibility and lack of ambition, then they shocked nearly everyone with their ability and power when they suddenly decided to be adults.

Now, on eve of their entrance into political power, few have any idea of the tornado ahead.

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Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Business &Culture &Current Events &Generations &Government &Independents &Politics &Technology

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