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Information Age

“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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Chaos in Current Events!

June 21st, 2017 // 8:50 am @

History is Repeating Itself, But Do We Know Its Lesson?

Cycling Back Around

This is a chaotic time. Political scandals, media lies, shootings and violence based on political disagreements, terrorist attacks in formerly safe places. For the American people, it’s both frustrating and scary.

It helps to step back and take a deep breath, then turn to history for answers. Since patterns frequently repeat, they can tell us a lot about what’s actually happening—beyond the anger and intensity of nightly news reports. They can also tell us what’s coming.

Here’s how things work. Since the beginning of written history society has been split between three groups: 1) those in power, 2) those who have some power but are seeking more of it in order to be at the top of the power pyramid, and 3) other people who just want to live their lives. The good news is that in the United States today, a higher number of people are free to enjoy life and seek to live their dreams than perhaps any other society in known history. That’s worth smiling about, no matter what the news tells us.

On the other hand, a lot of people today have a sense that things are heading in the wrong direction. We have a lot of problems, both here and abroad, and it often feels as if some spark will soon set off some kind of powder keg that leads to real crisis. It’s a feeling like many Americans experienced in the late 1930s and early 1940s, or in the late 1850s and early 1860s. The American founding generation felt it at the beginning of the 1770s. In each of these cases, that sense of unease and anxiety was eventually followed by drastic challenges—Pearl Harbor, the Civil War, the Revolutionary War.

Indeed, according to the cycles of history, we’re in that same turn of the pattern right now. It’s unclear exactly what will happen to bring bigger national crisis, but a lot of people feel a foreboding sense that something momentous is about to come.

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

To put this in clear perspective, the news right now is a tale of four nations.

One: the business news reports almost daily signs of an economic upturn, more financial opportunity, and budding growth in a rebooting economy.

Two: international news reports increasing terror attacks, alarming danger signs in North Korea, Iran and from ISIS, and a looming energy building for more conflicts ahead with Russia and China.

Three: the mainstream media portrays the Trump White House and the Republican Congress as ineffective, and throws out daily allegations of Administration corruptions, lies, conspiracies and hidden agendas to hurt the nation.

Four: conservative media debunks these mainstream reports and points instead to the kind of alleged corruption on the Left: Loretta Lynch, James Comey, the Clinton Foundation, illegal leaks, violent “Resisters”, DNC collusion with the mainstream media, Hillary Clinton’s emails, etc.

It is amazing how often these competing sources of media tell exactly the opposite story about a given event from the day’s news. Most people listening to all the reports are left deeply confused, or cynical. And those who only listen to one news source are frequently surprised by what friends tell them about the news. “But I listened to the total opposite on the morning news! You must be remembering that wrong.”

To make sense of all this, let’s put aside the noise and distraction. Let’s be as blunt and direct as possible: We are living in one of those historical periods where we face an existence-level conflict. We are literally in the midst of an existential war. Such wars are both cold and hot, violent and emotional. They are deeply rooted in the conflict between major ideas—with two cultures battling to survive, to win, and to thrive. But each side feels that it must fully defeat an opposing culture in order to survive.

Such intellectual wars have always existed, but they only reach a crisis-point like the one we are now experiencing when certain factors align. First, instead of a general conflict among ideas, the populace finds itself facing off in a dramatic disagreement between two major viewpoints, two overall paradigms that cannot peacefully coexist. Second, the stakes are high enough that almost everyone in the society firmly picks one of the two sides. Even people who are usually moderate, or generally centrist in their views, feel strongly enough about the current situation to put aside their typical willingness to see both good and bad on both sides. They now clearly see one side as right and the other as wrong. Many people go further—they see their side as Good, and the other as Evil.

Third, and this is where—according to historical patterns—the real danger sets in, more and more people find their emotions leading them, and they stop really thinking about current events. Symbols, which are always important in society, become the main thing in such eras. Symbols take over. For example, we now live in a nation where millions of people don’t even consider a certain policy if it is supported by the Trump Administration. They immediately think they “know” it is bad, wrong, hurtful—as soon as the name Trump is attached. In contrast, millions of other people have the exact same emotional reaction to anything attached to the name Obama, or Hillary Clinton. Rationality, consideration, and even empathy, are largely ignored. Millions basically turn off their brains and simply react to symbols—and their reactions are emotional, charged, and frequently downright angry. This turns violent more often than in less extreme eras of history.

Diverging Paths

In the current environment, winning has become the only goal for many in leadership, and for a majority of the population. And winning itself is defined as having certain people in power and in office, and/or other specific people out of power and out of office. Nothing but winning is acceptable to far too many in positions of influence and power—both public and in the private sector.

But there is an even worse situation, and it is the one we are now living. This occurs when one side believes that winning is the only important thing, and is willing to go to any length, any extreme, to win, while the other side still believes that some things are more important than winning.

When this happens, the side that only cares about winning becomes truly extreme, loses its moral sense and ethical compass, and goes entirely on the attack, using any means and justification it can muster. The other side, still convinced that morality is more important than winning, holds back, tries to show restraint, and attempts to use reason and appeals to decency to make its case. The result, in history, is mixed:

  • If an election is near, the anger gets channeled to the voting booth and a winning number of voters weigh in and throw their support behind the side arguing for decency, goodness, and wisdom.
  • If no election is imminent, the anger grows and is expressed mostly by the political class: those on the full attack win, while the side seeking reason and decency loses.

We are now witnessing the latter scenario. And history is clear on this point: Nations are drastically hurt by this approach. It tore the United States apart in the 1960s, where we witnessed the assassination of a President and two other major national leaders, along with massive violence, cultural civil war, and the destruction of national trust and cooperation. Similar events tore nations apart during the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and Bismarck’s Wars. The French and Indian War, the War of the Roses, the 30 Years War, and a number of others followed the same pattern. World War I took Europe for a similar ride—or, more precisely, a similar culture war culminated in the muddy trenches full of blood and machine-gun casings that webbed the continent in World War I.

In each case, it came down to two great, competing ideas or cultures, large or powerful groups supporting each side, and, eventually, the rise of symbol to extreme levels that incited violence, irrationality, and all-out culture war. We are now witnessing the same stew. Any who aren’t alarmed, or at least deeply concerned, don’t understand the ebbs and flows of history.

The solution, as history teaches, is to clearly identify which idea is right—and reject the other. This finally ended the great conflicts listed above, whether the conflicting ideas were communism vs. democratic free enterprise, a divine right of kings vs. the inalienable rights of all, Nazism vs. parliamentary democracy, imperialism vs. self-determination, slavery vs. individual rights, etc.

Follow or Lead?

To make matters even more challenging, today we are engaged in two such wars at the same time. First, there is the battle of radical Islamic terrorism vs. democratic inalienable rights. The clear winner will be democratic inalienable rights, which is more popular than terrorism among Muslims and pretty much everyone else around the world. Only the terrorists themselves, a very small minority of the world’s population, think theirs is the right idea.

The second great war being fought right now for control of our future is more complex. More difficult. Indeed, it threatens to tear our modern societies apart. It consists of, to put it as directly as possible, the competing ideas of democracy vs. aristocracy.

Elites choose the latter. They think society should be run by a few, and that the rest of us should accept the rule of our “betters.” And be grateful.

This is the underlying battle of our times. It is the war being fought in Washington D.C. between the Establishment and the American voters, and in most of our schools (where young people are largely convinced that success consists of getting a job working for elites, showing gratitude to elites, and kowtowing to elites in return for the promised salaries, promotions, and employee benefits). It is the war being fought on our campuses, and in most of the television programs and movies we consume.

Sometimes the message from schools, campuses, and the entertainment media is blatant, while other times it is subtle. But the message is nearly always the same: “the values of elites are best”, and “the rule of elites in all walks of life is just the way things are—and the way things should be”. This viewpoint is repeated over and over: “The best we can do is fall in line and get the kind of education and careers elites want for us.” Few people are able to spend many years in this system without succumbing to its promises and threats.

Perhaps the very center of this war is the media. Nearly every mainstream media report today communicates the same message: elites are the answer, we all need to adopt and celebrate elite values, all other values are obsolete or inferior, the voters get it wrong when they don’t follow elite media guidance, and the best path for our children is to embrace elite values and get the kind of good jobs that are mostly available working for elites and furthering elite agendas. The message is clear, and it is repeated from many of our most venerated institutions: “Everyone who isn’t an elite, or working for elites, is a loser, an outsider, an inferior.”

The Choice Right Now

This is not an exaggeration. Step back, look at our society today, the culture wars that are brewing, the leaders and their battles, and the news media. We are the world described just above—run “of the elites, by the elites, and for the elites.” The United States is a society at war, and the war is democracy vs. aristocracy. Note that aristocracy is promoted by nearly all of our major societal institutions. We are a world where all men and women are created equal, to paraphrase Orwell, but some, the elites (and those who adopt elite values and work for their goals), are to be treated more equal than others.

When the voters put in presidents and other leaders approved by elites they are applauded by the same elites. Media, academia, television, movies and experts of all stripes laud such officials and those who voted for them. When voters elect anyone who threatens or challenges elite values or goals, these same institutions turn to full attack mode. It’s like a pack of jackals going after their worst enemy. It’s Lord of the Flies. The courts are brought to bear, the media is weaponized, schools and universities become arms of elite propaganda, and the bulk of professionals and experts turn their attention to reversing or amending electoral “mistakes.” The voters must be kept in their place. Their superiors must rule.

Again, to history—it has always been thus. In fact, this is what Burke and Santayana were talking about when they warned that those who don’t learn from the mistakes of history are bound to repeat them. Specifically: The aristocrats have always known how to respond when a bit of democracy raises its head in challenge. They lie, they attack, they use innuendo, they mischaracterize, they publish false reports—followed by more false reports. When they do tell the truth, they spin it to promote their narrative. Where possible, they employ character assassination. If these fail, they look for another way. Any way to bring back elite rule and control.

This can go two ways, history shows us. If the people are swayed by such elite manipulations and tactics, the elites quickly regain their power. If not, if the people hold strong against elitist lies, agendas, and domination, democracy spreads and free enterprise flourishes.

Make no mistake. No matter how it looks (and remember that elites almost single-handedly control how it looks), the battles we witness on the nightly news are not personality vs. personality or even political party vs. political party. Something deeper is afoot. Aristocracy and Democracy are at war. Rule by elites vs. rule by the regular people. This is a true fork in the road. We will either remain a democratic, free enterprise nation, or we will become a fully functioning aristocracy.

This is our choice. Right now. And it boils down to whether we let the media sway our views, or not.

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Crisis upon Crisis:

May 29th, 2017 // 4:01 pm @

Comey’s Firing, Trump and Russia, Hillary’s Emails, Obama and Surveillance, a Special Counsel,
Spying on Americans, etc., etc., etc…

WHAT WE REALLY NEED RIGHT NOW

If the newly appointed Special Counsel investigates only President Trump and collusion with Russia, or obstruction of justice with James Comey, and doesn’t investigate and find the facts about alleged impropriety with Clinton’s emails, possible illegal acts of the Clinton Foundation, alleged Obama surveillance of political opponents, unlawful unmasking, and illegal leaks from government employees, we’ll know without a doubt that the entire operation is an elite liberal witch hunt. If the Special Counsel only investigates the Clinton and Obama teams, in contrast, we’ll know it’s conservative McCarthyism.

This is the good news. Put bluntly: As these investigations proceed, we’ll know clearly if we have a fair and open government, or if our nation is truly controlled by a small group of elites. It’s that cut and dried.

Part I

Before we get to the bad news, however, let’s back up and see how we got to this point. In the current news about the Justice Department, special counsel investigations, interference from the White House in investigations, etc., one word keeps popping up: “constitutional.” In reality, this word is out of place in such conversations. Of course the White House, Justice Department and other government entities should work within the Constitution. But for most Americans, especially those who have actually read the U.S. Constitution, how all this fits into the seven Articles of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, Preamble, Amendments or checks and balances is pretty fuzzy.

Talking heads tell us that one leader (Trump) isn’t following the Constitution, while other pundits say the other party was the problem (Obama, Clinton, etc.). Anyone who consults the Constitution will find that it doesn’t contain the answer. Why? Because when most experts use the word “constitutional” while discussing these topics, they mean something different than following the Constitution as written.

This cuts to the heart of one our biggest modern challenges. There are two main meanings of the word “Constitutional.” On the one hand, “constitutional” means “as contained and outlined in the words of the Constitution.” This is what the American Framers and Founders meant by “constitutional.” The second meaning is more complex, and includes numerous decisions, commentaries and traditions from the Supreme Court, cases and interpretations from various lower courts, and even certain historical (before 1787) and international court decisions, writings, and traditions (before and since 1787). In this second definition, the regular citizen is left at the mercy of experts to know the truth—and the experts frequently disagree with each other on specifics and details.

Put simply, there are two competing traditions of what is “constitutional” versus “unconstitutional.” For the Framers, there were two ultimate categories of manmade law: Constitutional Law (rules written and ratified by the people telling a government what it can and cannot do; found in a constitution), and Governmental Law (rules established by a government telling the people what they cannot do). This is the first definition of Constitutional Law, what could easily be called the American Model of Law.

Another tradition, the Roman Model of Law, later known as Continental Law (the continent in question was Europe through most of the middle ages), held that constitutional law is whatever the government says—to the people, to itself or its branches and parts, and to anyone else. W. Cleon Skousen called this Ruler’s Law. In modern America, this second approach sees “Constitutional Law” as something determined by the Court, something everyone else is bound to follow—even when the Court differs with the actual words of the Constitution itself.

In the American Founding view of constitutions, the people created a Constitution as an ultimate check on government. This was a great power designed to keep the people free from rule by any dominant group of elites. According to the second, revisionist view, in contrast, the courts are supreme above the people, the government, and the document itself, though in the case of the document, the Court’s supremacy consists of the self-proclaimed power to tell everyone else what the document actually means. Thus the American Framers gave us a federal government with three branches and gave the people the power to read the Constitution and hold the government to the document’s specific words, while today’s legal theory is that the Court has the authority to read the Constitution, interpret it at will, and keep the other branches of government and the people in check. This is a very negative shift.

Most Americans today have been taught, bought into, or at least acquiesce to the second view. This constitutes perhaps the biggest threat the United States has ever faced to the original intent of the Framers and the future freedoms of the American people.

Let’s apply this directly to current events. When told that certain actions of, for example, the Justice Department are constitutional, or unconstitutional, a person from the Founding Fathers viewpoint would immediately want to ask: “Which part of the Constitution is the Department of Justice following? Or not following? Is it Article I? Article II? Article III? Which clause?”

In truth, the Justice Department is operating under the famous Article VIII of the U.S. Constitution. Go read the Constitution, and when you get to Article VIII, you’ll see what I mean.

Specifically: there is no Article VIII in the U.S. Constitution. The sad reality is that much of what the federal government now does comes under these same Article VIII powers—never written in the Constitution, never ratified by the people, never part of the document, but still very much a part of our government. To be clear: most of these things are by definition unconstitutional. But the Court calls them constitutional, so they are part of our system.

Part II

One of the biggest problems with this arrangement is that the Framers established the Constitution (and the people and states discussed, debated, and ratified it) based on a widely understood theory of government. This pattern or design is still occasionally taught in our schools, and if pressed many people still understand it. It goes something like this:

  • The Constitution establishes a federal government with three separate branches: Legislative, Executive, and Judicial.
  • There are checks and balances between the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches of the federal government, and between the states and federal government. These checks and balances were designed to keep any level or branch of government from abusing its power or doing anything not explicitly allowed by the Constitution.
  • There are also private institutions in society, such as families, churches, businesses, schools, media organizations, etc.—they operate freely, as long as they don’t violate the inalienable rights of anyone in the society. Such private institutions do not have the power of force to arrest, imprison, kill or punish people. Only the government has such powers, given to it by the people; but no single branch of government has such powers on its own—it must receive the cooperation of other branches in order to imprison or punish its citizens.

This is all clearly outlined by the Framers. But what happens when a government entity doesn’t work for any one branch of the government? When it has two masters? Or perhaps just operates with its own agendas in mind? When this happens, the whole Constitutional arrangement breaks down—or, at the very least, is weakened.

Specifically, consider this question: Is the Justice Department part of the Executive Branch? Originally, this was the case. When the DOJ was established in 1870 (during the Ulysses S. Grant Administration), its main purpose was to expand the ability of the White House to prosecute the many cases it found itself dealing with in the aftermath of the Civil War. The Court couldn’t investigate or prosecute such cases—it had to remain impartial in order to adjudicate.

Before the Civil War, most cases were prosecuted within states. Only cases between states, or where one of the states was a party to the case, or dealing with issues on the high seas or international jurisdictions, needed the Supreme Court, along with certain cases that directly affected multiple states. These were manageable by the Court.

After the Civil War, however, the Court found itself dealing with numerous cases where no state courts were in operation—indeed where a number of state governments were defunct or even considered themselves foreign entities. The DOJ was wisely created to fill the void.

Even when all the states were back to full operation, many in Washington understandably felt little trust for state courts in the South, and over time the scope and size of the Justice Department grew. In the original act that created the Justice Department, it was called “an executive department” of the executive branch—meant to relieve the White House of domestic law enforcement. In all this, the DOJ was understood to operate as a part of the Executive, to be overseen by the President, appointed by the President (with Congressional approval), and removable by the President. In other words, it was an Article II agency of government, governed by Article II—meaning, by the President.

Today, the approach is different. The currently accepted perspective is that while all other members of the President’s Cabinet and ambassadors serve as advisors to the President, and entirely at the President’s pleasure, the Attorney General is a special case. This applies also to U.S. Attorneys and top officials at the FBI; they are selected by the President (many with Congressional approval) and he may remove them at will. But they are expected to have dual loyalty: to the President, and also to the Law.

This creates “two masters,” as a Duke Law article put the issue using Biblical terms. Top DOJ officials are, in the current tradition, supposed to represent the President and also the Law, and if the two ever diverge, they must stand for the Law. This is by nature very complex. First, the Law isn’t a person, so the DOJ official or Special Counsel is left to determine his/her own view of how the Law applies in a given case. This is literally a power over facts and how they are interpreted and applied—something the Framers only gave the Court and juries the authority to decide. Second, the Framers considered it a breach of the entire “separation of powers with checks and balances” system to allow a direct inferior the power to investigate and/or charge a direct superior. Naturally, this could encourage an ambitious official to get rid of a boss and personally benefit from the action.

Third, the complexity is increased by the fact that in many cases it is up to the individual official to determine when a divergence occurs. Where one official doesn’t see a problem, another might. Or, if a problem arises, investigators who look into the situation at a later date may determine that the official should have seen and acted upon a divergence—even though the individual didn’t think so at the time. Or vice versa.

In other words, in contrast with all the other separations of powers and checks and balances outlined in the U.S. Constitution, the separations, checks and balances on top DOJ and FBI officials when investigating the White House, and top officials at the White House when interacting with such officials, is full of innuendo and complexity. When a Special Counsel is appointed and given the power of a U.S. Attorney, this moves to yet another level of complexity. The Special Counsel and the White House are supposed to apply special rules, and the Special Counsel must do so while simultaneously investigating and judging how others who were supposed to follow special complex rules did—even though different people in the relationships frequently understood things differently.

In short, it’s a mess, giving huge power to the discretion of unelected officials. This doesn’t follow the otherwise clear lines of separate powers, checks and balances that characterize the Constitution. To be clear, the mess arises from attempting to make a President’s advisors investigate and decide whether or not to legally charge their boss. This amounts to exactly what it is: a “band aid” on the original Constitution. Moreover, this model was never ratified by the people through Amendment. Some experts consider it part of the Constitution, but it simply isn’t. The Constitution is what it is. These rules are something else. Some good, some bad—but not actually part of the U.S. Constitution, except by mental construct. Some experts call it “constitutional,” others don’t. The Constitution itself says nothing on the topic, except that members of the Executive Branch work for the President via Article II.

The solution to this confusing and sloppy band aid that was patched onto the Constitution is simple: Let the states handle most of the legal issues in the nation and reduce what has become largely extra-constitutional federal involvement in litigating things Washington should leave alone. Moreover, have the Attorney General and anyone else working at the DOJ report directly to the President, just like any other Cabinet Secretary and all other Executive Branch employees. If a case arises where the President is the subject of investigation, Congress must run the investigation. That’s why the Framers put the entire impeachment process in the Constitution. Only another branch of government can correctly check the Commander in Chief. This was the Framers’ view of the Constitutional separation of powers.

Of course, this is not what is currently happening. But before we throw our hands in the air and give up, accepting that “Washington will be Washington,” and “that’s just politics,” or “what a mess our government is,” it is important to acknowledge that there is a better way. The American Framers understood it. Specifically: It is an inherent Constitutional conflict of interest for the President’s employees to have the duty to investigate him/her.

Such a check and balance is vitally important, and it is, according to the Constitution, the job of Congress. Again: The Framers gave us three branches of the federal government, with separations, checks and balances. Not three branches plus an Attorney General that sometimes works for the Commander in Chief and other times for the Law; and other times, when things gets hard, delegates to a Special Counsel.

We need to get back to the Constitution. Three branches. That’s freedom 101. And no matter what your political view, we should all see this alike: following the Constitution is the right approach. Anything else is inferior at best. If we decide as a nation that we need a non-Congressional way to carry out investigations of the president, there is a Constitutional way to approach this: by amendment. Anything else is a piecemeal end-run around the Constitution. In other words, it’s unconstitutional—meaning that it’s not what the Constitution says or what the Framers intended. This is true no matter what the Court says or allows. The people, the Founding Fathers clearly taught, are the final guardians of the Constitution. No government entity (including the Court) can usurp this role—not if we expect to maintain our freedom.

Part III

Although many of the investigations today are occurring in an unconstitutional manner with little hope for real change any time soon, there is still the chance of a good outcome. Here it is: If the Special Counsel does a truly honest and fair investigation he could still get things right. As far as I can see, there is only one way to do this. If such an investigation is necessary, then simply investigate the entire thing, impartially and thoroughly:

  • Russian interference in the campaign, if any
  • Trump collusion with Russia during or after the campaign, if any
  • Hillary’s emails and whether or not they broke national security laws
  • Obama Administration surveillance of the Trump campaign and any other political opponents (e.g. Rand Paul, etc.), if any
  • Improper unmasking of Americans by Obama officials, if any
  • Clinton Foundation impropriety with Russia or with anyone else, if any
  • Clinton Foundation “pay to play” incidents, if any
  • Improper influencing of the election by both sides, if any
  • Trump obstruction of justice in the investigations, if any
  • Obama Administration obstruction of justice in Hillary email investigations, if any
  • Illegal leaks from government officials
  • Illegal government spying on Americans (including big data) under Obama and also Trump, if any

Get to the truth, on all of it. Tell the American people what really happened.  And openly share the evidence so we know what actually occurred. If this is what happens, citizens can weigh the evidence and decide how to be good voters and take our nation in the right direction.

But the danger is very real. If this is all about a few elites getting Donald Trump out of office, or weakening his presidency, because they don’t think the voters made the right choice, then the Special Counsel will hurt the election process much more than Russia could or did. The only solution is that the American people must be let in on the whole truth. Don’t leave this to experts behind closed doors.

And, emphatically, don’t use “national security” as an excuse to keep American voters in the dark on anything related to this. Just tell us the truth. Having our decisions made for us behind closed doors by a few elite experts is much more dangerous to our nation and our security than openly sharing whatever “national security” truths are part of the story. Much more dangerous.

This bears repeating. Do a full investigation—of both sides, and of everyone involved. The Clintons, Obama, Trump, etc. And tell us openly and entirely what happened.

Anything less is either a government cover-up or a one-sided witch-hunt, or both.

By the time this investigation ends, those who watch this closely and carefully will know the clear truth about one thing: whether or not this is a government “by, for, and of” the people, or a government “by, for, and of” a few elites who quietly rule from behind the scenes.

Again: Investigate it all, on both sides, and tell the American electorate everything—transparently showing us all the evidence. No hidden agendas, no secretive backroom deals, no elite Establishment privileges to anyone—even if they are named Clinton, Obama, Trump, etc. Above all: no choosing to investigate and tear down one side while giving the other a free pass. Investigate it all, and openly show us what happened.

If the Special Counsel does this impartially and honestly, the American people can assess where we are, warts and all, and lead the nation where it needs to go. If the Special Counsel doesn’t do this genuinely, openly, honestly, and on both sides of the political aisle, we’re going to know, clearly and without equivocation, that we’ve lost our nation to a few powerful elites who control things regardless of what the voters choose.

Finally, just because there is a Special Counsel doesn’t remove Congress’ responsibility to do this right. Ultimately, the Congress must fulfill its Constitutionally mandated job and investigate this all. It can’t rely on a Special Counsel without shirking its own Constitutional duty. And it must decide what is right in this matter and take action—regardless of what the Special Counsel does or says, even if the truth ends up flying in the face of Special Counsel actions. The Framers gave this duty to Congress.

If there is one thing we desperately need right now in the United States, it is for Congress to get serious and active about fulfilling its Constitutional duties—not kowtowing to the media, executive agencies or bureaucracies, special interests, or anyone else. This is especially true of the majority party in Congress.

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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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Increase Your Influence By Ian Cox

April 19th, 2017 // 8:05 am @

by Ian A Cox

The Biggest Question

Wow! That’s deep.

The thought kept recurring as I read. The article, written by an innovator, filled me with numerous ideas—old and new—about Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience. The author showed how this classic work, and others like it, are relevant to national events right now, including the famous–not to mention great–maxim: “That government is best which governs least.”

The author showed how this applies to our current national challenges. The biggest question that came to me as I read  was something we all need to consider:

“How can we increase our influence in a world that seems to be heading in the wrong direction?”

This isn’t just a rhetorical question. We have more power than we might realize. The struggle for freedom resets with every new generation.[1]

We are always one generation away from potentially losing our liberty. Education is key, and understanding freedom is a must for those who hope to protect and spread freedom.

Moreover, the battle for freedom resets in certain predictable ways. In his book We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident, Oliver DeMille gives some perspective on this fateful struggle for freedom in the United States after we gained our independence.

Here’s a summary:

  • The House of Representatives was the first to vie for power, as early as the 1790’s. But the executive branch flexed its muscles as well and managed to stop the over-reaching House.
  • In the early 19th Century the Marshall Court pushed for widespread control, but the Presidents during the time were able to largely obstruct court expansion (checks and balances = obstruct).
  • Next, the mid-19th Century saw a resurgence of local governments as prejudices ran rampant and public servants and jurors turned a blind eye to injustice. This was eventually curbed by the exodus of many oppressed groups and minorities to the west, which created new regions and states, increasing the federalizing power (the Electoral College).
  • The States then pushed for dominance of power in the mid-to-late part of the 19th Century, but were beaten by the combined federal powers of the three branches of government.
  • An Aristocratic Senate was the leading power center of the early 20th Century, but it only gained influence where the Court allowed.
  • The Executive branch stole the baton from the Senate in the settling dust of the Second World War, and this continues today. In fact, its aggressive competitor for power is the Supreme Court—both take turns usurping influence.

A great strength of the United States Constitution is the multi-layered governmental system it created, including a network of intricate checks and balances, as outlined above. The price of human nature and usurping freedoms from others is that power doesn’t decrease; it only transfers to other branches that tend to increase their power in order to bring back a proper balance. In each of these eras a complete takeover was thwarted, but power was centralized and freedoms gradually slipped away.

Deciding Our Fate

This power pendulum persistently swings back and forth, from one group to another, until more individuals take up their true duties as citizens (real influence).

This can occur 1) peacefully, 2) when a violent reset happens (like the Civil War), or 3) when our society collapses and something new is established out of the ashes.

The peaceful option is clearly preferable.

These issues and problems are not merely something we need to think about for today and tomorrow. We must embrace these things with a generational perspective. Because they exist on a grander scale, we have to ask the important questions. Are we solving the problem, or are we stopping one problem by creating a new one?

For example, the Civil War was practically written into the original Constitution; it was a paradox in the fabric of the whole system. Either the joint founding ideals of “all men are created equal” and “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” had to be done away with, or slavery had to go. Both could not ultimately flourish together.

Likewise, the Mexican-American War (against Spain) was guaranteed as soon as the Monroe Doctrine was adopted. And, once we decided that extensive international relations via broad treaties were in our best interest, we accepted the wars of Europe as our own.

Phillip Bobbitt’s Shield of Achilles shows how we inadvertently embed the battles that future generations must fight into the chinks and weaknesses of the systems and programs we create today. The establishment of organizations like the Federal Reserve, Internal Revenue Service, and International Monetary Fund created the inevitable outcome of hyper-inflation, boom-bust cycles, and fiat currency, to name a few.

To a great extent, we are always creating our future crises.

Is this the society and government we want to fund with our taxes? Is this the group we want to endorse with our good name? To stand with confidence, with a clean conscience, and to fulfill each of our moral obligations, we must ask ourselves the hard questions. Here I reiterate the innovator’s call to action; we must not be the ostrich with our heads buried in the sand–but we also must avoid falling victim to a conquering Caesar (or a Byzantine bureaucracy[2]).

Revolutionary Options

There are a few options that have historically worked in changing a society’s fate. Some of these alternatives are still very possible today, while others are becoming less and less available to most people. Here’s a breakdown of the top three from history:

1) Exodus

You pack up and leave, in hopes of finding a better place to restart. This has happened successfully many times in many cultures, but it is risky. Today there are very limited options for this choice. We have different forms and styles of government to pick from, but there isn’t untamed land that can be cultivated and founded from the ground up.

2) Violence

This is probably the most common form of rebellion. A group raises up arms and fights, in hope of overthrowing or removing tyrants. This method usually fails—not that it doesn’t remove the tyrants from power, but it typically breeds revolution after revolution[3] and more often than not, ends with some new tyrant. In most cases, little actually gets fixed.

3) Civil Influence

In the modern world, civil influence has become the regular, expected, and non-violent form of change. This was brought about in large part by the spread of more democratic forms in societies and governments. As the people’s standard of living, education, and access to information worldwide increases, so does their ability to get involved and flex their muscles as the first and foremost branch of any governmental form.[4] This is the at times slowest method of change, but often the most successful in the long-term.

Where civil influence was once answered with the death sentence (if you weren’t in the ruling class), it is now a real and viable option for any member of society to initiate the spark of change. This requires us, as John Locke argued, to be tolerant. Like the original thirteen colonies, we have now reached a point where the regular people need each other in order to get the right things done. This means we need to work with people who don’t always perfectly agree with us in every detail—or even in many details.

Now, this doesn’t mean we don’t stand for what is right or shirk our moral duties, but rather that we pick our battles. If we are constantly coming out against everything that peeves us, nobody will listen when it really matters (e.g. “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”). Some things will absolutely happen in society that we dislike. But we can’t let disagreement make us disagreeable. It’s actually good that there are differing views on important issues. In fact, we should have a Hamilton and a Jefferson at each other’s throats in cabinet meetings, Congressional floor debates, and Supreme Court decisions–because it leads to more considered and effective solutions in the end.

More importantly, to really have influence, it is helpful not to be the guy who people hate at parties, always harping about the latest issue. Build friends, foster relationships, and focus your political influence when the time and topic are right. That said, be ready and watchful. The right time and topic will come.

Hope for a Better Future

A government by the people will largely be a reflection of the people. It could be a great government if a Moses, Marcus Aurelius, George Washington, Confucius, Muhammad, Cincinnatus, etc. is at its head; but as history has shown, it wouldn’t last. Maintaining a long-lived and successfully free society demands that a lot more citizens think and understand the principles of freedom (at the same level as, or better still, higher level than, our political leaders).

If you and I do this and we invite our communities to do the same, if “we the people” take on the responsibility to govern ourselves, we can and will have the best type of government—one that need only govern least. We must stop passing the buck on the hard things, or someone else will gladly take them up and decide for us. We the people, the first and original branch of government, have always had the most power to check and balance our government, and that hasn’t changed in today’s world.

An elite class can only rule when most of the citizens don’t have the same level of learning.

With persistence, civil influence really can provide proper checks and balances against the potential threats to freedom that naturally exist wherever power resides. In truth, it’s ultimately the only thing that does. It can be difficult. It takes patience, vigilance, study, understanding, and sacrifice.

But it does work.

Notes

[1] See, for example, the struggles of ancient Greece to unite city-states (unity vs. sovereignty), and the same issues in the nations of Europe and later the American colonies.

[2] A much more likely outcome in our situation.

[3] Consider the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Revolution, etc.

[4] From the American Revolution to Brexit.

About the Author

Ian A Cox is an entrepreneur and consultant who mentors leadership and the Liberal Arts for students and business men and women of all ages and levels. Ian is a popular keynote speaker at educational and business events. He loves reading, basketball, and discussing deep ideas on history and political science. Ian and his wife Emma have two sons.

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