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Leadership

Why We Need a Renaissance

October 22nd, 2010 // 4:00 am @

The problem with revolutions is that they throw out the good with the bad.

Promoters of revolution gather support by peddling hate of the current system and those who lead and benefit from it, so when they get around to making changes they have actually discredited much of what is good in society.

Indeed, this is why some scholars have argued that the American Founding was not truly a revolution like those in France and later Russia.

Reforms, many thinkers rightly suggest, are gentler than revolution and can still result in positive improvements.

Unfortunately, reform thrives by re-empowering entrenched institutions, systems and even groups that are often more than just a little invested in doing things without change.

Reform tinkers with the edges while leaving the majority of the failing system intact.

Making reforms can certainly bring needed improvements to an organization or society, and sometimes little changes are enough.

The rule of thumb is to avoid revolution unless those things you hold most dear are under attack and clearly threatened, and to rely on reform when the issues and consequences aren’t quite so drastic.

Revolution throws out the good and bad of the past and replaces it with an all new system, while reform leaves the system mostly unchanged but alters certain procedures, institutions or personnel.

There is another option which approaches things very differently, and which can bring major change without the pain of revolution.

This option is Renaissance.

Renaissance is unlike revolution and reform in many ways, but can often deliver the positive results of both.

Renaissance operates from a very different premise than the other two, because it focuses on drastically changing people instead of things.

It changes people from the inside, and then leaves it to them to alter their lives, choices and actions in ways that reform the past and revolutionize and redirect the future.

When societies emphasize progress through revolution or reform, they focus on institutions, laws, policies, funding, credentials, resources, and other manifestations of the physical world.

In contrast, renaissance emphasizes the soul.

When people change their ideas, feelings, goals, dreams, loves, beliefs, passions, ideals, objectives, wishes, relationships and other intangibles, the future is forever impacted.

While these may seem ethereal to some, their impact on history is certainly concrete and momentous.

Two Models

In times of consistent economic growth, plentiful jobs and easy capital, the characteristics of success are often consistency, schooling, training, expertise, steadiness, reliability, obedience, compliance and longevity.

Schools in such environments teach memorization, fitting in, impressing superiors, and excelling within the guidelines, and jobs tend to reward these things.

But when the economy is struggling, jobs are difficult to get and keep, employers are laying off and reducing costs, and/or capital is scarce and minimizing risk, a different set of values dominate.

Traits like capability, skill, ability, initiative, resiliency, optimism, inventiveness, ingenuity, ability to inspire others, frugality, resourcefulness, tenacity and especially enterprise are most valued by the economy.

Schools and parents in such times need to help students increase creativity, imagination, originality, individuality, mental agility, emotional resolve, innovation, risk and entrepreneurialism.

We have been in a general growth period for nearly fifty years, and we are now in a struggling economic era, so the values are in transition from the first list to the second.

Parents and grandparents are still likely to dispense advice from the old economy, emphasizing things like test-taking, credentials and impressing superiors over the new economic realities such as initiative, individuality, originality and entrepreneurialism.

The government is stuck in the same rut, trying and failing to fix major societal challenges with trivial, albeit expensive, reforms.

Where they do attempt to make huge changes, such as in health care and financial reform, their symbolic and revolutionary-style agendas are creating more anger, frustration and deficits than actual solutions.

Tea Party responses further fuel the revolutionary rhetoric in the media and on Capitol Hill–but things remain mostly unchanged.

This lingering “business as usual” in Washington is alarming in a society with significant problems and major challenges in many fields of life.

From the obvious economic problems to unending international quagmires in Afghanistan (now the longest war in American history), Iraq and a number of other places, to a decaying infrastructure of roads and bridges, rising health care costs (unsolved and further complicated by the new health care law), decreasingly effective schools, high unemployment, unsolved levels of crime, and so on, we need real leadership and solutions that actually remedy our national problems.

Revolution is not the answer.

There is much that is good in America, and we want to surgically solve our problems without undoing the many positive things we have built into our society.

But the reform mentality isn’t working either, and the problems have been piling up for over a decade.

We need to drastically improve society, deliver solutions to overcome our most pressing problems, and simultaneously maintain the things which are already working.

Despite the attachment of both political parties and nearly all of our major public and private institutions to reform thinking, we need something much more effective.

We need change from within, a drastic alteration of attitudes and goals and thinking across our nation.

We need people to imagine a better future, to really believe in the reality of what we can do, and to take action.

We don’t need more stirring speeches from the President or any other leader so much as we need millions of individual Americans to get work–alone and in small groups–on solving our problems.

In short, we need a renaissance. And we need it soon.

The Power to Change

Fortunately, the greatest power in all of this may simply be individuals taking action and parents discussing the new values (initiative, ingenuity, tenacity, entrepreneurialism, and so forth) with their children and youth.

In fact, the American spirit of resourcefulness, optimism and enterprise is alive and well. More of us just need to take the leap.

The difficulty, of course, is that the old values were against risk.

In the old economy, the one that dominated from 1945 to 2008, risk was scary and often unrewarding.

A lot of people made small to large fortunes in entrepreneurial ventures, small businesses, network and multilevel marketing, and other non-traditional enterprises, but a lot more lost money in such attempts and ended up dependent on jobs like nearly everyone else.

The lesson for many people was just to get a decent education, a regular job, and a secure benefits package.

Like in Defoe’s classic Robinson Crusoe, many parents shared the advice not to aim too high or too low, but just to be content with “the middle station” in life.

A decent house, two cars, cable television, a good grill and a family membership at the local rec center — these were the dreams of two generations of Americans.

Robert Kiyosaki develops this theme in various interesting dialogues in the best-selling Rich Dad, Poor Dad (affiliate link).

But in the new economy, such a course is likely to create permanent economic struggles in your life. In this economic environment, without risk few people get ahead.

Entrepreneurial thinking, originality and initiative are the new credentials.

Tenacity, ingenuity and enterprise are the new job security.

This is true even among much of the traditionally employed population. The stakes are higher now and success is more difficult across the board, and thinkers, leaders and innovators are needed.

Early Adapters

But how to get the population on board with the new values? Most of us were raised, educated and lived our careers in the old economy, and shifting to the new realities is proving troublesome.

If the Great Recession is just a blip in history and the days of easy credit and consistent growth return for a decade or more, people will justify this refusal to transition their thinking.

But if, as all indications and evidence seem to suggest, the times of high unemployment, a difficult growth environment and a sputtering economy are here to stay for a while, we are kidding ourselves and hurting our futures by refusing to adapt.

No policy, institutional plan or governmental debate is likely to shift the national mentality from employee thinking to entrepreneurial values.

A renaissance is needed. Our vision must change, and our dreams must imagine the great opportunities available in the new realities of the future economy.

We must, as a people, engage a massive migration toward the new economy.

We can lead the economies of the world, but we have to embrace the new reality and get to work. Until a mental renaissance occurs, we are stuck in a rut of old thinking.

Of course, even if the majority refuses to move forward in this new world, each of us can make these changes and get started on our own journey.

In fact, those who get started first are more likely to benefit and profit than the latecomers. This is true in any nearly any industry and endeavor. The early bird gets the worm.

And, as the early adapters get to work, it is empowering to those who are waiting for validation or credibility to justify the risk so they can get on board as well.

There are already a few who are pioneering and building in the new economy. For example, the “downshifter” trend took successful people from the coasts to small towns to build an entrepreneurial new economy starting in the late nineties.

Likewise, homeschooling and the organic foods movements addressed problems in education and health care using new economy thinking long before the 2008 economic meltdown.

Both continue to grow as the rest of the economy unsuccessfully grasps for solutions. Indeed, few whole foodists were (or are) too concerned about health care reforms–because they are, simply, healthy.

Participatory religion continues to grow, as the old-line religions dependent on Priests and Professionals watch their numbers dwindle.

Public schools and teacher unions are increasingly concerned with the growth of charter and other non-traditional educational offerings, and the rise of for-profit career colleges has the old educational bureaucracy hiring lobbyists and badmouthing these “upstart” competitors.

With just one of these schools, The University of Phoenix, quickly becoming the largest university in the world, the old system sees its monopoly fading.

There is a shortage of new economy thinking because the whole nation needs to make the shift, but there are numerous examples of leaders and groups making the transition.

Indeed, literally thousands of online “tribes” are slowly moving (and many are going more quickly) in the right direction.

A few guidelines for transition to the new economy and values include:

  • Start young, or if you are older, help the young get started
  • Don’t seek to impress the old elite, but rather go after real results
  • Get past the old value of not taking risks
  • Be experimental, not limited by old systems, methods or models
  • Don’t be limited by old obstacles like office space or business cards
  • Don’t get stuck on hierarchies, titles and power struggles
  • Think virtual, tribal and international
  • Be inclusive, open and interconnected
  • Be mindful of the way information grows

Conclusion

In the Information Age, revolution would cause as many problems as it might possibly fix, and reform has proven too feeble to really bring necessary change.

We need a massive internal renaissance of the great explorer, frontier, pioneering, and entrepreneuring values which took Pilgrims to the Mayflower, 49’rs to the plains, and led generations of Americans to build the businesses, families, schools, churches, and communities that made our nation great.

We need to accept that we live in a new economy and embrace the new values which bring success in our new environment.

Chief among these are initiative, cheerfulness, persistence, and an enterprising mentality. We need to engage the powerful flow of information in this age, and help it spread and lift the plight of peoples worldwide.

Each of us has a vital role helping the future emerge, and it is time to take the leap and get to work on those things we have always felt we should do.

Or, if we are already hard at work doing our part, it would be well to smile, laugh more often, and give our full attention to watching a sunset or contemplating a tide as it comes in.

It is time for a renaissance, and if the whole nation doesn’t lead out, each of us can embrace it anyway.

Above all, it’s time to take a deep breath, exhale any doubts, and sit down with our youth and share our vision of the new world and the renaissance ahead.

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

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 : Economics &Entrepreneurship &Featured &Government &History &Information Age &Leadership

Freedom Leadership: America’s Opportunity

October 15th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

Futurist John Naisbitt wrote in Mindset that success in the 21st Century will go to the opportunity leaders, not the problem solvers.

America hasn’t yet figured this out. The focus of our leaders — political, corporate, media — seems mostly on problems.

As Fareed Zakaria argues, the current debate in the United States is totally out of touch with the global reality.

The news covers Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea, as have weekly talk shows. Americans are “obsessed with issues like terrorism, immigration, homeland security, and economic panics.”

But these all represent a preoccupation with the global losers of the past twenty years. Zakaria argues that the “real challenges that the country faces come from the winners, not the losers, of the new world.” (See his excellent book, The Post-American World.)

Rising — & Falling — Stars

How much are Americans thinking of the real challenges ahead, from China, Brazil, South Africa, Kenya, India and Russia?

These emerging powers are on the rise economically and politically, yet most Americans are alarmingly unaware. The economic growth of these nations is increasing their clout and “producing political confidence and national pride.”

The American people and the U.S. government are unprepared to deal with these new powers and their demands, choices and might. The central role of the United States in the world is about to drastically shrink, right when Washington sees America as the world’s last super power.

American political, economic and psychological letdown is inevitable.

Many of the rising powers have sectors with free economics, less regulation, lower taxes and more opportunity than the U.S. Entrepreneurs are increasingly courted and rewarded in these nations, while they are increasingly regulated and put down in the U.S. and Western Europe.

America’s Critical Choice

The United States has a great choice ahead: increase taxes to protect jobs and benefits or free up the economy in order to really compete in the decades ahead. The first is socialism, the second is free enterprise.

But here is the great challenge: the first is seen as “fixing the economy” and the second as scary, and probably depressionary.

A scarcity mentality is the cause of socialism; abundance is the foundation of free enterprise. Clearly, America today is caught in the grip of scarcity.

Welcome to our current irony. The story most Americans know is of a powerful but fearful great nation that leads the world against dark and sinister forces of jihadism and dictatorship.

What is left out of the story are the two dozen nations who are growing, prospering, and not affiliated with either side.

Washington will be forced to rethink its domestic and global strategy; forced not by its enemies but by its competitors. They are refusing to allow its meddling, and they are starting to attract those who are seeking free markets, opportunity and freedom.

On top of all this, at the same time that Americans are losing faith in their government, the new powers are experiencing a surge of nationalism; they want to be seen as strong and to spread their ways and power like the U.S. has for so long.

As the U.S. mires itself in the worst problems around the world, the new powers are attracting capital, technology and leadership by offering opportunity and freedom.

The Simple Solution

Of course, the U.S. can solve this all in one simple way — become the most inviting nation on earth. Get rid of massive regulation and simply re-establish freedom, free enterprise, free markets, true opportunity.

To do this, it will have to stop interfering in world conflicts and trying to be more socialist than Russia or Sweden.

If it fails in either change, if it doesn’t deregulate and stop policing the world, it will decline and collapse in power as did Rome, Spain, France and Britain — all of whom followed the same sick path to failure. China, Russia and India will be the new super powers.

But America’s biggest problem is that it has lost its purpose. It became the world’s leader by promoting freedom, and it lost its purpose when its major goal became power.

The freedom purpose had enlivened its domestic and international actions, and this made it great. Power as purpose — both at home and abroad — turned Washington into a place hated around the world and by its own citizens.

The United States is powerful in many ways but not in one critical way — legitimacy. Much of the world sees the U.S. as powerful, yes, but only powerful. Not good, or great, or standing for something.

What Do We Stand For?

For America to maintain a leadership role in the decades ahead, it must stand for something.

Thomas Friedman thinks it should stand for global Green. But I’m convinced that freedom is its only path to success. Without a renewed commitment to freedom, free government, deregulation, free enterprise, America doesn’t deserve to lead the world.

America must stop policing the world, and start standing for its greatest export: freedom. Unless this happens, it won’t solve its own problems or be able to help anyone else.

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

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 : Economics &Entrepreneurship &Featured &Foreign Affairs &Government &Leadership &Liberty &Politics

How Information Grows

October 12th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

Information grows differently than industry or agriculture.

Thus hundreds of years of understanding about how to grow Industrial-Age businesses doesn’t really apply to many Information Age endeavors.

Indeed, some of the lessons of how to grow a farm in the Agricultural Age didn’t necessarily translate to Industrial Age corporate growth, although some did.

The key is to think in a new context and apply lessons within the contemporary environment.

Information, and by extension Information-Age organizations and ideas, grow in a certain way.

Instead of the Industrial model of building a foundation, then adding walls, buttresses and finally a roof, informational models grow like waves.

Imagine the ripples caused when a pebble falls into a lake. The waves repeat many times, spreading out and impacting the world around them. Eventually they dissipate and disappear, leaving the world altered, if only a little. Additional pebbles are needed to repeat the process.

And unlike the Industrial Age penchant for building institutions that last forever, information impacts the world and then moves on to something else when enough ripples have accomplished the goal.

The Industrial modus operandi was to build an institution to achieve a goal, and then to focus on the survival and growth of the institution — even if this required abandoning the original purpose for which the institution was established.

In contrast, information sets out to inform, keeps going until this is accomplished, and then moves on to other agendas.

Likewise, where Industrial institutions attempt to control how their work is perceived and utilized, information shares, informs, and leaves (and trusts) those who receive the information to use it as needed and to pass it on.

Good information is naturally improved by various applications, and it is perpetuated by those who receive and utilize it.

There are eight levels of informational waves:

1: At first, information simply is. It exists.

It is in the state and process of being. This is the most important level of informational ideas, institutions and thinkers.

The quality, breadth, depth and wisdom of information matters. Getting it right (right from the beginning) is vital.

Even more important is sharing information for the right reason. If information is shared for the wrong reasons, for example, the information itself is tainted and changed by this fact.

In the Industrial Age, things were considered good information if they were true, but information has a higher standard. Unless informational ideas are shared for the right reasons, the information isn’t reliable.

In short, the first level of information is purity.

Any item of information is a thing, and it has a purpose. In sharing information or building informational institutions or relationships, pure reasons are essential. Without them, the information itself is unreliable.

Note that pure information is one of the most powerful things in the world. It has been called “the power of the word,” “the power of an idea whose time has come,” “resonance,” and a number of other things.

When information is shared by the right person at the right time for the right reasons, it has great and lasting power.

2: Good information that is promoted and shared for the right reasons becomes an interactive wave.

This greatly increases the impact and influence of the information, spreading it to those who need it.

Of course, bad information passed on for the wrong reasons is also interactive and therefore very destructive. Anybody who has ever started a rumor, for example, has probably witnessed how quickly it spreads and how much pain and hurt it can cause.

In the long term, however, tainted information has no lasting power. Information promoters do best when they send out ideas far and wide, openly sharing and personally applying the “new” information they have learned.

3: Next comes the communicative wave.

This occurs where people purposely set out to communicate information to set groups or to everyone.

This wave can be marketed, spun, or twisted for the benefit of various groups and people, but the pure information will shine through and those seeking wisdom will see through the shades of spin and opinion and resonate with what they need to learn.

They will then naturally pass on their contributions and lessons learned and the value of the information will increase.

Synergy kicks in at this point and the value of the information spirals out to many who are seeking it.

4: A linear wave captures much of the information at this level and translates it to specific uses, fields, disciplines, written or spoken or digitized venues and delivers its essence in numerous formats.

Information institutions or thinkers frequently introduce their views to the world in this format. Of course, it existed before they composed, organized or created their specific work, but their creation adds value, quality and even wisdom to the information.

By its nature, information spreads, and those who add to its value without trying to enslave its essence help it spread and increase its ability to serve.

Those who try to control it, in contrast, find that their creation is devalued, their creativity stifled, and their flow of additional information violated.

Unlike land or capital in the Agrarian and Industrial eras, respectively, information is not meant to be owned. The wave of open source programs and wiki media applications harnesses this abundant and cooperative mentality.

Note that I am not arguing here for uncompensated use of copyrighted software, technology, artistic or other proprietary creations.

I believe that original inventions, innovations and creations should benefit those who risked, invested, worked and created. And organizations and governments have every right to keep certain things secret or proprietary.

But pure information in ideas, principles and the flow of wisdom is not the same as one’s proprietary creation–nobody can (or should) lock up or control the flow of pure information.

As long as individuals and institutions own their creation, but without trying to control thought and inspiration, it can benefit them and many others.

5: Eventually information is captured in numerous linear waves which together form a multimedia wave.

In other words, at a certain point pure information is simultaneously delivered in many forms and from numerous sources which reinforce the messages, lessons and value of the original information.

Leaders can help spread this wave by delivering the information multiple times and in manifold ways.

6: The next step occurs when information comes alive.

This happens were the essence of the information is felt.

When I hear a story and it spurs an emotional response, for example, all the earlier waves combine and impact how I receive the information.

In a similar way, waves far from where the pebble dropped are bigger and carry a lot more water than those right where the pebble fell.

A similar level in Industrial institutions was branding–where a given brand, name or logo carried a repeating emotional charge. In the informational world, however, each additional interaction communicates new information value.

7: Psychological waves come next, and are produced by the transfer of information from one mind to another.

Since all such transfers partake of all the earlier levels of waves (e.g. the person shares his feelings, pure or tainted reasons, multimedia use of voice along with facial expressions and nonverbal cues, etc.), learning from others is an advanced way to receive information.

Because of this, the level of advancement of the person delivering the message has some impact on how the information is delivered.

Still, the condition of the receiver is the most important factor in determining the quality of the reception when the information or signal is pure.

In Industrial marketing this was often dominated by testimonials or infomonials, but informational leaders simply open up and share.

The most powerful of this information often comes from word of mouth, personal stories, and genuine interest in helping others.

Any who truly care about others and share ideas, thoughts or anything else as attempts to help others are partners with information in this process.

The true language of this wave is love, which is why true change most often comes when we feel love or loved.

8: At the highest level, the symbolic wave conveys a packet of information that is amazingly multi-layered and teeming with depth, breadth, context, connections and possibilities.

Shakespeare spoke of being bounded in a nutshell of infinite space and science teaches that the DNA code of an entire organism is found in each cell.

The symbolic wave could be called a mustard seed, a small token carrying the potential and key to so much more.

Also, at this highest level, the receiver can often break the information into smaller pieces, analyze each of the waves alone or together, and consider each facet of the idea–from its essence to all its potential consequences.

The possibilities are exponential. The information at this level is only limited by the abilities of the user to consider, discover or imagine.

Those seeking such information are on a quest for inspiration–be it limited to one question, or as broad as a life of searching.

Because the symbolic wave of information is so powerful, those who ask shall receive; the universe is friendly, and when the student is ready the teacher will appear.

(That last paragraph makes me want to be sure everyone knows how important it is to read Free the Beagle by Roy Williams. It’s a fun read, not homework.)

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

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 : Current Events &Economics &Education &Information Age &Leadership

What if Elections Can’t Fix Washington?

October 7th, 2010 // 8:57 am @

“Clearly there was only one escape for them—into stupidity. They could keep society in its existing shape only by being unable to grasp that any improvement was possible.” —George Orwell

Orwell was speaking of the national leaders during Britain’s decline, but his words certainly could apply to the United States today.

Independents rose as a powerful force in America along with the Internet, and today they are deeply frustrated with America’s direction.

They voted President Obama into office in huge numbers, only to see him continue to spend their nation into deeper debt.

National politics in America have long been divided between the blue states along the coasts and the red states in the middle, with battleground states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida swinging the votes.

Today independents control the electorate in nearly all states, and they have swung away from Obama –- especially in the swing states.

For example, 65% of independents in the battleground state of Ohio now say President Obama is doing a bad job.

But politics are only the tip of the iceberg. In a national survey fifty-year-old men were asked which country they see as the biggest threat to America in the 21st Century, and the answers were revealing: only 2% said Russia (and this from men raised in the Cold War), 19% said North Korea, 20% said Iran, and 25% said China.

Among twenty-year-old men asked the same question, 6% said Russia, 17% North Korea, 16% Iran and 23% China. Interesting.

But both groups put “Ourselves” as the top answer. A whopping 31% of fifty-year-old males and 33% of twenty-year-olds consider the United States the biggest 21st Century threat to the U.S.!

What are a third of American men so afraid of? Why do we increasingly consider “Ourselves” the biggest threat to America?

In the same survey, asked what worries them the most, the top answers were: 1) unemployment, 2) the size of the federal debt, 3) the possibility of a terrorist attack. And note that survey takers came from across the political spectrum.

Be Very Afraid?

A lot of Americans are concerned that our own government is the problem, not because it isn’t doing enough but because it is doing way too much—especially overspending. However, it is doubtful how much an election can fix this.

Only 19-22 (depending on the specific issues) of the heated Congressional elections across the nation offer winnable candidates who are strongly anti-government-spending. Though these candidates are called “crazy” or “fringe” by much of the media, they have the overwhelming support of both independent voters and Tea Partiers.

Still, even if all 22 win and additional Republican candidates take the House and even the Senate, how much can they actually change things? Unless they take on entitlements, budgets will most likely overspend for many years to come.

When asked directly what they plan to do, few Democrat or Republican candidates are willing to say they’ll reduce social security, Medicare or other entitlements.

Indeed, the American voter seems to passionately want government to stop spending money on everyone else—but to keep helping his own family.

“I want my government program,” the voter says, “but those other people are costing us too much!”

“Yeah,” says another, “I’ll vote in candidates who promise to cut the debt and deficit and stop spending taxpayer money, and I’ll vote out anyone who threatens my favorite government programs.”

If that last sentence didn’t make you laugh or cry, you should read it again.

Some Americans who live or travel abroad a lot are amazed at how much Americans at home are addicted to government programs and want the government to solve every problem and protect them from every accident and danger. Yet many of these same Americans rail against government spending.

As for repealing the 2010 Health Care law, Republicans would have to take the House and the Senate, and then they would have to garner enough votes in Congress to override a Presidential veto. That’s not going to happen any time soon.

In response to this point, Republican leaders say they’ll only need enough House members to deny funding to implement the new Health Care system. The name for this in the media will be “Shutting Down the Government,” and even the Gingrich-led “Contract With America” House of Representatives wasn’t willing to do this.

Real repeal isn’t likely with just one turnaround election—Republicans would probably need to win in both 2010 and 2012 to make this happen.

Big Questions

Maybe this sounds too pessimistic, but my point is to wonder what will happen if independent and Tea Party voters put Republicans back in control of the House or even the entire Congress and nothing much changes in Washington.

Republicans will still blame Democrats, and vice versa, but what will independents do?

Consider: They rise up against the Obama agenda and send new leaders to Washington, but nothing really changes. Government spending even increases.

Barring major world crises, I think this is just what will happen. And then the debate will repeat itself in 2012.

This brings up a number of additional questions. For example:

  • Will the independent dialogue about 2012 be that the Republicans are no better than the Democrats, or that the Republicans need more members in Congress and even the White House?
  • As we move toward 2012, will Republican behavior cause independents to see President Obama as an embattled Clinton-style administrator who just needs more time to make his policies stick, or as a Carter-like politician who is in over his head and should be replaced?
  • Can the economy handle two more years of high government spending and regulating?
  • Is the Obama Administration nimble enough, in the tradition of Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton, to reinvent itself and swing to the middle? Will it make hard choices that reduce government spending and build the private sector? Is President Obama truly a statist who believes in big government or a left-leaning pragmatist who is willing to tighten the nation’s belt and restore a free enterprise economy? If he chooses the first, he may lose the independents for good.
  • If, for whatever reason, a Republican candidate wins the presidency from Barack Obama in 2012, will the resulting Republican Administration drastically increase government spending, regulation, debts and deficits like Bush did when he took over after Clinton? How would the independents and Tea Parties who elected him react to yet another betrayal?
  • Have we reached a point in American politics that all candidates from both parties promote smaller government during campaigns but drastically increase spending once in power (like Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama)? Is this just the reality of politics now? And if it is, what will independents, Tea Parties and fiscally responsible liberals and conservatives do?
  • Is a major third party inevitable? Is it even realistic? Would it just give more power to the side it disagrees with most?

In short, are elections even capable of fixing our problems any more? And if the American people give up on elections as the real solution to major national problems, what will they do next?

The Future of Independents?

These are big questions. They go to the very heart of what it means to be Americans and what our future holds.

Americans are deeply and passionately concerned about government over-spending, too much regulation of small business, increasing debts and deficits, and high unemployment.

Washington claims the recession is over, but most Americans don’t feel positive changes in their pocketbooks and are still experiencing a significantly decreased economic reality.

They are tired of symbols instead of substance from their leaders. For example, even if the Obama Administration pushed through its tax raise on the top 2% of taxpayers, the resulting $34 billion next year would only cover 9 days of the deficit.

And this, along with more government spending, is the big White House push to help the economy? “Come on, man…”

As independents read the fine print in this and other proposals from the White House and Republican leaders, they are becoming less optimistic that either party is serious about real solutions.

And where symbolism does matter most, the Obama Administration is still portraying itself as hostile to American business (even major 2008 Obama donors are appalled) and many Republicans continue to denigrate minorities.

Government seems entirely out of touch with most Americans, even as it makes individual and family life ever more difficult.

A majority of Americans want things to change, especially in the economy, and many are depending on the voting booth to solve the deepening problem. But what if even this doesn’t work?

Maybe the best we can hope for, as a number of independents now believe, is for a perpetually split government—where neither party ever holds the White House and Congress at the same time.

In this model, if a Democrat wins the White House and the Supreme Court has a conservative majority, independents will vote Republicans into the House and Democrats to the Senate.

If, on the other hand, the President is Republican and the Court is mostly liberal, they will make the House Democratic and the Senate Republican. There are several variations, but the idea is to always pit Democrats against Republicans and give neither a mandate.

Unfortunately, both parties are big spenders. Maybe fighting over what to spend will at least reduce the rate of government’s growth, or so the argument goes.

A New Challenge

But we are about to experience something new and, perhaps, different.

There have been many votes in history that left the American electorate frustrated and disappointed with how its voting-booth “revolution” didn’t seem to change much of anything in Washington.

But the first such event in the Internet Age, and in an era with more independents than either Democrats or Republicans, was the 2006-2008 election cycle.

Independents and the online world turned against President Bush in 2006 and the frustration deepened into the election of 2008.

In a very real sense, the new politics (of independents and the Internet) rejected the old (Bush, Television Era) and brought in the new (Obama, Internet Generation).

But how will the new majority (of independents and the Internet) deal with rejecting itself? Since the beginning of the party system, every loss was followed by a refocus on winning back power for your party.

What happens when the independent majority rejects Republicans, replaces it with Democrats, then rejects Democrats too, only to bring back Republicans, and then decides that Republicans and Democrats are equally bad? What does the majority do then?

What do independents do in such a situation, without party ties to fall back on, when they realize that neither party is going to fix things. Democrats or Republicans would just blame the other party—they’ve done it for decades.

But independents? They actually, seriously, want a solution. They want the nation to work, and they are unlikely to settle for anything less than real change.

And what if unemployment increases during all this, or credit availability tightens again, the recession returns, inflation spikes, another housing bubble bursts, or debts and deficits soar?

One thing seems certain: We are in for a wild ride in the years ahead.

Probably a few independents will give up on politics. Others will go back to the parties.

But the large majority, I think, will do neither. They will likely flirt with the idea of a new third party, but I doubt they’ll make this stick. They just aren’t wired for it. They want common-sense leadership, not more party game-playing.

There will, inevitably, be a few on the fringes (left and right) who wrongly advocate violence—“pitchforks in the street!” But beyond being morally wrong this course would also accomplish nothing positive.

It would, if ever followed by anyone, only serve to decrease our freedoms. And fortunately very few independents would support this anyway.

What if Elections Don’t Work?

What is the majority to do if elections don’t change things and solve our national problems? Maybe we won’t have to find out.

Maybe Democrats in leadership will turn pragmatic and get control of over-spending and over-regulation, or maybe Republicans will gain more power and make these desperately-needed changes.

But I don’t think most independents are holding their breath in anticipation of either of these possibilities.

The Tea Parties have given many on the right hope for the potential of the 2010 election, but it seems to me that most independents are unconvinced.

They have turned their backs on the Obama agenda because it is so clearly against their economically responsible values, and because it’s too late to do much except vote.

But in reality they are simply buying time. A lot of independents right now are studying things out in their minds, hoping but not really believing that the November elections will help things turn around.

The problem is big: Neither party is going to stop spending and regulating, promising frugality and then just spending more anyway. This is American politics now, and it isn’t likely to change easily.

A lot of independents are just now accepting this. And as it sinks in, they are responding with neither anger nor frustration. Instead, they are taking a step back and asking serious questions.

It is unclear now what the answers will eventually be. But they are coming, and they are likely to bring drastic changes to American politics in the next decade.

If (when?) the independents and tea parties win big on election day and then watch the new leaders keep increasing spending and regulations, they will be faced with the challenge every powerful nation in decline confronts:

  • Do they settle for Orwell’s “stupidity,” put their heads in the sand and just try to get by as best they can while the ruling class runs the nation into the ground?
  • Do they quietly prepare for the major crisis which must come unless we change course, organizing their personal affairs to somehow survive, protect their family, and perhaps even profit when it comes?
  • Or do they do something wise and effective that will restore America’s freedoms and prosperity?
  • And if they choose the latter, what precisely should they do to accomplish this?

This is the challenge of independents and all who love freedom in our time. The election of November 2, 2010 will come and go. Americans will vote, the media will report, and winners and losers will celebrate and mourn. But these larger questions will remain.

If I’m wrong about this, I’ll be the first to cheer. But I’m convinced that it’s time (past time, in fact) for those who care about freedom to get to work on coming up with real solutions.

In taking this kind of action, any citizen will only make herself a better leader in our time. Whatever the future holds, more leader-citizens are needed.

And the time may be coming when such leaders are the only real hope of our nation.

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

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.

Connect With Oliver:

Category : Current Events &Economics &Government &Independents &Leadership &Liberty &Politics

The Deeper Importance of the 2010 Election

October 7th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

Blame is easier than leadership.

It’s been long enough since the announcement of the “Great Recession” that a shelf of books are now out—each outlining the “real” causes of the recession and its unsettling impact on the American psyche and economy.

Unfortunately, most of these books are essays on blame.

The two major political parties predictably blame each other for America’s economic woes.

Democrats say that Republicans caused the recession, while Republicans say that Democratic policies (from the stimulus to health care and beyond) have made the recession worse, increased unemployment, and slowed a recovery.

Since most recovery numbers are based on government spending rather than private sector growth, many on the Right dispute that the publicized recovery is real.

To a large extent, the media has joined with one side or the other in this debate.

Weekly talk shows pit conservatives against liberals, volleying the two partisan views of past and present economic challenges. Magazines and national newspapers echo this argument.

A Dearth of Solution Thinking

Usually books take a deeper look at the issues than other media, understandably using the longer format to give readers more depth and analysis on whatever topics they address.

Likewise, the arc of economic-political-societal commentary in books usually includes a significant section outlining important, needed and under-utilized solutions.

But right now such solution-oriented commentaries are noticeably few—and strikingly similar. Many repeat partisan views in chapters so short they would make newspaper editors proud.

There are three main themes in this genre:

  1. Republicans Blew It and Big Banks/Corporations are Greedy and Evil,
  2. Democrats are Blowing It and turning into Scheming Socialists
  3. Big Institutions in Washington, Wall Street, Main Street, Hollywood, Silicon Valley and anywhere else where Big Institutions lurk are Ruining America

A fourth (though minor) theme is that the recession was a global reality tied to the increasingly interconnected world economy and that American citizens and leaders had little power in the whole thing.

In all four of these themes the focus is blame, and therefore the solution is to “throw the bums out.”

The Right wants to “take back” America in the 2010 congressional elections, while the Left wants to hold their own in the elections and keep offering regulatory solutions.

Activists are increasingly determined to push both sides further to the extremes.

In short: where blame is the main point, solutions are seemingly simple.

The Problem

Unfortunately, such “solutions” are unlikely to accomplish very much. One side will win, and the blame game will increase right along with the problems.

The worst-case scenario for the 2010 elections is lots of press, lots of emotions, and little change.

I’m not saying that the elections don’t matter; they do. Nor am I suggesting that this debate isn’t important. It is.

My point is simply that there is more to it than many politicians and journalists are admitting.

Unless we get past the blame game and engage a true national discussion about solutions, we are unlikely to see things really improve—no matter who is in office.

One book, The Great Reset by Richard Florida, develops the ideas that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste, and another, The Battle by Arthur Brooks, takes readers inside the Obama West Wing and the inner workings of the President’s choices in 2009-2010.

Both are worth reading closely—regardless of your political views. Another recent book, Capitalism 4.0 by Anatole Kaletsky, gets serious about suggesting some solutions.

None of these books are free from the blame game, and Kaletsky’s attack on the Bush Administration is one of the worst blame-focused rants in all the books now coming out on the topic.

But for readers who can look past his angry tirades, Kaletsky’s work is worth studying because at least part of his analysis gets past blame and helps us understand the recession in its broad historical and international context.

The History of Capitalism

In contrast with the four popularized themes listed above, Kaletsky suggests that the global recession grew out of the historical trends of our time.

He argues that capitalism will continue to grow because of its proven ability to adapt. Such adaptation follows a pattern:

  1. A crisis exposes the weaknesses in the latest adaptation of capitalism
  2. Society and government respond to the crisis and alter the details of how capitalism is applied
  3. The changes evolve until they succeed in re-establishing prosperity and growth
  4. The new adaptation allows economies to flourish
  5. Weaknesses in the new adaptation eventually cause another crises and the pattern repeats

Over time, according to Kaletsky, this has created at least four adaptations of capitalism.

Capitalism 1.0 grew out of the crises of the Napoleonic era and was characterized by the Laissez-Faire type of capitalism. This was defined by the separation of economics and governments, and its strengths allowed great growth of wealth and powerful economies.

Eventually the weaknesses of 1.0 led to the Great Depression in America and Western Europe.

The response was what Kaletsky calls Capitalism 2.0, an era of major government involvement in the economy—not full socialistic control of the economy, but much higher levels of regulation and government intervention.

This started in the New Deal and grew through the 1940s-1970s.

The eventual negative result was the inflation and stagnancy of the late 1970s, which was followed by a transformation to Reaganomics: a focus on big-government spending for international projects combined with lower taxes on the wealthy and big corporations.

The idea behind Capitalism 3.0 was that if those with money were incentivized to spend more, this would create more jobs and increase business and personal opportunity.

In each of these periods, the economy responded to the positive features of the given adaptation of capitalism. On the downside, the negatives of each adaptation led to the next inevitable crisis.

The Great Recession of 2008 and 2009 was caused not mainly by greedy bankers or weak housing loans, according to Kaletsky, but rather by two successes of Capitalism 3.0:

  1. the spread of capitalism and therefore market interconnections globally
  2. bank and government success in controlling inflation worldwide

These strengths led to weaknesses: when some places saw economic downturn, it quickly spread to the other areas around the world, and governments which allowed their big banks to fail pulled the brunt of world capital struggles down on top of themselves.

The Emergence of a New Economy

The result, just now emerging, is Kaletsky’s Capitalism 4.0. In this adaptation of capitalism, we will likely witness a new relationship between markets, economies, and governments.

Where 1.0 showed the pros and cons of nearly total government isolation from the economy, 2.0 exposed the strengths and weaknesses of major government intervention in the economy.

In 3.0 we started mixing market and government roles by having government intervene in what it considered “vital” sectors (like military and transportation), while mostly staying out of the rest of the economy.

According to Kaletsky, 4.0 will follow a different mixing guideline by increasing the government intervention in some areas and lessening its role in others.

The specifics will be determined, in this scenario, by which things respond better to free markets versus those which respond more positively to significant government involvement.

For example, Kalentsky thinks government must get deeper into financial regulations and management but leave education and health care more to the free market.

Clearly the Obama Administration is not following Kalentsky’s suggestions, no matter how much he agrees with them in blaming Republicans for our problems.

But any leader—in business or government—should consider Kalentsky’s analysis. I disagreed (and also agreed) with a number of things in his book, but his suggestions exceed the tired, old two-party talking points and deserve consideration.

So, The Election . . .

We clearly live in a time where both government and business involvement and changes are needed to re-establish a truly flourishing free-market approach to American prosperity.

Neither extreme—a total government pullout from the economy nor increasingly socialistic levels of regulation and micromanagement of nearly every sector of our economy—is desirable.

We need the government to take wise and effective action to boost the economy—at times increasing regulations that work and also consistently reducing and repealing the numerous regulations and government interventions that are slowing and hurting the economy.

The regulatory load on investors and entrepreneurs is especially bad for economic growth.

Government simply must find ways to do less, or the economy will continue to sputter and struggle.

Yet there are certain things that government can and should do best—like keep the free-market playing field even and open for all potential investors and entrepreneurs.

Perhaps the proper role of academics, journalists and authors is to analyze, to suggest—and even to blame. But as long Washington is caught in the blame game, far too little effort is given to leadership.

Our elected officials need to stop pointing fingers and give more attention to solving our economic challenges.

The first step is to free up small business entrepreneurs and investors who provide most of the jobs and growth in the economy.

A second step is to make investment in American businesses once again highly attractive to world investors.

Both of these are roles for those we elect, and if it is “the economy, stupid,” these are the real issues of the 2010 election.

Whoever wins at the voting booths this coming November, and whatever the experts say that night as the networks and cable channels cover the election like a major sports tournament, the real future of America depends on whether or not the people select leaders who will free up the economy.

A free economy, within the bounds of wise and effective laws, is a prosperous economy. An increasingly regulated economy is an economy headed for less prosperity and decreased opportunity.

Whatever your politics, less prosperity and decreased opportunity are simply not acceptable goals for the upcoming elections.

Yet unless we accomplish more than simply voting, these are the results we will probably see in the years after the election.

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

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 : Current Events &Economics &Featured &Government &Leadership &Politics

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