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The New Ivy League by Oliver DeMille

August 27th, 2014 // 6:34 am @

The New Ivy League DeMille road to entrepreneurialism 1024x726 The New Ivy League by Oliver DeMille

The Dinosaur Reality

The day of turning a college degree into a ready job and high pay is over. That was then. The new economy is different now, and many graduate schools are taking note.

For example, The New York Times reported:

“On a spring afternoon at Michigan State University, 15 law students are presenting start-up proposals to a panel of legal scholars and entrepreneurs and an audience of fellow students. The end-of-the semester event is one part seminar and one part ‘Shark Tank’ reality show.

“The companies the students are describing would be very different from the mega-firms that many law students have traditionally aspired to work for, and to grow wealthy from. Instead, these young people are proposing businesses more nimble and offbeat: small, quick mammals [entrepreneurial businesses] scrambling underfoot in the land of dinosaurs [oldstyle mega-businesses].” (John Schwartz, “This is Law School?” The New York Times, August 1, 2014)

Many schools are increasingly emphasizing entrepreneurialism in a new economy where the traditionally educated law school graduate faces a dearth of jobs. “With the marketplace shifting, schools have increasingly come under fire for being out of touch.” (ibid.)

Professionals in the Basement

A surprisingly high number of law school and other professional school graduates are moving back home to live with parents, and those who do get jobs are finding the work stifling and unrewarding in an environment with a glut of professionals holding degrees.

Those who don’t like the cutthroat and grinding work are easily replaced.

In fact, a Forbes study recently noted that being an associate attorney is the least happy job in the nation. (See Psychology Today, July 2014) It has relatively high pay compared to most entry-level career paths, but the hours are extreme and the other rewards are minimal.

With the glut of attorneys in the market, a large number of law school grads are ending up as paralegals anyway—which seldom helps them to pay off their huge student loans. (ibid.) Medical careers are nearly as bad for most young people—at least for the first eight to twelve years.

A recent poll of college graduates showed:

“People who take out significant college loans score worse on quality-of-life measures, a trend that persists into middle age…. Even 24 years after graduation, students who borrowed more than $25,000 are less likely to enjoy work and are less financially and physically fit than their counterparts who graduated without debt.

For more recent college grads, the discrepancy is even more pronounced….

“About 70% of college grads have debt (Douglas Belkin, “Heavily Indebted Grads Rank Low on Life Quality, The Wall Street Journal, August 8, 2014), and those with graduate or professional schooling have even more debt on average than those with a four-year degree.

“Catherine L. Carpenter, vice dean of Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles, tracks curriculum across the country. She said schools are trying to teach their students to run their own firms, to look for entrepreneurial opportunities by finding ‘gaps in the law or gaps in the delivery of services,’ and to gain specialized knowledge that can help them counsel entrepreneurs.” (op cit. Shwartz)

A Return to Apprenticeship

Some of the schools themselves are turning more entrepreneurial as well. The Times reported:

“All law schools, including the elites, are increasing skills training by adding clinics and externships…. [T]he University of Virginia will allow students to earn a semester of credit while working full time for nonprofit or government employers anywhere in the world.” (Ethan Bronner, “To Place Graduates, Law Schools Are Opening Firms,” The New York Times, March 7, 2013)

This kind of non-traditional learning harks back to the time when most attorneys learned by apprenticing with practicing lawyers—usually with no formal law school at all.

A few law schools are also implementing innovative ways to help their graduates get jobs, or work in firms set up specifically for this purpose by the law schools. For example, Arizona State University set up a special nonprofit law firm so that some of its graduates would have a place to work and learn to practice law.

“[There is] a crisis looming over the legal profession after decades of relentless growth…. It is evident in the sharp drop in law school applications….

“[P]ost-graduate training programs appear to be the way of the future for many of the nation’s 200 law schools. The law dean of Rutgers University just announced plans for a nonprofit law firm for some of his graduates.” (ibid.)

Entrepreneurship and Life

Other innovations are trying to deal with the crisis.

“At Indiana University’s law school, Prof. William D. Henderson has been advocating a shake-up in legal education whose time may have come. ‘You have got to be in a lot of pain’ before a school will change something as tradition-bound as legal training, he said, but pain is everywhere at the moment, and ‘that’s kind of our opening.’” (op cit. Shwartz)

“‘This is the worst time in the history of legal education to go to law school,’ said Patrick Ellis, a recent graduate [of Michigan State University]. ‘I am not top of my class, not at a top-10 law school, but I’m confident I’m going to have a meaningful career because of this [entrepreneurial studies] program.’” (ibid.)

Entrepreneurialism is injecting life into many sectors of the economy. In fact, it always has. Without entrepreneurship, free economies cannot flourish. But when the economy is as sluggish as the new market today, entrepreneurs are the main hope.

Note that it’s not just law school grads who are facing a tough economy. Don Peck wrote:

“The Great Recession may be over, but this era of high joblessness is probably just beginning. Before it ends, it will likely change the life course and character of a generation of young adults…. The economy now sits in a hole 10 million jobs deep…[and] we need to produce roughly 1.5 million jobs a year—about 125,000 a month—just to keep from sinking deeper.

“Even if the economy were to immediately begin producing 600,000 jobs a month—more than double the pace of the mid-to-late 1990s, when job growth was strong—it would take roughly two years to dig ourselves out of the hole we’re in…. But the U.S. hasn’t seen that pace of sustained employment growth in more than 30 years…” (Don Peck, “Can the Middle Class Be Saved?” The Atlantic, March 2010)

In addition, to pay for college, many more students are staying home and learning in local schools or talking courses online. (See, for example, Tamar Lewin, “Colleges Adapt Online Courses to Ease Burden, The New York Times, April 29, 2013.)

And over half of college students who go away to earn their degrees have moved back home after graduation in recent years—they aren’t finding jobs, and home is their only option in many cases. (Harper’s Index, Harpers, August 2011).

Deep Holes Around the World

In fact, this problem is prevalent in Europe as well as the United States.

As one report noted:

“By the time the parents of Serena Violano were in their early 30s, they had solid jobs, their own home and two small daughters. Today, Serena, a 31-year-old law graduate, is still sharing her teenage bedroom with her older sister in the small town of Mercogliano, near Naples.” (Ilan Brat and Giada Zampano, “Young, European and Broke,” The Wall Street Journal, August 9-10, 2014)

With few jobs available in her field, she “spends her days studying for the exam to qualify as a notary in the hopes of scoring a stable job.” (ibid.)

The reason the European economies are struggling is the same as the American challenge–with one difference: the media is more open in saying what is really causing the problems in Europe.

For example, “[the young European’s] predicament is exposing a painful truth: The towering cost of labor protections that have provided a comfortable life for Europe’s baby boomers is now keeping their children from breaking in [to economic opportunity].” (ibid.)

Dead or Alive

In the United States, such protections include Social Security, Health Care laws, Government Pensions, other entitlements, and the debt necessary to maintain these programs—along with the high levels of regulation that hamper entrepreneurial ventures.

But why are people turning to graduate school to learn entrepreneurship, when the best entrepreneurs tend to learn their craft by application in the real market? It appears to be a matter of trying to avoid risk—of attempting to do what works in the new economy (entrepreneurship) while hedging one’s bets by still doing what used to work in the old economy (college degrees).

As one interesting article captured this theme: “College is Dead. Long Live College!” (Amanda Ripley, “College is Dead. Long Live College!” Time Magazine, October 18, 2012, cited in Allen Levie, “The Visual Tradition: The Coming Shift in Democracy,” unpublished manuscript.)

Both “college is dead” and “long live college” can’t technically be true at the same time, but today’s students and their parents aren’t sure which to believe. Still, the best road to entrepreneurship is clearly the path of actually engaging entrepreneurialism.

This is a scary reality for a generation that was raised to believe that school was basically the only route to career success.

Watching Results

Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in Democracy in America that as go the attorneys, so goes the United States. Today the cutting-edge trend in legal training is a huge influx of entrepreneurialism.

Ultimately, as another report put it:

“It used to be that college was the ticket to the top. Now graduates are starting from the bottom—buried by student-loan debt that has skyrocketed to a collective $1.2 trillion” in the United States. (Kayla Webley, Generation Debt, MarieClaire, June 2014) Today’s college students and graduates are coming to be known less as the Millennial Generation and more as “Generation Debt.” (ibid.)

This doesn’t mean that higher education is dead. It means that “hire education” is going to be increasingly judged by how well it works—meaning how effectively its users succeed as entrepreneurs.

As a result, a lot of “higher education” innovation and non-traditional types of learning—many of them informal, self-directed and hand-on-building-a-business—are beginning to flourish.

Those who successfully entrepreneur (in law and nearly every other sector of the economy) are going to be the successes of the future. Entrepreneurship is the new Ivy League.

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

odemille The New Ivy League by Oliver DeMille Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

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

 

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Three Trends vs. Freedom by Oliver DeMille

July 2nd, 2014 // 12:57 am @

Rewriting the Future

photo 2 983x1024 Three Trends vs. Freedom by Oliver DeMilleThere are at least three great political-economic changes that have occurred in the United States in the last twenty years. Each is rewriting what our world and future looks like, and each is causing a decline of freedom. But none of them are inevitable.

The first trend is the huge growth of government, including government size, spending, and regulation in so many parts of our lives. The second is the major decline of success and opportunity for the middle class. The third is the increasingly important rise of China.

Put these three together, and the future seems bleak to many Americans—even if they aren’t sure why.

The irony is that the first two trends are, in fact, related. Despite what many in Washington say, the massive growth of government is at least contributing to—and may be the main cause of—the growing middle class squeeze.

Breaking the American Dream

Sadly, too many in government don’t see it that way. For some reason, a lot of people witness the deepening plight of the middle class and, inconceivably, think that the only solution is bigger and bigger government. More programs, more spending, more intervention, more regulation.

Yet the historical record is clear. Every major growth of the U.S. government has been followed by a decrease in the middle-class standard of living. Today, after over sixty years of unprecedented expansion of government, the average adult American worker can no longer provide a quality standard of living for a family. In fact, two working adults in a family seldom make ends meet.

Families are smaller, the American Dream of home ownership is switching to a European model of rentals, and more people are joining the lower classes—where family debt or government money, or both, are necessary to get by.

In fact, home ownership, once a staple of middle class lifestyle, is increasingly a financial burden on many people (see “Americans think owning a home is better for them than it is,” The Washington Post, April 21, 2014). In an article entitled “The American Middle Class Is No Longer the World’s Richest” (April 22, 2014), The New York Times reported that the U.S. middle class is getting poorer and as a result “most American families are paying a steep price for high and rising income inequality.”

Middle Going Down

big government hurts Three Trends vs. Freedom by Oliver DeMilleThe middle class young are being hit especially hard. Over 40% of today’s Millennial Generation young people move back home after leaving for college or work. As a group, they are the first generation since World War II to be significantly worse off financially than their parents. They aren’t buying cars, they aren’t buying houses, and they aren’t getting married; they’re living at home, hoping something will change in the economy to bring more opportunity (see Paul Taylor, CBS This Morning, April 26, 2014).

Speaking of the American middle class, Harvard’s Lawrence Katz wrote: “In 1960, we were massively richer than anyone else. In 1980, we were richer. In the 1990s, we were still richer.” Today we aren’t (op cit. “The American Middle Class…”).

A simple comparison of low regulation in 1960 to increased but still (by today’s standards) low regulation in 1980, then increasing regulation in the 1990s and massive regulatory increases between 2000 and today show a clear pattern: when we raise regulation and grow government, we hurt the middle class and grow the lower class.

Yet many experts suggest that the solution is more, not less, government intervention, programs, spending, and regulation (see ibid). This mirrors the old quip that “the beatings will continue until the morale improves,” except in this case “economy- and innovation-killing regulation will increase until the economy improves.” In reality, the opposite is occurring—bigger government is hurting the middle class and increasing income inequality.

The Choice

Whatever the experts think, the American people have a deep sense that something is wrong. Approximately 70 percent don’t believe America is on the right track (ibid).

This doesn’t translate directly to elections, however. A lot of people think that government is the solution to our economic problems, not the cause of some of our deepest challenges.

If current trends continue, China’s increasingly competitive economy will make a reality of what many in the American middle class now believe: that our children and grandchildren will face a declining standard of living while the same generations in China will see major economic increases.

Like a George Orwell satire, we continue to do exactly what causes more problems. Yet perhaps the greatest American contribution to history—a deep belief in and commitment to moral freedom and free enterprise—goes mostly unheeded. America needs to give its own greatest export (freedom) a try.

Freedom works, as we have shown for over two centuries. Whether America declines or flourishes in the 21st Century will be directly attached to whether we choose bigger government or increased freedom. And it’s up to the middle class to make this decision and make it stick.

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odemille Three Trends vs. Freedom by Oliver DeMille Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

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

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Were the Founders Lawyers or Entrepreneurs? A Surprising Answer

July 1st, 2014 // 12:47 am @

A Difference Changes Everything

lawyers 1 Were the Founders Lawyers or Entrepreneurs? A Surprising Answer“You frequently mention that free nations have a lot of entrepreneurs,” my friend said, “but I’ve been studying the American Founding era and it turns out that many of the framers were lawyers. Why don’t you tell people that a lot more of us should go into law?”

It was a good question, so I nodded my head. “You’re right, but there is one big difference between law at the time of the founding and law today. The difference is so big, in fact, that it changes everything. Well, maybe not everything. But it changes the whole way law and freedom interact.”

I cocked my head to one side. “Actually, another friend of mine recently sent me a note about the same thing. He had always thought that most of the framers were merchants or farmers, but he was surprised to find out how many of them were lawyers. As much as I’ve said about the value of entrepreneurs to freedom, I guess I better mention how the legal profession fits.”

“I agree,” he responded. “If the founders are a good example of a generation that increased freedom, why wouldn’t we just emulate them on this?”

“I wish we could,” I told him. “But it’s illegal.”

Lawyers and Laws

He laughed…but when he noticed that I wasn’t laughing he stopped. “You’re not joking?”

“No, I’m not. It’s illegal be the kind of lawyer that many of the framers were. That’s the big difference I was telling you about.”

He looked really interested, so I continued.

“Let me ask you a question,” I began. “What would happen if you read a bunch of history, legal books, judicial decisions in court cases, and important government documents, and then decided to put a sign on the front of your house with your name, followed by “Attorney at Law”? You do this without attending law school, just lots of hard study and a good understanding of law and freedom, and you start marketing for clients?”

“Uh, I’d be in trouble,” he retorted. “You have to have a license to practice law. Go before the Bar, get state approval, and all that. And you have to graduate from law school in order to do this. I looked into it years ago when I was making career decisions.”

“So you have to graduate from a state-approved law school, right?”

“Of course.”

“Is that what the framers did to become lawyers?” I asked.

“I’m not sure. Some did, I think. Like Jefferson. Though I remember reading that Patrick Henry took the Bar without law school. Come to think of it, so did Jefferson. He studied law with mentors, but not at an official law school. Same with…well, a lot of the framers. Law schools didn’t come until later.”

“That’s the difference,” I told him. “In the founding era, depending on the colony, you could read and take the bar, or work as an apprentice, or read under the tutelage of a mentor, or in most of early American history and our Westward expansion a person could just practice law by hanging out a shingle and taking on clients. In our day, you have to graduate from a state approved law school and then get personal state approval in the form of a license. It’s a totally different process.”

Goal and Outcome

“Are you saying the way we do it now is worse?” he asked.

“That depends on how you are measuring it. A lot of people will say that the type of training students get in modern law schools is much better than when early lawyers just read a lot of books and cases. They’ll say that the modern methods turn out much better professionals than the old way ever could.

“And, honestly,” I continued, “this argument has merit. But only if the goal is professionalism and maintenance of the legal profession. In the founding era, the goal was different.”

“What was it?”

“It was to check the government. Think about it: When law schools have to be approved by the government, and the accreditation agencies for law schools have to be approved by the government, and all licensing for attorneys is overseen by the government, the attorneys are bound—at some level—by the government. The government can take away their licensing and their livelihood at any time, so lawyers are bound to do things in the approved and accepted ways. They can check the government only in ways the government allows.

“You can argue that this is a good system, or not. But it is very different from how the founders saw it. They viewed lawyers as powerful checks on government, as self-made experts who read the law, studied history, pored over court cases and government documents and the writings of the freedom philosophers—and used all this wisdom to keep the government honest. To keep it in its proper role. To keep it in place. Not to impress it or bow to its regulations and authority, but to stop it when needed.

A Broken Check

“But if the government licenses lawyers and every step of becoming lawyers, they can’t really go around checking the government at every turn. At least not at the same level as if they are truly independent. For example, when Edmund Burke wanted to warn the British Parliament against going to war against the American colonies on March 22, 1775, he told them they should avoid such a war because so many Americans were students of the law.”

I then shared Burke’s words when he said:

Permit me, Sir, to add another circumstance in our colonies, which contributes no [small] part towards the growth and effect of this untractable spirit. I mean their education. In no country perhaps in the world is the law so general a study…. [A]ll who read, and most do read, endeavor to obtain some smattering in that science. I have been told by many an eminent bookseller, that in no branch of his business, after tracts of popular devotion, were so many books as those on the law exported…. The colonists have now fallen into the way of printing them for their own use. I hear that they have sold nearly as many of Blackstone’s Commentaries in America as in England…. This study renders men acute, inquisitive, dexterous, prompt in attack, ready in defense, full of resources…. They [foresee] misgovernment at a distance; and snuff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze.

I sighed. “The founding era had truly independent lawyers who owed nothing to government. And many American citizens read and became lawyers, not through official law schools like today, but as checks on government. That’s a whole different system. Citizens were the best checks, if they truly knew the law, because that’s where the lawyers of the era came from.”

My friend was nodding, so I added, “In fact, the same is true of teachers. In the founding era, teachers were hardly ever required to be certified or licensed like they are today. They just studied, read, and started tutoring and teaching. Those who were really good naturally attracted more students—same with lawyers attracting clients.

Freedom and Licensing

Lawyers 2 Were the Founders Lawyers or Entrepreneurs? A Surprising AnswerAgain, today, certified teachers really work for and answer to the state—the entity that certifies them – and in most cases, pays their salaries. Independent teachers who just read and start teaching are more suited to be good checks on government, not its outreach program.

“The same can be true of any government licensing, such as psychiatric experts. Those who are licensed go to court and give their expert opinions, but people usually don’t take note that these experts can only make a living if they stay licensed. They must comply with state needs, trends and whims. They aren’t independent experts, they are naturally prone to support the government—at least more than they need to be real checks on it. If they don’t, they risk their licensure.

“Of course, if you ask many attorneys, certified teachers, psychiatric experts or others in this position, they’ll often assure you that this isn’t the case. But how can it not be? In any other setting this would be a clear conflict of interest. They’re dependent on the government, given their standing by government, and trained according to government-approved curriculum; this potentially weighs in every situation.

“They may feel that this isn’t full government control, because they can work within the system to fight for various views, and this is true. But it still amounts to a de facto conflict of interest, and it certainly doesn’t promote checks on government abuse the way a non-licensed system used to do.

“So to say that the American Founders had a lot of lawyers is to say that there were a lot of regular people checking the government, while to say that we have a lot of lawyers today is to say we have lots of professionals at least somewhat beholden to the government. The same applies to certified teachers and any others licensed by government.

Following the Old Route

“If society wants lots of licensing, then that’s what we’ll get. But let’s not believe that it creates checks on government abuse. If anything, it does the opposite. When Tocqueville said in Democracy in America that as the lawyers go, so goes America, it was too true! When lawyers were a clear, independent, unregulated check on government, the government was much smaller and more frequently checked. Today, when lawyers and credentialed teachers and many others are beholden to government for their continued licensing, there are fewer checks. Still some, but fewer.

“Of course, some of the lawyers, teachers and others still follow the old route—they are licensed, yes, but they read deeply, think about freedom and are a credit to their professions in the way they stand up for what is right. But the system is still very different, and anyone who cares about freedom should clearly understand the differences.”

“This all makes me want to be a lawyer,” my friend said. “To get licensed and use my law school education to really fight even more for freedom.”

“Bravo,” I replied. “I know a number of lawyers and teachers and others who do the same. I think they are courageous and vital freedom fighters. I also believe that we need a lot of similar leaders in the non-licensed areas, like entrepreneurship, the arts, private school teaching, and so on. If everyone does his or her best in his/her chosen life purpose, that’s where we’ll get the best results as a society.

A Little Bit of Lawyer

“But,” I paused, “this assumes that nobody’s best life purpose is to work daily to reduce freedom. That would be a tragedy, and I don’t believe this is where anyone should dedicate his or her life. Sadly, sometimes people don’t realize this is what they’re doing. We should all take stock of how our daily work is impacting freedom—no matter our profession, career field, job, or work.”

“If we’re hurting freedom, even just because that’s what our career tends to do, we have to change something,” he concluded. Then he paused, pondered, and added, “To sum up, I guess the founders were all a little bit lawyer, a little bit entrepreneur, and a little bit leader.”

“They even had a word for this,” I agreed. “Several words, in fact. Citizen. Voter. Elector. Constituent. American. All of these used to mean you were a little bit lawyer, a little bit entrepreneur, a little bit leader. You’re right.”

He smiled as he nodded. Then he said slowly, “That’s what we need today.”

(Learn about the 3 major ways to deal with these trends in FreedomShift, by Oliver DeMille)

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odemille Were the Founders Lawyers or Entrepreneurs? A Surprising Answer Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

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

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Corruption By Any Other Name – Oliver DeMille

April 25th, 2014 // 10:41 am @

Another Domino Falling

JPgodfather 300x214 Corruption By Any Other Name   Oliver DeMille Morgan recently settled a case brought by the government, agreeing to pay Washington $13 billion for its role in the mortgage bubble meltdown.

This creates a very dangerous standard. When something bad happens, Washington will naturally seek to find fault in a place that brings it a lot of extra cash—the most profitable businesses.

As Ken Kurson put it:

“This settlement sets a terrible precedent. Companies with strong balance sheets can expect to become targets of the government…”[i]

This is another domino in the decline of our freedoms, and it’s a big one. This new approach allows, even incentivizes, government corruption. Let’s review how this process works:

  • The federal government passes laws that require or incentivize businesses to give loans or offer services/products to people who can’t actually afford them. Businesses that refuse are penalized.
  • As a result of this kind of bad policy, many businesses fail. Businesses that comply, but only make middling profits, are left alone.
  • Businesses that comply, and make big profits, are targeted by the federal government and end up paying huge sums of money to the government.

Godfather Over Again

This is a great racket. It’s akin to a mafia protection scheme: “You need protection from us. We’ll provide it, for a fee. The fee will be set by us, without appeal or negotiation. If you don’t pay it, we’ll hurt you and/or your business—thus proving that you really did need protection.”

An official term for this new precedent is “corruption.” Except that the Supreme Court gets to determine the actual definition of the word. And who gave the Court the power to do this?

The Supreme Court did, in a string of cases starting in 1803 through 1936.

Is this recurring pattern starting to make sense?

“Wait,” the critics say. “The crash was real! And JP Morgan and other companies that participated need to pay! Right?”

As Kurson wrote:

“Of course, most of JP Morgan’s wrongdoing—70 to 80 percent of the exposure—was committed by two companies, Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual, it acquired in 2008 at the request, to the point of command, of then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. JPM acquired those companies as acts of mercy during a crisis.”[ii]

Let’s get this straight. The economy was tanking, so the government demanded that JP Morgan buy two flailing firms—to help save the economy. Then, when the fall came, the government targeted JP Morgan for the mistakes of these two firms and made it pay for them.

Godfather corruption indeed.

Who It Hurts

How are businesses responding to this emerging new economy? Many are closing. Others are going abroad, to China, India, Brazil, etc.  Those that make enough from the U.S. economy simply pay the fines, settlements, and fees—it’s the cost of doing business.

The real problem is for American workers and families. JP Morgan has increased its litigation reserve up to $23 billion (from $3 billion in 2010).[iii] Other companies are learning to do the same.

What happens when the extra billions are refocused this way? Money moves away from salaries and purchases, the economy is hurt, private sector jobs are cut or curtailed.

The government is currently seeking similar payoffs from a number of other big companies. As this precedent sends its ripples through the economy, it will harm a lot of families.

More firms will move operations and jobs abroad, and others will shift more money from jobs and put it to litigation and fees.

Old Pattern, New Cloth

Oh, and just re-read the government’s pattern outlined above for the mortgage bubble, but this time read it with Obamacare in mind:

  • The federal government passes laws that require or incentivize businesses to offer services/products to people who can’t actually afford them. Businesses that refuse are penalized.
  • As a result of these bad policies, many businesses fail. Businesses that comply, but only make middling profits, are left alone.
  • Businesses that comply, but make big profits, are targeted by the federal government and end up paying huge sums of money to the government.

This really is as shocking as it sounds. Yes, this really is happening in the United States.

The worst news in all this is that most people will do nothing about it, because this kind of financial news is considered technical mumbo jumbo.

Citizens usually just ignore it. “What can I do, after all?” is the typical response.

This is how freedoms decline: slowly for a while–then all at once. The amazing part is that when the “all at once” crash comes, almost everyone acts surprised.

But what can a regular person do? Really? It’s not like you can stop government overspending, party bickering, or a growing culture of corruption with a call to your Congressman or a letter to the editor.

The answer to this major post-modern question (What can a regular person do?) is interesting: We can start with not being surprised.

Problems and Solutions

We can know what is coming. A government addicted to spending and borrowing, and constantly increasing its spending and borrowing, is going to cause problems for the economy and for its citizens.[iv]

A government addicted to increased regulations is going to cause problems.[v]

A government that demands official secrecy from its own people while increasing how it spies on its own citizens is going to cause problems.[vi]

A government that inflates its currency and borrows from its biggest enemies and competitors is going to cause problems.[vii]

A government whose top officials routinely make promises during elections or to pass big agendas and then break them once they win is going to cause problems.[viii]

A government that uses statistics it knows distort reality (just revising them a few months later once decisions have been made), in order to support its continued ideological course, is going to cause problems.[ix]

A citizenry that turns a collective blind eye to these realities is enabling the very problems it fears. Then the people claims surprise when the crash comes.

Anyone who is surprised by the next crash has been lying to themselves for a long time.

False Recovery

As Allan Greenspan wrote in November 2013:

“One can hope that in a future financial crisis—and there will surely be one…”[x]

Calomiris and Haber noted that banking crises should be expected:

“The banking system in the United States has been highly crisis-prone, suffering no fewer than 14 major crisis in the past 180 years.”[xi]

The question isn’t if, but when, the next one will come.

Or consider what J. Bradford DeLong wrote in a piece in Foreign Affairs titled “The Second Great Depression: Why the Economic Crisis is Worse Than You Think”:

“The U.S. economy has enjoyed a recovery [since 2009] only in the sense that conditions haven’t gotten worse…. But it is unlikely that the economic downturn will be over by 2017…[xii]

Greenspan suggested the second thing people can do. He wrote:

“Financial firms could have protected themselves…if…they had prepared for a rainy day.”[xiii]

Though he addressed this belated counsel to companies, it certainly applies to regular people as well.

Time and Two Steps

To summarize, we have covered two things a regular person can do about our current problems. First, know about them. Pay attention. Keep a close eye on the government, the economy, and current events. Read the fine print and the technical mumbo jumbo put out by government.

The English word for this daily activity and focus is “citizenship.”

The second is to prepare. Look around, see what is really needed, and what is likely to be needed in the years ahead—and take action to help your community flourish.

Not just for you, but for others.

The word for this kind of initiative and foresight is “entrepreneurship.” It isn’t pessimistic, doomsayer, or extreme. In fact, effective entrepreneurialism is precisely the opposite.

It only works if it is optimistic, positive, and sustained.

Without such citizenship and entrepreneurialism, the decline of freedom is only going to accelerate. We’ve still got time for these two things to work, but time is running out.


[i] Ken Kurson, “The Portfolio,” Esquire, February 2014.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] See, for example, Edward Conard, “How to Fix America: Which Tools Should Washington Use? Unleash the Private Sector,” Foreign Affairs, May/June 2013. See also: Fareed Zakaria, “Can America Be Fixed?: The New Crisis of Democracy,” Foreign Affairs, January/February 2013. For example: “In 1980 the United States’ gross government debt was 42 percent of its total GDP; it is now 107 percent.”

[v] Ibid. For example, the United States is ranked 76th in the world for its “burden of government regulations.”

[vi] See Jack Shafer, “Live and Let Live,” Foreign Affairs, March/April 2014. “[A]ccording to the White House review panel convened last year to examine the NSA’s surveillance practices, the bulk collection of phone records has stopped precisely zero attacks.”

[vii] See, for example, Minxin Pei, “How China and America See Each Other: And Why They Are On A Collision Course,” Foreign Affairs, March/April 2014. For example: “In 2007, the United States’ economy was four times as large as that of China; by 2012, it was only twice as large.”

[viii] E.g. “If you want to keep your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” See also: Michael A. Cohen, “Hypocrisy Hype: Can Washington Still Walk and Talk Differently?” Foreign Affairs, March/April 2014.

[ix] See Zachary Karabell, “(Mis)leading Indicators: Why Our Economic Numbers Distort Reality,” Foreign Affairs, March/April 2014.

[x] Allan Greenspan, “Never Saw It Coming: Why the Financial Crisis Took Economists by Surprise,” Foreign Affairs, November/December 2013.

[xi] Charles W. Calomiris and Stephen H. Haber, “Why Banking Systems Succeed and Fail: The Politics Behind Financial Institutions,” Foreign Affairs, November/December 2013.

[xii] J. Bradford DeLong, “The Second Great Depression: Why the Economic Crisis is Worse Than You Think,” Foreign Affairs, July/August 2013.

[xiii] Op Cit., Greenspan.

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Symbolic Language

April 22nd, 2014 // 3:32 pm @

Two Different Americas

There are two classes in modern America, the literal class and the metaphorical class.Divergent film poster 191x300 Symbolic Language In the increasing divide between the “haves” and the “have nots,” this language difference is central.

Those who don’t understand the language of metaphor are falling behind in the widening gap that is the global economy. They are watching their family’s standard of living decrease over the decades.

This trend will only increase in the years ahead.

Those with a quality education learn to think, to readily see symbolism wherever it is found. But most Americans and Westerners are part of the literal class—symbolism is often lost on them.

They tend to see things without the metaphor.

Parental Guidance

For example, last year a long debate raged on social media about whether or not The Hunger Games trilogy was good or bad reading for youth. The most interesting thing about this debate wasn’t the arguments made by either side, but the fact that symbolism was hardly ever part of the debate.

But the symbolism is glaring: A nation sacrifices its helpless children for the convenience, entertainment, and libertine moral values of the urban upper class, while government, media, and big wealth combine to keep their control over the outlying, rural people dedicated to “archaic” family values.

What could be a closer parallel to our modern society? And what metaphor could ever more clearly point out the hypocrisy of the American cosmopolitan class and its views on abortion?

What Was Missed

To anyone trained in symbolism, the metaphor is obvious. We watch children killed for the convenience and political values of the elite class. And note that in The Hunger Games the urban classes have collectivist economic views combined with libertine moral values—the same as those in the real world who support Roe v. Wade and easy abortion laws in modern America.

This is blatant symbolism, but only the upper classes really understood this.

In fact, some of the most vocal voices declaring that The Hunger Games books and movies are inappropriate for youth came from people who are strongly against abortion.

They just didn’t understand that The Hunger Games was probably the biggest, best, and most popular anti-abortion movie ever. This was entirely lost on the literal classes.

When the ruling classes understand literal and symbolic language, while the masses only understand the literal, freedom is in decline and the power of the ruling classes will only increase.

This was true in Shakespeare’s day, in the time of Virgil, and when the Psalms and Proverbs were written.

The elite classes, steeped in the classics and great books that teach readers how to think (especially symbolically), are always going to rule over the literal classes whose education is limited to getting the “right” answers, preparing for jobs and careers, and not really thinking about things symbolically.

Allan Bloom warned that modern America has this problem at the level of Hitler’s Germany.

The Real Fascination

Another example: People in the literal classes can’t quite understand why today’s youth are so intrigued by vampire books, movies, and television programs. “What is this fascination with vampires?” the literal classes ask.

The elite classes, well-versed in metaphor and symbolism, know better. They understand that vampires are symbols of something—something many young people struggle with.

Imagine a society made up of two major groups. First are the hard-working, regular people who live in middle-class neighborhoods, go to work every day, raise families, sleep during the night (because they have to go to their job tomorrow), send their kids to school in order to get a good career in their adult lives, etc.

The second group in society is made up of a few people who have trust funds, inherited wealth, can get in trouble with the law but get out of it relatively easily, stay up through the night at fancy balls and dinners, then go home in the early morning and sleep late into the day, and have more power, wealth, fun and entertaining lives, and sophisticated connections with other aristocrats far beyond the local community—and even around the world.

The first group envies the second, while the aristocratic second group hardly gives a thought to their “inferiors.” Parents of both groups warn their children not to mix with the other group—because it inevitably causes many problems.

This clearly defines two things: 1) an aristocratic society, like all elite societies that have existed in human history, and 2) every group of vampires portrayed in literature, juvenile fiction, and in movies and TV programs.

But the literal classes mostly miss this symbolism. “Why do the kids like vampires?” the literal classes ask.

Some literal writers even try to explain how youth like to be scared, so they love the idea of biting strangers dressed in black. So literal. So shallow.

Answer: The kids don’t love actual vampires, they love the idea of rising into a higher class. In high school, this is a driving passion for many teenagers. If movies are to be believed, it’s the driving theme for most students in most high schools.

In such an environment, vampires are the shortcut to social success. If one bites you (dates you, likes you, includes you in his group, etc.) you immediately climb to a higher social class. The highest social class, in fact.

The one that has the money, the power, the mystery, and the worldwide connections (rather than the homegrown limits of the coal mines, a job at Blue Bell’s Rammer Jammer, or a lifetime of alumni fundraising for the Friday Night Lights).

The fact that many parents tell you to ignore the vampires (“Don’t worry about high school cliques, or being popular. It won’t even matter after you graduate.”) just adds to the intrigue.

Vampires are aristocrats. Elites. People with enough money, power and connections to ignore the limits most people and families struggle with—as youth, and also as adults.

The kids instinctively understand this, though their literal parents may not.

The Old Tool

This language barrier isn’t new.

In aristocratic Britain, the upper classes pronounced words differently than the lower and working classes—so elites would always know who they were dealing with. In fact, the pronunciations were literal (pronounce every syllable) versus symbolic (skip syllables, if you’ve been trained by other aristos and know what to look for).

For example, the word Worchester was pronounced “wor-ches-ter” by the lower classes, but simply “wis-ter” by the nobles. Or the name St. John was pronounced “Saint John” by working classes but “Sinjin” by nobility (see Jane Eyre). There are thousands of similar words.

This boils down to two classes, the Literal versus Symbolic. Checkers versus Chess. “Tell me the right answer, so you can pass the test and someday get a good job,” versus “Tell me your opinion, because there are many possible correct answers, and our purpose is to help you learn how to think—so you can become a leader.”

These are how public schools versus elite prep schools, respectively, generally teach.

The Price of the Literal

Facts versus Metaphor. Precision versus Imagery. One Meaning versus Poetic Allegory.

Again, the elite classes are well educated in both of these dialects. The problem is that the middle and lower classes are not. They only know the literal meanings of words.

This is a growing concern, because it causes increased divisions between the elites and the regular people. The masses don’t understand what is happening to their society, because they don’t speak the language of metaphor. When President Obama promised, “If you want to keep your doctor [under Obamacare], you can keep your doctor,” the two classes heard very different things.

The literal classes heard: “If you want to keep your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” Hearing this, they planned their family and business finances and voted accordingly.

The symbolic classes, trained in metaphor, heard the following: “If you want to keep your doctor, you can keep your doctor, or at least one that is just as good; or, even if you can’t keep your doctor under the new plan, the nation will be better off, so it’s worth the change anyway.”

The symbolic class knows that political promises are rhetoric, meant to win elections—not meant to actually, literally be fulfilled. The literal class is slowly realizing that this is the case, but they still feel lied to by each new candidate. In reality, they just don’t understand metaphorical language.

A teacher I know once shared the following quote by Groucho Marx with her class: “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend; inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” One student was very frustrated with this little proverb. When questioned, the student said emotionally, “This is so cruel to dogs. Why would anyone want to read inside of a dog?”

When the literal class doesn’t easily and immediately understand symbolism, it will lose its freedoms to the elite ruling class that does.

The Missed Symbols

I wonder what people will say about the book and movie popularity of Divergent. It is a great symbolic attack on the modern public school system and the way we choose careers and jobs in the U.S., Canada, and Europe—but I bet there will be a number of homeschoolers, charter school and non-traditional educators and parents who miss some key points.

First: this is not a book for youth; the intermittent suggested sensuality that is predictable and “natural” for youth in crisis who depend upon each other without family support is not suitable for most youth.

Second: this book is for adults, and it may be the best promotion for homeschooling and other cutting-edge, new educational choices since…well, ever.

If non-traditional education seizes this opportunity, there will be a lot of support for Divergent, because people will understand its symbolism: Each person is different, and each person has unique genius inside.

The purpose of education is to help each student discover and develop his or her inner genius and passion, and use it to improve and serve the world. When the focus is on making every child fit in, it’s not education at all. At best it’s training, at worst brainwashing.

This is the overarching message of Divergent—but will it be lost on the literal class? I hope not.

We all can benefit from including more symbolic thinking in our reading. It’s like a new mantra for 21st Century leadership: Read more, think more, serve more. And look for symbols and metaphor in everything you read.

Join Oliver for Mentoring in the Classics >>

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

odemille Symbolic Language Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

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

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