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Overcoming Hamilton’s Curse: Specific Solutions that Only Entrepreneurs can Provide

September 23rd, 2010 // 4:00 am @

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When America decided to follow Alexander Hamilton’s economic model instead of the Jeffersonian system, a number of changes occurred which now haunt our generation.

Jefferson envisioned a nation of small farm and shop owners that spread around leadership and prosperity, while Hamilton preferred a mercantile system with a few wealthy owners employing the large majority of the populace.

Hamilton felt that an increase in wealth among the leading families would make up for the reduced freedom and less-widespread prosperity under a mercantile economy.

After all, this was the model used by the most powerful nations in Europe.

Ironically, we have now reached a point where the greatest challenges we face are caused by the mercantile system and can likely only be solved by an entrepreneurial mindset.

Funny how history pulls these types of pranks.

Failed Solutions

Unfortunately, the two main sides emphasize government solutions (more government-provided jobs and stricter regulation against corporations and bonuses) versus big-business mercantilism (hire and fire as best fits company projections, and move operations abroad to less hostile regulatory environments with cheaper labor—or in other words, business as usual).

A third view comes from frustrated populists who want Washington to get its act together and fix the economy.

All three of these views miss the point.

Wall Street, Washington, and Main Street still seek Hamiltonian solutions: “Big institutions should fix things for us.”

The specific challenges we face, however, don’t lend themselves to institutional fixes. Our current problems need precisely entrepreneurial-type solutions.

This isn’t the old debate of whether public or private programs are best. The truth is, that debate nearly always promoted institutional fixes.

What we need now are patently non-institutional innovations.

Major Challenges

Consider the major problems we are facing.

Most are the natural results of too much reliance on institutional size and power and not enough initiative, innovation, and leadership from “little guys.”

Of course, the few who are entrepreneurs do an amazing job against increasing odds.

But a major shift to the Producer Mindset is needed to overcome our current challenges—and more such challenges will continue to arise as long as we stay addicted to big institutions.

Specifically, the major concerns we’re facing in the years and decades ahead include the following:

  • Running out of money for social security and many other entitlements.
  • The flight of many in the entrepreneurial class to Brazil, India and other places with less regulation of small business.
  • The wartime economy of China that is built to thrive in times of conflict (and struggles in times of peace).
  • The end of privacy as government is pressured to oversee everyone and all things in the name of security and protection from terrorism.
  • The end of America’s production base as industry continues to go abroad and we continue to train the world’s attorneys instead of more engineers and inventors.
  • The growing gap between rich and poor in the U.S. and globally.

Also consider the following items that will peak and commence declining in the years immediately ahead, as outlined in the book Peak Everything: Waking Up to a Century of Declines by energy expert Richard Heinburg:

  • Oil availability and cheap fossil fuels to drive the economy
  • Fresh water availability per capita
  • Easy, cheap, quick mobility
  • Available land in agricultural production
  • Political stability
  • Safe, inexpensive food

Only one of these looming challenges (security against possible Chinese aggression) can be effectively solved directly by government as it is now constituted.

And even this could be beyond the government’s scope if attacks are not military but cyberwar¹ on, say, America’s financial records or utility providers.²

A truly free government emphasizing a free enterprise economy would help against all of these, by empowering entrepreneurial action, wealth, and innovation to meet each challenge.

Heinburg’s solution to these problems is “fifty million farmers,” which he describes as a drastic increase in the number of small farmers.

Such people, Jefferson predicted long ago, own their own land and bring initiative and tenacity to producing food and also free citizens.

While the problems we face are clearly greater than a mere shift to locavorism will remedy, the heart and mind of the citizen farmer is a good start.

In addition to farmers, we need millions of producers of all kinds applying entrepreneurial talents and skills to overcoming our biggest challenges.

Habits & Complexes

There are at least two major roadblocks hindering this needed Freedom Shift.

The first is habit. Our society has become habituated, at times addicted, to certain lifestyles.

For example, when the recession hit, people spent more money, not less, at McDonald’s. We are habituated to eating out, and tightening our belts in hard times has come to include eating even more french fries.

Perhaps our most debilitating rut as a culture is a dependence on experts. Until we kick this dependency, how can we rise above the statistics and become a nation of entrepreneurs and leaders?

The answer, as challenging as it is, is for entrepreneurs to show us the way, and to keep at it until more of us start to heed.

The second huge roadblock is our complexity. Indeed, we have reached a level of complexity where simplicity itself is suspect.

For example, the simple reality is that jobs migrate to less difficult nations. It’s the old Rule of Capital: Capital goes where it is treated well.

In nations that have become too complex, taxes and regulation cause at least a doubling of the amount employers must spend on labor.

Many experts call this “progress,” but the natural result is that many companies respond by sending their operations and jobs to less costly nations.

When this happens, complex nations react in an amazing way: They villainize the companies (“greedy profiteers”) rather than reducing taxes and regulations to entice companies back home.

Then they take an incredible extra step: They increase taxes and regulations even more on the businesses that stayed!

The result? More money flees and recession inevitably comes.

At this point, when the need is obviously to lure businesses, capital, and jobs back home with decreased regulation and taxes, nations that are too complex actually compound the negative situation as angry workers cry out for more regulations and controls.

Freedom, prosperity and stability all suffer.

As Ken Kurson put it,

“Our bipartisan addiction to spending and borrowing pairs with a hostility toward employers that makes real recovery difficult.”³

Or, as the Governor of Minnesota said:

“I was talkin’ to people this morning who run small businesses. Where’s their bailout?”4

People who point out how ridiculous this is are often labeled extremists or radicals. Simple answers aren’t often very popular in complex nations.

Sadly, only major crisis is usually enough to get people to listen to simple solutions.

Poor Complexion

Another example is found in the issue of health care.

Health care costs consistently increase where voluminous regulations along with medical lawsuits cause huge malpractice insurance costs.

When government seeks to regulate and force the costs down, it must find a way to reduce litigation and payouts.

But in complex society, people want to have their cake and eat it too.

They want health care to cost less and also to leave doctors and insurance companies paying for incredibly expensive lawsuits.

How is it possible to get both? “The government should make it so,” is the answer of a complex society. But how? “The government should just fix it.”

This amazingly naïve view of things is the result of complexity. Far too many citizens don’t even expect to be able to understand the issue, so they leave it to the experts.

And once all is in the hands of experts, they are expected to solve everything without any pain or problem to the populace. After all, they’re the experts, right?

Those who benefit most from the costs of lower health care either need to forego the threat of so many lawsuits or be willing to pay higher prices.

But such simple answers don’t convince in complex societies.

One more example is interesting. Hamilton argued in The Federalist Papers that for society to be free the legal code would need to be long, detailed and difficult to understand.

He based this on the systems in Europe at the time. But these were the very systems the founders fought to abandon.

In contrast, Jefferson, Madison and many others taught that complex laws and legal codes were sure signs of oppression.

They agreed with Montesquieu, Locke and Hume and that laws must be simple, concise and brief, and indeed that the entire legal code must be simple enough that every citizen knows the entire law.

If a person doesn’t know the law, they argued, he shouldn’t be held liable for breaking it or freedom is greatly reduced.

In complex society, most attorneys don’t even know the whole law.

The Right Level of Complexity

The main criticism of simple societies is that they are often intolerant, controlling, and narrow-minded. This is an accurate and good criticism, and such simple societies are not the ideal.

Indeed, Madison shows the negatives of such societies in Federalist Papers eighteen through twenty.

He proposes that by establishing a large nation and a free constitution we can simultaneously establish both an open, modern, and progressive society and a free, prosperous, and happy nation.

Fortunately, we are not forced to choose between a stupidly simple nation and an overly complex one.

The ideal is a nation sufficiently complex to promote progress, toleration, cooperation, and growth and one with enough simple common sense to achieve freedom, prosperity, and opportunity.

This is the traditional entrepreneurial mix.

Whereas mercantilism values a few cosmopolitan elites employing a mass of less urbane managers and workers, in contrast the entrepreneurial challenge has always been to balance complex and intricate details with simple and effective systems and results.

In short, we need more entrepreneurs running more small, medium and large institutions in society.

Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous

The success of the next few decades will depend on certain types of people with certain skills and abilities.

The talents and habits of “The Company Man” came into vogue in the 1950s and helped create a society of professionals, experts and officials. This greatly benefited the final half-decade (1955-2005) of the Industrial Age surge.

But as the Information Age moved past infancy (1964-1991) and began its rebellious growth to adulthood (1992-2008), many became aware that change was ahead.

As the Information Age grasps maturity and takes over in the 2010s and 2020s, major alterations in society are inevitable.

The Company Man is now replaced by what David Brooks called Patio Man: Individualists who want personal freedom, enough income to pay the bills plus some extra spending money, a government that provides national security and keeps jobs plentiful, a nice house, a nice car each for him and her, a grill, a good movie tonight and friends over for the big game on Sunday.

At first, this was paid for by one working parent, then by both.

But unless something changes, this lifestyle is at an end for all but the wealthiest tenth of the population.

The thing which facilitated such a lifestyle in the first place was the prosperity generated by entrepreneurship, and the only thing that can maintain such a lifestyle and still pay off our society’s debts and obligations is a drastic increase in the number of entrepreneurs.

Period.

Specific Entrepreneurial Challenges

Let’s get specific. Either a generation of entrepreneurs will arise or the “Patio Man” lifestyle will end.

Very soon, the following must occur:

  1. Entrepreneurs must figure out how to cover their own retirement and that of their employees and many others so that when we run out of money for social security and other entitlements it just won’t matter.
  2. Entrepreneurs must figure out how to compete with the entrepreneurial classes of Brazil, India, and other places with less regulation of small business.
  3. Entrepreneurs must figure out how to rebuild a strong American industrial base to provide the basic foundational economic strengths of society.
  4. Entrepreneurs must figure out how to replace an oil-driven economy with cheaper and hopefully better and cleaner energy alternatives.
  5. Entrepreneurs must figure out how to provide inexpensive and quality fresh water, food, and mobility without cheap oil.

Researchers, experts, professionals, employees and governments do not have the ability to make these things happen. They will be needed to help accomplish these vital needs, but ultimately it will require the skills of entrepreneurs.

These types of changes are the arena of entrepreneurial talents and free enterprise innovations, not of legislative discussions, bureaucratic rules, or expert publications.

Legislatures, bureaucrats, and experts are important to society and are good at certain things, but initiative, innovation, taking major risks, and tenacious ingenuity are not their forte.

As significant as these challenges are, we need the best of the best solving them.

If entrepreneurs accomplish the goals listed above, we will naturally see increased political stability, a well-funded government that can protect against Chinese or other international aggression, and a narrowing gap between the rich and poor.

It will also take a widespread entrepreneurial mindset to figure out how to effectively thwart terrorism without turning the government into a secretive surveillance state, and also help the nation evolve into a less litigious and more productive society.

Government cannot wisely do either of these projects, since it is a central party to both.

And big corporations also have a conflict of interest; they would naturally use both projects to increase their own power at the cost of freedom.

Entrepreneurs are more suited to succeed in these projects than any other group, and to then share their views with the citizenry.

The most critical problems we now face are also our greatest opportunities.

We need more entrepreneurs, and we need entrepreneurs who engage more in social leadership.

Our future now, more than at any time since the founding and pioneering eras, depends on producers.

Hamilton’s ideas contributed much to American growth, but it is time for a renewal of the Jeffersonian spirit of independence and initiative—in all of us.

Click Here to Download a Printable Version of this Article

Sources:

  1. From the article entitled, “Good for Some” in the 2/13/10 issue of The Economist: “In January Google suffered a serious attack on its infrastructure, originating in China. On February 2nd Dennis Blair, the White House director of national intelligence, went to a Senate committee to give an annual threat assessment. He used it to give a warning of a large and far-reaching threat. Sophisticated cyber-criminals are stealing sensitive government information every day, Mr. Blair explained, and state agencies often find shadowy presences on their networks—‘the hallmark of an unknown adversary intending to do far more than merely demonstrate skill or mock a vulnerability.’ An overarching concern is that in a time of crisis network infrastructure might be seriously compromised.”
  2. See James Fallows, “Cyber Warriors,” The Atlantic, March 2010. See Israel on its Internet Fighting Team in Harper’s Index, Harpers Magazine, November 2009.
  3. Ken Kurson, “A Hedge Fund for Little Guys,” Esquire, March 2010.
  4. Governor Tim Pawlenty, quoted by Mark Warren in “The Dark Horse,” Esquire, March 2010.

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

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 : Aristocracy &Economics &Entrepreneurship &Government &Producers &Prosperity

Entrepreneurs of the World, Unite!

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

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A revolution is needed.

Not just any revolution, mind you, but a specific kind of freedom shift that will make the critical difference.

In order to progress, we need a renaissance of the entrepreneurial mentality and many millions of entrepreneurs in our society.

The recession has already helped increase awareness of this need. The Information Age is naturally offering many improvements over the Industrial Age, but simple access to more information is not enough.

What we do with the increased power of widespread information is the key.

The great benefit of the Nomadic Age was family and community connection and a feeling of true belonging, while the Agrarian Age brought improved learning, science and art, and eventually democratic freedoms.

The Industrial Age allowed more widespread distribution of prosperity and social justice, and many improved lifestyle options through technological advances.

Unfortunately, during the Industrial Age many freedoms were decreased as free nations turned to big institutions and secretive agencies for governance.

The industrial belief in the conveyor belt impacted nearly every major aspect of life, from education and health care to agriculture, industry, business, law, media, family, elder care, groceries, clothing, and on and on.

Whether the end product was goods or services, these all became systemized on assembly lines—from production to delivery and even post-purchase customer service.

At the same time, we widely adopted certain industrial views which became cultural, such as “Bigger is always better,” “It’s just business,” “Perception is reality,” and many others. In truth, all of these are usually more false than true, but they became the cultural norm in nearly all of modern life.

Perhaps the most pervasive and negative mantra promoted by modernism is that success in life is built on becoming an employee and its academic corollary that the purpose of education is to prepare for a job.

Certainly some people want to make a job the focus of their working life, but a truly free and prosperous society is built on a system where a large number of the adult population spends its working days producing as owners, entrepreneurs and social leaders.

Producer vs. Employee Society

A society of producers is more likely to promote freedom than a society of dependents. Indeed, only a society of producers can maintain freedom.

Most nations in history have suffered from a class system where the “haves” enjoyed more rights, opportunities and options than the “have nots.” This has always been a major threat to freedom.

The American framers overcame this by establishing a new system where every person was treated equally before the law.

This led to nearly two centuries of increasing freedoms for all social classes, both genders and all citizens—whatever their race, religion, health, etc.

During the Industrial Age this system changed in at least two major ways.

First, the U.S. commercial code was changed to put limits on who can invest in what.

Rather than simply protecting all investors (rich or poor) against fraud or other criminal activity, in the name of “protecting the unsophisticated,” laws were passed that only allow the highest level of the middle class and the upper classes to invest in the investments with the highest returns.

This created a European-style model where only the rich own the most profitable companies and get richer while the middle and lower classes are stuck where they are.

Second, the schools at all levels were reformed to emphasize job training rather than quality leadership education.

Today, great leadership education is still the staple at many elite private schools, but the middle and lower classes are expected to forego the “luxury” of opportunity-affording, deep leadership education and instead just seek the more “practical” and “relevant” one-size-fits-all job training.

This perpetuates the class system.

This is further exacerbated by the reality that public schools in middle-class zip codes typically perform much higher than lower-class neighborhood schools.

Private elite schools train most of our future upper class and leaders, middle-class public schools train our managerial class and most professionals, and lower-class public schools train our hourly wage workers.

Notable exceptions notwithstanding, the rule still is what it is.

Government reinforces the class system by the way it runs public education, and big business supports it through the investment legal code.

With these two biggest institutions in society promoting the class divide, lower and middle classes have limited power to change things.

The Power of Entrepreneurship

The wooden stake that overcomes the vampire of an inelastic class system is entrepreneurial success.

Becoming a producer and successfully creating new value in society helps the entrepreneur surpass the current class-system matrix, and also weakens the overall caste system itself.

In short, if America is to turn the Information Age into an era of increased freedom and widespread economic opportunity, we need more producers.

How do we accomplish this Freedom Shift?

First of all, we must get past the obvious wish that Congress should simply equalize investment laws and allow everyone to be equal before the law.

Neither government nor big business has a vested interest in this change, and neither, therefore, does either major political party.

Nor does either side see much reason to change the public education system to emphasize entrepreneurial over employee training.

Either of these changes, or both, would be nice, but neither is likely.

What is more realistic is a grassroots return to American initiative, innovation and independence.

Specifically, regular people of all classes need to become producers.

A renaissance of entrepreneurship (building businesses), social entrepreneurship (building private service institutions like schools and hospitals), intrapreneurship (acting like an entrepreneur within an established company), and social leadership (taking entrepreneurial leadership into society and promoting the growth of freedom and prosperity) is needed.

Along with this, parents need to emphasize personalized, individualized educational options for their youth and to prepare them for entrepreneurship and producership, rather than cultivating in them dependence on employeeship.

If these two changes occur, we will see a significant increase in freedom and prosperity.

The opposite is obviously true, as well: The long-anticipated “train wreck” in society and politics is not so difficult to imagine as it was twenty years ago.

The education of the rising generation in self-determination, crisis management, human nature, history, and indeed, the liberal arts and social leadership in general, is the historically-proven best hope for our future liberty and success.

If entrepreneurial and other producer endeavors flourish and grow, it will naturally lead to changes in the commercial code that level the playing field for people from all economic levels and backgrounds.

Until the producer class is growing, there is little incentive to deconstruct the class system.

More than 80 percent of America’s wealth comes from small businesses, and when these grow, so will our national prosperity.

Today there are numerous obstacles to starting and growing small businesses. There will be many who lament that the current climate is not friendly to new enterprises.

Frontiers have ever been thus, and our forebears plunged headlong into greater threats. What choice did they have? What choice do we have? What if they hadn’t? What if we don’t?

The hard reality is that until the producer class is growing there will be little power to change this situation.

As long as the huge majority is waiting for the government to provide more jobs, we will likely continue to see increased regulation on small business that decreases the number of new private-sector jobs and opportunities.

The only realistic solution is for Americans to engage their entrepreneurial initiative and build new value.

This has always been the fundamental source of American prosperity.

The Growing Popularity of Producer Education

Consider what leading thinkers on the needs of American education and business are saying.

In Revolutionary Wealth, renowned futurist Alvin Toffler says that schools must deemphasize outdated industrial-style education with its reliance on rote memorization, the skill of fitting in with class-oriented standards, and “getting the right answers,” and instead infuse schools with creativity, individualization, independent and original thinking skills, and entrepreneurial worldviews.

Harvard’s Howard Gardner argued in Five Minds for the Future that all American students must learn the following entrepreneurial skills: “the ability to integrate ideas from different disciplines or spheres,” and the “capacity to uncover and clarify new problems, questions and phenomena.”

John Naisbitt, bestselling author of Megatrends, wrote in Mind Set! that success in the new economy will require the right leadership mindset much more than Industrial-Age credentials or status.

Tony Wagner wrote in The Global Achievement Gap that the skills needed for success in the new economy include such producer abilities as: critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, leading by influence, agility, adaptability, curiosity, imagination, effective communication, initiative and entrepreneurialism.

Former Al Gore speechwriter Daniel Pink writes in A Whole New Mind that the most useful and marketable skills in the decades ahead will be the entrepreneurial abilities of high-concept thinking and high-touch leading.

Seth Godin makes the same case for the growing need for entrepreneurial-style leaders in his business bestsellers Tribes and Linchpin.

Malcolm Gladwell arrives at similar conclusions in the bestselling book Outliers.

There are many more such offerings, all suggesting that the future of education needs to emphasize training the rising generations to think and act like entrepreneurs.

Indeed, without a producer generation, the Information Age will not be a period of freedom or spreading prosperity. Still, few schools are heeding this research.

CNN’s Fareed Zakaria has shown in The Post-American World that numerous nations around the world are now drastically increasing their influence and national prosperity.

All of them are doing it in a simple way: by incentivizing entrepreneurial behavior and a growing class of producers.

Unlike aristocratic classes, successful entrepreneurs are mostly self-made (with the help of mentors and colleagues) and have a deep faith in free enterprise systems, which allow opportunity to all people regardless of their background or starting level of wealth.

Entrepreneurs and Freedom

History is full of anti-government fads, from the French and Russian revolutionists to tea-party patriots in Boston and anti-establishment protestors at Woodstock, among many others. Some revolutions work, and others fail.

The ones that succeed, the ones that build lasting change and create a better world, are led by entrepreneurial spirit and behavior. As more entrepreneurs succeed, the legal system naturally becomes more free.

As more people take charge of their own education, utilizing the experts as tutors and mentors but refusing to be dependent on the educational establishment, individualized education spreads and more leaders are prepared.

With more leaders, more people succeed as producers, and the cycle strengthens and repeats itself.

Freedom is the result of initiative, ingenuity and tenacity in the producer class. These are also the natural consequences of personalized leadership education and successful entrepreneurial ventures.

For anyone who cares about freedom and wants to pass the blessings of liberty on to our children and grandchildren, we need to get one thing very clear: A revolution of entrepreneurs is needed.

We need more of them, and those who are already entrepreneurs need to become even better social leaders. Without such a revolution, freedom will be lost.

Click Here to Download a PDF of This Article

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

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

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

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

 

Category : Education &Entrepreneurship &Featured &Government &History &Information Age &Liberty &Producers

Save the Cheerleader

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

In our current two-party system, independents need the two big parties.

There is, of course, an Independent Party, and people have differentiated members of this party from independents by using the phrase “small ‘I’ independents” to denote those who aren’t part of any party.

Few independents have any interest in joining a third party. They consider this a worse option than signing up as a Democrat or Republican.

Most independents share a frustration with both major parties, and they see partisanship itself as symptomatic of America’s problem. Independents especially dislike the political wrangling of party battles.

But let’s get one thing clear: In nearly all elections, most independents end up voting for a candidate from one of the two big parties.

There are several lessons to be learned from this.

Let’s Party!

First, independents need the parties.

Perhaps a non-party arrangement like the one envisioned by America’s founding fathers will someday offer a better system. Or maybe independents will eventually take over one of the major parties.

But in our current system, independents need the parties to be and do their best. Independents need to be able to choose between the highest caliber of candidates and policies, and the sheer numbers affect both the ability to get a message out, and the ability to attract willing candidates.

Bottom line: the parties are still providing the available options for our votes.

Second, the two-party system needs independents.

When the big parties hold a monopoly on political dialogue and innovation, centrist members of both parties congeal together a great deal and the parties often seem more alike than different.

Throw large numbers of independents into the mix, however, and the parties are forced to energetically debate their platform and the weaknesses of their opposition’s candidates, policies and so forth.

They have to articulate their message more clearly and differentiate themselves in order to garner independent votes.

Ironically, as much as independents abhor political fighting, it is by contrasting themselves with such “vulgarity” that thoughtful, idealistic and principled independents define themselves.

Not as a group, of course—but as individuals who are independent of and above the disingenuous and exploitive methods and motivations they believe typify the party loyalists.

The noisy and unproductive debate is the point to which independents are counter-point.

At the same time (and this is point number three), the strong influence of independents keeps either party from obtaining too much power for long.

Studied, serious-minded citizens who think and act independently and make their influence felt are exactly the type of citizens the American founders hoped would populate the republic.

Party loyalties too often reduce this level of independence. At their best, independents function as much-needed checks and balances on the two-party system that has become too powerful.

Party People

The independents need the parties, and the two-party system needs the independents.

But a fourth lesson might be the most important. The individual parties themselves actually need independents.

Political parties are only as strong as their collective members, and there are certain types of members that are extremely valuable to party influence.

For example, parties benefit from Traditionalist members—people who were raised with passionate loyalties to Democrats or Republicans.

Such members nearly always vote for the party and its candidates, and often they cast straight party votes without seriously considering other options. Their allegiance to the long view of Party dominance overshadows their concerns and even outright disagreements with the Party.

Politicos are a second important group of members in any party.

Politicos love politics. They watch it with as much interest and passion as dedicated sports fans follow their team. Politicos listen to party leaders, think about and memorize talking points (often unconsciously), and promote the party line. They also study lots of literature debunking the other party and pass along these arguments.

A third type found in both parties is the Intellectual. Intellectual Partyists are distinguished most by their habits of skepticism and asking questions. They consider party literature mere propaganda and instead search out and study original sources.

Intellectuals typically read opposing party sources as much or more as works from their own party.

Policy Wonks are a fourth type in any party, and they care most about specific proposals, plans and models, and enjoy studying them in detail, discovering patterns and flaws, and creating counter-proposals and solutions.

They examine, scrutinize, analyze, write and attend lots of seminars, panels and other events filled with discussion. Most of them make their living doing this in academia, media, punditry, the lecture circuit or blogosphere, or the like.

Party Leadership

A fifth type of party people, Activists, are usually familiar with the other types but they put most of their effort into influencing state or federal legislative votes, agency policies, judicial cases or executive acts.

They are found at all levels of government from local to international organizations. Some of them put most of their focus into elections.

Party Officios, a sixth type of party promoters, hold party positions (voluntary and informal as well as official) in local precincts all the way up to national committees.

Some are full-time paid professionals or experts, but the large majority of them voluntarily serve as officers, delegates, candidates, unofficial advisors and other roles in the party.

Among party Officios are those holding office. These elected and appointed officials represent their party in specific positions of public service.

Seventh and eighth types are Donors and Fundraisers. They of course play important roles in all parties, since politics is expensive and funding often significantly influences policy and elections.

There are various other types of people that help parties succeed, but the most influential type of all is the people who could simply be called “Majorities.”

The obvious power of Majorities is that they have the numbers and therefore the votes to steer the party. They elect the delegates who elect the party candidates, and their influence is deeply and widely felt in general elections.

Majorities are mostly made up of regular, non-politician, thinking citizens who have the most influence on party delegates, general donations and the general voters.

Majority types are usually not Traditionalists, Politicos, Officios, Wonks or political experts.

But they keep track of what is happening in society and think seriously about political concerns, issues and elections. They spread their influence day after day and impact thinking widely and consistently.

The media is seldom able to predict close elections because of this wildcard: Since Majorities’ type of engagement is largely internal and interpersonal, and because their influence is largely in a realm that is under-valued (or perhaps beyond the control of) those in power, it is almost impossible to know what Majorities are really thinking and to predict how they will impact outcomes.

Save the Cheerleader

So why do the parties need independents?

At first glance, it might appear that the parties would do better if independents would just split and join the big parties.

But a deeper analysis shows how significant the growth of independents has become.

Independents aren’t just the new numerical majority; they are the barometer of success.

As a type, independents aren’t Traditionalists, Politicos or Officios. Most of them are Majorities, and a lot of them are Wonks.

In short, they care little about the future of the party, and a lot about helping both people in particular, and the nation in general.

Parties need the votes of independents, but they need something more. The two big parties both need independent Majorities.

When they are receiving independent support, they know that they are probably on track. Or, when they lose independents, they know to step back reevaluate their direction.

There are certainly times when government officials need to ignore independents and everyone else and stand firm on the right path.

But most times they can pretty much tell how well they are doing by finding out what the independents are thinking.

Of course, independents aren’t always right. But they are right more often than the big parties because in general, they care more about the nation than about party power. Madison and Jefferson would applaud.

This is a great benefit to both parties. In some ways, independents have made it easy for politicians. Win the independents, win 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 : Government &Independents &Politics

Independents & the Tea Party Movement

September 20th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

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Much of the media represents what it calls a “third” view as sometimes independents and other times the Tea Party.

In recent elections, these two groups have often voted together. They both tend to vote against entrenched power, and they both support better fiscal discipline from our leaders.

Beyond these two similarities, however, they bear little resemblance.

The Tea Party is angry at Washington. Independents want to see Washington get its act together.

The Tea Party is comparatively extreme in its views and strident in the tone of its arguments. Independents are typically moderate in viewpoint as well as methodology.

A majority of Tea Party supporters are former Republicans who feel disenfranchised from the GOP. Independents come from all parts of the political spectrum.

Tea Party enthusiasts tend to promote “revolution”—although their platform is more clearly defined by what they object to than by what they propose to do about it. Independents want substantive and tenable reform.

Tea Party crowds often act like football fans during big rivalry games. Independents most often talk like accountants analyzing today’s financials.

The Tea Parties want big, symbolic, massive change. They’re pretty clear on whom they think is to blame for America’s problems and they frequently recur to name-calling and sarcasm to make their point. Independents want certain policies to be passed that significantly improve government and society.

Tea Party supporters see themselves as part of a big fight, and they want to win and “send the bad guys packing.” Independents want the fighting, name calling, mudslinging and partisan wrangling to stop and for our leaders to just sit down together and calmly work up solutions to our major national challenges.

Voting

Tea Parties are bringing out more conservative voters to take on the Democratic majority. Independents are voting against Democrats right now because they want to see real progress, just like they voted against Republicans during much of the last decade.

If the Republican Party swings right, most of the Tea Partiers will consider their work done. If the Republican Party swings right, most independents will give it far less support.

Tea Parties are viscerally against liberalism. Independents will vote against Democrats on some issues and against Republicans on others, always throwing their support behind the issues and projects they think will best help America.

Few Tea Partiers voted for Obama. Many independents did. A lot of Tea Partiers see Sarah Palin as a viable presidential candidate. Hardly any independents support Palin or consider her a viable candidate for high federal office. Most Tea Party members vehemently disliked Ted Kennedy. Many independents like him a lot.

Many Tea Party supporters want Obama to fail, and in fact believe that he has already failed. A majority of independents are frustrated with President Obama’s work so far but sincerely hope he will turn it around by shifting his focus and adopting what they consider moderate and needed changes.

The Tea Party tends to compare Obama to the likes of Hitler, while most independents admire and like Obama personally even while disagreeing with the substance of some of his policies.

In short, Tea Partiers and independents aren’t cut from the same cloth and actually have very little in common. But, as mentioned, they have been voting together for the last six months and will likely continue to do so for some time ahead.

That being said, they are unlikely to stay connected in the long term. Of course, there are a number of independents who have aligned themselves with the Tea Party or Tea Party events in order to have an impact right now.

That’s what independents do.

How Populism Succeeds

Which group [independents or the Tea Party] is most likely to last? The answer probably depends on upcoming elections.

The Tea Parties are a populist movement, meaning that their popularity requires at least three things:

  1. An agreed upon enemy with enough power to evoke strong fears, anger and emotion
  2. An upcoming event to rally around, such as elections or national seminars
  3. A sense that they can actually change everything quickly and drastically

The first and second factors will stay around as long as a Democrat is in the White House.

Tea Party fervor may be lessened by the midterm elections if, and only if, a lot of Democrats lose—but will likely resurge again as the next presidential election nears.

The third requirement is what has generally doomed all historical populist movements. The Tea Party revolt is new and may gain energy. But things will change as soon as one major (and inevitable) event occurs.

When the Tea Party wins a major election and then watches its newly-elected candidates take office and join the system, it will turn its energy from activism to cynicism and lose momentum.

If those the Tea Party elects make a splash and take on the establishment, or symbolically seem to do so, the Tea Partiers will breathe easy, congratulate themselves on their victory and go back to non-political life.

If the new officials make few changes and Washington seems as bad as ever, many Tea Party enthusiasts will lose faith and give up on activism. More on this later.

The History of Conservative Populism

This series of events is cyclical, and the pattern has repeated itself many times. The Anti-Federalists, Whigs and Moral Majority all, in their day, fizzled out on this cycle.

Likewise, “constitutionalism” arose during the 1960’s, gained influence with publications and seminars in the 1970’s, and culminated in the election of Ronald Reagan.

After his inauguration, most constitutional organizations saw their donations and budgets halved—or worse—and many disappeared. The term “constitutionalist” lost it power—indeed, became a label for energetic irrelevance—and the nation moved on.

After Reagan, Rush Limbaugh increased in popularity and influence leading up to and throughout the Clinton years, and his radio show became the rallying point of conservative populism.

The press worried about the growing power of talk radio and both major political parties listened daily to Limbaugh’s commentary and strategized accordingly.

“Dittoheads” (Limbaugh fans) saw Clinton as the great enemy and rallied around elections, the Contract with America, and (between elections) Limbaugh’s show.

But with the election of Republican George W. Bush, Dittohead Nation congratulated itself on victory and mostly turned to non-political life. Today there is little excitement about or commentary on becoming a Dittohead.

It should be acknowledged that conservative populist movements have often added positive ideas to the national discussion and many of its leaders have helped raise awareness of freedom and promote citizen involvement.

In this sense, Anti-Federalists, Whigs, the Moral Majority, Constitutionalists, Dittoheads and the Tea Parties are not insignificant to American politics. They have had, and likely still will, huge impact.

Liberal vs. Conservative Populism

Note, in contrast [to conservative populism], that liberal populism typically follows a different path.

Movements such as Abolition, Feminism, Civil Rights and Environmentalism build and build until they are legislated. At that point, liberal populists get really serious and set out to expand legislation.

Not being saddled with trying to establish a negative, liberal populists don’t lose momentum like conservative populists—because the liberal objective isn’t to stop something but rather to achieve specific goals.

The challenge of conservative populism is that its proponents are, well, conservative. They see life as fundamentally a private affair of family, career and personal interests.

To the conservative, political activism is a frustrating, anomalous annoyance that shouldn’t be necessary—an annoyance that sometimes arises because of the actions of “bad” people abusing power.

The conservative soul idealizes being disengaged from political life; as a result, conservative populism is doomed to always playing defense.

The conservative will embrace politics when to continue to avoid politics poses a clear and present danger.

When conservatives engage politics in popular numbers, they do so in order to “fix things” so they can go back to not thinking about government.

The liberal soul, on the other hand, sees political life as a part of adulthood, natural to all people, and one of the highest expressions of self, society, community and the social order—not to mention a great deal of fun.

Many liberals greatly enjoy involvement in governance. The liberal yearns for participation in society, progress and politics.

They care about family and career as much as conservatives, of course, but many liberals consider involvement in politics to be at the same level of importance as family and work.

The Future of Tea & Independents

Tea Parties will likely grow and have impact for some years, but they are unlikely to become a long-term influence beyond Obama’s tenure.

In contrast, independents may well replace one of the major parties in the decades ahead.

Few independents are populists and are therefore not swayed by the political media or party politics. They watch Fox and MSNBC with equal skepticism, and prefer to do their own research on the detailed intricacies of the issues.

They generally distrust candidates and officials from all parties, believing that politics is a game of persuasion and spin.

Also: Independents really do stand for something. They want government to work. They want it to provide effective national security, good schools, responsible taxes and certain effective government programs.

Like conservatives, independents want government to spend less and stop trying to do too much. Like liberals, independents want government to tackle and fix our major challenges and where helpful to use effective government programs.

Independents want health care reformed, and they want it done in common-sense ways that really improve the system. They apply this same thinking to nearly all major issues.

Like many liberals, a lot of independents enjoy closely watching and participating in government. They take pleasure in activism and involvement. They prioritize political participation up there with family, career and personal interests.

All indications are that the Tea Parties are a short-term, albeit significant, movement, while the power of independents will be here for a long time ahead.

When the current political environment shifts and conservative populists lose their activist momentum, independents will still be studying the issues and making their views known.

In fact, a serious question now is whether the Republican and Democratic parties can both outlast the rise of independents. The answer is very likely “no.”

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

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

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

 

Category : Current Events &Government &History &Independents &Politics

The Chemistry of Genius?

September 17th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

New Science on What Makes Quality Education

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Harvard Business School recently emphasized that the major changes in the world tend to come from what they called “disruptive innovators.”

These are surprising innovations that usually come from out-of-the-mainstream sources and drastically change society, business, and other facets of life.

Disruptive innovators are disruptive precisely because they are totally unexpected by the mainstream.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a best-selling book on the concept, showing that many and in fact most of the major societal initiators come from “outliers.”

Why are so many progresses initiated and led by unknown talent hotbeds, what Daniel Coyle called “chicken-wire Harvards”?

Indeed, Harvard, Yale, Stanford and their counterparts may lead the analysis about innovations, but “chicken-wire Harvards” produce many more innovative projects.

The Innovation “Gene”

Why is more entrepreneurial, innovative and leadership education flourishing in small, humble, usually under-funded environments than in the prestigious, elite halls of endowments and status?

And even when the mainstream and elite institutions take note and attempt to emulate such successes, why do they usually fall short of the smaller talent hotbeds?

The answer is simple. The breeding grounds of initiative and leadership believe in and implement the philosophy of individualized education.

Nearly everywhere else, the emphasis is on systemized models of learning that students must learn to navigate and “fit.”

To reinforce this point, there are many small, humble and under-funded educational models that are not talent hotbeds—almost invariably they are followers of the “systems model” rather than individualization.

Dead Poet’s Society

I well remember a visit years ago to a private school that had just received two major breakthroughs: an endowment from a wealthy parent, and a new president who promised to significantly grow the school.

As I talked to this president, however, I realized that he fully intended to turn this excellent, proven hotbed of talent into a systemized conveyor belt. He felt that this is what the wealthy donor wanted, and maybe it was.

But I could tell after a few minutes of visiting with him that he would ruin the depth, quality and excellent results the school had boasted for the past decade.

Five years later, my worst concerns were unfortunately the reality. The school was no longer a place of deep quality and excellence, but it was much bigger, more bureaucratic, and hardly distinguishable from the local public schools. Indeed, several charter schools in the area offered much higher quality.

The key to this change was teachers. In the public schools, teachers have been penalized for great teaching since 2002. As Harper’s noted:

“Under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002…U.S. teachers are forced to choose between teaching general knowledge and ‘teaching to the test.’ The best teachers are thereby often disenfranchised by the improper use of education information systems.”

But in private schools, this system is not mandated. However, when such schools apply the systems approach to education, they usually obtain similar mediocre results.

In the old, under-funded days of this high school, the teachers had given their hearts and souls to provide personalized, individualized attention to every student.

As the school turned to industrial systems, these teachers were forced to move on or change their approach from individualized learning to factory-style academia.

Approaching each child with the assumption that she has genius inside, and that the teacher’s role is to help her find it, develop and polish it to improve herself and the world—this is called teaching. Anything else is something else.

Where true teaching occurs, excellence flourishes. This is applicable at all levels, from elementary to high school, undergraduate to graduate programs, and also adult learning.

Individualization of education is the first step to leadership education, and without it quality always decreases.

Seratonin, Adrenaline & Myelin

Science is now beginning to show the reasons why quality in education increases with individualization.

Studies have shown for a long time that students receiving personalized, caring and quality mentorship learn more effectively than those required to conform to a deeply structured and systemized model.

Elites have historically been successful in engaging tutors, mentors and individualizing private schools over less personal conveyor-belt schooling options.

Scientists are now discovering that the individualized method (personalized mentoring, deep practice, long hours of inspired and enthusiastic academic effort) results in drastically higher levels of the neural insulator myelin than the standardized system of education.

Students with higher levels of myelin learn more and remember it longer. It is especially valuable for gaining, maintaining and polishing skills.

As Daniel Coyle writes in The Talent Code:

“The talent code is built on revolutionary scientific discoveries involving a neural insulator called myelin, which some neurologists now consider to be the holy grail of acquiring skill. Here’s why. Every human skill…is created by chains of nerve fibers carrying a tiny electrical impulse—basically, a signal traveling through a circuit.

“Myelin’s vital role is to wrap those nerve fibers the same way that rubber insulation wraps a copper wire, making the signal stronger and faster…each new layer adding a bit more skill and speed.”

This research is in its infancy, but it is already helping us understand that there are neuro-chemical factors in our basic psycho-physiology that are impacted by our learning environment.

Montessori, Charlotte Mason and other great educators have taught this for many years.

Personalized educational models, with dedicated and caring mentors helping learners achieve depth and inspiration in their studies, achieve better results than assembly-line education.

Mentoring Matters

Quality mentors help students learn at least three key things:

  1. How to see their internal greatness and potential.
  2. How to study and practice in ways that greatly increase the flow of learning.
  3. How to repeat this kind of learning experience at will.

These are nearly always individualized lessons; and when they are applied, researchers are finding, the level of myelin and the resultant quality of learning increases.

To increase myelin levels and create talent hotbeds, Coyle says, mentors must create an environment of individualized coaching, be perceptive in seeing individual needs in their students, use shock or intensity to open student minds and then share valuable information, and find ways to really connect with each learner.

All of this is traditional leadership education, based on the same principles as the 7 Keys covered in my book A Thomas Jefferson Education:

  1. Classics, not Textbooks
  2. Mentors, not Professors
  3. Inspire, not Require
  4. Structure Time, not Content
  5. Quality, not Conformity
  6. Simplicity, not Complexity
  7. You, not Them (example)

It would be interesting to study the myelin levels of each. Say, for example, a study of myelin levels in students whose teachers emphasize the “inspire” approach versus those with more “requirement-oriented” methods. There could be many other examples.

Individualization Breeds Innovation

One thing is clear, if not yet scientifically studied: Most parents and teachers who apply the 7 Keys see significant, drastic and lasting increases in the quality of their students’ and their own learning.

Personalized education is more effective in helping students learn in their areas of interest, and it also outperforms generally in math, science and technology.

In the decades ahead, as in decades past, many of the most innovative ideas and projects are likely to come from talent hothouses outside the mainstream—places where dedicated and caring mentors help young people see their huge potential, start to discover their great inner genius, and feel inspired to do the hard and effective work of getting a great education.

Individualized, mentored, intensive learning has better results than standardized, rote and minimum-standards systems.

Click Here to Download a PDF of this Article

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

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

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

 

Category : Education &Entrepreneurship &Featured &Science

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