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Freedom Leadership: America’s Opportunity

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rising — & Falling — Stars

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

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

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

American political, economic and psychological letdown is inevitable.

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

America’s Critical Choice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Simple Solution

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Do We Stand For?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

What if Elections Can’t Fix Washington?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Very Afraid?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Future of Independents?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A New Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What if Elections Don’t Work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Deeper Importance of the 2010 Election

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

Blame is easier than leadership.

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

Unfortunately, most of these books are essays on blame.

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

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

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

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

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

A Dearth of Solution Thinking

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

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

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

There are three main themes in this genre:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Problem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The History of Capitalism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Emergence of a New Economy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, The Election . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Basic Tribal Culture

October 5th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

THERE ARE AT LEAST THREE MAJOR CULTURAL TRADITIONS of the world’s history, which can be described as Warriors, Farmers and Competitors.

 

Warriors

Warrior cultures believe in enemies, battles, winners and losers, us versus them, strength, courage, victory, personal skill, honor, resiliency, and a bias toward action—among other things.

They tend to see the world in terms of “our tribe” above all else. Many in history called themselves “the people,” or “the chosen.”

The tribes which became the nations of Norway (Norse), England (Anglos), France (Franks), etc. were from this tradition; other examples are found around the world.

Farmers

Farmer traditions valued security, hard work, frugality, sexual morality, responsibility, loyalty to community, savings and assets, land ownership, integrity, education, honesty, steadiness, family loyalty, neighborliness, and prosperity defined by abundance of food.

They built communities, simultaneously promoted individual freedom and conformity to community norms, and considered themselves successful when they produced bountiful harvests and saw their children married well (to spouses who embodied the values of the community).

Competitors

Competitor traditions saw the world as (usually) friendly competition between children at play, youth at courting and adults at work. Even the elderly competed to brag about the best lives, worst pain, most accomplished son, most neglectful daughter, most talented grandchildren, and whatever else came up.

For example: “I have two sons who are doctors and a daughter who is a lawyer,” versus “My grandson is a star quarterback who just won a state championship and his sister just got a scholarship from a national competition she won in Washington, D.C.”

People in such societies like competitive entertainment to escape from the pressures of their competitive schools and jobs.

A lot more could be said about these three major traditions, but the key point here is how they relate to tribes and freedom.

Warrior societies are tribal by nature, and they grow by conquering and colonizing other societies. They see life as a big battle, and raise their children and spend their days in battle mode.

They believe that life is about either conquering or being conquered. They see those with farmer and competitor traditions as victims.

Farmer societies are also tribal, but see the world as a big desert that needs to be turned into a garden. The more people who will adopt their values and join their quest to beautify and expand the garden, the better.

To them, the warriors and competitors are savages and wild outsiders who should be avoided and kept away from their society.

Pitfalls of National Culture

Competitor cultures are National (as opposed to tribal): interested in education for career, working moderate hours in order to enjoy daily entertainments, uninvolved with neighbors unless there is some other relationship to pull them together, and selfish with their free time.

They see the world as a big race, and individuals want to be the winners instead of the losers. In fact, they generally look down on “losers” and avoid them lest losing somehow “rub off” on them.

They see warrior and farmer cultures as quaint and backward, at best, and often with a more critical eye. Clearly, those cultures aren’t winning the race.

Competitor cultures divide their competitions into those that matter and those that don’t. They join tribes for the ones with little at stake, but stay individually focused on the ones that matter most.

Career and money are the competitions that matter more than any others in these cultures. Even family relationships have to take a back seat to most career considerations.

In other words, competitor cultures appear tribal by habit, but are nationalistic when they feel something is really important.

National cultures therefore desperately need the lessons taught by traditional tribal cultures.

But there are also pitfalls and negatives typical to tribal cultures, and we want to learn what they are and avoid them.

The American founders took on a deliberate process of statecraft, weighing the merits and failings of forms, models and ideals from societies throughout history.

I would assert that such a considered approach to our future as a nation and society is called for today. The goal is to adopt the best from national, tribal, warrior, farmer, competitive and other cultures, and at the same time reject their flaws and weaknesses.

With this in mind, let’s discuss what the tribal ideal really is.

With the assumption of local governance under the direction of concerned and involved citizens who were invested in one another’s success and security—basically a tribal council at the community level—the American founders established constitutional forms to create a cooperative and interactive union of states.

We have lost too much of the tribal foundation that was the animating spirit of American culture—the underlying weave of the fabric of freedom—and it is hard to overstate the case for recapturing it.

The Tribal Worldview

Just as there are religious worldviews, secular worldviews, materialistic worldviews, etc., there is an overarching tribal worldview.

Just like there are many views and differences within, say, the religious worldview, there are many different tribal perspectives.

And just as there is an overarching religious worldview (there is a higher power, and I should live in harmony with it/Him), there is also a profound and powerful tribal worldview.

One of the best ways to begin to understand any worldview is to ask, “What is the world, and what is the purpose of life and the universe?”

This is a complex question, of course, but it can be answered in simple terms and the early answers are often the most important. By understanding tribal culture at this basic level, we understand a great deal about ourselves.

The Universe

As I have studied tribal cultures from around the world and throughout history with these questions in mind (What is the world? What is the purpose of life and the universe?), I have categorized recurring themes, forces and societal roles; the labels used here are my own.

In generic tribal thought, the universe is made up of certain vital entities. For example, first come the Obeyers; these do their part in the universe unfailingly. They include suns, moons, planets, rocks, canyons, rivers, mountains, valleys, etc.

Many ancient religious temples and writings are full of these Obeyers. Obeyers set an example to all others, and they are the basic building blocks of everything. Many ancient stories center around references to and morals learned from valleys, rivers, mountains, etc.

Next are the Growers: the trees, grasses, plants, fruits, and so on. They build the universe by growing. Their growth feeds the others, bringing the power of the sun into assimilable form.

Many ancient religions and philosophies are built around the Growers and grower symbols.

The Movers include animals, fish and birds. They move around the world, spreading minerals and seeds from the Obeyers and Growers as they travel.

Many tribes consider some of the Movers, especially birds, to be messengers, teaching us as we interact with them in the world. They also provide food to others, and feed the Growers when they die.

The Movers are a key part of the universe, as are the Growers and Obeyers.

The Fishers are an interesting group. They change the environment by building dams to fish like beavers, or storing nuts like squirrels. Bees and others fit this category. They somehow raise and harvest food, not just wander and search for it.

In some traditions they are called farmers, and in others spiders (which weave webs to capture food). By their fishing, storing, farming, weaving, etc., they benefit the environment and all of life.

People are expected to learn from all of these parts of the universe, and to follow their good examples. Each type of entity is judged by how well it promotes and benefits life, which Obeyers, Growers, Movers and Fishers all do.

Next come the Lovers. Lovers benefit life to the extent that they love. When they don’t love, they hurt life and all the other entities.

The Lovers include all humans and also the spirits (or God, gods, and/or ancestors, depending on the tribe). Humans exist to love.

The Shadow Side

In addition to the good parts of the universe that benefit life, there are those that attack life. These include the Thieves, Murderers, Manipulators and Destroyers.

Thieves take one’s implements of life because they think it will benefit their life. They are mistaken, and cause pain for all by wrongly attacking life.

Murderers take life in order to promote their own life, and in so doing increase total pain. Murderers are seen as worse than Thieves.

Manipulators are an interesting category, often considered to be much worse than thieves and murderers. Manipulators set up systems that steal or kill, but in a way that the thieves and murderers aren’t directly blamed and in fact get away with it more often.

Such systems include anything that skews the natural way things should be, such as class and caste systems, manipulative and deceptive laws and governments, tricky lending and business deals, etc.

In this worldview, the only thing worse than Manipulators are Destroyers. Destroyers are those whose very nature has changed, who no longer are fallen Lovers, but are truly motivated only by hate and pride.

Note that while Movers, Fishers and Humans can be Thieves and Murderers, only humans can become Manipulators or Destroyers.

Since the very purpose of humans in the universe is to bring as much love as possible into the world, it is a colossal tragedy if a Lover becomes a Manipulator or a Destroyer.

By the way, in many traditions only Manipulators become Destroyers.

Now, with all this said, imagine how people in this culture feel about those who set up abusive, forced, corrupt and controlling governments, economies and laws: They are the worst of the worst.

Even those who support, condone or allow such manipulative governments, laws and economies are doing the work of the Destroyers and attacking life and all that is good.

This is one reason that tribal societies so adamantly mistrust most national cultures and people: It seems to many of them that the very basis of national culture is manipulations and exploitative systems.

It is also why it would be so valuable for them to learn the constitutional principles of freedom and how to apply them. But our purpose here is not to admonish the tribal cultures, but to learn from them.

Major Weaknesses of Tribalism

At this point, we should note that while traditional tribal culture does have much to teach us from its idyllic simplicity, it is far from perfect. Studying its pitfalls and common flaws is also instructive.

When tribes are run by small councils of all adult members, these weaknesses can be mitigated.

But when tribes don’t follow the leadership of councils of all adults, they turn against themselves; whatever other form of government they adopt, it becomes corrupt.

When this happens, various problems arise. The problems that follow are the normal for tribes that are not led by councils of all adults.

Economic Control

Tribal culture generally gives a great deal of economic power to tribal leaders.

Interestingly, most tribes distribute political power well between the executive (who gets power only in the face of external challenges and only for the duration of the challenge), the judicial (often a shaman and in many cultures left to families⎯both of which are usually independent of the executive and legislative), and run by the legislative (sometimes councils of elders, sometimes the combined adults of the tribe, sometimes both).

Of course, there are tribes that fail to follow these models, but the freest tribes use these basic systems.

Still, even with political freedoms, few historical tribes have economic freedoms.

The trust of the chief, the head elder (male or female) or the shaman is often absolute.

And, indeed, such leaders often adopt a sort of royal mentality where they believe that what is good for the leader’s finances is good for the whole tribe. In this form, nobody sees undue control of everyone’s finances and ownership as a negative.

But often, it creates the loss of political freedom—including parental choices, like who should marry whom—and a strict caste system with no economic or social mobility.

Many tribes face long-term poverty for most members of the tribe. Such poverty never persists in a truly free-enterprise model, which includes both freedom and opportunity.

Often tribal leaders see this as a threat to their power and, by extension, the tribe’s security and viability.

Emerging tribes with a charismatic leader who seeks control over individuals’ and families’ finances are cultish, and history is littered with the tragedies that such arrangements can lead to.

If a tribe wants to sell things, that’s great. But trying to pool resources or give up control of personal property should of course be met with serious suspicion.

This discussion also exposes a national-culture flaw: the idea that in learning from other cultures we should not judge their systems, traditions and behaviors.

Perhaps this is true when the goal is to maintain purity and academic objectivity in anthropological studies, but it certainly not true when our purpose is to learn and apply the best of tribal (and national) cultures to the tribally-nationalistic-globally-connected societies of the future.

If some calamity changes the world drastically, the same lessons will need to be applied in the new local societies that will be forged.

We need to measure the parts of each culture by how well they promote and support an environment of freedom, prosperity and happiness for all.

Interpersonal Politics

In a small group, political power is often swayed by personalities, likes and dislikes, trysts and history, baggage and personal weaknesses. Nothing can keep this from happening, and in a free system and voluntary tribes it doesn’t matter much.

In a local or official tribal system where the government has actual power over life, death, imprisonment, finances, etc., systems should always be established that keep this from happening.

By “systems” I mean written constitutions with separation of powers, checks and balances well-structured.

Class Power

Most tribes are aristocracies. This is a problem, because the class system is usually established by those in power and dominated by certain families.

In a local structure, or any model where the tribe or community is non-voluntary and/or actually has government power, the solution to this is to establish a legislature of all adults in the tribe.

As the tribe grows in size and geographical scope, local councils representing perhaps no more than 150 households continue to govern themselves, and may send representatives to a regional council to manage affairs of mutual interest to the coalition of local councils.

Conformity

Tribes often flounder economically and fail to grow because the people become too socially conformist. When tribes demand sameness on many levels and in nearly every aspect of life, they shut down creativity, leadership, wisdom and progress.

This is natural to any group, and in national cultures it is often called “groupthink.”

It is important for any group to continue learning, thinking, risking and trying.

Of course, certain violent and anti-social behaviors from rape to murder and so on cannot be tolerated. But stopping criminal behavior is far different from scripting people’s lives and socially enforced hyper-conformity.

This also translates to a socially-enforced closed-mindedness with respect to new ideas and a lack of tolerance for diversity, which lead to a stagnation of creativity and a tendency toward thought-policing.

Lack of Diversity

These conspire to cause narrowness of thinking, along with many of the other problems listed above. On the one hand, the whole point of tribe is joining together based on commonalities.

But the thing which makes tribes flourish is truly caring about each other, connecting, bonding. And connections based on both commonality (such as the shared value of freedom of choice) and diversity (such as the shared value of freedom of conscience) weave a much stronger fabric than one based on sameness.

Conclusion

The New Tribes of the 21st Century would do well, of course, to avoid these pitfalls. As stated, nearly all of these go away when a tribal society is governed by small councils of all adults in the tribe. If the tribe is too large for everyone to have a voice, smaller sub-councils are needed.

Historical tribes do have their weaknesses, but these also have much to teach us. Our generation of citizens needs to understand the good and the bad from the great tribes, nations and societies of history.

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

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 : Community &Culture &Economics &Politics &Tribes

Beyond Liberal & Conservative: Independents, Postmodernism, & How to Really Understand the Issues

October 1st, 2010 // 4:00 am @

If you want to understand and profit from the political, economic and cultural forces at play in today’s world, you must understand two things:

  1. The evolution of pre-modernism, modernism and post-modernism.
  2. How independents view and are shaping the world.

Armed with this understanding you’ll be able to see through the superficial and misleading “liberal versus conservative” debate portrayed by the media. Furthermore, you’ll be able to harness our current societal transformations to your advantage.

The most fundamental question in the Great Debate of how society should be organized is “Who (or what) will save us?”

Pre-modernism, modernism, and post-modernism all have different answers.

Pre-Modernism & Modernism

Modernism is defined in many ways. One of the most enlightening is discovered by comparing modernism to the pre-modern and post-modern worlds.

In a nutshell, pre-modern societies believed that some supernatural being or at least super-powerful entity would save mankind. Man is flawed and weak (so the narrative went), and if we are to be saved it must come from something greater than man.

The three main branches of this view ⎯ one God, many gods, and shamanic energy powers ⎯ all agreed on the basics.

For example: man needs saving, he can’t save himself, a higher power must save us, and we should therefore live in a way that pleases or avails us of the benefits of the higher power.

That’s a simple version of pre-modernism.

Modernism began when societies changed these assumptions. The modern era adopted the following beliefs: man needs saving, he can’t save himself and it seems no godlike power is inclined to step up (for whatever reason), so man must build institutions which can save him.

In short, modernism rests on the belief that man-made institutions can and should save us.

The early modernists built on their pre-modern religious roots and turned to churches as the institutions most likely to fix the world’s problems. Those who were dissatisfied or impatient with this solution turned to governments as the answer.

If there are any problems in the world, according to this view, government should fix them. If a government won’t fix a problem or allows any suffering, it is bad and should be reformed or replaced. If a government tries but can’t fix problems, it is too weak and must be given more power.

After all, we humans like our higher powers incredibly strong and always benevolent.

Government v. Markets

A third major branch of modernism arose when governments repeatedly failed to solve the world’s problems. This school of thought believed that big business was the answer.

Huge, powerful businesses, as Keynes argued, reach a size where they care less about profit and more about taking care of their employees and society in general.

This view has business provide insurance, benefits and other perks to help the people live happily. It tends to ignore small business and even large “greedy” businesses, and instead promote more power to the biggest corporations.

In recent years we’ve witnessed the debates between all three branches of modernism, from faith-based initiatives (church as central institution) to health care reform (government as central institution) to executive bonuses (corporation as central institution).

But since the media usually couches all these and many other issues in “Conservative versus Liberal” terms, few people realize what is actually going on in these controversies.

The church-as-savior belief lost most of its influence in the last century, leaving governments and businesses to jockey for first place in this race to be the central institution helping mankind.

Many participated in this debate: Marx, Darwin, Bastiat, Nietszche, Freud, C.S. Lewis, Andrew Carnegie, Ayn Rand, Solzhenitsyn, Keynes, Kinsey, Milton Friedman, Mao, Reagan, Clinton, Bush, Obama, several Popes, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and others.

Most recently, Ralph Nader has argued that the only solution to our current problems is for the super-rich to use their influence and power to reduce corporate power in the world and let governments save us.

Government offers the most hope to mankind, this view argues, and corporations are the problem. Greedy corporations caused the economic downturn, according to this view.

In contrast, the famous Shell Oil Global Scenarios have made a case that government cannot and will not solve truly global problems like energy, environment, transportation, economic ups and downs, communication and education.

Their solution is for corporations with experience planning across borders to be given the power to make and follow a “blueprint” for global success.

Leaving it to governments would cause a mad “scramble” toward more war, poverty, depression and suffering, according to this view.

After all, the corporations say, when the economy fell it hurt most companies and nearly all governments. Only the biggest corporations remained strong ⎯ so they should govern us!

Both sides (“Government Should Fix It” and “Big Business as Savior”) see the other as a dangerous utopian scheme.

Consider, for example, the issue of health care (or energy policy, unemployment, boosting the economy, or any other national issue). Most officials and media personnel see the debates as political, between conservatives and liberals.

To a certain extent ⎯ votes in Congress ⎯ this is true. But the real debate is much deeper and broader than politics.

It is about who we are as human beings and where we’re headed as a society. While there are still some supporters of pre-modern or modern views, governments and businesses have so far failed to deliver heaven on earth or even ideal society.

The End of Conservative versus Liberal

For most people today, neither of these institutions are the answer.

When conservatives talk about faith-based initiatives or Republicans tout trickle-down economics, most people are skeptical. Likewise when liberals emphasize anti-corporate measures or Democrats roll out the latest government program.

The result of this growing skepticism characterizes the rise of the independents.

A few independents are anti-government and a few are anti-corporation, but the large majority just want government to do its job, do it well, and stop trying to do everything else.

While there is heated debate over what, exactly, is the government’s job, most independents would settle for good national security, good schools, fiscal responsibility, social equity, and a high-opportunity economy.

While the Left hopes to create a good economy through government programs and the Right through big business initiatives, most independents want both ⎯ along with less regulation on small business.

But this tectonic shift in American society is much bigger than politics. Most Americans, and indeed many around the world, have lost faith in modernism itself, in the promise that big, powerful, man-made institutions⎯be they church, government or corporation⎯can solve our problems.

Indeed, there is a growing sentiment than most big institutions tend to increase the world’s problems.

Business, church and government all have a place in society, the independents say, but none are the “higher” powers we once hoped for.

Postmodernism & Independents

Enter post-modernism. While nearly every person who writes about postmodernism defines it differently, one thing is clear: The fastest growing worldview is not modernism.

That is, postmodernists are of many stripes, but they don’t believe that government or business will save us. Period. And they are the new majority.

Independents are likely to read and champion ideas from both Milton Friedman and Ralph Nader, vote for both Barack Obama and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and quote both Ted Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.

Neither liberals nor conservatives understand them.

What is the cause of this social/cultural/political earthquake?

At least part of it is that independents no longer have a basic faith in the infallibility or fundamental goodness of government or the market. They see a role for both, and feel that both must be limited.

But the biggest shift of all may be that postmodernists and independents have a new faith: “We must save ourselves, at least as far as this world is concerned.”

On one extreme, this means becoming truly self-made, like an Ayn Rand hero, building yourself and your family at the expense of all others.

At another extreme, it includes those who still believe God will save us, but feel that we must live in a way that we deserve to be saved — or at least become worthy to live in a God-made world.

Most postmodernists adopt neither of these — believing instead that we should become our best selves and help the people around us in the process.

“Humanity needs saving, so do your part,” is the growing mantra. If you are in government, do your part and do it well. If you are in business, likewise.

Be a great parent, grandparent, doctor, coach, teacher, policeman, nurse, business owner, fireman, mayor, friend. Whatever your role, do it better.

Some postmodern thinkers, like James Redfield (author of The Celestine Prophecy), promote teams of spiritually-awakened people praying down power from the universe to improve the world.

Others, such as intellectual Ken Wilber, suggest learning the truths found in all fields of knowledge and from all cultures and philosophies⎯ and then integrating them together.

Marianne Williamson says to trust our inner greatness and also in miracles, and many recommend manifesting our personal power to build entrepreneurial wealth and use it to help others.

Nearly every nation and industry has its prophets of manifesting success, from Miguel Ruiz and Carlos Castaneda to Anthony Robbins, Brian Tracy, Peter Senge, Ken Blanchard, Paulo Coelho, Guy Kawasaki, Seth Godin or Steve Jobs.

In retrospect, it probably shouldn’t surprise anyone that the “self-help,” “how to,” “new age,” “success,” “skeptic,” “green” and “secularist” genres would eventually impact the philosophy of modernism. All of them share a faith in self over institutions.

After all, an unproven belief in government or big business is referred to in both “success” and “skeptic” literature as “the victim mentality.”

Even atheistic secularism is now turning its back on blind faith in big government and big corporations, replacing it with a “get ahead together” ethic.

And the debate between national sovereignty and globalism is being replaced with the growing concept of glocalism ⎯ local sovereignty with widespread economic ties.

The Issue Behind the Issues

Where liberals and conservatives are talking about things like health care reform, insurance companies and needy patients, independents are talking a lot about living healthier lifestyles, improved community structures, organic foods, and fresh water.

They want reform, and they want to make healthier choices in their personal lives as well.

Of course, not all independents are postmodernists or “success literature” readers. But few independents now believe that the way to get ahead ⎯ personally or nationally ⎯ is to turn to government, corporate or other institutional answers.

To say it another way: Many independents are postmodernists and don’t even know it yet.

Perhaps surprisingly, most independents want to simultaneously:

  • Succeed economically
  • Help others
  • Heal and protect the environment
  • Keep their nation strong
  • Build friendlier relationships with other nations
  • Expand the freedoms of the marketplace
  • Take care of the needy and the sick
  • Greatly improve schools

They want government to do its part in this, and corporations too, and they believe that they personally can have a significant positive impact on their little corner of making the world much better.

The media will probably continue to describe health care and other issues in modernist “conservative versus liberal” terms. After all, media is a big institution too.

But the reality is incredibly powerful: In the 21st century, faith in big institutions is beginning to wane.

Conservatives routinely label independents as “leftists,” and liberals call them “right wing.” The truth is that most independents are centrists, postmodernists and pragmatists.

More to the point, while almost everyone else is pointing fingers or turning to government or corporations for leadership, independents are quietly and consistently increasing their personal education, holdings and influence.

How to See What is Really Happening

It remains to be seen how all this will play out, but for years to come the real issue behind the issues will be the rising power of independents, most of whom do not have much faith in big institutions.

When they side with a government program, liberals will claim they won with the support of the American people. When independents prefer a market approach, conservatives will claim victory.

In reality, however, winning policies will be those that gain the support of independents.

If you want to know the future of any issue, find out how independents view it. And if it appears that a big-institution issue is winning, find out why independents support it ⎯ they usually support a certain reform, not the institution behind the reform.

Through all the politics and media reports, if current trends continue, faith in and deep support for big institutions will slowly dwindle.

It is unclear exactly what will replace it, but that replacement will be the biggest story of the 21st Century.

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

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

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

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

 

Category : Economics &Featured &Government &Independents &Politics &Postmodernism

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