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Are You Really an American

February 3rd, 2014 // 2:02 pm @

real american Are You Really an American The more I watch the news, the more I wish we had more farmers in modern America. I grew up in a small town, and when I was a boy there were lots of farmers still left in the county.

The town was small enough that I knew, at least by face and name, pretty much every man and woman — and I noticed something different about farmers. They didn’t accept the “official line” on anything, and they never tried to impress or fit in. They seemed secure in who they were, not worried about whether they were popular or not. This gave them immense strength.

For example, one day while walking to school, I noticed water spouting high into the air from a broken fire hydrant. A local grocer I knew pulled over, watched it with me and a few other kids, and then said, “I’ll call the city office and tell them to come fix it.”

We all kept walking to school — crisis averted. Later in life, while traveling in a big U.S. city, I noticed a similar spouting hydrant. This time people just walked around it and kept going, as if they had never really noticed it. “No calls to city hall here,” I remember thinking.

But the really amazing thing happened back in my hometown the same day I saw the leak. I’m not sure whether the grocer ever called the city office, but on my way home from school the hydrant was still spraying water. It was hot, so my friends and I cooled off in the free entertainment provided by the leak. In a town this small, this provided high adventure.

While we were there, an old farmer pulled up in an old pickup truck. He got out, looked over the leak, then went and puttered around in the back of his truck. He returned with several tools, and twenty minutes later the leak was fixed. The man walked back to his truck, and I asked him if the city sent him.

I’ll never forget the truly shocked look on his face. “No,” he said. “I was just driving by. The hydrant was broke, so I fixed it.” Then he got in his truck and drove away.

I hauled hay a few times for this farmer, earning some spending money during high school. Neither of us ever mentioned the incident again. It was as normal as sunrise. The hydrant was broken, so the man fixed it. He didn’t work for the city. But he lived there — and a broken hydrant needs fixing.

At least, that’s the logic for a farmer. In many modern cities today, he’d probably be issued a ticket and have to pay a fine.

That’s modern America. When we don’t encourage initiative and innovation, we naturally get less of them. When we punish self-starting entrepreneurialism, jobs go overseas. When we reward “leaving solutions to the government,” we get fewer solutions. No wonder we’re in decline while China and Brazil, among other places, are on the rise.

I once told this story to a group of students, and two of them later served as interns at a state legislature. On the last day of the session, they sat in the seats high above the legislative chamber, reading through the session program and circling the names of the legislators who had become their heroes.

They said something like, “These were the leaders who never, ever caved in on principle, who always stood firm for what they believed — never playing politics or trying to fit in, just doing their level best to serve the people who had elected them.”

After they finished, they noticed something very interesting. Next to the picture and name of every legislator was their profession — teacher, accountant, attorney, businessman, etc. Every single one of the legislators they had circled was a farmer.

The two young interns were duly impressed. They remembered my story about farmers and fire hydrants, and they shared their experience.

Not every American can be a farmer. But every citizen can be an American — one who thinks independently, takes action when it is needed, and always takes a stand for the right.

Washington will get some things right and some wrong in the years ahead, but the future of America doesn’t depend on Washington. It depends on regular people: will they think independently, will they spend their lives trying to fit in, or in standing up for what is right?

Standing up for the right things isn’t always popular. But people who do it anyway are the only ones who keep a nation free. So, sometimes I ask myself a very important question: Are you really an American? Really?

That old farmer was. If you are too, prove it.

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

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

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

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

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Category : Blog &Citizenship &Community &Entrepreneurship &Leadership &Liberty &Mission &Producers &Prosperity &Service &Statesmanship

Why Washington Can’t Be Fixed, But America Can

January 7th, 2014 // 10:00 am @

fix america 300x300 Why Washington Cant Be Fixed, But America CanThe problems in Washington D.C. aren’t going to be fixed, because Washington is the problem.

One fundamental way Washington operates is incompatible with freedom, prosperity, and common sense. Specifically, Washington today is caught in the rut of post bellum auxilium, and there is little chance of this changing any time soon.

This phrase was used in ancient times to describe politicians and generals who would hear warnings of danger and refuse to provide troops — then, upon hearing that their posts had been attacked and overrun by the enemy, would angrily and publicly gather troops and send them. The troops would arrive at empty battlefields, too late to do anything — which should have been obvious, since the politicians didn’t even send them until the battles were over.

Our government is profoundly dedicated to this method. Consider the many warnings of impending terrorism that came before 9/11, and the drastic Bush Administration response after. Or the fact that only a very few, isolated people saw the Great Recession of 2008 coming, but afterwards the Bush and Obama Administrations took draconian pains to ensure that nothing like this would ever happen again.

Then, when the Arab Spring started with a massive uprising in Egypt, President Obama blamed the intelligence community for failing to predict this event. There are dozens of similar examples, in just the last decade.

Here is the problem. Washington believes the experts. But, as Nassim Nicholas Taleb teaches in his excellent book, Antifragile, the experts are terrible at predicting surprises.

Obviously, that’s what makes such events surprising. And they keep coming, despite the experts’ best attempts to predict and forecast.

Taleb wrote that intelligence analysts and economists fail to forecast most major world changes because these events “are unpredictable, and their probabilities are not scientifically measurable.”

He points out a real weakness with most modern government leadership:

  1. governments focus on prediction, then when they are surprised they
  2. blame the experts for not forecasting effectively, and
  3. rally to create regulations and policies designed to anticipate and prevent events that have already happened.

What they don’t do is create what Taleb calls real resilience, or the ability to withstand surprises — whatever comes.

There are several consequences of this mistaken approach. First, the numbers of regulations skyrocket because politicians think it is their job to anticipate every possible surprise.

Second, the size of governments, debts, and deficits increase as officials try to be prepared for anything.

Third, after each failure, the government becomes more and more dependent on the “experts.”

Common sense dictates that we stop listening to those who consistently get most of their forecasts wrong, but the worry that government must foresee and block every surprise trumps common sense — and more money is spent on more experts whose predictions continue to fall short.

In our book, LeaderShift, Orrin Woodward and I called this widespread problem “Credentialism.”

Taleb wrote:

“Governments are wasting billions of dollars on attempting to predict events that are produced by interdependent systems and are therefore not statistically understandable at the individual level…This was not just money wasted but the construction of a false confidence based on an erroneous focus.”

Surprises will still come, including natural disasters and man-made crises. Nothing government does can stop this.

Some will no doubt ask, “So, what should we do? Just give up?”

The answer is interesting.

Instead of focusing on trying to forecast and prevent surprising events in the world, Taleb says that wise leaders will focus on creating a strong and resilient nation and society that isn’t hurt by surprise. In fact, he recommends that nations seek to become “antifragile,” meaning that they get even stronger during surprises and other crises.

This is how America responded to World War II, for example. Instead of weakening us, this crisis made us stronger. This happened because we were more antifragile than today. We had, on the whole, stronger families, stronger community bonds, and stronger dedication to morals. We also maintained a true free-enterprise system where anyone had the opportunity to take risks and create widespread prosperity — and many people did just that as a response to crisis.

In our current environment — where only 35n percent of all jobs are full time, and more than 48 percent of people are on welfare, food stamps, or other government benefits, and where the regulatory barriers to starting a business are much higher than fifty years ago — we are a lot more fragile.

In short, we are a nation deeply addicted to being ruled by experts. Our best future will come, Taleb suggests, by focusing on the things that make us stronger, more resilient, and even antifragile.

In my view, this means a return to genuine free enterprise, pure and simple.

The reason this works is because it incentivizes individuals, with enlightened self-interest, to take on the challenge of becoming entrepreneurs, i.e.: producers, independents and bastions of self-reliance, sharing their wealth and security with those who buy into their vision and help make it happen through intrepreneurial positions in their businesses.

Thousands of such entrepreneurs unleashed on our woes would have a leavening effect and the grassroots spread of forward-thinking innovation will put into operation the principles that govern freedom and prosperity.

We need to take a good look at our nation and government, identify areas where were we are fragile, and fix them. Government has a small but vital role to play in this, mainly in fixing our long-term government spending problem, but the majority of change must come from the American people.

The problem, as always, is that such change requires risk. This means that those who are willing to face risk and innovate must lead out — entrepreneurs, not politicians, bureaucrats, or experts.

The Washington/Ivy League/Wall Street crowd that depends on experts is extremely fragile, if for no other reason than it relies on experts whose forecasts are frequently weak.

If we are to put America on a path to a truly flourishing economy and society where every child can benefit from a rebirth of the American Dream, risk is necessary. Without great risk, there will be no great rewards.

The truth is, the most innovative entrepreneurs have already detected areas of fragility and are taking action in response — that’s what makes them innovators. But Washington seems committed to stopping all this initiative.

A national addiction to experts, and a simultaneous rejection of entrepreneurs, is a sure path to decline. This is where we now are as a nation.

The reality is that expertise thrives when there is no crisis, but crumbles in the face of surprises. Entrepreneurship flourishes in times of peace and crisis, even when it isn’t given much of a chance.

When a nation encourages entrepreneurship and the natural innovation and resilience of entrepreneurs, it becomes strong — strong when surprises come, and even if they don’t.

How do we become such a nation? Three things are needed:

  1. We have to be innovators and entrepreneurs regardless of what Washington does.
  2. We have to effectively stand behind those few in Washington who do take on the expert establishment and call for real change, even (especially) when it upsets the career politicians and media pundits.
  3. We have to show real respect for entrepreneurs, and teach all our kids to seriously consider and admire the higher calling of entrepreneurship.

As Taleb put it,

“We didn’t get to where we are today thanks to policy makers — but thanks to the appetite for risks and errors of a certain class of people [entrepreneurs] we need to encourage, protect, and respect.”

Our solutions are simple, not complex. But the “expert-dominated” elites are trying to keep things complex in order to “justify their profession,” as Taleb said.

Innovators can do better. They always have. Carpe diem!

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

odemille Why Washington Cant Be Fixed, But America Can Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

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

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

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Category : Blog &Economics &Entrepreneurship &Government &Mini-Factories &Producers

The Death of The Middle Class

July 19th, 2013 // 10:51 am @

Columnist Joe Klein said on The Chris Matthews Show:

“This is the biggest problem that we’re facing going forward. We were a homogenous, middle class country, by and large, for the fifty years after World War II.

“Now we’re no longer homogenous, and there’s a good aspect to that in that we have become a true multiracial country. But there’s a bad aspect to that, in that the middle class, which was the heart of this country, is beginning to fracture, and to panic, in many ways.

“And unless we figure out a way to find jobs for the vast middle class in this country, it’s going to be really hard to sustain democracy. We now have a plutocracy in this country.”

This is exactly true, and many Americans feel Wall Street and Washington are working together against the middle class.

Worse, many people aren’t sure that any solution is ahead.

Many experts suggest that education can solve the class divide, but the people realize that most schools are actually increasing the gap between elites and the rest.

Modern schooling has become a huge part of the problem, not a solution.

The only real solution is a widespread shift from the employee mentality to entrepreneurship.

As David Ignatius points out, many immigrants to America see the United States as a great place to start businesses.

Sadly, most native-born Americans are afraid of entrepreneurship and feel that jobs should be plentiful—as if it were a birthright.

The future of American freedom hinges on this question: will the current generation of Americans embrace entrepreneurialism, or will we keep whining about Washington while waiting for more jobs to somehow appear?

Is the American spirit dead, or is free enterprise still one of our greatest American traditions?

Only the regular people can make this choice.

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odemille 133x195 custom The Death of The Middle ClassOliver DeMille is the chairman of the Center for Social Leadership and co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

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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Understanding the Battle

July 10th, 2013 // 6:34 pm @

the curtain Understanding the BattleThe following describes one side of the modern battle for our future:

“You believe you can change the world for good, one person at a time. You prioritize your children and your neighbors above your own consumption.Fulfillment for you comes through love and service, not accumulation of material goods.”

And the next one describes how the other side of the battle attacks the good:

“I’d thought these ideas placed people like you in an emotionally vulnerable position. You strive for an ideal, and since people are inherently imperfect, they will ultimately let you down….

“I obscured the idea of intrinsic self worth by encouraging comparisons with other people—people who were unnaturally perfect because I made them up. I appealed to peoples’ egos as well as their insecurities by promoting the idea that it was not enough to be unique or to do good.

“My intent was to convince them that the only meaningful accomplishment was to be better than someone else.  That got them more concerned with promoting a perception of goodness than with actually doing good.”

These profound words, from The Curtain by Patrick Ord (which is a great and fun read), provide a nutshell summary of what is wrong with our modern world and why freedom is in decline.

Let’s be clear.

It is essential to teach our children than being your unique self and doing good really is enough.

In fact, it is what life is all about.

Doing good. Serving others. Improving the world.

Nobody needs to be better than others, we all just need to be the best we can personally be.

We don’t need to be perfect, but we do need to lose our lives in doing good things.

We must never be distracted into promoting a perception of goodness.

We should put all our energy into actually doing good.

Not forcing good through government, but just getting to work helping the world become a better place.

These principles are simple and true.

But the future of freedom depends on most of us really believing and living them.

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odemille 133x195 custom Understanding the BattleOliver DeMille is the chairman of the Center for Social Leadership and co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

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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A Looming Crisis — & a Call for Solutions

May 6th, 2013 // 3:51 pm @

obamacare A Looming Crisis    & a Call for SolutionsMost Americans have no ideas it is coming. But it is just around the corner.

It’s one of those technical changes that only wonks pay attention to, so few people realize how big this will be.

In fact, it’s a serious crisis in the making. And unlike the Y2K scare in 1999, this crisis is a sure thing.

What is it?

Well, put simply, this coming January, many companies will be required to extend Obamacare health care to their employees.

The costs of this are significant, and will force many small and larger businesses to make some very tough choices.

The result will be a lot of layoffs, downsizing, reduced pay, and outsourcing.

Service will suffer, and response times will plummet.

Most families and individuals plan on a yearly basis, running January 1 to December 31, so they may not know how that a lot of businesses run on a fiscal year—from April 1 to April 1, July 1 to July 1, or October 1 to October 1.

This is very important, because we just witnessed the first big round of businesses (whose fiscal year is April to April) factoring in the costs of the January 2014 Obamacare requirements.

The number of layoffs and cuts is a serious concern.

But those who run April to April have only had to factor in three months of Obamacare costs so far, so the damage has been minimal.

It’s going to get increasingly worse on July 1, and then by October 1 it will start having a major impact.

By the first of January, when everyone will have to pay the higher costs, the effect will be huge.

Again, because this is a numerical concern, most people aren’t paying attention. Here’s the crux of the problem:

  • Our economy is already struggling with a weak recovery.
  • The increasing tax and regulatory burden on business has dampened innovation.
  • The schools seldom teach innovation or initiative—indeed they usually promote the opposite.
  • International innovation is rising.
  • Business is reticent to invest or spend, because the current environment in Washington is highly uncertain.
  • Big business, which has a high surplus right now, is finding better political environments in other nations—so the money will naturally flow to where business is treated better.
  • The Obamacare requirements are making business a lot more costly, and they mostly kick in this coming January.

A lot of businesses are scrambling.

For example, in the past few months I’ve received email from a number of friends who are business owners or who consult with small businesses—saying that their only choice is to either lay off a lot of employees or shut down their business.

One company, for example, is trying to prepare for next year, but has realized that the additional cost of Obamacare for their firm will be at least $18,000 a month.

This is a fairly small company, with close ties to its people.

The last thing it wants to do is lay off employees. But what to do? The costs are simply prohibitive.

Laying off is the obvious option; and after digging deeper, it may be the only option.

How would you counsel companies in this predicament? (Note that most companies are dealing with this right now.) What ideas do you have? I’m sincerely asking for input.

What can they do?

Thousands of companies are asking the same thing right now, and many others will do so before the end of 2013.

This is going to be a real shock to the economy.

A crisis is coming.

But back to the question. How can small companies that are already financially tight comply with the new regulations—without laying off or cutting salaries?

I’m hoping you see some real solutions.

The obvious one is to innovate—to expand sales into new markets and make a lot of extra cash.

The regulatory challenges of such a strategy are, alas, a serious problem. At least in the United States.

So, thinking like an owner, what would you do?

I know you don’t have financials or details in front of you for any one company facing this challenge, but take a stab at this problem anyway—because almost all businesses are doing the same thing right now. It’s the only realistic way to look at Obamacare, because it’s the way pretty much every business owner is looking at it.

Specifically: Costs are going up significantly, with no offsetting increases in income.

In fact, higher taxes and increased regulations make growth even more difficult.

In this environment, how can you absorb the Obamacare costs without laying off a bunch of employees?

Or letting them go and hiring all new people who are desperate for jobs and will work for much lower pay?

Or simply taking your business to Brazil or India or some other country where growth is actually rewarded?

Please send me your responses. What can be done?

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

odemille 133x195 custom A Looming Crisis    & a Call for SolutionsOliver DeMille is the chairman of the Center for Social Leadership and co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

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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