June 14th, 2013 // 10:20 am @ Oliver DeMille
Peter Gray’s book Free to Learn is an excellent addition to the genre of books on restoring freedom in education.
Gray clearly states:
“Children are biologically predisposed to take charge of their own education. When they are provided with the freedom and means to pursue their own interests, in safe settings, they bloom and develop along diverse and unpredictable paths, and they acquire the skills and confidence required to meet life’s challenges. In such an environment, children ask for any help they may need from adults. There is no need for forced lessons, lectures, assignments, tests, grades, segregation by age into classrooms, or any of the other trappings of our standard, compulsory system of schooling. All of these, in fact, interfere with the children’s natural way of learning.”
So why did we create schools that so directly “interfere with the children’s natural way of learning”? Gray shows that in tribal cultures the focus of childhood was playing and learning knowledge, skills, and how to live self-sufficiently and honorably.
When the agrarian revolution increased the need for child labor on farms, the values of school turned to toil, competition and status. While Gray’s view of this is perhaps a bit idyllic, the reality is that modern schools are less concerned with student knowledge, skills, honor or abilities than with the universal goal of job training.
Certainly job training has an important place in advanced society, but Gray is focused on the education of children, and in fact the toll on children in our modern job-obsessed schools is very high. They are way more stressed than earlier generations of children and youth.
Why are we raising a generation of children and youth who are stressed, not secure? Gray’s answer, based on a great deal of research which he outlines in the book, is that we have turned learning into a chore, a task, a labor, rather than the natural result of curiosity, interest, passion to learn, and self-driven seeking of knowledge and skills. In short, we’ve taken too much play out of childhood and too much freedom out of learning.
The results are a major decline of American education in the last four decades. The solution is to put freedom back into education.
Interestingly, Gray suggests that in many of the educational studies of classrooms, schools, homes and teachers that have found a way to successfully overcome these problems and achieve much better educational results, one of the key ingredients is “free age-mixing.” Where students are allowed to freely mix with other students of various ages, without grade levels, the capacity of individuals to effectively self-educate is much higher. As for the impact on college and career success, students from free educational models excel.
This is a good book, and a must read for those who really care about education. I don’t agree with everything the author teaches, but I learned something important on almost every page.
Whether or not you read Free to Learn, all of us who have children or work in education need to do more to promote the importance of increased freedom in education. Gray is a particular fan of “unschooling,” a type of homeschooling and private schooling where parents and teachers set an example of great education, create an environment of excellent learning, and let the kids become self-learners. While this may not be the ideal learning style for every student, it is the best model for a lot of them–and for nearly every young person under age 12.
If you disagree with this conclusion, you simply must read the book. The research is impeccable. If you do agree, the book can help you get to work setting a better example for any students in your life.
May 6th, 2013 // 3:51 pm @ Oliver DeMille
Most 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?
Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.
January 10th, 2013 // 9:23 am @ Oliver DeMille
Note to the Reader: I offered this list three years ago in early 2010, and since then the steps of crisis have advanced. I felt it was time to review and see where we are right now. Today I added a few words of commentary that update things since 2010—these are at the very end of this list. If you want, feel free to skip to the end and read the last paragraph before reading the list. It is amazing how closely we are following this! —Oliver
Part I: The 50 Steps of Crisis Eras
The steps below come in the following general order during the 20-25 years of Crisis Eras in history. This pattern repeats itself every 80 years or so, with the last crisis era occurring between 1922-1945. Within the phases, steps can come in any order. Our current crisis era began on September 11, 2001.
The Pre-Crisis Era (Usually 7-12 Years before the Crisis)
1. Foreign war (e.g. French and Indian, Mexican-American, WWI, Gulf War)
2. Major economic boom (e.g. the roaring twenties, the dot.com nineties boom)
3. Declining morals (both sexual and charitable)
4. Escapist entertainment (novels, the Charleston, the sitcom, etc.)
5. Salesman values are the norm: tolerance, niceness, wealth, etc.
6. Two-party conflict
7. Big institutions lose popular support (e.g. British Parliament 1780s, Congress 1860s, Presidency 1920s, courts 1990s).
The Catalyst and Its Aftermath
9. Society gears up for crisis, but nothing happens yet.
10. Return to seeming normalcy, but growing fear and mistrust.
11. Gold (and in modern times steel and oil) prices soar.
12. Realist entertainment
13. Growing racial and religious intolerance
14. Business failures and buy outs
15. Increased regulation of business
16. Many foreign conflicts
17. Many government scandals
18. Widely increased stress and health problems across the nation
19. Economic downturn — looks bad but bounces back for a while
20. Entrepreneurial values begin spreading: ingenuity, self-reliance, confidence
The Escalating Crisis (Steps 21-28 can occur in any order and at any point before step 35, but they do occur at some point during crisis eras.)
22. All society’s problems suddenly combined into 1 big problem!
23. It feels like our civilization itself is at stake (it is!)
24. Statesmen either choose pessimism, fear, worry about the future, or they choose optimism and planning for after the crisis.
25. Major economic downturn, often at depression levels.
26. Major war begins.
27. One political party takes charge (for next decade or more).
28. Leaders either hunker down and try to survive the crisis, or they study hard, research deep, start or build businesses to fund freedom, and figure out answers for when the crisis is over.
29. Emphasis off rights and on duties (draft, tax hikes, censorship of media, etc.)
30. Customized becomes Mass (fewer brands at store, one or two office pay-scales and benefits package, etc.)
31. Leaders either focus on self survival or they write, teach, publish and spread ideas of freedom for after the crisis.
32. Warrior values dominate society: courage, strength, resiliency.
33. Every family sacrifices greatly.
34. Religious observance soars.
The Turnaround (This is where things take a shift toward positive!)
36. Greatness returns, because there is no other choice: greatness in homes, communities, nations, business, politics.
37. Leaders either trust that the government will just handle things after the crisis or they continue studying, teaching, writing and spreading the ideas that need to be adopted when the crisis ends.
38. The splintering, complexity and cynicism of the past 40 years turns to cooperation, spirituality and optimism. Happiness increases. (e.g. the number of people who considered themselves very happy decreased 60% from 1957 to 2007. 60%!).
39. Crisis ends! Everyone celebrates.
40. Masses go home, ignore societal progress and get back to life.
The Post-Crisis Era—Major Changes (Typically 0-12 Years After Crisis)
41. Leaders establish a new set of economic rules (with a mixture of regulation and free enterprise and a bias toward one of these).
42. Leaders establish a new culture (with government, corporations or family as the central institution).
44. Leaders establish a new society (with decisions on the accepted mixtures of morals, pleasures and duties).
45. Leaders establish a new ideal view of rights (with mixtures of inalienable, civil and human rights).
46. Leaders establish a new definition of family.
47. Leaders define a new class (or classless) system.
48. Leaders establish new boundaries, allies and treaties.
49. Leaders establish new constitutional models and legal codes to embody steps 41-48 above.
[These choices can go very good for freedom, prosperity and happiness, or very poorly for these. It is up to the citizens and statesmen who influence and impact these decisions. While the decisions are made during the early post-crisis era, the leaders are prepared and the ideas promoted during the 20-25 year period of crisis.]
What’s next? Well, it could go either of two ways:
50a. If leaders are effective in their studying, learning and spreading freedom and free enterprise ideas during the crisis era, the society adopts free enterprise, family-centered culture. moral-based society, inalienable and equal civil and human rights, strong family values, no class or caste system, and a freedom-based form of constitution.
50b. If leaders aren’t effective in their studying, learning and spreading the principles of freedom during the crisis era and early post-crisis era, society adopts lots of regulation, governmental and corporate controls over the people, pleasure-based society, a loss of rights, aristocratic class systems and laws, and a force-based government.
Part II: Comments by Oliver DeMille
Almost a decade ago, 9/11 created event 8, and we watched events 9-13 occur during the Bush Administration. Then, since the major economic crisis and the election of President Obama we have watched events 14-18 occur.
This is happening very quickly. With the Health Care law, we will likely see 14-18 accelerate in the next couple of years before we have a chance to reverse things in a presidential election. The election will probably determine whether or not we progress quickly or slowly toward major crises.
We have witnessed a significant increase of events 14-18 since March 2010, and after the midterm elections of 2010 and huge gains by Republicans in the House of Representatives, we saw event 19 occur. In fact, it was strong enough that the nation re-elected President Obama in 2012.
After the election, we began witnessing event 20, partly as numerous businesses shut down to use resources in other ways or restructured in the face of increasing regulations, and also as a number of entrepreneurs saw the decline of free enterprise and got even more serious about growing their businesses—regardless of what government does.
We will see event 20 increase in 2013, and events 21-25 sometime very soon—likely before the 2016 election. Whether 21 or 25 will come first remains to be seen.
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November 17th, 2012 // 10:36 am @ Oliver DeMille
In the aftermath of the 2012 election, there have been numerous emails, posts, articles and blogs by business owners who say they are planning to sell or close their businesses, or just lay off enough workers that they can afford Obamacare for the employees who remain.
One summary listed the following announced layoffs—all attempts to deal with the new costs of Obamacare:
- Welch Allyn, 275 layoffs
- Stryker, 1170 layoffs
- Boston Scientific, between 1200 and 1400 layoffs
- Medtronic, 1000 layoffs
- Smith and Nephew, 770 layoffs
- Hill Rom, 200 layoffs
- Kinetic Concepts, 427 layoffs
- Coviden, 595 layoffs
- Abbot Labs, 427 layoffs
- St. June Medical, 300 layoffs
There are many, many others.
One email dated November 7, the day after the election, read:
“Time to sell our business. We can no longer afford to provide a living for 14 employees as soon we’re forced to pay for their healthcare. So sad, too bad. On to new ventures.”
After responses about how sad this is and others pointedly blaming the Obama Administration, the same person continued:
“We are all Americans and need to find common ground and make this country great together. I’m not mad at anyone for voting different than me. They love their president, don’t lose friends over calling him a dictator. I’m excited to sell our business. We are adventurous!”
That’s the entrepreneurial spirit that made America great.
Not: “Oh no, we’re losing our job. Will the government help us?”
But rather: “Hey, change happens. We’re excited. This is going to be an adventure!”
That’s the American spirit.
And while rumors abound about how much Obamacare will cost each small business and which won’t have to make any changes at all, there are a lot of employers right now who are very concerned.
Those with under 50 employees aren’t supposed to be hurt, but smaller employers are still worried about exactly how the new laws will be enforced.
Sadly, we will likely see a lot of change in small business in the months and years just ahead.
More regulation, higher taxes and drastically increased costs of employing people will make things more difficult.
An exception may be in network marketing companies or compensated communities.
I’ve long considered them among the top entrepreneurial opportunities in free nations, and with the current changes and policies this is even more true.
“My son is a doctor,” Marge said proudly.
“Wow,” Betty said with a concerned voice. “How is your son dealing with the new regulations coming into effect under Obamacare?” she asked.
Marge nodded and her face grew serious. “He’s very concerned, to tell the truth.”
“Fortunately, my son is building a huge network marketing company, and the regulations aren’t hurting him much,” Betty said. “Maybe your son would like to meet with mine about an opportunity?”
This kind of conversation is taking place a lot right now, and all indications are that it will increase.
Some parents are recommending that their college children put school on hold and start a network business, and I know two medical doctors who have gotten out of the profession in order to build networking businesses.
One of them talked two of his sons into quitting college and doing the same, though the three of them all ended up building networking organizations with entirely different companies.
II. The Party of Small Business
All of this got me thinking today, and as I pondered I realized something. Something big.
Something we really need right now in America.
We need a third party.
Actually, we need a new party that becomes more popular than the Republican Party and the Democratic Party.
There are more independents than members of either big party, so this shouldn’t be too much of a stretch.
Here’s the problem: The Democratic Party is now the unabashed party of big government, the welfare state, rule from Washington D.C., and everything that goes with these values.
The Republican Party touts itself as the party of freedom, limited government, free markets and business, but in fact it is the party of big business and a big-spending government at the same or just slightly lower levels than Democrats.
We have a party of Big Government (with big business as its co-pilot), and another party that emphasizes Big Business (with big government as its co-pilot).
The first is the Democratic Party, the second the GOP.
Neither is now effectively serving the needs of our nation.
As a result, we get bigger government regardless of who gets elected, and big business grows (to the frequent detriment of small businesses) regardless of who is in power in Washington.
In all of this, small businesses, families, communities and the middle class are the losers.
The solution? We need a party of small business.
We need a party whose top priority is the needs of families and small businesses.
This new party needs to reject the big-government and anti-free enterprise values of the Democrats and simultaneously the big-business and anti-immigrant attitudes of Republicans.
It needs to embrace toleration, diversity, reduced government regulations, lower taxes, decreased government spending, incentives for entrepreneurship, a charitable safety net, and incentives for more immigrants to bring their capital, businesses, labor and families to America.
It needs to get rid of the barriers to hiring (such as the increasing required health care costs) and drastically reduce government red tape for small businesses.
It needs to allow more innovation, shrink requirements on licenses and permits and other unnecessary costs that decrease entrepreneurship and growth, and create an environment of seamless partnerships between schools and businesses.
It needs to promote, encourage and incentive a lot more initiative, innovation and entrepreneurialism.
It also needs to push for more creative and independent thinking in the schools and less that is rote, conveyor-belt, and pre-scripted.
It should change the way schools are run, replacing an environment where administrators and bureaucrats feel comfortable to one led by proven innovators and others who have been successful in the real economy, the FOR-profit economy.
Forget teacher certification and unions—if we want to compete in the global economy we need innovators leading our classrooms.
As an example, principals and teachers should be hired who have excelled at implementing successful business plans rather than writing resumes.
And funding should flow to schools that excel in a true free market.
To ensure to that no child is left behind (for example in less-advantaged neighborhoods), even larger premiums should go to innovators who successfully turn dumpy schools into flourishing institutions whose graduates thrive.
The new party should apply similar principles to other kinds of organizations, from health care and community governments to every other sector of the economy.
Small businesses bring the large majority of growth in the economy, and the new party needs to begin with the specific needs of small businesses in mind.
It needs to identify things that hurt small business and repeal them, and find out what helps small businesses succeed and introduce more policies that encourage these things.
It needs to rewrite the commercial and legal code to create an environment where innovation is the norm, along with the values of growth, calculated risk, leadership, creativity, and entrepreneurialism.
It needs to be not the party of jobs, but the party of successful business ownership—and the jobs they naturally create.
III. A Bright Future?
We need a third party. The party of Big Government (with big business as co-pilot) and the party of Big Business (with big government as co-pilot) simply aren’t doing what our nation needs anymore.
It’s time for new thinking and new leadership.
There is an old saying that you can’t pour new wine into old bottles, because the residue of past wine always taints the new.
This is where we are in America.
The current parties, as much good as both have done at times, have peaked and are in decline.
New leadership is needed, along new values untainted by the baggage of two parties whose time has come and gone.
It is perhaps possible to reform one of the parties to get better results, but it is likely that only a new party with an entirely new focus and fresh thinking is going to take America where it needs to go.
Democratic nations are notorious for refusing to change until crisis forces their hand, and I suspect this is what we’ll witness in the 21st Century.
At some point, probably after major crisis and a superhuman American response, we’re going to need a new party.
Those who love freedom should start thinking about what it should look like.
One thing is clear: When it does come, it needs to be a party of small business.
Free enterprise and the entrepreneurial spirit made America great, and it will do so again if we let it.
Whatever comes in the economy, we want to be led by those whose attitude is, “It might sound bad, but this is an exciting adventure! Let’s get started…”
Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.
March 20th, 2012 // 11:19 am @ Oliver DeMille
An Essential Debate for the Future of Freedom
Within these two branches there are a number of subtypes, including various command-style economies such as socialism, communism, fascism, collectivism, authoritarianism and totalitarianism.
The market-economy subgroups are sometimes more confusing to people from free societies, because most of us have been trained to evaluate politico-economic issues in binary mode where we narrow any debate down to only two sides (e.g. socialist or capitalist, democratic or totalitarian, good or evil, free or not free, etc.).
That said, we live in an era where the various subtypes of market economics are in conflict.
During the Cold War the world was divided between two great camps, with market economies of all types firmly allied against all command economies, but in the post Cold War and post 9/11 world this has dramatically changed.
There are forces supporting each of the various subtypes of market economy, and often these are pitted against each other in ways unthinkable before 1989.
Differentiating between these subtypes is important for anyone who wants to accurately understand what it happening in today’s world:
- Mercantilism: the law gives preference and special benefits to the sector of the economy owned by the government.
- Corporatism: the law gives preference and special benefits to the sector of the economy owned by big corporations within the nation (sometimes referred to simply as “Big Business”).
- Capitalism: the law gives preference and special benefits to the sector of the economy owned by big capital (including big corporations like in Corporatism, but also wealthy foreign and multinational corporations and non-corporate institutions, wealthy foundations, wealthy trusts, non-profit entities, wealthy families, moneyed foreign investors, and others with mass amounts of capital).
- Keynesianism: the law gives preference and special benefits to companies and institutions (corporate but especially non-corporate) that are so big that they care more about their public image for societal responsibility and promoting social justice than about profit(s), market share or stock value.
- Free Enterprise: the law gives no special preference; it protects equal rights for all individuals and entities and leaves initiative and enterprise to private individuals, groups, businesses and organizations that are all treated equally and with minimal legislation by the legal code.
All of these subtypes are market-based, though according to Keynes himself Keynesianism “seeks the goals of socialism through market means.”
For the last three generations these five subtypes of market economics have all been lumped together under the label of “capitalism.”
While this is technically inaccurate—because capitalism is a subtype rather than the whole of market economics—it is the way the word “capitalism” has been used by most people.
By this definition, capitalism is synonymous with “market economics” and is a label for the entire market-style model.
So we have two definitions of “capitalism” in the current usage: one a title for the whole market field of economics (we’ll call it capitalism Type 1), and the other a specific type of market economics where preference is given to those with large amounts of capital (capitalism Type 2).
These are frequently confused in our contemporary language.
Supporters of freedom get understandably frustrated when anyone questions the superiority of Type 1 over command economies, but it is vital to understand how Type 2 differs from free enterprise.
Adding to this confusion, corporatism is not the same as Type 2 capitalism.
Corporatism doesn’t include capitalism Type 2 at all, but capitalism Type 2 always includes corporatism as part of what it calls “capitalism.” (Corporatism is to Type-2-capitalism what apple is to fruit.)
In short, Type 2 capitalism is much broader than corporatism, as shown in the definition above.
Again, this is confusing to most people, but understanding the details and nuances of how these words are used is extremely important.
Note that the American founders dealt with many similar language challenges, such as when Madison spent Federalist papers 10 and 14 explaining the important differences between democracies and republics, or when he used papers 18, 19 and 20 to elucidate the differences between federations, confederations, national and federal government.
Without such clarity, the Constitution would have been confusing to many Americans who were deciding whether or not to ratify it.
There are numerous similar examples, and part of being a free people is taking the time to understand the nuances of economic and political freedom.
Note that few things are more essential for free people than clearly understanding what type of economic system they want.
Based on the definitions above, consider these three conclusions:
- All of the market subtypes are better than all types of command economies. Even the market approaches with the least freedom (Keynesianism and mercantilism) are significantly better (with more freedom, opportunity and prosperity for more people) than the command system with the most freedom (collectivism).
- On the subject of the five subtypes of market economy, free enterprise is significantly better (with more freedom, opportunity and prosperity for all), than mercantilism, corporatism, capitalism Type 2, and/or Keynesianism.
- The United States today has far too much mercantilism, corporatism, Type 2 capitalism, and Keynesianism and not enough free enterprise.
Many moderns say we are a “capitalist” nation or vote for the “capitalist” candidate and conclude that all is well, when in fact free enterprise is under attack from socialism but also just as strongly from mercantilists, corporatists, Keynesians and Type 2 capitalists.
Voters and citizens must know what to look for when a policy or candidate claims to promote “capitalism.”
He is the co-author of New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller LeaderShift, and 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.