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Education Insights: Unschooling Rules (A Book Review)

December 14th, 2011 // 8:27 am @

unschooling rule 184x300 Education Insights: Unschooling Rules (A Book Review)Once in a while a truly great book comes along that you just can’t wait to tell everyone else to read. Unschooling Rules by Clark Aldrich is that kind of book.

I started reading in the afternoon and couldn’t put it down until I finished.

My first thought when I completed the last page was, “I wish I had written this!” My second thought was, “I need to read this again.”

Those who have read and studied A Thomas Jefferson Education (TJEd) or Leadership Education will find this book especially enjoyable. It covers a lot of TJEd themes, but with its own interesting twist.

As I read it I kept saying, “Yes! Absolutely! Right on!” I haven’t seen a book so totally capture the vision of Leadership Education in home school in a long time.

But I’ll let this outstanding book speak for itself. Here are some quotes from this fabulous little book:

“In many schools across the world, children en masse get dropped off and enter buildings where they become the recipient of linear ‘teaching’ and tests. They go home, do homework, and start over again the next day—all for the goal of preparing them for the next level of school and meeting broad and dubiously constructed standards.”

A better “…type of learning answers such questions as: ‘What do I love doing?’ ‘What is my dream?’ ‘What gives me energy?’ ‘What are my unique strengths?’ and even ‘What is my role in a group?’”

“There are two reasons to learn something: either because you need it or because you love it.”

“Twenty-five critical skills are seldom taught, tested or graded….adapting, analyzing and managing risks…being a leader…gathering evidence, identifying and using boards of mentors and advisors…managing projects, negotiating, planning long term…”

“Don’t worry about preparing students for jobs from an Agatha Christie novel…”

“One computer + one spreadsheet software program = math curricula.”

“Five subjects a day? Really?”

“Maturing solves a lot of problems.”

“Grouping students by the same age is just a bad idea.”

“Tests don’t work. Get over it. Move on.”

“The future is portfolios, not transcripts.”

“Outdoors beats indoors.”

“The predominant academic milieu should be walking. When walking, children can talk. They can think.”

“Under-schedule to take advantage of the richness of life.”

“But it will not be the governments, or their school systems, or other of their institutions that will drive real innovation in reconstructing childhood education. It will be as it already is, the homeschoolers and the unschoolers.”

These are just a sample of the many wise things in Unschooling Rules. As I said, this book fits right in with the TJEd model of leadership education and home school. I highly recommend it book for every parent, teacher and administrator involved in modern education. It is a manual for great learning.

My friend Jeff Sandefer wrote in the forward to this excellent book:

“Each child has a spark of genius waiting to be discovered, ignited, and fed. And the goal of schools shouldn’t be to manufacture ‘productive citizens’ to fill some corporate cubicle; it should be to inspire each child to find a ‘calling’ that will change the world. The jobs for the future are no longer Manager, Director, or Analyst, but Entrepreneur, Creator, and even Revolutionary.”

This is a great book for our time — whether you home school or not. Five stars! I hope you’ll read it right away. If you are new to TJEd, read this great book right along with A Thomas Jefferson Education.

If you’re already familiar with TJEd, Unschooling Rules provides another excellent witness of what really works for truly quality education. This book belongs on every shelf, and its ideas need to be in every mind!

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odemille 133x195 custom Education Insights: Unschooling Rules (A Book Review)Oliver DeMille is the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

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.

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Category : Blog &Book Reviews &Education &Family &Leadership

The Amazing (Ironic/Tragic) Debate

November 19th, 2011 // 2:15 pm @

There is a truly amazing debate happening right now in the United States. It would actually be comical if it weren’t so potentially tragic for America’s future. This debate is not any—or all—of the Republican Presidential Debates. Nor is it some formal debate taking place on television, the Internet or a university campus.

It is a cultural debate, a large-scale argument playing out in millions of discussions online, thousands of opinions and rants from the talking heads in the media, and – most dramatically – fought indirectly between the Tea Partiers and the Occupy Wall Street crowds.

Most of this debate is taking place in emotional and passionately charged ways, rather than in clear, concise intellectual dialog. Still, a quick look at the two intellectual arguments is instructive.

Some say that the divide between the rich and the rest is increasing each year. More to the point, the structural division between the upper classes and the other classes is becoming less porous and less elastic. Social mobility—which was once the American keynote—is steadily eroding.

A majority of Americans now feel that their children will have a lower standard of living than they did; many feel that the rising generation in China will have more opportunity than our American youth. The American Dream is over in this view, and things seem likely to get worse before they get better—if they ever get better.

I wrote about this reality a few years ago in my book The Coming Aristocracy, and it remains one of the most significant challenges of our time. It is presently a major catalyst of current trends and of our evolving future. Unless things change direction, an aristocracy is coming to America. Indeed, it is already almost entrenched.

In a typical debate, the opposing view would argue that such a divide is not occurring, or that it is a good thing for America – or even that it is a minor trend that will be offset by some larger reality. But this is no typical debate. In an interesting twist, all sides of the current amazing debate accept this truth—the divide between the rich and the rest is real, and it is a major challenge in our century.

The debate is about how to fix this problem.

One side of the debate wants government to solve the problems, the other side wants government to get out of the way so the people can resolve things. It’s More Government against More Free Enterprise.

The More Government side argues for higher taxes, more government relief, increased government spending, more government jobs programs, increased government training options, improved government education, and more regulations. It is summed up in the title of Thomas Frank’s recent article in Harpers: “More Government, Please!”

In contrast, the More Free Enterprise side promotes fewer government regulations, reduced or at least no hikes in taxation, lower corporate rates to boost America’s competitiveness in the world economy in the, decreased government spending, less government borrowing and printing of money, and smaller government.

This side wants the era of big government to truly, finally, be over,[i] or, at the very least, for us to realize that our government must stop shutting down or undermining the free enterprise incentives that are the basis of all historical prosperity and freedom.

The More Government side tries to convince the nation that the Free Enterprise side “Hates Government,” or “Hates the Poor.” Too many on the Free Enterprise side characterize the ideas of the More  Government side as “Hating Freedom” or “Hating Small Business.” Both of these characterizations are flawed.

Many who argue mainly for government solutions also feel deeply the need for government to be checked and balanced, while many who support answers mainly by private enterprise feel great pride and trust in the potential for good by our government and consider its success vital to society. Most people on both sides care about freedom and also want to help the underprivileged and struggling. Most people on both sides want government and business to be successful. Most people from both sides want the government to be fiscally responsible. They just have an honest disagreement about the best way to do these things.

Some want to label one side of the debate Democratic and the other Republican, but this simply isn’t the case. Government spending, government programs, and the regulatory load increased drastically—drastically!—under the Republican administrations of Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Bush and Bush and also under the Democratic leadership F. Roosevelt, Johnson, Carter, Clinton and Obama. Note that these things also increased under Truman, Kennedy and Reagan, but at least these three presidents made a loud and energetic case for proper limits on government. In short, both political parties have proven effective supporters of the More Government side of the debate.

The one big difference, the most fundamental divide, between the More Government and More Free Enterprise sides is this: one believes we need more government force right now, the other that we need more freedom and incentives right now.

For this reason, I am on the side of free enterprise.

The government has a vital role to play in our society. Without it, none of our freedoms will last. But government power must be wisely limited, and the best articulation of the right level of limits on our government is found in the U.S. Constitution. More to the point, the government today may or may not be too big, but its massive regulatory load and anti-business policies are clearly hurting the economy and fueling an increased class divide in society. They are keeping our economy down because they don’t incentive economic innovation or growth.

The reason I call this debate “amazing” is simple: It is both surprising and indeed shocking that anyone who has read history can believe that force is a more effective way to freedom than free incentives. One side of this debate seems committed to using government force to fix our economic problems, even though all through history free economies, minimal regulation and limited governments have consistently been the forerunners and partners of economic success and high economic mobility.

It is simply amazing that we still haven’t figured this out. Perhaps the most astonishing thing about this debate is that anyone still argues that more government force in our current model will spread more freedom, prosperity, or social mobility. There is no historical evidence for this, and overwhelming evidence of the opposite.

Freedom works. Why is anyone arguing that we give more support to government force? If the Republican Presidential Debates, and the ongoing responses from the White House, are about real solutions, they will be all about the government effectively incentivizing free enterprise. If the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street events are about real solutions, they’ll promote ways to more effectively incentive free enterprise.

As long as government force is the dominant factor in our economy, things are going to get worse. The Bush-Obama economic environment we live in combines stifling regulations with massive government spending and uncertainty about what Washington will do next. This dis-incentivizes growth, hiring, and investment in the U.S.; meanwhile, business moves to foreign economies with better incentives.

Unemployment lingers above 9%, and the real number when we include all who are underemployed is pushing 20%. The mortgage bubble may not have reached its lowest collapse, and inflation or deflation appear imminent. In response, the White House now recommends more government spending, regulations and programs.

This is a truly amazing debate. The more the government regulates and spends, the worse the economy fares. As a result, the government seeks to spend more. And a lot of the American people think this is a good idea.

Many Americans were shocked into political activism by the Great Recession, where the average household lost 3.2% of its income.[ii] Since the Great Recession ended, during the so-called Recovery, the average household has lost an additional 6.7%.[iii] Are we simply scared into submission? Are we crying out to the government to fix things, because we are deeply terrified that nobody else will? Is that why so many people believe that government force is more likely to boost our economy than free enterprise?

The amazing question remains: Given all of history, how can anyone take the Force side of the current great debate?

Seriously?

 Endnotes


[i] Bill Clinton, who said that the era of big government is over, has addressed a number of these same challenges in his book, Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy. There is much to agree and also disagree with this book, and it is an important read for interested Americans.

[ii] Harpers, December 2011.

[iii] Ibid.


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odemille 133x195 custom The Amazing (Ironic/Tragic) DebateOliver DeMille is the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

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.

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Category : Aristocracy &Blog &Current Events &Economics &Entrepreneurship &Generations &Government &Prosperity

The Big Debate on American Education

November 4th, 2011 // 4:39 pm @

Home Schools, the New Private Schools, and Other Non-Traditional Learning

The current national commentary on American education is split by a major paradox.

On the one hand, nearly all the experts are convinced that our schools must find a way to effectively and consistently teach the values and skills of innovation and initiative.

If we fail in this, everyone seems to agree, the competitiveness of U.S. workers and the economy will continue to fall behind other nations.

As Gary Shapiro wrote:

“Our nation is looking into the abyss. With a blinding focus on the present, our government is neglecting a future that demands thoughtful action.

“The only valid government action is that which invests in our children. This requires hard choices…

“America is in crisis. What is required is a commitment to innovation and growth. We can and must succeed.

“With popular and political resolve, we can reverse America’s decline…. America must become the world’s innovative engine once again; we cannot fail.”

And education is the key.

On the other hand, many of the top education decision-makers seem committed to only making changes when there is a consensus among educators, parents, experts and administrators.

They adamantly criticize any who take bold, innovative initiate to improve the situation.

In the meantime, they wait timidly, albeit loudly, for a consensus which never comes.

Because of this view, the innovative success of many parents in home schools, teachers in small private schools and other non-traditional educational offerings go unnoticed or undervalued by the national press.

The reality is, as Orrin Woodward put it: “If everyone agrees with what you’re doing, it isn’t innovative.”

The growing Global Achievement Gap in our schools, as outlined by Tony Wagner’s book of this title, presents an ominous warning for Americans.

We can change things if we choose, Wagner says, by adopting the following values and skills in our school curriculum: critical thinking, agility, adaptability, initiative, curiosity, imagination and entrepreneurialism, among others.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan quoted Wagner in Foreign Affairs:

“…there is a happy ‘convergence between the skills most needed in the global knowledge economy and those most needed to keep our economy safe and vibrant.’”

He also foreshadowed the decades ahead by quoting President Obama:

“The nation that out-educates us today is going to out-compete us tomorrow.”

It is difficult to imagine our public schools meeting these lofty needs if our teachers are expected to be anything but entrepreneurial, innovative and agile, when they in fact work in an environment that discourages and at times punishes precisely such behaviors.

It is even more impossible to make the needed changes to our education system if we must wait for everyone to agree on a consensus of action.

Change always comes with a few courageous souls taking the lead, showing what can work, and helping others follow their innovative path.

The only way we’re going to see a burst of innovation and initiative in American education is to start paying attention to the myriad exciting educational innovations already occurring.

As Malcolm Gladwell suggests, the leadership right now in many arenas—including education—is occurring outside the mainstream, led by “Outliers” who just forget the experts and create new and better ways of doing things.

If you are one of these educational innovators—at home or in the classroom—keep taking the lead. You are the future of American success!

 

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Category : Education &Family &Featured &Leadership &Liberty &Mission

American Decline

November 3rd, 2011 // 3:00 pm @

Is it Avoidable or Inevitable?

“We’re not going to bail our way out of this crisis, we’re not going to stimulate our way out of this crisis, we are only going to educate, ultimately, and imagine and invent our way out of this crisis.”
—Thomas L. Friedman, Meet the Press

 

“By 2020, the U.S. will be spending $1 trillion a year just to pay the interest on the national debt.
Sometime between now and then the catastrophe will come. It will come with amazing swiftness.”
—David Brooks, The New York Times

On the same week[i] the White House released its prediction that unemployment will get even worse every year in 2012, 2013 and 2014, Friedman and Mandlebaum’s book entitled That Used to Be Us focused the national dialogue on the deepening decline of the United States.

Fortunately, Freidman and Mandlebaum also outline a plan for how America can come back soon.

Harry S. Dent’s newest book, The Great Crash Ahead, further elaborates on this topic.

Friedman and Mandelbaum’s argument goes something like this: the United States is in serious trouble because of four great trends that are bringing massive change.

Our decline didn’t start with the housing crisis in 2008, but back in the late 1980s at the end of the Cold War.

 

Four Trends

First, according to Freidman,[ii]

“We made the worst mistake a country or species can make, at the end of the Cold War, when we misread our environment. We interpreted the end of the Cold War as victory…not understanding that it was actually the onset of one of the biggest challenges we’ve ever faced as a country.

“We had…unleashed two billion people just like us. But the nineties turned out to be quite a party thanks to the peace dividend, thanks to the massive productivity boost of the Internet and thanks, most importantly in many ways, to the collapse in oil prices, which was like a huge tax cut.”

Second,

“9/11 set us on a really bad course. We spent the last decade—in many ways necessarily, in many ways excessively—chasing the losers from globalization rather than the winners.

“And we made up for a lot of the fall behind…by basically injecting ourselves with steroids. Just as baseball players did it to hit home runs, we injected ourselves with credit steroids, creating a huge housing boom and construction boom to create jobs.”

Third,

“The number of people who can compete, connect and collaborate exploded in the last decade. You know,”

Freidman continued,

“I wrote a book in 2004 called The World is Flat, which was about this connecting of the world. We’ve gone from connected to hyper-connected…. When we sat down to write this book, I actually went back to The World is Flat, I looked in the index, and I realized that Facebook wasn’t in it.

“When I said ‘the world is flat,’ Facebook didn’t exist, or for most people it didn’t exist, Twitter was a sound, the Cloud was in the sky, 4G was a parking place, Linked In was a prison, Applications were what you sent to college, and for most people Skype was a typo…

“That all happened in just the last seven years. And what it’s done is taken the world from connected to hyper-connected. And that’s been a huge opportunity, and a huge challenge.”

Fourth, we’ve witnessed a huge generational shift.

“We went from the Greatest Generation, whose philosophy was basically to save and invest, and we are still living off their saving and investing, to basically the Baby Boomer generation, whose philosophy turned out to be ‘borrow and spend.’

“And we’ve really shifted from a generation born in the Depression, World War II and the Cold War—these were serious people, they wouldn’t think of shutting down the government for a minute—to a generation…that is much less serious.

“We’ve gone from basically the values of the Greatest Generation…to a Baby Boomer generation whose values are situational….

“You put them all together, and I think you really account for a lot of the hole we’re in right now…”[iii]

The book goes in more depth on each of these themes. More importantly, the book outlines some well-considered solutions.

For example, major employers, according to Friedman, are “all looking for the same kind of employee now: Someone who can do critical reasoning and thinking…who can adapt, invent, and reinvent the job, because in this hyper-connected world change is happening so fast. You know, there are companies now in Silicon Valley that do quarterly employer reviews…because their product cycle is changing so fast. You can’t wait until the end of the year to find out you have a bad team manager.”[iv]

Clearly, Freidman argues, education has got to change—it’s been too rote, and now it needs to prepare thinkers, leaders and innovators.

This is a hard job for an industry made up of mostly non-entrepreneurial, deeply security-minded types.

“What we argue in the book…going forward there really are just going to be two kinds of countries in the world: HIEs and LIEs: High-Imagination-Enabling countries and Low-Imagination-Enabling countries.

“Forget Developed and Developing….

“We’re not going to bail our way out of this crisis, we’re not going to stimulate our way out of this crisis, we are only going to educate, ultimately, and imagine and invent our way out of this crisis.”[v]

Friedman and Mandelbaum’s analysis is much needed in our current nation.

We train our youth not to take risks, and to get the “right” answer rather than the wise answer.

These two big problems are a serious challenge.

Without wise risk, prosperity and leadership are impossible.

Friedman’s 5 Pillars

The authors of That Used To Be Us note that the United States won at every major historical turn because we followed what Friedman called “the 5 Pillars”:

1-“Educate our people up to and beyond whatever the level of technology is…

2-“Immigration. Attract the world’s most talented and energetic people…

3-“Have the world’s best infrastructure…

4-“Have the right rules for incenting, capital formation and risk taking…

5-“Government-funded research.”[vi]

Note that these five form a powerful private society where the government maintains the right rules and incentivizes free enterprise.

All five have significantly decreased since the year 2000, really since 1989, and today the Right is strongly against 2 and 5 while the Left is adamantly against 4.

Both are caught in the trap of trying to accomplish 1 and 3 using the same old methods that haven’t worked for over two decades.

No wonder we’re in decline.

We’ve stopped doing the most important things that brought America’s original and lasting successes.

The Left pushes too strongly for government-only solutions while the Right rejects any government role.

As journalist Paul Gigot noted,

“The irony is, of the past thirty, forty years, that the prestige of government has collapsed most rapidly when government has tried to do…far more than it is capable of doing.

“Government prestige increased under Ronald Reagan, the great supposed enemy of government, because he showed when you focused on a couple of things and did it well, and got the economy growing, that people said, ‘You know what, they’re competent there. It’s working.’”[vii]

We need government.

We need it to protect equal rights for everyone and maintain a system where all are treated equally before the law.

This encourages free enterprise, economic growth and improved prosperity.

Societies without such governments have little freedom.

Of course, the danger is that good government can become overbearing and put a damper on economic growth and success.

Today we have government that has clearly over-reached in a number of ways, and a backlash from the Right that wants little or no government.

We need to adopt a middle approach, good government that is, in a phrase used in the American founding, “strong and limited.”

Actually, in The Federalist Papers the term was frequently “vigorous and limited.”

We want a strong government, and at the same time we want a limited government. That is what good constitutional government is all about.

Many from the Right may consider the Friedman/Mandlebaum book a push for too much government just as many from the Left will wonder that it doesn’t push for more government solutions.

American citizens should take a step back and consider the proposals on their merits, however.

I don’t agree with every suggestion in this book, but I find a number of them to be well considered.

On the big topic, the broad concept that both government and the private sector must work together in their proper roles in order to get our nation back on track, I think the book is right on.

On the subject of education, this book is especially valuable. In truth, as the authors affirm, bailouts and stimulus packages—as necessary as they may be in certain crisis situations—will not solve America’s problems.

Real solutions depend on wise policy from government and mostly from innovation and leadership in the private sector.

Indeed, the best government can do is remove the current regulatory pressure on small business and allow the entrepreneurial American spirit to get our economy growing again.

Another recent book addresses these same issues from a different perspective.

 

Doom-and-Gloomers

I have long been a fan of the work of Harry S. Dent because his predictions, like those of John Naisbitt and Alvin Toffler, have been strikingly accurate even though they have been more specific, and therefore more likely to fall short, than those from most other forecasters.

Dent argues in his latest book, The Great Crash Ahead, that “the great economic crisis of 2008 will likely return in 2012, or 2013 at the latest, and will be even worse.”

His analysis is alarming, but interesting. Note that Dent is not a doom-and-gloomer.

Remember, when multiple authors in the mid-1990s were predicting a major crash ahead, Dent published The Roaring 2000s, which forecast that the stock market would boom for the next decade.

He also said that the boom would increase until a shock and downturn in 2008.

For most of his career, Dent has taken on the doomsayers and offered a counter-intuitive forecast of economic boom ahead.

The fact that he said the cycles would turn in the other direction in 2008, and that now he says they’ll get even worse, should concern every American.

Dent wrote:

    • “Debt and stimulus is like any drug: it takes more to create less effect.”
    • “Deflation is the only possible scenario in the decade ahead.”
    • “The U.S. Dollar will appreciate and be the safe haven—not gold, silver, the Euro or the Swiss Franc.”
    • “Home prices will fall by 55% to 65% from the top before this crisis is over.”
    • “Stock [will] crash to between 3,300 and 5,600 on the Dow by the end of 2013, or 2014 at the latest.”
    • “Also, the crash will be worldwide, not just in the United States and Europe, as the dramatic China bubble comes to an end.”
    • “The trends for the coming decade are crystal clear: we are going to experience a deeper downturn and deflation in prices, not inflation. We call this the Winter season; it comes predictably once in a lifetime, currently every 80 years, which means that very few people will understand what is happening.”[viii]

Whether we face massive inflation ahead, as Ken Kurson has argued,[ix] or the deflation Dent predicts, the economic future promises to be challenging.

As Dent notes, from 1775 to the year 2000 Americans accumulated $20 trillion in private debt.

From the year 2000 to 2008 (latest numbers), we accumulated $22 trillion more—for a total of $42 trillion.[x]

No doubt this trajectory has increased since 2008.

Since the economic difficulties ahead follow patterns that we haven’t witnessed since the 1930s, most of the current common wisdom on economics is lacking or just plain wrong.

Unlearning is the key to times of change and transition,” Dent wrote. “What worked in a boom does not work in a downturn.”[xi]

Here are some of the things which have changed:[xii]

    • “It is your father’s economy”!
    • Don’t buy a bunch of new stuff—get out of the spending habit.
    • Make do with what you have.
    • Expect lower wages and lower prices.
    • Realize that debt is going to get a lot more expensive than it used to be.
    • Realize that assets and savings will be worth more over time.
    • Start thinking in terms of multiple streams of income.
    • “In the new world, management is the problem, not the solution.”
    • Entrepreneurship is in: “the coming decades and century will be seen as the age of the individual and the entrepreneur.”
    • Keep your business “lean and mean.”

Dent’s charts, arguments and analyses are a great read.

Add to this view the following thoughts from Friedman and Mandelbaum’s book, and we have an important look at the probable future in the years just ahead:

“No one should ever have to say ‘I am moving from America to Singapore because it is more hospitable to innovation and entrepreneurship.’ Just the opposite should be true. ‘You will know you’re successful,’ said PV Kannau, the India outsourcing entrepreneur, ‘if new companies in China and Brazil say, ‘We want to move our headquarters to America because that is the best place in the world to do business.’’

That’s not happening right now, because our regulatory and tax scheme is far from the best in the world….

“Twenty years ago, even ten years ago, a report such as this one would never have been commissioned. The United States was the best country in the world for business of any kind, the one with the largest and most open market, the most transparent legal system with the strongest property rights, the biggest and most efficient financial system, the most modern infrastructure, and the most dynamic ongoing research and development in almost every field. It was a magnet for capital and talent. No company of any size, indeed no company that merely aspired to international growth, could afford not to operate there, and none needed a consultant to tell it that.

“Now, alas, things are different. Over the past decade especially, American has changed, and not for the better.”[xiii]

How many more voices need to say the same thing before Washington listens?

Until we free up the American economy, reduce the red-tape and taxes on small business, and become the most inviting economy on earth, our economic problems will continue.

Many believe they will get worse—much worse.

The real tragedy is that all this is avoidable.

Free enterprise works.

America knows how to incentivize and encourage business growth. It’s time to get serious about restoring our free-enterprise economy—and soon!

The United States has one of the highest business tax rates in the developed world, and one of the most burdensome regulatory schemes.

Of course we can’t compete in such circumstances.

The question every American should ask is simply, why?

Why would the country that stands most for freedom in all world history now turn its back on the principles of freedom that made it great?

Why would we put our trust in bureaucracy, regulation and government rather than the proven dynamism of American enterprise?

We Can Only Ask, “Why?”

Whatever the answer, unless we make changes quickly the economic forecast ahead is dismal.

Friedman said America is like a nation turned upside down.

At the bottom is an enterprising people passionately seeking to overcome economic challenges with innovation, ingenuity and tenacity, while at the top is a government consistently blocking the entrepreneurial efforts of its people.[xiv]

Again, we can only ask, “Why?”

When Paul Kennedy wrote The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers over two decades ago, many scoffed at his prediction that American hubris was leading to our eventual downfall—in the way so many great nations and empires of history have declined.

Even the leading voice of anti-decline, Joseph S. Nye, has suggested that many of Washington’s policies are making it difficult for the U.S. to remain the world’s economic leader.

Hopefully the solution won’t be as drastic as Friedman, Mandelbaum and Dent predict.

“Shock therapy,” they suggest, may now be the only effective way to change our country.

If this is true, we are in for rocky times ahead.

One thing is certain.

Friedman and Mandelbaum rightly argue that the best way out of this is not so much to study the fall of Rome, the Ottoman Empire, or other historical examples of what not to do, but to make a national focus of studying what worked best in our own American history.[xv]

We know the answers, because they are part of our national heritage.

It is time to put aside our modernist sense of superiority and admit that we want what past generations had economically and learn what worked for them.

It will work again, if we are willing to learn and make the needed changes, because the principles of freedom are timeless and powerful.

Decline is not inevitable, but only a wise people well-studied in the principles of historical success can avoid it.

We must become such a people.


[i] September 1-7, 2011

[ii] Meet the Press, September 4, 2011

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] From Harry S. Dent, The Great Crash Ahead.

[ix] See Ken Kurson, “Let Them Eat iPads,” Esquire, May 2011.

[x] Op. Cit., Dent.

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Ibid.

[xiii] Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum, That Used to Be Us.

[xiv] Op. Cit., Meet the Press.

[xv] Op. Cit., Freidman and Mandelbaum.

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Category : Aristocracy &Business &Citizenship &Constitution &Culture &Featured &Government &Leadership &Liberty &Politics

Capitalism vs. Free Enterprise

October 10th, 2011 // 11:18 am @

The New Culture War

During the Cold War, people came to equate the three ideas of democracy, capitalism and free enterprise.

This made sense at some level, since the whole world seemed inescapably divided into authoritarian, totalitarian, socialist and communist nations on the one hand and democratic, capitalistic and free enterprise nations on the other.

In the decades since the Berlin Wall fell, as CNN’s Fareed Zakaria has pointed out, there has been a growing divide between the nations emphasizing democracy and those focused on capitalism.

The differences between these two groups are both interesting and significant to world events.

But an even more nuanced and impactful division is the difference between capitalism and free enterprise.

I wrote about this in my book FreedomShift, but it is a point of great magnitude in our current society and bears repeating.

Unfortunately, very few people have considered the differences.

Most still equate capitalism and free enterprise, even in the post-Cold War era.

This is a weighty mistake with a high potential for negative ramifications in the 21st Century.

A simple defining of terms points out the crucial importance of the distinction between these two brands of economics.

To summarize: capitalism gives special government-supported benefits to capital and those with capital (wealthy individuals, families and business entities).

This is the opposite of socialism, which promotes special government-supported benefits to those without capital—the proletariat, as Karl Marx put it.

In contrast to both capitalism and socialism, free enterprise establishes good laws and government policies that treat the rich, middle and poor the same.

Some people may believe that this is the system we live under in the United States today—that the law treats all the same.

Such an assumption is incorrect.

The U.S. commercial code has numerous laws which are written specifically to treat people differently based on their wealth.

For example, it is illegal for those with less than a certain amount of wealth to be offered many of the best investment opportunities.

Only those with a high net worth (the levels and amounts are set by law) are able to invest in such offerings.

This naturally benefits the wealthy to the detriment of wage earners.

This system is called capitalism, and it is a bad system—better than socialism or communism, to be sure, but not nearly as good as free enterprise.

In a free enterprise system, the law would allow all people to take part in any investments.

The law would be the same for all.

If this seems abstract, try starting a business in your local area.

In fact, start two.

Let the local zoning commissions, city council and other regulating agencies know that you are starting a business, that it will employ you and nine employees, and then keep track of what fees you must pay and how many hoops you must jump through.

Have your agent announce to the same agencies that a separate company, a big corporation, is bringing in a large enterprise that will employ 4,000 people (or, in a more urban setting, 24,000 people)—all of whom will pay taxes to the local area and bring growth and prestige.

Then simply sit back and watch how the two businesses are treated.

In most places in the United States, one will face an amazing amount of red tape, meetings, filings and obstacles—the other will likely be courted and given waivers, tax breaks, benefits and publicity.

Add up the cost to government of each, and two things will likely surprise you: 1) how much you will have to spend to set up a small business, and 2) how much the government will be willing to spend to court the large business.

Of course, I don’t really suggest that anyone announce such a fake business.

But imagine, theoretically, what would happen if you did.

Our current mentality in government is to treat big business better than small business.

This is the natural model in a capitalist system.

Capital gets special benefits.

In free enterprise, in contrast, the costs and obstacles would be identical for the two businesses.

In free enterprise, the operative words are “free” and “enterprise.”

Note that American business and ownership stayed mostly small—with most people owning family farms or small businesses—until the 1960s.

It was debt (often promoted by government) which wiped out the farming culture that dominated the South and Midwest, and the rise of big corporations over family-owned businesses came after the U.S. commercial code was changed by law to a capitalist rather than a free enterprise model.

If we altered today’s laws at all levels so that government entities treated all businesses and citizens the same, regardless of their level of capital, the natural result would be the spread of more small businesses.

Note that nearly all major growth in America’s economy since 1985 has come from small business.

Today, small businesses are struggling under a veritable “mountain” of regulatory red tape—the result is economic downturn.

And, while some in government hold an anti-business attitude, even many of those ostensibly promoting pro-business policies are more aligned with Wall Street corporations than the needs of small business.

Capitalism, sometimes called “Corporatism”, is not the same thing as free enterprise.

Both are certainly preferable to socialism or communism, but free enterprise is considerably more conducive to freedom and widespread prosperity than capitalism.

History has proven the following: 1) Under capitalism, the divide between rich and poor naturally increases; 2) In a free enterprise system, the prosperity, freedom and dignity of nearly everyone in the society inevitably rises.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn pointed out that while modern American capitalism was clearly better than Russia’s twentieth-century communism or Europe’s contemporary attempts at socialism, the U.S. implementation of capitalism left much to be desired.

For example, he noted, under American capitalism the question of, “is it right?” became less important to many people and companies than, “is it legal?”

Likewise, the culture of capitalism frequently asks, “is it profitable?” before (or instead of) asking, “is it good?”

American capitalism, Solzhenitsyn said, created a nation more materialistic than spiritual, more interested in superficial success than genuine human progress.

Note that Solzhenitsyn was adamantly anti-communist and anti-socialist.

But he also found capitalism lacking.

In every particular, however, Solzhenitsyn’s criticisms of capitalism don’t apply to the free enterprise model of economics. When the law treats all people and businesses the same—regardless of their size, connections, power or wealth—an interesting consequence occurs.

Put succinctly:

  • In socialism the government ignores, downplays and literally abuses prosperity and freedom to the point that both are lost for nearly everyone.
  • Under capitalism, the laws promote the wealth and license of a few above the freedom and prosperity of all, with the cultural result of valuing attainment of wealth above almost everything—including virtue, compassion, and the liberty of all.
  • In free enterprise, the laws treat everyone the same, thereby incentivizing freedom, prosperity and enterprise (as long as such enterprise doesn’t violate the inalienable rights of others). The application of this model is rare in human history, but the results when it has been applied are nothing less than spectacular (see Ancient Israel, Athens, the vales period of Switzerland, the Saracens, the Anglo-Saxons, and the United States—which by 1944 had 6% of the world’s population and produced over half of its goods and services).

The lesson?

Freedom works.

Enterprise works.

And the outcome when the two are combined is breathtaking.

We are capable of so much more than we’ve accomplished so far, and free enterprise is the most powerful economic system yet to be tried by mankind.

Isn’t it time for an end to the outdated debate about socialism versus capitalism and a national return to the free enterprise system which made America great?

During its first century-and-a-half of application, free enterprise brought us major wealth, a standard of living for most citizens that rivals or surpasses the lifestyles of history’s royals, world power, major technological and medical advancements, and the end of slavery.

It also brought the repudiation of racism, male dominance, religious persecution and a host of other ills that have existed for millennia.

With all these areas of progress, imagine what we could do if we re-adopted the free enterprise values and culture in our time.

Laws that give special benefits to wealth and capital while withholding such opportunities from the rest can never bring the progress, advances, freedom and prosperity that free enterprise will.

It’s time for a change, and the first step is for all of us to start using the phrase “free enterprise” a lot more.

We need to study it, think about it, discuss and debate its various applications, and make it a household topic rather than an obscure economic reference.

The future of America is inextricably linked with the future of free enterprise.

We will sink or swim exactly as it does, whether we realize it or not.

Isn’t it time to admit this reality and make it the leading topic in our national dialogue?

 

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odemille 133x195 custom Capitalism vs. Free EnterpriseOliver DeMille is the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

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.

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