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The New Grand Strategy for 2012

February 20th, 2012 // 2:50 pm @

1.     Two Speeches

Several years ago I spoke at a seminar on international affairs and I predicted that in the next few years the United States would adopt a new Grand Strategy. I outlined America’s historical Grand Strategies, from Constitutionalism (1789-1820) and Manifest Destiny (1820-1900) to Nationalism (1900-1945) and later Internationalism (1945-2001).

I pointed out that our Grand Strategy is the way we define our major national goals for the decades ahead, and that after 9/11 we were on track for a new Grand Strategy. We discussed some possible Grand Strategies that could come, and we brainstormed things we hoped to see in the Grand Strategy of the 21st Century.

The same year, in another speech on a different occasion, I showed how many of the predictions found in one publication, Foreign Affairs, keep ending up as official U.S. policy. I cited numerous examples from articles in Foreign Affairs and showed how within five years of publication their recommendations were adopted. I marveled that one publication could have such an effective track record, and recommended that everyone in attendance subscribe to and read this magazine.

Of course, as I said in the speech, not all the authors in Foreign Affairs agree on every detail, and in fact they engage in a great deal of debate. But, again, is it amazing how often policies recommended in Foreign Affairs end up being implemented in Washington.

Then, just this year, the messages of these speeches came together in an interesting way. In the January/February 2012 issue of Foreign Affairs, a new article outlines a new Grand Strategy for the United States. Although I don’t agree with many of the details in this latest Grand Strategy, the track record of Foreign Affairs promises that this will, in fact, be the Grand Strategy of the United States in the decades ahead.

I believe that this will be the major 21st Century challenge for the future of American freedom.

2.     Grand Strategy Drives the Nation

The power of a Grand Strategy can hardly be overstated. When a nation adopts a Grand Strategy, it dominates national policy and influences all national choices over time. Few, if any, policies go against or are even allowed to compete with the accepted Grand Strategy.

And while not everyone knows what a Grand Strategy is, the intelligentsia of both parties tend to follow the Grand Strategy with the energy and passion of religious doctrine. They may disagree on many things, but they both adhere to the Grand Strategy.

So what is the new Grand Strategy of the United States? The answers are outlined in an article by Zbigniew Brzezinski: “A New U.S. Grand Strategy: Balancing the East, Upgrading the West”.  Students of American policy will remember Brzezinski as the U.S. National Security Advisor from 1977 to 1981 and as a long-time writer on U.S. international strategy.

3.     Our New Grand Strategy

Things have changed drastically over the past decade, Brzezinski assures us, and by 2012 a new Grand Strategy is overdue. The outlines of this new plan include the following:

  • The “central focus” for the United States in the years ahead is threefold: (1) revitalize the U.S., (2) help the West expand, and (3) create a balance in the East that will allow China to successfully rise without becoming an enemy.
  • The expansion of the West will create a democratic free zone from North America and Western Europe to a number of other nations, including Eastern Europe, Russian, Turkey, Japan and South Korea.
  • In the East, U.S. power and influence will attempt to create a cooperative relationship between China and Japan and keep Chinese-Indian relations from turning to violent conflict.
  • To accomplish all this, the U.S. must become a better “promoter and guarantor” of unity and simultaneously a “balancer and conciliator between the major powers of the East.”
  • To have any credibility in these roles, the U.S. must effectively “renovate itself at home.” This requires, says Brzezinski, four things: (1) better innovation, (2) improved education, (3) a balance of American power and diplomacy, and (4) a better focus on quality political leadership in Washington.
  • One of the most important changes ahead must be an effective improvement of relations between the United States and the European Union. The two sides of the Atlantic have been drifting apart since the fall of the Berlin Wall, but this trend must be reversed. Otherwise, growing conflicts between the United States, the European Union, and Russia could weaken the West and cause it to splinter and become increasingly pessimistic. This would also promote a more contentious China.
  • The U.S. should decrease military power in Asia and emphasize increased cooperation with China.
  • Taiwan will at some point have to reconcile in some way with China.

Unfortunately, there are a number of problems with this new strategy. If this is the outline of the years ahead, the U.S. will definitely face an era of deepening international confusion and tension.

Despite this reality, the historical track record of Foreign Affairs suggests that this is the Grand Strategy we will follow. If this occurs, voters will elect one party and then the other, and remain frustrated when the on-going Grand Strategy of our international affairs keeps our economic and other national policies going in the same direction.

Adoption of this Grand Strategy is a path of inevitable decline, regardless of what the experts say. Election after election, we’ll seek real change but see whoever is in the White House continually push our nation in the same negative direction.

4.     Significant Flaws

Specifically, this new Grand Strategy has at least the following major defects:

  • An abandonment of support for an independent Taiwan, even through a subtle shift of attitude as suggested, amounts to a significant reversal of America’s historical loyalty to our allies. Such a change will undermine our credibility with other nations and further erode Washington’s credibility with American voters.
  • The attempt to bridge differences between the United States and European nations in this Grand Strategy takes the tone of the U.S. becoming more like these nations—rather than influencing these countries to adopt more freedom-based values historically espoused by the U.S.
  • Adoption of this new Grand Strategy may amount to a de facto appeasement of China. If China is, in fact, following a savvy strategy of replacing America as the world’s dominant super power and transporting its fundamental values around the globe, then this would be nothing less than a disastrous policy. And even if China is a good-faith seeker of more global participation, cooperation and open trade, it certainly wants to spread its central values and ideals—nearly all of which are antithetical to freedom.
  • The emphasis on increased business innovation and improved education in this strategy seem to rely on increased government spending and intervention in our economy rather than policies that incentive increased free enterprise, innovation, hiring and entrepreneurialism. This is yet another attempt to move away from traditional American values and adopt instead the government-run mercantilist practices of European and Asian economies.
  • The focus in this policy is a shift from internationalism (a policy of interactions between sovereign nations with America as a world leader) to globalism (where the United States submits its actions to the decisions of international organizations).
  • Note that while we have changed the Constitution through Amendments less than thirty times in over two hundred years, it has been changed in literally thousands of ways through treaty (and these changes are seldom noticed by most Americans). While treaties were used to skirt the Constitution many times under the Internationalist Grand Strategy since 1945, this new Globalist Grand Strategy will make this the major focus of its policies, totally ending Constitutional rule in the United States. This is not an exaggeration but rather a technical reality.

In short, this new Grand Strategy is a de facto end to the traditional American Constitutional system. If it is fully adopted, and all indications are that this is what is occurring, our free system is in immediate jeopardy.

I am an optimist, and I believe that the best America and the world have to offer is still ahead. Yet in a nation of laws, in a society where the fine print of contracts, statutes, judicial dicta, executive agency policies and treaties are our higher law, this new Grand Strategy promises to rewrite our entire system in a few agencies dominated by unelected international experts and almost entirely out of the public’s eye. This is not a republic or democracy, but a true technocracy.

Again, the result will be elections where we vote our passions but where little changes no matter which candidates win each campaign.

In such a world, the fine print in our treaties will run the show, though few will realize what is happening or understand why our freedoms and economy are constantly in decline no matter which party we put in charge of Washington.

It is hard to overstate just how significant this current change is in our world. Freedom is literally at stake.

5.     Solutions

We don’t need better leaders or public officials as near as much as we need better citizens. Historically, the American founders knew that freedom could only last if regular citizens had the same level of education as our Governors, Senators, Judges, experts and Presidents.

When any nation is divided between, on one hand, a class of political experts who read and understand the fine print of what is really happening and, on the other hand, the rest of the people who don’t read or get involved in such intricate details, freedom is inevitably lost.

There are no exceptions to this in history.

We will either become such citizens, or our freedoms will be lost.

If this is too much to ask of modern citizens, then freedom is too much for us to handle. Just consider what Samuel Williams, a Harvard professor in the American founding era, said about the average education of American children in 1794:

“All the children are trained up to this kind of knowledge: they are accustomed from their earliest years to read the Holy Scriptures, the periodical publications, newspapers, and political pamphlets; to form some general acquaintance with the laws of their country, the proceedings of the courts of justice, of the general assembly of the state, and of the Congress, etc.

“Such a kind of education is common and universal in every part of the state: and nothing would be more dishonorable to the parents, or to the children, than to be without it.”

Such people were deep readers. And the freedoms they fought for and maintained showed it. The only way to get back such freedoms is to once again become such citizens. What is needed, regardless of what the experts in Washington do, is a widespread grassroots grand strategy of becoming the kind of citizens and voters who are truly capable of maintaining freedom.

 

(For more on how to become this kind of citizen and reader, see the book A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille.)

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odemille 133x195 custom The New Grand Strategy for 2012Oliver 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 &Culture &Current Events &Entrepreneurship &Foreign Affairs &Generations &Government &Leadership &Liberty &Prosperity &Statesmanship

The Elephant in the Room

February 11th, 2012 // 8:52 am @

This article was previously posted as the February 2012 Social Leader newsletter.
The Elephant in the Room
The 2012 Election, the Tea Parties, and the Thing That’s Missing
 
The 2012 election could turn out to be a disaster.
 
In fact, it may already be headed in that direction.
 
Many conservatives, independents, moderates and fiscally-minded liberals currently have a sense that something is wrong, that amidst all the debates and the many hours of daily media coverage on the election, something isn’t sitting right.
 
Something feels…well…off.
 
Though many can’t put their finger on what is wrong, this uneasy feeling remains.
 
Those who keep an eye on the ups and downs of candidate popularity in the polls, and who watch the unfolding of events from Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and beyond (not to mention nearly daily input from the White House), wonder if the problem is simply that the candidates are lacking.
 
Others take sides with a certain candidate and blame their inner voice of concern on worries that their candidate will lose.
 
With all the talking heads addressing the election, it is surprising how few people are talking about the real issue.
 
Make no mistake: the real issue, though it has received almost no press, is the Congressional and Senatorial elections.
 
All the energy is being sucked into the presidential contest, but it isn’t the most important election of the year.
 
Since almost everyone who is closely watching the election is focused almost entirely on the run for the White House, it isn’t surprising that most of us instinctively feel that something is missing.
 
No matter what happens in the presidential election, the makeup of the House and Senate in 2013-2014 is going to determine the future of our economy and nation.
 
Certainly the inhabitant of the White House will have a role in this, but he won’t be the lead character in the drama.
 
Not really.
 
The media, with its nose for celebrity and its fascination with the “almost-royal” nature of the executive, will probably focus on the President during the next three years, just like it has since the post-1945 rise of Washington D.C. as the center of world power.
 
But the future of the economy, of regulation and deregulation, of deficits, debts, entitlements, tax policy, massive increases or frugal decreases of government spending, of whether the United States will once again become the world’s leading economy or bow to the rise of China–these will be determined by Congressional votes.
 
The White House will of course raise its voice on these essential issues, but Congress will make the decisions.
 
So it is a major problem that few of those who pay attention to the election are giving their best efforts to making sure we get a Congress that will make the needed changes.
 
Independents took their votes away from the ineffectual Republican Congress in 2006 and 2008, and then did the same thing to the regulation-addicted, overspending Democratic House in 2010.
 
The Tea Parties pushed their own revolution for economic responsibility in 2010 and made it an historic election with a strong message that our leaders simply must get our nation’s financial house in order.
 
It remains to be seen where independents will stand in 2012, or to what extent the Tea Parties will show up, but anything less than another historic swing in the direction of fiscal responsibility will lead to bigger, more inefficient government and deepening financial crises.  
 
The reality is that the 2012 election will have a drastic impact on the future of America.
 
We have reached a point where our fiscal irresponsibility simply must be addressed or we are in for major problems right away.
 
We cannot sustain current levels of debt and the growth of deficits, spending, regulations, economic impotence, or the further credit downgrades that are ahead unless we make real changes.
 
If things don’t change soon, we will witness the end of the American experiment in freedom and innovation.
 
Many Americans seem to understand this, but something is still holding them back from igniting a real outpouring of political passion and involvement.
 
Voter turnout has been surprisingly small in the contests held so far–and with so much at stake, this is a budding catastrophe.
 
Is the problem, as many in the media have suggested, that the current field of candidates isn’t particularly exciting for many voters?
 
Or is it that the onslaught of negative attack ads has driven people not just away from certain candidates but from politics in general?
 
After all, every candidate has been attacked over and over.
 
Or is it just that the passion of the 2010 election has worn off, that the people are tired of the constant bickering and would rather focus on other things?
 
Whatever the reasons for the reduced levels of passion, there is a lot of frustration, anger and interest still simmering under the surface.
 
But as long as it is focused on the presidential race, it will never reach its potential to change things in lasting ways.
 
The real battle is the Congressional election, but almost nobody is taking notice of this.
 
If one of the Republican candidates wins the presidency but doesn’t have a supportive Congress, little will change in Washington.
 
Our nation simply cannot afford more business as usual–the economy isn’t up to four more years without serious economic upturns that will only come by freeing the economy and incentivizing investment, hiring and growth.
 
On the other hand, if the Congress is strongly pro-growth, then even a Democratic White House won’t be able to stop the move toward a truly free economy.
 
In such an election outcome, Congress would likely shut down all major proposed spending proposals from the White House and also go back and repeal or de-fund past regulations that hurt the economy.
 
The Congress could simply refuse to fund a budget that doesn’t fix our national economic problems, and if the President threatens to shut down the government the Congress could agree to shut down all nonessential functions and happily announce to the American people how much money the shutdown will save per week.
 
All the pressure would on the Democratic President to acquiesce.
 
The same pressures could be used to pass plans that create long-term fixes to our debt, entitlements, etc.
 
In short, the nation needs Congress to be made up of representatives who will vote for less regulation, pro-growth incentives and long-term economic fixes.
 
Whatever happens in the presidential race, the Congressional race is the key.
 
The Party system is getting in the way of how people are viewing the 2012 election.
 
The emphasis on the presidential race is capturing most of the attention and energy, and this is a serious mistake.
 
This election has the potential to significantly improve the direction of our nation, or to send it spiraling into unmanageable debt and recession, but those who care about freedom and prosperity need to put their focus on the Congressional elections.
 
That is where the real action is, regardless of how little notice this receives in the media.
Independents, Tea Partiers, moderates, conservatives and fiscally-concerned liberals need to put their focus on the Congressional races of 2012.
 
Whether President Obama or one of his challengers wins the presidential contest, the future of the nation really depends on what happens in the Congressional elections.
 
It’s time to get this message out to anyone who cares about the 2012 election and the future of America.
 
Do you know your local and state candidates?

Are there debates or town meetings in your area?
 
Who are the local lynch-pins that would benefit from your support, input and participation?
odemille 133x195 custom The Elephant in the Room

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

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 : Featured

What to Look for in 2012

January 3rd, 2012 // 11:26 am @

Here are some things to consider in 2012, several possible trends which could make significant changes in our world by the end of the year ahead:

  1. Barring major events, the news of 2012 will most likely be all about the election, especially the presidential election.But the real potential for election change will be in the Congress.The most important determinant of how America will run after the 2012 election will be whether Congress remains split or if one party gains control of both houses—regardless of what happens in the presidential race.This won’t be the media focus, but those who understand American politics will keep their eye on the coming changes in Congress.
  2. More Democrats are arguing for less government spending.[i]This shift in thinking is getting very little press because the election story is so dominant in the current media.Since few Democrats are using this frustration with government spending as a reason to vote for non-Democrat candidates, it receives sparse coverage.But it is a significant change, regardless.Many Republicans and most independents and moderates believe that Washington spends too much already.

    If more Democrats continue to adopt the same view, it may become a major story in the years ahead.

  3. The credit rating agencies that downgraded the U.S. credit rating in 2011 are still very closely watching the U.S. economy and some indications are that further downgrades could be ahead if the economy continues to struggle.Along with this, for the first time in many decades, U.S. securities are less stable than some other investments,[ii]and money flow away from the U.S. is increasing—especially since the middle of 2011.If these trends continue, U.S. economic challenges could drastically worsen in the next twenty months.
  4. Some leaders in Saudi Arabia have voiced concerns about how the U.S. handled Egypt, especially President Mubarak, during the 2011 Arab Spring.[iii]As the popular uprising grew, the Obama Administration eventually suggested that Mubarak step down.Regardless of whether or not this was the right approach, the sentiment among some Saudi and other Middle Eastern leaders goes something like this: “If that’s how the U.S. treats its allies, do we really want to trust Washington for anything?”Ironically, many in Israel are feeling the same emotion.Add to this the under-reported influence of Saudi investors in major European and U.S. businesses and banks, and this trend may be the most impactful in years to come.

    Western economic dependency on Middle East oil is well known, but the bigger danger may come from direct investment in businesses and banks.

    If massive sums of Petro Dollars were pulled from Western banks, for example, the term “too big to fail” would take on a whole new meaning.

  5. We have been warned about cyber terrorism for some time now. Is 2012 the year?
  6. Will Israel bomb an Iranian nuclear facility?[iv]If so, how will the Obama Administration react?
  7. Ironically, a focus on jobs may finally become a focus in Washington during the election year of 2012. The bad news is that the parties are unlikely to work together to make real changes.Hopefully, this turns out to be untrue, but if current trends continue little will actually occur.

The good news in all this is that a relatively few changes would bring a drastic positive change in momentum and infuse the nation with positive innovative energy.

For example, four changes could establish a massive change of direction and rebirth of American success (like the shift in American perspective which occurred when Reagan took over leadership from Carter).

The four include:

1) a rollback of all federal policies since 2000 that have hurt small business and dis-incentivized innovation, growth and hiring

2) an effective long-term policy to fix the problem with entitlements, balance the budget and get control of our national debt

3) a restructuring of American education funding to support technical training, community colleges and other non-traditional methods to increase the competitiveness of our workforce

4) a move away from international invasions and wars abroad while maintaining a strong national security presence

I am not predicting that these will occur, but they would be greatly beneficial to the nation if they did.

Finally, each year brings its share of surprises.

For example, who could have guessed in 2010 that the year ahead would bring the death of Osama bin Laden or the refusal of the White House to take leadership in a serious jobs plan?

Whatever comes in 2012, America needs to get its financial house in order and re-incentivize business growth and hiring.

These are vital priorities.


[i] Meet the Press, December 25, 2011

[ii] Face the Nation, December 25, 2011

[iii] Meet the Press, December 25, 2011

[iv] The Atlantic predicted that this might happen in 2011.

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odemille 133x195 custom What to Look for in 2012Oliver 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 : Current Events &Economics &Entrepreneurship &Featured &Government &Leadership &Politics

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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