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Bunch of Amateurs by Jack Hitt

April 10th, 2012 // 8:54 pm @

5 stars
Reviewed by Oliver DeMille

Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in Democracy in America that nearly all Americans are Cartesians, even though few of them know that a “Cartesian” is one who follows the philosophy of Rene Descartes.

Cartesians are famous for following the maxim, “I think, therefore I am,” which translates into little faith in experts and a deep belief in the ability of one’s own mind to figure things out.

In short, Tocqueville was saying that most Americans would rather think on their own, look over all sides of things and draw their own conclusions than give credence to the so-called “authority” of the experts.

One side of this coin is a trust in one’s own mind, thoughts and abilities, and the other side is a deeply imbedded mistrust of experts, officials, politicians, bureaucrats or anyone else claiming any kind of superiority, credibility, class standing, celebrity or special credentials.

The American founders wrote this philosophy right into our founding documents when they outlawed titles of nobility.

In a new book, Bunch of Amateurs, author Jack Hitt writes that this spirit of self-confident amateurism is central to the American character and that indeed, “the amateur’s dream is the American Dream.”

This is an enjoyable book that reminded me a little of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers or Bobos in Paradise by David Brooks, and a lot of The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle.

It is an interesting addition to the important genre of understanding the American character.

For those who enjoy this kind of societal analysis, Bunch of Amateurs is an enjoyable read.

I didn’t agree with all of Hitt’s points, but this just added spice to the debate.

I loved the inclusion of the history of Franklin and Adams and how their interactions provide an iconic look into the American character.

The juxtaposition of these two founders with modern commentators Jon Steward and Stephen Colbert is worth the price of the book.

I am a longtime fan of social commentary, and for me Bunch of Amateurs is like a mixture of Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind, Tribes by Seth Godin and Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam.

In places, the writing reminded me of books by Steven Pinker, and in other places of Roy H. Williams—both are excellent writers.

If I was only going to read one book of this kind and on this subject area, it would be the brilliant book Rascal by Chris Brady.

Bunch of Amateurs is a quality addition to this important conversation about the American character and, by extension, its emerging future.

I highly recommend it.

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odemille 133x195 custom Egypt, Freedom, & the Cycles of HistoryOliver 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 &Citizenship &Leadership

The Summer of 2012

April 10th, 2012 // 8:37 pm @

What to Expect as the Year Heats Up

The temperatures are rising for summer, not just literally but also in politics, economics and culture.

There are several important trends that are sure to influence the months ahead, and indeed the summer of 2012 promises to be both historic and memorable.

Each of us should consider these significant trends and keep an eye on how they develop:

1. There is a great debate occurring in the United States about the proper role of government.

One side argues that the government should do whatever it can to make a positive difference in the world, the other that it must be limited to its constitutional roles and leave everything else to the private sector.

Both believe in an important role for government, but disagree on its scope and especially its scale.

This debate is making its way through the entire 2012 election, but it is actually bigger than politics.

It is cultural, and it literally permeates our societal views on economics, education, health care, business, transportation, information, technology, entertainment and beyond.

The disagreement gets to the very heart of how we define freedom in our society.

In this debate about the ideal role of government—especially the federal government—the two big parties are widely divided.

The summer contest will cause more Americans to consider this great question: What is the proper role of government?

Is it to do what the Constitution says, or to do whatever it deems desirable at any given time?

 2. Between these two sides, independents find themselves frequently frustrated with the ideological stances of both major parties.

Independents want the government to do better in some things and to be more limited in others.

Independents are less of a bloc than either conservatives or progressives, so it isn’t clear how they will vote.

 3. There are three major branches of the Republican Party: the Establishment (which often calls itself the Rockefeller Republicans and is labeled Nixon Republicans by its opponents), the Tea Party or Right Wing populists, and the Reaganites or old-style conservatives.

Mixed into these is a fourth group, the neo-cons, who emphasize America’s role as the world’s sole superpower.

 In the 2012 political environment, the one person who speaks with credibility to all four groups in the Republican community is Representative Paul Ryan.

What this means for the future is unclear, but at this point Ryan is the most uniting figure in the GOP.

Moreover, Ryan is credible to a large number of independents. Senator Marco Rubio is also credible to all these groups as well as many independents.

Expect to hear more from these two men over the course of the summer and well into the fall.

 4. While the Democratic Party is also divided into at least three major groups (liberals, progressives and proponents of various—and at time conflicting—special interests), all three are united behind President Obama in the 2012 election.

Many non-Democrats may find it surprising that the liberal wing of the Democratic Party is less enthusiastic about President Obama than the progressives and many proponents of special interests.

 The reality is that the President has governed more as a progressive than a liberal, and is therefore seen as centrist by many on the Left.

Again, this is a shock to many who get the majority of their news from conservative sources.

The Obama campaign must choose whether to swing left or to the center in the 2012 election, or find some way to appeal to both Left and Center.

This will be a major theme of the summer. So far the campaign has pivoted left and emphasized the message of class division.

It remains to be seen whether this will be the gist of the campaign or simply a feint to be followed by renewed centrism.

 5. The campaign of 2012 is being framed by both sides as an attack on each other.

President Obama’s major message isn’t a vision of the future but rather an attack on what Republicans have done, what the Ryan budget means for America, and how we must avoid a return to what he calls the failed Republican policies of the Bush Administration.

So far the Republican message has followed the same playbook: it isn’t yet about a vision of the future but instead emphasizes the failures of the Obama Administration.

 Americans are notoriously focused on the future (David Brooks called “Futurism” the American religion), and the winning candidate may well be the one who effectively connects with American voters on a shared vision for the future.

If this does come, it likely won’t happen until fall. The summer may shape up to be deeply negative—at least in political circles.

Attack ads have worked so far in the election, and this will likely continue.

 The sooner a top candidate can effectively pivot to a moving positive view of the future, the more support such a candidate is likely to garner from independents.

 6. This summer’s Supreme Court decision on Health Care may turn out to be bad for President Obama’s campaign.

If the Court upholds the law, the Republicans will make it a rallying point for the November elections.

If the Court strikes it down, the Obama Administration will probably look vulnerable and ineffective.

If the Court rules the entire law unconstitutional, it could hurt the Republicans as twenty-somethings are taken off their parents’ insurance and other changes occur.

But if the Court simply strikes down the individual mandate, it will most likely hurt Democratic candidates.

 7. The Ryan budget may be the crystallizing division in the 2012 debate and election.

Likely most Democrats will be against it, most Republicans for it, and independents will determine America’s future as they analyze and decide whether or not to support it.

Every American should study this budget.

 8. Iran… Need I say more? What happens in the Middle East could have drastic impact on fuel prices, inflation and employment rates, all of which will significantly influence the year ahead.

 9. Debt crisis? Credit rating? Inflation? Jobs? Credit availability? Small business regulations? Economic upturn or recession? It is unclear where the economy will go in the coming months.

Welcome to the summer of 2012. Temperatures are rising, and the months ahead will make a real difference in America’s future.

In this sputtering economy, will most Americans enjoy a summer of vacations and good times or will a growing frustration heat up as we approach election day?

Whatever happens this fall, our summer will have lasting impact on the history of the United States and our world.

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odemille 133x195 custom Egypt, Freedom, & the Cycles of HistoryOliver 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 &Citizenship &Constitution &Current Events &Featured &Government &Independents &Leadership &Politics

A Truly Excellent Book on Genius and How to Develop It!

April 3rd, 2012 // 9:41 pm @

Genius by Mike Byster

5 Stars
Reviewed by Oliver DeMille

I love it when a plan comes together. Okay, it isn’t really a plan. But I still love it when I read a book that says what we’ve been saying for years in Leadership Education.

I enjoy disagreeing with books too, which is why I love to talk about Lord of the Flies or 1984 with people who have read them repeatedly and given them a lot of thought.

But today I read a book that agreed with much of what I wrote about in A Thomas Jefferson Education and that I’ve been speaking and writing about for a long time.

I had the same experience when I read The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle, Unschooling Rules by Clark Aldrich, The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner, and A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink.

Today’s book was Genius by Mike Byster.

Those who have followed Leadership Education and Thomas Jefferson Education (TJEd) know that we have long taught that all people on the planet have genius within them, and that it is a fundamental purpose of good education to help them find and develop their genius.

Byster goes a step further, by teaching the reader how to develop one’s areas of inner genius, and the result is a truly excellent book.

Those familiar with Leadership Education will resonate with several recurring themes.

For example, Byster argues that a major problem with modern education is that we put too much emphasis on teaching subjects rather than helping students learn how to effectively learn and think.

He quotes Albert Einstein and Alvin Toffler, respectively: “I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn,” and “The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

Most significantly, at least for me, Byster outlines a plan or pattern of teaching and learning genius.

Again, many of the themes are familiar to me, but they are couched in new ways and combined with new concepts, examples and ideas that make the book an instant classic for me. I’ll read it again and again.

Byster teaches the following “Six Skills of A Genius,” and gives suggestions and exercises for mastering them:

  • Focus
  • Concentration
  • “Retaining Massive Amounts of Information Without ‘Memorizing’” (This is accomplished by making learning fun, exciting and otherwise engaging one’s own love of learning and areas of passionate interest.)
  • Thinking Outside the Box
  • Organization (This includes finding patterns in things and reorganizing information to better intersect with one’s own mind and world.)
  • Forgetting

What a great outline. I especially like the last one, which reminds me of counsel I often gave to freshmen and sophomores: “Only take notes on things you deeply care about and want to remember, rather than just summarizing whatever lecture you attend.”

Not trying to remember things you don’t want to recall is a vital part of remembering the important things.

Again, this book resonated with me in so many ways that I was excited to go back and read it again.

The first time I just read it through, then I spent the evening and long into the night reading it a second time and taking copious notes.

Maybe the most enjoyable thing about this book is that many of the exercises are focused on math.

I hope that doesn’t stop anybody from reading it, because it was some of the most enjoyable and downright fun math I’ve done since…well, ever.

This was a very entertaining, pleasurable, amusing book. I learned so much! I recommend it everyone, whether you know anything about TJEd or not.

For those with a background in Leadership Education, I think you’ll love this book as much as I did. Principles of truth are principles of truth, after all, and this book is full of such principles.

I add it to A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe by Michael Schneider as one of my all-time favorite books on math, and also as one of the best books on “Leadership Education.”

Read it, love it, have fun with it. Enjoy!

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

odemille 133x195 custom Egypt, Freedom, & the Cycles of HistoryOliver 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 &Featured &Leadership &Mission

Right vs. Cool

April 3rd, 2012 // 9:12 pm @

The Upcoming Elections

Weeks ago I wrote an article about two kinds of voters in modern America, the traditionalists (who vote mostly based on issues) and the literalists (who vote pragmatically).

The response has been both widespread and interesting.

The feedback made it clear that a lot of independent voters understood and appreciated my point, but few traditionally partisan voters fully understood what I was trying to say.

So, I’m going to try this again. Here goes…

Many voters base their vote on the issues. They like the views of one major party and dislike the views of the other.

Or, if they don’t identify with either party, they still listen to the ideas and platforms of each candidate and vote for who they think will do the best job in office—and they determine who “will do the best job” based on the candidate’s stance on important issues.

There is another kind of voter. This second kind of voter had little influence before the Age of the Internet, because the two big parties ran state and national politics.

This has changed in the last few years, mainly because the Internet and various social media have given a real voice to people outside the two big parties and a few editors at major newspapers and television networks.

Today, this second kind of voter has a huge voice.

For the most part, the first kind of voter is still depending on party caucuses, party meetings and party delegates, while the second kind of voter is engaging on-going online debates about political topics that go on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and doesn’t care if there is a party meeting next month or if it already happened last month.

The first kind of voter elects the candidate he thinks is most right on the issues. The second kind of voter prefers the candidate he considers the most “cool.”

The word “cool” may seem incongruent with political commentary, but it isn’t.

At a recent political rally, I sat quietly on a couch and listened to the people walking past. It was a big crowd, and I wrote a lot of notes as I recorded what various voters said.

“Obama is so cool!” “Ron Paul is so cool!” “Ron Paul is awesome!” “Obama is the worst president ever.” “Ron Paul’s foreign policy is just plain crazy!” “Obama can really sing!” “Yeah, and dance!”

In contrast, I also wrote: “Mitt Romney is our only chance to fix the economy, avoid further downgrading of our credit rating, and re-energize private sector growth.”

These are only a few of the notes I took, but they are indicative of the overall mood.

I wrote something very close to the following at least a dozen times: “Governor Romney is the only candidate with both executive experience and an understanding of private sector business growth.”

But not one person who spoke of a candidate within my earshot said anything remotely like, “Romney is so cool.”

This certainly wasn’t a scientific study or poll.

My notes were entirely anecdotal.

But one theme emerged that I found interesting: the divide between gut-level, emotional comments and those that were clearly cerebral. I went away thinking that if Romney becomes the Republican nominee, he will have to immediately find a way to connect with regular Americans on an emotional, gut level, or he won’t have a chance in the general election.

Again, there are two kinds of voters.

One looks for the “right” candidate who will do the “right” thing on the important issues, the other looks for the candidate who is “awesome,” or “cool.”

Note that this isn’t just a generational difference, nor is the idea that a candidate is “cool” only a shallow, high-schoolish popularity thing.

It actually speaks to something much deeper, something that is perhaps intangible but which Washington insiders wisely refer to as “the leadership thing.”

Pundits on both sides of the aisle frequently discount “the cool thing” as simple and unsophisticated, but only because they tend to be issues voters.

They see elections as choosing the candidate who is the most right on the most issues, as discussed above, and they dismiss “the cool thing” because they tend to believe that all voters are issues voters.

But the second kind of voter is increasingly influential in American politics.

Indeed, in every presidential election in recent times the candidate with “the leadership thing” has won.

Most liberals vote with the Democratic candidate, and most conservatives vote for the Republican candidate.

But there are now more independents than Republicans or Democrats, and a lot of independents are “leadership” voters.

They just want great leadership, not another candidate trying to convince every group that he is
“with them” on the issues.

The more sophisticated of these leadership voters have additional criteria, but the masses go with “the cool thing.”

This is part of the American character, and the majority of these voters cast their votes for the candidate they think most likely to be the best leader.

Note that they define “leadership” as “leadership skills regardless of political leanings,” not as “closest to me on the issues.”

And these voters have quite a record. They supported:

Reagan over Carter
Reagan over Mondale
Bush over Dukakis
Clinton over Bush
Clinton over Dole
Bush over Gore
Bush over Kerry
Obama over McCain

In every case, most liberals voted Democratic and most conservatives voted Republican, but the nation went with leadership over issues.

And in most cases, it wasn’t that one candidate won “the leadership thing” as much as that one candidate lost on leadership.

In short, in every modern election we choose the “cool” candidate, and we define “cool” in ways having little or nothing to do with political views, left or right, liberal or conservative.

You can like this or dislike it, but issues voters need to get one thing very clear: All of these elections were determined by the second type of voter.

Those who want to understand our elections need to realize that while some voters vote on the issues, the deciding swing voters in close elections always go for what politicos call “the leadership thing” and what the masses would more easily understand as “the cool thing.”

And, again, this isn’t immature or shallow.

It’s about a profound, gut-level trust in the potential of great leadership, combined with a deep mistrust of political parties and politicians of every stripe.

Indeed, if you don’t trust what any politicians say, their rhetoric on the issues falls on deaf ears and you have to find some other way to decide who to vote for.

And, frankly, their potential for leadership is an excellent criterion.

I personally tend to be an issues voter, and I think the future of the economy makes the next election a vital concern for all Americans.

But I’m in the minority on this, as are all issues voters.

This election, like most others for the past thirty years, is going to be determined on the basis of how the top candidates project their non-political leadership ability.

I’ve said elsewhere that the most important races of 2012 are the U.S. House and Senatorial elections, and I still hold this view.

The presidential election and a lot of local elections are also important, and all of us can do more to make our influence felt.

On a practical note: If your candidate isn’t very “cool,” if he or she is depending only on the issues to win the election, do your best to help promote their case on the basis of leadership!

The outcome and impact of the upcoming elections depend on it.

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odemille 133x195 custom Egypt, Freedom, & the Cycles of HistoryOliver 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 &Citizenship &Current Events &Featured &Government &Independents &Leadership &Liberty &Statesmanship

Capitalism vs. Capitalism

March 20th, 2012 // 11:19 am @

An Essential Debate for the Future of Freedom

There are two major types of economies: market and command.

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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3.  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.”

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odemille 133x195 custom Egypt, Freedom, & the Cycles of HistoryOliver 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 &Business &Economics &Featured &Government &Liberty &Prosperity

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