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Why Washington Can’t Be Fixed, But America Can

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taleb wrote:

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

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

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

The answer is interesting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Taleb put it,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Every Citizen Must Know About Government Finances

January 4th, 2014 // 2:11 pm @

reservenote 300x204 What Every Citizen Must Know About Government Finances Good citizens know as much about freedom, government, economics and laws as their president, prime minister, justices, governors, senators and other officials.

When a lot of the citizens are good citizens, freedom flourishes. When only a few are good citizens, freedom declines.

This is an incontrovertible law of human history. It is always this way. No exceptions.

So, just using finances as an example, here is a basic citizen’s quiz:

  1. Can you explain in detail what inflation is, what causes it, how it is related to a gold/silver standard, and how it always gives more power to the elite class and less to the middle and lower classes?
  2. Can you explain the differences between free banking and fractional banking, in detail, and how the two influence societies in drastically different directions?
  3. Can you explain the differences between free-enterprise banking and central banking, and what is the relationship between the government as the taxing power and the government as central banker?

These three questions in large part separate the elite ruling classes from the regular people in modern nations.

If you know these things, you understand the essence of the modern economy and can be part of the solution for your nation’s decline and the current losses of freedom. If not, you are naturally part of the problem.

The answers to these questions are clearly outlined and explained in Murray Rothbard’s book, The Mystery of Banking. It’s the quickest way I know of to quickly understand finances at the level (or higher) of our national leaders.

There is a name for a society where a small upper class understands these three questions (and a few more like them), and uses this knowledge to rule over the masses who do not understand them. It is aristocracy.

In our day it is more often referred to as elitism, meritocracy, or even democracy. Although this is not the dictionary definition of these words, it is the actual reality in every modern nation called a “meritocracy” or a “democracy.” And in truth, this system is highly anti-merit and anti-democratic.

A democratic-republican system can only last if the regular people understand finances as well as their rulers. Again, there are no exceptions to this rule in all of history.

Fortunately, just knowing the answers to these three questions flips this switch, and almost anyone, pretty much everyone, can learn these three things.

But will you do it? Or, if you already know these three answers, will you help others learn them? Only you can decide.

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odemille What Every Citizen Must Know About Government Finances Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

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

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

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Category : Aristocracy &Blog &Citizenship &Economics &Government &Statesmanship

Ted Cruz and Mike Lee are Heroes.

October 12th, 2013 // 3:11 pm @

Lee Curz Ted Cruz and Mike Lee are Heroes.by Oliver DeMille

At some point, America is going to have to face reality. We can’t keep increasing government spending, debt, and borrowing without eventually paying for it. But the problem is deep:

When Americans are asked if they want to get rid of our $17 trillion debt and huge deficits, they say, “Yes.”

When they are told that we need to cut any actual government spending program, any program, they say, “No.”

What gives? Essentially, Americans want to get more from government but pay less. Ted Cruz was popular among conservatives when he stood against Obamacare, but when the media pushed back, conservative support decreased.

Mike Lee was popular in his home state when he took the same stand vocally, but his popularity decreased a little when he took real action to help slow the negative facets of Obamacare. Other leaders have seen the same thing.

Too many of the American people want our leaders to reduce our out-of-control debt and deficits, but they don’t want it to be hard. They want it to be easy. They support those who talk tough, but withdraw support when a leader takes courageous action.

Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, and others, including a number of House Republicans, who take a stand against expanding government are heroes, pure and simple. This is true of anyone, from any party, who stands for what our nation really needs. Their stand against the expansion of big government deserves a lot more support.

Our national economic problems are going to get worse and worse until leaders take a stand to reduce spending and borrowing. But when some leaders do this, popular opinion frequently turns against them. If this remains true, Americans deserve the economic difficulties that will keep growing. If we want something better, we need to stand up for it.

Instead of complaining that our leaders don’t do enough of the right things, we need to strongly support the few leaders who actually do take action. Instead of repeating the national mantra, “Why can’t everyone just get along in Washington?,” we need to be the kind of citizens who know that a better future is worth fighting for. Thank goodness some of our leaders understand this.

Lee or Cruz for president. Or, if you’re a Democrat, look up the recent speeches of Joe Manchin. Bring in Paul, Rubio, Ryan, and anyone else who is standing for common sense. We need to stand behind leaders, regardless of party, who actually see what is needed and do something about it—regardless of how it plays in the polls. Those who do this are today’s heroes.

 

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odemille Ted Cruz and Mike Lee are Heroes. Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

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

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

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Category : Blog &Citizenship &Current Events &Economics &Government &Independents &Leadership &Politics &Prosperity

The Death of The Middle Class

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

Columnist Joe Klein said on The Chris Matthews Show:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only the regular people can make this choice.

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

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

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

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Category : Aristocracy &Blog &Business &Citizenship &Culture &Current Events &Economics &Entrepreneurship &Featured &Leadership &Producers

A Surprising Choice by America’s Founders

July 18th, 2013 // 10:48 am @

declaration of independence1 300x199 A Surprising Choice by Americas FoundersOne of the most surprising events in the American founding occurred when the Continental Congress used the word “happiness” in the Declaration of Independence.

Up to that point, it was not a word often utilized in great political writings.

Words like “justice,” “liberty,” “property,” “honor,” “power,” “rights” and others were expected in such a document.

But “happiness” was not.

George Washington expressed the American perspective when he said, “the United States came into existence as a nation, and if their citizens should not be completely free and happy, the fault will be entirely their own.”

In this view, a good government protects people’s freedom, and what they do with it is up to them—and determines their happiness.

Still, the very idea that governments are instituted among men to do just this (protect a person’s right to pursue happiness), was a significant thought.

It was certainly not the view of the European aristocrats, who believed that happiness required financial means and the comforts of leisure time and was only meant to be enjoyed by a few.

The American founding generation took a different view.

They believed that happiness was the result of enterprise, and was possible for everyone.

This is a patently American perspective, and it provided a foundation for the whole American freedom experiment.

It is a profound idea.

If happiness is the result of individual actions and choices, then it follows that government’s primary role is to protect the right to act and choose.

Indeed, in such a view, the only purpose of government and law is to keep any person from taking these rights from anyone else—or of enforcing restitution if such protection fails.

This is the proper role of government: to protect inalienable rights (defense), and if this fails to cause restitution (justice).

This was the crux of the American system, the only one that could really be adopted if the goal of government was to protect “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

In ancient Rome, the Stoics argued that virtue is the cause of happiness, and this same view was promoted by ancient Judaism and early Christianity.

In feudal times, the meaning of happiness switched more to “good fortune,” which took it out of the hands of each individual.

By 1600, however, this was refined to mean “a pleasant and contented mental state.”

The American founding generation added to the meaning of “happiness” with the idea of voluntarily doing important things—from personal morality to economic enterprise, to family relationships, political and military sacrifice, and charitable service.

They also connected these same things to the concept of freedom, thereby forever linking the words “freedom” and ‘happiness.”

This bears repeating, because it is a central foundation of American government, but has been mostly forgotten today.

Specifically, the American founders put forward an amazing new view of government:

The proper role of the government is to protect inalienable rights, and to leave everything else to the people—who will increase or lose their liberty and happiness according to their personal virtue, economic enterprise, family relationships, charitable service, and other voluntary choices.

For the Founders to adopt this view was a remarkable and vitally important turn of world events, and it established a whole new view—and era—of freedom.

To a large extent, we have now lost this view, and our freedoms have decreased with this change.

We now follow the more traditionally European perspective that great changes in society come from the upper class, experts, elections, and government officials and policies.

The Founders disagreed.

They believed that the American Founding was the result of the people, not a few great leaders.

As John Adams responded when someone tried to compliment his role in the founding: “Don’t call me ‘Godlike Adams,’ ‘The Father of His Country,’ ‘The Founder of the American Republic,’ or ‘The Founder of the American Empire.’ These titles belong to no man, but to the American people in general.”

Freedom and happiness are always connected, and they are always up to the regular people, whether they realize it or not.

To the extent that freedom is declining, it is the fault of the regular people.

Our freedoms and happiness are up to us.

If freedom is in decline, we aren’t doing enough.

The good news is that the people have the power to do something about it, no matter how much the experts try to convince us otherwise.

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odemille 133x195 custom A Surprising Choice by Americas FoundersOliver DeMille is the chairman of the Center for Social Leadership and co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

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

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