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Book Reviews

A Case for Innovation

May 3rd, 2011 // 2:21 pm @

A Review of The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream by Gary Shapiro

There are two great modern visions of how to help our economy grow and flourish. One holds that the government is the center of economic prosperity, the other believes in innovation. The first attempts to tax and spend, the second believes in the power of free enterprise.

The Republican Party sometimes tries to present itself as the promoter of the second view, and at times the Democratic Party attempts to make this same argument a criticism of Republican policies, but in actual policy both major political parties tend to legislate for the first view. In contrast, Gary Shapiro’s important book The Comeback outlines what Washington needs to do truly bring the economy back. This includes:

  • Stop penalizing investments in start-ups.
  • Direct any public funding of start-ups by private investors, not by government bureaucrats.
  • Let any company fail, according to the rule of the free market.
  • Make economics, business and entrepreneurialism studies part of the public school curriculum.
  • Ensure that business tax rates are transparent and predictable.
  • Change tax laws to favor investment over debt.
  • Reform immigration to encourage entrepreneurial risk-taking.
  • Pass more free-trade agreements.
  • Reform education by allowing teachers to teach.
  • Measure all government spending by how well it is working.
  • Measure all government spending by how it meets serious national needs.
  • Link the compensation of our federal legislators to our annual national deficit.

Shapiro includes a number of other specific proposals for an American comeback. Not every reader will agree with every policy proposal. I found myself disagreeing with a number of points. For example, Shapiro’s argument that, “You can’t legislate progress” is clearly too narrow—just consider the legislative successes against racist and religiously-bigoted behavior.

On the whole, however, Shapiro’s voice is an important contribution to the ongoing debate. More citizens and government officials need to read and internalize his book. Shapiro shows a mature appreciation for the important role of the government in the economy, and simultaneously notes that without real economic freedom no significant American comeback is likely.

He ultimately pins the future of America on innovation, not on either major political party or on any government policy. The government can do much to encourage a flourishing economy, but the innovators will primarily determine our economic future. Shapiro writes:

“Innovation is America. It is our special sauce, our destiny, and our best and only hope for escaping the economic malaise…. Our best hope is for government to foster innovation by creating a fertile ground for innovation to flourish.

“Innovation is the natural by-product of the free market….

“Our nation is looking into the abyss. With a blinding focus on the present, our government is neglecting a future that demands thoughtful action. The only valid government action is that which invests in our children. This requires hard choices. We cannot leave the rising generation with a mountain of bad debt. This will require suffering in the present….

“America is in crisis. What is required is a commitment to innovation and growth. We can and must succeed. With popular and political resolve, we can reverse America’s decline…. America must become the world’s innovative engine once again; we cannot fail. Only then can I return to China and tell that Communist Chinese official that America is back.”

Shapiro’s voice is important, and the voice of innovation is vital to America’s future. Unless we find ways to reinvigorate our national penchant for innovation, the future of our economy and nation is bleak. More of us need to join Shapiro in discussing ways to refocus our nation on innovation. Government certainly has a positive role to play in successful society, and only by encouraging widespread innovation can we hope to see sustained growth and an economy that is the envy of the world. Two centuries of American leadership have proven that freedom works. It’s time to remember and more vigorously apply freedom in our modern economy.

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odemille 133x195 custom The Clash of Two CulturesOliver DeMille is a co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

He is the co-author of the 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.

Category : Blog &Book Reviews &Economics &Producers &Prosperity

The Social Animal

April 20th, 2011 // 7:31 am @

A review of the book The Social Animal: A Story of Love, Character and Achievement by David Brooks

There are at least three major types of writing. The first might be called Shakespeare’s method, which includes the telling of stories with deep symbolic and archetypal lessons. Many of the great world religious texts used this approach. The Greeks referred to this as poetry, though the meaning of “poetry” is much more limited in modern usage. In the contemporary world we often call this type of writing fiction, though this is a misnomer since the stories used are not actually untrue—they are, many of them, literally true, and nearly all of them are symbolically true. This could also be called the Inspirational style of writing.

A second kind of writing can be summarized as Tocqueville’s method, or the philosopher’s style. Called prose, non-fiction, or editorializing, this type of literature consists of the author sharing her views, thoughts, questions, analyses and conclusions. Writers in this style see no need to document or prove their points, but they do make a case for their ideas. This way of writing gave the world many of the great classics of human history—in many fields of thought spanning the arts, sciences, humanities and practical domains. This writing is Authoritative in style, meaning that the author is interested mostly in ideas (rather than proof or credibility) and writes as her own authority on what she is thinking.

The third sort of writing, what I’ll call Einstein’s method, attempts to prove its conclusions using professional language and appealing to reason, experts or other authority. Most scientific works, textbooks, and research-based books on a host of topics apply this method. The basis of such writing is to clearly show the reader the sources of assumptions, the progress of the author’s thinking, and the basis behind each conclusion. Following the scientific method, this modern “Objective” style of writing emphasizes the credibility of the conclusions—based on the duplicable nature of the research and the rigorous analysis and deduction. There are few leaps of logic in this kind of prose.

Each type of writing has its masters, and all offer valuable contributions to the great works of human literature. This is so obvious that it hardly needs to be said, but we live in a world where the third, Objective, style of writing is the norm and anything else is often considered inferior. Such a conclusion, ironically, is not a scientifically proven fact. Indeed, how can science prove that anything open to individual preference and taste is truly “best?” For example, such greats as Churchill, Solzhenitsyn and Allan Bloom (author of The Closing of the American Mind) have shown that “Tocqueville’s” style is still of great value in modern times—as do daily op eds in our leading newspapers and blogs. Likewise, our greatest plays, movies and television programs demonstrate that the Shakespearean method still has great power in our world.

That said, David Brooks’ new book The Social Animal: A Story of Love, Character and Achievement manages to combine all three styles in one truly moving work. I have long considered Brooks one of my favorite authors. I assigned his book Bobos in Paradaise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There as an undergraduate and graduate college text for several years, and I have recommended his book On Paradise Drive to many students and executives who wanted to understand American and modern culture. In one of the best descriptions of our society ever written, he outlined the new realities experienced by the “average” American citizen, who he called “Patio Man.” I have also enjoyed many of his editorials in The New York Times—and the ongoing, albeit unofficial and indirect, “debate” between his columns and those of Thomas L. Friedman, Paul Krugman, George Will and, occasionally, Peggy Noonan.

The Social Animal is, in my opinion, his best work to date. In fact, it is downright brilliant. I am not suggesting that it approaches Shakespeare, of course. But who does? Still, the stories in The Social Animal flow like Isaac Asimov meets Ayn Rand.  It doesn’t boast deep scientific technical writing, as Brooks himself notes. Indeed, Brooks doesn’t even attempt to produce a great Shakespearean or scientific classic. But he does effectively weave the three great styles of writing together, and in the realm of philosophical writing this book is similar to Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. The content of the book, in fact, is as close as we may ever see to a 21st century update to Tocqeville (1830s) and Bryce (1910s).

I know this is high praise, and in our modern era with its love of objective analysis, such strong language is suspect in “educated” circles. But my words are not hyperbole. This is an important book. It is one of the most important books we’ve seen in years—probably since Fareed Zakaria’s The Post-American World or Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind. This book is in the same class as Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind, Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations, Strauss and Howe’s The Fourth Turning, or Philip Bobbitt’s The Shield of Achilles. It is as significant as any article in Foreign Affairs since Richard Gardner’s writings. It reads like Steven Pinker channelling Alexis de Tocqueville. The language is, well, beautiful, but beautiful in the modern sense, like the writings of Laura Munson or Sandra Tsing Loh.

The book also manages to bridge political views—I think liberals will find it moving and conservatives will find it convincing. It is not exactly Centrist, but neither is it patently Right nor Left. It will appeal to independents and people from all political perspectives. If it has a political leaning, it is the party of Common Sense—backed by meticulous research.

Moreover, The Social Animal clouds typical publishing stereotypes. I’m not sure where big bookstores will shelve it. It is a book on culture, politics, education, and career. It is a book about entertainment, marriage and language. It is about the upper, middle and lower classes in modern American society, how they interrelate and what challenges are ahead as they clash. It is about current events and future challenges. It is, above all, a book about success. It goes well beyond books on Habits or The Secret or even “Acres of Diamonds.”

As Brooks himself put it:

“Over the centuries, zillions of books have been written about how to succeed. But these tales are usually told on the surface level of life. They describe the colleges people get into, the professional skills they acquire, the conscious decisions they make, and the tips and techniques they adopt to build connections and get ahead. These books often focus on an outer definition of success, having to do with IQ, wealth, prestige, and worldly accomplishments.

“This story [The Social Animal] is told one level down. This success story emphasizes the role of the inner mind—the unconscious realm of emotions, intuitions, biases, longings….

“…we are not primarily the products of our conscious thinking. We are primarily the products of thinking that happens below the level of awareness.”

Brooks argues:

“The research being done today reminds us of the relative importance of emotion over pure reason, social connections over individual choice, character over IQ, emergent, organic systems over linear, mechanistic ones, and the idea that we have multiple selves over the idea that we have a single self.”

The book deals with such intriguing topics as:

  • Modern dating and courtship
  • Today’s marriages and what makes them succeed—or not
  • The scientific versus popular views of child development
  • Cultural trends such as global-warming awareness assemblies in high schools
  • The scientific foundations of violence
  • The kind of decision-making that leads to success versus mediocrity and failure
  • A veritable manual for success in college
  • The powerful leadership techniques of priming, anchoring, framing, limerance, fractals, metis and multiparadigm teams, among others (it is worth reading the book just for this)
  • How to “ace” job interviews
  • The new phases of life progression
  • Effectively starting a new business—the steps, techniques, values and needed character traits
  • Leadership in the modern corporation
  • How to win a revolution by only making a call for small reforms
  • The effectiveness of a talent for oversimplification
  • The supreme power of a life’s viewpoint

The Social Animal struck a personal note with me because it brilliantly describes the true process of great mentoring that more of our teachers need to adopt and that I wrote about with Tiffany Earl in our book The Student Whisperer. I have seldom seen truly great teaching described better.

This book is primarily about success—specifically success in our complex modern world—but at a deeper level it is about happiness. Brooks writes:

We still have admissions committees that judge people by IQ measures and not by practical literacy. We still have academic fields that often treat human beings as rational utility-maximizing individuals. Modern society has created a giant apparatus for the cultivation of the hard skills, while failing to develop the moral and emotional faculties down below. Children are coached on how to jump through a thousand scholastic hoops. Yet by far the most important decisions they will make are about whom to marry and whom to befriend, what to love and what to despise, and how to control impulses. On these matters, they are almost entirely on their own. We are good at talking about material incentives, but bad about talking about emotions and intuitions. We are good at teaching technical skills, but when it comes to the most important things, like character, we have almost nothing to say.

The book, like any true “classic” (and I am convinced this will be one), is deep and broad. It includes such gems as:

  • “The food at their lunch was terrible, but the meal was wonderous.”
  • “For example, six-month-old babies can spot the different facial features of different monkeys, even though, to adults, they all look the same.”
  • In his high school, “…life was dominated by a universal struggle for admiration.”
  • “The students divided into the inevitable cliques, and each clique had its own individual pattern of behavior.”
  • “Fear of exclusion was his primary source of anxiety.”
  • “Erica decided that in these neighborhoods you could never show weakness. You could never back down or compromise.”
  • “In middle class country, children were raised to go to college. In poverty country they were not.”
  • Jim Collins “…found that many of the best CEOs were not flamboyant visionaries. They were humble, self-effacing, diligent, and resolute souls who found one thing they were really good at and did it over and over again. They did not spend a lot of time on internal motivational campaigns. They demanded discipline and efficiency.”
  • “Then a quiet voice could be heard from the other end of the table. ‘Leave her alone.’ It was her mother. The picnic table went silent.”
  • “Erica resolved that she would always try to stand at the junction between two mental spaces. In organizations, she would try to stand at the junction of two departments, or fill in the gaps between departments.”
  • “School asks students to be good at a range of subjects, but life asks people to find one passion that they will do forever.”
  • “His missions had been clearly marked: get good grades, make the starting team, make adults happy. Ms. Taylor had introduced a new wrinkle into his life—a love of big ideas.”
  • “…if Steve Jobs had come out with an iWife, they would have been married on launch day.”
  • “Epistemological modesty is the knowledge of how little we know and can know.”

There are so many more gems of wisdom. For example, Brooks notes that in current culture there is a new phase of life. Most of today’s parents and grandparents grew up in a world with four life phases, including “childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age.” Today’s young will experience at least six phases, Brooks suggests: childhood, adolescence, odyssey, adulthood, active retirement, and old age.

While many parents expect their 18- and 19-year-old children to go directly from adolescence to the adult life of leaving home and pursuing their own independent life and a marriage relationship, their children are surprising (and confusing) them by embracing their odyssey years: living at home, then wandering, then back home for a time, taking a long time to “play around” with their education before getting serious about preparing for a career, and in general enjoying their youthful freedom. Most parents are convinced they’re kids are wasting their lives when in fact this is the new normal.

The odyssey years actually make a lot of sense. The young “…want the security and stability adulthood brings, but they don’t want to settle into a daily grind. They don’t want to limit their spontaneity or put limits on their dreams.” Parents can support this slower pace with two thoughts: 1) the kids usually turn out better because they don’t force themselves to grow up too fast like earlier generations did, and 2) the parents get to enjoy a similar kind of relaxed state in the “active retirement phase.”

Most odysseys pursue life in what Brooks calls The Group—a small team of friends who help each other through this transition. Members of a Group talk a lot, play together, frequently engage entrepreneurial or work ventures with each other, and fill the role of traditional families during this time of transition. Even odysseys who live at home for a time usually spend much of their time with their Group.

This book is full of numerous other ideas, stories, studies, and commentaries. It is the kind of reading that you simply have to mark up with a highlighter on literally every page.

Whether you agree or disagree with the ideas in this book—or, hopefully, both—it is a great read. Not a good read, but a great one. Some social conservatives may dislike certain things such as the language used by some characters or the easy sexuality of some college students, and some liberals may question the realistic way characters refuse to accept every politically-correct viewpoint in society—but both are accurate portrayals of many people in our current culture.

The Social Animal may not remain on the classics list as long as Democracy in America, but it could. At the very least, it is as good a portrayal of modern society as Rousseau’s Emile was in its time. It provides a telling, accurate and profound snapshot of American life at the beginning of the 21st Century. Reading it will help modern Americans know themselves at a much deeper level.

This is a book about many things, including success and happiness as mentioned above. But it is also a classic book on freedom, and on how our society defines freedom in our time. As such, it is an invaluable source to any who care about the future of freedom. Read this book to see where we are, where we are headed, and how we need to change. The Social Animal is required reading for leaders in all sectors and for people from all political persuasions who want to see freedom flourish in the 21st century.

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odemille 133x195 custom Is America a Democracy, Republic, or Empire?Oliver DeMille is a co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

He is the co-author of the 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.


Category : Blog &Book Reviews &Community &Culture &Current Events &Education &Entrepreneurship &Family &Generations &Leadership &Liberty &Mission &Postmodernism &Service &Statesmanship &Tribes

Prodigal Politics

April 13th, 2011 // 8:25 am @

Right, Left, and Above

Sometimes the best political analysis is found in surprising places. For example, Timothy Keller’s excellent book The Prodigal God gives a deep and profound analysis of modern conservatism and liberalism–clearly and effectively showing the truth, as well as the glaring flaws, of each. James Redfield’s insightful book The Twelfth Insight does the same. Both are essential reading for anyone today who cares about the future of freedom.

Consider the following quotes from The Twelfth Insight:

Quote One: “I’m pretty sure the government will be declaring martial law pretty soon, and people need to be prepared. The first thing they’ll do is take up all the guns and many books.”

It was becoming pretty clear that I was talking to someone on the extreme Right politically.

 

 

“Wait a minute,” I said casually. “None of that can happen. There are constitutional safeguards.”

“Are you kidding?” he reacted. “One or two more Leftist judges, and that won’t be the case anymore. Things are out of control. The country we grew up in is being changed. We have to do something now. We think the Document is going to call for a real rebellion against the Leftists.”

“What?” I said forcefully. “I can’t see anyone getting the idea of rebellion from this Document–maybe a more enlightened Centrism. Have you read it?”….

 

 

“You better wake up,” one of them yelled. “You people on the Left are ruining this country, and we’re not going to stand for it much longer. We’d rather have the corporations take over than you idiots.”

 

Quote Two: “You’re one of those Right-wingers,” the loud man said, waving a finger at Coleman. “If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be talking like this.”

Coleman shook his head. “I’m only saying that it takes a balance. Some people want big government totally regulating everything and others want big corporate influence and very little regulation. I think the best position is right in the middle…”….

“Where are you going, Right-winger?” one of the other men shouted. “You aren’t going to win. If we have to install a dictator, we’ll do it. You aren’t going to win!”

Quote Three: This type of controlling is the chief characteristic of those both Left and Right, who have a primarily ideological approach to politics. They don’t want to debate the issues. They want only to shout down the opposition and win….

Both extremists were using the same tactic. If someone disagreed with them even slightly, they were simply pushed into the opposite extreme category–so they could be dismissed and dehumanized and not taken seriously. That way, each side–far Left and Right–could justify their own extreme behavior. Each thought of themselves as the good guys having to fight to save civilization from a soulless enemy….

“[C]ivility is the first thing that goes out the window. Those holding on to the old worldview often begin to cling to their obsessions with ever greater ferocity…”….

“The political Left and Right are both moving to the extreme because each thinks the threat is so great from the other side that extreme measures need to be taken. And of course, it’s all self-reinforcing.”

In addition to the competing views on the Right and Left, Redfield discusses those in the world who actually want conflict–for the benefit of their politics or positions of power. Hamilton discussed these same three groups in Federalist Paper number 1 (the effectual introduction to The Federalist).

A Parable for Our Time

One major problem with our contemporary politics was taught quite clearly two millennia ago in the parable of The Prodigal Son. The word “prodigal” means to be wasteful, which certainly applies to our modern government.  In this parable, a father has two sons.  The first son is obedient and orderly, follows the father and does what the father expects.  The second son asks for his inheritance early, then spends it in riotous living.

When the inheritance is all spent, the second son comes crawling back to his father, begging to be a servant if he can just live at home and have food to eat and a place to sleep.  The father throws a party, welcoming him home as a beloved son.

The elder son is livid.  He sees even more of his own inheritance being spent on his wasteful brother, and he is hurt that his father never threw such a party for him–despite all his years of faithful obedience.

The climax of the parable comes when the reader asks this question: “Why did Jesus tell this story?  What was his point?”  Anyone who has read the parable clearly sees that the point is not to chastise the younger son, but the older.  What does it all mean? Whatever your religion or beliefs, these are interesting and important questions.

Our modern politics fits very well within this parable.  Conservatives believe in standards, responsibility, morals, conformity and in those who do these things reaping the benefits of their orthodoxy.  Especially, they don’t want the father (government) taking their money to benefit those who haven’t taken care of themselves.
Liberals value the freedom to live as they see fit, pursue their own happiness their way, discover and seek and find themselves, not be tied down by dogmatic rules or outdated social customs, and they believe a higher authority (father/government) should always be there to help any who suffers.

That’s a conservative way of defining liberalism. But let’s consider it from a liberal perspective: The older brother was just plain mean.  That’s often the problem with conservatism, or libertarianism, from the liberal view.  The father used the elder son’s inheritance to take care of the younger son because he needed it–help, love, dignity, some basic human kindness and respect.  Of course any loving father (or government) should do the same.

This is the old conservative-liberal argument, debated since Plato versus Aristotle.  A person needs help.  One side says: “Too bad, he did this to himself, he doesn’t deserve help, don’t help him.  You really have no right to use my inheritance for him anyway!  You might have the power, but it isn’t right!”  The other view argues: “But as a loving father (government), we simply must help him.  Don’t be so mean about it.  Why are you so selfish anyway? We all simply must help the most vulnerable among us.”

The two sides frequently refuse to understand each other.  They may say they understand, but then they launch immediately into a discussion of how their side is right and the other is wrong.  They even call the other side “stupid” or “evil” for not understanding.

The True Elder Brother

What is missing in our current politics is what Keller calls “The True Elder Brother,” the other brother who isn’t depicted in the parable but is clearly meant to be there. As Keller put it: “This is what the elder brother in the parable should have done; this is what a true elder brother would have done. He would have said, `Father, my younger brother has been a fool, and now his life is in ruins. But I will go look for him and bring him home. [Note that this occurs before the younger brother even comes home on his own.] And if the inheritance is gone–as I expect–I’ll bring him back to the family at my expense.’ [Note: he doesn’t leave it to his father’s/government’s expense.]”

This is leadership.  This is the example of a citizenry that handles things.  “Poor, hungry, in need of education?  We’ll help.  We won’t ask government to do it.  We will do it.  Now.  Without waiting, without questions.  Somebody needs help?  Here we are.  Send us.”  Or simply, “Give us your poor, your tired, your struggling masses yearning to be free . . .”

That’s what free people do.  The old liberal argument (“government should use its power and force to fix the problems”) is as bad as the old conservative argument (“it’s their own fault, so too bad for them–let them suffer, or let someone help them, but don’t you dare make me help!”).

But free people act like free people.  They see needs and they go to work helping.  They don’t turn to government (they know that this is a bad use of force) and they don’t ignore the needs (they know that this is selfish and wrong).  Such a society stays free, and if they ever stop being this way they know they will lose their freedoms.  Indeed, they won’t even deserve to be free anymore.

The great question of freedom is, will the people govern or will they politic? Will they lead or snivel? If the first, they will spread freedom; if the second, their freedom will be lost.

Our Job as Citizens

Problems will arise.  A free people handles them, leaving to the government only that which can only be done at the highest levels–like national security and fighting crime.

The problem is that in party politics, everything becomes about government. Liberals want government to fix everything, conservatives want the government to stick to national security, law enforcement, education and projects that benefit one’s own state.  This becomes the ends and means of the whole debate. Meanwhile, who is helping those in need? And who is watching the government to make sure our freedoms remain strong?

Both of these jobs are the roles of the citizenry–not the government–in free nations. But when politics gets involved, we forget and ignore both. When this happens, freedom declines. The solution is simple: as citizens we must stop getting caught up in political issues and give our time to two things: helping those in need, and understanding and maintaining freedom. These are acts of governance, not politics. The one great act of politics we need to do is vote, and elections will be much more simple if the citizens are doing their two great governance roles!

So, let’s test ourselves. Are we deserving of the title of free people, or are we something else? Let’s find out. In your neighborhood:

  • Several poor families need help
  • Immigrants come looking to make a living
  • The environment is being polluted
  • Several minority families can’t afford college for their children

Do you call in the government?  Many liberals and conservatives (along with many socialists and Democrats) would take this path.  It is what the father did in the parable.

In contrast, do you comment on how these people should “get off their butts” and fix their lives, and then do nothing else?  Then, when the government does something, do you throw up your hands in anger and frustration?  Many conservatives and liberals (and many extreme conservatives, libertarians and Republicans) are with you in this choice.

Another option: Do you visit the families, make friends, offer the father a better job or get him an interview with a friend of yours, start a scholarship drive for the college-age kids, get together a service project to clean the polluted areas, etc.?  These are the behaviors of people who deserve freedom.

“But the government won’t let us!” many will argue.  “But if we do the work, they just won’t value it.”  “But I’m too busy supporting my own family.” “But really fixing this would cost way too much.” “It’s their problem–why don’t they do it themselves.” “This really is a job for government, not for regular people.” But, but, but.  These are not the words of the free.  Governments can be negotiated with, projects can be structured to include the scholarship recipients, you can make time for freedom or lose it, concerns can be worked through.  Free people figure out how to do things right and do the right things.

The True Citizen

I once taught a college course on the writings of the American founders, and during the semester we discussed broadly and deeply the proper role of government and the need for limitations on government.  I invited a county sheriff, among others, to speak to the students.  He discussed a number of issues of law enforcement, dealing with people, and local government, then he mentioned that he had just written a grant to buy clothes for kids living in trailer parks.  The problem, he said, was that new kids moved into his cities, but since they were poor and could only afford one pair of pants they usually smelled bad to the “good” kids in school.

As a result, the only kids who would befriend them were those using drugs or excessive tobacco and alcohol.  He was very excited about his grant, which he felt would help the “trailer-park kids” make “better” friends and stay off drugs.

I found myself thinking that the so-called “good” kids weren’t really all that good. By that time my class was harassing the man for using government to solve private problems and wasting the taxpayers’ money.  I listened to their exchange for about twenty minutes.  In truth, the students had a good technical understanding of the founders’ writings. They understood that not everything is best run by government. I was glad to see this.  But I also found myself frustrated that they still didn’t quite get it.

Finally, the sheriff got frustrated himself and asked the class: “Okay, fine, I agree that private solutions would be better than government money.  But how many of you are running a private program that would help these kids? I have seven kids who need a new pair of pants right now, today, and our research shows that this one thing will keep six of them off drugs. I’ve got the pants sizes in the car. Who can help me?”

We sat in the embarrassed silence as hardly anyone volunteered.

The sheriff shook his head in dismay and said nothing. Finally, abashed, one student said aloud, “I’m a student, I don’t have any extra money.” Then, to my amazement, another student said, “It’s just not right for government to use money that way.” Others chimed in, and the debate resumed.

Afterwards, a number of students pitched in their money to help, and this experience left us with lots to discuss in later class periods. But I never forgot how quick we are to be the younger brother, the older brother, or even the father, but how slow we are to be the true elder brother.

On another occasion at a formal event in a state capitol building my wife and I sat with a nationally recognized libertarian leader. We discussed a number of topics, but somehow toward the end of the event this man and my wife got on to the subject of libertarianism versus both conservatism and liberalism. When the man said libertarianism was the only hope for America’s future, my wife told him that she hoped not.

“Why?” he asked.  She told him she thought conservatism, liberalism and libertarianism all had some good features and some real flaws, and that the great flaw in libertarianism is that it not only doesn’t want government to help needy people but that it seems to not want anybody to help them.

The man surprised us by trying to convince us that everybody in need got there themselves and deserves to be there, and that the only right thing to do is to leave them to their struggles. Period.  When my wife gave up appealing to caring and later morality, and made a convincing case for the self-interest of charitable acts, the man angrily pulled out his wallet and said, “Fine. Just name a charity, and I’ll write you a check for it right now!” She immediately named one. He angrily shoved his wallet back into his pocket and stormed out of the room. We just looked at each other.

Certainly not all who consider themselves libertarians or far-Right have this view. But far too many people, whatever they call themselves politically, seem to adopt the ideas of the younger or the older prodigal brothers–when we should all be seeking to become the “true older brother.”

Younger brothers turn to the government, elder brothers angrily complain and bluster. Fathers (governments) take from the rich and give to the poor–after using up the majority of the money on administrative expenses. This is the world of politics. No wonder David Hume was so against political parties, and no wonder the founding generation agreed with him on this.

But “true elder brothers,” those who are free and think like the free, choose differently. They see needs and take action. They wisely think it through and do it the right way. They actually end up solving problems and changing the future for good. They are the true progressives–because they actually improve things. They are the true conservatives, because they conserve freedom, dignity and prosperity.

Conservatives most value responsibility, morality, strength, and national freedom, where liberals most highly prize open-mindedness, kindness, caring, fairness and individual freedom. The thing is, both lists are good. They don’t have to be in conflict. Indeed, both are the heritage we enjoy from past generations of free people who at their best valued and lived all of these together.

If conservatives, extreme conservatives and libertarians would all just be nicer, more caring and open, more tolerant and helpful, American freedom would increase. If liberals and progressives would all work to provide more personal service and voluntary solutions with less government red tape, we would see a lot more positive progress and change.

Freedom works, and we need to use it more. Less politics, more freedom. America needs this. When it is time to vote, we should fulfill this duty. Before and after the voting, we should fulfill the other vitally important roles of free citizens: build our communities and nations, support a strong government that accomplishes what governments should, study and truly understand freedom, keep an eye on government to make sure we maintain our freedoms, and voluntarily and consistently help all those in need.

odemille 133x195 custom Quantity. Quality. Method.

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Oliver DeMille is a co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

He is the co-author of the 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.

 


Category : Blog &Book Reviews &Citizenship &Community &Culture &Family &Liberty &Postmodernism &Statesmanship &Tribes

Book Review: Rascal by Chris Brady

November 1st, 2010 // 2:00 am @

In his modern classic, Rascal: Making a Difference by Becoming an Original Character, bestselling author Chris Brady introduces two groups that are currently leading our nation and world.

Both groups can be found in Wall Street, Main Street, Las Vegas, Silicon Valley, Hollywood and in both of the major parties on Capitol Hill.

Both groups have great impact in the world, but the direction and focus of each group is significantly different. And unfortunately, members of one of these groups are far too rare.

The first group is what Brady calls:

“…the Council of They. They are the thought police, the guardians of political correctness, the masters of conformity, the keepers of the status quo. It is They who struggle to keep life always the way They say it should be, who fight change, who persecute creativity, and hurl criticism at anything that smacks of originality or authenticity.

“They try to say who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out.’ They seem to have so much power that good, creative people leave their lives on the shelf rather than face their wrath. They will try to influence how you live, what you do, whom you should marry, and how you should raise your children. They want control, obedience, and blind acquiescence…

“The only problem is, that herd of people following along in step aren’t going anywhere, and as long as anyone listens to them, he or she won’t go anywhere either.”

Like almost anything in our modern society, it is tempting for Republicans to point to this definition and say that the Council of They is Democrats, and for Democrats to say exactly the same about Republicans.

Many in the media, ironically, would think of the Tea Parties—who are clearly not following the path outlined by the experts.

Perhaps the reason this resonates on both sides of the political debate is that herd thinking has become too widespread across our society.

The second group doesn’t really act like a group, because it is made up of independent individuals who do their own thing.

Indeed, perhaps because of this choice to act according to their own views (not as followers of the herd mentality), Brady calls these people “Rascals.”

“What Rascals do is get out of line. In fact, many Rascals have heard most of their lives that they are out of line in one way or another! Rascals don’t fall for the lure of going along or becoming someone else just to please others. Rascals follow their convictions and confidently head in the direction of their destiny, mindful of their Creator and not of the crowd.

“Non-conformity is not what we are talking about, but rather, authenticity….The first rule of becoming a Rascal is to slay the dragon of They. Rascals, quite frankly, don’t care what They say. Rascals don’t take their cue from the peanut gallery. Rascals are driven by their own sense of purpose and direction.”

Brady rejects the definition of the term “Rascal” as unprincipled or dangerous to society, and instead focuses on people like John Wycliffe, the American founders, Mark Twain, Harriet Tubman and Mother Teresa who see what is needed in the world and go against the norm in order to make the world better.

One of his heroic “rascals” is the freedom-loving Chinese man who stood in front of the tank in the famous video clip from the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

Some of the very most important Rascals in history are regular people who ignore the path of the masses and take action to make a positive difference in society.

For those who want to be such leaders, Brady includes an excellent test to help you find out how much of an independent-minded leader you are.

I highly recommend this book to everyone.

What America Needs

Modern America needs a generation of great leader-citizens. Many great leaders like Gandhi, Andrew Carnegie, Margaret Thatcher, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela and others have done things in ways outside the mainstream—ways that are creative and genuine.

Such people have been called by many names, including Outliers, Pioneers, Explorers, Beagles, Founders, Mavericks, Trailblazers, Disruptive Innovators, and Leaders.

I have referred to them as Statesmen and also Social Leaders. I have written about them, and how to join them in making a real difference, extensively in my books and articles.

Most recently I described the coming impact of their independent thinking on the political future of America in my book FreedomShift.

Centuries ago the great classical economist J.B. Say invented a name for people who go against the norm, change things for good even in the face of societal opposition, and turn unproductive commodities into productive resources for society. He called them Entrepreneurs.

More recently, Jonathan Fields called them “Career Renegades,” people who overcome the widely-promoted fears that unless we follow the “normal” paths outlined by society we’ll end up failing.

In the new post-meltdown economy, success at all levels and walks of society is more and more dependent on being this innovative type of person. In our time, perhaps the best name for such people is “supermen” and “superwomen.”

Whatever we call them, today they lead most small businesses and more of them are found in small business than anywhere else. America needs more of them.

We live in a society in desperate want of leadership from such people. The future of our national prosperity depends on how well they overcome the current challenges to the economy—including government overreach—and apply innovation, initiative, ingenuity, creativity, tenacity, and social leadership in our nation and world.

Such leadership is needed in business, family, neighborhoods, the arts and sciences, society and government. Each of us should consider in what ways we can improve ourselves and provide such leadership.

Our national future may well depend on how effectively we make and implement this choice. And it is time for Washington to decrease regulation, taxes, and get out of the way of the small businesspeople who can rebuild our economy.

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Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

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.

 

Category : Aristocracy &Book Reviews &Entrepreneurship &Leadership &Mission

A Review of Launching a Leadership Revolution by Chris Brady & Orrin Woodward

September 15th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

launchingaleadershiprevolutioncoverAs a fan of leadership books, I try to read everything that comes out in this field.

Unfortunately, reading hundreds of books on the same topic means there is seldom something really new—fresh, exciting, revolutionary that uplifts the entire genre.

The last such surprise for me came several years ago in the writings of Steve Farber. But now, finally, comes another great addition to the leadership genre: Launching a Leadership Revolution by Chris Brady and Orrin Woodward.

Their subtitle, “Mastering the Five Levels of Influence,” sounds like typical management book fare, but it isn’t.

Each level is vital, well-taught and interesting, and together they form a truly revolutionary model for leadership.

This is not exaggeration—this book is excellent! I rank it right along with the best of Drucker, Bennis, Blanchard, Gerber, Collins, Deming, and Farber. It is destined to be a classic.

Brady and Woodward teach that everyone will be called upon for leadership at some point in their life.

They then turn leadership upon its head, noting that while many people seek leadership for the perceived benefits of power, control, or perks, the true life of a leader is actually built upon

“…giving power (empowering)…helping others fix problems…and serving others. Leaders lead for the joy of creating something bigger than themselves.”

This follows Greenleaf’s tradition of servant leadership, but with a twist.

Launching a Leadership Revolution shines because it gets into the specific work of leadership. It outlines many pages of work leaders must do, and explains which work to focus on most.

But the book seldom uses the word “work”, instead preferring the active “working.” Just the list of “working” items for leaders is worth more than the price of the book.

Maybe the best thing about this book is the authors’ ability to take traditional, classic leadership basics and give them new, profound definitions.

For example, the definition of learn goes from the old “a leader is always learning” to “a leader must be able to learn from anyone.”

Imagine the leadership revolution that would occur if top executives and government officials really did seek to learn from everyone!

Another example: The meaning of perform is transformed from “please your boss” or “improve the bottom line” to “persevere through failure to find success.”

This is the best definition of leadership performance I’ve ever read in print. And the book teaches the reader how to do it.

Likewise, the advice to develop others as leaders moves beyond all the clichés to become “learn to trust your people.” It includes fitting them to be truly trustworthy.

That’s what leadership should be– but seldom is even considered.

There are many other examples. This book is a revolution that builds on the best ideas and thinkers of the past by applying them in fresh new ways applicable to the information age.

We learn from case studies such as George Washington, Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin and many others right along with contemporary needs and challenges.

Above all, the book places leadership success squarely on the success of mentoring and gives excellent advice to mentors on how to help people bring out the leadership inside them.

Everyone serious about Leadership Education will want to read this book, and apply the principles to our learning and mentoring.

In truth, great leadership is simply using great influence for great things, and this book can help each of us do this.

In these times of government bailouts and “fixes,” it is important to remember that the American Dream never was a government program. The American Dream was a leadership revolution, where regular people chose leadership and became leaders.

This revolution is still needed today, perhaps more than ever before in history.

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Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

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.

 

Category : Book Reviews &Education &Leadership &Mission

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