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An Old Joke

July 13th, 2011 // 9:01 am @

Just One Wish

A society without adequate entrepreneurship will see little, if any, progress.

Disney’s Aladdin & the Genie

The old Cold War-era joke is told of an American, a Frenchman, and a Russian, lost in the wilderness, who find a lamp and rub it.

Out comes a Genie.

He offers them each one wish, for a total of three.

The American pictures the large ranch owned by the richest people in the valley where he grew up, and wishes for a ranch ten times its size, with flowing streams and meadows full of horses and cattle.

His wish is granted and he is transported home to his new life.

The Frenchman pictures the farm and cattle of the largest estate from his home province, and pictures one just like it.

Again, his wish is granted.

Finally, the Russian pictures the land and herds of the rich family in the steppes where he grew up, and wishes that a drought kill the cattle, dry up the grass, and bankrupt the aristocratic family.

This play on old stereotypes isn’t really very funny, though it brings big laughs with audiences of producers.

They get it.

The Frenchman, thinking like an entrepreneur, wants the good things that life provides, and is willing to go to work to produce them.

The American, who thinks like an entrepreneur and an investor, is willing to go to work also, but wants to see his assets create more value.

The Frenchman wants value, the American plans for value, increased market share and perpetual growth.

In contrast, the stereotypical-punchline “Russian” in this parable can only think of one thing—getting even with those who seem to have more than him.

This is the same as Steve Farber’s lament about the sad state of our modern employee mentality—where “burn your boss” is a slogan of millions of workers who see their employer as the enemy.

Even Washington sometimes likes to join the blame game by pointing fingers at Wall Street, Main Street and everyone in business.

Initiative, vision, effective planning, the wise use of risk, quality execution—all are the contributions of entrepreneurs and investors.

Without them, any society will decline and fall.

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odemille 133x195 custom Egypt, Freedom, & the Cycles of HistoryOliver 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 &Business &Culture &Economics &Entrepreneurship &Mini-Factories &Producers &Prosperity

The American Caste System

July 5th, 2011 // 6:57 am @

The American framers overcame domination by an elite upper class by establishing a new system where every person was treated equally before the law. This led to nearly two centuries of increasing freedoms for all social classes, both genders and all citizens—whatever their race, religion, health, etc.

During the Industrial Age this system changed in at least two major ways.

First, the U.S. commercial code was changed to put limits on who can invest in what. Rather than simply protecting all investors (rich or poor) against fraud or other criminal activity, in the name of “protecting the unsophisticated,” laws were passed that only allow the highest level of the middle class and the upper classes to invest in the investments with the highest returns.

This created a European-style model where only the rich own the most profitable companies and get richer while the middle and lower classes are stuck where they are.

Second, the schools at all levels were reformed to emphasize job training rather than quality leadership education. Today great leadership education is still the staple at many elite private schools, but the middle and lower classes are expected to forego the “luxury” of opportunity-affording, deep leadership education and instead just seek the more “practical” and “relevant” one-size-fits-all job training. This perpetuates the class system.

This is further exacerbated by the reality that public schools in middle class zip-codes typically perform much higher than lower-class neighborhood schools. Private elite schools train most of our future upper class and leaders, middle class public schools train our managerial class and most professionals, and lower-class public schools train our hourly wage workers. Notable exceptions notwithstanding, the rule still is what it is.

Government reinforces the class system by the way it runs public education, and big business supports it through the investment legal code. With these two biggest institutions in society promoting the class divide, lower and middle classes have limited power to change things.

The wooden stake that overcomes the vampire of an inelastic class system is entrepreneurial success. Becoming a producer and successfully creating new value in society helps the entrepreneur surpass the current class-system matrix and also weakens the overall caste system itself.

In short, if America is to turn the Information Age into an era of increased freedom and widespread economic opportunity, we need more producers.

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odemille 133x195 custom Why are We Still in Recession?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 : Aristocracy &Blog &Business &Culture &Economics &Entrepreneurship &Featured &Generations &Liberty &Mini-Factories &Mission &Producers &Prosperity

A Battle Ahead

June 18th, 2011 // 11:16 am @

A review of The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution by Francis Fukuyama

Francis Fukuyama’s recent book is an excellent commentary on the history of politics and the underpinnings of our current political systems. Readers may find things to disagree with in a book that covers so many periods of history, but this well-researched work sparks a lot of deep thinking about important and timely topics.

Three Major Advancements

Ultimately, Fukuyama sees the development of political society from tribal through modern times as the result of three major advancements. The future, he suggests, belongs to societies that maintain and effectively institutionalize all three of these organizational advantages. This view flies in the face of some widespread views, but Fukuyama’s arguments are compelling.

Consider, for example, the following likely characteristics of the decades immediately ahead:

1. The invention of centralized governments which allowed societies to grow beyond families and small tribes

The industrial age created an expectation (especially in the British and American worlds) of “sustained intensive economic growth.” Today we feel entitled to unending economic expansion. Any downturn in the economy is seen as a reason to blame our political leaders. We seem to believe that a high level of consistent economic growth is our birthright.

This is a significant development. Never has a generation in the past held such expectations. No longer are citizens content with the up-and-down economic cycle that has characterized all of history. Whether this new expectation can be maintained remains to be seen, but this is our expectation now, and we’ll continue to punish any government official who doesn’t both promise and deliver sustained economic growth.

If it turns out that constant growth is unrealistic, that there really is a natural economic cycle of ups and downs, we’ll consistently elect and then dump every politician from every party—the voters will never be satisfied. With such feelings of entitlement, we’re destined to be perpetually angry at and disappointed with our government.

Globalization has created a world of independent international elites and locally-dependent middle and lower classes.

“In the days when most wealth was held in the form of land, states could exercise leverage on wealthy elites; today, that wealth can easily flee to offshore bank accounts.”

2. The establishment of “uniform laws that apply to all citizens

This is a world-altering event in human history. The advent of widespread human freedom and prosperity came as a result of uniform laws that applied to all citizens—regardless of status, wealth, race, gender, ability or religion. Globalization trumps all this, allowing a global upper class to operate largely above the law while the masses are required to follow the laws of their local nations.

The economic benefit of being in the upper class under such an arrangement is huge—the gap between rich and poor will drastically increase as this reality grows.

Hardin Tibbs wrote:

“The proportion of people in cities is growing rapidly, and the numbers of people left in the countryside are falling. The sprawling urban megacity—somewhere like Sao Paulo, where you’ve got densely populated shantytowns right next to the enclaves of the super-rich—is a growing phenomenon around the world.” (EnlightenNext, Issue 47, 2011, pp 29-41)

3. The creation of governments which are “accountable to their constituents

Two groups will be the winners in the new system: mostly the mobile global upper class, and secondarily the masses in nations where the government is truly accountable to the people. This will impact nations around the globe, as we are already witnessing in the Arabic world.

For China, this is either good news or really bad news. If China’s government remains unaccountable to the people, its economic and military strength will at some point become a weakness. If, on the other hand, the Chinese government reforms and becomes accountable to the people, China may well become the great superpower many have predicted.

According to Fukuyama, the centralized structure of an authoritarian system can seem to “run rings around a liberal democratic one” for a time, because the leaders face little opposition from checks, balances, or other obstacles to their decisions. But this is a frailty if ever the leaders make bad decisions.

A few bad leaders or choices can bring down such a system very quickly. Societies with effective checks and balances on the centers of power are more resilient and less prone to huge decline in a single generation or even decade.

As for the United States and Europe, they must reverse the decades-old trend of centralizing power away from the people.

In short, we are seeing the rise of a global class system with increasing divisions between the haves and the have-nots. Major characteristics of this new reality include the unrealistic expectation of constant economic growth, a global upper class that is increasingly above the laws of nations, the growth of drastically divided cities, and governments that are widely controlled by the wealthy.

One great battle of the 21st Century will likely be about who controls government, the wealthy class or the people as a whole. As Fukuyama shows, through history the nations where government was accountable to the people ultimately achieved the most social success, freedom and prosperity.

The Origins of Political Order is the first of a two-volume set, and hopefully the second volume will tell us more about how the people can win this coming battle.

As the mathematical cosmologist Brian Swimme wrote: “the universe is not a place, it’s a story…” (EnlightenNext, Issue 47, 2011, pp. 52-63) The same can be said of the 21st Century, and our story will likely hinge on whether government is ultimately accountable to the people or to a small group of elites.

This is an old battle, but this is the first time it is global in scale. The challenges are thus increased and the stakes are high.

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odemille 133x195 custom Egypt, Freedom, & the Cycles of HistoryOliver 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 : Aristocracy &Blog &Book Reviews &Business &Community &Economics &Tribes

The Clash of Two Cultures

April 26th, 2011 // 8:30 am @

America is in the midst of a major clash of two cultures. Most of the rich world, and the developing world as well, are experiencing the same challenge.

This contest is seldom cooperative, often violent, and increasingly heated. It has the passion of the age-old class debate between the rich and the middle classes, the political angst of Republican versus Democrat, or the intensity of Cold War America versus the Soviet Union. It is much more obsessive than raging sports rivalries which so many Americans have experienced.

This conflict is intellectual in nature, though its results are physical, economic and substantive. There have been such intellectual battles before, such as conservatism versus liberalism. But, given human nature, the conservative-progressive debate seldom gained the zeal or ardor of Democratic fights with Republicans. Somehow having professionals who make their living promoting each opposing side drastically intensifies the natural belligerence of skirmishing viewpoints. In fact, it has been intellectual wars that caused the greatest conflicts of history—from strife between religions to capitalism versus communism.

The sides of this new war are conformity and innovation. This may at first sound less hostile than some struggles, but it would be a mistake to underestimate this issue. It is remaking the world as we know it.

Of course, those who support conformity have been around for a long time. And innovation has always been a rowdy, if lucrative, minority movement. Ironically, the leaders of conformity have typically come from the upper classes—nearly all of whose wealth, family legacy, and status was created by one or more ancestral innovator(s). Innovation breeds growth, wealth, success and status. The old parable of the tree house, as told to me by a partner of a major Los Angeles law firm, is applicable: build the tree house, then kick out the ladder so only those you personally select can ever come up.

Of course, the extreme of either side is—as extremes tend to be—worse than the moderate of either. Pure innovation with no regard for the lessons of history is just as bad as dogmatic conformity without openness, toleration or creativity. When I speak here of Innovation I mean a bent toward innovation within the proven rules of happiness and wisdom, and by Conformity I mean a focus on fitting in but with some open-mindedness in times of challenge. Note that even these two moderate styles are almost polar opposites.

Nearly all of our schools have a hidden, compulsory curriculum of training for conformity, and innovative teachers or institutions are pressured to become like the rest or face widespread official rebuke. The classic movie Dead Poet’s Society portrays this well.

Our universities follow this pattern more often than not, as do most institutions in our society. Entrepreneurship, for example, which is the catalyst of nearly all great business growth, is considered “lesser” by most business students and MBA programs. Many great companies were founded and built by individuals whose resumes would not get past the first glance in personnel departments of those same corporations today. And, indeed, the company’s biggest competitors are likely to be led by innovative thinkers and leaders who likewise wouldn’t get a job at the company (too many Ivy League MBA’s to compete with).

A quick read of the bestselling Rich Dad, Poor Dad shows how these two mindsets sometimes present themselves in families. But these two cultures are found at all social levels and in every geographical setting. Blue-collar working fathers are as likely to spout conforming rules as silver-spoon fathers: “This is just how things are; so you better get used to it!” “But, dad…” “Don’t contradict me. The world is what the world is! I’m telling you how things are!”

Such rigid thinking is a symptom of the widespread doctrine of conformity. It rules in many families, communities, businesses, schools, churches, nations, associations—indeed, almost everywhere. It is, in fact, on the throne in nearly every setting and society. It has the benefit of learning from the best lessons of the past, but it seems to chronically ignore the lesson that innovation is both advantageous and desired.

Futurist Alvin Toffler argued that our schools will not be competitive in the world economy unless we replace rote memorization, fitting in, and getting the “right” answer with things like independent thinking, leadership practice, creativity and entrepreneurialism. Several of Harvard’s educational scholars and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have made the same point—repeatedly.

But our schools are run on conformity, and until we promote innovators to educational leadership such changes will be rare. And when we do put innovators in charge, the attacks from entrenched powers are incessant.

Likewise, our economic experts are those who conform to the “accepted” analyses—economists with divergent, and often more accurate, predictions based on innovative models are given little press by the conformist economics, academic and media professions.

I have long suggested that the way to fix American education is to get truly great teachers in more of our classrooms. But innovative teachers often don’t fit in the bureaucratic school systems. Many of the best teachers leave schools simply because they can’t innovate in a conformist system.

An article by Tim Kane in The Atlantic noted:

“Why are so many of the most talented officers now abandoning military life for the private sector? An exclusive survey of West Point graduates shows that it’s not just money. Increasingly, the military is creating a command structure that rewards conformism and ignores merit. As a result, it’s losing its vaunted ability to cultivate entrepreneurs in uniform.”

This seems indicative of our entire culture right now. Conformity is winning far too often. Companies and organizations which elect to encourage the innovative side of the debate are seeing huge success, but this is taking many of the “best and brightest” away from academia, the public sector and the United States to more entrepreneurial-minded environments in private companies and international firms.

In far too many cases, we kill the human spirit with rules of bureaucratic conformity and then lament the lack of creativity, innovation, initiative and growth. We are angry with companies that take their jobs abroad, but refuse to become the kind of employees that would guarantee their stay. We beg our political leaders to fix things, but don’t take initiative to build entrepreneurial solutions that are profitable and impactful.

The future belongs to those who buck these trends. These are the innovators, the entrepreneurs, the creators, what Chris Brady has called the Rascals. We need more of them. Of course, not every innovation works and not every entrepreneur succeeds, but without more of them our society will surely decline. Listening to some politicians in Washington, from both parties, it would appear we are on the verge of a new era of conformity! “Better regulations will fix everything,” they affirm.

The opposite is true. Unless we create and embrace a new era of innovation, we will watch American power decline along with numbers of people employed and the prosperity of our middle and lower classes. So next time your son, daughter, employee or colleague comes to you with an exciting idea or innovation, bite your tongue before you snap them back to conformity.

The future of our freedom and prosperity depends on innovative thinking, and the innovation we need may be in the mind of your fifteen-year-old son or your husband, wife or employee. This battle will ultimately be fought in families, where youth get their fundamental cultural leaning—toward either conformity, seeking popularity and impressing others or, in contrast, creativity, initiative, and innovation.

Thomas Jefferson Education is naturally pointed toward innovation, but it is up to parents, mentors and teachers to implement this leadership skill. I invite all to join this battle, and to join it firmly committed to the side of innovation. Do whatever you can to encourage innovation and be skeptical of rote conformity. That’s a change that could literally change everything.

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odemille 133x195 custom Obamas EconomyOliver 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 &Business &Culture &Education &Family &Government &Independents &Leadership

Obama’s Economy

April 25th, 2011 // 2:09 pm @

For the last two years the story in Washington has been the same: “President Bush got the U.S. into the worst economic downturn since The Great Depression, and the Obama Administration has been hard at work pulling our economy back from the brink of another collapse.” This storyline has provided the background for President Obama’s numerous policy proposals, most notably the huge government stimulus bailouts, the health care law, and a chilly attitude in Washington toward business.

The plotline changed in the November election of 2010, though it took a while for everyone to realize the full significance of this shift. The White House has reluctantly followed the Republican script in refusing to raise taxes so far, and Republican proposals for balancing the budget and dealing effectively with the national debt have fueled rebound plans from leading Democrats—including from the Obama team.

During all this, a major alteration has occurred in the American psyche: Obama, not Bush, now “owns” the economy in the popular mind. If the slow recovery of jobs and growth turns into real recovery, President Obama will get the credit. Republicans will argue that it was their anti-tax-raising and pro-business work that got the economy flourishing again, but only Republicans will listen. Democrats and the majority of independents will see lasting economic recovery as an Obama victory.

If, on the other hand, the economy continues to sputter or dips again, if unemployment stagnates or rises, Obama will get the blame. Most Democrats will likely still see the policies of the Bush era as the problem, and most Republicans will find ways to blame President Obama regardless of what happens, but the majority of independents have moved past blaming Bush.

Right here, right now, as most independents see things, it is up to the Obama Administration to steer the economy in the right direction, and independents will hold him to this responsibility. They won’t blame Bush anymore, and they won’t blame the new Republican majority in the House. If the economy booms, they’ll reward Obama; if it contracts, they’ll blame Obama.

It’s now Obama’s economy. That’s Big Political Trend Number 1. Number 2, to be clear, is that independents now determine presidential elections. Big Political Trend Number 3 is that we are likely to see inflation ravage the economy in the months ahead.[i] In fact, this third trend has the most potential to significantly impact and hurt most Americans. A Fourth Big Trend is that China is losing faith in the U.S. dollar and is looking to diversify its portfolio—meaning that it will likely stop buying as many U.S. bonds as it has and this will drastically hurt our economy.[ii] All of this is exacerbated by rising oil prices and the downgrading of the S&P rating of U.S. securities from Stable to Negative.

This doesn’t mean that a down economy will necessarily drive Obama out of office, however. Such an outcome will depend on who the Republicans nominate for the presidency. When the general election arrives in November 2012, most Democrats will probably vote for Barack Obama and most Republicans will likely vote for the Republican candidate. Independents will vote for…well…it depends.

If the Republican nominee is mainly a social conservative, most independents may well vote for Obama regardless of how the economy is doing. Since many of the Republicans who left the party to become independents in the last decade are most interested in economic issues, the relative strength of the social conservatives in the GOP has grown and social conservatives may emphasize social issues in the primaries and at the national convention. The Democratic Party faces its own challenges due to losses to independents, but it is almost sure to nominate President Obama. In short, it is not unlikely that Republican Party loyalists will appoint a presidential nominee who won’t appeal to most independent voters.

If, on the other hand, Republicans nominate an economic powerhouse who appeals to independent views on economic issues and can compete with Barack Obama on the tricky ground sometimes referred to as “the leadership thing,” the election of 2012 could be a close race. A Republican could win, or President Obama could win.

It is unclear if any of the current Republican field could be such a powerhouse. There are several Republicans who might make the case to independents for leadership and economic wisdom, and let’s not forget that someone new could arise—at this point in the last presidential election cycle most people in America had never heard of Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton was expected to be the obvious Democratic candidate. To date, however, no potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate has caught on with independents—or seems poised to do so.

Regardless of what Republicans do, or don’t do—in the various policy debates of 2011 and 2012 and also in the 2012 election—a bad economy will probably convince most independents to lean away from voting for Obama. But only if the right kind of Republican is in the race. The larger point in all of this, a point which many Democrats and Republicans haven’t yet noticed, is that even in a bad economy most independents would still vote for Barack Obama over, say,  Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush or George W. Bush.

Obama has lessened the gap between himself and Bush by basically following the Bush agenda in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo. He has failed to implement his various campaign promises about these areas and he has significantly increased the number of troops in Afghanistan. “Bush or Obama? What’s the difference?” many are wondering.

In domestic policy, the differences are glaring—if you are a Republican or Democrat. Bush supported business and the free market, some conservatives argue, while liberals point out that Obama has significantly helped the most vulnerable and weak among us. Independents, however, are underwhelmed by either argument. In their view, Bush gave lip service to the free market while drastically increasing government spending above President Clinton’s levels, and all of Obama’s rhetoric about helping the “little guy” has led to more government spending on programs that arguably have done little to actually help the needy or anyone else. Both administrations, as seen from the independent view, have done much harm to our economy and nation.

The stimulus package and health care law are unpopular among independents, but not as unpopular as the corruption of Bush’s administration (from various “witch hunts” and investigations of political opponents to no WMDs in Iraq). Obama talks like a liberal, spends like a liberal, and leads like a liberal, according to the independent perspective, but Bush spoke like a conservative and then led and spent like a liberal. Independents are thus understandably skeptical of Republican candidates promising to be fiscally responsible. “At least with Obama, we know what to expect,” is a common independent refrain. A Republican nominee will have to convince independents that he or she will exhibit truly great leadership and economic wisdom, while President Obama  must simply convince independents that the Republican candidate won’t do any better than a second-term Obama.

The common political wisdom is that with a bad economy the sitting president suffers in a national election. In 2012, a bad economy will be seen as “Obama’s bad economy.” But unless Republicans nominate a presidential candidate who can appeal widely to independents on both economic and leadership issues (especially in the battleground states), “Obama’s economy” will likely last until 2016.


[i] See, for example, “Let Them Eat iPads,” by Ken Kurson, Esquire, May 2011

[ii] See The Chris Matthews Show, April 24, 2011

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odemille 133x195 custom The Freud DoctrineOliver 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 &Business &Current Events &Economics &Independents &Leadership &Politics

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