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Quantity. Quality. Method.

April 12th, 2011 // 6:45 am @

How much?

How well?


These three aspects of success in any endeavor can teach us a lot about government, freedom and prosperity. Most importantly, they can teach us about government for freedom—since most governments in history have had different goals than liberty.

Good government—which maintains freedom and opportunity for all citizens—must meet the tests of quantity, quality and method. We naturally use all three in governmental analysis, often without noticing it. For example, terms such as democracy, aristocracy and monarchy emphasize the quantity of leaders—many, few or one. In contrast, we emphasize the method of governance in terms like communist, capitalist, commercial, and limited governments—these all describe the process which drives their respective societies. Words such as oligarchy, confederation, socialist, mercantile, militarist, federal, national and empire deal with the qualities of a nation’s governance, the attributes that make it what it is.

Quality, quantity and method are different ways to analyze any governmental institution, power, program or proposal. All three are important. Before we tackle how this applies to government, let’s learn a little about these three perspectives using a few examples. In the Great Books, for example, the discussion of quality centers on primary versus secondary qualities: attributes that cannot be separated from a thing are primary qualities, while attributes that can be changed without changing the thing—like color, taste, number or temperature, etc.—are secondary.

As for quantity, a big debate through written history has been the question of why mathematics doesn’t directly apply to the real world. Engineers, inventors and others who use math in the real world have to calculate for various non-mathematical realities in order to apply math to real things. This has caused many arguments among the great thinkers, from Aristotle to Buckminster Fuller. Newton invented calculus in order to bridge the gap between the mathematical and physical universes.

Perhaps the most interesting point about all this is that the discussion of method, as opposed to quality and quantity, runs through the Great Books and great conversation of history at nearly every turn. Almost every topic covered by the great thinkers and leaders from ancient, medieval and early modern (1800s) times deals extensively with competing ideas of method. Amazingly, this significantly slows in modern times, especially after 1900. Somehow the general acceptance of scientific experts as the true authorities on almost everything caused, or at least coincided with, a reduction of the common people asking questions about method.

Consider some examples that most moderns have experienced. Let’s say you decide to lose weight or get in shape. One diet approach, the most frequent in the United States, is to focus on “how much” food you eat. The formula is simple: Cut Calories + Exercise More = Lose Weight. This view attempts to change your body by decreasing how much food you eat and increasing the amount of exercise you get. Quantity is the focus.

Another viewpoint emphasizes the quality of what you eat (e.g. no sweets or fats, more raw vegetables, fewer carbohydrates, etc.). This perspective holds that if you eat the right kinds of foods and cut out the “bad” foods you’ll get your desired result. Likewise, it suggests effective exercise, like certain weight-training routines, interval cardio workouts, or changing your exercise to keep your body constantly adapting. The emphasis here is on “how well” you eat or exercise rather than how much.

A combined perspective emphasizes both how much and how well you eat, exercise, study, sell or whatever you are trying to do. Most modern “how to” literature combines these, and there are many thousands of management, sales, health and other books and programs in many fields of life.

Only a few programs exist from the third perspective: method. This viewpoint cares less about “how much” or “how well” than about “how”. For example, it might recommend eating whatever you want, as much as you want, but chewing each bite 20 times and fully enjoying each mouthful. The fact that those who do this tend to eat a lot less (you get full with less food) and better food (when you really taste them, many junk foods lose their appeal), isn’t the point. The focus is on process or method. Again, this is less common than the quality and quantity approaches.

Another example is provided by college sports. One team might focus on getting the most fans (quantity), and consider this the measure of a successful sports program. More fans often means more money for the school, more donations, better community relations, and so on. Another school might emphasize getting the best, most talented, coaches and players (quality). A third might focus on the process of great practices, training, conditioning and preparation—trusting that doing the right things will bring the desired outcomes (method).

The most successful programs—like the most effective sales techniques, educational systems, and governments, etc.—will encourage all three: quantity, quality and method. If a team becomes the best recruiter in the nation but puts very little work into conditioning or practice, it will likely not win very often. On the other extreme, teams which ignore recruiting probably won’t flourish either. All three perspectives are needed.

Two more quick examples: Imagine a school or church which focuses only on numbers without regard to knowledge or truth, or exclusively on truth while refusing to share it with anyone. Few modern institutions seem to focus on greatness—on the methods and processes of, say, being a great student, a great teacher, or a great believer. The scientific method lends itself to experts, and it seems that in the wake of accepting this reality our society has decided to leave most issues of method to the specialists.

There are many examples of all three perspectives in business, science, art and beyond, and method remains a small minority in most fields. Quality and quantity rule the day. As stated above, this is the opposite of nearly all recorded history.

Let’s consider how these concepts apply to government. One way to measure the effectiveness of a government is how big or small it is (quantity). If it is too small, it is naturally weak, and it if it is too big it is naturally tyrannical—so argue the authors of The Federalist. A second viewpoint asks how “good” our leaders are, or how “effective” a government program is (quality). Both of these are legitimate ways to analyze our government.

A third perspective is to analyze government by process (method). For example, does it have a written constitution? Does this constitution separate the legislative, executive and judicial powers in a way that all three are independent, generally equal with each other in power, and effectively checked and balanced? Does this constitution separate (or fit into a separation of) national, provincial and more local governments—with most sovereign powers left to the lower governments and the people? Was this constitution ratified by the people? Do the regular people deeply understand this constitution today? Does the government always follow the constitution?

Any nation that does not follow these methods will not long maintain widespread freedom or prosperity. Free citizens who expect to remain free must carefully analyze and lead their government utilizing all three of these perspectives.
Unfortunately, nearly all current discussion of government centers around one thing—debates about the quality of our elected leaders and the effectiveness (or not) of various government programs. The quantity and method questions are seldom mentioned by anyone.

There are many examples of how this drastically impacts our freedom and prosperity. Consider taxes. Following the modern trend, most current debate about taxes centers on quantity (e.g. How much is too much?, How can government tax the people more?, or, Don’t we need to raise taxes to pay down our deficit?) or quality (e.g. Should we tax the wealthy or everyone equally?, or, Are income, sales or other kinds of taxes best?).

In contrast, the American founding generation used a method approach to taxes: Many kinds (quality) and levels (quantity) of taxes were constitutional, but the federal government could only assess taxes from the state governments—never from individuals or households. When we changed the method, we saw the rise of government that is too big, too inefficient and increasingly out of control.

This same argument (that we are mostly ignoring the method approach to government and that all three approaches are important) can be applied to many of our most pressing current issues, from education or health care to energy policy, immigration, fiscal and monetary decisions, the national debt and deficits, etc.

Quality government matters, certainly, but the quantity and method questions (especially method) are ultimately more important to the freedom and prosperity of the people. If the regular people want to remain free, they must understand and act on this.


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 &Citizenship &Constitution &Culture &Economics &Education &Entrepreneurship &Government &Politics

What type of government does America have today?

March 26th, 2011 // 10:17 am @

“It’s a Republic; if you can keep it…”

Property Rights

  • Free democracies protect the property of all.
  • Socialist nations protect the property of none.
  • Monarchies consider all property the estate of the king.
  • Aristocracies have one set of property and investment laws for the very rich and a different one for the rest.*


  • Free democracies assess tax money fairly from all the people to cover vital, limited government roles.
  • Socialist societies take money from the rich and redistribute it to the poor.
  • Dictatorial monarchies take money from everyone and give it to the dictator.
  • Aristocracies take money from the middle and lower classes and give it to rich bankers, owners of big companies (“too big to fail”), and other powerful and wealthy special interests in bailouts and government contracts.*


  • In free democracies it is legal for the people to withhold information from the government (e.g. U.S. Fifth Amendment, right to remain silent, etc.) but illegal for the government to withhold information from or lie to the people.
  • In socialist societies, dictatorial monarchies, and aristocracies, it is legal for the government and government agents to lie to the people but illegal for the people to lie to the same government agents.*


  • In free democracies, the measure of success and the popular goal of the people is to be good and positively contribute to society.
  • In socialist societies, the measure of success and the popular goal of the people is to become government officials and receive the perks of office.
  • In dictatorial monarchies, the measure of success and the popular goal of the people is to please the monarch.
  • In aristocratic societies, the measure of success and the popular goal of the people is to obtain wealth and/or celebrity.*

Right to Bear Arms

  • In free democracies all the people hold the right to bear arms.
  • In socialist nations and monarchies, only government officials are allowed to have weapons.
  • In aristocratic societies only the wealthy and government officials are allowed to have many kinds of weapons.*


  • Free democracies open their borders to all, especially immigrants in great need.
  • Socialist and dictatorial monarchies build fences to keep people in.
  • Aristocracies build fences to keep people out, especially immigrants in great need.*
*The current United States

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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 &Citizenship &Constitution &Culture &Economics &Foreign Affairs &Government &History &Liberty

A No-Party System

February 10th, 2011 // 4:33 pm @

Paine versus Burke

It is popular to describe the differences between two big divisions of each major political party.

For example, Democrats are sometimes called cluster liberals (who “view politics as a battle between implacable opponents”) versus network liberals (who “believe progress is achieved by leaders savvy enough to build coalitions,” even with the other party).

The two main types of Republicans are usually portrayed as fiscal versus social conservatives.

The divide may actually be more simple, according to a recent article by Yuval Levin (“Burke, Paine and the Great Law of Change” in The Point Magazine).

The roots of the two great American types of liberalism, says Levin, are found in the debates between Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine.

In truth, Americans aren’t really conservatives at all: “Conservative” means to remain the same, and since the American founding (indeed since the Pilgrims and others left the old countries) nearly all Americans have rejected the conservative royal model of Europe’s past. Nearly all Americans believe in progress and in changing government to meet new challenges.

In contrast to the European definition of “conservative,” American conservatism has come to mean holding on to old values, lessons and institutions — which is the Burke side of the 1790s debate. Burke said society was best served by an incremental approach to building on the best lessons of the past.

Paine believed, on the other hand, that every generation should reevaluate the current government and society and use reason to change whatever it thinks might improve things.

Paine view was that we

“…should not be bound by the past, but should choose anew society’s design…Burke thought Paine put too much stock in reason. Do not wise men disagree?”

Burke put his faith in the wisdom and institutions of the past, and warned that ignoring past lessons would cause many problems. He felt that too much faith in man’s reason alone would lead to party conflicts, waste and many failed government projects.

Paine was more concerned that dogmatic attachment to outdated traditions would keep society from progressing.

Modern Americans — liberal and conservative — nearly all want to make changes and see things improve. The interesting thing is that most network liberals and fiscal conservatives are followers of Burke while the majority of cluster liberals support Paine’s view.

This is further confused because many social conservatives are a mixed bag — they adopt Burke on issues like abortion and family values and Paine on issues from immigration to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sides Versus Fusion

Confused yet? Many people are. But this is more than just an indication of how much the American political landscape has changed since 1989. Independents, the true majority now, are fans of both Burke and Paine.

They believe in keeping the best of the past and also in making commonsense changes when needed.

As long as independents are the majority (and it appears this will be for a long time), the future of conservatism is liberal (meaning a constant push for change in Washington) and the future of liberalism is controlled by independents.

The far left and right can shout as loudly as they want, but the future of America belongs to those who believe in the best of the past (like the U.S. Constitution) and making changes to improve society in each generation. Like it or hate it, this is the reality now.

In a sense, though, this is a return to the American way. George Washington embodied both views: Burke and Paine, attachment to the old lessons and changes to improve things.

After Washington, electors traded back and forth between presidents who emphasized Burke’s views and those who preferred Paine’s ideals. The modern two-party system consistently pits these two worldviews against each other.

Third Party Versus No Party

It remains to be seen what a return to the combination of both views by a majority of the populace — the independents — will bring. Many wonder if a third party is ahead.

But, perhaps, the rise of independents will resurrect support for another model popular in the founding era: A non-party federal government where independent voters elect the best people to office without the circus of political parties.

For those who say this can’t happen, remember how small and impotent independents were just three decades ago. The one constant in political history is change, and the one thing we can count on for sure is that many things will occur which the experts have deemed impossible.

Santayana said that unless we learn from the mistakes of history we are doomed to repeat them, and both Paine and Burke knew that difficult things are possible. America was built on the belief that hard advances are, in fact, likely.

On a technical level, a true third party could create the same thing as a no-party model — at least in presidential politics.

Since the president must be elected by a majority (e.g. 51 percent), not just a plurality (say the highest vote, but only 42 percent) of the electoral college, having three truly popular party candidates (all with their own electoral college representatives) would usually put elections in the hands of independent voters.

At some point, independents may decide that being forced to choose between the two big parties just isn’t getting the job done.

In the meantime, independent support is there for the taking by any president who is willing to re-emphasize the Constitution, fiscal responsibility, social justice and other best lessons of the past along with exerting the leadership to do big things that require change and deeply matter.

America is greatly in need of a truly shared and great purpose, and citizens of all major viewpoints will naturally rally to such leadership when/if it comes.


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 : Constitution &Current Events &Government &History &Politics

The Age of Overseers: Technology, Politics, & the Future

December 27th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

The rise of independents in American politics is a major trend that has drastically changed the political landscape.

But why is it happening now? Are both major parties so bad now — indeed so much worse than they have ever been — that the majority of involved citizens just can’t stand them anymore?

Actually, the parties have always had their struggles, and many people have wanted alternatives over the years.

But something is different now. Technology has drastically altered the way people interact with and through media, and this has made all the difference.

The views of independents are far from monolithic; independents include people from many political perspectives.

It’s interesting to wonder how many voters would have been independents over the decades if they had enjoyed the technology we do today.

Perhaps we can gain a little insight by understanding some of the major competing political perspectives. Though the party system tended to divide people into Democrats and Republicans, the reality was much more byzantine.

There are at least nine major historical types of conservatives and 11 types of liberals, though most of these were either Democrats or Republicans during the modern era of politics since 1945.

Understanding a little about each of these makes it clear that there have been many American citizens with independent leanings for a long time.

Twenty Parties?

Every American will likely see the world differently upon realizing the diversity of American political thought that has helped shape our current political landscape. Just consider the following liberal views:

  • Hobbesian Liberals have promoted a centralized world government for several centuries, and have used national policy to move toward this goal.
  • Lockeian Liberals continually promote the philosophy that the old system obviously hasn’t worked, so we need to keep trying something new. Until we get a truly ideal society, without major problems, we need to keep seeking new answers.
  • Rousseauian Liberals mistrust the power of the state, church and big business (the aristocracy), and emphasize the need to keep an eye on anyone in power and keep them in check.
  • Benthian Liberals believe the primary purpose of government is to help the poor, and anything else is a distraction.
  • Marxian Liberals see the state, church and business as the enemies of the masses, and want a party (vanguard) which truly stands for the people and uses its power to keep the “haves” from hurting (and withholding prosperity from) the “have-nots.”
  • Keynesian Liberals want to use the state and big business together to help the poor.
  • Social Liberals are deeply concerned with maintaining personal freedoms, especially the rights to choose one’s own personal morals — free from enforced societal or institutional dogmas and traditions.
  • Fiscal Liberals believe in using government to redistribute wealth to care for all social needs.
  • Civil Libertarians want government to aggressively protect everyone’s civil rights.
  • Single-Issue Liberals support a given issue (such as feminism, environmentalism, minority rights, etc.) that has traditionally been supported by liberal politicians and officials.
  • Blue Collar Liberals 1.) believe in the U.S. Constitution and the rights and freedoms it guarantees, 2.) want government to provide effective national defense and good schools, 3.) resent the centralization of power in Washington, 4.) are against communism (1947-2001)/terrorism (after 2001), 5.) believe in private property, equality before the law, the importance of family, and 6.) want fairness and common-sense solutions to problems.

Now, compare various types of conservative perspectives:

  • Machiavellian Conservatives care about power, want to win and want to always stay in power.
  • Puritanical Conservatives seek to use government power to regulate and enforce a strict moral code (the various factions passionately disagree about the specifics of such a code).
  • Southern Conservatives strongly emphasize states’ rights and the need to return to an agrarian rather than industrial society. (Of course, there are “southerners who are conservatives” but not part of this philosophy.)
  • Humane Conservatives believe in breaking society into units small enough that everyone knows each other, and making this the basic level of government. Sometimes these are known as “Humane Liberals.”
  • Social Conservatives argue that morals are more important than armies and laws, and that given America’s current moral decay we can expect major national decline unless we (voluntarily, as a people) change our behaviors.
  • Fiscal Conservatives promote balanced budgets, a minimum of debt, only spending what you have, and limiting government to its basic roles in order to leave more money in the free market.
  • Neo-Conservatives promote strong national security through robust American leadership (critics call it intervention) in the international arena.
  • Compassionate Conservatives believe in limited government and that one of the basic roles of government is aiding those in need.
  • Popular Conservatives believe in the same 6 points as Blue Collar Liberals (see above).

There are, of course, other views, including anti-government libertarians on the far right who want no government at all or at least a very limited government, and Rousseauian Unionists on the radical left who suggest using labor unions to fight government, business, church and all other powerful institutions at the same time.

But these 20 views are the major perspectives which have influenced modern American politics.

Melting Pots

At first blush, it might seem that independents would naturally represent some of the minor groups on the list, but this isn’t usually the case. Most independents agree with ideas from several, or many, of these 20 viewpoints, and also disagree with a lot of these ideas.

For example, I personally agree with the following:

  • Big institutions should be closely watched by citizens and kept in check;
  • Dogmatic religious traditions should not be forced upon citizens by government;
  • Government should not curtail the right of individuals to believe and worship as they choose;
  • Positive contributions from religion and morality are a great benefit to society;
  • Government should help the poor and needy — but almost solely at local levels where voluntarism and private-public community solutions can take common-sense action;
  • The protection of individual rights should be closely guarded and maintained;
  • Minorities and women should have equal rights with all citizens and special rules should ensure this where such rights have been curtailed in the past;
  • We should take care of the environment in a smart and commonsensical way with proper action from both government and business;
  • We should more closely follow the 10th Amendment and return more power to the states;
  • Morals greatly matter to national success;
  • We should balance our budget and spend only within our means;
  • The federal government should do better what it is designed to do under the Constitution (especially national defense) and leave the rest to the states and private citizens and markets;
  • We should all voluntarily do more to help the needy and improve the welfare in our communities. (Of course, the specific details would depend on the situation. Nuance is everything in politics, governance and policy.)

In short, I’m an independent. Of course, many independents would construct this list differently, which is why so many of us prefer to be independents. But we do share some major views.

Specifically, the six points held in common by blue-collar liberals and popular conservatives are accepted by many independents. Again, these six values are:

  1. Belief in the U.S. Constitution and the rights and freedoms it guarantees;
  2. Want the government to provide effective national defense and good schools;
  3. Resent the centralizing of power in Washington;
  4. Against communism/terrorism;
  5. Belief in private property, equality before the law, and the importance of family;
  6. Want fairness and common-sense solutions to problems;

It seems obvious to me that many Americans have held independent views like these for a very long time.

As long as our political news only came through a few big media outlets and our political choices were limited to those supported by two parties, people from many political views found themselves forced to work within one of the parties or have no influence in the political process.

Today, given the explosion of news outlets at the same time as the proliferation of the Internet, individuals are able to gather information from various sources and then make their viewpoints heard. It is a new world for freedom, and the growth of independents may just be the start of the trend.

Indeed, the prime directive of future dictators may well need to be to censor, regulate or shut down the Internet within their nation.

Surveillance State or Wise Citizens?

The danger is that many of today’s citizens will only interact with people who agree with them on almost everything. This is a serious and persistent problem.

Still, independents are leading in fighting this trend — searching out ideas, concepts and proposals from many sources and passing them on with comments, concerns and ideas for improvement.

This is an exciting development in American, and world, politics. And it has the potential to become a major movement toward freedom.

In all of history, real freedom only occurs where the general citizenry takes its role as overseers of government seriously.

In the era of books and newspapers, such citizen-statesmanship was the norm in America. Then came the television age, where the general citizenry tuned in to “experts” who told them much of what they thought about. Not surprisingly, this coincided with the rise of the secretive, massive and bureaucratic government.

Today we are at a crossroads. The technology is available for two great options: The massive surveillance state, or the renewed freedom of a deeply-involved citizenry thinking independently and holding the government to the highest standards.

We are entering “the Age of Overseers,” but it is still unclear who the overseers will be.

Either we will be overseen by a technologically-advanced “big brother” government with capabilities well beyond the wildest imaginations of Orwell or Huxley, or we will become a nation of people who oversee the government at the levels envisioned and initiated by the founding fathers.

Either way, technology has raised the stakes.


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 : Constitution &Current Events &Government &History &Liberty &Politics &Statesmanship

America’s New Grand Strategy

November 23rd, 2010 // 4:00 am @

The United States is currently experiencing a Grand Strategy Crisis — and the most powerful nation in the world since the Roman Empire better get it right.

Such a crisis typically comes along once a generation, when the nation drops its old grand strategy and selects a new one.

Unfortunately, this significant change, which has happened three times in U.S. history and will likely occur again in the next two decades, is hardly noticed by the large majority of the people.

It affects them in many ways, but most people don’t know about it until it’s too late to change.

For those who lead a nation, the grand strategy is more than a set of guidelines or even a list of goals or objectives.

The grand strategy is a vision of where a nation wants to go, of what it seeks to accomplish in the world — a vision shared by its decision-making elite.

A grand strategy is the guiding principle for foreign policy and nearly all international relations for a nation.

“How” to achieve the grand strategy is a subject of ongoing debate among the elites in any free nation, but “what” the strategy should be is only considered on those rare occasions when a nation decides to drastically shift gears.

In such times, big changes occur. In the United States we have shifted grand strategies three times:

  1. between 1776 and 1796, from the Revolutionary War through the ratification of the Constitution;
  2. between 1856 and 1876, from the rise of Lincoln through the Civil War and into Reconstruction;
  3. and again from 1929 to 1949 during the Great Depression and World War II.

Past Grand Strategies

In each case, once a grand strategy was adopted, national leaders pursued it until world events required significant changes.

The American Founding generation rejected the Royalist grand strategy of increasing the power, wealth and empire of the Crown, and instead adopted a grand strategy of Constitutionalism, also known as Republicanism or Manifest Destiny.

This grand strategy held two major themes: First, the founders expected the United States to expand naturally and spread the new American system of free, limited, representative government from the Atlantic states all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

Secondly, through example, they wanted the nations of the world to see the success of this free model and embrace it.

This grand strategy was not always implemented perfectly, but it guided American policy.

After the Civil War, U.S. leaders adopted a strategy of Nationalism: the focus shifted to increasing American national strength and status in the world.

Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt were among those who helped pursue this strategic vision.

“America must take its place as a leader of nations,” became the sometimes spoken but always central focus of the U.S. policy elite.

At the end of two devastating world wars and a bleak depression, U.S. decision makers again adopted a new grand strategy — Internationalism.

The focus of this grand strategy was simple: use international organizations, treaties, international diplomacy, conferences and cooperative arrangements to make the world safe for democracy and capitalism.

The idea was to contain communism, keep it from spreading, and simultaneously support the spread of democracy and capitalism as far and wide as possible.

Hopefully, if the strategy worked, communism would not only stop growing but its support around the world would begin to diminish, to be replaced by democratic-capitalism.

In short, the foreign policy history of the United States might be summed up as Constitutionalism, then Nationalism, and finally Internationalism.

Internationalism became woefully outdated in the early 1990s — and the world found out just how outdated on September 11, 2001.

Proposed Grand Strategies

Amazingly, however, few have engaged the current vital discussion about America’s new 21st Century grand strategy.

This is partly because the grand strategy is considered and chosen by the intelligentsia — the average American doesn’t even know what the phrase means.

Another reason the grand strategy is little discussed now is that the electronic media has made any controversial policy a point of major political, partisan and societal conflict.

Few politicians today want to engage the firestorm of announcing a new grand American direction. Still, more of us need to be involved in the conversations that are occurring.

At least five proposals, some explicit and others more informal, have been made which purport to be new grand strategy proposals, but three of them are more tactical than strategic.

First, though it was informally introduced as a strategy, George Bush may have been outlining a grand strategy change in his “Axis of Evil” speech.

Certainly the full eradication of terror is a change in tactics, but to what end? What is the goal of the ongoing war on terror?

If it is to make the world safe for democracy and the spread of capitalism, it is a new tactic for the old strategy of Internationalism.

Besides, to truly end terrorism would require using U.S. might to restructure and redirect the leading terrorist-funding and supporting states in the world, including possibly Saudi Arabia and nuclear powers China and Russia.

Nothing in the “Axis of Evil” speech or since seems to advocate such a strategy. Just beating up on the smallest terrorist states, as much as they may deserve it, leaves terrorism healthy and growing.

Unless the Axis of Evil includes China, Saudi Arabia, former states of the USSR Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and over 20 other nations, a few attacks on weak opponents hardly amounts to a moving, visionary national grand strategy.

And in any case, the Obama Administration has shown little inclination to continue this overarching policy.

A second proposal was outlined by Ambassador Mark Palmer in his book Breaking the Real Axis of Evil (affiliate link). Ambassador Palmer goes well beyond the Bush Administration and suggests that America adopt as its national purpose the ousting of all dictators in the world by 2025.

He argues that dictatorship is the true evil in the world, and that democratic nations led by the United States and its President should strategize and implement a plan to get rid of all dictators everywhere.

He even lists the dictators by name, and gives a suggested tactical approach to ousting each — some peacefully, others by sanction and pressure, still others by force.

This proposal is not really a new strategy, but simply the tactical application of Cold-War Internationalism to a different enemy — dictators instead of communists.

A third strategy was suggested by former Secretary of State Colin Powell. He called it a “Strategy of Partnerships” and argued that the world should be kept basically the same as it is — the U.S. at the head with its allies, intervening “decisively to prevent regional conflicts,” and embracing Russia, China, and other powers in a world that increasingly adopts American values.

This would be accomplished by partnerships which put “us at odds with terrorists, tyrants, and others who wish us ill” and to whom “we will give no quarter.” At the same time, we will be “partners with all those who cherish freedom, human dignity, and peace.”

Powell’s “Foreign Affairs” article, published in January of 2004, leaves some glaring questions. The whole point of Internationalism was to encourage partnerships with those seeking freedom and peace.

But Powell said nothing about what the partnership would do, what their goals would be, except the same old Internationalism that we’ve been pursuing since 1945.

Powell’s argument, while claiming to explain the Bush strategy, was actually less of a change than Bush’s “Axis of Evil” or Palmer’s proposal to rid the world of dictators.

All three proposals have pros and cons. But none of them really proposed a new grand strategy for the United States—something at the level of change from Royalism to Constitutionalism, Constitutionalism to Nationalism, or Nationalism to Internationalism.

These first three proposals just redirect, rekindle and rehash (respectively) the grand strategy we’ve followed for 50 years — Internationalism.

Problems with Grand “Tactics”

Generals lose when they fail to learn the lessons of past wars; generals also lose when they attempt to fight new wars with old strategies. This adage applies even more to statesmen.

To put this in context, each time a new grand strategy was needed in American history, many of the leading members of the establishment held on to the past strategy, just as the Clinton and Bush Administrations still pursued the status quo — an international world where the U.S. is top dog and capitalism keeps spreading new markets for U.S. companies.

The bad news is that no nation in history has ever maintained the status quo, even though big powers like Egypt, Babylon, Greece, Rome, France, Spain and Britain all tried.

Nations become top powers by seeking either to change or to obtain something — not by trying to keep things the same.

Big powers only stay big powers when they remake themselves, when they adopt a new grand strategy as needed like Rome and later Britain did.

The U.S. has remade its strategy three times, and all of them came from dealing with the big challenges, not the minor nations.

Bush’s “Axis of Evil,” while there is some truth to its argument, doesn’t take nearly as much courage, grit or will as Reagan’s “evil empire,” FDR’s choice to beat Hitler, Wilson’s “world safe for democracy,” Lincoln’s decision to prove out the founder’s experiment with blood, or the Washington generation’s “lives, fortunes and sacred honor.”

In short, statesmen are needed in the next decade to formulate and implement a grand strategy which requires virtue, wisdom, diplomacy and courage at Churchillesque, Ghandi-like and Jeffersonian proportions.


Two other proposals are more strategic, offering a truly new view of America’s future. Whether or not you like either of these strategies (and many people don’t) they are certainly a new take on things rather than the mere tactical changes of the first three proposals.

A fourth proposed new grand strategy came with the re-entry of Gary Hart into the elite dialogue. He suggested that the best way for America to impact the world, and to remain both free and prosperous, is for the United States to focus on its most primary foundation: being good and promoting the great ideals.

This argument has a long history among Democratic politicians, including perhaps most notably Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, but it hasn’t led the conversation for Democratic presidential candidates since Carter. And among recent Republican presidential nominees only Reagan pushed this theme.

In some ways, this idea rekindles a thesis pushed by the American founding era. If we are a great example of freedom, prosperity and success at home, other nations will want to learn from our model — history shows that this is so.

As they do, the paradigms of freedom, justice, checks and balances and other constitutional ideals, and a sense of unity and liberty will spread.

Simultaneously, our own nation will — by focusing on the basics that truly work — increase our levels of freedom, prosperity, opportunity and wise leadership. We benefit, and so does the world.

Hart is adamant, and I agree with him, that without a refocus on the intangibles that make freedom work — the great ideals of true liberty and justice for all — America will not continue to lead the world because it won’t really deserve to lead.

This is a grand strategy indeed: Make the hard and vital changes to America that would make it truly the best it has ever been. The rest will naturally occur.

Of course, this is not a simple process, but neither is any grand strategy. Some will agree and disagree, as I do, with certain specifics in Hart’s ideas, but as a grand strategy this one has real merit.


A fifth, albeit informal, possible grand strategy seems to be gaining momentum in the Obama Administration. Such a strategy might be called the Atlantic strategy, because it entails making the United States more like the nations of the European Union.

Unlike NATO, which was built on the idea of American leadership with the U.S. and its allies guiding the world, the Atlantic strategy assumes that the parliamentary social-democracy system of Western Europe, especially France and Germany, is the model the United States and other allies of the EU should adopt.

In this view, our courts should build a common body of precedent with Europe and Canada, the focus should be on human rights rather than inalienable rights, and our constitution and institutions should evolve to be less rigidly separated, checked and balanced and more and more like the nations of Europe.

On economic matters, the government would abandon a free enterprise posture and become much more involved in regulating, running and owning businesses. Washington would adopt and run a nationwide industrial policy with the government in charge.

This would allow, the argument goes, the nations of Europe and North America to become more alike and increasingly cooperative.

Eventually, many elites hope, supra-national organizations might even take away some of the more “troubling” sovereign powers of individual nations.

Understandably, few politicians have come right out and suggested this direction. It would certainly cause a firestorm of political backlash.

Many Americans (myself included) would be strongly against this. But the policy and direction of the Obama Administration is definitely in line with such a course.

President Obama’s position on many issues — from health care and national security, the bailouts and stimulus, to financial and environmental policy — has toed this European line. At times it has seemed almost purposely designed to impress European sensibilities.

And, in terms of popularity, it has worked in Europe and much of the world. Indeed, this move toward Europeanism has been the inclination and open objective of many American elites for quite some time.

Unfortunately, in an economy desperately in need of innovation, initiative, leadership among the citizenry, and a burgeoning entrepreneurial spirit (since these are the things which promote real and lasting freedom and prosperity), this “Atlantic” grand strategy seems destined, if adopted, to cause a significant American decline.

Finally, the great international-legal thinker Philip Bobbitt has suggested that the future of nations will likely de-emphasize national governments and put more focus on smaller, and possibly even virtual, economically-oriented governments that replace the traditional nation state.

If this does occur, it will not likely be a grand strategy for a long time. Bobbitt sees it growing in influence toward the 2050s, and indeed this may compete to be a future grand strategy shift in a later generation.


More immediately, in the years just ahead the United States will adopt a new Grand Strategy.

The old model of Internationalism, with the U.S. fighting to become and then acting as the world’s sole superpower, supported by its group of allies, is past.

Europe has moved on, and the U.S. and Europe have in many ways moved apart. Simultaneously, a number of places have become growing competitors to U.S. economic dominance, including China, the EU, Canada, Brazil, India, Japan, and others. (We should be carefully studying and considering the grand strategy of these places — perhaps especially China.)

To top off the challenges to Internationalism, the American economy is struggling and the individual states and many businesses are barely hanging on.

If the U.S. is to maintain its prosperity, it must adopt a powerful new grand strategy and then pursue it effectively and courageously. And if it is to maintain and even regain its freedoms, it must simultaneously adopt a good grand strategy and the right one.

I am not at all convinced that any of these five options, or anything else I’ve read on the topic, are the entire answer. I do believe that Hart’s strategy must be part of it.

In any case, it is time for statesmen (including the regular citizen-statesmen of our society) to begin to discover, present and promote the pros and cons of proposed and other possible grand strategies for the 21st Century.

If the patterns of history hold, we have less than 20 years to get the right ideas into the debate and influence the huge choice ahead.


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.


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