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Current Events

Something New in the Middle East?

November 22nd, 2010 // 4:00 am @

For decades the Middle East has posed many challenges to American presidents. It seems every U.S. president wants to make history by helping negotiate a lasting peace in this difficult region.

Few people feel a lot of optimism about this, however.

Palestinians argue that they are a people under siege, a nation under occupation. Many in Israel feel the same deep fear — they are a nation under siege by their neighbors, surrounded on all sides by an overwhelming and committed group of enemies.

Both sides feel that their very survival is on the line, and both see negotiations between Israel and Palestine as talks about the very future of the entire Middle East.

The stakes are high and the scenario is, as always, potentially explosive. The result is an almost systemic cynicism and pessimism from both sides and nearly all the spectators.

But there are some significant new factors at play now which could change the entire dialogue. The Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts — whether you generally supported or opposed them — have influenced some major changes in the Middle East.

These could have great impact on the future. And other changes have caused a new situation in at least three major ways.

A New World

First, with the Cold War over, the whole context of Middle East issues has been altered. From the 1950s until the 1990s, almost everything discussed about Middle East peace was done in the context of U.S.-USSR relations.

The world was bipolar, and Middle East diplomacy followed this pattern.

Today, in contrast, there are many additional players. Russia still has interests in the area, but with the development of its own oil reserves these interests could be less strategically vital.

In fact, Russia’s economy has become an oil economy in the past 10 years. Disruption of oil from the Middle East could boost the Russian economy and increase European openness to Russian trade and cooperation.

As usual, Britain, France, Germany and others have a real concern for what happens in the Middle East. It’s no longer a U.S./Soviet-dominated game, and the U.S., Israel and Palestine have to deal with input from many more actors who have a stake in the game.

The Pacific Century

Second, China is on an epic journey of worldwide economic expansion. It is investing massively in Southern Asia and Africa — buying resources, land, businesses, transportation and communication companies and assets, etc.

It is also investing in Latin America, Oceania, Europe, North America and the Near and Middle East. This includes both public and private investment, but top Chinese leaders are unconvinced there is a real difference.

China hasn’t tipped its hand yet on strategy, but with all this ownership it certainly cares about major international talks — including in the Middle East. The U.S., Israel, Islamic states and everybody involved in Middle East diplomacy will have to deal with growing Chinese clout.

This is a reality, a growing one at that — and it will be for a long time to come.

The Joker in the Deck: Iran

Third, the Middle East itself has changed. It’s not your grandfather’s Middle East anymore. With the major shift of power in Iraq and Afghanistan, and also in Pakistan and newly emerging economic power India, the political environment is much altered since the 1990s.

Instead of a Jewish-Muslim divide, the major conflict in the new Middle East may well be the growing division between the Sunnis and Iran.

Indeed, if “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” a naturally cooperative stance (one hesitates to use the word “alliance”) between Israel and all of Iran’s potential Islamic enemies is probably inevitable. It is already gaining momentum.

The conflicting agendas of Israel and Palestine are still very real, and they are increasingly couched in a region where Israel is sided with the Sunni states against Iran.

The list of those on the same side as Israel in this emerging conflict could bring a number of very interesting questions.

Where will Saudi Arabia stand? Egypt? Jordan? Iraq? Pakistan? Syria? Yes? No? Maybe? What about India? And where will the European Union stand?

For that matter, where will the U.S. position itself in a world where it is increasingly struggling to balance its own budgets and meet its own financial obligations? How long will the American people agree to keep spending money on Middle East issues?

Certainly the U.S. will want to maintain its alliance with Israel. But what else will it be able to afford? And with President Obama and the U.S. in general falling in popularity in the Islamic world, it is unclear what is ahead.

Of course, Iran’s push to be nuclear could impact this — drastically — in either direction. A nuclear Iran could strengthen an Israeli-Sunni alliance, for example. Ironically, an Israeli or American military response to Iran could do the same — or the exact opposite.

In a world so changed, even the experts aren’t convinced they know what’s ahead.

What is Needed from Americans

America became the world’s sole superpower in 1945, and within a decade Israel had been formed as a Jewish state and the USSR had become a second superpower.

The Middle East divide between Israel and its neighbors has been a constant for nearly all of America’s time as world leader.

Today all the constants are shifting. The Middle East arguably ended the superpower roles of both Great Britain and Russia, and the U.S. must consider its actions carefully to avoid being a third casualty of this conflicted region.

Still, America has real and lasting interests in the area, not the least of which are its historical alliance with Israel and, of course, oil.

The old lines in the sand have been blurred in the past 15 years, and many American citizens and leaders are unclear about what this means.

As the debate over the mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks on the trade towers shows, some Americans feel less than friendly toward Islam. Others are strongly supportive of the traditional American values of religious freedom and tolerance. This debate is argued in strong words and often heated tones.

But this makes it even more challenging for American leaders to know where we stand on Middle East issues.

If an Israeli-Sunni alliance continues to grow, for example, how will most Americans respond? And if the conflict with Iran turns violent in the months ahead, as nearly all experts predict, the stakes will rise again.

American leaders will have a hard time effectively representing American values until American citizens clarify what role and direction they want the U.S. to take in the Middle East. A few things have changed, and many stay the same.

Unfortunately, too often the American people have reacted knee-jerk and with shallow understanding to what goes on abroad. The future of the Middle East is too important for such tepid citizen involvement.

American citizens need to study up on the Middle East so they can decide where they stand — and thereby help guide and support their leaders in principled, wise and effective Middle East policy. This issue will not go away any time soon.

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

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 : Current Events &Foreign Affairs &Politics

The Reality Behind the 2010 Election: It’s the Economy

October 29th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

The economy is struggling, and it is driving the election. As so many have said since the Clinton campaign made it popular in the 1990s, “It’s the Economy, Stupid!”

And many Americans believe the economy will continue to decline. If it does, the Obama Administration has very few tools to respond.

The White House has based its entire economic policy on an ideological belief in government spending and intervention, but further economic downturn will require it to take serious action.

What can it do that it hasn’t already tried? How much more can it spend? And at what point will it accept that such spending isn’t delivering fixes to unemployment and the economy as promised?

If the government increases spending, promotes more stimulus, raises taxes or increases regulations (or all of the above — which is what it has done so far), it will run into major difficulty.

So far none of these have fixed the economy. The nation now ranks Democratic leaders at their lowest rating ever compared to Republicans (42 percent to 52 percent).

And the major issues fueling dislike of the Obama agenda are unemployment (now 9.6 percent), the healthcare law and other increased government regulation, and massive government spending.

Some economists, like Paul Krugman, say the problem is that the stimulus should have been much bigger in the first place — since now there is very little support for more government spending.

The White House seems to agree, and it is preparing to raise taxes on big business. The problem with this strategy is that very few small businesses have a lot of extra cash right now. Big business, in contrast, has a lot more extra cash than the whole of government stimulus.

Unfortunately, with the Obama Administration promising to end tax cuts to big business, these companies are unlikely to hire or spend their cash on hand. And if President Obama does raise taxes on big business, they are likely to simply hold their cash or spend it in other countries.

A lot of corporations are seriously considering moving more of their operations abroad to find more favorable environments for profit. Many have already made this move, taking jobs and money with them.

Some countries are aggressively advertising their low tax rates to lure international investors. For example, a full-page ad in The Economist reads:

“Fact: the Gulf’s lowest taxes are in Bahrain. As are the region’s lowest living and operation costs. Which leaves more of the cake for you and your business.”

A lot of nations are using similar campaigns to lure investment, while the U.S. is actively adopting policies which drive capital away.

Why would businesses that can afford to move stay in the U.S. to face more White House attacks and increasing taxes and regulations?

This not only won’t help our economy. It will increase unemployment, make credit harder to obtain for small businesses, and convince consumers to buy less. In short, it will significantly hurt the economy.

The Obama plan claims to help small business, but in fact its proposed policies will do the opposite. One Harvard economist points out that our debt load is now even worse than that of Greece, which has just experienced major economic collapse and is being bailed out by international banks.

Open For Business?

The impact on the elections is obvious. If a lot of Republicans win, they will have more influence to argue for more business-friendly policies. But there is no guarantee they will do so.

After all, the Bush Administration significantly out-spent the Clinton Administration before it. No matter what happens in the election, the Obama team needs to take a different route if they want to reboot the economy.

Two years into Ronald Reagan’s presidency, the economy was struggling and unemployment was above 10 percent. Reagan pushed to cut taxes, reduce government spending, and, perhaps most importantly, sent out the message — over and over — that government needed to be reduced and that private business was the hope of the economy.

In retrospect, spending actually increased under Reagan, but his consistent message of promoting business, support for business growth and free enterprise, and the need to cut government and spending made business feel safe.

He spoke optimistically of business on all levels, and lauded the opportunities provided by free enterprise and free markets.

The result? Businesses hired and entrepreneurs went to work. Commerce soared. Growth quickly soared to 8 percent (the Obama “recovery” was around 1 percent) and unemployment rates came down. The 1980s became an era of economic boom, which grew into the roaring 1990s.

Too often the opposite message is coming from Washington. The White House repeats its “unfriendly to business” message over and over, calling businessmen “fat cats” and telling young people to work for non-profits and not go into business.

It constantly promotes increased government spending and ever-expanded regulations which drastically increase the cost to start and build businesses. It has publicly attacked the Chamber of Commerce, the ultimate small-business advocate, and in general it has sounded angry and dangerous to business.

Now, in the name of “helping small business,” it is increasing taxes on big business and people who succeed in small business — many of those above the $200,000-$250,000 threshold are small entrepreneurs.

And, as I said above, many big businesses which hold a lot of cash are making plans to take it abroad. These realities are a serious problem.

Americans now believe Republicans (49 percent) “would do a better job of dealing with the economy than Democrats (38 percent).” But what exactly is the Republican plan? It is unclear.

Americans seem to believe that at least Republicans will stop increasing taxes and regulations on business, and perhaps be a lot more friendly and welcoming to business.

Whom Do Voters Support?

Perhaps the most significant reality is that Democrats and the Obama Administration now have a 60 percent disapproval rating among independents.

Of course a lot of Republicans support Republican politicians and a lot of Democrats support Democrats. But President Obama was swept into office by independents, and now most of them no longer support his policies.

Independents are mostly for fiscal responsibility, lower taxes and lower levels than the current government intervention in the economy. Indeed, many of them supported Candidate Obama because they disliked the Bush Administration’s high-spending, over-regulating policies.

It seemed to independents that Candidate Obama promised new leadership and a new direction for Washington. Many independents have been shocked and dismayed by the Obama Administration’s move to the left. But they could have supported this surprise if there wasn’t such a lack of new-era leadership.

For example, as an independent, I expected President Obama to be liberal. I closely read The Audacity of Hope (affiliate link) before the election and I was clear that he would govern from the left.

But I also thought he would bring a new brand of leadership — a fresh, charismatic, Generation-X-style emphasis on American growth and vibrancy rather than old-line Washington politics.

Unfortunately for all Americans (left, right and independent), that did not occur.

Many independents feel abandoned by President Obama less for his liberalism than for his return to “Washington politics as usual.” This shift occurred within days of inauguration, and his popularity among independents has consistently fallen ever since.

We live in an era where the key to winning elections is to combine support from your base (liberal or conservative) with the support of independents.

This is true nationally and in most locales as well. For Democrats, who will get the bulk of Democratic votes no matter what, the goal right now should be to bring in independents by pushing through many tax breaks and finding ways to deregulate business requirements.

When asked who they will vote for in the 2010 Congressional election, 62 percent of registered independents said they support Republicans; 30 percent plan to vote Democrats.

This is a huge split in American politics, where voting differences are usually 1-3 percentage points and a 6 percent split is a landslide.

As a result, many current Democratic candidates are frequently using the phrase “I’m independent.” As the election season kicked off right after Labor Day, the Obama Administration changed its message —apparently to attract independent voters.

President Obama said in his speech on September 8th that it is American business which drives the economy, and Timothy Geitner said the same day that American businesses are very innovative and able.

This change is a good move for the administration, but President Obama still managed to include disparaging remarks about privatization and Wall Street.

Despite the fact that there may be truth to what he says, it is the tone of anti-business that reverberates. He may get past this bias in the weeks and months ahead, but will it last after the election?

From an independent perspective, it doesn’t seem like it.

Business really does drive the economy, and we need to genuinely embrace and support this.

Independents are tired of the constant attacking between parties. Instead of Republicans attacking President Obama and the White House attacking Republicans, why can’t either just get serious about enacting policies that actually help small business?

It’s the Economy!

Our leaders must find ways to significantly help business.

Proposed tax cuts for small business, payroll tax holidays, and not taxing research and development are good starts with bipartisan support. The Obama Administration deserves praise for these proposals. But a lot more is needed.

If the government is going to spend money regardless of what the voters want, the current push to spend it on infrastructure is probably the best plan.

Still, spending $50 billion of taxpayer money is quite an expense. And nearly all infrastructure contracts will go to big firms, further excluding and in places even hurting many small businesses.

Unless private business is convinced to rebuild the economy, one business at a time, government spending will just make the problem worse.

Harvard economist Niall Ferguson responded to President Obama’s new plan by pointing out that the $50 billion of infrastructure expenditures will do little or nothing to boost the economy since the plan is built on faulty economic reasoning that is good for politics but bad for the economy.

In contrast, Ferguson argues, we should be studying how Reagan and Thatcher successfully battled and overcame major recession in both the U.S. and Britain in the 1980s. Even experts from left agree that the proposed Obama plan won’t do much to help the economy.

President Obama’s speech included numerous jabs against Republicans, which many independents agree with. But it didn’t include much that could really help the economy.

This has many independents frustrated. It feels too much like more politics, not better leadership.

For example, the proposal to put freezes on non-security spending is a good idea, but it rang hollow, sounding more like a political debating point than something the president really cares about.

If he gave it the same support as health care, and kept pushing it with tenacity and refusals to give up on the idea, many independents would be impressed.

Instead, it seemed to come across like the right thing to say in this election season, but prone to be ignored in favor of big government spending after the election.

If that isn’t true, if the Obama Administration really does follow through on this proposed freeze on the non-essentials, many independents will swing back to supporting President Obama.

But I think that most independents will wait until after the election to see if this happens.

The president’s speech was excellent in many ways, and independents should be glad that he is now saying some of the right things. It felt like the return of Candidate Obama.

But therein is the problem. Is it just campaign rhetoric? The contrast between Obama’s campaign persona and his Head Democrat persona is so dazzling that it’s more challenging than usual to hope that Mr. President will lead out.

And why did he say a lot of the right things about fiscal responsibility but only get passionate when he was criticizing Republicans or talking about increased government spending?

It’s the Economy, Really!

The Democratic narrative seems to be that without the stimulus the recession would have been much worse.

But many independents don’t buy it. They didn’t like many of President Bush’s policies, but they are just as frustrated with the current administration’s strategies.

They believe the stimulus was a flop and healthcare and other massive regulations have seriously hurt the economy. They blame both Obama and Bush for the current economic mess.

But since Bush is out of the discussion, their frustration is pointed at President Obama.

American independents aren’t the only ones who feel that the Obama Administration’s stimulus and massive spending/regulating strategy has worsened the economy.

Some international analysts, for example, say: “[The stimulus] has not worked. The whole thing has failed. And that is why America, of the big economies, is the one that is now teetering on the brink.”

Some say, “I think in Europe it’s very clear the direction the Europeans are going down, which is to basically start bringing public debts and deficits under control. Obama is still worried about the polls….Personally, I think the best thing they could do is probably just sit on their hands in the U.S. …”

If the plan is to spend more, tax more and increase regulations, then I agree — let the politicians sit on their hands and do nothing!

But what if, instead, they cut taxes, deregulated small business, changed the healthcare law to incentivize business investment, and extended an olive branch of friendship and thanks (yes, genuine gratitude) to entrepreneurs and business for their vital contributions to our prosperity?

Doing nothing, as good as it may sound to Tea Partiers and some independents, is not enough. Washington needs to reverse the bad-for-business policies accumulated since 1987 — or at least during the Bush/Obama growth of anti-business policy since 2001.

If this sounds impossible, we may be in for a very long period of economic struggles.

In Conclusion: It’s the Economy!

The future of the economy depends on the willingness of small business to take risks and the willingness of big business to hire, spend and invest.

Until our national leaders are willing to cut government spending, lower taxes, reduce government interventions in almost every sector of business, and show more genuine friendliness to business, our economic problems will continue.

Whatever the results of the 2010 election, Washington has got to make friends with business. We simply must make those who spend their lives in business feel safe and excited about building, hiring, investing, growing and spending. Otherwise, deepening economic troubles are ahead.

We desperately need real leadership in Washington, leadership which will actually incentivize, promote and reboot the economy.

The best-case scenario would be for the Obama Administration to lead out in this direction. After all, they’ll be in the White House for at least the next two years.

This pro-business outline (cut taxes, significantly reduce regulation on business, get government spending under control, and make friends with business) should be the guiding principle to every voter in every election across the nation this year.

We need to pay little or no attention to political party and instead elect leaders who will help kick-start, encourage, and stimulate the economy.

This is a true mandate, and our national future depends on it.

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

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 : Business &Current Events &Economics &Government &Prosperity

O Canada: Lessons From Our Northern Neighbor

October 28th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

Two words that haven’t shown up together very much since the 2008 economic meltdown are “austerity” and “Canada.”

That’s quite an accomplishment for our neighbor to the North. Austerity has been paired with Greece, Portugal, Spain, Great Britain and France in just the past 18 months.

Austerity means having your economy controlled and run by international regulators, and right now the idea of austerity for the United States is growing.

Not only is the federal government in financial trouble, but so are many of the individual states. In addition to struggles in 2008, 2009 and 2010, 31 states project major budgetary shortfalls in 2011.

Prospects are getting worse in many states, rather than improving.

Unemployment numbers are knocking on double digits (which is to say that in some places they already exceed 10 percent), and the U.S. deficit and debt promise to be major issues in the 2010 election — to say nothing of their impact on America’s future for years and perhaps decades to come.

Canada’s Example

But Canada faces a much smaller challenge.

Ironically, for decades U.S. conservatives have pointed to Canada’s health care system as the example of what not to do — often referring to it as a failed icon of “socialized medicine.”

Many liberals have idealized the nations of Western Europe, looking past Canada and preferring Britain, France and Germany as examples.

The Great Recession has changed all this — mainly because Canada avoided the worst of the global financial meltdown.

As Ken Kurson put it:

“When the worldwide system collapsed…Canada didn’t have a single bank poisoned by toxic assets and not a penny of public money was used to bail out its financial institutions.”

Of course, many businesses and individuals suffered, but it would have been much worse if Canadian banks followed more European-U.S. policies.

Israel, India and China all fared pretty well in the meltdown — as did Canada — while the U.S. and Britain were hit very hard. Canada’s traditional liberalism and conservatism helped shield it from the worse financial collapse other nations faced.

Modern liberalism and conservatism are mostly focused on winning office and promoting partisan agendas, whereas the traditional strains of both conservatism and liberalism are more interested in ideas, values and ideals.

Traditional liberals in Canada used government to put caps and controls on the nation’s financial institutions, keeping them from simultaneously posing as both lending institutions and speculators in the Japanese style that most European and U.S. banks have adopted.

And traditional conservatism kept banks and business from leveraging their resources at the high levels which brought down so many institutions in other nations.

One can argue with either the underlying Canadian liberalism or conservatism, but the results were a traditional kind of system that is too often seen in many advanced (and broke) nations as outmoded, quaint and passé.

For example, most U.S. mortgages were intended for sale while nearly all mortgages in Canada are still held by the banks where they originated.

In other words, Canadian bankers only made loans to people they intended to have as long-term customers; the happy result is that when the housing bubble burst such banks remained solvent.

Of course, all nations were hurt by the global economic downturn. Certainly, Canada, Israel, and other nations have their share of problems, but simple financial frugality and common sense are never old-fashioned.

What We Can Learn

There are at least two important lessons America should learn from this.

First, the traditional models of either liberalism or conservatism seem better for America than the modern, partisan styles of liberals and conservatives.

The commonsensical use of government combined with a free and flourishing private sector is vital to the future of freedom and prosperity. And the ideal is found in earlier American history rather than modern Canada, India or China.

Still, when China incentives free enterprise more effectively than the United States, the results are predictable. Freedom works, and when America ignores its own legacy it loses its strength and economic resiliency.

Second, technology doesn’t trump wisdom.

We live in a world where checks can be deposited through cell phone cameras, current events are taught better on QRANK than the nightly news, and mobile phone applications like Avoidr “allow Foursquare users to select the ‘friends’ they want to avoid” (and their phones keep them abreast of where their friends are at any given moment).

Amazon sells more books on Kindle than in hardback, and online media is causing many newspapers and now book publishers to disappear.

On a macro level, nanotechnology makes surveillance, theoretically, ubiquitous — it is becoming ever-present, everywhere, always.

As Graeme Wood wrote in The Atlantic:

“If the past several years in the shadow of a war against terrorism have taught us anything, it is that, once available, surveillance technologies rarely go unused, or un-abused.”

And governments are pursuing increasingly deeper rings of secrecy even though technology makes transparency possible.

All of these are ultimately the tools of human values and decisions. Indeed, the more powerful the technology, the greater the need for wisdom, limits, checks and balances.

It matters whether we learn these lessons or not. When the global economy broke down in 2008-2009, many businesses, industries and even states were bailed out by the federal government.

But the next round of major decline could easily force Washington to follow the majority of non-industrialized nations and even European countries like Greece, Spain, Portugal, and France in turning to international lenders for bailouts.

If this comes before 2012 or even 2020, as it certainly could, we will have to borrow from those who have money to lend — meaning banks in nations such as China, Israel or Canada.

Of all the possible candidates, we will most likely go hat in hand to Canada.

Revisionist History

The other option is simply to adopt fiscal responsibility on our own. A little common sense — both the conservative and liberal kinds — can go a long way.

Unfortunately, the opposite seems to be gaining momentum. After the end of the Cold War in 1989, the common wisdom seemed to be that capitalistic nations had overcome their communistic rivals.

But for many, the Great Recession has revised this conclusion. Now the theme seems to be that Soviet-style communism and Americanized capitalism are just the age-old battle between power and greed.

The emerging winner appears to be government-run industry, what The Economist called “Leviathan Inc.: The State Goes Back Into Business.” Indeed, these are the models followed by nations like China, Israel, Brazil, India and Canada that fared better than most in the recession.

Some leaders in Washington are taking note:

“[F]rom Berlin to Brussels, demand for industrial policy is back. Japan’s new government is responding to what it sees as the increasingly aggressive policies of foreign competitors by deepening the links between business and the state.

In America Barack Obama, the effective owner of General Motors and a chunk of Wall Street, has turned his back on the laissez-faire approach of the past: a strategic-industries initiative is under way.”

Unfortunately, the politicians are ignoring the rest of this report:

“Yet the overwhelming reason for China’s miracle is that the state released its stifling grip and opened the country to private enterprise and to the world…

India’s wildly successful software and business-process-outsourcing industries blossomed not because of help from the government, but precisely because its [government] did not understand these nascent fields well enough to choke them off…

In the rich world, meanwhile, the record shows, again and again, that industrial policy doesn’t work.”

The Real Need

I’ll take traditional liberalism or conservatism – either one – over the current modern Democratic or Republican models.

Commonsensical uses of government spurring a free economy, or a truly free-enterprise system with a limited government effectively taking care of the basics—either would be much better than the current reality.

Canada, Greece, Israel, China, Britain, France, Portugal, Spain, Germany, many other nations, and the United States — all could use a free-enterprise upgrade.

A constitutional, free enterprising, federal democratic republic which believes in freedom and applies its principles sounds like a utopian dream.

Or, it could just be a nation run by a truly educated, wise and active citizenry.

Without citizens who are effective overseers of the government, freedom doesn’t last anywhere. Because of this, even those nations which were less hurt by the Great Recession face difficult futures.

It remains to be seen what nation (or will it be a tribe, or something else?) in the world will become the new standard of freedom.

Such leadership will naturally flow to the society whose common citizens become a new generation of great citizens—like the American founding generations.

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

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 : Current Events &Economics &Foreign Affairs &Government &Leadership &Politics &Technology

Is Government Broken?

October 26th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

Is our government broken?

More and more people think so. The current presidential administration makes periodic claims that we are in an economic recovery, but at the same time growth is still slowing and unemployment figures stay around ten percent.

With more American deaths in Afghanistan during the last week of July than any week to date, things seem to be deteriorating at home and abroad.

To make matters worse, few people believe that the opposing Republican Party has much more to offer than the Democrats.

With neither side poised to really fix things, few Americans have a lot of hope for the future of government leadership. Here a few of the issues vexing citizens.

A Missing Recovery

First, even though many politicians have been claiming that we are experiencing an economic recovery, it doesn’t feel like it to most Americans.

The Obama White House doesn’t seem very friendly to small business.

Most of the entrepreneurs and businesses who do hold cash aren’t about to hire or expand in an environment where their taxes and regulatory burden could be increased at any point by an unfriendly Administration.

Ironically, Washington is responding by promising to increase taxes and regulations. Understandably, those who hire are skittish.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Giethner said in July that we’ve reached a point where private hiring—rather than government spending—is the answer to economic growth.

But until the government starts supporting small business, and as long as it refuses to incentivize free enterprise, the economy will struggle.

Author Arthur Brooks argues that the nation is 70% in favor of free enterprise and about 30% opposed, but that the 30% are in charge.

The 30% has gained much influence over citizens by convincing them that it was private business that caused the recession in the first place.

Somehow, this view has successfully convinced much of the public that the Bush Administration, big banks, Wall Street and all small businesses are the same group.

Those who read the fine print, however, are clear that policies from the Clinton and Bush Administrations led to the mortgage crisis.

Moreover, big government and big business together caused the recession. In the meantime, both ignored small business and continue to do so.

As a result, the 70% is confused and unable to keep the 30% in check. So more government policies hurt the economy and make it unwise or unfeasible for small businesses to hire and grow.

In the meantime, much of the Right is busy labeling Democrats as “socialists” rather than helping incentivize growth and prosperity.

Both sides seem to mean well, but one has unbounded faith in government and the other is preoccupied attacking that faith.

While the two sides posture, the plight of small business is sometimes discussed but remains unaided.

What the Citizens Want

Second, this problem is deeper than most people realize.

Since World War II, the United States has promoted a mixture of free enterprise and big government. In history, societies typically emphasized one or the other.

When big government ruled, enterprise was highly regulated and taxed; where free enterprise was the focus, taxes were small, regulations were minimal, and governments were limited in size, scope and budget.

But in modern America, no politician from any party can claim success unless he/she has “done something in office.”

And to nearly all Americans, “doing something” means increasing government action to benefit the pet cause or regional constituency.

If President Obama doesn’t pass much of his agenda, his political friends and competitors alike will label him ineffective.

Americans in general want their politicians to do a lot and are disappointed when officials fail in this.

The irony of the American voter is that “doing a lot” immediately earns most politicians a place on the voters’ list of officials to vote out.

Americans today want the impossible: low taxes and lots of government programs.

The Economist summarized it this way:

In the end, the question of whether a country is governable turns on how much government you think it needs. America’s founders injected suspicion of government not only into the constitution but also into the political DNA of its people. And even in the teeth of today’s economic woes, at least as many Americans seem to think that what ails them is too much government, not too little.

“But there is a catch. However much Americans say they want a small government, they seem wedded to the expensive benefits of the big one they actually have…With deficits running at $1 trillion a year, and in order to stay solvent, they will have at some point to cut spending, pay more taxes, or both….To balance the books, politicians have sometimes to do things the people themselves oppose—even in America. That will be the true test of whether the country is governable.”

Americans must either choose big government and be willing to pay for and submit to it, or they must move toward smaller, less intrusive government and be willing to enjoy fewer government programs.

When voters want the prosperity of freedom along with the bread and circuses of massive government, every election is a referendum on incumbents.

Eventually, though (and the day of reckoning appears to be close on the horizon), something will have to give.

Unfortunately, few societies make such hard choices until they are forced upon them by war, depression, pandemic or other major crises.

Sadly, few nations have the leadership or the fortitude to adopt the simple solution of spurring major growth and prosperity by de-regulating, de-taxing and freeing up the economy.

Freedom works, but few in history have been willing to adopt it.

Lost Leaders

We are unable to overcome these and many of our deepest challenges because of the way we distribute leadership in our society.

The American founders envisioned a truly great educational system, built around schools in every locale, to train their youth in the great ideas of mankind’s history, as well as the latest practical arts and sciences.

They built the early American schools to train empowered citizens who would protect freedom, foster prosperity, leadership, and character in all walks of American life.

They wanted an educational system that prepared their youth to become effective in their families, communities, and careers.

This vision helped create a nation that by 1946 produced over half of the world’s goods and services with only 6% of the globe’s population.

Freedom works, and the success of the American constitutional-free-enterprise model was spectacular. In the process, this system over time addressed, and — in some cases, even began to resolve its biggest negatives, including slavery and other inequities.

Unfortunately, by the late 1930s, the citizens and leaders who built this great model of success, freedom, and prosperity sent their children and grandchildren to schools which rejected this system, and instead adopted a new style of education focused mostly on career training.

Sadly, these American schools established by the our founders were replaced after World War II by the German model which was based on socio-economic class divisions.

In the “new” system, the elites still received leadership education (like all citizens had before 1939) while the middle and lower classes were educated only for jobs.

As this system grew, a Germanic-style grading system reinforced class-society advancements among the youth.

The maladies of credentialism, class divisions, and reliance on experts made their way into mainstream American culture. From 1939 to 1979, these contagions grew and infected the Founders’ classless and “free American” vision.

In such a system, the motto was: “A students work for B students.” The concept of “The Company Man” spread and Americans became addicted to big institutions.

Freedom and entrepreneurial values gave way to competing for executive positions and benefits packages. The goal of employeeship replaced the American dream.

Career became the purpose of schooling in almost everyone’s mind, and ownership and leadership values begin to literally disappear.

Eventually big institutions became truly massive, and anything except employeeship was considered inferior and backward.

In this environment, young people with a sense of leadership, idealism and ambitions to make a great impact on society split between the Left and the Right.

Those coming from traditionally conservative families tended toward majors and careers in business, while youth from more liberal backgrounds leaned towards the media and legal professions.

Most of today’s national leaders were part of this split.

The Reagan era ushered in a revolution of support for and promotion of free enterprise ideas and values.

Numerous non-traditional business models (like multi-level and network marketing) put individuals at the center of building a personal business rather than working as an employee, and eventually non-traditional educational options (from private and charter to home and online opportunities) grew in popularity.

Employeeship was still the dominant view, but a rising minority embraced the freedoms and prosperity of entrepreneurship. The dot.com boom and Roaring 90’s soon followed, and the entrepreneurial sector slowly grew.

Today a new culture of education and business is evolving out of the Great Recession and all that led up to it. A new maxim seems to be much more complex than in past generations:

  • B students work for C students
  • A students teach or work in government
  • Those who cared little for grades and a lot about learning are building small businesses

Note that “those who cared little for grades and a lot about learning” often come from non-traditional private, charter, home and online learners, as well as from immigrants who are leading in entrepreneurial successes. And more than a few come from the traditional schools.

Since small business accounts for 80% of America’s economic growth, this is a significant development. Unfortunately, the number of people in the entrepreneurial sector is still very small.

Whether purposely or as a side effect, we are still training the overwhelming majority of our youth to believe that being A students means getting a good job and that employeeship is the greatest goal for education and even lifestyle.

Satirist P.J. O’Rourke addressed the problem this way:

America has made the mistake of letting the A student run things. It was A students who briefly took over the business world during the period of derivatives, credit swaps, and collateralized debt obligations. We’re still reeling from the effects…

“It was a bunch of A students at the Defense Department who planned the syllabus for the Iraq War….The U.S. tax code was written by A students….Now there’s health care reform—just the kind of thing that would earn an A on a term paper from that twerp of a grad student who teaches Econ 101…

“A students must do what teachers and textbooks want and do it the way the teachers and texts want it done….Such brisk apple-polishing happens to be an all-too-good preparation for politics. This is because a student’s success at education and a politician’s success at politics are measured mostly by input rather than outcome.”

Perhaps even more disturbing is that most of our Idealistic youth with ambitions to improve the world are still going after jobs in big business or big government.

The thing is, working for a big corporation or in a government job are unlikely places to really make a positive difference in the world.

We are distributing leadership in the way aristocratic and socialistic societies always have, and the future will unfold accordingly unless something changes.

We desperately need a rebirth of the entrepreneurial ideal.

The New Religion: Employeeship

Unfortunately, it’s not just the schools and universities that are continuing this outdated focus on jobs as the end-all of education and life.

Movies and television often demonize entrepreneurs while dedicating most of their time to stories about employees.

Full-time sports channels seem to dedicate as much time to the business side of athletes as to the entertainment, making sports role models as valued for their lucrative contracts as for their abilities on the playing field.

Even elected officials more typically refer to their role as a job than as public service.

Recent administrations and the media have referred to the constitutionally-titled commander in chief as the nation’s CEO. There are many other examples.

Because the “job-is-life” view is so prevalent, it has even become normal for successful entrepreneurs to see their work as done as soon as they can live comfortably.

In earlier generations (those that built and maintained American freedom), such successful entrepreneurs considered it their duty to spend the second half of their life helping society greatly improve.

Perhaps only parents and community leaders can effectively counter this trend and help more youth who want to help improve the world seek a true leadership education and seriously consider engaging in entrepreneurial careers.

Repairing the Break

So, to answer our question, yes, government is broken. The break is repairable, but it will take some major work and effort on the part of this generation.

When freedom is decreasing through constantly increasing regulations, government is broken. When the free enterprise system is under attack from our own government, government is broken.

When a tenth of our working society can’t get a job, and when the government responds by increasing taxes and regulations on those who could provide the jobs if they were free to do so, government is broken.

When two parties hold a monopoly on government, and where both increase spending and regulation no matter who is in office, government is broken.

But all of this misses the real point.

When most of society seeks employeeship above all else and every facet of life revolves around employeeship, much more than government is going to be broken.

Employeeship certainly has a place in effective nations, but it should be prioritized behind things like family leadership, citizenship, and private ownership.

Another name for these is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (or alternatively, as Jefferson originally wrote, “life, liberty and property”).

A successful society is made up of at least the following things:

  • Effective parents, grandparents and other family leaders who help raise good, wise and industrious adults to take their place
  • Citizens who are well-educated in freedom and leadership and who keep government, business and other officials in check so the society can remain free and prosperous
  • Owners who improve the prosperity of society, in a free enterprise system where all can be owners
  • A constitutionally guaranteed freedom where all are treated equally before the law and all are protected in their inalienable rights

How the President Can Repair the Economy

In the 2008 election President Obama was supported by the Left (who loved his promises of economic liberalism), but he was elected by independents who saw in him a possible end to the corruption of the Bush years and a potentially great leader for the United States.

The “Leadership Thing” swept him into office. Now, the Obama Administration could greatly boost the economy by deeply promoting entrepreneurship—both symbolically and in reduced taxes and regulations.

Such incentives would spur more hiring, investment and expansion, and a recovery would follow that Americans could really believe in.

In fact, the President could probably accomplish this without changing any policy at all, simply by warming to small business and genuinely becoming friendly to entrepreneurs.

As a friend, a member of a minority, told me about President Carter:

“I didn’t agree with his politics or policies, but I just feel that he loved me and my people and cared about us. I never felt that from Reagan or Bush, and so I voted Democratic even though I was more aligned with the politics of the Republicans.”

An old advertising proverb says that people make choices emotionally and then use logic to defend it.

No matter what Washington says, and no matter what the economic numbers show, most entrepreneurs are unlikely to increase jobs and boost the economy through investments as long as they think the man in the White House basically dislikes and mistrusts them.

Even liberal-leaning businessmen are worried that the President isn’t supportive.

The White House could drastically help the recovery simply by changing its bias against small business. If this is just a perceived dislike of business, not a real one, they can simply change their message.

If, on the other hand, the Administration really does mistrust or dislike small business, it should reconsider. After all, unlike Wall Street, big banks and big corporations, small business simply cannot be blamed for America’s economic challenges.

It has been the victim of the mistakes made by both big business and past government. Yet it keeps plugging along, keeping the recession from being much worse.

And small business certainly is the group most likely to overcome high unemployment.

Indeed, when the economy does make a serious comeback, entrepreneurs will be leading the way. Hopefully, the Obama Administration will extend its “Yes, We Can” philosophy to those who have the most potential to drastically grow our economy.

Conclusion

It is time for all Americans—from the White House to our individual living rooms—to pour out a deep, genuine and heartfelt admiration and “thank you” to those who run small businesses.

Whatever the politicians of any party do, the greatest need is for parents, grandparents and all of us to rekindle an excitement for entrepreneurship in the youth.

The future of America’s freedom and prosperity may well depend on it. As long as free enterprise isn’t flourishing, our government will be broken.

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

Oliver DeMille is the founderof 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 : Business &Constitution &Culture &Current Events &Economics &Education &Entrepreneurship &Generations &Government &History &Leadership &Liberty &Politics

The Marriage Plot, New Feminism, & the End of Men

October 13th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

AT THE CENTER OF ALL SOCIETIES sits the family, and when family culture drastically and irreversibly changes, the whole civilization is impacted.

Our politics, economy, relationships and character are going to be different based on the major family shift now occurring.

What could cause such an all-encompassing change? What exactly is happening right now that is altering our societal future?

The answer is: The shift to a matriarchal society.

And whether this actually happens in full or we are simply witnessing a slight move in this direction, the consequences are momentous.

In short, this boils down to four major trends that are remaking our society:

  1. The rise of matriarchal society
  2. The decreasing popularity of marriage
  3. The growing confusion about manhood
  4. The opportunity for masculine nurture

The Rise of Matriarchal Society

The Great Recession is touted by many as having brought the end of male dominance in our culture, and of ushering in a new era of matriarchal supremacy.

As Don Peck writes in The Atlantic:

“The Great Recession may be over, but this era of high joblessness is probably just beginning. Before it ends, it will likely change the life course and character of a generation of young adults….It could cripple marriage as an institution in many communities….Ultimately, it is likely to warp our politics, our culture and the character of our society for years come…

“[J]oblessness corrodes marriages, and makes divorce much more likely down the road. According to W. Bradford Wilcox, the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, the gender imbalance of the job losses in this recession is particularly noteworthy, and—combined with the depth and duration of the job crisis—poses ‘a profound challenge to marriage’…

“‘We could be headed in a direction where, among elites, marriage and family are conventional, but for substantial portions of society, life is more matriarchal,’ says Wilcox. The marginalization of working-class men in family life has far-reaching consequences.

“Marriage plays an important role in civilizing men. They work harder, longer, more strategically. They spend less time in bars and more time in church, less with friends and more with kin. And they’re happier and healthier.”

Women are now the majority of the paid workforce for the first time in history, the majority of managers are now women, and significantly more women than men now get degrees.

“For years, women’s progress has been cast as a struggle for equality. But what if equality isn’t the end point? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women?”

As Hanna Rosin outlined in a an article on “the unprecedented role reversal now under way—and its vast cultural consequences,” couples at fertility clinics are now requesting more girls than boys, three quarters of the jobs lost in the Great Recession were lost by men, many college women now assume that they will earn the paycheck while their husbands stay home and mind the kids, and women now earn 60 percent of all bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Ask Rosin:

“What if the economics of the new era are better suited to women? Once you open your eyes to this possibility, the evidence is all around you….Indeed, the U.S. economy is in some ways becoming a kind of traveling sisterhood: upper-class women leave home and enter the workforce, creating domestic jobs for other women to fill.

“The postindustrial economy is indifferent to men’s size and strength. The attributes that are most valuable today—social intelligence, open communication, the ability to sit still and focus—are, at a minimum, not predominately male….

“The economic and cultural power shift from men to women would be hugely significant even if it never extended beyond working-class America. But women are also starting to dominate middle management, and a surprising number of professional careers as well.”

Of the top 15 careers projected to grow in the decade ahead, says Rosin, only two—janitor and computer engineer—are filled by a male majority. And the trend is not limited to the United States: both China and India boast similar indicators.

College statistics show “with absolute clarity that in the coming decades the middle class will be dominated by women.”

The Decreasing Popularity of Marriage

At the same time, and certainly not unrelated, many women are finding marriage less attractive.

Sandra Tsing Loh writes that:

“for women, obsession with real estate is replacing obsession with love and marriage….Whatever the emotional need, we women can engineer the solution. But such continual resculpting may be irksome if the vessel of our current and future happiness is an actual male….

“So what if, in comparison with Jane Austen’s time, when the heroine’s journey was necessarily Girl Meets Boy, Girl Marries Boy, Girl Gets Pemberley, 200 years later our plots are Woman Buys Pemberley, Pemberley Needs Remodeling, Woman Hires Handsome, Soulful, Single Architect to Find Perfect Farmhouse Sink but After Whirlwind Affair Boots Him Out Anyway Because She Hates His Choice of Carpeting…?

“Whether you wish to chant ‘Our houses, our selves’ or ‘We have houses, hear us roar,’ for us women, home is where the heart is.”

Loh suggests that “middle-aged female readers’ tastes,” at least, “are shifting away from the marriage plot.”

She cites such current female classics as Committed by woman’s icon Elizabeth Gilbert, Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House by Meghan Daum, and Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity From a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes.

About The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine (which the New York Times Book Review called “an update of Sense and Sensibility”), Loh said that it is

“less about who ends up with the men than who ends up with the real estate….

“As the years grind on, Sheldon [‘bald and in bow ties’] will only continue to physically collapse, as opposed to a house, whose luster just improves with age. A 100-year-old farm house? Make it 200! Even 300! Original hardware! Wide-plank floors! And what’s more fun than falling madly in love with a piece of real estate?”

Quoting Meghan Daum:

“Moving, like chocolate and sunshine, stirs up many of the same chemicals you ostensibly produce when you’re in love. At least it does for me. Like a new lover, a new house opens a floodgate of anticipation and trepidation and terrifying expectations fused with dreamy distractions. It’s all encompassing and crazy making. You can’t concentrate at work…”

And about Hayes’s book:

“I am raptly studying the New York Times piece on lefty stay-at-home mothers in Berkeley who raise their own chickens. In a house with no cable…the only entertainment we have is reading….Evenings go by so slowly, I’m already halfway through my every-four-years read of Anna Karenina…

“I’m intrigued by the stay-at-home-mom chicken-slaughtering because on my rickety nightstand (flea market—$8!) is my new bible, Shanon Hayes’s Radical Homemakers. Sure, it has some of the usual tropes one would expect from a crunchy-granola rebel seeking to live off the land: Hayes’s daughters have lyrically daunting names like Saoirse and Ula; there is copious homeschooling; there are hushed-voice, enigmatic, and unironic biographical descriptions like ‘She raises and forages most of her food in the heart of the city’ (Chicago). More timid souls might balk at maybe limiting their diet to venison, figs, and prickly pear cactus; melting beef tallow for soap….And yet, I find myself dog-earing page after page, exclaiming ‘Aha!’ and circling passages….

“What a heady brand of feminism—self reliance in the home is a path to more authentic macro-freedom; freedom from government, freedom from corporations, freedom from a soul-diminishing economy! Like early American rebels who freed themselves from dependence on the British by pairing turkey not with imported jam but with locally grown cranberry sauce, we, too, can start a revolution in the kitchen!”

A much more direct new feminism, according to Rosin, comes from leaders like Iceland’s female Prime Minister who campaigned by promising to put an end to “the age of testosterone.”

And many women are simply foregoing marriage. Says Rosin:

“In 1970, 84 percent of women ages 33 to 44 were married; now 60 percent are….[T]he most compelling theory is that marriage has disappeared because women are setting the terms—and setting them too high for the men around them to reach.”

In all of this, men are often seen as dull, stulted, unimaginative and unable to cope with change, while women are seen as naturally innovative, able, creative, adaptive and ready to deal with and overcome anything.

When challenges come, men are expected to mope, but the women assess the situation, develop solutions, and then muster resources and support to turn challenges into triumphs.

In this new worldview, the stereotypes are significant: men are naturally needy and dependent while women are bright, engaged and full of initiative.

Why would women even want to marry in such an environment? Many college women, according to Rosin, see men as “the new ball and chain.”

Growing Confusion about Manhood

President Obama said in his 2008 Father’s Day Speech that fathers are critical to the foundations of the family:

“They are teachers and coaches. They are mentors and role models. They are examples of success and men who constantly push us toward it.”

Kids who are raised without fathers are five times more likely to commit crime or live in poverty and nine times as likely to drop out of school. But these statistics are all in debate, and no clear conclusions are accepted by the researchers.

In fact, as the author of Parenting, Inc., Pamela Paul, put it,

“The bad news for Dad is that despite common perception, there’s nothing objectively essential about his contribution. The good news is, we’ve gotten used to him.”

Such tepid support for the role of fathers is becoming the norm. As Don Peck wrote:

“In Identity Economics, the economists George Akerloff and Rachel Kranton find that among married couples, men who aren’t working at all, despite their free time, do only 37 percent of the housework, on average. And some men, apparently in an effort to guard their masculinity, actually do less housework after becoming unemployed.

“Many working women struggle with the idea of partners who aren’t breadwinners. ‘We’ve got this image of Archie Bunker sitting at home, grumbling and acting out,’ says Kathryn Edin, a professor of public policy at Harvard, and an expert on family life….It may sound harsh, but in general, [Wilcox] says, ‘if men can’t make a contribution financially, they don’t have much to offer.’

“Two-thirds of all divorces are legally initiated by women. Wilcox believes that over the next few years, we may see a long wave of divorces, washing no small number of discarded and dispirited men back into single adulthood.

“Among couples without college degrees, says Edin, marriage has become an ‘increasingly fragile’ institution. In many low-income communities, she fears it is being supplanted as a social norm by single motherhood and revolving-door relationships. As a rule, fewer people marry during recession, and this one has been no exception.”

More people are putting off marriage and just deciding not to marry.

One result of all this is that more communities are filled with unmarried, unemployed, underemployed, increasingly less educated, frustrated and unproductive males.

Even among educated men who are married and employed, there is increasing confusion about the ideal and proper role of men.

Few men are willing to voice a strong opinion about the roles of men and women any more, though it is a frequent topic among women.

Even those men who do share an opinion most often begin or end, or both, with a disclaimer along the lines of, “but what do I know? I’m just a man, after all.”

We are at an interesting place in gender relations in America. Hanna Rosin wrote:

“Throughout the ‘90s, various authors and researchers agonized over why boys seemed to be failing at every level of education, from elementary school on up, and identified various culprits: a misguided feminism that treated normal boys as incipient harassers (Christina Hoff Sommers); different brain chemistry (Michael Gurian); a demanding, verbally focused curriculum that ignored boy’s interests (Richard Whitmire).

“But again, it’s not all that clear that boys have become more dysfunctional—or have changed in any way. What’s clear is that schools, like the economy, now value the self-control, focus, and verbal aptitude that seem to come more easily to young girls.”

I have suggested for many years that girls are a couple of years ahead of boys and that we do much harm by pushing boys into academics too early.

In fact, until they have a love of learning (which comes early) and then a love of studying (which usually comes to boys shortly after puberty), requiring them to do a lot of typical school work is often very destructive to their long-term education.

By establishing grade levels by age, rather than as phases that come to different children at their own pace, society often labels boys as “dumb,” “not smart,” “less gifted,” and “behind,” when in fact they just aren’t yet ready to meet some arbitrary standard called a grade level.

Some boys, and some girls, may develop more slowly than the “established norm,” but they are still fully capable of superb performance when they are allowed to move at their own pace.

Unfortunately, this flies in the face of the “expert” wisdom and is largely discounted by most.

One suggested solution by those currently dealing with this trend of “underperforming” boys is to create gender-oriented tests instead of standard exams. This strikes me as sad and frustrating, since I have been promoting personalized, oral exams instead of standardized tests for years.

Another proposal is to allow boys to walk around during class in order to get out their nervous attention and allow them to concentrate like girls or older students.

Again, I have taught for nearly two decades that younger children aren’t quite ready for the academic environment we have forced them to endure.

Some experts want to establish all-boys classrooms and even all-boys school, and to focus on the needs of boys instead of requiring them to fit into standard classrooms.

I agree with Rosin:

“It is fabulous to see girls and young women poised for success in the years ahead. But allowing generations of boys to grow up feeling rootless and obsolete is not a recipe for a peaceful future.”

Unfortunately, the pro-men and pro-boy movements that are now happening are either discounted by many as too religious, too extreme, or too angry and anti-women.

In short, the only thing which really seems to work in raising boys toward ideal manhood, regardless of what the experts are saying, is the intimate and ongoing example of fathers, grandfathers, uncles and other key male role models.

Solutions

This reality, in fact, is one of those amazing coincidences that can only be called either inspiration or serendipity.

The current crisis is offering an opportunity for men to develop their nurturing side.

Before you discount this, consider that men are as naturally prone to nurture as they are to provide.

Thousands of years of the Nomadic, Agrarian and Industrial Ages have conditioned hundreds of generations of men to find success through work.

And the long era of comparative peace and prosperity since 1945 have tended to make them feel entitled to plentiful jobs, extra cash, vacations, and leisure time, and numerous other opportunities—often with minimal effort.

The Great Recession has challenged these assumptions, requiring a new type of individual with two sets of character traits and skills:

  1. First, extremely high levels of initiative, resiliency, ingenuity, and tenacity.
  2. Second, much higher than traditional levels of cooperation, communication, unselfishness about who gets rewards and credit, and teamwork.

Today’s generation of men and women are capable of the first list of needed traits and changes, but many men struggle to compete with women on the second list.

Indeed, for much of history it was man’s lack of these very “weaknesses” that made him independent, self-assured, bold, assertive, ambitious, and what has been called simply, “manly,” “Roman,” and “tough.”

When boys are taught, “be a man,” “don’t cry like a sissy,” and men are told to “cowboy up,” it often means precisely not to be the cooperative, communicative, depend-on-others types.

“Stop talking and just do it.” “Who cares what others say or do, just do what you want.”

Men still laugh at Tim Allen’s grunts as the essence of male communication, and even in team athletics boys are taught to stand out and rise above the crowd.

What used to be the unwritten rules of “male dominance” are now actually seen as inability to excel in the vital second list of characteristics (communication, cooperation, unselfishness).

While of course this generalization is overcome by a number of individuals, it remains a reality for many.

Wise fathers, grandfathers and role models will help teach boys and men that there is much more to manhood than the wartime and gang-related values.

Indeed, the lessons taught from fathers to sons by generations of hunters, farmers and entrepreneurs differ greatly from those idealized by warriors, politicians and corporate raiders.

The first group idealizes cooperation, communication, and progress whereas the second prefers competition, dominance and victory.

In the Industrial Age, the “Organization Man” became the ideal for males—detached, admired, cash-carrying, benefitting from a lot of leisure time, and considered in charge of his family and its members.

The Industrial Man was the provider and the boss. At work he was an employee, a servant, but at home he was the center of the universe. He too often tended to treat his wife and children like employees and act like the boss he resented at work.

With a life experience built on succeeding as an employee, he didn’t know another way of acting.

His wife was either an employee, the boss, or perhaps a fellow worker in competition for advancement, attention and rewards.

His marriage was most often seen as a contract, where both sides were expected to perform their agreed upon roles, rather than a covenant where he would give his all in sacrifice and longsuffering regardless of what the other side did.

His relationships with neighbors and his nation took on this same contractual perspective.

He voted like an employee, for what he wanted—rather than for what the nation truly needed like a farmer or owner protecting the land or the organization he raised from scratch.

Today some men are lamenting (often quietly) the loss of this concept, while at the same time the need for a new male ideal is vital.

Before the Industrial Revolution, the masculine ideal was often the best nurturer. It takes nurturing, not detached management, to grow a farm, build a business from the ground up, and raise children into adults.

The necessary attention to detail is legendary. Indeed, in the Agrarian Age the iconic man’s occupation and business was Husbandry.

Providing was part of their role, but it was a secondary natural outgrowth of nurturing children like a small business in its infancy, encouraging and husbanding plants and coaxing them to grow and flourish into a farm in full bloom.

As Wendell Berry put it:

“…a man who is in the traditional sense a good farmer is husbandman and husband, the begetter and conserver of the earth’s bounty, but he is also midwife and motherer. He is a nurturer of life. His work is domestic. He is bound to the household.

“But let ‘progress’ take such a man and transform him…sever him from the household, make…‘uneconomical’ his impulse to conserve and to nurture…’ and not only will much of his incentive to be a good husband end, but his attachment to the land, to his nation, and to his wife and children, who are, after all, not particularly economical.

“Then, send his children away to school during the day, thus severing the wife from both husband and children, and she will naturally follow him to work looking for connection and meaning.

“Our homes are left abandoned and barren across the nation—father, mother and children are all elsewhere, seeking love and acceptance and nurturing.”

New Opportunities

Then the economy tanks, the era of the male provider-warrior ends, and man stands wondering if he has any importance.

As women take more than half of the new jobs in the market, they too begin to wonder if man is needed.

Here comes the miracle.

Like a wildfire burning a forest and opening the seeds for the growth of new trees and vast swaths of new woodlands, men look around, try to see any value in their lives, and find, hopefully, inevitably, their inner nurturer.

If this sounds effeminate, you still don’t realize how much the world has changed.

This transition is not simple, and we fight it with the zeal of the government battling the most threatening forest fires.

The experts and activists may call it “A New Era of Matriarchy,” “The End of Men,” “The Failed Marriage Plot,” “The Victory of Feminism,” or “a Matriarchal Society,” but all of these miss the most central point.

After generations of an economy driving men further and further away from their nurturing selves, of making them more and more the provider-manager-disconnected-careerist or confused-noncommittal-freewheeler-playboy, something drastic is required to reawaken a generation of husbandmen.

A generation of husbandmen could improve the world like perhaps nothing else. Indeed this is the highest ideal of manhood promoted by feminism and its opponents alike.

And if unemployment and economic struggles are what it takes to bring about this change, it is certainly worth it.

Of course, making this change will be neither immediate, easy nor sure. There will be ups and downs, and individuals may reject the whole thing.

But the change is here, women and men are empowered, and our society is poised to take a great step toward an ideal world.

Speaking as a man, I am both overwhelmed and intrigued by the prospects.

This is about much more than just seeing the proverbial silver lining in economic struggles. We literally have the chance to become better as men, women, and people.

The debate about gender that has raged my entire life can finally be answered. We don’t need to worry so much about what men or women should be or who is ahead.

We have reached a point where all the incentive is simply for men to be better men. If each of us, male and female, see things this way and simply set out to be better, just imagine the potential.

I am so glad my daughters live in a world of such opportunity—both in and out of the home. And I am equally thrilled that my sons will build their lives in a world where the whole man—nurturer as well as provider—is emerging as the ideal.

I am more enthused than ever about the potential for all our children to be equally yoked and fully happy in their marriages.

I don’t believe that the era of marriage, family happiness, or the high point for men or women is over. In contrast, I have never been more optimistic about the future of family.

If we are entering an era where both women and men more broadly improve themselves, the future of the home is indeed bright—and the impact on the rest of the world is inevitable.

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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 : Culture &Current Events &Economics &Family &Featured &History &Mini-Factories

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