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Generations

THE JEFFERSON-MADISON DEBATES: A New Cold War is Coming PART II

June 11th, 2019 // 7:41 am @

What Americans Can Do To Effectively Protect American Freedoms in the Decades Just Ahead

(Book Review of American, by Shanon Brooks)

Note to reader: read Part I of this report here >>


I. The Challenge

The 21st Century is shaping up as an era of major conflict, between (1) the three superpowers (the U.S., Russia, and China) and their allies and proxies (the European Union, Israel, North Korea, Iran, etc.), and also between (2) the Red- and Blue-state cultures that are further dividing America. If the U.S. doesn’t fix the problem (2) above, it will almost certainly lose the first battle (1) to China and/or Russia.

But what can regular Americans actually do? What will really work?

The three most effective things Americans can do to maintain our freedoms, families, and leadership in an increasingly dangerous world are:

  1. Spread great, classics- and freedom-based, leadership education
  2. Engage entrepreneurialism, the key to free enterprise, and encourage/help others to do the same
  3. Vote correctly and influence other voters to do the same (to protect and increase freedoms), and effectively influence government between elections

The battle for world leadership will come down to how well Americans do these three things. If we don’t win this battle, the world by 2040 will likely be run by two superpowers: China and Russia. Freedom values will be at odds with the rest of the world, and greatly reduced in the United States. Socialism will be the norm from the California redwoods to the beaches of Florida, from the Midwest to the Plains, and from the Rockies to Maine, in the cities and farms, and across all fifty states. Many of our most cherished freedoms will be reduced, or stolen.

How can we ensure that this doesn’t happen? A new book addresses this very question. This may be one of the most important books of our time; if we read and understand it, and take the right action, the future of America, our freedoms, our economy and our families, will be bright. If we don’t take the needed action…freedoms will be lost, socialism will spread, and families will suffer.

The book is titled simply, and sagely, American.

II. The Journey

Indeed, the title says it all. Written by Shanon Brooks, American gets to the heart of the problem, and the solutions. As Brooks puts it: “…we are killing the American Dream. Out of the top 30 countries in the world, the U.S. ranks 16th in literacy…and 14th in problem solving.”

Does that sound like a superpower? Or more like a past leader currently in decline? If we’re only 14th in problem solving, how can we truly expect to lead in the decades ahead, to tackle and solve our greatest problems, to help lead the world as it faces and overcomes the challenges ahead?

But the problem is even more daunting. Brooks wrote:

“National unfunded obligations are more than $100 trillion while U.S. household debt is at an all-time high of $13.2 trillion. We have one of the most litigious societies in the world, our incarceration rate is among the highest globally, and our state and federal legislatures are convinced that they are our cradle-to-grave caretakers.”

Unless something changes soon, and in major ways, we are not on the path to increased freedoms or economic opportunities for our children or grandchildren. In fact, we are quickly headed in the opposite direction.

As Brooks notes:

“How can we claim that America is the greatest nation in the world when 60% of our population can’t even pass the U.S. citizenship test? What have we done with the legacy of liberty that the founders so carefully crafted for us? And what are we creating to pass down to our children and grandchildren?”

The problem is real. The divide between those who even care about freedom and those who don’t is quickly expanding. And the root of the problem is at the very core of our daily lives: how we are educated, how we make a living, and how we participate (and don’t participate) as citizens overseeing and governing our own nation. As Travis Slade notes in the preface to American: “Pretty much everything about how we live today is killing the American Dream.” He’s right. And this book, American, is much more than a handbook on the principles of freedom—it’s all about how to apply those principles in the world today, in this economy, given the reality of the world we actually live in. Along the way, it addresses real issues across the board, including:

  • Our Decaying Education System
  • Our Work Life—Pros and Cons
  • The Way People Vote and Otherwise Participate (or don’t) in Overseeing Our Government
  • Commercial and Residential Construction
  • The Health Care Industry
  • The Transportation Industry
  • The Food and Grocery Industry
  • Local Law Enforcement
  • The Issues of Immigration
  • The Regulation State versus Free Enterprise
  • Socialism versus Investment
  • Employee versus Owner Mindsets
  • Federal Government Overreach
  • …Etc.

American asks us to seriously consider a number of poignant questions, questions that our national school/education system has patently taught us not to ask—or even think about in any meaningful way.

For example: “How can the American Dream be alive when each new American baby…inherits $300,000 of national debt…?”

And “…bureaucracy so deep and stifling that most just give up and give in.”

This book describes an America the Framers wouldn’t even recognize, a nation deeply entrenched in a bureaucratic quagmire the likes of ancient Byzantium, with a few celebrities, wealthy super elites, and top government officials (and their families) enjoying benefits akin to a medieval Venetian aristocracy.

And we call this “American?” It isn’t. It was supposed to be different. It was designed to be different. But only the people are capable of keeping our freedoms, as the Framers warned. No elites will save us. It is up to regular Americans.

III. Solutions

The best part of American is the solutions. I won’t spoil the book by listing them all here, or going into detailed applications and strategies, but they cut right to the heart of the matter, skipping symptoms and focusing on what we really need to do in order to steer things in the right direction. If we want real freedom, and effective results, we’re going to have to act. Brooks outlines what we need to do, and how to get started.

Specifically, as mentioned above, this book emphasizes the three major things we need to influence, change, and improve if America is going to survive as an effective beacon of freedom—in the world, and at home to the rising generations.

First, the right kind of education. Second, the right choices in the way we as a people make a living. And third, the way we vote—what goes into our voting decisions and the way we train up young people to be wise voters—and the ways we actively participate in governing our nation between elections.

Ultimately, these three things boil down to the quality of our learning, the kind of education we share, support, and pass on to our children and especially our young adults. If we get this right, the rest will follow. If not, our freedoms are very much in danger. America simply cannot survive three more generations of education like what we currently have.

We actually have two education systems in modern America, one for elites and those who work as the elites’ advisors, professionals, and managers, and another for the masses. Most Americans attend the second type of schools; the result is that America now educates mostly followers. This hard-to-hear reality is, nonetheless, true. It is time to face it openly, and change it. American is not just a great book on freedom and leadership, but an excellent book on higher education, right up there with Henry Newman’s great classic The Idea of a University, The Higher Learning in America by Robert Hutchins, An Education for Our Time by Josiah Bunting, and The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom. Brooks benefitted from the ideas in all of these, and many others, and as a result American is the best book on higher education that I have ever read.

Every American who cares about freedom and our future should read it. And every American should care about freedom and our future.

Perhaps most importantly, Brooks’ book will introduce the reader to a number of very important ideas and principles that are seldom discussed anymore—in schools, homes, churches, or places of business, and certainly not by the media—but were once understood, cherished, and debated by every free American. The early Americans taught these things to their children, and were ashamed if any of their children couldn’t articulate these principles of freedom and life fluently and in detail. Such principles constitute the bulk of chapters 1 through 10 in American. Knowing them fully, and understanding how to apply them in society, was once considered crucial to being an American. They have now been almost entirely lost, and with them many of our freedoms. To reboot our freedoms, we must understand these vital principles and ideas.

It is time for us to know them. To pour over them, and to master them. To share them, teach them, talk about them, debate them, and apply them. It is past time. We cannot wait any longer. We must act. Again, our freedoms and the future of our posterity are at stake. If we get the freedom principles right, if we understand and effectively implement them, we will be another generation of American heroes. If not, the candle of American freedom will be snuffed out.

This is true. This is real. This is happening.

Not every person will apply the things learned in American the same way. Or even agree on every specific. This is the way it should be—free people applying principles differently, based on personal mission. But all of us should learn them. Know them. Ponder, discuss, and apply them as inspired.

It is time.

To act…

Recommended Reading

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THE JEFFERSON-MADISON DEBATES: A New Cold War is Coming – PART I

June 3rd, 2019 // 6:14 pm @

The 3 Superpowers and The State of the World Right Now

(WHAT EVERY AMERICAN SHOULD KNOW)

America isn’t supposed to act this way, the experts say. After all, we invented the liberal international order—the growing sprawl of international organizations, treaties, and laws that all nations are eventually supposed to join, and follow.

Founded in 1917, 1921, 1944 and almost every year since, Internationalism, now usually called Globalism, is America’s biggest export. More than freedom. More than apple pie. More than movies, even. But this whole arrangement has been turned on its head in the era of Brexit and Trump.

I: The United States

The two most powerful enemies of Globalism, Russia and China, once had a clear path to success—to slow down the growth of Globalism, slow down America and it’s NATO allies, and thereby increase their own status. For that matter, between 1944 and 2017, most U.S. policy makers had the same approach: spread U.S. influence by supporting the expansion of Globalism. Globalism itself was built on three main pillars:

  1. An “acronym salad” of international organizations (from the UN to the IBRD [World Bank] and IMF, from the World Court, the G7 and G8, to the GATT and eventually the World Trade Organization, etc.)
  2. Free trade agreements
  3. Collective security arrangements

By the 1980s, Internationalism dominated the U.S. government and universities; anything that differed from the aims of Internationalism was decried by experts as dangerous isolationism. When I was in college, for example, and wanted to study Political Science, multiple professors assured me that “Political Science is outdated; study International Relations–that’s the future.” The U.S. State Department and a host of foreign policy professionals in our universities convinced three generations (1964-2016) that Internationalism [and later Globalism] equals freedom, and that the U.S. is just one part of Globalism (along with a bunch of other nations)–not its indispensable leader.

This all changed with the advent of Brexit, followed by the surprising (to the “mainstream thinking”) election of Donald Trump.

According to one expert:

“Although future presidents will try to restore the classical version of U.S. foreign policy [Globalism], in all likelihood, it cannot be returned.”

(Foreign Affairs, May/June 2019, p. 10)

Why? Because President Trump is patently against free trade agreements that are built on Globalism rather than economic benefits for Americans, and against international organizations that sap American power and resources without giving back commensurate benefits to American citizens.

For the foreign policy establishment, this is heresy. After more than 70 years of trying to convince world leaders to join Globalism, Trump’s rejection of the Globalist system will probably make it impossible for heads of state to trust future U.S. assurances of Globalism. After all, as 2016 proved, a single election can significantly reverse, and even erase, seven decades of U.S. policy. This is what the American Framers intended, but it is anathema to the current foreign policy establishment.

As another article in the same issue of Foreign Affairs put it: “Can the State Department be Saved?” Short answer: No. The State Department is based on Globalism, and Globalism can be rejected by the American people in any given presidential election. The world is changed. Forever. The main reason given for this shift is interesting: the American people don’t trust “experts” anymore. (Foreign Affairs, May/June 2019, p. 14).

A secondary reason is that foreign policy experts worked very hard (from 1944 to 2016) to transfer increasing levels of power to the office of the Presidency, shifting it slowly over time from the Legislative Branch. (See ibid.) Turns out changing the Constitution in this backroom fashion has unintended consequences for the progressives who championed it.

II: Russia and China

Image Source: The National Interest

This drastic change is a shock for both Russia and China. Putin built his administration as the biggest outlier and opponent of Globalism, with a “Russia First” approach. [Richard Sakwa, 2019, Russia’s Futures]

As one Russia expert put it, Putin’s main goal for two decades has been to “Make Russia Great Again.” (Ibid.) The focus of this agenda was to keep Russia strongly in control of its own future by resisting Globalism as an ideology and Globalist international organizations in specific. Putin accomplished this by resisting the West at every turn, but simultaneously allowing Globalism to grow so that Western economies could continue to purchase Russian oil and other products.

Thus Trump and Putin agree on a general policy: “My Nation First”. But they are directly adversarial, because one wants to put the U.S. above the Liberal International Order and the other seeks to put Russia above Globalism and Globalist institutions. Same goal—opposite direction.

The two presidents have also employed very different means to achieve their goals. Trump’s main strategy has been to deregulate the U.S. economy, allowing increased economic freedom to reboot finance, commerce, entrepreneurship, and production; Putin’s major agenda has been a massive centralization of power to the office of President, i.e. himself. Putin has, in twenty years of power, created another Russian autocracy, with centralized powers that some experts say rival, or perhaps exceed, those of Stalin.

China is also drastically centralizing power to President Xi, to the point that a number of China experts consider this a return to Mao-level dominance by one leader. But unlike Russia, China worked hard from 1989-2017 to increase its influence as part of the Globalist community. It even supported, at least superficially, a level of U.S. leadership in international organizations—always with the understanding that the U.S. could lead as long as it also paid most of the bill.

The State Department largely saw this as a positive, and promised/fulfilled payments from U.S. taxpayers to numerous programs worldwide. At the same time, China frequently voted for these programs at the international level (again, as long as the U.S. was picking up the tab) and spent its own time and money buying up control of world natural resources in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. China now manages (by contract) more natural resources around the world than any other nation–far more than the United States. Ironically, communistic China preferred capitalist-style business contracts around the globe for water, food, oil, land and other natural resources, while U.S. claims to the same were usually negotiated by treaty and backed by arms rather than contract.

Today China, Russia and the United States are pulling away from each other, and all three are simultaneously pulling away from international organizations and the liberal Globalist Order. The future name of our era will likely be something like “The Return of Rivalry” (Foreign Affairs, May/June 2019, p. 19) or a “New Cold War” (Op cit., Sakwa, 2019). As Richard Sakwa put it: “Russia and the Atlantic System [NATO plus…] are locked in confrontation.” Add China to the mix, and a new Age of Rivalry is here.

Further details are sobering. For example, unlike the situation during the original Cold War, there are numerous conflicting rivalries at play right now, including:

  • U.S./Russia – U.S./China
  • Russia/China
  • U.S./European Union
  • China/European Union
  • Russia/European Union
  • United Kingdom/European Union
  • Trump Administration/U.S. Foreign Policy Establishment (or, on the broader scale, Red/Blue culture)
  • U.S./North Korea (China proxy)
  • China/Taiwan (U.S. proxy)
  • U.S./Iran (Russia proxy)
  • U.S./Cuba (Russia proxy)
  • U.S./Nicaragua (Russia proxy)
  • U.S./any nation with natural resources contracted to China
  • Russia/any nation with natural resources contracted to China
  • European Union/any nation with natural resources contracted to China
  • Iran (Russia proxy)/Israel (U.S. proxy)
  • Syria (Russia proxy)/Israel (U.S. proxy)

Serious flashpoints ahead. Proxies can, of course, cause major problems between superpowers, for example the Korean War and Vietnam War, not to mention the proxy-conflict that sparked World War I.  Also, unlike the Red-Blue division in the United States that seems poised to create increased internal conflict in the years ahead, both China and Russia have consolidated powers, and the leading groups of influence within their respective nations are currently, and strongly, behind Xi and Putin. This solidarity is particularly surprising in Russia, where the four major power groups seldom agree on much, but right now concur that Russia should be less acquiescent to the United States and the West: “All four of the great interest-ideological blocs broadly support Putin…and indeed, the main criticism of three of them is that he has been too weak and accommodating to the West’s demands.” (Op. cit., Sakwa, 2019)

III: Dangers Ahead

If (when) any of the rivalries listed above escalates, each superpower will ultimately tend to fall back on its areas of strategic advantage. Every American should understand these advantages, for all three superpowers.

China: The Chinese strategic advantages are access to natural resources, manpower for traditional military conflict, and a tightly centralized command structure. Note that the latter isn’t an advantage for freedom, but during conflicts it is a distinct strategic benefit. China is built for outlasting the enemy, holding on and waiting for opponents to tire out, burn out, or give in. Anyone engaging a major conflict with China needs to be prepared for the long haul—and plan in terms of multiple decades rather than years.

United States: If the conflict is dominated by economics, a non-regulation-oriented Administration paired with an enterprising U.S. culture is a serious short-, medium-, and long-term advantage. (A high-regulation Administration would cancel this advantage.) In a major conflict, incentivizing the entrepreneurialism of the populace will be the major key to American victory, or even stalemate.

Russia: If the battle turns violent, Russia will be tempted to rely on the advantage of its nuclear arsenal. Indeed, in today’s New Cold War, Russia finds itself facing a very different situation than during the 1950s-1980s. At least four significant differences could change everything:

  1. Russia today doesn’t have the allies the USSR had. (Op. cit., Sakwa, 2019)
  2. China is a third superpower, complicating the whole situation, especially since it is geographically adjacent and shares the world’s largest militarized border with China. (Ibid.)
  3. U.S. deregulation of domestic oil production since 2016, and other contemporary increases in oil production around the world have reduced petroleum as the major income stream it once was for the USSR/Russia. (See ibid.)
  4. Cyber weapons are a new reality, something both China and Russia are endeavoring to master. (See ibid.)

These four shifts in geopolitics strongly increase Russia’s dependence on nuclear weapons as its main, if not only, strategic advantage. This is dangerous. And this rivalry is just heating up.

Conclusion

For the United States, the greatest danger probably won’t come from lack of resources or a nuclear attack—both can be effectively deterred by strong and unified leadership—but rather by the growing chasm between Red and Blue culture.

The worst-case scenario for U.S. national security in the Twenty-First Century may well be a pattern of yo-yo elections (Op cit, Foreign Affairs, 2019), four years Red followed by four years Blue in the Oval Office, repeating again and again. Four years isn’t enough to truly reboot the economy and military (Red agenda), or restructure the economy on more collectivist and regulatory lines to increase social equality (Blue agenda). To build one agenda for four years, then tear it down for four years, over and over, will almost certainly guarantee American weakness and long-term economic/security decline. An eight-year cycle would be less extreme, but still bad. This yo-yo pattern is also, unfortunately, the most likely scenario given current trends in America. (Ibid.)

Great superpowers are seldom conquered from without. Instead, they fight internally, causing their own decline from within. This is precisely what we are witnessing right now. The election of 2020, and even more tellingly the election of 2024, will signal which of the following paths we are pursuing:

  • A U.S./China dominated world in the year 2040, or,
  • A Russia/China dominated world in the year 2040

Americans must take action to effectively protect American freedoms and superpower leadership in an increasingly dangerous world.

What we as citizens can actually do, and how to do it, will be addressed in Part II of this Special Report, to be published next week.

Recommended Reading:

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Let’s talk presidential election 2020

May 8th, 2019 // 6:30 am @

News of the Day

May 2019:

Let’s talk politics briefly–specifically the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Who is the leading candidate for the Democrats? According to the polls, it’s Joe Biden. But it’s way too early for the polls to get things right, and even if the polls could make an accurate prediction right now, the real answer to this question (“Who is the leading candidate?”) goes much deeper than polls, or even who’s running for office.

The real question, as political insiders understand, is this: “Who is the greatest threat to each party’s candidate?” The answers are significant. In the case of Democrats, the major threat is Donald Trump. This is always true of incumbent presidents, so no surprise here. But in the case of who looms as the biggest threat to president Trump in 2020, the answer is a bit surprising for most people, and certainly for anyone who gets their news from the mainstream media. Again, for insiders the answer is clear. But what is it?

Trump vs. ???

Does Trump’s major threat come from Joe Biden? Or Bernie Sanders? What about Kamala Harris, or Cory Booker, or any other Democrat senator, governor, mayor, representative or billionaire running for office? Or perhaps a serious run by Michele Obama, if she makes the unlikely choice to seek the Oval Office?

Answer: None of these. In fact, Trump’s major threat for the 2020 election comes from a former short-time member of George H.W. Bush’s administration in 1992. As mentioned, this is a surprise. But real. The big threat to Trump winning the election is Jerome Powell. For most Americans, the immediate response is “Jerome who…?”

Powell is the chair of the Federal Reserve, and Fed decisions between now and election day 2020 can almost single-handedly determine whether Donald Trump ends up serving one or two terms. How? Answer: As Bill Clinton advisor James Carville once quipped, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

It’s the Economy, Stupid

The 2016 election pitted strongly-blue states against firmly-red states, but came down to Republican wins in the Rust Belt: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and West Virginia. Today these states are experiencing precisely what they voted for in 2016: a booming economy and rising wages, most notably among middle class working voters. If this continues, or even holds steady at current levels (barring major catastrophe of some kind), 2020 is likely a “shoo-in” for Trump/Pence.

If the boom stagnates, or returns to economic decline and “slow growth or no growth as the new normal,” as experienced from 2008-2016, the eventual Democratic nominee will likely sweep the Rust Belt and many-if-not-most of the Purple swing states. That’s the game.

The most significant factors determining economic upswing or downturn, now that the current Administration has drastically reduced the regulatory red tape that hampered business growth during the Bush and Trump eras, are the choices made at the sole discretion of the Federal Reserve. Jerome Powell, not the political parties and not even the media, potentially (if the Fed chooses to put its thumb on the scale) holds the future in his hands.

The Constitutional Question

For me, the real issue here is the following question: “What would the American Framers and Founders say about this arrangement?” Probably the same thing most Americans should be thinking about a lot more:

Why does an institution not even mentioned in the Constitution, and facing only one minor Constitutional balance and no serious Constitutional checks from any of the three branches of the U.S. Government, have this kind of power?

Whatever your politics, why does one organization and its head, virtually unknown to the large majority of Americans, control our future? This is THE question of the 2020 election, but so far I haven’t heard it voiced anywhere.

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TODAY IN THE NEWS by Oliver DeMille

May 6th, 2019 // 6:44 am @

I. Today in the News

There is so much going on in the news these days–big events that have major potential to influence the future of our nation and freedom. Unfortunately, almost all the news is reported with strong partisan leanings. The slant and spin are frequently overwhelming.

To respond, I’ve decided to do a several-times-a-week news post that steps away from current partisan spin and addresses the big news of the day from the perspective of the U.S. Constitution and the viewpoint of the American Founding. It will give readers a different way to look at things several times a week. I’ll try to keep these brief and to the point, just a few paragraphs per post. I hope you will comment and share so this can influence people…

Here’s the first post:

Friday, May 9, 2109

The Democrat-led investigative committees of the House of Representatives are threatening to force the Attorney General of the United States and other Administration officials to testify, even to the point of contempt charges and sending the House Sergeant of Arms to arrest and detain them until they comply. Many Democrats (and left-leaning mainstream media) claim they have this power (though it hasn’t been used in nearly 80 years), while most Republicans argue that this would violate the Constitution with the Legislative Branch usurping duties held by both the Executive and Judiciary. Founding Father St. George Tucker wrote about this same threat in 1803 and outlined 6 specific ways this action would violate the Constitution; his list sides with the 2019 Republican view (The Founders’ Constitution, vol. 2, pp. 311-313.) So–no surprise–there’s a partisan split on the topic.

But let’s look at this from a third perspective. Speaking ironically: wouldn’t it be great if the House did it and made it stick?

Before you answer…think about it. On the one hand, the Democrats are wrong about this on Constitutional grounds, so that would be bad. And in an ideal world, that should be the end of the discussion.

But on the other hand (again, speaking ironically), wouldn’t it be nice to see the House of Representatives actually do something to check another branch of government? This is hugely important.

The Framers gave the House the biggest check of all–the power over the purse strings, meaning control of all money spent by the federal government–because the House members are the federal officials most easily removed and replaced by the voters. The Framers wanted the people, the voting public, to have the biggest voice in the federal government, and the only direct voice they gave the people was through the House.

But the House hasn’t used its purse strings to check the Court or the Executive Branch in big, meaningful ways for many decades. Executive Agencies and the Courts have gotten away with numerous unconstitutional actions because the House has been weak. Indeed, where the Framers wanted the House to have the most power of all the entities in the federal government, today the House is the weakest.

Not good.

To the current threat of the House apprehending and jailing uncooperative government officials: If the House followed through on this threat, it would create a precedent that the House can arrest and jail members of the other branches who aren’t obeying the law. Not the ideal system of checks and balances, to say the least; but might it actually be better than the House (and the people) having basically no power at all over the other two branches?

If we’re going to violate the Constitution routinely, this violation would at least be a path that gives more power to the people. Right now, given current news of the day, this seems bad to conservatives; but they would have loved it when Eric Holder ran “Fast and Furious” and the House could just arrest and jail him.

Yes, this sounds a bit wild; but given the current lack of House power, you could make a case that this is a step in the right direction.

Yeah, of course

Ideally the House would just fulfill its Constitutionally-defined duties and use finances to check the Executive and Judiciary. If the House isn’t going to follow the Constitution, and the voters aren’t either, then is allowing the House to have some little power to check the other two branches a lesser evil?

What do you think? Whatever you decide, this kind of considering each branch’s options is exactly the way the Founding generation would have thought about it. Today, far too often, Americans simply accept whatever the media, party leaders, or experts say, without thinking about the issue from all angles like the regular citizens did in early America.

Which is worse: a House that has no power versus the Executive Agencies and Courts (allowing them to run rampant), or a House that can arrest government officials who are violating the Constitution? Sometimes the House would get it wrong, but the alternative is that the Executive Agencies and Courts act with almost unlimited power and impunity.

Where do you stand on this?

Please comment and share….


II. Free Enterprise is Better than Socialism or Capitalism

“It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’

But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.”
—Murray Rothbard

THERE is a battle raging for the future of America. And, by extension, this battle impacts the prospects for freedom around the world. Indeed, if the great system of freedom initiated by the Declaration of Independence and established by the U.S. Constitution is lost in the United States, it will likely take centuries before real freedom regains its current levels of influence in the world.

This is the great struggle of our generation, but sadly the center point of this contest is unclear to most people. Only a relative few understand what is actually going on behind the scenes.

In fact, this battle for our future hinges on two main questions.

The first question is:

Will Socialism or Free Enterprise be the leading economic system of the 21st Century?

Get Oliver’s newest e-book: Free Enterprise vs. Capitalism and Socialism at 20% off using coupon code “NEWS-19”

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The Jefferson-Madison Debates: What Are We NOT Teaching Today’s Youth?

February 27th, 2019 // 8:04 am @

THE MISSING TOPIC IN MODERN EDUCATION

What Was Lost

I thought he was convinced, but then he leaned forward in his chair and shook his head. He wasn’t officially my student, but we’d had a number of mentoring discussions in recent months, and I knew from experience that he was about to say something deep.

“It’s frustrating that so many people in my generation like socialism,” he said. “But I don’t think they really understand it. They just dislike all the political division and fighting, and Bernie Sanders seemed like a third alternative.”

I nodded.

“Besides,” he continued, “I’m not actually a Millennial.”

“You’re not?” I asked…

“I’m Gen Z,” he said before I could finish. “Born after 9/11.”

I pondered that.

“We’re different from Millennials.” He paused. “A lot different.”

I could see this was really important to him. “In what ways?” I asked.

He could tell I wasn’t really buying it, and he grinned. “Well, we’re similar in a lot of ways too, I guess…” He pursed his bottom lip and cocked his head slightly to one side. “But I don’t think that’s our fault. I think the bad traits that are blamed on Millennials and Gen Z aren’t really caused by us.”

I was shaking my head at this point, so he raised his voice a bit.

“No. Seriously. This is real. You guys just don’t get it…”

“Get what?”

He sighed. “Okay, you’re not wrong. But you’re not right, either. It goes deeper than pointing out the weaknesses of Millennials. We’ve bought into some things we shouldn’t, but I blame most of it on Boomers and Gen X, on our parents and the other adults in our lives. Your generation trained us to be this way.”

My skepticism must have showed.

“Look…” he said. He was getting a bit frustrated, but he calmed himself and smiled. I could tell he had given this a lot of thought.

“Here’s the deal,” he looked at me intently. “Your generation cared a lot about raising kids. Maybe too much. They don’t call you ‘Helicopter Parents’ for nothing. But in all your hovering as parents, your generation missed something. Something big.”

I waited, not sure what to expect.

“Your generation of parents taught my generation to be good people. And you taught us to aim for success in our schooling and careers. But you didn’t teach us to be strong.”

He said the last sentence slowly, with emphasis on the words “didn’t” and “strong.” I was surprised by his words. After considering them for a moment, I realized I was hearing something important.

Making Snow

“Huh…. You might be right,” I said slowly.

“In fact, you actually avoided teaching us to be strong—in a lot of ways. If we had a chance to face a problem or struggle on our own, you jumped in and offered help. Or just told us what to do. Or told us not to worry about it, and then you took care of it.” He kept talking, without pausing: “If something seemed hard for us, you told us to drop it or avoid it. If you didn’t think we could handle it, you didn’t even let us try…

“Of course, there are exceptions. Rare parents who did it differently. Unique teachers, coaches or others who pushed us. But they are the exceptions, not the rule. “And for every demanding coach or hard teacher who pushed us there are twenty parents protecting us from those same people, telling us we don’t have listen to them or do what they say. Every time I had a demanding youth leader or coach, almost all the other adults in my life undermined them. Most kids in my generation have a habit of just ignoring anything hard—they know their parents will back them and help them get out of hard things. So they hardly ever push themselves. Why should they—when the adults are always telling them the easy way is better?”

He stopped to take a breath, but I didn’t have anything to say. I was nodding by this point, surprised at his intensity, and also the wisdom of his observations.

“You know how many adults act worried when I tell them I like martial arts, and football? And try to talk me into quitting? Also, I’ve learned never to mention that I might want to serve in the military when I’m older. That gets most adults really angry at me—like serving your country is the stupidest choice anyone could ever make…”

He cocked his head again. “Which is strange, because those same people act super patriotic when the flag is mentioned, or in church meetings around the Fourth of July. I’ve noticed that a lot of them fly flags in front of their yard. It’s weird.”

I sighed, a bit overwhelmed by his onslaught. Important thoughts, these.

“What did you say my generation teaches well, versus poorly?” I asked. I wanted to make sure I remembered it correctly.

“You’ve taught us to be good, and to seek career success. But you don’t teach us to be strong. In fact, most of the time you teach us to be weak.”

“Wow…”

He frowned. “And your generation has the audacity to point out how weak my generation is, and mock us for things like participation trophies. I mean, most of us want real trophies, at least at first. It’s the adults who told us that participation trophies are better. You teach us to be weak, you refuse to let us do hard things that build strength, and you warn us against doing anything really hard or risky in life, then you call us Snowflakes!” His shook his head in disgust.

“Okay,” I responded. “I get it. You’re making a lot of sense.” I laughed: “But calling your generation ‘Phone Zombies’, or ‘Selfie Addicts’, like some people do, is pretty accurate, right?”

He laughed with me. Then he said: “But you guys aren’t the best with phones either. Like, why does your generation answer the phone by saying ‘hello’ and acting like you don’t know who’s calling? You have the name of the caller right on your screen!”

I laughed. I had never noticed that before.

He knit his brow. “It’s basically the same thing, really. It’s pretending. Why do Boomers and Gen X pretend so much? You pretend you don’t know who is calling on the phone, but it gets worse. You pretend to know the answers, and you pretend you know so much better than us. But you don’t, not really. We didn’t elect Clinton, Obama, or Trump or Bush. You guys did that. Why?

Opposite Lessons

I laughed again. “Good question. I don’t know if I have a good answer though. But…you don’t like any of them? I thought a lot of Millennials liked Obama?”

“Not me. But then Gen Z is different politically than most Millennials, and I’m unique even for Gen Z.”

“How are you different?”

“Easy—my parents taught me to be strong, not weak. That makes me different from a lot of people my age.”

“How did they do it?” I asked.

“My parents? Well, they did it with little things, mostly. Like…the time a sixth grader was picking on my little sister, and shoving her, and I told him to stop. He told me no, and kept shoving her. I was only in the third grade, and my sister was a first grader, but when the bigger kid didn’t stop I hit him right in the nose. Hard. He was twice my size, but I couldn’t just stand there and watch him hurt my sister.”

“What happened?”“I got in trouble, and got lectured about how nobody should ever hit anyone no matter what. I asked the principal if that applied to U.S. soldiers fighting Hitler, and he didn’t like it. He called my mom and she promised she’d read me the riot act. When I got home, my mom asked what happened. I told her everything, and when I was done she told me I did the right thing. My dad said he’d never been prouder of me in my whole life.”

“Wow,” I said. “What did the principal think of that?” “Nothing. They told me to tell him I was sorry and wouldn’t do it again. But to stop the big kid anyway if he kept picking on my sister. I asked about the principal’s threat to kick me out of school, and my parents laughed. ‘You don’t need school to learn,’ my mom said. So I kept a close eye on that kid.”

“Did he pick on your little sister again?”

“No. The boy got in big trouble. Not for picking on my sister, but for getting in a fight with me.”

“Oh, he hit you back?”

“No. He just got hit, and fell down. That’s all he did. But his parents called that a fight and grounded him.”

“Maybe the parents didn’t like that he was shoving a little first grader, and that’s why they grounded him.”

He thought about that. “Maybe. That’s not what he said, though. He said it was for fighting with me, even though all he did was fall down and cry. Either way, the boy learned the lesson to never get in a fight cause you’ll get grounded, and I learned the lesson to stand up for what’s right. We learned opposite lessons.”

“You think that made the bigger boy weaker in life?”

“No idea. We moved away a year later. But he was bullying a little kid, so maybe he needed to learn to be smarter and nicer, not stronger. But what I realized from that event is that most adults don’t want us to be strong. Some do, but most don’t. I’ve seen a lot of other examples of this through the years.”

“Like what?”

Rules and Exceptions

“Well, the biggest example is found just by comparing the way people online talk about Millennials with what my generation is taught almost every day in school. Almost every criticism of Millennials comes from following the exact same lessons we’re taught to obey in school. If we act the way our teachers tell us we’re called “good students” when we’re in school, but if we act that same way once we’re out in the workforce we’re called ‘Snowflakes,’ ‘flaky,’ ‘uncommitted,’ and things like that. It’s annoying.”

“Yeah,” I nodded again. “Makes sense. You’re told over and over not to rock the boat, so you learn to be…I’m not sure what the right word is…”

“Mediocre?” he asked, “Passive? Weak? Unfocused.”

“Okay. Is that what you think?”

“We’re the Mediocre Generation,” he nodded. “But hey, how could we be anything else? We’re told over and over that you aren’t a good person if you go after the achievement trophy by beating the other team. We’re supposed to make sure everyone does just as well as we do, even if that means losing or not trying very hard.”

“But in sports…”

“Like I said before,” he interrupted, “there are exceptions, like sports, the military, or…well, I can’t think of anything else. But only a few people get to be in competitive sports. Most of us just play sports in gym class, and it’s never about winning, always about trying less so nobody looks bad. We’re taught to relax and never try hard in anything. Never show up anyone else. Just stay in the middle of the group. Then, when we get in the workforce we’re called slackers, lacking ambition, not leaders. It’s trash. The double standard is trash.”

“Is that why you like martial arts, because you get to really do your best?”

“Yes, and no,” he answered. “In most martial arts classes, it’s the very same. I’ve had lots of martial arts teachers, because we moved a lot, but only one of them really taught us to be strong, to actually fight, to test our moves in real combat. The other classes were a lot of theory, very little actual fighting, or learning to fight. Then I got a teacher who let us get bloody, literally, because he wanted us to actually be good at what we were learning. Lots of parents pulled their kids out of the class after just one or two visits, but that teacher taught me so much more than all the other teachers combined.”

“So, you think parents should let their kids get bloody noses and bruised faces more often?”

He laughed. “That’s the kind of thing adults say when they’re going to the extreme, when they want to feel good about raising weak kids rather than letting their kid do hard things. As if those are the only two options. That’s a straw man argument.”

“But, let’s just be honest,” he continued, “If you want to be good at self defense, you’re going to have to learn to actually defend yourself. And yes, that means getting hit sometimes, enough to become good at the skill. The same thing is true in math, or history. I’m amazed at the wimpy assignments a lot of kids get in their classes. If they don’t really study, they don’t learn very much. If their studies aren’t really hard, their education ends up being pretty weak.”

The Road Less Traveled

I nodded. “Any other ways your parents taught you to be strong?”

“A lot of ways… Example was one of the most important.”

“What example did they give you?”

“Well, they built a business. They both started as employees, but early on they decided to start a business, and that made a huge difference.”

“How so?”

“Building a successful business is about as hard as anything. It’s way harder than being an employee, in most cases. I watched my parents through the lean years, building, building, sacrificing. Always sure the benefits would eventually come, but working so hard for almost no pay, year after year. By the time success really came, I was almost grown up. But I watched them struggle and keep going. Building a business from scratch is an amazing thing. It was incredibly hard, and the family members all participated in making it work. I used to be so amazed at how much extra time other dads had to spend with their kids, and how much extra money they seemed to have.

“My dad’s extra time and money all went right back into the business. And it was amazing. We all learned so much. Watching my parents do really hard things, and eventually succeed, made me realize that I can do it too. I remember teachers in school talking about how hard entrepreneurship is, and how all the students should choose an easier path and be an employee. But those teachers aren’t nearly as impressive or successful as my parents. And they don’t make nearly as much money. So I followed the harder path whenever I could. Easy isn’t the goal. It just makes you weak. Strong is so much better.”

“You’re kind of a philosopher, aren’t you?” I asked.

“Not really. But I was homeschooled during my high school years, so I learned to think about things. Not just cram for tests, or try to look good with my grades, like they wanted me to in public school. I want to really understand the things I study, but that means digging deep. Hard, serious study brings real learning. The rest is trash.”

I laughed. “So if the world homeschooled, we’d all be better off?”

“No, that’s not what I’m saying. My point is entirely different. If the world did really, really hard education, we’d be way better off. Seriously! But so many of your generation keeps telling people my age to do easy stuff—as if that’s really going to help them. Like I said, if it’s easy education, it’s mostly trash. Regardless of home school, public school, or any other kind of school. Easy is usually trash. If it’s hard, it’s more likely worth doing.”

The Problem We Missed

“You’re in college now; so do you find it harder than before?”

“Well, my classmates nearly all say it’s a lot harder than high school. But I find it easier in one way, and harder in another. The material is easy. I study a couple of hours a day, or less, and I’ve gotten mostly straight A’s all year. It’s so much easier than my teen years in homeschool. But it’s hard in a way that’s really frustrating—there is a lot of busy work that teaches me nothing, but I have to do it and show my work. I can get the right answer within thirty seconds, but I have to take 5 or 10 minutes to show the work. Ridiculous. It’s not learning, it’s rote busywork. I think the purpose is to give students something to do to prove they’re working. But it gets in the way of real learning. Too much of it is a waste of time.”

“Maybe they’re trying to make it hard for you! You said you wanted hard.”

He didn’t smile at my joke. In fact, he frowned. “Rote isn’t the same thing as hard. Rote is a cop-out. It seems hard, but you’re not actually learning much, if anything. Real ‘hard’ is way better, because you actually improve your knowledge, your skills, your ability to think and apply what you learn. Easy is the opposite of hard, but in another way rote is also the opposite of hard.”

“Interesting. Do you think college is making the same mistake you said most Boomers and Gen Xers have been making with their kids—teaching today’s youth to be good people and succeed in a career, but not to be strong? Or is it different at the college level?”

“It’s different, because they are teaching you to focus on your career, and they hardly mention being good people. That part is basically gone at the college level. But they still aren’t teaching us to be strong. It’s just as weak as in elementary and high school.”

“Really?”

“Really,” he doubled down. “The focus on career is so strong that nothing else seems to matter. They just don’t have time for being good, or becoming strong. They teach classes on ethics and legal responsibilities, but these are about the career, not actually about being good people.”

“Why do you think being strong is so important? Do you actually believe we need to teach it to all young people?”

He looked at me like I had three heads.

“Okay,” he said, “I’ll bite. If you’re not strong, you’re not actually going to be all that good in life. Not really. Not when it counts. Being truly good takes serious strength. And if you’re not strong you’re also not going to be really successful—in your career, or in your family and relationships, or in reaching your own personal goals. All of these things are hard. Those who make these things work have to struggle and overcome challenges. They face problems and roadblocks and sometimes enemies or opponents. If they aren’t strong, they don’t succeed.

“And they’ll never improve the world much. If fixing the world’s problems were easy, they’d have been solved a long time ago. My generation needs to be strong. Weakness is our biggest weakness, and being strong is our biggest need.”

Getting Started

I nodded, impressed. “You’re a unique young man,” I mused.

He took this as an affront. “Not really. There are a lot more of us than you might think. But we don’t just have to learn to become strong, like all young people did in history, we also have to unlearn all the weakness and trash the older generations have fed us…”

He sighed. “Like I said, it’s not simple. We’re kids. We want to believe what adults tell us. When we figure out that a lot of it is wrong…that makes it frustrating. It’s disappointing. And it isn’t simple to know which things to believe and which are just making us weak.”

“Which things are trash,” I said.

He smiled.

So did I. Then I said: “Next time you call I’m going to answer my phone by saying your name, not pretending I don’t know who is on the line.”

He laughed. “Good choice.”

“I don’t know why we do that…habit I guess.” I shook my head slowly. “In my day, we really didn’t know who was on the line when the phone rang.” I paused. Then: “My generation wants things to be easy, too,” I told him. “We wish we could skip everything hard. It’s not just you guys.”

“But youth have to be taught to be strong while we’re young,” he responded. “I’ve noticed that the older you get before you learn to be strong, the harder it is, and the more people try to avoid it. Parents don’t help their kids when they make things easy.”

“Really?” I pushed back. “Two year olds? Four year olds? We should have them all running marathons?”

“There you go again, making your point with an extreme example.”

I grinned. “Okay, at what age should it be hard?”

He pondered. “Well…at the age that the hard thing makes the kid strong. Some things won’t make a two-year-old strong, but will make a ten-year-old strong. There are things at all ages that will help, or hurt. But most importantly we need a different way of doing things with teens. That’s where most of the damage is done right now.”

I looked at him with quizzical eyes. “What do you need to do right now in your life that is really hard and will make you stronger, that you’re not doing yet?”

“Ah…” he relaxed and leaned back in his chair. “Now you’re mentoring me. That’s great. Thank you. Let me think about that question…”

Part II

What does each young person you mentor or parent right now need this week, or month, in his or her life, to become stronger in the right ways?

*For more on this topic and ways to educate young people for strength, get the book Hero Education, by Oliver DeMille. Available here >>

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