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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

How to Fix the Government

October 27th, 2010 // 2:06 pm @

In a recent article I asked “Is government broken??”

The simple answer is yes. Few people have confidence anymore in the likelihood of either political party fixing our nation’s problems. Nor does even a majority of our society believe that any of our major institutions–Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court–can really fix things. We’ve lost confidence in public leaders on all sides.

But the fundamental structural problem behind many of our problems is that America today is too big to be effectively governed by Washington.

One result of this is our inability to face and overcome our greatest challenges in timely and efficient ways. Ironically, this is likely the first thing the founding generation would notice about our government.

But today, a serious discussion about size is either entirely absent from the debate or, if brought up on occasion, quickly discounted as a quaint historical footnote.

Freedom requires certain structures and ingredients, just like any other result that can envisioned, planned and implemented.

The American founders understood freedom at levels rarely matched in all of history before or since: We should learn from the founding tutorials, and neither ignore nor discount their wisdom.

While new challenges often require new solutions, it is also true that little progress occurs without building on the successes of the past.

And even more importantly, the fundamental principles that govern freedom do not change.

Repairing Our Faults

Every nation faces major challenges. And, just like in individual human lives, such challenges are recurring.

The great genius of any nation is not its strengths (which can be easily lost), resources (which can be misused in myriad ways), or traditions (which can be ignored, changed or simply forgotten).

The great genius of a society–if it can be said that it has genius–is in its ability to quickly and effectively overcome the challenges that inevitably arise.

Speaking of the source of America’s greatness in Democracy in America, Tocqueville said this:

“…not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.”[i]

We are broken to the exact extent that attempts to fix our problems are generally bogged down, ineffective, weak, or, as in so many cases, actually worsen the problems. Using this standard, our government is broken indeed.

Granted, it could be worse, and we are all thankful for the successes that are achieved (and there are more than the critics usually admit).

But there are still far too many failures, and the sense that things are broken and getting worse is increasing among many Americans.

Of course, the situation is complex and no simple answers can account for all our challenges.

But when basic principles are ignored or rejected, and when the very foundations of success in free society are not applied, it is vital to fix the big things first.

The Basics of Freedom

Nothing is more relevant right now than the fact that America is too big to govern from Washington. This is the elephant in the room, no matter how much today’s politicians want to discount it.

The founders considered America too big to be governed by Washington in 1789! In fact, one of the major anti-federalist arguments against adopting the Constitution was this very point.

There were roughly 3 million Americans at that point, and the founders worried that this was too many for Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court to effectively lead.

With around 300 million citizens today, why do we seem to think that Washington should be able to fix all our major problems? What is it the founders understood about freedom and government that we don’t seem to grasp?

James Madison answered the questions of the anti-federalists who thought America was too big for a federal government by telling the American founding generation simply that the Federal government wouldn’t be governing them.[ii]

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Let’s back up and understand the principle of governance as it relates to geographical and population sizes.

First, regarding geography, Madison said in Federalist 14 that democracies and republics have natural limits to how large a territory they can govern.

This is one reason, he argued, that the founders established the United States as a republic instead of a pure democracy.

The size of any democracy is limited to a territory small enough that all the citizens can easily assemble together and conduct the business of society in person.

In contrast, in a republic the people send their representatives. The citizens maintain small democracies in their local areas, where all adults participate, and they send elected representatives to assemble and do the business that cannot be handled at the local level.

Because of this, republics can be much larger than democracies.

In our day, given the advantages of modern transportation and communication technologies, a republic large in geographical boundaries is certainly viable and can still follow the principles of freedom.

Population, however, presents an altogether different challenge.

Regarding the ideal numerical size of a nation, the founders adopted Montesquieu’s view. Baron de Montesquieu was frequently quoted during the founding–in fact only the Bible was quoted more often.[iii]

And, indeed, Montesquieu was quoted more than any other source, including the Bible, at the Constitutional Convention of 1787.[iv]

In fact, it was Montesquieu who suggested the concepts of three branches of government, each separate and independent, and of checks and balances between each. He taught the founders the most important constitutional forms.

But there is a principle of freedom that is even more basic than three branches, separations of power, and checks and balances. Montesquieu wrote:

“If a republic is small, it is destroyed by a foreign force; if it is large, it is destroyed by internal vice.”[v]

By size here he is referring to population, and by internal vice he means not crime but rather corrupt political leaders, conflicting political parties, and a political system that is unable to overcome major challenges due to internal strife.

This concept is one of the most basic foundations of the American republic: Small republics are destroyed by foreign forces, while large republics are destroyed by internal political corruption.

In republics with only a few people, the population is neither collectively strong nor wealthy enough to protect itself from foreign aggression. And where the population is very numerous, there are more who will engage in corrupt practices.

At the same time, in a more populous nation, those who corruptly exert power and manipulate influence find it easier to hide their agendas from the regular citizens.

Constitution Writing 101

The American framers set out to establish a government that would overcome both of these problems.

They didn’t want to be destroyed by foreign forces, so they didn’t want a small republic. Neither did they want to be destroyed by internal vice, so they didn’t want a large republic.

What to do? The answer is perhaps the single most basic principle of structuring American freedom. They did what Montesquieu suggested:

“…it is very likely that ultimately men would have been obliged to live forever under the government of one alone [either weak small government or large corrupt government] if they had not devised a kind of constitution that has all the internal advantages of republican government [e.g. small, uncorrupt, free] and the external force of monarchy [strong, secure]. I speak of the federal republic.”[vi]

The founders thus set up two governments working together, a federal government and the state level of government. This is a basic principle of American history and is taught in nearly any elementary course on government.

Unfortunately, this is so basic that we have for the most part become arrogant about it. We have discounted and forgotten how central this is to freedom. We think of it (if at all) in elementary terms rather in the deep way discussed in Federalist Papers 10, 14, and 18 through 20.

Here’s the kicker, the thing which gets lost in our complex and modernized world, the vital key which holds a real answer for our modern challenges: The federal government was set up for one thing: to keep us from being destroyed by a foreign force. Period. And the states were set up to do pretty much everything else we needed government to do.

In fact, the major purpose of the states was to remain small enough and close enough to the people that their governments could not become internally corrupt.

To summarize: the primary role of the federal government is to keep us safe from foreign attacks and the primary role of the state level of government is to protect us from federal government encroachments on our lives.

When the federal government does more than this basic role, we are living in a large republic and the nature of government will always be corrupt, ineffective and dangerous to freedom.

When this happens, the most primary role of state government is to stop the federal government. No other duty of state government is nearly this important.

This is why our government is broken today–inefficient, gluttonous in spending, over-reaching in many facets of our lives, big, bloated, bureaucratic, divided by angrily opposed parties which block important progress, non-transparent, secretive, and unable to change seemingly regardless of who gets elected.

When challenges arise, solutions are weak, ineffective and costly. They often magnify rather than solve problems.

This all goes back to the most basic principles of freedom:

  • Rule One of freedom is that the people must be active, involved and wise overseers of all government.
  • Rule Two is that small nations are weak and easily destroyed by foreign aggression so they should combine into a federal republic that keeps them safe.
  • Rule Three is that large nations are destroyed by internal vice and political corruption, so any federal republic must be divided into smaller state-level republics which handle nearly all of the governance (except national security).
  • The Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Rules deal with three branches of government, separations of power, and checks and balances.

We have utterly forgotten rules one and three. And to a large extent, the federal government has become distracted from rule two by its many other areas of focus.

Twenty Specific Powers

Let me be clear, however, that the point is not that government isn’t needed.

The founding model is not at all anti-government. It strongly advocates a powerful, strong, well-funded, effective federal government whose almost sole purpose is national security. It also encourages powerful, strong, well-funded, effective state governments which take care of all the legitimate needs of society that are best accomplished by the government sector.

To all this, the principles of freedom add this warning: if the federal government ever becomes widely involved in much more than national security, it will create an inefficient, corrupt, unwieldy government and freedom will decrease.

Likewise if the state governments ever lose their strength and become mere appendages of the federal government.

If this sounds too extreme, remember that Montesquieu’s word was “destroy.” As he said, large republics are “destroyed by internal vice.”

At our peril do we assume that he was careless in his choice of words. And as Madison wrote, the solution to all this is for the federal government to be limited to only the specific, numbered powers clearly outlined in the Constitution.[vii]

These twenty powers are listed in Article I, and as long as the federal government remains limited in scope to these powers we will all be living under small (state) republics with a strong (national) defense.

This is exactly what the founders wanted, and it is the freest of all the options for government.

Some might argue that this all breaks down since the states today are much bigger in population than the entire nation at the time of the founding.

But this misses the point that there is more to the definitions of “small” and “large” than just numbers.

At the state levels, there are many more representatives per capita than at the federal level, to the point that nearly every citizen has easy access to a state representative.

Beyond that, if the scope of the federal government were limited to the twenty powers given by the Constitution — if it were indeed fundamentally dedicated to national security and little beyond that — then citizens would have limited need to contact their national representatives.

The number of needed and even desired contacts would shrink to the point that every citizen seeking direct access to his federal representative would usually be granted. And as the number of contacts with state representatives increased accordingly, the number of districts would naturally be augmented.

The people would be closer to all their representatives on all levels. This is the essence of what Montesquieu, Madison and the other founders called “small” government. This was Madison’s response to the worries of the anti-federalists.

At the same time, the focus on only the 20 constitutional powers at the federal level would increase the ability of federal officials to deal with truly national problems. This is the essence of “large” government.

The more mundane issues of society would be handled at the state and local levels, with increased numbers of representatives as required to effectively cover the needs (and increased connection to the people, as stated above).

The founders felt so strongly about this that when they outlined the Bill of Rights they wrote in the Tenth Amendment:

“The powers not delegated to the United States [federal government] by the Constitution, nor prohibited to it by the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

In short, government is broken because it isn’t following the Constitution. This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone.

Repairing Freedom

Some might feel that all this has been decided long ago, that we have moved beyond the era of original intent in applying the Constitution and that the federal government now does thousands of things beyond the twenty powers outlined in the Constitution.

Moreover, they will say, this is what the American people want.

I do not dispute any of this, but let’s all be clear that these very changes in our society are the root and main reason that our government is so often ineffective, unwieldy, expensive, intrusive and simultaneously impotent to solve the major problems of our time.

As long as government itself is broken, we can’t really expect it to fix the other problems in our world.

The amazing thing is how well it actually does! Given that the foundations are cracked, that we are living under a larger government than Montesquieu or Madison or Jefferson ever came close to predicting, it is surprising just how much good is accomplished in America every day–by private citizens and groups but also by government.

Dedicated, caring, wise and hard-working public servants in government, and from all political parties, deserve the same kind of praise that our society rightly gives to excellent teachers, firemen, peace officers, soldiers and other who sacrifice for the greater good.

Still, until we fix the foundations, we are unlikely to see an era of successful, efficient, effective and free government ahead.

Challenges will arise, grow and fester, and as more and more problems pile on without being fixed, the load on government and the cost to citizens will increase.

Happily, there are solutions, though they too often are found in dusty volumes long undervalued. When a new generation begins to study and apply these solutions and others like them, we will see a new era of freedom, prosperity and progress.

Specifically, how do we address the problem of being too big for central governance from Washington? We really only have two options.

The famous economist Thomas Malthus callously argued that when nations become too big the natural result is war or pandemic–which has the side effect of reducing the population. Unfortunately, this concept has proven true in a number of cases through history.

So has the old maxim that nations which govern inefficiently and ineffectively either collapse from within in or are conquered from without.

Our modern arrogance in thinking these things can’t happen to us is actually part of the package that causes nations to fall–this has happened repeatedly in history, from ancient Israel, Athens and Rome to most recently the Soviet Union.

Whenever a nation gets so big and powerful that it becomes convinced it cannot fall, that is the very time that its status begins to crumble. History is quite adamant on this point. Western examples include Egypt, Persia, Babylon, Athens, Carthage, Rome, Prussia, Spain, Portugal, and Britain, among others.

But there is another option.

While it is true that nearly all great powers have fallen, usually because of inner decay caused by being too big in the center, the American founders taught us another way.

By voluntarily returning power to the states, vesting in them Constitutional authority to handle most of the needs of society (while maintaining national defense at the federal level), we could revitalize American strength and freedom at the most basic levels.

Conclusion

When great sports teams begin to struggle, wise coaches and managers take the players back to mastering the basics. When the fundamentals are solid and sound, these teams win a lot and often regain their earlier status.

Americans today need a return to the basics.

The regular people need to be overseers of the government, not vice versa, and the federal and state governments need to return to their constitutional roles.

We can fix ourselves from within, by returning to the most basic principles upon which freedom is based, or we can wait for inner corruption or international aggression, or a combination of both, to run its course.

We will eventually be forced to get big government under control, and we can do it either by wise choices now or by suffering the loss of blood in our young men and women in the years ahead…

Sources:
[i] Tocqueville,Democracy in America, Volume 1, Chapter XIII
[ii] Federalist 14
[iii] Donald S. Lutz, “The Relative Influence of European Writers on Late Eighteenth-Century American Political Thought,” American Political Science Review, 1984. Cited in John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution
[iv] Ibid.
[v] Montesquieu,The Spirit of the Laws, Cambridge University Press, translated by Cohler, Miller and Stone, 1997 reprint, page 131
[vi] Ibid.
[vii] Federalist 14.

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

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 : Citizenship &Constitution &Government &Liberty

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

How to Destroy the Constitution

October 25th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

DEMOCRATS, REPUBLICANS, AND INDEPENDENTS don’t agree on much, but most of them do believe in the excellence and effectiveness of the U.S. Constitution.

A group this diverse will, of course, have some disagreements on the details, but it is amazing how nearly all involved Americans support the document.

All agree that the Constitution catalyzed America’s growth to freedom, prosperity and world hegemony.

Freedom works, it turns out; the Constitution codified and structured freedom at a level unparalleled in world history (affiliate link).

For at least fifty years, however, two major groups have disagreed about the fundamental direction of the nation as it relates to the Constitution.

Conservatives have seen the Constitution as an ideal to live up to, and operated on the premise that the country must be careful not to stray too far from the original intent of the founders.

They resonate with such things as strong national defense, separations of power, and protections of property.

Liberals, in contrast, have in general felt that this great document guaranteed basic rights and due process, but that it was meant as a starting point from which to continually amend and improve our society.

They tend to focus on individual rights, equalities, and the democratic attitudes of the document.

As a third, newer group, independents, tend to want the United States to value original intent, yet also make improvements where they are wise and practical.

Vital Foundations of Freedom

In view of all this, there are a few things that are fundamentally vital to the success and maintenance of the U.S. Constitution.

If these vital things are lost or ignored, or even changed in any way, the system will break down and our freedoms will decrease. These vital foundations include:

  • Separations of power between the executive, legislative and judicial branches
  • The independence of each branch
  • Checks and balances
  • Guarantees of freedom like “no ex post facto laws,” “no bills of attainder,” and the freedoms outlined in the Bill of Rights
  • Separations of power between the federal and state governments

Over the years, some have argued that we are in danger of losing some of these vital foundations of constitutional freedom. Certainly there has been some weakening over time.

But for the most part, the vital facets of the Constitution have held strong.

Weakening the Constitution

Unfortunately, in just the past few years we have seen major affronts to these vital constitutional guarantees. And more amazingly, there has been little concern voiced in the media or among the American citizenry.

When we let our freedoms slip away without a fight or even without concern, we take freedom, prosperity and happiness away from our posterity.

What kind of people do that? Are we such people? These are questions each of us must face.

Moreover, the loss of these vital constitutional foundations are not issues of parties­­­­—most liberals, conservatives, greens, radicals, extremists, moderates, hawks, doves, independents and nearly everyone else is generally opposed to losing our freedoms.

So why do we sit by and let it just happen?

The answer is simple, although the reality is quite complex:

We tend to let our freedoms slip away because they are tucked away in documents and policies that we don’t ever deal with directly.

We either ignore current bills before Congress or, if we do get involved, we focus on the publicized issues instead of the many layers of complexity.

In short, we don’t read the fine print.

The Power of Fine Print

Many Americans ignore the fine print in job contracts and mortgage papers, blithely signing our signatures and trusting others to handle the details.

Consider how lax we are with proposed bills in Washington DC: They are written by someone we don’t know and voted on by people few of us will ever even meet.

What few people realize is that these things have direct and major impact on our lives!

The problem in modern America is not that an individual can’t make a difference, but that nearly all of us are too distracted to even consider trying.

It seems ridiculous, maybe, to think that regular people should read the fine print of proposed legislation and existing laws and try to improve them. It sounds extreme and even crazy to suggest that without such close scrutiny from the citizens our freedoms will be lost.

But it is still true. This is one of the things which makes the American founding generations so truly amazing! Yes, they sacrificed greatly in the Revolution.

But many nations have sacrificed mightily and still failed to be free. Yes, the founders wanted to protect themselves from the usurpation of Britain. But so has every other colony and group of people facing a dominating government.

Yes, the founders loved freedom and wanted to pass it on to their children and posterity. But who doesn’t?

Almost every human society has yearned deeply and sacrificed much to be free. However, the founding American generations did something that almost no others have ever done.

They read the fine print!

They taught their children to read bills, laws, court cases, legislative debates, executive decrees, and bureaucratic policies. They read them in schoolrooms and at home. They read them at picnics and by candlelight after a long day’s hard labor.

They said they would consider their children uneducated if they didn’t read such things.

Consider just one example, from a textbook read by all Vermont school children in 1794:

“All the children are trained up to this kind of knowledge: they are accustomed from their earliest years to read the Holy Scriptures, the periodical publications, newspapers, and political pamphlets…the laws of their country, the proceedings of the courts of justice, of the general assembly of the state, and of the Congress, etc.

“Such a kind of education is common and universal in every part of the state: and nothing would be more dishonorable to the parents, or to the children, than to be without it.”

Now, in fairness to most human societies who wanted to be free, the regular people through much of history couldn’t read at all.

The founders understood this, so the first federal law passed under the newly ratified U.S. Constitution required any territory seeking statehood to show that it had an effective educational offering for all children.

They considered it a great blessing of providence that they could read and had the opportunity to pass on education to nearly all Americans. They saw this as a fundamental requirement for freedom.

They mourned for the many generations of humans throughout history who had no chance at freedom because education was denied them or simply unavailable.

But what would the founders think of three generations of today’s Americans who can read, who live in relative affluence, have ample leisure time, but who choose to ignore government documents?

I think they would be shocked, and then angry.

After the painful price they paid to establish a free nation; the many sacrifices of their families and lives, imagine their frustration that today’s Americans won’t even read what the government is doing.

Eventually, after their anger wore off, I think they would resign themselves to this reality: Unless Americans start reading government documents again, we will lose our freedom—again.

In case this sounds extreme, let me reiterate that the founding generations read government documents, in detail, from all three branches, including all levels from federal, to state, to local.

Then they raised their children to do the same. It was second nature to them because they wanted to remain free.

Free people read the fine print. Then they act on it. To put it simply: those who don’t, do not remain free.

This is the reality of history, from Ancient Israel to the Greeks, Saracens, Franks, Anglo-Saxons and every other free society in history.

I can find no exceptions.

In fact, in mixed societies with classes or castes of both freemen and subservients (like in Athens or the Roman Republic), only the upper classes read government documents; and only the upper classes were free citizens.

Three Tragedies

In just the past two years we have seen three of the major vital foundations of constitutional freedom ignored.

People who don’t read government documents, or at the very least printed media reports about government documents, aren’t even aware of these structural implosions in our constitutional system.

They have no idea of the tragedy ahead unless these things are reversed.

Moreover, people who don’t read government documents are often swayed by the anger of politicians or mass media so that they think violating the Constitution is okay if the nation is mad enough.

For example, the vital constitutional foundation of “no bills of attainder” was broken in the wake of national anger at Wall Street after the economic meltdown of 2008-2009. Even those who knew it was broken felt it was justified given Wall Street’s mistakes.

But when we let the government break the Constitution because we are really mad, we will soon watch it break the Constitution when somebody else is mad.

This reminds me of the old story of the so-called unaffected groups who ignored Hitler’s men while they took the Jews, then the foreigners, the gypsies, the handicap, and the white collar professionals, only to wonder why no one was there to help when Hitler’s men finally came to their house.

The moral of the story? Stand up for the Jews, or any other group unjustly attacked. That is the character of people who will remain free.

Because we were so angry at Wall Street after the economic crisis, we also ignored or just accepted the “ex post facto” laws unconstitutionally passed and applied in 2009.

That’s two strikes against the Constitution, and in less than a year!

The third strike came in the health care law.

Now, before I say more, let me be clear that I did not side with either the Democratic law as it was passed or with the argument from the Republicans that health care need not be reformed. Reform was necessary, but the way it was done is a major problem.

Some Democrats, some Republicans, and a lot of independents agreed with this. There is a lot more that could be said on this, point-by-point on every facet of the law. But that isn’t my purpose here.

My deepest concern is with the fact that public sentiment regarding such policies and issues as immigration, marriage, detainment/torture, health care, finance reform, foreign military campaigns, etc., is governed by the tidal forces of activism and apathy—neither of which is delving into the fine print details in the laws that strike a major blow to the most vital foundations of the Constitution.

Using the Health Care Reform law as a case in point: The Constitution separated the powers of the federal government from others that would be left to the states or lower levels, or the people.

This is as fundamental to our freedoms as separating the executive, judicial, and legislative branches, or outlining specific checks and balances.

Take away the provision of separating state and federal powers, and the whole Constitution is in danger of failing.

The founding generation felt so strongly about this that they insisted on adding the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to protect this separation and maintain states’ rights.

Later, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could take some actions within states under the commerce clause, but only the states had the right to require individual citizens to buy a good or service.

The Court also ruled in Gonzales v. Oregon that the federal government does not have the authority to “define general standards of medical practice in every locality.” It also “has recognized a right to medical self-determination, notably finding it within the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause.”

The health care law is the first federal law to break these, and it sets a dangerous precedent for the future.

In short, if this stands, future U.S Presidents and Congress can add one or two sentences in any bill at any time that requires Americans to do or buy anything—and pretty much nobody is likely to know until the law is passed.

Each new generation is acclimatized to the level of government overreach that they find themselves in, and it rarely occurs to them to object.

The Overseers of Freedom

Some might argue that our elected representatives should keep an eye on such things and take care of them for us.

True enough; except for one thing: Despite of all their good intentions and willingness to step up and lead, most of these representatives are ultimately just like “us”; they are not much more inclined than the general population to read the fine print!

Contributing to this brand of governance is the status quo climate that slaps an “extremist” label on those who do try to raise concerns about the process or consequence of our legislative and regulatory trends.

The bottom line is that our elected officials often fail to do anything about these fine-print additions to legislation.

Sometimes, even when such things are taken out of bills, the agencies which implement these laws simply write them back into their operating policies and enforce them anyway—even though they are not technically law.

With a system like this, the people are the only true overseers of freedom. If we don’t do it, freedom will be lost.

The founding generations read resolutions, bills, laws, policies, executive orders, ordinances, court cases and judicial commentaries on cases.

They wanted to be free, so they did what free people always do: They read the documents of government. They studied the fine print.

Where they saw dangers to freedom, they took action.

Unfortunately, too often any criticism of a political party’s policy is interpreted by people as an attack on that party. In this case, it is not my purpose to criticize President Obama’s push for health care reform.

I am simply concerned with the way this law treats the U.S. Constitution.

Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Bush also promoted policies that could have threatened constitutional principles.

It is the role of politicians to promote policies and changes they feel are needed, and at times these push the envelope of the Constitution.

Congress and the Court must do their constitutional role of analyzing and responding to such proposals, but ultimately it is up to the people to be the Overseers—to protect freedom.

Societies where the regular people aren’t allowed to read or comment on the laws are Totalitarian, Authoritarian, Dictatorial or Communistic.

Societies where the regular people are allowed to read and comment on the government and law, but instead decide to leave it to others, most often adopt aristocracy or socialism.

In contrast, if we want to be free, we must read the fine print.

Freedom only lasts in societies where regular citizens:

  • read government documents, think about and discuss them
  • do something to change them when needed
  • teach their children to do the same.

If we become such people, the future of freedom is bright. If not…

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

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

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Aristocracy &Citizenship &Constitution &Culture &Education &Government &Independents &Leadership &Politics

Why We Need a Renaissance

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

The problem with revolutions is that they throw out the good with the bad.

Promoters of revolution gather support by peddling hate of the current system and those who lead and benefit from it, so when they get around to making changes they have actually discredited much of what is good in society.

Indeed, this is why some scholars have argued that the American Founding was not truly a revolution like those in France and later Russia.

Reforms, many thinkers rightly suggest, are gentler than revolution and can still result in positive improvements.

Unfortunately, reform thrives by re-empowering entrenched institutions, systems and even groups that are often more than just a little invested in doing things without change.

Reform tinkers with the edges while leaving the majority of the failing system intact.

Making reforms can certainly bring needed improvements to an organization or society, and sometimes little changes are enough.

The rule of thumb is to avoid revolution unless those things you hold most dear are under attack and clearly threatened, and to rely on reform when the issues and consequences aren’t quite so drastic.

Revolution throws out the good and bad of the past and replaces it with an all new system, while reform leaves the system mostly unchanged but alters certain procedures, institutions or personnel.

There is another option which approaches things very differently, and which can bring major change without the pain of revolution.

This option is Renaissance.

Renaissance is unlike revolution and reform in many ways, but can often deliver the positive results of both.

Renaissance operates from a very different premise than the other two, because it focuses on drastically changing people instead of things.

It changes people from the inside, and then leaves it to them to alter their lives, choices and actions in ways that reform the past and revolutionize and redirect the future.

When societies emphasize progress through revolution or reform, they focus on institutions, laws, policies, funding, credentials, resources, and other manifestations of the physical world.

In contrast, renaissance emphasizes the soul.

When people change their ideas, feelings, goals, dreams, loves, beliefs, passions, ideals, objectives, wishes, relationships and other intangibles, the future is forever impacted.

While these may seem ethereal to some, their impact on history is certainly concrete and momentous.

Two Models

In times of consistent economic growth, plentiful jobs and easy capital, the characteristics of success are often consistency, schooling, training, expertise, steadiness, reliability, obedience, compliance and longevity.

Schools in such environments teach memorization, fitting in, impressing superiors, and excelling within the guidelines, and jobs tend to reward these things.

But when the economy is struggling, jobs are difficult to get and keep, employers are laying off and reducing costs, and/or capital is scarce and minimizing risk, a different set of values dominate.

Traits like capability, skill, ability, initiative, resiliency, optimism, inventiveness, ingenuity, ability to inspire others, frugality, resourcefulness, tenacity and especially enterprise are most valued by the economy.

Schools and parents in such times need to help students increase creativity, imagination, originality, individuality, mental agility, emotional resolve, innovation, risk and entrepreneurialism.

We have been in a general growth period for nearly fifty years, and we are now in a struggling economic era, so the values are in transition from the first list to the second.

Parents and grandparents are still likely to dispense advice from the old economy, emphasizing things like test-taking, credentials and impressing superiors over the new economic realities such as initiative, individuality, originality and entrepreneurialism.

The government is stuck in the same rut, trying and failing to fix major societal challenges with trivial, albeit expensive, reforms.

Where they do attempt to make huge changes, such as in health care and financial reform, their symbolic and revolutionary-style agendas are creating more anger, frustration and deficits than actual solutions.

Tea Party responses further fuel the revolutionary rhetoric in the media and on Capitol Hill–but things remain mostly unchanged.

This lingering “business as usual” in Washington is alarming in a society with significant problems and major challenges in many fields of life.

From the obvious economic problems to unending international quagmires in Afghanistan (now the longest war in American history), Iraq and a number of other places, to a decaying infrastructure of roads and bridges, rising health care costs (unsolved and further complicated by the new health care law), decreasingly effective schools, high unemployment, unsolved levels of crime, and so on, we need real leadership and solutions that actually remedy our national problems.

Revolution is not the answer.

There is much that is good in America, and we want to surgically solve our problems without undoing the many positive things we have built into our society.

But the reform mentality isn’t working either, and the problems have been piling up for over a decade.

We need to drastically improve society, deliver solutions to overcome our most pressing problems, and simultaneously maintain the things which are already working.

Despite the attachment of both political parties and nearly all of our major public and private institutions to reform thinking, we need something much more effective.

We need change from within, a drastic alteration of attitudes and goals and thinking across our nation.

We need people to imagine a better future, to really believe in the reality of what we can do, and to take action.

We don’t need more stirring speeches from the President or any other leader so much as we need millions of individual Americans to get work–alone and in small groups–on solving our problems.

In short, we need a renaissance. And we need it soon.

The Power to Change

Fortunately, the greatest power in all of this may simply be individuals taking action and parents discussing the new values (initiative, ingenuity, tenacity, entrepreneurialism, and so forth) with their children and youth.

In fact, the American spirit of resourcefulness, optimism and enterprise is alive and well. More of us just need to take the leap.

The difficulty, of course, is that the old values were against risk.

In the old economy, the one that dominated from 1945 to 2008, risk was scary and often unrewarding.

A lot of people made small to large fortunes in entrepreneurial ventures, small businesses, network and multilevel marketing, and other non-traditional enterprises, but a lot more lost money in such attempts and ended up dependent on jobs like nearly everyone else.

The lesson for many people was just to get a decent education, a regular job, and a secure benefits package.

Like in Defoe’s classic Robinson Crusoe, many parents shared the advice not to aim too high or too low, but just to be content with “the middle station” in life.

A decent house, two cars, cable television, a good grill and a family membership at the local rec center — these were the dreams of two generations of Americans.

Robert Kiyosaki develops this theme in various interesting dialogues in the best-selling Rich Dad, Poor Dad (affiliate link).

But in the new economy, such a course is likely to create permanent economic struggles in your life. In this economic environment, without risk few people get ahead.

Entrepreneurial thinking, originality and initiative are the new credentials.

Tenacity, ingenuity and enterprise are the new job security.

This is true even among much of the traditionally employed population. The stakes are higher now and success is more difficult across the board, and thinkers, leaders and innovators are needed.

Early Adapters

But how to get the population on board with the new values? Most of us were raised, educated and lived our careers in the old economy, and shifting to the new realities is proving troublesome.

If the Great Recession is just a blip in history and the days of easy credit and consistent growth return for a decade or more, people will justify this refusal to transition their thinking.

But if, as all indications and evidence seem to suggest, the times of high unemployment, a difficult growth environment and a sputtering economy are here to stay for a while, we are kidding ourselves and hurting our futures by refusing to adapt.

No policy, institutional plan or governmental debate is likely to shift the national mentality from employee thinking to entrepreneurial values.

A renaissance is needed. Our vision must change, and our dreams must imagine the great opportunities available in the new realities of the future economy.

We must, as a people, engage a massive migration toward the new economy.

We can lead the economies of the world, but we have to embrace the new reality and get to work. Until a mental renaissance occurs, we are stuck in a rut of old thinking.

Of course, even if the majority refuses to move forward in this new world, each of us can make these changes and get started on our own journey.

In fact, those who get started first are more likely to benefit and profit than the latecomers. This is true in any nearly any industry and endeavor. The early bird gets the worm.

And, as the early adapters get to work, it is empowering to those who are waiting for validation or credibility to justify the risk so they can get on board as well.

There are already a few who are pioneering and building in the new economy. For example, the “downshifter” trend took successful people from the coasts to small towns to build an entrepreneurial new economy starting in the late nineties.

Likewise, homeschooling and the organic foods movements addressed problems in education and health care using new economy thinking long before the 2008 economic meltdown.

Both continue to grow as the rest of the economy unsuccessfully grasps for solutions. Indeed, few whole foodists were (or are) too concerned about health care reforms–because they are, simply, healthy.

Participatory religion continues to grow, as the old-line religions dependent on Priests and Professionals watch their numbers dwindle.

Public schools and teacher unions are increasingly concerned with the growth of charter and other non-traditional educational offerings, and the rise of for-profit career colleges has the old educational bureaucracy hiring lobbyists and badmouthing these “upstart” competitors.

With just one of these schools, The University of Phoenix, quickly becoming the largest university in the world, the old system sees its monopoly fading.

There is a shortage of new economy thinking because the whole nation needs to make the shift, but there are numerous examples of leaders and groups making the transition.

Indeed, literally thousands of online “tribes” are slowly moving (and many are going more quickly) in the right direction.

A few guidelines for transition to the new economy and values include:

  • Start young, or if you are older, help the young get started
  • Don’t seek to impress the old elite, but rather go after real results
  • Get past the old value of not taking risks
  • Be experimental, not limited by old systems, methods or models
  • Don’t be limited by old obstacles like office space or business cards
  • Don’t get stuck on hierarchies, titles and power struggles
  • Think virtual, tribal and international
  • Be inclusive, open and interconnected
  • Be mindful of the way information grows

Conclusion

In the Information Age, revolution would cause as many problems as it might possibly fix, and reform has proven too feeble to really bring necessary change.

We need a massive internal renaissance of the great explorer, frontier, pioneering, and entrepreneuring values which took Pilgrims to the Mayflower, 49’rs to the plains, and led generations of Americans to build the businesses, families, schools, churches, and communities that made our nation great.

We need to accept that we live in a new economy and embrace the new values which bring success in our new environment.

Chief among these are initiative, cheerfulness, persistence, and an enterprising mentality. We need to engage the powerful flow of information in this age, and help it spread and lift the plight of peoples worldwide.

Each of us has a vital role helping the future emerge, and it is time to take the leap and get to work on those things we have always felt we should do.

Or, if we are already hard at work doing our part, it would be well to smile, laugh more often, and give our full attention to watching a sunset or contemplating a tide as it comes in.

It is time for a renaissance, and if the whole nation doesn’t lead out, each of us can embrace it anyway.

Above all, it’s time to take a deep breath, exhale any doubts, and sit down with our youth and share our vision of the new world and the renaissance ahead.

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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.

 

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