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THE JEFFERSON-MADISON DEBATES: Can the Constitution Survive?

July 17th, 2019 // 8:20 am @

PART I

European “Conservatism” and American “Conservatism” are not the same thing.[i] It’s important to realize that “conservatism,” in the generic, isn’t defined as a specific platform or set of ideals. It’s simply the posture and priority of “conserving” a certain tradition or form, as opposed to liberally or “progressive-ly” moving away from said tradition or form.

As George Will has pointed out, in Europe “Conservatism” was rooted in protecting monarchy, aristocracy, and the class system (where the many are ruled by the few), while in America “Conservatism” means protecting and maintaining the U.S. Constitution and the principles upon which it was framed, including the key principles articulated in the Declaration of Independence.[ii] Indeed the Declaration itself initiated the end of European Conservatism in America.[iii]

The tug-of-war between American Conservatism and Progressivism has been part of the American story ever since.[iv] Progressivism has gone through several stages–all of them a direct and escalating attack on the Constitution:

Step 1- Statism: Increase the size and scope of the government

Step 2- Centralized Statism: Increase the size and scope of the federal government

Step 3- Liberalism: Use the increasing size and scope of the federal government to redistribute money from the affluent to the lower classes by state force

Step 4- Socialism: Use the increasing size and scope of the federal government to redistribute money from the affluent and middle classes to the lower classes by state force, putting control of the federal government in the hands of a few, and also mandate social and environmental causes that require the federal government to grow even more

Step 5- Globalized Socialism: Expand progressive goals to include federal government programs for people around the globe (not limited to American citizens), requiring a massive expansion of government size and scope and progressive transfers of power and sovereignty from the American voters (and voters within other nations) to international organizations, agreements, and entities

We are currently in the High-Growth Phase of Step 4 and the Early-Growth Phase of Step 5.

PART II

American Conservatism, in contrast, focuses on implementing the U.S. Constitution, a return to Constitutional limited government (to the extent that we’ve moved away from the Constitution), and a citizenry that rules itself rather than being ruled by a class of elites.[v] Today the battle between Conservatism and Progressivism is in full swing.

To measure which side is ahead in this contest, the scoreboard is a simple two-question matrix:

  • Is the size, scope, debt, and expenditure of the federal government shrinking?

If “Yes,” Conservatism is winning.

  • Is the size, scope, debt, and expenditure of the federal government expanding?

If “Yes,” Progressivism is winning.

This is the only real indicator of direction, momentum, and victory. Every other possible marker can be faked or obscured. What this scoreboard shows is that the following administrations in the modern era have increased American Progressivism (thus decreasing Conservatism/Adherence to the U.S. Constitution):

  • Roosevelt
  • Truman
  • Eisenhower
  • Kennedy
  • Johnson
  • Nixon
  • Ford
  • Carter
  • Reagan
  • Bush
  • Clinton
  • Bush
  • Obama
  • Trump

In contrast, the following administrations reduced the scope, size and expenditure of the Federal Government, increasing American Conservatism and adherence to the U.S. Constitution:


NONE


This comes as a surprise to many conservatives. Indeed, this reality makes it clear which approach is winning: Progressivism. But surely some of the more conservative administrations at least significantly slowed down the increasing scope, size and expenditure of government, right?

The following administrations significantly slowed these things down:


NONE


This must have been caused by the opposing liberal Congress faced by certain administrations, right? The following administrations attempted to significantly slow the increase of the Federal Government’s size, scope, and expenditure, but were thwarted by the Congress:


NONE


At first glance, for conservatives at least, this doesn’t seem to make sense. Clearly there is a big difference between some of the administrations, that of Carter and Reagan for example, or Obama and Trump. While this is true, the actual differences are not what most people tend to think.

Where the genuine application of Conservative principles often results in significant benefits to the nation, the overall trend since 1944 can only be characterized as firmly escalating in the direction of Progressivism. The nation has occasionally profited from a short-term implementation of Conservative principles (e.g. Eisenhower, Reagan, Trump), but this has not resulted in a reversal of the Progressive trend.

Moreover, during this entire timeline, Progressive momentum has accelerated. It has never reversed. Conservatism (protection and application of the U.S. Constitution and Constitutional limits) has given way to Progressivism (the expansion of the welfare state and the size/scope of the central government) during every administration in the post-World War II era.

A more accurate understanding of these trends is possible if we consider the dominant Steps of Progressivism implemented in modern American history. This allows us to more clearly rate the Conservatism vs. Progressivism of each administration:

Dominant Focus of Washington D.C. from 1860-1913

Step 1- Statism: Increase the size and scope of the government

Dominant Focus of Washington D.C. from 1913-1944

Step 2- Centralized Statism: Increase the size and scope of the federal government

Dominant Focus During the Truman, Kennedy, and Clinton administrations

Step 3- Liberalism: Use the increasing size and scope of the federal government to redistribute money from the affluent to the lower classes by state force

Dominant Focus During the Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush, Bush, and Trump administrations

Step 2- Centralized Statism: Increase the size and scope of the federal government

Dominant Focus During the Roosevelt, Johnson, and Obama administrations

Step 4- Socialism: Use the increasing size and scope of the federal government to redistribute money from the affluent and middle classes to the lower classes by state force, putting control of the federal government in the hands of a few, and also mandate social and environmental causes that require the federal government to grow even more

Dominant Focus of the Current Left since 2016

Step 5- Globalized Socialism: Expand Progressive goals to include federal government programs for people around the globe (not limited to American citizens), requiring another massive expansion of government size and scope and progressive transfers of power and sovereignty from the American voters (and people within other nations) to international organizations and entities

PART III

There are at least three significant considerations in all of this that every American needs to understand:

  1. None of the presidential administrations in the post-World War II era have implemented Conservatism (the genuine application of Constitutional limits). All have supported the Progressive agenda at some level (increase of the size and scope of the federal government beyond its Constitutional boundaries, including an expansion of the welfare state). Some administrations promoted this more than others. But all are complicit in Progressivism, while none adhered to Conservatism as defined above (the Application of all Constitutional Limits, versus Increasing the Scope, Size, and Expenditure of Government).
  2. Presidents considered by many to be the most “Conservative” (including Eisenhower, Reagan, Trump) promoted Step 2 Progressivism but not Step 3 Progressivism. Specifically, they actively increased the size and scope of the federal government, but didn’t drastically increase redistribution of money/programs from the affluent to the lower classes by state force. This led to economic upturn through deregulation—a good result. It did not, however, reverse the momentum of the welfare state or reinvigorate Constitutional limits; as a consequence, the trend toward bigger government and increased Progressivism continues unabated.
  3. Presidents widely considered the most Progressive (Roosevelt, Johnson, Obama) implemented Step 4 Progressivism (socialism: major redistribution from the upper and middle classes to government programs nominally for the poor and disadvantaged) and drastically increased the growth rate of the long-term Progressive trend. This always coincided with major (albeit medium-length) economic downturn.

There has been no genuinely Conservative presidential administration (one focused on maintaining the limited size and scope of government to the specific limitations of the Constitution) since presidents Harding and Coolidge in the 1920s. All administrations since that time have promoted an expansion of the federal government in size, scope, and expenditure. The growing welfare state (Progressivism) has continually won out over Constitutional limits (Conservatism).

This has been aided by a number of decisions in the Court expanding the scope of the federal government and naming many additional federal powers “constitutional”. Ironically, such decisions are, according to the original words of the Constitution, unconstitutional.[vi]

PART IV

Why?

Why have all administrations since the mid-1920s joined the Progressive trend, even while many have loudly proclaimed their “bona fide Conservatism”? The answer may be as simple as that suggested by George Will[vii]: Most Americans actually like a lot of our government programs. And today we want more of them, not less. We want programs for “other people” to be cut or discontinued, but we tend to cling to government programs that directly benefit us.

Irony is at work here. On the one hand, voters seem to want freedom—but within limits. Specifically, they want more freedom for themselves than for others. And they want government programs—also within limits. The masses want something that has never been a reality—the quality levels attained by private schools, private institutions of higher education, private health care, and private-sector prestige jobs, provided free to all by government, and paid for by “the rich”–“the 1 Percent”.

Another way to describe our situation is that Progressivism has largely won the battle for the hearts and minds of most Americans. The Conservative ethos—that government should protect our freedoms by adhering to the U.S. Constitution, and give us nothing else, nothing at all, because the rest is up to us alone, our individual hard work, tenacity, initiative, ingenuity and good choices—is now largely a foreign concept.[viii] It is as quaint in our cities, and beyond, as vinyl records or public payphones. We want government to do things for us—lots of things. “How else will it get done?” most Americans now ask.

A majority of Americans now want to work less, make more, and receive a lot of extra government benefits paid for by someone else. If that’s what it means now to be an American, then America is on the path to major decline.[ix] And perhaps the most shocking point: Almost nobody is arguing about this.

We argue about whether or not such government benefits should go to illegal aliens. Some say “Yes, of course. Be generous”, while others respond “No way! Don’t make me pay for their needs. What about Americans, what about our needs?” But both sides miss the deeper issue. Again, most Americans now want to work less, get paid more, and receive a lot of extra government programs paid for by someone else. As long as this is our agreed-upon worldview, we’re in decline, and sinking fast.

We have, on one side, those who want more government benefits for everyone. Another side wants fewer government programs/expenditures for those who aren’t Americans.

But where are those who refuse all benefits that the government offers to them, preferring freedom? —the citizens who want to stand on their own, to make their own way without government help, who want to actually be free? Where are those kind of Americans today?

Without them, American-style Conservatism is extinct. Without them, Progressivism has won.

Most modern Americans want independence without having to select the choices that make them independent. “With all the taxes I pay, I’m not going to turn down government benefits.” The problem is, at its root, that government forces us to pay for the welfare state, whether we accept any of its benefits or not. For most people, as a result, rejecting the benefits appears illogical, even stupid. And they’re right.

But can the Constitution survive such a populace? If the masses want to work less, make more, and refuse to reject government benefits, the government will continue to grow. Limited constitutionalism is already over, in such a world.

Prediction: Unless this changes, we will only elect those promising the easy path, and we will vote ourselves consistently into decline. The Republican Party will oscillate between Progressive Steps 2 and 3, while the Democrat Party will swing back and forth between Progressive Steps 4 and 5. Regardless of which side wins elections, the federal government will keep expanding. Freedom will be redefined, redirected, and reduced, and eventually it will disappear, following the long-established pattern of great power nations.[x]

There is, of course, a solution. It is called limited government. It is outlined in the United States Constitution.

First: the federal government must be held to the twenty powers (only 20!) outlined in Article I Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution.

Second: the Executive branch and its agencies must be required (by the voters, and all those they elect) to actually follow the Constitution. Third: the Court must also be required to follow the Constitution (by the voters, and all those they elect), without dodging this duty by claiming that it can simply redefine the document whenever it wants.

The voters have all the power to make these three things happen.

We have the blueprint. It will work, if the voters demand it.

But it will only work if the voters demand it.


*How can we get regular citizens to be this kind of voter? The answer is outlined in the book LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, by Orrin Woodward and Oliver DeMille. In LeaderShift you’ll learn the 5 Laws of Declining Nations, why America is currently failing all 5 Laws, and what to actually do about it. Find out how to get America back on track for the long term!

Available here>>


NOTES

[i] See George Will, 2019, The Conservative Sensibility

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] See Russell Kirk, 1974, The Roots of American Order

[iv] See Arthur Schlesinger, 1986, The Cycles of American History

[v] See op cit., Kirk; see also W. Cleon Skousen, 1985, The Making of America

[vi] The Constitution of the United States, Article III; see also Madison, Hamilton, Jay, 1989, The Federalist, Papers 78, 80, 83

[vii] See op cit., Will

[viii] See Oliver DeMille, 2014, The U.S Constitution and the 196 Indispensable Principles of Freedom

[ix] See Orrin Woodward, 2014, And Justice for All; see also Jonah Goldberg, 2018, Suicide of the West; see also Thomas Sowell, 2007, A Conflict of Visions

[x] See Paul Kennedy, 1987, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers

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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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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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The Jefferson-Madison Debates: Reopening the American Mind

September 12th, 2018 // 8:15 am @

Challenges for the Millennial Generation (and Z)

“Miss Amelia prayed as if the Lord were ten million miles away,
and she would be surprised to pieces
if she got anything she wanted.”
—Gene Stratton-Porter, Laddie

THE PROBLEM?

Millennials. Or, as they are frequently called by critics, the “Snowflake Generation”. Considered by some the weakest generation in the last hundred years, and criticized, fairly or not, as “the Me Me Me generation…lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents”[1] until age 30 or beyond. Born after 1984, the oldest of them are 30-34, the youngest (born 9/11), sometimes called Generation Z) are still 9-17. Today’s older teens and “twenty-somethings” make up the bulk of this group. The typical introduction to Millennials and Z goes something like this:

“Millennials got so many participation trophies growing up that…40% believe they should be promoted every two years, regardless of performance.”[2]

Large numbers of them are “technology addicted” and struggle at “keeping a job or a relationship”.[3]

On university campuses, the Millennial/Z’s have headlined numerous trends hailed by critics as spreading emotional weakness. For example, though college was once applauded as a place for young people to challenge themselves intellectually and emotionally by learning a diversity of ideas, the opposite is now true. In a report aptly titled “The Coddling of the American Mind”, The Atlantic noted that in “the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like, and seeking punishment of those who give even accidental offense…. [It is] disastrous for education—and likely to worsen mental health on campus.”[4] Learning opposite views, and how to combat them, is increasingly absent in many classrooms and departments.

This has gone so far that some students at Harvard Law School recently called for professors “not to teach rape law…lest it cause students distress.”[5] Even discussing or pointing out the wrong side of bad things is in many cases becoming taboo.[6] The article questioned: “What are we doing to our students if we encourage them to develop extra-thin skin just before they leave the cocoon of adult protection?”[7] Answer: training them to seek a similar cocoon even as adults, typically from the government. This is the opposite of what Thomas Jefferson believed universities should be. As the founder of the University of Virginia, he wrote:

“This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.”[8]

The Atlantic closed this article with the following words:

“We believe that this is still—and will always be—the best attitude for American universities.”[9]

Today, in contrast, words that are considered offensive are banned from many campuses, as are many ideas or speakers who differ from the politically correct norm. Such schools, and many of their Millennial/Z students do, in fact, appear “afraid to follow the truth wherever it may lead”, or even to listen.

Surprisingly, the military is dealing with many of the same issues. On the one hand, as James Fallows wrote in The Atlantic in January 2015: “Americans admire the military as they do no other institution. Through the past two decades, respect for the courts, the schools, the press, Congress, organized religions, Big Business, and virtually every other institution in modern life has plummeted. The one exception is the military…. In a Gallup poll last summer, three-quarters of the public expressed ‘a great deal’ or ‘quite a lot’ of confidence in the military. About one-third had comparable confidence in the medical system, and only 7 percent in Congress.”[10] In 2018 American confidence in the military is still at 74%.[11] (Confidence in newspapers is 23%, public schools 29%, banks 30%, courts 22%, TV news 20%, organized religion 38%, small business 67%, big business 25%.[12])

On the other hand, a negative term now used in some circles to describe America is “Chickenhawk Nation”, because many Americans are willing for the United States “to go to war, as long as someone else is going.”[13] While three-fourths of Americans admire the military, less than a quarter support their children joining any of the armed services.[14] Moreover, a majority of parents actively discourage or oppose military service by their own children.

Beyond this, only 29% of Millennials now meet the eligibility requirements for military service, causing shortfalls in recruiting needs.[15] And in recent years, “the number of eligible enlistees has been smaller and smaller.”[16] This is largely a matter of physical readiness—or in this case, it’s lack.[17] The snowflake trend has had a significant impact on the fitness levels of American youth.

On the political front, in the post Bernie Sanders era, many Millennial/Z’s support government-mandated free college, free housing, a monthly wage for everyone whether or not they have a job, and the appeal of “socialism.” Many even like the word or label of “socialism”, with over half of Millennials self-identifying as “socialist”.[18] But, ironically, they have little appetite for the “struggle of the working class to create a socialist society.” [19] That’s too much work. And they certainly aren’t looking for “the long revolution” to bring about socialism.[20] They just want socialist programs handed to them by big government, without the struggle, sacrifice, or effort.[21] Many Millennial/Z’s seem to feel they “deserve” such programs, without doing anything to earn them.[22]

Such young people are, in short, on a path toward something far removed from traditional American values or freedoms. They will become the biggest block of eligible voters in the 2018 midterm elections,[23] though most of them didn’t actually vote in 2016 and probably won’t until 2020 or beyond.

Is this generation exhibiting the characteristics we want for America’s future? After all, the word “generation” comes from “gene”, or “genes”. What we choose becomes who we are, and influences what we pass on to posterity.

A more immediate question: Why are many Millennial/Z’s this way? Many analysts blame it mostly on helicopter parenting—a generation over-programmed, over-protected, promised success without sacrifice or hard work by doting parents who sheltered their children from hard things. As one report from England put it: “Millennials are struggling at work because their parents ‘gave them medals for coming last’”.[24]  Of course, there are exceptions to these patterns in the Millennial/Z generation, but the trend is still sobering. A lot of Millennial/Z’s do expect college, promotions, income, work and relationships to be easy, and when they aren’t, they expect the government to intervene and somehow make things easy for them. This will certainly impact our politics and policies—and soon.

SOLUTIONS

“The government and its chiefs do not have
the powers of the mythical Santa Claus.”
—Ludwig von Mises

Despite the Tiger-Mom vs. Cool Mom debates,[25] many parents of Millennial/Z’s “have now realised [British spelling] that their well-intentioned parenting strategies have backfired.”[26] As a result, a number of people are trying to fix what many consider the “helicopter-parent/snowflake/wimpy-generation” debacle.

For example, in 2016 Parents.com listed the number one trend in parenting as “Saying bye-bye to helicoptering…just being more laid back when it comes to managing kids’ lives and schedules.”[27] In another trend, Free Range Parenting has recently popularized the “concept of raising children in the spirit of encouraging them independently and with [less] parental supervision”, including more “realistic personal risks.”[28]

Another example: A youth-initiated movement came from teens Alex and Brett Harris in their book Do Hard Things, which called upon youth to expect more from themselves and move past the limiting beliefs of helicopter parents. The subtitle of this book says it all: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations. In our day and age, and any other time in world history for that matter, a true “rebellion against low expectations” can only be accomplished by doing hard things, including a lot of hard work.

They wrote: “Most people don’t expect you to understand what we’re going to tell you in this book. And even if you understand, they don’t expect you to care. And even if you care, they don’t expect you to do anything about it. And even if you do something about it, they don’t expect it to last. We do.” This bestseller helped a number of Millennials embrace the idea of  “doing hard things”, even in the face of a society that too often militates against teens or parents who seek—or even allow—anything difficult. Author Connor Boyack shows young people and their parents how to embrace this at an even higher level in his excellent book Passion-Driven Education.

Despite some real progress for a few families and youth in this arena, for far too many of today’s young people the generational tide continues in the direction of easy or easier, adult-sanctioned snowflake weakness, trophies for everyone, and a culture of “blame your parents” (or your teachers, or anyone but yourself), “embrace feelings of unearned entitlement”, “turn to the government to fix anything you don’t like”, and “never take the hard path of extreme work, sacrifice, risk, and great achievement”. More and more parents are realizing the problem—the disaster, really—with this approach, and looking for an antidote.

We have personally witnessed this generational struggle as we have promoted the principles of great education in our Thomas Jefferson Education (TJEd) system. Our call for Scholar Phase, an intense teen study program of voluntarily putting in massive effort and work to earn a truly great education, is often considered unrealistic by the old guard. But it has been revolutionary and incredibly successful for those (Millennial/Z’s and parents) who have risen to the challenge.

We have seen firsthand that many teens can do very, very hard things.[29] Moreover, once they get a taste for it, they frequently fall in love with the challenge.[30] This inspired me to write the book Hero Education, which builds on the theme of young people accomplishing great things by voluntary action, personal initiative, and hard work. Also, in our experience with TJEd, the best results frequently come where parents and mentors not only encourage great effort, but also lead the way—showing their teens what to do by personal example.

PART II

A RADICAL (AND SURPRISING) SUGGESTION!

“Did you ever wish with all your might that something would happen, and wait for it, expect it, and long for it, and nothing did, until it grew so bad, it seemed as if you had to go on another minute you couldn’t bear it?” —Gene Stratton-Porter, Laddie

I recently read a report that encouraged even more success of this type. It was both intriguing and fascinating. It may be the best thing I’ve read specifically on the challenges of Millennials and Gen Z (and helicopter vs. leadership parenting) since Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind. It is found in Outside magazine, and entitled: “Rewilding the American Child.”

That’s right:

re   –   wild   –   ing

Emphasis on “wild”.

I’m so intrigued by this concept that whenever I think of it I feel this word needs a good     ! ! !    to punctuate it effectively. And note that the word “rewilding” is an active verb, like learning, reading, discussing, or loving.

Or jumping, running, hiking, swimming, etc.

Profound.

The report begins:

“Overscheduled.

“Addicted to screens.

“It’s time to set our kids free.”[31]

Freedom. What a great idea. Especially applied to education.

Indeed, the recommendations go a step past free-range childhood—all the way to the wilds. Literally.

From the report:

“Our children are in crisis…. creating a generation of entitled wimps…. Today, America’s kids are caught up in one of the largest mass migrations in human history: the movement indoors.”[32]

This is a momentous statement. Take a moment to re-read the last quote and let it sink in. This is big. Here’s more:

“Only recently have we begun to spend our lives penned in by walls, staring at screens.”[33]

Indeed, we’re living through a major development in human history. The full ramifications of this alteration from all past history are yet unknown, but it is already clear that the rise of institutionally-designed “wimpy-ness” is both real and, unless something changes, “the new normal.”

The impact on society is drastic. This shift has coincided with a rise in the average age of young people becoming independent—with increased dependence in where they live, their finances, and their emotional development. In a reversal of progress, 30 is now the new 18. Adulthood is increasingly put off until later. Marriage, having children, accepting increased career responsibility—all are procrastinated by the bulk of Millennials. And Z’s are following suit.

The “Rewilding” report recommends things that will seem extreme to some, reckless to others, but get right to the core of what many consider the problem of the so-called “Wimpy Generation”.[34] These suggestions include:

“It’s time to make childhood an adventure again. Kids deserve the chance to explore nature without an agenda or a chaperone, to take risks and learn to get themselves out of trouble, to fall in love with nature…”[35]

I’m reminded of something penned by Lord Byron:

“There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and the music in its roar. I love not man the less, but Nature more.”[36]

A generation that seldom spends real time in the real out-of-doors is deprived of so much, too often oblivious to large swaths of learning and therefore to key parts of life, self, and purpose. Another important quote, this one from Henry James, further illustrates the challenge:

Summer afternoon–summer afternoon;
to me these have always been the two most beautiful words
in the English language.[37]

But if we’re caught in the Trapped-Indoors rut, summer differs very little from any other season. Screens are all that matter. Trees, waves, leaves, clouds, rain, even books in many cases, are foreign. Alien even.

What kind of education, or life, is this?

“Look deep into nature,” Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “and then you will understand everything better.”[38]

Years ago I took a group of college students on a field trip many hours from home. We stayed one night at a beautiful old estate, and when we first arrived we walked through the house and around the grounds. Almost immediately, as we moved into the large fields at the back of the home, one student noticed a huge old tree and gleefully ran to it and climbed up the branches far above the ground. Several other students followed her, and they sat together in their leafy perch and talked for hours about the books we were covering in class at the time, the connections of these books to life, and other important ideas.

I recently returned to the same estate, and pointed out the great tree to a couple of my own children. They marveled at it, as did I. As they climbed, I found myself surprised that more than a decade earlier I had never even considered the safety of those climbing the tree. The world has changed much during the ensuing years, and in the current environment I quickly realized that an extreme focus on safety would have been one of my first concerns if that event had happened today. To the point that I’m sure I would have told the students to climb down immediately.

That would have been tragic. Yet in our sadly “unwilded” and “newly indoor” world, things have changed, and not for the good. “The undiscovered country”, Shakespeare told us, “from whose bourn No traveller returns.” He was speaking, of course, of death. But could the same thinking be applied to the Generation of Screens—once in their grip, No Traveller really returns? Are we now prisoners of the walls and silicon processors that so dominantly define our age and control so many of today’s values?

Perhaps this goes too far, but does our concern about the loss of nature for so many young people extend far enough? Are we even aware of the problem?

One of the best things about the “Rewilding” report is that is doesn’t fall into the almost universal modern educational trap of recommending a solution for the kids only—while the parents stay inside with their thumbs addictively swiping screens. The parents are in fact counseled that to really see a change in their youth they’ll need to lead the way, by showing “them that we, too, love to play outside.”[39] If we added the words “work” and “read” to this sentence, it would be almost ideal. Plato and Aristotle would agree, I think. Thomas Jefferson, whose two favorite pastimes were walking in the wilds and reading, would certainly approve.

The report recommends a number of options for “rewilding” our kids, including:

  • “Explore together”
  • “Establish Boundaries”
  • “Work the Farm”
  • “Take back roads…”
  • “Fuel their love of games…”
  • “…go rafting, take backcountry ski trips, and spend long days hiking…”
  • “Age-Appropriate Adventure”
  • “A Deep Connection With Animals”
  • “Make Sports Fun Again”

The report in Outside magazine, the September 2018 issue, elaborates on all of these and includes many more suggestions; I highly recommend it. The report notes that it is of course important to establish effective safety and other guidelines and rules in all of this, and to make good choices. (Such a disclaimer is probably NECESSARY if Boomers and Gen Xers are reading. But it increasingly appears that risk is the major ingredient missing in the lives of what so many consider the Wimpy Generation.)

In short, with wise planning and implementation, each young person’s education can be greatly improved through outdoor activities…

HARD STOP. Here is what one Millennial/Z teen told me when I read this article with him (this exact article, the one you’re reading now). He interrupted me at this point, after the disclaimer in the paragraph above, and said: “Fine. But it is just as important, maybe more important, to help them be strong. Far too often, parents equate ‘safe’ with ‘good’, and the result is just weakness. Many kids are held back by frightened, overprotective parents. Our modern society is so skewed to the side of coddling us that strength is usually missing.”

When I tried to point out the need for balance in this, he interrupted again: “In truth,” he said, “strength is ultimately the only safety. Adults know this. But they act like their kids will never need to be strong.”

I tried to reiterate my point about balance, and he shook his head. “Listen to me. At some point, the kid will have to walk out into the real world. Period.” Then, after a pause, “Prepare them now. That’s what we need from parents.”[40]

THE LONELY

“‘Difficulty’ is the name of an ancient tool
that was created purely to help us define who we are.”
—Paulo Coelho

The “Rewilding” report also points out another truly profound reality:

“Today’s kids are lonelier than any previous generation.”[41]

This rings all too true to anyone who works a lot with youth. Modernity has taken its toll. The constant connection with screens, and indoor physical separation from other people, too often gets in the way of other more important connections—with parents, siblings, pets, nature, mentors, hobbies, work toward great goals and passions, books, talents and interests, challenging problems and overcoming them, the kind of lessons that are learned only from struggle, etc. These are seldom the skills learned on screens.

A funny joke circulating on the Internet reads something like this:

The Wi-Fi in my house went down for a few minutes

I had to spend time with my family.

They seem like good people…

But is this really funny? In Millennial/Z humor, the several youth I’ve asked assure me, it’s hilarious. For the rest of us, it’s pretty dark. (When one of my Millennial daughters read this, she said the whole joke was actually terrible. Why? Because she was horrified that the Wi-Fi went out at all. “That’s infuriating!” she exclaimed. Another daughter’s big concern was why the person didn’t have data on their phone so they could stay on the Internet even without Wi-Fi. What is she talking about????)

Humor aside, today’s epidemic of so many teens and twenty-somethings (and even some in their thirties) who put off adult responsibility and remain weakly dependent on authority figures for…well, almost everything…may well be a natural result of the migration indoors.[42] The “snowflake” view of so many on college campuses is indicative of this trend. What is needed in today’s world—our homes, our communities, our learning environments—is a major injection of grit.[43] Of initiative, stamina, guts, and tenacity. And these things are nearly always learned away from screens.

In short, technology is a wonderful and powerful tool; few would dispute this. But it is not the only wonderful and powerful tool. A list of tools that are even more wonderful and more powerful include those just outlined above: parents, siblings, pets, nature, mentors, hobbies, work toward great goals and passions, books, talents and interests, challenging problems and overcoming them, the kind of lessons that are learned only from struggle, etc.

The great challenge—and fix—for Millennial/Z’s is to find and implement the right combination of ALL these tools. To be honest, this is true for non-Millennials as well. Put simply, it’s time to re-open the American mind. And get outside…a lot.

Note that doing this is going to be hard. Which is exactly what we need.

“…what you learn there doesn’t amount to a hill of beans compared to what you can find out yourself outdoors. Schoolhouses are made wrong. If they must be, they should be built in a woods pasture beside a stream, where you could wade, swim, and be comfortable in summer, and slide and skate in winter. The windows should be cut to the floor, and stand wide open, so birds and butterflies could pass through. You ought to learn your geography by climbing a hill, walking through a valley, wading creeks, making islands in them, and promontories, capes, and peninsulas along the banks. You should do your arithmetic sitting under trees…”
Gene Stratton-Porter, Laddie

(For more on this topic, especially real solutions, see Hero Education by Oliver DeMille)

(For a Funny Video Click Here>>)


NOTES

[1] Time, Joel Stein, May 9, 2013

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] The Atlantic, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, September 2015

[5] Ibid.

[6] See ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Cited in ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] The Atlantic, James Fallows, January/February 2015, citing Gallup

[11] Gallup.com

[12] Ibid.

[13] The Atlantic, James Fallows, January/February 2015

[14] See The New York Times, Damien Cave, June 3, 2005.

[15] Military1.com, March 6, 2018

[16] Ibid.

[17] See ibid.

[18] American Institute for Economic Research, Max Gulker, December 2017, “Over Half of Millennials Identify as Socialist: Here’s How to Change Their Minds”

[19] See, for example: The New York Times, Michelle Goldberg, June 30, 2018, “The Millennial Socialists Are Coming”; The American Interest, Ben Judah, “What Is Millennial Socialism?”; chicagotribune.com, Heather Wilhelm, July 9, 2018, “Why are millennials so hot for socialism?”

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] See Politifact, Andy Sherman, February 13, 2018

[24] Independent.co.uk, Rachel Hosie, February 7, 2017

[25] See for example Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua, Bringing Up Bėbė, by Pamela Druckerman, and “Are ‘Tiger Moms’ Better than Cools Moms?” (The Atlantic) by Julia Ryan, among others.

[26] Independent.co.uk, Rachel Hosie, February 7, 2017

[27] Parents.com, Melissa Willets, “6 Parenting Trends to Look Forward to in 2016”

[28] Wikipedia.org, “Free-range parenting”

[29] See Hero Education, Oliver DeMille

[30] Ibid.

[31] Outside, multiple authors, September 2018

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Cited in Forest Therapy, 2018, by Sarah Ivens

[37] Ibid.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Outside, multiple authors, September 2018

[40] Ephraim DeMille (age 18 – son of my brother, William), August 2018

[41] Outside, multiple authors, September 2018

[42] See ibid.

[43] See the following: Angela Duckworth, Grit; Claude Hamilton, Thick-Skinned; Claude Hamilton, Toughen Up.

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The Madison-Jefferson Debates: What Isn’t True

August 7th, 2018 // 1:22 pm @

Reality or… Not?

Some things just aren’t true, even if we think they are. Even if we are assured that “everyone” says they’re true; and even if the experts—almost always unnamed—have formed a consensus on the matter. Actually, the more you get know the experts, the more you realize they aren’t in consensus on almost anything.

Now, let’s be clear. A lot of what we’re told is true. But not everything. And that’s why sometimes it’s important to take a step back and really dig into things. Research. Find out. There are whole websites dedicated to setting the record straight about urban myths, generally accepted “truths”, quotes that are attributed to someone who never said those words, etc. We give “Pinocchios” to politicians who fib, and “Fact Checker” is a growing career field in the Information Age. (Is it really? Or does it just seem like it? Ask the question on Google and you can spend hours studying the various listings. Or ask the same question on social media and wade through hundreds, or even thousands, of opinions.)

Falling for Everything

Here are few items that most people consider truth. Unassailable. Set in stone. Incontrovertible.

  • Lie Detector Tests
  • DNA Evidence
  • Election Polls
  • Carbon Dating

Which are sure? Which are certain? Not all. Do you know which of these are fully accepted by the experts in the field—no exceptions? Answer: none. All of the above are rejected by at least some experts, even where a majority of experts agree. Have you studied the arguments, evidence, tests and conclusions on each? Or any? Note that even where the science is firm, like with DNA evidence for example, the way experts present such science is at times incomplete or misleading. Or, another example, even if the statistics used in a pre-election survey are accurate, the wording of a specific survey question can skew the entire result; and what if survey respondents are afraid or ashamed to tell the truth, like in the 2016 U.S. presidential election when many voters didn’t want people to know they planned to vote for Donald Trump? In such cases, the math and the science can be technically correct, but the way experts use them turn out “wrong”, because all the variables aren’t controlled.

In short, on many things we simply know less than we need to. And yet most people are comfortable making decisions based on things they know very little about—just taking someone’s word for it. It’s a habit for most people.

But things are not always what they seem. Truth isn’t always what the experts claim. This doesn’t mean that every crackpot theory questioning the experts is correct. But it does suggest that we should be independent thinkers who read the original data or studies where possible and scrutinize things for ourselves. Independent thinking is required to maintain independence. This is obvious, isn’t it? But most people don’t follow this approach.

Time to Think

For our Madison-Jefferson conversation this week, I’m recommending the attached article. It is a great read, and an important one. It demands that we look at things more deeply, and think more wisely. It calls us to research more, question more, dig deeper, and not just accept conclusions at face value. It is one of those articles everyone should read and deeply consider. Agree or disagree, this article will make you think!

Enjoy…

How Social Science Might Be Misunderstanding Conservatives >>

 

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