As I journey through life, I find I’m spending more and more time digging into the big “Why” of humanity. This post is a smattering of the best of the best ideas, thought leaders and communicators that may help answer the big questions;
- Why do we continue to wage wars?
- Why do some societies rise while others fall?
- What are the impacts of government action or inaction on monetary policy? On poverty? On crony capitalism?
- Why is our current society so unhealthy? Why does the Pima Indians have the highest rate of diabetes in the world?
- Why is our politics so divided and is this something NEW to our world?
- What causes society to move to and from religion?
- What’s the role of abundance or scarcity in a country?
- What can we learn from history, does it repeat?
- Which economic theories win out over time?
- Why are so many people today broken and medicating to deal with life?
- What separates a great President from a failed Presidency? What’s the magic formula for great leadership?
- When was the last time you visited a KMart? What causes one company to grow and another die?
All these answers are out there and it takes time and understanding to piece it all together. With 7 years on the air, my role was to devour every minutia of information locally, nationally and internationally. To successfully master the craft of live radio, I had to be able to speak of the issues of the day. Over time all these data points turned into a pattern. About 5 years into the radio program I started connecting these patterns into 12 arguments that show that America is in Decline. I’ve started to organize these arguments into chapters of a book. Here’s the intro.
Next, while building out an educational network that focused on history and classics, I spent years digging into the historical origins of man. The rise and fall of nations. The influence of religions and economic theories on society. I dug into philosophers, kings, and civilizations that at one point were at the pinnacle of the entire globe, and that is now laying in the archaeological rubble. From great literature, art, music, architecture to technological advancements and great migrations a story emerges.
Finally, after years growing up in Catholic education and being of service to a number of Catholic agencies, and spending quality time with men I respect in the Protestant faith I’ve started to look at what faith means to me and how it shows up in my life. From a weekend back in 2001 in Oracle and staffing a weekend in a southern Arizona hot springs, I learned about my shadows and motivations. By working with a group of men for over a decade I started to learn how wounds of the past show up in my life. With advice and counsel of strong men and mentor-ship from men in the faith, business and community leadership fields I have learned more about who I am and how I show up in my family, my career and in my faith.
To fully understand where we are today I’ve dug into the thought leaders from politics, sociology, psychology, and economics. I put forth the following lectures, discussions, and documentaries to paint a picture of how I see the human condition.
This is a long collection of my beliefs and analysis on (click for a Deep Dive by topic);
and much more.
Some thought leaders that I really have been intrigued by are Malcolm Gladwell, Angela Duckworth and Tim Ferriss. They’ve made observations and studies of people and society on a micro and macro level. Each of these authors and thinkers has a body of work on how to destruct what makes some people succeed while other people, who seem to have it all, fail. Here are a few of my favorite lectures by these people:
HERE with Pastor Rick Warren.
Angela Duckworth- GRIT and Perseverance! Ever wonder why friends or family members that have it all, money, looks, smarts and opportunity yet struggle at life? The missing ingredient needed is GRIT. Duckworth does a deep analysis of the science and psychology behind success. Get the book and devour it. Freakonomics covered a super bold project that Duckworth is proposing, check out the interview….Could Solving This One Problem Solve All Others?
Tim Ferriss and his first book, 4 Hour Work Week, started out his journey on figuring out the hacks that make great people great. From sports to money to cooking to military figures, Tim interviews and dissects the best of the best. Start with Tools For Titans and subscribe to his podcast.
THIS article from Inside Business is a great starting point to learn all things, Tim. Here’s what jumped out at me:
1. There are two parts to self-improvement
Oftentimes we see self-improvement merely as goal achievement. However, Tim realized that achievement is only 50% of it. He says, “The other 50% is gratitude and appreciating what you already have, not focusing solely on future accomplishments.” There are so many highly successful people who are never satisfied with what they’ve accomplished and it’s unfortunate.
As Tim mentioned, “They’ve conquered every mountain, slayed every dragon and they’re still not happy”. Don’t be one of those people! If you want to have any sense of well-being, you have to show appreciation for what you already have.
2. Improve two areas of your life at a time
For those of us who are Type A personalities, we tend to be super ambitious and self-critical as we’re always trying to improve our lives. Over the last 10 years Tim realized that “too much optimizing can be self-destructive.” Like with many things in life, things in excess tend to take on the characteristics of their opposites. So in this case, the sole focus on self-improvement can be misguided and can lead to depression and anxiety.
6. Focus on developing skills and relationships
When making important decisions and capping the downside, potential risks or mistakes, Tim focuses on two things: skills and relationships. The question he asks himself is, “Even if this fails, are there skills and relationships that I can develop that will carry over into other things?” Tim’s philosophy is that, “Failure isn’t failure if you can gain new skills and develop relationships for future advancement.”
7. It’s important to diversify your identify
When you’re passionate about your work, it’s easy to have everything vested in your business which can serve you well in most cases. However, Tim says that “100% dedication can lead to a disaster in the sense that you have all of your psychological eggs in one basket.”
10. Fame, power, money and alcohol just make you more of who you already are
Tim knows a lot of successful people who are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. One thing he’s learned is that fame, power, money, and alcohol just make you more of who you already are.
He explained, “So if you’re neurotic, add 100 million to that, you’ll be super neurotic!” If you’re generous, add 100 million to that, you’ll be even more generous. Essentially your characteristic just get exaggerated when you add those things in life. So it’s important that you work on who you want to be before you get those things.
Here’s a long form interview with Tony Robbins and Tim Ferriss. I remember listening to Tony Robbins cassette tapes in college and graduated to his CD’s. To hear the two together is pretty cool.
Want to dig into Social Psychology? Start with Canadian, Dr. Jordon Peterson – HERE – He weighs in on safe spaces and political correctness. My favorite in #1…be grateful!
What I enjoy
Listening to: My favorite bands tend to be from the decade of the 1970’s. I grew up in the 1980’s but never really connected with that time period musically. Of the favorites of favorite, if I had to listen to one playlist for the rest of my life, stranded on a deserted island, it would have to be Pink Floyd. I got a chance to see them and spend time in their hotel room during the Division Bell tour in Phoenix in the early 1990’s. Check out a cool new website, Sutori and their anthology of Pink Floyd. Follow me on Spotify for an eclectic mix of musical playlists, especially ‘Joe Can’t Get Enough‘.
Watching: I despise reality TV. I enjoy the new medium of the long form, binge-worthy, series that have been prevalent on various cable outlets. Homeland and House of Cards continue to weave real-world political storylines into a very intriguing plot line. If I’m not into a series, I’m always looking for a great documentary. Many of the best I’ve shared in this post.
Podcasts: If you haven’t stumbled into the world of podcasts yet, I highly recommend you do. Get the free app, Stitcher, set up themed playlists and sample as many different shows as you can. I go in waves of shows that I follow and devour. After 7 years on live radio, every morning, I start to appreciate and understand what makes a good show. I’m particularly drawn to great interviewers. The art and talent of a great interviewer are something to admire.
Here’s a few I’m listening too right now:
Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders – Stanford U
Here’s The Thing – Alec Baldwin
Story Corp – NPR
EdSurge On Air
Conversations with Tyler
Revisionist History – Malcolm Gladwel
lThe Art of Manliness
Hidden Brain – NPR
On Being – Krista Tippett
TED Radio Hour
London School of Economics
Harvard Business Review – Ideacast
Tim Ferris Show
Ken Rudin’s Political Junkie
Banter: AEI Podcast
Exchanges at Goldman Sach
Rich Dad Poor Dad
The decline of a great society doesn’t happen overnight….
There are certain stages and warning signs that are hard to miss. As you go about your day you may be like me and you come across a story or a fact or a chart that makes you pause ask yourself ‘that can’t be a good thing’. This book is my attempt to string these ‘that won’t end well’ events and stat together and look at macro trends happening in America and the world. Some of these trends have been going on for generations and others can be started or compounded from one election cycle to the next. I attempt break these patterns or trends into 25 categories and then researched and honed the arguments down to the top 12. This dirty dozen areas are what I believe are leading to the decline of a great society.
Taken individually one of these 12 topics can be seen as a crack in the foundation of what made America great. Taking them all in conjunction you can see how each of the chapters of this book contribute to a pattern and the piling together of the patterns are leading our Country to a decision point. Will this decision point be a conflict, will we wake up and change course, can we turn the ship around? These are all questions I ask myself every day. Hopefully this book will help you make decisions for your family, you community and your country.
It will be easy to argue against a particular point I’m making but I challenge you to take the analysis of all 12 chapters in their entirety and judge for yourself. Judge our Country on the dozen items I put forward and ask yourself if we are a Country on the rise or the decline. Analyze your particular school, or city council. Use these points and start watching the TV pundits or reading your online news with a more enlightened analysis. Wake up to where we are heading as a society.
When researching this book, it helps me to look at the history behind some of the decisions or directions our country is taking. I’ve been fascinated with the formation of America. The debates, the amendments, the structure was all deliberately put together to ensure that the human desire for power and the focus on self interest would be minimized for a greater good. The Founders of our country studied the fall of great societies and tried to put in place a form of government that pitted branches of the federal government against each other. They pitted States rights against a Federalist system. They built a government and a nation that survived over 240 years. My contention is that the more we erode the founders original structure of government the more damage we’ve done to our Country. The erosion of State’s rights, the election of Senators from popular vote instead of from the State legislatures have all had profound and negative impacts on our society.
The natural inclination, as I researched this topic, is to step back and ask yourself ‘how does this end up?’.For me, knowing that the path we are on as a country doesn’t look very promising, ‘how do I take care of my family?’ In the final chapter I’ll spend some time pontificating on how our society will react to societal pressures, political vacuums and market gyrations. No one knows the future but we can look to the past to get inkling on what happens next.
This book has something for everyone, politically that is. I am a Republican, I do a morning radio show on a conservative talk network. I’ve run for elected office, I’ve helped Republican candidates and as an entrepreneur ‘I did build that’. I believe the free market is the best way to deliver goods and service between two parties. I believe in small government and lean libertarian on many issues. I stay clear of social issues relating to how people chose to live their lives. I’ve been blessed in my life and giving back through board services with organizations that I believe in.
My radio show, columns and this book is about putting ideas out into my community aimed at helping families figure out there future. This book is about how I see the my Country. For the past eight years I’ve emerged myself in politics, society and culture. Being a part of the media has given me access to the leaders and decision makers in my community, my State and in the Country. Over the years I’ve seen patterns emerge. I’ve seen the challenges at making true change at the ballot box, I’ve seen the contrast between liberal and conservative governance. I’ve observed how people handle the mantle of power and what affects their decisions. These life experiences have lead me to write this book.
Cycle of Decline
When you look at the decline of other great societies there are historic clues that don’t always line up perfectly with the arguments I put forth in this book but there are definitely patterns that should scare you and make you take notice. Alexander Fraser Tytler, a European historian published The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic. In his analysis, Tytler concluded that from his research that the following stages of societal growth and decline are clear guideposts that great societies follow:
“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising them the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over a loss of fiscal responsibility, always followed by a dictatorship. The average of the world’s great civilizations before they decline has been 200 years. These nations have progressed in this sequence:
From bondage to spiritual faith,
From spiritual faith to great courage,
From courage to liberty,
From liberty to abundance,
From abundance to selfishness,
From selfishness to complacency,
From complacency to apathy,
From apathy to dependency,
From dependency back again to bondage.”
The American experience, at just shy of 240 years old, is following Tytler’s stages. From our Countries foundation and the push back against tyranny at the hands of the British empire to the roaring 20’s, industrial revolution, post WWII economic booms on through to the rise of the counter culture, hippies, free love and into the rise of illicit drug use through the cocaine and crack 80’s and 90’s. The final stages we are now living include lack of trust in our governmental institutions from Congress to your local school district, the rise of the entitlement state and the ‘selfie generation’ who ask ‘what is my government going to do for me?’
Historian Arnold Toynbee wrote a 12 part series in 1961 called A Study of History. Toynbe argued that civilizations travel through many distinct stage;
Toynbee believed that a civilization declines not by external influences brought on by environmental concerns or attacks from invaders but his research showed societies become very good at problem solving but are not able to adapt to new, more sophisticated problems. Their societies have created too many layers and they’ve overdeveloped their problem solving structures and can’t adapt.
He studied the role of the “Dominant Minority” that forces the minority to obey. The “Creative Minority” which once was the source of new ideas, adaptations and the ability of the minority to influence the majority continues to bask in the glory days of the past and looses their ability to challenge and push society into a new direction. .
He argues that the ultimate sign a civilization has broken down is when the dominant minority forms a large centralized ruling system, a central government or a Proletariat, which stifles political creativity. He states:
First the Dominant Minority attempts to hold by force – against all right and reason – a position of inherited privilege which it has ceased to merit; and then the Proletariat repays injustice with resentment, fear with hate, and violence with violence when it executes its acts of secession. Yet the whole movement ends in positive acts of creation – and this on the part of all the actors in the tragedy of disintegration. The Dominant Minority creates a universal state, the Internal Proletariat a universal church, and the External Proletariat a bevy of barbarian war-bands.
Tonybee argues that, as civilizations decay, they form an “Internal Proletariat” and an “External Proletariat.” The Internal proletariat is held in subjugation by the dominant minority inside the civilization, and grows bitter; the external proletariat exists outside the civilization in poverty and chaos, and grows envious. He argues that as civilizations decay, there is a “schism in the body social,” where groups are pitted against each other. Instead of virtue and community the people in the society become jealous and envious.
When short term gain for the ruling majority is bypassed for the long term gain of what is best for the society cracks emerge in the societal fabric. We will dig in deeply to the political structure, bureaucracy and once trusted institutions that are now corrupted or incompetent to deliver on their mission. America is moving towards an ‘every man for themselves’ philosophy and this shift is not only counter to what made this Country great but could spell the end of this great experiment envisioned 240+ years ago.
Our society is straining at many levels, this book will try to provide you with the arguments that describe this decline. The rot is showing itself in our financial institution, our commercial sector, the education system and in many aspects of our societal contracts. The health of our institutions are manifesting in our our cultural decay.
For the past decade, I’ve been on a journey that first to fix my community, then to fix my State, then my Country. The further I researched and the more I learn the more I realized that we are living in a Country that is in the final stages of a great empire. Just like my great grandparents who fled Ireland in the mid 1800’s and moved to America for greater opportunity, I’m trying to impart upon my children and by this book impart upon whomever will do the hard analysis that you may have to leave the Country where you were born in to find opportunity in a different opportunity.
I am no different than many of my generation. I grew up as a Reagan Republican educated in Catholic schools through high school, put myself through college at the University of Arizona and studied Political Science and Economics. I’ve been an entrepreneur all my life. Coming from a middle class family I saw the life of a small business owner as the path to financial security and a life less ordinary. As I worked hard, found success and raised my family I had that moment where I asked myself ‘is this it?’ That searching led me to plug into the social program to help those less fortunate than myself. I gravitated towards Catholic organizations that needed the skills that God had given me. After years of running and growing businesses, raising my family and giving back to my faith I started seeing a patterns. The pattern that emerged was that no matter how much money we raised to help those less fortunate the ranks of those in need kept growing. Solving the pain and suffering in my community was more than raising money, it was about the direction our elected officials were taking my community.
The next logical step, crazy as the experience was, was to step up and run for elected office. I looked locally at where the concentration of power was an determined to run for a County Supervisor position and challenge a 16 year incumbent in the Republican Primary. I did not win but after much sole searching the race for office wasn’t’ about winning, it was about making my community better. As a candidate I did a number of local radio interviews. After the election, I was given the opportunity to co-host a morning radio show with Chris DeSimone. Our show expanded into 2 hours per day on morning drive time. After six years of probably the most fascinating time to have a ring side seat to State and national politics I started seeing patterns. I wrote them down, researched these patterns form a historical perspective, dug into stats and data to identify trends and project how these patterns would play out in our economy, our political system and in our culture. The patterns were developed into 12 categories that I put forth to show the decline of the American empire.
Each chapter of this book is dedicated to one of these arguments that I put forth demonstrate that America is on a trend that leads to only one conclusion. According to Tytler’s assessment our society is moving from Apathy and Dependency to Dependency and Bondage. You may disagree with a particular chapter but I encourage you to analyze my arguments in their entirety. I have no agenda, I am not selling any financial instruments to hedge against where I see our county going. I am simply putting forth where I see America heading and ask you to prepare, become aware and watch for future signs. I have no crystal ball as to when or how long the decline will take. We may stay in the Apathy and Dependence phase for decades. A jolt to the financial system that stops credit financing of American debt could move us to Dependency and Bondage overnight.
What started with a run for political office lead me to a 6 year journey on local conservative talk radio. To produce two hours every morning involved devouring every minutia of the news of the day. Our radio show involved local topics and our take on national issues. With interviewing everyone from dog catcher to US Presidential candidates patterns start to emerge. The more time I spent reading, tracking and interviewing the more I realized how genius the framers of America really were. They studied the rise and fall of great societies of the past, the Romans, ancient Greeks, the British Empire,
When you boil everything down, Countries are led by men and women that are fallible. Our constitution was set up to protect the Republic from the wills of majorities against minorities, from States against the Federalist system, from one branch of government against another. The more I saw what was happening in present day American the more I dug back into the foundation of our country. In reading the debates of our founding fathers it is apparent that they didn’t envision the intranet or nuclear weaponry but they did realize that leaders in the 1700’s, or 500bc have the same motivations as leaders in the 2000’s. They studied great societies of the past and put all sorts of circuit breakers in to stop or slow the greed, ego and natural tendencies for a government and bureaucracy to grow ever bigger and encroach on the liberty of the individual. Through this book there are major inflection points in our history that eroded the constitution and the framework that the founders envisioned. I would argue to our detriment.
From the beginning of society humans have had aspirations, inclinations, flaws, ego and desires to create a better world for our families. The foundation of this country, our Constitution was designed to keep our elected officials in check, to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority. The people, through the ballot box, will ultimately retain and wield the power of their elected leaders. Our government was set up with a series of checks and balances to keep the people from being abused. Over the past 240 years, where we comprise, interpret for our times, or neglect these checks and balances we see our country slipping away from what made this great experiment work. Perhaps we need to go back to the original framework that made us great to restore those freedoms and put our government in check.
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.
A study of the past and a glimpse at the future;
From the formation of our government in the 1790’s through the Civil War in the 1860’s, on through the industrial revolution and right up to the Great Depression, America had a hands off philosophy surrounding the national economy. The Congress lacked the authority to dig into the day to day activities of the citizens and businesses. There were encroachments and shifts in thinking and shifts in policy but not until the FDR administration did we se wholesale shifts in the role of the Federal government and it’s role in every day American’s lives. The constitution protected the rights of States and the individual. The Framers understood the role of concentration of power in a central government and went to great lengths to reign in that power. For the majority of our Countries history is was every man for himself, rugged individualism, free markets and the freedom to freely engage in commerce.
Woodrow Wilson in 1887 glorified the role of the administration and ushered in a cadres of administrative elites who he believed had the scientific knowledge about human behavior and where better equipped to run society. He believed administrative power was to be insulated from politics just as engineering and medicine stood on their own. Wilson saw federal bureaucracies “of skilled, economical administration” comprising the “hundred who are wise” empowered to guide the “thousands” who are “selfish, ignorant, timid, stubborn, or foolish.” (The Study of Administration – Essay by Woodrow Wilson). Wilson believed that educted technorats were the answer in solving societies problems.
After the stock market crash of 1929 ushered in the Great Depression, the USA was at a crossroads. The pain brought on by the exuberance of the roaring 20’s caused quite a hangover. The cheap credit extended to the wealthy and powerful burst and the hangover was difficult to overcome. Hoover loosened credit and turned the US into the lender of last resort for the banks. With the recovery not taking hold, Hoover expanded Keysnian, government initiated spending programs that included work programs, agriculture controls and other top down controls and stimulation to get the economy moving.
With the election of FDR government intervention and stimulation went into overdrive. FDR’s New Deal brought the formation of the SEC, the FDIC, the NLRB, and the infamous WPA . For the first time in our nations history we jumped on the collectivism bandwagon. The checks and balances set up by the founders where trampled over. Leading to an attempt to court pack the Supreme Court in 1937 to overcome a series of rebukes to his legislative agenda. Government as last lender and savior of the day became in vogue and it continues today. Through LBJ’s war on poverty and creation of Social Security and Medicare all the way through Obama’s Affordable Care Act, economic stimulus and massive intervention by the Federal Reserve, our Country is drifting farther and farther from the beliefs and principals set forth by the Founders. In the end, Government is a trailing indicator to society, perhaps, as we go through the chapters of this book, you’ll find that we have the exact government that we deserve.
All is not lost. There are short term and long term solutions that can put the American experience on the right track. The solutions range from improving education and building schools around teaching critical thinkers instead of factory workers. The solutions involve changing attidudes related to work and saving. The solutions involve instilling virtues back into society through stronger families units or active and engage faith networks.
Chapter 2 – Debt and Banking