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America’s Big Idea

Posted on March 4th, 2008 by Will Marre.
Categories: Education, Leadership, Community, Relationships, Career, Lifestyle, ADP Diary.

As the primary election season gives way to the general election I am concerned that the battle for the White House is still a war of new sound bites hiding tired ideas. Something more is needed.

How We Lost Our Vision

If you think wisdom, integrity, and new ideas are missing in our government leaders, you are not alone. That’s because both major political parties have lost their understanding of the four values America is centered on: freedom and responsibility, opportunity and equality.

America’s promise has always been that you can determine the quality of your own life. Where you start in life does not determine where you finish. We strive to be a society that promotes the key conditions to help us optimize our quality of life no matter what our circumstances. Doing that isn’t easy. It requires constantly balancing four distinct priorities: freedom and responsibility, opportunity and equality. If any one of these values are lost or even de-emphasized, our system is thrown out of balance. People lose confidence and our national mood sours. Today, lots of us are in a sour mood. The ideology of the left screams for personal freedom and equality. The right insists that personal responsibility and unfetter opportunity are America’s only true values. But these arguments lead us nowhere. Both sides are correct but incomplete. The result is a distorted, twisted gridlock of half-baked compromise in action. America’s true center is not the mid-point between big paternalistic government and greed-based free-for-all. Our founders understood it as a higher center. The optimization of these four ideals, not their compromise.

When leaders govern from the high center, they do it from a balance point that gives all of us the best chance for life, liberty and happiness. That’s why, most of the time, leaders who advocate policies that respect all four values simultaneously make the most sense to the most of us.

Jefferson’s “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” was designed to expand in meaning as our vision expands. The question today is, are we really committed to these ideals? As a nation are we really interested in removing the causes of avoidable suffering? Things like substandard education, unaffordable housing and health care, urban and school violence to name a few.
Shouldn’t we all be working to ensure that the real American Dream flourishes not only in the productive, creative expression of our own freedom, but also in our mutual responsibility to create a physically and psychologically healthy society for our children? All of our children?

So now our media-trained politicians tell us they are all for change. But is it really change? A Right-based platform of low taxes and uninvolved government and big military is hardly a plan that accounts for what’s happening in our lives and the world. And Left-based high-tax, we’ll-solve-all-your-problems program sounds like the 1960’s Great Society recycled. Perhaps there’s another way. A way that starts with the fundamentals of our founders. When we view the future through the lens of optimizing freedom and responsibility, equality and opportunity for all, a New American Agenda emerges.

The New American Agenda is simple: we must demand better from our government. Government has the central role in providing a safe society needed for Life and a fair society that is the meaning of Liberty. Together these play the major role in creating conditions for the pursuit of Happiness. According to research from the World Values survey, countries in which citizens report the most personal well-being have most of the following characteristics. As you read them, think about how we’re doing. What direction is America headed in?

1. Citizen voice.
2. Fair and equal enforcement of laws.
3. Lack of violence.
4. Leadership accountability.
5. Dependable government services.
6. Absence of corruption.
7. Effective regulations.
8. Universal Access to Capital, Health care, and Education.
9. Fair and Simple Taxation
10. Strong, Wise, and Good Foreign Policy

Well, that’s the list. If you’d like my perspective on what each one of these 10 factors might mean in terms of policy changes for 21st century America, download the 4th American Revolution excerpt. It’s free. You can read it on your computer or print it. I wrote it to help us consider what advice we might give the candidates who are running for president. If enough of us speak up, in time we may have the country we want our children to grow up in.

Will Marre

To visit American Dream Project’s home page, click here.
To see video blogs on this topic, visit ThoughtRocket.com.

8 comments.

Roxie Tossie
Comment on March 6th, 2008.

Will,

Life has taught me that if you ask the right question, you will get the right answer.
What questions are you really asking?

Go out and do something that will get good results and more good results will come!

Stop talking and do something.

Comment on March 6th, 2008.

I believe that as the economy goes, so goes the opinion of the American public. I don’t believe the president can affect the economy during a 4 year term but can impact the next 4 years.

What I would like to see is a business environment where innovation and entrepreneurship is encouraged - maybe even rewarded! Fair and simple taxation is one piece of that. Universal healthcare? Be careful. Small businesses drive new job growth and healthcare costs are crushing small business today.

David
Hedge Fund Jobs

Christopher Strachan
Comment on March 6th, 2008.

Will,

As soon as you are ready to run for office, you have at least 1 vote locked up.

The most intriguing and important topics have all been presented here. These are the same topice that my wife and I discuss at the dinner table. The balance on the 4 issues you have presented here is something lacking in our country’s current state of health. Still, I am confident in believing that we will get back home to the true America that our forefathers intended. It takes leaders leading by example; Thanks for stepping up.

K. Villegas
Comment on March 6th, 2008.

I agree that, in a former age and time, our country’s promise was that one could determine the quality of one’s own life. I remember in my youth being proud of my country and having hope for my future. However, as our elected officials began eroding our ability to determine our quality of life by outsourcing and off-shoring our well-paying jobs, leaving the majority of us, despite a college education, to work two or more low paying jobs just to make ends meet, my optimism and hope turned to grief. As I write these words, I not only feel almost entirely alone in my grief for what America was and what it will never be again, but also entirely alone in the grief I suffer for my lost community and the empty homes and dreams that spread out for countless miles before me.

How did we get here? By not voting. Or by voting for the same officials again and again despite the knowledge that these same representatives were making decisions that resulted in destroying what America stood for. And by not calling for change in how our officials are chosen, in the number of terms one can serve, and perhaps in the way we, the voters, can determine what, despite being elected for a term, is necessary to oust a particular representative, we have not only accepted but also contributed to that which has befallen us.

It is the elected officials chosen by us to represent us and our wishes, values and desires who have for years continued to ignore our wishes, our values and our desires in order to fulfill their own to such an extent that I doubt America will ever be the same.

How many of us are multi-millionaires? How many of our needs and desires are financed by special interest groups? Our representatives have not been representative of us for decades, and generation after generation we have done nothing. When I ask other American citizens why they do not come together like other groups to march in support of upholding our laws, they tell me they are too busy working. But other groups whose members are in this country illegally and are busy working, often more than one job, have time to come together to march in support of what they want from America. They demand that America give to them and our officials listen, although these people are, according to the law, for all intents and purposes, criminals. They broke the law and came here illegally. What do we, American born citizens, ask for? Nothing. What do we demand? Nothing.

So our elected officials pass laws that pit countries at opposite ends of the economic scale against one another. Do Americans stand up and object? No. Yet surely we knew that one country would lose, and America is losing.

Where many of us started will not be where we finish, because at the rate this country is headed, most will finish much worse off than where we began. So long as we refuse to hold our elected officials responsible for their actions, our system is and remains out of balance. I think that we have waited too long to expect that our elected officials will respond favorably if we suddenly decide to demand better from our government. At this stage of the game, we must demand a better, and perhaps, different type of government. We are not a democracy and will soon be living under a monarchy if we continue to permit our highest elected official, the president, to violate the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. But we have done just that. As Americans, we have for so long condoned our mistreatment by doing nothing. Will we permit our destruction just as easily?

Michael
Comment on March 21st, 2008.

K. I fundamentally disagree with you. As far as I know, jobs have not been exported by government, but by business. Permitted by government, perhaps encouraged unintentionally? But not exported by government.

And to some extent, I believe that America has a global responsibility. Our wealth is a great gift, and with great gifts come great responsibility. One way to share our wealth is to permit other communities to share in our blessings is to export jobs.

Certainly exporting jobs causes pain. Individually, in business sectors, and regionally. Generally, however, exported jobs get replaced with other jobs — some better some worse, by whatever measure you choose to use for “better” and “worse”.

I admit I’m very fortunate. I have the perfect resume, showing a change in job every 4 years…because of circumstance. After 4 years, I got transferred. After another 4 years, the “mother company” subsumed the subsidiary I had been employed by originally. 4 years later, our department was moved from one division of the company to another. 4 years after that, our division was spun off into an IPO that, breaking the generality of 4’s, was snapped up by venture capitalists after 2 years. Leaving me rather well off.

But still my very company continues to off-shore work just like you are concerned about. Not because government asks us to, but because our management believes that by doing so it can get the same job done at a quarter the cost. And the company passes on the savings to the consumer of our product.

But what’s the other choice? My company could continue employing solely higher-priced Americans, thereby further restricting the ability for it to compete in a global economy. Then the company, because of lost sales, would have to cut expenses, meaning laying off all those people who’s jobs would’ve been outsourced.

I’m not saying that outsourcing is a good idea, and I’m not trying to justify it. Well, maybe I sort of am. But the bottom line is that its NOT the american government that’s outsourcing. It’s the heartless corporations that at the very least think they have to do it to remain competitive in the face of a global consumer that is often more interest in price than in origin of the commodity.

Kevin Hancock
Comment on April 8th, 2008.

Dear Will,

Government gets away with murder because it now operates behind closed doors which the media was meant to keep open. What we need to do is to use modern technology to make up for what corrupt media refuses to do now. I write and write my government representatives and the media but no one wants to recognize the profound truth. If government is going to use modern surveillance methods to spy on individuals then the same technology should be put in place to govern government! We need to start by putting all government budgets on real time read only accounting software which is published on the internet for all of us to see. This means all budgets from public school budgets to the pork barrel spending of our so called representatives! This means all political campaigns including the tax returns of all candidates. We also need to post all foreign investment online so that our citizens wake up to who owns our Country!
You really want to make a profound difference? Then make profound changes. Writing fluffy declarations of ethics are worthless now that the rats have taken over our ship of Democracy. We need to take control of the magnifying glass and spot light which government and corporate welfare has used to jail us and turn it on them to flush them out into the open and hold them responsible for their true intentions. I am tired of being voiceless and forced to pay taxes for everything that I don’t believe in. The first thing in being able to control your own business is being able to control your budget. Take back the government budget and we will take back our future!

Kathie Hill
Comment on April 15th, 2008.

Responding to Kevin H: I agree with many points you make and I also feel we need a kind, friendly voice calling out in what’s left of the “American wilderness” to remind us that we can do something about it. So many have forgotten we have the choice and absolute right to keep the light shining and magnifying glass focused on our government and that we ARE the government. Sometimes a wake-up call is what’s needed to help those who feel so crushed by the current state of events, to clear away the debris we’ve been fed and make changes before our ship of democracy sinks. I too have felt voiceless and am filled with gratitude to see that others in this beautiful country of ours no longer wish to continue down a path which, in the end, would leave a legacy of absolutely nothing but hopelessness. Thoughts, translated to words, those same words shared with others, equals a huge part of the process of taking action.

Paige Case
Comment on November 12th, 2008.

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