Worldview: 9-12

So, now what are you going to do?

For most people, it’s just another Monday. We remembered yesterday, reminisced, maybe read some stories from that day, watched a profile or a service on TV, maybe even shed a few tears. For most people, it’s time to get back to normal life, to put that bad stuff behind us. Ten years is enough remembering right?

But for a few of you, doubt remains. Is this all there is? Is this normalcy what I’m supposed to be doing?

If you will allow me, I am talking to you, the latter who have doubts.

Everything did change ten years ago yesterday. Our enemies revealed the flaws in the great city shining on the hill that is the United States. We made those flaws cracks by our own incessant disunity. Now everything is crumbling.

Yet, this is not the end.

The history of the human race is one of ebbs and flows. Great nations rise, only to crumble and collapse, then to be replaced by others. Throughout it all, people endure as they always have.

The great revelation the United States brought to the world is the notion of the equal liberty of all individuals, regardless of race, creed, color, sex, or religion. No, this has not been an easy or consistent revelation, but the cause of individual liberty is not one that will die even if the United States does.

And in that cause, I find a new beginning. It is almost inevitable that the United States will be replaced by something else, whether that happens now or at some time in the future. For those of us who have the benefit of history, intellect, and foresight, the thing that must now confront us is the realization that we must prepare now for whatever might come next.

What do these preparations look like? Well, if the foundation of this next era is the cause of individual liberty, then such preparations must conform to that foundation.

What we know about liberty is that it is not a license but a responsibility. Liberty has a cost that has to be paid, and the cost of liberty, in the end, is every individual’s responsibility.

What that means, to me, is that we must prepare for whatever comes next by focusing on the nature of the cost of liberty. To me, the nature of that cost is every individual succeeding on the merits of his or her own effort.

Now, this kind of success is not some sort of idealistic individualism. It is not possible for most people to survive without the benefit of others. However, every person must dedicate himself to the fulfillment of the tasks he undertakes, figuring out how to minimize his burden to others while creating the maximum benefit.

In fact, that state of affairs—everyone working together to their maximum potential—represents the way that some of the most fantastic advancements in human history have occurred: the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Scientific Revolution.

So what remains is for each person to figure out how to best be a part of that state of affairs in the face of whatever might come next. This realization happens as each person discovers the best way to apply his effort within communities that will best benefit from that effort.

I grant that this is not an easy task, but if you believe that there has to be something more, then it is a necessary task.

It is my hope and my prayer that you will realize these things for yourself and will join me in accepting this challenge in the time to come.


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Worldview: 9-11

I solemnly swear that I will always remember what happened on September 11, 2001.

I will not forget.

I will not forget that nearly 3,000 of my fellow Americans were murdered in the name of an ideology of hate.

I will not forget that my inalienable right is liberty.

I will not forget that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

I will not forget that the price of liberty is mine to pay.

I will not forget my brothers and sisters who give freely of themselves to ensure the liberty of others.

I will not stand by and watch my liberty or anyone else’s be taken away.

And I affirm that I will do everything within my power to uphold and advance the cause of liberty.

I will succeed on the merits of my own work.

I will, as I am able, encourage and help others to do the same.

I will not forget charity.

I will stand for liberty for as long as I have breath.

And when my time comes, I will do my best to ensure what I have done lays the foundation for those who follow after.

To this I pledge myself, my honor, and my life. May the God of my fathers grant me success.

Dennis L Hitzeman

September 11, 2011

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Worldview: 9-10

Sometimes, it seems like it was just yesterday. I remember sitting at my desk at work when the news the first plane hit broke. We were all clustered around the television when the second one did. A dozen military men, we all knew, even at that moment: we were at war.

In the next few days, the speculation in the circles I traveled in at the time was rampant, but many of us had a feeling: al Qaeda. The memory of the attack on the USS Cole was fresh enough that they were the first and most likely suspect. Who else would hijack planes as weapons? Yet we knew, whoever it was that did this to us, we were at war.

In the next weeks and months, our government confirmed that the attack was, indeed, carried out by al Qaeda, and our commander-in-chief dedicated us to rooting them out of Afghanistan and delivered a stern warning to the world: stand with us or stand against us. There was no middle ground. We were at war.

Except we weren’t.

A lot of people said in the days after 9-11 that everything changed, and in a way they were right. In the days since that horrible event, and unbelievable number of Americans have convinced themselves that everything but the truth is true.

Ivory tower academics and self-deluded pundits declare that America was to blame for what happened on 9-11. The news and the internet are full of journalists and talking heads insisting that our response to those events were overwrought, unjustified, even criminal. An entire segment of American society chose to respond to the recent death of Osama bin Laden by chiding Americans for celebrating the death of a bloodthirsty enemy.

In the ten years since 9-11, something has changed, something deep, sinister, and self-destructive. We now live in an era when a rapper can declare “Fuck the army troops” and claim gangsters are harder than combat veterans and people just shrug. We live in a society when reporters can write and say that the war in Afghanistan was an unjustified exercise in nation building, and most people believe that is true.

Instead of being at war with our enemy, we are at war with ourselves, and we seem very close to victory.

The sad fact of 9-11 ten years on is that, I believe, we have doomed ourselves to repeat history like we have so many times before. We have not learned anything. Instead, we have deceived ourselves into believing in a reality that never has been true, and it is almost inevitable that we will pay the price for that deception again.

For me, what remains ten years since 9-11 is the lingering thought that those of us who understood what changed that day must prepare ourselves and anyone who might listen for the eventuality of what may come next. We have to face the fact that things have changed and that someone has to be ready, even if everyone else believes it can’t possibly happen.

For those of us who get it, who understand what changed ten years ago, we cannot forget, we cannot tire, we cannot fail. Let’s roll.


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Worldview: Divided we fall

Have you thought much about our way of life?

I think about it a lot, and I rarely come away from such thoughts pleased with what I concluded. Our way of life, as I see it, represents a lot of the reasons our nation–and really the entire western world–is in trouble.

My previous statement, as grandiose as it is, will cause most people to tune out, and perhaps that is for the best, because I am not sure it’s possible to convince them that something else has to be done anyway. For those of you who are still reading, all I can ask is that you stick this out with me because it’s going to be hard.

I have concluded in all my thinking about our way of life that the reason that we don’t have enough money, are so dependent on government, and have such a hard time figuring out what to do now is that we have destroyed the complex fabric of life that used to be knit together in the form of families, communities, and shared origins that used to define all of us.

This destruction resulted in the creation of one of the most inefficient periods in human history, defined by the word “consumer” and underscored by the word “debt”.

I am certain of this fact because I have spent a lot of time studying the period that just preceded our own, and it’s remarkable how different that period looked than our own.

The official narrative is that, before the passage of the 16th Amendment in 1909, the United States was a poor, backward nation, and it was the government’s job to change that fact. Yet, if you dig into the actual facts, you discover that the people of the United States were doing just fine. It was the federal government that was poor and backward, just as the founders intended it to be.

If you look at the United States in the 1880s, you discover a vast amount of personal wealth stored up in sprawling family farms and the impressive and beautiful retirement homes many farmers built in nearby towns. It was these families and farmers that started so many of the businesses and industries that are now household names today.

I am not saying that there were not poor people, nor am I saying that there were not huge inequities just like there are today. What I am saying is that the distribution of wealth and power in the United States in the 1880s rested with the people, and left alone, no one can say whether or not those inequities would have righted themselves or not.

So what happened? My conclusion is that the United States and the western world became the victims of one of the most destructive deceptions any society in history has ever inflicted on itself.

Think about what has happened since that time: the children of wealthy farmers in the 1880s became well-to-do business owners in the early 1900s. Their children became middle-class workers by the 1920s. Their children saw the combined wealth of their parents and grandparents wiped out in the 1930s, and by the 1940s, most Americans were content to work anywhere that would pay them. By the 1950s, the goal most Americans shared was to work long enough to enjoy a short retirement, and by the 1970s, even such retirements began to be in doubt. By the 1980s, most of what defined the “American Dream” had been replaced by massive personal and government debt, and starting with the Dot Com bubble, things began to slide.

At the same time, people left the family homestead in droves, selling off their land and flocking to cities for the promise of jobs whose wages stagnated in the 1980s and which have been in decline relative to inflation since then. The drive toward individual ownership of houses, cars, and consumer items has driven the average family to the point that it spends somewhere between 60 and 80 percent of its annual income paying for stuff while the same family spends less than 7 percent of what it earns on food.

What we have now is a nation full of people living isolated lives that consist of working themselves to death as individuals to pay for the same groceries, rent, mortgages, cable, cell service, car loans, and credit card bills that, if we shared even some of these things, would return us to a state of solvency in short order.

This labor in isolation serves to destroy everything that defined what America was in the 1880s: small towns filled close-knit extended families and community networks built around common work and trades. People in 1880s American rarely went hungry or unemployed for long, and even in the worst of times, everyone helped everyone else until things got better.

I do not point these things out to create some sort of idealization of those times, because there were things wrong back then too. Yet most of us, if we are honest with ourselves, know it was better then than it is now.

And now, we face stark realities whose immensity only a few can understand in their fullness:

  • As many as 50 million Americans (16 percent of the population) living below the poverty level
  • As much as 18 percent of the population effectively out of work
  • A debt that will exceed the total earning potential of the United States as early as 2015 (4 years from now)
  • Debt payments that may exceed $1 trillion a year by 2020 (9 years from now)
  • A Medicare program that will reach insolvency anywhere between now and 2024 (13 years from now)
  • A Social Security program that will be bankrupt anywhere between 2017 and 2037 (26 years from now)
  • A population that will have more adults collecting retirement than producing income as early as 2025 (14 years from now)

From my point of view, the only way to fix these problems is to work toward rebuilding the things 100 years of consuming and debt have destroyed. We need to rebuild our families, our communities, our towns, and thereby, our nation, and we can do it by returning to the things that worked.

What worked was a society where things were shared. Homes were shared. Meals were shared. Work was shared. Success was shared. Hardship was shared.

People in that era of shared life could cushion the burden of things as diverse as paying for a house or sending a kid to college through a network of people who all had the common good in mind. Wealth could be accumulated in such networks and disbursed through those networks in a way that benefited everyone in it.

This is not some kind of appeal toward some sort of communistic system, although it does represent a kind of practical socialism that has dominated human societies since there have been such things. What’s more, this kind of practical socialism worked, and everyone was better off for it.

Until we, as families, communities, towns, and an entire society realize this is the only way it can work, I believe the problems we face as a nation will only grow worse. Coming back together is the only way to survive.


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Worldview: Slow motion disaster

I cannot help but get the sense as I watch events unfold in Greece that we are watching the unfolding of a slow motion disaster, the beginning of a whole series of disasters as western economies begin to fold under the weight of the incredible debt they have accrued over the past 50 years paying for social programs their nations could never afford.

No one ever wants to believe these kinds of things will happen to them or in the time they are living, but a quick look around the world right now with any kind of realistic outlook shows that they are happening and that they are going to affect every one of us soon.

The question that remains is what each of us is going to do in response to the massive and enduring changes that will result from this slow motion disaster. Now is the time for people who care to stop talking in terms of rhetoric and to start doing. Get ready while there is still time to do so.


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Worldview: And you call yourself independent…

The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people. — The 9th Amendment to the US Constitution

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. — The 10th Amendment to the US Constitution

Once upon a time, the United States was founded on the principle that the best way for people to live was to maximize their liberty and minimize their governments. In an effort to ensure that state of affairs, the founders of the United States crafted a Constitution and ten amendments designed to ensure that the federal government was bounded and that the liberty of the people was unbounded. Certainly, that founding document had glaring flaws, left certain things unresolved, and failed to anticipate things that have since occurred, yet the principle ideal was sound then and is sound now.

At least, it is sound in theory. Unfortunately, over the intervening 235 years, many Americans have decided that the liberty granted them by foresight, determination, and blood was just too much for them. They have traded their liberty for security, are deserving of neither, and have lost both.

Most Americans see no irony in the fact that they have allowed their government to violate the Constitution by allowing it to force them to pay for unemployment security, medical security, and retirement security; every one of which programs are failing to deliver on their promises while simultaneously bankrupting even those who do not want to participate in them.

And that last part is the real rub. Certainly, it is possible under the ideals of liberty for a group to decide to cede their liberty, but what has happened, especially in the last half of the 20th century, is that some groups have  forced all groups to give up liberty.

So, what are you celebrating if you celebrate independence today? How do you exercise your independence–not just the several liberties guaranteed by the amendments but the innumerable ones not enumerated there? If you are dependent on the government can you even celebrate independence?

These are hard things, and they are supposed to be hard. Liberty is hard. Freedom is hard. The things the founders did were hard. The things 235 years worth of patriots did to secure our nation were hard. Now it’s our turn, and if we do not get to work, we are going to lose what they secured for us.


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Worldview: The global attack on productivity

I often wonder–as the debates rage on about government budgets, deficits, and taxation–how many people realize that most taxation is an assault on their productivity.

You see, all you have available to you in life is your time and your effort, collectively referred to as your productivity. You choose to invest your productivity in a certain way, then along comes the government who says that a certain amount of that productivity–quantified as income–belongs to them off the top. Then, they say another amount belongs to them if you take your quantified productivity and do anything with it–that is, spend it. Finally, the government says that they are going to spend the productivity they took from you on infrastructure, products, and services it is now going to force you to use–literally force you, as the government has engineered a near monopoly on the use of force–and they’re going to take even more of your productivity in the form of fees for the privilege.

As far as I can tell, this system of robbing people of their productivity means that people, in general, have become less productive. Why should anyone work hard and apply themselves if the government is just going to come along and take what you’ve done, especially since it takes more as you are more productive.

So, the reason that local, state, and federal governments are going broke, and are taking all the rest of us down with them, is that they have effectively capped the amount of productivity their citizens can produce even as they demand more of it to pay for their infrastructure, products, and services they are going to force you to use by taking even more of your productivity.

This is a self-defeating system and can only result in collapse. What’s ironic about this whole mess is that this is not the first time in the history of the world this very thing has happened, nor will it be the last. People think that letting the government force them to do something certain ways in return for giving up their productivity seems like an easier way, but it always fails. There is no such thing as something for nothing, and as the number of people to cease to be productive goes up, it’s not possible for those who try to continue to be productive to make up the difference. The system collapses into an tragic, entropic heap, usually a lot of people die, and those who worked the hardest–that is, those who were most productive–rebuild on the ruins.

The manifestation of this condition in 2011 is massive global budget shortfalls. The US federal government alone has spent $14 trillion more productivity units than it managed to collect since the end of World War II, or 280 million household-years worth of productivity. That means that, even at full employment (unemployment around 4 percent, or about 68 percent of the total population working), it would take all of the salary of all of the households two years to pay off the debt, and that would not provide a dime to the government to maintain anything.

So, what’s the solution? It’s easy: stop penalizing people for being productive. How do we do that and still keep all of our pet programs? In short, we can’t do that exactly. The pet programs will have to change, get cut back, go away altogether, but that reality cannot help but be offset by the benefit most people will gain from having access to more or most of their own productivity.

In real terms, this probably means some sort of flat or “fair” tax, probably in the form of a transaction (sales) tax on things regulated by the government. And, no, I do not believe such a scheme would penalize the poor more because, frankly, the poor would be less so as wages rose because businesses could grow because they would have more money being spent by people who have more of their productivity back.

Of course, these sorts of things rarely resolve themselves by way of reason, dedication, and hard work in any kind of mutually beneficial way. Again, history tells us, they usually resolve themselves by bloodshed and hardship, but there is always a first time for everything. What this first time would take is the people demanding their productivity back at the ballot box.


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Worldview: Overlord

67 years ago today, the allied forces of the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Poland, and others fought one of the most significant battles in human history against the occupying forces of Nazi Germany. The Allies won that battle by a mixture of daring, tenacity, and wisdom that has rarely been shown since.

Why remember such an event? Because, like all history, it is our privilege to learn the lessons discovered by their blood sweat and sacrifice. Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.


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