Niall Ferguson lists 6 reasons western societies with 19% of global population controlled 75% of the world’s resources. I think he missed one.
Competition – Many corporations, similar to the City of London Corporation in the 12th Century, along other governments were competing with one another. Think about the number of western European languages spoken around the world today due to colonization.
The Scientific Revolution – while we all know gun powder came to Europe from China, it was the Europeans that continued to experiment with it and mash together multiple scientific disciplines in order to improve it. Niall’s example is a German using Newtonian physics to improve the accuracy of bombs.
Property Rights – I think this is probably one of the most fundamental rights in American history that contributed to stability and growth of the middle class. Even the poorest could own property which might remain for generations. Though, many injustices occurred over property disputes, those legal protections help the poorest prevail against the richest.
Modern Medicine – ensuring people lived longer, healthier, and productive lives. Imagine the additional productivity of one person by nearly doubling their life expectancy. Just the simple act of surgeons washing their hands before getting elbow deep into another person’s abdomen probably saved a few million lives.
The Consumer Society – Henry Ford paid much higher wages than other manufacturers at the time. He wanted Ford employees to afford Model Ts which in turn kept demand high for his product. For all the benefits of consumerism, there lurk many dangers as 2008 proved. The rising middle class in China and India creates demand for high-end western luxuries, but desires in the west for those goods at ever cheaper prices led to the decline of manufacturing in the west.
Work Ethic – Western society’s work ethic turned virgin soil into vast acres of corn, cotton, tobacco and grazing land. Now the Native Americans that provided the seeds for tobacco and corn to the newcomers were equally (if not more) successful than Europeans at growing these crops. The difference was profit versus subsistence. It was the European demand for tobacco that encouraged a strong work ethic. Niall uses the examples of North and South Korea along with East and West Germany. The communist state produces markedly less quantity and quality than do non-communist states.
Why? – I suppose you could lump this into the scientific revolution above, but really this is the ability to question authority, as well as, the desire to understand the reason an apple feels compelled to hurl itself toward earth. The inalienable rights of mankind to desire freedom and reject tyranny led to asking why. I think some of the basic tenets of Christianity contributed to this enlightened thought. Even though Catholicism suppressed western society for centuries, once peasants demanded the right to read and interpret the bible for themselves, The Church’s strangle hold loosened forever.
Niall fears (as do I) that the rest of the world will quickly catch up and overtake western society, but it is not too late. While governments are slow to react and bogged down in squabbles over Keynesian economics, we must act now to prepare our kids for challenges of the 21st century. Mark Twain said, he never let his education get in the way of his learning. Join me in teaching our children to be creative problem solvers that bravely seek answers to WHY.
Helen Keller said, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” As I sit waiting to meet my third child, I reflect on the beauty of unseen things. The Zen of Fatherhood.
Enlightenment through deep thought. Reaching higher levels of understanding through a natural progression of experience. Fatherhood allows me to reach higher levels of understanding about things I thought I already knew.
LEARNING – My first son changed my life forever. Not that I wasn’t prepared for that, but I did not know to what extent. I learned to love their learning process. Watching the wonderment in their faces when they discover something new is priceless. If only I could remember to learn with such enthusiasm.
PATIENCE – God knows, one of my greatest flaws remains impatience. I often forget how unimportant spilled milk really is in the grand scheme of things. Usually, the dog will lick it up anyway. I think being a father has made me a more empathetic person and leader.
LOVE – Experiencing the love a parent feels for a child is like nothing I have ever experienced. Sure, I love my spouse, parents, siblings, friends, etc, but nothing compares. I know there is very little I wouldn’t sacrifice to ensure they are safe and successful.
WEALTH – I suppose I’m less motivated by money than some and more so than others. However, fatherhood has brought more wealth into my life in the last 5 years than the previous 30 combined. While I won’t stop developing myself and looking for ways to build financial stability for my family, I have nonetheless discovered the wealth of blessings I already possess.
Yes, fatherhood brings a form of zen into one’s life. Multiple paths exist toward enlightenment for all, but my path led me to this higher level of understanding. I look forward to reaching ever higher levels in the future and passing as much as possible down to my descendants.
Marshall asks Kathy about the results of a study on the leadership aspirations of girls. Most were ambivalent about the current command and control leadership most prevalent in our society. A fact that most enlightened leaders already understand. Interestingly, most of the female business executives and business owners in the US (80%) are former Girl Scouts; as are more than 65% of the female members of the US Congress and Senate. Clearly Girl Scouts are developing valuable leadership skills in young women.
What else can we do to help our young girls become confident strong leaders?
This quote from Braveheart states a universal truth. Without courage leadership does not exist. In the absence of courage lesser men assume leadership positions because society becomes ambivalent. William Wallace encourages through word and deed. The deeds strengthen the words, as they do with most people.
The example of Wallace teaches us to lead from the middle. When a lack of leadership exists at the top, this provides an opportunity for leaders to rise up to meet the challenge. The names of these leaders may or may not be lost to history, but without their courage and sacrifice movements fizzle and fade.
It was my good fortune to visit Scotland a few years after the Braveheart movie debuted. I went to Stirling Bridge and of course the nearby Wallace Monument (pictured below). An epic setting for an epic battle. I was seeing that field beneath the monument with the visions of Hollywood battles in my head. But, the Scottish feel that battle in their DNA. Don’t make the mistake of comparing the Mel Gibson Hollywood version of William Wallace to the average Scott. He will quickly correct you.
“Wfm wallace monument” by Finlay McWalter – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wfm_wallace_monument.jpg#/media/File:Wfm_wallace_monument.jpg Braveheart
My biggest take away from the story and the movie is, empower those around you to stand up in the face of adversity. Many people often underestimate their influence over others. With a little encouragement they will find their voice. Even those endowed with titles, but seemingly lacking in courage, may yet discover their spine. You may never know how your own examples of strength will impact others in the future. Stay strong and encourage others at all levels to be the best leaders they can be.
This is exactly what I’m talking about. This article about Hart Main @entmagazine by Michelle Juergen, describes the sort of kid that inspires me to encourage others to pursue their ideas. Yes, I realize this kid figured it out all by himself, like many others will. However, there must be a concrete method of teaching and encouraging more of this. Perhaps, it is as simple as getting successful kidpreneurs together so they can interact with other kids that either have an idea, want to come up with an idea or simply want to learn best practices from others.
What’s going wrong with American education is outlined In this Newsweek Article, re-posted at the Daily Beast titled the Creativity Crisis. Essentially, we’ve begun to focus on test taking and standards at a time that the Chinese are racing toward the old American model of fostering creativity. Europe, too recognized the lack of creativity being taught in public schools and instituted several new initiative.
Since it is unlikely that the US education system will figure this out anytime soon. What can we do to ensure our kids gain the skills and experiences they need to compete in the 21st century? I’m interested to know what you think. Please comment below.
It could be that today’s wannabe entrepreneurs have more high-profile Internet kid entrepreneurs to encourage them. Perhaps, they also recognize that the knowledge and tools to create wealth are more readily available than at any other time in human history.
Whatever the reason this is a great trend for the USA, as well as the globe. Maybe one day we’ll all be working for our kids.