Sunday, August 19, 2012

What President Obama May or May Not  Choose to Understand about American Culture

Keywords - culture, American dream, entrepreneur, trickle-down, capitalism, conservative, freedom,  fair share

The essence of a self-reliant and autonomous culture is an unshakable egoism.
H.L. Mencken (1880-1956), Prejudices: Second Series
I have made it my earnest concern not to laugh at, nor to deplore nor to detest, but to understand, the actions of human beings.
Spinoza (1632-1677), Tractatus Politicus
August 20, 2012 - If I had a piece of advice to offer President Obama,  it would be for him to understand American cultural values better. He seems not to grasp what drives Americans and what they seek.   These values may not match his values,  but if he chooses to ignore them, he does so at his re-election risk.
·         Americans  are a conservative-leaning  lot in a center-right nation (41% consider themselves conservative, 36% moderate,  and 21% liberal.)

·         They are egotistical in that they believe in themselves and in personal independence– in self-reliance and autonomy rather than government dependency.

·         They believe in the American dream – that they too can become rich if they work hard enough to climb to the top of the hill.

·         They are not big fans of  trickle-down capitalism, but they  are adamantly opposed to  trickle-down mandates from government.

·         They believe that someone who succeeds in business or in any other endeavor “built that” on their own initiative  not because of government support, e.g., the honor student who achieves did it on his/her own not because of the bus riding  on government roads  that brought students to school.

·         They believe in equal opportunities for everyone – but not in equal outcomes for everyone.

·         They believe government should serve as an impartial catalyst not as a crony referee who picks winners and losers.

·         They believe people on the ground, on the streets, and in the workplace know as much or more than government experts about what people want and what causes people to achieve and move up the social and enterprise  scale.

·         They think of America as a  bottom-up society, where the truly important innovations and trends, emanate locally, i.e. great ideas  trickle-up from the bottom that rather than trickle -down from the top. To paraphrase, Tip O’Neil  “All innovations and trends  are local.” Think globally, but act locally.
  • Grassroots Americams do not like to be sneered at, detested, or deplored or laughed at for firmly held beliefs – e.g.  those 41% of Americans who support the Tea Party do not like to be labeled as “right- wing nuts” for “wanting to take their country back” to its founding constitutional principles.

·         They believe a free people have the power to change things, as they did in the November 2010 elections. They may do so again in the November 2012 elections.

·         They continue to come to America and stay in America because of its reputation and promise of free enterprise and individual liberties not because government offers everyone a “fair share” of its blessings.

·         “Fair share” collectivism should not be equated with “laissez faire” capitalism.

·         They believe in “social justice” but not at the price of giving up their liberties and moving to the beat of the government drummer.

·         Many, certainly not all, distrust big government and believe in the Jeffersonian concept that the government that governs least governs best.

·         They are “progressive”  in the sense that that they believe their children and their grandchildren should be better off  than they are.
·         They believe the tide of a rising prosperity and full-time work with honest  people paying  honest taxes lifts all boats.
  • They believe every form of economic activity requires an entrepreneur - someone to have the idea, to hire the labor, to borrow capital, to buy the materials, to take the inherent risk, and to pursue a profit with the avoidance of loss; government, on the other hand, need not take a risk, earn a profit, or avoid loss: that is the nature of the beast.
·         In health care, they feel capable of making their own health care decisions, of equal opportunity access to high technologies and other medical wonders, of public/private  payment systems with choice, and of clinical decisions by doctors rather than bureaucrats bearing algorithms deciding what is best for them.
Tweet:   President Obama may not understand or appreciate American cultural values, a reason his policies may be in trouble and his re-election is in doubt.

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