Brace yourselves: the fall of the United States Empire

Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, 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 dependence, from dependence back again to bondage. – Alexander Tytler

Where is the United States in this cycle? I’d argue we’re in the final stage back to bondage. The top 1% of the population controls 20% of the nation’s wealth. They used to have 8%. CEOs make 300X the average employee wage, up from 20X a hundred years ago.

Source: prwatch.org

Source: prwatch.org

The pitchforks are coming, as the masses revolt with their Occupy Wall Street, $15 minimum wage bill in Seattle, or other manner of have’s versus have-not’s.

Our “Arab Spring” is nearly here.

Like the British and Roman Empires, and many before them, the pattern plays out.  The inevitable result of capitalism (a wonderful mechanism to create wealth, mind you), is that competitions create winners and losers. Before you label me as either an entitled millennial or an Internet millionaire, hear me out on the problem and a solution you’ve not heard before.

The entitlement society: a nation on the nipple

The middle class in America has vanished. This is the educated, hard-working backbone of society. They do the bulk of the purchasing, so they are the true job creators, not trickle-down, supply-side economists. Tytler goes on to explain what happens when you have a small wealthy class and a majority that is just squeaking by:

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Alexander Fraser Tytler

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.

Dear reader, where would you say the United States is along this path?

The more you produce, the more you can consume

If you haven’t noticed, the United States has been steadily losing the lead in manufacturing and technology- we used to make stuff here. Produce more than you consume, and you can sell the rest to other countries.  Consume more than you produce and you’re a net importer and a borrower.

Our standard of living now exceeds our productivity, which leads to debt financing.  For the economics-minded, we’re talking about a balance of payments gap, national debt, and weakening currency. For the folks who forgot Macroeconomic 101, other countries are now more productive than we are.

Our dominance in manufacturing and technology since the 2nd Industrial Revolution stems from investments in education. Simply put, an educated workforce is more productive.  A more productive workforce gets paid more, which strengthens the middle class, which reverses our economic decline.

But simply forcing a $15 minimum wage without solving the underlying productivity problem doesn’t solve the core issue. More on that in a moment.

The McDegree

Kids are coming out with college degrees like #2 value meals from the McDonalds drive-through. Serving billions and billions. (Sorry to pick on you, McDonalds. You still have the best fries!) But they can’t trade these pieces of paper in for jobs, any more than you can use Monopoly money to shop at Whole Foods. They don’t have real world experience.  And employers can’t pay them as much, nor are willing to deeply invest in on-the-job training programs.

  • It’s not the teachers’ fault, as their roles were not designed to be vocational.
  • It’s not the millennial’s fault, since they can smell that $100k in debt over 4 years isn’t a good thing.
  • It’s not the business’ fault, since they are not designed to be a school.

The trillion dollar education bubble is the next to pop after the mortgage bubble.

Hate the player, not the game

You can get mad at the $100k of debt you accumulate or the big corporations that don’t pay taxes.You can hate the school system and its arthritic pace to adapt to the pace of technology. But that won’t solve the problem. We’ve got to educate the youth, the future leaders of America, to get real business skills early. If you want to get hands-on experience with cars, go work in a garage.

If you want to get hands-on experience in business, go work inside businesses. Not the classroom. An UNTERN is a student who recognizes this and wants to get direct experience straight out of high school. As opposed to an intern, the UNTERN takes a leadership role in helping a business drive sales, using techniques they’re certified to use.

They are experts in their areas of passion (a hobby tied to a commercial interest), as opposed to a summer administrative assistant. If you’re proud to be an American, help us build back up our businesses by employing our own people: local kids that you know.  We’ll help train them at no cost to them. Find out more: