The Development of Free Societies and Economies in Modern Time
Throughout history, the greatest prospect for a new people to gain their freedom and produce prosperity was through an exodus, a maturation period, and then a step into their golden age.
In today’s world, this same process is no longer a viable option.
The whole world is able to meddle too much. Even the prospects of performing an exodus to the Moon or Mars are hampered by the expense and need for highly controlled environments. There are no more “safe haven” bubbles for a people to escape to, have time to mature in solid principles, and then step onto the world stage in a new golden era of freedom and prosperity.
The Establishment of New Nations
Most societies that rose to prosperity and power followed a similar trend:
- Hunter Gatherers, Wanderers, coming from an Exodus.
- They find their new home and establish an agricultural base.
- If they are not caught in ongoing wars or other calamities, the society begins to develop different forms of industry.
- As industry is allowed to flourish, cities begin to develop along with a professional class that does not have to labor full-time to provide for necessities.
- Sprouting out from the high production of industry and professional classes comes art—in all its wide forms.
Throughout this maturation period—in free societies—the general populace focused on virtue, family, entrepreneurial values, participation in government, overseeing their government, and general education. In non-free societies an aristocracy or elite class does the same, while keeping the lower, usually more populous, classes in a state of basic survival—and therefore unable to compete with the aristocrats and royals. But among the upper class, a higher level of freedom allows them to emphasize the same values that the masses exercise in free societies; as mentioned, these values include virtue, family, entrepreneurial values, participation in government, overseeing their government, and general education.
For a society to develop and have the opportunity to become strong, prosperous, and free seems to require a “perfect storm.” There have been very few societies that have fully accomplished this. They all needed around 100-200 hundred years in a bubble of protection to have a full maturation period, at which point they are generally able to protect themselves from outside threats. Many budding peoples have slid off the path of widespread political involvement, stopped passing on an education of a free people, or were conquered by larger powers. There are many elements that have to fall into place and work over a period of time for a society to flourish. This is no easy feat.
This struggle between nations vying for expansion, and the continual internal battle for centralized power and wealth, has created a glass ceiling for the world’s progress. When exodus is possible, the ceiling can be overcome. But what happens when no exodus is available?
The Mainspring of Human Progress
If we were to graph the level of freedom and prosperity for each country and for the whole world over the course of documented human history, we discover a very jagged up and down, with lots of downs, as time goes on. If we zoom way out and put human history on one page of a graph, something interesting happens. The line flattens. As we get the average of all peoples over thousands of years, we see a basically flat line from right to left.
In his book The Mainspring of Human Progress, Henry Grady Weaver describes this progression, but points out something incredible about modern times: we have thousands of years of basically a flat line—and then the line jumps straight up for the past 100 years. This is incredible!
We are living in a very different world than nearly all past generations, one with much more opportunity, prosperity, and luxury. A few things have happened because of this shift in pace, growth and world-wide development:
- We are now a global community
- Economic opportunity and mobility are widespread and expected
- Democratic principles are the new powerhouses, and other forms of control are looked down on by a majority of the people (even China, with its brutal dictatorial approach and surveillance-state control of the populace, only became a superpower, and has continued to grow, by breaking away from Russia’s model of forced politics and economics and replacing it with a system of forced politics blended with significant capitalistic pockets of economic enterprise zones and opportunities)
- More people have access to better education and current events than ever before
As mentioned before, there isn’t a “quiet” spot or a lasting “bubble” for a viable exodus and subsequent development. Not in the advanced economies of Europe, North America, Japan, Australia, Israel, etc.; certainly not in totalitarian nations such as China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, etc.; and not even in the third world nations. My question for years has been:
- How can a new budding country develop a lasting culture of freedom?
- How can we refresh our current societies to allow for a regrowth—a new birth—of freedom?
- Is such a reset possible without an exodus and maturation period as in the days of old?
We are in an unprecedented time of history. We live in a situation that has no equal, no equivalent pattern in history. Well, maybe we could find an equivalent in the city of Nineveh—where the city changed by gaining a better education and recentering on their Creator and the principles that brought them prosperity without internal tumult or being beaten down by wars or calamities. Short of such miraculous examples, what chance do we have for much needed societal renewals in the 21st Century?
The Dangers of Worldwide Growth
It’s interesting to see the growth trends of the world. The development of the Americas led to a worldwide period of progress. This is incredible! The Colonial Era started another gradual incline, but the Industrial Era sparked the rapid growth. This shift from the feudal system to an enterprising merchant base was a big deal. Shifting again into the Digital Age changed everything. This has impacted the whole world at an unprecedented scale.
We must make a side note here and point out that a lot of this process was not “free” and “prosperous.” The Colonial era led to a significant amount of conquest, slavery, and abuse. The Industrial Age leveraged the same tactics, just in a different manner. And the Digital Age has again implemented the same negatives, albeit in different ways. We must be aware of the dark side of human nature and how it has been used throughout the entire history of the world to hamper progress and enslave certain people.
However, I do think we have experienced a net gain overall. Today there are more people with far better lives and opportunities to pursue happiness than ever before. Now, to continue forward we must be aware of the bad. As wise citizens we must not allow for tyranny. Gaining freedom and prosperity (even for a majority) on the backs of slaves in any way, shape or form is not actual freedom and prosperity.
The oppression through each of these eras was not acceptable. We can do better and we must do better. We must recognize our fallibilities, our shortcomings, our own faults and learn to guard against them. Not by removing the heart and demanding its function as C.S. Lewis warned in The Abolition of Man, but in finding our true strengths as leaders while trusting in properly established separations of power with checks and balances.
The Net Results of Worldwide Growth
By keeping the warnings of history in mind and seeking to live our lives in a way that fully extends the branch of freedom and prosperity to as many people as possible, we do find many incredible examples of good throughout this process. These are the examples we should seek to emulate as we take our next steps forward.
As societies became industrial, they began exporting industrialism–starting with its production and benefits first, and then with the ability to become industrial. This same pattern happened with the Digital Age.
The leading industrial societies began to export their industry and replace it with white collar work, delving into the technical work of business, finance, and processes. The leading industrial countries went from factory workers to accountants, engineers, doctors, architects, etc. These fields required more education, more training, and frequently created more luxury.
Through the 2000’s, First World countries have been exporting these high-level professional jobs and have been putting more value in the Digital Arts. Programming itself has quickly phased out; this is a technical job that is easily exported now. Accounting, programming, secretarial services, and other technical work are being replaced by cheaper and just-as-effective labor abroad. This, in turn, makes room for the new cutting-edge markets that require creation, knowledge work, and non-technical human work that cannot be exported or done by a computer.
Online freelance work enables budding entrepreneurs and side-hustlers to flourish around the world. A virtual assistant in Sri Lanka can provide services to a company in Sweden and a small business in the United States at an incredible hourly rate. It provides a good living for the assistant based in Sri Lanka or Madagascar or the Philippines—even at what would be a “deeply-discounted” rate in First World countries. These opportunities, and a host of others like them, provide a lot of value and stability in a region that is currently hitting rock bottom due to COVID and economic fallout.
Throughout most of history, a disadvantaged nation in such a plight would be on its own. It would usually end in ruin or find itself open to easy conquest. Today, more individuals in such disadvantaged nations are paid to do technical work that is needed in First World organizations, transferring wealth from wealthier nations, and thereby boosting the local economy and strengthening their country as a whole.
Just looking at the last 50 years of the infusion of opportunity, of democratic influence, from First World countries to Third and Second World countries, the impact of this shift is vast. Many societies have been raised out of poverty, have been supported, and have been invited to the table as partners on the world stage.
Again, we must make a side note here and recognize the economic hitmen, the backstabbing, the greed, the big-brother bullying that has also frequently accompanied this process. Still—warts and all—the benefits of this trend to the Third World has been a net success and provided high levels of net profit to those who needed it most, while simultaneously benefiting many in the Second and First Worlds as well. It is not going away; it’s too profitable for too many.
Which means it is up to you and me—the citizens of the world—to step up, to be better and do better. To establish freedom-spreading businesses and to support and fund freedom-promoting businesses rather than a new form of feudal elitism.
Many Third World countries are now able to purchase cheap manufacturing and tech and skip the decades of trial and error in order to establish a successful infrastructure. The nations that are being oppressed by their governments or bandits frequently find support from First World partners and vast resources in unwanted products from First World countries.
Never in the history of the world has so much opportunity, support, and funding, and so many resources flowed from the powerful to the “weak.” Never has there been so much opportunity, education, connectivity, etc. as right now. And the trends show this as increasing, not flatlining, if we continue to produce and share.
Where Can the New Society of Freedom Come From?
Given all the growth and benefits, this doesn’t change the fact that we are struggling. Most free people live free for a few hundred years, or less, they have a century or so of strength and growth, and then another handful (or two or three) of decades as they bloat, corrupt, and collapse.
If we can’t perform an exodus in the same way as before, where is the modern incubator of freedom?
Those who value freedom and the work and sacrifice that comes along with it are usually those who don’t have it. We may be seeing the exodus happening as millions are displaced, flee, or choose to migrate for better opportunity, security, and freedom. The more complacent First World countries may be infused with the entrepreneurial spirit and desire for more freedom from this grassroots immigration. I don’t see the welfare systems being insidious enough to douse this invigorated spirit, or else it will take on too much and cause major collapse which will spur a greater reset in those previously apathetic. Either way, the entrepreneurial resurgence is likely to happen. It is, in fact, already happening.
We may also be seeing this resurgence from many Second and Third World societies. Those who aren’t leaving their home countries are able to get a taste of what more free societies are like. Through online media they know about different approaches, different opportunities, different ways of doing things. The masses around the world have never been so connected, in the know, and able to discover what those in power are trying to do, and more able to educate themselves and apply solutions.
I pray constantly that my home (The United States of America, and the states of Wyoming and Utah) will maintain freedom and continue to be a light and a beacon to the world. But I must admit, the leadership for the new age of freedom may come from outside of the U.S. It could easily come from the Russian populace, or India, or Colombia, maybe Taiwan, or Nigeria. Recently we witnessed a spark of it in Ukraine, and before that, sadly, given how things turned out, in Afghanistan. Such sparks are visible in numerous places, if we carefully look for them. They are, it is true, mere sparks. But that was once true of the American colonies, and before that of the Swiss cantons, and even earlier of the Anglo-Saxons. The spark of freedom always starts small.
Maybe the exodus is happening online, and it is pockets of people connected from all over the world who gain power through their numbers, leadership, and understanding of the principles of freedom that world leaders and the elite cannot ignore. Can the general people around the world support the freedom movements diplomatically, powerfully, ethically, and wisely for anybody, anywhere, no matter their party affiliation or current citizenship? Time will tell.
We may see the rise of a type of Frankenstein Freedom Party from all regions of the world, sparked and nourished by our ability to connect in unprecedented ways. I don’t think this means the dissolution of political states or of national boundaries, but reestablishing the sovereignty of individuals, their regional representatives, and their federal representatives. A grassroots movement like this would be just the ticket needed to reaffirm vertical and horizontal checks and balances. Local government remains the most valuable and effective part of a country, largely because it is closest to the people and their direct influence (rather than rule by professional politicians in the government bureaucracies, academia, and national media).
Pause for a moment. If we can’t “exit” and find a new world to sail off to, what if a pocket of freedom lovers in the American West, in the U.S. South, in Brazil, in Malaysia, in Bulgaria, in South Africa, Australia, and Russia come together to discuss proper checks and balances in their own corner of the world? Talk about a wide swath of experimentation and the speed of checking results and tweaking for better execution. Not only that, but reaching out to your fellow Founding Men and Women around the world for help with local and regional issues. Can’t get enough people to catch the attention of a representative? What if well-formed arguments were coming from several areas around the world?
Yes, a certain weight should be given to your specific constituents, but if a constituent brings a posse of diplomatic and wise foreigners to the discussion table, I wonder what this does for the cause of freedom? What might this do for the locals in Hong Kong? New Zealand? Peru? Nicaragua? Or at least bringing your own honed thoughts and opinions from your friends around the world to your neighbors and representatives.
Is this a possible direction for the electronic herd, the digital natives, the instant translation apps, and the plight of any Federalist-Papers-level of understanding and debate? I don’t know. But my work with TJEd has given me a microcosm of this possibility. I frequently discuss, in detail, principles of freedom with people from all over the world. And I know I am not the only one. This gives me great cause for optimism, and some insights for my priorities, choices and future.
However we decide to create the future of widespread freedom and prosperity in a world that is more ready for it than ever, one thing is certain. A quality Leadership Education is more vital and needed than ever before.
A Leadership Education facilitates the invention and development of solutions amid chaos.
A Leadership Education empowers individuals and communities.
A Leadership Education humanizes and spreads empathy.
A Leadership Education is one of the core components of every free society throughout the history of the world. I don’t think this has changed during the mainspring of modern human progress. It has, in contrast, compounded the need, and the ability, to spread it more fully to the masses.
We are poised to support, educate, and lead like never before in human history.
The masses have more opportunity and ability to become actually free than ever before in human history.
We are at the cusp of a truly glorious revolution—one that doesn’t have to be violent and bloody; one that can grow and develop organically over the next several decades as you and I spread the education of freedom far and wide.
This next “exodus” depends heavily on great thinking, servant leadership, and people being generally good. It also depends on you. Not generically, but in a very specific way.
What is yours to do? Right now. What is the small baby step that adds to the already-growing momentum of billions of people doing tiny things each day that is changing the course of human history for the better? It is now a spark, but it is growing. It is our role, if we care about freedom, to give it oxygen and fuel it as it gains strength and spreads. If you care about freedom and family and goodness, it is your role as well.
What are you doing in your private life, your family life, within your circles of influence to lead—in the way only you can, in whatever ways you can lead best, most effectively—to move the cause of liberty?
Because we, the educated and serving people, have more with us than are against us. Will we not take action for such a glorious cause? Are we not born for such a time as this?