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Our institutions are rusting out.

Let me say from the beginning that I am an optimist for the human race and for the Creation in general. God will have his way with Creation and people are amazingly resilient and adaptable.

But I am a pessimist about the ability of our major institutions to survive this century.

The rust has gone beyond cosmetic. The core of our institutions are rusting

Sure you want to read this?

The church, the government, education, the military, and the economy are in terminal trouble.

Not that some form of church, government, education, military, and economy won’t survive. All of these functions are going to survive; but the institutions which carry these functions now may not.

CHURCH

Arguably the most resilient of all institutions (outliving languages and nations, and ALL ideologies), the Church has gone ‘sideline’ in the space of one generation.

The Church was the only major institution to survive the fall of the Roman Empire.

Irrelevant and ignored are the two adjectives that come to mind when I think of the 21st Century church.

Virtually no explicit Christian leaders, for the first time in 2 millennia, are first-team varsity culture shapers on our planet. We don’t even have an Oprah, let alone a Churchill.

Today’s 15-30 year-olds are ignoring the Church in unprecidented droves.

Most denominational organizations are ripped apart by political issues and are reaching terminal blood loss levels. Christianity is fragmented like never before.

GOVERNMENT

I live in California.

California, more or less first to try out everything, became ungovernable a few years ago. The USA is not far behind.

Our current form of  ‘democracy’ is based on British parliamentary and American constitutional decision making. Also on the idea of the sovereign “nation state.”

More Americans seem to believe in the sacred inerrancy of our constitution than believe in the veracity of the Bible. But its days are numbered because the institution it calls forth is no longer able to solve problems. It can’t do its job.

The truth is, the folks in Sacramento and Washington DC are no longer at the helm of our culture. They are not calling the shots.

The models they follow are based on pre-industrial and pre-information-age interaction. They are more and more unable to solve the challenges we all face together.

The European Union is facing increasing opposition from client states and their citizens. It is a faux-empire with no mass appeal or loyalty (from the citizenry). It lacks patriotism.

The Romans were unable to adapt to changing situations. Patriotism and effort is not enough.

Sometimes you just have to think differently.

EDUCATION

We all know that there are great educators out there.

Most of us were influenced by outstanding teachers.

But there is a nagging consensus that the way we do school and university is not working as it should.

We have been unable, in the USA, to figure out how to include all of the major lifestyle ideologies in our official education process. Abraham Kuyper of Holland was the last one to pull this off (about 100 years ago). So we settle for lowest-common-denominator secular humanism as our official education vibe.

And pencils and classrooms? In the 21st century? Our current elementary education model doesn’t even assume the presence of electricity. It would work almost as well with a pot belly stove and a chalkboard.

MILITARY

We are unable to create safety for productive citizens. Our USA military was designed to beat the Germans (tanks) and the Japanese (aircraft carriers).

The military of other countries is more or less totally impotent and unable to project power anywhere. Europe couldn’t even take care of Kosovo without our help.

The real threats are politically and psychologically (sometimes both) fringe people. Especially when they congregate and organize.

Call it extremism or whatever.

They want to blow up airplanes (from their underwear) over Detroit.

They form camps to train angry young men to hate and kill.

They are notoriously flexible and hard to locate. The most powerful military on Earth can’t find Bin Laden.

They generally hate Israel, America, or the UK–not necessarily in that order.

They, as strongmen, take over failed states and provide “stability” and pride for their followers.

As a result, harmless grandmas have to take off their shoes at airport security, getting their water bottles confiscated, and honest people have governments limiting how much money they can move around. I have an 827 credit rating and the bank has to put holds on my checks because of the “Patriot Act.”

New “nuclear powers” are added every few years. An obsolete form of national security, but it continues to spread. Who will be the first to pull the trigger? Pakistan? North Korea?

We, and other nations, spend bazillions on ‘military’ but most of it is still focused on a WW2 that is not going to return. Or on a Cold War that is just plain over.

And Bin Laden and North Korea continue to do whatever they want.

ECONOMY

The economy has been fragile for quite some time. “Recovery” seems to be an elusive thing. It may not arrive; at least in the sense of returning to the way things are.

People may well prosper in the future. I believe they will. But the Reagan and Clinton prosperity patterns are not coming back. We are moving forward into something new.

The big time bomb is China. They have huge problems. 300 million Chinese (the entire population of the USA) are seasonal itinerant migrant workers. Their environmental issues are like gathering national mudslides. Their core industries are rusting out, and only 8-10 percent annual GNP growth “keeps the doctor away.” The day that expansion slips below that level…

The effect of this on the global economy will be staggering.

Money, also, is making no sense. What is it anyway? We are constantly measuring something that is an abstraction at best. Money is a very old school way of value storage; kind of a reel-to-reel tape in an iPod financial era. Money is simply not keeping up–obviously.

And our global banking system can’t exist without huge infusions which the governments paying them can’t afford to make.

CONCLUSIONS

Archaeology shows us that institutions calcify and end up in layers of ‘digs.’

We may be facing revolutionary changes in our institutions. Many of us alive today may see these institutions (peacefully or otherwise) make way for new forms of completing the same tasks.

Even our cities may not survive.

Cities (bigger and bigger) have to get their food from farther and farther away.

They have to ‘trade’ something in return for being fed. Cities cannot feed themselves.

It used to be that cities, by concentrating people, could create innovation that they could sell to people who would feed them.

With technological and communication breakthroughs, people can live in Northern Alberta and create innovation in conversation with the whole world via technology. We don’t have to live in cities anymore.

De-urbanization (along with other things) killed the Roman Empire. Rome could no longer add value to the rural areas who were feeding the great city. People moved to the countryside and reorganized as local fiefdoms.

The 21st Century is going to be the most revolutionary since the 6th century.

Are you ready for it?

What are you doing to position yourself to prevail?

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I have always considered myself a small-government guy.

Love going to Hong Kong where they run the whole place out of one modest building.

But let’s re-frame the question:

What endeavors do we want to tackle collectively, and what do we want to work out as individuals?

Building highways, defeating the Nazis, running an aircraft carrier, having a fire department, going to the moon, etc. are all things that we can do best collectively. The more people in the pool, the more we can do.

Education is an expensive item with much complexity. In small towns (and there are a lot of them) that are too small for competition, a collective community school seems like a good idea. In large cities, my sense is that vouchers and competition would work better. But vouchers assume that the government should have the money to hand out. What if it were totally privatized? How would we ensure that underclass children get the skills to enter mainstream society?

And public education does indeed create an English-language socialization for our bazillions of immigrants. Most Mexican kids here in Cali prefer speaking English. Only the schools have done that.

If it were totally up to the libertarians, why not extremist Muslim grade schools backed by oil money in every big city? Just one of the “options.” So unraveling the public schools’ semi-monopoly can have a dark side.

And as far as big government goes, Ronny and W did more to create that than any other president in my lifetime–it’s just that much of it was military. As I’ve said before, military spending counts as government spending and it’s one of the most expensive forms of big government. Eisenhower warned us about the military-industrial complex (right about the day I was born, by the way).

I’d like to do a major post on “rethinking education.” Another one on “rethinking military.” I think that these two big ticket items encourage outrageous spending based on obsolete world views. The educational and military situations have changed and we still build schools and weaponry based on former challenges that no longer exist.

It’s not only expensive–it doesn’t get the job done.

Too many American kids go to college and not enough of them get real job skills. Universities are not for everyone.

And why do we really need aircraft carriers and tanks? We need better ways of removing pockets of terrorist extremism and neutralizing crazy world leaders (North Korea). A pitched tank battle is way unlikely. As is a carrier war like the one we had with Japan. We also need to figure out how we are going to engage the Muslim world–much of what we now do just makes it worse. They don’t think as we do but we operate as though they do (rewards and punishment scenarios).

And then there are entitlements. It’s choking California. Many public servants here retire on more money than most in the private sector ever will make.

So how much government should we have?

Education, military, entitlements?

What are your thoughts?

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