Land of the Free, Home of the Brave?

When things get bad, there are two things that have saved Americans for generations.  One, we are free.  Two, we are brave.  Oh, how I hope this is still the case.

It matters tremendously.  If we are free, then when one way of supporting ourselves disappears, we find another.  If we are free, it’s very easy to do this.  According to the outstanding Hernando DeSoto, it takes 17 years to legitimately start a business in a place like Haiti.  That makes the entire effective economy illegal, underground, or stalled anytime conditions change even a little.  In America, at least until very recently, if you wanted to grow corn, you grew corn.  If it occurred that cotton grew better or made a better profit, then you stopped growing corn and grew cotton instead.

Freedom means you can move from selling insurance to selling toys in no time at all, as the opportunities present themselves.  But we are less and less free.  If you want to sell used, recycled toys, you’re out of luck unless you can afford expensive testing for lead.  If you want to sell insurance, there is a huge regulatory morass to navigate.  New regulations on my own industry have increased the cost of a mortgage loan by hundreds of dollars and made the process at least 1 week longer than it was this time last year.  This is not freedom, and the less free we are, the harder it is for us to change, to adapt, and to take advantage of new opportunities where they exist.  This is bad for both producers and consumers.

A side note: one of the reasons the internet is such a huge deal these days is that it is the home of the maximum freedom there is on earth at the moment.  Today your website is hawking accounting services, tomorrow you’re a social media guru.  You can change at the drop of a hat.  Drop one thing, pick up another.  Away you go.  The harder it is to do this in the physical world, the more of that commerce will move to the web.  Taxing authorities, you listening?  This means you.

And we used to be the home of the brave.  Nothing fazed us.  When things were tough, we went and got another job.  If there weren’t jobs, we found things to sell.  If there wasn’t anything to sell, we swept sidewalks, because working was better than not.  I think there’s still a lot of this spirit out there, but I wonder.  I hear stories of people that think they’re looking for work, when all they’re doing is sending out resumes.  Many of the people I know are out of work – far more than national statistics would indicate was likely – and many of them are out working, even though they’re doing things that don’t carry a paychek all the time.  My accountant became my accountant in exactly that way, by doing something for me for nothing until I couldn’t let her go.

But some are not.  Some are collecting unemployment and waiting for a job to open up.  These people are, almost universally, the most afraid.  I feel very sorry for them.  I also won’t hire them when one of the four companies I’m part of gets traction and needs people.  No, I’ll hire one of those guys that was mucking in without getting paid.  Those guys are not afraid.  Fearful people won’t take the risks to make small businesses work, and it will be small businesses, make no mistake, that lead this economy back.  Brave people will be the ones that carry the rest.

We used to be the land of the free because we were the home of the brave.  We didn’t want to be taken care of, we wanted to be left alone, to make our own way as best we could, to make things and to produce what people wanted to buy, without a lot of forms to fill out and regulations to abide.  I long for that to be the case now, for the nation I love and the world I live in to become, once again, a land of the free and a home for the brave.

I still believe we can.

3 Responses to “Land of the Free, Home of the Brave?”

  • I love this, you are so right.

    The world is too complicated, I think that’s what makes us afraid. You can’t sell recycled toys for the reasons you mentioned and you can’t sell apples on the street without some kind of permit and FDA testing to make sure that the apples are pesticide free. You can’t sweep sidewalks because someone might trip and sue you… And on and on.
    I think it may be that we have to be braver these days than you used to.

  • Thanks for saying that so eloquently! I tried (in very simple terms)to post something similar called “Observations from your Neighborhood Appraiser.” You are a great writer & have a great mind! Thanks for using it! From you I can tell that the American Spirit is Alive & Well! You are the brave & that gives me hope!

  • David Aust says:

    I believe Warren Buffet said it best when he said, “when people are in fear, it is time to buy…when people are greedy, it is time to sell.” In my recent doctoral studies, I have learned that people fear because they do not have an optimistic vision of their family or job prospects in the future. All to often people stop trying because they believe nothing is left.

    When creating a vision, describe your life, say in the year 2012 or some other year in the future. Describe what you see, feel, hear, smell, taste, some of the discussion you might have with people you love or care for while sharing life experiences you want, as if it were in the present tense, so that it becomes real to you. If it helps you, find some pictures of places you want to visit or things you want to do to provide a stronger visionary affect. You can even describe what you are doing for a living, how much you make, the people you work with (not necessarily by name, but by relationship), the credit score you have, the properties you own, etc. You can then read your vision daily whenever you get upset and depressed. Before you realize it, you will find that you are making decisions based on your vision. You also have to believe that the fulfillment of your vision is on its way to you. Then, in time, when you least expect it, you will discover that your vision has come true and you have the life you have always wanted.

    Think about it and give it a try!

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