28 January 2017

No More Wondering. Trump Will Do The Crazy Things He Promised

In his first week, Trump moved towards building a wall and banning Muslims from entry into the country. He's keeping his promises.

More than one Republican friend of mine has nonchalantly shrugged off Trump's crazier promises with, "He won't really do that." Now it's clear that he really will. And it's not at all clear that Republicans in Congress have the desire or ability to stop him.

What crazy things are next? Massive tax cuts that will trigger deficits back to nearly a trillion a year. (Last year's deficit was less than half that.) Tariffs that will trigger trade wars. And job protection bills that will not only inhibit companies from doing business freely but will erode our country's ability to compete.

I've been nearly frozen in my attempt to do the normal, annual forecast for the coming year's economic measures (e.g., S&P 500, job creation, etc.) because of the uncertainty surrounding everything Trump has promised. It no longer makes sense  to give Trump - or the Republicans around him - the benefit of the doubt, assuming that they understand the difference between crazy campaign promises and reasonable policies.

Inventions Matter More Than People

Inventions matter more than people. 

There are two kinds of inventions that fuel progress. Technological inventions like your smart phone or a bullet train give us what past generations would have thought of as super powers. Social inventions like nation-states or the modern corporation also transform lives.

If people mattered more than inventions, a "good enough" person could run faster than a bullet train or a "good enough" person could create a great and prosperous life even in the midst of anarchy and chaos. In the words of W. Edwards Deming, though, "A bad system will beat a good person every time." 

Racist: my race is better
Patriarch: men are better

The argument of racists and patriarchs is that we white men have ended up at the top of the heap because we're better. The simplest evidence of this is that we're wealthier and more powerful than people of color or white women. It is not that we've had better access to better inventions. It's simply that we're better people.

But differences in people do not explain differences in lifestyle or wealth. An American in 2000 made 6 to 8X what an American in 1900 made and could expect to live 30 years longer. Not because the American in 2000 worked harder or was morally better or was innately more intelligent. The average work week in 1900 was sixty hours (10 hours a day, six days a week). The average work week now is less than 40 hours.

It is true that Americans in 2000 were "smarter" than Americans in 1900 but that was not because of any innate intelligence. It was because of the popularization of social inventions like a K-12 education and the modern corporation that our efforts were leveraged into such (relatively) great lives. The American in 2000 simply had far better inventions than a person in 1900.

The notion behind white supremacy or anti-immigration, or patriarchy is that people matter most. In the minds of these people the systems are invisible and the people who sit atop them is all they can see. It's like thinking that the driver of the car is responsible for going 70 mph rather than realizing that anyone in that position could match or better the speed.

There are a host of reasons why racists and patriarchs are such passionate defenders of the border. A chief one is that they're convinced that the people living in more impoverished parts of the world are that way because they are lesser people. In fact, what has made our country great is that the inventions we've popularized - from Montessori schools to smart phones - make us better. It doesn't just work for our children; it can work for anyone's children.

When you welcome immigrants you're expressing confidence in the power of your systems to change life for anyone. When you reject immigrants you're saying that our inventions - our systems - are incidental to who we are and if other people come here to use them those people will still be lesser people, will be a burden on us.

There are obviously limits to the number of immigrants a country can absorb and migration laws do matter. But focusing on the border as a basis for prosperity is misleading for so many reasons. The most important reason that it shifts a country's focus and policies onto protecting borders rather than creating inclusive inventions that make more people more able to make themselves and others happy. It shifts the focus from inventing and change to protection and resistance. 

We've gotten off the path to progress. Hopefully someone will still find that path or else the global economy will stagnate and when modern economies stagnate, modern democracies flounder.

24 January 2017

Trump - Soul Mate to Medieval Popes

Trump knows there were millions of illegal votes cast and that climate change is fiction in spite of a lack of evidence for the first and an abundance of evidence for the second.

His criteria for truth is the same as the one medieval popes used: personal revelation. If you think that's a good idea, you might want to read up on what life was like in medieval times and contrast that with what life became after we (mostly) accepted the scientific method. There is plenty of evidence that testable hypotheses supported by plenty of evidence is at the root of all progress. We all knew he wanted to take the country back; even his most rabid supporters didn't realize he meant to take us back to the Dark Ages.

And now today there is news that he's deleted government twitter accounts that have dared to tweet facts about the climate. Censorship because of facts. It's climate change now, evolution and the neo-Copernican model next. Finally, there will be a ban on reports that Trump is infallible.

Who does find revealed truth stronger than science? Not just the evangelicals who voted for Trump but a district in LA that houses a disproportionate number of Scientologists.

21 January 2017

Nozick's Defense of the Minimal State & Increasing Diversity Up Maslow's Ladder

The philosopher Robert Nozick offered a challenge in defense of the minimal state. Try to imagine a single utopia suited to the desires and needs of the following people: Beyonce, Lionel Messi, Stephen Curry, Bob Dylan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Jane Goddall, JK Rowling, Richard Branson, Marissa Mayer, Bill Murray, Larry Page, your parents, Noam Chomsky, Angela Merkel, I.M. Pei, and you.

After we get past the first two rungs of Maslow's ladder - past physiological and safety needs - we become more diverse. A good society will not ignore the common expression of those first two rungs nor pretend that the expression of the next three will bring anything but diversity.

A good society doesn't begin with a notion of the ideal, perfect life but instead begins after the reality of physical and safety needs are met. The perfect life emerges out of those and is different for each person.

Christians Who Understand Christianity Better Than Christ Did and America Better Than Our Founding Fathers

Without the support of the "abortion is murder" people, Trump would have lost. These people pretend to understand Christianity better than Christ and America better than our founding fathers. They don't.

In the first four gospels, the poor are mentioned 24 times and the rich 29. In Luke 18:24-25, for instance, Christ said,
Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
In Luke  14:13-14 he told a host,
when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. 
He left little doubt about his disdain for wealth and love for the poor and he expected his followers to have a similar ambivalence about wealth and compassion for the poor. There is no doubt about this.

In the first four gospels, abortion is not mentioned once. (Actually, it's mentioned nowhere in the Bible.) You might argue that abortions had not become as easy or common in his time as ours but keep in mind that Jesus's authority comes in no small part because he saw to the end of time and preached about all that would matter until then.

Evangelicals gave Trump the presidency. Without their vote, he would have lost. The central reason they voted for Trump is that these people believe that life starts at the exact instant that a sperm and egg collide and are appalled that Roe vs. Wade lets women follow their individual conscience about when that transformation occurs. To be clear, their belief is not based on anything Christ said. This is their own idea, one they've slapped the label of Christianity onto.

Many Christians don't share this belief. The Christians who see abortion as murder are less remarkable for their affection for Christ's teaching (again, this isn't even something he taught) than their personalities: these are the people who cannot tolerate ambiguity or gray areas. They need clear black and white boundaries and saying that life starts at a particular instant is very appealing to them. Such a belief is less product of soul searching than the compulsion of a particular personality type.

Nobody is arguing that we should kill babies. Nobody is arguing that we should protect the "lives" of sperm or egg cells. The argument is about when sperm and egg - the jetsam and flotsam of life - become a baby - the essence of life.

When does a child become an adult? 12 seems compelling. Until just a few centuries ago, every community around the world treated 12 as the legal age of consent, an age when young girls were commonly married off. Theaters and amusement parks still seem to believe a 12 year old is no longer a child. Or you might argue for 16, the age when we trust teens to have the cognitive capacity to drive, to stay focused on the road in ways that don't endanger the rest of us. 18 is old enough to let them vote or go off to war. 21 is when we trust them to drink to console themselves for the trauma of war or to celebrate the victory of the candidate they backed.

Most people can accept that the definition of when a child becomes an adult is fuzzy and might even depend on the context. Reasonable people disagree about when a child becomes an adult. Reasonable people also disagree about when a sperm and egg become a baby.

Our founding fathers gave us a government that provided freedom of religion and freedom from religion. What could not be proven through science or a vote - things that could be seen and verified objectively by other people - could be held as personal conviction but not imposed on anyone else. People were free to live according to their own conscience.

There are people who have a religious belief that the instant a sperm and egg collide those two tiny little cells too small for the eye to see are no different from a baby that you can't ignore. It's key to clarify two things. One, this is a belief, no different than the belief that the rich should sell what they own and give it to the poor or that when Venus intercepts Jupiter it is a good time to start a new relationship. And - this is really important so pay attention to the next few words - this religious belief about when life starts has nothing to do with Jesus's teaching. Like the guy in Times Square selling $12 Rolex watches, people have slapped Christ's name onto the "abortion is murder" belief but it did not come from Jesus's words. They made this up.

Force is central to this issue. Sex can be one of the most wonderful experiences of a woman's life and rape - sex forced on her - one of the worst. When force or chance terminates a woman's pregnancy it can be one of the most emotionally heavy experiences of her life; when she chooses to terminate a pregnancy it can yield one of her biggest reliefs. Sex and having a child can be radically different experiences depending on whether they are forced upon her or embraced by her.

Again, there is no way that Trump would have won without the vote of people who now believe that their definition of when life starts is God-given and true and that this revelation ought to be the basis for law. The truth? This definition of when life starts has nothing to do with Christ's teaching and even if it did, it wouldn't matter in a country based on religious freedom.

How do I know that it wouldn't matter? Because while Christ said nothing about abortion he was clear that divorce and re-marriage was adultery, a sin. Because of religious freedom, in this country a person is free to divorce and re-marry, as Trump has twice. The abortion is murder people seemingly want to live in a theocracy where religious beliefs are imposed on other people but it's essential to point out that the beliefs they want to impose are not based on Jesus' teaching. All theocracy is bad; theirs is a counterfeit theocracy.

Abortion is murder is a religious belief but not a Christian one. Like any Christian or non-Christian religious belief, it is something that people are free to embrace but not free to impose on others. It should not be the basis for law in this country. Unless of course you trust people who understand Christianity better than Christ and freedom of religion better than our founding fathers. I don't. Not any more than I trust Trump.

13 January 2017

The Real Story Behind Trump's Adulation of Putin (and why golden showers is a generous explanation)

Trump has been critical - even dismissive - of Reagan and George W. Bush, Obama and Clinton. Meanwhile, he's had nothing but good to say about Vladimir Putin. Trump's Secretary of State nominee, former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, challenged China's claims on the South China Sea in a way that led China's state controlled media to warn that this would led to war between the US and China. War. Mexico's peso has dropped since Trump's election. Trump has never said anything good about the Chinese or Mexicans or tried to appease them. Trump has had only good things to say about Putin and the Russians. Only good. The contrast between how he talks about American leaders and Russia's leader, between how he deals with China and Mexico and how he deals with Russia, could not be more stark.

So why does this matter? Isn't it true that it would be good for the US to get along with Russia, as Trump says? And isn't it an asset that Putin likes Trump?

In fact, it is alarming that Trump is so enamored of Putin.

First of all, Trump has expressed envy for Putin's ability to jail and kill political opponents and critical journalists. You might argue that there is no way that Trump can imitate Putin's dictatorial actions here in the US and I'll say that the very fact that he leans in that direction guarantees that he'll do things no recent president has done. But there is a deeper reason to feel revulsion towards Trump's adulation of Putin.

This is most succinctly captured in the Ukraine's situation.

Eastern Ukraine shares a border with Russia and many of its values. People there watch TV, are fond of strong leaders who don't confuse them with debates and subtleties, they're afraid of the disruption of capitalism and foreign trade and they distrust liberal values that challenge their religion, homophobia and misogyny.

Western Ukrainians aspire to become more integrated with Western Europe, are on the internet, like grassroots movements with all their chaos, uncertainty and debates, yearn for open markets and trade, and prefer science and minority rights.

Putin clearly wants the whole of Ukraine to again be under his influence. He's already invaded the Crimea, claiming that he has a right to do that because people there like him better. In July, the same month in which he won the Republican nomination, Trump stated that he would recognize the Russian "annexation" of Crimea, leaving the invasion unchallenged. A month later, the Trump team made only one change to the Republican platform, leaving everything else untouched. Their only change? They removed a pledge from the Republican Party to provide military assistance to the Ukrainian government against the rebels in the East, rebels supported by Putin.

Trump is doing everything Putin would want while continuing to praise a man Marco Rubio recently suggested was a war criminal (citing not only the massive number of civilians Russian bombs have recently killed in Syria but the 300,000 citizens Putin killed in Chechnya years ago). I actually think the notion that he's doing all of this because the Russians are blackmailing him over sexually compromising videos is one of the more generous interpretations of why he's so enamored of Putin. For people who really like the West and its direction over the last 500 years, the idea that our new president shares their appreciation for Western values but doesn't want people to know about his sexual perversions is a better explanation than that he thinks more like Eastern Ukrainians than Western ones.

I don't know if the Russians are blackmailing Trump. I think it's scarier if they are not, if the real explanation is that Trump truly prefers Putin's model of governance to that of Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Obama's. He's already shown contempt for a free press that would challenge him and expressed an on again, off again desire to "lock up" the woman who dared to run against him. He's got a narcissistic personality and sense of himself as uniquely special; these two qualities alone make him more like dictators than the traditional American president.

Will we ever find out whether Trump's actually being handled by the Russians? That outcome would actually make me feel more relieved than what I currently suspect: Putin doesn't have to do anything but be Putin to win Trump's admiration and friendship.

There is a Japanese proverb that translates to, "When the character of a man is not clear, look at his friends." Out of 200+ world leaders, Trump has already made it clear which one he feels a special affinity for. That should scare everyone more than sexual perversion.

05 January 2017

Huston Smith, Religion, and What's Just Made Up

Huston Smith died Friday at 97. He authored what became the standard comparative religions textbook (it sold about three million copies), The Religions of Man. He was born to Methodist missionaries and died a Methodist even while studying, and then incorporating, practices from Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism.

I think it was Bill Moyers who asked him how he could be so accepting of other faiths and yet still be a Methodist. I don't remember his precise answer but essentially he said, "If I studied languages I would - at the end of the day - still come home and speak English with my wife. We can acknowledge the fact that people communicate in other languages but we still have to choose one language to speak." Another way to put this is that it makes sense that people make sense of their lives in other ways but we have to make sense of things in a way that still makes sense to us. If that makes sense.

In the UK, their wonderful health care system has made huge progress in the battle against a variety of diseases and health conditions. It's led to a curious situation. Now, the leading cause of death among men under 49 is suicide. Having protected their population from outside attacks, they find themselves vulnerable to attacks from within.

There are a number of reasons one might commit suicide but surely a chief one is a crisis of meaning.

Here is the funny thing about the meaning of words. Look up the definition of a word and what do you find? Other words. The meaning of one word is expressed through other words. It would be a really bad dictionary if you looked up the meaning of, say, car and it said, "A car is a car. That's just what it is."

We find meaning outside ourselves, in other lives, in broader goals and tasks, in some arc of history. Religion was perhaps the first way that people made sense of the human experience.

Religion also made the world bigger. Robert Wright in his Evolution of God argues that as kin began to trade outside of their group their god(s) had to become bigger than the tribe. How do you make an enemy a trading partner or even a fellow citizen? You expand your beliefs to make those former strangers friends.  You love your enemy. Money, contracts, employment and trade are all well and good but outside of the context of trust they're ineffectual. The prelude to a global economy is a God of all humanity or at least people who see all of humanity as deserving of trust.

Speaking of trade, money is just made up. The fact that a 20 dollar bill is worth 20 dollars is not a fact inherent in a piece of paper that size and shape. It's only worth 20 dollars because we all agree that is worth 20 dollars. Money is completely made up and it is completely real.

Social invention - agreeing to the rules of a school or bank, agreeing that we will shake hands when we greet or kiss one another on the cheek or bow - is both made up and completely real. Religion falls into that same category. It is just made up that we should love our neighbor or forgive a brother. Such things are made up but their consequences are very real. Living with shame is so very different than living with forgiveness. Living life selfishly is so very different than living life selflessly. (And in truth it is hard to imagine a life that doesn't always have some element of shame and forgiveness, selfish perspective and empathy, but a life can be made very different simply by moving more in one direction than another.)

I agree with my agnostic friends that religion is just made up. I also agree with my religious friends that religion is quite real. Caught up in determinism and what that suggested about us simply being the products of past causes and present conditions, William James struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts. What if nothing he did or believed really made a difference, he wondered. One day he declared, "My first act of free will shall be to believe in free will." From that point on his life was largely different; he was mostly productive and happy. (James wrote the first psychology textbook and was one of the founders of the philosophy of pragmatism, among other things.) Did William James actually have free will or did he just make that up? Yes and yes, it seems to me.

Going back to Huston Smith, at the end of the day we have to speak in some one language in order to make meaning and to understand others, to understand and to be understood. Religions are deeply flawed and they are just made up but they certainly can provide meaning. Life is more than the logistics of work and sleep, food and recreation, or a winning score in a bank account. Realizing that if you had grown up in Indonesia you would likely be Muslim or that if you grew up in Nepal you'd likely be Buddhist or that if you grew up in Iowa you'd likely be Christian and realizing that this is arbitrary doesn't mean that it is meaningless anymore than it is meaningless to realize that if you grew up in China you'd grow up speaking Chinese. Meaning is fragile when we try to make sense of our own lives via a reductionist method that looks at us in isolation. Meaning can be robust when it sweeps out to include others, family, friends, and strangers, and the story of a life as part of some larger arc of history, part of a bigger set of forces that include our own words and actions. Meaning is never self-referential; it comes from the relationship of one word to other words or of one life to other lives. Religion surely isn't the only way to create meaning but it is a way that works for billions. And while you can just make up a language rather than rely on the ones around you, a language that isn't shared isn't much of a language. Religion has its flaws but one big advantage is that it is "spoken" by quite a few people around you. You can say something novel in a very old language. And maybe that's the challenge of a any religion: go beyond rote memorization of what others said to a statement that comes out of a common tradition into your own unique life and time, something that Huston Smith seemed to have done quite beautifully.

03 January 2017

What if History Has Only Just Begun? Contemplating a Post Economic Society

If you bring together parents of little ones aged 0 to 3, you'll hear them discuss very similar - nearly identical - stages of development. Getting potty trained, sleeping through the night, learning to walk and talk, and learn self control are constants for every child. Those little ones may grow up to become very different people who make their living, pursue romance, create or engage in hobbies, struggle with wild bout of optimism or depression - that is, live their lives in wildly different ways but in the first few years of their life they're dealing with nearly identical issues.

Which brings me to economic development.

We have this tendency to think of ourselves as having reached the pinnacle of evolution. Probably amoeba and early primates had even greater difficulty conceiving of the possibility that evolution hadn't ended now that they'd arrived, but even we tend to think of ourselves as a culmination rather than an intermediate stop. Not just as humans but as a culture or civilization. And yet, we're so obviously still a work in progress, so obviously not yet done.

I think that we've not only entered a fourth economy but that this fourth economy will be less a culmination than a mere phase, perhaps the equivalent of learning to walk or talk. It will transform what is possible but the talking is incidental to the communication, the walking incidental to getting somewhere. In the same way that writing brought humanity into a new phase of history but didn't end history, so will moving beyond scarcity bring us to a new phase but hardly end the continuation of history. And once we've moved beyond scarcity, economics as we've learned it will be less defining than assumed, in the same way that we don't now talk about different communities around the globe having a talking or writing culture.

Having social inventions that allow us overcome the limits of capital or entrepreneurship will be pretty cool. What is even more interesting, though, is the question of what we do when we've overcome all four economic limits. At that point we have the harder but more difficult work of then determining what sorts of societies we want to create. Or, rather, the generations that will come after us will have that work.

02 January 2017

Childhood 200 Years Ago (when it was outrageous to limit work days to 12 hours or offer 30 minutes a day of education)

This little tidbit from Chris Jennings' fascinating Paradise Now: The Story of American Utopianism. The Owen mentioned is Robert Owen who became fabulously wealthy operating factories using the new spinning jenny that boosted productivity enormously. This little excerpt is just a reminder of what childhood was like the early days of the Industrial Revolution and how viciously opposed people are even to the changes that strike future generations as obviously positive.

Owen used his newfound celebrity to back progressive legislation in Parliament. In 1815, he drafted a bill for the "Preservation of the Health and Morals of Apprentices ... in Cotton and other Mills." The bill had three central provisions: children under ten should be prohibited from working in mills; workers under eighteen should not work more than twelve hours a day; and young millworkers should receive a half hour of schooling each day.
Owen to Parliament expecting an enthusiastic response. Instead, the committee assigned to review the bill met him with startling hostility. "The employments of these Children in Cotton Mills is not sedentary [suggesting they were getting opportunities for physical activity]," one of the bill's opponents insisted; "it is neither laborious, nor such as tends to cramp their limbs, to distort their bodies, or to injure their health. Generally speaking those who are introduced young are most orderly, as might be expected from early habits of industry, attention, regularity, cleanliness, and subordination." A coalition of mill owners lobbied against the bill. In familiar language, they decried the proposed intrusion of big government into their industry. "Legislative interference betwixt the free labourer and his employer," they insisted, "is a violent, highly dangerous, and unconstitutional innovation." If children work fewer than twelve hours a day, some critics pointed out, their families will end up on the dole. As for the outlandish notion of providing young workers with thirty minutes of reading and arithmetic lessons each day, the claimed that "the unnatural mixture of education with work proposed by [Owen's] Bill, would not only be expensive and vexatious to the employer but impracticable in execution." Owen's proposed reforms would merely deprive the "heads of families of their natural control over their children," and "reduce the prohibitive labour of the Country." In short, the bill was an unpatriotic, antifamily job killer that would erode the morals of the working class by "throwing them idle and disorderly on the community too early in the evenings."

Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition - Trump's Promise to End Religious Freedom

The West led progress for centuries. Not because of superior genes but because of superior memes. The social inventions that have transformed Western Civilization since about 1300 have made lives longer, happier, and more free.

Three big transformations have given individuals in the West freedoms that created this prosperity. The first of the major transformations was religious. In 1300, the church defined orthodoxy - proper belief. Today the individual has religious freedom. Religion went from something society imposed on the individual to something individuals freely chose, rejected or modified. In 1700, you were a subject of the king or queen in your country. Today the individual chooses who will rule and even votes directly on laws. In 1900, private banks controlled money. Today access to investment and credit markets is widespread and monetary policy is managed by a public agency, capital markets subordinate to labor markets and unemployment rates.

Freedom of religion, democracy, and the pursuit of the American Dream - as we now refer to the products of these three revolutions - have indisputably made life better. In the Fourth Economy I argue that doing to the corporation what past revolutions have done to the church, state, and bank is the next big transformation that will dramatically improve life again. (Or more accurately, continue the dramatic improvement of life that has been playing out for centuries.)  Progress stalls when we fail to take the next step; disaster strikes when we go backwards.

One of the reasons I'm so utterly baffled and angry at the fact that my fellow Americans elected Trump is that he promises to take us backwards. Not just a little. He promises to take us backwards by centuries. He promises a religious test for admission to this country, curtailing the freedom of religion guaranteed in this first amendment.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Freedom of religion is foundational to everything we enjoy in the West. For so many reasons.

First the obvious. People believe weird things. Yes, even you. You can kill people with weird beliefs in an attempt to rid the world of improper beliefs but believing that you can kill off all the people with weird beliefs is, itself, one of the weirder beliefs. Plus, even when you take measures that drastic, people with weird beliefs keep popping up. It is simply impossible to live peaceably with fellow humans if you believe that you can or should control their beliefs.

John Locke who defined the modern
separation of church and state.
In the century before our founding fathers defined our new country, Europe was devastated by the thirty years' war, a war with 8 million casualties at a time when Europe's population was about one-tenth what it is today. No war had killed off more of Europe's population. No war involving so many could ever be about just one thing but this war was mostly about religion. With such atrocities in mind, our founding fathers were committed to creating a country where religious freedom not only allowed people to live in good conscience (however weird their beliefs) but saved people from violence because of religious beliefs.

As it turns out, religious freedom is also great for invention and entrepreneurship. Innovation comes from thinking differently, from challenging norms and jettisoning tradition - things that no religion advocates. It wasn't just freedom of religion that our founding fathers granted. It was freedom of thought. You can't really separate those two because beliefs and thoughts are so intermingled they're effectively the same thing. Communities that have imposed no special beliefs on their people are the ones where invention and disruptive change have thrived and lives have improved.

In about two weeks we will swear in a new president who believes that Congress shall make a law disrespecting the free exercise of religion, banning Muslims from entry to the country.

Trump represents a reversal of the three revolutions that have brought us out of the Dark Ages. His minions are fans of the gold standard and gutting the Federal Reserve, essentially making capital scarce again and turning control of credit markets to private banks. He is contemptuous of the workings of democracy, denouncing it as rigged and cooperating with a foreign dictator to win the election. He denounces the free press, suggesting that we need to crack down more on critical journalists in the same way that Putin has, while praising fake news and suggesting that the National Enquirer deserves a Pulitzer. And as if it's not enough to reverse the revolutions of the 20th and 18th centuries, he wants to take us back even further to the 17th century and the time of the thirty years war when religious freedom was not trusted to individuals.

It is hard to over-state how far back into the bowels of history Trump's policies take us. He is a troglodyte who even our bewigged forefathers would look on as anachronistic.

Won't you at least give Trump a chance, friends have asked. A chance for what? To end religious freedom? To gut the people's ability to stabilize credit markets and make financial markets accessible to common people? To gloss over foreign powers' interference in our democracy? (And this doesn't even touch on his disdain for freedom of trade, another pillar of prosperity that inspired the Declaration of Independence but was not captured in the Bill of Rights.)

In my mind, the real question of how to make progress is a question of how to popularize entrepreneurship and that involves changing the definition of employee to someone who has the same sort of freedom within a corporation that a citizen has within a country. Few people believe this (it's a weird belief) but the number who do is growing. To the extent that we delay dealing with this issue, we delay putting median income growth on a path that ensures that each generation will do better than the last.  Freedom of work is a step forward and failing to address it is the one of the biggest reasons that median income growth has floundered in this century.

Not taking this step forward means stagnation. Reversing freedom of religion is, by contrast, a huge step backwards. It's almost comical that in this - 2016 - we would be considering such a move, much less have elected a man who has made it his policy.

How do I feel about 2017? I'm in disbelief that we - as a country - have gone medieval on religious belief, making proper religion a basis for acceptance within our community. I'm in disbelief but as Monty Python warned us, "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition."