INSIGHTS: MUST OUR GENERATION BE NARCISSISTS FOR THE NANNY STATE?
By Guest Columnist Tyler Curtis:
Contributor at the Foundation for Economic Education and an economics major at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. Reprinted with permission from the Foundation for Economic Education
Pretty much everybody accuses Americans, particularly the younger generation, of being narcissists, and for good reason: we are indeed becoming more self-absorbed as a people. Even a cursory view of our culture should reveal that 21stcentury Americans simply do not value empathy, charity, and humility to the same extent our forebears did.
It could be, however, that I am simply perpetuating the old and insipid tendency of man to lament the direction of his society while looking to the past with rose-colored glasses. Alas, there is scientific research to back up my assertion that Americans today are indeed more egotistical than in the past.
Self-Absorbed but Not Self-Reliant
Writing at Psychology Today, Dr. Peter Gray notes that according to questionnaires given to college students, “70 percent of students today score higher on narcissism and lower on empathy than did the average student thirty years ago.” Other research seems to corroborate these findings.
But if these findings are correct and millennials are in fact a narcissistic generation, then why are we so intent on expanding government welfare to take care of us? The typical answer is this: narcissists feel that they are entitled to more than they actually are; therefore, they demand more free stuff. It’s a persuasive argument, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. After all, if people have an inflated sense of their own self-worth, would it not also be plausible for them to be more independent? To take fewer hand-outs and trust themselves to make their own way?
If I may make a modest proposal, I believe that while many young people may be narcissists in their personal lives, they play the poor helpless victim when it comes to politics. It is an all-too-common occurrence to see a young college student boast of his or her own intellectual and moral superiority, yet turn right around and decry their inability to carry on their lives without direct government aid. Be it free tuition, health care, or protection from scary ideas they disagree with, there is surprisingly little today’s typical millennial “egotist” can actually do on his or her own. Even the simplest of adult activities like going to a job interview are daunting to some millennials.
Victimology is Debilitating, but Not Baseless
In politics too, millennials are becoming more independent.
I don’t mean to pile on to the already over-criticized millennial generation. I myself am a millennial and I would be remiss if I did not mention that part of my generation’s cultural degradation is partly due to the policies imposed upon us.
More than ever, millennials feel as though “the System” is rigged against them. And to an extent, they are correct. They have been victims of progressive policies, like the minimum wage, which makes it harder for them to find jobs. And they have been victims of a culture which tells them they must go to college if they are to be valuable members of society. But unfortunately, millennials have sought salvation in precisely those who have oppressed them. They flock to support socialists like Bernie Sanders in droves, hoping that he, by the mighty power of federal coercion, will make their problems disappear.
But there are signs of hope. Many millennials are breaking out of their victimized, progressive molds and charting a new course for our generation – and without government mandates and regulations to guide them. A 2014 survey found that an astounding 67% of millennials would like to start their own business. In politics too, millennials are becoming more independent. Though most millennials tend to fall in line with progressive policies, they identify themselves as “moderate” and “independent” more than any other political label.
Perhaps as millennials realize that they don’t need a college degree to be successful, or their parents to pay their bills, they will soon understand that they don’t need a government nanny-state either. If they realize that they are fully capable of steering their own ships, far from being the narcissistic parasites they are believed to be, they will become the harbingers of a glorious revival of liberty.
ON THE ECONOMY: FIRE, THE WHEEL, ELECTRICITY, E-MAIL, THE INTERNET … THE BLOCKCHAIN?
By Michael Stojsavljevich:
Director of Midwest Operations for John Dunham & Associates
The concept of the blockchain has been in the news lately, with IBM opening a research center in Singapore to research new ways to adopt the technology for finance and trade applications. A recent editorial in Forbes called the blockchain Wall Street’s Most Game-Changing Technology Advance Since The Internet. Obviously, a lot of well-informed people believe that blockchain technologies have the potential to make a very large impact on the future of the world economy.
With the potential for this new technology to become a large force in the world economy, it is important for investors, policy makers and the general public to understand exactly what the blockchain is.
In simple terms a Blockchain is a distributed database that maintains a continuously growing list of records hardened against tampering and revision. It is comprised of data “blocks,” which hold data and applications. Each block maintains batches of individual records or transactions and each block also contains a timestamp and information linking it to a previous block. Blocks also include a rehash of the prior block, linking the blocks together and providing a trail or link to previous activity. The linked blocks form a chain, with each additional block reinforcing those before it, thus giving the database type its name.
While this all sounds very complicated and reminds me of what a space alien would sound like trying to describe what the American public looks like when driving cars and using the highway system. And just as having a well-built highway system aids economic activity, so too does a blockchain database. Millions of goods travel over the highway system daily, so too will millions of different applications adopt the blockchain over time as a management system.
Information has existed for a long time, but currently there is an information management renaissance utilizing computing and “big data.” Historically speaking, databases have existed for longer than computers. The ancient Sumerians of Mesopotamia created Cuneiform writing around 3000 BC in part to record trade transactions onto clay tablets – essentially the first database. Rolodexes, Filofaxes, and other forms of databases have all been developed over the years, and with the introduction of computers, eventually led to the development or relational databases. These powerful systems which were invented in the early 1970s allow users to search for data by content, rather than by following links. SQL databases systems are complex forms of relational databases and run many finance, trade, insurance and other applications around the world. But all of these databases depend on managers to keep them updated, secure and uncorrupted. The blockchain changes this.
So how does the blockchain work?
The blockchain is basically a distributed database. Think of a giant, global spreadsheet that runs on millions and millions of computers. It’s distributed. It’s open source, so anyone can see what’s going on. It’s truly peer to peer; it doesn’t require powerful intermediaries to authenticate or to settle transactions. And it uses state-of-the-art cryptography. Blockchains can be used to record any structured information, not just who paid whom, but also who married whom or who owns what land or what light bought power from what power source. In the case of the Internet of Things, where refrigerators can order food directly from grocers, or where houses can buy or sell solar energy directly to or from the grid, or where driverless cars are shared by thousands of people in a city, it’s going to take a blockchain-settlement system to keep tabs on all of the transactions. Banks and credit card firms simply will not be able to settle trillions of real-time transactions that take place between inanimate objects.
Essentially the blockchain provides transparency and trust to the system through its design and technology because every transaction is able to be viewed publicly and confirmed. Imagine if the State Department utilized this technology to its email system, or if the securities industry when issuing stocks or certificates could track every transaction globally and when ownership changed hands. The effect is tremendous in terms of reduced transactions costs and reduced fraud. At the same time, the blockchain provides increased trust for both the issuer and the regulator. Imagine the time lost on forensic accounting, or legal proceedings that involve off shore funds, etc. All of this goes away with blockchain.
Why should the general public or consumers care?
- Music lover might see artists able to make a living off their work so that they will be encouraged to write and perform more songs;
- Consumer would be able to trace where that organic free range chicken actually came from;
- Overseas or migrant workers can avoid paying large fees to send money home to their family;
- Entrepreneurs can find a new platform to build a business and establish an easy almost cost free payment system.
These examples are just the tip of the iceberg.
And this technology is already public, encrypted, and readily available for use. According to McKinsey and Company forty-two of the world’s biggest financial institutions, including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, and Credit Suisse, have formed a consortium to investigate ways to use the blockchain for faster and more secure transactions, amongst other applications.
Right now, the blockchain is the main technical innovation driving cryptocurrencies, which are private, alternative mediums of exchange that can compete with both government sponsored fiat money or clearing firms such as Visa or Mastercard (which charge large fees to complete transactions).
Blockchains have the potential to go beyond being a medium of exchange, and become a means of recording virtually everything of value in the world, from birth and death certificates to insurance claims and even votes. This is why companies like IBM and McKinsey are so interested in developing new applications.
The financial-services industry is up for serious disruption—or transformation, depending on how it approaches this issue. Therefore regulation of cryptocurrency, and potentially the blockchain itself, will become a very hot topic in 2017. Any regulatory environment must be designed so as not to kill the technology in its infancy. In doing this it is critically important to understand the difference between a currency and money.
Cryptocurrencies or digital currency or whatever people call it are all mediums of exchange (in effect a form of money), but they are not truly currencies. Currencies issued by nation states, and the legal authority of the state provides it with certain economic levers that can be used to either deflate or shore up those currencies. This includes raising or lowering taxes, changing the regulatory structure, reducing spending, etc. Digital money, or cryptocurrency, on the other hand, is only as good as the management of the company sponsoring it. Therefore ethical management and transparency are critical to performance of any form of digital money.
Regulators should focus on defining these differences and treating “cryptocurrencies” no differently than any other recognized medium of exchange, weather that be a credit card, a travelers’ check, a gift card or a money order. A regulatory framework similar to that carried out on any publicly traded company should be the focus.
This new technology and business model is in its infancy. The whole world of blockchain and digital currencies was not originally set up with a sophisticated governing structure like the internet, or bank transactions, or a highway system. In the case of the internet itself, there is the Internet Engineering Task Force, which creates standards for the Net; the Internet Governance Forum, which creates policies for governments; the the W3C Consortium, which creates standards for the Web; the Internet Society; that’s an advocacy group. There’s the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), an operational network that delivers and manages the nomenclature for domain names.
Simply put, there’s a structure and a process to figure out things. Beginning this dialogue for the blockchain is an important first step, but governments should treat the technology and its regulations differently that the issuer. Regulating Yahoo or cats.com is different than regulating the internet, and it has worked well!
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