Liberty’s Dilemma

America. Two Nations Dependent/Independent

by Seymour W. Itzkoff (Author)
©2014 Monographs XVIII, 142 Pages


Liberty’s Dilemma is a diagnostic analysis of the falling away in the United States from the founders’ vision of individual liberty and freedom of association. The founders never could have envisioned the enormous expansion of industrial and scientific power we have experienced, nor the national and international conflicts. Never could they have predicted the massive growth in power of the federal government – the kind of power they fought against in our initial struggle for independence and liberty. One significant consequence of these events for our future is the massive dependency of large portions of our present population and the consequent debilitating redistribution of the productive wealth of the independent classes.
This growth of a seemingly permanent dependent class has gone largely unexplained. Liberty’s Dilemma points to the declining intellectual capital in large portions of our society as cause. This is reflected in the disintegration of family life, lowering educational achievement levels, and the flight of our industrial and technological base. Until our leadership awakens to this fundamental issue of our intellectual capital deficits and their cause, the fundamental vision of liberty that was brought into reality by our Constitutional founders will have forever slipped beyond our political reach.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Preface
  • A European Perspective
  • Notes
  • References
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • We’ve Hit the Wall
  • A Deeper Problem
  • Rationality and the Future
  • Note
  • Part I—Our Situation
  • Chapter 1. The Liberty of the Founders
  • Freedom’s Context
  • Lesson of the Law
  • Delegated Power
  • Self-Governance
  • Notes
  • Chapter 2. How We Became Rich and Powerful
  • Power and Progress
  • Educating the Masses
  • Contradictions and Governmental Expansion
  • Mid-20th-Century Transition
  • Notes
  • Chapter 3. The Path Downward
  • History-Mystery
  • Mandate of Equality
  • Economics and Sociology of the Great Society
  • The Economic Debacle
  • Understanding Unintended Consequences
  • Notes
  • Chapter 4. Why Europe Committed Suicide
  • Social Change and Human Irrationality
  • Descent into Madness
  • Social Democracy
  • Utopia Fades
  • Chapter 5. Our Two Nations
  • Described
  • The World Changes
  • The Inside Picture
  • Government as Oppressor
  • How to Lose a Presidential Election
  • Notes
  • Chapter 6. National Survival: Intellectual Capital
  • Descent From Liberty
  • Delusion
  • Marx’s Prediction
  • Dabbling in Externalities
  • Notes
  • Part II—Considerations
  • Chapter 7. The Libertarian Vision
  • Libertarianism
  • Individual Liberty
  • Marx and the Withered State
  • Collapse of the Contemporary State
  • Notes
  • Chapter 8. Immovable Realities
  • War-Population-Energy-Welfare/Poverty
  • American Perspective
  • The War State
  • Population
  • Energy
  • Welfare/Poverty
  • Hope Springs Eternal
  • Note
  • Chapter 9. Anatomy of Liberty
  • Humans: Unique and Alone
  • Cultural Change
  • Freedom’s Meaning
  • Notes
  • Chapter 10. Crux of the Problem: Ideology
  • The Religious Dimension
  • Secular Realities
  • Egalitarian Utopias
  • Preventable?
  • Notes
  • Chapter 11. The West Encounters Humanity
  • Egalitarian Competition
  • The Liberal Hypothesis
  • Success or Failure
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter 12. Abstraction, Civilization, Freedom
  • Our Civilizational Heritage
  • Abstraction
  • Below the Bar
  • Freedom and Autonomy
  • Notes
  • Chapter 13. The Contemporary Fate of Liberty
  • Analytical Tools: Scientific
  • Analytical Tools: History
  • Liberty: Proximate Understandings
  • Liberty: Long-Term Macro-Challenges
  • Fate of the Science of Intelligence
  • Sociological Creationism
  • Our Dilemma
  • Notes
  • Chapter 14. Where Are We Heading?
  • Diagnosis Is the Key
  • We Are Time-Binding Animals
  • Liberty Is More Than Economics
  • Societal Context of Liberty
  • How United the States?
  • Note
  • Bibliography
  • Index


A European Perspective

To start with, an important statement: We now live in the best of times. Not in the best of all possible worlds in the words of G. W. Leibniz, but, compared to the past millennia, the best that has ever existed. Let’s play an intellectual game: Who would you prefer to be—a Roman emperor of 2,000 years ago, an English queen of 150 years ago, an American president of 80 years ago, or a contemporary welfare recipient in a western country? Of course, on welfare you will lose your reputation.

Here are some other examples of our better life: Think of something as simple as a visit to the dentist—all of Louis XIV’s teeth were extracted (without anesthesia of course) because the physician thought they would cause illness. In the 18th century, as the parent of a feverish child with increasing temperatures, in the range of 104 F°, 105 F°, 106 F°, you could do little or nothing. Ten of Charlemagne’s children died before he himself was old. A human life is seriously compromised without antibiotics, vaccination, analgesics and modern physicians. For a woman there were few choices.

Not only has medical care improved, but also nutrition, transport, quality of housing (water, indoor plumbing, electricity, light, heating, air-conditioning), ← ix | x → access to information (from libraries to the Internet), education, here having average intelligence. Washers, vacuums, and amazon.com replace servants. More people know how to read, to comprehend, to calculate and to think abstractly. Superstition has nearly disappeared, trials against witches or even animals have vanished. Individuals of advanced age seem younger in appearance than in the past. Their abilities also are retained into older “old age.” Criminality and murder rates have declined. The rule of law has advanced in societies and women and minorities have gained equal rights.1

One final example, taken from my own experience: A German journalist, a man between 40 and 50 years old, has been jobless for about three years. He and his family live on welfare. However, he uses a smartphone, drives a SUV and just returned from a three-month trip to Brazil. This family seems not to be representative, but for all German kids, as for his two children, kindergarten, school and health care are free, nutrition, clothing, and housing are taken care of. The ancient images of living in paradise were not so different!

But, there are also deteriorations and retrogressions: Wild nature has vastly disappeared, e.g., when Seymour W. Itzkoff, the author of this stimulating work, was young, there were still on earth three more subspecies of tigers (Bali, Caspian and Javan tiger). In the perspective of many, the beauty and style in architecture, the fine arts, in agricultural landscapes and clothing have declined.2 More “objectively measured,” the rates of economic growth and technological innovation have declined. Also in science, breakthroughs are becoming rarer.3 Rates of single motherhood and divorce have risen. Income and property inequalities within societies have increased. The quality of American education and student achievement has passed its tipping point; at least, American education is heavily criticized.4

However, there is still progress, even in the articles of everyday life. Bicycles are example. Compared to one generation ago, the bicycles of today have much better brakes, lights, and gearshifts. But this does not mean that technological progress does not become more and more difficult. Well-known are the problems of Boeing and Airbus with their new airplanes. The complexity of modern technology exponentially increases not only in the final products, but also the production processes and the economic environment in which their production, delivery, and use are embedded.

My first Nikon camera, the Nikon FG from 1982, had, including its lens, 13 buttons and wheels to set. The new D800 (from 2012) has 34 mechanical controls, additionally, 6 major electronic menu points with around 80 second-order menu points, with I don’t know how many third-order menu ← x | xi → points and positions to set. And that’s not the end of it. After taking a photo, I have nearly endless possibilities in the photo editing software. Not only users, but the companies themselves, are challenged. Nikon had or still has serious problems in quality management. For instance, the D800 autofocus sensors of the left side could not correctly focus lenses.5

In the case of human capital the cognitive ability level of the workforce is crucial for an economy’s and society’s success. The mental capabilities of workers, technicians, entrepreneurs, analysts, researchers, and inventors can push a country’s economy forward. Innovation is necessary to cope with the challenges in an increasingly cognitively complex world.6 Does America have the means for a successful future, a future in a “knowledge economy”? Results of international scholastic comparisons as in PISA indicate that US students are not optimally prepared: In 2009 the U.S. ranked 17th. Across different studies and years, the U.S. ranks 26th.

Without enhancing cognitive human capital as with earlier American increases, the challenges of the future will hardly be met.7 There are signs, as described here and earlier by Seymour W. Itzkoff, that the problem of intellectual capital in the U.S. will continue on its declining pathway.8 1. The society and workforce are becoming older, implying higher transfers (pensions, Medicare) and less creativity. 2. High government expenditure ratios, high public and private debt have direct and indirect negative economic effects making investment in education and training more difficult.

The U.S. has to face a condition of stagnation in ability development, especially among higher ability groups, and, according to Brink Lindsey (2012) also a growing disparity in levels of cognitive human capital and subsequently in income. Compared to the East Asian countries the ability level here is considerably lower in general and there are large lower-level ability fractions. These declines are particularly exacerbated by migration. Migration to the U.S. has two sides, a high-level to universities and modern industries and, similar to many European countries, a larger low-level immigration into less qualified service jobs or into unemployment, boosted by generally larger birth-rates among lower-ability groups.

Up to now the U.S., as with other Western and East Asian societies, has been rich enough to afford this all, from rising debts caused by various local wars and by increasing welfare spending. The ongoing private and public debt crisis has not reached such serious consequences as with the 1929ff. ‘Great Depression.’ But the prospects today are less positive. Looking into the literature, there are, roughly stated, two ways of depicting the future: A dystopian, ← xi | xii → negative, and a utopian, positive, perspective. The dystopian perspective sees a growing proportion of low-ability groups within society. This is due to the decline in education achievement in families and schools. Also, there are higher birth rates among lower-ability groups, as well as increased low-ability in-migration. The result could be an ongoing derogation in American economic, natural and cultural conditions, as well as their interactions, not an easily solvable problem.9

Gerhard Meisenberg (2010), for instance, predicts a decline of average intelligence by 0.80 IQ points per generation. However, ancient prophetic scenarios have not only been descriptive in function, they also appealed for change in the ongoing social conditions so that the dystopia would not come into reality. On the other hand, in the utopian perspective, an ongoing positive development has been laid out.10 Perhaps, the first stream of thought contributes, by its negative predictions to positive change, and by this perspective to the success of the second stream!

What can be done?

One solution is to reduce inherent complexity.11 This is possible for tasks in the consumer world and partly on the job. However, technology and science will not progress without increasing complexity. Therefore, we need a human capital development approach. To start with, an extension and improvement of education is needed, especially at the earliest ages with preschool education. Because their intelligence effects are diminishing in adolescence, a focus has to be put on ethical (self-) discipline and conscientiousness education.12

Culturally, politically and institutionally, “meritoric” principles should be strengthened: Admission and employment decisions will have to be based on competence and achievement. Countrywide common final exams and tests at all educational interfaces, between primary and high school, high school and college, college and university and at the end of university would be important instruments stimulating effort and learning among students, but also in teachers, administrators and parents. Any political criteria favoring certain groups based on religion, race, sex or parental income will have to be abandoned. They are not only unethical, but also dysfunctional.13 High ability groups, essential for progress in economy and society, require tracked courses and schools with high standards to be well prepared for accomplishment in technology and research, administration and development.

However, education can only reduce, but not close gaps. With educational reform the U.S. could improve, but not yet reach the level of a Shanghai or Finland. The most important factor, causing differences in ability, schooling ← xii | xiii → and personality, is the family, meaning a combination of parental educational and ability factors including those genes shaping children’s learning environment and development.

However, it is not popular among some political factions to speak about necessary accompanying immigration and demographic policies. The U.S. has been very successful (particularly compared to European countries) in receiving highly motivated, well educated, competent and innovative people from overseas. Universities, research and development departments and in the long run the entire economy and country have benefited from them.14 But that is not the whole thing. The U.S. has also been open to the less educated. Raising their competence levels to cope with further challenges could be a task for generations to come.

In the long run the more poorly educated immigrants are more consequential for the U.S. future than the elite immigrants. They have a far greater demographic impact. As with U.S.-citizens, the well-educated immigrants have children in numbers below their replacement rate. This means that a constant stream of highly capable immigrants would be needed to maintain America’s economic and technological performance.

Even if one third of the more poorly educated immigrant population manages to enter mainstream U.S. society in every generation, the size of the “disadvantaged” minorities will remain constant. The receiving country, therefore, has the right and duty to define the criteria of who they will look for in carrying out a coherent immigration policy.

In nearly all modern countries, particularly for women, the level of education and the number of their children are negatively correlated. The educational level of the parents is the best predictor and cause of children’s favorable development. The family is what counts. Society has to enable well-educated women to have children without any encroachment on their career, and not only for having one child, but two or more.

In sum, a coordinated approach consisting of education, immigration and demographic policies is needed. The future can only be successfully built on the shoulders of well-educated children.


XVIII, 142
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2014 (October)
wealth society power disintegration
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 142 pp.

Biographical notes

Seymour W. Itzkoff (Author)

Seymour W. Itzkoff was a professional cellist before completing his masters and doctoral degrees in philosophy at Columbia University. He is the author of twenty-three books in a variety of intellectual disciplines. He became an emeritus professor after thirty-four years of teaching at Smith College.


Title: Liberty’s Dilemma
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164 pages