A Phony Narrative
In a strict ideological sense, I share a lot of values with both conservatives and libertarians. All of my beliefs stem from the idea that our rights are God-given, and while it's government’s job to protect those rights, people should have as much control over their lives as possible.
There's one issue about which I find myself in full disagreement with a growing number of those on the “right” today. That is their dismissive treatment of young people and college students. It is so frustrating to see the narrative online that "young people suck" and that they are nothing more than precious "snowflakes." It is frustrating because this attitude goes against a founding principle that made America exceptional and different to other nations --- the principle of believing in the individual and that you judge people by the content of their character and not some label you think they belong to.
American culture is about lifting people up and not putting them down.
The second reason it is frustrating is this attitude is the exact opposite of the American culture I love so much. American culture is about lifting people up and not putting them down, inspiring people to be better and to reach for the stars, not condemning them and saying, "you are the problem."
I was honored to be invited to speak with several colleges during this trip and I was excited to learn the truth for myself. While speaking to a group called Young Americans for Liberty on the campuses of both Duke University and the University of North Carolina, I discovered the narrative that dismisses young people was exactly that --- a phony narrative.
I met with some amazing young people aged between 18 and 21 who knew more about free market economics than most people twice their age as they quoted Hayek, Von Mises and Smith to me. While we did not agree on every issue, it was clear to me that these young kids were well educated and well thought out on their positions, and they were humble enough to know that not everyone will agree with their positions.
Now, people will correctly point out that these students are in the vast minority on their campuses, but those kids standing for freedom on campuses need our support and encouragement, not our insults. We also need to encourage those brave young kids to speak out and try to grow their numbers. If we give that support, their numbers will grow and those young minds that survive college will be battle-tested and ready to take on more responsibility in the real world.
Lastly, if we owe younger people anything, it is a sincere apology. They cannot be blamed for the state of the debt, the size of government, advancement of government regulations, a society where innovation and entrepreneurship have lessened and socialism has become more acceptable. Young people today are the product of an environment where politicians on both sides, the media, the culture and Hollywood have advanced a phony narrative of their potential.
We need to help reverse this.
Count Your Blessings
America is such a unique and exceptional country and there is no other country you could compare it to. Sadly, I think a growing number of Americans don’t appreciate how many opportunities they have that others do not. I want to point out some differences in our societies that you may have never spent any time thinking about.
BIGGER Is Better!
When I arrive in America, one of the first things I notice is how big everyone's cars are, and how many people drive SUVs, Jeeps and trucks. It is not uncommon for the “average” American car to have a two-liter engine. In Europe, we have cars that are two-liter engines but they are not owned by many. The average engine size is around 1.6 and engines come as small as one-liter.
This also continues into the size of houses. It is not uncommon for an American home to be in excess of 2,000 square feet. In places like Ireland and the U.K., the average size is less than 1,000 square feet.
In America, there are always multiple brands competing for your dollar. Capitalism grants Americans the opportunity to make choices in all aspects of their daily lives.
If you are reading this now, stop, take a moment out and think of the number of places you could eat at right now. Now think how far you would have to travel to get to your favorite outlet. How does that compare to Ireland, you might ask? Sure, we have places like McDonald's, Burger King, KFC and Subway, but they are few and far between and America has a lot more choices.
Believe it or not, Americans also experience significant competition in the area of religion. Growing up in Ireland, my choices were to be a Catholic or Atheist. Things have gotten better over the years as we now have several Protestant churches, a couple of Baptist churches and one Mormon church in Dublin. When I was stateside, though, I had my pick of those, with the addition of various non-denominational Churches and many other faiths.
Competitive Advantage in Gas Prices
America and its people have one major competitive advantage over a large part of the rest of the world and that is the price of gasoline. The average price of gas in Ireland right now is roughly $6.50 a gallon (€1.39 per liter), but that is cheap because of a favorable exchange rate. Can you imagine the reaction in America if gas was even $5 a gallon? Can you imagine the impact on your economy? Yet this is cheaper than what Irish people and most of Europe pays every day.
On this trip, I drove a lot of miles (in the thousands) and drove cars much bigger than my Irish one and the most expensive trip to the pump I had was $31, and that was because the tank was empty. Several years ago when oil prices when at their highest in Ireland, it used to cost me nearly $100 to fill my car, which made it hard to have a full tank of fuel.
Making a Difference
I always love hearing stories about successful people; especially those where the people involved came from nothing or overcame a big obstacle. They inspire me to be better and give me hope that maybe one day with hard work I will have some of the success they achieved.
According to a recent study, America is the second most charitable nation (beyond Myanmar) in terms of donating time and money. It is always inspiring to hear about “ordinary” people seeing a need in society and stepping up to make a difference through fundraising or awareness.
American culture at its finest.
But the perfect combo, in my opinion, is when you can mix business with charity.
During this amazing trip, I found one of these amazing combos. I was given the opportunity to speak in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and wanted to meet with some dear friends for food beforehand. They introduced me to a restaurant called Mission BBQ. This is a company that serves amazing BBQ food with incredible staff at affordable prices and donates some of their profits to both police and military charities. While I was there, they were raising money for a 9/11 charity by selling branded hats and cups. During the Christmas season, they helped lay wreaths at the graves of those who had paid the ultimate price for freedom.
I am officially a fan. I don’t the next time I will get the opportunity to get stateside, but I know if I am near a Mission BBQ I will be there, and hopefully more than once.
It's just one example of American culture at its finest.