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OPINION

The Tensions that Will Define America’s Future

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Agreeing to participate in Robert Tucker’s Pacific Coast Futures Retreat in Santa Barbara has challenged me to explore some of the trends and forces that will influence America’s future. The most impactful forces that define periods in history are often not linear. They are cyclical, a tension of forces that force movement between two extremes. Defining such tensions and where we are on them can open us to opportunity and possibly save us from disasters of our own making. Here are ten tensions in play at this time in history:

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Energy Scarcity or Energy Abundance: Affordable energy is needed for economies to prosper and citizens to reach their own potential. With the current administration’s rejection of fossil fuels and promotion of specific alternative energies, energy scarcity with its inflationary pressure is winning the day. Within the next ten years, increased use of nuclear energy, less restrictions on fossil fuels, and developments in fusion energy will help reestablish energy abundance.

Embracing Technological Innovation or Rejection of Technology: Rapid technological innovation and artificial intelligence (AI) have increased our dependence on devices to perform daily activities. This trend will increase with those rejecting such advances falling behind and limiting their employment opportunities. Today, embracing innovation is winning the future, but there are dangers on the horizon. Will the AI innovations we create eventually create machine cognition that becomes hard to control increasing resistance?.

Human Relationships or Virtual Reality: You don’t have to look far to see the preoccupation with smart phone interaction in place of actual social conversations. Expect that metaverse advances in the use and quality of virtual reality (VR) interaction and augmented reality (AR) headsets will become more intense and attractive. True relationships take time, can be frustrating, and are seldom as consistently satisfying. Sadly, pornography will likely be leading the way in driving the expansion of virtual reality. This powerful force will strike a blow at our social fabric and cohesion.

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Government Dependence or Personal Responsibility: Biden’s administration has argued for guaranteed income and established more government entitlements. With a small Republican majority in the House and Biden’s veto power, more citizens remain dependent on the government, and those producing services and products face increased taxes. The conflicting draw of socialism and capitalism will always be with us, but free-enterprise capitalism will win the future on the basis of economic results.

Soft on Crime or Strong Enforcement: We’ve witnessed increased criticism of law enforcement abuse and growing demands to defund the police. Traditionally, one of the basic functions of a civil society is for authorities to hold people accountable for crimes and protect citizens and their property. Far too many district attorneys and politicians are refusing to prosecute criminals and are calling for gun control. With citizens feeling unsafe, guns and private security systems have proliferated. The growing call for stricter enforcement will continue to grow in response to the riots and increases in crime. Law and order is a winning campaign issue for 2024 and beyond.    

Peace or War: The longing for peace and the reality of war have always been with us. With the proliferation of more powerful weapons, waging war is far more destructive. There is hope that diplomacy, global economic interdependence, and the resulting economic opportunity will be enough to maintain world peace and limit destructive conflict. Unfortunately, the existence of biological, nuclear, EMT weapons makes the likelihood of mutual destruction a frightening reality. The current open conflict in Ukraine gives war a scary advantage for the immediate future.

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Out of Many One or Out of Many Tribes: The civil rights movement and the dream of Martin Luther King Jr. was to make our motto e pluribus unum, “out of many one,” a reality. Since that time there has been a strong focus and progress in eliminating racial bias. Recent societal forces have worked to divide citizens by skin color to justify ‘special interest” rewards for certain groups. A reaction to this new “tribal racism” is beginning to gain support and fuel a fight against special interest reparations for past racism. Expect a hard-fought resistance to reparations and a renewed call common rights and responsibilities for all citizens, no matter their age, gender, race, or ethnicity.

School Choice or Public Schools: After the poor performance and questionable indoctrination from public schools, there is a strong drive for school choice. Parents want more control over what schools children attend and what they are taught. With strong minority support, this is a trend that will win the day and result in a better education for our children. 

Open Borders or Controlled Immigration: There is no question that we need more workers to continue to drive our economy. With the flow of drugs and illegal immigrants adversely impacting cities throughout the country, there is renewed interest in controlling our borders. Expect a resurgence in demands for secure borders, accountability for drug cartels, and increases in legal immigration. 

Greed or Compassion: America has always supported individuals pursuing happiness and success, but it has valued others being able to do the same. A commitment to compassion supports benevolent self-interest where compassion for one’s fellow man is realized as the only way for all to thrive. Care for one’s community over selfishness will remain a strong force that should win the day in coming years. 

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Secular or Sacred: America has been a Judeo-Christian country that anchored its freedoms and future in the assurance of a loving God who cares about every individual and demands ethical behavior. Dostoevsky’s would observe, “If there is no God, everything is permissible.” Without faith, ethical absolutes are not shared. Although there’s been a decrease in church attendance, there seem to be signs of a spiritual revival. In tough times, people search for and depend on God. Expect a renewed focus on faith, ethics, and involvement in religious communities in the challenging times ahead.

At any given time, all of these tensions become forces that define what the future holds for countries and individuals. There are dangers ahead that must be managed, but tough times develop stronger citizens and demand more responsive politicians. Those who thrive in these times will do so by finding ways to tap and capitalize on the ascending forces impacting society. Thankfully for America, President Biden’s radical liberal changes have created strong counter forces that will result in a rejection of many unpopular changes and fuel a call for more conservative policies and priorities. 

 Purchase Dr. Paulson’s newly released ”Joy Comes with the Morning” course today! Get ready to enjoy the 31 short, recorded messages on your computer or smart phone. Each message is designed to expand and enhance your joy-filled faith experience whenever you need or want it. Visit tomeapp.com/joy to start bringing more Christian joy to your morning today. Contact him at terry@terrypaulson.com.

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