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American Qualities

This entry has nothing to do with the Russo-Ukrainian War, but it may help clarify how I got here and where I might steer this concept as the nature of the crisis changes and the opportunities emerge. Even if the guns fall silents tomorrow, the enormity of the task ahead will take years to address.

The modern concepts of civil society, individual liberty, and civic responsibility are not uniquely American, but this is largely how I experienced them growing up in Pennsylvania. It's also been the lens through which I've intepretted the world that I've traveled, no matter how global my home may have become. And while that world has changed my understanding of the human experience and our history, I suspect my "American qualities" have been as much reinforced by my life abroad as they have been changed. I haven't spent enough time to ascertain whether this is justified or stubborn of me, but I do feel emboldened by having been accused both of being pro- as well as anti- American.

I consider Phoenix and Philadelphia (pictured) as my two hometowns of adulthood. I've been to all 50 states and lived in 20% of them, but these are the two places I know best... and they're so very different, which is cool.

As for how I describe those qualities, let me just say that I face the world every day as a rugged individualist with an irrepresible hunger for fairness to all people. It's not that I expect that each person will experience similar opportunities, but rather the opportunities afforded us all should not be curtailed if there is no measurable harm done to others. I believe it was John Stuart Mills who put it this way: don't piss on someone else's Cheerios.

As such, I believe in citizen governance, preferrably one with regular turnover. This means not only the denial of there ever being a ruling class, but that we're all responsible for being informed about and involved in our governancne to varying degrees throughout our lives.

Similarly, folks working for a wage should not fear exploitation, but neither should those taking risks and investing in society be denied the just fruits of their endeavours no matter how absurdly large they may seem to us as observers. Still, taxation makes sense to me, and progressive income tax makes even more sense to me. I'm also open to better ideas (but seriously doubt any of those include VAT, which is a part of Europe I've not grown to admire).

I didn't have to travel far to find that most folks don't share my outlook in so far as their personal choices. Indeed, I didn't have to travel at all: much of my family and childhood friends don't have that individualism and risk-tolerance that I have. The critical distinction, however, is I felt free to pursue my own path with not too much backlash or criticism, not that I recall at the moment, at least. In more recent years, most of what I've experienced, as do most American entrepreneurs I suspect, is admiration.

My experience globally is that most folks come from places where conformity is more encouraged. Similarly, people throughout the world feel more divorced from their government and from commerce and they don't see quite the range of opportunities that Americans do. A lot of that access to opportunity has to do with the sheer size of the US and the economy, but it also has to do with the culture of individual liberty. While imperfect, the US embodies individual responsibility and choice as much as any place I've experienced, and that's probably why it is still the "land of opportunity".

Budapest has been among my other homes in former-communist Europe. This photo was taken on 27 February 2022.

These concepts and qualities inform my approach to each day, as do my imagination and curiousity, particuarly with a dash of the unfamiliar and some adventure peppered in there. Hence, I have long seen former-communist Europe as a mix of opportunities to learn from, grow with, and invest in. That has led me to have operations in a few countries around the region for the last eight years. My gradual immersion into Ukraine started in 2015 and by the time of the pandemic, I felt pretty established and comfortable in L'viv and traveling around the country. ... errr, but don't confuse that with an even modest grasp of the language.

"God grant, that not only the Love of Liberty,

but a thorough Knowledge of the Rights of Man,

may pervade all the Nations of the Earth,

so that a Philosopher may set his Foot anywhere on its Surface,

and say, This is my Country."

Benjamin Franklin, 1789, letter to David Hartly (the younger)

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