Whose Values?

We are not a we

It has been becoming increasingly obvious in recent decades and years that the people of America are not a single, homogenous people. We are not a we. There are a variety of divides and they only seem to be getting wider and more numerous.

Which we?

When someone says “we”, my first question is which we?

The values we stand for

Public figures frequently refer to “the values we stand for”, but fail to:

  1. List those values. Ever.
  2. Acknowledge that we are not a single we and each of our we’s has its own distinctive set of values.

Our values

Yet another common reference by public figures is to “our values.” What are our values? Well, they’re… “the values we stand for.” Not a lot of specificity is ever forthcoming.

Individual and collective values

Values can be split into two realms:

  1. Individual values. What an individual considers or should consider important.
  2. Collective values. What society as a whole or some group in society considers or should consider important, collectively or consensually, as opposed to individually.
  1. Individual views on both individual and collective values.
  2. Collective, consensus views on both individual and collective values.
  1. Each individual’s view on individual values.
  2. Each individual’s view on collective values.
  3. Collective, consensus views on individual values in general.
  4. Collective, consensus views on collective values.


There are a range of forms of collective values:

  1. Global, universal, not limited to U.S.
  2. Modern western-style democracies, primarily derivative of European culture.
  3. Society as a whole, the people.
  4. Nation, as a political entity.
  5. Political parties.
  6. Wings of political parties
  7. Political ideologies.
  8. Political factions.
  9. Religions.
  10. Religious denominations, sects, or cults.
  11. Ethnic and demographic groups.
  12. Organizations.
  13. Generations and age groups.
  14. Families.
  15. Neighborhoods.
  16. Friends.
  17. Schools.
  18. Communities.
  19. Regions.
  20. Social media.
  21. Internet.
  1. Business, large and small, domestic, multinational, and foreign.
  2. Nonprofit organizations.
  3. Religious affiliated organizations.
  4. NGOs.
  5. Civil society.
  6. Foundations and philanthropies (broader mission than individual nonprofits.)
  7. Clubs.
  8. Leagues.
  9. Associations.
  1. Strictly within the bounds of the group or organization. Between staff, management, and executives.
  2. Focused on interactions with those closely affiliated with the group or organization but still outside of it. Customers, clients, users, members, vendors, suppliers, contract workers.
  3. Directed outside the group or organization and those closely affiliated with it. Citizens in general, communities, anyone impacted by the work or efforts of the group or organization.

Inside vs. outside of groups and organizations

Granted, some organizations or groups may treat members and non-members exactly the same in terms of values, but there tend to be categorical differences in internal vs. external values from a practical, organizational, and functional perspective.

Internal group or organization values

Groups and organizations tend to have some sort of hierarchy, such as:

  1. Senior executive leadership.
  2. Other executives.
  3. Senior managers.
  4. Mid-level managers.
  5. Low-level managers.
  6. Supervisors.
  7. Team leaders.
  8. Staff.
  1. Within the level, to one’s peers.
  2. To leaders.
  3. To subordinates.

External group or organization values

Regardless of values within any group or organization, there may be a distinction between how members are treated and how everyone outside of the group is treated.

  • Individuals or other groups or organizations who have a strong relationship with the group, such as customers and clients. These may or may not be contractual and legally binding.
  • Individuals or other groups or organizations who have a loose, casual relationship with the group or organization, such as customers without any formal contractual relationship.
  • Individuals or other groups or organizations in general, including visitors and guests.
  • Individuals or other groups or organizations who have no interaction with the group per se, but who might be impacted by the group or with whom the group might establish a relationship in the future.
  • Citizens in general.
  • Communities, who may be impacted in some way by the group or organization.
  • Neighborhoods, who may be impacted in some way by the group or organization.
  • Society as a whole, of whom the group or organization is a part

Government values

Government has a twin role, both as an organization and to the people whom it serves.

  • Citizens in general.
  • Groups and organizations.
  • Communities.
  • Other governments.
  • Citizens of other political entities.
  • Guests and visitors, whether they be tourists, business people, students, or immigrants.
  • Federal
  • State
  • Local


There may be distinctions in values relative to:

  • Big businesses. Some people really, really hate them and all that they stand for.
  • Multinational businesses.
  • Medium-sized businesses. Especially regional orientation.
  • Small businesses. Especially local orientation.
  • Domestic-based.
  • Foreign-based.

Nonprofit organizations

Nonprofits, including NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) focus on either:

  • Service orientation. Their reason for existence is to serve specific segments of society, such as the poor, the sick, others in some way underserved, or specific target segments of society.
  • Activism. They serve their members and donors, seeking social, economic, or political change.

Foundations and philanthropies

While nonprofits focus on specific missions and directly delivering services to targeted needs, foundations and philanthropies have much broader agendas.

Political parties

Political parties are famous for not only having differences in values, but exploiting those differences to attract voters.

  • Parties promote values and voters adopt them.
  • Voters have values and parties adopt them.

Wings of political parties

The various wings of political parties frequently have differences in values, with some values taking on greater importance and others losing importance.

National values

National values can get murky due to a number of factors:

  1. Strong shared values at the time of the founding of the nation, held, expressed, and shared with great passion, at least for awhile.
  2. Divergence of regional values.
  3. Divergence of ethnic groups.
  4. Divergence of religions, denominations, and sects.
  5. Development, evolution, and divergence of political parties and wings of parties.
  6. Development, evolution, and divergence of strong media.
  7. Development, evolution, and divergence of activism.
  8. Technological change which impacts needs, interests, and abilities.
  9. Evolution and divergence of social ideologies and policies.
  10. Immigration, introducing divergence in values.
  11. Expansion and evolution of education and transmission and reinforcement of values and divergence in values.
  12. Evolution and divergence in attitudes towards the roles of the individual and government, between individualism and collective action.
  13. Evolution and divergence in attitudes towards the role of business, between the public and private sectors.
  14. Evolution and divergence in attitudes towards the role of civil society.
  15. Evolution and divergence of civil society itself.
  16. Evolution and divergence in attitudes towards the role of religion.
  17. Evolution and divergence of religion itself.
  18. Evolution and divergence in interpretations and priorities of particular values.
  19. Evolution and divergence of moral and ethical frameworks.
  20. Advancement and diffusion of knowledge and beliefs.
  21. Expansion of national boundaries.
  • Everyone — the value is truly universal.
  • The vast majority of the nation, like 90–95%.
  • A supermajority of the nation, like 67%.
  • A reasonable majority of the nation, like 55–60%.
  • A bare simple majority of the nation, like 50.1%.
  • A near simple majority of the nation, like 49.9%.
  • A significant portion of the nation, like 40%.
  • A significant minority of the nation, like 20–35%.
  • A nontrivial minority of the nation, like 10–15%.
  • A bare minority of the nation, like 5%.
  • A small fringe minority of the nation, like 2% or less.


The Strauss–Howe generational theory provides a useful model for looking at generational changes. As a general proposition, we have a sequence of generations, the most recent of which are:

  • G.I. — Born 1901–1924.
  • Silent — Born 1925–1942.
  • Boom (Baby Boomers) — Born 1943–1960.
  • Generation X — Born 1961–1981.
  • Millennial — Born 1982–2004.
  • Homelanders — Born 2005–2025.


The family is really the first place that individuals, children, get their first taste of values. The influences in the family include:

  • Parents
  • Grandparents
  • Aunts and uncles
  • Siblings
  • Cousins


Neighborhoods are a significant source for promoting and reinforcing values.


Friends can have a significant effect on promoting and reinforcing values, with several modes of transmission:

  • Promote values to friends.
  • Adopt values from friends.
  • Select friends based on shared values.
  • Abandon friends based on value conflicts.


Each community tends to have its own variations, priorities, and interpretations of values that would otherwise be shared with all other communities of the nation and its region.


Schools are a major opportunity to influence the values of young people, although religion, community, and the neighborhood are competing with schools for promotion and reinforcement of values.


Each region of the country tends to have its own variations, priorities, and interpretations of values that would otherwise be shared with all other regions of the nation.


The Internet or the World Wide Web in particular has opened up a whole new dimension for sharing, promoting, reinforcing, discussing, and fighting over values.

Social media

Beyond the relatively sedate pace of typical online Internet communities, social media has opened up multiple whole new dimensions of interaction that can involve values, frequently at a near-instantaneous pace.

What’s next

The point of this informal paper was not to detail specific values or specific groups, but develop a basic model for how to explore the distinctions and divides that result in divergences in values.



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