Monday, April 25, 2011

The Royal Wedding

       Well, they say that HRH Prince William, and Kate Middleton, are about to experience a Royal Wedding.  I wish them luck.  I wish them more luck than Lady Diana and Prince Charles had, the last time we (and they) endured one of these things. 

       (Oh, I forgot Camilla.)  Anyway, I'll tell you what I wish even more:  I wish Prince Bill and Kate would just elope.

       Imagine it:  The Dark of Night.  Escaping the Watchmen of the Palace.  (One of the Watchmen, of course, is in on the plot.)  The Coach and Four waiting.  The excitement of the Night Ride, with the help of a couple of real "best men" and a lady-in-waiting.

       The handful of young friends waiting till after midnight at the old Abbey -- maybe Glastonbury -- with a few dozen lamps and candles.  Some good old St. Valentine, or Friar Lawrence, or Friar Tuck, ready to bless the young lovers as only God and Holy Church can -- or need to -- and then off to bed.

       Back in the Palace, consternation.  The old grandfather, the Prince Consort, sitting in front of the flickering fire, holding a drink, brooding over the what-might-have-beens of his own life.  The fretting Queen wringing her royal hands, pacing in a circle of anxiety, of what-will-the-guests-say, of propriety violated . . . of secret admiration . . . all is forgiven . . .

       I don't think it will happen.  It hearkens to a vision of Better Yesterdays.  I think what we are likely to get is a vision of Worser Tomorrows. 

       How is it going to be?  Here's how I see it:

       Poor old Westminster Abbey the scene of a Christian Wedding of a Future Defender Of The Faith, about as likely to experience the Real Presence as in the days of the Christian Weddings of Henry the Eighth.  The Sacred Vows a Royal Joke.  The Act of Union like the Acts of Union between England and Scotland in 1707 -- not without second thoughts; not without remorse, even.  For Better or For Worse.

       A gaggle of unfortunate Churchmen, trapped by ancient tradition into a situation where they will mostly be trying not to look irrelevant, nor pathetic, nor inane.  There will be lots of dignant posturing in front of gorgeous paraphernalia; the trappings and symbols of the Faith having no more meaning to the Worshippers than so many pearls before Swine. 

       And the Swine will be there in force, sitting in the front rows of the Church (because someone has paid their Pew Rents) fussing about the Chief Seats like so many Pharisees.  I'm speaking of the endless dozens of World Leaders who always show up for these weddings and funerals.  I think it is for the free food.

       Could it be for the limelight?  Or is it just that they can't decently say No?  These petty mediocrities that have by hook and crook made themselves "heads" of "states," having to pretend that they are The Powers That Are Ordained To Be, knowing full well that they are not -- the Real Powers being invisibly behind the robot cameras, behind the robot cameramen, behind the robot banks, behind the Veil, laughing at these mannequins, these marionettes -- the Real Powers are the Lizards of Was.

       The British upper class has long been of the belief that the "commoners" want, like, admire, and are impressed by, pageantry.  Apparently this is true.  This time, it may not work so well.  I do not think it will backfire exactly, but I do not think it will produce the usual, expected, desired effect.

       For one thing, the average British citizen isn't all that happy and contented right now.   I'm guessing that he or she has some private doubts about just who is on top and why, but he or she knows that it isn't him or her. (I'm trying to use the Queen's English here; sorry if I sound awkward, guv'nor.)

       Do they still love the Bankers and the Stockbrokers of The City like they did, say, four years ago, or twenty-four?  Do they trust their political parties, not one of which can so much as muster a majority in parliament?  Are they happy with the European Union?  the immigrants who share their street?  the Health Ministry?

       John and Jane Bull have been getting more Bull, and less John-and-Jane, recently.  The average British citizen is slowly slipping into below average -- and he doesn't think it is entirely his fault.  And he is right.  And he doesn't know what he can do about it.  And neither do the rest of us.  How is he going to react to this spectacle?  Will he see it as respecting tradition, or as flaunting of privilege?

       I don't know, but Prince Charles and Mrs. Charles' nice car got pelted with paintballs by student demonstrators last December, when they were out for an evening at the London Palladium, so respect for the dignity of the Royal Persons is considerably less than universal.

       Maybe the royals will pull this off in their favor.   But this time, given the times, it may look less like royal pageantry, and more like royal burlesque.   It will look like burlesque if the Lizards want it to -- they, and they alone, frame the picture.  They like to set the royals up for embarrassment (they do it more or less every week in the tabloids); it helps keep them in their place.

       When this party is over, I think the "commoners" are going to be just a little more sullen, a little more aggrieved.  Nothing major.  Just a little.  There won't be a Royal Flush;  just a little more of the Royal Mess.

       Bill and Kate, take my advice.  Elope.  Have some fun.  You'll be glad you did.  And so will Friar Lawrence.

Thank you, Cindy Sheehan

       Thank you, Cindy Sheehan.

       Thank you for Questioning Authority, when your son Casey was sacrificed to no purpose in Iraq.  Thank you for Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas.  Thank you for every scrap of media attention you were able to get from the war-drumming media establishment.  Thank you for not quitting.

       Thank you for your quixotic run to unseat Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi in 2008.

       Thank you for traveling across the country speaking in every little venue you could find.  Including the stops in Louisville, talking one-on-one to mere handfuls of the like-minded, who have even less of a voice than you.  Or perhaps they had simply not yet drawn strength from your willing example.

       Thank you for holding Barack Obama accountable, when the Democratic Establishment  was hyping their public mantra Hope, Change, and Give Him a Chance, while pursuing their real agenda of keeping the military-industrial types on target to bankrupt the nation and destroy it as a force for good in the world. Which is the real agenda of the Republican Neo-Cons, too.

       Thank you for making peace a priority.

       And thank you for two recent posts on your website.

       Thank you for writing An Open Letter to War Loving (Democratic/Republican) Frauds, which does two things.  First, it tells it like it is.  Second, it tells me that you are still very active and haven't given up. 

       But the thing that gives me more reason to cheer is your other, seemingly less relevant post,  One Wedding and Unlimited Funerals, about the upcoming ROYAL WEDDING (Pomp and Circumstance, anyone?).  It got me thinking: but that will have to be the next post.

       Anyway, if the Lord of All Worlds has declared a blessing on the peacemakers, He will not likely forget the peace-seekers.  Blessings to you, Cindy.

First Things First

       Thank you, Stephen Covey, and your co-authors Roger and Rebecca Merrill, for writing this very fine book.  It looks like a pretty typical book on time-management, except that it is thicker than most (time-wasting, one might think);  but it is not typical, and it goes far, far beyond time management.

       In my personal library, I have over 120 books on the subjects of leadership, business management, time-management, personal organization, and mind-power -- "success literature."  The authors include David Allen (Getting Things Done), Kenneth Blanchard (The One Minute Manager), Dale Carnegie (How to Win Friends and Influence People), Eliyahu Goldratt (The Goal), Og Mandino (The Greatest Salesman in the World), Tom Peters (In Search of Excellence), Peter Senge (The Fifth Discipline),  Robert Townsend (Up The Organization), and Margaret Wheatley (Leadership and the New Science).   I mention these few books because they are well-known, well-respected, and I can think of important things I have learned from each of them, and I have no plans to dispose of any of them.

       But First Things First really puts it all together, for me.  The authors do a thorough review of time-management literature, comment on the strengths and weaknesses of each of the "three generations" of time-management, and propose a more holistic "fourth generation."

       Am I a good time manager, now that I have read this book? Not especially.  Do I know how to move forward and really improve?  Yes.  Am I doing so?  Yes.

       First Things First addresses the four dimensions of need in every human individual:  physical needs, social needs, mental needs, and spiritual needs, and talks about how these needs are, or are not, met.

       The authors talk at length about the four human endowments:  self-awareness, conscience, independent will, and creative imagination.

       They talk about themselves, you, me, and the resources of wisdom that are there for us.       

       I could not do this book justice in a brief book review like this, but let me just give a couple of snippets:


       "For example, did you ever "cram" in school . . . ? . . . Can you imagine "cramming" on the farm?

       "Cramming doesn't work in a natural system, like a farm.  That's the fundamental difference between a social and a natural system.  A social system is based on values; a natural system is based on principles." (p. 55)


       "What happens when someone makes a mistake?  In a high-trust culture, honest mistakes are taken for what they are--an opportunity to learn.  If at first you don't succeed, find out why."  (p. 264)


       "There may be several turning points in our lives, but the most critical of all is the point at which we make the decision:  "I will live by my conscience.  From this time forward, I will not allow any voice--social mirror, scripting, even my own rational-lies-ing--to speak more clearly to me than the voice of conscience.  And, whatever the consequence, I will follow it." (p. 302)


        Now that's a different kind of time management.

       Which reminds me why I'd love to elect this man President of the United States.  Even if he is 80 years old in 2012.

*       *       *

Comments most welcome.  I'd especially like to hear from anyone who has read this book, First Things First.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Meet Joe Bageant

      Okay, I agree, this train is running late out of the station, because many of you already know Joe Bageant.  And besides, as his friend, Fred Reed, told us, he has recently passed away.

       It is because of Fred Reed, and diligent friends who try to keep me current, that I know who Joe Bageant is at all.  No, I have not yet read Deer Hunting With Jesus.  Or Rainbow Pie.  But I dived into his essay, "Lost in the American Undertow", about the American white underclass.  This underclass, about sixty million strong, is one of his favorite themes, because he grew up in it and understands it.

       I was immediately attracted to his subject matter, his viewpoint, and his style.  Here is a snippet of his writing, to get you started (the best stuff is at the link below):

Public discussion of this class remains off limits, deemed hyperbole and the stuff of dangerous radical leftists. And besides, as everyone agrees, white people cannot be an underclass. We’re the majority, dammit. You must be at least one shade darker than a paper bag to officially qualify as a member of any underclass. The middle and upper classes generally agree, openly or tacitly, that white Americans have always had an advantage (which has certainly been the middle- and upper-class experience). Thus, in politically correct circles, either liberal or conservative, the term “white underclass” is an oxymoron. Sure, there are working-poor whites, but not that many, and definitely not enough to be called a white underclass, much less an American peasantry.

       Not that he is always talking about the American white underclass -- he isn't.  He thinks in broader perspectives about globalism, capitalism, and other subjects where we can meet him more than halfway.  He can get cranky;  he can shift the conversation down a couple of gears and pull it hard to the left.  Oh, and his language is frequently pungent.  I say, no problem:  if grown guys can't talk about things the way they want to . . . what is conversation for?

       To anybody reading this who already has a place on the bookshelf for Wendell Berry (A Place on Earth), Edward Abbey (The Monkey Wrench Gang), Wallace Stegner (Angle of Repose), Ed McClanahan (The Natural Man), Harry Caudill (Night Comes to the Cumberlands), or Fred Reed (Nekkid in Austin) -- each and all of them authentic and important in his own right -- make some room for Joe Bageant, and tell the rest of us what you think.

*       *       *

      Here is a link to his website.  You can find there his introduction to his recent book Rainbow Pie, as well as some poetry and short book reviews.

       Link to an essay:  America: y ur peeps b so dum?

       Link to an essay:  Algorithms and Red Wine.

(Consider this Economics in One Lesson, part 4.  Part 3 is the post on the Tollan Letters, and Part 2 is the post on Karl Polanyi.)  Comments and links are most welcome.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

It WAS the Bloody Oil

       At the moment, Britain is experiencing a bit of self-revelation, and that face in the mirror is not entirely beautiful.  However brief this moment turns out to be, it is most welcome.  We have waited for it -- the world has waited for it -- for a long time.

       The recently elected Tory prime minister, David Cameron, was visiting Pakistan recently, giving speeches and doing whatever it is that heads of government do when they visit each other.  (Who would know?)  In some public forum, someone asked the PM how Britain could help end the row over who controls Kashmir -- Pakistani Muslims or Indian Hindus.  (Maybe they should let the Atheists have a go at it?)

       Here is his surprising reply:  "I don't want to try to insert Britain in some leading role where, as with so many of the world's problems, we are responsible for the issue in the first place."   Wha-at?  Britain is responsible for so many of the world's problems in the first place?  Say it isn't so, David!

      Whatever his limitations may be, and they may be legion, I've got to give him credit for telling more truth and admitting more mistakes than his predecessors.  Can you imagine Lord North in the 18th century, or Benjamin Disraeli in the 19th century, or Winston Churchill in the 20th century, admitting so much?

       And that is not all.  By no means.  The Independent, a respected part of the British press, is running a series of articles examining the run-up to the great Global War on Terrorism.  On Tuesday, April 19, 2011, it reported on a meeting in October 2002,  five months before the US and the UK and the Coalition of the Willing invaded Iraq.   It would appear that while the multinational oil giant BP was publicly expressing "no strategic interest" in Iraq, it was privately pleading with elements in Tony Blair's government, expressing sentiments greatly to the contrary.  I only know what I read in the papers, so check the source and draw your own inferences.

       The following day, April 20, 2011, another article was published, in which a reference is made to an officer in the Ministry of Defense who -- in May 2002, fully ten months before the invasion -- said to the reporter who wrote the article, "We're planning for ground operations to start on 19 March next year."  In reality, the war began on 19 March 2003, with a preliminary air attack by the US on March 18.

       Do you think the fix was in, or is this just me?

       By the way, I'm not particularly blaming the Brits for starting this part of the GWOT.  The Establishment Pentagon and its willing enablers, the Bush Administration, bear total responsibility for this lie-enshrouded war, in my opinion.  The British part was simply to advance the usual self-serving lies.  And serve up a share of cannon fodder, to assure them a "place at the table" when the Cakewalk into Baghdad was over.  God Save the Queen -- especially as the patroness of the British East India Company.  And let the natives be damned, as usual.

       But now David Cameron speaks out.  The times they are a-changin'?  Probably not.  They have a phrase for this in the circles of British Security.  It is called "limited hang-out."

The Tollan Letters

       I wrote a post to introduce The Tollan Letters, but when I re-read it, it came across as plain vanilla, so I'm going to skip that.  I'll just jump to the links.  Please read what they have to say.

*       *       *

       The Tollan Letters can be found at, here.  Thanks to Peter Goodgame for this valuable reference.  You can consider this Part 3 of Economics in One Lesson.  Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here.

       Please join the conversation in the comments.  Your ideas are most welcome.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Protesting the Wars with the Socialists

Guest post by Ben Carmack

Funny: I've never met a socialist who didn't care about others, or a capitalist who did. -- Fred Reed,

Peace and honest friendship with all nations--entangling alliances with none. -- Thomas Jefferson

The most alarming sign of the state of our society now is that our leaders have the courage to sacrifice the lives of young people in war but have not the courage to tell us that we must be less greedy and less wasteful. -- Wendell Berry, "Peaceableness Toward Enemies"

Today I finally followed through on a promise I had made to myself: to participate in an antiwar demonstration. I successfully stood and was counted for the antiwar position in front of the Court House in Lexington, Ky., holding a sign that read, "WE'VE BEEN LIED TO." It fairly summarizes my view of the (now) three wars the U.S. government is waging in the Middle East. At every step of the way, the U.S. government has lied to the people about the reasons for the wars, as well as the conduct of the same. This is nothing new; we were lied to about Vietnam, Korea, World War II, World War I, the Spanish American War and the War Between the States, among others.

I had the chance on the long drive home to reflect both on my humble protest and the protest of the handful of the other activists, mostly committed student members of Socialist organizations in Kentucky. I share some of my reflections here with some suggestions, if wanted.

Our desire as protesters was to call for an end to the Middle East wars, as well as to call upon government leaders to spend the resources currently set aside for war making to build up the people of the United States, specifically through education and gainful work. We chanted something to this effect.

While I agree with the general aim of my socialist friends, I must admit here that our sloganeering was far from an adequate response to a very complex problem. Many well-paying jobs in the U.S. today are connected to the war economy, supporting countless prosperous communities around the country. These jobs are both military and civilian government jobs, and private sector jobs with defense contractors. These jobs often provide good pay and benefits. The defense industry is subsidized by government, and can afford to pay good salaries with benefits because it is insulated from competition.

In the meantime, the productive industries of America not subsidized by the war economy have largely disappeared or weakened. Americans now import much more than they export. Quality jobs are hard to come by. The armaments industry is one of the few strong industries standing: cutting out the American Empire would devastate the American economy, not help it, at least in the short run. Ending the Empire is the right thing to do, but (if done) it will be very costly and difficult. This was not mentioned at our protest but should have been.

While we were happy to distance ourselves from the actions of "our government," all of us today remain connected to the monstrous system that survives by committing violence against innocents. Case in point: with (perhaps) a few exceptions, all of us, me included, drove to the protest, some quite a distance, perpetuating our nation’s dependence on oil that led to the wars in the Middle East. Thus, while we were saying the right things, our actions were saying something contradictory. At best we were walking contradictions, at worst insincere and not worthy of being listened to. We rightly criticize the violence and the oppression of the present economy, yet we also participate in it, abetting its violence and injustice.

What I am getting at here may seem to be a kind of hopelessness and despair. From a purely material point of view, the situation surely is hopeless, but humans are more than just material: we are sustained by the Spirit, the Tao (or Way) of Creation. In the natural world as it is today, violence and greed are virtues: by them many have conquered and grown wealthy. Fortunately their victory is temporary, because it is contrary to the Way.

I have used the term Way for convenience, but I should be plain and say that I am a Christian. The Spirit I refer to is God. God provides for us a standard of Good and He is the Good. He sent His Son Jesus into the world to show humans how to come back to the original Way of Creation, a Way of peace and brotherhood, without corruption.

The Way can be found by accepting forgiveness, which God freely offers. We are corrupt and full of contradiction; forgiveness is our only healing. The world’s corruption killed Jesus, but God raised Him to life, proving that the Way will triumph in the end. Lao-tzu once said that the man qualified to rule the world would be the man willing to lay down his life for the world. Jesus was that man. We remember this during the season of Lent.

I bring religion into the political questions of war and peace not because I favor theocracy but because I want to have hope, and if we judge the effectiveness of our protestations by our lives and actions in the here and now, we will have no hope. God’s forgiveness can erase our weakness and turn it into strength.

I believe that responsible citizens should from time to time petition the government for a redress of grievances, but ultimately the effectiveness of such petitioning is limited. It can even become counterproductive if protesters adopt a smug and unforgiving tone. We protesters should maintain a healthy doubt of our motives and our adequacy to do what we say we ought to do. We should not only talk about peace but live out peace. We should forgive even the criminal leaders of the U.S. government. We should forgive especially our enemies.

Everything material, everything real, is sustained by an unseen Spirit. In the same way the change we protesters demand must be sustained by a Spirit. It must become flesh and walk among us, which means that before the System can change, we must change. A good word for it is metanoia, "repentance." Here's to the long, quiet work of change, and to its occasional public face and protest. Here's to high ideals, and the quiet knowledge of our inability to live up to them.

*       *       *

Thanks, Ben.         Comments welcome, pro, con, and otherwise.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Problem of Karl Polanyi

       This is the title of an eight-page essay by Allan Carlson, located here.

       Mr. Carlson introduces Karl Polanyi to us as being "Among the more enigmatic thinkers" of the twentieth century, and the author of the 1944 book, The Great Transformation, a work of economic history.

       I had been only very slightly familiar with Polanyi before reading this article today, so in this matter, as in most matters, I am an expert in nothing whatsoever.  But insofar as I have read any economic history, Mr. Carlson's extracts of Polanyi's writing indicate the mind and heart of a man who seems to understand a great deal about the strengths and weaknesses in economic theory.  Mr. Polanyi, I would suggest, stands somewhere in the tradition of natural-law economists, but he speaks with his own voice.

       At a time when Ayn Rand's ideas (some of which I agree with, and some I do not) become more influential with the current release of the movie based on her famous novel, Atlas Shrugged,  I think it is important to consider some very different alternatives in the broadly libertarian and Austrian tradition.  Polanyi has one.

       And at a time when the post-Civil War economic order in the United States is (quite inevitably and quite properly) coming apart, it is good to get beyond handwringing and anguish and consider what might, or what could, follow it -- preferably something much better.

       To any readers of this post, especially those who have pondered the thinking of Adam Smith,  Thomas Malthus, Ludwig von Mises, Peter Drucker (a personal friend of Polanyi), G. K. Chesterton, G. B. Shaw, Wendell Berry, and others, I think there is something here to invite your research and comment.

       Mr. Polanyi and Mr. Carlson refer to events, crucially important to their thinking, about which I must confess I have no knowledge.  I, for one, have got to do some research on "Speenhamland,"  The Great Transformation, Polanyi's theory of "double movement," and much more; and I hope eventually to post something in the comments section below.    I would be delighted for any readers to beat me to the punch.  Thanks.

*       *       *

       Allan Carlson is a professor of history at Hillsdale College.

       Thanks to Peter Goodgame for bringing this article to my attention.  Let's call it, Economics in One Lesson, part 2.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ballad of the World Bankers, Short Version

Well we panicked you in 1837,
And depressed you in 1929,
On September 11 we pulled Building 7,
But we really really shafted you in 009.

*       *       *

       Maybe somebody can set this to music!  Make it rollicking, ironic, and full of the ridicule they deserve.  Bye, bye Miss American Pie.

       Additional verses always welcome.  Here's a chance to develop your gallows humor to a high art!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Isaiah's Job

       This is the title of an essay written more than 70 years ago, and yet I can think of few other bits of political writing that have seemed more relevant to me in recent years.  For all my good friends who care about their country and the world, and where they are and where they are going, I urge this upon you, right now, as a "must read."  It is only about twelve pages long -- less than the length of Thomas Paine's short (but immensely influential and effective) political pamphlet, Common Sense.  It will stick with you a lot longer than the little while it will take to read it, I promise.

       Among the many thought-provoking statements that the author makes, I especially like this paragraph that can be found toward the end of the essay:

. . . in any given society the Remnant are always so largely an unknown quantity. You do not know, and will never know, more than two things about them. You can be sure of those – dead sure, as our phrase is – but you will never be able to make even a respectable guess at anything else. You do not know, and will never know, who the Remnant are, nor what they are doing or will do. Two things you do know, and no more: First, that they exist; second, that they will find you. Except for these two certainties, working for the Remnant means working in impenetrable darkness; and this, I should say, is just the condition calculated most effectively to pique the interest of any prophet who is properly gifted with the imagination, insight and intellectual curiosity necessary to a successful pursuit of his trade.

        I look forward to your comments about "the Remnant," and "Isaiah's Job."  Even if there are only two things that you know, or will ever know.

*       *       *

The author, Albert Jay Nock, is a very interesting person.  Read his essay at the link above, or google on the words "rockwell nock isaiah."  For additional perspective, I think you will enjoy this essay by Steven Yates.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Very Big Cheer for J. T. Henderson

       Way to go, J. T.

       J. T. Henderson is the man who was favorably quoted by President Obama in a press conference on Wednesday evening April 6.  The story, which broke on Wednesday on a local ABC affiliate, WHAS-TV, made it to Obama's ears -- and speech -- and has been carried on the website of LEO, an independent newspaper in Louisville, my home town.  The story is complete with a link to the Obama press conference.  Please read the whole story (and watch the video links) in  J. T. 's own words, before we go on.

       To my mind, his best lines are right here:

If I had the opportunity to address President Obama, Speaker Boehner, Rep. Pelosi, Sen. Reid or Sen. McConnell, I would urge them to take action and remember that grandstanding by both parties has real consequences for those of us downhill. This potential shutdown is not just played out on the news by the talking heads- it is played out in living rooms all across America by real people. I read that our soldiers would not be paid until this was all settled! How can this be? Unfortunately, I cannot run my household and family budget like our federal government! I am required to pay my debts as they are due.

       Draw your own conclusions, but I'd say J. T. hit the nail right on the head.

       May the politicians and bureaucrats who dominate both major parties, on the orders of their special-interest handlers, take note.  It is time for their acts of fraud and deception against the good people of this country to cease.

       I am pleased to say that I have known J. T. and his family my entire life, and he is the real deal.  Thanks for telling it like it is, man. 


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Profusion of Thought, Economy of Belief

       The Earth is a marvelous Work, filled with a thousand holy grandeurs and a million fascinations and I shall never get to the end of it all.  Nor do I want to:  never in all of Reality will there be a Final Word.  The longer I live, the more interesting and informing life becomes, and the boundaries of possibility recede beyond knowledge like a far horizon backdropped with stars.

       Nature, they say, abhors a vacuum, but I am not so sure:  why then was she created with so much of that emptiness which she is said to abhor?

       But Life, I might say, loves to fill empty spaces.  He is always penetrating the bare slopes of mountains with hardy trees and grasses, and covering the nakedness of bare soil and plowed ground with weeds and creeping vines and high canopies he has at hand.  He ventures into the depths of the sea to seed volcanic vents with His strange creations, and thereby plants oases in the very heart of the Abyss.   And if the mathematical philosopher Leibniz is to be believed,  Life may actually infuse Light itself with intention and purpose, bringing direction, significance, and meaning to everywhere that is.

       As a living thing, then, my mind (and yours too, I am sure) tends to be filled with profusions of thought.  May it ever be, world without end, amen.

       But faith, being both more and less than thought, may not seek profusions: it may seek simplicity, even silence, in hope of finding its deeper joys.

       I wonder sometimes if certain Christians, in their attempts to elaborate "The Faith" and codify those elaborations, did more harm than good in transmitting that elaborate faith to their successors, ourselves, and the intervening generations that have joined us to them.  Truth and tradition joined with speculations and assertions:  some were no doubt very good; some perhaps were less so.  And here we are, and here I am.

       I like to be a free thinker; that is, I like to think freely, and to be free to think freely.  And I feel free to believe, and to search out the roots of that belief, and to seek some simplicity.

       I find myself deeply attracted to that very ancient thing, the Apostle's Creed, and the even more ancient Mystery of Godliness, found in St. Paul's Epistle to Timothy.  The Apostle's Creed has traditionally been divided into twelve articles: the Mystery of Godliness contains, by one count, seven.

       I believe, it is enough.  I am refreshed to muse upon what is meant, and what is signified.

The Apostles Creed

I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth:
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, dead, and buried:
He descended into hell;
The third day he rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost;
The holy Catholick Church;
The Communion of Saints;
The Forgiveness of sins;
The Resurrection of the body,
And the Life everlasting.

The Mystery of Godliness

Great is the mystery of godliness:
God was manifest in the flesh;
justified in the Spirit,
seen of angels,
preached unto the Gentiles,
believed on in the world,
received up into glory.

*       *       *

The Apostles Creed is as given in the Book of Common Prayer.  
The Mystery of Godliness is as given in the King James Version of the Holy Scriptures.

Comments always welcome.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Economics in One Lesson

        Yes, I have borrowed the title of a classic book on economics as a title for this article.  Henry Hazlitt wrote the book Economics in One Lesson in 1946, and I believe it has never been allowed to be out-of-print since that time.  I bought my own copy only a couple of years ago.

       Can a writer really deliver on the promise of the title and cover basic economics in one lesson?  Apparently so:  the cover of my book prints a quote from John W. Haines, a former Undersecretary of the Treasury,  who said, "If there were a Nobel Prize for clear economic thinking, Mr. Hazlitt's book would be a worthy recipient."  And a Nobel Laureate in Economic Science,  F. A. Hayek, said, "I know of no other modern book from which the intelligent layman can learn so much about the basic truths of economics in so short a time."  High praise from men who knew what they were talking about.

       Actually, Hazlitt doesn't just deliver economics in one lesson in one chapter in one book.  He reduces it to a single, two-part sentence.  Interested?  Sure you are.  You can find his entire book immediately available on-line at the website of the Foundation for Economic Education. It will probably take you less than a minute to find the precise sentence, located in the middle of Chapter 1.  Or you can download the whole book as a pdf file for future perusal.  Or buy your own paperback copy, as I did, for ready reference and as a loaner (or gift) to an interested friend.

       I am not going to quote him precisely here, but you will have noticed that Mr. Hazlitt's "one lesson" contains only two points:

       1. When considering any public act or policy,  don't look merely at the immediate or short term effects of that policy; carefully consider the long-term consequences as well.

       2. When considering the long-term consequences, think not only of the special-interest or group immediately involved; carefully consider the consequences upon all groups.

       His point is that public policy makers are usually moved primarily by one, or a very few, special interest groups; that they typically take a short-term view and overlook or ignore the long-term view.  (Read: tunnel vision; read: myopia; read: win the next election; read: we'll try to balance the budget sometime well after next year.)    I know he was writing for the 1940s; but since then, have things improved that much in the manifest wisdom of government policy?

       I have converted his lesson into a kind of quadrant diagram, like this:

Economic    Short term       Long term
Viewpoint     thinking         thinking
Benefit of|               |
one-group | typical       |
or special| thinking of   |
interests | policy makers |
Interests |               | best long-term
of all    |               | thinking,
groups    |               | according to
          |               | Henry Hazlitt 

       The fun begins, of course, when you test this little paradigm against modern government policy.  Take a historical look at things from several decades ago.  Consider the long-term benefits to all of:

       * the Korean War
       * the Vietnam War
       * the anti-war movement
       * the Great Society
       * the Race to the Moon
       * the Civil Rights Movement
       * the Watergate investigation
       * the investigation of assassinations
       * the Iran-contra connection
       * the investigation of Iran-contra
       * Gulf War I
       * the Bosnia/Kosovo war
       * the handling of the Monica Lewinsky affair

       Some good, some not-so-good, right?

       Do our current policies represent short-term, narrow-group benefit, or best long-term thinking in the interests of all groups, in the following matters?
       * medicaid/medicare policy in US
       * public-sector-union benefits
       * bailout of Wall Street stockbrokers
       * bailout of state governments
       * the "stimulus"
       * immigration policy
       * border-control policy
       * regulation of prescription drugs
       * health-care
       * environmental policy
       * oil-drilling policy
       * nuclear power policy
       * trade policy with China
       * (no) trade policy with Cuba
       * the global war on terrorism
       * war policy in Iraq
       * war policy in Afghanistan
       * war policy in Pakistan
       * war policy in Libya
       * war policy in Yemen
       * drug wars in US
       * drug wars in Colombia
       * drug wars in Mexico
       * no-fly lists at airports
       * federal influence on local police forces
       * torturing -- oops, enhanced interrogation -- of Guantanamo detainees
       * freedom of "the CIA" -- whoever they might be -- to do whatever they want to do
       * zero-tolerance policy on kids in schools
       * zero-tolerance policy on speed-traps on highways
       * zero-tolerance policy for convicts paroled from prison

       Whatever we each and all might say about any of the public issues above, we would all like to think that we, personally, are good, long-term, best-thinking individuals.  But, hey.  Apply this thinking to the spoken and unspoken ways and means . . . at your workplace . . . in your social or fraternal organization . . . your church, mosque, synagogue, or free-thinkers society . . . your own household . . . your own life.

       The prevailing "wisdom" of modern thinking in government is well expressed by their economic guru, John Maynard Keynes, who actually said,  "But this long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead."

       "Tomorrow never comes," we like to laugh.  In reality, of course, tomorrow always comes. Always has.  Always will.  Today is the tomorrow that we talked about yesterday.

       Even more relevant, today is the day after tomorrow that we hardly thought about just the day before yesterday.

       On this planet, we are partly in the shape we are in today because our predecessors thought -- or did not think -- about the consequences of their actions and choices.

       Best wishes for our grandchildren.  And the grandchildren of our friends.  And the grandchildren of our enemies.  They will all be there, in the long run.

*       *       *

Comments are always most welcome.