Mother’s Day after the Loss

May 7, 2012

Posted by:

Category: Horse Sense

Tags:

Mother’s Day after the Loss

On February 5th of 2007, my mama passed away. Mother’s Day is still her day, but it has a different feel. There are some things about it I want to tell you. As an historian, I’ve read accounts of men dying on battlefields during World War II. Frequently they cried out for their mothers. While I’m sure there are still those cases, it is clear intuitively as well as empirically, they are more infrequent today. While anecdotal, the reason speaks volumes to what has happened to families and to relations between mothers and children, particularly between mothers and sons, female teachers and their pupils. At that time there was this great controversy about Don Imus and his “Imus in the Morning” radio show—and the broad cultural pollution of hurtful, degrading things said about women, whether or not they are mothers, whether or not they are African-American. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day fly in the face of that pollution and also the anecdotal trend I mentioned. Mother’s Day reminds me there is a difference, and special roles attendant to both genders. Maybe not in every individual case, and yes I know women make great soldiers and engineers; and men take care of babies too. Moreover, chivalry has its pitfalls, and women shouldn’t be overly revered. Like sports figures, mothers never asked to be role models or standard bearers for others’ moral compasses. They’ve proven they can be sexual predators, and even murderers (no longer murderesses) almost as well as men can. Although I confess to the prejudice, that men do those things better.

But ‘I am what I am by the grace of God,’ and whether this is a liberated Twenty-First century or the misogynist Nineteenth, according to feminist historians, I do and shall utterly reject the androgynous image of this crazy day in which we live; and I shall do so in honor of my sweet mama—even in honor of what she lacked and fell short of. At the end of the day, I love her. Perhaps it is only a biological device, no doubt transferable, that wracks me with grief and also with gratitude when I recall: how she sacrificed to give my brother and I everything she could as a single parent; and we, selfish little boys, took every advantage as if we deserved it, because Mama said we did. And all the while she did without so many things, so much of the time, in order to set us up higher than she could climb, or at least to give us that chance. There is absolutely no doubt that her life would have been better without us in many respects. It seems to me she gave her bloom to her sons instead. At the end of the day, however, she loved us and told us so. Therein lies a great mystery, and it is spiritual, not merely biological and most certainly not rational. I was just a kid in 1970 when “Love Story” starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw came to the screen. It was a romantic tearjerker that I didn’t thoroughly get or appreciate at the time. The most confusing line in it seems to have become the most famous: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” I never figured the line out until February 5th, 2007.

My mama and I had a few issues. I left the nest abruptly when I joined the Army and went to West Point. The selfish little boy just got bigger and hardly looked back at all. The worst thing I did apparently was to get married, and I never understood how the perfect mother could turn into the stereotypically bad mother-in-law. For all my own faults, and there are many, she did not know that you cannot continue to be a wonderful mother and a terrible mother-in-law—for both are the same things at different stages. But I learned something from the death of my mother. Namely, that no matter what she’d done or not done; no matter the accumulated disappointments, missed opportunities for amends and longed for changes of hearts; no matter the inadequacies on all sides, the unwise choices, frailties and jealousies; no matter the outbursts of temper, meanness, emotionalism, impulsiveness and stupid will of a stubborn little girl who didn’t get what she wanted—and the little boy who didn’t either; no matter all this and more, overdrawn or not drawn well enough, I had it within me undisturbed, intact, holy and pure, Love. I loved her regardless, and I love her now. I love her in spite of it; and nothing in the world will ever outweigh, diminish, dilute, or cancel that love. It is so far above and beyond and of such purer stuff, than anyone or everyone saying they’re sorry. And so I cried, and cried and cried for my mother on this battlefield of life. And it occurs to me this kind of love is something God knows well and feels towards us. Oh for change of hearts and making amends before death parts!

One Nation Under God in Need of Prayer ‘For Such a Time as This’

April 30, 2012

Posted by:

Category: Horse Sense

Tags:

One Nation Under God in Need of Prayer ‘For Such a Time as This’

The National Day of Prayer is an annual event passed by joint resolution of Congress in 1952 and signed into law by President Truman. Of course the tradition of calling for special days set aside for prayer goes back much further, indeed to the American Revolution and to the First Continental Congress in 1775. The National Day of Prayer is observed on the first Thursday of May each year. Because our nation continues to navigate through extremely challenging days, the National Day of Prayer Task Force chose “One Nation Under God” as this year’s theme. It is perhaps something to remember moreover, that this year is a pivotal election year. The inspiration for the 2012 theme is found in Psalm 33:12, which offers this important reminder: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord…”

Another verse worth referencing is Nahum 1:7 which states, “The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.” Indeed, the Book of Nahum is interesting, in that, it is actually a warning to Israel about God’s wrath and the destruction of the wicked, and a prophecy about the downfall of the city of Nineveh. There may be some allusion here to these United States! But then there are the words “for such a time as this,” taken from the Book of Esther. It is in Esther we find a message of hope and also of deliverance, and one may at least pray there’s an allusion to us in that Book as well.

Esther was a beautiful Jewish maiden. She was orphaned and brought up by her cousin Mordecai, who held office and served Xerxes the king of Persia. After dethroning his very difficult wife Vashti, the king chose Esther to take her place as queen. Mordecai and Esther did not reveal their relationship, however, probably because they did not want her Jewish parentage to enter in and become a point of contention or prejudice. Meanwhile another officer named Haman hated Jews almost pathologically, so much that he actually presumed upon the king’s authority and ordered their persecution throughout the kingdom. It is upon that occasion that Mordecai approaches Esther and asks her to intervene on their people’s behalf. At first she does not appreciate her influence, and she does not quite know the limits of her position. She is cautious at least, even afraid to broach the king on this subject knowing how hot tempered he could be. She might be viewed as being difficult like Vashti. She might blow her political capital so to speak, her query dismissed as mere nuisance or worse as a bald imposition.

Mordecai nevertheless persuades her to find courage and to persevere, by reminding her of the gravity of the situation and of greater purpose beyond her mortal self. He references the unlikely series of events that brought her to the throne and suggests to Esther that she may have come into her position just “for such a time as this.” It is a peculiarity of the Book of Esther that the name of God does not once occur in it, but the reality of God is clearly present. Esther obtains permission from the king to arrange a banquet and to invite Haman. She petitions the king at the banquet to stop all the outrages being committed against Jews in the kingdom. When asked by the king who is responsible for the terrible things she describes, she fingers none other than Haman who is there present. In an amazing turnabout, Haman is hung on the very gallows he had built and prepared for Mordecai. Talk about poetic justice! As for the Jews, they “rested from their enemies” and were allowed to take revenge—their desperate situation having turned in an instant “from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day” (Esther 9:22).

Today these United States of America face a desperate situation economically and politically, and the nation is in dire need of prayer. The people need Mordecai’s encouragement, in order to weather unemployment and a rapidly approaching debt crisis, taxes and overregulation; they need to be reminded like Esther, of their exalted position in the Republic. Americans have enemies around the world to be sure. They also have enemies within and our own share of officers in the government who presume upon the authority of the people and who subvert the written Constitution and intent of the Founders. It behooves us to remember, however, that turnabouts come quickly. Exposing evildoers in public can have a dramatic effect as it did with ACORN, and one single election can reverse four years of very bad policy practically in an instant.

What it Takes

April 16, 2012

Posted by:

Category: Horse Sense

Tags:

What it Takes

Sometimes in our day-to-day rush and familiar surroundings and cultural norms, we forget how truly amazing America is. Folks, who have been away for some time, almost universally feel the need to get back. They need to “recharge,” in a sense. You know something’s special here, if you consider that millions want to come. Millions more look to America from their homes for guidance, assistance or example.

Ignorant people in the world think we’re soft, because they see the plenty and don’t understand what it has taken—and what it takes—to have what we have. They don’t understand the discipline we live each day, in terms of balancing hard work and family relations, and service to our country and to God. They don’t understand our striving to be the best we can be, and I mean in every single capacity God has granted us: mental, physical, spiritual, social and emotional. We strive to be “whole” persons, and we strive to be good. We also strive to win, because we’re good. That’s actually pretty unique in this world of ours.

Our own countrymen often overlook the value we subconsciously place on “freedom”—the freedom to do things, to go places, to have fun, to start new enterprises. We also generally place emphasis on personal responsibility, on self-reliance, on dignity and yes, even on clean living. It’s horse sense really: you reap what you sow. The Taliban and Al Qaeda certainly learned that. But they didn’t have any American horses. They didn’t know Middle America—or New York, for that matter. They sure as “H” didn’t know a Texan or they would have known we’d kick their rear end. They thought Americans were weak and cowardly materialists, but I suppose it’s easy to mistake the love of freedom for lack of virtue, or the love of peace for cowardice.

It’s a shame our attackers didn’t read our history (it’s a shame a lot of us don’t), because then they’d realize what it takes to be American. What it takes, in addition to good education and tons of elbow grease, is one or more wars practically every generation. Now did we really think that the twenty-first century was going to be any different, perhaps more peaceful because of the victory “the greatest generation” won in World War II? Believe it or not, that’s a sentiment made by the famous historian Stephen Ambrose, just two days before the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon! I guess the Cold War, Korea, Viet Nam, and the Gulf War were just chopped liver. Anyway, I am very grateful for the World War II generation, certainly the greatest of the twentieth century. But don’t think their accomplishment means we’ve got less to do, because it doesn’t.

The principal of Somerville College, Oxford, said to his new arrivals in 1944 that all beginnings are hopeful. So the new century/new millennium probably invited optimism, and optimism is not all bad—indeed, it’s essential. But as one of the great Free World leaders during the Cold War—Margaret Thatcher—said, “My generation remembers that we had such faith after World War I that there could never be another world war, we let our defenses down.” Do you see a pattern? Again and again, we prove what it takes. The measure in blood, however, depends on our preparedness at the time.

Out of 150 countries in the world, only 72 are free. I’d say the odds are we’re in for a few more challenges. History and prudence dictate that we be prepared. Again, Thatcher has the right advice for Americans:

“We must keep our defenses up and we must have equipment
Of the very latest technology. This is absolutely vital….
I believe the first duty of any government is to protect the lives
of its citizens…. And we do that by having the latest technology
in the United States. My friends, you’re citizens of a wonderful
country. You’ve built the greatest country in the world in terms of
establishing the rule of law, defending the freedoms of others, and
building a most prosperous future for your people. If those who do
have liberty would be guided by your example, what a much
better world it would be. In the meantime …[you] must continue
to keep up [your] reputation.”

Multi-What?

April 9, 2012

Posted by:

Category: Horse Sense

Tags:

Multi-What?

Multiculturalism is a word that refers to a fact, as well as to a fallacy. On the one hand, a demographic change has and is occurring in America. For the past 40 years, most immigrants have come from Asia, Africa and Latin America, instead of from Europe. Moreover, the birthrates for these and other non-white minorities are substantially higher than for whites. This has led to a “browning of America” and to multiculturalism in fact. The ideology of multiculturalism, however, is a horse of a different color. Unlike the fact of multiculturalism, this ideology by the same name is a fallacy that poses a vital threat to America. Indeed, it is a tool of the political left for changing the country’s educational and political institutions. A variant of cultural relativism, it posits an explicit denial that Western and American civilizations have anything in them superior to other cultures. Further, the ideology entails the assertion that Western and American civilizations are actually worse, that successes for the past half millennium are the product of exploitation—namely colonialism, and slavery.

Well, that of course is horse hockey. In point of fact, colonialism and slavery are universal and not distinctively Western. The British conquered India and ruled it for 300 years, but before the British there were the Persians, the Mongols, the Afghans, and Alexander the Great. As for slavery, it has existed in all cultures: ancient India, China, Greece and Rome, and in Africa. American Indians even practiced it before Columbus corrupted them. What’s uniquely Western isn’t slavery but abolition—the movement to end slavery developed in Western civilization. As author and academic Dinesh D’Souza, himself an immigrant from India, has stated, “Never outside the West have slave-owners and potential slave-owners proclaimed principles condemning it, and expended blood and treasure ending it.” Moreover, Western civilization has produced the height of all civilizations in certain respects, to include literature. As Saul Bellow pointed out a few years ago, there ain’t a Tolstoy of the Zulus or a Proust amongst the Papuans. (He caught quite a bit of flack for his insensitivity, by the way). Obviously, there are great works produced by non-Western cultures—and you can add these and still remain anchored in Western thought and culture!

Recently the multicultural ideologues came up with another bizarre idea to give reparations for slavery—cash payments to blacks today to make up for the injustice of historical slavery. It made me think of what Muhammad Ali said after his mid-1970s fight with George Foreman. The fight was held in Zaire. After he returned to America, he was asked what he thought of Africa. He replied, “Thank God my granddaddy got on that boat.” Although a funny quip, colonialism and slavery proved ironical. They were bad for the generations experiencing them but indirectly beneficial to generations that followed. D’Souza points out that his Indian grandfather was embittered by the unfair treatment he experienced under British rule. Paradoxically, however, as a consequence of the same colonial rule, his grandchild learned ideas and traditions that inform a Western understanding of freedom: separation of powers, democracy, human dignity, equal rights.

Slavery in America was clearly harmful and wrong to the people who lived under it, but it proved to be the unintended transmission belt that brought Africans into the orbit of Western freedom. Are the descendants of slaves really worse off? Would Jesse Jackson be better off living in Uganda? Would we? (Don’t answer that). No, we cannot repair the harm done to those who suffered under slavery, but it would be absurd to pay those who have benefited most from their ancestors’ suffering.

There’s something else I want to say about the liberals’ mantra, “We are the world.” When they say multicultural, ask them “multi-what?” I don’t want America to be a microcosm of the world, if by that you would include all the ignorance, ugliness, vice and corruption that are present in the world—chiefly (though not exclusively) from non-Western imports. No, I’m old fashioned enough to want the best for America. I want to bring the best minds and the best souls here and to encourage those to flourish. America ought to represent a filtration of the mass of humanity. We need to have reasonable rates of immigration, and we ought to be selective. Western and American institutions are uniquely suited to bring out the best in everyone who is here—you might even say our institutions are superior in that regard. In the process, it doesn’t matter what color you are, to what race or religion you belong. It matters intensely, however, the character and the heart you bring. It matters that you are willing to uphold the Constitution of these United States and to love this great Republic. We are not the world, we are what the world hopes to become.

Of Easter and Liberty

April 4, 2012

Posted by:

Category: Horse Sense

Tags:

Of Easter and Liberty

Last Sunday was Palm Sunday, when Jesus entered Jerusalem and palm branches were strewn before him as a sign of welcome and praise. The Friday after is Good Friday when Jesus was crucified nearly two thousand years ago. Of course, the Sunday following is Easter when Jesus arose from the dead in fulfillment of what he said; and in proof of fulfillment of Old Testament Scripture and prophecy. Holy Week thus commemorates the most signal and momentous series of events in all human history, the week moving as it were, from victory unto Victory—with the depths of passion, pain and despair in between. The Story alone, if it were just literature is rich: for what it says about how quickly and radically a man’s fortunes will change; about the fickle nature of public opinion and public approval; the shallowness of perception at every stage, even if perception is reality—how shallow then the reality we perceive; the limits of loyalty even from friends, and the effects of fear and jealousy and greed on human action; the utter aloneness we face at the door twixt life and death and life again. The Story, however, is greater by far, because it is History and it is true.

It was from the moment of His appearing that the history of our civilization took its dramatic turn and produced ascendant values and aspirations—the definition of what constitutes Good; the attributes of Love; and the Liberty we profess and try to secure through constitutional republican government. The original twelve disciples or Apostles were: Andrew, Bartholomew, James (the younger, son of Alphaeus), James (the elder) and John (sons of Zebedee), Jude (or Lebbaeus or Thaddaeus), Judas Iscariot, Matthew (or Levi), Philip, Simon the Canaanite, Simon (called Peter), and Thomas (or Didymus). Judas who betrayed Jesus killed himself, after which the eleven saw Jesus in both spiritual forms and in the flesh after the Resurrection. The eleven also witnessed the Lord taken up in ascension. It was this powerful and undeniable demonstration of existence and life after death, in addition to a dispensation of Spirit that drove them far and wide—to carry the news and Christ’s doctrine. Incidentally, Matthias was chosen by the eleven to replace Judas. Paul, the “Apostle to the Gentiles” was not among the original twelve but had originally persecuted Christians. He was confronted supernaturally by the risen Christ while traveling on the road to Damascus, and this led to his dramatic conversion. Paul and the twelve then proceeded on a mission as it were from God, recruiting many more “apostles.” The Book of Acts (or the Acts of the Apostles) in the Bible describes the beginnings of the Christian church, all precipitated by Christ’s resurrection that first Easter morning.

Christian forebears founded the United States of America. They knew that leaders, elective or otherwise, needed to borrow a lesson from Solomon. Besides the hard work and vision supplied by the Declaration; besides all those practical matters of planning and raising an army and navy; the multiple responsibilities of checking, tracking, monitoring, correcting, disciplining, and also giving; besides all this they had to have the ‘understanding to discern judgment’ and ‘a wise and understanding heart’ (paraphrase I Kings 3: 11-12). Moreover, they looked ‘into the perfect law of liberty’ and were ‘blessed in their deed’ (paraphrase James 1: 25) to establish for us a written Constitution. One can learn the history of the American Revolution and early Republic all day long, but if one fails to capture and apply the Spirit of ’76 in the context of the Founders’ worldview it is almost a barren exercise. For what then become the rule of law and the context of our government?

Some will say that I digress, but here is where I make the point about all history and indeed all knowledge. Ladies and Gentlemen, I never met Jesus Christ in the flesh when He strode the earth among us—but neither did I know George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, et al, in person. Their bones were quite reduced to dust before I was conceived. Yet there is evidence that something great transpired to change the Course of human events. There is also the written word of witnesses, whose bones are also reduced to dust—and I still believe. Faith is the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11: 1) and thus the foundation of all human knowledge, history and science included. I know only because I first believed. I believe the accounts of witnesses and the words recorded of the Founders themselves, who say they likewise believed in the risen Christ and felt His presence when they laid the foundations of this nation. No Ladies and Gentlemen, I have never seen a quark or lepton or cosmic glue either—except that I have a pretty good idea of what holds the Milky Way and the universe together.

The Founders never mistook the means for ends, so unlike our own time. They knew there is a liberty wherewith no human government confers. Authority is never for the sake of authority, or empire or even Union but only to serve the ends of the Creator in creation. That is to say, government serves those truths the Founders said were self-evident; and secures certain unalienable Rights, among them Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That is the Law for government ushered in by the risen Christ, which we need desperately to rediscover or reaffirm. Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea (c. 26-36 A.D.) when Jesus was crucified. Notwithstanding Jewish customs that were broken to deliver Jesus to him, Pilate clearly had the authority according to the laws of Rome to crucify Jesus. No administrative lapse of due process occurred from a Roman standpoint. The letter of the law was carried out. Easter should rekindle our love of Liberty and remind us the laws of the nation are not always in accord.

The Health of a Republic

April 2, 2012

Posted by:

Category: Horse Sense

Tags:

The Health of a Republic

The term republic had a significant meaning for all early Americans. The form of government secured by the Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution, and the Constitution was unique, requiring strict limitation of government power. Powers that were permitted would be precisely defined and delegated by the people, with all public officials being bound by their oath of office to uphold the Constitution.

The Constitution made it clear that the government was not to interfere with productive nonviolent human energy. This is the key element that has permitted America’s great achievements and made America the political and economic envy of the world. We have truly been blessed.

Today, however, the nature of a republic and the current status of our own form of government are of little concern to most Americans. But there is a small minority, ignored by politicians, academics, and the media, who do spend time thinking about the importance of the proper role of government. The comparison of today’s government with the one established by our Constitution is a matter worthy of deep discussion for those who concern themselves with the future and look beyond the coming election. Understanding the principles that were used to establish our nation is crucial to its preservation and something we cannot neglect.

In our early history it was understood that a free society embraced both personal civil liberties and economic freedom. During the 20th century, this unified concept of freedom was undermined. Today we have one group talking about economic freedom, while interfering with our personal liberty, and the other group condemning economic liberty, while preaching the need to protect civil liberties. Both groups reject liberty fifty percent of the time. Sadly, there are very few in this country who, today understand and defend liberty in both areas.

Many Americans wonder why Congress pays little attention to the Constitution and are bewildered as to how so much inappropriate legislation gets passed. But the Constitution is not entirely ignored. It is used correctly at times when it’s convenient and satisfies a particular goal, but never consistently across the board on all legislation. The Constitution is all too frequently made to say exactly what the authors of special legislation want it to say. That’s the modern way: language can be made relative to our times. But without a precise understanding and respect for the supreme law of the land, the Constitution no longer serves as the guide for the rule of law. In its place come the rule of man and special interests.

That’s how we have arrived in the 21st century without a clear understanding or belief in the cardinal principles of the Constitution—the separation of powers and the tenets of federalism. Instead, we are rushing toward centralized control. Executive Orders, agency regulations, federal court rulings, and un-ratified international agreements direct our government, economy, and foreign policy.

Congress has truly been reduced in status and importance over the past hundred years. And when the people’s voices are heard, it’s done indirectly through polling, allowing our leaders to decide how far they can go without stirring up their constituents. This is opposite to what the Constitution was supposed to do: protect the rights of the minority from the abuses of the majority. The majority vote of the powerful and the influential was never meant to rule the people.

In a free society individuals should control their own lives, receiving the benefits and suffering the consequences of their actions. Once the individual becomes a pawn of the state, whether a monarch or a majority that’s in charge, a free society can no longer endure. We are dangerously close to that happening in America, even in the midst of plenty and with the appearance of contentment. If individual freedom is carelessly snuffed out, the creative energy needed for productive pursuits will dissipate. Government produces nothing, and in its effort to redistribute wealth, can only destroy it.

Freedom too often is rejected when there is a belief that government largesse will last forever. This is true because it is tough to accept personal responsibility, practice the work ethic, and follow the rules of peaceful coexistence with our fellow man. The temptation is great to accept the notion that everyone can be a beneficiary of the caring state and a winner of the lottery or a class action lawsuit. But history has proven there is never a shortage of authoritarians—benevolent, of course—quite willing to tell others how to live for their own good.

Some of my good friends suggest that it is a waste of time and effort to try to change the direction in which we are going. No one will listen, they argue, and the development of a strong centralized authoritarian government is too far along to reverse the trends of the last century. Why waste time in Congress when so few people care about liberty? The masses, they point out, are interested only in being taken care of, and the elites want to keep receiving the benefits allotted to them through special-interest legislation.

I am not naïve enough to believe the effort to preserve liberty is a cakewalk. But ideas, based on sound and moral principles, do have consequences. Our Founders clearly understood this, knowing they would be successful, even against overwhelming odds. They described this steady confidence, which they shared with each other when hopes were dim, as “divine providence.” We face tough odds, but to avoid battle or believe there is a place to escape to someplace else in the world would concede victory to those who endorse authoritarian government. The grand experiment in human liberty must not be abandoned. A renewed hope and understanding of liberty are what we need today.

Morality of the Market

March 19, 2012

Posted by:

Category: Horse Sense

Tags:

Morality of the Market

In addition to the market’s “miracle” of efficiency, there is an important moral element in the functioning of the free-market economy that we sometimes overlook or undervalue. There are none who are only masters and others who are simply servants! In the market society we are all both servants and masters, but without either force or its threat. In our roles as producers—be it as men who hire out our labor for wages, resource owners who rent out or sell our property for a price, or entrepreneurs who direct production for anticipated profits—we serve our fellow men in attempting to make the products and provide the services we think they may be willing and interested in buying from us.

“Service with a smile” and “the customer is always right” are hallmarks of the seller’s deference to those to whom they offer their supplies. What motivates such attitudes is the fact that in an open, competitive market no one can compel us to buy from a seller who offers something less attractive or more costly than what some rival of his is presenting to us for our consideration.

And why are we interested in not offending or driving away some potential customer into the arms of our rival suppliers? Because only by successfully making the better and less expensive product can we hope to earn the income that then enables us to re-enter the market, now in the role of consumer and demander of what our neighbors are offering to sell to us.

As consumers, we become the “masters” who those same neighbors attempt to satisfy with newer, better, and cheaper products. Now those whom we have served defer to us. We “command” them, not through the use of force but through the attraction of our demand and the money we offer for the goods they bring to the market. By how much we can “command” the service of others in the market in our role as consumer is directly related to the extent we have been successful in our service to our neighbors as reflected in the money income we have earned from satisfying their wants and desires.

In a free society, no man is required to do work or supply any good he considers morally wrong and ethically questionable. He may earn less from choosing to supply something that is valued less highly in the market, but he cannot be forced to produce anything that God and/or conscience dictates to be wrong.

On the other hand, we cannot prevent others from supplying a good or service we find morally objectionable. The ethics of liberty and the free market require that we use only morally justifiable means to stop our neighbors from demanding and supplying something that offends us. We must use reason, persuasion, and example of a better and more right way to live.

Unfortunately, too many of our fellow men want to preserve or extend a return to a form of a slave society—regardless of the name under which it is presented. Too many want to dictate how others may make a living, or at what price and under what terms they may peacefully and voluntarily interact with their fellow human beings for purposes of mutual material, cultural, and spiritual betterment.

Our task, for those of us who understand and care deeply about human liberty, is to reawaken our fellow men an awareness of the miracle and morality of the market. The task, I know, seems daunting. But it must have seemed that way to our American Founding Fathers when they heralded the truth of the unalienable rights of man for which they fought and then won a revolution, or when advocates of economic freedom first made the case for the free market.

The world was transformed by these ideals of the morality of free men in free markets. What is most important is that each of us understands as best we can the miracle and the morality of the market economy. Too often the friends of freedom allow the advocates of various forms of government regulation, control, and redistribution to set the terms of the debate. Freedom will not win if we do not put those proponents of political paternalism on the defensive.

By that moral right do they claim to tell other men how to peacefully go about their private and market affairs—as long as those men do not use murder, theft, or fraud in their dealings with others? By what ethical norms do those political paternalists declare their right to take that which others have honestly acquired through production and trade, and redistribute it without the voluntary consent of those from whom it has been taken? By what assertion of superior wisdom and knowledge do they presume to know more than the individual minds of all the members of society about how the market should go about the business of manufacturing all the things we want, and matching the demands with the supplies?

Defenders of individual freedom and the market economy have nothing to be ashamed or fearful of in advocating the free society. The American system of limited government, personal liberty, and free enterprise liberated the individual creativity and energies of many millions of people. It provided the greatest opportunity for individual betterment and the highest standard of living ever experienced in human history. It also generated the most charitable and philanthropic society in the world. Therefore, it should be the critics and opponents of this system of individual freedom that should have to justify their continuing calls for reducing our liberty.

It was clear thinking and moral courage that won men liberty in the past. Liberty can triumph again, if each of us is willing but to try. We need to take to heart the words o the free-market Austrian economist and long-time FEE senior adviser, Ludwig von Mises:

Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders; no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way out for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction… What is needed to stop the trend towards socialism and despotism is common sense and moral courage.

Irish on St. Patrick’s Day—No Matter Where You’re From!

March 12, 2012

Posted by:

Category: Horse Sense

Tags:

Irish on St. Patrick’s Day—No Matter Where You’re From!

St. Patrick is a real historical person, a holy man who accomplished great feats around which legends have sprung. Patrick is also the Christian or given name to a man born Maewyn Succat in 4th century (c. A.D. 385) Roman controlled Britain. Probably born in Wales, possibly England or southern Scotland, he was the son of Calpurnius a Roman-British officer. When pirates landed in south Wales they kidnapped Patrick at the age of 16 and sold him into slavery to an Irish king Niall. Niall’s son Laoghaire would later grant Patrick unmolested access to his land to spread the Gospel, even against the advice and counsel of Druid priests. But for now young Patrick was just a slave, and he remained in condition of servitude for six years working as a shepherd. It was on a lonely mountainside tending sheep, that St. Patrick found religion, or one might say his religion found him—for although his parents had been Christian, Patrick did not consider himself to be a Christian before his captivity.

In a dream one night he heard the voice of God telling him that his ship was ready, that he should walk 200 miles and there find a vessel that would convey him away. He got up and literally walked off the mountainside to freedom. He walked 200 miles to Wexford and found a boat there headed for Britain. The captain at first turned him away, but as he walked St. Patrick prayed until the captain inexplicably changed his mind. The crew called out to Patrick to come aboard, and the boat made his escape to Britain and then onto the northern coast of Gaul in France. Patrick joined a monastery there and studied under St. Germain, the bishop of Auzerre. In a subsequent prophetic dream, he heard “the Voice of the Irish” calling him to come back and save them. From that day, he knew the mission God had appointed for him to accomplish: the conversion of the Irish to Christianity.

He was not the first chosen by the Pope, however, for that mission. Patrick was not as polished as other priests, having not received the full measure of formal education before being kidnapped. While other priests tried with limited success therefore, Patrick devoted himself to studies at the monastery and awaited a time of God’s choosing. In 432 Pope Celetine finally made him a bishop and sent him on the mission to Ireland. Taking 25 followers, he embarked and spent the first winter under kindly patronage of a local landowner and early convert. In the spring on a warm sunny day, St. Patrick approached King Laoghaire. Patrick’s composure and confidence impressed the king but the Druids were incensed. They tempted St. Patrick, asking whether his god would create snow. To everyone’s astonishment it began to snow, the blankets cascading down upon everyone until St. Patrick made the sign of the cross—and immediately the snow ceased and the sun returned.

A lot of what we know about St. Patrick comes from his Confessio, an autobiography that tells his spiritual journey; and Epistola, which denounces the British mistreatment of Irish Christians. In Ireland he journeyed far and wide, preaching, baptizing, establishing schools and churches and monasteries with an untiring zeal. For nearly thirty years he did this until he had literally converted the entire Emerald Isle to orthodox Catholicism, winning Hibernia/Erin/ a.k.a. Ireland for Christ. In so doing, it is said that he drove all the snakes from Ireland into the sea. But this story is allegorical, because the snake was a pagan symbol regarded as sacred by the Druids. St. Patrick thus drove paganism out of Ireland and into the sea of destruction. Part of what made him successful was his ability to win over nobility, and as he converted the princes and warrior chiefs, their tribesmen followed. St. Patrick was just as successful, however, by relating to the common people. When tribesmen had trouble understanding the hard concept of the Trinity and how one God could be a triune Person (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), St. Patrick plucked a shamrock from the ground and showed how the three-leaf clover had a single stem, metaphorically one God in three Persons. They understood and believed, and the shamrock became a revered symbol of Ireland from that time.

St. Patrick died in A.D. 461 on March 17th and that’s why we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on that date. It was originally and exclusively a Catholic holy day for hundreds of years, and that’s the way it stood until it became a public holiday in Ireland in 1903. Indeed, church calendars of the Roman Catholic Church and Church of Ireland move the date for commemorating St. Patrick’s if the date falls within Holy Week. In 1940 for instance, St. Patrick’s Day moved to April 3rd to avoid coinciding with Palm Sunday. The church also generally lifts prohibitions during the fasting season of Lent to allow celebration and eating of meat. Pubs in Ireland, however, were traditionally closed. This changed during the 1970s, as the government wanted to encourage tourism and St. Patrick’s Day continued to morph into a general appreciation of Irish culture and all things Irish. There is amazing irony in the fact that, if and as secular celebrations overindulge in alcohol and revelry, St. Patrick’s Day parties come to resemble the drunken festival of Bacchanalia—a pagan rite in honor of the god Bacchus once held on March 17th before St. Patrick’s Day replaced it.

In America the first public observance of St. Patrick’s was by Irish immigrants in Colonial Boston in 1737. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade marched through the streets of New York City in 1762. At the time, the parade was mostly made up of Irish soldiers serving in the English army. George Washington facilitated observance of St. Patrick’s Day amongst Irish troops serving in the Revolutionary Army. Irish traditionally ate cabbage and Irish bacon on that day, but in America they began substituting corned beef for bacon—a delicious and much cheaper alternative they learned about from their Jewish neighbors in the Nineteenth Century.

Today over 100 U.S. cities have St. Patrick’s Day parades. Some cities paint the traffic stripe of their parade routes green. Chicago and Indianapolis dye their main river canals green. Savannah dyes the downtown city fountains green. If you do imbibe, chances are the beer will probably be dyed green; and green popcorn is not unheard of in movie theaters. Of course, appropriate colors for St. Patrick’s Day are the orange and green of the Irish flag, but green is nearly obligatory these days. Leave it to schoolchildren to turn every American Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, by that most persuasive custom of pinching anyone who doesn’t wear it.

Miracle of the Market

March 5, 2012

Posted by:

Category: Horse Sense

Tags:

Miracle of the Market

Day in and day out we give little thought to the vast and complex array of economic processes, which if they were to stop or severely malfunction would mean hardship or even disaster for many of us. The supermarkets are daily replenished with wide varieties of fruits, vegetables, meats, canned and packaged goods, dairy products, and many other items. We crowd the shopping malls and find them filled with practically every conceivable commodity we can imagine, with each of them offered in attractive and diverse varieties. Just think of the wide spectrum of shoes and clothes placed at our disposal in those malls as an example of this. And if we do not want the inconveniences and irritations of crowded shopping areas, a growing number of us now do an increasing amount of our shopping over the internet with the mere click of the “mouse.”

Even if we wanted to fully understand how all those goods are actually brought to the marketplace for our various wants and desires, virtually none of us would be able to trace through all the intricate ways by which our demands are satisfied. Back in 1958, Leonard Read, the founder of FEE, wrote a famous essay titled “I, Pencil.” He outlined a history of manufacturing a simple old-fashioned wooden pencil, from a tree being cut down in a forest and the mining of the graphite in a faraway country to its assembly and finished form so that it might be readily available for purchase by any of us in some neighborhood store. Read’s central insight was to remind us that no one individual or even wise and informed group of us possesses all the knowledge or information that has gone into that pencil’s manufacture.

Furthermore, it is not necessary for anyone to fully understand the processes involved in making that pencil for it to be available to us and our uses for such a writing instrument. Indeed, if it were required for some mastermind to know all that is needed to know to make all of the goods offered to us everyday on the market, the variety of goods available to us would be both fewer in number and poorer in quality.

How are the activities of an increasingly larger group of individuals successfully coordinated, so that all the multitudes of demands and supplies are brought into balance and harmony? The Austrian economist and Nobel Laureate Friedrich Hayek showed how all of the knowledge and information in society can be encapsulated in the price system of the free-market economy. In our roles as both consumers and producers we communicate to one another what we think goods, resources, capital, and labor services are worth to us in their various and competing uses through the prices we are willing to pay for them. These “price signals” serve as the means for all of us to decide and coordinate what we want and are willing to do together with other members of society.

Thus, and indeed quite miraculously, it is not necessary for an “economy czar” to rule over and command us in our everyday market activities to assure that a vast quantity of food gets to the supermarkets or that thousands of different varieties of goods are constantly available in the shopping malls or other stores and businesses throughout the land. Each individual finds his own corner of specialization—guided by those opportunities, expressed in market prices, that seem to offer the greatest likelihood of earning an income that will enable him to buy from others all of the goods he himself desires.

Competition in these voluntary interactions of the market helps us to discover where each of us can best serve our fellow men within the system of division of labor while pursuing our own personal interests. The competitive process tests us through the reward of profits and the penalties of losses. Profits lure us into those production activities that our neighbors, as consumers, want us to do more of. Losses warn us that we have undertaken production actions that those same neighbors think are not worth the costs of our continuing to do them in the same way.

No overseer’s whip is needed to prod people to do more of some things and less of others. No paternalistic planner is needed to assure that everything that is wanted is produced and in the most economically cost-efficient way. No restraining regulations and controls are needed to hamper the free choices and actions of the multitudes of millions in society—other than the crucial and general legal rules against murder, theft, and fraud in our dealings with one another.

Mutual agreement and voluntary consent are the bases of these market relationships. It is not the police power of the government, with its use or the threat of violence and force, which compels the cooperation and collaboration of humanity.

God Bless Texas

February 27, 2012

Posted by:

Category: Horse Sense

Tags:

God Bless Texas

I’ll never forget the time I learned from my eighth grade teacher that not every student in the nation learned about Texas history the way we did in Houston. I remember thinking “they sure as hell oughta.” Then I was overwhelmed with a sense of great sadness, when I realized that not everyone in the nation was actually a Texan—or indeed could be. It still bothers me. There are just so many things to love about Texas, that I can’t imagine being from anywhere else. To start with, we definitely got the double helping of self-esteem. Man when you got it, you just don’t need it! That’s why most Texans just want to be left alone, especially by government. Beyond that, I defer to Bob Wheeler, who writes so movingly about the subject. What follows are excerpts from a speech he wrote. I’ve paraphrased and edited some:

Great things I love about Texas? Lemme let you in on my short list. It starts with The Window at Big Bend, which in and of itself is proof of God. It goes to Lake Sam Rayburn . . . . Then we can talk about Tyler, and Longview, and Odessa and Cisco, and Abilene and Poteet and every place in between. Every little part of Texas feels special. Every Texan, who ever flew over the Lone Star, thinks of Bandera or Victoria or Manor or wherever they call “home” as the best little part of the best State.

Now recently I went to Europe for the first time. All they did when they saw me was say the same thing, before they’d ever met me. “Hey cowboy, we love Texas.” I guess the hat tipped em off. But let me tell you what, they all came up with a smile on their faces. You know why? They knew for sure that I was gonna be nice to ‘em. They knew it cause they knew I was from Texas. They knew something that hadn’t even hit me. They knew Texans, even though they’d never met one. That’s when it occurred to me. Do you know what is great about Texas? Do you know why when my friend and I were trekking across country to see 15 baseball games we got sick and had to come home after 8? Do you know why every time I cross the border I say, “Lord, please don’t let me die in _______”? Do you know why children in Japan can look at a picture of the great State and know exactly what it is about the same time they can tell a rhombus from a trapezoid? I can tell you that right quick. You. The same spirit that made 186 men cross that line in the sand in San Antonio 176 years ago is still in you today.

What would make a woman say, “I don’t know if I can marry a man who doesn’t love Texas like I do?” Why do we still celebrate a holiday for what used to be a nation that is now a State? Because the spirit that made that nation is the spirit that burned in every person who founded this great place we call Texas, and they passed it on through blood or sweat to every one of us. You see, that spirit that made Texas what it is, is alive in all of us, even if we can’t stand next to a cannon to prove it, and it’s our responsibility to keep that fire burning. Every person who ever put a “Native Texan” or an “I wasn’t born in Texas but I got here as fast as I could” sticker on his car understands. Anyone who ever hung a map of Texas on their wall or flew a Lone Star flag on their porch knows what I mean. Some people were forged of a hotter fire. Well, that’s what it is to be Texan. To be forged of a hotter fire.

To know that part of Colorado was Texas. That part of New Mexico was Texas. That part of Oklahoma was Texas. Yep. Talk all you want. Part of what you got was what we gave you. To look at a picture of Idaho or Istanbul and say, “what the hell is that?” when you know that anyone in Idaho or Istanbul who sees a picture of Texas knows good and well what it is. It isn’t the shape of the State, it’s the state of mind. You’re what makes Texas. When was the last time you went to a person’s house in New York and you saw a big map of New York on their wall? That was never. When did you ever drive through Oklahoma and see their flag waving on four businesses in a row? Can you even tell me what the flag in Louisiana looks like? I damned sure can’t.

When you ask a man from New York what he is, he’ll say a stockbroker, or an accountant, or an ad exec. When you ask a woman from California what she is, she’ll tell you her last name or her major. When you ask a Texan what they are, before they say, “I’m a Methodist,” or “I’m a lawyer,” or “I’m a Smith,” they tell you they’re a Texan. I got nothin’ against all those other places, and Lord knows they’ve probably got some fine folks, but in your gut you know it just like I do, Texas is just a little different.

So tomorrow when you drive down the road and you see a person broken down on the side of the road, stop and help. When you are in a bar in California, buy a Californian a drink and tell him it’s for Texas. Remind the person in the cube next to you that he wouldn’t be here enjoying this if it weren’t for Sam Houston, and if he or she doesn’t know the story, tell them. When William Barrett Travis wrote in 1836 that he would never surrender and he would have Victory or Death, what he was really saying was that he and his men were forged of a hotter fire. They weren’t your average every day men. Well, that is what it means to be a Texan. It meant it then, and that’s why it means it today. It means just what all those people North of the Red River accuse us of thinking it means. It means there’s no mountain that we can’t climb. It means that we can swim the Gulf in the winter. It means that Earl Campbell ran harder and Houston is bigger and Dallas is richer and Alpine is hotter and Stevie Ray was smoother and God vacations in Texas.

It means that come hell or high water, when the chips are down and the Good Lord is watching, we’re Texans by damned, and just like in 1836, that counts for something. So when your chance comes around, go out and prove it. It’s true because we believe it’s true. If you are sitting wondering what the hell I’m talking about, this ain’t for you. But if one of the first things you are going to do when the Good Lord calls your number is to find the men who sat in that tiny mission in San Antonio and shake their hands, then it is. And may you be poor in misfortune, rich in blessings, slow to make enemies and quick to make friends. But, rich or poor, quick or slow, may you know nothing but happiness from this day forward. Amen.

« Older Entries   Newer Entries »