Six Disastrous Assumptions

“A government ought to know how to levy taxes.  But if it doesn’t know how to collect them, then a man is a fool to pay them.”

J. P. Morgan in what has been termed the indiscretion of a lifetime

“People who love sausage and respect the law should never watch either being made.”

attributed to Mark Twain

Morgan’s boast and Twain’s warning trigger this reaction in me: A law that cannot be comprehended deserves to be ignored or, at the very least, ridiculed.

This is not anarchy.  This is a practical response to gibberish.  A government ought to know how and when to make law, but more especially when not to. This was the message of Viscount Falkland early in the 17th Century, who declared before the British Parliament: “Mr. Speaker, when it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change.”  Our state and federal governments each apparently operate under an assumed production quota that has not been met.  The crafting of legislation has given way to the crafting of coalitions between factions with opposite views of a proposed law.

From these coalitions, this “reaching across the aisle,” this “bi-partisanship” — What an insincere word! — we are treated to the vision of our representatives cooperting to turn cow chips into decorated cakes. They don’t craft law, even though they’re all lawyers. They toss up a rickety shell of “enabling legislation” and assign the writing of law to a process called “agency rule-making,” so that Congress can return to posturing and stuffing omnibus bills with all the odious proposals that wouldn’t stand a chance under the scrutiny of honest deliberation.

This Is What We Vote For

It’s my fault — and yours.  We send the most kind-hearted, well-intentioned, meddlesome people to serve in our legislatures, state and federal, do-gooders who are ignorant of their own states’ constitutions, not to mention the Constitution that constrains Congress. .

They believe, first of all, that they were sent to their state’s or nation’s capital to make law.  They’re under the misapprehension that something must be done. Therefore they must find subjects — issues — begging to be bound in the concertina wire of newly-spun law.

The Assumptions

A legislature convenes, ready to go to work.  Every member, eager to be effective, casts about for an issue.  The first, usually erroneous, assumption is that there is even a problem to be solved in the first place.  When the culture of the country or of a state refuses to change swiftly enough to satisfy the social engineers in our midst, mobs of shrill and indignant activists cry for more laws. This is usually the most ready source of urgent issues.

The legislature’s second assumption is that the shrill and indignant deserve to be heard — that every “problem” raised by the perpetually loud and self-righteous can be resolved and therefore must be resolved.

The third assumption is that what the hoarse, vocal mobs demand cannot be resolved without government intervention.

Real problems do exist, of course. But most are not properly the government’s business.

The fourth assumption is that the appropriate intervention is a law, when, in truth, a few noisy, nosey people of one persuasion simply need to adjust to the quieter people of another persuasion.

Because we (voters) are smart and have learned how to solve problems, we assume that our legislators are like us in those skills. And everyone who has raised a child knows that not all problems have solutions. Often the problem exists nowhere but in the mind of the immature, impatient, offended, screaming child. Sometimes the problem is real, like an abrasion or a broken toy, and we adapt to it. Isn’t that what we teach our kids?

In rare instances, though, all of the first four assumptions are correct, right up to the need for a new law. Sadly, real problems deserving of government attention are trampled in the legislators’ — in Congress’s — stampede to assuage the selfish, the greedy, and the legions perpetually offended on behalf of others.

This latter clatter is comprised of individuals insidiously motivated to watch your language and your behavior and to upbraid you on behalf of groups they have defined as needing a perimeter of defense. Think of post-Europeans — whom some call “white” people — who have assumed the role of activists on behalf of others who don’t include them as members, Americans of indigenous heritage, for instance. And so, we have whitish people, native to America, insisting that other whitish people use the term “native America” to apply not to native Americans but to people who still refer to themselves as American Indians.

The fifth assumption of a legislature eager to solve every problem, real and imagined, is that a decisive, effective law is to be avoided and substituted with a compromise that creates a new program or bureau, new and complicated regulations, a new entitlement and, with it, new generations of people dependent on the government for their financial survival and personal comfort. (That would be lawyers. Silly you, you thought I meant the poor.)

Even if the first four assumptions are correct, the fifth should be viewed with the greatest suspicion. Our legislators should first be assuring that requirements and constraints already written into law are being enforced. If a new law is still needed, a simple directive or prohibition should be the preferred response.

The sixth assumption is that the legislators are exempt from writing the law themselves but must hand that task to bureaucrats through enabling legislation.

Legislation now commonly turns all power over to a fourth branch of government not described in the Constitution. A legislative act nowadays typically creates a new agency empowered to write the code, enforce the new rules, investigate compliance, judge offenders, and impose penalties — all of which properly belong to the original three branches of government.

Pause and Read Those Assumptions Again

If the first four assumptions were challenged honestly, there would be a lot of idle time, and a lot fewer government employees, in Washington, D.C. and in state capitals.

When a legislature swallows the entire package of assumptions, we get what we voted for: the enthusiastic, one-size-fits-all application of good intentions backed up by the force of law.

There are always two factions in a legislature, sometimes more. One faction generally represents the money pushing for one solution to a non-problem, the other faction represents the current state of affairs and the money behind it, or is backed by or another group of donors with another agenda. When necessary, one side’s bill is blended, in committee, with the other side’s version until the bristly points of each have been trimmed to stubble.  A typical result is the Pigrolet.

Politics necessitates compromise to assure that nothing so extreme as to be effective becomes law.

Instead of this institutionalized ineffectiveness, one side’s bill or the other’s should simply be passed in its entirety.  If it’s good, it will quickly accomplish what it set out to do.  If it’s bad, it will flop, be repealed, and the sponsors will go away in shame. The sponsors of legislation should agree to accept humiliation as a consequence of bad law in exchange for getting their agendas passed.

We could add a corollary assumption, I suppose — that bureaucrats will achieve through rules what the legislation might have achieved in simple language. Piggy-backed on that you can add the assumption that regulators will certainly not tailor the language of the rules to favor a certain set of political beliefs or an agency’s sense of self-preservation. Neither of these assumptions is valid — they are merely the assumptions of the legislators who consign lawmaking to the bureaucrats.

A Better Idea

Having continually failed to live by Falkland’s maxim on the necessity of legislation, the chief responsibility of all legislatures, state and federal, for the next hundred years, ought to be to observe a moratorium on passing new bills and, instead, the careful review of all laws and acts now in force and the dismantling of most.  A new law should be permitted only insofar as it replaces an existing act with one that demonstrably can be understood by a majority of high school graduates, since compliance and enforcement are chiefly in the hands of just such individuals.

According to figures compiled in 2001, over 150,000 new federal, state, and local laws are passed every year in the USA and over 3,000,000 new pages of regulation are published.  Ignorance is no excuse if you are charged with a violation.  (Unless you’re Congressman Diggs, q.v.)

The Sausage Connection

Once a squishy non-solution to a non-problem has been crafted it is time to give the bill a name and amend it with unrelated provisions. The Covid relief bill of 2021, also known as the “American Rescue Plan Act — (ARPA),” is the newest and rottenest example. It’s an “omnibus” bill, meaning that it includes a lot of stuff retrieved from wastebaskets in the legislative office building — stuff that was almost abandoned and discarded during the previous President’s administration.

To fund it, the federal government is borrowing more than $14,000 from every taxpayer in order to return $1,400 in “rescue” money. The rest of the money confiscated to pay for the bill goes to the unrelated riders attached to it — solutions to problems you didn’t know you had and that you didn’t know were related to the virus: bail-outs for states and cities with poor spending habits, foreign aid for non-pandemic projects such as abortions of undesirables in other countries, money for farmers, and funding for cash-strapped Amtrak, just to give a few examples. If Congress were behaving as its charter intended, each of these wonderful (to some) provisions would be handled as a separate issue, voted upon as individual bills, and funded without borrowing at all.

ARPA, of course, includes rules intended to restrict peaceful citizens’ access to firearms — another issue obviously related to the effects of the virus on American households. And we will eventually learn of other rules and restrictions that even the members of Congress don’t know are in the bill — the bureaucrats haven’t written the rules yet! And that’s part of the message here. It’s probably not the scant few provisions passed by Congress and signed by the President that you will unwittingly violate.

They’re only “acts” anyway, with grandiose titles, as if “The Children’s and Young People’s Internet Safety Act – (CAYPISA),” by its very name, accomplishes its pretenses. (That’s an illustration. I made it up.)

An act such as that is merely “enabling” legislation, which enables the cadre of un-elected zealots to “craft” the body of regulation calculated to assure that children using the internet remain safe — whatever that means.  Congress assigns the writing of legislation to the bureaucrats engaged in agency rule-making, the permanent denizens of the Washington swamp — bureaux, to use the French plural, which, as described above, are granted the unconstitutional authority to craft regulations having the power of law.

Wherever you are, U.S. citizen, at any given moment, you are subject to hundreds of thousands of inscrutable, inaccessible laws.  Do you need to tutor you child at home?  Do you pay someone to mow your lawn?  Are you pumping self-serve gas in Massachusetts?  Did you just click “check out” on a web site?  Did you just sign for a package from your grandmother in Estonia who has sent you some family heirlooms?  Did you just shoot a skunk out behind the shed?  I would wager (illegally of course) that what you just did, or what you will do about it in your very next move, not only is regulated but cannot be done legally.

The Internal Revenue Code has deified regulatory insanity and has set the standard for it.  Now any other government regulation can be just as incomprehensible and get away with it. (Why is the Internal Revenue Code impenetrable?  Because Congress passes a bunch of little tweaks every year that must be shoe-horned into it somewhere.)

It’s not that any enforcement agency will ever catch up with you by scrutinizing your daily actions.  The conventional enforcers, that is, police at all levels of authority, are oblivious to most of this morass of regulation.  They go home after work and break all the same laws that you do.

What Really Happens

You’ll be caught once someone jealous of your presumption of freedom, (a nosy neighbor, your ex-husband’s girlfriend’s daughter, an innocent-sounding question on an IRS form, a postal clerk), notices that you did it.  Did you write a check to pay the kid mowing your lawn?  Did you tell your buddy that you tossed the dead skunk into the woods for the coyotes?  Did you compel your daughter to replant the neighbor’s flowers that she uprooted on a lark the night before?

Once you are caught, an attorney acting on behalf of the party offended by your action — a prosecutor, a tort lawyer perhaps, will magically locate the regulation that you violated and will file the papers to charge you with the crime.

Once it reaches this level, there is no use resisting.  You’ll be named in the court news (even though you’ll not actually have your day in court).  Pay the fine and, if you can, undo the “damage” wrought by your good intentions.  Make a show of self-flagellation; write a letter to the editor not to proclaim your innocence or protest your ignorance, but to profess your chagrin and regret.  Don’t whine.  Argue that you make a point of reading at least a summary of the 150,000 new laws every year and this one just slipped by you somehow.

Once you’ve joined the ranks of those bruised but not destroyed by our country’s freefall into the pit of tort, go underground.  Never let it happen again.  In your own existence, at any rate, make the lawyers irrelevant.  Make the law irrelevant.  Make the lawmakers themselves irrelevant.

Don’t be taken in by persistent activists and their agendas, the clamoring newscasters, the glitz of the self-worshipping entertainment world.  Don’t write to your representative or senator and complain about the complexity of the system.  Chances are, the one maverick in every legislature, who might sympathize with you, is not from your district anyway, and that maverick will not be re-elected.  Chances are your own legislator will quietly turn your letter over to an office charged with investigating kooks like you.

If you haven’t yet ended up with a criminal record over something petty, take these same steps pre-emptively to distance yourself anyway.

I am advocating passive, not overt, resistance.  Where possible, practice malicious obedience – paying your property taxes in pennies is the classic example, even though only the town clerk suffers, not the buffoons who write law.  I also advocate responsible citizenship, the kind of community-minded, family-centered citizenship that was envisioned and practiced by most of our forebears — simple, humble, civilized people who, a century before I was born anyway, never could have believed that legislators, regulators, and attorneys would be unleashed to create the runaway cancer that is our current body of law.

This is the cancer that will consume us.  This is the decay that, absent a natural disaster of global proportions or international political catastrophe, will destroy us.  You will not stop it.  You may survive it, and not by stockpiling water and bullets, but by staying out of its way.  You will not be irresponsible if you look out for yourself.  Earn your paycheck — (errr, direct deposit).  Raise your family.  Save something of value to use as a medium of exchange when the digital money system collapses and to pass on if that collapse doesn’t come in your lifetime.  Practice local charity by giving to someone in need.  (Surely you know someone who deserves an anonymous handout.)  Serve on the parade committee.  Teach Sunday school.  Read.  Be a scout leader.  Learn another language.  Travel.  Support the French club’s trip to Europe.  File a short form.  Plan for retirement and nurture a couple of innocent hobbies to pursue when you’re old.

Your Mission: Survive

Life on Earth is fleeting. Survive this chapter and turn the page. There is an eternity beyond time and space, waiting to receive you.

Unless… Unless you’re that one person in ten thousand who may be able to make inroads into the system and jam its gears.  If you’re near retirement age, consider going to law school, if only so you can become a member of the bar and needle it from the inside.  Do that, and you just may enjoy ten or twenty years of malicious fun in retirement.

=David A. Woodbury=

A Well-regulated Militia

The time is approaching when we will be compelled by an act of Congress to register our firearms.

We are continually reminded that “the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” That part is clear to everyone except those promulgating law in Washington, D.C. Few people, though, understand what is meant by the first part of the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Let’s begin with an account of a genuine muster of the well-regulated militia:

The four pages of text in these images (following the title page of the book from which they are copied) give a brief illustration of the reason for the much-misunderstood Second Amendment.  Ezekiel Porter, mentioned on the second page, was my fourth-great-grandfather, by the way.

This excerpt describes the forming of the militia in Farmington, Franklin County, Maine, which at the time was in Kennebec County, Massachusetts.  They had good reason to become “well-regulated” and they were expected to use their privately-owned guns.  Yes, those guns were simple black-powder muskets, long rifles, and pistols and, in the event of an invasion, those citizens would come up against the same sorts of weapons they themselves owned plus a few cannons that the invaders could drag with them.  There was no standing army in the USA of 1790.  And this militia, described in the History of Farmington and comprised of capable men of the area towns, was smart to train for battle, because the British surely did come back and invade the United States in the war of 1812.

The Constitution provides for a navy, but it specifically prohibits a standing army for a period of longer than two years.  That provision has never been rescinded by any amendment.  However, we have supported a standing army (and more) ever since the last time Congress made a declaration of war on June 5, 1942, now 75 years longer than authorized by the Constitution since we’ve had no threat of invasion of this country in that time.

Among the powers granted to Congress in Article I, Section 8, are these:
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years; To provide and maintain a Navy; To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.

Then the Second Amendment clarifies: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Now compare this language from the Constitution to the truncated excerpt from the History of Farmington, above.

Should the United States be policing the world? Or instead, should we citizens throughout the country be training ourselves regularly in order to repel invaders?  I’m not sure, but I am sure that I am not proud of the politics since 1945 that have been driving us into a permanent worldwide policing role and military presence.  We have been in Korea, for instance, since 1950.  Could we not have trained the South Korean military in self-defense in a little over two years from the cessation of gunfire in 1953?  Could we not have withdrawn our forces from that country by, say, 1955?  (See A Parting Tribute to my Uncle Woody.)

The constitutional prohibition against a standing army and the provision for a well-regulated militia, together, are what make the debate about the right to bear arms so complicated.  Perhaps the original threat giving rise to the Second Amendment, defending ourselves from an invading foreign army, has evaporated, but perhaps a new basis has cemented itself just as firmly.  Perhaps the invaders we must defend against are hidden within our midst.

The National Guard, a term in use since 1824, now fills the role of the constitutional militia.  The Militia Act of 1903 redefined and recreated the traditional state militias as the “organized militia,” that is, the National Guard.

So how is it that we also maintain a standing army dispersed to permanent undeclared wars and other assignments around the world?  Please comment if you have the answer to that.

In spite of these developments, it remains indisputable that the Constitution provides for the citizenry of the country, not the professional army of the federal government, to keep and bear arms.

It was clear to the founders of the United States that an armed population is comprised of citizens, an unarmed population is comprised of subjects.  George Washington is credited with the statement: “A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.”

The Second Amendment, then and now, is about defending the United States of America from forces that would destroy it, from outside or from within.  Originally, every home was equipped with one or more firearms anyway — standard equipment for hunting and personal defense, and readily diverted to the purpose of defending the country.  It can certainly be argued that a citizen might properly own a weapon in any class of arms that could be deployed against the United States, the better to emloy such a weapon in the service of the militia.

In the centuries that have passed since the adoption of the Second Amendment in 1791, the National Guard, better trained and better equipped, has taken over for the militia described in the History of Farmington.  I accept that, and while I have no desire to own my own fleet of Phantom jets, I also do not intend to jeopardize my permanent right to own the firearms that I consider important to my own safety as well as my country’s defense.

A Recent Historical Perspective

I suppose I am more in tune with the America of the 70 years preceding my birth than the America of the 70 years since I was born.  While I have mastered the skills for “survival” — better to say participation — in the ever-changing society of the past few decades, I have also mastered the skills needed for survival in the ages familiar to my grandparents.

I’ve seen it from both perspectives.  I don’t trust the present — the technology, the world order, the federal government, the culture of the masses, the distribution systems for food and other perishables, or America’s single source for all manufactured goods (China).

That something has changed in the character of our population is obvious to an older American. When I was born (1950) a home typically had one wage-earner. There was a mindset that approved of locking up the mentally ill, and more were locked up than perhaps was right. But some were confined that should have been. Courts did not coddle violent criminals. Children conformed to certain social standards called “manners” and did not dictate the tone of a household or the spending habits of a family. Only a narrow band of entertainment and advertising were aimed at children, not the entire entertainment industry. Education was designed to impart information and promote critical thinking, not to indoctrinate compliant minions of a ruling oligarchy.

When I was five years old the Meadow Gold milkman in Lima, Ohio, still drove a horse-drawn ice-chilled wagon drawn by the mare, Buttermilk.  The man who repaired pots and pans also appeared from time to time on a horse-drawn cart.  Many of the country’s railroad trains were still pulled by steam locomotives.  Our home didn’t have a television or telephone, and my parents survived for months at a time without an automobile.  A long gun in a closet or on the wall was no more unusual than an umbrella in a stand beside the front door.  The elevator at the Montgomery Ward store had a full-time operator who delivered customers to their chosen floors.  It took a nickel to get a six-ounce bottle of pop from a machine and there was a two-cent deposit on a glass bottle.  My grandmother was still mourning my uncle’s death in Korea.

It wasn’t until I was ten years old that I owned my first firearm, a Marlin .22-caliber single shot rifle which I earned by selling Christmas cards in Gomer, Ohio.  I told my customers what I was working toward, and they supported my objective.  I still have the Boys Life magazine with the ad for Junior Sales Club of America, which provided the Christmas cards and the gun.  It was shipped to a local hardware store in my name, and my father had to go with me and sign for it to pick it up.  I haven’t shot anyone with it yet.

I am not nostalgic for the living conditions of those times.  Perhaps, though, I miss the gentle sense of peace, security, and opportunity.  Perhaps I am nostalgic for the freedom to engage in any enterprise as a teenager, from street musician to seller of homemade potholders, from apprentice gardener to newspaper carrier.  I miss coins made from silver, photo albums, and a news media that barely paid attention to politicians and celebrities.

I miss heroes who were actually honored, Sunday school, and shelves full of National Geographic magazines.  I miss holidays that were sincerely celebrated with town ceremonies on the appropriate dates before it became de rigueur to shift them to the nearest Monday for people whose incomes were derived from taxes (and, yes, bank fees have become a new form of taxation with the complicity of Congress, so banks now close on those Monday holidays).

And I miss the respect that Congress once held for the American people. I am not volunteering to register my firearms, but I do think that we are, at last, a conquered people.

=David A. Woodbury=

Ignorance of the Law

is an excuse, if you’re a congressman.

And not only an excuse, but grounds for acquittal.

We’ve all heard it: Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Well, in 1978 a federal district court judge ruled that a defendant must be acquitted if he had acted in good faith believing he was not violating any law. Those are the judge’s words, not mine, and the judge’s ruling has not been challenged. It stands as legal precedent. 

The defendant should have been more familiar with the law than most of us commoners; he had already been a congressman for 24 years when he became the subject of the judge’s definitive decision.

In what follows, I am making no judgment or comment on the merits of the case.  The jury acted on the merits.  And all references to the congressman’s race are integral to the newspaper report and the biographical clip that follows it.  I am only quoting the two passages to substantiate that ignorance of the law is an excuse, according to a federal District Court judge, whose ruling has the force of law.

Bangor Daily News Weekend Edition, October 7-8, 1978
DIGGS CASE JURY BEGINS DELIBERATION – Washington (UPI)

A jury Friday began deliberating fraud and false payroll charges against Rep. Charles Diggs Jr., D-Mich., under instructions they must find the black leader acted with specific intent to defraud the government in order to return a guilty verdict.

Congressman Diggs

Judge Oliver Gasch [U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia] instructed the jury of 11 blacks and one white to return separate verdicts on each of the 11 counts of mail fraud and 18 counts of filing false payroll vouchers in an alledged [sic] scheme to inflate salaries of five employees so they would use the excess money to pay Diggs’ official and personal bills.

Gasch said if jurors found Diggs acted in good faith believing he was not violating any law they would have to acquit him even if his actions actually were illegal. [emphasis added]

Prosecutor John Kotelly told the jury in his final argument that Diggs’ testimony that the employees paid his bills voluntarily was “preposterous.” He urged juors [sic] to ignore the civil rights and congressional accomplishments of Diggs in reaching their verdict.

“What kind of integrity does a man have who is living off his employees’ salaries?” Kotelly asked.

He said the evidence was “overwhelming” that Diggs, 56, a congressman for 24 years and founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, intended to defraud the government. “If this were a testimonial dinner, one could applaud Congressman Diggs for his accomplishments,” Kotelly said. “But this is not a testimonial dinner.”

Earlier, Coretta King, wife of the slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, Chicago civil rights leader Jesse Jackson and Detroit Mayor Coleman Young appeared as character witnesses for Diggs and hailed his record.

In his final arguments, defense attorney David Povich said the words of the character witnesses may have been so compelling as to raise a reasonable doubt about Diggs’ guilt notwithstanding any other evidence.

Povich told the jury that no law prohibited Diggs from allowing his employees to pay his expenses voluntarily out of their salaries although this was contrary to the Ethics Committee’s advisory opinion that was published in July, 1973.

courtesy of the Bangor Daily News and United Press International

[End of BDN report. Note that the photo included with the original newspaper article, which depicted the congressman in a distressed state, has been replaced by a more respectful representation of the man.]

Epilogue

From the African American Registry:

From Detroit, Michigan, Charles Diggs Jr. was the son of an undertaker and respected father in the Motor City area. Young Diggs attended Miller High School, the University of Michigan, Fisk University, and Wayne State University; earning a degree in Mortuary Services in 1946. He joined his father in the family mortuary business, and then won his father’s seat in the Michigan senate in 1951. Early on, Diggs was a strong voice for civil rights.

He attended the Emmett Tills murder trial as an observer and was diligent in awakening the conscience of the national Democratic Party; part of this effort allowed the opening of a second [b]lack-majority voting district in Michigan following the 1960 census. Diggs was the key player in organizing the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). However early in 1978, he faced charges of diverting $60,000 in office operating funds to pay his personal expenses. Though convicted of the charges he still won re-election that year.

Diggs appealed his conviction, was eventually censured by the House, and stripped of his committee memberships; he resigned his seat in 1980 after twenty-five years in Congress. He was sentenced to five years in prison and was released after serving seven months. Afterwards, Diggs opened a funeral home in Maryland and was indirectly involved in politics; he also earned a political science degree from Howard University.

Charles Diggs Jr. died of a stroke in August 1998 and was eulogized warmly by Black colleagues from across the country.

Inasmuch as the Diggs trial resulted in a conviction, the jury did not violate or ignore the judge’s instructions.  They simply did not buy the argument that Diggs acted in good faith believing he was not violating any law.

The point still stands: If Congressman Diggs believed he was not violating any law, then, according to this federal District Court judge in Washington, D.C., his ignorance of the law was the excuse that would have justified his acquittal.  Take this ruling with you when you some day have your day in court.

=David A. Woodbury=

The Meaning of Doing the Right Thing

This morning’s random reading over coffee brought together two articles under one theme.  The first was Maria Popova’s “The Day Dostoyevsky Discovered the Meaning of Life in a Dream.”  Immediately upon absorbing that piece I opened “The Right Right Thing to Do” by Irene McMullin.

The Meaning of Life

Dostoevsky didn’t allege that he personally discovered the meaning of life in a dream.  He wrote a story in which the protagonist did, however: “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man.”  (Translations from Russian lead to some peculiar word combinations.  The title was originally rendered as “The Dream of a Queer Fellow.”)

The man in the story, regarding himself worthy of ridicule, was given to dark brooding — an undercurrent that runs through most of Dostoevsky’s work.  But, from my experience with the author, his stories and novels regularly lead to some resolution, sometimes an Aha! moment for the leading character, sometimes even a joyful discovery.

I’ll let Maria Popova describe both the story and the redemption that it offers, as you read her article in detail.  In his gloom, the man realizes in a dream that life means being kind and looking out for others, for someone in need, especially a complete stranger in dire distress — (in the story he did not respond to an eight-year-old girl’s entreaty for urgent assistance) — and his duty in general is to improve the one human unit over which he has control: himself.

In this story, Dostoevsky omits endorsing a spiritual connection with God, although in his other works that too is an acknowledged virtue.

Doing The Right Right Thing

Irene McMullin, from her position as a professor of philosophy at Essex University in the United Kingdom, explains why it sometimes seems as though you can’t decide between two or more right things to do.

We often think that we are choosing between right and wrong and that choosing a more selfish, if completely moral, action — a self-indulgent action — is somehow automatically wrong.

Prof. McMullin points out that the many things which tug at us align with the first, second, and third person perspectives in our language: I, you, and they.  I can do something for myself or something for you (an individual I’m personally acquainted with), or I can do something for the benefit of everyone in general (they), which includes you and me.

“They,” however, can be thought of as a crowd of individuals each with the right of free choice and expression or as a single body for which I might sacrifice under the fuzzy concept of “the greater good.”

With limited time each day, we continually choose to do things according to the requests or demands that each of these three “groups” make on us.  And how we choose risks disappointing one or the other.  I disappoint myself when, at the end of the day, I am still yearning to do something for me but didn’t have the time because I was doing something for you or for the world.

In her article, Irene McMullin also acknowledges that we are tempted at times to do something morally wrong.  She doesn’t go into detail with it.  And she omits the situation that arises when I come face to face with a threat, the temptation to resist a challenge or attack, the discovery of a theft or affront that angers me, and other circumstances that divert my attention from doing the right right thing.

This article also omits mention of doing the right thing not just because it’s morally desirable but because, for some of us, there is a higher calling.  Some of us regard ourselves as agents of God, and it is that calling that motivates our choice of the right right thing from moment to moment.

So this is how my day began.

=David A. Woodbury=

Eric Hoffer and Mass Movements

I encountered Eric Hoffer’s work at the same time and in the same circumstances that brought me to Nock. I was about 20 years old and exploring used-book stores in San Francisco. It was there where I espied a book titled Memoirs of a Superfluous Man. Attracted to the nondescript black book by the title, I pulled it from the shelf.

Closely in time and place I also purchased a gray-covered hardbound copy of The True Believer. There is no reason to believe that Hoffer, who succeeded Nock by three or so decades, ever paid much attention to the older man. But Hoffer’s works, especially the 1951 masterpiece, The True Believer, complement Nock’s ideas.

In the summer of 1971, while I still lived in Monterey, California, as a student at the Defense Language Institute, I obtained an address for Eric Hoffer and, on a trip into San Francisco ostensibly to prowl more bookstores, I spent the day finding the humble apartment building bearing the address I’d been provided. It was late on a Saturday when I finally stood before the façade in the evening shadows and contemplated knocking or ringing a doorbell.

I couldn’t make myself do it. What would I say? What, indeed, did I really know? I realized that, even if Eric Hoffer came to the door or if someone admitted me to meet him, I would appear a fool, a fan of his books, a gadfly, a mere youth. But I came that close.

Amazon.com still sells a paperback edition of The True Believer for an exorbitant price. (Is it so long out of print that copies have become scarce?) An excellent summary of its main points can be found at the Farnam Street blog. I recommend spending a few minutes there if not curled up with the slim volume itself.

=David A. Woodbury=

The Disadvantages of Being Educated

As he explained that the State is a different beast from government, so also Albert Jay Nock argued that education and job training are pursued by following different paths of learning with different compass headings; that, what’s more, an educated person may be entirely unemployable, incapable of self-sufficiency, and of no practical use to society while a well-trained person may evince no signs of being educated. Someone who wants to be both educated and self-supporting may do best to pursue, by turns, both knowledge for the sake of enlightenment and training for the sake of employment. An educated person, moreover, understands that learning is lifelong and encompasses no end of diverse subjects.

An educated person is one who pursues a college degree, for instance, chiefly for edification, to study the world, to better appreciate why life is worth living. Nock himself was a college student in a period when colleges concentrated on offering a classical education in the arts and sciences, leaving job training to the job creators. In the Twentieth Century, as employers came to require college degrees in more and more job positions, to the point, as we know, where it came to matter not what course of study the degree represents but merely that the job candidate has one, colleges hurried to tailor their programs around job training instead of erudition. Now a person studying at the college level for his own edification is an anachronism. That, in fact, is exactly the word that my academic adisor at the University of Maine used to describe me, right around 1975, when I told him I was studying wildlife ecology (the science, not the politics of ecology) for my own edification and not just to meet the job requirements to become a game warden or wildlife biologist.

I had started college in the 1960s as a music performance major (piano) and had switched to languages after interrupting college to serve in the Army, but had come around to the fundamental sciences in the end. My University of Maine advisor told me that I should not have been taking up space in the wildlife and forestry program if I didn’t intend to seek employment in the field, because there were people who wanted to work in those careers who had been turned away from the program.

As it turned out, when I graduated, there were six or seven job openings across New England and, of those earning degrees when I did, six or seven were women. They were offered the jobs, and I had to pursue a career in something else — which was fine with me; that had been my intent from the start.

With more of a classical education in the arts and sciences than was common even in the mid-Twentieth Century, spanning several languages, the best of the world’s literature, music composition and performance, mechanical engineering and mathematics, and the sciences related to biology, I do sometimes find myself starved for intellectual company in a remote enclave where almost no one has any concept of those subjects.

Nock laid out his thesis in the essay, “The Disadvantages of Being Educated,” which is included in a book of that title (containing 16 other essays), arranged and introduced by Robert M. Thornton. The book is available at Amazon.

=David A. Woodbury=

Marcus Goncalves, in an archived article at Benzinga.com, has written a splendid reprise of Nock’s essay as well.

In case of difficulties with the direct link above, here is the text of Marcus Goncalves’s article.


The Disadvantages of Being Educated

6 December 2011, Marcus Goncalves for Benzinga

Never had it occurred to me, as Nock would put it, that there might be disadvantages to being educated. I had always looked at it from an educator’s point of view, where education provided so much gain, rather than from the standpoint of today’s typical college student, eager to enter the workplace. At some point there must have been a cultural shift in many of our colleges and universities, causing what Bloom called the “closing of the American minds.”

Since the 1960s, there has been a decay of the study of humanities that has turned into a refugee camp of sorts, where intellects that are driven out of their jobs, or into retirements, tend to idle. Learning has been made much of, while forgetting has been deprecated, causing pedantry to become well established throughout the civilized world at the expense of culture. What has changed?

Historically, the goal of education was to prepare individuals for life, shaping intellect and character, and instilling ethical and moral values. Today’s version appears more focused on proficiency, and has transformed into training. It incorrectly assumes that training and education are synonymous. The distinction between the two has practically been eradicated. Nowadays, students take a very vocational approach to their studies, with the attitude that if the subject matter cannot be directly applied to their jobs or to revenue stream, then it is not worth studying.

But can proficient individuals, successful in their fields, be regarded as educated? Well-trained professionals welcome the accolades for possessing proficiency in their field. Their education, however, if they had any, is another matter, as it lies behind their proficiency, and should not be confused with it. This proficiency is a result of excellent training, enabling them to do and get what they want, while the education does not help with either, as it determines who and what they can become and be.

Stacked against such vocational, training-oriented programs, a true education does have its disadvantages. First, education deprives students of one of the most precious possessions: a sense of cooperation with one another. In this fast-paced world of compressed degrees, online learning, and expensive tuitions, students can only afford to be trained and are focusing their energies on a single narrow discipline. They have set their sights in one direction: to become a professional… Education discourages against such precise actions, while training embodies it.

Second, training tends to put students in step with their peers, while education causes them to reflect, disclosing other channels of interest, making many look inviting. Education may give rise to views that the interests students have in a multitude of disciplines may not be worth the time spent laboring on them, when they could rather spend it becoming proficient in something.

Third, education inevitably shows students what types of people their peers eventually become as they focus all their energy on one interest or “concentration,” making it harder to reconcile the thought of becoming like them, the “trained ones.” Conversely, training does not cause such disturbances of thought, allowing students to continue with one focused study, without any uncertainty or loss of confidence. They are part of a crowd.

Fourth, education is divisive and separatist. Training, to the contrary, induces an exhilarating sense of a cohort; one is doing with others what others do, and thinking the thoughts that others think. Training promotes cohesive thought, to the point of discerning from which school a student hails.

Education leads people to ask a great deal more from life than just life in its current form. This begets dissatisfaction with the rewards that life in a trained world offers. Training, however, tends to satisfy people with very moderate and simple returns, such as a salary, and the usual run of comforts and conveniences. Training not only allows people to acquire these rewards quickly, but also provides for an inert and comfortable contentment. After all, these are all that a trained society can offer. Politicians understand this concept well, wielding the dream of food on the table and two cars in the garage as symbols of aspiring social ideals and accomplishment.

Reading skills? For what if you are a mathematician? Math skills? For what if you are a writer? Science skills? For what if all you need is on Wikipedia? Not surprisingly, among the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, the U.S. now scores 14th in reading, 25th in math, and 17th in science, losing by a wide margin from the top five ranking countries; South Korea, Finland, Canada, New Zealand, and Japan respectively.

In time, things may improve. Some schools are already making progress, upping their game. The joy and satisfaction of an education for education’s sake should still be what commencement speakers say it is. Something must be done to mature the national resources of intellect and character, as well as proficiency. Respect for education needs to be rehabilitated as a social asset; otherwise, we will become a country unable to compete in the global marketplace. Worse, we may become a society that truly, and mistakenly, believes in the disadvantages of being educated.

Marcus Goncalves, Ed.D., Ph.D., Boston UniversityAdministrative Studies, Faculty Member
Nichols College, International Business, Faculty Member

Benzinga adds: The preceding article is from one of our external contributors. It does not represent the opinion of Benzinga and has not been edited.

Extremism

“But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love … Was not Amos an extremist for justice: ‘Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.’ … And John Bunyan: ‘I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.’ And Abraham Lincoln: ‘This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.’ And Thomas Jefferson: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal….’ So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men…were [all] crucified for the same crime — the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth, and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation, and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”

Senator Barry Goldwater in his speech accepting the nomination to become his party’s candidate for the presidential election of 1964

We Are a Conquered People

UNITED WE STAND. DIVIDED WE CRUMBLE.

The states of America which became united in one federation still exist in name and with regional eccentricities that each takes pride in. People in every state still entertain the delusion that they are separately-governed entities, voluntarily united into one country.

Most of us have accepted the reality that the states are, in fact, cemented like stones in a chimney. A geologist might think of a kind of rock called conglomerate, or another called porphyry.

“Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.”

Barry Goldwater

A rational person supports the Union of these states, as indeed I do. There are several things that half or more of us throughout the country have not accepted, however, even though we are individually powerless to resist:

  • that the three constitutional branches of the federal government and the fourth unconstitutional (unelected regulatory/bureaucratic) branch have, since at least 1912, conspired together to created a massive federal monster
  • that real money has been replaced, fifty years ago by promises to pay (federal reserve notes) and lately by digital “currency,” all of this to serve the banking “industry” and its shadowy controllers (not meaning comptrollers) as well as to serve the Internal Revenue Service’s oversight of virtually all transactions and savings
  • that insulting the political elite — “calling a spade a spade” or naming the white elephant in the room — results in public shaming, on-line surveillance, and punishment by the IRS
  • that it has become “subversive” to say or publish anything calling into question the motives of those who love and control our colossal, smothering, unsustainable federal government
  • that freedom, last experienced in this country in the 1960s, has become but a memory for those of us who experienced it and a dream for those who can only imagine it
  • that almost all electronic and “broadcast” media are political organs of the now-dominant political party, making them no more objective than Izvestia and Pravda in the old U.S.S.R.
  • that we who believe in and support the ideals that this country originally stood for are now branded as racists, extremists, and radicals by those who are the true racists, extremists, and radicals

I REMEMBER FREEDOM. I WAS AN ADULT IN THE 1960s.

There are those within the population, younger than I, who have been schooled in liberty as I was and who understand it more as an ideal than an experience. And there are many, both younger and older than I, who have given it little thought until recently, when the loss of freedom in one form or another has come around to affect them personally, and that more or less unexpectedly.

The mounting threats to personal possession of “weapons of war” is an example of that. By contrast with today’s hysteria over guns, my first firearm was a Marlin .22-caliber single shot rifle which I earned when I was ten years old by selling Christmas cards in Gomer, Ohio. I told my customers what I was working toward, and they supported my objective. I still have the Boys Life magazine with the ad for Junior Sales Club of America, which provided the Christmas cards and the gun. It was shipped to a local hardware store in my name, and my father had to go with me and sign for it to pick it up. I haven’t shot anyone with it yet.

The growth of government is in direct proportion to the erosion of our liberties.

State governments have necessarily become monsters in step with the fattening of the federal government.

Few Americans younger than I have a perspective on the growth of the federal behemoth or have any idea of the origins of each component of its growth. They don’t know the politics behind each growth spurt.

I remember the debates about “revenue sharing” during President Nixon’s first term. The federal government identified a problem that we didn’t know we had and enacted a fix that we didn’t need. Some states, poorly managed for many years and dominated by vocal, indignant politicians, complained that other states had more money per capita to spend — for whatever reason — perhaps, even, because they were better managed.

Someone put before Nixon (who was a student of Keynes, remember?) what he and Congress deemed was a great idea: Force all states to contribute to a special federal fund more or less in proportion to population, and the federal government would then return that revenue — all of it, they promised — by sharing it with those states where it was most needed for specific purposes.

Most states bought into the plan, because it was tailored to assure that those jurisdictions in need of seaport development, for instance, would receive special grants for that purpose while other states needing irrigation for agriculture would make out better than they would without federal “sharing.” From this came the common theme today that, whenever a bond issue is floated it describes the federal matching funds which — Hey, listen up! — is money we can’t turn down!

That is how state governments have been forced, financially, to mimic the growth of the federal monster and is but one example from my adult lifetime. As with the Social Security program and everything else, the promises made to get it past suspicious voters or suspicious representatives in Congress were honored for about the duration of one president’s administration and then abandoned as the program sank into the muck of government control.

With each such program, of course, come requirements unrelated to the purpose for which the money is distributed. Highway funds include mandates that apply to public schools, agricultural grants include mandates affecting medical care for the elderly, and so on.

Resistance is Futile.

For those who want to participate in a revolution against the burgeoning totalitarian regime, it would be wrong for the “foot soldiers” of the revolution to confront the government’s grunts — the local police, the National Guard, the professional military. For the most part, the police, the Guard, the standing army are us — our neighbors, our cousins, our children, our personal friends. Any rabble in arms, in a confrontation with such professional force, doesn’t stand a chance.

I think it has been folly for foot soldiers in any army in any country in any epoch to participate in a clash of front-line troops. The people at the top are your enemy. They will fight a war of attrition using the soldiers at their command. An army with any sense would try to storm the residences of the powerful, not the front lines of their protectors.

Don’t fight in the streets. The real enemy is at the top. But Washington, D.C., is off limits. Any attack there is too costly. Sun Tzu, in The Art of War, said that deception and trickery are the highest and most effective strategies against an opponent. Guess what; those tactics have already been employed against the United States from within. They have already won.

For the next generation or two, half the people across the 50 states will blame the country’s rot on all that came before 2021. The other half will blame it on all that happened since.

It’s My Fault.

I blame it on us. Since the 1970s we’ve accepted the lust for egalitarian results over the uncertainties attending equal opportunity. We’ve opted for indoctrination in the dream of fairness over education in reality. We haven’t understood what we have been voting for, what — not who — we have chosen in our elections. We have chosen unrealistic expectations of fluffy lives and guarantees of happiness. We have vilified the very idea of individual responsibility and pursued rights by group — rights to things and conditions that have a cost but not a cost that those in the group must pay.

We have turned the original idea that every individual has affirmative rights — the right to do whatever one might decide to do without interference from others or the government (id est, those same others) so long as what I do doesn’t infringe on the rights of the next guy — into a body of negative rights — the right to be free from something rather than free to do something. In this body of negative rights, we would have the right to be free from illness, free from insult, free from hunger, cold, heat, inconvenience of any sort. I would have the right to be free from restrictions on my personal expression even when my personal expression forces you to stand aside or participate in it or pay for it.

Conquest In Various Forms

The American continents were simply overrun by outsiders in the latter half of the Second Millennium — overwhelmed by a population supplied with superior tools, weapons, and governmental imperative. In the novel, Cold Morning Shadow, the 20th-Centtury American Indian, Henry Clay Comosh, acknowledges that fact, echoing an earlier comment by a Japanese survivor of World War II: We are a conquered people.

There are various summations of the rules for destroying a country, available by searching the internet. Look up Saul Alinsky, Noam Chomsky, Mao Tse-Tung, and of course Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. These demons in Satan’s service well understood how to transform a country from within by changing the people’s expectations and not so much with weapons of war, although a little of that is needed to set the populace on edge.

You Mean, Do Nothing?

While I think it is folly to attack the federal monster by shooting guns in the streets with the hope of changing things back to the way they were in , 1960, 1900, 1840, or 1780, I also think it is useless for an individual like me to try to topple the people at the top, even though that is the appropriate target and the way to reduce casualties. A few hundred years ago a ruler could surround himself with some protection, but he was necessarily far more exposed, while traveling, for instance, than today. Even though the ones at the top are the symbols of political power and that is who presumably must be removed and replaced (with whom…?), I think it is practically impossible now to do it.

I also think those in top political office do not, in fact, possess much power. They are manipulated by the ones literally in the shadows who run the political parties and who control the money. There is plenty of speculation out there, not to mention evidence, around who those people are; I don’t need to name anyone.

It is most sad that any “revolution” against the collectivist powers in the federal government, even should it succeed in supplanting the body of the monster, will be a devolution into a comparable monster. This is made plain in Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer, discussed in detail at this page. and at this Farnam Street site. A revolution based on good ideas needs to generate fervor in the masses. The masses need leaders. People interested in becoming revolutionary leaders have their own self-interest at heart more than the ideals that brought them to power.

Ave, Don Quixote!

The Washington, D.C., of tour books and picture post cards was built upon a swamp, we’re told, an exceedingly accurate representation of the government that has since formed within the slime and the goo. President Trump was elected to clean it out.

That swamp, though, is smeared across a bedrock of limestone hardness — a deep state which no swamp-cleaning can touch. Donald Trump wasn’t able to expose, much less scratch the veneer of that mantle. Its retribution for his presumption to hammer at its surface was so ferocious and so frightening to his close allies that he was left standing alone in tatters and bewilderment. Ave, Don Quixote, and God bless you. You’re the bravest man ever to hold public office in the United States of America.

R.I.P. U.S.A.

In the movie, “Catch-22,” after the Italian brothel has been destroyed, Captain Yossarian finds an old man sitting in the rubble. The gist of the old Italian’s comment to the American is that Italy has been conquered, so now he must direct his loyalty to the conquerors.

Unlike the old Italian in the movie, I am not going to feign loyalty to the powers that will rule the United States for the rest of my lifetime. But for my own peace I acknowledge that we are a conquered people. It happened just as the patron saints of collectivism said it would.

This isn’t surrender on my part. This isn’t capitulation. It’s marking time. Yes, some of us can rise up and resist. I pray that, for those who participate in any uprising, it will be a smart resistance and not some goofiness about masks and vaccines. I fear that much of the energy needed to rescue the United States from the conquerors has been dissipated in useless squabbles over the virus.

My own days of guerrilla fighting are over. I wore sergeant’s stripes in the Army during the Vietnam non-war and I’m now in my eighth decade. My mission henceforth is, as Albert Jay Nock argued: to document, edify, and exhort — to do exactly what you see here.

Restoring any semblance of the country I was born into will truly take a war of ideas. The opposing sides are individualism against collectivism, “Truth forever on the threshold, Wrong forever on the throne.”* The idea of freedom needs to take hold once more. That won’t occur in my lifetime. For the rest of my life, though, I’m keeping my guns, cleaned, loaded, and unregistered.

=David A. Woodbury= 18 January 2021

*James Russell Lowell in the poem “The Present Crisis” — 1845. The hymnal of the Episcopal church included a hymn based on Lowell’s poem, beginning with the line, “Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide…” The hymn was purged when an updated hymnal was published in 1982.

The Big Guy’s 1260 days

During the covid-19 pandemic we talked about herd immunity, a principle that we normally apply to other species.  Herd immunity is what permitted humans to overcome past plagues and other odious diseases before people understood disease transmission and control.  Population control of a species is good for the species as a whole but that overlooks — ignores, really — the fundamental difference between us and every other creature that lives and moves and has its being: the individual.

Respect for the individual person has reached its highest expression in the founding documents of the United States.  Those founding documents created a republic, precisely to assure that the individual is sovereign, that the rights guaranteed in the Constitution apply to each person individually and that no group of people (a democracy) can assert group rights that strip one of individual rights.

Grouping people according to arbitrary criteria in order to apply group solutions to group problems — identity politics, some now call it — is one way to keep us divided and angry, jealous and submissive.  It is assuredly one way to trample individual rights with group privileges.

People who are content to submit to group control, to act according to expectations of an arbitrarily-defined community, (the “international banking community” for instance, or the black “community”), are participating in herd behavior.

The Big Guy

When his son was selling access to the former Vice President, Joe Biden was happy to be known as The Big Guy. This is what you voted for in November 2020 — in fact, a cadre of old geezers* slower and dumber than I am — to represent and govern you and invent problems that you don’t have that require solutions you don’t need.  Enough of you asked for it — maybe not enough to legitimately elect the regime of 2021, but enough that it took only a little cheating to tip the balance.  Now you will live with it.  You young people can go ahead and run the world now through your elected oldsters.

It won’t be Joseph Robinette Biden for long — I would say, optimistically for him — 42 months, (a time, two times, and half a time; 1260 days — let those who recognize these references understand what I’m saying).  Those who will control him during his tenure — for The Big Guy himself certainly will not be running the show — are aware of some quiet, efficient ways to remove him by a mysterious suicide or other “unattended” death, as those same people know who eliminated Jeffrey Epstein and Justice Scalia, to name two ready examples.

This “adjustment” in regency, the removal of Joe Biden at the crucial moment, will position newly-ascended President Harris nicely, around mid-year 2024, to breeze into two full terms beyond finishing Biden’s term as President.  During that interim half year she will appoint a VP approved by her financiers, whom she will carry forward into her first full term as the first female elected President.

You don’t for a moment believe, do you, that Kamala Harris will wait for an election to move herself into the presidency? It’s already hers for the taking. It only remains for the controllers of the Biden-Harris team to remove the Big Guy at the best moment. Even now her handlers — the puppeteers of the Executive Branch — are writing the hundreds of executive order that she will sign the day she is sworn in to assume the remainder of the Biden term. I expect that the Democrat-controlled propaganda machine, (the “news” media), will guide the nation through mourning Joe Biden’s “unexpected” death in the summer of 2024.

Vice President Harris is already the next President, poised to take office 1260 days from Joe’s faux election or 1260 days from his inauguration — I haven’t figured out which, nor does it matter which. I expect that the Democrat-controlled propaganda machine, (the “news” media), with its pretensions of enlightenment, honesty, and sincerity, will guide the nation through mourning Joe Biden’s “unexpected” death in the late spring or early summer of 2024.

Kamala’s ascendency at that time will carry her through the year 2032, when her second full term as President will come to a close.  The divine implications of the Biden-Harris era remain to be revealed, but the year 2032 coincides nicely with the 2000th anniversary of the Crucifixion.

=David A. Woodbury= 18 January 2021

*Biden-Pelosi-Shumer, combined age at inauguration: 222 years. I would rather sit and suffer through old movies of The Three Stooges than watch anything featuring those three. At least the Stooges knew that they were a joke.

Quality of Life

James Michener published a slim volume in 1970, The Quality of Life. He wrote, however, of matters that affected people in general, America specifically, and all of us according to groups or group identities, or as Eric Hoffer characterized us: the masses.

Michener is a splendid novelist and one of my all-time favorites. In The Quality of Life he was sounding the alarm, and much of what troubled him then has come to pass. It is now, in its way, a depressing book.

Significantly, we did not heed his alarm, or enough of us did not, anyway, that we could exert any effect on the future. (I was an adult when it was published, and I read it soon thereafter.)

We are all concerned in one way or another for the plight of others, the course of history, the fate of humans everywhere. But daily and locally we must be concerned not so much for the masses but for ourselves, individually. A generation ago we were exhorted to “think globally, act locally.”

If a person is not comfortable as an individual, fulfilled, content, and hopeful, then he is unlikely to have a positive effect on any larger group: his family, neighbors, community, nation, or the world. I have, perhaps selfishly, sought to assure that I, the individual, am indeed comfortable from day to day, fulfilled in my personal pursuits, content with my lot, and optimistic. And yet, were I not so selfishly occupied — were my personal needs not being met, my effect on those around me might have been very unpleasant for all.

I am not at all concerned that there’ll be a shortage of work. There will be plenty of things for people to do. The problem is, they may be things that we don’t want to pay much money for.”

David Siegel in Bloomberg

Bloomberg published an article 12 January 2021 reporting on interviews with three financial industry executives to learn their concerns for the future, meaning what worries them most.

Is it pestilence and pandemics? Asteroids? Global warming? Warfare and famine?

No. One focused on risks in cybersecurity and artificial intelligence. The other two discussed concerns for the future of the human condition. The comment that stood out to me is quoted above.

One almost can’t be quoted in Bloomberg without acknowledging the chasm between the rich and the poor. Two of the three acknowledged that perennial blot on humanity. One of the three was concerned about high unemployment or under-employment and wide-ranging social unrest. The third, quoted above, had a more esoteric concern that what will be left for humans to do, to support themselves, may be tedious and unstimulating.

This latter expert’s concern assumes performing menial labor in exchange for a minimum-but-perpetually-inadequate wage will be the norm.

In his own words: What we’re doing today is finding more and more ways to essentially reduce the need to have humans involved with work. So much of the investment in business in America is to essentially automate away human labor or, even more curiously, to devalue human labor. -David Siegel

The Human Condition

It strikes me that all three financial executives, the “experts,” barely acknowledge the rest of the world. Their careers are in America’s financial dominance of world affairs. I am aware that there are more than mere pockets of humanity but whole nations — and I have reached such places in my travels — where people live no differently than their ancestors did a thousand years ago, but for the addition of T-shirts bearing commercial slogans and the presence of corrugated galvanized sheet metal for roofing.

Humans have withstood some horrible conditions, by modern American standards, and perhaps half the people in the world still do. If the conditions arise that the three financial executives in Bloombergs interviews worry about, modern Americans will be ill-equipped, mentally and physically, to adapt. But their children will and, better still, their grandchildren will. Because they can, and once they know no better, they will.

We can be poor again.

I have pre-adolescent grandchildren. They are too young to announce career choices yet. Indeed, I hope they are steered away from the notion that they must choose specific careers but that they might, instead, choose a way of life.

In my youth I fell in with Albert Jay Nock’s notion that one attends an institution of higher learning for one’s own edification — for tutelage under the best people, the real experts, in their fields of science or the arts, for instance. I earned a college degree in a “subject” which fascinated me before I enrolled in the program and about which I previously knew nearly nothing. What I would do “for a living” afterward didn’t really concern me. I was more concerned with where I might make my home than what I would do for a living once I settled down. (My college advisor called me an anachronism.)

I plan to use my influence with my grandchildren to counsel them similarly. If one decides to become a medical professional, for instance, well, then, that profession can be pursued almost anywhere. (I suspect that, in the future, it won’t be such a lucrative calling, though.)

I hope that my grandchildren will choose a way of life over a profession, though. And in choosing a way of life, one now faces a fundamental dichotomy: urban versus rural. If they attend college for job training instead of for edification, I hope they choose to be trained in a job that fits with each one’s chosen way of life and chosen environment.

As for me, I have been lured by open space, drawn close to the earth, pulled farther from the conveniences of urban congestion and its attending surfeit of human proximity. Were it not for the life I have led, I could more readily have spent my days nurturing monocotyledonous crops than navigating the vagaries of corporate federal compliance or the challenges of serving customers’ inscrutable preferences in mid-morning snacks, e.g., in a metropolitan coffee shop.

Quality of life, to me — and perhaps to many others, should they think about it — has been determined not by career, social status, entertainment, or excitement, but by family, peaceful surroundings, and meaningful after-work occupations to balance the stress and boredom in the job that brings home a biweekly payroll deposit.

It behooves a person, too, to recognize as early in life as possible that one is not going to be famous, rich, influential, beautiful, or long remembered. Expecting any of that leads to disappointment, stress, heartache, and poverty in spirit if not also in possessions. Those who have understood this and written well about it include Helen and Scott Nearing, Eric Hoffer, and E.F. Schumacher.

Caring for oneself and demanding no more of the world than one contributes to it is a theme in my novel, Cold Morning Shadow. As for the children: They have a choice. We need to make them aware that they do.

=David A. Woodbury=