So, you’re a barista with a problem – you took out $200K student loans to get that master’s degree from Gumbo State in “LGBTQ2#v& Experiences as Reflected in 17th Century Bolivian Folk Songs” and now you can’t find an uncaffeinated career.
Worse, those fascist monsters who you took money from based on your agreement to pay it back with interest now expect you to pay the money back with interest despite the fact that you really don’t feel like it anymore.
Well, I have a fresh solution to this crisis.
It’s an innovative strategy that totally and permanently resolves this problem in a new and exciting way.
How about you pay your own student debt?
That’s it. It’s as elegant as it is simple. You. Pay. Your. Own. Debts.
If you follow this bold, one-step program – the one step is you paying your debts – then you will eventually be debt-free. And best of all, I won’t have to pay any of your debts.
See, a lot of Democrat politicians are promising “free college,” but what they really mean is “free for you.” Someone has to pay, and that someone is me, and I need to level with you.
I am not interested in paying for your college.
Now, some may call me “greedy” or “selfish” for not wishing to work and then have the money I earned taken from me to provide things to you that you want but did not pay for instead of being able to spend it – the “it” being the money I earned – on things that I want. I am okay with that. I would much prefer having people who fundamentally misunderstand the concepts of greed and selfishness call me “greedy” and “selfish” than subsidize their educations, educations that evidently did not include learning about basic concepts like greed and selfishness.
I understand that your priorities for my money may differ from mine, but it being my money, my priorities should take precedence. Here is a short, partial list of things that I prioritize for my money over paying off your student loan debts:
1. A lease on a sweet German sedan
2. A delicious tri-tip sandwich
3. A walk-in humidor
4. Guns and ammo
5. A pedicure for my wife
6. A pedicure for me
7. A pedicure for my fat corgi Bitey
8. Literally anything else but your student loan debt
Now, those who support the idea of taking my money to give it to someone else so that someone else can have things he, she or xe wants rarely put it so bluntly. It’s never, “Well, I want this education but I don’t want to do the things necessary to pay for it. I want you other people to do the things necessary to pay for it.” Instead, it’s always put in some other way that makes them taking our money to spend on things they want appear as a favor to us, the people expected to do the work.
For instance, sometimes they say that us working to give other people free stuff is an “investment.” Again with the not understanding what words means…
Traditionally, with an investment, one gets a return on investment. No one ever explains what my return on investment for Kaden’s Marxist Puppetry degree might be, other than an occasional latte which I would still have to pay for. I prefer that I instead determine how to invest my own money in order to benefit myself, which I do not see as unreasonable since it is my money. Which I earned by working.
This is the beauty of my one-step student loan plan. It puts all this controversy aside. Pay your own student loan off. That’s it. End of discussion. Now get to work.
Note that I am not pointing out how I managed to fund my own education without asking strangers to chip in – actually, without forcing them to chip in, because if you don’t pay your taxes designed to fund “free college” people with guns will come to haul you away. The argument that “I paid for mine so you should pay for you own” is valid, but we need not even reach it. No one should ever be forced to give other people free stuff. It’s my money, and that’s reason enough why you can’t have it.
I certainly understand that academia is a scam and that the government allows lending to people who foolishly undertake debts that they cannot pay. I would stop it all – no government participation in the student loan industry and full bankruptcy dischargeability for student debts. Of course, this would mean many less people taking loans, and therefore fewer college students. No lose to society there. This means many colleges would actually start having to compete for students, and even – gasp – lower prices. Sounds good to me, though they would scream bloody murder – colleges have gotten fat off of loan money and many schools would go under without this pot of suckers’ cash. Oh well.
Sure, academia is a grift, but you did sign on the line that is dotted. You took the money. And I say that you pay it back instead of me.
Now, I have read many tales of woe from people who have taken out huge student loans and have not taken jobs that pay enough to support paying them off. Yes, this is a problem. But it is your problem.
Often, after I suggest my patented student loan debt resolution system – which is, in its entirety, “Pay your own debts” – people who have taken out debts they can’t pay will ask me “Well, how do I do that?”
And my answer is, “I don’t know, because it’s not my problem. It’s your problem. You’re an adult, with at least one degree, so you figure it out.”
See, it’s important to allocate responsibility. It is not my responsibility to provide a solution to your problems. Your problems are your problems. You solve them.
Now, I can provide some helpful suggestions, if you wish to hear them. You won’t like them, because all of them recognize that your problem is your problem, not mine, and all of them require you to do things that you would probably prefer not to do. These suggestions include:
1. Get a better job. You can thank President Trump for the record low unemployment rate. Sure, you might not be able to continue at your dream job because it does not pay enough, but too bad. I’d rather pay for my own dreams.
2. Get a second job. Yeah, that will cut into your free time. Better that than paying your debt off cutting into mine.
3. Spend less on things you enjoy in order to pay off your debt faster. Again, I would prefer you to sacrifice to pay off your debt instead of for me to sacrifice to pay off your debt.
There are probably other ways to pay off your debt, but I am not going to spend my time thinking about them. After all, your student debt is your problem, so you spend time thinking about how to pay it off.
Now, let me once more provide you with my student debt solution.
Here it is again.
Pay your own student debt.
Creating a debtor class of over-educated, under-smart serfs with gender studies degrees is another Cloward-Piven-seque ploy to undermine our society in the pursuit of the socialist Utopia our garbage ruling class seeks to command. Of course, this would be a Utopia built of envy, incompetence and lies. If you want to see the reality of the country they dream of, then check out my action-packed yet super-snarky novels about the United States’ split into red and blue countries, People’s Republic, Indian CountryandWildfire. Liberals hate my novels. The sissy castaways from the Weekly Standard call them “Appalling.” So, obviously you’ll call them “Awesome.”
via ZeroHedge News http://bit.ly/2W4maCc Tyler Durden
NBA player Kawhi Leonard has already cemented his legacy in Toronto, despite only being on the team for just 10 months. He has helped lead the team to its first ever NBA finals and for that, businesses in Toronto have come together to try and entice Leonard – who will likely be sought by many other cash-flush teams in the NBA next year – to stay in the Canadian city.
Leonard becomes a free agent on June 30, which has prompted local real estate investors, restaurant owners and tattoo shops to offer the star anything they can in a bid to keep him from leaving, according to Bloomberg. So far, Leonard has been offered free food for life and a luxury penthouse to stay in Toronto.
“Dozens” of restaurants in town have agreed to something called the “Ka’Wine and Dine” initiative, wherein owners offer Leonard free food and shop perks if he stays in town. The head of a condo brokerage, Simon Mass, has even offered Leonard his choice of a place to stay at the Four Seasons, St. Regis or Ritz-Carlton residences, while playing for the Raptors.
Mass said: “We want to get the support of the city behind Kawhi and ensure he’s comfortable in a multi-million dollar condo that is built for a king.”
Kraft Heinz took a little bit of a less luxurious road, offering Leonard free Kraft Mac and Cheese if he stays.
Leonard doesn’t exactly need the financial help, either. He’s going to be making $23 million in the final year of his current 5 year contract that he signed with San Antonio. ESPN predicts that the Raptors may offer Leonard a five year, $190 million contract after this season. Many basketball analysts don’t expect Leonard to stay in Toronto.
Leonard has been a key part of Toronto’s success in making the NBA finals, averaging more than 31 points per game in the playoffs. This places him third among all time Raptors playoff scorers. Raptors president Masai Ujiri said: “He’s been unbelievable – he’s the best player in the league.”
“We want to do what we can to ensure that our MVP stays in Toronto where he is loved and respected for being the best of the best,” Mass concluded.
via ZeroHedge News http://bit.ly/2EMyktP Tyler Durden
The chief of police in Virginia Beach, Virginia has confirmed that 11 people have been killed and another 6 hospitalized after a shooting in a local municipal center, according to severalmedia reports and an announcement on the department’s twitter feed.
ACTIVE SHOOTER SITUATION-municipal center, building 2. Multiple injuries. At this time it is believed that only 1 shooter, and they have been taken into custody. More to follow
Police Chief James Cervera told reporters during a Friday night press conference that the shooting took place in building 2 of the local Virginia Beach municipal center. Police had said earlier that the shooter was in custody, by Cervera told reporters that the shooter had died. It was unclear whether the shooter was among the dead.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates…
via ZeroHedge News http://bit.ly/2XjHULK Tyler Durden
Sometime in the fall of 2018 a lowly gofer at the New York Stock Exchange was sweating bullets. He’d made an honest mistake. One that could forever tag him a buffoon.
After trading sideways for most of the spring, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was on the move. When it closed at 26,828 on October 3, it appeared the Dow was but one trading day away from eclipsing 27,000. Everyone, including Jim Cramer, just knew it was about to happen.
And this was precisely what the NYSE gofer feared most. For he’d failed to procure Dow 27,000 hats. What a shame it would be for Wall Street’s most revered index to notch this historic milestone with no commemorative hats for floor traders to put on while they go bananas.
But then a miracle happen. The Dow didn’t go up; rather, it went down. A week later, to the gofers relief, the Dow 27,000 hats arrived…in advance of Dow 27,000.
And now, nearly eight months later, Dow 27,000 remains elusive. After pulling back in October of last year, the Dow made another run at it last month. But, again, fell short. Hence, the hats remain stowed away in a box in the back of a broom closet.
By our estimation, that’s where the Dow 27,000 hats will stay until about 2050 – or even later. Moreover, when it’s finally time to pull them out, we suspect Wall Street cheerleading will have long since gone out of style. What a waste of perfectly good hats.
But fear not. All’s not lost…
Another Day in Paradise
By all commonly accepted weights and measures we’re living in paradise. Our federal government’s broke. Our state and local governments are crazy as ever. Yet things still work wonderfully well.
When we turn on the faucet, water reliably flows out. We take hot showers every day. There’s no sewage flowing down the streets as far as we can tell. The trash man shows up to collect our garbage every Tuesday rain-or-shine. And vagrants generally stay off our lawn.
Within a short walk from our residence are four different grocers. The shelves are always full. The produce is always fresh. And the cost for most items is exceptionally reasonably. This week, for example, we picked up several ears of fresh corn for just $0.33 cents a pop…practically free.
On top of all this, we have an abundance of meaningful and challenging work. The pay’s generally acceptable. And while we do receive a client wire brushing on occasion, corporate executives leave us alone…so long as we’re winning new business and delivering margin at or above plan.
Plus, the coffee’s free. And it’s all you can drink!
Should we expect anything more?
What about Dow 27,000? Would it somehow increase our bliss?
Would it make our morning cup of house blend taste better? Would it make our back hurt any less after a long day? Would it make the air crisper? Would it make sunsets more vibrant?
Of course not. For these questions, Dow 27,000 is meaningless.
Still, it’s not without meaning. We seem to think the same factors inhibiting Dow 27,000 are the same factors that will make life less agreeable over the next several decades. Here’s what we mean…
The Ugly End of Globalization
The capital defect of America’s contrived economy is the capital itself. Namely, it’s fake. The importance of this defect cannot be overstated.
After Nixon removed the discipline of gold from the world monetary system the money supply could be inflated without limits. For U.S. consumers, this translated into consumer price inflation. Things got ugly quick.
By 1980, the CPI was at 13.5 percent and the yield on the 30 Year Treasury hit 15 percent. Fed Chairman Paul Volcker had to jack the federal funds rate up over 20 percent to keep prices from coming completely uncorked. Indeed, things got ugly.
About this time, something even more historic happened. Roughly one billion Chinese workers, who were willing to work for less than peanuts, joined the global workforce. As a result, the U.S. was able to export its inflation – and jobs – to China and other emerging economies over the next three decades.
At the same time, the prices of goods and services that couldn’t be exported – like health care and college tuition – inflated with the money supply. In addition, the gap from stagnant U.S. wages, due to the flood of cheap labor abroad, was made up with an endless supply of credit. Financial assets, like stocks, bonds, and real estate, also inflated beyond comprehension.
At the end of the cycle, however, the Dow came up short of 27,000. Massive public and private debts, runaway deficits, trade tariffs, and the end of globalization have set the table for the return of consumer price inflation to the U.S economy.
Make what you want of Trump’s trade policies. You may like them. You may not. But there’s little he or anyone else can do to stop the ugliness that’s coming.
via ZeroHedge News http://bit.ly/2WhSbfa Tyler Durden
After collecting a sweet $600,000 for a single speech in Colombia, former President Barack Obama took to the stage at the São Paulo Expo in Brazil, where he lied to the audience about US gun laws.
“Some of you may be aware our gun laws in the United States don’t make much sense. Anybody can buy any weapon any time,” said Obama –to which the audience erupted in applause, seemingly over Americans’ access to guns.
This is of course false, as not “anybody” can buy a gun “any time.” Federal law restricts the purchase of a handgun through a licensed dealer to those who are 18 or older (18 in most states for long guns), while convicted felons can’t legally own firearms at all.
After the audience died down, Obama continued: “…without much if any regulation, they can buy it over the Internet, they can buy machine guns.“
And while guns can be purchased over the internet, Obama lied again when he claimed that there’s ‘little regulation’ to buy online – when in fact a Federal Firearms License (FFL) holder must be involved in interstate sales, and that people can buy “machine guns.”
Obama blatantly lies to a crowd in Brazil: “Some of you may be aware our gun laws in the United States don’t make much sense. Anybody can buy any weapon any time, without much if any regulation, they can buy it over the Internet, they can buy machine guns” pic.twitter.com/6pqUkbUtc7
If President Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on Mexican imports and withhold aid money from Central America were examples of the stick, then the White House is following up with a surprising carrot.
After Trump’s surprise tariff announcement triggered a steep selloff in markets on Friday, it appears the administration is pivoting to a novel new strategy: Sending dozens of DHS agents and investigators to Guatemala to try and stem the tide of unauthorized immigration.
First reported late Friday by the Washington Post, Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan has reportedly lobbied heavily to take a more “muscular” approach to working with local governments to solve the root cause of the immigration crisis. According to a memorandum of understanding with the Guatemalan government signed by McAleenan, approximately Customs Agents and DHS investigators will be deployed to Guatemala to work side-by-side with local police. US agents will help train local police, as well as assist in “law enforcement actions” to improve criminal investigations, to try and break the stranglehold that powerful drug gangs have on society.
The agents will be deployed along the Guatemala-Mexico border, where they will focus on some of the poorest areas of the country. US troops are expected to carry weapons, and, according to WaPo, in what appears to be a trial run, DHS agents helped Guatemalan police arrest nine suspected smugglers in Guatemala City.
“The U.S. and Guatemala are formalizing a number of initiatives to improve the lives and security of our respective citizens by combating human trafficking and the smuggling of illegal goods, helping to limit ‘push’ factors that encourage dangerous irregular migration to the U.S., perpetuating the ongoing crisis at or border,” McAleenan said in a statement, after signing a “Memorandum of Cooperation” with Guatemalan officials.
“Other areas of cooperation include increasing the security of the Guatemalan border to stem the flow of irregular migration while ensuring proper preparation to improve the ability of both countries to identify and better understand their root causes,” according to DHS.
WaPo points out that there is a legal precedent for sending American personnel to Central America: The DEA has been doing it for years. But those operations are typically much more limited in scope. Seeing that the deployment looks similar to the military’s use of American ‘advisors’ in parts of the Middle East, we can’t help but wonder. Have fears about boots on the ground in Venezuela been misplaced? Could Central America be a more likely candidate for American military intervention in this hemisphere?
via ZeroHedge News http://bit.ly/2IcpXbJ Tyler Durden
A professor at American University who has correctly predicted the last nine presidential elections says that Trump will win in 2020 unless Congressional Democrats “grow a spine.”
While speaking with CNN, political historian Allan Lichtman said that Democrats have no chance of winning the next election unless they begin impeachment proceedings against the president – which he said would be both “constitutionally” and “politically” warranted following special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.
“It’s a false dichotomy to say Democrats have a choice between doing what is right and what is constitutional and what is politically right. Impeachment is also politically right,” Lichtman told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin during a Wednesday interview.
Lichtman has developed a system of 13 “key factors” that help determine whether the party in the White House will maintain its hold, according to CNN. The factors range from whether the party has an incumbent president running to the country’s short- and long-term economic conditions to foreign policy successes and failures. If the party loses out on six factors or more, he says they will lose the presidency.
Lichtman says the Trump administration is down three key factors: Republican losses in the midterms elections, a “lack of foreign policy success” and Trump’s “limited appeal to voters,” CNN reported. Impeachment would trigger a fourth key — scandal over the proceeding’s public nature. –The Hill
“Let’s not forget, impeachment is not just a vote in the House,” said Lichtman. “It involves public hearings as part of the impeachment inquiry, and, what everyone forgets, a public trial in the Senate in which House prosecutors present evidence, present documents, make opening and closing statements.”
Professor @AllanLichtman has correctly predicted nine straight presidential elections.
On Tuesday, Lichtman told CNN‘s Chris Cillizza “Democrats are fundamentally wrong about the politics of impeachment and their prospects for victory in 2020,” referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s contention that even if the House impeaches Trump, the Senate would ‘vindicate’ him by refusing to do the same.
via ZeroHedge News http://bit.ly/3106Ytp Tyler Durden
He’s the closest thing we’ve had to an antiwar president in 40 years – but the entrenched interests have proven too strong…
From my distant vantage point in New England, tracking the daily fluctuations of the ongoing Iran war scare poses a challenge. It’s that old problem of distinguishing between signals and noise. These days there is noise aplenty emanating from Washington. That the prospect of yet another Gulf war competes for bandwidth with intensifying efforts to impeach President Trump makes it more difficult still to know what exactly is going on.
My bet is that an actual shooting war involving the United States and the Islamic Republic will not occur. Granted, we cannot exclude the possibility of inadvertent hostilities caused by one side misreading the intentions or actions of the other side.Nor should we ignore the possibility of bellicose subordinates exceeding their briefs and stumbling into a fight that authorities at the top may not have authorized. Posturing invites misunderstanding and miscalculation—and there has been more than a little posturing coming from both Washington and Tehran.
Yet even if armed conflict is averted, the Iran War Scare of 2019 will deserve recognition as a moment of genuine strategic significance. With the current dustup involving Iran, the likelihood of President Trump ending the “forever wars” is now gone for good.
Only rarely have I agreed with Trump on anything. His frequent and apparently sincere denunciations of our various wars in the Greater Middle East stand as the principal exception to that statement. As both candidate and president, Trump has repeatedly made clear his intention to extricate the United States from the vast military quagmire that his several predecessors, both Republicans and Democrats, have created in that region.
Consistency has not been a strong suit of Trump’s administration. Yet terminating our interminable wars while lowering the US military profile in the Islamic world does seem to be something to which the president is actually committed.
Yet the national security apparatus and members of his own administration have opposed him every step of the way. Trump wanted US troops out of Afghanistan. They are still there. He wanted US troops out of Syria. They are still there. So, too, are 5,000 more in neighboring Iraq—more than 16 years after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
The nominal rationale for the US military presence and combat actions in the Greater Middle East changes with dizzying frequency. It once had something to do with overthrowing dictators, spreading democracy, and promoting human rights.Then, for a time, the mission was to eliminate terrorism. Somewhere along the line, it changed to promoting stability. Now, the focus has shifted to Iran, assigned a place in the pecking order of official US adversaries that once belonged to Saddam, then to al-Qaeda, and then to ISIS.
We don’t have a strategy in the Greater Middle East. We merely have a variable roster of enemies.
In reality, if US military policies in the Islamic world actually retain an overarching purpose, it is simply to persist and do so without thinking too deeply about costs and consequences.Elevating Iran to the status of existential threat is ideal for these purposes.
This is where the drumbeat of a possible showdown with the ayatollahs has played such an important role. Recall the tenor of the discussion in recent days about the possible direction of US policy. First, there was the leaked Pentagon report of a war plan—100,000 troops earmarked for commitment. Then there was the leaked “defensive” deployment of 10,000 troops to protect US forces already there.
It’s not the numbers here that matter, but the unspoken (and largely unchallenged) assumption that the problems facing the United States in the Greater Middle East are military problems that will require further military action on top of the various and sundry actions undertaken over the past couple of decades. And so now we have the New York Times revealing that “President Trump has decided to deploy about 1,500 additional American troops to the Middle East to provide protection for American service members already there.”
Again, the precise numbers are almost beside the point. In effect, Trump has drawn his own line in the sand, one that says: “We ain’t leaving, no sir.” His decision—was it really his?—is in effect a capitulation. Trump has deferred to the institutions, interests, and individuals intent on perpetuating the forever wars. Devious and diabolical and brilliant, the war party, abetted by its foreign auxiliaries, has prevailed. Trump will now surely bequeath those wars to his successor—that’s the significance of the Iran war scare.
Trump is closest thing we have had to an antiwar president since Jimmy Carter and perhaps since Herbert Hoover. But today, no president, even one who recognizes the folly of our foreign policy misadventures, is a match for the war machine.
Democrats looking for evidence of conspiracy and collusion ought to turn their attention there.
via ZeroHedge News http://bit.ly/2WhXlYk Tyler Durden
Bernie Sanders supporters are getting that familiar feeling that the DNC is conspiring to screw their favorite candidate out of the Democratic nomination in 2020 – this time in favor of former Vice President Joe Biden, according to the Washington Examiner.
Biden’s early domination over the rest of the Democrats – when Sanders had consistently been polling as the lead contender – smacks of 2016, when the DNC and Clinton campaign worked together to ensure that Sanders was left in the dust. Sanders, as some may recall, came to heel and rallied behind the former Secretary of State in her losing bid to Donald Trump.
“The mainstream media and the DNC are colluding against the American people. That’s what it feels like. It’s the same thing all over again,” said Massachusetts neuroscientist and Bernie Sanders supporter Laurie Cestnick, who founded Occupy DNC in order to protest Clinton’s nomination during the party’s 2016 Philadelphia convention.
If they feel jilted again, Ms. Cestnick and fellow activists say they are not afraid to stage another revolt at the 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, even if doing so damages the party’s nominee ahead of the general election contest against President Trump.
Sanders backers already mistrust polls that show Mr. Biden with a commanding lead and the news organizations that have put a spotlight on the former VP since he joined the race April 25. –Washington Examiner
“People are becoming more upset and becoming more firm behind Bernie due to mainstream media not covering a lot of his events and the strong push for Biden,” said Cestnick, adding “Is 2016 going to happen all over again? It is sure feeling like it. But I tell you, they are going to see a fight like they have never seen before.”
The DNC is trying to avoid a spectacle similar to 2016, in which Sanders delegates stormed off the convention floor and staged massive protests in the streets and parks surrounding the convention center (after which a Sanders adviser was accused of forcibly kissing a subordinate and suggesting she ride his ‘pole’).
According to Clinton campaign aides, the discord within the DNC after Philadelphia contributed to her narrow losses in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.
DNC Chairman Tom Perez attempted to heal the party by adopting new rules for debates and nomination ballots. But Mr. Sanders‘ supporters are unconvinced that the primary race is on the up and up.
The role of superdelegates — elected officials, DNC members and other party dignitaries who get to cast nominating votes at the convention for whomever they wish — remains a sore subject. In 2016, the superdelegates’ overwhelming support for Mrs. Clinton gave her an insurmountable lead heading into the convention. –Washington Examiner
According to the report, new rules deny super delegates a vote in the first ballot at the convention, which means that delegates selected in primaries and caucuses will pick the nominee. If none is chosen the first time, the superdelegates can then vote and potentially decide the outcome.
“If [superdelegates] pick the No. 2 or the No. 3 candidate, it is a recipe for disaster,” according to Larry Snider, president of Our Revolution Jacksonville, one of the more than 600 pro-Sanders grassroots organizations that have persisted since 2016,” adding “I expect the DNC to do the same thing they did in 2016.“
And according to South Carolina state Rep. Terry Alexander – a 2016 Sanders delegate who is behind him again in 2020, “I really hope the DNC is better than that. I hope the DNC will let this thing play out for the people. What happened in 2016, they wanted to dominate, they wanted to be in charge, they wanted to dictate and we got slammed, the Democratic Party got slammed.”
via ZeroHedge News http://bit.ly/2IepKEU Tyler Durden
We live in a time when an understanding and an appreciation of what a free society can or should be like is being slowly lost. Or so it seems, often, to a friend of human liberty. Political interventionism and a revived interest in “democratic socialism” dominate public discourse in almost every corner of life.
Calls are constantly being made for government to do more. Remaining areas of personal life are to be invaded by increased government regulation, redistribution, control, command, and constraint. The idea of the independent and self-responsible individual diminishes in the number of its supporters, or so it appears, with every passing day.
Public-policy debates concern not whether something should be overseen and managed by government, but merely how far the interventionist welfare state should go, and who is going to pay for it.
Lost memory of freedom past
The idea that there was a time in American history when many more matters of daily life were considered the domain of personal decision-making and voluntary collaborative community effort has mostly been erased from people’s memory. To a great extent that is because it is rarely if ever taught anymore, other than in the most negative of images.
Few people know or take an interest in that history of a freer America and the lives of those who lived during that earlier time. That makes it worthwhile, however briefly, to take a glimpse at that American past. To have a small flavor of it, sometimes the most interesting accounts are by Europeans who came to visit America in the early and middle decades of the nineteenth century, and who wrote books about their impressions of this great experiment in a free society on the American side of the Atlantic Ocean.
One of them was by a noted French economist and classical liberal, Michel Chevalier (1806–1879), who traveled around the United States in the mid 1830s, and on returning home wrote Society, Manners and Politics in the United States (1839). He described a land of energetic, free men and women who enthusiastically took their lives and destinies into their own hands, fearlessly facing the uncertainties to make their way and their fortunes on what seemed to be a boundless continent of opportunity.
They were not afraid of change or adapting to the personal and financial ups and downs of life. Indeed, they often viewed them as challenges to be grasped and turned to their advantage, rather than run away from them and then beg for government handouts and social safety nets. Everyday market competition was the lifeblood of success and a natural part of processes of human improvement.
The character and quality of earlier Americans
Perhaps it’s best to allow Michel Chevalier to explain a little bit of his impressions of the Americans of that time:
The American is a model of industry…. The manners and customs are altogether those of a working, busy society. At the age of fifteen years, a man is engaged in business; at twenty-one he is established, he has his farm, his workshop, his counting-room, or his office, in a word his employment, whatever it may be.
He now also takes a wife, and at twenty-two is the father of a family, and consequently has a powerful stimulus to excite him to industry. A man who has no profession, and, which is the same thing, who is not married, enjoys little consideration; he, who is an active and useful member of society, who contributes his share to augment the national wealth and increase the numbers of the population, he only is looked upon with respect and favor.
The American is educated with the idea that he will have some particular occupation, that he is to be a farmer, artisan, manufacturer, merchant, speculator, lawyer, physician, or minister, perhaps all in succession, and that, if he is active and intelligent, he will make his fortune.
He has no conception of living without a profession, even when his family is rich, for he sees nobody about him, not engaged in business. The man of leisure is a variety of the human species, of which the Yankee does not suspect the existence, and he knows that if rich today, his father may be ruined tomorrow. Besides, the father himself is engaged in business, according to custom, and does not think of dispossessing himself of his fortune; if the son wishes to have one at present, let him make it himself!
… An American is always on the lookout lest any of his neighbours should get the start of him. If one hundred Americans were going to be shot, they would contend for the priority, so strong is their habit of competition.
American individualism seen as essential to liberty
Americans were, indeed, rugged individualists. In fact, the word “individualism” was used to convey an essential quality in the American character by that other famous Frenchman who traveled to the United States in the mid 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–1859), and who wrote of his journeys in his classic two-volume political study of a free society, Democracy in America (1835; 1840).
Tocqueville was not an uncritical devotee of American individualism, but he believed that its healthy aspects allowed the individual to see himself as a distinct person separate from the mass of humanity. The individual person was able to form his own freely chosen circle of partners and associations through family, friends, and commercial enterprise. Individualism was a bulwark against one of the most serious dangers in free societies with democratically elected governments: the tyranny of majorities, both politically and culturally.
Tocqueville expressed concerns that the American individualism that he observed could make the individual less conscious and attentive to the general society in which he lived. At the same time, he saw that the answer to the various social problems requiring the efforts and energies of combinations of people outside of family and business had been found among the Americans through the voluntary associations of civil society.
The American spirit of voluntary association
In fact, Tocqueville considered that to be one of the most impressive aspects of American community life, to which he felt Europeans should be most attentive as an alternative to the presumption in the “old world” that all such “welfare” matters needed to be left to the State. In Tocqueville’s own words,
The political associations which exist in the United States are only a single feature in the midst of the immense assemblage of associations in that country. Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions, constantly form associations. They have not only commercial and manufacturing companies, in which all take part, but associations of a thousand other kinds, — religious, moral, serious, futile, extensive, or restricted, enormous or diminutive. The Americans make associations to give entertainments, to found establishments for education, to build inns, to construct churches, to diffuse books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; and in this manner they found hospitals, prisons, and schools….
… I have often admired the extreme skill with which the inhabitants of the United States succeed in proposing a common object to the exertions of a great many men, and in getting them voluntarily to pursue it.
As soon as several of the inhabitants of the United States have taken up an opinion or a feeling which they wish to promote in the world, they look out for mutual assistance; and as soon as they have found each other out, they combine. From that moment they are no longer isolated men, but a power seen from afar, whose actions serve for an example, and whose language is listened to….
Nothing, in my opinion, is more deserving of our attention than the intellectual and moral associations of America….
From local fire departments, to friendly societies for mutual assurance, to charitable organizations to assist those in a community who had fallen on hard and difficult times, as well as many other purposes, the spirit of individualism, Tocqueville explained, was to shoulder those responsibilities yourself as a free and responsible person in voluntary collaboration with your fellows in society.
Political plunder in earlier America
The idea of turning to government for such activities was clearly anathema to much that was in the American character. Yet government did exist in this earlier America, and it did more than merely secure people’s lives, liberty, and honestly acquired property. State and local governments subsidized privately built canals and ferries, gave protection to state-level banks that mismanaged their depositors’ funds, and gave out government contracts to special interests close to those in the legislatures.
The British traveler Charles MacKay (1814–1889) is perhaps best known for his 1841 volume, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, but he journeyed around the United States in the second half of the 1850s, and then published Life and Liberty in America: Sketches of a Tour (1859). He spent time in Washington, D.C., and was invited to the White House to meet President James Buchanan.
The place was crawling with those wanting special favors, government jobs, federal contracts, and trade protections from foreign competitors. Others were just busybodies and gossips wanting to shake the president’s hand and tell him what the government should do according to their pet projects for making America great; some just wanted to poke around the White House to see how the president lived.
Glad-handing for power and patronage
Charles Mackay shared his observations and impressions of his visit to the White House:
The White House … is a plain but elegant building, befitting the unpretending dignity of the popular magistrate of a country where government is minimized, and where the trappings and paraphernalia of state and office are unknown or uncongenial.
Here, the President — a man who possesses, during his term of office, a far greater amount of power and patronage than the sovereign of any state in Europe, except the Emperors of France, Russia, and Austria — transacts, without any unnecessary forms, and with no formality or ceremony at all, the business of his great and growing dominion.
Here he receives, at stated days and periods, ladies or gentlemen who choose to call upon him, either for business or pleasure, or from mere curiosity…. There is no man in the United States who has such a quantity of hand-shaking to get through as the President.
… Never was there a place in which office-hunters and place-seekers more assiduously congregate. The antechambers of the President are daily thronged with solicitants — with men who think they helped to make the President, and who are constantly of the opinion that the President should help to make them.
I thought, when presented to Mr. Buchanan, that he seemed relieved to find that I was an Englishman, and had nothing to ask him for — no little place for self, no cousin, or friend, or son for which to beg his all-powerful patronage.
Of course, when Chevalier, MacKay, and Tocqueville, traveled around the United States, there was another plague across the land besides the growing special interest plunder, privilege, and favoritism that eventually grew into the twentieth century’s full-blown interventionist-welfare state.
The perversity of American slavery
That was slavery, and the national conflict and controversy already everywhere as to its legitimacy and the designs by Southerners to extend their “peculiar institution” into the Western territories and states. That, too, virtually every foreign visitor to America saw and commented upon.
Charles Mackay visited one of the auction sites in New Orleans, and was shocked when on orders of an auctioneer, female black slaves came up asking him to buy them. “I felt a sensation something similar to that of the first qualm of sea-sickness to be so addressed by my fellow creatures — a feeling of nausea, as if I were about to be ill. I entertained at that moment such a hatred of slavery that, had it been in my power to abolish it in one instant off the face of the earth by the mere expression of my will, slavery at that instant would have ceased to exist.”
A Russian visitor to America in 1857, Aleksandr Borisovich Lakier (1825–1870), also saw slavery in action in New Orleans. He went to the levee to watch the unloading of the ships that had come down the Mississippi River or up from the Gulf of Mexico. “Most of the work is done by Negroes, who, under the watchful eye of the white overseer, carry bales of cotton and barrels of flour, sugar, and molasses from the steamboats to the shore,” Lakier explained. “The overseer, whip in hand, keeps account of the goods brought ashore and zealously drives the slaves to keep working without resting. If they tarry or daydream, the whip is always ready.”
Lakier, too, visited one of the slave auction sites in New Orleans. Thinking that Lakier was a potential buyer, the auctioneer took him around the premises. “If we stopped in front of a Negress, he turned her around, displayed her charms and spoke in my ear about her various recommendations. The poor woman, forgetting her natural shame, smiled and asked that I buy her.”
The only thing that matched “the feeling of revulsion one brings to a place where Negroes are sold” Lakier said, was to read the advertisement flyers offering rewards for the capture and return of runaway slaves. There was included a description of the physical characteristics of the human being to be hunted down that was “precisely how we in our country [Russia] describe distinctive marks when we advertise for a missing dog.”
This blight on the politics, economics, culture, and soul of the American people was finally ended a few years after Mackay and Lakier witnessed this shame and insult to the universal principles of individual liberty on which the country was declared to be founded. Unfortunately, it came about only through a destructive and devastating civil war, the full effects from which the United States has still not completely recovered.
The American ideal of freedom continued to shine.
But out of the shadow of this terrible crime against humanity and morality, America still continued as a hope and a reality of the possibility and potential for liberty and prosperity for tens of millions who came to the United States from many other parts of the world. Here people did not have bow low to those who claimed to be their aristocratic betters owing to military conquests from long ago. Here your past and its mistakes mattered much less than what you could demonstrate as your abilities to freely offer others what they may want in voluntary trade and exchange as the peaceful and productive means to your own betterment.
Here you could say what you wanted, write what you wanted, go where you wanted, work at what you wanted, associate freely with others as you wanted, without permission or approval of kings, princes, or their government ministers. Also, here in America to be wealthy was neither a sin nor something to be embarrassed by or to feel guilty about.
The glory of America: freedom of industry and enterprise
Walter Raleigh Houghton (1845– 1929) was a professor of political science at Indiana University in the late nineteenth century. In 1886, he authored Kings of Fortune, or the Triumphs and Achievements of Noble, Self-Made Men, a series of biographies of people from many walks of life — scientists, inventors, philanthropists, lawyers, artists and
actors, and merchants and businessmen — who demonstrated excellence and enterprise in achieving recognition and stature in American society.
But what is noteworthy is that Houghton especially emphasized the significance and mark left by private enterprisers on American society. Their successes were indicative of what the country was all about. He said,
The chief glory of America is, that it is the country in which genius and industry find their speediest and surest reward. Fame and fortune are here open to all who are willing to work for them. Neither class distinctions nor social prejudices, neither differences of birth, religion, nor ideas, can prevent the man of true merit from winning the just reward of his labors in this favored land. We are emphatically a nation of self-made men, and it is to the labors of this worthy class that our marvelous national prosperity is due….
To an American, business is the quintessence of energy, the well-spring of ambition, and the highway to wealth, honor and fame. On it are based the push and the drive which are daily adding millions to the treasures of this nation, as well as giving us reputation and integrity among the peoples of the world.
What was wanted in any American for there to be a prosperous and ethical country were the qualities of honesty, integrity, industry, politeness, and courtesy. In another of his books, American Etiquette and Rules of Politeness (1883), Houghton tutored the young would-be businessmen on the personal qualities to cultivate in his interactions with others:
Form good habits and be polite to all; for politeness is the key to success. Be cheerful and avoid breaking an engagement. If you have to fail in carrying out an engagement you should make the fact known, stating your reasons. Do not deceive a customer. It will ruin your business. “Honesty is the best policy.”
Never loose your temper in discussing business matters. Meet notes and drafts promptly. To neglect this is to ruin your reputation. If you cannot pay, write at once to your creditor, stating plainly the reason why you cannot pay him, and say when you will be able. Pay bills when presented. Never allow a creditor to call a second time to collect a bill. Your credit will be injured if you do. When you collect a bill of a man, thank him.
Political destruction of private virtue
The private sector in America still retains many of these characteristics in daily life. To a great extent that is because the market has not been totally destroyed; voluntary association in this arena means that it still pays to act and see the personal benefit from so acting in a setting in which you can lose business that could have been yours if you do not behave in the way Houghton described.
What honesty, truthfulness, politeness, or sincerity exists today in American politics? Such qualities were, no doubt, wanting in the politics of that earlier time, in the nineteenth century about which foreign visitors wrote. But today the political arena in America really is nothing but a cesspool of connivance and corruption.
An understanding and appreciation of the underlying principles of a free society upon which the United States was originally established must be regained. Because even with its many contradictions, inconsistencies, and sometimes cruelties in its past, and into the present, the idea and ideal upon which it was founded, that principle of individual freedom was — and still is — the only enduring hope for mankind.