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What Makes America Great

America is, at heart, a noble idea. In theory, it is a place where individuals can pursue their dreams without interference from their neighbors or from their government. In practice this has proven to be somewhat more complicated than it sounds, although why it should be is often puzzling to me.


It should be simple. I invent a product or seek to provide a service. I invest money or seek funding to bring it to market. That funding is provided by a lending institution that is in the business of loaning money and collecting interest on the money, creating profits for the lender, which are divided among the shareholders.


If the product I create is useful, it may become successful as more people discover that they want the product. Then out of the profits I make, I pay the workers who manufacture it, I pay rent on the factory where it is made, I pay taxes which support road and rail maintenance, garbage collection, and other useful city services.


If my product becomes really successful, it may spawn a host of similar products or imitations that my competitors may try to sell at a cheaper price...luring away my customers. This has many benefits to the economy and society at large. It causes new businesses to be created, it keeps prices low for the consumer, and it gives those consumers choice about how to cycle their money back thru the economy.


But today we live in a world where many things get in the way of this natural ebb and flow.


In the push toward “Green Energy”, laws and regulations have been passed that are supposed to encourage us to get to a “Carbon Neutral” world much sooner than we might reasonably expect. Mostly what those regulations have done is make energy more expensive and less available.


If everyone has to drive an electric car and the electric grid can't handle the load; it doesn't hurry a new, greener world, it creates a problem. It has the potential of creating a problem so huge as to be almost unimaginable. Think about your car, your stove, air conditioner, refrigerator, heating system, telephone, internet...all plugged into one energy source...and then that energy source stops working.


The fact that this is rarely talked about is very upsetting.


Economics is very simple. There are only three things to understand. They are: 1) Cause and Effect 2) Supply and Demand, and 3) The Law of Unintended Consequences. These are natural market conditions of the world we live in and there are not many ways of escaping from them. So why does our government try to pass so many laws that seem to conflict with how they work?


Prime example – Minimum wage law.....In West Hollywood, California the city council just passed a law that says that the minimum wage a business must pay to a worker is $19.08 per hour with paid leave for even part time workers. Result...businesses closing and leaving for other places.


Rather than do it this way, the city should have left the market to work it out. If you are a worker who is unhappy with the wage offered, don't take the job. Eventually the business will be forced to raise wages offered in order to attract good workers.


But instead of this, they have created a situation that will create uncertainty and confusion for at least a few years until...guess what...? The marketplace will level out the kinks in an idea that should never have been implemented in the first place.


America is not in good shape right now. We're at each others' throats over really trivial stuff. The people crying the loudest about “Our Democracy” are the people who seem to have forgotten that Democracy is all about people having different points of view and different opinions.


The fact that we're blessed to live here is negated to a large degree by the constant whining of those who think they live in a fascist dictatorship and want to change America “for the better”...which usually means higher taxes, more stringent government controls over your daily life, and less freedom.


The argument usually goes that America was founded by White, elitist, slaveholders who sought to perpetuate a class system that kept everyone else subservient to them. And it's imperative that we “fix” this immediately. Except that history shows us that the “fixes” usually make things worse and that the way this country is right now is pretty good and the lines of people trying to come across our Southern border is testament to that fact.


America was forged in the furnace of revolution. This is our legacy and it seems that we're forgetting this basic fact. We are a free people. In most places around the world they cannot say that and in those places, people are not allowed to speak their minds. The people who figured America out were hyper aware of this fact and were determined to create someplace different. And they did. And if you would like to feel they did it for entirely selfish, racist, exploitive reasons....well, you are free to think that and to say that, but you should keep in mind that those same selfish racists have given you the opportunity to express that opinion without fear of repercussions.


I've been thinking about this a lot lately and have come to a different set of conclusions. I'll admit that I'm not a “historian” but I've read a lot of history over the years and have newfound respect for those who pledged “Their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor” to give us what we have today. You might ask yourself if you would do similar if your rights and freedoms were ever taken away.


Thomas Jefferson, for example. Lately it's been trendy to portray him as a slaveholding racist worthy of contempt....not respect. In my opinion, anyone who does this does not understand the world he lived in...nor do they want to. They want to put him into a tidy little box for whatever their own purpose might be, but they do not seek real understanding of the world at that time.


Racist? He may have had a superiority complex, but the guy could write ancient Latin with one hand while writing in ancient Greek with the other. I doubt if he felt very many people of any race were his equal. And then there was Sally Hemmings. They had 6 children together. Did he rape her? Or did she seduce him? The current portrayal is that the power dynamic of slave to slaveholder meant that he must have raped her. I'm not so sure. It's man-woman complicated, made more so because living on a plantation was isolating in a way we cannot understand today.


When he wrote “All men are created equal” did he really mean only white property owners? Or was this incredibly literate man keenly aware of the the meanings of the words he used and saw into a future when they would ring true? When people question why they didn't abolish slavery in 1776...hell, that one's easy. They were fighting a war with England. They needed the South to win it. Slavery had to get put on the back burner...but the question was still there and it impelled an Abolitionist movement that saw fruition 50 years later.


Some things just take time to work themselves out.


But the hordes of Academics and hustlers who want to impose DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) on society, and are in such a hurry to do so are making me very suspicious. I can't see it as anything other than a new kind of quota system. What I really see happening is this....Someone with a DEI job lands at a university or in a corporation, or in government. They quickly realize that their job is meaningless, OR, even worse, they become a social justice crusader hell bent on changing things “For the better” and try to bring about the kind of purges we saw in the old Soviet Union when their 5-year plans didn't work.


They do this to try to solidify themselves and their job as “important”, because they must realize how ephemeral it really is and know that, upon any kind of critical examination of what they do, they will be seen as the parasites they really are. This must terrify them, and that makes them doubly dangerous. When airline pilots are being chosen on the basis of skin color instead of ability to pilot a plane, this puts us all at risk.


When I see ideology triumphing over common sense, it really, really scares me.


There is a growing sense that the disparity of wealth in America is a critical problem...and I agree that it is, but what's the fix? Create a pipeline to siphon off money from the rich and put it in the pockets of the poor? We already do's called taxes. want everyone to “Pay their fair share” does that work exactly? Who decides what that is, and whether you can establish that “share” more or less on a whim? Is there to be a law that proclaims how much money one can make? That begs this question....Why is it greed to want to keep what you earn, but it's NOT greed to take away what you earn and give it to someone else?


The fact that some people have amassed huge wealth is not as critical as the fact that there will be a new governmental authority with the power to limit what you can earn from your own labors.


People with obscene amounts of money don't keep it under their mattress. Typically it's in a bank that lends money to people to build houses, start or expand business....that's called an economy and that's how it should work. But it does seem like we now have the very rich and we have people who make $80,000 a year and are constantly struggling. And we have the poor...people who are really struggling.


There are some in this country that look toward socialism to provide the answer, forgetting that socialism has been tried in many places and has been unsuccessful in all of them. They have achieved wealth parity by making sure everyone is equally poor.


I'm not sure what the fix might be, but what I am sure about is that we want the economy to go full speed ahead, with all the innovation and strength available. “Trickle Down” may not be the best way to spread the wealth around, but if we're having a housing shortage, why aren't we just making it easier for more houses to be built? In a free market this would happen organically because there would be profits to be made, but today many things get in the way of that.


One thing is certain...we want a society where more people have “skin in the game”. One reason for urban blight is that homeowners have slowly been squeezed out by renters. In and of itself this is not bad, but many of the new landlords are corporations instead of individuals. People who own property have a self-interest in maintaining it.


The one place that seems different to me these days in terms of the economy is that it seems as if money does not flow through it fast enough. When money moves around rapidly, it gives more people a chance to grab some...if only for a while.


The fix for “Profits vs Obscene Profits” seems to be more competition at all levels of the economy because people (being human beings with all of the faults and foibles that rule us) will always try to game the system. The “Utopia” of Socialism and its variants constantly prove that.


The American economy is very strong. We are a nation of industrious. creative people who constantly try to improve their lives. But we are also a nation of opportunists who will take advantage of every opportunity and every crack in the system. Case in point....Higher education.....


College used to be affordable until the government decided to guarantee student loans. When they did, students started demanding dorms that looked like hotels, fancy gyms, lecture halls that resembled Fortune 500 office spaces. Colleges, in the heat of competition to acquire more students, kept spending money to “improve” their physical facilities. Stadiums...swimming pools...gourmet dining....And they had to start charging more. And students had to go into into tremendous debt to attend.


Education has been touted for many years as they key to one's future. But more and more it does not seem to be the case. As college started to cost more, and students had to pay more...the students started to demand a bigger voice in how the school was run. And then you had students grading teachers, and political correctness, and students challenging their grades if they didn't like them...


And so naturally over time the value of that degree decreased in value because fewer people were held to the higher standards on which the school likely made its reputation.


I am always aware of the schools in this country who demand more taxpayer money to give students the best “chance for success”. And sometimes those schools provide excellent results. And there are also schools in this country where students can't read or do math at grade level, and they still ask for more money.


And there are schools in Africa and India with dirt floors and thirty 12 year-old kids in the class, with no iPads, and no shoes, but just a blackboard...and they're doing trigonometry, higher maths, calculus....


Why do you think that dichotomy exists? I have my own answer, but you might want to think about that for a few months...or years....


Capitalism is a wonderful economic system. It is the only such system that allows people to create wealth. All of the other economic systems merely redistribute it. But it also always has the potential to spin out of control and destroy itself. At the core of this dilemma is the moral code of the citizens.


People sometimes mention Henry Ford right about now and point to the genius of paying his workers five dollars a day. He didn't have to. Most factory workers were making two or three dollars. So was it an enlightened moral sense that prompted him to do it?


Or was it self interest? Or enlightened self interest? The fact is that five dollars a day allowed his workers to be able to afford to buy the products that they made, which had the result of creating spin- off industries that serviced the workers and their families...which created still more business and industry as workers drove their cars all over the United States. It appears obvious to me that self-control and financial modesty were a key component to Henry's success and this is evidence that there is a different path other than the unrelenting greed we see so often.


But today, with social media endlessly commenting on the net worth of tech icons and hedge fund managers, and the real media always playing a game of “Gotcha!”, and the shareholders demanding more profits and CEO's demanding bigger salaries....


I'm reminded of the old Chinese proverb that goes, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day...Teach a man to fish and he eats for life.”


Today we have turned that on its head. Today it goes like this...”Give a man a fish, the next day he wants another fish. On day 3, he's demanding another fish, and on day 4, he feels that he has a right to a fish he didn't catch.”


America must be unique...because nowhere else would society tolerate that.


Is it an accident that our politics has become angry mobs demanding they get their way at all costs?


Is it an accident that our politics has become angry people who see compromise as defeat?


It's very strange to me because there has become an ideological component to what the government is supposed to do, and their job is very simple. They spend money. That's it...nothing more. Spend it over here...or spend it over there....Fix the roads? Or fix the schools?...Fix the homeless crisis, or fix the infrastructure?....Fix the border, or fix healthcare? They take in tax revenue, and they are supposed to spend that money to improve the lives of American citizens.


You want to argue about HOW that money gets spent? Great. That's your job. Do it quickly, get it done, move on to solve the next problem.


And what gets in the way of that is the power of deciding how that money gets spent. Power of the purse translates to the power to favor one side against the other, one group over the other and can we even tell anymore who kicks back money in the form of “campaign contributions”? There are supposed to be people who track that, but if there are, the media doesn't tell us unless they can report some “sensational” story that attacks someone....which they will hammer on loudly for a few days until the next one comes along.


I would stop paying attention except you have to pay attention.


All of the other stuff about Conservative, Progressive, Left, Right, Democrat, Republican...It's just noise to me now. I don't even like to use those words anymore.


The words I like these days are...Common Sense – Normal People.....


Wouldn't it be nice to get back to that for awhile.....?

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