Philosophical Musings

Philosophical Musings

Monday, July 29, 2013

Lincoln: Tyrannical statist, or libertarian for freedom?

I consider lincoln to be one of the great presidents in american history. He was not a statist tyrant, & his actions in a war of rebellion are no different than any president's actions in any war to protect the nation.
The central argument against lincoln seems to be a tariff. This is also a simplistic view of the cause of war. Tariffs were very common in those days, by all governments. The tripolitan wars that Jefferson waged were basically over tariffs, or tribute. This was with a non existent army, a fledgling navy & a new branch of service: The marines. Any marines are probably humming, 'to the shores of tripoli', even now. Back then, if you wanted to do business, you paid the piper. ALL govts extorted money from wealthy traders. The traders saw it as part of doing business, & paid the tribute, tariff, or whatever other 'fee' that came up.

I am not arguing any morality or right or wrong of tariffs, just laying the foundation for the current climate of the day.

Washington had the first tariff.. 1789. 'Protection for infant industries', was how it was described & justified. In essence, it was to 'protect' the 'new' industries in america, & allow them to compete (with cheaper finished goods) with european imports. This was the very beginning of the industrial revolution, & the us was primarily an exporter of raw materials. Cotton & tobacco were significant exports. We imported finished goods.. manufactured items, from europe. That is the reasoning behind it, & the motivations for tariffs.

The north was beginning to manufacture more, & liked the protectionism. The south, in general, was an exporter of raw materials, & the import tariffs raised the price of the european finished goods. There were also the claims, as now, of artificial lowered prices.. subsidized exports. Britain did this, like china does now. The american manufacturers were seeking a level playing field. The south was not as affected by manufactured goods tariffs, & feared european reprisals, making their goods harder to export.

Here's a simplified timeline of tariffs:
1824- 30% on products like glass, lead, iron and wool
1828- 'tariff of abominations' over 60% on some items!
1861- 26%, after a period of declining protectionism.. a raise. Under Buchanan.
Civil war- fluctuated, up as much as 40% during the war.

Tariffs were down, historically right before the war. During the war, they were raised to pay for the war. Tariffs then was the major source of revenue for the federal govt. There was no income tax. I would also like to point out a significant factor: In the early years of american presidency, vetoes were primarily for questionable items of constitutionality. A president did not wield veto power like he does today.. it was not as much of a tool of negotiation back then. If the congress passed a law or bill, the president almost always signed it. John Adams & Jefferson had NO vetoes. Madison, Jackson, & Tyler had 5, 5, & 6, respectively. Lincoln continued that tradition, with 2. It was not until later that the presidential veto was employed as a policy tool.

The point of this is that congress had more power, then, & made policy. Tariffs were passed by congress. A president only rubber stamped them.. sometimes without approval.

Here is a table of tariff rates in us history:

Now, were tariffs a significant factor in the civil war? Of course. They were argued & debated for years before & since. Since the 1940's we have been in a time of declining global protectionism. Free trade is promoted. But just because we are used to free trade practices now, should not make us condemn what was commonplace in other times. Were they THE Central Reason for the civil war? Of course not. There were many factors, & slavery was a major one. There were radical anti slavery people, then, & everyone knew about it. It was a point of contention in the nation. John Brown & bleeding kansas are clear references to the times.

Now look at the body of lincoln's work. His writings & speeches were along the same line of individual freedom & limited govt as the founders.

My wife's great grandfather lived in those times. He went with his brothers to california during the gold rush of the 1850's. Evidently, they didn't strike it rich, & returned to Illinois, where their parents had migrated from pennsylvania a generation before. Henry married & pioneered to kansas.. emporia. The year was 1860. This was 'bleeding kansas' times. Raiders crossed the border from missouri, sometimes killing the free state kansans. But things got worse. In july 1862 missouri raiders were causing trouble, & henry had to flee in the night with his young children on a lumber wagon, going up through nebraska to avoid conflict. The next day after arriving back home to illinois, he enlisted. After the war, he returned to kansas.

I'm a mix. My father's side were southerners.. tennesee & kentucky, during those times. Some owned slaves. They were fighting 'The War of Northern Aggression'.

These were not people who watched reality tv all the time, or played on their ipods. They were aware of the times & the political climate, even though communication & news was slow. I have a lot of family on both sides, who enlisted. This war was brutal, but it was not forced upon an unwilling people, & the govt did not have the propaganda machine it does now. They tended to reflect the views of the people, not mold them. The press was very independent, & reflected a lot more variety.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What is a man?

Life is a journey. We begin at birth. We come into this life naked, wet, cold, & hungry. Then things get worse. We have the innocence of childhood, the insecurities of adolescence, the excitement of young adulthood, the disappointments & successes of middle age, & the feebleness of old age. But our journey is primarily one of discovery. Who are we? Why? Some of these philosophical questions we never answer, or change our minds several times as we develop through the different stages of life.
But one of the questions we face is:

What is a man? 

We have role models early on that define what a man is. Those role models can be good or bad, & we get many more as we age that either enforce that ideal, or redefine it. This is my philosophical view of manhood. I am in my 60th year of life, & will share some of the things i have learned & observed about men. I may revise this in the next decade, if i live, & perhaps again in my 80's, if i can remember. I know my view of myself & humanity has undergone many revisions over the years. My perspective is quite different now than it was in my 20's. And even my 40's have changed my perceptions. I offer this to my sons & grandsons, for them to build their lives & help them in their journey. But many of these ideas are not gender specific, so my daughters & granddaughters might enjoy them, too.

I want to provide timeless truths, not dependent on the shifting sands of social change, or the fickleness of public opinion. That is nearly impossible, as society is constantly assaulting our ideals, & revising our identity before we can come to terms with our own thinking. I also know that it is impossible to define what a man is. Philosophers & great thinkers throughout time have attempted this, & opinions will vary wildly. I can only offer my thoughts, as one who has been on the journey for a while.

1. Learn to think.
a. γνῶθι σεαυτόν ..Know Thyself
b. "The essence of knowledge is self-knowledge,” ~Plato 
c. 'There are three Things extremely hard, Steel, a Diamond, and to know one's self.' ~Benjamin Franklin
d. Limit noise & amusements. Too many people live their lives with media blaring in their eyes & ears all the time. Become acquainted with silence. Enjoy peaceful solitude. Be proactive with your thoughts, not just reactive, thinking what others tell you to. Consider other people's thoughts, but make your own.
e. Become acquainted with yourself. Time alone, in peaceful solitude is one of the best ways to think outside of the noise of the world.
f. Filter. 'Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good'. Education consists mainly of what we have unlearned. ~Mark Twain 
g. Self acceptance.. It is the basis for confidence & security. You are who you are. Accept it & embrace it. You are going to live with this person all your life. Might as well get to know him.

2. Seek God & truth.
a. A lifelong pursuit. You never arrive.
b. Be honest. God is mysterious, but reasonable. He is not offended, imo, by honest questions. Seriously, you think you can offend God? He has heard it all.
c. Reject the folly & arrogance of atheism. The universe is filled with mystery. Don't sell it short with a presumption of personal omnipotence.

3. Treasure. 
a. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Jesus
b. Don't live for money. That is a shallow goal for your life. Sure, you have to work & provide for yourself & your family, and you need to be smart with your finances. But obsession with money kills the soul & floods the mind.

4. Don't be ruled by phobias or obsessions. Find clarity & balance.

1. Interpersonal
a. Give people the benefit of the doubt, show respect.
b. Validate everyone. Make eye contact with children. Treat every woman like a lady, every man a friend.
c. Don't suffer fools. There is a balance between treating people with respect, & letting fools walk on you or waste your time.
d. Be generous. Give more than you take.

2. Kindness to animals. If you kill it, eat it.

3. Family.
a. Be loyal. Friends will come & go, but your family will be around all your life. Accept them & their quirks.
b. Be a parent to your children, not a peer. Prepare them for life, as much as you can. But they are individuals, with choices of their own to make.
c. Value & respect your elders. Learn from them, both their successes & mistakes. The older you get, the smarter they were.
d. Prioritize. No one looks back on their life & wishes they had spent more time working. Value time spent with family, & build positive memories.

4. Violence.
a. We are in a violent world, & there will be times when it reaches you.
b. Avoid violence & violent people. Seek peace, tolerance & reason.
c. Sometimes violence is unavoidable. Once you take violence as a method, be fully committed.
d. Violence is common, but it is not manly. It is a barbaric way to settle disputes.

1. Learn & develop some agility & capability in sports.
a. throw a football spiral.
b. hit, catch, & throw a baseball.
c. dribble a soccer ball
d. dribble a basketball & shoot free throws.
e. Hit a drive & putt in golf
f. etc.

2. Hunt & plant. Handle a firearm; grow something to eat. Have some acquaintance with the outdoors. Learn survival skills.

3. Work. Do something productive with your life. Make something. Be creative. Don't look for the easy road to riches. Work hard & smart.

4. Learn. 
a. Life is an education. Look for wisdom & knowledge always. Don't despise unlikely sources, or elevate the world's values.
b. Be cynical. Develop a scientific mind. Look for evidence for your knowledge base. Do not be quick to embrace another's points, but consider other possibilities.
c. Be dazzled by the world. Never lose your childhood wonder. Experience a sense of awe in life, & look for it.
d. Don't be dogmatic. Philosophical matters are rarely black & white. Be open to possibility.

Of course there is more. Life is an adventure, & you have to change with the seasons, & adapt to the universe. But this is a one page philosophy.. a nutshell view or tweet of life. Take what you can use, & file the rest away.