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The Second-Handers


America is a unique country, with wide open passions and concerns among its electorate. We have everyone from the "corporations are evil and greedy" crowd to the "business creates jobs and prosperity" crowd. We have the "separation of church and state" crowd to the "morals and God/Allah-fearing leader" crowd. We have folks who believe that "government can solve problems" to those who "revile and distrust anything that stems from government." "Consitutionalists" vs. "living document." Guns will protect me and mine vs. guns kill innocents. Tax the rich vs. no taxes. And so on...

Everybody has a pet issue or three.

In the course of it all, it's inconceivable to some that "the other side" can arrive at the conclusions and the decisions that they do.

Ah democracy, this great soup of every pathos known to man. In that soup, there is power in numbers.

Unions kicked that into high gear back in the 19th century. Unions found safety in numbers. Collectively, they made the business owner bow to the will of the workers. Chutzpah!

Today, we have self-aggregating groups: AARP, blacks, Christians, feminists, and so on. Every one has a pet issue or three. People connect with like-minded people and stir up others. Money pours into the cause, marketing springs from it, activity swirls around it. Busy busy busy. The cacophony becomes the white noise of life, and occasionally something catches someone absentmindedly listening and they are found murmuring, "Yeah! Me too!"

The danger in this is that we then look to leaders to guide our actions. To be effective in numbers, we want to be routed in the manner that helps achieve the goal of the group.

Mankind has always looked for safety in numbers. It's not that unions did something new; they just did it to someone who seemed impenetrable: the boss. And they succeeded. Together. Formula!

Seeking out others to help strengthen your voice to create a chorus and volume is not a bad idea. But I think it's human nature to take it further than is responsible to go. We abandon our individual identity in the wash of those with whom we stand. We are then tarnished by the company we keep. We become individually weaker at the expense of becoming collectively stronger.

At the suggestion of Annette, I read Atlas Shrugged a while back. In it, Howard Roark says:

It's so easy to run to others. It's so hard to stand on one's own record. You can fake virtue for an audience. You can't fake it in your own eyes. Your ego is the strictest judge. They run from it. They spend their lives running. It's easier to donate a few thousand to charity and think oneself noble than to base self-respect on personal standards of personal achievement. It's simple to seek substitutes for competence - such easy substitutes: love, charm, kindness, charity. But there is no substitute for competence.

That, precisely, is the deadliness of second-handers. They have no concern for facts, ideas, work. They're concerned only with people. They don't ask: 'Is this true?' They ask: 'Is this what others think is true?' Not to judge, but to repeat. Not to do, but to give the impression of doing. Not creation, but show. Not ability, but friendship. Not merit, but pull. What would happen to the world without those who do, think, work, produce? Those are the egotists. You don't think through another's brain and you don't work through another's hands. When you suspend your faculty of independent judgment, you suspend consciousness. That's the emptiness I couldn't understand in people. That's what stopped me whenever I faced a committee. They've been taught to seek themselves in others. To seek joy in meeting halls. I think the only cardinal evil on earth is that of placing your prime concern with other men.

Unfortunately, to an increasing number of people, if you care - if you really care - you sacrifice yourself to the cause. Self-sacrifice is lauded and necessary. (Cue applause...)

Howard says further:

Men have been taught that the highest virtue is not to achieve, but to give. Yet one cannot give what has not been created. Creation comes before distribution - or there will be nothing to distribute. The need of the creator comes before the need of any possible beneficiary. Yet we are taught to admire the second-hander who dispenses gifts he has not produced above the man who made the gifts possible. We praise an act of charity. We shrug at an act of achievement.

Men have been taught that their first concern is to relieve the suffering of others. But suffering is a diease. Should one come upon it, one tries to give relief and assistance. To make that the highest test of virtue is to make suffering the most important part of life. Then man must wish to see others suffer - in order that he may be virtuous. Such is the nature of altruism. The creator is not concerned with disease, but with life. Yet the work of the creator has eliminated one form of disease after another, in man's body and spirit, and brought more relief from suffering than any altruist could ever conceieve.

Men have been taught that it is a virtue to agree with others. But the creator is the man who disagrees. Men have been taught that it is a virtue to swim with the current. But the creator who goes against the current. Men have been taught that it is a virtue to stand together. But the creator is the man who stands alone.

Men have been taught the the ego is the synonym of evil, and selflessness the ideal of virtue. But the creator is the egotist in the absolute sense, and the selfless man is the one who does not think, feel, judge, or act. These are functions of the self.

Here the basic reversal is most deadly. The issue has been perverted and man has been left no alternative - and no freedom. As poles of good and evil, he was offered two conceptions: egotism and altruism. Egotism was held to mean the sacrifice of others to self. Altruism - the sacrifice of self to others. This tied men irrevocably to other men and left him nothing but a choice of pain: his own pain borne for the sake of others or pain inflicted upon others for the sake of self. When it was added that one must find joy in self-immolation, the trap was closed. Man was forced to accept masochism as his ideal - under the threat that sadism was his only alternative. This was the greatest fraud ever perpetuated on mankind.

This was the device by which dependence and suffering were perpetuated as fundamentals of life.

The choice is not self-sacrifice or domination. The choice is independence or dependence. This is the basic issue.

You don't hear those words much any more... "independence" or "personal responsibility" or "achievement." And the thing is that those who place a lot of weight in those words won't be looking for a cause to join or a leader to guide them. Personally, they don't need that. The tragedy is that such folks are then seen as greedy and uncaring and selfish. That's so high school - jeering the successful. Ayn Rand calls it the "greatest fraud ever perpetuated on mankind," this knee-jerk desire to hold high the victimized and punish the self-sufficient.

My writing of this comes from listening to campaign ads recently. Hillary wanting give out gifts of government. Edwards lambasting greedy corporations and hailing himself as the would-be hero who was "born to this fight." Huckabee rallying Christians to him by hoisting his evangelical banner high overhead, ready to embrace and baptize the world. Obama holds out "Hope" to the people of America in the form of giveaway after giveaway. All of them pandering to be a leader to save us.

Of course, none of these folks have ever created anything that spawned jobs. Instead, each of them leached off the forced and unforced donations of others. That's their recipe for success: champion the victimized.

That's horrifying.

We need a party of the Achievers, those who believe that personal responsibility and independence are the highest public virtues. It would be the "Don't Mess with Me" party, which has the simplistic platform: leave me alone in my personal life and don't let other nations mess with our nation.

I have to say, as I watch the campaigns, I shudder big time.

You know, John F. Kennedy had it wrong in his famous quote.

Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.
Better rendered, it is:
Ask not what your country can do for you, or what you can do for your country, but what you can do for yourself.
"Rugged Individualism" doesn't represent our nation so much any more as does "Anticipated Dependentism."

That's crap. I'll quote it again because it's said so well:

Creation comes before distribution - or there will be nothing to distribute. The need of the creator comes before the need of any possible beneficiary. Yet we are taught to admire the second-hander who dispenses gifts he has not produced above the man who made the gifts possible. We praise an act of charity. We shrug at an act of achievement.
That's something that the second-handers - Edwards, Clinton, Obama, and Huckabee and all of their devotees - don't fathom at all.

We need the party of the Achiever. Do you know of one? I don't. Because it's neither Republican or Democrat, and unfortunately those who esteem personal responsibility don't have the numbers. I hear hints of promise in the words from Fred Thompson's campaign. I see Mitt Romney's individual executive successes. Other than that... not a drop.


Tags: politics | america
by Brett Rogers, 12/20/2007 1:33:37 PM

Economic Blue Skies


BusinessWeek reports that our economy is rock solid.

The economy clocked in at a 3.8 percent pace in the final quarter of 2004 -- faster than initially thought -- and is now cruising at that speed or better. That could be good news for jobless people hoping for companies to increase hiring.

In the newest reading on the economy's fitness, the gross domestic product exceeded a previous estimate of a 3.1 percent annual growth rate for the October-to-December quarter, the Commerce Department reported Friday. GDP measures the value of all goods and services produced within the United States.

"We are now at a comfortable cruising altitude," said Lynn Reaser, chief economist at Banc of America Capital Management. "What is significant is that all parts of the economy were pulling their own weight."

What gets the credit for this strong economy? (Sidenote: strong despite the claims of many just a few months ago who said that Bush had ruined the economy, as a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette election editorial shows.)

I mentioned in yesterday's post that a former client called me to work on a project. That client, whom I will not name, last used my services in 2001. They owed me about $7,000 when the project was over, but it was fall and 9/11 had just occurred. Some of their clients were in lower Manhattan, and because they weren't getting paid, I wasn't getting paid. It took about 6 months to collect all of the money due me.

If I asked you to fill in the blank, would you get the right answer? Here's the oft-repeated statement: "Markets hate _______________."

If you said "uncertainty," then you would be right. And 9/11 was a horrendously de-stabilizing force that created uncertainty.

But today, we haven't had a terrorist attack in over 3 years. In fact, we're on the offensive, and we're installing democratic thoughts in the Middle East. Even Lebanon, as told to a journalist for the Washington Post and cited in the Quad City Times.

Over the years, I've often heard him denouncing America and Israel; but these days, in the aftermath of Hariri's death, he's sounding almost like a neoconservative.

He says he's determined to defy the Syrians until their troops leave Lebanon and the Lahoud government is replaced.

"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," explains Jumblatt. "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, eight million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world."

Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

Partially, I give the credit for our strong economy to our country's reaction to 9/11, which is becoming a period of increasing stabilization, especially in the wake of the spread of democracy.

Partially, but not as much, I give the credit to tax cuts.

Partially, I give credit to the Federal Reserve's handling of interest rates post 9/11. Very helpful.

All of this builds confidence, which spurs people to feel safer to spend money, which is why when I took this gig with my former client, I didn't have any concerns about payment. This is a different, and better, time.


Tags: economy | bush | america | politics
by Brett Rogers, 2/26/2005 10:36:54 AM