Food for Thought…

by Bruce Nye on Wednesday, February 21, 2012 at 11:08pm

I’ve been searching long and hard for reference to an oft-quoted maxim, usually attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville, “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.
To my never ending amusement, it is a mis-attributed quotation.  I commenced to find the source for the quote and came upon discussions relating two notions, published eight years apart, which generated an intrigue of thought about the solutions available to us in modern times.  As food for thought, here are the two quotations:

“Paradoxically enough, the release of initiative and enterprise made possible by popular self-government ultimately generates disintegrating forces from within. Again and again after freedom has brought opportunity and some degree of plenty, the competent become selfish, luxury-loving and complacent, the incompetent and the unfortunate grow envious and covetous, and all three groups turn aside from the hard road of freedom to worship the Golden Calf of economic security. The historical cycle seems to be: From bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to apathy; from apathy to dependency; and from dependency back to bondage once more.

At the stage between apathy and dependency, men always turn in fear to economic and political panaceas. New conditions, it is claimed, require new remedies. Under such circumstances, the competent citizen is certainly not a fool if he insists upon using the compass of history when forced to sail uncharted seas. Usually so-called new remedies are not new at all. Compulsory planned economy, for example, was tried by the Chinese some three milleniums ago, and by the Romans in the early centuries of the Christian era. It was applied in Germany, Italy and Russia long before the present war broke out. Yet it is being seriously advocated today as a solution of our economic problems in the United States. Its proponents confidently assert that government can successfully plan and control all major business activity in the nation, and still not interfere with our political freedom and our hard-won civil and religious liberties. The lessons of history all point in exactly the reverse direction.”

- Henning W. Prentis, 1943, “Industrial Management in a Republic”, p. 22

“Two centuries ago a somewhat obscure Scotsman named Tytler made this profound observation: ‘A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy.’

This ought to be a waring sign of the times, for never before in this nation has there been such temptation to use the formal mechanism of democracy as a means for gratifying the selfish designs of the individual citizen. This applies not only to the corrupt high official who sells influence or conspires with crooks to steal money from the public. It applies, likewise, to the individual voter who seeks to profit personally by laying a heavier burden on his neighbor, through subsidies and other government gifts.

The hard core of freedom is the unselfish spirit of the citizen. Democracy cannot live long without this agency of conscience.

Unselfish motivation in politics is much more than a gesture of good morality. It is a practical factor without which democracy canot exist. In the long run nothing else will work.”

-Elmer T. Peterson, December 9, 1951, “This Is The Hard Core of Freedom”, The Daily Oklahoman,  p. 12-A

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GDP Percentage by Industry

by Bruce Nye on Sunday, August 7, 2011 at 16:36m

This table shows the breakdown by industry of the percentage contribution to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product from 1998 through 2010. It is interesting to note that the largest contributors to the GDP are: Government, Real Estate, and Professional and Business Services totaling 38.2% of the 2010 GDP.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Affairs

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What the S&P downgrade *really* means…

by Bruce Nye on Saturday, August 6, 2011 at 13:57m

While pundits spin the recent downgrade of US sovereign from ‘AAA’ to ‘AA+’ it is important to understand what that really means.

To Standard & Poor’s, ratings are based on the entities ability to pay their debts under adverse conditions.  That is, will an entity continue to make payments under extreme conditions.  Ratings are based on the strength of the cash flow and balance sheets, combined with worse-case stress scenarios.  Thus an entity with a AAA rating is able to meet its debt obligations under the most extreme stress, while an entity of a lower rating will default (be unable to meet its obligations) under lesser degrees of stress.

To understand the rating change, therefore, it is important to understand what the stress tests are.  Here are the definitions from Standard & Poor’s:

‘AAA’ stress scenario:
An issuer or obligation rated ‘AAA’ should be able to withstand an extreme level of stress and still meet its financial obligations.A historical example of such a scenario is the Great Depression in the U.S. In that episode, real GDP for the U.S. declined by 26.5% from 1929 through 1933. U.S. unemployment peaked at 24.9% in 1933 and was above 20% from 1932 through 1935. U.S. industrial production declined by 47% and home building dropped by 80% from 1929 through 1932. The stock market dropped by 85% from September 1929 to July 1932 (as measured by the Dow Jones Industrial Average). The U.S. experienced deflation of roughly 25%. Real GDP did not recover to its 1929 level until 1935. Nominal GDP did not recover until 1940. We consider conditions such as these to reflect extreme stress. The ‘AAA’ stress scenario envisions a widespread collapse of consumer confidence. The financial system suffers major dislocations. Economic decline propagates around the globe.

‘AA’ stress scenario:
An issuer or obligation rated ‘AA’ should be able to withstand a severe level of stress and still meet its financial obligations. Such a scenario could include GDP declines of up to 15%, unemployment levels of up to 20%, and stock market declines of up to 70%.

In simple terms what the downgrade means is something we, perhaps, all may realize but haven’t talked about; The United States, who once weathered the Dust bowl, The Great Depression, and WWII successfully enough to “Save the World” is no longer able to do so.  As a country we would be behind Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, Singapore and others in ability to weather the events of 1920 – 1940.  As a people, we have lost something valuable in the perception of the world.

The question to be asked: “Now that this has happened, now what?”  Your answer determines *your* future.  Will you blame the other guy, or seek something from within yourself to make a difference?

Knock, knock Neo.

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as freedom is a breakfastfood – E. E. Cummings 1940

by Bruce Nye on Monday, April 18, 2011 at 13:17m

I always loved the way Cummings was able to turn seeming non-sense into a profound statement.  Here he provides a view of love in several levels.  In one, as Ashleigh Brilliant observed, there is the sense of falling in love turning the world on its head.  In another, a look at how logic and the heart are oftimes at odds with one another.  And further that public norms are often absurd to the spiritual and emotional self.  For your enjoyment here is:

as freedom is a breakfastfood

as freedom is a breakfastfood
or truth can live with right and wrong
or molehills are from mountains made
-long enough and just so long
will being pay the rent of seem
and genius please the talentgang
and water most encourage flame

as hatracks into peachtrees grow
or hopes dance best on bald men’s hair
and every finger is a toe
and any courage is a fear
-long enough and just so long
will the impure think all things pure
and hornets wail by children stung

or as the seeing are the blind
and robins never welcome spring
nor flatfolk prove their world is round
nor dingsters die at break of dong
and common’s rare and millstones float
-long enough and just so long
tomorrow will not be too late

worms are the words but joy’s the voice
down shall go which and up come who
breasts will be breasts and thighs will be thighs
deeds cannot dream what dreams can do
-time is a tree (this life one leaf)
but love is the sky and i am for you
just so long and long enough

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Footsteps of Angels – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1839

by Bruce Nye on Monday, April 18, 2011 at 12:36m

This poem became dear to me in memory of my first wife, Jan.  I was reading Longfellow’s Voices of the Night collection and came upon this verse.  It described how it felt to be a new widower perfectly:  Trying to reconcile the world as it moved on, with the partner now departed.  A salient feature of a spiritual marriage is that our spouse becomes a reflection of our conscious.  Once that reflection is no longer animate, grief seeks to reconcile its loss.  Longfellow aptly captures the early part of that transition.  -bruce


Footsteps of Angels

When the hours of Day are numbered,
And the voices of the Night
Wake the better soul, that slumbered,
To a holy, calm delight;

Ere the evening lamps are lighted,
And, like phantoms grim and tall,
Shadows from the fitful firelight
Dance upon the parlor wall;

Then the forms of the departed
Enter at the open door;
The beloved, the true-hearted,
Come to visit me once more;

He, the young and strong, who cherished
Noble longings for the strife,
By the roadside fell and perished,
Weary with the march of life!

They, the holy ones and weakly,
Who the cross of suffering bore,
Folded their pale hands so meekly,
Spake with us on earth no more!

And with them the Being Beauteous,
Who unto my youth was given,
More than all things else to love me,
And is now a saint in heaven.

With a slow and noiseless footstep
Comes that messenger divine,
Takes the vacant chair beside me,
Lays her gentle hand in mine.

And she sits and gazes at me
With those deep and tender eyes,
Like the stars, so still and saint-like,
Looking downward from the skies.

Uttered not, yet comprehended,
Is the spirit’s voiceless prayer,
Soft rebukes, in blessings ended,
Breathing from her lips of air.

Oh, though oft depressed and lonely,
All my fears are laid aside,
If I but remember only
Such as these have lived and died!

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i carry your heart with me – E.E. Cummings 1958

by Bruce Nye on Monday, April 18, 2011 at 12:23pm

I’ve been intrigued by Edward Estlin Cummings since I first met his poem “[as freedom is a breakfastfood]” as a teenager. I’d never read this poem until I heard it in the in the movie “In Her Shoes” . I searched my collections and found the poem in one of my mother’s poetry books. I’ve tried to reproduce here Cummings’ visual style as it was printed in “95 poems”. In both the visual and lyrical sense the poem speaks volumes about love and relationships. -bruce

i carry your heart with me

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling
                                                                   i fear

no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

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If — Rudyard Kipling 1895

by Bruce Nye on Monday, April 18, 2011 at 10:45am

My father gave this poem to me as a gift on my 13th birthday.  It was penned in the most beautiful hand and folded inside a birthday card.  My father, being a surgeon, did not have the penmanship to create the note.  Turns out his nurse, Dorothy, had penned it for him as he recited it from memory to her.  Kipling captures the stoic spirit that informs us well to this day what it takes to weather life successfully. -bruce

If —

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

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