American Elephants

Why Wasn’t Today a National Holiday? by The Elephant's Child

First reading of the Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln, by
Francis Bicknell Carpenter (U.S.Senate)

Unnoticed, uncelebrated, July 22 commemorates Abraham Lincoln’s unveiling of the Emancipation Proclamation to the startled members of his cabinet, 150 years ago.

Historian Allen C. Guelzo notes:

The Emancipation Proclamation did more, and for more Americans, than any other presidential document before or since. It declared that over 3 million black slaves (representing some $3 billion in capital investment) would “thenceforward, and forever, be free” (thus transforming that $3 billion into a net zero, overnight) and turned the Civil War from being a police action against the breakaway southern Confederacy into a crusade for freedom. It was, as Lincoln himself said, “the central act of my administration and the great event of the nineteenth century.”

Still, there will be no federal holiday, no emancipation parades, no proclamation fireworks.

This will be, first, because the language of the proclamation is so stultifyingly and legally dull, full of whereases and therefores, that the whole thing leaves approximately the same impression on the spirit as a lump of coal. Who wants to celebrate a document that begins, “In pursuance of the sixth section of the act of Congress entitled ‘An act to suppress insurrection and to punish treason and rebellion, to seize and confiscate property of rebels, and for other purposes . . .’”?

But the uninflected detachment of the proclamation’s language is far less a problem for the proclamation’s reputation than the limitation clauses Lincoln insisted on inserting. The proclamation did not simply proclaim liberty throughout all the land; far from it, the proclamation expressly exempted the four slave states that had stayed with the Union (Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri) and the counties and parishes in Virginia and Louisiana that had been occupied by Union troops and restored to civil order. If the proclamation was indeed about freeing slaves, then the slaves in those places must have had an interesting time understanding why they didn’t qualify.

Even worse, Lincoln specifically offered as the constitutional justification for this dramatic act of governmental taking nothing more Moses-like than his war powers as “Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States.” What should have been, by our lights, an opportunity for this most eloquent of presidents to wax more eloquent still is described by Lincoln as “a fit and necessary military measure.” No parting the Red Sea, no making the world safe for democracy. The proclamation is presented as nothing more than a military tactic for subduing the Confederacy.

But lurking behind these deflations of the proclamation is a more modern, but also more lethal, objection: that the proclamation is just one more self-righteous reminder to African-Americans that they have no agency of their own, but must rely on the goodwill of white folks, even for freedom. “I just can’t wrap my head around celebrating the fact that someone else freed my ancestors,” complains John McWhorter, much less that “freedom happened partly as the result of whites making other whites see the error of their ways. . . . I am always more interested in what we did rather than what somebody did to us.”

And so the Emancipation Proclamation has gone into eclipse as just another tardy, and empty, gesture of political manipulation, conceived by a Manipulator-in-Chief.

The Proclamation is a legal document, transferring the ownership of 3 million or more items of “property” from their owners to the “property” itself. Any false step in the drafting of the document would have had slaveholders on the courthouse steps in the morning. And Chief Justice Roger Taney was the author of the infamous Dred Scott decision.  Lincoln had no legal or constitutional way to deal with slavery apart from invoking “the war power of the government.”

Slaves took advantage of every opportunity presented by the war to grab whatever freedom came their way. They deserted the plantations whenever Union armies marched by, the hid escaped Union prisoners-of-war, they went north to find any kind of life as long as it was free. What they could not do was to emancipate themselves.  The runaway slave would always remain legally a slave. Emancipation, Guelzo explains, had to be de jure, not just de facto, and that required legal action.

Precisely because notions of self-emancipation are more a matter of sentiment and pride than of footnotes, they pose the most intractable resistance to restoring the honor of the Emancipation Proclamation. But to deny the proclamation its place in the history of all Americans repudiates the basic lesson of our tumbled past: that white and black owe each other far more than either can pay off. “Those of us engaged in this racial struggle in America are like knights on horseback,” wrote Langston Hughes in 1943, “the Negroes on a white horse and the white folks on a black.” There is no shame in admitting what we owe each other as Americans; the shame is only in repudiating that debt.

Republicans: Evil and Nasty? by The Elephant's Child

Bill Whittle explains the Republican Party with a little history, some true facts and good humor. Really.

The Story of Oh by The Elephant's Child
July 22, 2012, 9:57 pm
Filed under: Freedom, History, Socialism, Statism | Tags: , ,

Over at Pajamas Media, the estimable Richard Fernandez tells the melancholy tale of Oh Kil-nam, a South Korean man who, convinced by his Marxist education that North Kora was a worker’s paradise, decided to defect there with his wife and two children in 1986. Oh, who had just completed his PhD in Germany in Marxist economics and who “had been active in left-wing groups” had no reason to doubt the beckoning invitation of North Korean officials who promised him free health care and a government job, like certain other people you may know.

He chose poorly.

Aged and broken, Oh now concludes that his “life was ruined by his decision to defect to North Korea. Seventy years old, he still does not know the fate of his wife and daughters — either dead or imprisoned in a labor camp.” His wife, who lacked the benefit of a European education,suspected something was amiss from the first.  She was aghast when he told her of his plan to defect.

“Do you know what kind of place it is?” she asked. “You  have not even been there once.  How can you make such a reckless decision?”

But Oh replied that the Northerners were Koreans too —they”cannot be that brutal”, he told her.

Ha ha ha.

Hee, hee, ho, ha, ha ha! LOL. He thought they couldn’t be that brutal. Those are the famous last words. Read the rest of the cautionary tale:

It Isn’t Outsourcing That is the Problem! by The Elephant's Child

If you are working hard, doing a good job, and suddenly you are let go—for any reason, it is devastating. Even if you didn’t like your job much, it is still devastating. It is a blow to your sense of self-worth, and it’s accompanied by a great wash of fear. Will you be able to find another job, buy the groceries, pay the rent or mortgage. Scary times.

Politicians take that fear and try to build on it to get you to reject the opposing party. Nasty, but that’s the way things work. President Barack Obama and his Democrat administration are defending the once-discredited theory, now resurgent, that government must act as the economy’s “guide” and use public funds to “stimulate”it. The Republicans, on the other hand, advance the idea that the main source of new growth is the innovative energy of America’s people, and their entrepreneurial spirits. What the economy needs is for government to get out of the way and stop being such a barrier to growth.

“An essential part of the free-market argument is ‘creative destruction,'” notes Guy Sorman in City Journal,” a theory proposed by the great Austrian economist and Harvard University professor Joseph Schumpeter. “If you don’t understand Schumpeter’s insight—expressed most powerfully in his classic 1942 book Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy—you’ll have a hard time understanding why free markets work so well to generate prosperity. Yet creative destruction is a complicated concept, poorly understood by the general public and not always easy to defend.”

The biggest stadium in the country is the Michigan stadium in Ann Arbor. It holds 109,901 people, I assume not counting the football teams and staffs. If I put you in charge of their lives, telling them how to live, where to work, what to buy and what not to buy, how to order their time when not working, how would you do?  Obviously. Silly question.

For me it is an illustration of the free market. All those different people with their different beliefs, different histories, different hopes and dreams will— because they are free people, sort themselves out and mostly manage their lives quite efficiently. And that’s only 110,000 people. Our country holds over 330 million. Why don’t they all try to use the telephone at the same time, or all arrive at the same stoplight at once? Why does a nice restaurant have roughly the same number of customers most nights? Why doesn’t everybody turn up on Friday night? Millions of people making their own self-concerned decisions and it mostly all works just fine with no direction. There is a  kind of wisdom in all those separate decisions.

Our politicians, on the other hand, are quite sure that they can make it all better with lots of rules and regulations. We can tolerate a good many, but the wisdom of government does not trump the wisdom of the people as a whole. They are just not smart enough to know how to regulate so many; or to regulate American businesses and tell them how many to hire and how many to fire and where to do business.

Schumpeter’s insight was that in a capitalist economy the old must constantly give way to the new. Production technologies in a free economy improve constantly. New products and services appear constantly. The electronics industry is an exemplar. Seems like you no sooner buy the newest new thing when it has been superseded by something newer with better features. Not many typewriters these days.

The upside is that America actually leads the world in manufacturing. We produce 21 percent of global manufactured products. China comes after at 15 percent. Manufacturing supports an estimated 17 million jobs in the United States, about one in six private sector jobs. In the current campaign there are lots of accusations about outsourcing, which is assumed to be a very bad thing and to destroy jobs. But is it? In 2010, for every $1 that American companies invested abroad, other countries invested $2 in America and American jobs. The total stock of foreign investment in the U.S. came to $4 trillion. That represents a lot of jobs.

Outsourcing is based on an unpleasant truth: Certain types of operations, such as call centers, for example, or unskilled product assembly, are simply too costly for companies to do in the United States. By having those jobs performed overseas, companies are able to preserve their resources for the things those companies do best, their “core competencies.”

Big manufacturers are building new plants here. BMW is adding 300 new jobs in its South Carolina plant this year, and Airbus recently announced it will employ 1,000 workers at a new plant in Alabama. Both South Carolina and Alabama are right-to-work states.

Multinational corporations still employ more Americans. U.S. multinationals employ 22.9 million Americans — more than twice as many people as they employ in China, Mexico and all other countries combined. Foreign-owned multinational corporations employ 5.5 million people in the United States. Insourced businesses are a tremendous boon for the U.S. economy. Jobs brought to America by foreign-based companies—account for nearly 5 percent of private-sector employment. These businesses buy more than $1.8 trillion in goods and services from local suppliers and small businesses in the areas where they locate.

All very reassuring, but not very meaningful to those who have lost their jobs. There is a downside to “creative destruction.” But in a May 2012 paper, researchers at the London School of Economics Center for Economic Performance examined 58 U.S. manufacturing industries from 2000 to 2007 and found that the cost savings and productivity increases from shifting some work overseas enabled  enough new domestic hiring to offset any jobs lost abroad.

Economic policy is not about preserving every single job that exists at any cost, but must be about creating general prosperity.

There is a lot that policymakers could do to improve the situation. The Index of Economic Freedom, produced by the Heritage Foundation and  The Wall Street Journal reveals America’s competitive disadvantages.  Hong Kong, ranked No. 1 in the Index has an economy that is growing at an astounding 7 percent. The U.S. GDP growth in the first quarter of 2012 was only 1.9 percent. Hong Kong has a zero tariff rate. Their corporate tax rate is only 16.5 percent, compare to our corporate rate of 35 percent. Their regulatory environment is highly supportive of business efficiency.  Here at home, 106 major federal regulations have added more than $46 billion in new costs for Americans. This is four times the number and five times the cost of George W. Bush’ s major regulations. Hundreds more regulations are winding through the regulatory pipeline as a result of Dodd-Frank and ObamaCare that will take full effect in 2014.

It’s not hard to find evidence of what to do to help the economy to grow. What’s hard is to act on the evidence.



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