American Elephants

An “Oldie” Worth Remembering by The Elephant's Child

As long as I’m doing Constitutions and what people believe, here is an oldie but goodie, with the late Milton Friedman explaining the most basic facts of Capitalism to Phil Donahue, who, of course, doesn’t get it at all. Always worth a refresher on what is important.

I particularly like John Steele Gordon’s  An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power, which beautifully describes how Capitalism and a free people who can act on their ideas and dreams have brought forth a powerful and wealthy nation that is the envy of the world.

What Rights Does the First Amendment Protect? by The Elephant's Child


According to Campus Reform, the Freedom Forum Institute’s annual “State of the First Amendment” survey has found that while 74 percent of Americans say they support the First Amendment, nearly half could not identify a single one of the rights that it protects.

Meanwhile, roughly half of those surveyed said public universities should be able to disinvite “controversial” speakers, such as those who are likely to provoke protests or cause offense to certain groups or individuals.

According to the report, 56 percent of respondents recalled that the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, 15 percent mentioned freedom of religion, 13 percent remembered freedom of the press, 12 percent noted the right to assembly, and just 2 percent cited the right to petition.

Meanwhile, nine percent erroneously asserted that the First Amendment protects the right to bear arms, a freedom that is actually guaranteed by the Second Amendment.

In the interests of making sure you all have the facts and if you have kids, making sure they do too, Here is the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The amendment is about what the government may not do, not about what you may or may not do. Doesn’t mean that people cannot insult you or criticize what you say or cast aspersions on your religion. It’s there to protect you from an overreaching government.  Though if the country gets so far gone that Congress is completely ignoring the Constitution, all bets are off.

You might try to memorize it, and have your kids memorize it. It is our greatest protection from tyranny and as long as people know what it says and what it is about, we’ll probably be all right. But the numbers of people without a clue is discouraging.

If you are interested, you can get nice little bound copies of the Constitution, about 3½” x 5″, from the Cato Institute by calling 800-767-1241 (8:30am to 4;30 pm EST) They are inexpensive, but my copy is years old, and prices have probably gone up.  (It also includes the Declaration and a preface about the history)

Nice little gift for new grads or kids leaving for college. The way things are going they probably would not encounter it there.

Democracy Is Government by Amateurs by The Elephant's Child

From Daniel Boorstin’s Hidden History: Exploring our Secret Past

Aristocracies are governed by people born to govern, totalitarian societies by people who make ruling their profession. But our representative government must be led by people never born to govern, temporarily drawn from the community, and sooner or later sent back home. Democracy is government by amateurs. The progress—perhaps even the survival—of our society depends on the vitality of the amateur spirit in the United States today and tomorrow.

The two new breeds whose power and prestige menace the amateur spirit are the professionals and the bureaucrats, Both are by-products of American wealth, American progress. But they can stifle the amateur spirit on which the special quality and vision of our American leaders must depend.

First, the professionals. Professions, as we know them, are a modern phenomenon. The word “profession,” when it first came into the English language, meant the vows taken by members of the clergy. By the  sixteenth century professions included other vocations in which “a professed knowledge of some department of learning or science is used in its application to the affairs of others.

He goes on to write about the modern expansion of professions to an endless list. He adds that business has become a profession. In the 18th century, a man who was engaged in public affairs was described as a “man of business.” And today the increasing vogue of the M.B.A. suggests the end of the amateur spirit. Today in the professional organization there is an unspoken article of faith: The profession really exists for the benefit of the professionals. The law exists for the sake of lawyers, medicine for the convenience, maintenance and enlightenment of doctors, and universities for the sake of professors. That’s true enough. There are houses designed to provide plans and photographs for architectural journals.  And his theme would suggest further that the reportage of politics today is designed to win the accolades of their fellow journalists, which sounds about right.

The increasing size and reach of government has meant the rise of the bureaucrat. The professional government worker. The theory of the founders was surely that our senators and congressmen were supposed to be amateurspeople who came from the people and returns and lets someone else have a turn. Today our congresspeople become professional bureaucrats and look for the approval of their major financial supporters rather than to the concerns of the folks back home. That’s partly our fault. We are reluctant to choose an amateur, and prefer someone who has experience in government preferably as a governor, or a doctor—we trust doctors. But once elected, they become professional congresspeople. It’s helpful when they know their way around and can become effective, but sometimes they just settle in and become bureaucrats, more interested in maintaining the bureaucracy.

It would be easy to think of Donald Trump as an amateur, but he is a man of vast experience with business and with government, just not in government. On the Left, most potential candidates are old, tired politicians, and some very political businessmen are toying with the idea of running. Can we really return to the idea of a representative government run by amateurs?

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