The Risk of Getting Real
In a letter to Horace Greely in 1862, Abraham Lincoln wrote: ”If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.” Even though the Emancipation Proclamation was issued less than a year later it wasn’t until 1865 and the passage of the 13th Amendment that slavery was officially abolished (although it lingered in some American Indian tribal areas for some time afterwards).
Ending slavery is often thought to be the central cause of the Civil War; ask any high school student who has endured a fast forward year of American history in nine months. But Lincoln’s letter to Greely tells us that the legacy for which he is known is not the one he would have chosen at the beginning of the war. I think we are in a similar point in history right now. We can substitute Obama for Lincoln and the salvation of the financial system for the preservation of the union. A rational monetary system will hopefully be the equivalent of freeing the slaves.
There are many people who are criticizing the stimulus program. It isn’t large enough. That’s true; it’s pretty much like spitting in the ocean. It contains too many elements that don’t have a direct impact on stimulating the economy. That’s true; making student loans more accessible won’t have a direct impact for many years. And so on.
But it would be useful to understand the context that we are all in right now. There is a general sense that something is drastically wrong but the majority of the population is, I would suggest, still of the mindset that we need to do something to get things back to the way they used to be. This is the year that the majority will go through the process of understanding that the past is not coming back. That will be a shock to many and we will likely continue to see some bizarre behavior as a consequence – both politically and in the lives of individuals who manage to get their fifteen seconds of fame.
At the beginning of this process we have the stimulus package, a product of some very recognizable names in the economic community, a new President whose legitimacy is based in the concept of hope and a Congress determined to throw every social program into the mix that has been denied for the past eight years. To think that any thing else would happen at this point in history is, I would think, naive. This is the beginning of the process, not the end. The Obama administration will launch a variety of initiatives, most of which will falter and fail. The President’s constant drumbeat of public statements about how there is no quick fix will keep his head above water for a year or two during which time he will have the opportunity to address the growing awareness in the country about the nature of our debt based monetary system.
What happens then is anybody’s guess. Certainly the conspiracy theorists have their view – the banks will own everything, the American standard of living will increasingly replicate that of Bolivia and the world will become a virtual prison. I would suggest that this conclusion is based on a very narrow and selective view of the facts and not the likely scenario. There is no doubt that since the beginning of recorded human history that there have been a few who have worked hard to control the many. That said, having worked in the financial services industry for several decades I find it implausible that what is occurring in the world today is the result of some grand plan. It is rather the result of a grand delusion; one that is unraveling daily.
I would also suggest that the administration is stuck in the conflict of needing to do something and understanding that its impact will be minimal. Demanding a stimulus package without social welfare pork is about as realistic as introducing legislation to decommission the Federal Reserve. Both may happen in time, but right now those actions do not have the political or social context to be successful.
Some would despair about the political process. Let’s remember that the political process is one step above shooting, stabbing or blowing each other up. By and large the politicians we have are the ones that we want; they echo our concerns and act in a manner that will get them re-elected. That changes when we change.
So how quickly will we “get real”. Faster than we think and with more chaos than we would like. The art of the successful politician is to stay one step ahead of the prevailing social awareness. To far ahead and you get cut off at the ankles, to far behind and you get trampled. Obama seems to have the ability of a Kennedy or a Roosevelt or, even a Reagan in connecting with the public. It is, as he has said repeatedly, about us, not him. What we get is what we will deserve and what we deserve will be a result of how much we want to know.
As we move into this phase of our history let’s just remember something else that Lincoln said, “He has a right to criticize who has a heart to help.”
I’ve found enough evidence to support the grand plan theory, Ive also fought hard to disprove it. Regardless of whether someone upon high is orchestrating this, I agree with your assessment that "a grand delusion" is at work.
Very wise thoughts Bill. There is no conspiracy. Just a bunch of imperfect biological units doing what their culture taught them without pausing to think deeply.