We’re All Born In The Middle Of The Story.
Each of us was born at a specific time on a specific day of a specific month in a specific year of a specific decade in a specific era of history. Having lived for fifty plus years, I look back at the numerous days, or five decades, or the few eras of history in which I have lived, and realize that you can’t break up time into these convenient measurements and look at them separately. They do not stand on their own. As Thomas Sowell said, “results observed at a given point in time may be part of a process that stretches far back in time.”
Most people think history started the day they were born. They give little thought, or have no understanding of how the world that existed the day they were born came to exist as it did. Where each person is, and what they are doing today, is the result of decisions made by them and other people, in the recent past and the distant past. An example of this is, if someone in their lineage had not immigrated to this country they would have been born somewhere else, if they would have been born at all.
All of us who are my age or younger were born into a world or country with a standard of living that would be considered extremely wealthy compared to the standard of living our parents, or grand parents were born into. My mom told us about how they grew up in the 30’s. They had no indoor plumbing, car, television, phone, fast food, or many other things I took for granted when I grew up. The standard of living these present generations were born into, far exceeds the standard of living when I was born. Most of us my age and younger think we live in a world of seeming abundance, and have no idea, or have never thought about, how this “abundance” got here. We think that this is how it has always been and will be. We don’t understand that this world of “abundance ” is not the norm if we look at the six thousand plus years of recorded history. Poverty has been the norm and this higher standard of living is a recent anomaly.
Mercantilism (read here), or economic statism, of the 17th and 18th centuries was overthrown by the ideas of the classical economists in the 18th and 19th centuries. Free market capitalism of the 19th and 20th centuries, combined with the new idea that the sovereignty of the individual reigns over any coercive interference by the State, which was the essence of the American Revolution, unleashed the creativity and productivity of individuals. Physical capital, and more importantly, human capital were used to produce the physical and intellectual infrastructure our present society stands on. The result was the production of the ever-increasing standard of living, each of us was born into. The advances brought about by free market capitalism come with a blessing and a curse. One blessing is the ability to support a larger population, which means you may not have been born if we still had a mercantilist State. Another blessing is the higher standard of living. The curse is, we take for granted that this will always exist, which results in us having no understanding of how this all came about. We are ignorant about the economic principles of the free market, and also ignorant that individual freedom is the free market. If we can’t defend the free market against the idea that, central planning through Government regulation is a better economic system, we will continue to lose our individual freedom incrementally, with each successive election. The result of losing our individual freedom incrementally is, we will also lose the ability to continue to produce our current standard of living. Individual freedom is economic freedom, they are not two separate things.
People have to be educated about where the road we are traveling leads. Being born in the middle of the story automatically makes us ignorant, sometimes blissfully ignorant, about the beginning of the story. It is our job to get educated about the whole story, unless we want to get led around by political wordsmiths who have the power to take our freedoms away. In 1838, a mere forty five years after our founding, Abraham Lincoln addressed the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Ill. in a speech about the perpetuation of our institutions of liberty. He was worried about that present generation forgetting the battle for freedom that had taken place fifty years before. How much more worried should we be that our present generations, who are two hundred plus years removed from the actual events, have no idea about the principles of freedom.
He said,”I do not mean to say, that the scenes of the revolution are now or ever will be entirely forgotten; but that like every thing else, they must fade upon the memory of the world, and grow more and more dim by the lapse of time. In history, we hope, they will be read of, and recounted, so long as the bible shall be read;– but even granting that they will, their influence cannot be what it heretofore has been. Even then, they cannot be so universally known, nor so vividly felt, as they were by the generation just gone to rest. At the close of that struggle, nearly every adult male had been a participator in some of its scenes. The consequence was, that of those scenes, in the form of a husband, a father, a son or brother, a living history was to be found in every family– a history bearing the indubitable testimonies of its own authenticity, in the limbs mangled, in the scars of wounds received, in the midst of the very scenes related–a history, too, that could be read and understood alike by all, the wise and the ignorant, the learned and the unlearned.–But those histories are gone. They can be read no more forever. They were a fortress of strength; but, what invading foeman could never do, the silent artillery of time has done; the leveling of its walls. They are gone.–They were a forest of giant oaks; but the all-resistless hurricane has swept over them, and left only, here and there, a lonely trunk, despoiled of its verdure, shorn of its foliage; unshading and unshaded, to murmur in a few gentle breezes, and to combat with its mutilated limbs, a few more ruder storms, then to sink, and be no more.
They were the pillars of the temple of liberty; and now, that they have crumbled away, that temple must fall, unless we, their descendants, supply their places with other pillars, hewn from the solid quarry of sober reason. Passion has helped us; but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy. Reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason, must furnish all the materials for our future support and defence.–Let those materials be moulded into general intelligence, sound morality, and in particular, a reverence for the constitution and laws: and, that we improved to the last; that we remained free to the last; that we revered his name to the last; that, during his long sleep, we permitted no hostile foot to pass over or desecrate his resting place; shall be that which to learn the last trump shall awaken our WASHINGTON.
Upon these let the proud fabric of freedom rest, as the rock of its basis; and as truly as has been said of the only greater institution, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Question, was Lincoln educated in the public school system?