Archive for May, 2012

Memorial Day, 2012

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

May 28, 2012

My wife Jane was a Marine truck driver at Parris Island, South Carolina during WW2 tending to the men who returned from battles in the South Pacific. I was an electronic technician’s mate at a Navy radio station in Hawaii sending messages to submarines that were torpedoing Japanese oil tankers. Neither of us saw combat. This Memorial Day we remember with pride our days in the armed forces and salute the present generation of soldiers, sailors and marines of this remarkable country—the land of the free and the home of the brave—as we mourn the ones who did not return.

Some activists today deny there is anything that special about the United States. They are wrong.

In 1787 our founders wrote, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Critics point out that We the People did not include slaves and Native Americans. In some respects, it did not include half the population that was female. The people who were to make the more perfect union were far from equal. Most were poor illiterate farmers. They were led by a few wealthy slaveholders—men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe (John Adams, our second president was an exception, a farmer who did not own slaves).

The Constitution was designed to be the base for a strong government but one that would allow citizens freedom hitherto unknown in the civilized world. Thomas Jefferson put it this way, “A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.”

In the long run, that radical view was successful. It led to the explosion of science, industry, democracy and freedom that grows, with sometime setbacks, on every continent today.

In the two hundred plus years since the founding, we ourselves have not always lived up to the letter or the spirit of our Constitution. For more than half a century we allowed slavery to exist and to expand. After a bloody civil war to abolish it, we did little to stop Jim Crow from exploiting African-Americans for nearly a century.

The United States of America did not include Native Americans. Instead it waged wars that destroyed many of them and banished others to remote reservations.

The United States was often imperialist, especially in Latin America. As Dave Barry put it, “the Monroe Doctrine says other nations are not allowed to mess around with the internal affairs of nations in this hemisphere. But we are. Ha-ha-ha.”

None of that was new.

For hundreds of thousands of years Homo sapiens struggled to survive by hunting and gathering. When some humans discovered ways to grow crops and husband animals, populations increased and (slowly) the world changed. This agricultural age lasted ten thousand years and had its ups and downs. Kingdoms, empires and republics like Greece and Rome rose and fell, but the fate of most people did not change much.  The vast majority remained peasants, serfs or slaves, subject to their rulers and allowed scant room for enterprise or diversity. This agricultural age, like the hunting/gathering one before, left a legacy of patterns (memes), which are still powerful today.

Just over two hundred years ago the world was poised to change again, radically. This time it was the United States of America’s turn to lead the way into a new age, a scientific-industrial-democratic one. This time the fate of the vast majority did change.

Memes of the past did not disappear. Slavery, imperialism, brutal wars, genocide, torture, sexual and racial prejudice, domination by landed gentry, zero-sum economics, theft and war to gain land and wealth, persecution of religious heretics and dependence on governing powers for the necessities of life—all of these were standard practice in all areas of the world during all of the hundreds of thousands of years since Homo sapiens began to dominate the earth.

The new country that began with a few British colonies did not change these memes overnight. Some are still with us in attenuated, mutated or disguised form.

Our wars with the Native Americans were examples of the ancient pattern where wealth was based on land and was zero-sum. If we get more, you get less. If you get more, we get less. Native American tribes, like all groups in earlier ages (in fact like most fellow mammals), fought continual wars with each other to protect territories or to annex neighbor’s land. So did imperialist nations. So did the British colonists and the new citizens of the United States of America in the twilight of the agricultural age.

Like the genes we inherited from our ancestors, we inherited the reactionary memes too. The difference was—our founders led the way to do something about changing the memes.

In my reading three important human inventions were at the core of the exceptional country we call the United States—science, capitalism and Christianity. None of these were born in the United States but a unique synergy of the combination, spiked with healthy doses of freedom in the new world of America, made all the difference. And still does.

Science has a long and fascinating history. In the new land of North America it flourished and took a pragmatic turn. Capitalism was born in the medieval city-states and monasteries of Europe. It grew exponentially in the commerce and industry of 19th century North America and took on new entrepreneurial forms. Christianity was born two thousand years ago but it went through critical changes in the European Renaissance, Reformation and Enlightenment. It was this modified version, especially the Protestant work ethic, which flourished and changed in colonial days and still flourishes and changes today.

Summing up, the unique synergetic combination of these three pillars, with freedom for all, has made the United States the exceptional country it is today, the leader of the free world.

In the late 18th century the United States was the world’s only liberal (free) democracy. England, the country we fought a war to leave, was the only country in the world that came close. They had a Parliament and a history of legal rights even though, like all European countries, the monarch usually joined hands with landed aristocrats and clergy to wield the ultimate power. Monarchs, emperors or warlord chiefs ruled unrestrained in all the countries of Europe and elsewhere. The great masses of people everywhere were peasants, serfs or slaves, dependent on their lords and masters for life’s necessities.

The spread of freedom and democracy was slow. We were the first. A hundred years later Britain, France and a few other European countries had joined the free democratic club. By the end of the 20th century the pace had quickened. Led by our example (and helped by victories in WW2 and the Cold War) liberal democratic governments were the norm almost everywhere in the developed world and were rapidly gaining ground in the developing worlds of Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.

It is the story of Western Civilization and, by and large, it is a story of United States leadership—bringing life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to billions of earth’s citizens.

Have a good Memorial Day.

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President Hawkhill

P.S. Science and its offshoot technology have a long and fascinating history. For details I recommend my program The Soul of Science. Also check out Science and Democracy. For the history and relevance of capitalism I recommend my programs, Capitalism and Democracy and The Industrial Revolution, Capitalism and the United States of America. For Christianity and its relevance to democracy I recommend Religion and Democracy as well as Renaissance, Reformation and Enlightenment. The scripts for all of these programs are available free of charge on our web site, www.hawkhill.com. The DVD programs are also available at reduced cost on www.amazon.com.

Armageddon, religious and secular

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

May 21, 2012

On 12/21/12, following months of economic chaos and a global meltdown, the world as we know it will end. So say ancient Mayan astronomers.

According to some Christian sects the world was scheduled to end on Y2K, 12/31/99.

A couple of years earlier on 3/26/97 thirty-nine members of the Heaven’s Gate cult committed suicide to escape the earth’s destruction. Their spirits planned to join an alien spacecraft when the comet Hale-Bopp was at its brightest.

There is a Dow Index for the stock market. There is a Rapture Index for how close we are to Armageddon and the Second Coming. Polls claim 40% of Americans believe that the end of the world is near.

These are samples of doomsday fears stoked by religious memes. The educated class smiles. Most of the 40% who believe the end is near don’t do much about it. Some stock up on survival gear and rations. Some pray.

The educated classes take fears of approaching doom seriously when stamped with a scientific, political or academic imprimatur. Like the 40% of religious persuasion, most of the educated elite don’t do much about it either. Some recycle, shop at organic stores, avoid plastic bags or, if they are rich enough, buy a Prius.

Former vice president Al Gore made waves predicting unimaginable catastrophe for the world if we don’t drastically curb our use of fossil fuels. The vast majority of scientists concur and 58% of the public agrees.

The public is comfortable with recycling, natural goods and green advertising. When it comes to making real sacrifice, most people follow the lead of the former Vice President (as well as most environmentalists) and buy as much luxury as they can afford in travel, housing and entertainment.

Peak oil is another example. Marion King Hubbert, a geologist with Shell Oil Company, made a famous prediction that is taken seriously by many scientists and media pundits. Hubbert claimed that around 1979 we would hit the peak. From then on it was downhill for oil supplies. Other scientists, before and after Hubbert, made similar predictions all the way back to the late 19th century when oil was first produced in quantity by John D. Rockefeller and his Standard Oil trust.

Today we have more reserves than we have used over the last hundred and fifty years. We continue to discover new fields to exploit around the world. Just last week it was reported that new oil fields in North Dakota were producing more oil than those in Alaska. Doomsters still claim we have peaked. It is downhill from here and soon we will run out of oil.

The public welcomes autos that get better gas mileage (so long as they don’t have to sacrifice comfort and power). Otherwise, like the doomsters, they curse the oil companies for their obscene profits but are not ready to give up air travel, recreation vehicles, vacations at the beach or woodland, furnaces, cheap electricity, air-conditioning, lawnmowers, power tools or rescue helicopters.

Besides the global warming threat, corporate greed and Occupy Wall Street (OWS) inspire heavy rhetoric from the left. Chris Hedges, an intellectual foreign correspondent for The Nation, NPR and The New York Times writes, “If we do not topple the corporate elites the ecosystem will be destroyed and massive numbers of human beings along with it.” Noam Chomsky, the Harvard grand old man of the academic left, claims the Occupy Movement “has helped rebuild class solidarity and communities of mutual support on a level unseen since the time of the Great Depression.”

Almost to a woman and man the leftist protesters blame capitalism for our ills. Dr. Helen Caldicott, the anti-nuke activist, says, “You’ve got to get rid of those blasted corporations, who are evil! They’re evil. They’re killing the earth!” Michael Moore, the filmmaker, agrees, “capitalism is evil.” The blogger, Just Call Me Jay, on the Democratic Daily Kos website writes “Capitalism is not just evil, it is VERY evil.” The New York Times (supported by scads of capitalist ads) likes to publish articles like “Are the Rich Worth a Damn?” and “Capitalists and Other Psychopaths.” The author of the latter, Yale professor and literary critic William Deresiewicz, describes the capitalist system as, “Shafting your workers, hurting your customers, destroying the land. Leaving the public to pick up the tab. These aren’t anomalies; this is how the system works: you get away with what you can and try to weasel out when you get caught.”

It’s hard to know where to start. I am tempted to repeat the old joke, “outside of that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?” Why do so many intelligent, powerful and well-meaning people believe secular Armageddon scenarios while laughing at religious ones?

Memes are as powerful as genes. Academic, literary, scientific and political leaders have inherited the role (and the memes) of popes, priests, nobles and Mayan astronomers of yesteryear. Like their ancestors, they often add heavy doses of passion to their intellectual convictions. The extreme examples cited above feature paranoia, an adolescent-like distrust of capitalism and the free market, along with a touching confidence in the wisdom and competence of a progressive government.

These modern day clerics and nobles are déclassé intellectuals as Fritz Fanon, the French radical philosopher from Martinique, called them. They usually come from the upper middle class and see themselves as liberators of the 99% underclass. Some are independently wealthy and feel guilt about their riches. Many are scientific, literary, academic, artistic, and media movers and shakers. They make a good living but resent the fact that they make less than the local car dealer, McDonald’s franchiser or Wal-Mart executive.

A few celebrity protesters in Hollywood, Washington and New York do make mega money that qualifies them to be among the 1%. Most people in the overcrowded art, music, academic and media fields are dependent on government jobs, grants or subsidies. Not surprisingly they support higher taxes (on the rich) and more government. They are often the leaders as well as the most loyal followers of the OWS protests. (After a few months of fruitless protest, the Occupy activists in my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin turned out to be mostly homeless people who needed psychiatric care more than political change.)

The vast majority of workers (152 million) in this country depend on private companies for their livelihood. In fact most people in the world depend on profit-making companies and individuals for the vast bulk of their food, shelter, transportation, communication and entertainment.

The common thread in all the secular doomsters is a visceral hatred of these private companies and individuals, along with a promotion of progressive government as the only road to a world of peace, beauty and plenty. They mock the present democratic system as phony, controlled by oligarchs. They promote a people’s democracy. They don’t like to use the words socialist or communist. The details of how a government can be a people’sdemocracy, like the details of the Heaven’s Gate escape or the validity of the Rapture Index, are left blissfully vague. Maybe like Cuba under Castro, Venezuela under Chavez, Italy under Mussolini, Germany under Hitler, Russia under Lenin, China under Mao?

Modern Armageddon thinkers don’t like these comparisons of course. But gosh, these are the only examples of people’s democracies we have yet had. In the real world not one of these were people’s democracies. Instead they were all thinly veiled reactionary regimes where intellectual elites, like the clergy and the nobility of agricultural-age days, joined hands to rule the 99%, the peasants and serfs.

As the philosopher Frederick Hayek pointed out sixty years ago, government can be helpful but it can also be dangerous. Any system that relies too heavily on government bureaucratic control leads not to a people’s democracy, but to serfdom.

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President Hawkhill

P.S. For a clearer view of details see my new book, Twilight or Dawn: A Traveler’s Guide to Free-Market Liberal Democracy. Available on amazon.com or hawkhill.com.

Middle Class Blues

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

May 14, 2012

“BEIJING — Juan Lu and her husband, Jun Gao, can’t suppress their new-car grins. The young Chinese couple have taken delivery of their first car, a Ford Mondeo midsize sedan, from a Ford dealership in western Beijing. They are part of a burgeoning middle class that wants to trade in their subway tokens for their own wheels to get Lu to work at the hospital and Gao to his government job, and also take them away for a weekend holiday.” Detroit Free Press, May 6, 2012.

In 2009 18 million cars were sold in China compared with about 14.5 million in the U.S. For the new Chinese affluent classes the hot sellers are BMW, Ferrari, Jaguar and Audi. The best selling car in China last year was Buick. In my youth in southern Ohio, Buick was considered the rich doctor’s car.

“Confronting the worst job market in decades, many college graduates who expected to land paid jobs are turning to unpaid internships to try to get a foot in an employer’s door.  While unpaid post college internships have long existed in the film and nonprofit worlds, they have recently spread to fashion houses, book and magazine publishers, marketing companies, public relations firms, art galleries, talent agencies — even to some law firms.” New York Times, May 6, 2012.

No doubt the next election will be fought on middle class blues. The prevailing sentiment is that the rich have done marvelously well over the last few decades. The poor are always with us but at least they have welfare and safety nets. The middle class has taken it on the chin and is on the way out.

I beg to differ. The death of the middle class in America is much exaggerated. We do have reason to worry about all classes.

I have always considered myself a member of the much-satirized middle class. Karl Marx divided people into working class (proletariat), middle class (bourgeoisie) and ruling class (rich owners). Lenin vowed to “wipe the bourgeoisie off the face of the earth.” Mao Zedong did his best to do just that. Neither succeeded, but along the way they managed to cause mountains of misery.

Today it is the bourgeoisie who have triumphed in Russia and China, and indeed around the world. In the U.S. the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators want to divide the country into two new classes, the 1% rich and the 99% suffering. Republicans and Democrats argue over who is conducting a class war.

I thought America was a classless society.

I realize that is naïve. From the beginning there have been divisions between rich and poor and there still are. But not as many and not as sharp, I would argue, as any time in the past.

The 1% do enjoy fabulous wealth today. They can buy a box at the Super Bowl or the Metropolitan Opera. They can fly in private jets to ski or play golf in Spain, Chile or New Zealand. They can luxuriate in hotels, townhouses, vacation cottages, that set them back five thousand dollars a night. They can have multiple multi-million dollar homes in New York, Aspen, Palm Beach and London. (You can get a glimpse of their greed reading the ads in publications like The New York Times, The New Yorker or The Wall Street Journal.)

The 1% have more power and can give generously to political candidates or get their name immortalized by gifts to colleges, libraries, symphony halls and foundations. They not only have a couple of Cadillacs, Mercedes or Rolls, they have full-time chauffeurs to drive them.

But the middle classes are not slouches either when it comes to wealth. They enjoy riches the likes of which has never before been seen in in all of human history. They can see the Super bowl or the Opera on large screen digital TVs and have better views than in box seats. The upper middle class (top 20% or so) can fly to ski or play golf in Spain, Chile or New Zealand. Faster and  as comfortable in first class on commercial jetliners. They can buy luxury on cruises or dream spots around the world.

Many middle and even lower middle classers (the middle 60 or 70% of income) have second homes in Florida, the North Woods, Vermont, or the Colorado Rockies. They don’t have multi-million dollar homes but they do have pretty nice layouts with air-conditioning, two or three bathrooms, fancy kitchens, family rooms, home offices, two-car garages filled with great tools and gadgetry, Internet access, cable TV with hundreds of channels, etc., etc.

In the booming fifties and sixties we middle class folks were lucky to have a single bathroom, no family room, no home office, black and white TV, no air-conditioning, and subway tokens or bus passes instead of cars. Upper middle classers today drive two or three late model sedans, SUVs, or a Prius. Lower and mid-middle classers (as well as many downright poor) have minivans, trucks, Fords or Toyotas that are good enough to pass safety and environmental inspections.

As to power, the average middle class family can’t match the political gifts of the 1%. On the other hand worthy of note in the current Wisconsin recall imbroglio it is the incumbent Republican governor, Scott Walker, who has a higher percentage of small donors (those who give less than $100) to his campaign than his democratic challengers who boast about being the voice of the 99% versus the 1%.

If you thought Wall Street was the exclusive territory of the top 1%, think again. The percentage of Americans who invest independently in stocks and mutual funds is 54%. In the current recession this is down from 67% in 2002. This doesn’t even count the larger percentage of middle class folks who benefit from pension funds supported by dividends from Exxon-Mobil, Wal-Mart and McDonald’s. Over half the American public owns a smart phone, Android or iPhone. Over three-quarters own computers and are able and do surf the Internet.

All families in the U.S. spend a smaller percentage of their income on basic food and shelter than any families in world history. The low prices on basics are due to advances in efficiency and productivity made possible by the free market and globalization. (Education and health-care are important exceptions here.)

What’s the point?

Without question the middle class in America is going through a rough time in this recession. But it is still rich beyond the dreams of any previous middle class including the one I grew up in during the great depression—or in my teaching and family-raising days in the New York City of the booming 50s and 60s. True, the incomes of middle class families have not risen as much as the incomes of the top 1% during the past decades. Inequality in the U.S. is greater now than when I was young. Inequality is greater in all developed countries than when I was young.

In the booming days of the 50s and 60s inequality was low in most of Europe and the Far East. In the aftermath of WW2 everyone was poor and the environment was a basket case.

Europe today is rich, but in deep trouble. The social welfare states in many countries like Spain, Greece, Italy, Ireland, UK, Netherlands and France have overpromised goodies—cradle-to-grave benefits—that they can’t deliver. Germany is still doing okay but balking at bailing out its neighbors with more grants and loans. Populations are shrinking; the proportion of oldsters is exploding; citizens are rioting to resist cutbacks; the young are demanding more benefits; entrepreneurs are a vanishing breed; leaders are resorting to higher taxes on the rich, more debt and more regulation for everyone; far right and far left parties are ominously growing.

Not a good act to follow.

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President Hawkhill

P.S. For long term view see my book, Twilight or Dawn: A Traveler’s Guide to Free-Market Liberal Democracy. Available on amazon.com or hawkhill.com.

Ignorance Is Not Bliss

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

May 7, 2012

Last week’s blog about oil drew a record number of raves and boos. The raves outnumbered the boos. Here is a new one that might rile or raise your spirits.

On July 2, 1881 President James Garfield was shot by a deranged office-seeker, Charles Guiteau. He lived with a bullet in his abdomen for two and a half months attended by the most skilled and famous experts of his day. His chief physician was Dr. Willard Bliss, a surgeon in the Civil War, superintendent of Washington DC’s Amory Square Hospital and an expert in ballistic trauma.

The story is detailed in The Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President, by Candice Millard. It is one of the saddest tales I have ever read. What makes it so sad is that both Garfield and Bliss were such intelligent, well-meaning and caring people.

According to modern experts Garfield would probably have recovered from the gunshot wound if Dr. Bliss had done nothing. Instead the good doctor worked night and day at Garfield’s bedside for all the terrible two-and-a-half months. Despite his skill and dedication, his ignorance brought excruciating pain, needless suffering and eventual death to his patient.

Dr. Bliss, like most doctors and surgeons in late 19th century America, did not believe in the germ theory of disease that Louis Pasteur, Robert Koch and Joseph Lister had been championing for a few decades before. We know now that Garfield’s suffering and death were not due to the assassin’s bullet, but to the constant probing of the wound by doctor’s fingers and unsterilized instruments. This led to multiple infections that tortured and eventually killed the president.

What is the moral?

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. In this case the most respected knowledge and skills the country could provide proved worse than useless. Ignorance is not bliss.

Doctors and hospitals today take great care not to make the mistakes Dr. Bliss made. But what will biographers a hundred years from now write about failures in treating Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, mental disease and the many varieties of cancer?

The same cautions apply in other fields besides medicine, but are harder to recognize. Most people do the best they can. We have to wait on better knowledge to do better. We also have to recognize and heed the better way when it comes along. Not easy.

Just as Dr. Bliss had the best of intentions, so today politicians, economists, scientists, teachers, philosophers, artists, business people and ordinary working folk usually mean well and often work hard. But just as often they don’t know (or recognize) a better way. Using the old ways sometimes does great harm. Ignorance is not bliss.

Education especially deals with knowledge and ignorance in a direct way. More than most fields, education is also particularly susceptible to wishful thinking. Parents sacrifice to get their children a good education. Students go into serious debt for a college education. Politicians routinely claim that education will be the long-run answer to all of our problems.

Alas, the sad truth is that no one really knows how to “educate.” The methods we use in schools today are not much different from those of hundreds or even thousands of years ago.

Plato’s academy in ancient Greece would not be out of place today at Harvard, UW or the average public or private high school. Learned teachers and professors lecture to classes large and small. Discussion sessions. Textbooks. Papers, grades and examinations. All of us have experienced this so often as students, and some of us as teachers, we rarely consider alternatives. Like Dr. Bliss and other surgeons of the late 19th century we keep using the methods of the past even when they don’t work. The surgeons were insulted when Pasteur, Koch and Lister told them to wash their hands and use sterile techniques when they touched a patient’s body. What about educators touching a student’s mind?

The trouble is we don’t yet have a Pasteur, Koch or Lister to tell us what works and what does not work when touching a student’s mind. Even if we did, would we recognize it? Who knows, maybe we don’t need traditional schools or classrooms at all.

Our public school system can justifiably boast that, with all its faults, it has made a difference to millions of lives and played a key role in supporting this country’s dominant position in the modern world. Nevertheless like every other system it is severely challenged in this new scientific-industrial-democratic age.

How can we educate better?

If I knew for sure I would deserve a couple of Nobel Prizes. The best I can do is offer hints based on my experience and reading. Readers may have different ideas. Let me know.

When Boeing built their new factory in South Carolina to assemble the 787 Dreamliner jets there were concerns about the quality of the workforce. High-tech products like jetliners need thousands of highly skilled mechanics, electricians, computer programmers, etc. Boeing knew this and set up their own schools where workers trained for 26 to 43 weeks learning how to build a Dreamliner. Apparently it is paying off for both the company and the workers. They just completed their first plane and by the end of next year Boeing expects to build 3 Dreamliners a month in South Carolina.

The moral is we need to encourage similar public and private efforts to expand technical education and apprenticeship training.

Westinghouse and other major companies had education branches back in the 1970s that made progress in individualizing learning at the elementary and secondary levels. [Disclosure: I worked briefly for Westinghouse in the 70s.] Unfortunately most of the big companies abandoned their innovative efforts when the profits did not come fast enough. Boeing apparently has a better long-range strategy. I think new initiatives to increase the use of vouchers might entice other companies to enter the competition.

Teacher’s unions have raised the wages and status of teachers. Like all monopolies this has been good for the producers (teachers) but not as good for the customers (learners), and the unions are opposed to the competition voucher programs might bring.

It’s time to deemphasize college education as the only road to prosperity for young people. We also need to improve the quality of college education for all students who can profit from it. Our professional schools may be world class but our colleges of arts and sciences are slipping. (See a previous blog on bloopers.) We need more challenging courses in history, the humanities, western civilization and critical thinking. Maybe the Internet can help. The president of Stanford is quoted as saying, “There’s a tsunami coming.” A new website I came across by accident is an example.

At the elementary and secondary level I think we should lessen the focus on gaps between this or that group and concentrate instead on helping each individual student make progress. We all can’t be above average, but that does not imply that below average students are below average people. You don’t judge people by their IQ’s or SAT scores. You judge them by what they can do for you, and how nice they are to you while doing it (family excepted—sometimes!). Some of the finest human beings I have known in my long life never graduated from high school, much less college.

That high school diploma, like the college degree, is getting to be like a union card. Employers demand it to get a job. But is it really useful for students to spend four years or more in classrooms? For some students these classroom days produce nothing but boredom and unproductive resentment. Why not abolish the minimum wage and encourage students to get a job at McDonald’s, Wal-Mart or the corner convenience store? They might learn something, get over resentments and get a foot up on the success ladder.

Don’t laugh. I’m serious. Dr. Bliss and his surgeon friends scoffed at the people who said they should wash their hands before handling patients. Ignorance is not bliss.

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President Hawkhill

P.S. For more on this and allied subjects see my new book, Twilight or Dawn: A Traveler’s Guide to Free-Market Liberal Democracy. Available on amazon.com or hawkhill.com.