united states

On Truman

I recently finished reading Truman by Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough.

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found to be insightful:

The influence of his teachers on his life, Harry later said, was second only to that of his mother, and when crediting a Tillie Brown or a Margaret Phelps for all they had done for him, he did so with the assumption that everybody of his generation had a Tillie Brown or Margaret Phelps in their background and could therefore understand how he felt.

More important and equally unexpected was the way in which he proved himself a leader. His first day in office he spoke to the point: We intend to operate the country government for the benefit of the taxpayers. While we were elected as Democrats, we were also elected as public servants. We will appoint all Democrats to jobs appointable but we are going to see that every man does a full day’s work for his pay. In other words we are going to conduct the county’s affairs as efficiently and economically as possible.

“Three things ruin a man ” Harry would tell a reporter long afterward. “Power, money, and women. “I never wanted power,” he said. “I never had any money, and the only woman in my life is up at the house right now.”

“It is a pity that Wall Street, with its ability to control all the wealth of the nation and to hire the best law brains in the country, has not produced some statesmen, some men who could see the dangers of bigness and of the concentration of the control of wealth. Instead of working to meet the situation, they are still employing the best law brains to serve greed and self-interest. People can stand only so much, and one of these days there will be a settlement…”

To the country, the Congress, the Washington bureaucracy, to hundreds of veteran New Dealers besides those who had gathered in the Cabinet Room, to much of the military high command, to millions of American men and women overseas, the news of Franklin Roosevelt’s death, followed by the realization that Harry Truman was President, struck like massive earth tremors in quick succession, the thought of Truman in the White House coming with the force of a shock wave. To many it was not just that the greatest of men had fallen, but that the least of men—or at any rate the least likely of men—had assumed his place.

“If we can put this tremendous machine of ours, which has made victory possible, to work for peace, we can look forward to the greatest age in the history of mankind. That is what we propose to do.”

The cost of winning the war had been $341 billion. Now $400 million was needed for Greece and Turkey. “This is a serious course upon which we embark,” Truman said at the finish, and the look on his face was serious indeed. “I would not recommend it except that the alternative is much more serious…If we falter in our leadership, we may endanger the peace of the world, and we shall surely endanger the welfare of this nation.”

The line between communism and democracy was clear: Communism is based on the belief that man is so weak and inadequate that he is unable to govern himself, and therefore requires the rule of strong masters.i Democracy is based on the conviction that man has the moral and intellectual capacity, as well as the inalienable right, to govern himself with reason and fairness. Communism subjects the individual to arrest without lawful cause. punishment without trial, and forced labor as the chattel of the state. It decrees what information he shall receive, what art he shall produce, what leaders he shall follow, and what thoughts he shall think. Democracy maintains that government is established for the benefit Democracy maintains that government is established for the benefit of the individual, and is charged with the responsibility of protecting the rights of the individual and his freedom in the exercise of those abilities…

“This is a Republic. The greatest in the history of the world. I want the country to continue as a Republic. Cincinnatus and Washington pointed the way. When Rome forgot Cincinnatus its downfall began. When we forget the examples of such men as Washington, Jefferson, and Andrew Jackson, all of whom could have had a continuation in the office, then we will start down the road to dictatorship and ruin. I know I could be elected again and continue to break the old precedent as it was broken by F.D.R It should not be done. That precedent should continue—not by Constitutional amendment but by custom based on the honor of the man in office. Therefore to reestablish that custom, although by a quibble I could say I have only had one term, I am not a candidate and will not accept the nomination for another term.”

But if the firing of MacArthur had taken a heavy toll politically, if Truman as President had been less than a master of persuasion, he had accomplished a very great deal and demonstrated extraordinary patience and strength of character in how he rode out the storm.

He was remembered as the first president to recommend Medicare, remembered for the courage of his stand on civil rights at the risk of his political fortunes. The whistle-stop campaign was recalled as one of the affirming moments in the history of the American political system.

On a closing note:

Ambitious by nature, he was never torn by ambition, never tried to appear as something he was not. He stood for common sense, common decency. He spoke the common tongue. As much as any president since Lincoln, he brought to the highest office the language and values of the common American people. He held to the old guidelines: work hard, do your best, speak the truth, assume no airs, trust in God, have no fear. Yet he was not and had never been a simple, ordinary man. The homely attributes, the Missouri wit, the warmth of his friendship, the genuineness of Harry Truman, however appealing, were outweighed by the larger qualities that made him a figure of world stature, both a great and good man, and a great American president.

A highly recommended read on Leadership and History.

 

 

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On The Demon Under The Microscope

I recently finished reading The Demon Under The Microscope by Thomas Hager. As the author summarizes this book: “Once a bacterial disease took hold in the body, humans in 1931 were as much the prey of the invisible killers as they had been since the beginning of history. All that was about to change…Sulfa happened. It started in the mid-1930s, with a series of findings made in Germany and France, discoveries that were at the time hailed as “the miracle of miracles” in modern medicine, advances that secured humans their first effective way to stop bacterial infections once they started. The work then spread to Great Britain and the United States, where tests of the still-experimental drug on humans. including the son of the president of the United States, confirmed its power.”

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found to be particularly insightful:

Nothing like it had been seen before. IG Farben was on the day of its birth the largest corporation in Germany, the largest business in Europe, the largest and most powerful chemical company in the world. It was also the world s third-largest business of any sort measured by numbers of employees, bested in the mid-1920s only by U.S. Steel and General Motors. As Duisberg hoped, the IG Farben structure led to coordinated research and rationalized production; member firms began complementing one another’s efforts rather than duplicating them; resources were freed to invest in the next big products to generate the next big profits. At Bayer those products would include a number of new medicines.

Childbed fever was rampant in the wards attended by students. Something appeared to be passing the infection from the dead women to the students and physicians, then from them to women in the delivery room. Semmelweis thought it likely, given the pattern, that the student physicians were carrying something, some bits of infectious material, perhaps scraps of tissue from the autopsies, from the autopsy area to the wards. These were the days before Lister and before Pasteur had shown that bacteria could cause disease. Hand washing was minimal, if it was done at all. The students and medical staff wore no gloves. All the doctors, young and old, generally wore the same clothes for days. Semmelweis came to believe that the infectious material was likely carried on the hands. To test the idea, he instructed all of his students to start washing their hands thoroughly in chloride of lime after any autopsy and before touching any patient. Then he tracked the results. As he had hoped, deaths among women treated by his students fell dramatically. Semmelweis excitedly told everyone about his findings, and soon his hand-washing practices were adopted throughout the Vienna Lying-in Hospital. Within a few years, the death rate in Division 1 fell to match that in Division 2. The pregnant women of Vienna stopped begging to be given a midwife.

But, amn7inolv the second molecule, Kl-821—sulfanilamide linked not to an azo frame but instead to a relatively simple carbon-and-nitrogen string—worked, and worked extremely well. It stopped Strep infections in both mice and rabbits. When the first test results came in in mid-April, Domagk immediately ordered retests in strep-infected rabbits and got even better results.

The grand dream of an effective antibacterial chemical—history’s first—was about to be realized. Despite all the worries, skepticism, and disbelief, it appeared that Prontosil really cured human disease. A nontoxic internal disinfectant exquisitely targeted to bacteria, Ehrlich’s long-sought Zauherkugeln, had finally been found. Panacea, after thousands of years of failed attempts, had finally awakened.

By 1938, it was estimated that sulfa was saving the lives of ten thousand new mothers each year in Britain and the United States alone.

Science still seemed to offer reason for optimism. By the time Sir Henry accepted his Nobel medal in Stockholm, however. Hitler had marched troops into the demilitarized Rhineland, Japan and Italy had allied with Germany—and the French, just four years after the discovery of Prontosil, were about to make the new German miracle drug worthless.

Most important, however, was the discovery that the world’s most effective antibacterial medicine was also among the simplest ever found. Everyone had been searching through all these complicated dyes, tinkering around the edges, while the real power was in a colorless add-on. As Bovet later put it, the Germans’ complicated red car had a simple white engine.

Like all great discoveries, sulfa engendered a host of unexpected benefits. During the postwar period, Prontosil and its chemical oirspring gave birth not just to antibiotics but to other new approaches to disease. Domagk’s work, as noted, led to the semithiocarbazones for treating tuberculosis. That was just the beginning. When one doctor observed that patients taking sulfa urinated more often than others, subsequent research led to trying sulfa variants as a diuretic, a medicine used to increase urination and thus to alter the fluid balance in the body Eventually it led to the thiazide drugs, an important early family of diuretics used to treat hypertension. Understanding sulfas mode of action—its ability to act as an “antimetabolite” that substituted for a needed foodstuff, starving the target microorganism to death—led to research into other antimetabolites; the most important result was a family of new anticancer drugs. Another line of inquiry that started with sulfa led to antileprosy medications, another to a treatment for diabetes, another to a new line of antimalarials. In all these cases, the starting point was sulfa, but the end point was new kinds of medicine.

In closing:

Every great drug discovery (and every modem technological advance) carries with it, like the blood of the Gorgon mentioned in the epigraph that begins this b0ok, two opposing qualities: one positive, healing, and helpful; one negative, often unintended, sometimes deadly The ancient Greeks understood that. We must remember it, too.

A highly recommended read in the area of medicine.

On The Rise Of Theodore Roosevelt

I recently finished reading The Rise Of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris. As the title indicates this is a book that chronicles the early stages of Theodore Roosevelt from birth to his ascension to US Presidency.

Below are key excerpts from the book:

Politically, too, it has been a year of superlatives, many of them supplied, with characteristic immodesty, by the President himself. “No Congress in our time has done more good work,” he fondly told the fifty-ninth, having battered it into submission with the sheer volume of his social legislation. He calls its first session “the most substantial” in his experience of public affairs. Joseph G. Cannon, the Speaker of the House, agrees, with one reservation about the President’s methods. “Roosevelt’s all right,” says Cannon, “but he’s got no more use for the Constitution than a tomcat has for a marriage license.”

Roosevelt is used to such criticism. He has been hearing it all his life. “If a man has a very decided character, has a strongly accentuated career, it is normally the case of course that he makes ardent friends and bitter enemies.”‘Yet even impartial observers will admit there is a grain of truth in Twain’s assertions. The President certainly has an irrational love of battle. He ceaselessly praises the joys of righteous killing, most recently in his annual message to Congress: “A just war is in the long run far better for a man’s soul than the most prosperous peace.”

To say that Theodore Roosevelt made a vivid first impression upon his colleagues would hardly be an exaggeration. From the moment that he appeared in their midst, there was a chorus of incredulous and delighted comment. Memories of his entrance that night, transcribed many years later, vary as to time and place, but all share the common image of a young man bursting through a door and pausing for an instant while all eyes were upon him—an actor’s trick that quickly became habitual. This gave his audience time to absorb the full brilliancy of his Savile Row clothes and furnishings.

Like a child, said Isaac Hunt, the young Assemblyman took on new strength and new ideas. “He would leave Albany Friday afternoon, and he would come back Monday night, and you could see changes that had happened to him. Such a superabundance of animal life was hardly ever condensed in a human [being].

Although the World claimed, with possible truth, that New Yorkers were pleased to see Roosevelt go,few could deny that his record as Commissioner was impressive. “The service he has rendered to the city is second to that of none,” commented The New York Times, “and considering the conditions surrounding it, it is in our judgment unequaled.” He had proved that it was possible to enforce an unpopular law, and, by enforcing it, had taught the doctrine of respect for the law. He had given New York City its first honest election in living memory. In less than two years, Roosevelt had depoliticized and deethnicized the force, making it once more a neutral arm of government. He had broken its connections with the underworld, toughened the police-trial system, and largely eliminated corruption in the ranks. The attrition rate of venal officers had tripled during his presidency of the Board, while the hiring of new recruits had quadrupled—in spite of Roosevelt’s decisions to raise physical admission standards above those of the U.S. Army, lower the maximum-age requirement, and apply the rules of Civil Service Reform to written examinations. As a result, the average New York patrolman was now bigger, younger, and smarter. “He was also much more honest, since badges were no longer for sale. and more soldier-like (the military ideal having been a particular feature of the departing commissioner’s philosophy). Between May 1895 and April 1897, Roosevelt had added sixteen hundred such men to the force.

Well might he be happy. Theodore Roosevelt had cone home to find himself the most famous man in America—more famous even than Dewey, whose victory at Manila had been eclipsed (if temporarily) by the successive glories of Las Guasimas, San Juan, Santiago, and the round-robin which “brought our boys back home.” The news that the United States and Spain had just signed a peace initiative came as a crowning satisfaction. Intent as Roosevelt might be to parry questions about his gubernatorial ambitions—thereby strengthening rumors that he had already decided to run—his days as a soldier were numbered. It remained only to spend five days in quarantine, and a few weeks supervising the demobilization of his regiment, before returning to civilian life and claiming the superb inheritance he had earned in Cuba.

One of the first outsiders to congratulate Roosevelt was William McKinley, who sent a handwritten expression of unqualified good wishes…There comes a time in the life of a nation, as in the life of an individual, when it must face great responsibilities, whether it will or no. We have now reached that time. We cannot avoid facing the fact that we occupy a new place among the people of the world, and have entered upon a new career.. . . The guns of our warships in the tropic seas of the West and the remote East have awakened us to the knowledge of new duties. Our flag is a proud flag, and it stands for liberty and civilization. Where it has once floated, there must be no return to tyranny or savagery . . .

If not the first, Theodore Roosevelt was certainly one of the first politicians to act responsibly in view of the changing economics and class structure of late-nineteenth-century America. As such he deserves to be ranked only slightly behind Altgeld and Pingree and Jones. If his governorship, which lasted only two years (and was subject to enormous distractions in the second), was less spectacular than some, it was spectacular enough in terms of his own membership in the social and intellectual elite. One thinks of his early contempt for unions, for Henry George, for the unwashed Populists, for the rural supporters of William Jennings Bryan. Yet as Governor, Roosevelt had shown himself again and again willing to support labor against capital, and the plebeians in their struggle against his own class.

A highly recommended read in the area of politics. I look forward to reading the sequel, Theodore Rex.

On Washington

I recently finished reading the masterpiece, Washington – A Life, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, by acclaimed author Ron Chernow. As Ron states in the introduction: “The goal of the present biography is to create a fresh portrait of Washington that will make him real, credible, and charismatic in the same way that he was perceived by his contemporaries. By gleaning anecdotes and quotes from myriad sources, especially from hundreds of eyewitness accounts, I have tried to make him vivid and immediate, rather than the lifeless waxwork he has become for many Americans, and thereby elucidate the secrets of his uncanny ability to lead a nation.”

Below are selected excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

Gouverneur Morris agreed that Washington had “the tumultuous passions which accompany greatness and frequently tarnish its luster. With them was his first contest, and his first victory was over himself…Yet those who have seen him strongly moved will bear witness that his wrath was terrible. They have seen, boiling in his bosom, passion almost too mighty for man.

What strikes one most about the twenty-year-old George Washington was that his sudden remarkable standing in the world was the result not so much of a slow. agonizing progress as of a series of rapid, abrupt leaps that thrust him into the topmost echelons of Virginia society. The deaths of those he loved most dearly had. ironically, brightened his prospects the most. Quite contrary to his own wishes, the untimely deaths of his father and his half-brother had endowed him with extraordinary advantages in the form of land, slaves, and social status. Every misfortune only pushed him further along his desired path. Most providential of all for him was that Lawrence Washington had expired on the eve of the French and Indian War, a conflict in which George’s newfound status as district adjutant would place him squarely at the forefront of a thunderous global confrontation.

Beneath the hard rind, Washington was far more sensitive than he appeared. and this heartfelt message from his men “affected him exceedingly,” he admitted. He had a fine sense of occasion, displayed in this early response to his men. Already adept at tearful farewells, he exhibited the succinct eloquence that came to define his speaking style. He began by calling the officers’ approval of his conduct “an honor that will constitute the greatest happiness of my fife and afford in my latest hours the most pleasing reflections.” Unable to avoid a youthful dig at Dinwiddle and Forbes, he hinted at the “uncommon difficulties” under which he had labored. But it was the palpable affection he summoned up for his men that made the statement noteworthy. Washington thanked his officers “with uncommon sincerity and true affection for the honor you have done me, for if I have acquired any reputation, it is from you I derive it. I thank you also for the love and regard you have all along shown me. It is in this I am rewarded. It is herein I glory.”

One thing that hasn’t aroused dispute is the exemplary nature of Washington’s religious tolerance. He shuddered at the notion of exploiting religion for partisan purposes or showing favoritism for certain denominations. As president, when writing to Jewish, Baptist, Presbyterian, and other congregations—he officially saluted twenty-two major religious groups—he issued eloquent statements on rel i tolerance. He was so devoid of spiritual bias that his tolerance even embraced atheism.

For all the many virtues he had shown in his life, nothing quite foreshadowed the wisdom, courage, fortitude, and resolution that George Washington had just exhibited. Adversity had brought his best traits to the surface and even ennobled him. Sensing it, Abigail Adams told her friend Mercy Otis Warren, “I am apt to think that our later misfortunes have called out the hidden excellencies of our commander-in-chief.” She quoted a line from the English poet Edward Young: “‘Affliction is the good man’s shining time.'” One consistent thread from his earlier life had prefigured these events: Washington’s tenacity of purpose, his singular ability to stalk a goal with all the resources at his disposal.

Instead of elevating himself above his men, Washington portrayed himself as their friend and peer. Having softened them up with personal history, he delivered an impassioned appeal to their deep-seated patriotism.

The man who had pulled off the exemplary feat of humbling the most powerful military on earth had not been corrupted by fame. Though quietly elated and relieved, he was neither intoxicated by power nor puffed up with a sense of his own genius.

As Benjamin Franklin told an English friend after the war, “An American planter was chosen by us to command our troops and continued during the whole war. This man sent home to you, one after another, five of your best generals, baffled, their heads bare of laurels, disgraced even in the opinion of their employers.”

Historians often quote a September 1786 letter from Washington to John Francis Mercer as signaling a major forward stride in his thinking on slavery: “I never mean (unless some particular circumstance should compel me to it) to possess another slave by purchase, it being among my first wishes to see some plan adopted by the legislature by which slavery in this country may be abolished by slow, sure, and imperceptible degrees.” But this noble statement then took a harsh turn. Washington mentioned being hard pressed by two debts—to retire one of which, “if there is no other resource, I must sell land or Negroes to discharge.” In other words. in a pinch, Washington would trade slaves to settle debts. Clearly, the abolition of slavery would have exacted too steep an economic price for Washington to contemplate serious action.

Washington was a perceptive man who, behind his polite facade, was unmatched at taking the measure of people. People did not always realize how observant he was.

The gist of many of Washington’s remarks was that French actions toward America had been motivated by self-interest, not ideological solidarity, and flouted American neutrality in seeking to enlist the United States in the war against England. The imbroglio with Monroe signaled the demise of yet another Washington friendship with a prominent Virginian, a list that now encompassed George Mason, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and Edmund Randolph.

The presidential legacy he left behind in Philadelphia was a towering one. As Gordon Wood has observed, “The presidency is the powerful office it is in large part because of Washington’s initial behavior.” Washington had forged the executive branch of the federal government, appointed outstanding department heads, and set a benchmark for fairness, efficiency, and integrity that future administrations would aspire to match.

Washington never achieved the national unity he desired and, by the end, presided over a deeply riven country…But whatever his or clamp down on his shrill opponents in the press who had hounded him mercilessly. To his everlasting credit, he showed that the American political system could manage tensions without abridging civil liberties. His most flagrant failings remained those of the country as a whole—the inability to deal forthrightly with the injustice of slavery or to figure out an equitable solution in the ongoing clashes with Native Americans.

Washington died in a manner that befit his life: with grace, dignity, self-possession, and a manifest regard for others. He never yielded to shrieks, hysteria. or unseemly complaints.

George Washington possessed the gift of inspired simplicity, a clarity and purity of vision that never failed him. Whatever petty partisan disputes swirled around him, he kept his eyes fixed on the transcendent goals that motivated his quest. As sensitive to criticism as any other man, he never allowed personal attacks or threats to distract him, following an inner compass that charted the way ahead. For a quarter century, he had stuck to an undeviating path that led straight to the creation of an independent republic, the enactment of the Constitution, and the formation of the federal government. History records few examples of a leader who so earnestly wanted to do the right thing, not just for himself but for his country. Avoiding moral shortcuts, he consistently upheld such high ethical standards that he seemed larger than any other figure on the political scene. Again and again the American people had entrusted him with power, secure in the knowledge that he would exercise it fairly and ably and surrender it when his term of office was up. He had shown that the president and commander-in-chief of a republic could possess a grandeur surpassing that of all the crowned heads of Europe. He brought maturity, sobriety, judgment, and integrity to a political experiment that could easily have grown giddy with its own vaunted success, and he avoided the backbiting, envy, and intrigue that detracted from the achievements of other founders. He had indeed been the indispensable man of the American Revolution.

A must read book about a key historical figure, not only for the US but for the world at large.

This Republic Of Suffering

I just finished reading the next book on our reading list, within the Houston Nonfiction Book Club that I am part of: This Republic of Suffering – Death and the American Civil War by Harvard President’s Drew Gilpin Faust. It is only fitting, from a timing perspective, that this post coincides with Memorial Day weekend. This book is a dire reminder of the atrocities committed during the civil war:

In the middle of the nineteenth century, the United States embarked on a new relationship with death, entering into a civil war that proved bloodier than any other conflict in American history, a war that would presage the slaughter of World War I’s Western Front and the global carnage of the twentieth century. The number of soldiers who died between 1861 and 1865, an estimated 620,000, is approximately equal to the total American fatalities in the Revolution, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean War combined. The Civil War’s rate of death, its incidence in comparison with the size of the American population, was six times that of World War II. A similar rate, about 2 percent, in the United States today would mean six million fatalities. As the new southern nation struggled for survival against a wealthier and more populous enemy, its death toll reflected the disproportionate strains on its human capital. Confederate men died at a rate three times that of their Yankee counterparts; one in five white southern men of military age did not survive the Civil War.

These atrocities, however, served as valuable – albeit very costly – lessons of meanings in “race, citizenship, and nationhood” that ultimately lead to re-uniting The Nation:

In the Civil War the United States, North and South, reaped what many participants described as a “harvest of death.” By the midpoint of the conflict, it seemed that in the South, “nearly every household mourns some loved one lost.” Loss became commonplace; death was no longer encountered individually; death’s threat, its proximity, and its actuality became the most widely shared of the war’s experiences. As a Confederate soldier observed, death “reigned with universal sway,” ruling homes and lives, demanding attention and response. The Civil War matters to us today because it ended slavery and helped to define the meanings of freedom, citizenship, and equality. It established a newly centralized nation-state and launched it on a trajectory of economic expansion and world influence. But for those Americans who lived in and through the Civil War, the texture of the experience, its warp and woof, was the presence of death. At war’s end this shared suffering would override persisting differences about the meanings of race, citizenship, and nationhood to establish sacrifice and its memorialization as the ground on which North and South would ultimately reunite. Even in our own time this fundamentally elegiac understanding of the Civil War retains a powerful hold…A war about union, citizenship, freedom, and human dignity required that the government attend to the needs of those who had died in its service. Execution of these newly recognized responsibilities would prove an important vehicle for the expansion of federal power that characterized the transformed postwar nation. The establishment of national cemeteries and the emergence of the Civil War pension system to care for both the dead and their survivors yielded programs of a scale and reach unimaginable before the war. Death created the modern American union—not just by ensuring national survival, but by shaping enduring national structures and commitments.

This civil war reshaped the lives of the soldiers and civilians who participated within it, and for generations to come:

As they faced horrors that forced them to question their ability to cope, their commitment to the war even their faith in a righteous God, soldiers and civilians alike struggled to retain their most cherished beliefs, to make them work in the dramatically altered world that war had introduced. Americans had to identify—find, invent, create—the means and mechanisms to manage more than half a million dead: their deaths, their bodies, their loss. How they accomplished this task reshaped their individual lives—and deaths—at the same time that it redefined their nation and their culture. The work of death was Civil War America’s most fundamental and most demanding undertaking.

Below are key captions from the topics covered within the book, that highlight how the Nation dealt with the Civil War from a perspective of death/suffering, both in the immediate aftermath and how these reactions had the impact they have had on the development of the nation.

On Dying:

Civil War soldiers were, in fact, better prepared to die than to kill, for they lived in a culture that offered many lessons in how life should end. But these lessons had to be adapted to the dramatically changed circumstances of the Civil War. The concept of the Good Death was central to mid-nineteenth-century America, as it had long been at the core of Christian practice. Dying was an art, and the tradition ars moriendi provided rules of conduct for the moribund and their attendants since at least the fifteenth century. Despite clerical efforts, the boundary between duty to God and duty to country blurred, and dying bravely and manfully became an important part of dying well. For some soldiers it almost served to take the place of the more sacred obligations of holy living that had traditionally prepared the way for the Good Death. As the intensity of this war and the size of its death tolls mounted in the months and years that followed, vengeance came to play an ever more important role, joining principles of duty and self-defense in legitimizing violence. The desire for retribution could be almost elemental in its passion, overcoming reason and releasing the restraints of fear and moral inhibition for soldiers who had witnessed the slaughter of their comrades.

On Killing:

Killing was the essence of war. But it also challenged men’s most fundamental assumptions about the sanctity of their own and other human lives. Killing produced transformations that were not readily reversible: the living into the dead, most obviously, but the survivors into different men as well, men required to deny, to numb basic human feeling at costs they may have paid for decades after the war ended, as we know twentieth- and twenty-first-century soldiers from Vietnam to Iraq continue to do; men who, like James Garfield, were never quite the same again after seeing fields of slaughtered bodies destroyed by men just like themselves.

On Burying:

The cemetery at Gettysburg was arranged so that every grave was of equal importance; William Saunders’s design, like Lincoln’s speech, affirmed that every dead soldier mattered equally regardless of rank or station. This was a dramatic departure from the privileging of rank and station that prevailed in the treatment of the war dead and different even from the policies of the Chattanooga cemetery that would be created later in the year. The establishment of the Gettysburg cemetery marked the beginning of significant shifts in attitude and policy produced by the nation’s confrontation with Civil War slaughter…The engagement of the Union government in these matters, first made highly visible in the Gettysburg dedication ceremonies. acknowledged a new public importance for the dead. No longer simply the responsibility of their families, they, and their loss, now belonged to the nation. These men had given their lives that the nation might live; their bodies, repositories of their “selfhood” and “surviving identity,” as Harpers had put it, deserved the nation’s recognition and care. The dead, as well as the living, had claims upon a government “deriving,” as Henry Bowditch proclaimed in his plea for ambulances, “all its powers from the people.”

On Naming:

The commitment to individual rights that emerged as such an important principle of the northern cause made attention to particular soldiers’ fates and identities inescapable; honoring the dead became inseparable from respecting the living. But the strongest impetus for these changes was the anguish of wives, parents, siblings. and children who found undocumented, unconfirmed, and unrecognized loss intolerable…But the dimensions of Civil War loss did not yield to small-scale, individual intervention or even to entrepreneurial improvisations, and Americans turned to the emerging philanthropic bureaucracies of the Sanitary and Christian commissions and ultimately to enhanced state power and responsibility. As Union victory became all but certain in the winter and early spring of 1864-65, the demands of the unnamed dead grew more pressing. At war’s end, the United States would embark on a program of identification and reburial that redefined the nation’s obligation to its fallen, as well as the meaning of both names and bodies as enduring repositories of the human self.

On Realizing:

In the twenty-first century Americans considering the impact of death regularly invoke the notion of “closure,” the hope and anticipation of an end to the disruption of loss. Civil War Americans expected no such relief For hundreds of thousands, the unknown fate of missing kin left a “dread void of uncertainty” that knowledge would never fill. Even for those who had detailed information or, better still, the consolation of a body and a grave, mourning had no easy or finite end. Many bereaved spent the rest of their lives waiting for the promised heavenly reunion with those who had gone before. Wives, parents, children, and siblings struggled with the new identities—widows, orphans, the childless—that now defined their lives. And they carried their losses into the acts of memory that both fed on and nurtured the widely shared grief well into the next century. But if such devastating loss could not be denied, if it was “realized” and acknowledged, it had to be explained. The Civil War’s carnage required that death be given meaning.

On Believing and Doubting:

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is perhaps the best-known example of such an explanation and justification of war’s carnage. Determined that “these dead shall not have died in vain,” Lincoln hallowed and sacralized a nation and its purposes with biblical cadences and mentioned God. In the address the dead themselves become the agents of political meaning and devotion; they act even in their silence and anonymity. Lincoln immortalized them as the enduring inspiration for an immortal nation. Unlike the “honored dead,” the Union would not “perish from the earth.” Soldiers’ deaths, like Christ’s sacrifice, become the vehicle of salvation, the means a terrestrial, political redemption. Civil War carnage transformed the mid-nineteenth century’s growing sense of religious doubt into a crisis of belief that propelled many Americans to redefine or even reject their faith in a benevolent and responsive deity. But Civil War death and devastation also planted seeds of a more profound doubt about human ability to know and to understand. In an environment in which man seemed already increasingly undifferentiated from animals, the failure of the uniquely human capacity of language represented another assault upon the foundations of the self. The Civil War compelled Americans to ask with intensified urgency, “What is Death?” and in answering to find themselves wondering why is death, what is life? And can we ever hope to know? We have continued to wonder ever since.

On Accounting:

The reburial program represented an extraordinary departure for the federal government, an indication of the very different sort of nation that had emerged as a result of civil war. The program’s extensiveness, its cost, its location in national rather than state government, and its connection with the most personal dimensions of individuals’ lives all would have been unimaginable before the war created its legions of dead, a constituency of the slain and their mourners, who would change the very definition of the nation and its obligations. “Such a consecration of a nation’s power and resources to a sentiment Whitman observed, “the world has never witnessed.” Honor to the dead required the continuing defense of Confederate principles, which had been “defeated, not necessarily lost.” Only vindication of the original purposes of the conflict could ensure the meaning of so many men’s sacrifice. The Confederacy would not live on as a nation, but its dead would in some sense become its corporeal and corporate representation, not only a symbol of what once was but a summons to what must be. Neither northern nor southern participants in the commemoration and reburial movement were “simply… mourners for the dead.” Instead, they became in a very real sense the instruments of the dead’s immortality. Gathered together in mass cemeteries with graves marshaled in ranks like soldiers on the field of battle, the dead became a living reality, a force in their very presence and visibility. They were also, paradoxically, a force in their anonymity. The establishment of national and Confederate cemeteries created the Civil War Dead as a category, as a collective that represented something more and something different from the many thousands of individual deaths that it comprised. It also separated the Dead from the memories of living individuals mourning their own very particular losses. The Civil War Dead became both powerful and immortal, no longer individual men but instead a force that would shape American public life for at least a century to come. The reburial movement created a constituency of the slain, insistent in both its existence and its silence, men whose very absence from American life made them a presence that could not be ignored.

On Numbering:

The effort to count the Civil War dead was only in part about numbers and casualty reports, only in part about the duties of a nation to its citizens. Numbering the dead was also about more transcendent questions that extended beyond the state and its policies and obligations. As William Fox observed, “Every story, even a statistical one, has a moral.” The rhetoric of Civil War mortality statistics provided the language for a meditation on the deeper human meaning of the conflict and its unprecedented destructiveness, as well as for the exploration of the place of the individual in a world of mass—and increasingly mechanized—slaughter. It was about what counted in a world transformed.

On Surviving:

But even as the Civil War brought new humanity—new attentiveness to “sentiment”—in the management of death, so too it introduced a level of carnage that foreshadowed the wars of the century to come. Even as individuals and their fates assumed new significance, so those individuals threatened to disappear into the bureaucracy and mass slaughter of modern warfare. We still struggle to understand how to preserve our humanity and our selves within such a world. We still seek to use our deaths to create meaning where we are not sure any exists. The Civil War generation glimpsed the fear that still defines us—the sense that death is the only end. We still work to live with the riddle that they—the Civil War dead and their survivors alike—had to solve so long ago.

A highly recommended historical read, with many enduring lessons.

On Team Of Rivals

I just finished reading Team of Rival – The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin. This book was recommended as one of the 10 Great Leaders Biographies.

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “This, then, is a story of Lincoln’s political genius revealed through his extraordinary array of personal qualities that enabled him to form friendships with men who had previously opposed him; to repair injured feelings that, left untended, might have escalated into permanent hostility; to assume responsibility for the failures of subordinates; to share credit with ease; and to learn from mistakes. He possessed an acute understanding of the sources of power inherent in the presidency, an unparalleled ability to keep his governing coalition intact, a tough-minded appreciation of the need to protect his presidential prerogatives, and a masterful sense of timing. His success in dealing with the strong egos of the men in his cabinet suggests that in the hands of a truly great politician the qualities we generally associate with we generally associate with decency and morality—kindness, sensitivity, compassion, honesty, and empathy—can also be impressive political resources…To be sure, he had a melancholy temperament, most likely imprinted on him from birth. But melancholy differs from depression. It is not an illness; it does not proceed from a specific cause; it is an aspect of one’s nature. It has been recognized by artists and writers for centuries as a potential source of creativity and achievement. Moreover, Lincoln possessed an uncanny understanding of his shifting moods, a profound self-awareness that enabled him to find constructive ways to alleviate sadness and stress. Indeed, when he is compared with his colleagues, it is clear that he possessed the most even-tempered disposition of them all. Time and again, he was the one who dispelled his colleagues’ anxiety and sustained their spirits with his gift for storytelling and his life-affirming sense of humor. When resentment and contention threatened destroy his administration, he refused to be provoked by petty grievances, to submit to jealousy, or to brood over perceived slights. Through the appalling pressures he faced day after day, he retained an unflagging faith in his country’s cause.”

2- “In these convivial settings, Lincoln was invariably the center of attention. No one could equal his never-ending stream of stories nor his ability to reproduce them with such contagious mirth. As his winding tales became more famous, crowds of villagers awaited his arrival at every stop for the chance to hear a master storyteller.”

3- “It was a country for young men. “We find ourselves,” the twenty-eight year-old Lincoln told the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, “in the peaceful possession, of the fairest portion of the earth, as regards extent of territory, fertility of soil, and salubrity of climate.” The founding fathers had crafted a government more favorable to liberty “than any of which the history of former times tells us.” Now it was up to their children to serve and expand the great experiment.”

4- “Lincoln’s early intimacy with traffic loss reinforced a melancholy temperament. Yet his familiarity with pain and personal disappointment imbued him with a strength and understanding of human frailty unavailable to a man of Seward’s buoyant disposition. Moreover, Lincoln, unlike the brooding Chase, possessed a life-affirming humor and a profound resilience that lightened his despair and fortified his will.”

5- “Books became his academy, his college. The printed word united his mind with the great minds of generations past. Relatives and neighbors recalled that he scoured the countryside for books and read every volume “he could lay his hands on.” At a time when ownership of books remained “a luxury for those Americans living outside the purview of the middle class,” gaining access to reading material proved difficult. When Lincoln obtained copies of the King James Bible, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Aesop’s Fables, and William Scott’s Lessons in Elocution, he could not contain his excitement. Holding Pilmm’s Process in his hands, “his eyes sparkled. and that day he could not eat, and that night he could not sleep.” When printing was first invented, Lincoln would later write, “the great mass of men … were utterly unconscious, that their conditions, or their minds were capable of improvement.” To liberate “the mind from this false and under-estimate of itself, is the great task which printing came into the world to perform.” He was, of course, also speaking of himself, of the transforming liberation of a young boy unlocking the miraculous mysteries of language, discovering a world of possibilities in the small log cabin on the frontier that he later called “as unpoetical as any spot of the earth.”…He read and reread the Bible and Aesop’s Fables so many times that years later he could recite whole passages and entire stories from memory. Through Scott’s Lessons in Elocution, he first encountered selections from Shakespeare’s plays, inspiring a love for the great dramatist’s writings long before he ever saw a play. He borrowed a volume of the Revised Statutes of Indiana from the local constable, a work that contained the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787— documents that would become foundation stones of his philosophical and political thought.”

6- “What Lincoln lacked in preparation and guidance, he made up for v^itl his daunting concentration, phenomenal memory, acute reasoning faculties, and interpretive penetration. Though untutored in the sciences and the classics, he was able to read and reread his books until he understood the classics, he was able to read and reread his books until he understood them fully. “Get the books, and read and study them,” he told a law student seeking advice in 1855. It did not matter, he continued, whether the reading be done in a small town or a large city, by oneself or in the company of Others. “The books, and your capacity for understanding them, are just the same in all places— Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed, is more important than any other one thing.”

7- “Though Lincoln’s empathy was at the root of his melancholy it would prove an enormous asset to his political career. “His crowning gift of political diagnosis,” suggested Nicolay, “was due to his sympathy… which gave him the power to forecast with uncanny accuracy what his opponents were likely to do.” She described how, after listening to his colleagues talk were likely to do.” She described how, after listening to his colleagues talk at a Whig Party caucus, Lincoln would cast off his shawl, rise from his at a Whig Party caucus, Lincoln would cast off his shawl, rise from his chair, and say: “From your talk, I gather the Democrats will do so and so … I should do so and so to checkmate them.” He proceeded to outline all “the moves for days ahead; making them all so plain that his listeners wondered why they had not seen it that way themselves.” Such capacity to intuit the inward feelings and intentions of others would be manifest throughout his career.”

8- “Lincoln’s ability to win the respect of others, to earn their trust and even devotion, would prove essential in his rise to power. There was something mysterious m his persona that led countless men, even old adversaries, to feel bound to him in admiration.”

9- “Chance, positioning, and managerial s strategy—all played a role in Lincoln’s victory. Still, if we consider the comparative resources each contender brought to the race—-their range of political skills, their emotional. intellectual, and moral qualities, their rhetorical abilities, and their determination and willingness to work hard—it is clear that when opportunity beckoned. Lincoln was the best prepared to answer the call. His nomination, finally, was the result of his character and his life experiences—these separated him from his rivals and provided him with advantages unrecognized at the time. Having risen to power with fewer privileges than any of his rivals, Lincoln was more accustomed to rely upon himself to shape events. From beginning to end, he took the greatest control of the process leading up to the nomination.”

10- “At the same time, his native caution and precision with language—he rarely said more than he was sure about, rarely pandered to his various audiences—gave Lincoln great advantages over his rivals, each of whom tried to reposition himself in the months before the convention…Though Lincoln desired success as fiercely as any of his i rivals, he did not allow his quest for office to consume the kindness and openheartedness with which he treated supporters and rivals alike, nor alter his steady commitment to the antislavery cause.”

11- “Later, Joseph Medill of the Chicago Tribune asked Lincoln why he had chosen a cabinet comprised of enemies and opponents. He particularly questioned the president’s selection of the three men who had been his chief rivals for the Republican nomination, each of whom was still smarting from the loss. Lincoln’s answer was simple, straightforward, and shrewd. “We needed the strongest men of the party in the Cabinet. We needed to hold our own people together. I had looked the party over and concluded that these were the very strongest men. Then I had no right to deprive the country of their services.””

12- “To Lincoln’s mind, the battle to save the Union contained an even larger purpose than ending slavery, which was after all sanctioned by the very Constitution he was sworn to uphold. “I consider the central idea pervading this struggle,” he told Hay in early May, “is the necessity that is upon us, of proving that popular government is not an absurdity. We must settle this question now, whether in a free government the minority have the right to break up the government whenever they choose. If we fail it win go far to prove the incapability of the people to govern themselves.””

13- “Lincoln had long believed, as we have seen, that “with public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed.” He understood that one of the principal stumbling blocks in the way of emancipation was the pervasive fear shared by whites in both the North and the South that the two races could never coexist peacefully in a free society. He thought that a plan for the voluntary emigration of freed slaves would allay some of these fears, fostering wider acceptance of his proclamation.”

14- “”Abraham Lincoln, will take no step backward.” Intuitively grasping Lincoln’s character. though they were not yet personally acquainted, Douglass explained that “Abraham Lincoln may be slow… but Abraham Lincoln is not the man to reconsider, retract and contradict words and purposes solemnly proclaimed over his official signature…If he has taught us to confide in nothing else, he has taught us to confide in his word.” Lincoln confirmed this assessment when he told Massachusetts congressman George Boutwell, “My word is out to these people, and I can’t take it back.””

15- “”I never, in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right, than I do in signing this paper,” he said. “If my name ever goes into history it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it.” His arm was “stiff and numb” from shaking hands for three hours, however. “If my hand trembles when I sign the Proclamation,” Lincoln said, “all who examine the document hereafter will say, ‘He hesitated.’ ” So the president waited a moment and then took up the pen once more, “slowly and carefully” writing his name. “The signature proved to be unusually bold, clear, and firm, even for him,” Fred Seward recalled, “and a laugh followed, at his apprehensions.” The secretary of state added his own name and carried it back to the State Department, where the great seal of the United States was affixed before copies were sent out to the press.”

16- “Asked months later by a radical to “suppress the infamous ‘Chicago Times,’ ” Lincoln told her, “I fear you do not fully comprehend the danger of abridging the liberties of the people. Nothing but the very sternest necessity can ever justify it. A government had better go to the very extreme of toleration, than to do aught that could be construed into an interference with, or to jeopardize in any degree, the common rights of its citizens.””

17- “Herein, Swett concluded, lay the secret to Lincoln’s gifted leadership. “It was by ignoring men, and ignoring all small causes, but by closely calculating the tendencies of events and the great forces which were producing logical results.” John Forney of the Washington Daily Chronicle observed the same judgment and timing, arguing that Lincoln was “the most truly progressive man of the age, because he always moves in conjunction with propitious circumstances, not waiting to be dragged by the force of events or wasting strength in premature struggles with them.”

18- “Four score and seven years ago,” he began, our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are sated equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living i and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor Dower to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here, have, thus far, so nobly advanced, d. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that, government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

19- “Discipline and keen insight had once again served Lincoln most effectively. By regulating his emotions and resisting the impulse to strike back at Chase when the circular first became known, he gained time for his friends to mobilize the massive latent support for his candidacy. Chase’s aspirations were crushed without Lincoln’s direct intrusion.”

20- “He gave voice to these ideals in late August with an emotional address to the men of an Ohio regiment returning home to their families. “I happen temporarily to occupy this big White House,” he said. “I am a living witness that any one of your children may look to come here as my father’s child has. It is in order that each of you may have through tills free government which we have enjoyed, an open field and a fair chance for your industry, enterprise and intelligence; that you may all have equal privileges in the race of life, with all its desirable human aspirations. It is for this the struggle should be maintained, that we may not lose our birthright…. The nation is worth fighting for, to secure such an inestimable jewel.””

21- “Drawing upon the rare wisdom of a temperament that consistently displayed uncommon magnanimity toward those who opposed him, he then issued his historic plea to his fellow countrymen: “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shah have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just. and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.””

22- “The editors of the Mercury would have been even more astonished if they had an inkling of the truth recognized by those closer to Lincoln: his political genius was not simply his ability to gather the best men of the country around him, but to impress upon them his own purpose, perception, and resolution at every juncture. With respect to Lincoln’s cabinet. Charles Dana observed, “it was always plain that he was the master and they were the subordinates. They constantly had to yield to his will, and if he ever yielded to them it was because they convinced him that the course they advised was judicious and appropriate.””

23- “At 7:22 a.m., April 15, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was pronounced dead. Stanton’s concise tribute from his deathbed still echoes. “Now he belongs to the ages.””

24- “”Washington was a typical American. Napoleon was a typical Frenchman, but Lincoln was a humanitarian as broad as the world. He was bigger than his country—bigger than all the Presidents together. We are still too near to his greatness,” Tolstoy concluded, “but after a few centuries more our posterity will find him considerably bigger than we do. His genius is still too strong and too powerful for the common understanding, just as the sun is too hot when its light beams directly on us.”

25- “The ambition to establish a reputation worthy of the esteem of his fellows so that his story could be told after his death had carried Lincoln through his bleak childhood, his laborious efforts to educate himself, his string of political failures, and a depression so profound that he declared himself more than willing to die, except that “he had done nothing to make any human being remember that he had lived.” An indomitable sense of purpose had sustained him through the disintegration of the Union and through the darkest months of the war, when he was called upon again and again to rally his disheartened countrymen. soothe the animosity of his generals, and mediate among members of his often contentious administration. His conviction that we are one nation, indivisible, “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” led to the rebirth of a union free of slavery. And he expressed this conviction in a language of enduring clarity and beauty, exhibiting a literary genius to match his political genius. With his death, Abraham Lincoln had come to seem the embodiment of his own words—”With malice toward none; with charity for all” voiced in his second inaugural to lay out the visionary pathway to a reconstructed union. The deathless name he sought from the start had grown far beyond Sangamon County and Illinois, reached across the truly United States, until his legacy, as Stanton had surmised at the moment of his death, belonged not only to America but to the ages—to be revered and sung throughout all time.”

Regards,

Omar Halabieh

On The Price of Inequality

I just finished reading The Price of Inequality – How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future – by Joseph E. Stiglitz. This book was a selected reading at the Houston Non Fiction Book Club that I am part of.

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “But fully addressing a problem of the magnitude, depth, and duration of inequality in the United States will take comprehensive actions, of a kind that will require bipartisan support. Traditionally persons in both parties have understood that a nation divided cannot stand—and the divisions today ire greater than they have been in generations, threatening basic values, including our conception of ourselves as a land of opportunity Will we once again pull back from the brink? This book is written in the hope that we can and that we will—if only we grasp what has been happening to our economy and our society.”

2- “As we talked, it was clear to me that while specific grievances varied from country to country and, in particular, that the political grievances in the Middle East were very different from those in the West, there were some shared themes. There was a common understanding that in many ways the economic and political system had failed and that both were fundamentally unfair.”

3- “Three themes resonated around the world: that markets weren’t working the way they were supposed to, for they were obviously neither efficient nor stable; that the political system hadn’t corrected the market failures; and that the economic and political systems are fundamentally unfair. While this book focuses on the excessive inequality that marks the United States and some other advanced industrial countries today it explains how the three themes are intimately interlinked: the inequality is cause and consequence of the failure of the political system, and it contributes to the instability of our economic system, which in turn contributes to increased inequality—a vicious downward spiral into which we have descended, and from which we can emerge only through concerted policies that I describe below.”

4- “This book is about why our economic system is failing for most Americans, why inequality is growing to the extent it is, and what the consequences are. The underlying thesis is that we are paying a high price for our inequality—an economic system that is less stable and less efficient, with less growth. and a democracy that has been put into peril. But even more is at stake: as our economic system is seen to fail for most citizens, and as our political system seems to be captured by moneyed interests, confidence in our democracy and in our market economy will erode along with our global influence. As the reality sinks in that we are no longer a country of opportunity and that even our long-vaunted rule of law and system of justice have been compromised, even our sense of national identity may be put into jeopardy.”

5- “Given a political system that is so sensitive to moneyed interests, growing economic inequality leads to a growing imbalance of political power, a vicious nexus between politics and economics. And the two together shape, and are shaped by societal forces—social mores and institutions—that help reinforce this growing inequality.”

6- “The journalist Jonathan Chait has drawn attention to two of the most telling statistics from the Economic Mobility Project and research from the Economic Policy Institute Poor kids who succeed academically are less likely to graduate from college than richer kids who do worse in school Even if they graduate from college, the children of the poor are still worse-off than low-achieving children of the rich, None of this comes as a surprise: education is one of the keys to success; at the top, the country gives its elite an education that is the best in the world. But the average American gets just an average education—and in mathematics, key to success in many areas of modern life, it’s subpar.”

7- “Our political system has increasingly been working in ways that increase the inequality of outcomes and reduce equality of opportunity This should not come as a surprise: we have a political system that gives inordinate power to those t the top, and they have used that power not only to limit the extent of redistribution but also to shape the rules of the game in their favor, and to extract from the public what can only be called large “gifts.” Economists have a name for these activities: they call them rent seeking, getting income not as a reward to creating wealth but by grabbing a larger share of the wealth that would otherwise have been produced without their effort.”

8- “Three factors contributed to this increased monopolization of markets. First, there was a battle over ideas about the role that government should take in ensuring competition.Chicago school economists (like Milton Friedman and George Stigler) who believe in free and unfettered markets argued that markets are naturally competitive^^ and that seemingly anti-competitive practices really enhance efficiency A massive program to “educate” people, and especially judges, regarding these new doctrines of law and economics, partly sponsored by right-wing foundations like ^he Olin Foundation, was successful…A second factor giving rise to increased monopoly is related to changes in our economy. The creation of monopoly power was easier in some of the new growth industries. Many of these sectors were marked by what are called network externalities.”

9- “In many societies, those at the bottom consist disproportionately of groups that suffer, in one way or another, from discrimination. The extent of such discrimination is a matter of societal norms. We’ll see how changes in social norms—concerning, for instance, what is fair compensation—and in institutions, like unions, have helped shape America’s distribution of income and wealth. But these social norms and institutions, like markets, don’t exist in a vacuum: they too are shaped, in part, by the 1 percent.”

10- “I have emphasized that the problems concern globalization as it has been managed. Countries in Asia benefited enormously through export-led growth, and some (such as China) took measures to ensure that significant portions of that increased output went to the poor, some went to provide for public education, and much was reinvested in the economy to provide more jobs. In other countries, there have been big losers as well as winners—poor corn farmers in Mexico have seen their incomes decline as subsidized American corn drives down prices on world markets.”

11- “What is striking about the United States is that while the level of inequality generated by the market—a market shaped and distorted by politics and rent seeking—is higher than in other advanced industrial countries, it does less to temper this inequality through tax and expenditure programs. And as the market-generated inequality has increased, our government has done less and less.”

12- “Government today plays a double role in our current inequality: it is partly responsible for the inequality in before-tax distribution of income, and it has taken a diminished role in “correcting” this inequality through progressive tax and expenditure policies.”

13- “The central thesis of this chapter and the preceding one is also that inequality is not just the result of the forces of nature, of abstract market forces. We might like the speed of light to be faster, but there is nothing we can do about it. But inequality is, to a very large extent, the result of government policies that shape and direct the forces of technology and markets and broader societal forces. There is in this a note of both hope and despair: hope because it means that this inequality is not inevitable, and that by changing policies we can achieve a more efficient and a more egalitarian society; despair because the political processes that shape these policies are so hard to change.”

14- “We have seen how inequality gives rise to instability, as a suit of both the deregulatory policies that are enacted and the policies that are typically adopted in response to the deficiencies in aggregate demand. Neither is a necessary consequence of inequality: if our democracy worked better, it might have resisted the political demand for deregulation and might lave responded to the weaknesses in aggregate demand in ways that enhanced sustainable growth rather than creating a bubble.”

15- “Of all the costs imposed on our society by the top 1 percent, perhaps the greatest is this: the erosion of our sense of identity in which fair play, equality of opportunity, and a sense of community are so important. America has long prided itself on getting ahead, but the statistics today, as we’ve seen, suggest otherwise: the chances that a poor or even a middle-class American will make it to the top in America are smaller than in many countries of Europe. And as inequality itself creates a weaker economy, the chance can only grow slimmer.”

16- “Another vicious circle has been set in play: political rules of the game have not only directly benefited those at the top, ensuring that they have a disproportionate voice, but have also created a political process that indirectly gives them even more power. We have identified a whole series of forces contributing to the disillusionment with politics and distrust of the political system. The yawning divide in our society has made it difficult to reach compromise, contributing to our political gridlock.”

17- “As one of the world’s experts on globalization, the Harvard University professor Dani Rodrikhas pointed out, one cannot simultaneously have democracy, national self-determination, and full and unfettered globalization.”

18- “We are often told that this is the way it has to be, that globalization gives us no choice. This fatalism, v which serves those benefiting from the current system, obscures reality: the predicament is a choice. The governments of our democracies have chosen an economic framework f for globalization that has actually tied the hands of those democracies. The 1 percent was always worried that democracies would be tempted to enact “excessively” progressive taxation under the influence, say, of a populist leader. Now citizens are told they can’t do so, not if they want to partake of globalization. In short, globalization, as it’s been managed, is narrowing the choices facing our democracies, making it more difficult for them to undertake the tax and expenditure policies that are necessary if we are to create societies with more equality and more opportunity But tying the hands of our democracies is exactly what those at the top wanted: we can have a democracy with one person one vote, and still get outcomes that are more in accord with what we might expect in a system with one dollar one vote.”

19- “Of course, not every government effort is successful, or as successful as its advocates would have liked. Indeed, when the government undertakes research (or supports new private sector ventures), there should be some failures. A lack of failures means you are not taking enough risks. Success occurs when the returns from those projects that succeed are more than enough to offset the losses on those that fail And the evidence in the case of government research ventures is unambiguously and overwhelmingly that the returns from government investments in technology on average have been very, very high—^just think about the Internet, the Human Genome Project, jet airplanes, the browser, the telegraph, the increases in productivity in agriculture in the nineteenth century, that provided the basis for the United States’ moving from farming to manufacturing.”

20- “That there are successes and failures in both the public and the private sector is clear. And yet many on the right seem to think only the government can fail.”

21- “The powerful try to frame the discussion in a way that benefits their interests, realizing that, in a democracy they cannot imply impose their rule on others. In one way or another, they have to “co-opt” the rest of society to advance their agenda. Here again the wealthy have an advantage. Perceptions and beliefs are malleable. This chapter has shown that the wealthy have the instruments, resources, and incentives to shape beliefs in ways that serve their interests. They don’t always win—but it’s far from an even battle. We’ve seen how the powerful manipulate public perception by appeals to fairness and efficiency, while the real outcomes benefit only them.”

22- “We can take advantage of the extent to which different taxes and expenditures stimulate the economy, spending more on programs that have large multipliers (where each dollar of )ending generates more overall GDP) and less on programs that have small multipliers; raising taxes from sources with low multipliers while cutting taxes on those with high multipliers.”

23- “The lack of faith in democratic accountability on the part of those who argue for independent central banks should be deeply troubling. Where does one draw the line in turning over the central responsibilities of government to independent authorities. The same arguments about politicization could be applied to tax and budgetary policies. I suspect some in the financial market would be content to turn those responsibilities over to “technical experts.” But here’s the hidden agenda: the financial markets would not be content with just any set of technical experts. They prefer, as we have seen, “experts” who shared their views—views that support their interests and ideology. The Federal Reserve and its chairmen like to end that they are above politics. It is convenient not to be accountable, to be independent. hey see themselves as simply wise men and women, public servants, helping to steer the complex ship of the economy. But if there was any doubt of the political nature of the Fed and its chairmen, it should have been resolved by observing the seemingly shifting positions of the central bank over the past twenty years.”

24- “Inflation targeting was based on three questionable hypotheses. The first is that inflation is the supreme evil; the second is that maintaining low and stable inflation was necessary and almost sufficient for maintaining a high and stable real growth rate; the third is that all would benefit from low inflation.”

25- “While the advocates of these policies may claim that they the best policies for all, this is not the case. There is no  single, best policy. As I have stressed in this book, policies lave distributive effects, so there are trade-offs between the interests of bondholders and debtors, young and old, financial sectors and other sectors, and so on. I have also stressed, however, that there are alternative policies that would have led to better overall economic performance—especially so if we judge economic performance by what is happening to the well-being of most citizens. But if these alternatives are to be implemented, the institutional arrangements through which the decisions are made will have to change. We cannot have a monetary system that is run by people whose thinking is captured by the bankers and that is effectively run for the benefit of the those at the top.”

26- “The Economic Reform Agenda…Curbing the financial sector…Stronger and more effectively enforced competition laws…Improving corporate Governance-especially to limit the power of the CEOs to divert so much of corporate resources for their own benefit…End government giveaways—whether in the disposition of public assets or in procurement…End corporate welfare—including hidden subsidies…Legal reform—democratizing, access to justice, and diminishing the arms race…Create a more progressive income and corporate tax system—with fewer loopholes…Create a more effective and effectively enforced estate tax system to prevent the creation of a new oligarchy…Improving access to education…Helping ordinary Americans save…Health care for all…Strengthening other social protection programs…Tempering globalization: creating a more even playing field and ending the race to the bottom…A fiscal policy to maintain full employment—with equality…A monetary policy—and monetary institutions—to maintain full employment…Correcting trade imbalances…Active labor market policies and improved social protection…Supporting workers’ and citizens’ collective action…Affirmative action to eliminate the legacy of discrimination…A growth agenda, based on public investment.”

Regards,

Omar Halabieh

The Price of Inequality

On The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

I recently finished reading The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “Revelation had indeed no weight with me, as such; but I entertain’d an opinion that, though certain actions might not be bad because they were forbidden by it, or good because it commanded them, yet probably those actions might be forbidden because they were bad for us, or commanded because they were beneficial to us, in their own natures, all the circumstances of things considered. And this persuasion, with the kind hand of Providence, or some guardian angel, or accidental favorable circumstances and situations, or all together, preserved me, thro’ this dangerous time of youth, and the hazardous situations I was sometimes in among strangers, remote from the eye and advice of my father, without any willful gross immorality or injustice, that might have been expected from my want of religion. I say willful, because the instances 1 have mentioned had something of others. 1 had therefore a tolerable character to begin the world with; I valued it properly, and determin’d to preserve it.”

2- “I never was without some religious principles. I never doubted, for instance, the existence of the Deity; that he made the world, and govern’d it by his Providence; that the most acceptable service of God was the doing good to man; that our souls are immortal; and that all crime will be punished, and virtue rewarded, either here or hereafter. These 1 esteem’d the essentials of every religion; and, being to be found in all the religions we had in our country, I respected them all, tho’ with different degrees of respect, as I found them more o. less mix’d with other articles, which, without any tendency to inspire, promote, or confirm morality, serv’d principally to divide us, and make us unfriendly to one another. This respect to all with an opinion that the worst had some good effects, induc’d me to avoid all discourse that might tend to lessen the good opinion another might have of his own religion; and as our province increas’d in people. and new places of worship were continually wanted, and generally erected by voluntary contribution, my mite for such purpose, whatever might be the sect, was never refused.”

3- “These names of virtues, with their precepts, were: 1. Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation. 2. Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation. Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business lave its time. 4- Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve. 5- Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i. e., waste nothing. 6. Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions. 7. Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; and, if you speak. speak accordingly. 8. Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty. 9- Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve. lo. Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation. 11. Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable. 12. Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another s peace or reputation. 13. Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.”

4- “In reality, there is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it. mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself; you will see it, perhaps, often in this history; for, even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.”

5- “There seems to me at present to be great occasion for raising a United Party for Virtue, by forming the virtuous and good men of all nations into a regular body, to be govern’d by suitable good and wise rules, which good and wise men may probably be more unanimous in their obedience to, than common people are to common laws.”

6- “This pamphlet had a good effect. Gov’r. Thomas was so pleas’d with the construction of this stove, as described in it, that he offered to give me a patent for the sole vending of them for a term of years; but I declin’d it from a principle which has ever weighed with me on such occasions, viz., That, as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should he glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously.”

7- “Some may think these trifling matters not worth minding or relating; but when they consider that tho’ dust blown into the eyes of a single person, or into a single shop on a windy day, is but of small importance. yet the great number of the instances in a populous city, and its frequent repetitions give it weight and consequence, perhaps they will not censure very severely those who bestow some attention to affairs of this seemingly low nature. Human felicity is produc’d not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen, as by little advantages that occur every day. Thus, if you teach a poor young man to shave himself. and keep his razor in order, you may contribute more to the happiness of is life than in giving him a thousand guineas.”

8- “Those who govern, having much business on their hands, do not generally like to take the trouble of considering and carrying into execution new projects. The best public measures are therefore seldom adopted from previous wisdom, but fared by the occasion.”

Regards,

Omar Halabieh

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

On The Lexus and the Olive Tree

I recently finished reading The Lexus and the Olive Tree by Thomas L. Friedman.

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “While there are a lot of similarities in kind between the previous era of globalization and the one we are now in, what is new today is the degree and intensity with which the world is being tied together into a single globalized marketplace and village. What is also new is the sheer number of people and countries able to partake of today’s globalized economy and information networks, and to be affected by them.”

2- “As you will see from the book, I am keenly aware of them. I believe the best way for us to deal with the brutalities of globalization is by first understanding the logic of the system and its moving parts, and them figuring out how this system can benefit the most people. While inflicting the least amount of pain. That is the spirit that motivated this book.”

3- “The driving idea behind globalization is free-market capitalism—the more you let market forces rule and the more you open your economy to free trade and competition, the more efficient and flourishing your economy will be. Globalization means the spread of free-market capitalism to virtually every country in the world. Therefore, globalization also has its own set of economic rules—rules that revolve around opening, deregulating and privatizing your economy, in order to make it more competitive and attractive to foreign investment.”

4- “Globalization also has its own demographic pattern—a rapid acceleration of the movement of people from rural areas and agricultural lifestyles to urban areas and urban lifestyles more intimately linked with global fashion, food, markets and entertainment trends.”

5- “The globalization system, by contrast, is built around three balances. which overlap and affect one another. The first is the traditional balance between nation-states…The second balance in the globalization system is between nation-states and global markets…The third balance that you have to pay attention to in the globalization system—the one that is really the newest of all—is the balance between individuals and nation-states.”

6- “So what to do? How to understand and explain this incredibly complex system of globalization? The short answer is that I learned you need to do two things at once— look at the world through a multilens perspective and, at the same time, convey that complexity to readers through simple stories, not grand theories. I use two techniques: I “do information arbitrage” in order to understand the world, and I “tell stories” in order to explain it.”

7- “The challenge in this era of globalization—for countries and Individuals—is to find a healthy balance between preserving a sense of identity, home and community and doing what it takes to survive within the globalization system. Any society that wants to thrive economically today must constantly be trying to build a better Lexus and driving it out into the world.But no one should have any illusions that merely participating in this global economy will make a society healthy. If that participation comes at the price of a country’s identity, if individuals feel their olive tree roots crushed, or washed out, by this global system, those olive tree roots will rebel. They will rise up and strangle the process. Therefore the survival of globalization as a system will depend, in part, on how well all of us strike this balance.”

8- “To fit into the Golden Straitjacket a country must either adopt, or be seen as moving toward, the following golden rules: making the private sector the primary engine of its economic growth, maintaining a low rate of inflation and price stability, shrinking the size of its state bureaucracy. maintaining as close to a balanced budget as possible, if not a surplus, eliminating and lowering tariffs on imported goods, removing restrictions on foreign investment, getting rid of quotas and domestic monopolies, increasing exports, privatizing state-owned industries and utilities. deregulating capital markets, making its currency convertible, opening its industries, stock and bond markets to direct foreign ownership and investment, deregulating its economy to promote as much domestic competition as possible, eliminating government corruption, subsidies d kickbacks as much as possible, opening its banking and telecommunications systems to private ownership and competition and allowing its citizens to choose from an array of competing pension options and foreign-run pension and mutual funds. When you stitch all of these pieces together you have the Golden Straitjacket. Unfortunately, this Golden Straitjacket is pretty much “one size fits all.” So it pinches certain groups, squeezes others and keeps a society under pressure to constantly streamline its economic institutions and upgrade its performance. It leaves people behind quicker than ever if they shuck it off, and it helps them catch up quicker than ever if they wear it right. It is not always pretty or gentle or comfortable. But it’s here and it’s the only model on the rack this historical season.”

9- “While we are on the subject of the diversity of the Electronic Herd, there is one other critically important thing we should always keep in mind about it—this herd is not simply an exogenous force. It is lot just made up of stateless offshore money funds, Internet investors from abroad and distant Supermarkets. It is also made up of locals in every country that has opened itself to the herd. What gives the herd its power is not only the fact that when capital controls in a country are lifted foreigners can easily come in and buy and sell currency, stocks and bonds. It is the fact that the locals can easily go out!”

10- “In the globalization system your state matters more, not less. Because the quality of your state really means the quality of the software and operating system you have to deal with the Electronic Herd. The ability of an economy to withstand the inevitable ups and downs of the herd depends in large part on the quality of its legal system, financial system and economic management—all matters still under the control of governments and bureaucrats.”

11- “To be an effective shaper you have to be able to attract a lot of adapters. But the key to having a lot of adapters to your standard is that it be able to create a lot of value for other people too—whether it is a product, a human value or a set of geopolitical rules. If people become reluctant members of your value network, eventually they will rebel against it by seeking a different standard. So one thing a shaper always has to be aware of is whether he is leaving room in his value chain—some food on the table—so that others will have an incentive to adapt to his standards.”

12- “The best countries and companies will mirror one another’s habits. So, after asking the two most basic questions—how wired is your country or company and is it a shaper or adapter—here are the other nine questions I ask to measure its economic power and potential. 1) How Fast Is Your Country or Company? 2) Is Your Country or Company Harvesting Its Knowledge? 3) How Much Does Your Country or Company Weigh? 4) Does Your Country or Company Dare to Be Open on the Outside? 5) Does Your Country or Company Dare to Be Open on the Inside? 6) Does Your Country’s or Company’s Management Get It and Can You Change Management If They Don’t? 7) Is Your Country or Company Willing to Shoot Its Wounded and Suckle the Survivors? 8) How Good Is Your Country or Company at Making Friends?”

13- “The Golden Arches Theory highlights one way in which globalization affects geopolitics—by greatly raising the cost of warfare through economic integration. But globalization influences geopolitics in many other ways. For instance, it creates new sources of power, beyond the classic military measures of tanks, planes and missiles, and it creates new sources of pressure on countries to change how they organize themselves, pressures that come not from classic military incursions of one state into another, but rather by more invisible invasion lie invasions of Supermarkets and Super-empowered individuals.”

14- “The other method for greening globalization is to demonstrate to corporations and their shareholders that their profits and share prices will  increase if they adopt environmentally sound production methods.”

15- “If the intellectual critics of globalization would spend more time thinking about how to use the system, and less time thinking about how to tear it down, they might realize what a lot of these little folks have already realized—that globalization can create as many solutions and opportunities as it can problems.”

16- “How we learn to strike the right balance between globalization’s inherently empowering and humanizing aspects and its inherently disempowering and dehumanizing aspects will determine whether it is reversible or irreversible, a passing phase or a fundamental revolution in he evolution of human society.”

17- “America does have a shared national interest to pursue in today’s globalization system—one that constitutes both a big opportunity and a big responsibility. Put simply: As the country that benefits most from today’s global integration—as the country whose people, products, values, technologies and ideas are being most globalized—it is our job to make sure that globalization is sustainable. And the way we do that is by ensuring that the international system remains stable and that advances lead declines for as many people as possible, in as many countries as possible, on as many days as possible.”

18- “First, we want as open, and growing, a free-market-oriented economy as possible, in which people are encouraged to swing free and take crazy leaps. Without risk takers and venture capitalists, there is no entrepreneurship and without entrepreneurship there is no growth. Therefore, at the heart of every healthy economy are the free-swinging trapeze of free markets. Because there is no better safety net than a healthy economy with low unemployment.”

19- “Democratizing globalization—it’s not only the most effective way to make it sustainable, it’s the most self-interested and moral policy that any government can pursue.”

Regards,

Omar Halabieh

The Lexus and the Olive Tree

On Boomerang

I recently read Michael’s Lewis Boomerang – Travels In The New Third World.

Below are key excerpts form the book, that I found particularly insightful:

1- “The subprime mortgage crisis was more symptom than cause. The deeper social and economic problems that gave rise to it remained. The moment that investors woke up to this reality, they would cease to think of big Western governments as essentially risk-free and demand higher interest to lend to them. When the interest rates on their borrowing rose, these governments would plunge further into debt, leading to further rises in the interest rates they were charged to borrow. In a few especially alarming cases – Greece, Ireland, Japan – it wouldn’t take much of a rise in interest rates for budgets to be consumed entirely by interest payments on debt…The moment the financial markets realized this, investor sentiment would shift. The moment investor sentiment shifted, these governments would default. And then what? The financial crisis of 2008 was suspended only because investors believed that governments could borrow whatever they needed to rescue their banks. What happened when the governments themselves ceased to be credible. There was another, bigger, financial crisis waiting to happen – the only question in Kyle Bass’s mind was when.”

2- “When you borrow a lot of money to create a false prosperity, you import the future into the present. It isn’t the actual future so much as some grotesque silicone version of it. Leverage buys a glimpse of a prosperity you haven’t really earned. The striking thing about the future the Icelandic male briefly imported was how much it resembled the past that he celebrates. I’m betting now they’ve seen their false future the Icelandic female will have a great deal more o say about the actual one.”

3- “The costs of running the Greek government are only half the failed equation: there’s also the matter of government revenues.”

4- “The structure of the Greek economy is collectivist, but the country, in spirit, is the opposite of a collective. Its real structure is every man for himself. Into this system investors had poured hundreds of billions of dollars. And the credit boom had pushed the country over the edge, into total moral collapse.”

5- “The Irish real estate bubble was different from the American version in may ways. It wasn’t disguised, for a start. It didn’t require a lot of complicated financial engineering beyond the understanding of mere mortals. It also wasn’t as cynical. There aren’t a lot Irish financiers, or real estate people, who have emerged with a future. In America the banks went down but the big shots in them still got rich; in Ireland the big shots went down with the banks.”

6- “The Greeks not only have massive debts but are still running big deficits. Trapped by an artificially strong currency, they cannot turn deficits into surpluses, even if they do everything outsiders want them to do. Their exports, priced in euros, remain expensive. The German government wants the Greeks to slash the size of their government, but that will also slow economic growth and reduce tax revenues. And so one of two things must happen. Either the Germans must agree to integrate Europe fiscally, so that Germany and Greece bear the same relationship to each other as, say, Indiana and Mississippi – the tax dollars of ordinary Germans would go into the coffer and be used to pay for the lifestyle of ordinary Greeks – or the Greeks (and probably, eventually, every non-German) must introduce “structural reform,” a euphemism for magically and radically transforming themselves into a people as efficient and productive as the Germans. The first solution is pleasant for Greeks but painful for Germans. The second solution is pleasant for the Germans but painful, possibly even suicidal, for Greeks.”

7- “The curious thing about the eruption of cheap and indiscriminate lending of money between 2002 and 2008 was the different effects it had from country to country. Every developed country was subjected to more or less the same temptation, but no two countries responded in precisely the same way. Much of Europe had borrowed money cheaply to buy stuff it couldn’t honestly afford. In effect, lots of non-Germans had used Germany’s credit rating to indulge their material desires. The Germans were the exception. Given the chance to take something for nothing the German people simply ignored the offer. “There was no credit boom in Germany,” says Asmussen. “Real estate prices were completely flat. There was no borrowing for consumption. Because this behavior is totally unacceptable in Germany. This is what the German people are. This is deeply in German genes. It is perhaps a leftover of the collective memory of the Great Depression and the hyperinflation of the 1920s.” The German government was equally prudent because, he went on, “there is a consensus among the different parties about this: if you’re not adhering to fiscal responsibility you have no chance in elections, because the people are that way.”

8- “When people pile up debts they will find difficult and perhaps even impossible to repay, they are saying several things at once. They are obviously saying that they want more than they can immediately afford. They are saying, less obviously, that their present wants are so important that, to satisfy them, it is worth some future difficulty. But in making that bargain they are implying that when the future difficulty arrives, they’ll figure it out. They don’t always do that. But you can never rule out the possibility that they will. As idiotic as optimism can sometimes seem, it has a weird habit of paying off.”

Regards,

Omar Halabieh

Boomerang