Sunday, December 28, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Heard this before? I Hope! Never gets old.
By Leonard E. Read
I am a lead pencil—the ordinary wooden pencil familiar to all boys and girls and adults who can read and write.
Writing is both my vocation and my avocation; that’s all I do.
You may wonder why I should write a genealogy. Well, to begin with, my story is interesting. And, next, I am a mystery —more so than a tree or a sunset or even a flash of lightning. But, sadly, I am taken for granted by those who use me, as if I were a mere incident and without background. This supercilious attitude relegates me to the level of the commonplace. This is a species of the grievous error in which mankind cannot too long persist without peril. For, the wise G. K. Chesterton observed, “We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.”
I, Pencil, simple though I appear to be, merit your wonder and awe, a claim I shall attempt to prove. In fact, if you can understand me—no, that’s too much to ask of anyone—if you can become aware of the miraculousness which I symbolize, you can help save the freedom mankind is so unhappily losing. I have a profound lesson to teach. And I can teach this lesson better than can an automobile or an airplane or a mechanical dishwasher because—well, because I am seemingly so simple.
Simple? Yet, not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me. This sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Especially when it is realized that there are about one and one-half billion of my kind produced in the U.S.A. each year.
Pick me up and look me over. What do you see? Not much meets the eye—there’s some wood, lacquer, the printed labeling, graphite lead, a bit of metal, and an eraser.
Just as you cannot trace your family tree back very far, so is it impossible for me to name and explain all my antecedents. But I would like to suggest enough of them to impress upon you the richness and complexity of my background.
My family tree begins with what in fact is a tree, a cedar of straight grain that grows in Northern California and Oregon. Now contemplate all the saws and trucks and rope and the countless other gear used in harvesting and carting the cedar logs to the railroad siding. Think of all the persons and the numberless skills that went into their fabrication: the mining of ore, the making of steel and its refinement into saws, axes, motors; the growing of hemp and bringing it through all the stages to heavy and strong rope; the logging camps with their beds and mess halls, the cookery and the raising of all the foods. Why, untold thousands of persons had a hand in every cup of coffee the loggers drink!
The logs are shipped to a mill in San Leandro, California. Can you imagine the individuals who make flat cars and rails and railroad engines and who construct and install the communication systems incidental thereto? These legions are among my antecedents.
Consider the millwork in San Leandro. The cedar logs are cut into small, pencil-length slats less than one-fourth of an inch in thickness. These are kiln dried and then tinted for the same reason women put rouge on their faces. People prefer that I look pretty, not a pallid white. The slats are waxed and kiln dried again. How many skills went into the making of the tint and the kilns, into supplying the heat, the light and power, the belts, motors, and all the other things a mill requires? Sweepers in the mill among my ancestors? Yes, and included are the men who poured the concrete for the dam of a Pacific Gas & Electric Company hydroplant which supplies the mill’s power!
Don’t overlook the ancestors present and distant who have a hand in transporting sixty carloads of slats across the nation.
Once in the pencil factory—$4,000,000 in machinery and building, all capital accumulated by thrifty and saving parents of mine—each slat is given eight grooves by a complex machine, after which another machine lays leads in every other slat, applies glue, and places another slat atop—a lead sandwich, so to speak. Seven brothers and I are mechanically carved from this “wood-clinched” sandwich.
My “lead” itself—it contains no lead at all—is complex. The graphite is mined in Ceylon [Sri Lanka]. Consider these miners and those who make their many tools and the makers of the paper sacks in which the graphite is shipped and those who make the string that ties the sacks and those who put them aboard ships and those who make the ships. Even the lighthouse keepers along the way assisted in my birth—and the harbor pilots.
The graphite is mixed with clay from Mississippi in which ammonium hydroxide is used in the refining process. Then wetting agents are added such as sulfonated tallow—animal fats chemically reacted with sulfuric acid. After passing through numerous machines, the mixture finally appears as endless extrusions—as from a sausage grinder—cut to size, dried, and baked for several hours at 1,850 degrees Fahrenheit. To increase their strength and smoothness the leads are then treated with a hot mixture which includes candelilla wax from Mexico, paraffin wax, and hydrogenated natural fats.
My cedar receives six coats of lacquer. Do you know all the ingredients of lacquer? Who would think that the growers of castor beans and the refiners of castor oil are a part of it? They are. Why, even the processes by which the lacquer is made a beautiful yellow involve the skills of more persons than one can enumerate!
Observe the labeling. That’s a film formed by applying heat to carbon black mixed with resins. How do you make resins and what, pray, is carbon black?
My bit of metal—the ferrule—is brass. Think of all the persons who mine zinc and copper and those who have the skills to make shiny sheet brass from these products of nature. Those black rings on my ferrule are black nickel. What is black nickel and how is it applied? The complete story of why the center of my ferrule has no black nickel on it would take pages to explain.
Then there’s my crowning glory, inelegantly referred to in the trade as “the plug,” the part man uses to erase the errors he makes with me. An ingredient called “factice” is what does the erasing. It is a rubber-like product made by reacting rapeseed oil from the Dutch East Indies [Indonesia] with sulfur chloride. Rubber, contrary to the common notion, is only for binding purposes. Then, too, there are numerous vulcanizing and accelerating agents. The pumice comes from Italy; and the pigment which gives “the plug” its color is cadmium sulfide.
No One Knows
Does anyone wish to challenge my earlier assertion that no single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me?
Actually, millions of human beings have had a hand in my creation, no one of whom even knows more than a very few of the others. Now, you may say that I go too far in relating the picker of a coffee berry in far-off Brazil and food growers elsewhere to my creation; that this is an extreme position. I shall stand by my claim. There isn’t a single person in all these millions, including the president of the pencil company, who contributes more than a tiny, infinitesimal bit of know-how. From the standpoint of know-how the only difference between the miner of graphite in Ceylon and the logger in Oregon is in the type of know-how. Neither the miner nor the logger can be dispensed with, any more than can the chemist at the factory or the worker in the oil field—paraffin being a by-product of petroleum.
Here is an astounding fact: Neither the worker in the oil field nor the chemist nor the digger of graphite or clay nor any who mans or makes the ships or trains or trucks nor the one who runs the machine that does the knurling on my bit of metal nor the president of the company performs his singular task because he wants me. Each one wants me less, perhaps, than does a child in the first grade. Indeed, there are some among this vast multitude who never saw a pencil nor would they know how to use one. Their motivation is other than me. Perhaps it is something like this: Each of these millions sees that he can thus exchange his tiny know-how for the goods and services he needs or wants. I may or may not be among these items.
No Master Mind
There is a fact still more astounding: The absence of a master mind, of anyone dictating or forcibly directing these countless actions which bring me into being. No trace of such a person can be found. Instead, we find the Invisible Hand at work. This is the mystery to which I earlier referred.
It has been said that “only God can make a tree.” Why do we agree with this? Isn’t it because we realize that we ourselves could not make one? Indeed, can we even describe a tree? We cannot, except in superficial terms. We can say, for instance, that a certain molecular configuration manifests itself as a tree. But what mind is there among men that could even record, let alone direct, the constant changes in molecules that transpire in the life span of a tree? Such a feat is utterly unthinkable!
I, Pencil, am a complex combination of miracles: a tree, zinc, copper, graphite, and so on. But to these miracles which manifest themselves in Nature an even more extraordinary miracle has been added: the configuration of creative human energies—millions of tiny know-hows configurating naturally and spontaneously in response to human necessity and desire and in the absence of any human masterminding! Since only God can make a tree, I insist that only God could make me. Man can no more direct these millions of know-hows to bring me into being than he can put molecules together to create a tree.
The above is what I meant when writing, “If you can become aware of the miraculousness which I symbolize, you can help save the freedom mankind is so unhappily losing.” For, if one is aware that these know-hows will naturally, yes, automatically, arrange themselves into creative and productive patterns in response to human necessity and demand— that is, in the absence of governmental or any other coercive master-minding—then one will possess an absolutely essential ingredient for freedom: a faith in free people. Freedom is impossible without this faith.
Once government has had a monopoly of a creative activity such, for instance, as the delivery of the mails, most individuals will believe that the mails could not be efficiently delivered by men acting freely. And here is the reason: Each one acknowledges that he himself doesn’t know how to do all the things incident to mail delivery. He also recognizes that no other individual could do it. These assumptions are correct. No individual possesses enough know-how to perform a nation’s mail delivery any more than any individual possesses enough know-how to make a pencil. Now, in the absence of faith in free people—in the unawareness that millions of tiny know-hows would naturally and miraculously form and cooperate to satisfy this necessity—the individual cannot help but reach the erroneous conclusion that mail can be delivered only by governmental “masterminding.”
If I, Pencil, were the only item that could offer testimony on what men and women can accomplish when free to try, then those with little faith would have a fair case. However, there is testimony galore; it’s all about us and on every hand. Mail delivery is exceedingly simple when compared, for instance, to the making of an automobile or a calculating machine or a grain combine or a milling machine or to tens of thousands of other things. Delivery? Why, in this area where men have been left free to try, they deliver the human voice around the world in less than one second; they deliver an event visually and in motion to any person’s home when it is happening; they deliver 150 passengers from Seattle to Baltimore in less than four hours; they deliver gas from Texas to one’s range or furnace in New York at unbelievably low rates and without subsidy; they deliver each four pounds of oil from the Persian Gulf to our Eastern Seaboard—halfway around the world—for less money than the government charges for delivering a one-ounce letter across the street!
The lesson I have to teach is this: Leave all creative energies uninhibited. Merely organize society to act in harmony with this lesson. Let society’s legal apparatus remove all obstacles the best it can. Permit these creative know-hows freely to flow. Have faith that free men and women will respond to the Invisible Hand. This faith will be confirmed. I, Pencil, seemingly simple though I am, offer the miracle of my creation as testimony that this is a practical faith, as practical as the sun, the rain, a cedar tree, the good earth.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Toyota sales in 2007: 9,366,418 vehicles
GM profit/loss in 2007: -$38,730,000,000 (-$4,055 per car)
Toyota profit in 2007: +$17,146,000,000 (+$1,874 per car)
Monday, December 8, 2008
Sunday, December 7, 2008
“It is not known if the Jewish center was strategically chosen, or if it was an accidental hostage scene.”
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Saturday, November 8, 2008
....We keep thinking it's important to elect Republicans hoping they will reduce the size and influence of the federal government. Does it really make a difference which party we elect? How can you look at this graph from The Heritage Foundation and make an argument that Republicans have represented and currently represent Conservatives? It seems to me the choice is between the "Tax & Spend" Party vs. the "Spend" party. Not much of a choice, is it?
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
A case for a Conservative Party
As conservatives prepare to get shellacked in the House & Senate, and lose in a presidential electoral landslide in 2008 (I hope I’m wrong), it is right to reflect on how we got here, and how we get back on track. Conservatives need to start rebuilding now on the ashes of this election failure.
To that end, I believe in “clarity over agreement”. (Thank you Dennis Prager!) It is time to reflect on what a conservative is and how our values are different from Liberals. The thoughts and list below will not be novel. These are mainstream traditional American values. However, in putting together these thoughts and this list, I am also making the case that we are not being well served by the Republican Party, and now might be the time to consider forming a Conservative Party in the United States.
Today’s Republican Party only represent themselves. Republican elite are out of touch and they can’t, or don’t know how to, make a case for Conservative principles. Because of their actions, Republicans can no longer be trusted to reduce the size and influence of government. Reduce taxes, yes. Reduce government size and influence, no. They have forgotten that there are two sides to the ledger. It’s the tax and spend party vs. the spend party. Not much of a choice.
Ronald Reagan had his flaws, but at least he represented ideas, values, and principles. When you think of Ronald Reagan, the first thing that pops into most of our heads is Conservative. He talked about what made America great-- our Conservative heritage. Rarely did he opine about being a Republican. We need a leader today who thinks about being a Conservative first.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of Conservative values, and I am not claiming to be omniscient. This is a list of core Conservative values that have made America great for over 200 years. The real tragedy of the last two generations is that kids have been raised not knowing what American distinctiveness is. I am making the case that you must teach Conservative values to each generation as if the agreement was never won. This is a continuous battle. You can never assume you “won." A nation is in trouble if a whole generation cannot articulate what it stands for.
So what is a Conservative, and what do Conservatives believe in???
First, a Conservative believes in “Liberty over Equality”. Unlike in France (and much of Western Europe), where the motto is “Freedom, Equality, Fraternity”, the United States is the only nation founded on the idea: the proposition that all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Equality is not a traditional American value. Americans believe in equal opportunity only, not equal outcomes.
American values can also be tidily summed up by the change in your pocket. “IN GOD WE TRUST”, “LIBERTY”, and “E PLURIBUS UNUM”.
IN GOD WE TRUST. American was built on Judeo-Christian values. But we also believe that no matter what religion you practice, you are welcome. Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, if you are a strong believer, you will not find a more tolerant country in the world. It just doesn’t ring true when you hear about American intolerance to other religions. No country in the history of the world has been more welcome to more people of different religious backgrounds than the United States.
LIBERTY. It is no accident that in American you can find both the most religious people in the Western Hemisphere and also the strongest yearning for individual freedom. And with that yearning comes the value of personal responsibility. You work hard, you follow the rules, and you have a greater chance of becoming successful here than any other country in the history of planet earth. No matter your religion, race, or gender.
E PLURIBUS UNUM. It’s hard to have this if you don’t first secede that there is such a thing as “American values”.
*** Again, a comprehensive list this is not. Do all conservatives agree with me, obviously not. These are my thoughts, only. But it is at least a good start. I hope to be able to expand on these issues in the coming months and also add to the list. ***
A conservative believes in lower taxes AND cutting spending. Again, there are two sides of the ledger.
A conservative believes the United States has done vastly more good than bad. No other country in the history of planet earth has done more and offered more opportunity to more people, especially to religious, racial, and gender minorities.
A conservative believes in giving to private charity. Private charities are generally more efficient with their donations.
A conservative believes weakness is a provocation. The US must keep a strong, well funded military.
A conservative believes free market capitalism is the best way to prosperity.
A conservative believes high taxes is the worst way to prosperity and also makes government more powerful.
A conservative believes a tax on a corporation is a tax on the consumer.
A conservative believes it is not right for one generation to ask another generation to pay for their needs, like their retirement, when they have spent their own retirement dollars already.
A conservative believes does not expect to rely on Social Security to fund their retirement.
A conservative believes compassion should be the basis for decision on the micro-level, not the macro-level.
A conservative does not see themselves as victims. Thinking of yourself as a victim gives you a reason and permission to do evil.
A conservative believes the baby boomer generation was the worst generation.
A conservative believes in lots of legal immigration of skilled workers that companies need, and no illegal immigration. That makes us pro-immigration.
A conservative believes in free trade. A tax on imports is a tax on the consumer.
A conservative does not believe in bailouts. This goes for individuals as well as corporations. A conservative believes that individuals and markets need to be able to fail. Delaying the inevitable only makes the pain worse in the end.
A conservative believes in gay rights and keeping marriage between one man and one woman. Yes, these are not mutually exclusive ideas.
A conservative does not believe in universal health care, universal prescription drug plans, or penalizing people or companies for a lack of insurance coverage.
A conservative believes there is good AND evil. Good must be encouraged… Evil must be confronted and beaten.
A conservative believes liberals are naive and wrong. Liberals believe conservatives are bad or evil.
A conservative believes schools should raise standards, not lower them.
A conservative believes in voting for anyone who promotes and believes in our values. Any race, any gender, any religion.
A conservative believes there is a cultural war being waged in American today. It must be fought, and it must be won.
A conservative believes in safety nets and private charity, not long-term government welfare.
A conservative believes their party should be the party of ideas.
A conservative believes one of the many things that make the United States great is our foundation of Judeo/ Christian values.
A conservative believes in the freedom of religion, not the freedom from religion.
A conservative believes that the private sector invents new products, allocates resources efficiently, and grows economies, not government.
A conservative believes a generation of conservatives being called racists, sexists, homophobes, Islamophobes, etc. has had its consequences. Conservatives are all too often afraid to speak their mind and fight for their values.
It is time for conservatives to articulate what we believe in, and then fight for it.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Catholic first...Conservative second...American third...Republican fourth...
Obviously my religion takes precedent over everything else.
I am a conservative second because I love American VALUES. If America ceases to hold traditional Judeo/Christian values, I no longer love America. I may mourn terribly for its loss, but if the majority of the country votes my values out, I am out. Just as the immigrants came (and still come) to this country for a better life, they not only come for the economic opportunities, but for the values and principles inherent in "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" .
I am an American third and a Republican fourth because I love my country (what it stands for) more than my political affiliation. If Republicans stop being conservative and stop believing in liberty over equality (seems to be getting close), then I would change my party affiliation in a heartbeat. If America stops believing in liberty over equality, I would leave this country in a heartbeat. (of course I will continue to fight the good fight before that point) I am not an American no matter what its values are. I am not a Republican no matter what its values are. Immigrants came to this country because their home countries values changed, or they discovered that America shared more closely their values.