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Wednesday, 14 December 2016

The Olive Branch Petition: The American Colonies Seek Peace with Great Britian

Olive Branch Petition
       In May 1775, when the Second Continental Congress convened, most of the delegates followed John Dickinson in trying to peacefully reconcile with King George III and Great Britain.  However a smaller group of delegates led by John Adams thought that an armed conflict was inevitable; yet they chose to remain quiet and wait for the time to rally people to their side.  This gave Dickinson and the Congress the chance to pursue the peace. Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the petition, but Dickinson thought his words were too offensive.  Dickinson edited and rewrote parts of the document.  Dickinson wrote that the colonies did not want independence but merely sought to negotiate trade and tax regulations with Great Britain. Dickinson wanted an agreement that would settle trade disputes and suggested that the colonists be given either free trade and taxes equal to those placed on the people in Great Britain, or alternately, no taxes and strict trade regulations. The letter was approved on July 5, then signed by members of the Congress. It was sent to London on July 8, 1775 in the care of Richard Penn and Arthur Lee. Dickinson had hoped that news of the bloodshed at Lexington and Concord combined with the "Humble Petition" would inspire King George to at least negotiate with the colonists. It reached London on August 14, 1775; and was presented to Lord Dartmouth, the Colonial Secretary, on August 21st. However, a letter written by John Adams had been intercepted in which Adams expressed discontentment with the Petition and wrote that war was inevitable. Adams also wrote that the Colonies should have already raised a navy and captured British officials. The letter arrived in London at the same time as the Olive Branch Petition. Due to the letter by Adams, British officials thought the petition insincere and King George even refused to receive or read it. The king himself considered the petition to have come from what he considered an illegal and illegitimate assembly of rebels. The king  issued the Proclamation for Suppressing Rebellion and Sedition  on August 23rd, declaring the North American colonies in a state of rebellion and ordering "all Our officers ... and all Our obedient and loyal subjects, to use their utmost endeavours to withstand and suppress such rebellion." So the rejection of the Olive Branch Petition by King George III gave Adams and his followers the opportunity to push for independence, resulting in a full-on armed conflict -the American Revolutionary War
A 1775 printing of King George III's A Proclamation for Suppressing Rebellion and Sedition



Below is the text of the Olive Branch Petition:

To the King's Most Excellent Majesty.
Most Gracious Sovereign: We, your Majesty's faithful subjects of the Colonies of New-Hampthire, Massachusetts-Bay, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, the Counties of Newcastle, Kent, and Sussex, on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, in behalf of ourselves and the inhabitants of these Colonies, who have deputed us to represent them in General Congress, entreat your Majesty's gracious attention to this our humble petition.
The union between our Mother Country and these Colonies, and the energy of mild and just Government, produced benefits so remarkably important, and afforded such an assurance of their permanency and increase, that the wonder and envy of other nations were excited, while they beheld Great Britain rising to a power the most extraordinary the world had ever known.
Her rivals, observing that there was no probability of this happy connexion being broken by civil dissensions, and apprehending its future effects if left any longer undisturbed, resolved to prevent her receiving such continual and formidable accessions of wealth and strength, by checking the growth of those settlements from which they were to be derived.
In the prosecution of this attempt, events so unfavourable to the design took place, that every friend to the interest of Great Britain and these Colonies, entertained pleasing and reasonable expectations of seeing an additional force and exertion immediately given to the operations of the union hitherto experienced, by an enlargement of the dominions of the Crown, and the removal of ancient and warlike enemies to a greater distance.
At the conclusion, therefore, of the late war, the most glorious and advantageous that ever had been carried on by British arms, your loyal Colonists having contributed to its success by such repeated and strenuous exertions as frequently procured them the distinguished approbation of your Majesty, of the late King, and of Parliament, doubted not but that they should be permitted, with the rest of the Empire, to share in the blessings of peace, and the emoluments of victory and conquest.
While these recent and honourable acknowledgments of their merits remained on record in the Journals and acts of that august Legislature, the Parliament, undefaced by the imputation or even the suspicion of any offence, they were alarmed by a new system of statutes and regulations adopted for the administration of the Colonies, that filled their minds with the most painful fears and jealousies; and, to their inexpressible astonishment, perceived the danger of a foreign quarrel quickly succeeded by domestick danger, in their judgment of a more dreadful kind.
Nor were these anxieties alleviated by any tendency in this system to promote the welfare of their Mother Country. For though its effects were more immediately felt by them, yet its influence appeared to be injurious to the commerce and prosperity of Great Britain.
We shall decline the ungrateful task of describing the irksome variety of artifices practised by many of your Majesty's Ministers, the delusive pretences, fruitless terrours, and unavailing severities, that have, from time to time, been dealt out by them, in their attempts to execute this impolitick plan, or of tracing through a series of years past the progress of the unhappy differences between Great Britain and these Colonies, that have flowed from this fatal source.
Your Majesty's Ministers, persevering in their measures, and proceeding to open hostilities for enforcing them, have compelled us to arm in our own defence, and have engaged us in a controversy so peculiarly abhorrent to the affections of your still faithful Colonists, that when we consider whom we must oppose in this contest, and if it continues, what may be the consequences, our own particular misfortunes are accounted by us only as parts of our distress. Knowing to what violent resentments and incurable animosities civil discords are apt to exasperate and inflame the contending parties, we think ourselves required by indispensable obligations toAlmighty God, to your Majesty, to our fellow-subjects, and to ourselves, immediately to use all the means in our power, not incompatible with our safety, for stopping the further effusion of blood, and for averting the impending calamities that threaten the British Empire.
Thus called upon to address your Majesty on affairs of such moment to America, and probably to all your Dominions, we are earnestly desirous of performing this office with the utmost deference for your Majesty; and we therefore pray, that your Majesty's royal magnanimity and benevolence may make the most favourable constructions of our expressions on so uncommon an occasion. Could we represent in their full force the sentiments that agitate the minds of us your dutiful subjects, we are persuaded your Majesty would ascribe any seeming deviation from reverence in our language, and even in our conduct, not to any reprehensible intention, but to the impossibility of reconciling the usual appearances of respect with a just attention to our own preservation against those artful and cruel enemies who abuse your royal confidence and authority, for the purpose of effecting our destruction.
Attached to your Majesty's person, family, and Government, with all devotion that principle and affection can inspire; connected with Great Britain by the strongest ties that can unite societies, and deploring every event that tends in any degree to weaken them, we solemnly assure your Majesty, that we not only most ardently desire the former harmony between her and these Colonies may be restored, but that a concord may be established between them upon so firm a basis as to perpetuate its blessings, uninterrupted by any future dissensions, to succeeding generations in both countries, and to transmit your Majesty's name to posterity, adorned with that signal and lasting glory that has attended the memory of those illustrious personages, whose virtues and abilities have extricated states from dangerous convulsions, and, by securing happiness to others, have erected the most noble and durable monuments to their own fame.
We beg leave further to assure your Majesty, that notwithstanding the sufferings of your loyal Colonists during the course of this present controversy, our breasts retain too tender a regard for the kingdom from which we derive our origin, to request such a reconciliation as might, in any manner, be inconsistent with her dignity or her welfare. These, related as we are to her, honour and duty, as well as inclination, induce us to support and advance; and the apprehensions that now oppress our hearts with unspeakable grief, being once removed, your Majesty will find your faithful subjects on this Continent ready and willing at all times, as they have ever been, with their lives and fortunes, to assert and maintain the rights and interests of your Majesty, and of our Mother Country.
We therefore beseech your Majesty, that your royal authority and influence may be graciously interposed to procure us relief from our afflicting fears and jealousies, occasioned by the system before-mentioned, and to settle peace through every part of our Dominions, with all humility submitting to your Majesty's wise consideration, whether it may not be expedient, for facilitating those important purposes, that your Majesty be pleased to direct some mode, by which the united applications of your faithful Colonists to the Throne, in pursuance of their common counsels, may be improved into a happy and permanent reconciliation; and that, in the mean time, measures may be taken for preventing the further destruction of the lives of your Majesty's subjects; and that such statutes as more immediately distress any of your Majesty's Colonies, may be repealed.
For such arrangements as your Majesty's wisdom can form for collecting the united sense of your Americanpeople, we are convinced your Majesty would receive such satisfactory proofs of the disposition of the Colonists towards their Sovereign and Parent State, that the wished for opportunity would soon be restored to them, of evincing the sincerity of their professions, by every testimony of devotion becoming the most dutiful subjects, and the most affectionate Colonists.
That your Majesty may enjoy a long and prosperous reign, and that your descendants may govern your Dominions with honour to themselves and happiness to their subjects, is our sincere prayer.
John Hancock
New-Hampshire,John Langdon,
Thomas Cushing.
Massachusetts,Samuel Adams,
John Adams,
Robert Treat Paine.
Rhode-Island,Stephen Hopkins,
Samuel Ward,
Eliphalet Dyer.
Connecticut,Roger Sherman,
Silas Deane.
New-York,Philip Livingston,
James Duane,
John Alsop,
Francis Lewis,
John Jay,
Robert Livingston, Jr.,
Lewis Morris,
William Floyd,
Henry Wisner.
New-Jersey,William Livingston,
John De Hart,
Richard Smith.
Pennsylvania,John Dickinson,
Benjamin Franklin,
George Ross,
James Wilson,
Charles Humphreys,
Edward Biddle.
Delaware Counties,C├Žsar Rodney
Thomas McKean,
George Read.
Maryland,Matthew Tilghman,
Thomas Johnson, Jr.,
William Paca,
Samuel Chase,
Thomas Stone.
Virginia,Patrick Henry, Jr.,
Richard Henry Lee,
Edmund Pendleton,
Benjamin Harrison,
Thomas Jefferson.
North-Carolina,William Hooper,
Joseph Hewes.
South-Carolina,Henry Middleton,
Thomas Lynch,
Christopher Gadsden,
John Rutledge,
Edward Rutledge.














Tuesday, 13 December 2016

That Second Kind of Christmas




Author John Steinbeck wrote  to his friend, politician Adlai Stevenson in November 1959. At this time, it had been discovered that certain game shows had been rigging their outcomes, John wrote to his friend about the fact that maybe America itself was being rigged by a pervasive corporate and political immorality and being effectively dulled by increasing gluttony and want.



New York
1959
Guy Fawkes Day

Dear Adlai,

Back from Camelot, and, reading the papers, not at all sure it was wise. Two first impressions. First, a creeping, all pervading nerve-gas of immorality which starts in the nursery and does not stop before it reaches the highest offices both corporate and governmental. Two, a nervous restlessness, a hunger, a thirst, a yearning for something unknown—perhaps morality. Then there's the violence, cruelty and hypocrisy symptomatic of a people which has too much, and last, the surly ill-temper which only shows up in human when they are frightened.

Adlai, do you remember two kinds of Christmases? There is one kind in a house where there is little and a present represents not only love but sacrifice. The one single package is opened with a kind of slow wonder, almost reverence. Once I gave my youngest boy, who loves all living things, a dwarf, peach-faced parrot for Christmas. He removed the paper and then retreated a little shyly and looked at the little bird for a long time. And finally he said in a whisper, "Now who would have ever thought that I would have a peach-faced parrot?" 

Then there is the other kind of Christmas with present piled high, the gifts of guilty parents as bribes because they have nothing else to give. The wrappings are ripped off and the presents thrown down and at the end the child says—"Is that all?" Well, it seems to me that America now is like that second kind of Christmas. Having too many THINGS they spend their hours and money on the couch searching for a soul. A strange species we are. We can stand anything God and nature can throw at us save only plenty. If I wanted to destroy a nation, I would give it too much and would have it on its knees, miserable, greedy and sick. And then I think of our "Daily" in Somerset, who served your lunch. She made a teddy bear with her own hands for our grandchild. Made it out of an old bath towel dyed brown and it is beautiful. She said, "Sometimes when I have a bit of rabbit fur, they come out lovelier." Now there is a present. And that obviously male teddy bear is going to be called for all time MIZ Hicks.

When I left Bruton, I checked out with Officer 'Arris, the lone policeman who kept the peace in five villages, unarmed and on a bicycle. He had been very kind to us and I took him a bottle of Bourbon whiskey. But I felt it necessary to say—"It's a touch of Christmas cheer, officer, and you can't consider it a bribe because I don't want anything and I am going away..." He blushed and said, "Thank you, sir, but there was no need." To which I replied—"If there had been, I would not have brought it."

Mainly, Adlai, I am troubled by the cynical immorality of my country. I do not think it can survive on this basis and unless some kind of catastrophe strikes us, we are lost. But by our very attitudes we are drawing catastrophe to ourselves. What we have beaten in nature, we cannot conquer in ourselves.

Someone has to reinspect our system and that soon. We can't expect to raise our children to be good and honorable men when the city, the state, the government, the corporations all offer higher rewards for chicanery and deceit than probity and truth. On all levels it is rigged, Adlai. Maybe nothing can be done about it, but I am stupid enough and naively hopeful enough to want to try. How about you?

Yours,

John











(Source: America and Americans and Selected Nonfiction; Image: John Steinbeck, via lettersofnote.com .)


For more fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos; visit the Letters of Note archive here.



Saturday, 10 December 2016

The Legend of the Tooth Fairy and Other Tales by Thomas F. Clardy

I have a brand-new little book out, called  The Legend of the Tooth Fairy and Other Tales (County Road 37 Books, 2016).  It is a book of seven tales which I wrote over the years.  I have always loved reading fairy tales, fables, myths, and legendary stories and this book is my very own book of tales. For me, fairy tales, fables, and such all have a lesson or important truth to teach their readers -mine are no exception. The stories are accompanied by very old antique illustrations - like the ones I remember from old story books of the past (and they're black and white illustrations that you could colour, if you wished.) Stories include: The Legend of the Tooth Fairy, The Tale of Greenfeathers: A Story for Christmas, The Fable of the Three Possums and the Old Alligator, The Fable of the Busy Beaver, and more.






Thursday, 8 December 2016

Mrs. Cameron's Rules

Many people have that one teacher who made a lasting impact on them. For me, it was my seventh grade teacher, Mrs. Cameron. She died last week at age 88. I’ll always remember two things she taught me. When I first heard them, they were revolutionary and they forever changed me. They were: 1) Until you have tried something (or experienced or read, etc), you can’t criticize something or say you don’t like it. On this, opera was her go-to example. She mentioned opera and everyone in the class would groan or mutter how they hated it; she then asked how many had actually listened to opera, nobody answered. We then listened to and analyzed Bizet’s Carmen. She was adamant that if you made the statement “I don’t like [blank]", you had better have an explanation as to why you didn’t like it and had had a first-hand experience. “Just because” didn’t cut it with Mrs. Cameron. 2)You must read at least five books (or equivalent) in a subject in order to talk expertly about it. She stressed to her students that if you want to criticize something (like opera or anything), you needed to really understand it. You couldn’t read just one book, or listen to just one opera, then give an opinion. You had to read several books, or listen to several operas, before you could really discuss it properly with anyone – a valuable lesson in today’s Wikipedia world.
She opened the eyes and minds of many country kids - many of which would have never been exposed to the arts and humanities without her help. She always wanted you to rise higher, to realize your potential. She was a wonderful teacher. Thanks, Mrs. Cameron!

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Sypsamulga Snake-Charming Majorette

 My Aunt Emma was never a frilly, high-maintenance woman or extreme housewife. She worked hard and spent a lot of time outside. Unlike most women of her time, she’d rather be outside helping around the house or on the farm than shopping or going to the hairdresser. Her sisters would say that it started when she was little and played like a tomboy, dressed in a dirty pair of overalls and carrying an old stick to poke at frogs.
             She had no problem roaming around the countryside collecting bugs and frogs with the boys. She’d run and jump into the red clay gulleys, and build tree houses and forts. My grandmother was busy in the kitchen cooking and canning with the older girls and she could never get Emma into the house; she figured Emma would end up driving tractors and helping with the farm animals, so she just didn’t force the issue. Grandma figured that once a boy gave Emma a certain look, she’d be in the kitchen frying chicken and begging to learn to make an apple pie for him.
             As predicted, Emma, as she entered her teenage years, began to drive the tractor during planting season and haymaking season. She herself was in charge of the chickens and the two pigs destined to become pork chops and bacon. (She was never squeamish about wringing the neck of a chicken for Sunday dinner.) When it was time to pick cotton, she was the first down the row with her sack, picking bolls and humming a tune. One day someone asked her why she always hummed, she told them that it scared off the snakes –no one argued with her and everybody started to hum themselves.
             Emma, over the years, had become somewhat of a snake charmer. She had no problem catching snakes with her bare hands. She’d put a hoe or stick onto its head and grab it. It sent chills down my grandmother’s spine to see Emma holding a big fat chicken snake, its body wrapped around Emma’s arm. Emma would just laugh her big boisterous laugh, then walk out to the woods and free it. Granddaddy hated when she’d let a snake go rather than killing it, but Emma explained that chicken snakes killed rats and mice – from then on, he made her put the snakes in the corn crib.
Emma had no problem with rattlesnakes either. One day, grandma caught her putting lard into a cook-pot, which was set up over a fire. On a nearby table, there set bowls of cornmeal and buttermilk beside a mounded plate of what looked like chicken. Emma told her mother she was making supper, and went about breading the pieces of meat. My grandmother grabbed the edge of the table when the blood rushed from her brain, causing her to almost faint on the hard red clay and gravel. She couldn't believe Emma was making fried chicken.
“Who told you how to fry? I am just amazed at my little girl.”
“Molly done told me what to do,” said Emma, giving the melting lard a stir. She walked to the table and began to salt and pepper the meat.
“Lord, I never expected to see you out here frying some chicken,” said my grandmother, pulling out a handkerchief to dab her forehead.
“Oh, Mama, it ain’t chicken. I caught a big ol’ rattler down in the slough and done skinned it,” replied Emma. She held up one of the sections of rattlesnake meat. “It does look like a chicken thigh, don’t it?”
Emma picked her mother up out of the dirt. “If’n I tan the hide, would you help me make a hatband from it?” She pointed at a mess of rattlesnake skin handing from a low branch. My grandmother figured that as long as Emma was cooking and wanting to sew something, it was a battle won.
Emma went for years without any desire to do anything requiring her to spend her day inside or doing something considered "girly", so it was a shock and a surprise when Emma tried out for majorette in high school…and actually got it. She, for years, had been twirling sticks and such on her way between the barn and the field and back home. She had gotten pretty good. When she saw the majorettes practicing one day near the gymnasium, she figured she could do it just as well as they could. So she showed up at tryouts with her twirling stick and gave them a show. Some of the other girls giggled at this lanky girl in overalls twirling a piece of wood, but the judges were impressed when Emma threw the stick high into the air and then caught it without missing a beat. The giggles went silent, and Emma was on the squad.
The hardest thing for Emma was adjusting to the majorette outfit. She thought it looked like some spangled, bejeweled swimsuit and was flat-out too girly for her tastes. She liked the boots, except for the big tassels. It was a different time than nowadays, so the uniforms the majorettes wore were a bit heavier and theatrical and included little marching band hats with little visors and feathers. Emma wasn’t too happy with all the fuss, she just wanted her overalls and wooden stick, which itself was replaced with an official metal baton with white rubber on the ends. She persevered and learned the routine, eventually getting somewhat used to the uniform. She carried on as well as she could.
The band spent the summer practicing and marching in a few small parades. They would practice on the football field, but when the football players needed it they moved to a nearby practice field. The principal usually got old man Glenwood to use white paint to mark off the field marks after the practice field was mowed. Well, this year Mr. Glenwood had broken his leg in an accident and the chore went to his temporary replacement, Jimmy Townsend. Jimmy was not reliable nor was he smart, the field went unmowed and Mr. McGuire, the band teacher, had to mark the field as well as he could. The band eventually stomped down the grass and got into the rhythm of the routine. At one point, the majorettes had to go to the sidelines and do a mini-routine involving throwing their batons at each other and catching them. They then stuck a pose as the band played its big finale. Well, this time the majorettes walked to the edge of the practice field, which was bordered by a creek, and Miriam yelled. In front of her was curled a huge water moccasin, she had almost marched right onto it. She froze, one leg in the air mid-march. Emma ran over to her and told Miriam to remain still. Emma took off her hat (the majorettes wore them during practice to keep their smiling faces and heads up), and then walked around behind the poisonous snake. She quickly pushed the rubber ends of the metal baton onto the head of the snake, then reached down and grabbed it. The snake opened its mouth and bared its fangs, its body struggling to wrap around Emma’s arms; but Emma held it tight. Jimmy Townsend came down the hill from the school’s shop, wondering what in the world the commotion was. Emma grabbed her hat, and motioned for one of Loretta Snellgrove’s little cymbals. She set the snake expertly into the hat, covered it quickly with the cymbal, and walked up to Jimmy Townsend.
“Jimmy, you didn’t mow the grass,” she said sternly.
“I was about to get to that,” he answered her.
“Well, Jimmy, we had a little episode out here on the field.” She held up the hat covered with the cymbal, as Mr. McGuire walked up. Emma looked at the band teacher and Mr. McGuire nodded his head. “Take this, Jimmy,” she said, “And hold that cymbal tight against the hat.
Jimmy took the hat from her. “What in the devil is this?” he asked.
“That is a water moccasin that Miriam almost stepped on because you can’t keep this field mowed and taken care of,” Emma told him.
The color drained from Jimmy’s face and he started to shake a bit.
“Be careful not to open it in an enclosed space.”
Jimmy walked to the edge of the creek and threw the hat, cymbal, and snake into it. He then watched the snake swim on down the creek, followed by a half-submerged majorette hat. The cymbal was never seen again. Jimmy stormed off, cussing under his breath. But from then on, as long as he was there as the groundskeeper, the grass on the practice field was mowed almost to the dirt.

Emma never found her hat as it floated downstream, but it didn’t matter. She became head majorette and marched at the head of the band with the drum major, wearing a sparkling pair of white overalls and twirling her favorite wooden stick.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Mark Twain and his New-Fangled Writing Machine



"Few authors have made an impact as enduring as literary icon Samuel Clemens, a man who, under his pen name, Mark Twain, wrote such classics as Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a book which has been read by many millions of people around the world since its publication in 1884. It was ten years earlier, whilst shopping in Boston, that a curious Clemens spotted and then bought a Remington No.1, the very first “type writer” to be produced by E. Remington and Sons, released to the public that year. The first letter he wrote on his “new fangled writing machine”--which, incidentally, could only produce upper-case characters--was to his brother, Orion. Nine years after this letter was typed, Twain became the first author to deliver a typewritten manuscript to a publisher. It was his memoir, Life on the Mississippi." (www.lettersofnote.com)


Transcript
BJUYT KIOP N LKJHGFDSA:QWERTYUIOP:_-98VX5432QW RT

HA
HARTFORD, DEC. 9, 1874
DEAR BROTHER:

I AM TRYING T TO GET THE HANG OF THIS NEW F FANGLED WRITING MACHINE, BUT AM NOT MAKING A SHINING SUCCESS OF IT. HOWEVER THIS IS THE FIRST ATTEMPT I EVER HAVE MADE, & YET I PERCEIVETHAT I SHALL SOON & EASILY ACQUIRE A FINE FACILITY IN ITS USE. I SAW THE THING IN BOSTON THE OTHER DAY & WAS GREATLY TAKEN WI:TH IT. SUSIE HAS STRUCK THE KEYS ONCE OR TWICE, & NO DOUBT HAS PRINTED SOME LETTERS WHICH DO NOT BELONG WHERE SHE PUT THEM.

THE HAVING BEEN A COMPOSITOR IS LIKELY TO BE A GREAT HELP TO ME, SINCE O NE CHIEFLY NEEDS SWIFTNESS IN BANGING THE KEYS. THE MACHINE COSTS 125 DOLLARS. THE MACHINE HAS SEVERAL VIRTUES I BELIEVE IT WILL PRINT FASTER THAN I CAN WRITE. ONE MAY LEAN BACK IN HIS CHAIR & WORK IT. IT PILES AN AWFUL STACK OF WORDS ON ONE PAGE. IT DONT MUSS THINGS OR SCATTER INK BLOTS AROUND. OF COURSE IT SAVES PAPER.

SUSIE IS GONE, NOW, & I FANCY I SHALL MAKE BETTER PROGRESS. WORKING THIS TYPE-WRITER REMINDS ME OF OLD ROBERT BUCHANAN, WHO, YOU REMEMBER, USED TO SET UP ARTICLES AT THE CASE WITHOUT PREVIOUSLY PUTTING THEM IN THE FORM OF MANUSCRIPT. I WAS LOST IN ADMIRATION OF SUCH MARVELOUS INTELLECTUAL CAPACITY.

                                  LOVE TO MOLLIE.
YOUR BROTHER,
           SAM.


[Letter taken from the More Letters of Note book. Image at www.lettersofnote.com courtesy of Vassar College; reproduced with permission of the Mark Twain Project. For more letters of note, click here.]




Friday, 11 March 2016

The Economics of Star Trek by Rick Webb
















The Economics of Star Trek
The Proto-Post Scarcity Economy
self-sealing stem bolt
by Rick Webb

"I promise this is about Star Trek. Sort of. Bear with me a moment.
I’ve been reading a lot about robots lately. When I read about robots, and the future, I can’t help but think about it in economic terms. And that inevitably turns my mind to the branch of economics called post scarcity economics. Traditional economics, of course, deals with the efficient allocation of inherently scarce materials. Post scarcity economics deals with the economics of economies that are no longer constrained by scarcity of materials — food, energy, shelter, etc.
The thing that never sits quite right with post scarcity economics, though, at least the very little that I’ve read, is that it’s always sort of an all or nothing affair: you either don’t have enough of anything or you have enough of everything. Thinking of this as a mental exercise is kind of fun, I think, but in reality it seems to me that getting from point A — a scarcity economy — to point B — post scarcity — is going to be a long, complicated journey as somethings become more abundant in some places, while other things are still scarce.
What is needed is some sort of interim-, or proto-post scarcity economics.
More and more I find myself thinking we are, as a race, constrained by the economic models we have. We have capitalism, of course, the proverbial worst model except for every other one that dominates much of our planet right now. It’s definitely a scarcity-based system. Then we have the centrally planned systems of Communism and Marxism, not particularly effective, as it turns out. We have European-style socialist capitalism, but that’s still capitalism, and scarcity-based, albeit with a much more robust safety net than we have here in the US. Some Americans seem to think that a robust safety net somehow nullifies the distributed planning of capitalism. I’ll listen to them again when our schools are decent and our life span starts increasing again magically.
The key here, to me, is to start thinking about how economics would work when we decouple labor from reward. Does that make a system inherently communist? I don’t think it does. People work. They get paid. It is market driven, and not centrally planned. In reality,the market already basically dictates this, for who can claim that a Wall Street banker works more than a teacher? The only thing we really need to do is take this to a logical extreme:that people can still get paid doing zero work. This fear seems to be at the heart of most people who say that Europe is communist: if we give people so much welfare, some of them might stop working! Quelle Horreur!
It seems to me that with the rise of machines and robotics, advances in mining technology, energy technology (both fracking and green energy technologies), the obesity epidemic in the US, etc., that there are plenty of reasons to believe that we may be at the beginnings of a post scarcity economy. We have a surplus, no doubt. Of course, we still have legions of people in the world that are starving, and even people still here at home. But we actually have the capacity to feed them, to feed everyone, even now, even if we don’t have the will. It’s not a matter of scarcity; it’s a matter of the organization of labor and capital.
Take a mental journey for a moment with me: what if, one day, technology reaches the point that a small number of humans — say, 10 million — can produce all of the food, shelter and energy that the race needs. This doesn’t seem like insanely wishful thinking, given current trends. There’s no rational reason why the advances in robotics, factories, energy and agriculture couldn’t continue unabated for long periods of time. Of course I’m not saying they will, but rather, they could.
So, then, take that journey. What, then, of labor? In today’s terms, a ‘healthy’ economy now is one at or near full employment. A healthy economy now is one where everyone has a job. But in our mental exercise, those jobs are actually unrelated to a healthy economy, at least from strict economic terms. Everyone’s fed and housed and tons of people simply don’t need to work. Right now, we have them working making shit we don’t need. Is that any better than them not working?
I give you we’re in some fringe areas of economics here, but I have always wondered: is there any economic proof that we need full employment to reach full satisfaction of needs? To my knowledge, there isn’t. There’s a body of economics that goes into standards of living, and the increased standard of living. And here we get to our shitty world of unabated consumerism,Thorstein Veblen’s conspicuous consumption and George Battaille’s accursed share — the inevitable destiny of all economies to eventually produce more than they need, and, thus, waste it.
Seems to me that if we could think beyond capitalism and think of a new model, we could break out of this pointless cycle of more and more consumption of shit we don’t need and model things in another way..."


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