Chad has introduced a book club section on our Learning Center web site. We welcome any thoughts of yours concerning the essay by Emerson on "Self Reliance", which is the first writing being discussed.
We have also begun a student section on the site, since we teach government and economics to interested students during the academic year. Our first session was Monday. If you wish to attend, follow along, chime in or otherwise participate in our ongoing online educational effort, we welcome any assistance along those lines as well.
My daily musings have been categorized as daily thoughts in yet another section.
Thus, that brings us all up to date on the web site and its current configuration.
As mentioned, Chad selected as the initial book club essay "Self Reliance" by Ralph Waldo Emerson. It's an excellent choice and a favorite of mine. One especially insightful paragraph in Emerson's essay reads as follows:
"What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between meanness and greatness. It is the harder because you will always find those who think they know your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after one's own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude."
This section always brings to mind Robert Frost's poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening". It reads as follows:
"Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake
The only other sounds the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep
But I have promises to keep.
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep."
To me Emerson and Frost are each saying some very timely things for us to reflect upon in light of today's unsettling events throughout the world. Albeit said differently, they very much agree, at least as I interpret them, that we Americans have two basic roles with respect to our rights and responsibilities as citizens of a self governing and free society.
Emerson teaches that we must learn to listen to ourselves as we find our way to personal fulfillment and the pursuit of happiness. We are advised to reject the all too normal way of simply following the crowd or herd by conforming to what others do or say we should do. Quite simply, we must choose and then follow our own path through life. He further tells us that in addition to rejecting conformity for the sake of conformity, we must reject consistency for the sake of consistency, too. In other words, we must not fall into a rut and automatically do tomorrow that which we do today, just because it's consistent behavior. As time and circumstances change, we should always be at the ready to change both our minds and direction, too.
Accordingly, it is both our right and duty to think and act as individuals, as opposed to group followers, in light of the then existing circumstances. It's as simple and as difficult as that.
Our citizenship was based in large part on the ideals of individual freedom and self reliance. Those basic and fundamental rights are protected by our Constitution.
Yet in addition to these rights as individual citizens, we were also given duties and responsibilities. As members of a self governing and free society, we are called upon to assume a broader societal role by being both active and informed citizens.
Accordingly, as I interpret both Emerson and Frost, while we are encouraged to embrace the freedom and joy associated with individual solitude, we are also asked to engage as citizens of a greater society. For that matter, in addition to U.S. citizenship, we should remember that we are world citizens, too.
With respect to the U.S., other than national defense and security, we should not look to or otherwise depend upon the government for our happiness, prosperity or security. In fact, we should actively seek to limit the role of government to that of largely leaving us alone to pursue our chosen dreams.
Here are a few concluding thoughts.
1- Prosperity results from the independent actions of individuals acting privately in a free market and never from government.
2- With respect to self reliance versus conformity, had more of us listened to Emerson, and for that matter to our parents as well, we wouldn't have the massive and principally real estate related debt deflation in the private sector today. We wouldn't have incurred today's massive public sector debt either.
3- Neither would we be following too closely behind the disastrous example of Europe's welfare states, both with regard to medical care and other entitlements. We will find only pain by conforming to or following the European example of a big and socialist government. In that regard, many European countries are already insolvent, and at best their economies are going to be quite weak for years to come. As for us here in the good old U.S.A., it's time to get our act together. Past time, in fact.