January 8, 1790: Washington Delivers First State of the Union Address

Sunday, January 8, AD 2017

On January 8, 1790 George Washington delivered the first State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress.  Then called the Annual Message, the practice of the President delivering a speech to Congress would be ended by Thomas Jefferson who regarded such a practice as monarchical, too much like the British King’s Speech From the Throne at the beginning of Parliaments.  Perhaps, or perhaps it was simply that Jefferson was a bad public speaker and hated making speeches.  At any rate the custom of delivering the Annual Message to Congress in writing endured for over a century until Wilson revived delivering the Message via a speech to a joint session of Congress.

Wahington’s speech is the shortest state of the union address on record.  In that, as in so much else, one might wish that his successors had observed Washington’s example.  Here is the text of Washington’s address:

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:
I embrace with great satisfaction the opportunity which now presents itself of congratulating you on the present favorable prospects of our public affairs. The recent accession of the important state of North Carolina to the Constitution of the United States (of which official information has been received), the rising credit and respectability of our country, the general and increasing good will toward the government of the Union, and the concord, peace, and plenty with which we are blessed are circumstances auspicious in an eminent degree to our national prosperity.

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4 Responses to January 8, 1790: Washington Delivers First State of the Union Address

  • I’d be delighted if they returned to delivering a written message (and the message consisted mostly of a recitation of the crimes of the federal judiciary logged over the previous 12 months). We would benefit from hearing less of the President’s voice. The outgoing incumbent ran his mouth and traveled all over the place at hideous public expense (headlining fundraisers, sitting for photo ops with foreign potentates, prancing around Martha’s Vineyard with Material Girl wife, and playing golf with the pro-shop superintendent). What he could not do was negotiate with members of Congress (or even play golf with them).

  • “Material Girl” ? Would that be just another of the Glittariti ? I still don’t know who any of these people are.
    Timothy R.

  • Regarding the antics of BO (Obama) by Art Deco : The Corruptor was then himself corrupted.
    Timothy R.

  • Doris Kearns Goodwin notes that the practice was at one time to send the speech to Congress and have a clerk read it. This was what Teddy Roosevelt did with his first one after the assassination of McKinley. Perhaps Jefferson would have preferred that method.

George Washington and the Standing Miracle

Monday, February 22, AD 2016

Today is the 284th birthday of the Father of our Country, George Washington.  The above video from the musical 1776 depicts John Adams asking the Secretary of Congress, Charles Thomson, if he stands with Adams or the opponents of Independence.  Thomson responds that he stands with the General, George Washington.  Throughout 1776, Washington is an unseen presence but a powerful one.  As Congress considers the question of Independence, Washington’s messages to Congress paint a gloomy military picture.  Each member of Congress knows that if they declare Independence, only Washington and his ragtag army stand between them and a hangman’s noose.

Washington was always blunt, albeit respectful, in his messages to Congress.  It was his task to somehow hold together an army paid in worthless currency, dressed in rags, often barefoot, ill-fed and hastily trained.  For eight long years, while the American economy largely collapsed due to a blockade, he pulled endless rabbits out of his tri-corn hat to keep his army in being for yet another day.  He did this while respecting the civilian leadership of the new nation, a leadership that often seemed feckless and impotent.  He did this while confronting the mightiest empire in the world that controlled the seas and deployed a superb army.

At periods during the Revolution Washington led his army with a skill that excited the imagination of the world.  After the Trenton-Princeton campaign, Frederick the Great, King of Prussia and the foremost general of his day, wrote,  “The achievements of Washington and his little band of compatriots between the 25th of December and the 4th of January, a space of 10 days, were the most brilliant of any recorded in the annals of military achievements.”  I certainly agree with this and Washington fully earned the nicknames bestowed upon him by his British adversaries:  “the fox” and “the old fox”.  However, what excites my admiration most about Washington during the American Revolution was that he kept the Continental Army alive, and made it a formidable force.

In his farewell order to his victorious Continental Army George Washington wrote:

A contemplation of the compleat attainment (at a period earlier than could have been expected) of the object for which we contended against so formidable a power cannot but inspire us with astonishment and gratitude. The disadvantageous circumstances on our part, under which the war was undertaken, can never be forgotten. The singular interpositions of Providence in our feeble condition were such, as could scarcely escape the attention of the most unobserving; while the unparalleled perseverence of the Armies of the U States, through almost every possible suffering and discouragement for the space of eight long years, was little short of a standing miracle.

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6 Responses to George Washington and the Standing Miracle

  • That President George Washington was a Freemason and that other founding fathers were even Illuminati is very troubling.

  • Washington viewed the Masons as nothing other than a social club and did not take it seriously.

    “But it is what we would expect from someone who had hardly even set foot inside a lodge for more than thirty years as Washington admitted in a letter to G. W. Snyder dated just a month and a half prior to the one cited by Mr. Dean. In that letter, Washington wrote:

    I have heard much of the nefarious and dangerous plan and doctrines of the Illuminati, but never saw the book until you were pleased to send it to me. The same causes which have prevented my acknowledging the receipt of your letter, have prevented my reading the book hitherto; namely, the multiplicity of matters which pressed upon me before, and the debilitated state in which I was left, after a severe fever had been removed, and which allows me to add little more now than thanks for your kind wishes and favorable sentiments, except to correct an error you have run into, of my presiding over the English Lodges in this country. The fact is I preside over none, nor have I been in one more than once or twice within the last thirty years. I believe, notwithstanding, that none of the Lodges in this country are contaminated with the principles ascribed to the society of the Illuminati.”

    Mr. Snyder responded by informing Washington that he was personally aware of Illuminati infiltration in Masonic lodges in America, and on October 24, 1798, just fourteen days before the letter to the Maryland lodge, Washington wrote again to Mr. Snyder to inform him that his previous statements about the Masons had been too soft. In this second letter, Washington wrote:

    “Revd Sir: I have your favor of the 17th. instant before me; and my only motive to trouble you with the receipt of this letter, is to explain, and correct a mistake which I perceive the hurry in which I am obliged, often, to write letters, have led you into.

    It was not my intention to doubt that, the Doctrines of the Illuminati, and principles of Jacobinism had not spread in the United States. On the contrary, no one is more truly satisfied of this fact than I am.

    The idea that I meant to convey, was, that I did not believe that the Lodges of Free Masons in this Country had, as Societies, endeavoured to propagate the diabolical tenets of the first, or pernicious principles of the latter (if they are susceptible of seperation). That Individuals of them may have done it, or that the founder, or instrument employed to found, the Democratic Societies in the United States, may have had these objects; and actually had a seperation of the People from their Government in view, is too evident to be questioned.”


  • @Donald R. McClarey: I say this with sensitivity, noting the love you have for your country. Your take on American politics and history strike me as that of a cuckold who is the last to realize that his wife has been cheating on him.
    For Washington to “[view] the Masons as nothing other than a social club and […] not take [them] seriously“, it to further call to question his assessment and judgment, and therefore we shouldn’t be surprised the country is where it is.

  • “Your take on American politics and history strike me as that of a cuckold who is the last to realize that his wife has been cheating on him.”

    FM, please believe whatever idiocy you wish to believe about American history, I will stick with historical facts. The idea that the Masons were some sort of sinister force in American history is paranoid nonsense, to be kind. History is important to me, and on this blog it will not be marred by commenters attempting to insert conspiratorial rubbish. When your manifest ignorance about American history is corrected by me, accept it with good grace, unless you are able to challenge me based upon historical fact.

  • A few facts jump up to me. First, Washington preferred to use the word “Providence” instead of “God” or “Lord.” Second, he used Christmas Day – December 25, 1776 – to launch a surprise attack on the Hessians. Yes, all is fair in love and war, but to take advantage of one of the holiest days in Christianity doesn’t sound too Christian to me. (Reminds me of what Israel’s enemies did during the Yom Kippur War, by the way.) Third, if this Washington biography I read is correct, he did not receive religious services at his deathbed. So no, I don’t think Washington qualifies as a Christian. Nor do I think his membership in Freemasonry was that important.

  • “A few facts jump up to me. First, Washington preferred to use the word “Providence” instead of “God” or “Lord.”
    Washington often used Supreme Being and other synonyms for God. He was always at pains not to ignite sectarian infighting, but he also made it plain that he was a Christian.

    I now make it my earnest prayer that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection; that he would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow-citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for brethren who have served in the field; and finally that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation.

    It was not unusual for Anglicans at that time not to mention God directly. Martha Washington did the same thing, and she was always noted for her piety.

    “Second, he used Christmas Day – December 25, 1776 – to launch a surprise attack on the Hessians.”
    The attack was actually launched on December 26. The enlistments of most of his troops ended on the last day of the year. If Washington was going to win a badly needed victory, he had to act fast.

    “Third, if this Washington biography I read is correct, he did not receive religious services at his deathbed.”

    He was buried with Anglican rites. Washington fell ill very quickly and died all in one day. There was barely time to have doctors attend him. Anglicans of course, at least at the time of Washington, did not regard the anointing of the sick as a sacrament.

November 5, 1775: Washington Ends Guy Fawkes Day

Thursday, November 5, AD 2015


The idiotic anti-Catholic celebration of Guy Fawkes Day , observed each November fifth, was effectively ended two hundred and forty years ago in America during the Revolution, in large part due to George Washington.  Here is his order on November 5, 1775:

As the Commander in Chief has been apprized of a design form’d for the observance of that ridiculous and childish custom of burning the Effigy of the pope–He cannot help expressing his surprise that there should be Officers and Soldiers in this army so void of common sense, as not to see the impropriety of such a step at this Juncture; at a Time when we are solliciting, and have really obtain’d, the friendship and alliance of the people of Canada, whom we ought to consider as Brethren embarked in the same Cause. The defence of the general Liberty of America: At such a juncture, and in such Circumstances, to be insulting their Religion, is so monstrous, as not to be suffered or excused; indeed instead of offering the most remote insult, it is our duty to address public thanks to these our Brethren, as to them we are so much indebted for every late happy Success over the common Enemy in Canada.

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14 Responses to November 5, 1775: Washington Ends Guy Fawkes Day

  • There would not be a United States of America if not for the assistance received from the (then Catholic) nations of France and Spain. Kosciuszko and Pulaski had roles as well – their Catholicism is open to questtion, but – no Catholic help, no country. Had the New Englanders not been so anti Catholic, Quebec might have joined in and Great Britain would have been expelled from the Western Hemisphere.
    A consequence is that Great Britain assisted the South Americans in their wars for Independence from Spain (mostly naval battles).

  • In Scotland, Guy Fawkes’s Day is a double celebration, commemorating not only the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, but the landing of “King Billy” (William of Orange) at Brixham on that day in 1689, marking the beginning of the Glorious Revolution and “delivering us from wooden shoes and brass money” (believed to be the concomitants of Popery.)

  • MPS….
    The Scot celebration of this “day” is one big reason I emphasize my Polish ancestry over my Scot ancestry……though Clan Lamont, of which the McLuckie family is related to as a Sept family, has as its Chief an Australian Catholic priest…so those Campbells and other Calvinist clans can take a hike.
    In my reading of history, I have noticed that the Scots usually fought the English…or each other.
    The Poles have fought Mongols, Tatars, Ottoman Turks, Swedes, Germans, Russians, or to put it another way, fought pagans, Muslims, heretical Protestants, schismatic Orthodox, Nazis and atheist Communists.
    I wonder if there are any video games that let one match ancient armies against each other. The Campbells against the Polish Husaria would be fun.

  • Believe it or not, Guy Fawkes Day is still celebrated in certain locations in Rhode Island, one of the places in the U.S. that has a high Catholic population. Go figure. It’s probably just another excuse to drink.

  • As if drinking to excess needs an excuse..

  • Penguin Fan wrote, “In my reading of history, I have noticed that the Scots usually fought the English…or each other.”
    I frequently attend the Church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, near my little pied-à-terre in Paris and, when I do so, I visit the tombs of William Douglas, 11th Earl of Angus, who went into exile rather than renounce the Old Religion and died in 1611 and of his gallant grandson, James, who died aged 20 in the French service in 1637. He was Colonel of the Scottish regiment, renamed « Régiment Écossois de Douglas » in his honour. On their arms is the heart of King Robert the Bruce that their ancestor, Sir James Douglas, flung into the Moorish ranks at the battle of Teba, knowing that the Scottish knights would press on and recover it at all hazards.
    Indeed, the Scottish “free companies” regularly took service with the French Crown, throughout the Middle Ages and right up to the Revolution. Many also saw service in the Northern Crusades on the Baltic.
    One rather charming story concerns my neighbours in Ayrshire, the Kennedys. After the Maid had raised the siege of Orléans, the parsimonious Dauphin was unwilling to fund her proposed Loire campaign and she told the Scottish Free Companies that she could no longer pay them. One of their leaders, Anthony Kennedy laughed and demand of his his comrades, “Since when did we need paying to fight the English” – Now, that was a miracle, if you like. He never was paid, but received a grant of arms from Charles VII that the family still bear, the noblest of any private family in Europe.

  • MPS, I knew you would find exceptions. Clan Lamont suffered greatly due to remaining with the One True Faith…as did my German ancestors who left Frankfurt rather than submit to Bismarck.
    Back to the subject…due to that lousy movie with Natalie Portman, many have become aware of Guy Fawkes, but know nothing of him.

  • (Campbell and Catholic here. Thank God for ancestors who went against the grain.) George Washington’s portrait is certainly not out of place in the Catholic home!

  • Suz, according to the Clan Lamont website, Lamonts and Campbells often married each other. We may be distantly related.

  • I’m a Canadian of Scottish-Irish heritage. Both my maternal grandparents, from the province of Prince Edward Island, are of Clan Campbell and both were Catholic. I have a Campbell ancestor who fought with General Wolfe on the Plains of Abraham at Quebec City in 1759. The Canadian maritime provinces (particularly P.E.I. and Nova Scotia) are full of Catholic Scots who were transported to Canada during the Highland clearances. The Protestant clan chiefs preferred sheep to Papist tenant farmers it seems. Canada’s gain, Scotland’s loss. Och aye!

    Can’t say I share Washington’s well intentioned idea that Canada should have joined the American union, as I’m a proud Canuck, though I very much like the US and Americans. I was proud to hold a Queen’s commission in the Royal Canadian Air Force as a ally of US forces.

    I mean no disrespect but Washington’s portrait would be a wee bit out of place in my parlour, … though that great British patriot General Benedict Arnold might be considered a candidate.


  • Ah, John, if Arnold had succeeded in his Christmas assault on Quebec in 1775, imagine how much history would have been changed! My mother was a Newf, who later became an American citizen. My great Uncle Bill, who joined the British Army in 1939 because, as he said, someone had to show the Limies how to fight, used to call me a Dirty Yank when I was a toddler and I would respond by calling him a Dirty Newf, to the vast amusement of all!

  • “I mean no disrespect but Washington’s portrait would be a wee bit out of place in my parlour”

  • John the mad- great comments. – i’m with you. sort of. Washington hangs in my home office den. The Sacred Heart hangs in my parlour.
    Washington the Great was a Mason and i recall reading incite on his decision not to antagonize the catholics with a Guy Fawkes celebration during the war – was a move more astute as a commander short of good men than conciliatorygesture to a religious group – but bishop Carroll’s own tribute to George the Great is a masterpiece to be found elsewhere and I will not 2nd guess the first Bishop of these United States on this item . further……Bishop Carroll directed all pastors to offer a homily or eulogy tribute to Washington and for ALL catholics to grieve and observe the funeral day of George in a fitting manner – allow me to quote a part – ” the executive of the state of maryland has appointed the 22nd of next february as a day of general mourning of the death of Gen’l Washington , and for a solemn tribute of respect to his memory, I likewise recommend too and direct my reverend brethren to give notice to their respective congregations, to observe the day with a reverence expressive of their veneration for the deceased Father of his Country and the founder of its independence, to beseech almighty God to inspire into those who are now or here after may be invested with authority , to pursue his wise, firm,just and peaceable maxims of government…. we are chiefly indebted to his unwearied perseverance,temperate valor exemplary disinterestedness and consummate prudence……. my reverend brethren are advised not to form their discourses on the model of a funeral service, reduced from a text of scripture, rather to compose a narration such as might be delivered in an academy and on a plan bearing some resemblance to that of St Ambrose on the death of the young emperor Valentinian who had discovered in an early age a gem of those extraordinary qualities which expanded themselves in Washington and flourished with so much lustre during a life of unremitting exertions and eminent usefulness. The bishops’ directive honoring Washington goes on. The very last line is a reminder to all pastors and calls out a reverence which has significantly lessened among Catholic hierarchy “if these discourses should be delivered in churches where the Holy Sacrament is usually kept, it will be proper to remove it[sic] with due honor to some decent place ”

    the historic story of st. mary’s church albany n.y. by rev john j dillon,pastor 1933 p.j. kennedy and sons 12 barclay st ny, ny. pg.80-81
    thanks Don!

  • John the Mad: Why are you mad? As a subject to a monarch, you could appreciate the freedom of the sovereign person, created equal, and for whose individual freedom Gen. George Washington fought and understood and for whom Washington rallied. Freedom from religious prejudice is precious since prejudice is detrimental to the entire community. Religious prejudice prevents the common good and the general welfare. from The Preamble .

Myths of MacArthur: Dugout Doug

Monday, August 31, AD 2015

Dugout Doug MacArthur lies ashaking on the Rock

Safe from all the bombers and from any sudden shock

Dugout Doug is eating of the best food on Bataan

And his troops go starving on.

Dugout Doug’s not timid, he’s just cautious, not afraid

He’s protecting carefully the stars that Franklin made

Four-star generals are rare as good food on Bataan

And his troops go starving on.

Dugout Doug is ready in his Kris Craft for the flee

Over bounding billows and the wildly raging sea

For the Japs are pounding on the gates of Old Bataan

And his troops go starving on…

Anonymous, 1942

Over the next few years we will be taking a look at General Douglas MacArthur, concentrating on his rule of Japan and his role in the Korean War.  A larger than life figure even while he lived, MacArthur has always sparked strong hate and love.  A number of myths have cropped up about Macarthur, and several posts will deal with dispelling these myths, so that we can look at him in the cold light of historical fact.  The first myth up is that of Dugout Doug.

The myth of Dugout Doug contends that MacArthur was a coward, who refused to share the dangers of his troops on Bataan, and fled from them, leaving them to endure defeat and brutal captivity, often ending in their deaths.

It is probably accurate to say that MacArthur was not a brave man.  In order to be brave, in a physical sense, one must know a fear of physical pain or death.  Some men simply have no such fear.  George Washington did not.  Throughout the French and Indian War and the American Revolution he constantly exposed himself to enemy fire while he led from the front, to the terror of his aides, who were brave men.  They marveled that Washington showed no sign of fear, and his only reaction to being fired upon was a look of minor annoyance.

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7 Responses to Myths of MacArthur: Dugout Doug

  • Two questions I hope will be answered in the coming articles; (I am of two minds on the man)

    Why did he not take out the Japanese planes stuck on Formosa (after he knew of Pearl Harbor the day before) instead of waiting until they crushed Clark Field and the B-17 fleet?

    Why did he reject Operation Rainbow and think he could protect all of Luzon’s many miles of shoreline with his tiny army of poorly armed scouts (mules and WWI rifles etc) against the Japanese modern war machine?

    I eagerly await your well-researched info on the man–including the Truman/Manchuria brouhaha.

  • MacArthur deserves a fair amount of blame for his planes being caught on the ground at Clarke, although the air commander Brereton was not blameless. I think a strike on Formosa with the B-17s would have accomplished little other than getting most of the B-17s shot down. The air odds were simply too great.

    In regard to the Japanese invasion, I think MacArthur was initially uncertain how many Japanese troops were being used, especially considering their offensives in southeast Asia. As it happened, the Japanese did invade with around 43,000 men in their main effort on December 22. MacArthur ordered the fall back to Bataan on December 24, which was executed brilliantly, although supplies were brought in only for 43,000 men instead of the 80,000 American and Filipino troops that ultimately garrisoned Bataan. There is much to criticize in MacArthur’s generalship overall in this campaign, although it must also be kept in mind that he was operating in a hopeless military situation once Washington made the decision not to try a risky reinforcement of the Philippines.

  • Thanks Donald. That is pretty much what I garnered from research, though many of the problems on Bataan were the unexpected masses of civilians joining the troops in the retreat. Many of the invaluable supplies were left behind, spread over those many rapidly deserted beachfronts.
    It appears that MacArthur (like his father) was loved by the Philippine peoples (and Scouts) but not so much by his American troops, who (IMO) failed to comprehend the more important need for his command to retreat to safety in order to prosecute the larger war. Wainwright did a heroic job in his place.

  • I will be interested in reading your opinion of his conduct of the Korean War,Did he want us to fight the Chinese or did he blunder into the fight?

  • Mac thought the Chinese were bluffing. He was not alone in that estimate. He also underestimated the military capabilities of the Communist Chinese, judging them by the woeful standards of the Nationalists during World War II. He should have been more careful, since, as usual in his career, he was at the very end of a long logistical chain, and Truman was trying to fight the War with the absolute minimum of US troops.

  • trying to fight the War with the absolute minimum of US troops.

    That’s become a rather bad habit, hasn’t it?

  • I should probably expound on that. I’m referring in general to what seems to have become since the end of WWII our habit of trying to win wars with the minimum of effort instead of the maximum. I think maybe Dennis Miller once made a joke along the same lines. The punchline was something about a conflict not being worth our full attention if it wasn’t worth nuking somebody over.

George Washington, Howard Roark and George Bailey

Friday, December 26, AD 2014

[34] But the Pharisees hearing that he had silenced the Sadducees, came together:

[35] And one of them, a doctor of the law, asking him, tempting him:

[36] Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law?

[37] Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.

[38] This is the greatest and the first commandment.

[39] And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

[40] On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets.

Matthew 22: 34-40

(I originally posted this on December 26, 2012.  It seems like a good post for the day after Christmas, so here it is again.)

Joe Carter at Catholic Education Resource Center has a wonderful post entitled The Fountainhead of Bedford Falls, which compares the fictional characters Howard Roark and George Bailey:

Not surprisingly, Roark has become something of a cult figure, especially among young nerdy males entering post-adolescence. Although Roark is artistically gifted and technically brilliant, he prefers to take a job breaking rocks in a quarry than sell out to The Man. He provides a model for the underemployed, misunderstood, twenty-something misfit by choice. These see themselves in the uncompromising sulker, believing it better to vandalize and destroy than allow society to co-opt their dreams.

Rand herself would have certainly envisioned things differently. She would have sneered in disgust at the idea that Roark was anything like the slacker working at Starbucks the populists marching at Tea Parties. Her hero was a cross between the modernist architect Frank Lloyd Wright and the serial killer and child rapist William Hickman. Rand’s ideal was the nonconformist who exhibited sociopathic tendencies. She dreamed of the minority of brilliant, atheistic ubermensch who would “eventually trample society under its feet.” The vast majority of the people who read The Fountainhead might admire Roark, but they’d never emulate him.

Similarly, Capra’s audience flatters themselves by believing the message of Wonderful Life is that their own lives are just as worthy, just as noble, and just as wonderful’ as George Bailey’s. In a way, they are as delusional as the Randian Roark-worshippers. Despite the fact that they left their small-town communities for the city, put their parents in an assisted living facility and don’t know the names of their next door neighbors, they truly believe they are just like Capra’s hero.

Such delusions are the reason these characters have remained two of the most dominant archetypes of American individualism in pop culture. The pendulum of popularity is swinging back toward Rand but it’s Capra’s creation that should be our model for inspiration.

Roark is nihilistic, narrow-minded, and something of a bore. Bailey is far darker, more complex, and infinitely more interesting.

What makes George Bailey one of the most inspiring, emotionally complex characters in modern popular culture is that he continually chooses the needs of his family and community over his own self-interested ambitions and desires – and suffers immensely and repeatedly for his sacrifices.  

 Although sentimental, Capra’s movie is not a simplistic morality play. It’s true that the movie ends on a happy note late on Christmas Eve, when George is saved from ruin. But on Christmas Day he’ll wake to find that his life is not so different than it was when he wanted to commit suicide.

 He will remain a frustrated artist who is scraping by on a meager salary and living in a drafty old house in a one-stoplight town. All that has really changed is that he has gained a deeper appreciation of the value of faith, friends, and community – and that this is worth more than his worldly ambitions. Capra’s underlying message is thus radically subversive: It is by serving our fellow man, even to the point of subordinating our dreams and ambitions, that we achieve both true greatness and lasting happiness.

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8 Responses to George Washington, Howard Roark and George Bailey

  • I’ve enjoyed this look into the soul of man. Many thanks. When pondering on the concept of, made in the likeness and image of God, it is precisely this self-sacrifice that George Bailey (reluctantly at times) finds himself. The “loosing of oneself.” It is in this loosing that our true identity is revealed…the one in which we see an image and likeness of divinity itself. The death of self is the beginning of a life that surpasses expectations, the skyscrapers bridges and grandiose accomplishments are manifested in the depth of Georges heart…in the servitude to the people around him. They ARE the great works and George is helping to build them.

  • The Church in America was given the choice to sell out to The Man and, alas, her bishops took it. Inviting in the smoke that materialized as Obamacare was not the first such sell out and hasn’t been the last. (Heard a bishop thunder from the pulpit about casting a vote with an informed conscience during the election year? I haven’t. Been hit up for a handout to the Catholic Campaign for Obam-alinsky Development? I have.)

    So I must ask: if the Church’s bishops had chosen more wisely and not sold out, would that have made them cult-figure sociopaths too?

  • Thank you The power of movies and stories as parables is profound, i think, because when a parable is told, whether by Rand or Capra or by Jesus, we get to observe and consider that parable more or less remotely; detached enough that we can draw conclusions and learn lessons without having to fight through the fog of defensiveness. it is happening in someone else’s life, but we can relate.
    “but even here on earth it is not that uncommon to see that our actions do have consequences, for ill and good. ” We tell stories of noble lives hoping they might help guide young people through — maybe avoid some of those consequences! God bless those film makers who are actively trying to “do Good” with their work.

  • To me, the “best” scene is where young George Bailey declines to deliver the poison Mr. Gour (?) mistakenly mixed (because he had imminently learned of his son’s death). At an early age, George Bailey was tested. Even then, he had the maturity and love to see the good and evil and chose to do the good regardless of the personal cost/risks. Even better, George never said a word to anyone about the mistake. The desultory testing of GB follows throughout the movie.

    We are ever presented with choices: good or evil. love or hate, our desires or the common good, life or death. Sometimes, we need to take a step outside ourselves and dispassionately review what we have done, and decide if we chose good or evil. Go to Confession . . .

    We hear a lot about peace at this time. What is peace? It is simplistically the absence of war/violence. But, for us peace needs to be more. Peace needs to be love for God and for our brothers/sisters. It means that we are not only not about to harm our fellow man, but that we will aid him if he needs it; and forgive him if he harms us. Peace is love. It is not that warm/fuzzy kumbaya stuff, either. Peace oftens involves physical/worldly courage, pain, and sacrifice. The rewards of eternal life (which Christ purchased for us by His life, death and Resurrection) are infinitely more desirable than any temporal good.

    Anyhow, the meditation in my Rosary booklet for the Nativity, the Third Joyful Mystery, is to (I add fiercely) desire to love God. And, to think of how Mary so lovingly accepted poverty as she lay the infant Jesus, Our God and Redeemer, in a manger in the stable in Bethlehem.

    And, none of that is possible without God’s grace. Remember when Peter first told Jesus He is is his Lord and his God? Jesus tells Peter, that God had given him that faith and Peter “picked up the ball and ran with it” albeit with a few “hiccups” along the way.

  • Anzlyne. Agreed. God bless filmmakers and artists that strive to promote goodness trumping the commercial aspect. ($) The public is thirsty for such films.

    T.Shaw. That young George was “born older” as his father told him at the dinning room table. Recall the heroic jump into the icy water to rescue his younger brother. And as you mentioned Mr. Gower’s shame concealed by Georges maturity at such a young age. GRACE for sure.
    God has loved us so much and for so much longer than we have attempted to love him. “Behold the Heart that has loved man so much and has been loved so little in return.” Jesus to St. M.Mary Alacoke…the Sacred Heart appriation

  • ( apparition. ) please excuse me.

  • This is a bit off topic, but to me the best love scene of all time is the phone conversation between George (James Stewart) and Mary (Donna Reed).

  • “the American struggle for independence might well have died in the winter of 1776-1777.”
    The American struggle for independence will live on in every generation. Man is hardwired for independence.

Washington: The Greatest American-Part I

Monday, February 17, AD 2014

George Washington

by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benét

Sing hey! For bold George Washington,

That jolly British tar,

King George’s famous admiral

From Hull to Zanzibar!

No–wait a minute–something’s wrong–

George wished to sail the foam.

But, when his mother thought aghast,

Of Georgie shinning up a mast,

Her tears and protests flowed so fast

That George remained at home.

Sing ho! For grave Washington,

The staid Virginia squire,

Who farms his fields and hunts his hounds

And aims at nothing higher!

Stop, stop it’s going wrong again!

George liked to live on farms,

But when the Colonies agreed

They could and should and would be freed,

They called on George to do the deed

And George cried “Shoulder arms!”

Sing ha! For Emperor Washington,

That hero of renown,

Who freed his land from Britain’s rule

To win a golden crown!

No, no, that’s what George might have won

But didn’t for he said,

“There’s not much point about a king,

They’re pretty but they’re apt to sting

And, as for crowns–the heavy thing

Would only hurt my head.”

Sing ho! For our George Washington!

(At last I’ve got it straight.)

The first in war, the first in peace,

The goodly and the great.

But, when you think about him now,

From here to Valley Forge,

Remember this–he might have been

A highly different specimen,

And, where on earth would we be, then?

I’m glad that George was George.

I have never liked President’s Day.  Why celebrate loser presidents like Jimmy Carter and James Buchanan, non-entities like Millard Fillmore, bad presidents, like Grant, with great presidents like Washington and Lincoln?   Officially the date is still the commemoration of George Washington’s birthday and in this post we will recall the life of the greatest American who ever lived.  Ironically in the length of a blog post we will be unable to cover all of Washington’s event filled life, including his Presidency.  We will break off at the close of the Revolution and finish off on February 22, the actual birthday of the man who will always be first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of all of us who, as Americans, in many ways are his children.

Only Abraham Lincoln comes close to Washington in our American secular pantheon.  Our first president, he was also the man who led our armies to victory in the Revolutionary War, a conflict I am certain that we would have lost but for his leadership, faith and example.  In his own time, and from his days as a very young man, most people who encountered Washington assumed he was destined for greatness.  Six foot three at a time when most men were around five foot six, Washington was a literal giant for his day, weighing 220 pounds of muscle, and noted for his feats of strength.  A quiet aura of dignity and command seemed to envelop him from the first time that he put on the uniform of a Virginia militia officer.  He had a hot temper that he usually successfully controlled beneath a mask of quiet dignity, leavened by a lively sense of humor.  However, none of these explain why men and women instinctively looked to him for leadership, but they always did.  Perhaps it was simply a matter of trust.  Although the cherry tree is a myth, Washington was always known to be an honest man, and a man who could be entrusted with great tasks that he would attempt to do out of a sense of duty and not for personal aggrandizement.  Such men are very rare in history, and almost all Washington’s contemporaries realized that he was  such a rarity.

Washington of course did not appear full grown on the stage of history.  When he was born none would have expected him to have any historical significance in his life.

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16 Responses to Washington: The Greatest American-Part I

  • We, the people, and all future generations, are George Washington’s constitutional posterity. (All presidents must be held to the highest virtue.)

  • Excellent work, Donald! I look forward to Part 2.

    Will you be addressing the “legend” that Washington had an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or that he died a Catholic?

  • Alas no Nicolas. I have addressed those in other posts and none of that is true. What is true is that during the Revolution and as President Washington occasionally attended Mass, although he did that with other denominations also. He had no religious prejudice and counted many Catholics among his good friends including the first bishop of America. He did have a painting of the Virgin Mary among his other paintings. As Commander in Chief during the Revolution he forbade the army to observed Guy Fawkes Day:

    Here is his order on November 5, 1775:

    “As the Commander in Chief has been apprized of a design form’d for the observance of that ridiculous and childish custom of burning the Effigy of the pope–He cannot help expressing his surprise that there should be Officers and Soldiers in this army so void of common sense, as not to see the impropriety of such a step at this Juncture; at a Time when we are solliciting, and have really obtain’d, the friendship and alliance of the people of Canada, whom we ought to consider as Brethren embarked in the same Cause. The defence of the general Liberty of America: At such a juncture, and in such Circumstances, to be insulting their Religion, is so monstrous, as not to be suffered or excused; indeed instead of offering the most remote insult, it is our duty to address public thanks to these our Brethren, as to them we are so much indebted for every late happy Success over the common Enemy in Canada.”

    Catholics always had a friend in the Father of Our Country.

  • “I have never liked President’s Day…Officially the date is still the commemoration of George Washington’s birthday – ”

    I’ve grown to the habit of reminding others that there is no such holiday as “President’s Day”, and I think I notice a trend toward calling the Monday holiday by its correct name. Most shocking was last Wednesday; I went to the Prince George’s County Government offices, and noted the printed announcements posted that they will be closed for Washington’s Birthday, and each posting had a large picture of Mr. Washington… (in color). This is something to be only hoped for on the Virginia side of the river…totally unexpected for this inside-the-beltway Maryland county.

  • It is indeed true that General Washington squashed the stupid observance of Guy Fawkes Day among his troops. I remember reading, I think on the website of the US Ambassador to the Vatican, that President Washington (a Mason most of his adult life) was approached by an emissary from the Vatican congratulating him and asking for permission to send Catholic priests from other lands to serve the faithful in the US. President Washington stated that no such permission from him was necessary – a big difference from other countries that demanded and had a concordat with the Vatican giving them say over the establishment and appointment of sees and bishops.

  • George Washington did have many adventures in the region I call home – Southwestern Pennsylvania, then known as the Ohio Country, which was at one time, during the latter days of the War for Independence and a few years after, a serious point of contention between Pennsylvania and Virginia.

    The French were established throughout the Ohio Valley region, stretching down the Mississippi and all the way to New Orleans even then.

    Washington nearly drowned in the Allegheny River in a back channel between a little island formerly known as Herr’s Landing (now home to several upscale homes and known as Washington’s Landing) less than a mile from the Point, then known as the Forks.

    Today, atop Mount Summit just south of Uniontown (50 miles southeast of Pittsburgh) one can find the small town of Jumonville, named for the French officer who met with the unfortunate end. A few miles south along US Route 40 there is the Fort Necessity National Park, which houses a reconstruction of the fort constructed by Washington’s troops.

    The route Washington used to travel to Pittsburgh, originally old Indian trails, is now US Route 40 from Cumberland, Maryland to Uniontown, and Route 51, from Uniontown to Pittsburgh (Route 51 continues all the way to Public Square in Cleveland). General Braddock’s grave is also located along Route 40 south of Uniontown (founded on July 4, 1776 and the hometown of General George Marshall).

    Colonel Henry Bouquet led the British charge to drive the French from Fort Duquesne. Bouquet made his way from York, PA, to Bedford and then on to Fort Duquesne, carving out a path that eventually became US Route 30. the french evacuated and burned the fort, which bouquet took and renamed fort Pitt in honor of the British Prime Minister of the day, William Pitt (a sympathizer of American independence).

    The Fort Pitt Museum in Point State Park in Pittsburgh has many exhibits of this time period, and there are numerous places in the area named for the people and places of the time (Fort Pitt Bridge, Tunnel and Boulevard, Fort Duquesne Bridge and Boulevard, Bouquet Street, Forbes Avenue, the boroughs of Duquesne and Braddock which have seen better days, Duquesne University, Duquesne Beer, Fort Pitt Beer, etc.)

    The first location named for George Washington was Washington County, Pennsylvania (where my parents grew up), and later the home of the Whiskey Rebellion in the 1790s. Washington himself led the charge of Federal troops to stop the insurrection of angry poor Scot farmers who refused to pay what they thought were exorbitant taxes on the whiskey them made.

    The history of St. Mary of Mercy church in downtown Pittsburgh points out that the first Christian religious service in present day Pittsburgh was Holy Mass celebrated by the French chaplains who accompanied the French troops wherever they went or were stationed.

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  • “”President Washington (a Mason most of his adult life) was approached by an emissary from the Vatican congratulating him and asking for permission to send Catholic priests from other lands to serve the faithful in the US. President Washington stated that no such permission from him was necessary “” Incredible. I love this man, Washington, more and more, for he respected his fellowman and his office. True separation of church and state.

  • “The history of St. Mary of Mercy church in downtown Pittsburgh points out that the first Christian religious service in present day Pittsburgh was Holy Mass celebrated by the French chaplains who accompanied the French troops wherever they went or were stationed.”
    No Mass in government shutdown, because Obama owns the citizen’s soul.

  • Donald, thanks for addressing the “legends” in the combox.

  • Thank you Nicholas! Some day I am going to do a post about all the legends that have clustered around Washington. There are dozens of them!

  • I knew two Jesuits, long since deceased, and they related to me that the Jesuits had passed on news that Washington did indeed convert to Catholicism on his deathbed. He sent his slaves to fetch Father Leonard Neale, SJ (the order being then still supressed), to assist his last hours. Neale would only say that everything was “taken care of.” Washington was also known to bless himself before meals. The affair in Pittsburg with the French does not say much for the man however. Seems to me that the French had more of a right to the land than any colonial frontiersmen. British PM William Pitt wanted to drive the French out of the Ohio Valley (and many other places) and push them into Canada. He was the one who ordered the attack on Fort Duquesne. Washington showed no mercy to any of the French that he did catch up with in the 1758 attack.

  • “I knew two Jesuits, long since deceased, and they related to me that the Jesuits had passed on news that Washington did indeed convert to Catholicism on his deathbed.”

    Washington’s last illness and final hours are quite well documented. No such conversion occurred.

    “Seems to me that the French had more of a right to the land than any colonial frontiersmen.”

    Why? They had no better claim to expand into this land than the British did.

    “Washington showed no mercy to any of the French that he did catch up with in the 1758 attack.”
    Quite untrue. The French blew up Fort Duquesne and evacuated it prior to the British scouts under Colonel Washington arriving at the Fort.

  • George Washington gets my vote (the only one that counts) as the greatest American that ever lived and he will never be eclipsed. The historical record proves it.

    Even today he is “First in war; first in peace; and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

    Who would come “within a mile” of such God-given natural nobility: courage/fortitude, justice, prudence, and temperance? Well, maybe Saint Patrick . . .

    And, I don’t care for any detraction.

    When King Goeorge III was informed that Washingtion did not seize the rule over America, he stated that GW was the greatest man that ever lived. Or, something to that effect.

  • “Give the last word to Washington’s great adversary, King George III. The king asked his American painter, Benjamin West, what Washington would do after winning independence. West replied, “They say he will return to his farm.”

    “If he does that,” the incredulous monarch said, “he will be the greatest man in the world.”

  • Thank you for your comments. Apparently I had read inaccurate information. War is hell. I still say, however, that the French were there first. French explorers had canvassed the area long before English settlers began settling. The French had mapped out the territory and claimed it for the throne. But the English were the worst expansionists. Treaties meant nothing to them. Nor did the conversion of the Indians. At least the French evangelized, many dying martyrs. Have you forgotten Pere Marquette, and Jolliet. De Lasalle also brought missionaries on his expeditions. He was the first to explore the Ohio River (1682). You are wrong about the English having just as much right to the Ohio Valley as the French. That is unhistorical.

Charles Carroll of Carrollton: Without Morals A Republic Cannot Subsist Any Length of Time

Sunday, July 3, AD 2011



And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

                                           George Washington, Farewell Address

Charles Carroll of Carrollton, as he signed his name when he added his signature to the Declaration of Independence, was the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence.  When he died at the age of 95, he was the last of the Signers to depart this vale of tears.

The scion of perhaps the richest family in the colonies, Charles Carroll was initially uninterested in politics and, in any case, was debarred by his religion from participating in politics in his native Maryland by his religion.  However, in his thirties he became a passionate advocate of American independence from Great Britain and quickly became one of the chief leaders of the Patriot cause in his home colony.  It was only natural as a result that he was sent to Congress, in spite of his religion, where he was one of the chief spokesmen for independence and happily placed his signature on the Declaration even though by doing so he risked not only his fortune but his life if the British had prevailed.  By the end of 1776 the revolutionary government of Maryland had issued an act of religious freedom, and Carroll and his fellow Catholics in Maryland enjoyed the same civil rights as Protestants.

In 1778 he returned to Maryland and helped draft the state constitution and in setting up the new state government, serving in the State Senate until 1800, and briefly in the United States Senate.

A slaveholder, throughout his career Carroll spoke and wrote of slavery as an evil that must come to an end as soon as possible.  He attempted, but failed, to have Maryland implement a plan of gradual emancipation.  At the age of 91 he took on the task of being president of the Auxiliary State Colonization Society of Maryland, part of  a national movement to have free blacks voluntarily colonize what would become Liberia in Africa.

Something of a Renaissance man, he had a strong interest in science and in his nineties helped set up the B&O Railroad, lending his prestige to this new technology in his native Maryland.

Throughout his life his two main passions were the American Revolution and his Faith.   Like most of the Founding Fathers he regarded the idea of political liberty divorced from sound morality, derived from religion, as an absurdity.  He set forth his ideas on this subject in a letter to Secretary of War James McHenry in 1800 in which he lamented the then current American political scene:

These events will be hastened by the pretended philosophy of France; divine revelation has been scoffed at by the Philosophers of the present day, the immortality of the soul treated as the dreams of fools, or the invention of knaves, & death has been declared by public authority an eternal sleep; these opinions are gaining ground amongst us & silently saping the foundations of religion & encouragement of good, the terror of evildoers and the consolation of the poor, the miserable, and the distressed. Remove the hope & dread of future reward & punishment, the most powerful restraint on wicked action, & ye strongest inducement to virtuous ones is done away. Virtue, it may be said, is its own reward; I believe it to be so, and even in this life the only source of happiness, and this intimate & necessary connection between virtue & happiness here, & between vice & misery, is to my mind one of the surest pledge of happiness or misery in a future state of existence. But how few practice virtue merely for its own reward? Some of happy dispositon & temperament, calm reflecting men, exempt in a great degree from the turbulance of passions may be virtuous for vitrtue’s sake. Small however is the number who are guided by reason alone, & who can always subject their passions to its dictates. He can thust act may be said to be virtuous, but reason is often inlisted on the side of the passions, or at best, when most wanted, is weakest. Hence the necessity of a superior motive for acting virtuously; Now, what motive can be stronger than ye belief, founded on revelation, that a virtuous life will be rewarded by a happy immortality? Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore, who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime & pure, which denounces against the wicked eternal misery, & insures to the good eternal happiness are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free government.

Carroll didn’t think much of John Adams as President, but Adams had precisely the same views on this subject as he stated in an address on October 11, 1798 to the officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the militia of Massachusetts:  “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Most of the Founding Fathers left similar sentiments in their writings.  Something to ponder as we celebrate the Fourth tomorrow.  Here is the full text of the letter of Charles Carroll of Carrollton to James McHenry: 

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14 Responses to Charles Carroll of Carrollton: Without Morals A Republic Cannot Subsist Any Length of Time

  • Chesterton said morality consists in drawing the line somewhere. The problem in America is that the line keeps moving. And, Don, your old pal Thoreau said, “Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something.”

    Does one need to have religion to be moral? An old question that defies an answer. As the resident troll, let me aver that as an agnostic or an atheist can still know the difference between right and wrong.

    Enjoy the holiday!

  • The basis of all morality Joe is religion. Without that basis one merely has opinion which does sway with the times. A great Fourth to you Joe!

  • ‘The basis of all morality Joe is religion.’

    Don, the defense will stipulate if the prosecution will stipulate that the definition of ‘religion’ is open to interpretation.

  • Eskimo: “If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?”
    Priest: “No, not if you did not know.”
    Eskimo: “Then why did you tell me?”

  • Oh there have been many religions Joe. Today the two main schools of thought tend to be that they are equally true or equally false. I of course adhere to the belief that Catholicism is true with elements of that truth contained in some other religions.

    Western man, particularly in Europe, is living off the capital of Christianity when it comes to a common moral code. As that capital wanes over time, so does the common moral code. Winston Churchill, a believer in God but probably not a Christian, once said that something was as impossible as a law legalizing sodomy. We see in regard to homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia and contraception how quickly morality shifts once the religious basis of a moral code fades away. That is also why Europeans, most of them, have such a difficult time standing up to challenges from Islamic immigrants to what were once thought to be bedrock Western ideas such as tolerance, freedom of speech, etc. Quite a few people are willing to die in defense of something that they view as eternally true; very few over a difference of opinion that might cause them to risk physical harm.

  • Albert Camus, as conflicted a man as there ever was, considered himself an atheist but wrote: “I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn’t, than live my life as if there isn’t and die to find out there is.”

    So it’s always good to leave oneself a little spirtual wiggle room. 😆

  • Pascal’s wager in modern dress. A shame that such a promising work in progress as Camus came to an untimely end in a car crash.

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  • One can safely say that a society that abandons its religion-based moral code often loses its civilized state. Compare the French, American, and Russian Revolutions. The US was the only country to emerge healthier. The other two descended into chaos. So, on the macro level, I think that Carroll is right.

    What about the micro level – can individuals be moral without religion? Well, that depends what you mean by “moral”. If you’re referring to objective standards, well, some people without religion deny that objective standards exist. Those people may act morally, but it’d be difficult to say that they are moral. As for those who deny religion but claim that morality consists of objective standards, how are we to judge their actions? By our shared standards, by those that they hold that we don’t, or by those that we hold but they don’t?

    Take a simple case – non-religious people commit a sin every Sunday that they don’t go to church. If we criticize them for it, we’re judging ther actions on our standards. If we accept their standards in assessing their morality, we lose the ability to judge a murderer’s actions by our code. And lest this seem like a trivial matter, recall that Aquinas found religion to be connected to justice, a natural virtue. Natural law and human experience tell us that it is morally good to recognize and worship the divine to the extent that you understand it. So on this basis one can argue that the irreligious are immoral.

    Just a first crack at the question.

  • Don – I’m hoping that this thread hasn’t dried up. I read this article this morning, and I haven’t been able to shake this particular sentence all day:

    If our country should continue to be the sport of parties, if the mass of the people should be exasperated & roused to pillage the more wealthy, social order will be subverted, anarchy will follow, succeeded by despotism; these changes have in that order of succession taken place in France.

    Do you know what he means? I can imagine he’s thinking about the overthrow of property rights in France, but he seems to be implying that he sees the parties of his day pushing in the same direction. The idea that a Founder was worried about pillaging of the wealthy intrigues me, given what we’ve seen in the US since the Great Society. Any insight you can provide would be most welcome.

  • Pinky, Federalists like Carroll were concerned that the followers of Mr. Jefferson would replicate in America the French Revolution. Their concerns were overblown on that score to say the least, although the vitriol of some Jefferson’s fiercer acolytes in the press gave adequate reasons for the fear of the Federalists.

    When demagogues decide to engage in class warfare rantings there is always the possibility that liberty will be diminished by the use of governmental power to seize private wealth and bring it under government control. The Communist states of the last century were the prime examples of what disasters resulted from these policies. I do not fear such an outcome in this nation. What I do fear, and what I think is coming to pass, is that the use of deficit spending to pay government benefits by churning the money out of thin air, is having a devastating impact on the ability of our economy to be productive. This simply cannot go on much longer, and whenever the benefits cease or are greatly devalued, I would not bet against significant civil unrest.

  • What I do fear, and what I think is coming to pass, is that the use of deficit spending to pay government benefits by churning the money out of thin air,

    Although there has been some currency erosion, the resources have not been ‘churned out of the air’ but borrowed from other components of the public and (since 1982 or therabouts) from the sovereign wealth funds and such in the Far East (where income routinely exceeds consumption).

    Congress and the President have been for months playing chicken games which may lead to either a sovereign default or to a government shut down far more consequential than we have seen to date. All of this is in the service of public posturing, gamesmanship, and certain idees fixes. Morals figures into this in the deficit of civic virtue amongst our political class, sometimes manifest quite brazenly and sometimes intermediated through a tendency to see reality as optional.

  • “churned out of the air’ but borrowed from other components of the public and (since 1982 or therabouts) from the sovereign wealth funds and such in the Far East (where income routinely exceeds consumption).”

    And which we have little expectation of paying Art in the absence of a severe bout of inflation lasting years, or currency devaluation. This is all heading towards debt repudiation although I am certain that a prettier term will be used to conceal the reality.

  • The ratio of public debt to domestic product has been as high as 119% in living memory. Were the debt to rise to 90% of domestic product (as it is expected to ‘ere too many years), service charges given common and garden interest rates on Treasury securities might be 4% of domestic product. (IIRC, service charges during the Reagan Administration were as high as 3.2% of domestic product). Devoting around 1% of domestic product to debt retirement would allow the serviced debt of 90% of domestic product domestic product to be liquidated within four decades. (Given normal growth rates of nominal domestic product). We can service and retire this debt, but it would require concerted action to balance our books over the next four or five years and a general policy of running small surpluses over the course of the business cycle for decades thereafter. ‘Tis possible, but ’tis not what our (federal) politicians are the least inclined to do (and Obama, Reid, and Boehner are alike in this regard).