Rectifying Names

a blog on publishing by Bruce Fingerhut

     1. Tsze-lu said, “The ruler of Wei has been waiting for you, in order with you to administer the government. What will you consider the first thing to be done?”
     2. The Master replied, “What is necessary is to rectify names.”
     3. “So, indeed!” said Tsze-lu. “You are wide of the mark! Why must there be such rectification?”
     4. The Master said, “How uncultivated you are, Yu! A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve.
     5. “If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.
     6. “When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music will not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot.
     7. “Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect.”

Analects of Confucius, XIII Tsze-lu, Chapter 3, James Legge, translator

The War against Paper - March 25, 2013

Way back in the halcyon ’70s, when I decided to give up doing the one thing I liked and was good at, namely, editing, in favor of something I did not know I would like but was pretty certain I would never know whether I was any good at it, namely, publishing . . . I met a very smart fellow who ran the Rare Book Room at the University of Notre Dame’s Main Library. He wanted to help a fledgling, aspiring book publisher with some first-class wisdom, which was to realize right away that the book as we know it was dead, that the move away from the formats we experienced would continue, first with the abandonment of clothbound books for paperbound, then with the abandonment of paper for the new technology. I asked him what that technology was, and he spoke to me in soft tones, as though letting me in on the greatest tip in publishing, the one that would put me ahead of all the struggling publishers everywhere . . . the legion of the smart-and-poor . . . so that I could be among the leaders of the coming Zeitgeist. The secret was . . . microfilm!

Glad I didn’t bet the farm on that. Since that time, there have been many formats touted to replace the book. The array of replacements are themselves legion, whether they be new “things” like computer screens or e-books or audio-books, or whether they be some sort of automatic imputing into our brains, there seems to be no loss for new ideas. Like the women in T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, they come and go, talking of Michelangelo. Few of these ideas last a season, and still the paper persists, while all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty dearth.

The purpose (maybe I should say “excuse”) of the new formats, I think, started with the idea that they would be more permanent than paper, but now the purpose is to be more efficient, and by that I mean to take on Olympian ideal: faster, higher, stronger. Knowledge or enlightenment or entertainment (it started with the first but has ended with the last) would just come to us, perhaps come upon us, like a cloud of knowing, painlessly enriching our lives without effort.

The problem is that we seem to be getting more knowledgeable at the same time as we are getting less wise. The data is forever “proving” that our youth are overflowing with . . . well, data. Too bad they haven’t the foggiest notion of what purpose is all about. Faster, higher, stronger may be a model for an athlete, but perhaps not a scholar.

Recently, the war against paper has changed from an argument for saving time and effort derived from a non-paper transmission of knowledge into an argument abjuring self-help in order to save the  planet. This has the advantage of looking for results in happier and more productive polar bears rather than wiser and more productive people.

But the failure of man is everywhere evident. Arafat and Chavez both squirreled away billions of dollars, which could have been a good lesson in hypocrisy if only their minions would recognize it. Take Al Gore . . . please. He preaches the Gospel of Green, even buying green credits so that he could avoid his own sermons about the profligacy of carbon use. That didn’t make him a genius; that made him a hypocrite. What made him a genius was that the company he bought the credits from was his own.

The war against paper will likely branch out and have other iterations in the future. And the few people I have met who speak up in favor of paper do so because books offer a beauty and serenity and permanence (yes, permanence; all scholarly books are printed in acid-free paper, meant to last a minimum of 100 years) and, if we are lucky, truth.

The publisher supplies the good, the author the true, and the book itself, printed on sensuous paper, the beautiful. As the inimitable Mae West once said, “Too much of a good thing is wonderful.”

Comments (0)
The Good, the True, and the Beautiful - March 18, 2013

It has taken a long time, almost a lifetime, but my wife Laila and I agree on most things. I once thought it would be impossible because we each go about evaluating matters in entirely different ways. I ask myself, “is it true?”, and she asks herself, “is it good?” Maybe this comes with the territory of our work: I am a book publisher, and she is a therapist.

Then it occurred to me that the reason we agreed may be that the good and the true are the same. If that were true, would not that lead to the notion that getting along, understanding one another, and having empathy (remember, I’m married to a therapist!) would be stitched into our DNA? Of course, it would be that way only if we were intent on knowing the good and/or the true, and on having some inkling about what was true and what was good. For example, if you want to be sure that some proposition is true, perhaps you might avoid seeking confirmation on the internet. If you want to know whether some action is good (this is harder to discern than knowing what is true), you might seek out great thinkers or (better yet) saints of the past, or, let us say, great models . . . I told you this was harder than merely knowing what is true.

If publishing is not tied to the truth, it is nothing more than propaganda. If therapy is not concerned with the good, it will lead to harming clients rather than helping them. No one ever said that speaking the truth or doing good was easy. The evidence is everywhere that it may prove to be the most difficult action a person must go through.

With the exponential increase in the myriad ways of gaining news, the nation has become more politically obsessed, and politics has devolved, I think, into a reworking of the true and the good.

The press was exasperated with the likes of John Foster Dulles, when the Eisenhower Secretary of State would answer every other question with “No comment.” In today’s world, that has proved to be unacceptable to say. Better simply to lie . . . as long as no one calls it a lie, of course, and the press seems unable to use the term. Access, after all, is far more important than truth.

Nowadays everyone in the press is his/her own lawyer. It started with the press’s inability to call a mass murderer whose deeds were seen by dozens of people “a murderer” . . . no, he must be an alleged murderer, because what is important is not that he was a murderer but that he was found guilty in a court of law. The truth, then, becomes the handmaiden to exactly the class of people who find it in their job description to hide the truth, to reword the truth, to unword the truth.

The closest reaction we are allowed is the reaction of indecision or confusion. So the press may seem to honor people who cannot seem able to discern the truth, but are often outraged at those who are decisive in calling a statement true or false, in calling a deed good or bad.

Politics has a way of diminishing ideas, people, and deeds. Ronald Reagan called for the 11th Commandment, “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.” In our day, that saying has been taken to heart, but not among Republicans, who seem to relish castigating their fellow Republicans. No, it has been taken to heart by Democrats. It would be nice to think (though, I am afraid that I don’t think) that if President Obama announced that, in order to save the economy, every child under the age of 1 should be eaten, that it would not result in a bevy of Democrat Congressmen vying for the best recipe.

What we have today is what then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger spoke of in the talk he gave on April 19, 2005, prior to the College of Cardinals adjourning to elect him Pope: “We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.”

Comments (0)
“They had learned nothing and forgotten nothing.” - March 11, 2013

The quote is attributed to Talleyrand in speaking about the restored Bourbon dynasty after the abdication of Napoleon, and subsequently used against the French socialists and others. It comes close to Einstein’s definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results, though the Talleyrand quote gives us a reason for their repeating mistakes of the past over and over.

America is still a young country, and one of our characteristics is that we are willing to give new ideas a try. But once the ideas have been shown to be a failure, Americans of the past dropped the ideas and looked elsewhere for answers. But Americans in the 20th century and to the present seem reluctant to dispose of those ideas, and will accept one reason after another for that failure; they want to push ahead instead of admitting defeat.

Part of the problem is that when a theory seems right, when a glib and intelligent spokesman explains why the theory will work this time, we find it difficult to resist giving it another and yet another try. So many people seem to find fault, not with the theory, but with the circumstances of its use, as though it was circumstances that failed the theory, not the other way around. Sometimes the theory is then dressed up as new wine in old skins. At other times there is little in the way of cover-up, and Talleyrand really takes over.

Take the Great Depression in the 1930s. America was not alone in going through a devastating depression then. The entire Western world went through that depression, but only in America was it called the “Great Depression.” Others found their way out of experimentation with enormous deficit spending, with taxation that bankrupted the job creators, with make-work schemes for a portion of the enormous legion of unemployed, schemes that not only did not create wealth but were never intended to do so. Other countries did not repeat over and over the failed programs of the past, expecting different results. But America plowed ahead until World War II gave us, first, the market for a revived armaments industry and, later, the entry into the War itself, creating millions of jobs.

So, we’ve learned our lesson from that experience, right? We don’t do such stupid things now, right? Of course, you know the answer.

Sometimes I think part of the cause for this is that ideas are not put in terms that non-experts can see the depth of the problem. Let’s take the $831 billion Stimulus, passed in 2009, and put it in a perspective that all can understand. Suppose you had a very generous boss, who decided to give you a nice little raise, say $1,000 per second (please do not write me, asking where you can find such a boss), and decided to pay that amount both when you were working and when you were not working, so the $1,000 per second raise was for every second in the year. It would take less than seventeen minutes for you to become a millionaire, but it would take more than another 632 years to accumulate the amount of the Stimulus. Now, doesn’t that statistic put in high relief the success or failure of that Stimulus?

Maybe the problem isn’t that we have learned nothing. Maybe it’s that we have forgotten nothing.

March 11, 2013
Comments (0)
“Life is to be entered upon with courage.” - March 4, 2013

The title of this blog is a quote from Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville (1805–1859), who at the ripe old age of 26 came to America on a mission from the July Monarchy to examine prisons and penitentiaries in America. He visited some prisons, but ended up traveling widely in America, taking extensive notes, returning to France in less than two years, to write his masterpiece, Democracy in America, which was published in 1835, when he was 30. Tocqueville likely has no true rival in understanding the American personality and America’s place in the world. Here are a few quotes; you will see that his work is as lively and accurate today as it was nearly 180 years ago.

The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money

Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith

Americans are so enamored of equality that they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom

Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.

It is the dissimilarities and inequalities among men which give rise to the notion of honor; as such differences become less, it grows feeble; and when they disappear, it will vanish too.

A democratic government is the only one in which those who vote for a tax can escape the obligation to pay it.

There is hardly a political question in the United States which does not sooner or later turn into a judicial one.

The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.

When I was studying political theory way back in the 1960s and 1970s, the greatest theorists in the world were Americans of German extraction, all escapees from Nazi Germany. Now, the greatest theorists are Frenchmen, who don’t need to escape their country, though their work is not exactly a celebration of the road that Paris has chosen to follow, which is in direct contradiction to the thought of their famous nineteenth-century son. After all, “life is to be entered upon with courage.”

Among the great French thinkers today are Philippe Bénéton, Rémi Brague, René Girard (who lives in America . . . on Frenchman’s Road, no less), Pierre Manent, Jean-Luc Marion, and Roger Pouivet, all authors of books published or to be published by St. Augustine’s Press. Vive la difference!

Comments (1)
Can We All Get Along? - February 25, 2013

When Rodney King spoke these words, after being manhandled by the L.A. police, he was praised both for his obvious forgiveness and perhaps for his wonderment that the world is full of people who don’t seem able to get along. I am sure that most people sympathized with his desire to have people getting along, because the cost of not getting along is the dog-bites-man story of journalists everywhere and all the time. I don’t remember ever reading an article on the costs of getting along. Here is an attempt.

Take journalists, please!  A journalist may be defined in many ways; one of the most obvious these days is that he is someone who can creatively come up with dozens of ways of avoiding calling a liar a liar and doing so with enough care that he himself will not be subject to being called a liar for not calling a liar a liar. So in America we have politicians who exaggerate, disseminate, obfuscate, embellish, embroider, and inflate, but they don’t lie.

What, then, are the benefits for a journalist to lie about lying? How about . . . getting access, being a team player, getting leaks, having friends in high places, getting invitations, getting raises, having friends among your colleagues, being considered trustworthy (isn’t that a kick in the pants?), the list goes on and on. On the other hand, the chief advantage of calling a liar a liar is having a nice warm feeling about yourself.

Now, what are the disadvantages for those of us who rely on the work of journalists of their lying about lying? Well, how about truth of things? And what are the advantages? You guessed it.

Now some may say, “Isn’t it better to give people the benefit of the doubt in these matters?” But consider this: by giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, we must forego the notion that the other fellow has bad faith. But sometimes he does have bad faith. Without doubt it is not beneficial to anyone to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Doing that means that you need to forego the notion that the other fellow’s word is in bad faith. But sometimes what he says is in bad faith. How will we make important distinctions if “everyone has won, and all must have prizes”?

So the final question comes down to this: What is the cost for getting along? Has tolerance supplanted all the other virtues? (Indeed, for that matter, is tolerance a virtue at all?) I once heard an argument (sadly, from a priest) that the 13th century, the century of St. Thomas, St. Francis, St. Dominic, St. Clare,  St. Anthony, St. Louis (King of France), and many more, was not “good” because people were not so tolerant then. Is the cost of getting along to prefer the super-tolerate, but false and degenerate, present?

Can we all get along? Yes, but at what a cost!

Comments (0)
Miracle, Mystery, Authority - February 18, 2013

On the first Sunday of Lent, the readings concern the Temptation of Christ, the first and one of the most important acts of Jesus’ mission. Certainly one of the greatest explanations of the Temptations came from Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.

“The miracle lay precisely in the appearance of those three questions. If it were possible to imagine, just as a trial and an example, that those three questions of the dread spirit had been lost from the books without a trace, and it was necessary that they be restored, thought up and invented anew, to be put back into the books, and to that end all the wise men on earth—ruler, high priests, scholars, philosophers, poets—were brought together and given this task: to think up, to invent three questions such as would not only correspond to the scale of the event, but, moreover, would express in three words, in three human phrases only, the entire future history of the world and mankind—do you think that all the combined wisdom of the earth could think up anything faintly resembling in force and depth those three questions that were actually presented to you then by the powerful and intelligent spirit in the wilderness? By the questions alone, simply by the miracle of their appearance, one can see that one is dealing with a mind not human and transient but eternal and absolute.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
Part II, Book Five: Pro and Contra
Chapter 5, The Grand Inquisitor
Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

In the first temptation the devil asked Jesus to turn stones into bread, to mysteriously transform the most common thing on earth into the most needed. The Grand Inquisitor scoffed that Jesus cared more for man’s freedom than his security, saying that were Jesus to make bread from stone, he would have solved the greatest mystery of the world and, at the same time, answered the universal and everlasting anguish of man as an individual being, namely, to know for sure whom he should worship! Jesus, in not succumbing to the mystery of that transformation, opted for freedom for man.

In the second temptation, the devil took Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple and said, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down . . . for it is written, ‘He will give his angels charge of you, to guard you.’” In short, the devil asked him to create a miracle. The devil, explained the Grand Inquisitor, said of this that if man rejects miracles, he rejects God. But Jesus’ answer turned the argument completely around, saying, in effect, that a man who believes in God has no need for miracles, which are, in effect, crutches for his lack of faith. Jesus’ answer was that we are not to tempt God. Indeed, the implication is that the devil’s demand to trust God and throw oneself down was actually the opposite of the case, namely, that it was in not tempting God that man showed his trust in Him.

This temptation was a precursor to the taunting Jesus endured on the cross, when the crowd demanded that He prove that He was the Son of God by coming down from the cross. The Grand Inquisitor explained that Jesus, not wishing to enslave man by a miracle, would have loved man more by not demanding so much from him.

In the final temptation, the devil took Jesus to a high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, saying, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus’ answer was not one about the gifts offered but, rather, about the giver, the authority of the source of the gift, “You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.”

As a publisher, one who has subtitled these ramblings “a blog on publishing,” I should mention that each of the answers that Jesus made to the devil began, “It is written.” It shows the permanence in communication that speech cannot supply.

Dostoevsky wrote about the three temptations in terms of miracle, mystery, and authority, and in all three, a lesser lesson is the transition from childhood to adult. In each case, Jesus reversed what the temptation aimed at. In the miracle of the first temptation, He eschewed a materialist vision of man’s place in the world, showing that freedom was more needed, more central to life, than security, that life itself was mysterious and wonderful, made greater, though more trying, through the freedom granted.

The reversal in the second temptation showed that the true miracle was not, as the devil wished, for Jesus to tempt God into saving Him as he threw Himself down, but rather that he rejected that seeming miracle for the real one, to live in faith rather than demand miracles . . . we might say, with St. Paul, to put away childish things. Life and faith are the miracles; temptations are the cheapest stuff on earth.

Lastly, the authority and the gifts in the third temptation are likewise reversed by Jesus, that the giver is more important than the gift, that what we own with Him is infinite whereas what we gain from the devil may best be exposed by reference to the ancient Romans, whose conquering generals would be allowed a “triumph,” a parade through the streets of Rome, but one in which a slave was required to stand next to the general as he guided his chariot, whispering in his ear that all glory is fleeting.

Comments (0)
Which Is to Be Master - February 11, 2013

The twentieth century has given us a new form of political communication: open propaganda. The Bolsheviks called it agiprop (for agitation and propaganda); the Nazis put one of their chief leaders, Joseph Goebbels, in charge of it.

It is very unlikely that most of the most horrific quotes attributed to Goebbels were ones he actually said. Propaganda doesn’t have to be a lie, but it has to be one-sided and constantly repeated. It is meant to influence, meant to bring on agreement and action. It is most certainly not meant to educate and inform.

If you say something often enough and loudly enough (e.g., “the worst economy in fifty years” or “no one earning less than $250,000 will see his taxes raised”), there is a tendency for many to believe it. They may do so for many reasons, e.g., thinking a statement must be true if it isn’t refuted by the opposition every single time it is said, and the upshot is that a large number of people are spouting untruths in the very name of truth because they have heard it over and over.

Now lying or at least tall-tale telling is something that is perhaps endemic in politics. But it has been exalted to a high calling in the twentieth century. What is ironic is that the very notion that people used to say would usher in a more truthful climate may, in the end, be one of the causes of the widespread lie, namely the immediate transmission of information. That instantaneous transmission was supposed to shame people into honesty. Remember poor old Walter Mondale in 1984, making promises to various groups in various locations, without having to realize or justify that promising X to farmers on Monday might be antithetical to promising Y to union members on Tuesday. He just did not realize that thanks to instant communication, the time had come to square all the promises before making any of them. He was certainly not a bad man or, I believe, even a conventional liar. He simply did not have to worry about all the promises being part of one promise.

Now we live in the very Belly of the Promise, but if you think that instant communication will shame people to be truthful, please note that it is not honesty but consistency that ends up being honored as truth, since the words move about so fast and so furiously.

In the past it was bad enough to be ignorant. Now we are doubly ignorant because we think we are knowledgeable, but lack the ability or the interest to keep up with the lies. In the past, we counted on the press to save us from our mistakes, to give us the truth. Those days are over, and likely never to return. The question now becomes which press.

What or who is to protect us from this state of affairs? Must we have instantaneous refutation everywhere?

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory’,” Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t – till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’”

“But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.”

Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

February 11, 2013
Comments (0)
Beyond Bread and Circuses - February 4, 2013

A few weeks back, I wrote a blog about the difference between socialism and fascism (“All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state,” January 14, 2013). I wrote mainly about fascism, and how it corrupts our lives. I ended by asking what this has to do with publishing. Now I want to address that.

What I wrote about before had to do with actions, but books are by their nature something that comes before action, and deals with thought. One would think that the whole nature of fascism has little, if anything, to say about books, and in the beginning, that is so.

What, then can we say is always part of our understanding of fascism? The answer is the strongman. Whether the designation be Duce, Fuehrer, Caudillo, Caesar, or some other, in each case it is a label of strength and power, of extra-legal imperium, one that separates this particular leader from the common run that was supplanted. Such a man is invariably charismatic and attractive, one who may well imbue the populous with great hope. Typically, such a leader offers something to the populous that endears him to them. What first takes place is mild, helpful, seemingly kind, attentive, and gratifying.

These gifts of bread and circuses evidence a rather benign fascism, in which the populous may live independent lives so long as the public policy of the leader is obeyed and dissent is smothered. But a more advanced form, beyond bread and circuses, is often accompanied by or even ushered in when the leader seeks to have the people show their loyalty by joining one or more state organizations. This usually takes place after the opposition organizations have been marginalized or even destroyed.

This state of affairs is still not one in which people need fear being accused of what Orwell called thoughtcrime, though there have been times in history in which “speakcrimes” are imposed. For the most part, however, what is far more common is that people engage in self-censorship.

When self-censorship becomes widely spread, there is no need for book burnings like the ones that the Nazis put on. Self-censorship is the step before accepting the equivalent of Orwell’s Newspeak, the purposeful exercise in forgetting that reduces our response possibilities by decreasing the universe of words that we use for everything from description to explanation. The idea in 1984 is that the diminishment of words will lessen our communication to others, but after awhile it will lower our understanding itself. Like the tribe in Borneo that had no word for substance or purpose but sixteen words for green, the limitation of words is a limitation on how we see and understand the world. Why burn books when the words inside have no meaning?

No, we’re not nearly at this stage, and, no, books are far from being censored. Freedom of thought is so widespread that one might say it threatens to ride roughshod over our traditions and culture. But it is discouraging to think how our economy is discussed these days, as though it explained from the economic equivalent of the Ministry of Plenty in 1984 (“miniplenty”), which dealt with rationing and starvation.

Comments (0)
Responsibility: Taking, Giving, Having - January 28, 2013

Responsibility may well be the principal hallmark of maturation. Whether it applies to events of great importance or lesser ones, whether it applies to taking on responsibility or assigning it to others, dealing responsibly with responsibility lays down a marker in our growth. It may well be that all the other traits of human action are controversial in the sense that none of them is always considered positive by all people you come in contact with. Not everyone thinks positively of another with a broad sense of humor or wise discernment or loving kindness or a happy countenance or hard-working habits, but everyone thinks well of those who can handle responsibility. It is the very essence of being trustworthy.

Responsibility applies to business, school, family, friendship, in fact, in one way or another, it seems to apply to all aspects of life. Sometimes one takes responsibility, sometime ones gives it, and sometimes we think in terms of having responsibility. While these are obviously different from one another, all of them have in common the idea of dealing with events in a mature way.

It’s true, I think, that we are not all naturally responsible in the same way. I, for instance, am probably pretty good in taking on responsibility in business and even acting responsibly, in the sense of doing what I say I will do, but I readily admit to being far from perfect in giving others responsibility. It’s something I am trying mightily to improve upon.

Responsibility is in the news these days, especially in discerning who has been responsible for what in the world of politics. I have noticed over the course of a lifetime following politics that the nature of how politicians deal with responsibility has changed.

Nowadays when politicians say they are taking responsibility, it seems to consist entirely in uttering the words, “I take full responsibility.” The words constitute the act. There seems to be no cause and effect, no truth or consequences. Our shameful media never calls them on this failure to follow up in deeds what they say in words. Let’s face it, in Washington, taking responsibility means never having to say you’re sorry.

But a child (i.e., a person with little or no responsibility) could see that saying and doing are very different. He or she learns very early that actions speak louder than words. The Bible has several passages that bring up this thought, but especially in the Parable of the Two Sons (Matthew 21:28–32), when we learn that the one who did the work in the field (though he said he would not) did his father’s will rather than his brother, who said he would work but did not.

It bears noting that escaping real responsibility by claiming to be responsible may seem like a smart thing to do, but it is not without negative consequence. Putting all those eggs in one basket, based solely on words and not deeds, will eventually yield a rotten result.

January 28, 2013
Comments (0)
Giants in the Earth - January 21, 2013

How blessed has been our country and, by extension, how blessed are we, in the circumstances of America’s founding and the men and women who devoted their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to the process of giving us so much. Below are the six paragraphs of George Washington’s First Inaugural Address. John Adams, having received the second-highest number of votes for president, served as Washington’s vice-president. He later beautifully summed up the nature of his present responsibilities for the future: “I must study politics and war, that my sons may have the liberty to study mathematics and philosophy, natural history and naval architecture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, tapestry, and porcelain.” At the 1992 Republican Convention, Ronald Reagan also spoke of the future: “I have not only seen, but lived the marvels of what historians have called the ‘American Century.’ Yet, tonight is not a time to look backward. For while I take inspiration from the past, like most Americans, I live for the future.”

Yes, there were giants in the earth in those days, but in America, there is always a new day dawning.

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and of the of Representatives:

AMONG the vicissitudes incident to life no event could have filled me with greater anxieties than that of which the notification was transmitted by your order, and received on the 14th day of the present month. On the one hand, I was summoned by my country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love, from a retreat which I had chosen with the fondest predilection, and, in my flattering hopes, with an immutable decision, as the asylum of my declining years—a retreat which was rendered every day more necessary as well as more dear to me by the addition of habit to inclination, and of frequent interruptions in my health to the gradual waste committed on it by time. On the other hand, the magnitude and difficulty of the trust to which the voice of my country called me, being sufficient to awaken in the wisest and most experienced of her citizens a distrustful scrutiny into his qualifications, could not but overwhelm with despondence one who (inheriting inferior endowments from nature and unpracticed in the duties of civil administration) ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own deficiencies. In this conflict of emotions all I dare aver is that it has been my faithful study to collect my duty from a just appreciation of every circumstance by which it might be affected. All I dare hope is that if, in executing this task, I have been too much swayed by a grateful remembrance of former instances, or by an affectionate sensibility to this transcendent proof of the confidence of my fellow-citizens, and have thence too little consulted my incapacity as well as disinclination for the weighty and untried cares before me, my error will be palliated by the motives which mislead me, and its consequences be judged by my country with some share of the partiality in which they originated.

            Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow-citizens at large less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency; and in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their united government the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities from which the event has resulted can not be compared with the means by which most governments have been established without some return of pious gratitude, along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me, I trust, in thinking that there are none under the influence of which the proceedings of a new and free government can more auspiciously commence.

            By the article establishing the executive department it is made the duty of the President “to recommend to your consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” The circumstances under which I now meet you will acquit me from entering into that subject further than to refer to the great constitutional charter under which you are assembled, and which, in defining your powers, designates the objects to which your attention is to be given. It will be more consistent with those circumstances, and far more congenial with the feelings which actuate me, to substitute, in place of a recommendation of particular measures, the tribute that is due to the talents, the rectitude, and the patriotism which adorn the characters selected to devise and adopt them. In these honorable qualifications I behold the surest pledges that as on one side no local prejudices or attachments, no separate views nor party animosities, will misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye which ought to watch over this great assemblage of communities and interests, so, on another, that the foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality, and the preeminence of free government be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its citizens and command the respect of the world. I dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love for my country can inspire, since there is no truth more thoroughly established than that there exists in the economy and course of nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness; between duty and advantage; between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity; since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained; and since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered, perhaps, as deeply, as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.

            Besides the ordinary objects submitted to your care, it will remain with your judgment to decide how far an exercise of the occasional power delegated by the fifth article of the Constitution is rendered expedient at the present juncture by the nature of objections which have been urged against the system, or by the degree of inquietude which has given birth to them. Instead of undertaking particular recommendations on this subject, in which I could be guided by no lights derived from official opportunities, I shall again give way to my entire confidence in your discernment and pursuit of the public good; for I assure myself that whilst you carefully avoid every alteration which might endanger the benefits of an united and effective government, or which ought to await the future lessons of experience, a reverence for the characteristic rights of freemen and a regard for the public harmony will sufficiently influence your deliberations on the question how far the former can be impregnably fortified or the latter be safely and advantageously promoted.

            To the foregoing observations I have one to add, which will be most properly addressed to the House of Representatives. It concerns myself, and will therefore be as brief as possible. When I was first honored with a call into the service of my country, then on the eve of an arduous struggle for its liberties, the light in which I contemplated my duty required that I should renounce every pecuniary compensation. From this resolution I have in no instance departed; and being still under the impressions which produced it, I must decline as inapplicable to myself any share in the personal emoluments which may be indispensably included in a permanent provision for the executive department, and must accordingly pray that the pecuniary estimates for the station in which I am placed may during my continuance in it be limited to such actual expenditures as the public good may be thought to require.

            Having thus imparted to you my sentiments as they have been awakened by the occasion which brings us together, I shall take my present leave; but not without resorting once more to the benign Parent of the Human Race in humble supplication that, since He has been pleased to favor the American people with opportunities for deliberating in perfect tranquillity, and dispositions for deciding with unparalleled unanimity on a form of government for the security of their union and the advancement of their happiness, so His divine blessing may be equally conspicuous in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations, and the wise measures on which the success of this Government must depend.

From the balcony of the Senate Chamber at Federal Hall on Wall Street, New York, April 30, 1789.

Comments (0)