Saturday, January 10, 2009

Does Emerson have anything to say....

....about our current economic condition?

After Christmas, I took my Barnes and Noble fun bucks and picked up a great little gem of a book called The Spiritual Emerson, Essential Works by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I had been reading Emerson in a desultory fashion for years, and this is the first time that I really READ some of the essays.

A lot of people are putting a lot of faith and stock in the upcoming stimulus program. Some of the more interesting opinions have come from people like Paul Krugman (too little for the problem). Others want to know, what is the criteria to see if the stimulus "worked"?

This is from Emerson's Self Reliance:

"A political victory, a rise of rents, the recovery of your sick or the return of your absent friend, or some other favorable event raises your spirits, and you think good days are preparing for you. Do not believe it, Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles."

I think what he's saying is to not put too much faith in anyone else for your success in life. That would include this government intervention into the economy ("A political victory" "some other favorable event" (passage of the stimulus?)).

I said in my last blog, when talking about Peter Maurin, that it was time for us to take back the economy. WE decide whether we get to have hope. WE decide whether we get to spend money again. WE get to decide whether people are hired or not. Not exclusively the government, not the media.

As Emerson says again in Self Reliance:

"It is easy to see that a greater self-reliance must work a revolution in all the offices and relations of men; in their religion; in their education; in their pursuits; their modes of living; their association; in their property; in their speculative views."

"When private men shall act with original views, the lustre will be transferred from the actions of kings to those of gentlemen.

I don't mean to downplay all the pain that is going on. It is very real and will probably be for some time to come.

I want to be thinking of some alternative ways to view the economy.

I realize that it is not that simple just to snap the fingers and make it happen, and a lot of people will call me naive, but I believe Americans have been beaten down so long and convinced that someone else has to make all the decisions - big, nameless, faceless powerful institutions, that they've largely forgotten that the economy is not about Wall Street, or the big banks, the economy is (or should be) about one person making a good or service and another person purchasing that good or service.

I also do believe that the government has a place to HELP us get out of the economic trouble. I am very skeptical however that Congress is up to the complex task at hand.

It will be tough to change those views that most Americans have been fed their whole lives that someone on Wall Street has all the power, or someone in the government dictates how we feel about the economy.

As Emerson says in Compensation:

"Our strength grows out of weakness."

"A great man is always willing to be little. Whilst he sits on the cushion of advantages, he goes to sleep. When he is pushed, tormented, defeated, he has a chance to learn something; he has been put on his wits; on his manhood; he has gained facts; learns his ignorance; is cured of the insanity of conceit; has got moderation and real skill".

I think the most important questions are:

Will we learn anything from this? On the other side of the crisis will anything be different?

One more thought from Emerson on what our attitude should be. This is from Success:

"One more trait of true success. The good mind chooses what is positive, what is advancing, embraces the affirmative."

1 comment:

Vince Patton said...

I'll make a Unitarian out of you yet!