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Posts Tagged ‘frontiers’

I have engaged in an interesting chain of discussions lately that led to an further interesting chain of thoughts.

One of the first conversations dealt with the American Civil War and the effects it had on the 9th and 10th amendments, state’s rights and federalism.  One of the responses from someone at work to this comment was that it started long before, and that basically the civil war was just a final nail in the coffin.  And it is true, the fight between Federalists and Anti-Federalists started very early in our country’s history and led to the adoption of the Bill of Rights as well as it’s inclusion of those two amendments.

A subject that seems to come up a lot lately is the nature of the Federal Reserve system and possibly putting an end to it.  Yet problems with central banks aren’t new either.  Andrew Jackson fought against the National Bank (founded with help from Alexander Hamilton) for reasons very similar to what we are hearing today in regards to the Federal Reserve.

Other discussions ongoing over the last few years focus on the ‘redistribution of wealth‘ issues.  These too have included reference as far back as the founding fathers, even going back to church dogma in the gospels of Christ and before.

Another, more recent conversation focused on the ‘great unwashed’ speaking of people who tend to abdicate individual responsibility to instead follow charismatic leaders.  Instead of thinking for themselves, they echo whatever viewpoints ‘feel’ the most compelling to them.  This discussion focused on the fact that such people always seem to exist and without compelling them in the right direction, even the best ideas of morals, ethics, governance and the like will never have success.

In other words, ignore the people who act as sheep and someone else may not be as willing to ignore them and may ultimately sway them against you.  Looking back over time, the method of governance historically speaking, generally involves ‘popular’ movements and exercising of force.

The gist of the second discussion was that a sound government will not continue to exist if you cannot maintain popular opinion in support of it.  That opinion may be founded in the minds of irrational individuals who do not consider the philosophical issues and do not think beyond reciting what others say.  Being ‘right’ and ‘objectively accurate’ in both your arguments and conclusions will not do you a lot of good if no one listens to your arguments or shares those conclusions.  Or at least supports your right to exercise them freely.

Do all the right things, earn your own way, take responsibility for yourself and you will still be left with nothing if someone convinces a mob that they have the right to the results of your hard work.  Minding your own business will only take you so far.  You still need to live in a world where other people will ‘let’ you mind your own business.  To this end, it becomes necessary to play a role in influencing public opinion as a facet of your own self-interest. (whether it be ‘right’ or not that you need to do so.  Is what is – wish all you want, an inspired mob can still overpower a righteous individual by force)

Thus came up the subject in these discussions, “if these forces have been at play for so long, why are they becoming an issue ‘now’?”  And by ‘now’ in that context, I refer to the past century.

If you take the end of the Civil war as a general turning point, you can see a steady, downward trend in state’s rights, individual rights, individual freedoms and expanding government.  Sure, you can see some forms of it before that, but the rate of change seems to be increasing.

There was Theodore Roosevelt and the introduction of progressive policies, the adoption of the 16th amendment establishing a federal ‘income tax’, Woodrow Wilson and the Federal Reserve Act,  Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal, Lyndon Baines Johnson and the Great Society, James Earl Carter and the creation of the Department of Education all way up to ObamaCare.

So why is it becoming more problematic within the last 100 years? What I arrived at was one word.  ‘Frontiers

All those things I listed above followed the expansion of the US over geography of what pretty much constitutes the modern US borders.  Prior to that chain of events occurring, there were still large expanses of unclaimed, undeveloped or otherwise frontier based land.

Why is this important?  Well, if you didn’t like what government was doing in your particular state or part of the country, you could pack up your bags, load up your wagon and head for the American Frontier to take your chances and start anew.  We’ve all heard the stories about the ‘Wild West” – all the stories about people creating their ‘own law’ or being outright lawless, all the stories romanticizing the good guy vs. the bad guy, the black hats vs. the white hats, even the frontiersman vs. the native savages (with all due respect to native Americans, I refer more to the symbolism of the civilized/rational world versus a barbaric/primitive world view).

But now the frontiers are gone.  People and nations are forced to draw their lines in the sand.  Yeah, these forces against individual freedom and liberty have always existed, but we are running out of places to go to get away from it.  People are increasingly being confronted with the nature of government as they can no longer escape it.

I’d like to make a few predictions.  If new frontiers open, be they space or living on/in the oceans or in the sky, people will flock to them in droves to form newer, freer societies.  If new frontiers do not open, it will result in the ultimate confrontation between the state and the individual – and will suck the entire world into that fight.

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Once when I was in my teens I was exploring out in the woods.  I went further than I had ever explored.  I loved exploring and learning new things as well as finding new places.  I was heading toward a far northern corner of the club that my parents belonged to where there were no roads or marked trails.  I got up into a thick area of woods at a bend in the creek surrounded by muddy swamp that I had to sludge knee deep through to get to the place where I stood.

It was a beautiful summer day with blue sky speckled only with a few, sparse, whispy clouds.  The air was clear and full of nature smells.  The breeze was light and the temperature mild.  I could hear the birds chirping and the sound of the muted gurgles of the river bending around me in stereo.  The thought suddenly occurred to me that my efforts could well be awarded by the distinct possibility that I was very likely one of the few if not one of the first humans to ever head to this backwards corner of the property and stand on this spot.

Then I looked down and saw the deteriorating remains of a plastic grocery bag  a few feet ahead of me laying on the ground…

That was a long time ago and a great many epiphanies struck me in that moment.  One of the epiphanies was revisited again tonight in a manner of fashion when I was reading some quotes from Henry David Thoreau.  One of the quotes in particular reminded me of that event:

“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
— Henry David Thoreau (Walden: Or, Life in the Woods)

I have always loved and craved the outdoors.  Nothing will change that.  But in recent years I’ve gained a love for things such as the works of Ayn Rand.  I remember reading something at one time that she wasn’t particularly fascinated with things ‘wild’, likely due to their randomness.  She was far more fascinated by things shaped and hewed by the hands and ultimately the mind of men.  I can see merit in that, yet I’m still drawn to the wilderness.

This confused me a bit, not because I particularly needed a specific justification to love the woods, but because I generally try to find the ‘why’ behind things that compel me and my interests.  I too find things created by men to be fascinating.  But I am equally fascinated by the manner that randomness of nature tempered by the requirements of survival lead to smatterings of ‘natural order’ in random wilderness.

What it comes down to is the same thing that I have discovered in other areas when it comes to my joy of things made by the hands (and ultimately the minds) of men.  I can appreciate things built by the mind.  But when building things myself, I don’t really get a particularly overwhelming thrill when I build things that have already been built before.

When I looked up at the sky on that day, I saw myself as ‘treading new ground’.  When I looked down, I realized that someone had in fact been there before.  It was still a beautiful summer day, but it was not longer special and my efforts not as rewarded.

Yeah, I like the wilderness.  I like to figure things out for myself whenever possible.  I didn’t read Rand until I’d figured out a great many things that she wrote about already for myself.  Perhaps part of that can be summed up by something else attributed to Thoreau:

“We hear and apprehend only what we already half know.”  – HDT

But more than anything, I crave the frontier…

Out on the border
of a changing skyline
We put hope in front of fear.

And all the heroes
have gone east of eden.
We all need new frontiers.

Journey, Frontiers

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