“In many ways the effect of the crash on embezzlement was more significant than on suicide. To the economist embezzlement is the most interesting of crimes. Alone among the various forms of larceny it has a time parameter. Weeks, months, or years may elapse between the commission of the crime and its discovery. (This is a period, incidentally, when the embezzler has his gain and the man who has been embezzled, oddly enough, feels no loss. There is a net increase in psychic wealth.) At any given time there exists an inventory of undiscovered embezzlement in — or more precisely not in — the country’s businesses and banks. This inventory — it should perhaps be called the bezzle — amounts at any moment to many millions of dollars. It also varies in size with the business cycle. In good times people are relaxed, trusting, and money is plentiful. But even though money is plentiful, there are always many people who need more. Under these circumstances the rate of embezzlement grows, the rate of discovery falls off, and the bezzle increases rapidly. In depression all this is reversed. Money is watched with a narrow, suspicious eye. The man who handles it is assumed to be dishonest until he proves himself otherwise. Audits are penetrating and meticulous. Commercial morality is enormously improved. The bezzle shrinks.”
–John Kenneth Galbraith, The Great Crash of 1929
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Tags: 1929, embezzlement, John Kenneth Galbraith, morality, Stock Market crash, Wall St.
Categories : Economics, History, Psychology, United States
I remember the day President Ronald Reagan was shot. I was an 11th grader, just home from school and watched the now-famous footage of the assassination attempt. Thankfully, no one died though Press Secretary James Brady was left debilitated by the shot he took to his forehead.
I remember seeing a photo montage of the shooting in Newsweek some years later. In one of the photos, Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy (shown in the above photo) was shown jumping in the air, spread-eagle, making as big a target as he could to protect the president. He too took a bullet. Why? Because his duty was to lay his life down for the President of the United States. And he was a man of honor.
Some time ago my wife and I were discussing relationships and interactions. We hit upon a characteristic of this generation, something to which we—though older—are not immune. It is the unrealistic drive to have everything now.
Quantum leaps in technological innovation have taken place over the past thirty years or so, especially with the advent of in-home personal computing. The upside of these advancements has been the ability to do in moments what used to take days, even years.
But there is a downside.
When you live in an instant, microwave, “I-need-this-yesterday” culture, you become habituated internally to getting whatever you want whenever you want it. Unfortunately life does not work that way. The best things still take time.
Here are a few sober earmarks of the “microwave” society:
- Debt. Easy credit has made it possible for people in their teens and twenties to rapidly accumulate lots of stuff that took their grandparents a lifetime of thrift and prudence to purchase. And with such rapid acquisition comes a mountain of debt, including compounded interest.
- A monstrous sense of entitlement. An increasingly litigious society with plenty of social programs as fallbacks has helped to produce a generation of employees who often feel like they are unfairly burdened by the demand to work while on the clock. The result: Personal service is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. This is a trend. Thankfully, there are exceptions.
- A disturbing lack of self-control. We hear often of things being “an emergency” or “urgent.” But one needs to define the terms carefully. A cardiac arrest needs to be fixed now. A plane falling out of the sky needs to be fixed now. But a teen upset at a parent who says “no” to them does not constitute an emergency. Nor a thousand other similar “stresses.”
What is the key then to reversing this unhealth?
Duty is that sense of personal and corporate responsibility that takes the interest of others and the interest of the group before personal considerations. It’s not about me. Or you.
Duty is what has made societies great. Its abandonment in favor of personal fulfillment—others rights and concerns be damned—is what has eroded the same great societies. We don’t have to let that happen here.
Duty means that a man who has a wife or children has a sacred obligation to provide for their needs. And believe me, there is a world of difference between what one needs versus what one wants.
Duty means that an employee gives eight hours work for eight hours pay. Without an attitude.
Do your duty today. It is not glamorous but it is a mark of true greatness.
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Tags: assassination attempt, duty, James Brady, Ronald Reagan, sacrifice, Secret Service, Tim McCarthy
Categories : Appreciation, History, Leadership, Mentoring, Political, Psychology, Self-Development, United States
Our nation, led by a brilliant team at NASA, rose to meet this challenge. On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 mission commander Neil Armstrong set foot on the lunar surface and uttered these famous words, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”
The secret to NASA’s success? Unity and focus.
Diffused light will light a room and help you see things. It might even make you feel warm.
A laser—which is focused light—can cut through steel.
I am stunned by the accomplishments of human beings of every stripe who unify, focus and stick to a task, gathering all of their energies toward one important end. Moveable type. Flight. Space exploration. Atomic fission. Civil rights. The list is endless.
In Genesis 11, the Bible tells the story of a group of people who gathered in Mesopotamia and began building an ancient stairway to heaven—the Tower of Babel. It was quite a focused effort.
And it got the attention of God. God.
God said, “”Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.”
Did you notice the last sentence?
“And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.”
God interrupted the building of the Tower. But that is not the point of this post. God Himself took note of a people, unified in purpose and what they could accomplish together. There’s really no evidence that these people were in covenant relationship with God. Indeed it seems to be this lack of a relationship with Him that prompted Him to break up the party. Because “nothing…will now be impossible for them.”
If ordinary human beings, who did not appear to be seeking the God of Adam, Enoch and Noah could accomplish such things, what about people who love Him and want to accomplish His purposes? Dreams and visions He’s put in their hearts? “Impossible” tasks? (That’s what they said about flight before the Wright brothers lifted off.)
You have incredible potential as you concentrate, focus and rise up to meet challenges. What’s your target? End cancer? Defeat world hunger by developing new food strains? Increase world literacy? Make every published work known to man available in any language in e-book form (the vision of Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos)? Fulfil the Great Commission one life at a time? Go. Focus.
You will be amazed.
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Tags: Apollo 11, concentration, determination, focus, Genesis 11, goals, Jeff Bezos, John F. Kennedy, NASA, Space Program, Tower of Babel, unity
Categories : Creativity, History, Leadership, Self-Development, Technology, Time Management, United States
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
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Tags: freedom, legacy, protected, Ronald Reagan, United States
Categories : History, Leadership, Political, United States
Freedom is not free. It comes at a price. I live in northern New York just outside of Fort Drum, headquarters of the 10th Mountain Division. Drum is one of the most heavily deployed Army bases in the United States. It may be the heaviest.
I have seen soldiers return from war—if they even do. Many have paid with their lives. Those coming home face challenges that only a soldier who has seen the hell that is war could possibly understand. Families in shambles, mental health challenges (read PTSD), some no longer having limbs. And more.
Today is Memorial Day. A day of remembering. Sacrifice is not on the short list of a society given to consumption and self-fulfillment. But it is one of the prices of freedom. Sacrifice on the battlefield and unselfishness, even restraint, at home. It is the foundation of any society that long endures. Its lack portends the eventual collapse of the same. Obviously, we as a nation are in some trouble if we don’t recover once again this heroic virtue.
Say thank you. Just do it. They’ve all willingly thrown themselves under the bus for you.
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Tags: Fort Drum, injury, Memorial Day, remember, soldiers, virtue
Categories : Appreciation, History, Leadership, United States
“High sentiments always win in the end. The leaders who offer blood, toil, tears, and sweat always get more out of their followers than those who offer safety and a good time. When it comes to the pinch, human beings are heroic.” (George Orwell)
One of the most intriguing books I’ve ever read came as an English assignment in the late 1970’s. Animal Farm by George Orwell—the pen name of Eric Blair—is a parable of the mechanics of totalitarianism. He wrote this in 1945. Four years later, he penned his terrifyingly prescient novel of the future, 1984, in which he showed the ways in which the state would hijack our freedoms and privacy in the interest of “the common good.”
I doubt he had any idea just how prophetic these writings were. Big Brother is now watching us. Infotech has facilitated this but it is simply the infrastructure. Laziness and apathy have done far more. We have to stop the clamor for bread and circuses. We have to speak up and do our homework.
Orwell wrote at the time of the spread of Communism in Eastern Europe, the end of World War II and the early years of the Cold War. He saw that Communism and other toxic ideologies are antithetical to the dignity of the human person. In his famous essay, “Politics and the English Language,” he reminded us that insincerity is the enemy of sensible language. If you have ever read Marx or any of the reprehensible euphemisms currently in vogue, designed as they are to cloak evil, you understand.
Freedom is precious. We cannot afford to become surrogates to a state hostile to the values that made this nation great. To couch evil in language most do not understand is to give it a pass.
Remember this the first Tuesday in November of this year
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Tags: 1984, Animal Farm, Cold War, Communism, Eric Blair, euphemisms, George Orwell, totalitarianism
Categories : Economics, History, Leadership, Political, Self-Development, United States
“I learned one thing in Watergate: I was well-intentioned but rationalized illegal behavior. You cannot live your life other than walking in the truth. Your means are as important as your ends.”
–Charles “Chuck” Colson
Well said Chuck. And well done. God grant you eternal rest through Jesus Christ. Amen.
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Tags: Charles Colson, Chuck Colson, expediency, Jesus Christ, truth, Watergate
Categories : Appreciation, Christianity, History, Leadership, Political, United States
I love languages. I’ve spent most of my life learning different languages. Some—French, for example—involved years of school. Others I learned enough either to transact business or read text with the aid of dictionaries and grammars. Spanish. Greek. Italian. Hebrew. Latin.
Nearly 22 years ago, our family took in a family of Ukrainian immigrants. Six people in all and none of them spoke a word of English. Settling into an entirely new country and culture must have been frightening for our Ukrainian friends.
While we knew a few people within 50 miles who spoke Russian or Ukrainian, the task of helping this family settle into American life fell largely to our family. And because I have a love for foreign languages, I took it upon myself to learn to speak basic Russian in order to do day-to-day business.
At the time, I was managing a full-line bakery and had a very full schedule. But I bought a Russian grammar and dictionary and dove in. When working, I propped the grammar on my baker’s bench and taught myself to read Cyrillic script and learn Russian words and phrases while making trays full of cinnamon buns and Italian bread. It was a great learning experience.
The Russians have a maxim that became famous during the 1987 INF Treaty signing between General Secretary Mikhail S. Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan. Doveryai no proveryai.
“Trust, but verify.”
In the case of the INF Treaty, it meant that the United States and the then Soviet Union would give one another the benefit of the doubt, within reason, that they were abiding by the terms of the treaty, which was designed to throttle back the nuclear arms race between the superpowers by eliminating Intermediate and Shorter-Range missiles. The treaty included the allowance of inspectors within the Soviet Union and the United States to validate that both countries were abiding by their agreement.
The operative phrase here is within reason.
It is good to be able to give the leading voices in our world—political, economic, media and religion—the benefit of the doubt when they declaim on this or that matter of importance. But such benefit has limits.
Trust, but verify. This means, among other things, getting second opinions. Hearing the other side of any given story. Checking out references and sources. Authenticating claims. Challenging generalizations with penetrating questions, even if it makes the one questioned squirm.
Nobody—and I mean nobody—gets a free pass in this life. Do your homework. Check information out. If you’re a Democrat, read what a Republican says, not what MSNBC says a Republican stands for. If you’re a Republican and want to know what a Democrat stands for, go to the horse’s mouth—not Fox News. The best sources are original sources. I’d rather watch the movie myself than read the critics. I bet you do too.
The same holds true in religious matters, economic forecasts and medical diagnoses. You are not helpless and at the mercy of experts. Check things out for yourself. Trust…but verify.
You’ll be glad you did.
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Tags: Dostoevsky, doveryai no proveryai, INF Treaty, Mikhail Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan, Russian, second opinion, Solzhenitsyn, Tolstoy, trust but verify
Categories : History, Mentoring, Political, Psychology, Self-Development, United States
A few years back, I sat in a church service and heard the speaker say, “If you were born here in America, you won the lottery.” The speaker, a friend of mine, is a representative for a ministry that reaches out to the persecuted Church in nations hostile to Christianity.
It’s easy to develop a kind of myopia when living here in the United States is all you’ve known. I know I tend to take for granted the blessings that come from living here. As if the rest of the world lives like us.
But they don’t.
It’s been estimated that living in the US puts us within the top 7% of the wealthiest people on earth. For most on our planet, every day is a struggle to keep warm, find food, stay alive and find meaning in it all. 9 out of 10 people in our world don’t live like us. We are so graced.
So today, I am thankful to be an American citizen. It’s given me far more opportunities than most will ever have. My house is warm, I have food, I have a job that pays well. And I can make the most of my life as I choose to exert effort.
Remember this when you have a bad day, when the country is in a downturn, when things are tight and there’s not discretionary income for fun things. We live in a land of opportunity and it’s still the best there is!
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Tags: America, gratitude, lottery, opportunity, thankfulness, United States, wealth
Categories : Appreciation, Psychology, Religion, Self-Development, United States