No free ride

I seldom venture into the local Wal-Mart store, but yesterday was an exception. Sent to find freezer storage bags unavailable elsewhere, I walked by the clothing section and checked out prices. I was shocked how cheap goods can be had. A nice shirt for $7. Sounds good, no?

Perhaps, unless you’re the poor SOB making that $7 shirt.

Or the local business that wants to manufacture shirts and has to compete with this obscene price.

I hear people say excessive governmental debt is no problem. In the next breath they say we need to create new jobs. Then they say we need unions for fair wages, safe and clean working conditions. And, we need to produce goods in an environmentally acceptable fashion.

We do not live in a vacuum.

When we create new money without also creating more underlying real wealth, we dilute the value of our currency relative to the currencies of the rest of the world. We have gotten away with this for a couple of reasons: first, the notion that oil must be traded worldwide in dollars and only in dollars, and second, a belligerent and powerful military combined with a propensity to punish those that don’t adhere to notion number one.

We all, whether we admit it or not, enjoy an advantage created from the spoils of war.

This unnatural and unfair value applied to the US dollar allows us to buy foreign goods cheaper than we can produce them. Multinational corporations, often bearing names that sound quite American, offshore manufacturing jobs to get away from minimum wage requirements, environmental concerns and safe working conditions.

In essence, the stuff you find in your local Wal-Mart and for that matter nearly any other store or outlet where you shop is made by slaves toiling in unsafe and miserable conditions, all the while trashing the planet in the process. And we kill those that resist the plan, directly and by proxy.

The result is what you see all around you.

We are not alone. European nations have long used similar exploitation to live at higher standards than the rest of the world. The European Union is largely a response to losses in power and prestige to the United States and our model of exploitation since World War II.

They and we expect a higher standard of living without questioning where and how real goods and services required to maintain that standard are acquired.

I say there are consequences that come with stolen goods. Call it karma. Reaping what you sow. The law of reciprocity.

There is no free ride.

So, how do we fix this mess? This late in the game, I don’t honestly know, but if someone made me king, I can tell you how I’d start.

First, bring home our troops. All of them.

Second. Institute standards and a certification process for any goods imported into this country in large scale, including minimum wages, environmental standards, and safe and clean conditions for workers in foreign countries. Any non-certified goods should be subject to severe tariffs. You employ slaves; you cannot sell goods in this country, or we will tax the living shit out of you (creating revenue in the process).

Don’t give free money to able-bodied citizens; instead provide employment through projects that raise the common wealth of the country.

Change tactics in the so-called War on Drugs; treat addicts as sick people instead of as criminals; legalize marijuana and dilute forms of drugs created from natural opiates and stimulants; offer the hard stuff to addicts in controlled environments for those wishing to break or effectively control their addiction….

Thereby greatly reducing the population of our prisons; shorter more intense sentences should be employed for anyone considered rehabilitatable (my computer says this isn’t a word. It should be).

Go after fraudsters, allow too-big-to-fails to fail and redistribute resulting assets through auction. Real estate, both commercial and residential is too expensive, largely a result of too much money in the hands of wealthy imperialists and nowhere else to spend it, and values must be reset.

Reduce the size and scope of federal government while augmenting the power of state and local governments. One size does not fit all; to be effective, government needs be nimble and cognizant of local issues and conditions. We’re better off as a confederation, (or union for those that dislike the word) of semi-autonomous states than as a nation where all is dictated from one central governing body.

I am sure a transition to these ends would be uncomfortable, perhaps even disastrous in the short term, but the cause of the pain wouldn’t be the cures I prescribe, but instead the inevitable result of a reckless and immoral imperial model we have applied to get where we are and have what we have.

One thing for sure. There is no free ride in this world.

We will have to go back to work to get out of this mess.

Or, we will fail catastrophically.

Take your pick.

29 comments to No free ride

  • matttbastard

    We will have to go back to work to get out of this mess.

    Or, we will fail catastrophically.

    Morton’s fork never gets old.

    • Don Henry Ford Jr.

      That one sailed over my head. I looked it up, but still fail to see how it applies.

      Our nobel prize winning economists say unemployment must be addressed. Meaning we need to go back to work….

      But try to produce a good or service in competition with the powers that be and see how that works out for you.

      I remember a time when the United States had the best or near best educational system in the world, when our health system ranked at or near best in the world, when we produced the best cars, when we had the fittest kids, the best nutrition, and a fairer balance of wealth distribution.

      We’re the most obese country on earth. One of the poorest educated among developed nations. Have the most expensive health care. Etc.

      How did this happen?

      • matttbastard

        “I looked it up, but still fail to see how it applies.”

        Would you prefer Hobson’s Choice (perhaps a more apt allusion)? In any event, the dichotomy (as you present it) is false. This is not to say that things are at all hunky dory, but rather that your preferred solution of libertarian-neoconfederate fantasyland (aka “hard work”) is not the only option available to stave certain oblivion.

      • I remember a time when the United States had the best or near best educational system in the world, when our health system ranked at or near best in the world, when we produced the best cars, when we had the fittest kids, the best nutrition, and a fairer balance of wealth distribution.

        What time was this exactly, Don? Perhaps you remember a time when you believed what you were told uncritically, because as far as I’m aware the time you remember never actually existed as fact. Do you have cites as evidence for your assertions?

      • matttbastard

        I remember a time when the United States had the best or near best educational system in the world, when our health system ranked at or near best in the world, when we produced the best cars, when we had the fittest kids, the best nutrition, and a fairer balance of wealth distribution.

        Did you also used to walk to school uphill both ways in 3 ft of snow, barefoot? ;) #getoffmahlawn

  • someofparts

    Thanks for the post Don. I appreciate the clarity.

  • JT

    Don,
    I have traveled extensively throughout east and south Asia over the past 40 years. There has been a huge increase in the quality of life for the average person in those countries during that time. Moving from raw subsistence to very modest living.
    I do not begrudge them that increase in wealth. Despite all the corruption and deficiencies of the various countries involved, the quality of life has risen for the average people.
    The decrease for the average American and European ended up being an increase for the average east and south Asian.
    NeoLiberal economic policies (free trade)were more about solving unemployment problems in Asia than here in the US.
    The consolation prize for the average American is $7 shirts and cheap electronic toys from SlaveMart.
    And the average American, infantalized by cheap energy and the 24/7 TeeVee happy motoring American dream, ceded the power of the Republic to the oligarchic overlords.
    Schools are about learning to sit in the cubicle all day, while commercial advertizing is where education takes place.
    There is a price for worshiping at the Shrine of the Immaculate Free Market.

  • Your views are correct down the line. We are no longer producers, only consumers. It is more profitable to the owners to use slave-produced goods to extract whatever wealth still remains in the hands of middle-class consumers (which is left over from the days when we had a prosperous middle class). The housing crash was the last major squeeze and is even now in the process of moving the largest asset of the middle class into the pockets of the owning class. Meanwhile, the wealth transfer continues in smaller ways. Walmart Triumphant, destroying one small business at a time; one union at a time; one job at a time; one economy at a time.

    We used to have a society with some (admittedly imperfect) sense of fairness and decency. Before the owners got greedy. We used to earn the envy of most of the world instead of contempt and hate. Before the owners got greedy. We used to have a political establishment where the good of the general public had at least some level of acknowledgment and support. Before the owners got greedy.

    Greed – for money and power – was allowed to run unchecked and now reality/karma is rearing its ugly head. To a large extent, we are all complicit in our downfall because we bought into the greed for More, Bigger, Better, Faster, Richer – far beyond what nature and economics can provide with equity and sustainability (in resources or people).

    I too recall when we had the best infrastructure, reasonably full employment, goods which were good quality and affordable (how many today recall when ‘Made in Japan’ was synonymous with ‘shoddy’?), when we stood at the the forefront of economic, political and social progress. We had problems; we often fell short of the ideals we professed, but in general, we were a decent country, secure and prosperous. I remember those times, but then, I’m old.

    Yes, we need to ‘reboot’ America, and the polity needs an ‘antivirus’ program to weed out the destructive elements. But then, our real problem is not a bug; it’s a feature. Democracy has failed us or – more accurately – we have failed democracy. Maybe it’s time for a monarchy.

    I support King Don the First.
    You would inevitably make mistakes but you’d be a helluva lot better than what we have now.

  • There are a lot of assertions and little evidence or argument for them in this post.

    Some, like “This unnatural and unfair value applied to the US dollar allows us to buy foreign goods cheaper than we can produce them”, seem based on simplistic and mildly misunderstood arguments about the global economy. The primary reasons the US has been able to buy goods from overseas cheaper than it can produce them are the low price of oil over the past six decades and the inequalities in income expectation that always exist between developed and under-developed nations. To the latter, I’d note that in the late Victorian era and first two decades of the 20th Century, Europeans regarded the US as the place to get lower quality but far cheaper goods – including automobiles. To the former, perhaps you should research the growing return of US manufacturing as oil stays at a high price which makes international shipping far less cost-competitive. Also, as JT implies, the places where cheap goods can be made keep changing – and eventually the playing field levels. It’s not a free ride, it’s swings and roundabouts.

    Some, like “The European Union is largely a response to losses in power and prestige to the United States and our model of exploitation since World War II”, are flat wrong. The notion of a European Union has its origins in the wish to prevent another European great war post 1945 by creating a common market for the raw materials of modern war: coal, steel and nuclear energy.

    Lastly, Steeleweed, you’re in danger of perpetuating a slew of American legends in your comment. Could you define the time period of “used to” in your second graf? You’re surely not talking about any period before 1950, right? There are major problems with post-1950 too; if you were a woman, black, a leftie tarred by the McCarthyist witch-hunt or a citizen of several US-occupied and CIA-meddled nations none of your “used to”s applied then either. I’d argue there was no “Golden Age” except for those from a very select demographic.

    • Don Henry Ford Jr.

      Unlike some of the responses above, this is a reasoned argument.

      Look, I’m not trying to rewrite history here and in so doing paint a picture about the lost greatness of these United States and the era in which I lived. I too have studied history and know that we had the crap we now have throughout our past; American imperialism was decried and well-documented by people like Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) in previous manifestations but the madness and also the bright spots tend to come in waves and the world I grew up in was very different from what I see today.

      I am at a disadvantage; I lived through this time and don’t need to look it up on a computer to know what I am talking about. I must say however that my generation had little or nothing to do with the benefits of American life I enjoyed as a youth, but instead were the recipients of those benefits earned by previous generations.

      I didn’t need a computer to know that a pair of white mule gloves cost a bit more but outlasted the foreign competitor five to one, that there was no substitute anywhere in the world for a hand-crafted American saddle made with real American leather, that American made levis and wrangler jeans were the standard for a cowboy. There’s no such thing as American made leather today, not one single tannery survived off-shoring.

      No kid dreamed of driving a Datsun or God forbid a Toyota when a camaro, corvette, t-bird or charger cruised these streets and the workers that made those cars enjoyed decent living standards with benefits and a retirement. When we argued pickups, Ford or Chevy were the only logical choices.

      Titles to land and property were iron-clad; those in debt knew who held the note.

      America was the world’s largest creditor, today we owe the largest debt.

      We consistently won the Olympics with amatuer athletes, the heavyweight boxing champion and the 100 yard dash were givens.

      People flocked to the US from around the world to get a first-class education. To be honest, my parents were better educated than my generation; I still remember the shock of learning that my dad could recite the periodic table of elements from memory while I struggled through freshmen chemistry.

      The divide between rich and poor was much less apparent and there really was such a thing as a large and prosperous middle class.

      Crooked politicians and bank fraudsters had their day, but they also faced the wrath of the nation when they got caught, ala Richard Nixson and crew.

      My simplistic view of the petrodollar and its affect on the world economy happens to be correct. Did you know that almost 2/3 of the world’s money is denominated in American Dollars? How do you propose that came about? This was a bull-shit scam and the scam worked all too well. How the world manages to extricate itself from this arrangement remains to be seen, but it has to happen.

      (Dollar’s reign to end.)

      The kids I grew up with are largely responsible for creating the crap you see around us, but your generation one-upped the evil plans we devised and is not without fault. Only thing is, the law of diminishing returns asserted itself before you could receive full benefit.

      The day of reckoning has arrived for all of us.

      • matttbastard

        So, shorter: you really, really enjoyed the fruits of the Post-WWII economic expansion and firmly believe that anecdote is the plural of data (“I lived through this time and don’t need to look it up on a computer to know what I am talking about” — because your personal experiences/impressions are obviously universal and infallible, amirite?)

        • dk

          quit being an ass, please.

        • matttbastard

          To be less glib (or “assy”, if you please): Don, I don’t doubt that you had an awesome childhood; I appreciate your patience in responding (especially since I tend to have a sharp tongue at times). However, Steve’s point as I interpreted it was that you made numerous unsupported assertions that were misleading and, in certain instances, clearly and demonstrably false. This has nothing to do with computers or generation gaps (you do realize that Steve is around your age if not older, yes?) but on basic conventions of argumentation.

          So I hope you’ll forgive me if I am skeptical of your final diagnosis when the facts that apparently inform it don’t seem to add up.

      • JustPlainDave

        I think you should be extremely wary of policy prescriptions that have doom as their motivator. What this reminds me of more than anything is one of the sayings with continued currency amongst my little group of cynics – “No one in IDF Intelligence ever got fired for being overly pessimistic”.

        Bottom lines:

        1) The major component for much of the domestic stuff that you’re talking about is in the main relatively recent (call it the last 20 years). The origins can be tracked back much further, but this set of problems is man made and man fixable over a relatively short horizon. It also has the advantage of being driven by a relatively small number of mechanisms and addressable by a pretty compact set of policies.

        2) The foreign stuff is not in the main due to some American fall from grace – it’s due to the fact that everyone else has risen. There are whole continents that are essentially unrecognizable from the late 80′s. From where I’m sitting, that’s not something to cry over, that’s something to celebrate and adapt to – massive option sets are coming on line over medium-term timelines if one can resect cranium from rectum (just ask the Chinese – they’re executing unhampered by this sort of navel gazing).

        Me, personally, all this doom all the time stuff really reminds me how much the zeitgeist of the times is boomer driven. Frankly, from the perspective of a non-boomer, we’d all be a lot better off if the old “don’t trust anyone over 30″ wasn’t continually manifested as “don’t listen to anyone else”.

        • matttbastard

          Me, personally, all this doom all the time stuff really reminds me how much the zeitgeist of the times is boomer driven. Frankly, from the perspective of a non-boomer, we’d all be a lot better off if the old “don’t trust anyone over 30″ wasn’t continually manifested as “don’t listen to anyone else”.

          Growing up during the Cold War is a key factor, I think (esp. with regards to doom-based policy prescriptions).

      • Don,

        “I lived through this time and don’t need to look it up on a computer to know what I am talking about.”

        I was born in 64. You can’t be a whole lot older than me.

        “There’s no such thing as American made leather today, not one single tannery survived off-shoring.”

        Factually incorrect. Google “American Tannery”.

        “No kid dreamed of driving a Datsun or God forbid a Toyota when a camaro, corvette, t-bird or charger cruised these streets”

        In Europe at the same time, we kids talked about Rolls Royce, Daimler, TVR, Lamourgini and Ferrari. At the middle-class affordable end it was Mercedes and BMW – Peugot and VW if you wanted a “hot hatch”. American power cars were seen as of poorer build quality than all of those and were gas guzzlers to boot.

        Re the US Dollar’s position: the reason it is the world’s reserve currency is that US geography made it an economic superpower. The reason it will stay is that it’s still in better shape than everyone else’s currency – including China’s.

        Why The U.S. Dollar Is Still ‘King Of The Currency World’

        U.S. dollar is still the world’s most trusted currency

        Finally: what JPD said.

        • Don Henry Ford Jr.

          “There’s no such thing as American made leather today, not one single tannery survived off-shoring.”

          Factually incorrect. Google “American Tannery”.

          At D&D Farm and Ranch, a megastore for cowboys in Seguin, Texas, you’ll play hell to find an American made pair of boots. Those sold as American made are actually assembled across the bridge from El Paso, Texas in Juarez.

          I googled American tanneries. Most of the listings are in fact taxidermists and small scale producers. So, factually, I was incorrect, as you suggest. In spirit however, I wasn’t far off the mark. Most major leather tanneries in North America moved to Mexico; the green hides go there and come back “American Made leather”.

          The pipe used in our oil wells moves from gathering points–junk yards–across the ocean to China and then back across the ocean to the US.

          I write around a full time job, actually a number of full time jobs. I don’t have time to fact check and most of what I say is ancedotal. I got up at 3:30 am to write this piece, the original was posted somewhere around 6 am and I got done irrigating at around 8 pm that evening after a full day’s work.

          I looked up the links you provided on the dollar only to discover that they support what I said.

          The dollar holds its value because everyone is holding them and must have them to conduct international trade. How can you devalue 2/3 of the world’s money without destroying your own holdings?

          Americans benefit greatly from this comparative advantage, being the only country that created dollars out of thin air, but the day draws near when all of that changes. Continued creation of money from nothing without corresponding increases in real wealth to back that currency accelerates that change.

  • Lex

    What’s interesting is that there’s a regular contributor here who almost always offers nothing but anecdote and assertions with little to no evidence, and yet never gets questioned by the editorial board. Maybe just confirmation bias, maybe a grudge, i don’t know. It’s just weird.

    I don’t agree with everything in your post, Don, but i certainly see your point. And while i don’t believe that the federal government is always bad, i’m long past the point where i’m ready to seriously contemplate dissolution of the union and reformation of one that’s a little more perfect than our current mess. Part of that stems from being tired of seeing my state consistently give more to the federal government than it receives while the people from states that take more than they give (like Texas) complain about the federal government, socialism, etc.

    Steve’s assertion about manufacturing moving back is true to some extent, but it’s mostly based on companies realizing that the labor savings were always offset by other costs of offshoring production. Jobs will come back, but they’ll be fewer to produce the same quantity of goods.

    We’re in a bind, because Americans (most of them) are believers in utilitarian individualism. The savings on that shirt for them justify everything else, including leaving the WalMart worker on the government dole. Few of us are willing to pay more for quality when cheep and disposable works just fine.

    • matttbastard

      I love you too, Lex. :)

    • Lex,

      “What’s interesting is that there’s a regular contributor here who almost always offers nothing but anecdote and assertions with little to no evidence, and yet never gets questioned by the editorial board.”

      Care to name a name? I will review their body of work and if I think your complaint has merit I’ll privately talk to them about offering more evidence.

      “Jobs will come back, but they’ll be fewer to produce the same quantity of goods” That’s called technological progress and is a universal of human history. It takes far fewer to run a farm than it did in Roman or even Colonial days, for example. The benefits of that are those spare people don’t need to be (often literally) slaves to the land any more and can do other productive work if they are educated to do so. That in fact has been one of the bases of the American economy’s growth since at least the time of Henry Ford’s conveyor belts. There’s no use protesting a universal human truth, but there’s a point to protesting a lack of that needed education which turns that universal truth into a positive.

      • matttbastard

        I’m going to take a wild stab in the dark and guess that the scurrilous culprit’s pseud rhymes with ‘cat-plastered’.

        Hope his neoliberal ass gets nailed to the wall when the revolution comes.

  • Don Henry Ford Jr.

    There’s some interesting stuff in the replies and I won’t respond to each individually other than to say what I offer is personal opionion and certain to be flawed.

    The rest of the world has changed, dramatically and most of our “problems” are creations of the last 30 years (as opposed to 20).

    Beleive me when I say when it comes to cutting costs, programs for the poor and needy would be last on the list in my book.

    I loathe bailouts of the rich, especially when those that gained their current advantage got what they have through fraud and deception.

    The huge amount of unreconciled debt, worldwide, will come to haunt us.

    And only time will decide the matter.

    With respect to all….

    • matttbastard

      I think a lot of things worldwide that took root in the latter half of the 20th century will come back to haunt us. Long-term contingency planning isn’t something that liberal democracy (or neoliberal internationalism) does very well (as currently practiced, at least).

  • Some thoughts on the comments:
    Don’t discount ‘anecdotal evidence’ or over-trust ‘official’ evidence.

    I’ve seen a lot of ‘official, scientific, researched’ documentation that later proved to be total bull. At least the ‘anecdote’ is based on real experience instead of pseudo-facts carefully cherry-picked to support a predetermined agenda.

    The Great Salt Scare caused the food industry to retool (at significant expense) to avoid sodium in any formulation on the ground it causes hypertension.
    That was the Official position.
    I consume rather high amounts of salt and my BP is around 115/65.
    I should disbelieve that fact as ‘anecdotal’?
    (Years and dollars later, it was discovered that it was not all sodium compounds but specifically common table salt and it usually affects people who are hypertense or have an genetic tendency toward hypertension).

    Anecdotal: As a kid, I noticed that sudden exposure to bright light made me sneeze.
    Official: I was assured by several doctors and a couple of professors that it was coincidental or imaginary.
    (Thirty years later scientists ‘discover’ the reason some people sneeze on sudden exposure to bright light).

    We should remember that most scientific discoveries stem from someone curious enough to investigate an anecdotal experience.

    Life In These United States.
    I was born in 1937, so I suppose that means I grew up with the legacy of the New Deal, plus the post-WWII Boom. I was certainly aware of the inequalities of our society: our treatment of Indians, blacks, women, Mexicans, non-Anglo immigrants.
    I looked at that as America failing to live up to its professed ideals and it was a matter for shame.
    I would remark that at least we tried and we inspired much of non-European world to try to emulate our ideals.
    As S.V.Benet remarked:

    “Oh yes, I know the faults and the other side, The lyncher’s rope, the bought justice, the wasted land, The scale on the leaf, the borers in the corn, The finks with their clubs, the gray sky of relief, All the long shame of our hearts and the long disunion. I am merely remarking — as a country, we try. As a country, I think we try.

    The fight for equal rights for blacks, women and minorities did not arise from a vacuum. It happened because an entire generation worked to teach others – politicians, the next generation, their neighbors – that changes had to be made.

    Re concern for the General Good:
    Roosevelt, Nelson Rockefeller, JFK all grew up wealthy, but they had a sense of noblesse oblige which I find lacking in current political circles. There are certainly wealthy philanthropists who are trying to improve the world but damn few of them are involved in politics – the wealthy folks in politics seem mostly to be decidedly misanthropic. LBj grew up dirt-poor but in his rise to power, he never forgot his roots. Many today who look at politics as a road to riches are all too happy to abandon (and pillage) the world they came from.

    USA as a model:
    We have engaged in empire building since the early 1600′s, both at home and abroad. We have used politics and military to support/advance capitalists’s interest and are still doing so. Just like other countries, to the extent they are able. (Being more able, we have a bigger effect). Welcome to Realpolitik.
    There is a natural tendency to look at what we have taken from the world – and it’s undoubtedly more than our share. But it is also worth looking at what countries give to the world. At the very least, it was America which demonstrated that it was possible to establish a more-or-less free country, run so as to let the Common Man attain a living previously unavailale to him. Do you think the French Revolution would have happened without our model? The uprisings of 1848? The many nationalist revolutions of the 20th Century? The Arab Spring? One could say that other peoples naively believed in us, just as most of us were taught to believe as children. Discovering that we are imperfect is a motivation to rectify our imperfections but it is not a reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

    • Don Henry Ford Jr.

      You’re from the same generation as my parents, perhaps the glue that keeps this nation alive. According to Strauss and Howe, the silent generation, disregarded, un-respected.

      I for one appreciate your insight.

      With all the talk of demise, people often think I’m pessimistic. Truth is, I think of a partial breakdown as the cure to what ails us, not the disease.

      History is circular, not linear, not unlike the trajectory of a sucessful sports team. There’s birth, maturation, a reaping of reward, and finally the fall from grace, to be followed by rebirth in some cases, good Lord willing.

      There are decidely marked differences between generations, boundaries that change attitudes in a matter of months or a single year.

      I have brothers and a sister that are Gen-Xers, yet are only a few years younger than I.

      I remember when JFK was assasinated, the Beatles invasion, watching newscasts that tallied death tolls from Viet-Nam personally. They don’t. I hung out with kids my own age or older. There was a chasm, even in childhood between me and my younger siblings and their friends.

      My own children straddle two generations: Genxers and Millennials, with a huge corresponding divide in attitude.

      The American Dream was real, if only a dream; implementation has always been a battle. At times we have won, at times we lost, outcomes were more varying shades of gray than black and white.

      I see hope, as in the current station of seasons, the darkest days have passed and our days gradually begin to lenghten. But the effects of the darkness from which we are emerging have not been fully recognized, not have the books been fully reconciled.

      The coldest weather often comes in the month of January and February.

      I’d be remiss not to warn others of the hard times which I believe still lie ahead, even if I know that in so doing my message will not be well received.

      Blessings to you, sir.

  • Thanks for the Ride Don
     
    I hopped aboard for the ride early Friday morning (1-4-13) Don, when I saw the notification on the Blogger Dashboard that you had a new post up on your Unrepentant Cowboy blog.  “Buy the ticket, take the ride,” said Hunter S. Thompson.  I gave a thought…, a brief one…, about holding off and reading it on The Agonist on Friday night.  Like the old days…, when you were posting regular Sabbath Eve pieces.  Yeah…, back when I could look forward to reading a piece by you and offering a comment… and look forward to catching up on all the weeks comments I missed.  1000 of them if need be.  Sadly, those days are gone.  I’m lucky if I can catch up on one day’s comments in the new format.  So I punched that ticket and took that ride about 4:30 Friday morning on your Blog.
     
    And what a ride…, thanks again partner.  From your garden and it’s fruits and vegetables that need freezer bags for storage as a hedge against the leaner times…, if not worse than just leaner…, maybe one whole heck of a lot meaner times.  No, you didn’t have to spell that out for me…, I get it.  You don’t have to explain to me how the fair wages you speak of are not paid to Walmart employees, or that many are also collecting food stamps and getting their medical care from hospital emergency rooms so Walmart can keep selling that Singapore shirts at seven dollars.  That ticket has been punched a number of times…, but it doesn’t hurt to shake as many passengers as possible awake every now and again.  You may never be able to shake them all awake…, but I appreciate your effort.  I get it Don.
     
    The ride touched issues far and worldwide, from debt, jobs, taxes, and the environment, to oil prices and military exploitation.  You don’t have to explain it to me what you mean when you say, “… we expect a higher standard of living without question where and how real goods and services required to maintain that standard are acquired.”  You don’t have to provide me with the numbers to back it up.  I wouldn’t remember them anyway.  If I did, I would throw in here the percentage of resources (particularly energy) the US and Europe burn up in comparison to the third world countries in proportion to their populations.  I get it Don.  What once seemed like a free ride…, if not over now…, isn’t far off.  Whether the rails of that ride were lubricated with King Coal, or Black Gold, or Greasy Dollars matters not.  I get it Don.
     
    Your reign as King…, long live the King !!!  Well…, for as long as climate change allows it anyway.  A list of six things, for a “start”, you are careful to say…, and you are also honest enough to say that you don’t know that it is not too late already.  1.  Huge cuts in military spending could go a long way toward balancing some budgets both fiscal and diplomatic.  2.  We might need some of that tariff money to help off-set the price increases to us in those Walmart shirts.  3.  Numerian has a great piece up over here The Permanent Dependency Class that somewhat addresses that.  4.  Good signs here with WA and CO leading the way and standing up to the Feds.  5.  We have to keep Wall Street and the Banksteers alive (too much pension and IRA money could find its way into the pockets of guys like Corzine [and disappear] if it looks like they are going to die)…, but they should have to beg to stay alive…, not be bailed out to pay huge bonuses to executives.  6.  I don’t know…, that sounds a lot like what Europe looks like to me…, but as long as you are the King.  I get it Don.
     
    “Buy the ticket, take the ride,” said HST.  Do you suppose he would tell you what he meant by that if you asked him Don?  Do you suppose he would say that he had a very precise meaning in mind?  Don’t worry partner…, I would no more ask him that if I ran into him at the end of my ride…, than I would ask you now, what you meant by, “We will have to go back to work to get out of this mess.”  I recognize the ambiguity.  I know you meant that we need get to work on jobs for the jobless…, we need to get to work on a more fair trade system between first world and third world countries…, that we need to get to work changing more laws that target young men (particularly minorities) for incarceration…, we need to get to work changing the way money is flying to the top 1% and flying right by the other 99%…, we need to get to work on a more equitable tax system…, we need to get to work recognizing how our actions affect other countries and taking corrective action if it is having a negative impact…, we need to get to work preparing for climate change and doing what we can to mitigate it.  And we need to get to work in our gardens.  I get it Don.
     
    That Friday morning you took me for a ride before I took the bus ride to the job with Tom McGuane and his “Driving on the Rim” in hand.  It was even a nice day at the job, then a ride home with a quick taste of Tom and a refreshing nap.  At The Ranch I fed the horses, snatched a few beers from The Saddle Bar(n) for the house, caught the last of The News Hour, then a whole segment of Bill Moyers on climate change.  The beers barely kept pace with the sobering message of the show.  Then it was off to the computer in the office/library of a spare bedroom.  I was even thinking that maybe I should submit a link to the Moyers show to The Agonist…, after I concocted something that probably only I would find witty and amusing to comment on your piece.  But I never got passed reading the comments.  I don’t get it Don?
     
    My usual Friday night ritual includes the on-line version of the weekly local paper from back home in Idaho, the weekly Archdruid Report, The Automatic Earth, Facebook…, and more beer.  The only thing I could get to that night was the beer…, and plenty of that.  The more I studied the comments the more confused and angered I became.  It just wasn’t making any sense to me.  I am no literary scholar by any means, but I have a couple of years of English Comp on my resume and I once took a Creative Writing course under Robert Wrigley.  I thought it might have been the beer that was clouding my judgment and I was just over reacting to some valid criticism of one of my favorite writers, criticism that was meant to be constructive in nature.  I thought maybe my thoughts might be clearer in the morning, after a good night’s sleep.  I had a few more beers to insure that was possible…, the sleep that is.  I just didn’t get it?
     
    Saturday morning I tried again…, for hours.  I still could not see any cause for criticism of the piece overall that moved past the point of petty and unwarranted.  I began to wonder if the comments were really personal attacks veiled as criticism.  I couldn’t get over my anger…, and many years of unsound decisions made in anger have tempered my reactions to it a bit in my old age.  So I just posted a comment that I was going to try to work out a few frustrations doing chores.  I got out to the barn with the shovel and wheelbarrow.  I have been doing this five or six years with that old patched together shovel handle.  I broke it on Saturday.  I don’t get it?
     
    Don, partner…, you have been an integral part of my Agonist experience for as far back as I can remember.  It was the inspiration from your writing that resulted in our garden…, and I still cuss you because of all the perspiration it has caused me.  But other than that, I can find no fault with you…, or your writing.  I certainly appreciate the precious time to write that you somehow manage to pare away from all the duties and responsibilities that make up a life that few…, if any…, men that I have known could emulate.  And believe me partner…, I have known some damn good men in my 60 years.  Some folks like highly polished, technical writing.  I prefer the raw power that I feel when I read your stuff.  You don’t tell me how or what to think…, you make me think on my own.  You make me see things I’ve never seen.  You may pick me up at times, you may slam me down at times…, but you always make me feel it and there is no doubt which way you are taking me.  But it is always my decision what I do when you get me there.  You have a natural talent and a unique style Don.  It always shines through no matter how rough a draft you present.  I envy your talent and wish I could write like you and make people feel the way you make me feel.  And…, I think I am beginning to get it now Don.
     
    Right on partner…, write on.  For what it’s worth…, I’ll be buying the ticket and taking the ride over at The Unrepentant Cowboy from here on out.
     

    • Don Henry Ford Jr.

      Scott,

      I appreciate your note. Really.

      But I know myself. I am a flawed human being, capable of misleading.

      I try to take challenges to what I say or write as a sort of cleansing fire. Sometimes ego or pride steps in and I fight back, but most times the indefensible gets burned away and the solid core of the matter remains and is even enhanced by the trial.

      I do question why others attack when I believe my suggestions are offered with the welfare of the people in mind.

      I have a radically different view of the world than most Agonistas, almost no hope for political solution until the good choices we need to make are all that remain, when and only when we have exhausted all other current politically viable alternatives. We will not do the right thing until it’s forced upon us.

      I don’t write as often because I repeat myself and a lot of the things I MUST say will offend.

      So it is nice to hear now and again that someone appreciates the effort.

      As for being king, being king of the farms and ranches: the people, plants, animals, land and waters under my care, seems more than I can handle. I harbor no personal political aspirations within the current paradigm or even here at the Agonist.

      A true king doesn’t lord his position over others but instead acts as servant to others more worthy than himself. I am not claiming to qualify on those grounds, but that is what I aspire to do and be.

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