Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Per Scriptum E. Wesley - Mackinac Center Intern
Time flies, and with it the memory of the late economist Milton Friedman, who would have been 99 years old this year. However, we at the Mackinac Center and the Foundation for Educational Choice hope to revive Friedman’s legacy by hosting some lectures this Friday on his monetary policy. It is also the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, an issue encompassing a context for economic analysis.
Friedman’s free-market principles are vital to comprehending monetary supply during the Civil War. An entire generation of brothers hammered their plowshares into swords. As Northern factories shaped rifles and Southern farmers smelt bullets, the strain on local economies was enormous. Like a plague of locusts, the “terrible swift sword” burned through the Virginian Shenandoah Valley and across Georgia, destroying Southern crops and vegetation. Along the Western front, raiders on both sides wreaked havoc on the civilian populace. In the words of a song, “not now for songs of a nation's wrongs, not the groans of starving labor; Let the rifle ring and the bullet sing to the clash of the flashing sabre!” The elephant in the room was big government, as usual. Both North and South inflated their money supplies, causing a rise in prices. Southern currency especially suffered a significant decrease in value due to the printing of excess Confederate money. As was apparent to Friedman, inflation is most often the fault of central banks, like those during the Civil War, that print more money than reflects actual market demand.
As a historian, I have always found Friedman’s work to be historically pertinent. His view of the late 19th and early 20th centuries as an era of prosperity deserves more academic acceptance than it gets. I agree with Friedman’s impression that America during the Victorian era was a beacon to all those persecuted peoples throughout the earth who wished simply for the freedom to work hard for their existence. It was not a “gilded age” as historians want to paint it but a golden one. Friedman’s love for America’s heritage and his presumption of good will to all people, even his enemies, are his two qualities I admire most.
This Friday will be a day of both celebration and solemn reflection, as we remember Friedman’s legacy and the many thousands of lives lost during the Civil War. History often repeats itself in various forms. If we do not apply absolute principles to past events, we will be subject to repeating the same mistakes that history contains. We must remember those who are important in the history of our freedom, and reclaim our historical landmarks of liberty.
Image of CivilWarFifeandDrum from Wikipedia
Thursday, July 14, 2011
As we approach July 17th, the landmark date for the beginning of the Second Battle of the Marne, I thought it appropriate to wrap up the World War I theme. I’ve composed a poem, perhaps from the perspective of the French or British soldiers during the Allied counter offensive of the battle, in which the troops were expected to abandon their trenches and fight a less conventional war (Neiberg 40:10). American reinforcements are now numbering about twenty two to twenty three thousand soldiers a day, giving the French more leeway room for ambitious tactics (Ibid 59:36). My poem gets at the contradictions of the war and hints at future problems that proved all too true in our post world war era. It looks back to the 19th century Christian world for its inspiration of childhood, including the Victorian concept for an imaginative and chivalrous youth. Like Chesterton’s Ballad of the White Horse, it is an attack on Nihilism, although more pertinent to the 20th and 21st centuries. Below are some video tributes.
The Men at the Marne
Leave our trenches and coldly fight
To ascend the world of death and light?
And all because more men as we
Now come from a far country?
The cost of men to save more men;
Which is more costly? None now ken.
To war, from ditch to earth our height;
We fight our act; and act our fight;
The plan from those whose ends are met
Without a thought to cost or debt.
So sacrifice untallied be,
Until by war, from war, we’re free.
What lurked behind clouds of glory,
An endless war; who could foresee?
Only the wise, but they spoke not,
And with sorrow left to their lot
The foolish who’s counsel it was
Within a year to win the cause.
From death, more hard than earth their toil,
They sooner learned to hide in soil.
Now, weeping, wailing it seems,
Pours from the guns that slay the dreams,
Of a generation young but old
Between worlds modern and more bold.
More men, less care; more life, less life,
If ever we win to lose our strife.
But such a world that would arise,
Might wage new war within the skies.
Empire ends. What will next be;
Harder masters or liberty?
Time of troubles, wherein the right
Is just as wrong as wrong is trite;
Where law is law that law is not,
From naught is naught, and naught our lot?
For childhood once more we would
Stand as we stand for truth and good.
A video tribute to the Second Battle of the Marne
This was an earlier battle called Passchendaele, but it has some actual original footage worth watching.
Neiberg, Michael S. The Second Battle of the Marne: The Turning Point of 1918. US Army War College. Carlisle Barracks, Carlisle, PA. 20 August 2008. Lecture. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aey6nVhZpcU
Image of General gouraud french army world war i machinegun marne 1918 from Wikipedia