28 August 2011
NATIONAL PROJECTS are an essential part of American greatness. It takes the resources and the collective effort of the whole nation to build an interstate highway system, to build Hoover Dam or to land astronauts on the moon. No Americans can look on these achievements without pride.
Sadly, we don’t do great things like those any more. It isn’t that we don’t have the manpower to be great. One in every five adult Americans who wants to work either can’t find a job or has simply given up trying. There is plenty of help. And it isn’t that our mines are out of ore or that our forests are out of timber. We’ve got the material. So it seems mystifying why we can’t put folks to work using the stuff we have to get great American things done.
The leadership in the House of Representatives and some of the new firebrand members of that great institution say we can’t do great things because we don’t have the money. Economics – now there’s a discipline that confounds the brainiest of us. But we don’t need to be experts with charts and graphs to see the fallacy on a simple, axiomatic level in the argument that a monetary deficit is the reason we cannot meet the challenge of greatness. Sister Molly, seen below, could see it even without her spectacles.
Money is not wealth. You can’t eat it, wear it, or drive it to town. Money is a symbol of wealth. Real wealth is in our resources, our willing hands and in the innovation of our technologists. Dollars are abstract units that measure wealth, in exactly the same way as inches measure boards. Since the beginning of human civilization, way, way back even before anyone wore overalls, no carpenter has ever lived who, even though in possession of all the materials he needed and all the willing help he wanted, still complained that he couldn’t finish the house because he was all out of inches. And yet, that is exactly what we do as a society when we say we can’t do great things because we are all out of money.
This confusion of money with wealth is the reason we are not going full speed ahead with the development of our technical genius which could lift us into an age of abundance that would make the old ideologies of left versus right relics of the past. One day, the whole family of Americans, all wearing our best overalls, will look back and be amazed at how some politicians believed that we couldn’t take on any great new projects; and what’s more, believed we had to make cuts in our schools, police and fire departments, scientific research and the exploration of outer space – because we were all out of inches.