Johan Norberg Celebrates Human Progress

Are things generally getting better or worse? We routinely hear that the environment is going to hell, that inequality is damaging people’s lives, that the next disaster is just around the bend. But does such doom-and-gloom handwringing have any connection to reality?

In his latest book Progress (Oneworld 2016), Johan Norberg discusses ten key ways in which the human condition has gotten spectacularly better. Continue reading “Johan Norberg Celebrates Human Progress”

Donald Trump Would Be the Least-Qualified Person Ever to Be Elected President

Donald Trump’s leading competitors for the presidency during the last few months in both major parties—with the exceptions of Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina—are far better-qualified than Trump for the position.

Even more remarkable, for the first time in its history, the Libertarian Party is set to nominate a candidate for president more qualified—and eminently so—for the office than the Republican. Gary Johnson, the likely LP candidate, served eight years as governor of New Mexico after building a successful construction company. Trump has never served in public office, although he has operated a largely successful real estate business.

This got me wondering: Has any major candidate for the office ever been less qualified than Donald Trump? Continue reading “Donald Trump Would Be the Least-Qualified Person Ever to Be Elected President”

See My Grandfather Spray DDT without Protective Gear

Image: Palisade Sunrise Rotary
Image: Palisade Sunrise Rotary

My grandfather Theo Eversol was a peach farmer in Palisade, Colorado. When I saw him spray his orchards in the 1970s and 1980s with pesticides, he wore protective gear. But back in the 1950s he didn’t wear protective gear, at least judging from a ca. 1953 film about the Palisade peach industry that’s archived online by the Palisade Sunrise Rotary. The film shows my grandfather spraying DDT out of a hose on the back of a tractor, wearing nothing but regular clothing. The images shown are captured from that film.

Today no one doubts that spraying DDT without protective gear is not a great idea health-wise. But, given mosquitos are the world’s most deadly creature, killing some 725,000 people each year, I can’t help but think that widespread bans of DDT (previously used to kill mosquitos, among other things) has killed untold millions of human beings over the years.

The peach film is remarkable for many other reasons besides its depiction of pesticide control. A lot of things have changed since then, but in many ways the industry is similar to the way it was back then.

Image: Palisade Sunrise Rotary
Image: Palisade Sunrise Rotary

Memorial Day Links

My great-grandfather Ralph Garver served in World War I.

My grandfather Theo Eversol served 44 months in WWII. Some of his remarks are recorded in a first and second article. My paternal grandfather Otto Armstrong served in the same war, also in the Pacific Rim.

Earlier this year I interviewed my father Linn about his experiences inVietnam. He wrote more about his tour in a 2007 article.

My step-father Marshall Davis also served in Vietnam.

A number of my more-distant family members have also served at various times, as have numerous friends.

Last year, I interviewed Seymour Glass of the 445th Bomb Group. The resulting videos are extraordinary.

Thank you all.

Walter Walker Opposed Grand Junction’s Socialists

The following article by Linn and Ari Armstrong originally was published April 15 by Grand Junction Free Press.

Back in the era when the Daily Sentinel was “published every day in the year, except Sunday,” and a monthly subscription cost just fifty cents, the paper’s editor Walter Walker waged rhetorical war against the city’s socialists.

Karl Marx published his Communist Manifesto in 1848, and his ideas gained traction in subsequent decades, culminating in the Russian Revolution of 1917 and a socialist sweep through much of Asia.

American intellectuals too flocked to socialist ideas. The so-called Progressives arose in the early 1900s, and in 1927 some of future President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s advisors-to-be visited Joseph Stalin. See Amity Shlaes’s book on the Great Depression for details.

Jeannette Smith writes for the Fall 1997 Journal of the Western Slope that, by 1913, “socialism had thrived for many years in Grand Junction and Walter Walker stood as one of the movement’s staunchest foes.” Smith notes that, in 1909, using a system of ranked voting, the city elected Thomas Todd of the Socialist Party as mayor. Based on Smith’s notes, we looked up several fascinating old articles.

To get a sense of the local popularity of socialism, consider this September 7, 1908 story: “Nearly one thousand people crowded and packed into the Park opera house last night to hear Eugene V. Debs, the socialist candidate for president of the United States.” It was “one of the greatest audiences that ever turned out to hear a political speaker in Grand Junction.”

Yet Walker consistently opposed Mayor Todd’s socialistic program. For example, the editor relentlessly derided Todd over his city-run ice house. The January 26, 1912 paper quoted Todd, “I am firm in the belief that the city should own and operate its own ice plant.” Yet Todd’s proclaimed savings of $30,000 a year defied reason, as “only $24,000 worth of ice was used here last year,” Walker retorted. (Note: while the articles are unsigned, we’ll follow Smith in attributing the anti-socialist editorials to Walker.)

Walker concluded the essay, “Municipal ownership of everything — whether that thing is paying while privately owned or not — is the song of the radical reformer. We have the municipal owned wood pile, now we are to have the municipal owned ice plant: wonder if the mayor will call attention to the need for a municipal owned lumber yard next?”

A few days later, on January 30, Walker pushed harder, suggesting “that the mayor demonstrate his abounding love for his ‘masters’ by cutting down the price of lumber at the yard he owns and operates in this city.”

The paper argued “that the man who experiments with his own money, or who is willing to cut his own profit for the benefit of the people, is more of a patriot than he who wants the public to put up for his benevolent operations, and whose great heart yearns first to take over somebody else’s business.”

We can only imagine what Walker might say to today’s local politicians who control recreational facilities, golf courses, theaters, swimming pools, ambulances, and so on.

Just a few weeks earlier (December 22, 1911), Walker had lambasted the “socialistic municipal wood pile.” The article mocked, “Even some of the socialists have smiled to see the lack of the ‘Reds’ on the woodpile.” Instead, four to six men worked the pile daily for food and accommodations at the jail; “the only men at work are some hoboes who drifted in… No family men have applied.” Moreover, the article notes, the “the Coal Dealers association” vowed to “fight against the city entering into the business.”

Not long after the controversies over the wood pile and ice house, Walker berated Todd yet again over the city’s support for the socialistic Industrial Workers of the World.

“The Grand Junction city administration was engaged in a mighty poor businesses yesterday afternoon when it made an appropriation to feed the members of the notorious I.W.W. who are passing through the city this week,” an April 9, 1913 article relates.

Walker continues, “We are not surprised at the socialist mayor pulling off a stunt like this: but we are surprised at the other commissioners for standing for it… Thus again does this city come under the lime-light as a ‘haven for hoboes…’ What right have the city commissioners to make an appropriation to care for these worthless, country-hating, law-denouncing drones? …Grand Junction has been made a laughing stock in such matters often enough. It is time to call a halt.”

Walker noted the hypocrisy of the city supporting those who “denounce the country, the government and the laws, and urge the use of revolutionary methods,” while at the same time dragging to jail “some poor devil down in the flats [who] gives another a swig of whiskey.”

We’re sure that, if Walker were around today, we would often enough find reason to criticize his views. We’re also sure that often we would unite to condemn the modern heirs of Todd’s socialist schemes.

Business Investment: Willkie’s Lessons for Obama and Moore

Last month, Obama implored businesses to “get in the game” and increase investments; “now is the time to invest in America.”

More recently leftist agitator Michael Moore said, “[Businesses are] sitting on the money, they’re using it for their own — they’re putting it someplace else with no interest in helping you with your life, with that money. We’ve allowed them to take that. That’s not theirs, that’s a national resource, that’s ours. We all have this — we all benefit from this or we all suffer as a result of not having it.”

Note that Obama and Moore share a collectivist vision of property. Obama does not want businesses to invest in particular projects most likely to earn them a profit; he wants businesses to “invest in America” as a collective whole, without regard to personal advantage. Moore’s collectivism is more overt and severe: he follows Marx in declaring produced wealth the property of the nation state.

But the real cause of lackluster investment is not shortsightedness or “greed” on the part of businesses owners and executives. If they thought they could make money, they’d invest! Instead, the real cause of continued high unemployment and sluggish economic growth is the economic uncertainty created by leftist politicians and activists like Obama and Moore. Robert Higgs, for example, has written about this.

Consider just a few of the ways that power-hungry politicians have fostered uncertainty. ObamaCare with its waivers and Constitutional problems is intentionally left to bureaucrats to implement by fiat. Democrats keep talking about raising taxes and implementing new taxes like the VAT. The FTC and DOJ keep threatening to persecute successful companies under antitrust laws. Vicious laws like Sarbanes-Oxley discourage corporate formation. Obama and his minions have diverted billions of dollars to the politically connected as corporate welfare. Anti-energy activists continue to impede development of real domestic energy sources (as opposed to windmills and wasteful solar panels.)

With all this politically-caused uncertainty, many business leaders simply cannot predict whether they’ll see a return on their investments.

If Obama and Moore want businesses to invest, they should stop threatening to confiscate the earnings of businesses and get the hell out of the way.

Interestingly, this same debate played out during the Great Depression.This is Wendell Willkie, a book I discovered through Amity Shlaes, contains the text of a debate between Willkie and Robert H. Jackson held January 6, 1938. Following are some of Willkie’s remarks (see pages 70-73 of the 1940 book from Dodd, Mead, & Company).

“Mr. Jackson has previously spoken of a ‘strike of capital’ against the government. … The main problem is to restore the confidence of investors in American business, and to do this will require more than pleasant speaking on the part of government. For several years the government has taken definite action to show its hostility to business. It must now take definite action to demonstrate the sincerity of its desire for cooperation. …

“For example, there seems to be no important disagreement today on the need for a reduction in the undistributed profits tax and the capital gains tax, both of which fall with particular severity upon small businesses and both of which restrict the expansion of industry.

“[Other needed reforms include] modifying those restrictions upon the buying and selling of securities that hamper the investment of funds…

“And above all… the American people should be spared the confusion of hearing what one government official says in friendship today denied by another in hostility tomorrow.”

While I do not agree with all of Willkie’s proposals, his basic appraisal of the cause of the “strike of capital” is accurate. It is a lesson the Obamas and Moores of the world would do well to heed.

***

Anonymous commented March 5, 2011 at 1:38 AM
I am so scared that Americans actually listen to what Michael Moore has to say. He is a classic Ayn Rand character. I live in a city where many residents loved “Capitalism: A Love Story.” One of my friends (used lightly) even posted on Facebook that capitalism hasn’t done anything for her. Well, I think my persistent replies made her regret writing it–but she never changed her opinion, of course. I am really becoming frightened about how American citizens are already so controlled and regulated by the government. Most people I know would sit around and allow our country to become fully socialist. Obviously, Michael Moore can’t wait for that moment. Scary!

Kim

Kate Yoak commented March 5, 2011 at 8:12 PM
Scary is right, Kim. I only have one question about our future. Does it go the way of Atlas Shrugged – and do people wake up too late to prevent the collapse, or do enough of them see it coming and say “enough” while there is still time? I believe, there is hope for the latter. The faster the socialists attempt to make change, the more likely it is that they will be noticed. Fingers crossed.

Skousen Discusses Completed Franklin Autobiography

Economist Mark Skousen, a direct descendant of Benjamin Franklin, completed the founder’s autobiography from letters. Recently Skousen came to Denver for the American Economic Association conference, and he made time to speak at a Small Business Chamber of Commerce event. Skousen also discussed his history as an economist and financial advisor, the subject of a future video.

Christmas Could Be Challenging for Colorado’s Old Timers

The following article by Linn and Ari Armstrong originally was published December 24, 2010, by Grand Junction Free Press.

These days at Christmas most of us enjoy the opulence of the season. We might drive our shiny automobiles past sparkling lights on our way to the movies, the mall, or a restaurant. Under the tree many of us will find video disks and games, iPods, Kindles, or maybe even a new flat-screen television.

We owe our wealth and comfort today largely to the hard work of Colorado’s pioneers. This Christmas, it is worth remembering the challenges and struggles our forebears overcame and the more modest holiday celebrations they enjoyed.

We found several Christmas stories in a two-volume work from 1982, “Long Horns and Short Tales: A History of the Crawford Country,” by Mamie Ferrier and George Sibley. It covers the late 1800s and early 1900s.

“At a typical one room schoolhouse there was one teacher for all eight grades,” Ferrier and Sibley tell us. Apparently it is not the case that today’s students cause more trouble. At Maher (near Crawford) the school board hired John Stafford, who brought a bull whip to class to keep the unruly older boys in line.

“In the days before the automobile, movies, TV, and the like,” Ferrier and Sibley write, the school houses were used not only for class but for church, elections, and business meetings. Twice a month the local residents held a “literary” where people would sing, debate, and perform skits. To raise funds for the school, women would auction off boxed dinners and their company, and the “young ladies brought… as much as $25.”

Christmas brought a “gift exchange, singing of Christmas carols, and a program that included every child in the school.” Despite the modesty of the celebration, “a good time was enjoyed by all,” our authors assure us, and we do not doubt it.

Ferrier and Sibley nicely summarize the spirit of Christmas in those ground-breaking times. “In the homes Christmas was celebrated with a big dinner and lots of company. Gifts were much different from those of today. Most children received only one gift and the hand knitted mittens and stocking caps.

“There might be a few oranges which was a real treat as they were not purchased during the rest of the year. Home-made rag dolls were common. Older boys might be given a single shot .22 rifle; older girls got things for their hope chest, hair ribbons, and handkerchiefs. The men were sure to get neckties or socks. Today children are given so many toys that they don’t appreciate any of them. In pioneer days the few things were treasured.”

The book about Crawford contains the brief autobiography of Laura Piburn Pace, who arrived in Colorado as a girl in 1884. She describes her home after her marriage: “The house was a two-room log cabin. The kitchen had a dirt floor and one small window. My furniture was wooden boxes nailed to the wall and stacked on top of each other… I made curtains out of flour sacks, embroidered them and crocheted edges on them and they were quite clever.”

One May Laura’s house burned down. “By August, 1911, the new house was near enough finished so we could move into it,” and “by Christmas Day we had a lovely farm home.”

Of course, some people today are struggling this season, hit by unemployment or the housing crunch; the Denver Post reports a rise in poverty. But today’s economic troubles pale in comparison to those of the Great Depression. Yet even in those dark days Coloradans found a way to enjoy and celebrate Christmas.

Writing for the Winter 1986 edition of “The Journal of the Western Slope,” Mesa State professor Paul Reddin describes how Grand Junction women coped with the Depression. He bases much of the article on interviews he conducted.

“During the Depression, the residents of Grand Junction worked hard, but they also found time to enjoy life. Much about their entertainment reflected the rural aspects of the region and a conviction that good times centered around family and friends,” Reddin writes. He adds that people then had the attitude that you should “make your own fun.”

The professor’s comments on Christmas are especially poignant: “Holidays, especially Christmas, brought family together. All enjoyed the fellowship of such occasions. If funds for gifts were short, grown-ups did not exchange them, using the available cash for presents for the children. Parents could practically always afford gifts for youngsters because a small toy car might cost as little as 15 cents, and a dollar would buy a nice present. For adults, the chance to visit with inlaws was more important than gifts.”

Earlier Coloradans, rugged of spirit, maintained a good outlook even in rough times, and generally they appreciated the things they had and made do with them. As you enjoy your glorious feast and the amenities of modern life, spend a moment to reflect on what has been made possible by Colorado’s hearty pioneers.

WWII Vet Seymour Glass of the 445th Bomb Group

Seymour Glass recounts his service in World War II as a lead radio operator with the 445th Bomb Group. Bob Glass (his son) and I interviewed him on September 4, and he gave me permission to publish selections.

First I recommend listening to Glass’s account of carrying a friend’s journal with him throughout the war and then returning it to his wife, who then sent a letter. It is a moving story.

In the first main video, Glass describes his 32 bombing missions. Glass notes that Jimmy Stewart served with his group before becoming an actor. Glass also describes how he came to serve in that position.

Next Glass discusses his plane coming under fire and assisting the injured. “When we were hit by fighters, and you had all ten [.50 caliber] guns going at the same time, the plane, as big as it is, as mammoth as it is, would chatter from all the vibrations of the guns,” he recalls. He also discusses his service blade — and that of an enemy.

In the final video, Glass discusses survival gear, currencies, photographs, and his Air Medal.

Thank you for your service, Mr. Glass.

***

Comments

Sam April 20, 2011 at 4:53 AM
A fascinating interview with a fascinating man! Thank you, Ari, for posting this, and thank you, Mr. Glass, for your service and for flying each one of those 32 missions.

Unknown October 23, 2011 at 8:20 AM
Ari, Thank you for recording this. It was fascinating and moving. His quiet pride in what he did and his sharp mind are inspiring. Thanks for recording this so it can be passed on.