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William Jennings Bryan & Heraclitus: In Conflict or In Agreement As To The Nature Of The Individual?

In his Cross of Gold speech at the 1896 Democratic Convention, William Jennings Bryan said, ” The individual is but an atom. He is born. He acts . He dies….”

In seeming contrast, the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said “Everything we do or think depends on participation in the divine account.” 

These assertions appear at odds. How can an atomistic individual be part of the collective cosmic whole?

What Bryan says next in Cross of Gold gives a clue. He says—“…But principles are eternal.” 

In Bryan’s conception of life, atomistic individuals find connection with the whole in asserting the underlying principles that give life a greater meaning and coherence.

Read now what Heraclitus said about the actions of individuals—“But although the account is common, most men live as though they had an understanding of their own”

People live as they are seperate from the whole, but really this is not the case. 

I agree with both Bryan and Heraclitus. I see no conflict.

The extent to which you agree or disagree with these men might provide a clue as to your outlook on a number of questions of politics and life. 

Please click here to read about William Jennings Bryan.

Please click here to read the Cross of Gold Speech.

Please click here to read about Heraclitus.

November 14, 2007 Posted by | Political History, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Senator Ted Stevens’ Conception Of Earmarks Mirrors An Aspect Of Henry Clay’s “American System”

Alaska Senator Ted Stevens is known as a champion of Congressional earmarks for his home state of Alaska. He has been criticized for what is often termed “pork ” by those who oppose his appropriations.

Senator Stevens is unrepentant.

According to The 2008 Almanac of American Politics, Mr. Stevens said this about the federal money to Alaska—

Congress has not awakened to the fact that we’ve got a state with one-fifth the land in this country. My mission is to try to make Congress understand that the promise of statehood is that we should have the ability to establish a workable private-enterprise economy in the areas that want it. And that’s basically 90% of the state.” 

This argument mirrors one aspect of the “American System” championed by Henry Clay of Kentucky in the first half of the 19th Century.

Clay advocated public money for roads, canals and other improvements to help build the American economy. One can see an analogy between Clay’s America, still a frontier in many respects, and Stevens’ Alaska in 2007.   

Click here to read about what the Erie Canal did for New York State.

I favor the idea of earmarks. While no doubt some are wasteful, I support the expansion of the role of the federal government and the allocation of government money into local communities across the country. This is a core mission of American liberalism and we should be proud of the fact that people are being helped and jobs are being created. That is what tax money is for.

November 14, 2007 Posted by | Books, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment