Posts Tagged ‘education’

Culture and Country: Part 3/3

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Into the Twenty-First Century

“As for the head of those that compass me about, let the mischief of their own lips cover them.”
-Psalms 140:10

In 1990, as the Soviet Union was collapsing, festering disagreements between the Republic of Iraq and the State of Kuwait were becoming increasingly heated. The American ally and homicidal thug, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein (1937-2006), essentially requested the permission of President Bush the First to invade Kuwait. That permission was conveyed privately by Ambassadress April Glaspie (b. 1942) but never reported publicly.

The immediate consequence? An Iraqi invasion followed by, despite having given prior permission, an American counter-invasion . . . once again without a congressional declaration of war.

Mr. Bush’s actions catapulted the USA onto a careening and costly course with little to show for the expenditures. What were the factors controlling those actions? No one knows with certainty. Some say, “Oil!”. . . unlikely given the expected course of events leaving Mr. Hussein in power. Some US naval personnel on the scene claim that it was gaining access by the infidel Americans to Mohammedan soil in the Middle East for military bases, especially naval. (See Foreign Relations: “Did Bush Burn the Koran?”)

Whatever be the case, a concurrent, immediate consequence was Arabic anxiety coupled with concessions allowing the establishment of those coveted bases. In turn, a consequence of those concessions was the eliciting of organized Mohammedan ire; the strengthening of al-Qaeda; then violent attacks against American installations, culminating in the attacks of 11 September 2001.

The consequences to Americans of the attacks of 11 September have been severe. In retaliation, President Bush the Second initiated two invasions on Mohammedan soil, neither with a congressional declaration of war. To assume expanded extra-constitutional powers, he caused to have passed an erroneously-named Patriot Act even further curtailing American civil liberties and recalling Samuel Johnson’s (1709-1784) time-honored quip, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” In concert with the Organization for Economic Coöperation and Development (OECD), an organization perhaps best described as a group of international tax-bandits representing the plundering interests of their respective governments, he intensified American extra-territorial demands. Eventually, countries targeted all surrendered albeit reluctantly.

Despite the historically-documented risk of financing military action with money borrowed from foreigners, undaunted he launched a new domestic spending program of social welfare known as “Medicare D” also financed with money borrowed from foreigners. The federal government would buy medications via intermediaries . . . thereby, delighting Big Pharma and Big Insurance as well as the elderly. He wisely refrained, however, from echoing LBJ’s earlier use of the phrase, “guns and butter” to reassure Americans that deficits and debt did not matter. Contrary to their earlier campaigning promises, the Republicans became the biggest deficit-spenders in peacetime-history . . . only to be exceeded subsequently by the Democrats.

In 2006, angry at President Bush the Second for not winning the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, voters switched the political players, once again substituting congressional Democrats for Republicans. In 2008, they elected as President a Mulatto of Mohammedan birth but otherwise indeterminate origins whose close associates had been anti-American, left-wing terrorists and a Negroid, anti-American, anti-Semitic preacher. Mr. Barack Hussein Obama, a lawyer by training, never had held a job in the private sector nor owned a business but had been a “community-organizer” and a far-left-wing politician. He promised “hope and change” by bringing America together via spreading the wealth, never mind the American tradition of individual responsibility. Whereas more than 60% of all voting Caucasians and more than 70% of voting, older, male Caucasians opposed him, 95% of voting Negroes supported him. Mr. Obama seemed an unlikely agent to bring America together. The consequence of his assuming office? An increasingly divided America symbolized by a newly-spawned, verbally rebellious “Tea Party”.

Admittedly, by the time of his inauguration, the American structure had become shaky . . . her four cornerstones increasingly in need of repair. What have been some of the consequences of this president’s actions? Passage of “healthcare-reform” that alone will bankrupt the country while unleashing sixteen thousand, additional tax-agents to terrorize productive Americans. Diminished civil liberties. Dozens of “czars” to regulate every aspect of American commerce, without congressional approval even requested let alone received. Loss of the sanctity of contract. Further reduction of “moral hazard”, thereby favoring Big Business and Big Labor. Increased barriers against growth of Small Business. A concomitant, third, military invasion on Mohammedan soil against a country officially deemed no threat to American interests, once again without a congressional declaration of war. Further transformation of the American military into an anti-Christian, social experiment. A geometric increase in the national debt for the indefinite future while promising “debt-reduction” in ten or twenty years.

Who are the main creditors financing these adventures in bad government? Our erstwhile ally now current adversary, China, and our erstwhile ally then erstwhile enemy now current ally, Japan.

Most recently, in a farce worthy of old-time vaudeville, the Republicans, having regained control of the House in 2010 via the usual power-swap, argued with the Democrats about trimming a trivial amount from the budget for the remainder of 2011. In an outrageous dereliction of duty, the Democrats intentionally had failed to pass a budget for the full fiscal year. Adding irrelevant riders to the now-required budgetary legislation, the Republicans only compounded the fiasco. Worse, the Republican strategy failed to represent a real change in fiscal direction . . . the federal budget for 2011 increases as Democrats and Republicans “compromise”. What they compromise is the future of America. Never have so many quibbled so loudly about so little for so long.

Topping this act, the Republicans now have proposed fiscal changes for the future that will begin to take effect five years hence and require twenty years to achieve full effect. In federal politics, two years are an eternity, let alone five to twenty. Worse, even after achieving full effect, the debt will continue increasing. As any driver knows, slowing of acceleration does not constitute deceleration.

Meanwhile, Mr. Obama has announced his candidacy for 2012. Campaigning budgets will exceed one billion dollars. Such extravagance effectively will exclude any chance of a new political party getting itself noticed, never mind heard.

For a country the culture of which provided a context for Christianity with religious freedom, republican democracy, rights of private property, protection of civil liberties, limited government, sound money, detachment from foreign entanglements not directly affecting the national interest, and individual responsibility, America has gone a long way in the opposite direction. Recently, a significant number of Americans are claiming to have seen the cultural light. They are demanding fundamental changes in the right direction . . . provided, of course, that such changes deprive everyone but them of their respective governmental “entitlements”.

The late authoress, Ayn Rand (1905-1982), predicted that the disastrous cultural trend leading towards American self-destruction would not reverse until the lights go out in New York City. More optimistically, Otto von Bismark (1815-1898) had said that a special Providence protects fools, drunkards, small children, and the United States of America. In keeping with Bismark, Winston Churchill (1874-1965) remarked that Americans always can be counted on to do the right thing . . . after they have exhausted all other possibilities.

Must we Americans wait until the lights go out in New York City? Will Providence continue protecting America despite the folly of her citizens? Can we Americans still do the right thing?

What exactly is the “right thing”? It is repairing the four cornerstones of our country. How? Cognitively, by changing our cultural mentality from communal irresponsibility to individual responsibility. Emotionally, by summoning the required courage to overcome the adversity that we have brought upon ourselves. Behaviorally, by designing then putting into play programs and policies scientifically-based and scientifically-directed not politically-motivated and politically-manipulated.

Doing the right thing undoubtedly will entail losses by the many with profits for a few. Typical of such situations, there will be a few winners among many losers. For some, the losses will be unjust. For others, the profits. Unfair? Yes. Avoidable? No. As the late author, Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007), put it, “So it goes.” In the end, let our actions be judged by their consequences (Jeremiah 17:10). To paraphrase William Shakespeare (1564-1616), let us screw our courage to the sticking-place, and we’ll not fail.

Given the injustice and unfairness, there will be a temptation to lay blame. Onto whom? Wilson? FDR? LBJ? Bush I? Bush II? Obama? Democrats? Republicans? Jews? Negroes? Illegal aliens? Fate?

Again to paraphrase Mr. Shakespeare, the fault is neither in our stars nor even in our politicians but in ourselves. We, the citizens, have created the context and chosen the consequences. We have become a culture of takers more than makers. We have chosen self-serving political representatives who create a chimera by telling us what we want to hear then buying our votes with our own money. We have undermined our Constitution and destroyed our American Tradition. Moreover, we have ignored the benefits and discipline that modern behavioral science from the rapidly developing biobehavioral orientation could have bestowed and still can  . . . benefits unavailable to our Founding Fathers (

The inescapable consequences of our prior and continuing misdeeds are the social, political, and economic challenges that face us now. Repairing the four cornerstones of America will require The Who, The What, and The How.

The Who is an ingenuous, courageous leader who will bring his behavior not under the control of expediency but of principles consistent with the Constitution and American Tradition. The What are the programs and policies that he and his like-minded advisors design then put into play. The How begins with remembering Thorndike’s Law of Effect (1911) . . . behavior is a function of its consequences in a given context. It continues by adhering to the scientific guidelines of specificity, objectivity, and accountability . . . and by employing procedures scientifically-based and scientifically-driven.

Can we do it? Only if culturally we are willing to see and to listen from a new orientation . . . a scientific orientation . . . a biobehavioral orientation. From that orientation, we can reform our culture and the consequences therein consistent with the Constitution as written, with American Tradition at its best, and with the demands of a new millennium.

Will we do it? If not, we should remember one, everlasting truth. In the end, reality always wins.

Culture and Country: Part 2/3

Monday, April 18th, 2011


“The woman Folly is riotous;
She is thoughtlessness, and knoweth nothing.”
—  Proverbs 9:13

History is written by the victors. In losing, Herr Hitler had given a bad name to the old order. It would be a new era.

The new era brought a new level of prosperity to America. It lasted for a generation. In the parlance of behavioral science, that prosperity created a context of satiation . . . one that would turn hard-won prosperity into self-indulgent luxury.

Satiation is a state that results from excessive presentation of positive reinforcement ( Just finished a big meal? Want another? No? Satiation.

In a prolonged state of satiation, behavior tends to come under the control of adventitious consequences and their antecedents. Previously trivial events begin to acquire a new and potent power over people’s actions.

So it was with Americans. Her youth, especially, would begin to strangle the goose that was laying the golden eggs. Never having been exposed to the despair of deprivation during the 1930’s followed by the anxiety and fear of total war during the early 1940’s, by the 1960’s young Americans were turning against their own country in the name of peace, equality, “self-actualization”, random copulation, imagined identity between the sexes, and equality of outcome irrespective of merit . . . all of which combined now might be termed “Radical Maternalism” . . . all to be supported by the public treasury via newly-discovered “rights” and “entitlements”. Eventually, these so-called rights and entitlements would become extended to the extreme of non-human pets. (See the previous posting, “My Pet Is Your Peeve”.) The new American culture was being born. Progressives were acting as midwives.

The seeds of Radical Maternalism had taken root in 1920 with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment prohibiting the denial of voting rights based upon gender. Previously, although nothing in the Constitution had prohibited women from voting, all states but two, New Jersey then Wyoming, had done so. The Founding Fathers had left the matter to the individual states. After 1920, it would take almost two generations, for the consequences of universal suffrage to be revealed.

Obviously, women differ from men anatomically and physiologically. They also differ mentally. Women, for example, produce relatively low levels of testosterone and cycle menstrually as determined by continuously shifting levels of estrogen and progesterone. They tend to show increased aggressivity during the initial, estrogenic phase of the cycle followed by passivity and nesting in the latter, progesteronic phase. In contrast, men produce consistently high levels of testosterone, which builds muscular mass and generates relatively high and continuous levels of aggressivity. Social consequences stem from these biological differences.

Women tend to be maternalistic . . . men, paternalistic. Maternalism tends to place mercy before justice . . . paternalism, the converse. Optimally, society tempers paternalism with maternalism to achieve a balance of justice tempered by mercy . . . strength tempered by compassion.  A paternalistic society without maternalism is strong but harsh.  A maternalistic society without paternalism, compassionate but weak.

The extent to which biology coupled with universal suffrage has determined the modern American culture remains unknown. One consequence is clear. Women have gained authority and power to the point of sociologically emasculating the American male. Women possessing such power is a recent event by historical standards. Female monarchs notwithstanding, no modern society ever has had a matriarchal form of government. Whereas it seems just and fair for men to have given women the vote, the ultimate consequences of having done so will tell the tale.

As had occurred during the 1930’s, in the 1960’s Americans increasingly were bringing their behaviors under the control of antecedents instead of consequences. Again, the antecedents were hollow promises . . .  promises echoing the Progressive voices of the past. The delayed consequences of such folly would be real and terrible . . . consequences filled with economic debt, military defeat, and social deterioration. They would amount to the destruction of American “exceptionalism”, in its best sense, and much of all Americans’ liberty and well-being.

What were some of the forms these antecedents, behaviors, and consequences took? How did they unfold over the years?

In 1964 with an overwhelmingly Democratic congress, LBJ intentionally misled the American people about North Vietnamese military activity in the Gulf of Tonkin and took America into a military conflict with neither a declaration of war by the Congress nor a determination to win. He was following in the footsteps of a Democratic predecessor, President Harry S. Truman (1884-1972), who similarly had taken America militarily into Korea but under the quasi-international auspices of a recently-created United Nations.

In Korea, the long-term consequences would be a continued, divided Korean Peninsula and a nuclear-armed North Korea led by self-serving, totalitarian Communists. The consequences in Viet Nam? Despite the economic costs, LBJ had promised America “guns and butter”. He delivered debt, defeat, and humiliation. The North Vietnamese general, Võ Nguyên Giáp (b. 1911), later would admit that his greatest strength derived from the anti-American activities of Americans themselves. Those “useful idiots”, as the Communists called them, frolicked joyfully in the will-sapping soup of satiation while thousands of their countrymen died in combat by order of a president whom the anti-patriots themselves had elected.

Also in 1964, not to be distracted totally by foreign affairs, domestically LBJ launched his “War on Poverty”, bringing millions of Americans into financial dependence upon the largesse of the federal government . . . a largesse that they could increase simply by voting themselves more. In addition, together with Senator Teddy Kennedy (1932-2009), a plagiarist and womanslayer, LBJ opened the floodgates of immigration to peoples of non-Western heritage. Contrary to the antecedent of Teddy’s promise, the consequence would be major cultural transformation of America. From a somewhat uni-cultural, Christian country mainly homogeneous and European in heritage, based upon solid old-English values, LBJ and his fellow Democrats transformed America into a multi-cultural, secular country of increasingly heterogeneous racial and ethnic heritages, based upon the mercurial values of Radical Maternalism.

Then came 1971 and something of a replay in reverse of FDR’s confiscation of gold a generation earlier. President Richard M. Nixon (1913-1994) renounced the by-then largely defunct gold-standard, allowing a now-baseless U.S. dollar to “float” against other currencies. The consequence was a frightened Arabia and a gigantic rise in the price of oil coupled with severe shortages. Despite a subsequent reduction in the percentage of energy derived from imported oil over the years, Big Oil would retain a grip on the economic throat of Americans, unwittingly aided by self-appointed “environmentalists” also known as “watermelons”, green outside and red inside, against every form of alternative, economically viable energy.

The year 1971 also ushered in a so-called War On Drugs. It represented a giant extension of the Harrison Act of 1915, originally intended to regulate opiates not to persecute physicians and imprison addicted patients. The consequences have been a serious erosion of civil liberties and the incarceration of tens of thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens . . . all for nothing in terms of the stated goal of reducing the traffic of illicit drugs.

Today, the USA has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, mostly for drug-related offenses. In terms of unstated goals, however, the related laws allowed federal authorities a previously unrivaled invasion of individual privacy, declared wartime excepted. With the end of the Cold War, the “War On Drugs” would establish a context for an unchallenged America to demand foreign countries violate their own laws regarding governance by the providing of private information about all Americans and others. It even would serve as a pretext for an American military invasion of Panama with the killing of four thousand Panamanians and the kidnapping of its president. Subsequently, a so-called War On Terror would escalate the invasion against constitutional rights domestically and American extra-territorial demands internationally.

Meanwhile, what had become of LBJ’s shooting war in Viet Nam? Following national riots in 1968, newly-elected President Nixon had promised “peace with honor”. He delivered defeat with dishonor. In 1975 with her forces in Viet Nam de-funded by a Democratic Congress, America conceded defeat for the first time in her history and beat a hasty, disorganized retreat. The USA would have won handily were it not for the new cultural context symbolized by her feckless politicians and her Big Media promoting the propaganda of the anti-patriots. Playing to the same mob, those same politicians then proceeded to de-fund partially the entire U.S. military. America was trading her proud and winning culture from the nineteenth century for a self-loathing and losing one into the twenty-first.

Then in 1979, President Jimmy Carter (b. 1924) withdrew American support for her long-time ally, the Shah of Iran; directly leading to his abdication. In his stead, Iran welcomed a Mohammedan theological fanatic, Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (1902-1989), whom Mr. Carter jubilantly but wrongly heralded as an emissary of democracy and peace. Facing terrible economic “stagflation” and incapable of rescuing American diplomats imprisoned in their own embassy in Tehran, Mr. Carter lost the election of 1980.

By 1981, the consequence of the economic policies of the 1960’s and 1970’s was that the USA formally had became the largest debtor-country in the world, theretofore having been the largest creditor-country. Since passing that shameful milestone, her national debt has increased under every president if one includes liabilities deceitfully deemed “off-budget” by the politicians.

In keeping with escalating debt, since the 1960’s America steadily had been losing industrially to foreign countries paying low-wages . . . thereby destroying her own manufacturing base previously paying high wages. American politicians defended this trend by waving the banner of “free trade” advocated by Adam Smith. Their deceit camouflaged an unacknowledged problem . . . the trade was not truly free. It was one-sided against America, allowing free flow of goods in from countries blocking the free flow of goods out. The consequence would be higher debt, lower wages, and increased unemployment for Americans.

The antecedents for these trade-related deals were politicians’ promises that the deals would be good for American consumers, ignoring the fact that consumers not dependent upon governmental largesse also would become unemployed workers. Yes, the deals meant a temporary, lower inflation. Also, they meant higher debt. Real incomes fell. By the end of the twentieth century, it would require both parents of the average American family to be working in order to earn the same income as earned by only the husband-father thirty years previously. Then again, husband-fathers were becoming archaic.

Sociologically, America witnessed the concomitant rise of the previously ostracized “single mom” and unsupervised “latchkey-children”. The politicians reassured voters not to worry. Their maternalistic government would breast-feed those in need via more “food-stamps” (originally an agricultural program to aid farming not a social program to promote illegitimacy) as well as increased Medicaid, SSI, “earned income tax-rebates”, subsidized telephonic service, etc. Their message was FDR’s amplified many fold. Trust government . . . Depend upon government . . . Government knows best.

All was not gloom, however. By the end of his second term in 1989, President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) had accomplished what few had said could be done . . . defeat of the Soviet Union without a shot having been fired. The Democrats in America, many of whom had expressed sympathy for the Soviets’ professed intent if not their committed acts, minimized Mr. Reagan’s role in defeating the totalitarian “evil empire” . . . however, the Eastern Europeans who had suffered and died under that ruthless realm hailed the American President as a hero.

So ended the “Cold War” and with it the era of Post-Wartime. In hindsight, compared to the first half of the twentieth century, the second half better might be termed the “Long Peace”. The consequence of President Reagan’s magnificent feat would be a reconfiguration of international politics and socio-economics. Meanwhile, salivating American politicians anticipated an economic “peace-dividend” to be used furthering their buying of votes. The peace-dividend would be short-lived. Their buying of votes would not.

Culture And Country: Part 1/3

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Culture: the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group.
-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary

“Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
-Galatians VI:7

“We’re broke!”
-John Andrew Boehner (b. 1949), Speaker of the United States House of Representatives

Yes, America is broke . . . broke but not bankrupt, yet. What happened?

Complaining is not explaining. Complaints are not solutions. Questions are not answers. America needs more than complaints and questions. America needs answers leading to solutions. Fortunately, there are some . . . if Americans are willing to listen . . . if Americans are willing to act accordingly . . . if Americans are willing to change a culture of blind and deaf self-indulgence. Americans can find answers leading to solutions in the history of the past and in the science of the present (

In The Beginning
History tells us that, try as one might, one cannot separate culture from country. Some countries, such as Belgium and Canada, harbor more than one culture, usually at odds with each other as exemplified most violently by the sub-Saharan countries in Africa. Switzerland represents a notable exception to the general rule. Whatever the case, the prevailing culture enters into a dynamic interaction with the four cornerstones of the society that it creates . . . government including economics, law, education, and medicine. Understanding a country requires understanding its culture . . . past and present.

If culture determines country, what primary factors determine culture? Intelligence, education, and values.

The original, thirteen colonies reflected the intelligence of the English people as reflected, in turn, by their education and Protestant values. The Mayflower Compact, for example, was a social document based upon religion. It served as a template for that which followed. Culturally, early America was Caucasoid, English, male, and Protestant.

Despite subsequent waves of immigration, mainly from other parts of Europe, allegiance to that original, old-English culture prevailed until the mid-twentieth century. Today, not one member of the U.S. Supreme Court is a Protestant, male Caucasian of Western European descent, let alone English. Hispanics, Jews, Negroes, women, and homosexuals all can claim representation. Those who founded this country, built her framework, and fulfilled her destiny can claim none. Perhaps, more than any other facet of America, the shift in membership on the Court reflects the shift in American culture.

In 1787, the Founding Fathers designed a country in keeping with that early culture . . . one based upon the principles of Christianity with religious freedom, republican democracy, rights of private property, protection of civil liberties, limited government, sound money, detachment from foreign entanglements not directly affecting national interest, and individual responsibility. Its economic foundation was capitalism, firstly described by the Scotsman, Adam Smith.(1723-1790) in Wealth of Nations.

Mr. Smith proposed what later became known as free markets, free labor, and free trade . . . all fostering competition reasonably unfettered by governmental favoritism and control. His book attacked mercantilism, an economic system developed in Europe towards the end of Feudalism and characterized by the unification and increase of governmental power and control of wealth via strict regulation of the entire economy, often favoring establishment of commercial monopolies . . . a characterization ominously familiar today. In fact, has not America returned to the mercantilism decried by Mr. Smith? When did it begin? Who was to blame?

It began with the so-called Progressives in the late nineteenth century. It took root with the election of President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924). It blossomed with the elections of Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR: 1882-1945) then Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ: 1908-1973) now Barack Hussein Obama (b. 1961?).

Over a century, America increasingly fell victim to an unholy conspiracy between Big Government and Big Business . . . an implicit conspiracy amongst like-minded agents. More recently, modern technology has added a third conspirator . . . Big Media. One might remember that historically no one trusted the media. Should today be different?

The Great Depression
A brief look at history, admittedly a bit arbitrary in scope, may provide some contextual perspective. Until World War I, Britain had been the preëminent, global power for decades. The consequence of that ill-conceived, ill-fated war from 1914 to 1918 was the beginning of the end of Western civilization. Even so, the 1920’s brought a temporary reversal of American Progressivism and a new prosperity under the “conservative”, Republican administrations of Presidents Warren G. Harding (1865-1923) and John Calvin Coolidge, Jr. (1872–1933). By the cultural standards of today, even Mr. Coolidge’s Democratic opponent in 1924, John W. Davis (1873-1955), would be considered  “conservative”. The “conservatism” of these two, opposing candidates reflected the American cultural landscape of the day.

That landscape was not to last. The elections of President Herbert Hoover (1874-1964) in 1928, of a Democratic congress in 1930, and of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932 changed it. Those political events marked the beginning of the end for the U.S. Constitution and American Tradition.

In October 1929 came “Black Thursday”. Few, however, viewed the sudden decline of the stock-market as the beginning of a prolonged economic depression. In fact, the top story of 1929 was Admiral Byrd’s expedition to the South Pole. It took Republican President Herbert Hoover followed by a Democratic congress followed by Democratic President FDR to transform what could have been a moderate economic reversal into a truly great depression that would last a decade . . . to be ended only by worldwide war.

During and immediately after World War I, Mr. Hoover had developed a reputation as a “humanitarian”. In that vein, the Democrats even considered him as a candidate for the presidency in 1920. Under President Harding, however, he became Secretary of Commerce. As such, he advised the President about reversing the economic slide of 1920-1921. He recommended a program similar to that which he himself would enact a decade later . . . tax and spend. The Secretary of the Treasury, Andrew Mellon (1855-1937), recommended the opposite. Fortunately, President Harding rejected Mr. Hoover’s recommendation and followed Mr. Mellon’s. By 1922, America was recovering economically and entering the booming era of the Roaring Twenties. Later, Cal Coolidge remarked to the effect that, over the years, Herbert Hoover had given him a great deal of advice . . . all of it wrong!

In 1927, the Mississippi River overflowed, creating a flood greater than even that of Hurricane Katrina. President Coolidge assigned Mr. Hoover to oversee federal involvement, which, by the standards of today, was minimal. Whereas Mr. Hoover involved the Army Corps of Engineers, he primarily coördinated private efforts at relief, for which he widely received praise. Although Mr. Hoover’s views reflected the Progressive Movement, even he believed in the primacy of private initiative, at least at the time. That belief reflected the culture of the day. He, nevertheless, made promises of future, public assistance . . . promises that he, like many of his successors, would be unable to keep.

On assuming the presidency, Mr. Hoover had the opportunity to follow his own earlier advice. He did. The consequence was economic disaster. During the campaign of 1932, even FDR accused still-President Hoover of leading the country down the path towards socialism. Ironically, the election gave FDR the opportunity to turn Hoover’s Path towards socialism into Roosevelt’s Highway.

While campaigning, FDR gave eloquent speeches, making grand promises such as balancing the federal budget. In reality, he did not “have a clue” what to do. Vague promises are one thing. Specific plans, quite another.

Once president, given the context of a worsening economic context, FDR floundered before honing his message to the American people via the newly-developed power of radio . . . a medium tapped immediately before by Mr. Hoover himself and immediately afterwards by the Nazi-propagandist, Dr. Paul Josef Göbbels (1897–1945). Their common message? Trust government. It was a message that would refashion the culture of entire countries. It could fulfill that goal, however, only if the cultures therein already had become receptive.

FDR’s messages succeeded politically while his policies failed economically. He succeeded in converting voters historically distrustful of government into voters blindly following the pleasing sounds of promises empty of meaning while ignoring consequences filled with failure. The voters elected the Democrats time and again allowing FDR to dismantle de facto the Constitution piece by piece. Meanwhile, frightened by FDR’s threats, the U.S. Supreme Court became a group of craven bystanders.

FDR began his attack upon the Constitution by confiscating gold in 1933, stealing twenty-five percent of its value from its legitimate holders . . . Chancellor Adolph Hitler (1889-1945) would do the same in Germany five years later. In a similar vein, FDR instigated what today has become an increasing reign of terror via the controversial Sixteenth Amendment that had created the federal income-tax in 1913 . . . even intimidating homicidal gangsters by sending one of their own, Al Capone, to prison not for what he did criminally but for what he failed to do financially; i.e., pay his income-tax.

World War II saved the country economically from FDR’s economic policies. By its conclusion, the USA was the only country left standing.

Militarily, America had defeated her erstwhile ally turned enemy, Imperial Japan, so outclassed that FDR had relegated action in the Pacific to a secondary priority. On the graves of 24-million dead Russians, America had defeated her enemy, Nazi-Germany, whose “Führer und Reichskanzler” Hitler had turned victory into defeat by repeating the mistake of World War I when impatiently he opened a two-front war. On her two fronts combined, America had suffered less than a total of 0.5 million dead . . . 2% of the Russian total.

Economically, America had bankrupted her ally, Britain, demanding payment in gold for materiel supplied. Her other, main competitors lay in ruins. She well could afford to repay her wartime-incurred debt. In the context of an expanding Communism, she well could afford aiding financially her erstwhile enemies. Unlike today, America owed the money to herself.

At the end of August 1945, Americans safely could bask in the warmth of victory. Yet, to paraphrase Thomas Mann (1875-1955), despite the birth of that summer of success, the winter of failure already had been conceived. Paradoxically in that regard, American culture was transforming from one of independence to dependence, promoting the pseudo-security of the governmental womb. As it aged, it would change further . . . from makers to takers.


Monday, November 8th, 2010

It cannot be said too often that our youths are our future. Ominously, the past two generations have witnessed the introduction of mindless television; hyper-stimulating video-games; and inane, electronic messaging. As our behavior increasingly comes under the control of these electronic devices, the trend raises the question how best to offset their pernicious effects. Education naturally comes to mind.

Yet, the past two generations also have witnessed a widespread, deepening deficit in promoting educational achievement among American youths. An inescapable consequence has been a failure in teaching our youths how to think ( Some may link this potentially fatal failure with the emphasis upon teaching them what to think

A nation the populace of which is unable to think but only react is a nation ripe for political, economic, and social tyranny. Ironically, given the progress in behavioral science from the modern biobehavioral orientation, teaching our youths how to think is not all that difficult. Moreover, one can view it as an essential element in a comprehensive education in the business of living.

A Very Short Story
The other day, I was having a telephonic conversation with a friend. Informal conversations tend to roll from subject to subject, and this one was no different. As the various topics rolled into and out of focus, we touched upon goals in living. My colleague, an expert in behavioral science, long ago had abandoned the field to become an independent investor. After having published a number of documented successes in education, he found the consequences of his endeavors to be either 1) extinction through inattention or 2) punishment through hostile criticism. The controlling variable amongst bureaucrats in the educational establishment belied the stated mission of educating youths and proved itself to be the unstated mission of promoting the educational bureaucracy. His work had shown a better way of doing things. The bureaucrats hated it. Battered, bruised, and bloodied, he finally targeted a new goal and changed his behavior. His new goal was to have made ten million dollars. How well had he been progressing toward fulfilling that goal? He never said.

“What about your goals?” he asked.

“Mine?” I paused then made what I considered a rather bold statement. “My primary goal,” I said, “is to have done my own small part in furthering the education of the American public with regard to employing behavioral science from the biobehavioral orientation to affairs both societal and personal.” I knew that I was talking to the wrong person. Even so, I couldn’t stop myself.

“Well, that’s an idealistic . . . if not megalomanic . . . mouthful.”

 “I know. I’m choking on it. What do you think are my chances for success?”

Without hesitation he replied, “Almost none.”

“Really? Here, I was thinking my chances actually were none . . . none, at all. What a relief! It’s truly gratifying to talk with an optimist such as you.”

A Call to Cognition
My friend’s pessimism was well founded. In contrast to the other sciences, behavioral science has made few inroads into the everyday business of living. As he had demonstrated to his regret, even when proven more successful than non-scientific approaches, behavioral science has been and largely remains ignored; if not resisted actively, including in the medical marketplace.(1)

Ironically, its basic principles are easier to understand and to apply than those of any other science. In addition, its benefits can be obvious and immediate. In fact, the basic concepts are as simple as 1) a single law, 2) the ABC’s, and 3) the difference between topography and function. That’s it! Understanding three, simple concepts allows you to change society and yourself.

The single law is the basic law of instrumental or operant behavior . . . what you do; not what you think or feel. That law is the Law of Effect.(2) . . . B = f(x) under c. In a given context, behavior is a function of its consequences. If you want more of a behavior, reward it. If you want less, don’t reward it. Yes, you can punish it, but punishment carries with it a host of undesirable side-effects.

The ABC’s refer to Antecedent, Behavior, and Consequence. Antecedent is the event that occasions a behavior to occur. Behavior is the activity upon the environment. Consequence is the event following the behavior that determines its future strength.

Behavioral scientists describe behavior according to topography and function. Topography is how a behavior looks to the eye of an observer. Function is the consequence that controls the strength of the behavior and, thereby, related to the Law of Effect.

Behaviors that look identical may differ in function. Two men walk into a bank then walk out. Topographically, their behaviors are identical. The first, however, is applying for a job. The second is withdrawing money at the point of a gun. Functionally, their walking-behaviors differ markedly.

Conversely, behaviors that look different may be functionally identical. A vagabond is sitting by the side of a deserted highway. His goal is to have arrived in Los Angeles. An executive is flying in a private jet-aircraft. His goal also is to have arrived in Los Angeles. Topographically, their behaviors are dissimilar. Functionally, they are identical.

Pre-pubescent sixth graders can understand these three, simple concepts. Teaching them provides youths with an education in living . . . an education in describing what they do and why they do it, if you will.

Once the leading nation in completion of college, America today ranks twelfth.(3) The reasons are multi-dimensional; nevertheless, one issue should be clear to every educator. A deficit in understanding the basic principles governing their own, personal behaviors handicaps children throughout the remainder of their lives. Shouldn’t it be the responsibility of each school-district to ensure that each pupil receives the opportunity to learn those concepts? Contrary to a recent proposal by the Commander-in-Chief of Big Government, our children don’t need another commission with offices in the District of Corruption to study the problem of failing education in America. They do need proper instruction in the traditional, educational basics necessary for success in everyday living. . . reading, writing, arithmetic, etc. . . .  and in the non-traditional basics of the principles governing that everyday living.

Is it not our duty as adults . . . yours and mine . . . to ensure that it happens? If so, let’s do it, beginning now. Let’s prove that my friend was . . . hmm, shall we say ahead of his time?

1. Moss, GR: “A Commentary on the Status of the Behavioral Approach in the Healthcare Marketplace.” Journal of Behavior Therapy & Experimental Psychiatry 24: 311 (1993).
2.Thorndike, EL: Animal Intelligence: Experimental Studies.  New York: Macmillan (1911).
3. Banchero, S: “Graduation Rates Stagnate As Latinos Continue To Trail.” The Wall Street Journal, 20 October 2010, page A4.