This week we’re fortunate to hear from our friend, Marty Levine, a native of Gainesville, GA who lives in Texas and enjoys writing about the issues of the day. Marty brings a wide variety of experience to the table as a world traveler in the corporate world and a loving husband and father who enjoys spending time at home with his diverse hobbies.
What Have We Lost ?
In going through some of my Father’s belongings I ran across a little book in which his mother, my Grandmother, Ethel Levine wrote a brief autobiography of her life. My grandparents were born of first-generation Swedish immigrants with my grandfather Irving from Minnesota and my grandmother Ethel from Chicago. Their parents came to America with nothing but what they were wearing in the late 1800’s, and through hard work on farms and in trades such as bricklaying were able to provide for their large families. My grandparents met in Chicago in the early 1920’s and married in 1925. My father Erland was born in 1926 in Chicago where my grandfather worked in cabinetry.
The three paragraphs below are direct excerpts from my grandmother’s little autobiography. I have added a few parenthetical points for clarity. The scene starts in 1933 Chicago, in the depths of the Great Depression when my grandparents where 30 and my father a boy of 7.
“Irving was out of work for a year or more and did odd jobs for Pete Jacobson from Reliance Company. Pete’s sister was our neighbor. Pete and some friends decided to perfect a process to that would take the fine gold out of the hills of Auraria, Georgia (near Dahlonega) and they needed someone to build pump houses, a home and a machine shop and hired Irving and sent him to Georgia in February 1933.
“Erland and I stayed with Pete’s sister Louise Reinhoffer and I helped her with housework. I also had a job at a factory making penlights. I gave her some of my money to help pay for Erland and my board. Irving was supposed to get room and board and seven weeks spending money for us when he went to Georgia. In August 1933 Pete Jacobson gave Erland and I fare to get to Georgia. We stayed at the camp until 1936. The last year or so we were alone. Groceries were paid for by Reliance – a small check once in a while. We were supposed to get $20 per month for looking after the place.
“A tornado hit Gainesville (Georgia) on April 6, 1936 and Irving went to Gainesville and asked for work at Chambers Lumber Company. He drove there every day (over an hour drive) until June or July when we found an apartment at 736 West Washington. Then Irving wrote to Jacobson and asked them to get someone else in his place (at the mine). They sent us a check for $100 after months of no money. We saved the $100 to pay down a little on some furniture.”
As I read through this account it occurred to me how much we have lost as Americans in the last 80 years. We have piled on wealth, and unfortunately debt as well. We labor hard to obtain little luxuries and then lose ourselves in distraction with media, sports and the like. Would any of us have the pluck to do what may Grandfather did in 1933 ? At a young age he had developed – with only an 8th grade education – the skills to build a gold mining operation in the middle-of -nowhere Georgia. He left the comfort of the Scandinavian neighborhood of Chicago to live and work amongst the mountain folk of North Georgia. He left his young family for a time and then when he had shelter in place, moved them down to join him. His good character and skills encouraged those of more means to provide him – albeit often meager – support. He relied upon no government support, no unearned handouts. There were no concerns about more than basic health care, college tuition and the like – these were not only in short supply, they were simply out of reach. And yet, my grandparents and then my parents prospered by applying the abilities God gave them to build a life their ancestors could only dream of.
Yet as I read today’s headlines I am jarred out of nostalgia by the realization that millions of Americans are keen to give socialism a chance. I am hopeful that those so inclined are simply ignorant of history and economics and will in time come to their senses. Sure, our nation has unequal distributions of wealth – this condition has existed through all history and will continue. History has also proven to us that socialism does not solve this at all. The pie gets smaller for everyone, except for the elite few who run the show. Using socialism to solve societal ills is a bit like shooting yourself in the head to cure a headache. It is an economic system that so goes against our basic drive for individual prosperity and thus when perfected, creates a state of collective ennui.
What has happened that so many of us have become so weak, so hopeless, so helpless, so incapable of caring for ourselves and those in their care ? For me, at least, supporting such schemes goes against every life lesson instilled by my ancestors. I will resist to my dying breath those who demand I cash in my freedom to fund schemes to build a better society for others, many of whom are just looking for free stuff. Our American society was built by people like my grandparents, who did not set out to build a better society at all – yet they did. They only sought to responsibly build a better life for those in their care. Thus, their contribution to creating a better society was not having need of a society to contribute to their betterment. The greatest societies, as it turns out, are built upon the character of those who simply take care of their little corner of the world. They know the cost and can revel in any success they have authored.
A final irony is that a key premise of socialism is that Darwinian evolution must be true, and with this survival of the fittest, a rather capitalist sounding notion. An assent to socialism thus requires one to admit they would be extinct without the support of a colony. This model being best displayed in social creatures like ants and termites, who spend their meager lives piling on largess for a few elite drones and a queen, which is, of course, the very picture of socialism. And for humans, endowed with free will, that is never the recipe for a great society.