Copyright 2015, Chuck Dorris, all rights reserved.
I am in the midst of fleeing the East Coast in hopes of finding philosophical solace at a wooden boat-building school. Not Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, but rather an honest appraisal of life and the fury that swirls above Washington DC. Having read through the pulp offerings on ISIS (the Islamic State) that deluged Amazon Prime over the last few months, I am bitterly dismayed at what our policy community refuses to recognize. Unrealized potential in youth, coupled with little hope for the future, breeds immense potential for disaster. – Ask the military families in Chattanooga, Tennessee – I am willing to bet they have thoughts on this matter.
Philosophical solace is not an indulgence in vapors of a Delphic oracle. I don’t hover over the varnish can nor do I snort the fumes wafting from the 100 octane aviation gas that keeps my Harley from spewing oil over the driveway. Philosophical solace in my world comes from a sense one is making a difference—however small—to the people that come into your daily contact. It certainly is not the $200 billion cash surplus Apple has acquired by dodging the US tax code. Rather we might learn from Andrew Carnegie – the millionaire steel magnate who probably funded the first public library in your humble city and ensured multiple generations would grow to learn the luxury afforded by education—be it from an encyclopedia or a cheap Western novel.
To steal from Andrew himself, consider the following lifted from an essay he published in 1889:
The problem of our age is the administration of wealth, so that the ties of brotherhood may still bind together the rich and poor in harmonious relationship.
Amen, but then where to go. The answer is no less obvious today than it was in 1889. Here is Carnegie again (pardon my truncating his prose…Carnegie had time and space to ruminant—in today’s compressed lifestyle no such luxury is available—nonetheless I recommend reading apace…we are always in danger of learning):
There are but three modes in which surplus wealth can be disposed of. It can be left to the families of the decedents; or it can be bequeathed for public purposes; or, finally, it can be administered during their lives by its possessors….
The first is the most injudicious. In monarchial countries, the estates and the greatest portion of the wealth are left to the first son, that the vanity of the parent may be gratified by the thought that his name and title are to descend to succeeding generations unimpaired.
As to the second mode, that of leaving wealth at death for public uses, it may be said that this is only a means for the disposal of wealth, provided a man is content to wait until he is dead before it becomes of much good in the world…. The cases are not few in which the real object sought by the testator is not attained, nor are they few in which his real wishes are thwarted….
There remains, then, only one mode of using great fortunes: but in this way we have the true antidote for the temporary unequal distribution of wealth, the reconciliation of the rich and the poor-a reign of harmony-another ideal, …it is founded upon the present most intense individualism, and the race is prepared to put it in practice by degrees whenever it pleases. Under its sway we shall have an ideal state, in which the surplus wealth of the few will become, in the best sense, the property of the many, because administered for the common good, and this wealth, passing through the hands of the few, can be made a much more potent force for the elevation of our race than if it had been distributed in small sums to the people themselves.
Seems someone in Bill Gates’ home was reading Carnegie. The sage of Omaha, Warren Buffett, also seems to have been similarly inspired. But will the management at Apple display similar wisdom? Or are they in a battle with the kids at Google to simply demonstrate the wisdom of Gordon Gekko? “Greed is good.”
The detritus on my living room floor suggests the latter is likely a recipe for disaster. The lost youth in search of philosophical solace in the Islamic State are a living (and dying) witness to the consequences of greed. There is no Harvard, Princeton or Yale for this lot. There is only the glory of death—they know no other way forward. Carnegie recognized that shortfall more than a century ago and we have set a vast majority of Americans free to learn as a result.
Perhaps it is time to remind barons of this new “steel age” that great wealth brings great responsibility…and it should not just be made available to those of us who can dabble in education as a result of income. The message must come from all ends of society—but particularly from those who reaped success by harvesting the ideas and wants of the masses who stood around them. Mankind moves forward together—or otherwise is trapped in infinite conflict. Marx was wrong about history, but he seemingly came to understand the underpinnings of human motivations. A lesson our modern electronics magnates should learn, less we all have to suffer the consequences.
Eric C. Anderson has returned to his roots—and is learning the art of traditional wooden boat construction in the great Northwest. Prior to his return to carpentry, he was a long-standing member of the U.S. intelligence community. He produced over 600 articles for the President’s Daily Brief, National Intelligence Council, International Security Advisory Board and the Department of Defense. In addition, he is the author of numerous books, including Take the Money and Run: Sovereign Wealth Funds and the Demise of American Prosperity (2009), China Restored: The Middle Kingdom Looks Forward to 2020 (2010), and Sinophobia: The Huawei Story (2013). He has served as a senior intelligence officer in the US Air Force, with assignments to the Multi National Forces-Iraq (Baghdad), the U.S. Pacific Command (Hawaii), Japan, Korea and Saudi Arabia. He has a PhD in Political Science from the University of Missouri, where he has taught, as well as teaching at the University of Maryland, the Air Force Academy, and National Intelligence University. A longtime Harley rider, he claims over 300,000 miles on two wheels in the past 30 years.