Monday, July 25, 2011

Lots and Lots of Money

The President of the United States will address the nation tonight.

About money.

I don't think I can say a single intelligent thing about money. Well, I know the basic stuff, "medium of exchange," etc., but the current crisis of the Federal government escapes my intellectual capacity. Or maybe it just escapes the limits of my patience. Trillions of this and trillions of that. It's clear enough that something ain't right here. But the technicalities are too geekish for me to sort out.

I do study history. I know that it's a bad thing for a government to run out of money. Louis XVI's government ran out of money. The Weimar Republic ran out of money. Bad things tend to happen when a government runs out of money. Of course our government ran out of money a long time ago; we've put off the problem by borrowing kazillions of dollars. Now we're reaching our "credit limit." America is maxed out.

I know enough to know that's a bad, bad thing.

What I focus on is "home economics"--the Janaro version of home economics. For us, "money" is whatever is necessary to keep our family in a decent modern lifestyle. We don't want luxury. Just the basics. (Never mind the fact that the "basics" of a "modern" lifestyle surpass the dreams of emperors in all the previous epochs of history.) Small house. Old, junky furniture. Electricity, plumbing, heat, refrigeration, cooking, telephone, television, videos, computers, internet. Doctors and medicine for our illnesses. And, of course, air conditioning. Oh yeah, and cars. Used cars. We're modest, simple people. If I have enough money to take care of that, I'm satisfied.

How does it work? Eileen and I are both "service oriented" people. We want to serve the community in our profession: education. You can't put a price on education. I look at my own education and I say to myself, "I wouldn't give up this for all the kazillions of dollars that the world can hold." I paid tuition for higher education and it helped support the institutions and the teachers. I am glad my teachers had money to live and eat and have air conditioning. But the fact is that there is nothing that I could have given my teachers that could possibly have "reimbursed" them for what they gave me by leading me on the path of education.

And, as a teacher, I never have expected my students to "pay me back." Just give us what our family needs to live so that we can serve the community in our profession. We realize that this is best accomplished by the community we serve, through subsidiary institutions. It doesn't always work out that way for academic professionals. It hasn't always worked that way for us. Sometimes the money comes from weird places. Anyone who has been involved in "start-up" educational enterprises has stories about donations from strangers that fall from the sky. Donations. As in charity. Yes, sometimes we live on charity. Should we be ashamed?

If I calculated the relationship between the work I have done in my life and the money I have been paid, I could become a bitter man. But I am not bitter. I am grateful. I have been able to practice my profession.

Meanwhile, there have been some rough patches recently. I could be bitter about that too.

But God does provide. Do not seek what you shall eat, or what you shall drink, and do not exalt yourselves (for after all these things the nations of the world seek); but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be given you besides (Luke 12:29-31).

Is there any advice for governments here? I am a naive man, and I don't pretend to be otherwise. To monitor the delicate instruments that facilitate civic life is the task of the Statesman. I hope our society can find people who can fulfill this role. It is truly a priceless work.