“The fundamental problem that we’ve got in America today – apart from the economics – is that conflict makes good politics. Sharp ideology and all this stuff that’s been very successful politically, but it’s lousy for economic policy making. If you look at the places that are really successful in America today – look at Silicon Valley, look at the computer simulation boom in Orlando and lots of other examples – those places without exception you have cooperation between a vibrant private sector and a smart government. And cooperation is great for the economy, but it doesn’t work as well politically. So we’ve got this big disconnect between politics and economics and until we close it, we’re going to have a hard time coming back.” — Bill Clinton, Meet the Press on Sunday. (Check out this great essay by Lea Marshall on “The Power of And” on our We the Wiki)
“It’s like Murder on the Orient Express. At the end, every single person stuck a knife in the victim.”
— Susie Welch, BusinessWeek
“There are 300 million villains here and they are the great American people who went on a shopping spree they couldn’t afford.”
— Conservative commentator George Will
From today’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos
On a recent London holiday (my mini-tribute to Mother England for her role in providing me so fine a vacation experience), my Westminster Abbey tour found me standing directly atop the grave of Charles Darwin right when our quirky bird “London Walks” tour guide first mentioned the notables buried there. It was actually a bit of a shock, seeing his name right at the tips of my tennies.
Quickly moving on to be wowed by the likes of Chaucer, Newton, and Churchill, I didn’t give a whole lot of vacation thought over to Darwin’s place of rest until I rested my own Yankee arse back at my computer sorting through the snaps (still tributing).
Then it finally dawned. (I am a quick study.) Ironic, isn’t it, that the scientist most thoroughly associated with the irreligious occupies such a high place of Christian burial.
As an enthusiastic lover of irony (I’d be a groupie if irony had groupies), I felt it my duty to investigate.
Turns out that most characterize Darwin (who was actually the Chaplain on board the HMS Beagle before being drawn, on the same voyage, to his signature naturalism) as having died an agnostic. He lost a lifelong mooring in his Christian faith not with his famed discoveries but when his daughter Annie died tragically at age ten. That he might has succumbed to doubt seems understandably human in reading his eulogy to Annie:
…the main feature in her disposition which at once rises before me is her buoyant joyousness. Her joyousness and animal spirits radiated from her whole countenance and rendered every movement elastic and full of life and vigor. It was delightful and cheerful to behold her. We have lost the joy of the household, and the solace of our old age.”
Apparently Darwin’s wife remained a woman of deep faith who he, as a consummate family man, was seriously disinclined to want to ever offend.
A memorial sermon on Darwin’s passing was preached in the Abbey on the Sunday following the funeral by the Bishop of Carlisle:
“I think that the interment of the remains of Mr. Darwin in Westminster Abbey is in accordance with the judgment of the wisest of his countrymen; It would have been unfortunate if anything had occurred to give weight and currency to the foolish notion which some have diligently propagated, but for which Mr. Darwin was not responsible, that there is a necessary conflict between a knowledge of Nature and a belief in God.”
Some one hundred and twenty-ish years after his death (and exactly 200 after his birth), we clearly haven’t sorted through that can of worms.
But with this bicentennial blurb, I wish to hereby serve notice that our subconsciously-drawn generalizations about people tend to be pretty half-baked, if baked at all.
Liz Joyner is the Executive Director of the Village Square. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you like me and horribly confused by just how we got to this economic precipice? Have you noticed two distinctly different versions of the story from each political campaign? Well, as usual, the operating principle – when seeking truth – is to find the AND rather than the EITHER/OR. Thanks to Fact Check.org and Time Magazine for this exercise in AND.
So, who’s responsible, using the “Power of &”?
The Federal Reserve, which slashed interest rates after the dot-com bubble burst, making credit cheap.
Home buyers, who took advantage of easy credit to bid up the prices of homes excessively.
Congress, which continues to support a mortgage tax deduction that gives consumers a tax incentive to buy more expensive houses.
Real estate agents, most of whom work for the sellers rather than the buyers and who earned higher commissions from selling more expensive homes.
The Clinton administration, which pushed for less stringent credit and downpayment requirements for working- and middle-class families.
Mortgage brokers, who offered less-credit-worthy home buyers subprime, adjustable rate loans with low initial payments, but exploding interest rates.
Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, who in 2004, near the peak of the housing bubble, encouraged Americans to take out adjustable rate mortgages.
Wall Street firms, who paid too little attention to the quality of the risky loans that they bundled into Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), and issued bonds using those securities as collateral.
The Bush administration, which failed to provide needed government oversight of the increasingly dicey mortgage-backed securities market.
An obscure accounting rule called mark-to-market, which can have the paradoxical result of making assets be worth less on paper than they are in reality during times of panic.
Collective delusion, or a belief on the part of all parties that home prices would keep rising forever, no matter how high or how fast they had already gone up.