Thoughts from the Past

Al Jacobs

For the past dozen or more years I’ve written articles for display in both newspapers and online sites. Although my topic specialty is financial, I often drift off to cover subjects such as education, government, international affairs and other vaguely related matters. Understandably, each publication I submit to sets a preferred word length, and I do my best to accommodate them. In general, the works I compose range in length from a minimum of about 350 words to a maximum of 1,400. Let me now tell you, as you might expect, there are times I’ve tackled a subject where I fully conveyed my intended message before I came close to meeting the required word count. The result: I simply set it aside, often never to look at it again. At other times I began writing enthusiastically on a thought, but quickly ran out of inspiration. In each of these instances I put a printed copy of what I wrote into a folder I maintained and went on to other matters.

Whether for better or worse, while browsing through my miscellaneous files the other day, I began reviewing these old unused writings. Some related to subjects no longer current enough to be of interest to anyone. Others seemed as vital today as when written. A few were remarkably prophetic. But perhaps least surprisingly, many express views I hold as firmly today as when I first penned the comments. With this said, I think you can see where I’m going. I’m about to share with you some of my partially digested ruminations from an earlier time. Please stick with me as I relate past sensations; I hope you find them as provocative as I did.


The lessons of history are clear. The earliest empires were built around metal technologies. Those skilled enough in forging iron and making tough bronze by adding tin to copper conquered the less advanced people and then subjugated them. These fundamental principles remain unchanged. If America is to compete successfully … indeed, to survive in this increasingly technological world … it must encourage its most talented citizens to strive for achievement in the physical sciences. Unfortunately, due to political considerations, governmental educational emphasis and funds normally provide the wrong schooling to the wrong persons for the wrong reasons. In short, it selects equity in preference to excellence. This must change if we are to remain prominent.


A  thought on the Supreme Court’s ObamaCare decision: From the beginning, most of us expected a 5-4 decision. By tradition, the four right-wingers were to rule against the health care law with the four left-wingers ruling for it. Kennedy was expected, as usual, to be the swing vote. So the question now bandied about is: Why did Roberts vote as he did? I’ve heard a number of responses, with many Republican spokesmen attempting to rationalize it with all sorts of contrived nonsense. Most of their explanations are irrational; let me advance what I believe to be a logical justification.

If Roberts sat simply as an Associate Justice, he’d likely have sided with the other conservatives opposing ObamaCare. However, as Chief Justice he considered his position and, more importantly, his legacy. I’m guessing his recollections go back to the Bush-Gore Florida presidential decision of 2000, where the court ruled 5-4 their buddy beat the other guy. I believe this occupied Robert’s mind from the start. If he sided with the conservatives on this ruling, as did Chief Justice William Rehnquist on his, he envisioned going down in history much as did Chief Justice Roger Taney, the architect of the 1857 Dred Scott decision: nothing more than a party ideologue. And this is not the first time such a consideration dictated a Supreme Court decision. I’m convinced Chief Justice Earl Warren’s efforts in the Brown vs. Board of Education 9-0 school integration decision constituted an apology of sorts, triggered by his desire for posterity to excuse him for his 1942 activities, as California’s Attorney General, in cooperation with the Franklin Roosevelt administration during World War II, when they imprisoned 110,000 mostly loyal Japanese-American citizens in concentration camps.


People with an ability to get elected to public office often exhibit only one talent: getting elected to public office. The single ability most helpful for attaining public office is persuasiveness, which includes the ability to exaggerate convincingly, to hide flaws, to deny mistakes, to take unwarranted credit, to effectively employ hyperbole and a willingness to equivocate. These are, of course, exactly the same talents required to be a successful confidence artist. Is it therefore any wonder our elected public officials perform their functions as they do? And isn’t it then equally obvious why it’s wise you only accept their statements and assurances with a grain of salt?


In this worldwide struggle between good and evil, the Muslim terrorists enjoy a distinct advantage in that they possess 21st Century technology while at the same time a 12th Century mentality. This is a potent combination, for you can conduct hostilities far more effectively when you need not concern yourself with such distractions as human values, public perception or morality. Their only disadvantage is the deleterious side effects of religious fanaticism, which includes an absence of both realistic perception and rationality. I admit to having no idea what the final outcome will be, but what concerns me most is my fear weapons of mass destruction will eventually fall into the hands of true madmen. I liken my apprehension of this possibility to what I envision the result if Adolf Hitler had, before his suicide in his Berlin bunker in April 1945, the ability to launch numerous ICBMs armed with 50-megaton hydrogen bombs. I’m certain, if given the opportunity, he desired to destroy every living creature on earth.


I’ve become convinced the political community is unable to resolve economic problems. Admittedly, by their ability to confiscate the citizens’ property through taxation, as well as their authority to impose restrictive rules and regulations, they can certainly make matters tough for us all. However, they’re unable to actually impose prosperity. So the many members of government must try to portray themselves as champions of the particular constituencies each represent.

My prediction: Economic hard times are America’s future. Despite the U.S. Labor Department’s statistics to the contrary, our current unemployment rate actually exceeds 20 percent. And worse than this, the rate will continue to grow, with the jobs already lost never to return. I fear Americans are in store for many years of economic malaise. The world is rapidly uniting in many ways, as we become a more integral part of the overall economy, and we cannot escape being drawn downward into the poverty existing elsewhere. How can our standard of living prevail when we must cohabit the globe with societies whose workers subsist on two dollars a day? The concept of Buy America emits a patriotic ring, but how many of us will pay $30 for an American-made product when the Bangladesh-made equivalent sells for $4.95?

The end is easily foretold. American wages must eventually come into line with those of the underdeveloped nations and the relative prosperity we reveled in during the 20th Century will not be matched in the 21st. The government’s response to this will be a succession of Super-committees to divert attention, while the intent of each successive administration will be to systematically confiscate more and more of the nation’s collective wealth. If there’s a moral to this, it’s probably no more profound than the time-worn adage: “And so it only goes to serve, that people get what they deserve.”

Al Jacobs, a professional investor for nearly a half-century, issues weekly financial articles in which he shares his financial knowledge and experience. You may view it on


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