What Would the Founding Fathers Have to Say About Modern America?

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Posted by The Savvy Retiree on March 14, 2016 in Money Saving Strategies, Personal Finances

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.”
Albert Einstein

It’s a warm summer’s day here in the city. Too hot to talk about systemic collapse (our theme of late—see Parts I and II). We’ll revisit that next week.

But for now…

Birds sing in the trees…mothers and children relax in the parks…and workmen lean on shovels along the street, calling out piropos (pick-up lines) to the pretty ladies who pass them by.

A few smile. None stop.

Meanwhile, down by the little fruit and veg stand near our building, the old ladies are busy predicting the weather. (Roughly translated…)

“It’s going to storm this afternoon,” ventures one.

“No, no,” counters another. “This heat won’t break for another day or two.”

“Wait!” chimes a third. “I think I just felt a drop…”

Your editor doffs an imaginary cap in their direction, pays for his groceries and heads back to the office.

Overhead, there’s not a cloud in the sky.

When we stroll around Buenos Aires…along her wide-open boulevards and cobbled stone streets…through her lush parks and myriad plazas…around her café corners and restaurant-lined alleys…we don’t see a futuristic megatropolis.

The “Paris of the South” is not a Shanghai or a Dubai. In some parts, it’s barely even a Mumbai.

There are some modern buildings, down in Puerto Madero…but it’s as bland and uniform there as in any other “big smoke” capital around the world. In all the years we’ve been coming here, we’ve probably visited the area twice.

The real charm is to be found in this city’s older barrios. Recoleta… San Telmo… Palermo. There, a step onto the street is like a step back in time.

Architecture from the ’20s (the good), politics from the ’50s (the bad) and haircuts from the ’80s (the ugly). The past holds something for everyone.

In many ways, this is a simpler mode of living. For instance, individuals still specialize in traditional crafts.
If you want your shoe fixed, you go to a cobbler.

If it’s fresh-cut flowers you’re after, there’s a floreria on every other corner.

And if you find you’re out of fruit and veg, the stall down the street sells seasonal produce, brought directly in from the fertile fields of the surrounding provincias every morning.

It’s the good, tasty stuff, too…unashamed of its imperfect skin, happy to flaunt a genuine bruise and not afraid to rot in the bowl if you don’t eat it within a few days.

You know, like fruit and veg used to be…before the tasteless, plastic ornaments you pay a fortune for at Wholefoods and other “gourmet” outlets.

Our haul this morning—a bag full of paltas (avocados), duraznos (peaches), manzanas (apples) and a fistful of aromatic cilantro (coriander)—brought change from 70 pesos (about $4.50).

The idea of traveling back in time by heading abroad is not a new one. Simpler, easier, more independent lifestyles of the past exist today…as they always have. You just need to uncover them.

In his 1928 collection, Skeptical Essays, the eccentric English polymath, Bertrand Russell, observed as much. It’s worth quoting him at length here, as his insights are at once timeless…and a product of their own time.

Everybody knows Well’s Time Machine, which enabled its possessor to travel backwards or forwards in time, and see for himself what the past was like and what the future will be. But people do not always realize that a great deal of the advantages of Well’s device can be secured by travelling about the world at the present day.

A European who goes to New York and Chicago sees the future, the future to which Europe is likely to come if it escapes economic disaster. On the other hand, when he goes to Asia he sees the past. In India, I am told, he can see the Middle Ages; in China he can see the eighteenth century.

If George Washington were to return to earth, the country which he created would puzzle him dreadfully. He would feel a little less strange in England, still less strange in France; but he would not feel really at home until he reached China. There, for the first time in his ghostly wanderings, he would find men who still believe in ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’, and who conceive these things more or less as Americans of the War of Independence conceived them. And I think it would not be long before he became President of the Chinese Republic.

Obviously, the world has changed plenty since Mr. Russell penned those words back in the roaring ’20s.

For starters, many of the skyscrapers of New York and Chicago today stand in the shadows of those in Beijing and Taipei. In fact, seven of the world’s tallest ten buildings are to be found in the Far East (five on the Chinese mainland; one each in Taipei and Hong Kong).

As for the Middle East, the world’s tallest building, The Burj Khalifa in Dubai, measures as high as the Empire State Building and the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower…stacked on top of one another!

The Abraj Al-Bait Tower in Mecca, Saudi Arabia (3rd) and One World Trade Center, New York (6th) round out the top ten.

As for politics and culture…

We’d pay good money to hear Mr. Washington’s thoughts on the state of the modern day election circus. But why stop there? We’d like to see all of the founding fathers up on the debate stage.

What choice words might Mr. Jefferson offer to Mrs. Clinton? What advice would Mr. Franklin pay Mr. Trump? And how about Mr. Paine, might he have a thing or two to say to Messrs. Cruz, Sanders, Rubio and the rest?

More to the point, what might these “ghostly figures” think of the beastly leviathan over which today’s candidates hope to take charge? And what of those quaint notions of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”?

Wait…is that the rumbling of revolution we imagine?

Image ©iStock.com/gregobagel

T&P Tool Shed

Hit the Code, Jack

By the staff of Truth & Plenty

In spite of the tireless crusade to bully young adults towards higher education (and years of crippling debt), you might be surprised to know it’s entirely possible to lead a content and comfortable life without a single college degree. In fact, we managed without them just fine for about 200,000 years.

Once upon a time, hard work and skill were valued over pieces of paper on the wall, and with the rise of free education we’re slowly seeing a return to those values. Surprisingly, one of the forerunners in this field is the relatively new craft of coding.

At websites like Khan Academy and Code Academy you’ll find comprehensive courses in a vast swathe of powerful coding languages (as well as math, history, art, and economics). You’ll learn to create websites and apps, write computer software, and program video games.

Software development is an ever-growing market and employers look for skill over a computer science degree (in fact, being entirely self-taught boasts independence and determination). And for those who value their independence above all (we do), freelance opportunities abound.