The History of Man is the History of Ideas, Ludwig von Mises

The history of mankind is the history of ideas. For it is ideas, theories, and doctrines that guide human action, determine the ultimate ends men aim at, and the choice of the means employed for the attainment of these ends.


In as much as I have a history myself, it has to be one of ideas

(because I’m not an artist, writer, or musician). If I were to write my autobiography where would I begin? Because I only remember the things I did —schools, summer camps, friends, playing ball, my mother boiling an egg for me for breakfast, my dad coming home at night smelling like the inner city Boston and with surprises in his pockets, my grandmother making peanut butter cookies during my visits to her home only a bike ride away…

But ideas? Were there any of these prominent in my own life before going away to college? Not at Phillips Andover where there ought to have been. Probably my introduction to a life of ideas only came during the summer of my freshman and sophomore years at Harvard College while biking in Europe and finding myself reading (why then? was it my age?) for the first time the sort of magazine and newspaper articles that I’ve been reading almost without stopping ever since.

Now I wonder sometimes what will survive my death? Probably my Ideas alone, to the extent they have a life after me (not a sure thing) somehow remaining, although not forever, say in my own blog posts, or captured by my wife and placed somewhere within the 40 or 50 volumes of her family archives. Anything else, such as a few pictures, will perish, if not right away, within a few years at most of my own disappearance.

Ideas, maybe even a few of my own, will survive. For Ideas do survive as we have seen from the histories we possess of the oldest civilizations going back thousands if not tens of thousands of years, in China and the Middle East, and also in Africa, the ancestral home of us all.

What for example is our country the United States of America? Is it the people, now some 350 million of them, as well as the other millions who lived here before us, including those millions who had been here for some thousands of years before the onslaught of the Europeans bringing with them disease and destruction? Or is it the few ideas of a few people that have made and continue to make the country what it is, or not infrequently what it would be at its best?

There was Thomas Jefferson’s idea that all white men were equal, Susan Anthony’s idea that men and women were equal, Martin Luther King’s idea that all men and women were equal.

seat4

And well before the three of them there were the ideas of the original Americans. Chief Seattle’s idea, for example, that which ought to have been, or even now should be, the country’s founding idea, or ideal, one alas not yet realized.

Seattle’s idea was that we humans have not woven the web of life, but rather are merely threads within it, and that whatever we do to ourselves we are also doing to the web. For all things in the web of life are bound together, all things connect, this idea being much like the Gaia idea picked up in our own time by many others since Chief Seattle.

Now given the importance of ideas in our history and for our lives shouldn’t the words being exchanged between the candidates during the debates reflect this importance, even contain the debaters’ ideas? Yet a close listening to or reading of the debate transcript finds few if any ideas therein. So what was going on, what was being talked about, first at Hempstead, NY, then at St Louis,  MO, and then next week, October 19th. at Las Vegas, NV?

Thoughts, ideas etc.  will be continued in a future Blog. But right now ideas are not in favor. Instead the principal subject matters addressed by the two candidates during the debate are much more this sort of thing. For example this notice I take from the Washington Post of 10/15/2016:

Woman says Trump reached under her skirt and groped her in 1990s.

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