About This Blog

Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) was the greatest economist of my time. His greatest works can be accessed here at no charge.

Mises believed that property, freedom and peace are and should be the hallmarks of a satisfying and prosperous society. I agree. Mises proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the prospect for general and individual prosperity is maximized, indeed, is only possible, if the principle of private property reigns supreme. What's yours is yours. What's mine is mine. When the line between yours and mine is smudged, the door to conflict opens. Without freedom (individual liberty of action) the principle of private property is neutered and the free market, which is the child of property and freedom and the mother of prosperity and satisfaction, cannot exist. Peace is the goal of a prosperous and satisfying society of free individuals, not peace which is purchased by submission to the enemies of property and freedom, but peace which results from the unyielding defense of these principles against all who challenge them.

In this blog I measure American society against the metrics of property, freedom and peace.

Monday, April 23, 2012

"Gold Is Where You Find It"

At the end of her column, titled "America's Crisis of Character," the often insipid and ever saccharine Peggy Noonan comments: "Something seems to be going terribly wrong."

Of course, Noonan is referring to our American culture, "or rather the flat, brute, highly sexualized thing we call our culture." After deploring juvenile "flash mobs," a groping TSA agent reducing a woman to tears, the four-day, regional orgy of the General Services Administration, whoring Secret Service agents, US troops in Afghanistan posing with enemy body parts and public school teachers having sex with students, Noonan finishes with a suggestion: "Maybe we have to stop and think about this."

Really, Peggy? The best you can come up with is contemplating our collective navel?

Come on!

I'm an aficionado of old movies made in the 30's, 40's and 50's. If you want to learn why our American culture and character has deteriorated over the past sixty or seventy years and how tragically that deterioration has progressed, watch an old movie and compare it to the trash being made nowadays. Contrast the wholesome and virtuous characters with the vacant, amoral individuals Noonan decries in her column, and the mirror-image characters common in today's films.

I watched a movie a day or so ago called "Gold Is Where You Find It." [SPOILER ALERT!] Made in 1938, starring Olivia de Havilland and Claude Rains, the movie documents the conflict between hydraulic gold miners and farmers during the California gold rush circa 1860. The slurry and waste water from the mines contaminates the farmers' crops and wells. The farmers take their case to court, but a battle erupts anyway. Eventually, the California Supreme Court upholds the farmers' violated property rights.

Even though the plot is free market and pro-property, it is not remarkable. Westerns of that era regularly dealt with conflicts over property rights and upholding the law in the face of resistance by vigilantes. Westerns were popular morality plays, but so were many films of yesteryear.

What is remarkable about the film is the culture of the frontier characters. They are depicted as polite and cooperative people. They don't curse. Claude Rains is the very definition of a gentleman and father. Even when his children disagree with him, they honor him. The heroic farmers treat each other with respect and tolerance. They are strong, self-reliant, reasonable and honorable men who instinctively recognize right and wrong, good and evil. They show deference and respect, sexual and otherwise, to their women. Even in conflict the dialogue is thoughtful, sympathetic and erudite. All this in what is billed by the studio as a "lusty, brawling saga."

Earlier that day I watched "She Couldn't Say No," a 1954 comedy celebrating small town America, starring Robert Mitchum and Jean Simmons. Mitchum plays a doctor who helps the town get through the trouble caused by Simmons whose efforts to repay the town for saving her life bring about unintended consequences. The trailer is below. The clip below the trailer gives the flavor of the film. Some today would call the film naive, but the honesty and genuine human kindness and cooperative sociability exhibited and portrayed by the townspeople is in short supply today. Note Mitchum delivers the baby for the going price of $75, or two pigs taken in barter. No need for ObamaCare in Arkansas in the 50's!

Speaking of Mitchum, one of my favorite movies of all time is "Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison." Made in 1957 the film is set in World War II. Mitchum plays an adopted street tough turned US Marine who is marooned behind enemy lines on a tropical island in the South Pacific with a Catholic nun, a missionary, played by Deborah Kerr. The deference and respect Mitchum shows Kerr tells a lot about the character of the men and women of the time. Mitchum is genuinely polite and protective of Kerr, and though he is attracted to her he treats her with the utmost regard and sexual restraint and respect. It's a film that could never be made today without corrupting the integrity of the film and the virtue of the characters.

Talking about movies that could not be made today, how about "Angels In The Outfield?" I know the original, 1951 version that I saw recently was re-made by Disney in 1994, but I bet the remake is a real goofball, irreverent farce (I didn't see it). The original, starring Paul Douglas and Janet Leigh, was a comedy in a loose sense of the word. The movie was touching and reverent. The angels helping Douglas' team win were not farcical but almost believable. The film was filled with Christian life lessons, moral virtues and family values. Mutual kindness and respect win the day.

I could go on and on: The Bells of St Mary’s (1945); The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima (1952); Going My Way (1944); Boys Town (1938); Come to the Stable (1949); The Miracle of the Bells (1948);The Hoodlum Saint (1946); The Sign of the Cross (1932); and It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). In the 30's, 40's and 50's films with Christian, Catholic, formal and informal religious themes were commonplace. These films illustrated and explored a cultural, social and moral innocence that no longer exists in this country, an innocence born of deep faith in God and family and a belief in something greater than self. The Americans portrayed in these movies were good people, decent people, modest people, steeped in unapologetic Christian values and morality.

THAT'S what is missing in the American culture and character of today, especially in our big cities and among the young: Christian values and morality! Too many today have embraced a self-centered, amoral, hedonist, "anything goes" lifestyle.

The antidote is not meditation and self-psycho-analysis. The antidote is regaining and practicing our unabashed and lost innocence!

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