Recently, Jeff Rutherford–a follower of my blog and manager of Necessary and Proper Government–asked me from whence I’d gained my political and economic knowledge. After a moment’s thought, I realized it was a question I’ve never answered. So, how did I come to the place where I am now, politically and economically?
I could say “On my own,” but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate.
I was born into a conservative home; furthermore, both my parents were devout Christians. From my earliest recollection and before, I was in church each time the doors were open. Even though TV had been around for decades by the time the early ’90s rolled around, I spent the first ten years of my life with almost no time in front of a television screen. There wasn’t one in the house, so what little exposure I had was at friends’ houses, and then it was usually a movie that my friend’s mother had cleared with my mother.
I mentioned in my post, Cliffs, Fences, and Ambulances that the poem was a great jumping-off point for this explanatory post of where I am today. If you haven’t yet, I urge you to use the above link and read the poem in its entirety. It probably won’t take you more than five minutes.
Are you back? Great! Let’s continue.
The crux of the matter in the above-referenced poem is the question of whether we should build a fence round the top of the cliff (pre-crisis intervention), or place an ambulance down below to clean up the mess (post-crisis intervention). From the moment I was born, my parents agreed to set up certain boundaries in my life that would prevent me from going in a direction that would inhibit their desire to see me grow in the knowledge of the truth. They did their best to protect me from the “one-off” mistakes; you know, the ones where you make a mistake once, and they kill you. In other areas, they allowed me to make mistakes, waited for me to pick myself up and dust myself off, and then used that real-life experience to illustrate a principle that carried over into countless other areas of life. By allowing me to suffer the consequences of small mistakes in a controlled environment, they were educating me on the principles of reaping what you sow, without allowing me to invest so much that I’d destroy myself in the downfall.
Contrary to popular philosophical and psychological counsel, my parents understood that leaving someone free to choose does not mean allowing them to have their own way from birth.
At the young age of four, in the church I had attended since birth, God used a very special Book to change my life. On a Sunday evening in October of 1993, I realized that being in church with my Christian parents wasn’t enough. I needed a personal relationship with Christ. I met Him that night, and I’ve never been the same since.
As I continued to grow and mature, my parents used their influence to guide me into the way of analyzing every philosophy against the framework of real life. Contrary to the common method of “If it sounds good, it is good,” my parents invited me to critically examine and weigh the evidence from both sides of the issue.
When I was about sixteen years old, my dad brought home another book that changed my life. Somehow, somewhere, he’d heard of the writings of one Thomas Sowell, a prominent conservative black economist. After reading a few of his columns online, my dad had purchased his book White Liberals and Black Rednecks.
As I read the book, it struck me how much Dr. Sowell’s message backed up what my dad had told me for years. Although my understanding was imperfect at the time, and I was mainly rejoicing in the fact that someone was willing to attack the liberals so forcefully in print, I was also absorbing and storing information and principles that would stick with me for years to come.
As I grew still older and entered the workplace, I began to see the message behind the message in Dr. Sowell’s books. By this time, my dad owned three or four, and I’d purchased four or five with some of the money I was earning from my first real job. I’d also bought several books by Dr. Sowell’s contemporary, Dr. Walter Williams.
By the time I was twenty years of age, I’d spent three years in the workforce, and nearly as long digesting the books by these two preeminent economists. Though I never would have been able to phrase it so at the time, I was amazed at the difference between their words and the words of my fellow workers of African-American heritage. In the back of my mind, tension was growing. Who was right? The fellows I worked with spouted words that sounded so good…they made people feel good about themselves, they removed a lot of the responsibility for bad choices from the individual and placed it on the collective shoulders of society, etc., etc. Where had I heard this before?
The answer came to me, not in a single, blinding epiphany, but over the course of years of reading news articles and editorials, observing current events, spending hours contemplating the inconsistencies between people’s words and reality, and prayerfully searching the Scriptures.
Gradually, it began to dawn on me that the philosophy espoused by my coworkers–appeal to the emotions notwithstanding–was the faulty one that left countless nuances of reality unexplained. It’s difficult to put into words the hundreds of events and factors that came into play as I wrestled with this complicated issue.
Although I was now at the point where my parents had set me free to draw my own conclusions, I had by no means completely discounted their opinions. Other adults at church who shared my father’s views on many issues solidified the growing regard in which I held those same views. And for nearly a year, my father printed off hundreds of articles by conservatives from across the nation, brought them home, and just left them lying where I’d be sure to see them.
I mentioned earlier the fact that for ten years of my life, we had no television in the house. Thus, I was from an early age completely engaged with books. I learned to read at the age of five, and developed early a love for reading that has never departed. Nearly twenty years later, I’d still rather read a book than watch a film, and even radio is preferable to television in my eyes. Because of this love for reading, I devoured every printout my dad brought home, and the constant exposure to factual, logical analysis of the current events and policies in Washington took root in my mind.
All of these things have contributed to my current position. I stand behind statements I’ve previously made: reading is the single most important element in teaching a child to think critically, logically, and linearly. A good reader is a good thinker. Reading properly promotes memory, because it forces the reader to remember and track arguments and trains of thought across pages of printed matter, and to gather up the loose ends and tie them all together at the close. True, a well-written book or article will aid the reader in this process; but, without memory, reading is a pointless and frustrating endeavor.
So, the answer is that my knowledge of politics and economics is largely from self-education. I know more about politics now than I did three years ago, and it is my desire to continue to learn more about politics and economics for the rest of my life. Although I don’t feel led to pursue a career in either field presently, I know that everything I learn will have value in enabling me to make sense of the world at large. It will also make me a better-informed and more productive participant in the political process, which I firmly believe was what our Founding Fathers had in mind.
I realize this explanation isn’t complete, but it’s a start. As you’ve read it, I hope some of your questions have been answered. Perhaps some have not. Perhaps other inquiries have come to mind. If so, please share them with me. What else would you like to know about the way my education shaped my thinking?