The Ecuador Chronicles - 2010-23
Fourth of July Reflections;
What Does it Mean to be American;
Images of Small Town America
by Ray Almand
Note to International Readers: Please indulge Our Fourth of July Reflections
Dalynda and I returned from Quito to our home if Hampton, Georgia just in time for the Fourth of July, a time of American celebration and a time to reflect upon what it is to be American. So, what is America - let's list a few things: Politically - a representative democracy; a capitalistic economy (sort of); a unique culture, evolved and blended from many other cultures; and, of course, The American Dream - based around the idea that each individual is in charge of his own life, free to pursue his own dream. America becomes more a concept, a philosophy than a place.
I Can Think of No Other Country where the National Flag is so
Promiently and Frequently Displayed
We Certainly have Ours Out on the Fourth - and Every Day
But let's look a little deeper. America (and much of the world) is going through some tough times. Many are out of work; many have seen their assets drop hugely in value; many who thought they were financially secure no longer are. A heavy handed government is trying to keep the whole thing afloat - which actually brings us to the central issue of our time: What is the proper role of government in a society.
Our founders believed in limited government. Even the most libertarian among us see that there are certain things essential to civilization that only government can provide:
An army to protect from outside aggression
A legislative / judicial system protecting citizens from force and fraud
A police force to support the judicial process
Even these bare bones institutions become bureaucratic nightmares. The judicial system can be abused by too many useless laws and frivolous lawsuits; with too many ridiculous laws on the books the police become bogged down - and even corrupt. The military command and control system can work quite well, but can also become another bureaucratic nightmare, as many who have served can attest.
One could make the case that the capitalistic / corporate world has many of the same problems - but there is a major difference. A corporation that does not provide a product or service that people want at a competitive price will fail, and another will soon take its place. Of course, government bailouts can even corrupt this self correcting feature.
The government of the United States engages in much more than the three points above. We often look at Europe and many other parts of the world as being Socialistic - but let's look at ourselves. There is a social agenda and a high cost involved in everything the government does - and much of it enjoys wide popular support.
Consider Public Education - most Americans don't think twice about this, consider it a right. And it fits well with the American sense of Fair Play. Every child, no matter what circumstances they are born into, should get off to a good start.
Consider Social Security - again, most Americans support this. They feel that older people should live in dignity - even those who perhaps mismanaged their own lives.
Consider Medicare - it enjoys wide popular support. Most Americans believe some level of health care should be provided to older people.
Consider Medicaid, aid to Dependent Children, all forms of welfare (corporate welfare), etc., etc., etc.
We could go on and on - and we do; we are in process on government healthcare for all.
Most of this is popular, enjoys support - But the question is: Where do we draw the line? Government is very bad a producing wealth - very good at destroying wealth. If we ask the government to do everything, we fail - we become Greece and worse. In Greece a large percentage of the population either works for the government or receives some payment from the government. There is not enough productive work to support all of this, so the Greek government kept borrowing money (issuing bonds) and now can't make the payments.
Look at Germany - Germany has spent the last 15 years working to streamline its socialistic system into something affordable and productive. And they have had great success - to the point they have to bail out Greece to save the Euro. The United Kingdom under Mrs. Thatcher and even successive labor government has done the same.
But again - In America we have to figure this out, and we cannot keep putting everything to government; we have got to draw that line somewhere. And I believe we will figure it out - and the answer will be in leaving Americans free to live for themselves - and Americans will be productive as always. I hope we have learned not to take things for granted - the world order is fragile.
What Happened to Ecuador??
OK - let's move away from American domestic politics and economy and think internationaly. Is a person somehow less an American by owing property in another country, by being interested in another culture? Actually, the opposite is true; Americans need to be more engaged abroad. I'm talking about individual Americans - our government is involved all over the place. A very low percentage of Americans own passports; most have never left the country - have had almost no international experience. Yet our government policy has worldwide impact. This is something for people to think about. Consider being a traveler - and I don't mean as a tourist hopping around Europe on planes and buses for a week. Pick a country, pick a couple of locations - take your vacation time and take it slow, somewhere that may be of interest to you. I personally think Ecuador is great for this - but the world is a big place; you decide. Take your time, get to know some local people, get rid of old stereotypes. Some people hate us (until they meet you); some people love us. Many people around the world mange to somehow hate us and love us, all at the same time.
More Images from a Morning Fourth of July Walk Around
Hampton, Georgia - Small Town America
A Lot of Churches
The Old Train Depot
Main Street - Quiet on an Early Fourth of July Sunday
America is Beautiful
Old Truck For Sale
Playground - All is Quiet; Too Early for Kids
The Old Textile Mill - Converted into Lofts
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