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Archive for November 7th, 2008

Our Demise Is Greatly Overstated The United States’ Future is Incandescent

Friday, November 7th, 2008

by: Geoff Ficke

As we slog along under the full weight of the current financial calamity, there is much weeping and gnashing of teeth about the future of the United States. Many of our countries fiercest enemies and critics are gloating over their perception that our wave has crested and we have entered a period of steep decline as an economic, military and cultural power. Amongst the citizenry, there is a palpable sense that the country is on the wrong track. In reality this has ever been so.

The 19th century Canadian politician Wilfrid Laurier once famously spouted, “the 19th century was the century of the United States. I think we can claim that it is Canada that shall fill the 20th century”. Oh really! Now I love Canada and Canadians. They produce wonderful comedians like Jim Carrey, John Candy and Rick Moranis, great hockey players, the moose hunting is amazing and Labatt’s is a terrific brew. The Canadians prospered nicely in the 20th century, but by any measure Mr. Laurier’s observation was classic balderdash. He is but one of a long chorus of critics that prematurely dismissed American prospects to their regret and embarrassment.

The current President of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev has blamed the United States solely for the global financial crisis, assigned blame for Russia’s thuggish unilateral military invasion of tiny Georgia on American policy and stated that America would descend to second tier status as a global power. This from the leader of a country with a declining population, staggering levels of alcoholism and drug abuse, clepto-capitalism, a military hobbled by desertion and archaic weapons systems, declining productivity and a complete lack of innovation. How bright is the future of the average Russian eking out a living in Vladisvostock?

There are always doubters and cheerleaders fueling the notion that America is in decline. The Soviet and Eastern European Communists, for 70 years predicted they would overcome us. Nikita Kruschev famously shouted at the United Nations, “we will bury you”. Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda believed that we would never stand and fight; shedding blood and treasure, just to preserve our freedoms. Hussein is dead and Bin Laden is hiding in a cave as a result of their misjudgments and fundamental misunderstandings of our resolve.

American uber-leftists like Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky travel the world trashing the United States. The capitalist system that has enabled the country to prosper and made the Moore’s and Chomsky’s rich, is continually denigrated and blamed for every perceived malady we face. Capitalism is not perfect. It simply is the greatest engine for economic prosperity ever yet developed.

Why will America emerge from our current difficulties with a brighter, stronger future outlook than so many of our critic’s project? Simply put, America has the ability to adapt and re-invent itself like no other country or culture in history. We are more receptive to immigrants than almost any other country and they constantly infuse the land with energy, creativity and continually stir the stew that makes the United States so unique. Our society is the most fluid in the history of the world. New ideas are always emerging. America’s unique vitality separates us from most other countries that have static state centered economies.

There is no place on earth, at any time in history, where entrepreneurial activity is so valued and pursued as in America. This constant blast of creativity bears fruit in so many beneficial ways. Through hard work, novelty and inventiveness, utilizing the capitalistic economy, rule of law and property rights, entrepreneurs have the potential to build enterprises that provide products and services, profits, employment and social benefits that make America uniquely dynamic. Times are tough, but the will to succeed is irrepressible.

Another reason the future for America is so bright in my estimation is our ability to laugh at ourselves. This country has many sourpuss types, doomsayers, negativists and self-haters. However, these “nattering nabobs of negativism” are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of Americans that revere the country, appreciate her innate precious goodness and have the ability to laugh at our collective foibles and faults. This is a trait of which we can, and should be proud. It is a trait that is found almost nowhere else in the world.

We have survived wars, depressions, natural disasters, and terrorism. The fiscal difficulties we currently confront are in large part self-inflicted. We have not been diligent in demanding that our government act prudently over the last 75 years. We spend too much and save too little. We want much more than we need. We confuse greed and envy with comfort and safety.

The country also just elected a black man, a minority, to be President of the United States. This could only happen in America. Could a North African rise to such heights in France? Could a Turkish immigrant achieve the equivalent office in Germany? Could a Filipino laborer rise to these heights in the Middle East? Of course not! This country, its values and opportunities, is the beacon of hope that ordinary people all over the world aspire to emulate.

This is a wonderful time for each of us as citizens to take stock of our personal and societal situations and adjust to a reality that is based on real needs, not the irrational pursuit of materialism. We must demand that politicians stop bribing us for our votes with promises of benefits that some future generation will be saddled with paying for. This is the best possible time for Americans to reflect, adjust and re-energize this wonderfully dynamic country.

The Simple Road Reflector Saves Lives And Provides A Great Teaching Template

Friday, November 7th, 2008

by: Geoff Ficke

One wintry night in 1933, Percy Shaw found himself driving his automobile on a remote country road in England. The night was moonless; the fog hung densely and there was a persistent mixture of rain and snow belting against his windshield. The road was little more than a lane, with no signage, no shoulders, winding and curvy. Any error in judgement would be very costly indeed.

As Mr. Shaw slogged along he suddenly came upon a rise in the road and was startled when a small Morriss Minor automobile appeared right at the crest of the grade. The approaching car was headed directly at his vehicle. He was on a slight curve, it was pitch dark, the road was slick and unmarked. In the split second he had to make a decision a small housecat scampered across the road. The headlights of Mr. Shaw”s car illuminated the eyes of the cat, and the reflection from those iridescent orbs provided Percy Shaw with just enough perspective to gage his distance and edge safely around the Morris Minor.

As Percy Shaw gathered himself after his close call, he began to think about what had occurred. Why were roads of the time so dangerous? What had just happened that he could take advantage of in a way to help all motorists? He became motivated to improve road safety for every driver everywhere. But how?

The reflection from the cat’s eyes was the key to the solution Mr. Shaw sought. He began tinkering in his garage workshop. After a number of attempts, he perfected the first “cat’s eye road reflectors”. Today, the ubiquitous illuminated reflectors implanted in roadbeds and placed strategically along roadside rights of way are part of the driving experience that we take for granted. They provide safety and guidance at night, and in horrid weather conditions. In the 1930’s they were considered an amazing safety advance.

The British Government immediately endorsed and implemented the installation of the reflectors on roads across the British Isles and then across the Empire. Millions of Percy Shaw’s “cat’s eye road reflectors” enhance driving safety around the world to this day. Mr. Shaw was Knighted by Queen Elizabeth and profited mightily from his invention. He was always most proud of the safety benefits his simple invention had provided mankind.

Modern entrepreneurs and inventors can take a simple lesson from this seemingly elementary invention. Percy Shaw was not thinking about inventing the “cat’s eye road reflector” that stormy night in 1933. An event occurred that made him consider possibilities. He sensed a need. He addressed that need. He profited from his answering the need he had identified, and all motorists realized the benefits of his inventiveness.

Creative entrepreneurs are always seeking to offer products and services that provide improved features and performance benefits not available in current items. The simplest of ideas and concepts are often the most commercial. The example of Percy Shaw’s invention of the “cat’s eye road reflector” is a wonderful template for aspiring inventors.

Opportunity can appear at the most unexpected moments. Be aware, be flexible and be opportunistic if you want to enjoy the fruits that come to successful innovators. The market always is open to new, novel products.