Category Archives: history

For God So Loved the 1 Percent … – NYTimes.com

For God So Loved the 1 Percent … – NYTimes.com.

January 17, 2012, 9:00 pm

For God So Loved the 1 Percent …

Princeton, N.J.

IN recent weeks Mitt Romney has become the poster child for unchecked capitalism, a role he seems to embrace with relish. Concerns about economic equality, he told Matt Lauer of NBC, were really about class warfare.

“When you have a president encouraging the idea of dividing America based on the 99 percent versus 1 percent,” he said, “you have opened up a whole new wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of one nation under God.”

Mr. Romney was on to something, though perhaps not what he intended.

The concept of “one nation under God” has a noble lineage, originating in Abraham Lincoln’s hope at Gettysburg that “this nation, under God, shall not perish from the earth.” After Lincoln, however, the phrase disappeared from political discourse for decades. But it re-emerged in the mid-20th century, under a much different guise: corporate leaders and conservative clergymen deployed it to discredit Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

During the Great Depression, the prestige of big business sank along with stock prices. Corporate leaders worked frantically to restore their public image and simultaneously roll back the “creeping socialism” of the welfare state. Notably, the American Liberty League, financed by corporations like DuPont and General Motors, made an aggressive case for capitalism. Most, however, dismissed its efforts as self-interested propaganda. (A Democratic Party official joked that the organization should have been called “the American Cellophane League” because “first, it’s a DuPont product and, second, you can see right through it.”)

Realizing that they needed to rely on others, these businessmen took a new tack: using generous financing to enlist sympathetic clergymen as their champions. After all, according to one tycoon, polls showed that, “of all the groups in America, ministers had more to do with molding public opinion” than any other.

The Rev. James W. Fifield, pastor of the elite First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, led the way in championing a new union of faith and free enterprise. “The blessings of capitalism come from God,” he wrote. “A system that provides so much for the common good and happiness must flourish under the favor of the Almighty.”

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Read the full article here: The New York Times

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Religion in America: The faith and doubts of our fathers | The Economist

Religion in America: The faith and doubts of our fathers | The Economist.

Religion in America
The faith (and doubts) of our fathers

What did the makers of America believe about God and religion? The subject is stirring the very rancour they wanted to avoid

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Filed under 1st Amendment, Constitution, establishment clause, history, Religion, USA

Mitt Romney, Believe in America: He says the U.S. Is “the greatest nation in the history of the earth.” – Slate Magazine

Mitt Romney, Believe in America: He says the U.S. Is “the greatest nation in the history of the earth.” – Slate Magazine.

“The Greatest Nation in the History of the Earth

That’s what Mitt Romney calls the United States. Is he right? A historical investigation.

Mitt Romney is into America. His bus is emblazoned with the slogan “Believe in America” and he likes to contrast himself to an incumbent who (allegedly) “fundamentally believes the next century is the post-American century.” But Romney doesn’t just believe America is the best country in the world, he believes it is “the greatest nation in the history of the earth.”

So is it? Does America really deserve Romney’s lustful ardor?

In the summer of 2010, Newsweek concluded that Finland, followed by Switzerland, is the best country on earth, citing a composite score based on education, health, quality of life, economic dynamism, and political environment. One could also argue quality of life per se determines the best country, in which case the winner by Newsweek’s metric is Norway. America ranked No. 11 overall and No. 9 on quality of life. The United Nations’ Human Development Index has us at No. 4, behind Australia, the Netherlands, and—again—Norway. The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom likes Singapore and Hong Kong the best, but we’ll nix them as candidates for overall bestness for their lack of political freedom. Then come Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Canada, Ireland, Denmark, and finally the United States.

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You can slice these numbers different ways, but they deliver the same message: America is awesome, but not really No. 1. Depending on how you squint at it, one or more Nordic countries (sometimes joined by Switzerland or the Netherlands) always beat us, as does at least one of the “America-lite” Anglophone countries. To our credit, we’re really big and Norway and Australia are tiny. If you adjust awesomeness for population size, it’s clear that we lead the world in aggregate living standards, much as we lead it in GDP, military might, and other indicators. Our combination of size and prosperity leaves others in the dust.

Romney’s claim, however, is historical. We’re not just the greatest nation around today, but the greatest nation ever. For real?

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Read the full story here: Slate Magazine

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The wondrous database that reveals what books Americans checked out of the library a century ago. – Slate Magazine

The wondrous database that reveals what books Americans checked out of the library a century ago. – Slate Magazine.

This Book Is 119 Years Overdue

The wondrous database that reveals what Americans checked out of the library a century ago.

Like many kids who grew up poor in the American hinterlands during the 19th century, Louis Bloom left few public traces. Born in Muncie, Ind. in 1879, he was the oldest child of a widowed mother who took in lodgers. City surveys, census forms, and his death certificate reveal that he worked in the town’s glass factories as a young man, and died in San Francisco in 1936 a government engineer. Given the family’s poverty, it is striking that all three Bloom brothers, Louis, Rudolph, and Landis (though not their sister Ella) are recorded as graduates of Muncie High School. That’s it. No way to tell how tall he was, what sports he played, the foods he liked, or how he dressed.

In 2011, though, a few hundred additional facts about the young Louis Bloom entered the public record. We now know, for instance, that on Wednesday Feb. 3, 1892, he ascended to the second floor of the Muncie City Building, turned left at the top of the stairs, entered the city library, signed the ledger kept by librarian Kate Wilson, and checked out The Wonders of Electricity. He came back the next day to return it and take out Frank Before Vicksburg; Friday it was Horatio Alger’s Ragged Dick; Saturday The North Pole: And Charlie Wilson’s Adventures in Search of It. Sunday, the library was closed; Monday Feb. 8, 1892 (his 13th birthday) he took out James Fenimore Cooper’s The Deerslayer; Wednesday he returned for Ben the Luggage Boy (another Alger); Thursday he picked up Goodell’s The American Slave Code in Theory and Practice; and Friday Henry Mayhew’s (charming) biography of the astronomer Ferguson, The Story of the Peasant-Boy Philosopher. Altogether, 291 books checked out under his own name, plus another 28 in early 1895 under his brother Rudolph’s. The only extant piece of Louis’ handwriting is his name in the patron’s ledger. If library records are usually the night sky of cultural history, a dim backdrop to action

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How the conservative belief in American exceptionalism has become a matter of faith. – Slate Magazine

How the conservative belief in American exceptionalism has become a matter of faith. – Slate Magazine.

In God They Trust

How the conservative belief in American exceptionalism has become a matter of faith.

A small group of colonies manages to break away from a large empire in the closing years of the 18th century. The resulting state would probably be not much more than the Chile of the Northeast—a long littoral ribbon between the mountains and the ocean—if it were not for the imperial rivalries that allow for the rapid growth of the new republic’s influence. When one of the rival empires gets into serious financial trouble, it sells the new republic enough territory to double its size, at a bargain basement price. This new territory, rich in all aspects, also gives access to a vast internal basin of navigable rivers. On exploration, this system eventually gives place to the coast of another ocean, and to lands that contain vast reserves of such desirable minerals as gold. Another immense tract of this, today known as Alaska, is almost casually sold to the envoy of the new republic, along with tremendous deposits of what will one day be known as “oil.” …

So yes, I suppose you could say that the United States had some kind of luck, or force, or destiny, on its side. There were certainly those, even among its most secular founding fathers, who felt that more than ordinary realpolitik was involved. Thomas Paine for example was taken by the idea of a new Garden of Eden and a fresh start, and it was his words that were later to be quoted by Ronald Reagan when he said that he thought humanity had found the power to begin the world over again.

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Read the full story here: Slate Magazine

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BBC News – Is the US Declaration of Independence illegal?

BBC News – Is the US Declaration of Independence illegal?.

Is the US Declaration of Independence illegal?

In Philadelphia, American and British lawyers have debated the legality of America’s founding documents.

On Tuesday night, while Republican candidates in Nevada were debating such American issues as nuclear waste disposal and the immigration status of Mitt Romney’s gardener, American and British lawyers in Philadelphia were taking on a far more fundamental topic.

Namely, just what did Thomas Jefferson think he was doing?

Some background: during the hot and sweltering summer of 1776, members of the second Continental Congress travelled to Philadelphia to discuss their frustration with royal rule.

By 4 July, America’s founding fathers approved a simple document penned by Jefferson that enumerated their grievances and announced themselves a sovereign nation.

Called the Declaration of Independence, it was a blow for freedom, a call to war, and the founding of a new empire.

It was also totally illegitimate and illegal.

At least, that was what lawyers from the UK argued during a debate at Philadelphia’s Ben Franklin Hall.

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Read the full story here: BBC News Magazine

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Susan J. Matt’s Homesickness: An American History: The story of how we became a nation of nostalgic homebodies. – Slate Magazine

Susan J. Matt’s Homesickness: An American History: The story of how we became a nation of nostalgic homebodies. – Slate Magazine.

Are Americans Secretly Homesick?

According to a new history, we were never a nation of rugged individualists. We were—and still are—nostalgic homebodies.

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