Monday, July 29, 2013


"An object in motion stays in motion until acted upon by an outside force. An object at rest stays at rest until acted upon by an outside force."  
-Newton's First Law of Motion

Basic science that. As true now as the day it was first put to paper.  In fact it was just as true before it was put paper.  Scientific principles don't start to exist when man discovers them, nor do that cease to be true just because he ignores them. Sorry, but no matter how strong our belief system may be, how persuasive to others our argument are, we just don't matter all that much. Except, of course, to ourselves.

The average eight year old toe-headed freckle-faced boy understands Newton's law, even if he can't quote it.  He watches a pitched ball reverse course when struck by a bat. He sees it climb higher ever higher into the sky, and then tries to apply that law as he somehow naturally has come to understand it, as best as his skill allows him, to place himself right under the ball when it returns to earth.

The above was a gift I, by the way, entirely lacked. Perhaps it my was my lack of freckles? In any case what is true is true. The immutable laws of the universe apply whether we like them or not.

An object will only get into motion when an outside force is applied to it. That's the law. Wishful thinking will do nothing to change it. Neither will the most deeply held political conviction.  And that same object will continue in motion only until something start to slow it down. 

Gravity for instance. And resistance from the air. Until such forces work their inextricable work that object -- be it a ball or whatever -- it will continue its upward arch and then, with time, its upward flight will get slower, and slower, and slower. Then gravity will have its way and down it will come, be it into a kid's catchers mitt, or onto the muddy earth. Thud.

This law applies to people as well. With people (and peoples) upward momentum comes from a force being applied, not from wishful thinking, not from a political philosophy. Once such force has been applied the upward motion will naturally continue for a time but without new energy being applied it will bit by bit slow down, and a return to earth will follow as surely as did with that baseball.

Wealth, be it large or small, is created that selfsame way:  A force is applied. Upward motion is created. But only for a time.

The great families of industry and commerce (as well as the great nations of industry of commerce) all had their start in this same way.  Some antecedent applied himself to the ball and put great energy into it. If that energy was great enough entire generations could go along for the ride, sailing, seemingly higher and higher, perhaps taking but scant note that their upward motion was slowing, their upward arch flattening, until the fall began. Then later, if we were to look at them from above, we'd see them doing something not unlike a group of eight year olds: Crowding around a landing zone, crying out "I've got it!"  "No, I do!" "No, it's mine, it's mine!"

That is when the members of such families start to appear on TV, in tweets and in the supermarket tabloids, calling attention to themselves as their real (and imagined forever lasting) fortunes pass away, crying out for shame but with no shame. "Me!" "Me!" "I've got it! I've got it! Look at me!"  Until in time they have nothing left at all, not even a good name. Then they are forgotten.

The same can be, and often has been, true for entire nations.  At one point in time great exertion is put forth. Wealth, power and prestige is created. Then the exertion begins to trickle off and the wealth, power and prestige starts to dissipate.

That is pretty much where we are in America today. The great exertion of our parents and grandparents created enormous upward movement. Great wealth was created. So was a measure of prestige and power.  But then the exertion stopped. No - more that that - it became something  to ridicule and disdain. And then, the laws of the universe being what they are, that upward movement was lost. Stasis came and lasted but a cosmic moment - a generation. And then the quickly accelerating downward flight began.

Look around today and what do we see? The various groups that make up our society, each with a spokesman or three, fighting and arguing for what's left of that wealth. Each crying out like eight year olds --  "It's mine!" "No, it's mine!"  "Get out of my way!" No, not you, Me!  I've got it!"

And then, alas, will come the thud.

What is particularly sad is that each of the arguments heard -- the ones that allows each group's spokespeople to stand under the ball shouting "It's ours!" has some truth to it.

Workers did create the wealth, and in many cases, yes, they were underpaid. Where did their share go? Who took it? 

Families of the great industrialists can truly say "Our grandfather built that. It's rightfully ours!" And you know what? They did.

Others too have their fair claim. "My forebears did all the work -- furrowing the fields, harvesting the crops. They were slaves and they never got their fair share."

But all those arguments -- as true as they may be -- are in vein. For none of them apply energy to the ball. Thus none can stop it from falling. 

Political feelings and philosophy won't do it. Not even the most honestly thought through. Nor, alas, will even the most just complaints.

Wealth, prestige and power is still being created, but not by the whiners; not by those gathering around in hope of catching a falling ball.  Where it is being created is elsewhere on the field, by players hitting the ball anew. By those following the immutable law of the universe.

"An object at rest stays at rest until acted upon by an outside force."

Newton was right.  The universe with its immutable laws wins always. The question is will we?

That's a matter of momentum.

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