Sunday, November 27, 2011

In Memoriam

Totally off the usual topic of this blog, my father, James G. Purvis, passed away today after a long illness.  An Army veteran of the Korean War era (Dad was overseas, but didn't make it to Korea), he passed on his curiosity about nearly everything to me, and a deep and abiding interest in social justice.

RIP Dad.  You can rest now.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thomas Jefferson and banks

Many of the leaders of our country in the early days were suspicious of the powers of banks.  In that day, they issued their own paper money (the US did not until the Civil War) and held most public debt.  As modern Americans have learned, sometimes they exercise a great deal of power, both political and financial. 

As a second installment of a series of Jefferson quotes, I am posting a collection of bank-related statements by Jefferson, mostly from his letters.  Some of his ideas I think are outmoded, such as his preference for "hard money" (gold and silver), but his adversion to banks would seem to have much in common with the Occupy Wall Street supporters.  I hope you find these thought-provoking.

Everything predicted by the enemies of banks, in the beginning, is now coming to pass. We are to be ruined now by the deluge of bank paper. It is cruel that such revolutions in private fortunes should be at the mercy of avaricious adventurers, who, instead of employing their capital, if any they have, in manufactures, commerce, and other useful pursuits, make it an instrument to burden all the interchanges of property with their swindling profits, profits which are the price of no useful industry of theirs.

Letter to Thomas Cooper, 1814.
Put down the banks, and if this country could not be carried through the longest war against her most powerful enemy without ever knowing the want of a dollar, without dependence on the traitorous classes of her citizens, without bearing hard on the resources of the people, or loading the public with an indefinite burden of debt, I know nothing of my countrymen. Not by any novel project, not by any charlatanerie, but by ordinary and well-experienced means; by the total prohibition of all private paper at all times, by reasonable taxes in war aided by the necessary emissions of public paper of circulating size, this bottomed on special taxes, redeemable annually as this special tax comes in, and finally within a moderate period.

Letter to Albert Gallatin, 1815
The system of banking we have both equally and ever reprobated. I contemplate it as a blot left in all our constitutions, which, if not covered, will end in their destruction, which is already hit by the gamblers in corruption, and is sweeping away in its progress the fortunes and morals of our citizens.

Letter to John Taylor (28 May 1816)
Certainly no nation ever before abandoned to the avarice and jugglings of private individuals to regulate according to their own interests, the quantum of circulating medium for the nation — to inflate, by deluges of paper, the nominal prices of property, and then to buy up that property at 1s. in the pound, having first withdrawn the floating medium which might endanger a competition in purchase. Yet this is what has been done, and will be done, unless stayed by the protecting hand of the legislature. The evil has been produced by the error of their sanction of this ruinous machinery of banks; and justice, wisdom, duty, all require that they should interpose and arrest it before the schemes of plunder and spoliation desolate the country.

Letter to William C. Rives (1819)
If the debt which the banking companies owe be a blessing to anybody, it is to themselves alone, who are realizing a solid interest of eight or ten per cent on it. As to the public, these companies have banished all our gold and silver medium, which, before their institution, we had without interest, which never could have perished in our hands, and would have been our salvation now in the hour of war; instead of which they have given us two hundred million of froth and bubble, on which we are to pay them heavy interest, until it shall vanish into air... We are warranted, then, in affirming that this parody on the principle of 'a public debt being a public blessing,' and its mutation into the blessing of private instead of public debts, is as ridiculous as the original principle itself. In both cases, the truth is, that capital may be produced by industry, and accumulated by economy; but jugglers only will propose to create it by legerdemain tricks with paper.

ME 13:423
The art and mystery of banks... is established on the principle that 'private debts are a public blessing.' That the evidences of those private debts, called bank notes, become active capital, and aliment the whole commerce, manufactures, and agriculture of the United States. Here are a set of people, for instance, who have bestowed on us the great blessing of running in our debt about two hundred millions of dollars, without our knowing who they are, where they are, or what property they have to pay this debt when called on; nay, who have made us so sensible of the blessings of letting them run in our debt, that we have exempted them by law from the repayment of these debts beyond a give proportion (generally estimated at one-third). And to fill up the measure of blessing, instead of paying, they receive an interest on what they owe from those to whom they owe; for all the notes, or evidences of what they owe, which we see in circulation, have been lent to somebody on an interest which is levied again on us through the medium of commerce. And they are so ready still to deal out their liberalities to us, that they are now willing to let themselves run in our debt ninety millions more, on our paying them the same premium of six or eight per cent interest, and on the same legal exemption from the repayment of more than thirty millions of the debt, when it shall be called for.

ME 13:420
That we are overdone with banking institutions which have banished the precious metals and substituted a more fluctuating and unsafe medium, that these have withdrawn capital from useful improvements and employments to nourish idleness, that the wars of the world have swollen our commerce beyond the wholesome limits of exchanging our own productions for our own wants, and that, for the emolument of a small proportion of our society who prefer these demoralizing pursuits to labors useful to the whole, the peace of the whole is endangered and all our present difficulties produced, are evils more easily to be deplored than remedied.

Letter to Abbe Salimankis (1810) ME 12:379 The Writings of Thomas Jefferson "Memorial Edition" (20 Vols., 1903-04) edited by Andrew A. Lipscomb and Albert Ellery Bergh, Vol. 12, p. 379; also quoted at "Thomas Jefferson on Politics & Government : Money & Banking" at University of Virginia.

Note:  "ME" refers to the "Memorial Edition" of the writings of Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thomas Jefferson

I have recently completed reading the collected works of Thomas Jefferson, and will from time to time post quotes of his for discussion.  I think the following below is one of his more insightful, and all too relevant to our present day circumstances.


Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties: 1. Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes. 2. Those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depositary of the public interests. In every country these two parties exist, and in every one where they are free to think, speak, and write, they will declare themselves. Call them, therefore, liberals and serviles, Jacobins and Ultras, whigs and tories, republicans and federalists, aristocrats and democrats, or by whatever name you please, they are the same parties still and pursue the same object. The last appellation of aristocrats and democrats is the true one expressing the essence of all.
-- Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Henry Lee (10 August 1824)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Knee-Jerk voting, part 2

I have had a couple of days to recover from the stress and exhaustion leading up to Election Day.  And I have a few thoughts about that experience, which I will share in this and future posts.

The most dismaying part of this experience was seeing first-hand something I had previously written about, knee-jerk voting.  What I mean by that is that a voter who knows, and cares, nothing about who the candidates are, what the issues are or the candidate's positions on those issues, but only cares about what party label they bear. 

I had up-close and personal views of that Tuesday, greeting voters at several polling places.  Despite several years in the public eye, many voters didn't have a clue who I was or what my positions were on local issues.  I had a web site, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account, and anyone who Googled me would come up with plenty of material to satisfy their curiosity.  I had been in the news more than once (prior to the Indianapolis Star all but abandoning news coverage in Hamilton County), in various radio interviews, and even in TV news spots. 

What mattered to most of them was whether or not I was a Republican.  Now, I have my share of voters who are Republican who took the trouble to check me out or who know me personally support me, so what I am saying is decidedly NOT an indictment of all things Republican.  Nor am I critical of those who did become informed and decided to vote for my opponent (whom I like by the way). 

What upsets me, deeply, is the thought that ONLY PARTY LABEL MATTERS.  Of the just over 5000 (out of about 35,000 registered voters) who cast a ballot, just over 3000 cast a straight Republican ticket.  My highly unscientific observation is that a significant number of those folks didn't have a clue.  I had conversations with multiple individuals that went something like this:

      "I like what you have to say, and you seem like a really nice guy, but I can't vote for you because you aren't a Republican.  Why don't you switch parties?"

      "Who are you and what party are you?" asked as I handed them a palm card which was a replica of my bright red-and-white campaign sign, which were all over town.  "I am a Democrat", said I, and the voter gave me a weak smile and walked into the polls with a weak, "Sorry".

      "I wouldn't vote for a Democrat, even if all the Republicans were convicted criminals" ... a statement remarkably close to the situation which got us our current Secretary of State.

      And my personal favorite, "I know who you are, and I wouldn't vote for you if you were the last man on Earth", said with obvious anger in full view of my opponent's volunteers, who were shocked.  At least that man, and I have no idea who he was, knew who he was voting for and why.  But in the unlikely event he reads this, an anger management course might be a good idea.

I also got an email from a prominent, and usually friendly, Republican suggesting that I switch parties.  My sharper-than-usual reply was along the lines that I did not think that a socially progressive Obama supporter would be especially welcome in the GOP. 

I have no problem with someone choosing not to vote for me based on disagreement with my real views affecting the office I am running for.  That is what elections are supposed to be about.  But voting based just on party label, when you don't have a clue otherwise makes me shudder for democracy. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Pre-Election Message to the Voters of Fishers

Election Day is next Tuesday.  Voters in Fishers have the opportunity to make some real changes in their local government.   There will be 3 new members of the Town Council, a judge for the brand-new Town Court, and possibly a new Clerk-Treasurer. 
The 2011 local elections in Fishers may be the most important in the history of our rapidly-growing community.  Twenty years ago, we had one-tenth the population we do now.  With that growth in population came new challenges.  
Frankly, I believe that Fishers has outgrown a "town" form of government that is well-suited for small communities where everyone knows everyone else, but not for the large City that Fishers has grown into.  We need a Mayor with vision to keep attracting businesses and jobs, and to keep our taxes low by growing the tax base.   We need a Mayor elected by the people of Fishers.  And we need a Council which supports that vision.  The council also needs to bring their activities more into the open, and stop having meetings and "work sessions" out of view of the citizens.  The council needs to do a better job of reaching out to citizens and involving them in decisions, and in listening to their concerns, rather than being developer-driven.  And the council needs to allow public comment and input at EVERY meeting, not just when it is legally required.
I have pushed hard for nearly 5 years to make this vision of Fishers as a real City of the 21st Century come true.  I believe most people in Fishers support that vision, regardless of political party.  I ask for your support on Tuesday, November 8th, so that I can continue fighting for the future of Fishers. 
Greg Purvis
Candidate, Fishers Town Council,
District 4

Authorized by Purvis for Fishers Committee