Thursday, October 29, 2009

What was Adam Smith's contribution to the discussion on the 'Wealth of Nations'?

From the 1500s to the 1800s Mercantilism was the only economic philosophy in the major European countries. This ideology says that wealth is defined by what a nation has, or really what the king has dominion over. As such, colonies were an important way to gain wealth and heavily regulating trade was a good way to prevent other nations from gaining wealth.
Adam Smith was among the first to question mercantilism. His inquiry into the form of wealth came as quite a shock. He asserted that wealth did not come from possessions of a nation, but instead from the living standard of the people. (Dr. H said that today this idea would be called the “per capita income.”)
Along with Smith’s philosophy on wealth was he introduced some radical ideas to gain wealth. He argued that because mercantilism depended on “ins” with government officials, it was not the best way to go. Instead, Smith believed the government should encourage production and consumption by whoever wanted to produce and consume.
Instead of government regulation Smith called for a market economy in which the demands of the market determine what should be produced. The market players who produce better quality products will be able to continue producing while those who produce poor quality products or products with little demand will loose out and be unable to continue producing.
This is where the invisible hand comes in. It should replace government regulation because the market should be able to operate essentially by itself. Because people would be acting in their own self interest consumable goods would continue to be produced. The invisible hand means that a player in the market will “promote an end which was no part of his intention. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than…” Over all, the invisible hand results in a win-win situation. The players in the market win by acting in their own self interest and the marked over all wins because the most useful goods will be produced.
It is interesting to notice that Adam Smith’s Market System/ Invisible Hand philosophy came into play as the United States was being creative. While the founding fathers were working to expand political freedom and prosperity, Smith’s philosophy was developing to expand economic freedom and prosperity.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Crandall Printing Museum

As a class we had the opportunity to go to the Crandall Printing Museum, which is a few blocks south of BYU campus. I had not heard of the museum until we were given the assignment to go there, and I didn’t know what to expect. All I could picture was sterile rooms with windows looking on replicas of important printing inventions. I can not be happier to have been so wrong.

The museum is set up in what looks like it used to be a home. You enter in a side door and immediately you’re confronted with so many things to read, touch, and see in general. After signing the guest book we went to the first room. This room has a replica of the Gutenberg machine. This machine made the printing of the Bible possible. Previously monks had to hand write every copy of the Bible. Along with their elaborate decorations, copying the words from the Bible took a long time and a lot of effort. As a result there were not very many copies of the Bible, which meant that normal people did not have access to the Biblical records in everyday life. Their only way of learning the teachings of ancient prophets was by listening to sermons given by priests. The creation of the Gutenberg printing press was able to change this. Now that the Bible could be printed more quickly than it was written, more copies were made leading to an increase in access to the Bible, which would affect generations to come especially with regards to religious tension and shifts.

Another area of the museum focuses on the Revolutionary era. The press, another replica of those that would have been used in the era, was very similar to the Gutenberg press. It was interesting to see how over the centuries very little had changed with regard to printing technology. In this section of the museum we mostly focused on Benjamin Franklin. We learned how he came to be a printer. We learned about his Poor Richard’s Almanac. We also learned a little bit about his personal life. He was the youngest son of a youngest son, and pretty much his father’s favorite. Beyond Benjamin Franklin we got to see how the Declaration of Independence would have been printed. The Crandall Museum is the only museum where you can get copies of the Declaration of Independence printed by a historically accurate printing press.

The last area we spent some time in focused on the printing of the Book of Mormon. It is so interesting (and sustaining) to me to note all of the ways the pieces just fell into place for the printing of the Book of Mormon. The most notable, in my opinion is that the Erie Canal opened just in time for the heavy printing press to be transported from New York City to Palmyra. There were very few of these presses around and one just happened to arrive in Palmyra exactly when Joseph Smith was told to print the Book of Mormon. In this section of the museum I also learned that the assignment was to print 5000 copies of the Book of Mormon. Another interesting fact is that a few were finished just days before the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There were just enough copies then for the few people present at the organization.

This museum is great. I would really recommend that anyone go, no matter what their interest. Also, they are trying to expand the museum, which is going to take a lot of funds. If you know of any business that could help them out please encourage it!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

God Bless America!

Please write 500-600 words on the Book of Mormon description of the founding of America.

I guess this response is supposed to focus on a piece we read for class, though I can’t remember much of that piece now, or what we said in class about it. [Sorry about that part. I’m usually much better at this kind of thing, but I won’t go into my excuses for not being better this time.]
If I do remember one thing though, it is that the Book of Mormon constantly says that this land will be a choice land. It is the promised land, the land of the New Jerusalem. God will not allow an unrighteous people to inhabit and rule over it because that would prevent his work from going forward. There is evidence of this in the Nephites being wiped out because of their iniquitous behavior only a few generations after Christ’s coming to the Americas
About the founding of this new nation, let’s start with the beginning. The Book of Mormon has reference to the discovery of the New Land or the Americas. In 1 Nephi 13: 10 Nephi describes how there are no Gentiles on the land inhabited by his people yet because they are separated by “many waters,” which is presumably the Atlantic Ocean. A few verses on Nephi says, “And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God that is came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land” (1 Nephi 13: 12). This verse is widely accepted as describing Christopher Columbus’s journey across the Atlantic Ocean. [What a coincidence. October 12, this past Monday was Columbus Day.] I find it really interesting that Nephi says the Spirit wrought upon him. This implies not only that discovering America was inspired of God, but also that God had a time frame for doing do. He did not inspire men to journey in this direction before. [All right, so we all know that the Vikings did in fact find America long before Columbus did, but they were unable to establish a settlement like the ones that came as a result of Columbus’s excursion.]
In verse 13 Nephi talks about the establishment of colonies by those who sought to escape from captivity. Much of this is actually probably a religious captivity. With the different Protestant groups forming after the creation of the Church of England there was definitely some clashing. Many religious groups [including the Pilgrims] left England with hopes to establish “a city on a hill” as an example to the world. Once again Nephi notes that God inspired these people to come to the America’s. Nephi sees God’s hand in all of this, which is something that is become highly devalued today.
Nephi even got to see the Revolutionary War, of which he said, “And I beheld their mother Gentiles were gathered together upon the waters, and upon the land also, to battle against them. And I beheld that the power of God was with them” (1 Nephi 13:17-18).
The thing that I believe is most important in all of this is the fact that, not only was God involved every step of the way, but that he had this planned from the beginning. It was planned so well with so much detail that he was able to show Nephi the process millennia before it happened.
God made America and may he continue to bless it.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Instant Get-ification

The Marshmallow Test

A friend of mine posted this link to her facebook and it reminded me of a story Dr. H told us. I can't exactly remember the situation, but I think it involved Dr. H's child and the grandfather. The grandfather would offer the kid one dollar. "But," he would say, "I'll be back Friday and you can have five dollars then." So the choice was up to the child. Did he want one dollar now or five dollars later. The child would always chose the one dollar right away.

I guess both of these examples just show how our society has lost track of time. We are so used to "instant get-ification" that we don't think about how our choice now will affect the future.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Let us not drink up ignorance.

In 500 words or less, describe what you think Martin Diamond meant by his title, 'Revolution of Sober Expectations?'

I laugh at myself because whenever I think about the word 'sober' I think 'not being drunk.' I guess it’s just a testament to the society and culture I'm surrounded by. Naturally, I don't think Martin Diamond was referring to the ability of our founding fathers to hold their alcohol, but I do believe there is something to be said about not being drunk.
With all the excitement, words, and ideas hovering in the political atmosphere of the era leading up to the Revolutionary War, I imagine it would have been hard not to become drunken with the idea that once independence was declared all would be well.

Here’s where the ‘sober expectations’ come in. The founding fathers knew that much would be unwell once the colonies declared independence. These men knew we didn’t have the military training, the goods, or the resources for a war that would be fought on our own soil, destroying farms, homes and cities.

They also knew that by signing that document they were not only risking their own honor, but also their family’s honor and ability to survive. Supposing the men who signed the Declaration of Independence had been captured, they would have been charged with treason and executed. This would have left their families with no support and no way to gain support because of the reputation that would be associated with them in this honor-shame society.

These men had no way of knowing we would win the Revolutionary War, but they believed so strongly in the principals of consent of the governed and that their liberty was being impeded on that they decided to take that risk. These men stood up for what they believed in through the hardest, most threatening of circumstances despite the likelihood of failure that they all recognized. They also recognized the problems that would lie ahead if they did succeed. How do you establish a viable nation? The war was not really won until we had a successful union of states.

These men did not allow themselves to become drunk with the idea that independence was the end. They knew it was a mean to an end, but also that their end goal was likely not to be achieved. Our level-headed founding fathers remained sober.