Notes And Observations On: What Is America


Posted on March 26, 2012 by (Written by Jim Crawford)

By now Sandia Tea Party members (and other patriotic organizations in the Rio Grande Corridor and “East” Mountains Area) know Jim and Donna Crawford rather well.

I look at the following as a special treat because they are two people I honor for their intelligence and dedication.  They are always generous in sharing their thoughts and efforts.

For those who aren’t aware of the Estancia Valley Classical Academy (EVCA), it is a charter school scheduled to open later this year and it will be a classical liberal arts institution closely following concepts for which Hillsdale College is noted.


Hillsdale College - George Washington statue

Hillsdale College - George Washington statue (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hillsdale College – George Washington statue (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Notes Hillsdale College Freedom Forum – What Is America?

March 22-23, 2012, Cheyenne Mtn. Resort, Colorado Springs, CO

By Jim Crawford

The Hillsdale College Freedom Forums are periodically offered by Hillsdale College at different locations around the country. The programs are designed to offer friends of the college important discussions and stimulating lectures by Hillsdale’s professors and staff. This session, What Is America?, went into the meaning of our nation by examining its political and economic principles and tying them back to the founders.

OOB Observations, Opinions, and Barbs:

I don’t have a single barb to offer. This program was so well done, so exciting, so interesting, and so important we could not think of one negative. We were just grateful we had the opportunity to attend and benefit from this program.

Hillsdale College is located in Michigan. It is a unique independent college committed to freedom and the liberal arts. It rejects any and all federal funding or subsidies. It is not subject to the unjust and burdensome regulations that come with federal subsidies and remains free to offer the finest education in the land. All students must learn the constitution and founding of America and what it means to have liberty and freedom. Hillsdale is training future leaders in America’s founding principles of fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government and free market economic policies. Hillsdale conducts seminars and forums like this several times a year and in different parts of the country. They had just completed this same seminar in Seattle before coming to Colorado Springs.

Hillsdale College is totally supported by private donations and is worthy of the support. I must admit that I have never again visited nor donated to my own alma mater but I try to give to Hillsdale when I can. They give us hope for America’s future.

Hillsdale sends out a monthly speech digest called Imprimis to about 2.5 million subscribers. Imprimis is free and is dedicated to educating citizens and promoting civil and religious liberty by covering cultural, economic, political and educational issues of enduring significance.  The content of Imprimis is drawn from speeches delivered to Hillsdale College-hosted events, both on-campus and off-campus.  First published in 1972, Imprimis is one of the most widely circulated opinion publications in the nation.

The link to find out more about Hillsdale and sign up to receive Imprimis is Hillsdale also has two on-line constitution courses that folks can take for free as well.

One of the most shocking things about this seminar was how inexpensive it was. The price was just $65 for a couple and that covered the rental of a huge ball room, the staff time and travel, materials, coffee and cookies, two fabulous receptions with great hot and cold snacks and complimentary beer, wine, and soft drinks, and coffee and continental breakfast the second day. It was a true bargain and we valued every minute of it.

The lectures were given by 3 of Hillsdale’s professors who gave two sessions each. A brief summary of the subjects follow but there is no way to do justice to the actual presentations. All of the presentations were animated, dynamic and tailored for an audience that was a few years removed from a classroom! No nodding off here!

Dr. Gary Wolfram: Dr. Wolfram opened the session by getting right at the title theme and answering the question of What Is America? Some of his main points were:

Most nations are founded on ethnic or religious grounds

America is founded on an idea and set of founding principles to guide all of us rather than ethnic or religious similarities

America is founded on a rule of law and not the rule of man like many others. Our laws must be general in application, known to the public, and predictable in enforcement

Individual liberty is America’s solution to its problems

We need to understand where the American idea came from and what it means

We need to understand the science of economics and apply that to the science of politics

Dr. Wolfram went into the science of economics and explained the foundations of free market economics. He used easily understandable common examples of toilet paper and pencils to clearly explain how free market economics work and why central planning does not. It was one of the most clear and understandable explanations of this subject I have seen. A few of the main points were:

In America, we do not have to pack toilet paper when we travel since the free market insures that the right amount of TP will be available when and wherever we need it unlike some centrally planned economies where people carry their own TP around.

Pencils are made of several different products from all around the world. Whenever, we want a pencil we can get one everywhere at a price we are willing to pay. A cabinet secretary of pencils would never be able to plan the import, manufacture, and proper distribution of pencils so that they were available everywhere always in the right amounts. The free market allows for proper levels of manufacture and distribution of products like the pencil example. Obamacare is an example of central planning doomed for failure. Central planning cannot keep the right amount of goods and services available at the right places, in the right amounts all the time. Free markets do it all the time.

The consumer is king and not the producer. There has to be a willing consumer to make producing worthwhile i.e. Chevy Volt and solar panels. Central planning through subsidies usually don’t provide what consumers want and are a drain on the economy

Free markets operate to make a profit. Profits are the rewards for making stuff for other people. Profits are the incentive for assuming the considerable risks associated with the innovation to develop and market products. More profit means more innovation and leads to wonderful things we enjoy.

Cutting taxes induces more innovation and results in more stuff for other people

Free markets create wealth. We should cherish income inequality since it is an incentive to create and produce and symbolizes the opportunities under a free system

Free market capitalism maximizes freedom. The government’s role should be limited to taking care of conflicting individual freedoms. Protecting property rights is protecting freedom and a proper role of government but property rights are being eroded by government instead

America no longer has truly free markets and is only close in some areas

Minimum wage is a law prohibiting people from working unless they can produce enough stuff to provide value added for their employer above that wage rate. An employer will only pay an employee as much as the employee can produce in value added otherwise they don’t get hired.

Government mandates such as preservation of species under the Endangered Species Act are not working. There are no free market incentives to preserve critters since there is no ownership. To incentivize preservation we need to establish property rights to the species.

The incentives to improve K-12 education are all wrong. Spending has accelerated but there is no correlation between spending and results. The only way to save K-12 education is to privatize and convert to a free enterprise system with competition and rewards based on results.

Social Security and Medicare have huge unfunded liabilities. The only way out is again to privatize the systems and provide people with an incentive to be responsible and save in private accounts. The savings will stimulate the economy which is an added benefit.

The price of liberty is not cheap and it takes constant vigilance to overcome apathy

Dr. Mickey Craig: Dr. Craig provided detailed perspective on development of the constitution. He used references to the Federalist papers and other quotations from various constitutional thinkers. He provided good insight into the founding principles of America. Some of his points were:

America’s principles came from the Declaration of Independence

The government’s purpose is to secure the unalienable rights from the creator

The government does not provide happiness only the freedom to pursue civil, religious, and economic liberty

Elections, separation of powers, and federalism are three main constitutional principles

Each government branch represents different majorities but the legislative branch (house and senate) are the most dangerous.

Within the separation of powers it is important for each branch to stand up for and defend its own powers.

The executive branch and judicial branches are gaining more power than intended and usurping the powers of the legislative branch. Courts are making law through activist decisions. There is no authority for the proliferation of Executive Orders. Obama is the most radical president in history.

Our present huge oppressively regulatory government got started with the progressive movement in the late 1800’s

The difference between the founders and the progressives is the different views of human nature and behavior. The founders believed that humans are not perfect and that government of humans by humans must be limited and defined as in the constitution to prevent loss of individual liberty at the hands of government. The progressives believe that humans can be molded and perfected by government regulation and that government can provide every need and solve every problem.

Progressives want to mold the constitution to fit their view and control people through professional civil servants and independent regulatory agencies which are subverting the constitution.

Federalism is losing out to centralization.

States have become merely subunits of the federal government contrary to the 10th amendment

Dr. Burton Folsom: Dr. Folsom told us America is freedom, integrity, and limited government. He said that economic integrity is staying out of debt. His lectures centered on our national debt over time and how government subsidies have contributed to it. In his second session Dr. Folsom went through a detailed comparison between the 1920’ and the 1930’s. Some of his points were:

America has always paid its debts so far and the only way we are getting away with having a $16 trillion debt is because we are living on “borrowed honor”.

Even though we had a large debt due to the Revolutionary War President Washington cautioned that we must avoid accumulation of debt. Consequently the debt was paid off by the time Jackson became our 7th president.

Debt became a problem shortly thereafter about 1835 as Congress got into an ever increasing spiral of subsidies and bailouts for Edward Collins’ steamship company which was ultimately put out of business by Vanderbilt’s competing company that got no government backing. It was reminiscent of our present wind and solar activities!

The national debt doubled again in 1860 with the subsidies for the transcontinental railroads

After the civil war there were no subsidies to industries and the country had 28 years of budget surpluses

The 1920’s was the most prosperous decade in US history and the 1930’s was the worst.

In the 1920’s unemployment started at 12% and fell to 2.4%. Income tax rates were cut with a maximum rate of 25%. Federal spending was cut in half in the first two years. GNP grew at 25%. There was a budget surplus every year. All kinds of innovation and invention took place.

In the 1930’s unemployment was 25% in spite of tremendous deficit spending. Income tax rates were raised to 63% and then to 94% of the top bracket. Farm subsidies and bank bailouts started while the Federal Reserve raised interest rates. The highest tariffs in history were imposed. Farmers were paid not to produce. All kinds of taxes were added like gas tax, phone tax, tire tax, and movie ticket tax. Welfare programs were started. The national debt doubled in the first 8 years.

FDR’s New Deal was a bad deal for America

We are presently repeating many of the mistakes from the 1930’s.

Much of Dr. Folsom’s material was taken from his three books, FDR Goes to War, New Deal or Raw Deal?, and The Myth of the Robber Barons which are available on Amazon.

Dr. Wolfram also has a book, Towards a Free Society, and writes a column that can be found at His lectures followed his columns very closely.

Dr. Craig did not promote any books and I did not find any on Amazon but probably has articles and papers available.

In addition to seminars like this one and on line courses, Hillsdale also offers cruises and 6 day adult residential hostel programs at the campus. Information on all these programs is available on their web site.

It was a great session and we will be looking forward to attending others in the future if they are within reach.

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