Gongol.com Archives: May 2020

Brian Gongol

May 14, 2020

The United States of America The Founders wouldn't be throwing fits over a mandate to wear masks in a pandemic

Benjamin Franklin, in particular, would have been a firm advocate of reasonable public-health measures. In his autobiography, we find this heartbreaking passage: "In 1736 I lost one of my sons, a fine boy of four years old, by the small-pox, taken in the common way. I long regretted bitterly, and still regret that I had not given it to him by inoculation." Those are not the words of a man who would fight a basic precaution against contagious disease by making it a matter of false pride. ■ In a similar vein, James Madison wrote, "[T]he public good, the real welfare of the great body of the people, is the supreme object to be pursued; and that no form of government whatever has any other value than as it may be fitted for the attainment of this object." Those aren't the words of a thinker who places his right to be a public nuisance above the well-being of his fellow citizens. ■ It's a common mistake to deify the Founding Fathers when we should instead see them as real human beings -- people who made decisions that resulted in some great historic outcomes. Deification turns them into untouchable idols, which they themselves would have resisted. It is clear from the words and the systemic architecture they left behind that the Founders expected every generation of Americans to strive for greatness, and to leave the country even better for successive generations. ■ It is likewise a common mistake to think that we can solve every problem by appealing to the Founders (or by rejecting them). Human nature contains a whole lot of characteristics that are unchanging over time. Read a few passages from Franklin's "Poor Richard's Almanack" and you'll discover more than a few behavioral recommendations that make just as much sense in 2020 as they did in 1732. They weren't caricatures, they were real people. And several (Madison, Franklin, and Jefferson in particular) gave considerable thought to questions that are utterly familiar to our lives today. Might one or two of the signers of the Declaration of Independence have been irascible characters, real porcupines of men? Probably. But most of them would most likely have looked at the evidence at hand in the case of an event like a pandemic and sought responses that would have preserved "the general welfare". Wearing a mask so as not to asymptomatically transmit a contagious disease to others would have been a very simple request, indeed.

Humor and Good News Just look at this thing

Photos of a vivid emerald-green Lincoln from 1979 are bound to stir up some feelings. What those feelings might be? Who knows?

Weather and Disasters An unexpected weather coincidence

The Storm Prediction Center's latest forecast map includes a large area under "slight" risk for severe weather, bounded within a larger ring categorized as "marginal" risk. Yet, somehow, The "slight" and "marginal" risk areas contain almost exactly the same populations: Just over 28 million people each. Nothing more than a chance coincidence, but a swift glance at the map surely wouldn't have told the viewer that the two areas contained almost precisely the same number of souls.

Business and Finance Autarky is for losers

Scott Lincicome captures the absurdity of the President's diatribe against supply chains with the perfectly elegant "#Juche2020". Brilliant.

News A life of extraordinary interest

One of the victims of Covid-19 had quite the biography: "Zelik (Jack) fought as a member of a resistance group, the Russian partisans, and helped hide other Jews from capture." Then he became an Omaha furniture salesman. Quite remarkable.

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