Copper pennies and silver dollars – Sanity is statistical

A 1948 Wheat penny (95% copper vs. today's penny that is only 0.8% copper) is a reminder of how much stronger our economy was then.


WASHINGTON, Aug. 16, 2015 – “Remembrance of things past may give rise to dangerous insights, and the established society seems to be apprehensive of the subversive content of memory,” Herbert Marcuse wrote in “One-Dimensional Man.”

But I can’t remember, is Oceania in an alliance with Eastasia or Westasia?

“The old man’s memory was nothing but a rubbish heap of details. … And when memory failed and written records were falsified—when that happened, the claim of the Party to have improved conditions of human life had got to be accepted, because there did not exist, and never again could exist, any standard against which it could be tested,” George Orwell wrote in his dystopian novel, “1984.”

Of course, the record needn’t be altered. The only thing that matters is what the current claims are and whence they are issued. The icing on the cake is the Hollywood film and running “stars” through talk shows who speak as if, by having memorized a script, they are suddenly content experts. The hosts then repeat the iterations of their guests with even less understanding of the underlying issues.

Bill Maher on climate change or gun control is a current example of that phenomenon.

That we live in a free country has been our national mantra—the mantra for generations in the United States of America. But “the range and extent of the social system of meaning varies considerably in different historical periods,” Marcuse said.

“We do not impose on you and your freedom of thought and speech; you may think as you like. But once you speak,” he said, it must be in a common (a shared) language. Therein lies the danger—in misinterpretation or erroneous extrapolations from the shared interpretation—the more erroneous, the more warped the government from the republican mean.

“It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander,” lest one commit “facecrime.”

Funny that Orwell had no conception of the facial recognition and interpretation software of our time, though it isn’t being used so effectively yet, nor was he aware of the ability to analyze and interpret brainwave patterns.

Of course, in a short while, as trends demonstrate, technology will be used with some effect.

After all, it’s in the normal, though small, part of theoretical work that existing theory is used to predict factual information of intrinsic value, Thomas Kuhn says in “The Structure of Scientific Revolution (third edition). What was once difficult becomes easier with time. What is of intrinsic value is not determined by crowd sourcing or an established paradigm, but by the requirements, even desires, of economic interests.

That said, “Your worst enemy…is your own nervous system.”

It’s more than a poker game, but it could also be one’s best friend.

Back to remembrance, though.

The other day I received in change a 1948 Wheat penny (95 percent copper vs. today’s penny, which is only 0.8 percent copper). I was reminded of how much stronger our economy was with the U.S. debt about $271 billion at a small fraction of GDP and how the change in our pockets had a silver ring versus the thud of 21st century tin.

As I thought about it, I decided to give a parking lot attendant who has always taken good care of me a dollar tip—a silver certificate dated 1957, the last year our government paid even one Wheat penny toward our national debt that today is more than $18.3 trillion and is rapidly approaching $19 trillion. As I explained that the 1957 dollar could be exchanged at any bank for an ounce of silver, a silver dollar, I stopped short of citing it as proof of our nation’s decline, noting only that it was a dollar from a forgotten era when U.S. currency carried real value.

A time when freedom and privacy was something our people wanted and guarded jealously.

But the government is right. “It must be so; how could the immortal collective brain be mistaken? By what external standard could you check its judgments?”

Sanity is statistical. Orwell probably didn’t know, but therein lies the Beast.

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