Published: Sunday, 20 December 2015 17:07
Written by Evelyn Pyburn
This editorial is a repeat. But, it says things that need to be repeated. There are generations of people now who do not know how recently it was that people did not have the wealth we have today, which makes Christmas the celebration it is. They do not realize how fragile is the structure that created all that they take for granted, and that is what must be reminded time and again. It is part of the thanksgiving and celebrating to recognize what freedoms are necessary to make it possible.
“There’s too much materialism associated with Christmas,” is a popular refrain. Or, we hear, “there is too much commercialization of Christmas.” No one usually speaks to disagree with such sentiments, and yet the actions of most people demonstrate that they do not agree.
The anti-materialism sentiment seems to attempt to douse the joy of what has become a cultural event that reaches beyond any one religion, any single historic event, or any philosophical point. The sentiment seems an attempt to instill guilt where none is warranted, and to reinforce, a political, anti-capitalist mantra that seems to know no end. Bah humbug to it all.
Christmas has evolved into a huge celebration of life in the United States – a celebration of the discovery of the key to survival – of that which wards off plagues, famine, and the general misery that was once the lot of the common man.
What was once a nominal religious holiday has been expanded in meaning, by many people, to include all that they find good about life, existence and human achievement.
Prior to the United States, and all this joyous celebration, Christmas was not too commercial at all; it was little more than just another gray day of drudgery, poverty and servitude. It was Americans who, dare we say, “capitalized” upon an established religious event to celebrate the prosperity and happiness, for the common man that they discovered is inherent in freedom.
It is not surprising that an existing event and most especially an existing religious event, should serve as the basis upon which the celebration grew. After all, the date upon which the birth of Christ is celebrated is not that which theologians believe is the true date. December 25th is close to the winter solstice which was long celebrated as the turning point at which days start becoming longer offering the promise of spring. It has always been a celebration of rebirth.
The discovery that economic freedom is essential for the best possible life for the greatest possible number of people, is a rebirth . . an intellectual, political and social awakening, after centuries of subsistence and oppression.
“…Christmas as we celebrate it today is a 19th century American invention,” declared philosopher Leonard Peikoff. It was invented when, “the freedom and prosperity of post-Civil War America created the happiest nation in history. The result was a desire to celebrate, to revel in the goods and pleasures of life on earth. Christmas (which was not a federal holiday until 1870) became the leading American outlet for this feeling.”
Peikoff credits 19th-century capitalism: “industrialization, urbanization, the triumph of science – all of it leading to easy transportation, efficient mail delivery, the widespread publishing of books and magazines, new inventions making life comfortable and exciting and the rise of entrepreneurs who understood that the way to make a profit was to produce something good and sell it to a mass market.”
It was then that gift-giving became a major feature of Christmas. There was finally enough wealth for the common man to rise above mere survival, to give gifts. It was the productive apparatus of capitalism – the freedom to create and exchange goods and services – that brought forth the surplus of wealth that allowed individual citizens to share their joy and happiness about life. It allowed them, for the first time in history, to reach out to friends and family with gifts expressing the sentiments they felt. “The whole country took with glee to giving gifts on an unprecedented scale.”
Even Santa Claus is a thoroughly American invention.
There was a predecessor called St. Nicholas, but it wasn’t until 1822, that an American named Clement Clark Moore wrote a poem about a visit from St. Nick. “It was Moore (and a few other New Yorkers) who invented St. Nick’s physical appearance and personality, came up with the idea that Santa travels on Christmas Eve in a sleigh pulled by reindeer, comes down the chimney, stuffs toys in the kids’ stockings, then goes back to the North Pole.”
And, most appropriate for a capitalist country, it was a highly successful corporation, an icon of capitalism, Coca Cola – that most contributed to introducing the red-suited, rosy-cheeked, white bearded, jolly fellow to the American public. Ho! Ho! Ho!
Not long ago, I listened to the reminiscences’ of an old cowboy, who grew up in early Montana without much of a family. He said he was a young lad of about 12 before he knew about Christmas. It was then that someone gave him his very first Christmas gift.
Christmas, as the stark and somber event that many seem to advocate, was a reality not long ago.
It took surplus wealth, and associated leisure and happiness, that allowed people to divert their attention from the struggle for survival, to indulge in levity and frivolity.
So what’s wrong with that?
Shouldn’t any celebration of life include the reality of what life requires?
Why shouldn’t the celebration have grown and expanded in meaning and significance to include all people and all manner of expression? Why shouldn’t we all revel in the glitter, glitz, music and merriment of a happier, healthier, more secure and pleasant life?
Celebrate on, America, celebrate on!
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a very prosperous, productive and happy New Year!
Published: Wednesday, 04 November 2015 16:27
Written by Evelyn Pyburn
A family business is about hard work and dreams.
The family businesses which were honored at the Montana State University Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship Family Business Day were families who know about the hard work and have been successful in achieving those dreams. And, they are on their way to achieving even greater dreams – and embracing more hard work.
Kregg Aytes, the College of Business Dean, said these families and their businesses are “the life blood of the state.” And, he’s right. When family businesses can no longer survive, it will be the end of the culture we know and the standard of living we have all come to enjoy. All policies, taxes and laws should be designed in a way that facilitates, as many such enterprises as possible, because it is from their production and success that all other benefits flow to society.
Read more: The Magic of Generational Entrepreneurism
Published: Saturday, 12 September 2015 08:54
Written by Evelyn Pyburn
Donald Trump isn’t going to eat Oreo cookies any more.
That’s because the manufacturer of Oreo cookies has moved their plant from Chicago to Mexico, and he is blaming the company.
Trump knows better — but like most other Republicans, he is pandering, in the most shallow of ways, to what he believes are his audiences prejudices against “big business.” But, more tragically, he is failing, just as almost all Republicans fail, to seize a stellar teachable moment, about what happens to businesses, to jobs, and to economic growth, when government becomes too large, too greedy, too arrogant and too much of a bully.
Read more: A Teachable Moment Missed by Evelyn Pyburn