Socrates and the Fiscal Cliff

Socrates said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” 2013 begins with national discussions about federal spending, taxes, unemployment, the economy, turmoil overseas, and tragedy at home―things over which most individual Americans have little or no control. But if we review our own lives carefully, much of what we find most personally significant is within our power to change for the better this New Year.

A palliative caregiver writing for the AARP says her patients taught her five basic insights about living well. As they near death, she explains, people wish they had discerned their true calling and followed it, rather than other people’s desires and expectations. They wish they had simplified their lifestyle to spend more time with spouses and children and less on a work “treadmill” to pay for things they didn’t value in the end. They wish they had summoned the courage to express difficult emotions, to grow through resolving difficulties, and to become less mediocre. They wish they had stayed close to friends because “[i]t all comes down to love and relationships in the end.” Finally, they wish they had broken stale habits that curtailed personal growth and stifled laughter and joy.

An examined life is indeed worth the effort and is possible regardless of circumstances beyond our control. If we reflect deeply on our values, choices, and who we are called to be, we can live with purpose, integrity, and authenticity, regardless of the myriad problems in the world that cause us worry or sorrow.

Kathryn Hickok is Publications Director and Director of the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland program at Cascade Policy Institute.

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  • Bob Clark

    I think one possible outcome from our federal government’s rampant over spending actually lies with each of us. At some point, and it is already happening to a degree, the individual begins to not believe or adhere to the many empty promises of the federal government. So, the astute individual begins to save additionally to compensate for a very possible default by the federal government on its various obligations of one sort or another. This individual increasingly places his/her savings in hard real assets, and not as much in paper currency and treasury notes. I think folks with means and folks young in the back of their minds are already preparing for financial disappointment on the part of their federal government. If it were easy to create a fixed based currency, such as that tied to precious metals (physically limited in supply), the ability of the federal government to spend unsustainability might quickly be eradicated. It’s kind of ironic the federal government shut down a gold exchange called e-gold for money laundering in 2009. How convenient for the federal government, A? Of course, it’s hard to trust those guarding the gold warehouse, too. But the individual is bound to begin placing less faith in the “full faith and credit” of the United States, given how the federal government is behaving financially these days.

    • DavidAppell

      E-gold sold a digital currency based on the price of gold, not real gold. The company and its three directors pleaded guilty to charges of “conspiracy to engage in money laundering” and the “operation of an unlicensed money transmitting business.”

      Yes, that certainly seems like a sound place to put one’s money. Very sound.

    • DavidAppell

      Secondly, except in conservative fantasies, our government *can’t* default, because it controls its own currency. It can always create money to cover any debt if it needs to.

      Third, even if the government did ever default, who is going to seek salvation in a made-up currency whose value is tied to the price of gold? No one in their right mind would honor it.

    • Dan The Man

      Bob. True enough. Since we aren’t at the mercy of dictators or despots ‘we the people’ bear all the responsibility for whatever happens to this experiment in liberty –If not by overt means then by tacit complicity or ignorance.

  • Oregon Engineer

    It is a good thing DA has a sound grasp of money and economics. Goooo David!!!

    • 3H

      He seems to have a better grasp than some.