Sunday, October 26, 2008

Thoughts before the election #1

A number of readers have e-mailed me, asking why I'm not providing more thoughts on the election and who I support for President.

The answer's simple. I don't believe I have the right to try to persuade anyone to vote according to my view of the world. I have my own convictions (centrist, with a conservative angle in terms of morality and an emphasis on the individual versus the collective), but I don't want to impose them on anyone else.

I've therefore decided to share, over a few posts, some of the thinkers whom I find valuable in evaluating the candidates for office (whether the Presidency, Senate, Congress, or temporary acting honorary assistant deputy dog-catcher). What I do is to take the ideas of such thinkers and use them as a yardstick to evaluate the candidates. How do they measure up? How well will they implement these ideas or principles? If they don't and/or won't, I can't in good conscience vote for them, irrespective of their political party or philosophy, or their track record.

Today I'd like to introduce you to William J. H. Boetcker (1873-1962). He was a Presbyterian minister, renowned for his motivational public speaking, and had the knack of putting important truths into concise, easily-grasped points.

Among his most famous ideas are the 'Ten Cannots', dating from 1916. They're often attributed - mistakenly - to Abraham Lincoln.

  • You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
  • You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
  • You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
  • You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
  • You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich.
  • You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.
  • You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
  • You cannot establish security on borrowed money.
  • You cannot build character and courage by taking away man's initiative and independence.
  • You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.

I think the 'Ten Cannots' say a great deal about our present society, particularly its emphasis on 'big government' and 'handouts' and 'welfare' and suchlike. I don't believe in any of them. If a given candidate (or political party) has a position that contradicts most of the 'Ten Cannots', the odds are that I can't support them. If the positions of all candidates (or parties) contradict the 'Ten Cannots', I'll have to vote for the person or party who contradicts the fewest of them, on the principle of choosing the lesser of the evils confronting me.

Boetcker also coined the 'Seven National Crimes':

  • I don’t think.
  • I don’t know.
  • I don’t care.
  • I am too busy.
  • I leave well enough alone.
  • I have no time to read and find out.
  • I am not interested.

These may or may not apply to our politicians, but they sure apply to us as voters! We should be asking ourselves whether we're guilty of any of these attitudes: and, if so, we should try to change that.

In the days ahead I'll write about a few more thinkers who've influenced me, and helped to shape my outlook. I hope you find them as interesting as I do - and helpful, in this election season.



Harrison said...

This country is in biiiiig trouble. Everyone I'm around is breakin' #1 of the Seven National Crimes and votin' for the single candidate who has (or will) violate all the 10 Cannots.

Rova said...

I posted this with a link to your blog on

Succinct clarity that should be the mileposts of conscience!