Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Woodrow Wilson puts me back on the road (again)


First there is this from the History Channel's website:

    On this day in 1916, in a ceremony at the White House, President Woodrow Wilson signs the Federal Aid Road Act.  The law established a national policy of federal aid for highways.
    From the mid-19th century, the building and maintenance of roads had been seen as a state and local responsibility. As a result, America’s roads were generally in poor condition, especially in rural areas. As the so-called Progressive Era dawned near the turn of the 20th century, attitudes began to change, and people began to look towards government to provide better roads, among other infrastructure improvements. The first federal aid bill was submitted to Congress in 1902, proposing the creation of a Bureau of Public Roads. With the rise of the automobile–especially after Henry Ford introduced the affordable Model T in 1908, putting more Americans on the road than ever before–Congress was pushed to go even further.
    In the 1907 case Wilson v. Shaw, the U.S. Supreme Court officially gave Congress the power “to construct interstate highways” under its constitutional right to regulate interstate commerce. In 1912, Congress enacted the Post Office Department Appropriations Bill, which set aside $500,000 for an experimental program to improve the nation’s post roads (roads over which mail is carried). The program proved too small to make significant improvements, but it taught Congress that federal aid for roads needed to go to the states instead of local counties in order to be effective.
    Serious consideration of a federal road program began in early 1916. There were two competing interest groups at stake: Farmers wanted sturdy, all-weather post roads to transport their goods, and urban motorists wanted paved long-distance highways. The bill that both houses of Congress eventually approved on June 27, 1916, and that Wilson signed into law that July 11, leaned in the favor of the rural populations by appropriating $75 million for the improvement of post roads. It included the stipulation that all states have a highway agency staffed by professional engineers who would administer the federal funds and ensure that all roads were constructed properly.
    In addition to enabling rural Americans to participate more efficiently in the national economy, the Federal Aid Road Act was a precursor to the Federal Highway Act of 1921, which provided federal aid to the states for the building of an interconnected interstate highway system. The interstate highway issue would not be fully addressed until much later, when the Federal Highway Act of 1956 allocated more than $30 billion for the construction of some 41,000 miles of interstate highways.

And there is this personal postscript:

If you are visiting this blog for the first time, some of what follows might not make sense to you, but other visitors (i.e., the small corps of loyalists and friends) will understand my words. 

The foregoing article from the History Channel's website serves as a metaphor for my blogging efforts. In other words, the road ahead needs improvements. 

My past blogging efforts have been marred by inconsistencies, contradictions, deletions, questionable content, occasional flashes of brilliance (I say immodestly), broken promises, and too many impulsive declarations. I make no excuses for all of that has been good, bad, and ugly. The past is simply the past.

Now, with this posting, I simply hope that the road ahead, for as long as I can keep moving forward, will be marked by improvements, consistencies, fulfilled promises, and -- above all -- blog content that is often interesting and sometimes provocative but always clear and concise. 


* * * * *

Now, with all of that out of the way, I turn my attention to the foregoing article more specifically. I observe the evidence of something dangerous in Wilson's signature of the Federal Aid Road Act. You see, beginning with the Articles of Confederation, continuing into the drafting of United States Constitution, and moving forward with relentless force through amendments and statutes and regulations and judicial decisions, the federal government has become more (too) powerful while local and state governments have become less autonomous. Some of the early Founding Fathers would be horrified by the trend; others would be over-joyed.

Well, as for myself, I see Wilson's presidency (represented in small part by the Federal Aid Road Act) as just another nail in the coffin of the United States of America, originally conceived as an aggregate of mostly independent but united and protected states within the umbrella of a limited federal government responsible for national defense and protection of individuals' inalienable rights.

Perhaps I am not correctly stating the case.
Perhaps I misunderstand American government.
Clearly I need to learn more in order to better understand the issues.
Now, though, it is your turn:

Tell me what you think.


24 comments:

  1. The thing about blogging, Tim, is that it's organic. So it changes as needs be to suit the author's purpose. I look forward to seeing where you go from here.

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    1. Organic, Margot? Hmmmm. As I feel like such a flawed organism these days, I chuckle when I read your characterization of blogging. I'm reminded of the phrase, "We are what we eat," and I convert it to "We blog what we are," which causes me to chuckle a bit more. In all cases, I so much appreciate your consistent kindness. Thank you, Margot.

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    2. lots of truth there, RT: "we blog what we are"...

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    3. Mudpuddle, I say to you what I said to Margot: I so much appreciate your consistent kindness. Thank you.

      I guess we might disagree about things every now and then, but I think we do so so agreeably that blood pressures are never in danger.

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  2. In recent years I have taken to referring to Wilson as the archfiend, chiefly because he regarded the Constitution as as out-moded and decided to act beyond its bounds with deliberation, effecting a new imperial presidency. He also segregated the armed forces, and his treatment of Americans during the Great War was both treacherous and tyrannical. What a wretched little man!

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    1. Stephen, I tend to share your POV regarding Wilson. However, I still don't know enough about him and his era. I have a copy of Berg's biography of Wilson on my iPad, but don't know if it is the best, more objective treatment. Do you have any suggested readings about Wilson and his era?

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    2. Unfortunately, no. I used to have a book on Wilson and his age, but it was a lifetime ago...and I don't believe it focused on his presidency. It was more about America in the 1910s. I've been looking for a solid Wilson bio, though, one that has more depth than presenting him as the pitable saint whose health prevented him from doing more good. (This seems to be the usual Wilson presentation in history texts..)

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    3. I just bought Berg's bio because I recently read the Zimmerman Telegraph which made me want to get a book the focused on Wilson's presidency. A lot of what I learned of Wilson in that book made me draw the same conclusion as Stephen.

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    4. Sharon, which Zimmerman Telegraph book?

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    5. The written by Barbara Tuchman.

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  3. R.T. I hear you, brother! I am reading Tocqueville's Democracy in America and I did not realize how bloated and overbearing our federal and especially our judiciary branch has become. People need to wake up.

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    1. Sharon, I am curious about how we got here in spite of the good intentions of Founding Fathers. So, I will be reading about Wilson, but I suppose I need to go back earlier in American history (including Theodore Roosevelt) to sort out the mess.

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    2. Let me know what books you find. I'm very interesting in reading about this topic as well. It would be good to trace exactly how things got to be they way they are.

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    3. You might be interested in Theodore and Woodrow by Napolitano. Here is a link to his site:
      http://www.judgenap.com/books
      You might also be interested in this reading list:
      http://www.dineshdsouza.com/news/a-conservative-reading-list/
      I've added Atlas Shrugged and Brideshead Revisited to my "coming soon" reading list. I think I will try to find some time for Animal Farm, too. Either the Berg bio of Wilson or the Napolitano book, Theodore and Woodrow, will be part of my immediate reading schedule. Alas, so many books and not enough time.

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    4. I've just read Atlas Shrugged and BR is also on my TBR list. I will check out the Napolitano as well as those links. Thanks!

      And we both know what Erasmus said about books...

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    5. Just put a bunch of those books on my wish list at Amazon and my library has some of them.

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    6. Happy trail, Sharon. I just posted something about conservative novels. You might be interested in what I discovered.

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    7. what did Rasmus say about books?

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    8. There's a great quote attributed to Erasmus in which he purportedly said, "When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes."

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  4. the problem is simple to express: it takes money to maintain the infrastructure; the people with the money don't want to spend it on that; i guess for the true capitalist, the disappearance of any art or culture except that of money grubbing, the death of millions for want of health care, the disintegration of public resources, is all okay... the basic problem being overwhelming greed and selfishness... the solution: you got me, it's just inherent in human nature to be that way, i guess...

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    1. i'm most likely wrong, but i thought one of the goals of religion was to help take care of others... it's sure failed at that...

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    2. Mudpuddle, I'm sort of with Thoreau who said something about the government that governs least governs best. I'm not for death of culture, people, resources, or anything else. I'm for something like Thoreau's notion. I don't think that makes me a heartless person. I think it makes me a pragmatic libertarian conservative. However, I am also open minded. Onward.

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    3. Mudpuddle, I don't know enough about religions to comment sensibly. But I agree with you: care for others seems central to any religion. And I agree that some religions and religious people have not lived up to that responsibility. However, I try not to indict all because of sins of some or even many. I live in a glass house, so I don't throw too many stones. Oh, once upon a time, when I got liquored up, I through plenty of stones. Now, though, I take one day at a time. No more stones.

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