What Would Abe Say

As I write today’s commentary, I find myself drawn to a picture of Abraham Lincoln that adorns a wall in my office.

Lincoln was one of my favorite presidents, not because he was such a great president, but because of the obstacles he overcame to be elected.

Lincoln failed in his first business venture in 1831. He tried another business in 1833, and it failed. His fiancée died two years later. Lincoln had a nervous breakdown in 1836. In 1843, he ran for Congress and lost. He tried again five years later and lost again. He tried running for the Senate in 1855 and lost. He tried again for the Senate in 1859 and was defeated again.

Despite all his failed attempts and life struggles, Lincoln endured, and in 1860, he was elected the 16th President of the United States.

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Lincoln is a favorite president of many historians for many reasons. My reason for researching the history of Lincoln has to do with understanding his sheer determination. Lincoln is the opposite of many people in society today who either give up too easily or “cheat” their way to success, instead of relying on the good old-fashioned hard work of yesteryear.

(I apologize for using the word “cheat.” As an avid reader, I read at least one book a week. This past weekend, I finished David Callahan’s “The Cheating Culture,” published by Harcourt. The book is a fascinating tale of how today’s society, from government to large institutions to students, is doing whatever it takes to get ahead.)

Anyhow, I sometimes wonder what Lincoln would think, if he were alive today, about the current economy. I doubt Lincoln would ever be able to comprehend the amount of debt, per capita, that Americans carry (even taking inflation into consideration). Yes, he would be amazed by today’s technology and all the money the government collects in taxes.

But some things don’t change in 150 years. In fact, some things don’t change in 5,000 years. I’m talking about gold. What would Lincoln think if he knew today’s American dollar was not backed by gold? My bet is that he would not believe it possible.

But it may be no real surprise. Historians are fully aware how gold has been in and out as the currency of favor throughout history. The stronger the empire, the stronger the currency, the less demand for gold. It’s just when an empire’s currency starts to buckle in value that gold becomes the common store of wealth again.

The empire can even try to suppress the value of gold while it attempts to push its own currency as the standard. Unfortunately, in the history of man, this scheme has never been pulled off.