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  • Thanksgiving

    Posted by Lexington Green on November 23rd, 2011 (All posts by )

    Thank you to the millions of people, including my ancestors, who pulled up stakes, or risked life and limb, and travelled to America, and built this great country and passed it on to us.

    Dear God, we give you thanks for our ancestors who left homes and families and the life they knew and came to America, often at great sacrifice and great hazard, and built this great country and gave it to us. Please grant that we will be worthy of them, and leave this country to those who come after not only not less but greater than it has been given to us.


    16 Responses to “Thanksgiving”

    1. elf Says:


    2. Robert Schwartz Says:

      Let us so pray.

    3. Michael Kennedy Says:

      My great grandfather came out to Illinois to work on the Chicago and Michigan Canal that had just been built. He worked as a constable in Peru and LaSalle, Illinois and at a glass factory in one of those cities. He saved his money and, when he had enough, he quit his jobs and went back to New York to marry my great grandmother, Ellen. After the Civil War, they came back to Illinois and bought a farm near Odell, a town south of Dwight. There, they raised 12 children, including my grandfather. St Paul’s church in Odell, built in 1905, has stained glass windows along each side. The first window on the left was donated by “Mr and Mrs Michael Kennedy.” THat on the right was donated by “Mr and Mrs John Ferguson,” my grandmother’s parents.

      My great grandfather died in 1905 never having learned to read or write but owning the biggest house in Odell. The day he quit his job at the glass factory, he made himself a glass cane. I still have that cane. I owe him a lot.

    4. Michael Kennedy Says:

      Sorry, it was the Illinois and Michigan Canal and established Chicago as the transportation hub for the Midwest, connecting Lake Michigan with the Mississippi River in 1848. He had previously worked as a teenager on the Erie Canal in New York.

    5. Lexington Green Says:

      Michael, good story. The Irish did very well once the boot was off their throats. My Irish ancestors stayed in Boston, the opportunities were not so good. Both of my mothers Irish grandfathers were killed in industrial accidents, with no insurance, no workers comp, no liability on the employer for running a lethally dangerous plant. Take it or leave it. The Irish were cheap and expendable, and the widows and orphans were on their own. America is, mostly, a better place now. We’ll see how things look if this downturn turns into a new Depression Decade. For now, thank you to my great grandfathers, you literally sacrificed your lives trying to feed your families. I have not forgotten you.

    6. newrouter Says:

      “Both of my mothers Irish grandfathers were killed in industrial accidents, with no insurance, no workers comp, no liability on the employer for running a lethally dangerous plant. Take it or leave it. The Irish were cheap and expendable, and the widows and orphans were on their own.”

      so the rc church was missing in action?

    7. Lexington Green Says:

      The RC Church in that place and time had nothing but poor people with little to spare. But you know that. Thanks for the reminder that anti Catholic bigotry is alive and well as always.

    8. Mark E. Says:

      Thanks to my father, gone now for almost 2 years. Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal, and all of Korea. Left for the Marines and war at 16 years old. Drill Instructor as well. Not much formal education to speak of, and tough as nails. Oh, and Jewish in the Marines. Although growing up with him was kind of like living in The Great Santini, I miss him. Thanks, dad.

    9. Mark E. Says:

      Strike Guadalcanal, I should have said Okinawa.

    10. Shannon Love Says:

      Lexington Green,

      Both of my mothers Irish grandfathers were killed in industrial accidents, with no insurance, no workers comp, no liability on the employer for running a lethally dangerous plant.

      Hmmm, sounds almost as dangerous as farming. I think it important not to fall into temporal bigotry and definitely not to fall into a mythology created by Leftists. The truth is that all physical labor was dangerous prior to the 20th century. It’s easy to single out factories in hindsight because we’ve lost touch with the day-to-day dangers that people faced. There was so much ambient death from disease and accident that any additional risk of factory work, in the cases where factory work was actually more risk, seemed trivial.

      I read one study of 19th century adult mortality and they found that one of the major causes of adult mortality was farmers forced by mother nature to work when they were ill. A farmer of say, 50, would get a bad cold in in the fall, winter or spring but still have to go out to tend crops or animals. The stress of working hard in the cold while battling infection would tip them over into pneumonia and they would die.

      With horses everywhere, every minor scratch risked tetanus. Horses, mules and cattle delivered kicks that killed and maimed. Barns were very dangerous because of the need to store and move heavy bales of fodder. Absolutely everything was incredibly flammable.

      When farmers died, they seldom had insurance, they definitely didn’t have worker’s comp and they were their own liability. (This is all still true today.) Given that most farmers had to be perpetually in debt, there wasn’t even any guarantee that would leave the farm itself for their surviving family. Families routinely lost farms owing to the death of the adult male.

      In the end, it is material wealth and not laws or morals that provide worker safety and financial security. Safety cost a lot and the technology of the 19th century simply lacked the margin to provide anything approaching a degree of safety for anyone doing anything. Likewise, financial security required that surviving workers could generate enough excess to support the dependents of workers who were killed or maimed.

      We should be doubly grateful that our ancestors were willing to work so hard, in so much danger for so little immediate return. Their risk taking created the material wealth that allows us to live safely.

    11. Lexington Green Says:

      Who bore the risks and costs was a political decision. Since the owners did not beat any risk fir workplace injuries they spent no money to prevent them. When some of the costs and risks were shifted onto the people who controlled the workplace they rapidly made them much safer. People respond to incentives.

    12. Shannon Love Says:

      Lexington Green,

      When some of the costs and risks were shifted onto the people who controlled the workplace they rapidly made them much safer.

      Actually, that’s not true. It might seem that way if you look at work conditions today and compare them to work conditions over a century ago but that is a naive approach that does not take into account any improvements in safety that would have occurred with or without political change.

      If you look at the change of workplace injury rates from the 1880s (when the first data was available) foreword, you see a fairly smooth curve with no discontinuities caused by political changes e.g. The New Deal. This indicates that political action had relatively small impact on safety. It is technology and not law that is responsible for most improvements in safety.

      One good example of this is the improvements in mining safety that occurred from 1800-1900 before there was any major regulation of mine safety at all. Miners were about 10 times safer at the end of the period even though the mines were larger, deeper and in more dangerous strata. The expansion of mining was ultimately limited by safety so improvements in mining technology automatically made minors safer as well.

      One factor usually overlooked in these types of discussions is that as technology grows more complicated, the skill needed to operate it grows as well and “workers” become less generic and less easy to replace. Also, on going processes became large and more integrated such that an accident in one part of a plant or facility could idle the entire system. These factors created economic incentives to improve safety that were of a larger scale than political ones.

      The biggest impact on safety from politics came in the case of diseases caused by chronic, long term exposure to something in the work environment e.g. coal dust, metallic dust, etc. These took decades to manifests and often did so at the end or after an individuals work life, so there was little economic incentive for anyone to prevent them.

      There is a Taoist saying that leadership is a matter of finding a parade and getting out in front of it and claiming the parade is following you. Most of the political claims for improvements in quality of life by politicos are really just politicos claiming credit for technological improvements that occurred independent of any specific political intent. They do this just by saying, “Look at how bad things were a century ago, we passed some laws and now look how great things are now,” and then letting everyone infer that the laws drove the change instead of just being icing on the cake.

      The lives our great-grandparents were hard but that was primarily because they lacked the technology to create and use the energy to control their environment as we do today. No matter how compassionate people might have been, work would have been hard and dangerous by modern standards.

    13. Lexington Green Says:

      The technology existed to make workplaces safer. No one would do it as long ad immigrant labor was cheap and destroying the lives and bodies of workers was costless to their employers. Once they had to bear some ohms that cost industrial accudents and deaths fell rapidly. I remember researching this in college, from contemporary publications, so, you are wrong, actually I am aware of the facts. You can look at steel industry journals from 1890 then 1920, and see that the gearwork had safety coverings, which cost very little and saved thousands of lives and limbs. It would not have ever happened if the law had not changed.

    14. Michael Kennedy Says:

      No one would do it as long ad immigrant labor was cheap and destroying the lives and bodies of workers was costless to their employers.

      A friend of mine, an OB-GYN took a clinical faculty job at U of Alabama about ten years ago. One fellow he met was the descendent of a very old family that went back to before the Civil War. He told my friend that, when the cotton was baled, they would push the bales off a high bluff above the river. A steam boat would pull up to the bank below to load the cotton.n He told my friend that slaves unloaded the bales from the wagons and pushed them over the bluff. At the bottom, where the bales fell down, they used Irish immigrants to catch and load the bales. The work was far too dangerous for slaves who were valuable.

    15. Lexington Green Says:

      I have said that if I had to reduce my economics training at the University of Chicago to one sentence it would be this: people respond to incentives, so figure out those and you will explain everything. Once you had a workers compensation law in place, so much for a finger, a hand, an arm, an eye, you immediately got much safer work places and not even a measurable speed bump in productivity.

    16. Jonathan Says:

      Lex, I think that you are making an error similar to that made by global-warming alarmists. If you frame the question as how to create conditions that maximize the long-term welfare of the greatest number of people, and I think that’s the correct way to frame it, the answer is that you should encourage the fastest possible economic growth and thus wealth accumulation. Wealth creates options including the ability to solve unexpected problems. As Shannon, I think, mentioned elsewhere, wealth protects workers’ health and safety better than anything else does. Indeed, safety regulations are possible now because we can afford them. In the old days, and even today in some places, more workplace regulation meant less food for workers who were on the edge of subsistence. Life was harder for everyone then. Putting more regulations in place would have saved some lives at the expense of slower growth, diminished economic opportunity, and more time needed for the society to reach its current high level of wealth in which ordinary people lead longer, healthier lives than ever before.