Ivan W. Parkins


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About Ivan W. Parkins:

Dr. Parkins is a retired professor of Political Science from Central Michigan University.  He received his PhD from the University of Chicago and is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy.  Dr. Parkins served as a naval officer during WWII aboard the battleship Alabama.  He is a recent widower with three daughters, 3 grand children and 2 great grand children.  Dr. Parkins has written extensively, having authored 3 books and a newspaper opinion column for many years. 

Front Page


The aftermath

    ELECTION 2008


Intellectuals are keys to the troubles

By Ivan W. Parkins


     First: I have long thought that a President who was black could help unite the nation.

     Second: I cannot be happy with President-elect Obama, because the political exposure and performance that he has demonstrated are mostly opposite to what I believe is needed.


     Our economy is in trouble, and because it is so large a part of the World’s economy, the World is in economic trouble. People, I think, who are much like Obama—no, not blacks—dynamic, well schooled, ambitious, and socially conscious intellectuals are keys to that trouble.


     The critical division in America, and perhaps in the Western World, is more an intellectual division than one of either race or wealth.  That is not to deny that divisions of the latter types exist.  But, the fundamental problem is how we regard capitalism.  And, having once been mainly a critic of capitalism, I am now mainly a supporter of it.


     Unfortunately, too many people on both sides of this division have permitted the issue to become one of quasi-religious orthodoxy.  Some favor almost no government regulation, while others strive to apply regulation of capitalistic markets to accomplish ill-considered, but emotionally attractive, goals.


     The clash has become central to our politics largely because of the huge growth and extension of our education and information systems.  Whereas those were once largely subordinates to, if not supporters of, capitalism; they have now become self-consciously independent and aggressive in trying to displace the industrial/financial sector as the primary political force in American society.


     That would be less of a problem if our system of government had a greater capacity for identifying and serving a majority of Americans, and were less responsive to the demands of particularly well-organized and aggressive minorities.


     In short, I think that the present economic crisis is equally a political crisis.  If I am wrong about President-elect Obama, and he proves capable of moving us towards solutions to both, he could rank with Washington and Lincoln as architects of America.


By Ivan W. Parkins


     We, and all of mankind, face an especially complex, and potentially fruitful, problem.  It is how much freedom?  And especially, what freedoms for whom?


     Individuals are not, never were, and can be only briefly (as they die off), totally free.  Especially as our numbers have grown, we have compromised individual freedoms socially to enhance freedoms from natural hazards.


     That, for the most part, has been a gain rather than a loss.  Our remoter ancestors were far less free than we are.  But, that was not due primarily to social rules or to other humans.  The first hominids faced natural hazards, as does every sparse and, in some respects weak, species.  By joint efforts, and particularly by the cultivating and sharing of our unique mental and communication capacities, we have become dominant among the World’s creatures.  The price of that is, and will continue to be, some restrictions of individual freedoms in the interest of communal security against outside hazards that can easily crush individuals.


     The principal is a simple one.  Its specific applications are increasingly numerous and complex. The survival and advance of mankind has been, and can be, long lasting and grand.  The survival of most individuals can be made more likely and more self-satisfying, but, only as individuals participate within a larger social context.


     We have some choices as to what that context will be.  I.W.Parkins, 11/08


By Ivan W. Parkins


     One of the ironies of Marxism is that its greatest successes have not occurred where Marx expected them, i.e. among the laboring classes of industrially advanced nations.  Marxism’s greatest appeal has been to intellectuals, an elite element of society.


      A partial clarification of that mystery is offered by Erich Fromm in BEYOND THE CHAINS OF ILLUSION.  Marx denounced the indoctrination of people living under capitalism with beliefs and customs that uphold capitalism.  To free themselves intellectually and morally, they must renounce capitalism.  Those who cannot do that can not be intellectually or morally free.  It’s an easy formula for claiming to achieve intellectual and moral superiority among those who choose to take it.  Too bad that no other vast and complex society has thus far existed with less restrictive indoctrination and belief system than the major capitalist societies of today.  Marxist attempts have been extremely inclined to indoctrination.


      But, don’t give me Thomas Jefferson’s least government idea.  Even he related it to societies of yeoman farmers.  Today, our huge and fertile nation has an average of less than eight acres for each of its more than 302 million people.  And, a lot of those acres would make very poor homesteads.


By Ivan W. Parkins

Column, 08/ 11/71, Mt. Pleasant Daily Times-News                                    


     The mission of Apollo 15 and those which preceded it ought to be regarded as a major triumph of man, and of our society.  Unfortunately, it will be put down in some quarters as a mere technological achievement.  Literary-intellectuals, those whose primary interests lie in the humane rather than the scientific-technological aspects of culture, are inclined to belittle the achievements of science.  They claim for themselves the guardianship of our humanity and charge scientists and technicians with materialism.  Actually, it is the literary-intellectuals who fail to appreciate man.


     There are two sides to the nature of man, and both must be held in perspective if human nature is to be appreciated.  As compared to other animals, man is an individualist.  He is able to do things which no other animal, or man, had done before.  His imagination and creative capacity help to make him unique.  But individual achievements are only one side of humanity.  The other side is a social one.  Individual members of some other species live in close cooperation with one another, but the modes of their cooperation are relatively few and the limits fixed.  Man, however, has a proven capacity to cooperate with his fellows in varied and changing ways.


     Man is superior in his individuality.  He is also superior in his social capacity.  He is unique because he combines so much of both individual and social potentials.  How best to develop the two capabilities is the problem of culture.


     Perhaps the greatest significance of the moon exploration is that it demonstrates the most intricate and successful combination of individual and cooperative efforts which man has yet achieved.  Some years ago one of the astronauts remarked that, as he was being blasted into space, he realized that his life was dependent upon a long list of low bidders.  That remark was more profound than he may have intended.  Quite apart from anything discovered about the solar system and the spin-off benefits of our new technology, the space program has been a grand triumph of our capacity to unite vast numbers of individuals from different professions and skills into one coordinated effort.


     The inclination of the more literary types of intellectuals to belittle the space program stems largely from their own failure to appreciate the cooperative aspect of man’s nature.  Under the pretext of a deep concern for humanity, many of them have cultivated an obsession with individualism.  They define humanity in terms of individual creativity, and define creativity as rejection of traditional modes of co-operation.  Many of those who can see little which is exciting or valuable in exploration of the moon hail the spread of pornography, protest , and pot.  Their professed belief in individualism reduces to little more than a rationalization of antisocial attitudes.


      The triviality and petulance of so many literary-intellectuals does not imply that humane studies should be neglected.  Man himself, his values, his emotions, and his aspirations are at least as challenging to study as biology and the physical environment. Human individuality is no less important than man’s capacity for co-operative achievement.  Efforts to comprehend and develop our humanity deserve a high priority among the claims upon our brains and our other resources.


     The problem—and it may explain much of our contemporary confusion—is that many of the people whose social function it is to help us in understanding ourselves refuse to accept our technological and democratic society.  In such a society literary-intellectuals tend to lose their identity as an elite.  It is a selfish, rather than a sympathetic, alienation which impels such people to attack technology (openly and directly) and democracy (covertly and indirectly).


     Perhaps the greatest service of the space program to American society has been the repeated demonstrations that man (our own society) is capable today of achievements which only a generation ago were mere figments of imagination.  It is not our technological and democratic society, or the men who build and identify with it, which diminish human nature; it is the literary-intellectuals.  They attempt to excuse their acts of disloyalty to the society by claiming a more general loyalty to man.  In fact, their most serious offense is their betrayal of man.  



By Ivan W. Parkins


The following are brief adaptations from columns that I did in the local BUYER’S GUIDE during 1980.


     A simplified, money, value system and free market exchange are much of what makes capitalism function.


     How is it that hundreds of millions of people can each contribute his own kind of work and each receive numerous products of his own choosing?  The substitution of  more complex, word based, value systems, i.e. regulations, greatly complicates and almost invariably delays, exchanges.


     Authors of THE FEDERALIST, more than two centuries ago were well aware of the danger:

      Every new regulation concerning commerce or revenue, or in any manner affecting

      the value of the different species of property, presents a new harvest for those who

      watch the change, and can trace its consequences; a harvest, reared not by themselves,

      but by the toils and cares of the great body of their fellow-citizens.


     According to an article in FORTUNE, 8/14/78, Congress tried to prove that point.  In that earlier oil crisis it enacted a subsidy to help small refiners.  The subsidy was so generous that new small refineries were created, not to refine oil (they were too inefficient) but to profit from the subsidy.  Does that sound like ethanol to you?


     If that is not convincing, consider the effects upon poor Africans and some others of our banning DDT.  Malaria, a major plague to humans throughout history, had been declining rapidly.  With the ban, malaria returned in millions of cases and an estimated million deaths per year.  No doubt DDT had been over-used, but that gross regulation will likely be recorded as one of the largest and most lethal “crimes” of our age.


      Regulation should be undertaken only with great caution.