In Celebration of Black History Month, Let Us All Emulate the Great Frederick Douglas

Happy Birthday, Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglas (1818-1895)

February 15, 2021

There is no better way to celebrate Black History Month than to to absorb the ideas of Frederick Douglas. I recommend you read this latest article written my friend, American historian, Nancy Spannaus-see link below: Happy Birthday, Frederick Douglas. I also suggest you read his wonderful autobiography: Life and Times of Frederick Douglas. 

Frederick Douglas believed in the U.S. Constitution and demanded that Americans and their leaders live up to its noble principles. That is something we should all aspire to. Douglas wrote: “Men talk of the Negro problem. There is no Negro problem. The problem is whether the American people have loyalty enough, honor enough, patriotism enough, to live up to their own Constitution.” Frederick Douglas did not advocate tearing down America, but rather, demanded that Americans live up to the principle embodied in the U.S. Constitution.

 

Happy Birthday, Frederick Douglass

 Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

Horn of Africa Endangered by Untrue Media Attacks on Ethiopia

(courtesy bangkokpost.com

Horn of Africa Endangered by Untrue Media Attacks on Ethiopia

Lawrence Freeman

February 4, 2021

In January 2021, the world witnessed a barrage of attacks on Ethiopia aimed at undermining the efforts of Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed to preserve the sovereignty of the Ethiopian nation.  This is a dangerous gambit not only for the potential harm it can trigger for the people of Ethiopia, but also for the security of the Horn of Africa.  It is well known that Prime Minister Abiy launched the Prosperity Party (PP) in 2019 to create a non-ethnic centered political party to overcome the rise of ethno-nationalism. Unfortunately, ethnicity is embedded in Ethiopia’s 1995 Constitution. The PP challenged the decades long control over Ethiopia’s political institutions by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), who then lashed out  against the government in Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia has provided stability in an oftentimes volatile region, as well as economic leadership in East Africa. Neighboring Somalia, where Ethiopia forces have combatted Al Shabaab for many years, is in a precarious state following the removal of U.S. AFRICOM troops to its unsettled and  contentious presidential election. Somalia has also severed diplomatic relations with Kenya.

Additionally, unresolved, and sometimes quarrelsome talks between Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia pertaining to the fill rate of Nile waters for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) are still ongoing.

War is Sometimes Necessary

The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front committed sedition when they attacked the military base of the Ethiopian National Defense Force (NDF) stationed in Mekele, in the early hours of November 4, 2020. They killed NDF soldiers in their sleep and stole munitions for their militia. Prime Minister Abiy had no alternative but to launch a full scale military response to subdue the insurrection conducted by the leadership of the TPLF.

No one can argue that war is not horrible and deadly, and that it causes severe  collateral damage. People are displaced, economy is disrupted, and civilians suffer. No death of a single human being is insignificant because the human race is endowed by the Creator with noble creativity. However, to preserve the nation-state for more than one hundred million Ethiopians living today and for hundreds of millions more in the future, war, when absolutely necessary, must be waged. (Read: Ethiopia’s Conflict: A War Won to Preserve the Nation-State)

I am reminded of the famous Gettysburg Battlefield in Pennsylvania, and the enormous number of American deaths that occurred during the U.S. Civil War. An estimated 700,000 Americans died during this four yearlong brutal war, of which 50,000 were civilians. President Abraham Lincoln was unyielding in his commitment to save the Union, no matter the cost of human life. Lincoln possessed the inner directedness to maintain the Union as an indivisible whole, against the separatist rebels. Had he not, the U.S. would have been destroyed by slavery, and a slave economy; the world today would be entirely different-and for the worse.

Media Stokes Fears Regarding Tigray

Western media, led by the British, have use inflammatory stories to encourage the withholding of humanitarian aid from Ethiopia, at precisely the moment when it is needed most.

The Washington Post in its  January 27th editorial demands that the US and European Union “should withhold further aid until …government agrees to pursue peace talks,” after accusing Prime Minister Abiy of having “all the earmarks of Ethiopia’s previous dictators.”

More egregiously, is the headline in the January 23rd issue of the London Economist: After two months of war, Tigray faces starvation. In a blatant assault on Ethiopia and Prime Minister Abiy, the Economist accuses the government of  “war crimes” and quotes an unnamed western diplomat who says, “we could have a million dead there in a couple of months.”

Barely a week after the start of the war, with the TPLF insurrectionists still in control of Tigray, CNN printed an inflammatory headline: Mass Killings of civilians in Tigray region, says Amnesty International. CNN writing on the cruel massacre of 600 Ethiopians on the evening of November 9, in the town of Mai-Kadra, south-west Tigray, blatantly failed to report; that it was forces loyal to the TPLF, not the Ethiopian NDF, who committed this atrocity.

 

United Nations Deputy Secretary General meets with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (courtesy ethiopia.un.org

The Big Lie

The most often repeated allegation against the Ethiopian government, first reported by the Associated Press (AP) is; that there are 4.5 million Tigrayans in need of immediate lifesaving aid. Under the headline, ‘Extreme urgent need’: Starvation haunts Ethiopia’s Tigray, AP reports on January 17, “More than 4.5 million people, nearly the region’s entire population, need emergency food” according to an unnamed source. The article continues, “a [unnamed]Tigray administrator warned that without aid, ‘hundreds of thousands might starve to death’ and some already had, according to minutes obtained by The Associated Press.” Following the AP story, news outlets all over the world including on YouTube videos, recited the same narrative; 4.5 million Tigrayans were starving.

There is a second article in issue of the London Economist sighted above, in a section labelled Famine Crimes, with the headline, Ethiopia’s government appears to be wielding hunger as a weapon, with a subhead, A rebel region is being starved into submission. In this article, the Economist equates  Prime Minister Abiy with former Ethiopian Marxist dictator, Mengistu Haile Mariam, whose policies contributed to the death of one million Ethiopians during the drought from 1984-1985. They write:

“Things were supposed to be different under Abiy Ahmed, the Ethiopian prime minister who was hailed as a reformer when he took charge in 2018, and who won the Nobel peace prize the following year. Yet once again it looks as if hunger is being used as a weapon in Africa’s second-most-populous nation.”

The London based Guardian on January 24, printed an opinion column by Simon Tisdal, entitled, Ethiopia’s leader must answer for the high cost of hidden war in Tigray. He wrote:

“After humanitarian workers finally gained limited access this month, it was estimated that 4.5 million of Tigray’s 6 million people need emergency food aid. Hundreds of thousands are said to face starvation.”

BBC News published the following headline on February 1, Tigray crisis: ‘Genocidal war’ waged in Ethiopia region, says ex-leader, quoting Debretsion Gebremichael, who is leading the TPLF military campaign against Ethiopia.

 Truth or Propaganda?

The estimated population living in the Tigray region is probably from 5 to 5.5 million. Thus, according to the media, 4.5 million or 82-90% of the Tigrayan population need emergency assistance. These figures are too implausible to be considered accurate. UNICEF on November 19, 2020, asserted that there are 2.3 million children in the Tigray region in need of humanitarian assistance. If that were true, it would mean between 40-45% of the Tigrayan population are children, which is improbable.

These exaggerated hysterical claims are designed to inflame public opinion against the government of Ethiopia.

Representatives of the Ethiopian government report, that due to poor infrastructure and underdeveloped land there were 1.8 million Tigrayans in need of aid prior to the military outbreak. TPLF controlled Tigray during this period. As a result of this TPLF instigated conflict, an additional 700,000 are in need, for a total of 2.5 million. While this is an extremely large number of Ethiopians who require assistance, which should not be ignored, it is much less than 4.5 million.

Information provided by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which coordinates global emergency response, is closer to the figures offered by the Ethiopian government.  OCHA’s January 26, Tigray Region Humanitarian Update reports 950,000 people in need of aid prior to November 4, and projects 1.3 million more Tigrayans will need assistance resulting from the conflict, for a total of almost 2.3 million. In the same update, OCHA reports: “Movements of humanitarian cargo inside Tigray is improving substantially. Last week, four of the submitted cargo requests have been cleared to be dispatched.”

Clearly, living conditions on the ground for millions of Tigrayans is deplorable. Food, non-food, medical and related assistance is urgently needed to prevent further loss of life. However, there is no evidence of mass starvation, and no evidence that Prime Minister Abiy is using food as a weapon against the Tigrayan people.

President Biden’s Message to the 34th Summit of African Union. courtesy of Namibia Embassy na.usembassy.gov)

What the U.S. Should Do

President Biden has an opportunity to create a new U.S.-Africa policy, and contribute to the well-being of Ethiopia, and the Horn of Africa.

The Biden administration should support the sovereign obligation of the Ethiopian government to deploy its military in defense of the nation following the attack by the TPLF on the Ethiopia’s NDF in Mekele. This should extend to denouncing unfounded inciting accusations that the government is using food as a weapon against the Tigrayan people.

The U.S. should immediately utilize its unique military-logistical capability to deliver assistance to the Tigray region. This should include all Ethiopians and refugees who are suffering as a result of the TPLF’s reckless treasonous actions.

President Biden should immediately reverse Donald Trump’s awful decision to withhold $130 million in aid to Ethiopia. The failure to restore this aid at this critical juncture could result in increased suffering.

Contrary to Trump’s interference in the tripartite talks between Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia, the U.S. should allow African nations in partnership with the African Union to resolve the remaining concerns regarding the operation of the GERD.

Most importantly, recognizing that the Tigray region, like other sections of Ethiopia are in need of vital categories of infrastructure, the U.S. should invest in the construction of roads, railroads, energy generation, and water management. A nation that provides it citizens with the physical goods and services essential for a rising standard of living is best equipped to mitigate ethnic tensions that often arise from economic marginalization. Let this crisis in Tigray become an opportunity to usher in a new paradigm of U.S.-Africa strategy by President Biden, who should be guided by the wise words of Pope Paul VI: development is the new name for peace.

 Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

Nations Must Study Alexander Hamilton’s Principles of Political Economy

Hamilton Versus Wall Street: The Core Principles of the American System of Economics
Nancy Bradeen Spannaus iUniverse, Bloomington, Indiana, 2019, 222 pp. $13.99 soft cover, $5.99 e-book.

Hamilton Versus Wall Street: The Core Principles Of the American System of Economics      By Nancy Bradeen Spannaus

A Review by Lawrence Freeman-March 28 2019

For those followers of our beloved Alexander Hamilton and for those new to his writings, this book is for you. Nancy Spannaus, in her just-released book Hamilton Versus Wall Street, makes a unique contribution to the existing volumes written on Hamilton’s political and economic thoughts.  In her relatively short easy-to-read book, she weaves together Hamilton’s revolutionary ideas on political economy that served as the pillars for the creation of the United States, their legacy in the next two centuries of America, and their influence internationally. Throughout her treatise, Spannaus also provides constructive historical analysis of the battle inside the United States to adopt Hamilton’s concepts. This book is a valuable complement to Hamilton’s economic reports and will aid those unfamiliar with his seminal texts. *

Spannaus polemically begins by countering the popular myth that Hamilton was an agent for the banks (Wall Street) against the interests of the “little man,” agrarian society and the states, as espoused by Thomas Jefferson and others.  She later devotes entire chapters to Hamilton’s opposition to the British central banking system and Adam Smith, exposing another slander which alleged Hamilton was a supporter of the British aristocracy.

Principles of Political Economy

            Unlike like other publications on Hamilton that gloss over or give insufficient attention to Hamilton’s ground-breaking concepts of banking, credit, and manufactures, Spannaus makes a great effort to elaborate Hamilton’s contributions to: “The Core Principles of the American System of Economics.”  **

All nations would benefit greatly, if their leaders and citizens studied Hamilton writings. American culture would not be at the low level it is today, if my fellow citizens had been taught Hamilton’s economic theories, which in fact were crucial to the creation of our nation from thirteen indebted, agriculturally-based colonies. Advanced sector countries that are dominated by financial systems dictated by Wall Street and the City of London, and underdeveloped nations that rely on resource extraction and farming, because they lack a manufacturing sector, could learn a great deal from Hamilton.

However, Hamilton’s thinking about economic growth was not limited to the mere production of goods. He understood for society to continually increase the productive powers of the economy, the development of the human mind was essential. Spannaus quotes Hamilton: “To cherish and stimulate the activity of the human mind, by multiplying objects of enterprise, is not among the least considerable of the expedients, by which the wealth of the nations may be promoted.” (p. 28).

Friederich List, a student of Hamilton’s philosophy in the nineteenth century, wrote that “capital of mind, capital of nature, and capital of productive matter” are all essential components to achieve economic progress. (p. 29)

Hamilton’s First National Bank (courtesy ushistory.org)

The Constitution and Public Debt-Credit

Hamilton knew that for a nation to be truly sovereign, it must possess the means to produce the physical wealth necessary to maintain the existence of its citizens and their posterity. It is no coincidence that the Founding Fathers embedded this concept in the profound Preamble to the US Constitution. As Spannaus emphasizes, for Hamilton, the importance of establishing federal credit through the creation of the National Bank, stabilizing the currency, developing the manufacturing capability of the young United Sates, and increasing the wealth of the nation through internal improvements, was coherent with the intent of the Preamble “to form a more perfect Union.”

Hamilton used the “general welfare” clause of the Preamble to justify his revolutionary idea to create a public-private National Bank to consolidate the separate states and establish a unified currency to promote national economic growth. Generations later, in the footsteps of Hamilton, Franklin Roosevelt, who studied Hamilton’s writings, would also rely on the “general welfare” clause to garner support for his New Deal and other programs he initiated to revive the U.S. economy wracked by the Great Depression.  

Public Credit, anathema today to virtually all Democratic and Republican leaders, was another key concept Hamilton fought for, knowing that private sector funds and privately-owned banks would never adequately fund a nation’s economic growth, especially for large-scale internal improvements, i.e. infrastructure.

To emphasize the unique role of public credit, Spannaus lists four exceptional periods in U.S. history when the efficacious application of government-issued credit led to a pronounced expansion of the American economy. These are administrations of Presidents George Washington, John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt. (p. 55-56)

In chapter 7, the author concisely summarizes Hamilton’s outlook: “…it is the deliberate increasing of the productive powers of labor through technology, improvements in infrastructure, and the use of government power to create credit that will produce value in the economy.” (p.128) This is more than good advice that all public officials. government leaders, and informed citizens should follow to secure a joyful future for their nation.

In Africa and other underdeveloped regions of the world where nations have suffered from hundreds of years of exploitation of their natural resources, Alexander Hamilton’s wise words should be fully grasped: “The intrinsic wealth of a nation is be measured, not by the abundance of the precious metals contained in it, but by the quantity of the productions of its labor and industry.” (emphasis added p. 1)

*Hamilton wrote four major economic reports for Congress and President George Washington between January 1790 and December 1791: Report on Public Credit; Report on a National Bank; Report on Manufactures; and Opinion as to the Constitutionality of the National Bank.

**This is the subtitle of Hamilton Versus Wall Street.

Frederick Douglass: “Knowledge Unfits a Man to be a Slave”

Frederick Douglas was born a slave in the month of February 1818. He was a towering figure in the fight to end slavery in the United States and emerged as a prominent American statesman in the nineteenth century. The article excepted below rekindled my memory of the exhilaration I felt over twenty years ago when I read his autobiography: “The Life and Times of Frederick Douglas.” Douglas’ lasting contribution to all Americans (and all people of the world) was his commitment to develop his mind. By learning to read and developing his mental powers, he had already “freed” himself spiritually years before he escaped from the Maryland plantation where he was kept a slave. In fact, it was the power of his mind that gave him the physical strength to challenge his master. There is no finer example for our children (and adults) to emulate, than the great Frederick Douglas, in our commitment to educate our minds and become free. Douglas understood, once he started reading, that if he could think, he would not be slave. He came to know, as we all should, that he shackles of the mind are more powerful  than the iron shackles on the body. In celebration of this bicentennial year of the birth of Frederick Douglas let us all renew our desire to unfetter our minds by emulating this unique individual. 

Frederick Douglass: “Knowledge Unfits a Man to be a Slave”

by Nancy Spannaus

This year is the 200th anniversary of Douglass’s birth, and he is finally begun to be celebrated as the towering figure he was during the mid- and late 19th century. Douglass’s role in the movement to abolish slavery, including support for Lincoln in the Civil War, and later in the tumultuous post-war battles, showed him to be a great political leader. He famously championed the U.S. Constitution and called on his fellow African-Americans to support and enforce it. He fought for the woman’s right to vote. For many years he edited his own newspaper. He also served as ambassador to Haiti for a brief time, and remained active in politics until his death in 1895.

Frederick Douglass

But the aspect of Frederick Douglass’s contribution which I want to emphasize on this occasion is Douglass’s understanding of, and commitment to, education.  Yes, Douglass was primarily addressing black Americans in his discussion of this topic. But this man, who, despite being born into slavery, fought successfully to achieve a high degree of literacy, has much to teach all Americans (and others) about the qualifications for responsible citizenship of a republic.

Readers have ample opportunity to investigate the subject for themselves in Douglass’s several autobiographies:  Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845), which became a bestseller, and was influential in promoting the cause of abolition; My Bondage and My Freedom (1855); and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, which went through its final editing in 1892, three years before his death.

A Mind Awakening

By the age of nine, Douglass says, he was inquiring “into the origin and nature of slavery. Why am I a slave? Why are some people slaves and others masters? These were perplexing questions and very troublesome to my childhood. I was very early told by some one that ‘God up in the sky’ had made all things, and had made black people to be slaves and white people to be masters …. I could not tell how anybody could know that God made black people to be slaves.”

In 1825, Douglass, who was about eight at the time, was sent to live in Baltimore with his master’s cousin, Hugh Auld, and his wife. The move to a city, one of the major industrial and shipbuilding centers on the U.S. East Coast, was to give Frederick a chance to expand his horizons both mentally and physically. It was at the Aulds that Douglass came to a more conscious understanding of his hatred of slavery and his love of learning.

Douglass developed a passion early on for reading, a passion which, ironically, was provoked by the debased ideas of his master, Hugh Auld. Douglass called Auld’s lecture to his wife, on why she should stop teaching the boy to read, “the first decidedly anti-slavery lecture” he ever heard, and a revelation which drove him to learn as much as he could. In The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, the great man explained:

“The frequent hearing of my mistress reading the Bible aloud … awakened my curiosity … to this mystery of reading, and roused in me the desire to learn. Up to this time I had known nothing whatever of this wonderful art, and my ignorance and inexperience of what it could do for me, as well as my confidence in my mistress, emboldened me to ask her to teach me to read … My mistress seemed almost as proud of my progress as if I had been her own child, and supposing that her husband would be as well pleased, she made no secret of what she was doing for me. Indeed, she exultingly told him of the aptness of her pupil and of her intention to persevere, as she felt it her duty to do, in teaching me, at least, to read the Bible.”

Abraham Lincoln reading to his son Tad.

What was the reaction of the presumably God-fearing, Christian slave-owner, Hugh Auld? Douglass describes it thus: “Of course he forbade her to give me any further instruction, telling her in the first place that to do so was unlawful, as it was also unsafe, ‘for,’ said he, ‘if you give a nigger an inch he will take an ell [an obsolete unit of measurement amounting to about 45 inches-ed.]. Learning will spoil the best nigger in the world. If he learns to read the Bible it will forever unfit him to be a slave.’ Apparently unaware of the rather extraordinary admission he had just made, Auld continued, ‘He should know nothing but the will of his master, and learn to obey it. As to himself, learning will do him no good, but a great deal of harm, making him disconsolate and unhappy. If you teach him how to read, he’ll want to know how to write, and this accomplished, he’ll be running away with himself.’ ”

Read: Frederick Douglass: “Knowledge Unfits a Man to be a Slave”