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Ralph' Archives  

The following writings are but a tiny sampling from the surviving documents in our possession. We will continue to convert, categorize, and index his work and add them to this site. 
Expectations and Fulfillment

The quality of life is determined in attitudes associated with two words -- optimism and cynicism.  If, in your early life, you find it possible to achieve things that make you proud of yourself, you will become an enthusiastic leader of beneficial endeavors. If, on the other hand, your early experiences are discouraging, it is likely that you will come to see your world as hostile and embittering.

One of the most brilliant intellectual talents of my acquaintance is also a damned fool. His cynical motto for life is: "You’ve got to get them before they get you." Of course, he has built a private world of dangerous enemies. His cynicism is now realistic. He cannot trust anyone. He is under constant stress. His power to accomplish anything is severely limited.

It takes optimistic hope to make anyone want to do useful things. Optimists are the almost only achievers in life.

There is an organization that has cultivated more optimists then any other institution in the world. It is the Jr. Chamber of Commerce -- the Jaycees. The Jaycee organization is an instrument for youthful experimentation in project planning, organization, financing and management. It is much easier to accomplish good things if you have an existing group of potential co-workers. Success builds your self confidence. And success encourages you to undertake more and more interesting and important projects.

Tens of thousands of ex-Jaycees will tell you that their lives were transformed by experiencing early success in leadership. The Jaycee experience taught them the central principle of life. Joy in beneficial accomplishment is the central feature of a good life. Thomas Jefferson said, "Life is either a great adventure or nothing at all."


Mount Vernon, Virginia
August 13, 2002

Dear Christina and Mariana,

You have most of your lives before you.  So I write to explain that the main game of life is to find more helpers and escape most predators.  Unfortunately the most successful predators come disguised as friends.  These people behave in kindly fashion only to escape detection and possible punishment.  They are not kindly souls.

There is an advantage to age and experience.  One learns to discriminate with increasing accuracy.

And there are disadvantages in young adulthood.  One has gained freedom of action with little experience for guidance.

Years ago I sold a new Cessna 172 to a businessman with an effective formula for acquiring additional businesses.  He made a point of learning about deaths of business owners.  Knowing that widows usually knew little about the businesses, he approached them with an attractive proposal.  Nearly all widows preferred to maintain their prosperous lifestyles without the worries of business management.

Kent offered to buy the businesses. Actually he arranged to have the businesses buy themselves.  He would pay the widows with income from the businesses.  If the incomes were poor he did the usual thing that crooks do.  He drained as much as he could out of the resources of a dying enterprise.  It was a small-scale version of the looting of corporate assets by corporate executives that makes front page news these days..  I know a couple of guys who have made millions by liquidating assets of sick companies.

Parents worry more about children your age than they do about any other children.  Please understand that your mother and I are not pretending that we were wiser than you.  Our anxieties are the result of suffering from mistakes we made.  Probably we are unrealistic to expect you to gain wisdom from precepts.  Harsh reality, not theory, is the supreme teacher.  We hope that you are not going to be hurt too deeply.  And don’t become handicapped by depression when painful experiences occur. Use your intelligence to gain the support of many friends and escape injury from dangerous exploiters.


Excess Democracy

The original idea was to have citizens control that instrument of force called government. It was assumed that, while there are eccentrics in any population, their peculiarities would be balanced by other patterns of belief and action.  It is possible to demonstrate the accuracy of this theory by asking a group of people to estimate the length of a piece of string.  The too-long guesses are likely to be offset by too-short guesses.  In a democracy various ideologies can compete and round off each other’s errors.

 The brilliant founders of the United States did not anticipate a nation of unlimited government  


Functional Discrimination

  In America’s enormous flood of immigrants, legal and illegal there are two drastically different reasons to come here.

One is that the United States is rich, and there are opportunities to take some.  As Willie Sutton, the famed thief said when he was asked why he robbed banks, “That’s where the money is.”

 Others know the reason the United States is rich.  In their native lands most talent and effort is devoted to beating other people out of whatever scarce goods there are.  The immigrants who understand America’s success formula know that primitive, non-productive strife in a society is like friction in an engine.  It limits net output.

This second group understands that the United States is defined by a civilized culture and not by real estate and physical resources.  They come to embrace an advanced civilization and help make it work.

The United States needs more of the second kind of immigrants and fewer of the first group.  A sound immigration policy relies on ways to discriminate between the predators and the constructive contributors.  That is a difficult  problem.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service should have schools for immigrants - schools that assess grades for understanding.  INS should become reasonably selective.

Americans regard professional sports to be more important than the character of our nation.  So selectivity is favored for sports teams but often opposed for citizenship.   

Fair tests of understanding are possible.

Most Americans resent congestion from the population explosion and the increased crime brought by those foreigners who come mainly to exploit with deception and violence.   It is politically feasible, therefore, for elected officials to champion reasonably selective immigration.


The Core Science of Civilization - Economics

Human behavior is not all that different from the behavior of plants and the animals we designate as inferior.  Life at all levels involves choices of what to do next.  A tree orients its leaves to collect maximum solar energy.  It sends its roots where water and minerals are sufficient.  Animals, with a wider perimeter for action, have more options for action.

Human beings, being able to be aware of possible later consequences, have more complicated choices to make.  Nevertheless, most human action is selected in the light of immediate consequences. 

People with superior ability to think choose their action paths  with intelligent speculations about consequences affecting more people.  They also try to anticipate consequences in future times.

Ability to look beyond one’s own instant needs and desires and beyond the next minutes or hours or days results in the superior performance of some families,  ethnic groups organizations and nations.   At the same time individuals and groups with the intellectual power to be motivated by broader concerns can be victimized by primitives who concentrate on what can be gained right now.

.It is a fact that stealing can result in  gains with less effort than producing.  It is a fact that deception and force give power to the primitives of the world..  And primitives have controlled and made miserable the lives of nearly all of the persons who have lived on this Earth.

Civilization is escape from control by primitives.  It is fulfillment of the human potential for life above the savagery of the lower animal world.



Steering Human Behavior

Behavior of all living things, from plants to every kind of animal, is determined largely by requirements demanded by the environment.  Particular kinds of plants thrive in some climates and soil conditions and die out in others.   Animals from protozoa to human beings can seldom escape demands of conditions around them.  The advantage they have over plants is that they are more mobile and can seek more favorable conditions.

Human beings living in near isolation as pioneers are forced to learn about nature’s demands.  They must gain some degree of knowledge of botany, zoology, meteorology and mechanics.  As populations swell and people are packed closer together, the capability needed for success is ability to relate to the prevailing human pattern of behavior.  Those patterns are called culture. 

Different personalities thrive or suffer in different cultures and some cultures allow better advantages then others for fulfillment of the human potential

The central purpose of this essay is to describe characteristics of beneficent and malignant cultures   

Some cultures reward malignant behavior.  For example, the last five heads of state in Liberia gained their positions by murdering their predecessors.  One tortured his predecessor to death.  In Liberia being sympathetic, kind and intelligent makes you a murder target for dictators who have reason to fear possible reform efforts by you.

Nearly all of the people who have lived on Earth have been trapped in savage cultures.   Thoughtful people who work to make their nations or other organizations more humane are usually exterminated.

Somehow, the few reformers who survived, at least for a while, have brought civilization to portions of the human race.

The civilizing process is based on the following principles.

There are two basic ways to encourage beneficial human behavior and discourage malignant behavior.  One uses affirmative inducements.  The other uses punishment for unapproved behavior - enforcement.

One encourages individual responsibility and positive accomplishments.  The other causes people to focus on victimizing others while escaping punishment.  One allows minimum government and maximum freedom.  The other requires a supreme instrument of force - government.

If you are a farmer, carpenter manufacturer or other produces of goods (and goods means not only things but also services and other ephemeral benefits) you devote your talents and attention to serving human needs and desires.  You succeed to the degree that other people desire and buy what you produce.

The alternative lifestyle stems from belief that the important function of intelligence is ability to outsmart and defeat rivals.  When cunning is considered the most valuable talent, people engage in what is called “zero sum gains.”  They strive to get disproportionate shares of already existing goods. This explains why nations with the greatest natural resources are usually the poorest and most miserable, while nations with the harshest climates and limited resources are the richest and most civilized.  If production is crucial to survival, populations concentrate on production.  When items of wealth lie all around, seizing as much as possible gets most attention.  The Congo is one the richest nations in the world in natural resources yet nearly all citizens suffer on the ragged edge of survival.  Approximately two million Congo residents have been slaughtered in recent years in non-productive rivalry.           

For contrast: Finland is a land of near arctic wilderness yet its people live in relative wealth and personal safety.  Inlanders concentrate on constructive accomplishments.

The crucial role of culture

Culture is a pattern of behavior, and, contrary to humbug about multiculturalism, there are cultures that are beneficial and cultures that are damaging    Executives whose main skill is deception destroy companies and damage the lives of employees and the stockholder owners of the corporations.  There are corporate cultures of high moral character and others that are forms of organized crime. .



Learning from Experience

There are three kinds of intelligence - speculative, empirical and experimental.

In trying to understand connections between life situations and health, we speculate.  We observe coincidences and believe that one situation caused the other.  For example:  If we are exposed to cold and come down with the flu, we tend to believe that the cold caused the flu.  Actually influenza is an infectious disease, and being exposed to the germs caused the flu.  By his kind of imagining we could conclude that nuclear power prevents heart disease.  Heart disease did decline in the United States by more than 25 percent after the first nuclear power plants were built.  Coincidence is not causation, but it is a common error to blame or credit events that had no real connection with a condition.  This is speculative knowledge, and it is usually incorrect.

Most prevailing beliefs are imaginings.  This is especially true for political, moral and religious beliefs.  It is possible to build an elaborate belief system that is internally harmonious; yet it has little relationship to reality.  Scholarship down through the ages has served mainly to elaborate unrealistic belief systems.  No wonder most institutions of higher education were founded by churches.  Of course governments use schools to program the minds of citizens for passive acceptance of political policies.      

The first steps toward better understanding of reality came with the birth of science.  Science is methodology for testing notions.  Scientific methodology has taken hundreds of years to develop, and even today false conclusions can occur.  Refinement of methods to prevent error continues.

Empirical evidence is basically like the events and situations that lead to speculative intelligence.  The difference is that scientists worry about being misled, so they concentrate on finding mistakes in their early conclusions. The principle that coincidence is not necessarily causation is the cornerstone of empirical science.

Empirical knowledge can be tested with experiments.  One challenge is to design experiments that are exactly relevant to the phenomena to be understood.  The other is to use “controls.”  A control duplicates the situation to be tested except for an important component.  Example: a new medicine is tested for results compared to either an inactive substance or the pre-existing drug of choice.



How I Became a Cynic Regarding Inventions

My closest childhood friend died before age 10.  However I had become acquainted with his family.  A brother in his early twenties had patented an invention.  At the time I was too ignorant to understand it.  What I did come to know was the disillusioning drama of Glen Rowell’s efforts to defend his patent.

RCA corporation had begun using Glen Rowell’s technology for tuning radio, television and wireless data signals. RCA’s chief executive officer, David Sarnoff, built the company by stealing intellectual property from inventors.  The method was simple.  RCA could exhaust inventors over years of court proceedings.  RCA could pay lawyers for much longer periods than independent inventors could.  In a speech to the American Bar Association, Warren Burger, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, pointed out that legal proceeding can continue as long as there is money to pay the lawyers.  He cited a twenty-year IBM case.

The Rowell method for capturing wireless electro-magnetic transmissions worked as follows.  An oscillator circuit in a receiver produces simple sine-wave oscillations.  These are smooth, curved, up-and-down wave patterns.  The oscillator frequency is variable. Then, when the oscillator circuit is adjusted to match the frequency of a radio signal, there is resonance.  The electro-magnetic radiation from the radio transmitter has a signal mixed into it.  The receiver picks out the imposed message, which is of much, much lower frequency than the so-called carrier wave.  The carrier wave frequency is far above the range of human hearing and the capacity of speakers, video scanners and data recorders.

Glen Rowell’s invention is so crucial to all wireless communication that no other system exists.

 The distressing drama of Glen Rowell and RCA continued while I grew up through secondary school and high school. Glen Rowell finally had spent all the money he had and could borrow, and he gave up.  Glen Rowell came to be the head of the Underwriters’ Laboratories and chairman of the Minnesota state Board of Electricity.  He could not be disparaged.

By the time I reached the threshold of adulthood I had concluded that independent inventors have very little chance of benefiting from their inventions.  I became acquainted with the stories of many other inventors who lost rather than gained from their creations.

Philo Farnsworth, the inventor of television, had his resources and his mental health destroyed by RCA’s legal gamesmanship that lasted until Farnsworth’s patents were about to expire.

Back in the days of piston-engine powered transport airplanes, I began to patent an invention.  When I made the patent search I discovered that my idea had been patented about 15 years earlier.  I could not understand why the invention was not used.  Then when the patent did expire, aircraft manufacturers rushed to use it.  The invention was a way to make the flow of engine-cooling air approximate the need for cooling.  That is, cooling air flow would be greater when the engine was working hard and putting out more heat, and cooling air flow would be less when reduced power reduced need for cooling.  It takes large amounts of energy to accelerate ambient air to nearly the speed of the airplane.  That loss was reduced by using jets of engine exhaust gas to pump air though the engine compartment in rough proportion to need  The result, for the Convair airliner, was approximately 250 free horsepower per engine. 

Strangely, corporate executives chose to waste many thousands of dollars in extra fuel cost rather than have the inventor receive any reward for his invention.  Friends have offered theories about this strange phenomenon  People whose talent is for deceiving and taking are envious of persons who can be proud of their abilities.  Their way to feel superior is to win at cunning money games.

I am now ashamed of the pessimism that kept me from trying hard to benefit from my creations.  Life is not automatically fair.  We all need to struggle continuously to make things work as we believe they should.  Pessimism is a formula for failure.  It is declaring defeat before the game is over.

All of our lives are steered, in some degree, by the psychological scars we receive from painful experiences.  My definition of neurosis is behavior distorted by psychological wounds. 



The Underside of Idealism

Most of the killing in the world is done by “good” people.

Can you think of a form of murder more horrible than burning alive at the stake apostate Christians by church leaders?  Perhaps the stoning to death of deviant Muslims is as cruel.

All of the large-scale killers in history have been champions of some sort of “righteousness.”  Communism promised almost heaven on Earth with government strong enough to force correct behavior.  Communism is, after all, total government; and government is an apparatus for compelling conformity.  In the Soviet Union at least 24,000,000 were killed to enforce orthodoxy.  In Communist China somewhere between 30 and 60 million were slaughtered.

The National Socialist (Nazi) regime in Germany exterminated about 6,000,000 Jews, Gypsies and gentile political opponents.  The purpose was to revive a nation reduced to the poverty of a third world country by adversaries. Eliminating opposing groups was deemed necessary for rebuilding a successful nation.  Adolph Hitler appeared to many Germans to be an inspiring champion of pride, teamwork and accomplishment.

Passionate environmentalists have brought about the deaths of more than 12 million - - mostly children - - in Africa.  Banning production and use of the insecticide DDT has allowed Malaria and other insect-carried disease organisms, such as the West Nile Virus, to flourish.  DDT is harmless to higher animals when used correctly.

Radical environmentalists find other ways to hurt people. Some put metal spikes in  trees so that loggers are likely to be killed or injured when their chain saws fling the spikes out of the wood.  Environmental extremists promote deadly forest fires by preventing removal of overgrowth.  They also block construction of access roads so that firefighters cannot function efficiently.

Genetically improved food crops are demonized by health faddists posing as guardians of health.  They doom millions to malnutrition and many to starvation.

Much of the world’s food supply is eaten by insects and germs.  Less destructive for sterilization than chemicals, boiling or baking is ionizing radiation.  Fanatics have prevented widespread use of this most advanced food preservation technology.

Fewer murders, rapes and other violent crimes occur when there is widespread ownership of guns by law-abiding citizens and when there is firm enforcement of the more than 20,000 existing gun laws against criminals.  

Criminals prefer helpless victims.  Anti-gun crusaders work to give criminals the upper hand.  This is why the highest serious crime rates are in the cities that disarm law abiding citizens.  New York City and Washington, D.C. are shameful examples.  

The psychology of large-scale viciousness

Nearly all human beings want to be proud of themselves  This desire inhibits ugly behavior except in behalf of  “a worthy cause.”  When eloquent demagogues demonize another group, basically decent people become warriors.

Nearly all wars are promoted as holy crusades. Young men and women are forced by political circumstances to go forth and kill or be killed.  And the people they kill are, most of them, trapped by a reciprocal ideology in their countries.  Deadly defense sometimes is necessary, but investigation shows that war is frequently and falsely represented to be defensive.  Even preemptive war is sold as defensive.

 Now, on the threshold of the 21st century, the deadly idealisms of Communism and other rigid belief systems have lost most of  their power to provoke  viciousness  The  giant danger of the future is Muslim fundamentalism.   There are a billion and a half  Muslims around the world.  They have the highest birth rate and will  become much more numerous.   Muslims are a formidable army motivated by the belief  that that non-Muslims are at odds with Allah.  Many and perhaps most Muslims  feel commanded  by Allah to either convert or kill infidels. 

 Religion is a body of belief immune to evidence and logic.  Dogmatic belief is diametrically   opposed to the foundation of modern civilization. That foundation is science, and science  is open-minded searching for increasingly accurate perceptions of reality.  Humble recognition of our incomplete knowledge is essential for intellectual and cultural progress.

     The events of September 11, 2001 were no more than a prelude to a greater-than-ever world-wide war.  It is a war that cannot be won simply with military force.  Adolph Hitler’s “final solution” for the Jews will not work for Muslims either.  Somehow we must stretch the divide between stupid and dangerous Muslim fundamentalists and open-minded and consequently intelligent Muslims.  Our struggle against the deadly idealistic dogmatism of Islam presents an extremely difficult psychological challenge that we must meet.  The preservation and advance of civilization are at stake.



Economic  Ecology

The way you solve the practical problems of life depend upon the environment in which you are functioning.

In primitive societies, talent for deception and coercion are necessary for survival.  Other talents can actually be handicaps because they distract you from the main game.

Mexico is not one of the world’s primitive nations, but the Mexican culture prevents full realization of the benefits available with that country’s great natural resources.  Many Mexicans do not understand the reason the United States is so much safer, stronger and richer.  It is common for Mexicans to believe that Americans bask in unearned wealth.  They know the ease with which American tourists can be cheated.  They believe that the American realm of plenty is simply a place. 

America really is, in essence, a moral culture.  The culture is based on understanding of the practical value of mutual trust.  Productive collaboration depends on accurate communication, dependable commitments, and optimism rather than cynicism.