Modern society has come a long way, but is it heading in the right direction? I ask because I had a chance to see an authentic "The Birds of America" by John James Audubon, which is expected to set a record when auctioned at Christies tonight. There are only 120 complete sets of the book in existence, which helps to explain the $7.0 to $10.0 million anticipated. I actually think it's going to break records and fetch a bid above the high end of expectations. One thing in addition to the majesty of the work is the story of Audubon himself. His colorful life reflects the hustle and wonder of living in America during his time.
Yesterday on Varney & Co, Francis Wahlgren, head of books and manuscripts at Christies, repeatedly pointed out that Audubon repressed rugged individualism. That's the same rugged individualism that President Obama called a myth earlier this year, and it's being discouraged in a bid to get Americans in line with centrally planned agendas. Maybe one day we will read about pioneers as reckless risk-takers, but for now their stories are pure inspirations including that of Audubon. A true outdoorsman that ate what he killed, including many of the birds he so beautifully illustrated. He was known to pal around and respect Native Americans, mostly the Shawnee and Osage.
Drawing from their expertise in hunting, he honed his skills as did regulators, Kentucky rifleman that carried out the laws. By the time Audubon got to England at age 41 with his first collection of art, he was being called "the American Woodsman." He wowed them and came back armed with the mission to sell more books. The project was expensive, coming in at more than $2.0 million in current dollars, paid for through getting subscriptions, making exhibitions, earning commissions, and selling animal skins.
These days Americans are so intimidated they won't even invest in McDonalds, Nike, or Starbucks. In fact, USA Today underscored a pet peeve of mine for the past decade, pointing out in an article yesterday how Americans snatched $400 billion out of stock market funds over the past four years. Also, Americans have pulled out of the notion of home ownership (glad to see multifamily starts down and single family starts up last month) and even participating in the jobs market. In others words, they've thrown in the towel on so many things that have built this nation and made it the world's envy.
We are miles away from that rugged individualism that shaped Audubon, and we're slipping further each day.
Rugged Road to Recovery
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