Charles Keefer's Blog

It’s all about the Benjamins …

with one comment

Tonight’s topic, dear readers, is how do we evaluate our lives?

For those of you who look to your salary and benefits, drop out now.

You set some kind of standard and see how you measure up, right?

If you set as your standard the guy who killed the most people, for instance, then Hitler is a failure (16 million) next to Stalin (20 million). Since they are no longer alive and you are, you probably haven’t killed anything near this many people so read on.

If, however, you set your standard as someone who has done the most good for people, who better than Jonas Salk?

To quote Wikipedia:

Until 1955, when the Salk vaccine was introduced, polio was considered the most frightening public health problem of the postwar United States. Annual epidemics were increasingly devastating. The 1952 epidemic was the worst outbreak in the nation’s history. Of nearly 58,000 cases reported that year, 3,145 people died and 21,269 were left with mild to disabling paralysis, with most of the victims children. The “public reaction was to a plague”, said historian William O’Neill. “Citizens of urban areas were to be terrified every summer when this frightful visitor returned.” According to a 2009 PBS documentary, “Apart from the atomic bomb, America’s greatest fear was polio. As a result, scientists were in a frantic race to find a way to prevent or cure the disease. US President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the world’s most recognized victim of the disease and founded the organization that would fund the development of a vaccine.

End quote:

I remember taking the sugar cube in elementary school. It was kinda yucky, but then we were taught to duck under our desks and cover ourselves in case of nuclear attack. I had an air raid siren not far from my house. They tested it every Saturday. I was taught to run home when it sounded.

Polio was nothing next to nuclear weapons, but we haven’t had anyone who has gotten rid of nuclear weapons yet, so Salk is still up there.

My vote for the standard good guy would be Benjamin Franklin, and not just because I recently read his biography.

He was a newspaper man as was I.

He founded the Post Office, the University of Pennsylvania, where my cousin went to school, and helped found the United States. He also sold all his slaves and became an abolutionist.

He had a common law marriage and an illegitimate son.

He charted the Gulf Stream across the North Atlantic. He was the first to say that electrical energy was positive and negative. But he didn’t do the experiment with the key and the kite to bring lightening to earth. Modern researchers have concluded that he would have died in the process. He did, however, invent the lightening rod.

In 1786 he published a paper that contained ideas for sea anchors, catamaran hulls, watertight compartments and shipboard lightening rods.

He played chess and wrote the second known writing on chess in America.

He founded the American Philosophical Society, which still exists at and they are still proud of it.

Yeah, I would pick Benjamin.

So, how does my life stack up to old Ben?

It simply doesn’t stack.

There are now 306 million persons in the United States. In 1790 the figure was 4 million. The chances I could be in the group to write the Constitution are one in 3,731,707 now.

In 1780 you had to be a man who owned property.

Half were women, who did not have a vote. Another 30 percent were slaves.

That means Franklin had 2 million women who were no contest as well as 1,200,000 slaves. That brings the competing population down to 1,800,000. But you also had to own land. When I google this, I get offers of vacation property in Paris.

Let’s say 1/5th of them owned land – a not unlikely figure.

That means 360,000 were eligible to vote.

Franklin was wealthy. If you read his biography, you will be impressed. He may have made it on his own, but he was wealthy from an early age – mid 20’s.

Now, how many of those 360,000 were wealthy at the age Franklin was messing with our Constitution? Probably no more than 5 percent.

That brings his competitors down to 18,000.

They were spread over 13 colonies. That brings it down to maybe 2,000 who could qualify in Pennsylvania and Franklin owned a newspaper.

There is an old saw that says never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel.

Since there were only two of those at the time and Franklin definitely had the circulation advantage, because he was a better writer, there is no contest.

That means the chances I could be considered next to Ben Franklin are 3 million to one.

For those of you who are math impaired, that means zilch, none, and no contest.

So how do I compare my life to the man I consider the standard?

I can’t. Except for:

I haven’t killed anyone. I haven’t even seriously hurt anyone. I have tried to help some people. I still try.

There you go. Ben Franklin was better than me and owned a newspaper.

Wish I owned a television network.


Written by Charles Keefer

October 9, 2010 at 9:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. so does the many outweigh the one? if you help just one (whether or not you KNOW that you helped) but that one goes on to help another and so on. When you look at it another way, Does how many really matter? If you help many but do not really care about them does it count? Or is the pride thing that the more you help the “better” person you are? I prefer to think/hope that if you “do the best you can do” (the dalai lama) then you are a good person (given that the best that you can do is not an axe murder) yeah I guess we all HAVE to compare ourselves to others it is in our NATURE to do so. that way we can feel better about ourselves for NOT being ax murders.


    October 11, 2010 at 4:21 pm

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