Debate Now When the smoke clears, the real problem for the middle class is lack of adequate pay.

Discussion in 'Debate Now - Structured Discussion Forum' started by usmbguest5318, Feb 5, 2018.

  1. usmbguest5318

    usmbguest5318 Gold Member

    Jan 1, 2017
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    The assertion in the title is one I saw in another member's signature line. The assertion struck me as a fine one for debating, and seeing as this is the Structured Debate Forum, I figured I'd create a thread that offers the opportunity do so in a, well, structured and well ordered manner.

    Thread Rules:
    Rule 1:
    Posters must choose to argue the affirmative or the negative. That is, choose one of the following two propositions and argue its veracity/legitimacy. You must argue for one, not against one or both. (The reason is obvious: the assertions themselves are opposite assertions.)
    • When the smoke clears, the lack of adequate pay is the real problem for the middle class.
    • When the smoke clears, the lack of adequate pay is not the real problem for the middle class.

      Note: If you choose this proposition as the one for which you argue, you must identify something as "the real problem."
    Rule 2:
    Your arguments may not contain any of the logical fallacies found here -- Arguments to avoid -- including any unlisted "subtypes" of the fallacy types found in the document. For example, there are about half a dozen types of ad hominem fallacy; however the linked document notes only two of them, so this rule, proscribes posters from using any form of ad hominem argument.

    To some of you, that list may seem exhaustive. I assure you it is not even the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

    Rule 3:
    Each member's first post in the thread must be the one in which they argue, in ~1000 words or more, for one of the two propositions offered in Rule 1. Only after you've presented your own argument may you attack/refute, remark upon, or defend someone else's argument.

    This thread is designed, as much as three rules allow, to resemble a blending of Lincoln-Douglas and policy debate; thus posters should think of this as a thread in which the quality of one's argument, not the actual position one takes, is what matters. One need not agree with the position one takes. FWIW, arguing for the with which one disagrees, while challenging to do, will surely do one a lot of good in other situations where one is of a mind to argue for what one truly believes. The best attorneys and other debaters can argue either side with equal aplomb.
  2. usmbguest5318

    usmbguest5318 Gold Member

    Jan 1, 2017
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    If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon or make a better mousetrap than his neighbors, though he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.
    -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

    The lack of adequate pay is not the real problem for the middle class because the lack of adequate pay is s a symptom of the very same two phenomena -- one internal to the individuals and one cultural -- the U.S. and it's middle and working classes experienced almost precisely 100 year ago:
    1. Internal factor --> Intellectual torpor:
      • The middle-/working-class,' rather than embrace the transformations staring them in the face, resist it and hew deucedly to an economic paradigm that was inexorably provisional at its inception. Indeed, even having the lessons of history informing them of the dangers of so cleaving, they yet ignore those lessons, despite there being no sound reasons, only emotional ones, for doing so.
    2. Cultural factor --> Abundant manifestations of wealth's material excesses of which enfranchised masses have no material part.
    Thoughtful recollection on the Gilded Age and years that followed it reveals that the circumstance in which we find ourselves today have before been seen. History is so repeating itself that 22nd century historians likely will characterize the current era as a another iteration of the Gilded Age. Indeed, so similar are the 1970s-2000s to the 1870s-1900s that unless Americans eschew their "look what "they've" done to us" mentality and replace it with action borne of a "how can I avail myself of abundant extant opportunity" mentality, they may literally call the late 20th and early 21st centuries The Second Gilded Age.

    Setting the Stage
    A vicious cold snap hit New York in the first week of February, 1897, but nothing could slow the preparations for the impending revelry. The city’s wealthiest citizens were readying themselves for one of the most anticipated balls in the nation’s history -- an extravagant exclamation point on what would come to be known as The Gilded Age.

    It's hard to imagine a more ostentatious gathering of uber wealth than the 1897 Bradley-Martin Ball. It's hard to imagine a more ostentatious gathering of uber wealth than the 1897 Bradley-Martin Ball. Chrystia Freeland described it thus:

    At the Bradley-Martin Ball of February 10, 1897, seven hundred members of America's super-elite gathered at the Waldorf Hotel for a costume ball hosted by Bradley Martin, a New York lawyer, and his wife Cornelia. The New York Times reported that most popular costume for woman was Marie Antoinette -- the choice of 50 ladies. Cornelia, a plump matron with blues eyes, a bow mouth, a generous bosom, and incipient jewels, dressed as Mary Stuart, but bested them all by wearing a necklace once owned by the French queen. Bradley came as Louis XIV -- the Sun King himself. John Jacob Astor was Henry of Navarre. His mother, Caroline, was one of Marie Antoinettes, in a gown adorned with $250,000 worth of jewels. J.P. Morgan dressed as Moliere; his niece, Miss Pierpont Morgan, came as Queen Louise of Prussia."

    "Mark Twain had coined the term "The Gilded Age" in a novel of that name published twenty-four years earlier, but the Martin ball represented a new level of visible super-wealth even in a country that was growing used to it. According to The New York Times, the event was "the most elaborate private entertainment that has ever taken place in the metropolis." The New York World said the Martins' guests included eighty-six people whose total wealth was "more than men could grasp." According to the tabloid, a dozen guests were worth more than $10 million. Another two dozen had fortunes of $5 million. Only a handful weren't millionaires."​
    The Bradley-Martins spent $369,000 on the evening, equivalent to nearly $9M in today's money. Meanwhile the country was entering the last year of a 20-year depression.

    The Gilded Age was a fractious time in which a sense of desperation amidst growing wealth was emerging. Increasingly workers began to say “if I as, as a member of this society lack the ability to pay my bills, and to feed my family then I am not a free citizen of a healthy republic. I’m something, something else, something that the Founding Fathers would not recognize.” In the 19th century, middle and working class people had such thoughts because the magnitude of the late 19th century technology-driven transformation, mechanized industrialization, of the American workplace and culture gave them a sense that they'd awakened in one country while they'd gone to bed in another.

    The Digital Revolution, nascent in the 1940s with the implementation of computing power to break Nazi and Japanese codes and gradually disseminating to the general public with the advent of simple handheld computing devices such as calculators and cordless communication devices, is nothing other than the most recent paradigm changing technology-driven transformation the world has observed and experienced. What distinguishes the Digital Revolution from the Industrial Revolution is that it automates mental rather than physical labor. Both revolutions however effected the same impact on the nature of human labor: they made it economic for entrepreneurs to exchange one factor of production, labor, for another, capital.

    When entrepreneurs find it economic, for any given tasks they need performed, to purchase capital instead of labor, the skills workers must have in order to find work change. In the 19th century, the skills of the blacksmith, the planter, the seamstress, and so on became obsolete, and employers instead demanded workers who could operate machines that could mass produce the products those artisans had by hand made.

    America had transformed into an economic powerhouse. But the transformation had created stark new divides in wealth, standing and opportunity. By the time New York’s elite gathered at the Waldorf ballroom, the richest four thousand families in the country -- less than one percent of all Americans -- had scooped up nearly as much treasure as the other 11.6M families combined. And in the spirit of American capitalism not one bit different from that of the Founding Fathers, one Bradley-Martin partygoer remarked, “We are the rich. We own America; we got it, God knows how, but we intend to keep it if we can.”

    In the 21st century as it was in the 19th, it's shocking for people to see a country developing before them that is increasingly clearly divided into the haves and have-nots. When the masses observe technology's having displaced their relevance, there ensues a fight over what is America’s collective self-identity. Who are we? Are we two nations, the poor and the wealthy, or are we one nation where everybody has a chance to succeed? That fight which we today call populism is precisely the same one that resulted in the wake of the the great wealth obtained by just a few Americans in the years leading to and including the Gilded Age.

    The Importance of Intellectualism -- Reading the "Writing on the Wall"
    When the U.S. emerges from the Civil War, it was still a nation divided by regions. There was very little national market. If one needed, for instance, a pair of shoes one didn't get them from a factory 100 miles away but rather from the local shoemaker. Life was much, much more local, much more what was going on in one's immediate vicinity, what one's neighbors were doing, what one's friends, all of whom were local, were doing, what one's enemies were doing and how one was doing on a day-to-day basis. America's Founders established a nation and its political system with the tacit assumption that it would be a country of farmers, but it was becoming a nation of industrialists. It was becoming a nation of urban workers. It was becoming a nation of cities.

    Railroads, one of the many technological advances of the Industrial Revolution, knit the entire country together in a way that hadn’t existed before. Merchants, manufacturers, industrialists could think nationally. They didn't have to think simply in terms of their regional or local market. If one had a good idea, if one had a good procedure for producing something, one could think of selling one's goods all over the country.

    Of course, railroads didn't carry only material. They carried people too, and not just for vacations. By the early 1880s the nation’s largest corporation, the Pennsylvania Railroad, carried more than two million tons of industrial and consumer goods every year. Steel left mills in Pittsburgh for destinations around the country; so too did refined oil from Cleveland, factory-made furniture from Cincinnati, and harvesters from Chicago. Railroads moved coal from Wyoming, timber from Oregon, silver from Nevada and Colorado, and copper from Montana. Tens of thousands of young men and women from farm families hopped on the train to go where the jobs were: the newly industrializing cities. Former slaves and their children joined the urban migration, bound for new opportunities in Memphis, Atlanta, Richmond, or as far north as Philadelphia and New York.

    One of the most innovative opportunity seekers from very humble origins of the day was Andrew Carnegie.
    Andrew Carnegie was born in 1835, in a small town in Scotland. His father, William, supported the family as a respected weaver of fine clothes and linens, until the spread of more efficient mechanized looms began to cut into his business. William Carnegie, as a result of the Industrial Revolution in England, literally could not provide for his family. They were hungry, and poor, and England held no future for them, so, recognizing as much, they chose to uproot themselves from Scotland where they’ve lived for generations and immigrated to a strange place called Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

    Andrew Carnegie and the city of Pittsburgh came of age together. Steam-powered machine shops and iron factories drew workingmen to the city in the 1840s. The first railroads arrived in the 1850s, not long after the first telegraph wires. Just as there was during England and Scotland's Industrial Revolution some 50 years before, there was opportunity on every coal-dusted block, especially for a go-getter like Carnegie, who became his family’s main provider when he was still a teenager, and who, unlike his father, wasn't going to ignore the "writing on the wall" and let the American Industrial Revolution get by him without getting his "piece of the pie."

    Carnegie has a number of talents that get him noticed early. He is a smooth operator, which is a term that was used for guys that worked for Western Union who could tap out Morse code very smoothly. Andrew rose quickly, from telegraph operator to trusted assistant of a powerful railroad manager, to a manager himself. But he was not content with a salaried job -- no matter how good the salary. Carnegie saw opportunity in the booming railroad industry; thus he invested in sleeper cars, iron works, bridge building concerns, coal-mines and oil producers.

    Andrew Carnegie was not yet thirty when he resigned his position at the Pennsylvania Railroad to become a full-time, independent “capitalist.” Carnegie’s skill at turning observation and information into hard cash had allowed him to amass a fortune of nearly half a million dollars. Not long after a product caught his eye, one the railroads badly needed: steel. Steel wasn't, of course, something new; it'd been around for a long, long time but mass produced, high quality, super strong steel, that was a new thing in The Gilded Age, and Carnegie recognized that money stood to be made if he married steel production with the new technology of is day, mechanization, and became a mass producer of high quality steel.

    In 1873, at the start of one of the worst economic depressions in the nation’s history, Carnegie pushed forward on construction of a massive steel plant outside of Pittsburgh. Nobody could understand why he was building huge factories during the depression. The bankers questioned him, “Why are you doing this?” But Carnegie saw that steel was primed to become the basic building material of the new America. It was going begin with railroads and then the cities were gonna be rebuilt with steel, the bridges were gonna be rebuilt with steel, and carriages were going to be built with steel, as was everything else.

    In the fall of 1875, while the economy was still sliding downhill, the first steel rails rolled out of Carnegie’s new mill. Carnegie’s grand bet had paid off beautifully by 1881. His newly consolidated company was on its way to a profit of 40 percent in its first year, which meant a personal take of more than a million dollars.

    What gave rise to Carnegie's prescience? Andrew Carnegie is an intellectual, self-educated but an intellectual. He read the great English philosophers, made studies of Confucius and the prophets of Buddhism, Hinduism and the Persians..searching for answers, for solutions, and "problems" that needed solving, for ways to literally "build a better mousetrap," if you will.

    Carnegie, like other successful people, not just industrial barons, of the Gilded Age understood that the economic paradigm had changed, that the bar had risen. He acknowledged embraced that the advent of mechanization meant that, whereas in the Founders day, success came to those who could themselves perform physical work and manage the operations, the physical work of people, in the Industrial Era, success would derive from finding opportune collaborations between people and machines and in turn effecting and managing the activities of both.

    Cultural Transformation
    Part of the ideal back at the beginning of the Republic was a notion of restraint and simplicity; thus one might have been really wealthy but one wouldn’t parade around in a gilded carriage and have servants in livery and all of that. That was considered bad form not just gauche but really bad republican form, small R republican, form. To wit, nobody when thinking of George Washington thought of him, or today thinks of him, as one of the wealthiest people in the country in the 18th century, yet he was and by no small margin. [1] Old money was wealthy but these new entrepreneurs were immensely wealthy, the kind of money that could buy anything. They aren’t quiet about it. They want to flaunt it.

    The mindset of restraint had after the Great Depression reemerged in the U.S. and until the 1980s, wealthy folks kept relatively quiet. Then came "Dot-Com," and with it "Dot-Com Barons" who, for all intents and purposes were no different from the Vanderbilts, other Industrial Revolution barons and the rest of the nouveau riche who rode the barons' coattails to, if not immense, adequate enough wealth that lack of money ceased to be a factor in their ability to enjoy a pleasant lifestyle.

    Dot-Com millionaires, be they specifically digital technology innovators and entrepreneurs or people who availed themselves of the emergence of those innovators, exhibited the very same exuberance with their wealth that Alva Vanderbilt did in the Gilded Age. It's just what nouveau riche do.

    The late 20th century and early 21st century up to the present is every bit as much a nouveau riche world as was the Gilded Age. Now as then, we see abundances of what used to be called the chip-chop aristocrats, people who have no breeding, no genealogy and who feel they need to lay claim to establish their cultural legitimacy. One way they gain legitimacy, in their minds at least, is to live splendidly, to be a spectacle and to awe the people beneath them on the socioeconomic ladder. The ostentation is not, however, entirely frivolous; in the minds of the nouveau riche, it's about signaling. It’s about how one expresses the nature and extent of one's virtue via manifestations of one's personal taste and through what one consumes. [2]

    Quite simply, the "have nots," seeing all the new wealth, wonder what they're doing wrong and conclude the answer is "nothing." With that answer, there is but one reason they are not party to a reasonable share of the wealth: someone's or some group is preventing them from getting their "piece pie." Of course, for some Americans, women and racial minorities, there absolutely was something ensuring they didn't get their own pieces of the pie: racism and sexim. [3] For industrious, thoughtful, observant, and innovative white men, however, nihil obstat was the prevailing theme of the day. (The nature and effects of those obstructions, however, are topics for a different thread(s).)

    Intellectual Torpor, Dissatisfaction and Envy Combine
    The late 19th century United States was (then) an anomaly in world history in that it represented the first time a nation confronted collaboratively -- the masses and the elite -- all of the challenges that associated with rapid industrialization: the labor conflicts, the tensions between one economic group and another. What made the U.S. unique in doing so was that it employed a "wisdom of the crowd" approach to doing so. Unlike nearly all of the remainder of Western Civilization at the time, the U.S. was not a monarchy; thus its people mollified the acrimony using their immutable voices to emplace government leaders for whom the masses had voted based on the conciliatory promises the candidates made. People voted from the moment they got off the boat at Castle Garden or Ellis Island, and political participation was very high.

    The always-increasing working class vote worried New York’s political barons in both parties. Strikes and boycotts in the summer of 1886 forced politicians to act and they jailed union leaders. Labor leaders in July of 1886 say “enough with the, the major parties. The Democratic Party and the Republican Party are in the grasp of big business. They have no interest in the problems of working people. We’re gonna form an independent labor party and we’re gonna run somebody for Mayor.” And they begin to court Henry George.

    Henry George’s renown was almost entirely self-generated, born out of his own difficulties with the rapidly changing American economy. A native of Philadelphia, George had gone west to California, when he was just nineteen, to make his fortune. He tried his luck in the gold fields, set type in printing firms, and even sold hand-cranked clothes dryers door to door to support his young family. Nothing worked. His low point came the day his second child was born...and his new printing business was failing. George was absolutely broke and he didn't know what to do. Completely desperate with a family to support, he steps out onto the street and he walks up to a man and beg for five dollars and receives it, “I was desperate enough to have killed him for that money.” Henry George there and then became imprinted in a way that’s, he’d never forget. Here he was, a hard-working, smart, ambitious man on the streets begging for his little family.

    Pondering his situation, George reasons that the U.S. is a country with plenty of land and plenty of resources. It’s a country with millions of people who wanna work and who can’t. What has gone wrong? The result of George's inquiry was a 500+ page tome [4] describing the American political economy as he saw it and the time was right for such a book drawing everyone’s attention to what ought to have been plain as the nose on their faces, the sheer fact of inequality, poverty amid plenty, the inequality of distribution.

    With Progress and Poverty the notion of one's misfortune deriving from something other than one's own ineptitude and foibles takes root. White American men who comprise the masses are given a basis for thinking their own actions and/or inaction aren't the reason for their lack of sufficient economic success. George writes, "It is as though an immense wedge were being forced . . . through society. Those who are above the point of separation are elevated, but those who are below are crushed down.

    With George's book it no longer matters that those who found success, rather than doing anything or thinking anything that was particularly exceptional, were merely observant of the world in which they lived and, with the whole of their abilities and capacities, endeavored to parlay one of those observations to economically fruitful ends. Take Andrew Carnegie for example. What great genius did it take to notice that steel could replace wood as a building material, that high quality steel wasn't being mass produced and that there was money to be made doing so? Ships, trains and machines were made of steel and were in plain sight of everyone. If steel could make a structure that could withstand the power of the ocean and the constant forces imposed by incessant operation as was the case for machines and rail cars, if only because it was inflammable and waterproof, it damn sure was better than wood for constructing stationary buildings that had only to stand on solid ground.

    Henry George, an unassuming 47-year-old author who dressed like a small-town merchant did not look the part of political savior, nor did he, at the time, seek a life in politics, yet intrigued by the offer and motivated by his desire to help so-called "working people," accepted the nomination to become NYC's mayor/ Over the following five weeks or so, the Labor Party that backed him launched what may be most incredible campaign in New York City history. George gave five, six, seven speeches a night all around the city [5] whereat he championed opportunity for all, and a city government that would “prevent the strong from oppressing the weak and the unscrupulous from robbing the honest.” He offered big new ideas like increased taxes on property owners, public ownership of mass transit and better working conditions.

    On election day George finishes second. He gets ~68K votes, which is a lot more than the few hundred he was expected to obtain and that Labor Party candidates before him had gained, which is what a typical Labor Party candidate could get. George's appeal indicated clearly that increasing numbers of Americans believed something was seriously amiss with the emerging American economy even as they hewed to the notion that America is a land of opportunity wherein, as goes George's approach to overcoming the inequities it was necessary to pit workers against employers, the, the poor against the rich. Of course, what he was saying is that American was not the land of opportunity because the opportunity had become closed off.

    The Blame Game Continues and "Victimhood" Populism Gains Traction
    In the late 1880s, Riding on the high of George's near victory, the American Labor Party and its members saw nothing but insult added to the injury of inequity foisted upon them by those who'd used their God-given aptitudes to find success in the U.S. [6] America between the 1830s and 1860s had emerged as an urban and industrial powerhouse. There were only eight U.S. cities over a hundred thousand people in 1860. Now there were almost thirty. The country was overtaking Britain and Germany in the production of iron, steel, oil and coal, and European investors clamored to get a piece of the American action. They did so by turning to J.P. Morgan who, in turn, purchased for them ownership stakes in America's booming industrial sector firms.

    The railroads pushing into the American West became the hot ticket investment in the 1870s and 1880s. By 1888, billions of dollars had flowed into the industry, much of it from Morgan’s European clients; however, the American industrial economy in the Gilded Age was a bare knuckles competitive arena. Someone who had a rail line from New York City to Albany, okay, had that rail line, but there was usually nothing that prevented a competing railroad from building another line let’s say on the other side of the Hudson River. There resulted cutthroat competition between the two.

    J.P. Morgan understood that the railroad business, unless it stopped competing, unless it stopped building inefficient parallel roads that lead to the same place would descend into insolvency. Seeing that profitability for any meant the competition among many had to be eliminated, that the railroads instead of competing with one another had to cooperate.

    In the Christmas season of 1888 -- between tending to the plans for Madison Square Garden and paying for a holiday dinner for 200 orphans at the East Side Newsboys Lodging House -- Morgan convened a gathering of fourteen key railroad presidents and the group of them proceeded to host series of meetings over the next three weeks, and by the second week of January, Morgan had herded the railroad men into an agreement to set uniform rates, to assign to each road “its due share of the competitive traffic,” and to stick to the arrangement or risk financial penalty. In effect, Morgan got the railmen to agree to a version of oligopolistic competition as the market structure for the railroads. The agreement lasted only a matter of weeks.

    Facing the failure of his negotiated settlement, Morgan concludes that he’s never going to be able to overcome the railroads' inherent intra-industry antagonism, so he determines that the only solution is consolidation. To merge these railroads so there’s less and less competition.

    One might wonder why the extant competitive market structure for the railroads was bad. It was because it produced a situation whereby to be profitable railroads had to charge more than material shares of their customers could afford and be successful in their own businesses, yet the rails couldn't in fact charge that much because when one rail charged a profitable fare, its competitor having parallel tracks simply charged less. It was a competitive model living on borrowed time.

    Problematic as they were, the railroads were proving to be the engines of industrialization on the American plains. By 1890, there were more than 70,000 miles of track in operation west of the Mississippi, where the population had nearly quadrupled in just thirty years. American farmers were shipping wheat, corn, oats and rye across the world -- feeding the growing cities on the Eastern seaboard, and the capitals of Europe. But the men and women producing this bounty weren’t seeing many of the benefits. Farmers in Kansas, for instance, were working fifteen- to sixteen-hour days, and losing ground. Prices for their crops had been declining for a decade. Most farmers had taken loans to make up shortfalls and their mortgages were likely to be held by bankers back East. And there were few laws to stop the most predatory lenders from charging 20, 30, or even 50 percent interest per year. Uupon being in that financial position, the cost of transporting crops to market became yet another onerous burden.

    The only way farmers could get their goods to market was on the railroads and railroads had kept rates high. These were not the small family yeoman farmers growing and selling produce in local or regional markets that Thomas Jefferson envisioned as the model of American capitalism. These are farmers who are in debt to the banks and who now have to pay a huge chunk of their revenues to the railroads. [7]

    The combination of low produce prices, high transportation costs and the onerous cost of money, along with George's musings, convinced Midwesterners that control had shifted from Kansas to the East Coast. [8] They looked at their own lives and they say ‘Fifty years ago, when my grandfather was young, he controlled his own life. This idea that people ought to be in control of their destiny is something that’s very powerful.

    Control hadn't shifted to Eastern bankers so much as having been ceded by dint of Midwestern farmers not having grasped that the local market was oversaturated and the national market had room only for a few very large players, not for hundreds of tiny ones. In short, unlike Morgan, these small farmers didn't realize the macroeconomic role and importance of money and profits. The one difference between the farmers and workers of the late 18th century and people today is that the former group had no means for knowing of Adam Smith, markets and economics. Quite simply, economics wasn't among the subjects taught anywhere outside the hallowed halls of higher education.​
    Frustration in Kansas had sharpened into resentment and scorn. Among the loudest voices of protest on the arid prairie was a 39-year-old former school teacher and licensed attorney named Mary Elizabeth Lease. She was an energetic agitator who made a living giving speeches in support of underdogs: labor unionists, suffragettes and, in the summer of 1890, the Kansas farmer. Lease flashed across Kansas in that day of turmoil, a harridan in the eyes of her enemies, a goddess to her friends. In fact, she was neither explicitly, but instead a bit of both.

    In the early 1870s, when Lease was still in her twenties, a nationwide economic depression swept away her husband’s pharmacy business and all of their savings. They lose everything and Lease becomes embittered by poverty, and frustrated, and comes, like Henry George, to feel that the social order just isn’t fair. She said when someone has five homes and someone else is starving then the first man has something that belongs to the second man. People shouldn’t be starving while other people have so much more than they can possibly ever use or spend. Accordingly, though women could not run for state office in Kansas in 1890, Lease helped spur the founding of a new local political organization -- the People’s Party, widely known as the Populists.

    The Populists believe that they’re being ripped off and that industrial capitalism discriminates against them, so they organize politically to do something about it. They leave both parties to form their own because they feel both parties are corrupted beyond hope, that they’re too much under the thumb of big business, that they buy senators and congressmen and that big business' lobbyists infest the Capitol.

    Lease had an easily targeted and hardly understood cadre of scoundrels to blame, and excoriate them as the architects of the common man's woes she did. With laser-like precision she focused on bankers in New York, like the one at 23 Wall Street, who seemed to her to have had his fingers in everything, J.P. Morgan. [8] “It is no longer a government of the people, by the people and for the people,” Lease told her crowds, “but a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street and for Wall Street." [9]

    The People’s Party put up a full slate of candidates for the election that year, and announced its intent to wrest state government from the grasp of Big Business, the arch villain of which was, in their minds, Wall Street which they construed as producing nothing, trading in paper, and controlling everybody else’s life without offering anything tangible to the national welfare. That’s how they see it; they didn't see as valuable the liquidity that, but for Wall Street and its "paper," almost nobody would have had. Lost on Lease and others like her was the fact that the "old money" men of the "old boy network" that was Wall Street provided the liquidity that presciently observant and innovative mendicant immigrants like Carnegie and others in turn parlay into fortunes that drew unto themselves wealth that approached, matched and in some instances surpassed the wealth of the very people who'd provided that liquidity.

    Republican officials, whose party had dominated state politics for nearly thirty years, weren’t much concerned with Lease and her followers in the early weeks of the campaign, but as time passed they were startled by the procession of a thousand horse-drawn carriages bound for one of the People’s Party events, by the crowds of 10,000 at a rally in Lawrence, and 20,000 in Emporia, and by reports that the upstart party had enrolled 130,000 members in the state.

    Election day news out of Kansas shocked the country. The Democrats won eight seats in the state legislature; the Republicans, long in the majority, won 26. The People’s Party won 91 seats, and control of the Kansas state legislature. Success in Kansas sparked a brushfire that swept through much of the nation in the next two years. Newly encouraged farmers joined acolytes of Henry George, labor unionists and miners from the West.

    Black professionals and farmers in the South were also drawn to the People’s Party. Republicans had abandoned them in the years after the Civil War; and Democrats were working to strip them of the right to vote. The Populists were the last best hope. There was a surprising number of black farmers who have managed to buy land despite the fact that most white landowners in the South are pretty reluctant to sell land to blacks. But the vast majority of black farmers are tenant farmers or they’re sharecroppers. The economy was in bad shape and the Populists had a program to really transform the economy in ways that’ll be good for working people.

    The People’s Party built a platform of radical and untested ideas: public ownership of railroads and utilities, a federal income tax, a Treasury department empowered to write loans and to control the money supply. They were They are thinking in very constructive, practical ways about how American political institutions and the role of government could reorganize. What’s important to also remember about this period is there was a sense of hope that change was possible, that change was imminent, that Democracy would triumph.

    Conclusion: Why the Problem is Not the Lack of Adequate Pay
    While the Populists were organizing for future elections, there was another kind of fight bubbling at Andrew Carnegie’s steel mill in Homestead, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh. Homestead had become the jewel in the crown of Carnegie Steel by 1892. The plant was the envy of the industry. People were doing pretty well under Carnegie. The skilled workers at Homestead had pretty nice homes. Their kids were getting good educations, and the people working for Carnegie had bought into and were benefiting from what Carnegie had built.

    Indeed, so totally had they bought into Carnegie's vision that they identity with this work and develop a feeling that this was not just simply a job that they went to; they come to feel a real sense of job ownership. Clearly they know Carnegie owns the factory but they feel that they have a stake in it, more of a stake than was in fact theirs and their right to presume they had. Thus when they felt the pangs and heard the rhetoric of populism, the same workers at Homestead took it upon themselves to unionize and strike.

    Carnegie may be a friend of labor, but he’s most importantly an independent capitalist. Carnegie and his team had already diminished the power of labor at his smaller plants; now he planned to break the unions at Homestead. If the steel baron had any qualms, it was a fear that his reputation as the workingman’s friend would be broken too. Union demands for wage increases at Homestead had riled him; his calculation was simple: rising wages meant falling profits. Like business owners all over the country, Carnegie did not care to be dictated to by his hired hands.

    Why? Because he knew, as have nearly every successful person before or since that they aren't anything special, that they are no geniuses, that they are imbued with no special qualities denied by God to so-called lesser men. Whitney may have been a genius. Edison was a genius as was Tesla. Kirby and Noyce were geniuses, and so was Einstein. They know equally well that they have no inordinate sums of courage as did Magellan, King, Armstrong and Glen.

    Carnegie like so many others knew that all they possessed was the ability to see the "hand" dealt them, not like it, and therefore leave the "table" at which they were sat by no choice of their own and go find a different table and perhaps a slightly different set of "gaming" rules pertaining to who could play and how the game would be played. In doing so, Carnegie and all other successful people effectively made "all or nothing" gambles that they "busted ass" to make pay off.

    Notwithstanding what populists say, be they of the 19th or 21st centuries, the fact of the matter is that adequate pay is not the problem. The problem is one's lack of objectivity in assessing one's own circumstances and those of the world in which one lives.


    1. Not only was George Washington among the wealthiest Americans, American colonists were among the wealthiest people, in general, in the whole of Western culture. Accordingly, it is naive to think that the U.S. was founded by anyone other than men who were very wealthy and who devised a system that, above all else, allowed wealthy folks clear advantages over, well, everyone else who wasn't "wealthy enough."
    2. The psychology of virtue signaling is what it is -- and one of the things it is is interesting; it been a fundamental theme of many a marketing and political campaign -- but here all that matters is that people engage in virtue signaling, not why they do, whether they should or should not, etc. (See also: In Praise Of Virtue Signaling | Matthew McCaffrey)
    3. While there were some exceptions, the "promise" of finding success as a well paid employee simply didn't exist for non-whites and women. Indeed, even purchasing property to open a small business wasn't easily accomplished by blacks because white property owners wouldn't sell to them.
    4. George is a fine example of one of the most tried and true ways to make money in the U.S: write a book about whatever to no end riles one. That said, George was substantively no different than Carnegie and others who found success; he took one thing he was good at and used it as the instrument of creating his own "rainbow" whereat the end of which awaited him a"pot of gold." George may never have conceived to mass produce steel and thereby become among the wealthiest hundred people on the planet, but like all folks who achieve enough success to afford excess, neither did he need need to.
    5. George's approach to campaigning is called a "tailboard" campaign because he would get in these wagons, they’d pull the wagon up into in front of a railroad station, in front of a factory, flip down the tailboard, Henry George would stand up and deliver a speech urging people to not vote for the major parties but to vote for the United Labor Party. It's worth noting too that tailboard campaigning with it's huge rallies suffused with its "feel good" slogans and emotionally charged normativism rather than pragmatic rhetoric became a template for grassroots populist politicians.

      “Look over our vast city, and what do we see?” George would say. “On one side a very few men richer by far than it is good for men to be, and on the other side a great mass of men and women struggling and worrying and wearying to get a most pitiful living…. Is this by the will of our Divine Creator? No. It is by the fault of men…We are going to the polls.”
    6. Remember that aside from the "old money crowed," the industrial barons and others who rode their coattails to success were people having the same genre of bedraggled beginnings as did all the other millions of people who'd with them immigrated to America looking for their "oyster" but didn't find it.
    7. It's important to note that in the 1880s, there were plenty of folks who retained memories of what life and the American economy was like before industrial capitalism. Those memories, of course, were rooted in the agrarian past, the small proprietor past and selectively redolent of a more idealistically egalitarian vision of society than one that emerged as a result of the Founders' framework implemented via the Constitution.
    8. Morgan, of course, did have his fingers in everything. He did because there was great opportunity to be had in everything and Morgan understood then what any prudent investor does: diversification is essential to not losing out too badly when the bottom fell out of any one thing. An interesting side note and line of inquiry is why and how it comes to be that while prudent people have long understood the value of diversity in finance, they didn't for ages perceive its value in the composition of a society.

      FWIW, Morgan came from a moneyed family, moneyed in two senses -- they were wealthy but in addition they were in the business of money. And Morgan understood at a very early age that money was what made everything else happen. Pierpont’s father, Junius Morgan, was a powerful London-based American banker who had introduced his son to his network of European investors, and taken pains to ready him for a life in finance. “I wish to impress upon you the necessity of preparation for responsibilities,” Junius told his only surviving son. “Be ready to assume & fulfill them whenever they shall be laid upon you.” Junius was a very exacting but also very attentive father, so he was very, very interested in Pierpont’s moral, intellectual health and development. J.P.'s father had groomed him for business, and Pierpont accepted his farther's guidance and took eagerly to charge of and least matching and, ideally, exceeding his father's accomplishments.
    9. One must not forget that the rise of populism in America owed no small measure of its appeal to Karl Marx whose writings on the ills of capitalism had been published only shortly before the Civil War. At them time, and particularly for white Americans, none of capitalism's downsides pervaded the U.S. economy and by the time the foundations were laid for them to do so, the Civil War consumed everyone's focus, thereby delaying adoption of Marx's gripes by the likes of George, Lease and others.
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2018
  3. usmbguest5318

    usmbguest5318 Gold Member

    Jan 1, 2017
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    Apologies for the rather abrupt conclusion. I'd initially planned to include a discussion of Herbert Spencer's ideas as the foundation to a segue into my conclusion, but I just got tired of writing, so I omitted that section of my outline but nonetheless left in the conclusion that I'd written at the start of my compositional process.

    Readers who are familiar with Spencer's ideas can likely "fill in the dots." Readers who are not familiar with Spencer can get a general overview of his ideas here -- Herbert Spencer's Contributions to Behavior Analysis: A Retrospective Review of Principles of Psychology -- or a more comprehensive understanding of his work and its impacts here: Herbert Spencer and His American Audience.
  4. RodISHI

    RodISHI Gold Member

    Nov 29, 2008
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    Appears that no one wants to debate with you X. Why would anyone want to debate in a position of not really agreeing with what they are trying to use as their position in a debate? For sharpening legal argument skills or something along those lines?

    More money is not always the answer to a problem. Especially if one doesn't think what they are doing is an issue when in fact it may very well be the cause of the problems they have.

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