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Tomorrow is May Day. I plan on rerunning an old piece, so consider this my new piece for this year. I finally got around to reading Free to Choose, Milton and Rose Friedman’s famous book on the power and virtue of the free market. In it, they make a comment that the Socialist Party was the most successful political party in the U.S. in the 20th century, despite having never won a major election. His evidence: every single piece of their 1928 Presidential Political Platform has been enacted right here in the U.S. of A. Without too much comment, I reproduce it here via J.P. Arendt:

Herewith the economic planks of the socialist party platform of 1928, along with an indication in parentheses of how these planks have fared. The list that follows includes every economic plank, but not the full language of each. (wintercow updates in red)

  1. “Nationalization of our natural resources, beginning with the coal mines and water sites, particularly at Boulder Dam an Muscle Shoals.” (Boulder Dam, renamed Hoover Damn, and Muscle Shoals are now both federal government projects.)  Don’t forget that the EPA, an unelected executive administrative agency has effective power to do much of this by command and without a formal administrative review process. Congress has banned much offshore drilling and kept the ANWR off limits to development, the California electricity debacle in the early 2000s included price controls on all states west of Missouri. So, they have not nationalized everything yet, but with the new CO2 rulings coming from EPA, they are well on their way to nationalizing the air too.
  2. “A publicly owned giant power system under which the federal government shall cooperate with the states and municipalities in the distribution of electrical energy to the people at cost.” (This is a generally accepted process across the country.) The California fiasco is again to be remembered. The cost+ pricing was brilliant. Producers are paid a fixed percentage above cost to sell their electricity, that is a very effective method for raising consumer costs.
  3. “National ownership and democratic management of railroads and other means of transportation and communication.” (Railroad passenger service is completely nationalized through Amtrak. Some freight service is nationalized through Conrail. Private railroads are strictly regulated by the Federal Government. The FCC controls communications by telephone, telegraph, radio, and television.) In an incredible bit of irony, the telecommunications sector is working much better in the European welfare states than here.
  4. “An adequate national program for flood control, flood relief, reforestation, irrigation, and reclamation.” (Government expenditures for these purposes are currently in the many billions of dollars.)
  5. “Immediate governmental relief of the unemployed by the extension of all public works and a program of long range planning of public works . . .” (In the 1930s, WPA and PWA were a direct counterpart; now, a wide variety of other programs are.) “All persons thus employed to be engaged at hours and wages fixed by bona-fide labor unions.” (The Davis-Bacon and Walsh-Healey Acts require contractors with government contracts to pay “prevailing wages,” generally interpreted as highest union wages – also the national minimum wage.) This was written before ARRA and the extension of unemployment benefits to nearly two years.
  6. “Loans to states and municipalities without interest for the purpose of carrying on public works and the taking of such other measures as will lessen widespread misery.” (Federal grants in aid to states and local municipalities currently total tens of billions of dollars a year.) And don’t forget the yummy disaster that is the “Build America Bonds” program.
  7. “A system of unemployment insurance.” (Part of Social Security system.) Again, recently expanded to nearly two years.
  8. “The nation-wide extension of public employment agencies in cooperation with city federations of labor.” (U.S. Employment Service and affiliated state employment services administer a network of about 2,500 local employment offices.)
  9. “A system of health and accident insurance and of old age pensions as well as unemployment insurance.” (Part of Social Security. Full global health insurance proposed widely.) Obamacare.
  10. “Shortening the workday” and “Securing every worker a rest period of no less than two days in each week.” (Legislated by wages and hours laws that require overtime for more than forty hours of work per week.)
  11. “Enacting of an adequate federal anti-child labor amendment.” (Not achieved as amendment, but essence incorporated into various legislative acts.) Because, you know, the essence of freedom is to make our children work at age 10.
  12. “Abolition of the brutal exploitation of convicts under the contract system and substitution of a cooperative organization of industries in penitentiaries and workshops for the benefit of convicts and their dependents.” (Partly achieved, partly not.) Well, I am sorta in their corner on this one.
  13. “Increase taxation on high income levels, of corporation taxes and inheritance taxes, the proceeds to be used for old age pensions and other forms of social insurance.” (In 1928, highest personal income tax rate, 25 percent; in 2008, 35 percent, above 40 percent proposed by Obama; in 1928, corporate tax rate, 12 percent; in 2008, 35-39% percent with proposed increases by Obama; in 1928, top federal estate tax rate, 20 percent; in 2008, 48% with proposed increases by Obama.)
  14. Appropriation by taxation of the annual rental value of all land held for speculation.” (Not achieved in this form, but property taxes have risen drastically.) Some municipalities have moved to two-rate structures.

Great job brothers. Since we always need to be making progress, and since these reforms had met with great success (in their passage not their impact) one wonders what the current platform could possibly look like.

4 Responses to “Workers of the World Seemed to Have United!”

  1. Harry says:

    RIP, Milton Friedman.

  2. Michael says:

    The really bad thing is people are sold a bill of goods, that might as well be exclusive ownership rights to unicorns, then taught to fear the results of freedom. Are we really all that different from the wandering Israelites begging to go back to the slavery of Egypt?

  3. […] Hat tip to University of Rochester economist Michael Rizzo, who adds his own comments to the list above. […]

  4. […] The Unbroken Window » Blog Archive » Workers of the World Seemed to Have United! […]

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