The Great Writers produced by the Federal Writers’ Project

My fellow booksellers in these parts were recently advised to research and stock books created under the auspices of the FDR-era “Federal Writers’ Project,” a tax-and-spend-and-elect outfit created in 1935 as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration.

That’s good advice as far as it goes. Writers who later became well-known, from Nelson Algren to Richard Wright, from John Cheever to Studs Terkel to Ralph Ellison, were indeed at one time or another on the federal dole during the late 1930s, drawing pay from the aforementioned Writers’ Project to work on state-by-state guidebooks, or any other make-work schemes the New Deal bureaucrats could dream up. (Artists unable to produce works anyone would purchase voluntarily were even hired to do mosaics in subway stations, beginning a great tradition of forcing bad, urine-stained works of art on those who had been stripped of the right to refuse to fund them.)

Even though the contributions of these notables-to-be were generally anonymous, most of these guidebooks can be worth a few bucks; it’s wise to keep an eye out for them.

The Library of Congress started more than a decade ago digging piles of Writers’ Project material out of tax-funded warehouses and deciding what to do with it. This apparently included deciding which of it to make available to the public — an interesting role for a government agency to assign itself, given that all this stuff was funded by taxpayers.

What quickly became clear, according to Professor Jerrold Hirsch of Truman State University in little Kirksville, Missouri, is that the editors of the project believed they could build a national culture based on “diversity. They faced a great challenge coming out of the 1920s, where white supremacists, via WASP primacy and the K.K.K., and anti-immigration laws, held sway,” Professor Hirsch told leftist Rice University History Professor Douglas Brinkley, back in 2003. “In the Federal Writers’ Project,” Professor Hirsch went on, “ethnic minorities were celebrated for being turpentine workers or grape pickers or folks artists.”

“So you see, FDR did do something good,” was the conclusion of the fellow urging a study of the work done under the auspices of the Writers’ Project.

Oh, horseshit.

Anyone whose summary of American culture in the 1920s runs first to the Ku Klux Klan and “anti-immigration laws” has an axe to grind, to say the least. Black economists including Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell have documented that blacks in the 1920s were making great strides in America in income growth, educational attainment, legitimate birth rates, even home ownership — progress lamentably since reversed under and thanks to America’s post-1964 fatherless welfare state, which (in addition to our looming federal bankruptcy) is the great lingering legacy of FDR’s partisan scheming.

All immigration laws are by definition “anti-immigration laws.” Regulating immigration is one of the few things Congress does today which it’s actually empowered to do by the Constitution. The main difference between the “anti-immigration laws” of the 1920s and today’s is that today we have a president who refuses to do his sworn duty to ENFORCE our duly enacted “anti-immigration” laws.

(I’m all in favor of the executive branch declining to enforce laws which are unconstitutional, starting with every single drug and gun law, not a one of which exercises a power delegated or allowed to the government under the constitution. Again, the immigration laws are among the few that ARE authorized. Allow unlimited immigration in a “democracy” and you’ll soon be outvoted by those who favor seizing and dividing anything owned by the productive class.)

This is ‘Diversity’?

The Ku Klux Klan did plenty of mischief under Democrats Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) and Harry Truman (1944-1952.) Sen. Robert Byrd was the Grand Kleagle and Exalted Cyclops of his local Klan klavern in West Virginia not in the 1920s, but in the 1940s, under Roosevelt and Truman. He voted against the Civil Rights Act (and the “white niggers” he said were pushing it) in 1964. Byrd, who wrote to his predecessor that he refused to go into the Army during World War Two because he might have to serve alongside “race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds,” was a life-long Roosevelt Democrat. So why bring up the yokels of the KKK as though they were a dominant presence primarily of the Coolidge-Republican 1920s . . . unless your goal is to construct a straw man, seeking to turn on its head the obvious contrast between the dynamic, prosperous, capitalist 1920s and the somber, debilitating, impoverished decade-long Great Depression — stretched out interminably by the top-down, counterproductive policies first of the “Great Engineer” Herbert Hoover and then of the tax-mad, gold-seizing Roosevelt “Progressives”?

In fact, Professor Hirsch here uses the word “diversity” in precisely the same sense most of today’s state-socialist double-talkers use it, to mean the Democrat Writers’ Project tried to throw federal handouts to white socialists, black socialists, male socialists, female socialists, red socialists, brown socialists, Communists of any color, and call it “diversity.”

If the “editors” of the Writers’ Project wanted to prove an intent to honor and promote “diversity,” where are the critics of Roosevelt and his thoroughly predictable and predicted economic debacle on the list of writers they helped or at least solicited to contribute to their publications -– the John T. Flynns and the H.L Menckens and the Garet Garretts?

To this day, how many of the works of those courageous writers who stood up for the free market against FDR’s corrupting boondoggles are assigned and taught by the members of the Democratic teachers unions in America’s government schools? Not a one. But I dare say a lot of the kids — the ones who can still read, at all — have heard of John Steinbeck.

During the late 1930s, the League of Nations collected statistics from the U.S. and many other nations on industrial recovery. Much of that data supports the idea that Roosevelt’s New Deal created endless economic uncertainty “and was in fact uniquely unsuccessful as a recovery program,” writes Burton Folsom, Jr. in his 2008 book “New Deal or Raw Deal? / How FDR’s Economic Legacy Has Damaged America.”

The WPA built thousands of hospitals and schools, Folsom agrees. But many of these projects “merely duplicated existing facilities and were so poorly constructed they had to be rebuilt almost immediately.”

Who cared? Unlike the projects that likely would have been funded by private businessmen if their top tax rate hadn’t gone from 24 percent to 74 percent between 1931 and 1936 (not to mention regressive new excise taxes that drained far more than income taxes from the private economy, “excess profits taxes” -– heck, Roosevelt would eventually try to impose by executive order a 100 percent tax on incomes above $25,000!), no one cared if a government “project” fell down the day after it was finished. The goal, after all, was simply to “make work.” Yay! If you figure that’s going to lead to prosperity, why not just put everybody to work in the home repair business by burning down every house in America?

(In fact, the Keynesians to this day embrace just that obvious fallacy, by claiming that economic prosperity was restored not by economic de-regulation under the sensible businessman Harry Truman but by World War Two — the creation of wealth by Blowing Things Up.)

Piano lessons, caterpillars

Economist Henry Hazlitt, who wrote for Newsweek and the New York Times during the 1930s, points out that the WPA — since it had to be funded through taxation — destroyed as many jobs as it created. The WPA might build a $10 million bridge, Hazlitt noted, but “for every public job created by the bridge project a private job has been destroyed somewhere else. We can see the men employed on the bridge. We can watch them at work. . . . But there are other things that we do not see, because, alas, they have never been permitted to come into existence. They are the jobs destroyed by the $10 million taken from the taxpayers.”

See Frederic Bastiat: “What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen.”

The WPA wasn’t just a boondoggle; it was partisan graft incarnate. New Mexico Gov. Arthur Seligman established a common pattern “right from the start when he recorded the political affiliation of all applicants for federal relief and CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) work in New Mexico,” writes Mr. Folsom.

New Jersey’s WPA workers enjoyed the highest wages in the nation. (That great champion of “diversity,” Franklin Roosevelt, who kept the U.S. armed forces segregated as long as he lived, saw to it that workers in the Deep South were paid 31 cents an hour by the WPA, while whites in New Jersey got $2.25.) But “one minor drawback” of those high wages “was that WPA workers in New Jersey had to ‘tithe’ 3 percent of their salaries to the Democratic Party at election time,” writes Mr. Folsom. “One WPA director in New Jersey – a corrupt but candid man – answered his office phone “Democratic headquarters!” (Folsom’s source: Couch and Shughart, “The Political Economy of the New Deal.”)

Roosevelt hatchet man Harry Hopkins received reams of letters from Democrats who had landed jobs through the WPA, asking if it was right and legal for Democratic Party bosses to subsequently tell them they now had to vote Democratic and even donate $2 to the Party in exchange for that job — and from Republicans like Sadie M. Kearney, who wrote to Hopkins that a Democrat time keeper in the City Hall in Paterson, New Jersey, had told her that her father might as well give up trying to get a WPA job: “He won’t get anything because he’s a Republican.”

Those reams of letters and telegrams are today stored in the National Archives in state-by-state files labeled “WPA — Political Coercion.”

Nor were the corrupting effects limited to the street level. Here began the evil tradition — continuing to this day — of running out of office principled champions of the free market and state sovereignty who refused to vote for the Roosevelt boondoggles, like blind Sen. Thomas Gore of Oklahoma, a Democrat, by accusing them of “failing to bring home the bacon.”

No depression, Gore warned, “can be ended by gifts, gratuities, doles and alms handed out by the federal Treasury, and extorted from taxpayers that are bleeding at every pore.” And the states would come to regret accepting all these federal handouts, Sen. Gore warned, in exchange for which they were trading away their ability to ever again tell Washington “No” about anything.

The next year, Thomas Gore, who had served since Oklahoma became a state in 1907, couldn’t even win re-nomination.

“In this country there are 18,000 on WPA,” the more forward-thinking freshman congressman Frank Towey of New Jersey told a Democrat rally in Newark. “With an average of three in a family you have 54,000 potential Democratic votes. Can anyone beat that if it is properly mobilized?” (Newark Evening News, Sept. 8, 1938.)

Mr. Folsom does make passing mention of the Writers’ Project. Frank Kent of the Baltimore Sun warned at the time, he relates: “Boondoggling on a gigantic scale is about to begin. Millions are to be spent giving piano lessons to the children of those on relief. Millions more will pay 7,000 men to write a guide book of America. A disgusted Congressman was here the other day telling of discovering seven men in an automobile going around counting caterpillars.”

Helping out a few Commies

The great books written by Nelson Algren and Saul Bellow and John Cheever and John Steinbeck and Studs Terkel and Richard Wright and the rest while they were on the WPA dole?

Communist Richard Wright did indeed publish “Uncle Tom’s Children” in 1938; he almost certainly wrote some of those four short stories while working on the Harlem chapter of the Writers’ Project guidebook to New York City, “New York Panorama” (1938.)

Today’s leftists, mooning for the glory days of the WPA and whining it was killed by “right-wing reactionary congressmen” (ignoring the fact the handful of free-market conservatives remaining after the Great Roosevelt Landslide of 1936 could probably have convened in a phone booth), allow as how Wright may have been “left-leaning.” Come on. He was Harlem editor of The Daily Worker and served on the editorial board of The New Masses. He was a government-subsidized Communist.

But the connection of a lot of these other oft-cited names with the New Deal project turn out to be fairly tangential. Eudora Welty worked for the Writers’ Project as a photographer. John Cheever (the Republican exception who proves the rule) was a junior copy editor in Washington, D.C., complaining about the low quality of much of the work submitted. John Steinbeck, whose rabble-rousing, salt-of-the-earth novels of the 1930s certainly would have pleased the leftists at the WPA, is often listed as having been funded by the Writers’ Project, but I can find no evidence that he was. Steinbeck was indeed employed for a time by the WPA, conducting a census of dogs on the Monterey Peninsula (yes, dogs), and is also often cited as having “pored over the WPA state guides while researching The Grapes of Wrath.” That’s about it.

Studs Terkel? The Writers’ Project paid the young man to write radio scripts and advertisements and to do news and sports announcing. His first book, about jazz musicians, wasn’t published till 1956.

Staff photographer Welty was apparently recruited to work with Saul Bellow and Nelson Algren on a project about cuisine called “America Eats.” They visited picnics, parties, and local festivals to gather material, but the book was never published, except in fragments.

There’s little doubt Zora Neale Hurston’s first books drew on the interviews and folk tales she was sent out to collect in the backwaters of Florida by the Writers’ Project. Ralph Ellison, too, said the vernacular speech of the Harlem residents he interviewed for the Writers’ Project in the late 1930s (after Richard Wright helped him find a job there) found its way into “Invisible Man,” which he started in 1945 and published in 1952.

Vardis Fisher’s 1939 “Children of God” may be another exception –- but Fisher was already an established historian and college professor when he lost his job and became the head of the Writers’ Project for the state of Idaho from 1935-39.

This outfit wasn’t exactly providing “genius grants” so people could write “The Grapes of Wrath.” Bureaucrats in large organizations rarely act like private patrons, encouraging those they subsidize to write their best, most innovative, most controversial stuff. The idea here was to get these guys — and 6,950 others you’ve never heard of — to pull on a coat and tie every morning, report to some office, pretend to have a “job,” churn out some pabulum, and take home a tax-funded paycheck.

To the dilettante Frank Roosevelt — subsidized all his life by his mom’s money, a charming dabbler who had no idea how anyone ever succeeded in business — the appearance that people were “working” was all that mattered. Dig the ditches, fill them back in. These guys might as well have been operating Donald Duck’s Toy Railroad.

The “Progressives” with their massive tax hikes, their debilitating tariff and trade war, the legalized fraud of fractional reserve banking and a centralized “Federal Reserve,” created the Great Depression. Thousands of aspiring writers found no option from 1935 to 1939 but to go on the federal dole — a system purposely set up to destroy local- and state-based charity and thus any remaining sovereignty of the several states. To say this “Writers’ Project” created any great writers is little different from saying all America’s great leftist writers got that way by reading “The Scarlet Letter” in high school, or by eating Cheerios or Post Toasties every morning.

While those who rejected Roosevelt’s brand of national socialism either made it on their own (God bless ‘em) . . . or were left to pound sand.

– 30 –

8 Comments to “The Great Writers produced by the Federal Writers’ Project”

  1. Thomas Mitchell Says:

    Always setting the record straight.

  2. Leslie Fish Says:

    C’mon, Vin, FDR’s “recovery” projects weren’t all total failures — if only because you can’t put a bunch of average Americans together, give them a project and a bunch of money for it, and NOT have at least some of them succeed. Sure, there were a lot of make-work boondoggles in the WPA, but there were also some solid constructions. There are still plenty of post offices, sidewalks, hospitals, storm-drains, and a handsome bridge at the head of Chicago’s Golden Mile that bear the WPA imprint. The CCC really did plant a good million surviving trees, and did as much (often by educating some amazingly ignorant farmers) as the weather to put an end to the Dust Bowl. My husband’s father administered the WPA in Yuma, Arizona, and was famous for putting Blacks, Indians and Whites on the same job-buses, first-come-first-served, on the grounds that “Don’t a n****r have to feed his kids too?”

    Frankly, I doubt that cutting all the govt. restrictions on big businesses (and, to be fair, on unions too) would encourage those bosses to rebuild America’s infrastructure or create jobs. I have seen co-ops and grassroots partnerships that would do it, though. The big rich, as well as big govt., are not to be trusted; the American people are.

  3. Thomas Knapp Says:

    “Regulating immigration is one of the few things Congress does today which it’s actually empowered to do by the Constitution.”

    Hmm. You must have fallen into an alternate universe. In THIS universe, not only doe the US Constitution not empower Congress to regulate immigration, it specificall prohibits it (and it didn’t even allow that prohibition to be amended for at least 20 years after ratification; it never has been amended since then).

  4. Vin Says:

    Hi, Tom — I believe you’re partially correct. Article I Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution states: “The Congress shall have Power . . . To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States . . . (and) To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers.”

    Naturalization — granting or withholding the rights of citizenship to those arriving or already here — is thus a prerogative of the central national government (once we concede that the 18th century Constitution is “in effect” and binding, a matter on which I by no means dismiss the arguments of Lysander Spooner out of hand, though they would render this discussion pretty much moot.)

    Looked at that way, under a strict reading (though such readings are mighty thin on the ground in the federal courts these days), the 10th Amendment may very well leave control of IMMIGRATION — deciding whether to place any restrictions on who enters, and if so what restrictions — to the states. Thus, Arizona would appear to be within its rights and retained powers to restrict immigration from Mexico and points south, partially or in toto, while thinly settled Montana presumably retains the right and power to post signs welcoming all comers from Canada and points beyond, no questions asked, “No need to have your photo ID ready.”

    We don’t have to imagine some of the problems that could result, since we face them today: Droves of people who are living here (de facto) but who are forbidden to vote, to acquire a passport, etc., fraudulently signing up for (admittedly unconstitutional, but still expensive) government “benefits” — and the predictable political outcome: Cries for endless citizenship “amnesties” by populist politicians seeking the votes of these people, many of whom have not truly abandoned their allegiance to their homelands, who show little grasp of or faith in “a government of limited powers,” etc.

    Additionally, though, how would Arizona prevent illegals from arriving from other states with less restrictive immigration policies, without setting up roadblocks at every point of entry? Such a thoroughly piecemeal and “non-uniform” immigration regime would quickly start to infringe on “interstate commerce,” which I presume is why the courts have preferred to bundle the power to regulate immigration within the centralized national power over “naturalization.”

    Curiously, the other place we find a strong implication that Congress may regulate IMMIGRATION after 1808, you have cited.

    In your reference to PROHIBITING any regulation of immigration, you would appear to be referring to Article I Section 9, the fine section which bars any direct income tax except by capitation (a prohibition never repealed), but which also states: “The migration or importation of such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person.”

    This section refers to the importation if slaves, and was included to assure the Southern States that the slave trade could not/would not be restricted or banned for 20 years. I don’t see how this clause requires any Constitutional amendment to allow Congress to start restricting “migration” subsequent to 1808. In fact, it clearly ALLOWS Congress to outlaw the slave trade in any year after 1807. (In the event, Congress did enact such a ban in 1807 — the law to take effect in 1808.) Contrary to your argument, this provision could further be seen to imply that the federal Congress may further regulate the “migration or importation” of persons into any state at any time after 1808, in any way it chooses, without the need for any amendment.

    I wish they’d gone further, of course, either setting an early date for full emancipation (with some scheme to indemnify those thus suffering a “property loss”) or at the very least setting a date after which any child born to a slave would be considered a free citizen at birth. But they didn’t.

    — V.S.

  5. Thomas Knapp Says:


    The expiration of a prohibition does not create an enumerated power.

    Article V prohibits amendment of Article I, Section 9 before 1808 — strongly implying, as if it were not already obvious from other provisions of the Constitution, that such an amendment would be required to create the power.

    The slave trade was one reason for Article I, Section 9. It was not, however, the only reason.

    Perversely, some ANTI-Federalists argued against the Constitution because it lacked a federal power to regulate immigration. They (in particular John Winthrop, aka “Agrippa”) believed such a power necessary to protect “the national character” from the influx of Irish and German Catholics who were already starting to arrive in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania, in turn, made it clear they would not vote to ratify the Constitution if it stopped them from bringing in that cheap labor for the factories that were springing up in the first stirrings of what became the Industrial Revolution.

    Bottom line: Had the Constitution allowed Congress to regulate immigration, neither Pennsylvania nor the slave states would have ratified it, and it would therefore have failed.

    You are correct, of course, that constitutionally this left the states in charge of immigration. Apparently that didn’t turn out to be a huge problem — Congress went for 90 years without passing immigration regulations (and even at the beginning, they didn’t buy the activist Supreme Court’s 1975 finding that they had such a power and instead hung it on treaty), and another 60 years or so before requiring things like passports (that was after World War II).

  6. Vin Says:

    Well, Thomas — I’m not sure how much further the readers want to be pulled away from the initial topic, here — the wonders achieved by the Roosevelt Administration by jacking up regressive excise taxes on tobacco and booze and tires (and also on incomes, though the result of THAT tax hike, unlike the others, was actually a DROP in related federal revenues — see Folsom) in order to funnel funds thus seized from the poor into the Works Progress Administration and its Writers’ Project, giving make-work jobs to people who couldn’t find productive, private-sector jobs because of the tax and banking and “tariff war” policies of the Hoover and Roosevelt administrations, in the first place.

    I’m also not sure how anything we decide here (or, more likely, on which we agree to disagree, here) is likely to change the vote of a single congresscritter on “The Dream Act” — selling the franchise to illegal immigrants who were under 35 when they got here and who have taken at least one course at a high school or community college, so they can vote for redistributionist politicians who promise to loot more of the remaining wealth of the productive classes and use it to give more free stuff to illegal immigrants and anyone else who’ll vote for them.

    But in this case, yes, the expiration of a prohibition did reveal that a new enumerated power had been created.

    Article I Section 9 said Congress couldn’t ban the import of slaves until 1808. In 1808, Congress did ban the import of slaves. No one that I know of, then or now, took any exception, or said Congress had done anything improper, since they had in good faith waited for the expiration of the 20-year prohibition on their EXERCISE of this power, which was specifically written down. (Clearly, this section delegated the power to bar the further import of slaves, but SUSPENDED THE EXERCISE OF THAT POWER for 20 years.)

    If you and I sign a contract that “Vin is prohibited from grazing his horse in Thomas’ field until Jan. 1, 2015,” but you turn my horse away on Jan. 2, 2015, I suspect any judge reading that document would conclude Vin was thereby allowed to graze his horse in Thomas’ field on and after Jan. 1, 2015 (perhaps subject to some “reasonable conditions”), asking you “If that’s not what you meant, why didn’t you just stipulate he couldn’t graze his horse in your field EVER?”

    It’s equally clear that, 1808 having come and gone, the Congress now also has the express delegated power to “prohibit . . . the migration or importation of such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit,” including persons who are NOT African slaves.

    Perhaps you argue that Congress could PROHIBIT all additional immigration, outright; it just can’t subject immigration to any lesser regulation. It’s an interesting argument. Again, I feel obliged to point out all these discussions hinge on the rather unrealistic assumption that anyone in Washington City even WANTS to know how the Constitution limits their powers, let alone what you or I think on the subject. And let’s further stipulate that we’ve here set aside Lysander Spooner’s arguments that the Constitution no longer has any binding authority over those of us who never signed it or voted to ratify it or even helped choose a delegate to go draft it, an argument which I would not dismiss lightly.

    Of course, these “What is the proper Libertarian position as to property rights on Mars?” debates usually resist the infusion of any practical concerns, but I do wonder what you’re getting at — what you seek. Open immigration made much better sense a century or two ago, not only because warm bodies were needed to staff the factories and settle the land, but also because there was still some trust that the Constitution and their oaths of office barred politicians from any massive seizure and redistribution of assets to buy the votes of those new immigrants.

    Further, the states doubtless assumed they would retain their power to limit the franchise, though all those limitations (except as to the votes of children) have now been swept aside. Requirements that voters own property, etc., are now blithely dismissed as mere gimmicks cooked up to disenfranchise blacks, but they were also seen as legitimate safeguards against a majority of paupers or mendicants getting together and voting to seize and divvy up the wealth and property of the productive classes.

    As the Britons discovered when first the Danes and then the Normans arrived, no social or economic system is likely to remain stable and helpful, ensuring the fruitfulness of long-term investments, if masses of new people, ignorant or scornful of said systems, are allowed to start walking in and taking what they want. Peace and predictability may not be sufficiently valued by those who have never suffered their absence.

    The reason I can cheerfully announce “Anyone in my house can go to the refrigerator and eat anything they want, any time they want,” is because I CONTROL who gets into this house, at gunpoint if necessary. If I lost that control, if my house suffered “open immigration,” there wouldn’t be anything left in the refrigerator to argue about how to divide, in the first place.

    Thoughtless and ill-informed majorities have been voting to seize and divvy up the assets of the productive classes at an accelerating pace in this country for 80 to 100 years. I assume we’d both like to roll back virtually all of these government wealth-distribution schemes, and restore the primacy of private property rights, at which point, yes, the increasingly free travel of folks into and out of this country would be a goal worth pursuing.

    But to just throw up our hands, now, and tell anyone in the world who can walk or row here that they can become “instant citizens” and start enjoying the benefit of our current endless array of tax-funded food subsidies, health-care subsidies, schooling subsidies, old-age pensions, etc., can only speed up our approaching bankruptcy, which won’t necessarily be very charming to live through.

    — V.S.

  7. Thomas Knapp Says:


    I don’t have any particular opinion on the “Dream Act,” etc., as I’m an anarchist.

    However, under the US Constitution, there is no such thing as an “illegal immigrant.” The expiration of a prohibition on creating an enumerated power does not magically create said enumerated power. It just frees Congress and the states to create that enumerated power by amending the Constitution.

    The power to prohibit the slave trade was ALREADY an enumerated power under Article I, Section 8 (“To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States”), held in abeyance by Section 9. Immigration, however, was specifically left out of that list of said powers, and based on the arguments for and against ratification, that omission was intentional.

  8. Vin Says:

    Vin responds to Leslie Fish: It would be hard to name a more successful and “solid” construction project than the pyramids at Giza, so presumably the slave-labor system that got them built can’t be considered “all bad.” For that matter, if the ends justify the means, and since controlling government “health care costs” is obviously a high priority, the coming geriatric euthanasia centers won’t be all bad, either. Because they’ll be “compassionate,” see. Government bureaucrats will be there to “end the suffering.” No one will be able to say they’re “total failures.”

    Burton Folsom’s “New Deal or Raw Deal,” which I highly recommend, makes it clear that Roosevelt’s economic policies from 1933-1940 — going against his own platform and campaign promises, in which he vowed to slash unnecessary government offices, balance the federal budget annually, and promptly negotiate reductions in the retaliatory tariffs that had crippled American agricultural exports — extended the Depression by an extra seven years, at least.

    By 1940, the European nations had slashed their 1933 unemployment rates in half, compared to Roosevelt’s results. Under Roosevelt, things got WORSE, and his own Treasury Secretary admitted nothing they’d tried had worked.

    If he’d merely followed his own campaign promises, maybe all those desperate men boarding buses for a make-work job in Yuma, Arizona (and every other state) could have gotten real jobs, years earlier, building things consumers really wanted.

    Does it really “help the economy” to tax a businessman so he cancels his plans to build a new factory, and use the money to pay the men who otherwise would have staffed that factory, to paint rocks white?

    Yes, FDR “really cared” for the people — after he’d seized their gold and kept millions from finding real jobs by tripling taxes on traditional job creators, he arranged for the common folk to leave their families and go live in camps, planting trees. The dilettante FDR went bust with every business idea he ever tried in the private sector, but you can look like a big hero once you start operating a “command-and-control” economy on the model of Benito Mussolini’s.

    Why should “the big rich” fund infrastructure, when to do so they’d be building toll roads and toll bridges to compete with the existing “free” monopoly government versions? In some states, building and operating a toll road or toll bridge has actually been outlawed!

    I’d LOVE to fly in and out of private commercial airports that tell the TSA “We don’t need you; go take a hike; we’ve solved the problem by encouraging our passengers to travel armed.” But this is not allowed. Airports are a government monopoly. “Our way or the highway.”

    Look at the limited areas, though, where we have a real comparison between the government offering a service on a monopoly basis, and the free market offering the same service without direct government competition. Ever tried to buy liquor from a “state liquor store”? They’re inconveniently located, usually one to a town. They have limited hours. You “shop” by looking through a catalog attached to the counter by a chain, after which you tell the clerk what you want, and he or she brings it to you. There is no price competition. Want a brand or size they don’t carry? Tough.

    Now shop for liquor in a state with a “more free”market. (There are no true free markets in America, except maybe for marijuana and moonshine.) Lots of stores, open far more convenient hours — even 24 hours, in some cases. Lots more brands, in aisles you’re free to wander. And if the proprietor doesn’t have something, they’ll usually try to order it. Vigorous price competition beats prices down.

    Or compare an American supermarket with the old Soviet version, where you waited in one line to pay and then another line to find out what rations they were grudgingly “issuing” this week. No, the “big rich” don’t create jobs in groceries and liquor stores out of the goodness of their hearts. They do it to make a profit. They’ve got to invest somewhere.

    Even the infrastructure experiment will probably come to pass in our lifetimes. As the increasingly bankrupt central government defers maintenance, more bridges will fall down. Eventually, portions of the interstate highway system will be sold off to those who promise to do better. I predict corrupt municipalities that undertake such a challenge will fail disastrously. Providing private sector entrepreneurs can count on clear long-term titles, though, those that take over formerly “public” roads and bridges and offer to maintain them in exchange for toll revenues will probably do pretty good work.

    The union instructors in our government youth camps have been propagandizing America’s offspring for three generations, now, that the “greedy rich” aren’t to be trusted. Do you think government developed your automobile, your telephone, your television, or your home computer? The Soviets had to reverse-engineer and/or steal them all, and (lacking computers developed by free-market entrepreneurs) tried to do the calculations necessary to put a man on the moon by employing hundreds of women with abacuses — as their people waited in lines in the freezing cold for their week’s ration of lard.

    Co-ops are fine. But they can rarely put together enough capital to build a bridge, or even a fully functioning supermarket. And if they do . . . they become “the big rich,” don’t they?

    — V.S.