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tv   Socialism in American History  CSPAN  September 5, 2022 6:25pm-7:01pm EDT

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it was pretty gun shy. it had been rough. and your inclination is to run and hide in a closet and lock yourself in. you tend to pull back, i do anyway when it is that rough. which is the wrong thing to do. you should not do that, but i do pray. >> alert more about first lady's exit is an honor and a pleasure to introduce the speaker tonight. jon gordon was educated at school at vanderbilt university. his articles have appeared in numerousus publications includig forbes, national review, commentary, the "new york times", the wall street journal,
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he is a contributing editor at american heritage where he wrote the business of america column for many years. and currently writes the longview column forbearance. he's the author of several books including hamilton's blessing, the extraordinary life and times of our national debt. thend great game, the emergencef wall street as a world power. the business of america, tales from the marketplace american enterprise and the settling of new england to the breakup of at&t. i did empire of wealth the epic history of american economic power but please join me in welcoming mr. gordon to the podium. [applause] x good evening. i am both happy and honored to be back at hillsdale college once again.
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i am here to talk about socialism in american history. which is to say the history of socialism on very stony ground. [laughter] socialism is by definition economic system wherein the memes of production are held in common. that is by the government. socialism therefore necessarily concentrates power. while the peoplee it might in theory own the memes of production, only individuals can actually act. so socialism and all of its many forms of the democratic socialism of ii britain, to the unspeakable horrors of cambodia, to that weird combination communist monarchy and north korea, means not only economic power to the people, but economic power to fiduciaries for the people. the same people who exercise oppolitical power. famously noted power corrupts and absolute corrupts
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absolutely. that's why capitalist countries the rich become powerful and socialist worms the powerful become rich. [laughter] the socialist economy one is expected to work for the common interest not one's own interest. but that is not easy to accomplish great self-interest in that living universe, a force that is all pervasive and as gravity is in the physical one. by having the memes of production capitalism both disperses and takes advantage of self-interest. in other words capitalism swims downstream. the socialism to work it has to somehow negate self-interest. it has to swim upstream. to use the analogy of gravity again, we can negate gravity, that is how we got to the moon 50 years ago and how i got to hillsdale college this morning. [laughter] but it takes energy to do so.
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this is why socialist economies, even on a very small scale have only worked for any length of time by the use of coercion, that is why the phrase a democratic socialism,e a phrase much in vogue these days is largely an oxymoron. now, we usually think of the united states is the most capitalist of all major countries and it mostlys is. while it may been pure coincidence the united states was born the very same year adam smith published the wealth of nations, it was a most fortuitous one. alexander hamilton richly deserves the title of founding father the american economy, was very familiar with smith's seminole book, as were most of the founding fathers but hamilton took its arguments very much to heart. when socialism was rapidly evolving into a coherent philosophy three quarters of a century later, karl marx wrote in the 18th room air of
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bonaparte published in 1852 after napoleon the third had seized power in a coup d'état that quote men make their own history but do not make it as they please but they do not make it under circumstances chose by themselves but under circumstances directly encountered and transmitted from the past. but this country, unlike the european countries marx was filled millie with have infected precious little past to beat transmitted in 1776. we are not a fully formed society deeply entrenched economic interest and a well-developed class system. in effect we were something like a national in the 1780s and 90s. so more than almost any other country in history, the united states could make itself as it pleased in ways that deeply suited the american character. it is worth noting all but one of the ten amendments to the constitution known as the bill of rights protect individuals
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from excessive government power. it is this character, this passion to do as we dan wellth please under the rule of law that has made this country such stony ground for socialism. now, the american colonies benefited greatly from the mother country's benign neglect. unlike france and spain, england did notsp care who went to its colonies and indeed ease the colonies as a dumping ground for convicted felons. it was britain's inability to continue transporting felons to america after the american revolution that led directly to the settlement of australia in 1788. perhaps they should celebrate july 4 too. that meant that the population of early america is largely made up of people who marched to the beat of a distant drummer. unlike their contemporaries anda the poor economy of early 17th century britain, they chose to take in a norm us a chance. they said goodbye to all that
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they had known and came to want one called a howling wilderness in hopes of making a better and more prosperous lives for themselves and their posterity. as to how big a chance they were taking, consider this. in early virginia the death rate for immigrants and their first year was about 25%. after that they were said to have been seasoned in their life expectancy increased considerably. these risk-taking immigrants of course have been coming ever since. thus the propensity for taking risk was bred into the very dna of this country. and the twin engines of capitalist success or willingness to take risk and competition, neither of which are found in socialist economies. which is why they are both on innovative and poor. even the dna of those felonious transfer teas totaled about 100,000 during the clonal era and a certain ginseng quat to
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the genetic mix. that is not to say this country has had no experience with socialism. socialist enterprises even of the very word socialism would not be coined until 1833. lothe colony of virginia was not established by the english government. instead it was founded by profit-seeking corporation chartered byd king james the first 1606 for the virginia company of london. the stock was mostly owned by very wealthy london merchants. these were very savvy businessman but the company they founded was in a wholly new business, american plantations. and the steep learning curve to profitability that in the new type of business necessarily entails would not bein successfully climbed in this case. the virginia company invested all told about 50000 pounds sterling in the enterprise.
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a colossal sum in the early 17th century with the annual crown revenue from the tariff amounted to only about 75000 pounds. regardless, the company had collapsed by 1624 in virginia became a crown colony. indeed, the virginia company may just about every mistake that it could have made it. jamestown was cited badly, surrounded by mosquito breeding swamps where the water was often a brackish. this led to salt pork during the hot humid virginia summers. but the virginia company's biggest mistake keep title to thehe land the memes of productn for the settlers were in effect the company's profit any gold they found was theirs to keep or sober recruit all men the first year or so but mostly what were
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then called sturdybe beggars. healthy men who had no y employment and had gravitatedo the burgeoning slums of london and bristol along with the younger sons of gentry families. the first group knew little about farming and the latter was disinclined to do hard work. pursuing self-interest as people always do, they prefer to search for gold from which they could profit directly. of course, there's no gold to be found in the plains of tidewater, virginia. although they found plenty in the four of them might get that looked a bit like gold for the shifted to england where it was found to be worthless. the result was starvation. of the 104 settlers that had arrived in may 1607 only 38 were still alive nine months later. in december the colony had 220 settlers. by spring 1610, only 60 were still alive. one man crazed by hunger had killed and eaten his wife.
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he was burned at the stake. the company tried other means to generate income for they established a glass factory for instance or take advantage of virginians abundant sand and wood. but the glass could not be profitably exported to england. two developments save the company. save the colony. what was the discovery of achish crop, tobacco. after the indians had taught that colonists exacting art of growing and curing it, tobacco became very profitable indeed.lo the second was the abandonment of the companies a policy of holding title to the lands in expecting colonist to work as sharecroppers. indeed the company began to surly america's greatest resource, it's infinity of land. to entice sellers with a sword to give every southern who had paid his own way 50 acres of land along with the 50 acres for each relative and servant
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brought to the colony. a family of five to get acres of land. that much good agricultural land would have given that family gentry status. it was a powerful and thoroughly thoroughly capitalist incentive for those who would come as indentured servants were also given land once they had served their indentured. food production rose sharply in tobacco production soared from 20000 pounds in 1618 to one and a half million pounds only 11 years later. the american experiment was off and running in virginia's early socialist economy forgotten. early new england which is also settled by profit-seeking joint stock company sought the land held in common as well and thus saw poor results. in the plymouth colony despite the story of the first thanksgiving, the harvest of 1621 had beens. poor.
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in the early 1622, governor william bradford gave each family a plot of land. but he required that quote all profits and benefits that are not got by trade, working, fishing or any other means will be placed in a common storehouse so that quote all such persons that are of this colony are to have their meats, drink, peril and all provisions out of the common stock. in other words the settlers were expected to work the fields, to go fishing and hunting, but the results were to be doled out to each family according to its size not according to its contribution of labor. the result was a very poor harvestt in 1622 and severe hunger in the winter of 1622 through 23. bradford happily was no ideologue. he could learneo from experience but he wrote in his book of plymouth plantation, quotes the failure of that experiment of communal service, the taking away of private property at the possession of it in community by
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a commonwealth was found to breed much confusion and discontent. and retard much employment which would have been to the general benefit. for the young men who must able and fit for service objected to being forced to spend their time and strength and working for other men's wives and children without any recompense. a strong man or the resourceful man had no more share food, close, et cetera than the weak man who is not able to do a quarter of what the other could. this was thought injustice. the asian graber man who were ranked and equalized in labor, food, clothing, et cetera with the humbler and younger once thought it was some indignity and disrespected them. bradford decided each family could grow and keep the food they raised. the change in attitude among the settlers was stunning. the women in 1622 and stayed home to tend the children but in
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1623 is an bradford explained the women now went willingly into the field and took their little ones with them to set corn. food production rose dramatically. within a couple of years the colony was able to export a load of grain to england. starring in the fennec philbrick and his recent history of plymouth collect the pilgrims had stumbled on the power of capitalism. although the fortunes of the comet still teeteredms precariouslyrt in the years ahe. the inhabitants never again starved. ofan course to england early toward the trading and shipbuilding given the lack of achish crop in new england stony soil in thesh long winters, most early merchants knew all about capitalism but even though the word would not be invented for another couple hundred of years. indeed many of them wrote at the tops of their ledgers in the name of god and profit. these pious puritan merchants are personal economic success as
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a sign of god's grace. it will be nice if elizabeth warren have the attitude. [laughter] [applause] now, among the earliest sellers of colonial america were many groups seeking religious freedom for the united states remain the most religious of western nations. this yearning for moral and spiritual perfection, soo much a part of the american character has led to a plethora of new american born religious sects such as the church of future christ of latter-day's the seventh-day adventists, jehovah's witnesses andan christian science student just a few of the more successful and long-lived. it also led to many social experiments in ace search for a new way of living. where property was to be held in common. the most famous of these projects with new harmony, indiana. it was founded in 1825 by a
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wealthy british industrialist named robert cohen who was oneit of the founders of the movement that came to be called utopian socialism. it got that name by the way because the founders of the movement believed socialism achieved without class struggle. but rather by example. demonstrate society could work in a different and better way. and it was ralph waldo emerson's better mousetrap the world would beat a path to your door. marx and engels dismissed this as utopian and the term stuck. marxnc and engels for once were right. i would put his money where his mouth was part 1825 he bought an entire town, 20000 acres in the southwestnt corner of indiana ps the buildings and infrastructure from the german religious sect that had decided to relocate. he paid one or $50000 of the very substantial fortune in the 1820s. people were expected to provide their own household goods common to investor capitol enterprises
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that would promote community independence and social equality. they work for the community and paid in credits at the town store. or they could buy credits there. there were troubles from the beginning. as a shortage of skilled craftsmen and the community could not producet enough goods to pay its weight. robert dale opponents son of the founder described the people who settled in new harmony quote as a heterogeneous collection of radicals, enthusiastic to principal honest latitude and lazy theorist. with the sprinkling of unprincipled shoppers thrown in. as for the town's prospects he wrote a plan removing rick all alike will in the present conditionn of society, ultimatey eliminate from a cooperative association the skilled efficient and industrious c members. living in ineffective and sluggish residue. in whose hand the experiment
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will fail. in other words selff interest dooms such enterprises per the new harmonyri experiment had collapsed within two years. private property individual pursuit came to the towns. now there'd been dozens if not hundreds of other attempts to establish socialist communities. but most had failed. although there is one in virginia on 400 acres of what was once a tobacco farm that has been in operation for more than 50 years. the civil war, as the country industrialized at a furious pace, the wealth inequality increased at inning recently furious pace. egoist fortitude the pin is abide by the four families were piled up all industrial workers did not get anything like a fair share of the profits they help create. the reason of course each a big industrial corporation spoke with one voice. while they're often tens of thousands of workers, each spoke
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for himself. now, industrial capitalism was something very new under the sun and the late 19th century. in the rules needed to make it function fairly and well could only be developed from experience. the stock market reforms of the post- civil war era. the invention of independent accountants and generally accepted accounting principles in they 1890s. fisherman clayton antitrust the creation of the interstate commerce commission in 1887. and the waggoner act of 1939 or what resulted. it was a process that would take about 50 years. and of course the reforms have needed their own reforms over the years. the interstate commerce commission was meant as an track of the unbridled check of railroads. it quickly evolved into a cartel protecting the railroads profits and greatly inhibiting
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innovation in that industry. when rate setting powers were abolished in 1970s. moritz and trucking firms can once by means of price. transportation sector, the gdp dropped from 15%, to 10%. as transportation what economist called a transaction cost, necessary cost does not increase the value of the product. prices of millions of product dropped as competition force manufacturers to show the lower cost t options rotation with consumers. it should be noted today we should know what tools are needed to properly regulate the digital economy we currently live in that has a new surge of income and equality. meanwhile, there were increase calls for socialism and american politics as a way to abate this increasingly inequality. just as there are today. among the leaders of this movement was eugene born in 1855
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terre haute, indiana. he came from a middle-class family his father owned a small textile business. but he dropped out of school at the age of 14 and went to work for a local railroad work making 15 cents a day for quickly identified with the working class and economic problems of thedu gestural age. he was a founder of an early labor unions the of the world, as well as the american railway union. the pullman strike of 1894 led by debs after initial hesitation was where the series of often violent strikes at this time. strike resulted $80 million worth of damage in 13 deaths. charged with contempt of court for violating federal injunction against the strike he served six months in jail. during thatth time he read widey but international socialism and emerged from jail a firm believer in it. originally a democrat, he served
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two terms in the indiana house of representatives as a democrat. he was the founding member of several socialist political parties. socialism was never able to form a single coherent political party as a socialist leaders almost entirely intellectuals and the fleece split over ideological minutia. there social democrats,mi anarchist, many, many more. madebs joined the socialist pary of america in 1901 up party form that year for a merger of the social democratic party and the socialist labor party part he ran for president on his ticket five times. in 1912ia he received 905,000 votes. fully 6% of the total votes. in 19213.4% of the vote although he wasvo in jail at the time. orthe socialist party was adam e posed to american participation in world war i and debs had spoken out in favor of resisting
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the draft. sentenced to ten years, president warren harding commuted the sentence to time served in december of 1921 after he served nearly three years in jail. after the collapse of the czarist regime in russia and the subsequent takeover, along with this country's entry into world war one, the united states experienced the first of the 220th century red scares. there are reasons for the scares for their numerous attempts am successful to bomb people and property. the washington house of woodrow wilson attorney general was badly damaged by a bomb in june in 1919. although palmer himself was notj seriously hurt. in september of 1920 a whole wagon load of dynamitee blew up in front of the morgan bank on wall street, killing 38 injury s hundreds, 143 of them severely. windows were blown out for blocks around.
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the site of the morgan bank was sparked by the explosion in the bank decided not to repair the damage, leaving it as a sort of stigma of capitalism. it is still there by the way a minor wall street tourist attraction. but the fear generated by the red scare was far greater than the actual threat. hundreds of aliens were deported, including such well-known ones as emma goldman and alexander berkman who tried to assassinate the industrialist henry clay fight one of those of historyoincidence so full of, the day he was deported was a day he died of natural causes. berkman said at least he left the country before i did. [laughter] while the socialist party never came anywhere close to winning a race and had electoral success at the local and congressional levels. after the election of 19205 socialist new york stateta assembly, they were summarily suspended and then expelled.
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they all ran in special election and were reelected. but again denied their seats. the communist party of the united states was founded in 1919 after the russian revolution as a split off and socialist party of america. unlike debs socialist supported the dictatorship which is to say the dictatorship of self-appointed fiduciaries. it was deeply involved in the american labor movement and through a variety of front organizations influence many prominent people. during the great depression grew to 55000, at least according to the. it was from the first largely funded by, took orders from the soviet union. it merely after world war ii broke outut in september , 39 fr instance the communist party's newspaper, the daily worker began a long and frequent series of editorials demanding this
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country stay out of the war. but on june 23 , 41, the paper without even noting its about-face began demanding the immediate entrance of the united states into thet- war. what had caused it to change its editorial lines? nazi germany invaded the soviet union on june 2222 , 41. this convinced many of the communist party of the united states was not a genuine american political party but a foreign agent. non-communist socialism political popularity winked in the 1920s while increasing in europe, both written in france, socialist government in 19204. thomas received only 2% of the vote in the election of 1932 despite the country being in the depths of the great depression while there was widespread fear that capitalism and democracy would not survive. new deal programs and especially the g.i. bill of rights in 1944
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proved socialism in america. by subsidizing college educations and homeownership the g.i. bill lifted millions into the middle class with financial assets such as real estate. in other words they became capitalists. but the same time saw a new red scare thanks to the onset of the coldld war. people et cetera joseph mccarthy in the house american activities committee hounded people before television cameras, relatively few actual communists while ruining many lives and careers. finally in 1954 senator mccarthy overplayed his hand, was censored by the senate and the second red scare began to fade away. while socialism disappeared as a political force after world war ii at the last gas was part of the presidential campaign of henry wallace in 1948. conservatives has worried about at what point social safety net
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ends in a latter-day socialism begins. the democratic party is moved markedly leftward in the last few years and today we're oncede again hearing calls from the far left him socialist policies such as medicare for all and egalitarian policies such as punitive wealth tax on those who have been excessively successful. britain tried the tactic and that labor government after world war ii the top income tax with 104%. in other words, you were fined for creating too much wealth. that goes a long way to explain it by britain's economic recovery after the war was so sluggish. senator bernie sanders himself a millionaire who owns three houses says that no one should be worth a billion dollars. and would impose an 8% tax on the very, very rich. most of whom by the way it made their own fortunes, 70% of the
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forbes 400 are self-made men and women. and no one of course is any poor because of the digital maga fortunes that have been created in the last 40 years. enriching the rich by them is writing the poor is very poor public policy. just ask louis the 16th. becoming super rich as jeff bezos' has bys giving everyboda better and cheaper way to shop made all of us richer. ideologues like bernie sanders, had his honeymoon in the soviet union, please remember, i have been to moscow, it is very gay. well anyway on the first of many. [laughter] east are inventively ignorant of the most basic economics. not only would a wealth tax be extremely hard and expensive to administer, it would have devastating effects on the entire american economy and the
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american population. you say jeff bezos had to pay 8% of his net worth in taxes every year. he would have to sell 8% of his vast holdings of amazon stock. but of course would cause the price of amazon stock to drastically declined. indeed, just the markets anticipation of the sale would cause it to decline. causing the basis far more than 8% of his net worth. amazon stock is held not just by jeff bezos, but directly or indirectly by millions of middle-class americans and their 401(k) accounts, iras, pension funds, and annuity accounts. about two thirds of corporate stock today is held not by plutocrats but by ordinary americans. supply jeff bezos woes under a wealth of attacks by those of the other 620 billionaires in the country today, and you would have a stock market crash that a worst in 19209. so, a wealth tax will stick it
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to the forbes 400 would also stick it to just about everyone in this room. not to mention hillsdale college endowment fund. i expect these policies will get exactly nowhere, the wealth tax is almost certainly unconstitutional as it is a direct tax that could not benl apportioned among states according to population. you could also make a good case that it is a bill attained after all forbes magazine will supply with the list of the billionaires in this country. the overwhelming majority of americans celebrate capitol success not to cry it like bernie sanders and elizabeth warren. and do not want to kill the capitalist goose that is laid so very many golden eggs are so many people they understand instinctively thanks to the risk-taking entrepreneurial genes they inherited that socialism to borrow appropriate phrase from george orwell is an idea so stupid that only an intellectual could believe it.
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[laughter] united states is still very stunning around for socialism. thank you very much. [applause] >> university school of law brought together a panel of scholars to discuss the presidential succession act of 1947. and how the succession plan has fared in the decades since. the presidential illness, and assassination, and assassination attempts. as a portion of the discussion. >> this challenge is this a gap, right? between the 25th mm and the 1947 active also issues events and what happens with mass casualty events? there's this third section requires the president to say he is impaired. but most presidents are unwilling to do it except for very short periods of time went under anesthesia is not i'm
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actually not capable of discharging the duties of my office. and then you have the fourth section which requires others remove him. but those others may also be severely impaired themselves whether it's with biological disease like covid, a chemical attack a nuclear attack were killed in a massive event. i think professor also earns the shooting of the republican steve scalise was severely injured. and those who remain may be unwilling to take on the political challenge of trying to remove someone who is incapacitated unwilling to say they are incapacitated. so you are in a situation the actor with the vice president, if that person is impaired what happens if others down the line of succession are impaired as well? like with the pandemic, with the mass casualty event involving chemical or nuclear weapons for
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these are not real hypotheticals because in fact you have a situation where things similar to this have happened in the past. and have come very close to happening. particularly with the recent events regarding coded and president trump. where in fact he was much more ill based on the treatments he received event was reported to the public. this date in history posts. >> this is of the supreme court to start with society is not honor and closure to welcome you to this lecture delivered by printed when our foremost - followers and supporters and marlene trestman is a, and she's healso the author of the book


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