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  • Book Recommendations

    Posted by Lexington Green on October 21st, 2003 (All posts by )

    Recently Lex and Mrs. Lex went out to dinner with some friends. First, we went to the live band karaoke at the Hideout, which got a rave review from me on the blog. One of our companions was a transplanted Englishman, whom I promised to send a list of recommended reading to educate him about Chicago and America. The ungrateful chap has never responded. The other person was a Chicago area author and lawyer of some repute. The email I ended up sending was essentially as follows. It may be of some interest to our readers. (Any suggestions of your own, in a comment, of books in the general subject areas of American political and economic history, especially Chicago and the Midwest, would be appreciated.)

    I hope you two did not suffer too much from the live-band karoake. We are a pair old-time punk rockers (how dowdy we’ve become …) and we don’t get out much anymore.

    On this question of books to read, I welcomed the request for a few suggestions. It gave me an excuse to write-up a little essay which I will put on my blog, in revised form, at some point. My house is one giant bookshelf. I read when I can, and even when I ought not to. Bookfinder.com is my crack pipe.
    .
    Now, on to the books.

    On the question of the Midwest and who lives where and why they think and vote as they do, I must point you to a great favorite of mine, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America by David Hackett Fischer. Fischer takes the main part of the story only down to the American Revolution, but he sketches in later developments, including the settlement of the Midwest by Yankees in the north and by scots-border-derived back-countrymen in the south. This is one of the half-dozen or so best books I’ve ever read, period, and the most single most helpful one for understanding America.

    Another book which is in a sense a follow-on to Fischer is Walter Russell Mead’s brilliant synoptic work Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How it Changed the World. It is in fact about the domestic political (and hence ethno-cultural) roots of American foreign policy so it is far broader than the title suggests. It is a good read, often funny, and it makes unusual connections. The most striking chapter is the one on the part of America Mead describes as “Jacksonian” — a school to which I belong, with a few quibbles around the edges. That chapter may be found here.

    A related book, which is a sort-of companion to Fischer and Mead, is Kevin P. Philips, The Cousins’ Wars: Religion: Politics, and the Triumph of Anglo-America. It is something of a muddle, but full of good insights. Phillips wrote The Emerging Republican Majority back in 1968, which predicted the realignment which led to Nixon’s electoral win and the reemergence of a Republican majority. The Cousins’ Wars projects Philips’ methodology back into time to look at the major civil wars in the rise of Britain and America, and who lined up on which side and why. Very insightful about the ongoing religious and cultural roots of American politics. Philips other books are more narrowly focused on politics, particularly his recurring theme that the American middle class was largely created by government policies, and that class is now under attack, and neither party is taking the necessary steps to preserve it. This theme has become more popular in recent years, though neither party has succeeded in exploiting it. His most recent book Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich, which I have only skimmed, seems to have almost anticipated the Enron business. Philips discusses the defects in corporate governance (recently laid out very well in a special section in the Economist), especially vast executive pay while jobs and benefits are being cut, which should create a populist opening, politically. Why no one is running with this is a mystery to me. Maybe the recession was not long or deep enough. Phillips posits a cyclic theory of capitalist greed leading to a populist backlash, followed by a counter-attack at the resulting over-reaching by the government. Maybe. I need to read the whole book.

    A similar point is made in Robert H. Weibe’s book Self-Rule: A Cultural History of American Democracy. But Weibe’s focus is not the rising and falling of the rich, but the establishment of a middle class. Weibe’s historical depiction of the transformation of American democracy from a vibrant and vulgar activity to the more sedate phenomenon we know now is very good, as is his depiction of the rise middle-class culture in America circa 1870-1920. Weibe’s policy prescriptions are less interesting — plain vanilla communitarian/left-liberal, and not very plausible or practical sounding. But the historical parts are eye-opening.

    On this business Philips discusses, of Anglo-America as an entity, take a look at Jim Bennett’s review of Philips’ book, found here, starting on page 9. (Disregard the libertarian claptrap — Bennett’s essay is in an entirely different league.) Bennett’s book on the “Anglosphere” is due out early 2004, and will be well worth reading. In the meantime, Bennett’s “Anglosphere Primer” is interesting: (The germ of a similar point was embedded in Samuel Huntington’s prescient Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, where Huntington refers to a “core group” of Anglophone countries at the heart of the old Cold War alliance.)

    On the narrower focus of Chicago, we have already discussed William Cronon’s book Nature’s Metropolis. There is no better introduction to Chicago, and the economic development of the Midwest, including the futures exchanges.

    Tom Geoghegan’s book Which Side Are You On? is the best of his three (I think he’ll agree) and provides several things — a slice of life in Chicago at the time (1980s), a thoughtful Democrat’s reflections on the relative decline of his party, and a capsule history of the role of Labor in the Democratic party and in American political life — as well as other stuff . So you really ought to read it.

    A good, if somewhat nostalgic book about Chicago is Alan Ehrenhalt’s Lost Chicago, which will give you some insights you may not get otherwise.

    For a short and clear discussion of Chicago’s political machine, as well as the politics of several other American cities, I strongly recommend Steven P. Erie, Rainbow’s End: Irish-Americans and the Dilemmas of Urban Machine Politics, 1840-1985. Erie provides a good and atypical insight into American politics — though Michael Barone touches on this aspect.

    On the political background to our contemporary situation, I strongly recommend Michael Barone’s book Our Country: The Shaping of America From Roosevelt to Reagan. This book is somewhat dense, but if you like big slabs of no-nonsense political history, it is a feast. It discusses each biennial election cycle from 1928 to 1988. It was too academic for a large lay readership, but it was too clearly written and jargon-free and non-leftist to meet with the approval of the academic community, so it is an under-read and under-appreciated book. Barone is a sharp observer, and an empiricist. It is probably the second best book on this list, after Albion’s Seed. Barone is the author of the biannual Almanac of American Politics, and there is no one who knows the nuts and bolts of American politics better than he does. His articles are always worth reading.

    A companion of sorts to the Barone book is Alan Ehrenhalt’s book The United States of Ambition: Politicians, Power, and the Pursuit of Office. It covers the dissolution of the old, disciplined, machine-type political party in America and its replacement in the 1970s by a self-appointed, “entrepreneurial” style. Another good book to understand contemporary American politics.

    On American economic history, my favorite writer is the late Jonathan R. T. Hughes. His book the Governmental Habit, Redux: Economic Controls from Colonial Times to the Present is the best book I have read about the history of government regulation of the US economy. It is free of ideological baggage, which is unusual Hughes has a college textbook entitled American Economic History which is, believe it or not, a truly brilliant work, going back to the early roots of British settlement here and the legal and institutional order which set the stage for what followed. There are numerous editions of the book. Mine is from the late 1980s and contains excellent end-notes and bibliographic material. His older book The Vital Few: American Economic Progress and Its Protagonists is a solid though old-fashioned book. A closely related field is covered well in Lawrence R. Friedman, History of American Law. It is a tome, but it is a very readable as well as learned treatment. It is the standard work on the subject.

    I’ll also mention some items which are more narrowly economic which have influenced my thinking include George Stigler’s piece “Director’s Law of Public Income Redistribution” (Journal of Law & Economics, 1970, vol. 13, issue 1, pages 1-10). For some reason this essay is not online. Stigler demonstrates why the American system always leads to the middle class getting government benefits at the expense of the rich and the poor. This contradicts most popular thinking on the subject. I haven’t read it in 15 years and I should re-read it as I found it totally convincing and it has shaped my somewhat contrarian views ever since. Another fundamental piece is Hayek’s “The Uses of Knowledge in Society”. I know Hayek is a Libertarian poster-boy, but don’t be put off. This piece, and other early items in the collection Individualism and Economic Order, are brilliant and still pertinent 70 years later. Mancur Olson’s Logic of Collective Action was absolutely fundamental in shaping my thinking about government and the limits of what it can reasonably do. I haven’t re-read it in years, but its arguments regarding the nature, conduct of interest groups are absolutely hardwired into my head at this point.

    I bit my tongue when Tom recounted, in apparent agreement, his uncle’s theory that Ohio going for Bush in the last election had something to do with the fact that the Ku Klux Klan had once been strong in Ohio. I can only roll my eyes, as a conservative Republican, at the absolutely blunt way my liberal friends and neighbors and inlaws consider Republicans to be just a few inches to the left of Nazis, Klansmen, etc. It would be funny if it weren’t both sad and insulting. It would be funny too, to see what kind of reaction were elicited if I were to explain Gore taking New York, despite its Republican governor, by saying that there used to be lots of communists there, after all. To understand the process whereby rather large numbers of ordinary and unfascistic people came to be Republicans over the last 40 years would take a long time to explain. Michael Barone covers a lot of it , and there is a thriving body of recent scholarship on the “rise of the Right” after World War II . Some more intuitive insights can be gleaned from Peggy Noonan’s memoir about working for Reagan, What I Saw at the Revolution. Noonan came from a suburban, blue collar, democratic, northeastern, Irish, Catholic background much like my own — though my parents are actually more like impoverished intelligentsia. People on my block went 100% for Kennedy, certainly in 1960 . Twenty years later Massachusetts went for Reagan. Had these people all become fascists or Klansmen? Or were they, previously, smart enough to be Democrats, but then became too stupid to know what was good for them? I tend to think not. Noonan describes, in her usual overly-personal but engaging tone, how this happened, as well as providing insight into what Reagan tapped into. It wasn’t latent fascism. The political mechanics of all this are well-discussed in John B. Judis’s remarkably fair-minded biography William F. Buckley: Patron Saint of the Conservatives.

    One book I’m picking at now that may be of interest is Peter Hall, Cities in Civilization. It is an immense book. But the separate chapters function as stand-alone essays on various cities, and are good synopses of current history. The chapter on Memphis and the rise of rock’n’roll is very good. The chapters on Los Angeles and Detroit, which I skimmed, look good, too. (There is a chapter on Glasgow and the shipbuilding industry — which reminds me of one of my favorite volumes of wartime Anglophilia, Nicholas Montserrat’s The Cruel Sea . In the opening scene the anti-submarine corvette H.M.S. Compass Rose is fitting out in the Firth of the Clyde.)

    On Black America, Tom mentioned W.E.B. DuBois, The Soul of Black Folk. I’d point to Ralph Ellison’s collected essays for another classic but somewhat different perspective. I’ll also mention the Civil War memoir by Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Army Life in a Black Regiment because it is so well-written and entertaining and fair-minded.

    Finally, since my main interest is really military history, I’ll close by mentioning Geoffrey Perret’s book A Country Made By War, which is a good and very readable one-volume history of America’s wars and the impact of those wars on American society.

    As I look this over, I see any number of other things I might add, but I’d better just stop.

    You will not be quizzed on any of the foregoing.

    Cheers,

    [Lex]

     

    22 Responses to “Book Recommendations”

    1. Sandy P. Says:

      Boss by Royko. And both books of Royko’s columns.

      They’re a little more entertaining and light than some of your recommendations.

    2. andrewdb Says:

      I would nominate http://www.addall.com as _my_ crackpipe. Is there a 12 step program for readers?

    3. Alexander Crawford Says:

      Two quick recommendations:

      Fred Anderson’s, ‘Crucible of War’. He basically explains the developments that led to the French and Indian War and covers the background of the conflict within the Ohio valley from the perspectives of both the European powers, European settlers, and AmerIndian powers that dominated the interior for the first couple of centuries following contact.

      Another resourse is Chief Simon Pokagon. His tribe used to own Chicago. He’s available on the net (he was a late 19th century Indian writer).

      Here’s a fairly good resource for Native American tribal history…

      http://www.dickshovel.com/firstnations.html

    4. Boston Patriot Says:

      How about the geatest novel ever written: Atlas Shrugged.

    5. Lex Says:

      Boston Patriot, you are a loyalist but not a literary critic. Ayn Rand was an effective polemicist, but AS is barely a novel, let alone a good one. I liked it in high school. Anyway, this is a list of books on American political and economic history. So, AS, even if it were the best novel ever, has nothing to do with this post.

      Reflect for a moment on this fact: The answer to every question asked about anything ever is not necessarily “Ayn Rand!” — no matter how much you may like her stuff.

      (I too am a Boston Patriot, by birth anyway.)

    6. Boston Patriot Says:

      Lex:

      How you can deduce from my posting that my answer to “every question asked about anything ever” is “Ayn Rand” escapes me.

      I posted it because Atlas Shrugged contains the moral/philosophical basis for man’s right to live for his own sake (i.e. individual rights), the principle upon which this country was founded. There * is * nothing more American.

      I also posted it because Atlas Shruged would also go a long way in explaining to foreigners that, in the wake of 9/11, what they observe in Americans is not “nationalism” in the traditional, tribal sense, but is at root profoundly ideological.

      As for the others reading this, ignore the typical slander of Objectivists as “loyalist” cultists- it’s pure ad hominem. Read her yourself and decide for yourself. After all, reason is an attribute of the individual.

    7. Jonathan Says:

      I read Atlas Shrugged a long time ago and decided for myself. I decided that many of the ideas are good but the book is way too long and is written like a soap-opera screenplay. It served its purpose, and probably a lot of us have read the book and been influenced by it, but it is not a study of American history. I think that this was Lex’s point and that it wasn’t meant harshly.

    8. Lex Says:

      My request was this: “Any suggestions of your own, in a comment, of books in the general subject areas of American political and economic history, especially Chicago and the Midwest, would be appreciated.”

      The fact that you thought this somehow could be a reference to Ayn Rand’s novel plays to my well-founded stereotype that Any Rand’s adherents are often monomaniacal about Ayn Rand.

      I don’t know why she has the effect on some people. As I said, I read the book, found some merit in it, and moved on.

      I don’t think anything I say here will dissuade anybody from “thinking for themselves” about Ayn Rand or those who are her devotees. Nor do I think I slandered them. Nor do I think your response is inconstent with my characterization.

      Now, let me extend the peace pipe to a fellow Bostonian and patriot with whom I probably agree on most matters of concrete policy, despite my lack of Objectivism — do you, sir, have a history book you’d like to suggest for our consideration?

    9. Boston Patriot Says:

      “Nor do I think your response is inconstent with my characterization.” I guess I’m monomaniacal. If you’re talking about strict adherence to the facts of reality, belief in the efficacy of man’s mind and the advocacy of laissez-faire capitalism, I guess you’re right!

      But hey, I’ll hit the pipe and suggest one: the one I’m reading now, ‘Enemies of Christopher Columbus’ by Thomas Bowden. And, yes, it’s sold through Ayn Rand Bookstore- it’s better than the poison coming out of Harvard’s!

      http://www.aynrandbookstore2.com/store/prodinfo.asp?number=EB08A&variation=&aitem=1&mitem=22

      see ya’….

    10. Lex Says:

      Thanks, BP. I knew a hit off the pipe would do the trick. I too try to strictly adhere to the facts of reality, I too believe in the efficacy of man’s mind, and I always offer at least two loud cheers for laissez-faire capitalism. So we’re doing OK. And thanks for the book tip.

    11. Alexander Crawford Says:

      How about Carl Sandburg’s first book of poems, ‘Chicago’. Ayn Rand’s, Atlas Shrugged is a Manhattanite view of the universe, I’ve always thought Chicago as more of a ‘rugged individualist’ sort of town. Now if Atlas Shrugged had focused more on the pirate, Ragnar, THEN I’d say, maybe…

      Philosophically speaking, Objectivism lacks the midwestern horse sense, the western pragmatism, needed to describe those of us along I-96 and the great northern rail line…

    12. Tony Says:

      I recommend an old book first publlished in 1924, hope that doesn’t put anyone off, I read it first in the 70’s and it had a big influence on my thinking, Democracy and Leadership by Irving Babbitt. Yes, he was the model, most unfairly, of the Sinclair Lewis? novel Babbitt.
      He should be more well known though I did see him ‘talked’ about on Slate once.

    13. Jim English Says:

      Nelson Algren’s “The Man with the Golden Arm”. Also his prose poem “Chicago, City on the Make”.

      Jim English

    14. Andy B Says:

      I have thoroughly enjoyed “A Life on the Wild Side” by Bettina Drew, a biography of Algren, filled with Chicago scenes so vivid and perfectly descriptive they bring the smells and sounds of this city right into my head. As a companion piece, “Nelson Algren’s Chicago” by Art Shay is a wonderful assembly of photographic work.
      I also found “An Army at Dawn” by Rick Atkinson to be an interesting read about the outset of United States involvement in World War II, centered on the North African campaign. I would be interested to hear what Lex thought of “Army”.

    15. Lex Says:

      Algren seems to be da man amongst our backbenchers.

      My favorite story about him isn’t really about him. It’s about how Simone de Beauvoir (sp?) came over to Chicago, and got mixed up with him. She arrived in town, and was completely out of her element, speaks basically no English. She went into a lunch counter, pointed at something on the board, and the guy brings her a sandwich. She is stumped because she has no silverware. She looks around, and sees all these Chicagoans eating WITH THEIR HANDS. She experiences delicious sensations of primitive liberation as she too digs in without utensils. Algren meets her, teaches her to drink scotch and play poker. She goes from being a somewhat asexual hot-house Parisian intellectual to being something approximating an ordinary blue collar American wife, though without legal formality. She dotes on Algren. Sartre, her previous boyfriend, refused for some weird intellectual reason to have plain old copulative sexual intercourse with her. Algren apparently only knew how do it like a regular primate and hadn’t really developed too many hangups about it. She reputedly found this aspect of their relationship hard to part with when she finally decided to go back to France.

      The lesson: Sometimes its the simple things that count the most.

    16. Aint Rand Says:

      Atlas Sorta Shrugge

    17. Lex Says:

      Now, no triumphalism, Aint. You take a hit off that peace pipe, too.

    18. John Miller Says:

      “Sister Carrie” by Theodore Dreiser. Set in early 20th century Chicago, this novel is about a simple but determined country girl who goes bad but ends up doing very well for herself.

      Also “Studs Lonigan” by James T. Farrell.

    19. David N. St. John Says:

      I would like to recommend C. D. Darlington’s “The Evolution of Man and Society”, originally published in 1969, slyly trashed and then ignored by the largely Left cultural and intellectual organs of Western civilization, and not widely known now. Most of you are at least a bit familiar with H. G. Wells’ “An Outline of History”; Darlington’s book is similiarly ambitious in scope, but treats all of human history from the standpoint of genetics and human evolution.
      Now, how does this relate to Chicago and the Midwest? Because Darlington has a longish chapter on America, its growth to the west, and the interaction between genes, American political ideology, and differential immigration, which sheds a lot of light on “how we got the way we are”.
      But maybe that’s not enough. All right, then read his chapter on Islam. It seems eeriely ahead of its time, but it was written before 1969, and must in fact have been written, or at least thought out, by about 1960. And yeah, read the chapter on the Soviet Union, which must have written about a quarter of a century before that wretched empire of fraud finally collapsed.
      The book is now long out of print, but the big Internet used-book sellers can probably get a copy for any of you that are interested. I would like to see it put back in print; a worthwhile project for a foundation with a lot of money and a lot of care for the survival of both Western Civilization and world civilization, would be to update, enlarge, and republish this book about once every decade.

      David N. St. John

    20. Charles Says:

      Thanks for a very interesting list – a lot of good leads to follow up here. On the topic of Anglo-America, I can recommend a relatively short book by Hugh Kearney, “The British Isles”. The front cover of my edition has the subtitle “A history of four nations”, but that’s quite misleading (I suspect Kearney had nothing to do with that subtitle) – Kearney’s look at British/Irish history is not through the artificial prism of “four nations” but traces the evolution of various regional/cultural groups since the time of the Roman withdrawal. The underlying approach is to treat the isles as an overall unity, and its various groups as linked with a common history (not simply a case of the English conquering the rest, but a more complex interpenetration – e.g. the long history of connections between northern Ireland and lowlands Scotland).

      I think this approach to British history is often practised now, but I get the impression that this book was something of a pioneer when it came out (I think it was the early 1980s). It Certainly made me see British history in a new way – it was a stimulating overview that made me approach other topics from a different angle. I recall that at one point, Kearney made some interesting (though brief) observations on how America was particularly shaped by some of the cultural groups he had discussed – just the topic that David Hackett Fischer would later explore in depth. I now think Kearney’s approach to America in these comments was incomplete (a lot of emphasis on the “Roundhead” element, but not enough on the Ulster or Cavalier), but it was thanks to this book that I started to make these sort of connections. Coming from Australia (and now living in London), I tend to view the history of English-speaking peoples as a broader unity: I suppose I am an instinctive Anglospherist. But it was only recently (thanks to the blogosphere) that I discovered the rich seam of thought out there on the Anglosphere concept itself. This made so much sense to me (it was like finding the missing piece of a puzzle), and the intensity of my response to this was made all the more strong by the Iraq war and its Anglosphere resonances.

      Lexington, you say you have commented before on William Cronon’s “Nature’s Metropolis”. I would be very interested to read these comments (I couldn’t find them on this site when I did a search), as I thought that book looked intriguing and original when I saw it – which was, appropriately enough, in a bookshop on Michigan Ave, just near the Tribune Building. Alas, I passed up the opportunity of buying it, because I was nearing the end of 6 months living in and travelling throughout the US and had already bought far too many books for my budget… I still regret this decision (true, I can still get this book, but getting it in Chicago itself would have been much better). I loved Chicago by the way (it reminded me a lot of Melbourne, which is intended as a complement – even though I come from Sydney!), and hope to visit it again soon.

    21. Lex Says:

      Charles, my comments on the Cronon book were part of the conversation that preceded the email which I turned into this post. I may write more about Cronon at some point. It is a brilliant book. There are “Anglosphere resonances” in a lot of places, once you start looking for them. I have been mulling a post on Hayek and the Anglosphere, based on his last book, The Fatal Conceit.

      David, There are numerous cheap copies of Darlington’s “The Evolution of Man and Society” on the Net. I just bought one.

    22. Denis Drew Says:

      Reverse bracket creep in social security collections can be
      deducted at the intersection of three statistics:
           A) The FICA cap is about $86,000 — indexed for inflation.
           B) 90 percentile income taxpayers reports in at about
      81,000.
           C) For 30 years now, 90 to 95 percentile incomes have
      grown in step with America’s economic output, but no more
      — while those above have scooped whatever proportion of
      growth was missed out on by those below.

      Thus: As economic output expands, 90 percentile tax payers
      will soon join the lucky duckies who pay an ever shrinking
      percentage of their ever expanding incomes into FICA —
      then the 89 percentile, then the 88 percentile.  The other
      percentage that will shrink steadily will be of earners paying
      full FICA freight.

      Indexing FICA for growth (as done in Germany) would lock in enough income to permanently end worries about social security retirement’s funding — taking advantage of the natural fact that per capita GDP output tends to quadruple as our populaton doubles (as Germany’s population may shrink).
      *******************************************************************
      Computing the growth of average family income from lowest
      to highest quintiles, from1968 through 2001, using the
      CENSUS bureau’s reckoning of inflation (430%) discloses
      serious under-performance on the low end: +17%, +23%,
      +40%, +57%, +87%.  Recomputing family income using the
      LABOR department’s inflation gauge (535%) reveals a
      progress shut out for the bottom two quintiles, with minimal
      betterment shifting to the next two above: -5%, -1%, +12%,
      +26%, +50%. 

      Over those 33 years, per capita income (all income divided
      by all persons, working or not) rose 94% according to
      Census inflation — only 56% under Labor’s yardstick — both
      AVERAGE income gains edging out their respective highest
      quintile’s growth.  It seems that a THIRD of all income is
      hidden from the family survey behind a statistical device
      called top coding (anything above a quarter million up until
      1994 and above a million thereafter) — trillions that could
      have meant prosperity for all had economic progress been
      proportionately divided. 

      For whatever little it may be worth judging which standard
      most matches real inflation: economic GROWTH, per
      person, over the same period was 65%, which should
      parallel income growth — and every online calculator I have
      come across clocks 535% inflation.
      ********************************************************************
      It took 65 years for the federal minimum wage to jump from
      $4/hour with no taxes, in 1939, to $4/hour after taxes, today.
      It took 65 years from the Wright Brothers first flight, in 1903,
      to the 747 jet airliner, in 1968.

      Bus drivers earn 100 times more than rickshaw drivers —
      even though they bring 10 times less to their work — because
      they are 100 times more productive.  Even workers who
      perform the same old task in more productive economies
      earn more — generally according to how much they bring to
      their job relative to what other workers bring to theirs’ — why
      cops are usually paid more than bus drivers; and why San
      Diego cops earn 10 times more than Tijuana cops. 

      Note well: if you educate a broader spectrum of people, you
      make your society more productive as a whole, allowing
      yourself to be paid more for doing the same old thing.  So
      why do we have schools in the Bronx with no windows while
      mayors of the “world’s capital city” talk up billions for new ball
      playing emporiums?

      Raising everyone’s well-being together has been the
      successful lesson not only of the European left but also the
      Asian right (China now qualifying as the largest capitalist
      dictatorship — at 75% private manufacturing).  And the
      contrary lesson of South America and Russia — and of
      today’s almost labor union free United States of America?

      20% of American workers now earn less than L.B.J.’s,
      $8.50/hour minimum wage.  40% earn less than what the
      1968 federal minimum wage might have kindly and gently
      crept up to: $12/hour (at 75% pace with per capita output
      growth — would cause all of 4% increase in the cost of
      today’s GDP output if instituted today, not counting other
      wage pushups).  A lapsed middle class cannot be found in
      anywhere in the modern industrial world except in the 90%
      unorganized industries of the USA.

      Most European labor organized in a centuries old victimology
      frame of mind.  Germany labor organized, post 1945,
      according to a more systematic economic outlook: legally
      instituting sector wide labor agreements, wherein everybody
      doing the same job in the same geographical area must work
      under the same labor contract (preventing ownership even
      from playing off one unionized workplace against another) —
      and 90% organized Germans are, today, the best paid
      workers in the world.

      I am not pushing Europe’s business stifling welfare state.  I
      support equal power, not over protection.  Super social
      cellophane interests Europe’s left wing labor and America’s
      liberal elite.  The ascendance of more moderate to
      conservative workers of this side of the Atlantic would see
      income maintenance fade faster — as real need diminishes. 

      For what it is worth those left wing European workers ship a
      lot more VWs and BMWs over here than we ship Fords and
      Chevies over there (VW has a commanding 42% lead in
      China’s auto market, which market is growing 60% a year;
      50 million cars a year possible some day! — GM weighs in at
      a meager 8%).  Airbus has been outselling Boeing of late,
      also.  European workers must be more productive to justify
      the price they exact — or extract.

      Mostly unorganized American labor may be in danger of
      falling between two price stools: more expensive than the
      third world and the cheaper than most of the first world:
      losing low tech factories to the former while losing high-tech
      orders to the latter. 

      Mostly unorganized — of self-reliant stock — American wage
      earners should be ripe, at long last, for some person or some
      party to alert them to need to bargain collectively if they ever
      expect to take home an even cut of the cake — with tales of
      how German style, MANDATED universal unions could kick
      start their stalled standard of living — emphasizing how
      relatively quickly and easily the rebalancing of power
      between business and labor could be legislated; relative to
      the task of organizing a whole country the old fashioned way.
      Or does the majority of today’s Americans — to lift an ironic
      question from a past era’s minority civil rights struggle —
      want too much, too fast?

      Denis Drew
      ddrew4u@aol.com