- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Why would anyone want to eulogize Carnegie?

Posted by: Quincunx ( IWW ) on June 02, 1999 at 10:14:55:

In Reply to: emphasised posted by Gee on April 15, 1999 at 13:06:08:

Qx: That's interesting but can you cite any references to show this?

G: Its in the British Times richest 1000. Its published in sevral countries.

Qx: It could well be printed for self-serving triumphalism also. Has that occurred to you?

Qx: Also, can you tell us what exactly "average wealth" is?

G: It is imprecise, it means without the kind of capital (eg land of huge stocks) that would make it 'easier' to start a business. Some were from low income families, some were from middle income families and no doubt some were from high income families.

Qx: Then I would not even try to use it as a reference source.

Qx:: It seems to be a rather slippery definition at best. I feel that the deeper issue is really about how these "700 richest people" in the U.K. Should the executives of the various firms that were beneficiaries of the privatization of England's water utilities be admired for ingratiating themselves with fat pay increases to the detriment of people who find themselves having to pay for every drop at outrageous prices? I don't think so and I know that I'm not alone in this.

G: I dont recall any utilities bosses being in the rich list, but I agree that post privatisation (how do you privatise a state run(down) monopoly anyway? The rail fiasco in both America snd Britain shows what tends to happen.) pay awards are opportunistic. those people didnt have to build the business up themselves. I bet the most annoyed were other
other business owners who worked hard for 20 years prior to getting those types of rewards. You also know that those directors were often ones with the appropriate govt links too.

Qx: Good. then you can sense that nepotism propelled by greed is the motivating factor and not any capitalist endeavour that assues responsibility for risk. Hence false capitalism.

G: Would the "700 richest people" in the U.K. also include more than a few arms dealers? I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised.

Qx: I know one of the older rich families does, most of them seem to be in communications, clothing, food etc.

G: Ahhhh...inherited wealth in the guise of working capital which survives by profits which is really theft from the workers.

G: Selling arms has never been a free market enterprise anyway, they tend to be govt cronies (which answers your final point)

Qx: It may answer my final point to an extent but if you take into account the illegal arms trade (much it from the West) it sure seems like a chaotic market which some pro-capitalists would call “free trade” if it weren’t for the lethality of the merchandise.

Qx: I wouldn't think that Dale Carnegie and Ted Turner were the greatest philanthropists running around. These philanthropists do quite a bit of hobnobbing with plenty of aristocrats and various and sundry sorts of courtiers.

G: The 'real' Carnegie built many libraries and learning centres, Rockefeller likewise (even a medical institute). Both men gave the vast majority of their fortunes toward these projects in their later years. Thats philanthropy. Compare this to Vanderbilts' children,who managed to waste their fathers entire fortune in 2 or 3 generations. Fools and their money eh!

Qx: Praising Carnegie is hardly a worthy chore and I don’t see why you attempt to defend Carnegie and Rockefeller.Of course the business press will lather these two with praises galore but there is another side to the story.

from “They don’t even know that they don’t know”

DB: Tis the season of fantasies and fairy tales, and in that holiday
spirit, today's New York Times editorial offers the following history
lesson: "America became rich by tapping its natural resources and building large manufacturing plants that imposed rigid work rules." What an inspiring story!

NC: Actually, it's a good year to mention that. This year is sort of historic in this respect. For one thing, it's the centenary of the destruction of the largest union in the United States, the American Steelworkers Union, by Andrew Carnegie, who had just in 1892
established the Carnegie Steel Works, which became the first billion dollar U.S. corporation. His most advanced plant was in Homestead, Pennsylvania, a working-class city with a working-class mayor and a lively cultural scene and a commitment to workers'rights and a union base. He locked the workers out. They took over control of the plant
and the town. He sent Pinkerton guards, who were driven away. He then got the National Guard sent in, which took over. It was exactly as the New York Times described.

In fact, they described it at the time. He was able not only to destroy the union, but to institute twelve-hour work days, and miserable labor standards. The company history published not too long after described this as the basis for the enormous profits that they made. Although he was a pacifist, he succeeded in overcoming his pacifist principles to
take on a huge contract for steel for naval vessels. The U.S. was then building up a big navy for purposes of international intervention. He also succeeded crucially, and this is important, in destroying utterly the democratic structure of the town and the region.

Scholars who went in to investigate Homestead afterwards found that people were afraid to talk to them. They wouldn't even talk in their homes because they were too terrified of blacklisting and other retaliation. When Mother Jones, the eighty-nine-year-old labor organizer, came to Homestead in 1919 to try to help organize
the union again, she was carted off by the cops when she tried to make a public statement. As late as the 1930s, when Roosevelt's Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins, came to Homestead, she had to be under police protection.

It wasn't until the mid-1930s, in the course of union organizing and great public activism, that the elements of democracy were restored to Homestead, and they didn't last very long. The attack on the union
started right away. Nineteen-ninety-two is a historic year in that respect, too. This is the first time in sixty years that a major corporation has dared to use the ultimate weapon against a major union. Caterpillar broke a UAW strike by hiring scabs, just as Carnegie
and Frick had done a century earlier. So the Times has a point to make. If you impose harsh enough working standards, you can create profits. As the Times well knows, it turns out to be much easier than before to move production to high-repression, low-wage
areas like Mexico or increasingly, Eastern Europe or Indonesia.

There you can really impose iron work rules and extract a lot of profit and meanwhile leave the United States with the inner cities that we see. So all that's accurate. I'm glad to see the Times saying
something true. They could have added a little background but you can't ask for everything.


Qx: In this case they tarred themselves and a few activists got the word out about their plans.

G: What plans?

Qx: Are you that completely ignorant of the Multilateral Agreement on Investments? Perhaps so since you did quote an economist from the OECD in a previous posting.

Qx: There is such a thing as being born into the right social circumstances and being cagey enough that "wealth creation" can be seen as luck if one looks at the surface.However, I don't see much difference betwen robber barons from the last century to nowadays.

G: Last centuries robber barons were the likes of the 'big four' who used political pull (not good service or ability) to dominate south west railroads (a fiasco of bankrupties and poor service / safety). To put such second rate people in the same boat as someone like JJ Hill
( reliable safer northern railroad without govt 'help', in fact with govt. resistance) is simply inaccurate.

Qx: No it’s not. J.J. Hill was just as anti-union as any of them and yes, Gee, he did hobnob with other robber barons. He was Canadian in the first place and lived off that parasitic colonial society before going into the USA with his cultivated image. Typical Ontario boy wi5th upper crust pretensions. Don’t fall for the image.

G: An eye opener is "myth of the robber barons" (Folsom) who points out how the corrupt tarnished the good. One could say the same of Aol/Netscape and their 'run to mommy' way of competing.

Qx: The corrupt don’t tarnish the good Gee. The corrupt corrupted themselves and nobody else. That’s an essential aspect of individual responsibility. As far as AOL/ Netscape “running to mommy ” over the monopolistic behavior of Microsoft I would say that comment is rather reductionist and omits the behavior and manipulative planning of
Bill Gates. He isn’t sombody to admire and if you look at his history with Steve Jobs you may not admire him either. If you really wnat to break away from Microsoft then try Linux.

G: I'll add that someone else who experienced what a millionaire experienced in youth would not by defintion become a millionaire. A most embaressing whine is that of a man who claims "if I was where he was at that time I'd have been rich too"

Qx: I couldn’t give a damn about being “rich” in monetary terms. Richness is more than one definition. I really don’t envy the rich Gee. I wouldn’t have been as unscrupulous as Bill Gates and how he cornered the licensing agreements.
Qx: It is the norm under capitalism but I couldn't say that it's a natural state of being for humanity.

G:Tribal leaders, elders, ruling matriachs, plutocrats, kings, empires of old? If anything the trend is away from the concentration of such power.

Qx: Really? It looks like the concentration of such power has pretty much been in the hands of their inheritors; capitalists and their management lackeys calling themselves capitalists for quite some time. They even tell us that democracy started at the time of the Industrial Revolution while ignoring much of human history before then.

----------------------------- ABOUT ICELAND-------------------
Qx: I'm pretty skeptical about claims concerning Iceland.

G: Thats that huge FAQ page, I remember visiting it once! Anyway, whilst the essay is interesting it downplays the vital destabilising influence of Norway, who went on to dominate Iceland in the more usual mode of society. Its interesting to consider whether one of the families who evetually have become kings if outside influence did not occur. Im glad the essay quotes D Friedman, who does not deny this.

Qx: How does it downplay “the vital destabilising influence of Norway”? By omission? Perhaps but there’s also Denmark to look at and let’s not forget the greedy amongst the Icelanders themselves. It’s interesting how David Freidman tries to come off with an example that gets laughed at whole-heartedly by most anthropologists I have talked to. Especially Scandinavians I have known who have extensive anthropological backgrounds. Sorry, Gee, there’s no way that medieval Iceland was a capitalistic society then.

Qx: I haven't heard that one. Can this be verified by any cultural anthropologists instead of the Cato Institute?

G: The essays I have read are by someone called Graham Green, I should try and find them for you. If they were to find their way to Cato (they havent) would they suddenly become irrelevant? Would Newtons books on Gravity become irrelavent if published by Cato? Content not institute.

Qx: Whoopsy dazy here Gee! The Cato Institute operates under a corporatist agenda and the corporatsist agenda requires literature that buttresses their arguments and assumptions about human society and human nature. Now Newton’s books on Gravity might not become irrelevent oi published by Cato but I could easily see Cato becoming quite
hesitant about publishing the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The content is therefore very much a relevent factor and tends to reflect the agenda of any institute. Newton’s writings could make Cato look pretty silly.

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