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The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Detroit, and an Epic Quest to Arm an America at War by A. J. Baime
banking crisis, British Empire, Ford paid five dollars a day, Henry Ford's grandson gave labor union leader Walter Reuther a tour of the company’s new, automated factory…, housing crisis, interchangeable parts, Louis Blériot, mass immigration, means of production, Silicon Valley, strikebreaker
It was clear that something drastic was about to occur. And then one day it did. On the morning of May 26, 1937, a union leader named Walter Reuther organized a gathering outside the Rouge’s main entrance, Gate 4, to hand out United Auto Workers union literature—mostly quotes pulled out of Roosevelt’s Wagner Act, which dictated by federal law for the first time that labor could organize. The Wagner Act changed the playing field in Detroit like nowhere else, putting unprecedented amounts of power in the hands of the workingman. It was a typical spring morning in southern Michigan, warm and humid, with a drab, acid-stained sky. As more union men gathered, reporters and photographers showed up, as well as clergymen. Union activity was the source of mounting tension in the Motor City, but nowhere was that tension as fraught with danger as it was at the Rouge.
Why not call the family who pioneered aviation through the 1920s, the family who invented the idea of fully integrated mass production on a grand scale in the first place? When it came to the Ford family, as one government official put it, “nothing was ever impossible.” 8 “Gentlemen, We Must Outbuild Hitler” Spring to Fall 1940 England’s battles, it used to be said, were won on the playing fields of Eton. This plan is put forward in the belief that America’s can be won on the assembly lines of Detroit. —WALTER REUTHER, 1940 AT THE ROUNDTABLE LUNCHEON in Dearborn, with Henry Ford sitting between Edsel and Sorensen and waiters in white coats hovering, the conversation turned to the war in Europe. The situation overseas sent Henry into fits of rage, which he unleashed at the Roundtable. He was “obsessed with the European situation,” according to Sorensen. “It was on his mind night and day. Anything pertaining to Europe would upset him.
The historic “Battle of the Overpass” had begun. For months Henry Ford had stoked the fire in the Rouge. All of the Detroit companies had resisted union activity (General Motors, by this time the largest company in the world, paid $1 million to detective agencies in the mid-1930s to infiltrate the plants and rid them of labor leaders), but Henry had gone a step further. The advent of the union, a keystone of Roosevelt’s New Deal, incited rage in Henry. “Labor unions are the worst thing that ever struck the earth,” he said in a statement in 1937. “Financiers are behind the unions and their object is to kill competition so as to reduce the income of the workers and eventually bring on war. We will never recognize the United Auto Workers union or any other union.” Both General Motors and Chrysler signed union contracts in 1937, leaving Ford as the holdout—union enemy number one.
autonomous vehicles, banking crisis, Bartolomé de las Casas, basic income, Berlin Wall, Bertrand Russell: In Praise of Idleness, Branko Milanovic, cognitive dissonance, computer age, conceptual framework, credit crunch, David Graeber, Diane Coyle, Erik Brynjolfsson, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane: The New Division of Labor, full employment, George Gilder, George Santayana, happiness index / gross national happiness, Henry Ford's grandson gave labor union leader Walter Reuther a tour of the company’s new, automated factory…, income inequality, invention of gunpowder, James Watt: steam engine, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, Kodak vs Instagram, labour market flexibility, labour mobility, low skilled workers, means of production, megacity, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microcredit, minimum wage unemployment, Mont Pelerin Society, Nathan Meyer Rothschild: antibiotics, Occupy movement, offshore financial centre, Paul Samuelson, Peter Thiel, post-industrial society, precariat, RAND corporation, randomized controlled trial, Ray Kurzweil, Ronald Reagan, Second Machine Age, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, Skype, stem cell, Steven Pinker, telemarketer, The Future of Employment, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, universal basic income, wage slave, War on Poverty, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, wikimedia commons, women in the workforce, working poor, World Values Survey
If a law of common progress fails to manifest itself of its own accord, there is nothing to stop us from enacting it ourselves. Indeed, the absence of such a law may well imperil the free market itself. “We have to save capitalism from the capitalists,” Piketty concludes.37 This paradox is neatly summed up by an anecdote from the 1960s. When Henry Ford’s grandson gave labor union leader Walter Reuther a tour of the company’s new, automated factory, he jokingly asked, “Walter, how are you going to get those robots to pay your union dues?” Without missing a beat, Reuther answered, “Henry, how are you going to get them to buy your cars?” So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.
Cheap labor hones your competitive edge and therefore boosts exports. In the words of the famous economist Bernard de Mandeville, “It is manifest, that in a free Nation where Slaves are not allow’d of, the surest Wealth consists in a Multitude of laborious Poor.” Mandeville couldn’t have been wider of the mark. By now we’ve learned that wealth begets more wealth, whether you’re talking about people or about nations. Henry Ford knew it and that’s why he gave his employees a hefty raise in 1914; how else would they ever be able to afford his cars? “Poverty is a great enemy to human happiness; it certainly destroys liberty, and it makes some virtues impracticable, and others extremely difficult,” said the British essayist Samuel Johnson in 1782. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he understood that poverty is not a lack of character.
When in 1926 a group of 32 prominent American businessmen were asked how they felt about a shorter workweek, a grand total of two thought the idea had merit. According to the other 30, more free time would only result in higher crime rates, debts, and degeneration.4 Yet it was none other than Henry Ford – titan of industry, founder of Ford Motor Company, and creator of the Model-T – who, in that same year, became the first to implement a five-day workweek. People called him crazy. Then they followed in his footsteps. A dyed-in-the-wool capitalist and the mastermind behind the production line, Henry Ford had discovered that a shorter workweek actually increased productivity among his employees. Leisure time, he observed, was a “cold business fact.”5 A well-rested worker was a more effective worker. And besides, an employee toiling at a factory from dawn till dusk, with no free time for road trips or joy rides, would never buy one of his cars.
Death of the Liberal Class by Chris Hedges
1960s counterculture, Albert Einstein, Berlin Wall, call centre, clean water, collective bargaining, Columbine, corporate governance, deindustrialization, desegregation, Donald Trump, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Henry Ford's grandson gave labor union leader Walter Reuther a tour of the company’s new, automated factory…, hive mind, housing crisis, Howard Zinn, illegal immigration, Jane Jacobs, Jaron Lanier, Lao Tzu, Pearl River Delta, post scarcity, profit motive, Ralph Nader, Ronald Reagan, strikebreaker, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, Tobin tax, union organizing, Unsafe at Any Speed, Upton Sinclair, WikiLeaks, working poor, Works Progress Administration
Antiwar activists were portrayed as spoiled children of the rich and the middle class who advocated free love, drug use, communism, and social anarchy. The unions remained virulently anticommunist, spoke in the language of militarism and the Cold War, and were largely unsympathetic to the civil-rights and antiwar movements. When student activists protested at the 1965 AFL-CIO Convention in San Francisco, chanting, “Get out of Vietnam!” the delegates taunted them by shouting, “Get a haircut.” AFL-CIO president George Meany ordered the security to “clear the Kookies out of the gallery.” Once the protesters were escorted out, Walter Reuther, president of the United Automobile Workers and a leading force in the AFL-CIO, announced that “protestors should be demonstrating against Hanoi and Peking . . .
Joseph D. Cannon, a labor leader, has been delegated to agitate among the miners of the West; A. W. Ricker, a magazine editor, will try to gain a foothold for the organization among the farmers of the Northwest; James D. Maurer, the Pennsylvania labor agitator, will devote his efforts to the great labor centres in the State, while Professor L. M. Keasbey of the University of Texas and an Australian preacher named Gordon will try to bring the South into line against President Wilson and in favor of a peace which it is generally admitted is such a peace as the Germans would now accept. Some of the people who are listed as “hard workers” in the organization are David Starr Jordan, who is the Treasurer; L. P. Lochner, the man who is generally credited with having persuaded Henry Ford to back the peace ship venture; the Rev.
The Taft-Hartley Act, which is still law, prohibited jurisdictional strikes, wildcat strikes, solidarity or political strikes, and secondary boycotts—union strikes against employers who continue to do business with a firm that is undergoing a strike. The act forbade secondary or “common situs” picketing, closed shops, and monetary donations by unions to federal political campaigns. All union officers were forced to sign noncommunist affidavits or lose their positions. Heavy restrictions were placed on union shops, while individual states were allowed to pass “right-to-work laws” that outlawed union shops. The Federal Government was empowered to obtain legal strikebreaking injunctions if an impending or current strike “imperiled the national health or safety.” The act effectively demobilized the labor movement. It severely curtailed the ability to organize and strike and purged the last vestiges of militant labor leaders from the ranks of unions.
The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer
Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, bank run, big-box store, citizen journalism, cleantech, collateralized debt obligation, collective bargaining, corporate raider, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, deindustrialization, diversified portfolio, East Village, El Camino Real, Elon Musk, family office, financial independence, financial innovation, fixed income, Flash crash, Henry Ford's grandson gave labor union leader Walter Reuther a tour of the company’s new, automated factory…, housing crisis, income inequality, informal economy, Jane Jacobs, life extension, Long Term Capital Management, low skilled workers, Marc Andreessen, margin call, Mark Zuckerberg, market bubble, market fundamentalism, Maui Hawaii, Menlo Park, Neil Kinnock, new economy, New Journalism, obamacare, Occupy movement, oil shock, peak oil, Peter Thiel, Ponzi scheme, Richard Florida, Robert Bork, Ronald Reagan, Ronald Reagan: Tear down this wall, shareholder value, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, single-payer health, smart grid, Steve Jobs, strikebreaker, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the scientific method, too big to fail, union organizing, urban planning, We are the 99%, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, white flight, white picket fence, zero-sum game
Hillsborough and the neighboring counties became conservative, churchgoing country, with antiabortion signs and prophecies of Judgment Day scattered among the highway billboards advertising model homes and liposuction. But those older values went soft in the flat light that stared down like a constant high noon. There were the Luxes, Richard and Anita, from Michigan. Anita’s father had worked in Ford’s River Rouge plant long enough to remember Henry Ford and Walter Reuther, and Anita had a job with the city of Dearborn, until Richard’s architectural firm asked him to start a new Florida office in the eighties. Anita brought her father’s frugality to St. Petersburg and remained a coupon queen. But she went to work at Wachovia Bank, which got heavily into subprime loans after acquiring World Savings, out of California: the loans were called “Pick a Pay,” and the customers were invited to design their own mortgages, choosing an interest rate and a payment plan.
After getting thrown out by Gary and them he came very close to quitting biodiesel, but it turned out to be one of the best things in his life. Otherwise, he never would have come up with the new idea. He would have stayed at Red Birch until he died trying. There was a Henry Ford quote that he’d read somewhere: “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” TAMMY THOMAS Tammy loved doing actions. She loved the bigger stage, the larger movement. Public speaking freaked her out, but in 2009, when the organization joined unions and other groups in rallies for health care reform and other causes all over Ohio and in Washington, Tammy would be at the front of the bus leading the songs and chants. She had a sense of the drama, and how to keep it alive when it was fading. Once, outside a Chase Bank in Columbus, an organizer with a bullhorn kept trying to get a chant of “Si se puede” started, the Spanish version of Obama’s “Yes we can,” but there were hardly any Hispanics in the crowd.
Youngstown steel became the weak man in the industry, first to close and last to reopen during slowdowns. The United Steel Workers union was focused on contract disputes—cost of living allowances, pensions—not the overall health of the companies. The union system in the mills made room for everyone and took care of everyone, as long as you showed up and acted responsible. If a worker lost his hand in a crane accident, he got a job as a bell ringer on the hot-metal cart. Their hard-won security had the workers lulled to sleep, even when they went on strike. A month before Black Monday, the United Steel Workers district manager in Youngstown called local union leaders into his mahogany-paneled office near the Campbell Works to assure them that everything was going to be all right. One of those leaders was Gerald Dickey. The son of a steelworker, in 1968 he got a job at Sheet and Tube straight out of the air force.
The Cold War by Robert Cowley
anti-communist, Berlin Wall, British Empire, cuban missile crisis, defense in depth, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, Doomsday Clock, friendly fire, Henry Ford's grandson gave labor union leader Walter Reuther a tour of the company’s new, automated factory…, means of production, Mikhail Gorbachev, mutually assured destruction, RAND corporation, refrigerator car, Ronald Reagan, South China Sea, Stanislav Petrov, transcontinental railway
The second DAFT episode, weaving domestic politics with world affairs, opens in August 1963, when “the shamed representatives of the new African states went into virtual hiding” at the U.N. because “most Caucasians south of the Sahara to the Union of S. Africa had been wiped out in a gruesome cannabalistic [sic] orgy of Inter-tribal MauMau murder more shocking than anything in history.” The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. (then Adlai Stevenson) “introduced only an insipid motion of censure against the responsible African governments.” So “the U.S. Congress, Press and public, surfeited with our namby-pamby reactive policy (dubbed ‘shrinkmanship’ by ex-governor Tom Dewey), blew up.” Congress demands U.S. withdrawal from the U.N. and impeaches the president. In the new Cabinet, United Auto Workers leader Walter Reuther is secretary of state and Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa is secretary of labor. (In real life, Hoffa, just convicted of jury tampering, was the major target of Attorney General Robert Kennedy's investigation of labor racketeering.)
In Worcester, Massachusetts, and San Gabriel, California, Truman was burned in effigy. In Houston, a Protestant minister became so angry dictating a telegram to the White House that he died of a heart attack. In the hallways of the Senate and House office buildings, Western Union messengers made their deliveries with bushel baskets. According to one tally, of the 44,358 telegrams received by Republicans in Congress during the first forty-eight hours following Truman's announcement, all but 334 condemned him or took the side of MacArthur, and the majority called for Truman's immediate removal from office. A number of prominent liberals—Eleanor Roosevelt, Walter Reuther, Justice William O. Douglas—publicly supported Truman. Further, throughout Europe, MacArthur's dismissal was greeted as welcome news. But most impressive was the weight of editorial opinion at home in support of Truman—in-cluding some staunch Republican newspapers—despite vehement assaults in the McCormick, Hearst, and Scripps Howard papers, as well as the renewed glorification of MacArthur in Henry Luce's Time and Life.
Also like MacArthur, McClellan occasionally made political statements on matters outside the military field. Truman later wrote that Lincoln was patient, for that was his nature, but at long last he was compelled to relieve the Union Army's principal commander. And though I gave this difficulty with MacArthur much wearisome thought, I realized that I would have no other choice myself than to relieve the nation's top field commander…. I wrestled with the problem for several days, but my mind was made up before April 5, when the next incident occurred. On Thursday, April 5, at the Capitol, House Minority Leader Joe Martin took the floor to read a letter from MacArthur that Martin said he felt dutybound to withhold no longer. In February, speaking in Brooklyn, Martin had called for the use of Chiang Kai-shek's troops in Korea and accused the administration of a defeatist policy.
The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism by Joyce Appleby
1919 Motor Transport Corps convoy, agricultural Revolution, anti-communist, Asian financial crisis, asset-backed security, Bartolomé de las Casas, Bernie Madoff, Bretton Woods, BRICs, British Empire, call centre, collateralized debt obligation, collective bargaining, Columbian Exchange, commoditize, corporate governance, creative destruction, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deindustrialization, Deng Xiaoping, deskilling, Doha Development Round, double entry bookkeeping, epigenetics, equal pay for equal work, European colonialism, facts on the ground, failed state, Firefox, fixed income, Ford paid five dollars a day, Francisco Pizarro, Frederick Winslow Taylor, full employment, Gordon Gekko, Henry Ford's grandson gave labor union leader Walter Reuther a tour of the company’s new, automated factory…, Hernando de Soto, hiring and firing, illegal immigration, informal economy, interchangeable parts, interest rate swap, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invention of the steam engine, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, knowledge economy, land reform, Livingstone, I presume, Long Term Capital Management, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Wolf, moral hazard, Parag Khanna, Ponzi scheme, profit maximization, profit motive, race to the bottom, Ralph Nader, refrigerator car, Ronald Reagan, Scramble for Africa, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, South China Sea, South Sea Bubble, special economic zone, spice trade, spinning jenny, strikebreaker, the built environment, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas L Friedman, Thorstein Veblen, total factor productivity, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, transcontinental railway, union organizing, Unsafe at Any Speed, Upton Sinclair, urban renewal, War on Poverty, working poor, Works Progress Administration, Yogi Berra, Yom Kippur War
Beneficent employers from Wedgwood to Watson treated their employees as fellow human beings, but it took unions to secure recognition that manual laborers had legitimate interests of their own in the workplace, even if someone else owned it. Labor and management settled most conflicts peacefully, but strikes continued. President Truman ordered the U.S. Army to take over the railroads to end a 1950 strike. He tried to do the same thing with steelworkers in 1952, but these flare-ups did not halt the spread of union shops across America. Still, prosperity offered the best road to higher wages. The percentage of people living below the poverty level went from one-third in 1950 to 10 percent in 1973.37 What Americans didn’t get was a social safety net like those that were being put in place, or perfected, in Europe. Walter Reuther, head of the United Auto Workers, had taken a world tour for thirty-two months before the war, working around the globe.
Nor have corporate heads been generous to their workers, as Henry Ford once was. Although the rate of American productivity has risen since 2003, wages have not, and benefits have declined in value. Organized labor backs the Employee Free Choice Act, which Republicans blocked with a filibuster in the Senate in 2007. EFCA would protect workers’ right to organize their plant once a majority of them had signed cards expressing their intent to form a union. Statistics indicate that one-quarter of all employers have illegally fired at least one person for union organizing, so unions consider EFCA essential to organizing new plants. Reports of flat wages coupled with escalating incomes in the top tenth of the top 1 percent of American earners have brought much of the public back to the union side. The disgrace into which laissez-faire economic theory fell during the fancy-free years that opened the twenty-first century bodes well for organized labor too, but it will have to contend with the countervailing force of shuttered shops and the monolithic opposition of American business.11 Missing warning signs of disaster apparently is a human trait found in capitalist and noncapitalist countries alike.
The Germans Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach succeeded with a two-cylinder internal-combustion engine. Their competitor Karl Benz put a car into production. He celebrated his three-wheeler’s success by taking his wife on a motor tour in 1888. The American Ransom Olds enthralled the American public in 1901 with his “merry Oldsmobile,” the first car produced in any quantity. At the turn of the century there were fifty start-up companies attracting millions of venture dollars, marks, francs, and pounds, each trying to exploit the potential of placing a machine inside a carriage and letting it rip. The group backing the new Ford Motor Company wanted to produce cars for the rich. Their inventor, Henry Ford, had a different idea. He wanted to figure out how to cut costs, speed up production, make partners out of his salesmen, and supply cars for Mr. Everyman.42 His 161 patents demonstrated Ford’s technical prowess, but his real genius turned out to be in the classic capitalist activities of production, competition, labor management, and marketing.
The Atlantic and Its Enemies: A History of the Cold War by Norman Stone
affirmative action, anti-communist, Ayatollah Khomeini, bank run, banking crisis, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, Bonfire of the Vanities, Bretton Woods, British Empire, central bank independence, Deng Xiaoping, desegregation, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, European colonialism, facts on the ground, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial deregulation, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Frederick Winslow Taylor, full employment, Gunnar Myrdal, Henry Ford's grandson gave labor union leader Walter Reuther a tour of the company’s new, automated factory…, illegal immigration, income per capita, interchangeable parts, Jane Jacobs, Joseph Schumpeter, labour mobility, land reform, long peace, mass immigration, means of production, Mikhail Gorbachev, new economy, Norman Mailer, North Sea oil, oil shock, Paul Samuelson, Ponzi scheme, popular capitalism, price mechanism, price stability, RAND corporation, rent-seeking, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, special drawing rights, Steve Jobs, strikebreaker, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, trade liberalization, trickle-down economics, V2 rocket, War on Poverty, Washington Consensus, Yom Kippur War, éminence grise
Now, the old Second World War associations came alive again: Eisenhower, Montgomery, the French all knew each other well, and they co-operated again. Here was the start of NATO, and of much else, as Atlantic ties multiplied and thickened. Trade unions co-operated in a free association. The American trade unions (the AFL, or American Federation of Labor, had merged in 1946 with the CIO, or Congress of Industrial Organizations) were now strongly antiCommunist (their leader, Walter Reuther, having worked for two years at a Ford plant in Nizhny Novgorod, and thus knowing his Soviet circumstances) and the Western trade unions set up an organization of their own, challenging the older international one, which the Communists had taken over. There were generous provisions for cross-Atlantic student exchanges and scholarships, particularly with Britain, so that the elites could get to know each other, or even that foreign students in the United States would go back to their own countries and teach the natives how to do things.
It had quite long origins: even in the 1830s, Stendhal, for instance, has throw-away and dismissive lines about American business and dollar worship, and the Teamsters, a famous union mainly on the docks, took their name from the mule-drivers of yore. In the 1850s Sam Colt was able to assemble a first-class gun in thousands, because he made each part the same, to within a thirty-second of an inch to start with, and then a five-hundredth, so that they were interchangeable, and Linus Yale, of locks fame, goes back to that period. Machines were soon made with interchangeable parts, and the tools that produced these became an American specialty, keeping British war industries going in both of the world wars. Henry Ford famously transferred this to motor cars that were therefore cheap. Various explanations have been offered: unskilled immigrant labour, needing to be given simple and repetitive tasks within their capacity; expensive labour, putting pressure on firms to diminish their costs by use of machinery; practical education, such as was plentifully on offer; the peculiarly classless atmosphere in the USA, where ordinary workmen would co-operate on friendly terms with an owner when it came to reporting faults and taking an interest in machines, whereas elsewhere workmen regarded them as an enemy and in Britain were notoriously reluctant to accept them, because they would be tended by fewer workmen and might depress wage rates.
The Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, was an old trade unionist, whose ways ran very counter to those of the old imperial Foreign Office, but he inspired much loyalty and admiration. Though born illegitimate, and lacking schooling, he was literate (using phrases such as ‘with alacrity’) because, like so many of his class at the time, he could and would make use of the after-hours workers’ education libraries and self-help mechanisms without embarrassment. He was an astute trade union leader, and that gave him some insight into the ways of Communists, who would exploit an industrial crisis for their own political ends rather than for the workers’ own good. Bevin ran his machine well at the Foreign Office, and he needed to, because his in-tray was a very gloomy one. Was Great Britain bulldog or bullfrog, ran one question. After 1945 the Western empires fell apart. The Japanese had already broken their prestige, the ‘charisma’ that had kept, say, British India going.