The Charlotte News

Saturday, November 13, 1937


Site Ed. Note: If you take a look here, here and here, you will readily understand the hypotheses put forward by Cash in the first, fourth—and maybe, too, the third--pieces of this date, regarding that age-old complexity of the economy—that portion of society, as we have explained, we have yet fully to grasp ourselves, consequently requiring always that we consult Cretin on the subject to better fill in our grasp of it.

If the first three cited parts either disturb you unduly or, for whatever reason, prevent you from, for the life of you, gleaning our meaning, then take a look here at this single page, and we are certain you will understand fully the problems inherent, not only in the economy of 1937, but today as well.

You see, you cannot just expect the potash to make the cotton easier to pick, to produce more cotton, better and faster, to have a bigger cotton crop, a bigger cart to market, a larger take from the cotton buyers who use the cotton at home and abroad to make those necessaries on which we depend for shelter against the winter drafts and briar-patch scratches of summer in the woods, ignoring in the process the coincidences and vicissitudes of the weather--, in order to purchase that new Chevy, with its many creature comforts, including shock-proof steering; and then expect thereby everything is just going to be a wide wonderful world of jakey color.

It is likely, instead, ultimately, somewhere down someone’s line, if not your own or that of your own line, in such short-nosed focus, to wind up all too wild and quite unwonderful, not as just some movieola make-believe, but reality, as cold as it gets, donning death itself out in the jungles of some far distant exotic island, where you fought your last for your very existence, the lady back home awaiting your return, as she drives that ’37 Chevy down the pine-needled drive, again to the market, past the store where you bought for her that gingham dress—remember, back in the spring of ’39, when things were still good, still in that dream?—and the fall leaves crunching quietly under the big bloated tires, the ones they made to keep the ruts out of the old clay back in the beginning of time, along the Appian Way, the way to Rome, now, departed, she on her way to get the rationed bit of goods she can from the market in the sunny morning, still in her gloves, still in her dream, you however now dying in the marsh, from your wounds, delivered in heated pierce from the ones you didn’t even know, who bore you no grudge personally, and to whom you bore no grudge, personally, save that they were of a foreign culture to your understanding and you likewise to them, she, now, as you fret in gasps to focus on the clear blue above you, and the faint sound, the only sound you may hear now, that of a wave you cannot any longer see, and think of her there at the market, buying her morning coffee, but knowing, understanding now, that she will soon, despite all your voyages, despite all your dreams, despite all your gainsaying, gainpain notions to the contrary, be clutching only that miserably dreaded triangular furled flag made of cotton, the ones so many back home had already felt within the gloves, burying you deep in the soil, with only your blood-stained memory for a life left behind.

It's Impossible, Homer

The call of Homer Martin, international president of the United Automobile Workers, made to the UAW locals to take direct action to lower the cost of living is understandable. Nearly everybody wants to buy low and sell high. The industrial worker would like to sell his services at a high rate and get the farmer's food cheap. (Mr. Martin especially wanted something done about the price of meat.) The farmer would like to sell high and buy all manufactured products low.

But what about the wages of the people working in the meat packing plants? Surely Mr. Martin doesn't want those wages kept down or reduced. Yet how is it possible to pay good wages there and to everybody who handles meat all along the line and still keep the price of meat low? You answer that one, Homer.

And if the farmer gets little for his foodstuffs and the farmer's workers get little, how will they be able to buy the automobiles the automobile workers make? The automobile workers had some strikes recently and the prices of automobiles are higher this year. A bale of cotton at eight cents a pound sells for $40. How many bales would it require to buy an automobile?

Mr. Martin can't buy low from everybody else and sell high to everybody else. Nobody can do that.

Only This Is Wonderful

The only thing astonishing about the decision of House farm leaders to abandon the notion of restoring the so-called processing taxes as a means of raising revenue to subsidize farmers, is that they should have ever considered doing it at all. For one thing such taxes have been flatly and unequivocally declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. That in itself ought to have been a bar complete, but of course it wasn't--for before now we have seen the New Deal calmly restoring by indirection practices which the Court had called illegal.

But if legality couldn't keep the farm leaders from considering the restoration of these taxes, plain self-interest ought to have done so. Nothing is more certain about these taxes than that they would considerably increase consumers' prices. That's what they did before. And, whatever the cause, consumers' prices are plainly too high already. Increase them a little for the benefit of the farmers and--the farmers will find the cities solidly arrayed against them. And in a battle to the finish between farm and city, the farm is unlikely to win, for the simple reason that the farmers are now a minority of any part of our population.

The Mystery Remains

More than a hundred years ago, the aging Goethe, in yellow waistcoat and blue frock with brass buttons, portentously informed the humble Eckermann that the universe was a mystery and probably would remain one. Sententious? Of course. And yet coming from him it sounded somehow less than sententious, for he had never been one to utter platitudes. Still, they laughed at him a good deal in the late nineteenth century and in the early twentieth. There was science steadily flinging back the shadows, you see, and someday probably there would be no more shadows to penetrate.

But we are considerably less sure these days. One by one many of the old certainties of science have been either swept away or enormously modified. Who remembers the "nebular hypothesis" now? Where is the universe of Kepler? And even Darwin or Mendel sit so [indiscernible words] their thrones as they did once, though no reputable scientist anywhere is yet ready to pass utterly beyond them. And now comes Dr. K. Newton Harvey of Princeton University to destroy the theory to which all biologists have subscribed, that the final dwelling place of life was in the sticky white stuff called protoplasm--to break it down, to tell us that it is made up of "cells, bits of fat, granules of colored matter, proteins, threads, hollow bubbles, nuclei, salts, and a complex of other things," and that "not one of these can be considered as 'living' save insofar as they are necessary to the continuance of life."

Great is science, have no doubt of it. But as Conrad had it, it is in the last analysis hardly more than a pinpoint of light in an impenetrable sea of darkness. Beyond it the mystery stretches illimitably away.

Dull, But Important

It's of considerable importance, especially to the people who like to build houses, this business the President discussed with William Green Thursday. It's about an annual wage for artisans in the building trades, and it doesn't, we admit, sound like a very engaging topic. All the same, it's important to the people who like to build houses--and therefore is vital to the construction industry and the prosperity of the country as a whole.

The case of the annual wage vs. the per diem wage comes down to this: whether a painter, let's say, shall be paid $8 or $10 a day and work perhaps 100 days out of the year, or be paid $5 a day for some 250 days' work. To the painter it would mean that he would have to do more work and accept a cut in his wage scale, but at the end of the year he would have several hundred dollars extra to show for it. To the people who like to build houses, it would mean cheaper building costs and therefore, the theory runs, more houses and better houses built. To the country at large it would mean boom times in the construction industry.

There are, as the unconvinced Mr. Green points out, difficulties. Artisans are hired by the job, frequently by different contractors. A cut in wage scale is anathema in union circles. To all this, we assent; but there is this question which will not down: Is it better to build more houses at lower wage scales or fewer houses at higher wage scales? We cannot speak for the building trades, but the preference of the people who like to build houses is unmistakable.

Stupid, If Not Deplorable

The city commission of Jacksonville, Fla., has decreed that every employee of the city, down to and including the street sweepers, must salute the American flag and sign an oath of allegiance to the national government, under pain of being fired.

This sort of thing is supposed to be patriotic. But for the main it is simply idiotic. And besides being idiotic, it is probably about as unpatriotic a thing as Americans could be guilty of. There is not the slightest reason on earth that we can think of why a street sweeper should have to take a special oath of allegiance to the United States. And if there were--what good does anybody suppose it could possibly do? Catch the radicals? They'd salute and sign anything, and laugh to themselves while doing it.

And on the other hand, it is just another move toward goose-stepping--like those fool laws requiring school teachers and schoolchildren to salute the flag. And goose-stepping has not been the essence of Americanism--historically, at least.

An Inside Job

Elder Frank McNinch has made a bold and salutary beginning at cleaning up the communications mess. His order Thursday warning parties "not at interest" against barging into cases under consideration by the Federal Communications Commission ought not to have been necessary, since this is a quasi-judicial body and is supposed to have about it some of the exalted atmosphere of a court of justice. But evidently it was necessary, as the issuance of the order shows; and that being so, it is interesting to speculate on the identities of these crass parties "not at interest."

They were not, we feel sure, unfriends of the administration. If political influence counted with the commission, the lack of political influence would be no sort of entrée. And they were not, we are almost willing to guarantee, persons in some obscure political capacity. Obscurity doesn't count. Nor could they have been, by the use of the term "not at interest," applicants and petitioners with legitimate business to transact.

Who were they, then? Why, about all that is left is persons influential in the administration: in fine, administrationites. Hence, in putting Elder McNinch on their trail, the President has really set one administrationite to catch another--and isn't that sort of funny or a commentary on politics or something like that?

Site Ed. Note: The rest of life’s little predictions, big and small, of the day are here. But, remember, no one, not even the vaunted Ms. Dixon whose death, perhaps, saved us from World War III, at least for the time being, has a crystal ball, only a peer into the past, and, with varying doses of art and the ability to convince the less artistic, of expectations of that which is desirable to them, be it positive or negative, a peer into the future from the present. But if someone, such as a self-proclaimed prophet of the age as Ms. Dixon again comes on the landscape, predicting death and political whimsy, we best take them as a grain of salt, and dismiss them with laughter, even derision, for they know not what they do, but are suffering little children, and they suffer the little children who get to know them as prophecies fulfilled by expectation and desire for that which they know not.

Ourselves, we only ask questions, to attempt to forestall the worst; we do not make predictions. For predictions are only fulfilled by the way we behave, good or bad, not the way we predict.

For, like all "witchcraft" or "black magic", all "prophecy" of the sort in which Ms. Dixon darkly engaged to fulfill only her own self-fulfilling desire for fame built on hucksterism, salesmanship, her nebulously credulous entourage and retinue of stargazers, requires, always, for fulfillment, the Army of N. Virginia.

And, we like the idea of a police chief who reads Shakespeare with frequency and delight. In fact, it ought to be a requirement for the position of any burg, big or small: start with Measure for Measure. It stood Mr. Lincoln fairly well, we think.

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