Last November 13, I placed this book near the computer, with the intention of posting the following excerpt. Then, on November 16, the sad news came of the passing of Milton Friedman. So here, finally...
SOCIALIST PLATFORM OF 1928
Herewith the economic planks of the Socialist party platform of 1928, along with an indication in parentheses of how these planks have fared. The list that follows includes every economic plank, but not the full language of each.
1. "Nationalization of our natural resources, beginning with the coal mines and water sites, particularly at Boulder Dam and Muscle Shoals." (Boulder Dam, renamed Hoover Dam, and Muscle Shoals are now both federal government projects.)
2. "A publicly owned giant power system under which the federal government shall cooperate with the states and municipalities in the distribution of electrical energy
to the people at cost." (Tennessee Valley Authority) [Remember how Sen. Barry Goldwater was crucified for proposing the privatization of the TVA in his 1964 presidential campaign? Ronald Reagan also tripped up on the TVA in the 1976 Tennessee presidential primary.]
3. "National ownership and democratic management of railroads and other means of transportation and communication." (Railroad passenger service is completely nationalized through Amtrak. Some freight service is nationalized through Conrail. The FCC controls communications by telephone, telegraph, radio, and television.) [In the early 1980s, under the Reagan administration, telephone service was deregulated.]
4. "An adequate national program for flood control, flood relief, reforestation, irrigation, and reclamation." (Government expenditures for these purposes are currently in the many billions of dollars.)
5. "Immediate governmental relief of the unemployed by the extension of all public works and a program of long range planning of public works..." (In the 1930s, WPA and PWA were a direct counterpart; now, a wide variety of other programs are.) "All persons thus employed to be engaged at hours and wages fixed by bona-fide labor unions." (The Davis-Bacon and Walsh-Healey Acts require contractors with government contracts to pay "prevailing wages," generally interpreted as highest union wages.)
6. "Loans to states and municipalities without interest for the purpose of carrying on public works and the taking of such other measures as will lessen widespread misery." (Federal grants in aid to states and local municipalities currently total tens of billions of dollars a year.) [This amount, of course, is much greater in 2007 than it was when this was written in 1979.]
7. "A system of unemployment insurance." (Part of Social Security system.)
8. "The nation-wide extension of public employment agencies in cooperation with city federations of labor." (U. S. Employment Service and affiliated state employment services administer a network of about 2,500 local employment offices.)
9. "A system of health and accident insurance and of old age pensions as well as unemployment insurance." (Part of Social Security system.)
10. "Shortening the workday" and "Securing to every worker a rest period of no less than two days in each week." (Legislated by wages and hours laws that require overtime for more than forty hours of work per week.)
11. "Enacting of an adequate federal anti-child labor amendment." (Not achieved as [constitutional] amendment, but essence incorporated in various legislative acts.)
12. "Abolition of the brutal exploitation of convicts under the contract system and substitution of a cooperative organization of industries in penitentiaries and workshops for the benefit of convicts and their dependents." (Partly achieved, partly not.)
13. "Increase of taxation on high income levels, of corporation taxes and inheritance taxes, the proceeds to be used for old age pensions and other forms of social insurance." (In 1928, highest personal income tax rate, 25 percent; in 1978, 70 percent; in 1928, corporate tax rate, 12 percent; in 1978, 48 percent; in 1928, top federal estate tax rate, 20 percent; in 1978, 70 percent.) [Under the Reagan administration in the early 1980s, there were tax rate reductions. The top personal income tax rate, e.g., was cut from 70 percent to 28 percent. This rate, to be sure, has since gone back up.]
14. "Appropriation by taxation of the annual rental value of all land held for speculation." (Not achieved in this form, but property taxes have risen drastically.)
~~ Milton and Rose Friedman, Free To Choose: A Personal Statement (New York and London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980, 1979), pp. 311-312.