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Each month, BuzzFlash is privileged to have Air America progressive talk show host Thom Hartmann review a progressive book or DVD exclusively for BuzzFlash. See other DVDs and progressive premiums at the BuzzFlash Progressive Marketplace.

The Republican Great Depression of 1929-1939 has been an unending source of mystery, fascination, and disinformation for the past four generations. As you’re reading these words, there’s a huge push on by conservative think-tanks and wealthy political activists to reinvent the history, suggesting that Roosevelt prolonged the Depression or that New Deal programs were ineffective. At the same time, folks like David Sirota are valiantly pushing back with actual facts and statistics, showing that Roosevelt’s New Deal was startlingly effective, particularly when compared with the Republican policies of 1920-1929 that formed the bubble that crashed in 1929, and the Republican failures to deal with its consequences during the last three years of the Herbert Hoover administration (1929-1933).

To really understand what brought about the great crash, however, it’s most useful to read an historical narrative written by one of the world’s preeminent economists when that world-changing event was still fresh in his and his readers’ minds. The Great Crash is that book, first written by Galbraith in 1953-54 (and published in 1955) and updated for modern readers in 1997 (the author is now deceased).

Reading The Great Crash is an eerie experience; it's as if somebody had taken the Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush years – particularly the W. Bush years – and written a screenplay about them, just changing the names. The parallels between the Republican zeal for deregulation and "free" markets of the bubble 1920s and the bubble 1990s and 2000s are shocking, particularly given that Ben Bernanke's PhD thesis was on the Republican Great Depression, and there is no shortage of so-called "experts" on the topic in the Bush administration and both political parties.

Still, in retrospect, there it is. And it's damn near impossible to read this book without coming to the conclusion that, when the current generation knowledgable of the Republican Great Depression of 2007-201? dies off, as the generation that remembered the RGD of 1929 has largely recently died off, history will again repeat itself. There will always be greedy men and women, and there will, in all probability, always be Republicans trying to elevate greed into a noble philosophical construct.

There was even, in late 1929, the era's own Bernie Madoff – a fellow by the name of Clarence Hatry. All the players are there. An incompetent president, regulators willing to look the other way, libertarian ideologues who think they'll change the world for the better (and get rich at the same time), Democrats and free-market skeptics yelling, a hype-driven press, insiders making out, average people getting wiped out. It's all there.

And, perhaps most interesting, because this is history, we get to find out how it turned out, what helped and hurt, and extrapolate from that what we should be doing now.

The Great Crash is a quick Saturday afternoon read at a comfortable and well-written 194 pages. It's difficult to put down once you start; it reads like a novel. And you'll be infuriated, entertained, and – ultimately – enlightened and better prepared to deal with the further downturn that is certainly coming.

Thom Hartmann is a New York Times bestselling Project Censored Award winning author and host of a daily talk show on Air America Radio. You can learn more about Thom Hartmann at http://www.thomhartmann.com and find out what stations broadcast his program.


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Each month, BuzzFlash is privileged to have Air America progressive talk show host Thom Hartmann review a progressive book or DVD exclusively for BuzzFlash. See other DVDs and progressive premiums at the BuzzFlash Progressive Marketplace.

Bill Ayers is doing interviews with Chris Matthews, John McCain based his campaign on his Vietnam War service, and Barack Obama is constantly compared with JFK or RFK. As much as time has passed, the Sixties are still with us.

It was a time when the middle class in America experienced the peak of its power. My wife worked her way through college working as a waitress in a Howard Johnson's restaurant; I did the same with a $2.35 (as I recall) an hour job at a radio station. College was accessible, jobs were plentiful, the economy worked, and "60 Minutes" actually did investigative reporting that had corporate American quaking in their boots. It was a time of prosperity for the "middle" not seen since the 1770s, as well as a time of social ferment that bore striking parallels to the Founders' generation.

Along those lines, although right wingers had a disconcerting habit of murdering progressive icons (and shooting students, as at Kent State), youth and minorities were demanding rights, one of the most popular things going was to recite Jefferson's words from the Declaration of Independence (particularly that part about our having an "obligation!" to overthrow oppressive governments, and the established power structure of the day seemed totally clueless.

The power attained by the middle class and their children -- it was those 15-30 who were driving the whole thing, in large part -- was unprecedented. As was the conservative backlash, with people like William F. Buckley openly pointing out how "dangerous" such an empowered middle class apparently was, setting up the 1997 words of Alan Greenspan to The Wall Street Journal about how his job as Fed Chairman was, in large part, to keep the economy from getting so good that a strong (and, thus, challenging to the establishment) middle class would re-emerge. (Greenspan said he had to maintain a certain "minimum threshold of worker insecurity" to keep society stable.)

If you lived through it, you know the power of the times. If not, you need to. Which brings us to Bill Eppridge's brilliant book, viewing the Sixties through the lens of the life and work and campaigns of Robert F. Kennedy, "A Time It Was."

This is the first time I've ever recommended what is generally referred to as a "coffee table book," but this is a must-have for anybody who lived through or wants to know about the political side of the Sixties, and the text is every bit as rich as the photos.

Bill Eppridge took the iconic photo of Robert Kennedy as he died in the arms of a busboy, but the book is so very, very much more than that. Pete Hammill's introduction (titled "The Last Campaign") is an evocative, thoughtful, and brilliant first-person story of the times and places of RFK and the era. The photos by Bill Eppridge capture Bobby in a way that I've never, ever seen before. The book both fills your heart with pride and honor for what was, and brings tears to your eyes for what could have been.

But most important, it captures the vitality and power of a fully economically empowered - and thus politically empowered - middle class. Kids could pay for college with a summer job (I did radio, picked apples in northern Michigan, pumped gas, and worked as a dishwasher and cook in a Bob's Big Boy restaurant). Adults could raise a family with a single income (my dad raised four boys with a job at a tool-and-die shop, had full health care and a pension until the day he died, paid off his house and car, and lived the American Dream that, since Reagan, has slipped away from most working people).

It was a time of power, a time of change, a time of revolution -- in a very real sense (witness the women's and civil rights movements, and the revolts in the Castro, not to mention our shutting down campuses and cities with anti-war protests). It reshaped America.

This marvelous book is not only history in your hand, it is inspiration, transformation, and love. It's essential viewing and reading. 

Thom Hartmann is a New York Times bestselling Project Censored Award winning author and host of a daily talk show on Air America Radio. You can learn more about Thom Hartmann at http://www.thomhartmann.com and find out what stations broadcast his program.


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Each month, BuzzFlash is privileged to have Air America progressive talk show host Thom Hartmann review a progressive book or DVD exclusively for BuzzFlash. See other DVDs and progressive premiums at the BuzzFlash Progressive Marketplace.

I read two books yesterday. The first was Joseph Tainter’s “The Collapse of Complex Societies,” a dense, profound, and insightful academic/archeological discussion of why civilizations have a stubborn habit of crashing. Following that, I read Dmitry Orlov’s “Reinventing Collapse,” about how the USSR collapsed and how the US is on the verge of doing the same – for many of the same reasons – any day now. What Tainter did for academics and archeology wonks (I confess I’m one), Orlov did for you, me, and Joe The Plumber.

Published in Thom Hartmann


Each month, BuzzFlash is privileged to have Air America progressive talk show host Thom Hartmann review a progressive book or DVD exclusively for BuzzFlash. See other DVDs and progressive premiums at the BuzzFlash Progressive Marketplace.

Given this point in the election cycle, the title of this book, Obama’s Challenge: America’s Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency, is easily misunderstood as having to do with the challenges Barack Obama faces in becoming president. That’s not its topic, however.

Instead, Kuttner assumes (for the purposes of the book) that Obama is already president or has just won the presidency, and shares with him – and all of us – the vital and important lessons to be learned from both highly successful transformational presidents (Lincoln, FDR, JFK, LBJ) and Clinton’s tragic incompetence at producing true and meaningful transformation while instead settling for political “triangulation.”

The stories of the transformational presidents are startling, both in the power of personality these men brought to office and in the similarities of the techniques they used. They were all true to their principles, enlisted the aid of the American public, and were highly pragmatic. They were all committed to true change.

He also explodes a number of myths about these presidents, particularly FDR, who had been elected on a platform that was principally focused on balancing the budget and cutting federal spending.

Kuttner takes on the conservative frames that the government is usually incompetent, that private markets work better, that we’re out of resources, that tax cuts are the only thing government can do worth a damn, and that for Democrats to win they need to talk more like Republicans. All are demonstrably false.

He lays out the characteristics both of the times and of Obama himself that make it possible he could be a truly transformational president on the order of a Lincoln or Roosevelt.

And he lays out a series of specific programs and policies – tried and true, by and large – that could bring the nation back from the financial, societal, and international disaster 26 years of conservative rule (including Clinton’s) have brought us.

At a mere 200 pages, this is a book you can read in a weekend without difficulty. And yet it’ll probably more powerfully transform your understanding of American politics, progressive economics, and the role of leadership in saving a nation than any other book currently in print.

Even should – G-d forbid – John McCain win the presidency, this is an important and vital book that all Americans should read, because it lays out a roadmap for progressive change that is now so necessary for our democratic republic to survive.

Thom Hartmann is a New York Times bestselling Project Censored Award winning author and host of a daily talk show on Air America Radio. You can learn more about Thom Hartmann at http://www.thomhartmann.com and find out what stations broadcast his program.


Published in Thom Hartmann


Each month, BuzzFlash is privileged to have Air America progressive talk show host Thom Hartmann review a progressive book or DVD exclusively for BuzzFlash. See other DVDs and progressive premiums at the BuzzFlash Progressive Marketplace.

If you want to understand what’s really behind the current goings-on in the former Soviet state of Georgia, immediately buy Michael Klare’s DVD, produced by the Media Education Foundation, “Blood and Oil.”

America’s romance with oil began in the 1860s, when Colonel Drake drilled the first well in Titusville, Pennsylvania, finding a new and cheap replacement (when refined) to replace whale oil, which was spiking in price as a lamp oil because of the overfishing of whales. Within a few decades it would also be heating homes and powering automobiles and, later, trains and electric power stations.

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July 2008 -- Thom's First Father/Son Review

"The Bridge at the Edge of the World"

By James Gustave Speth

Reviewed by Thom and Justin Hartmann

The world’s population, CO2 emissions, and pollution rates are in an almost vertical climb. Half of the world’s tropical and temperate forests are gone. Eighty percent of the world’s fisheries have been decimated. Since the Industrial Revolution over 20,000 species have gone extinct at rates not seen in 65 million years (since the dinosaurs disappeared). Half the wetlands and a third of the world’s mangroves are gone. Twenty percent of the corals are gone and another 20 percent are severely threatened. And the list goes on... These are the current trends and figures concerning our global environmental health. If our culture leaves our environmental policies and practices at the current rate and status, there will be no habitable planet for our grandchildren… period.

Published in Thom Hartmann


Darfur Now (DVD)
Reviewed by Thom Hartmann

As the title would imply, "Darfur Now" is a movie about the situation in Darfur.

Since I returned from the region only a few weeks ago, much of the footage was of tragically familiar scenes - refugees, burned villages, disease, starvation, and the haunting echoes of mass rape and murder. I walked through camps that looked identical to what is in the movie, heard stories from mostly women (the men were either murdered or the few survivors fled) of how their husbands and children were murdered in front of them, and felt the helplessness, anger, and, frankly, fear that the Janjaweed or the Sudanese Army may show up at any moment and begin the killing anew.

Published in Thom Hartmann

by Thom Hartmann

Watch the trailer: The 11th Hour Trailer, click here

How bad are things? Worse than you ever could have imagined.

How good can they become? Better than you ever could have imagined.

Al Gore's film is about global warming and the life of Al Gore. Leonardo DiCaprio's new movie, "The 11th Hour," is about Everything.

This movie moves seamlessly from the global environmental crisis, to species loss, to crises in energy, trash, and toxins. The breadth is breathtaking.

The nearly overwhelming first half of the movie builds a compelling case that the world is, indeed, in its Eleventh Hour - just short of the blackness and end of midnight, when the human race itself could face extinction.

And then comes the second half of the movie, which explores the causes of these problems -- most found embedded deeply within our culture itself -- and a wide range of possible solutions.

Leonardo DiCaprio is a master filmmaker, brilliant narrator, and brings to life information that would -- without the startling imagery, his compelling voice, and a relentless pacing worthy of Scorsese -- otherwise simply be overwhelming.

Throughout the movie -- whose website (complete with an excellent trailer) is at http://wip.warnerbros.com/11thhour/ - you meet a wide array of "experts" in a startling variety of disciplines, from Stephen Hawking to Mikhail Gorbachev to ... er ... me.

If you're interested in the future of the planet (in the present, really, too), if you know somebody who's skeptical that we're facing a crisis, or if you want to share with others an amazing, engaging, action-packed thriller of a movie, buy a copy of "The 11th Hour." And get an extra few copies (they're inexpensive) for holiday and birthday gifts, to share at your office or workplace and to give to friends and neighbors.

Thom Hartmann is a New York Times bestselling author and host of "The Thom Hartmann Program" syndicated nationally by Air America Radio. His website is ThomHartmann.com. You can find information on how to listen to his program (online if you don't have a radio station that carries it) and read more about his great books.

Also watch: Thom Hartmann's 11th Hour time capsule message by clicking here.

Disc #1 -- The 11th Hour
1. Infected Organism [5:21]
2. Out of Balance [5:13]
3. Alternatives to Sunlight [5:19]
4. Resource Extraction [3:17]
5. Climate Change [6:01]
6. Scientific Evidence [3:33]
7. Dumping Grounds [5:48]
8. Soil Degradation [4:37]
9. Economic Interests [5:36]
10. Consumer Commodities [5:38]
11. Extinction Crisis [5:04]
12. Sustainable Design [3:16]
13. Waste Free [4:48]
14. Energy Is the Key [5:01]
15. Passion for Place [6:35]
16. Task of Our Generation [5:32]
17. End Credits [4:00]

More, from Barnes and Noble:

"Co-directors Leila Conners Peterson and Nadia Conners conduct interviews with some of the world's leading scientists and creative thinkers in a film that asks whether or not it's too late to avoid the ecological disaster that looms ominously on the horizon. In addition to exploring how the human race has arrived at this crucial point in history, conversations with fifty leading thinkers, scientists, and leaders including former Soviet Prime Minister Mikhail Gorbachev, world-renowned scientist Stephen Hawking, and sustainable design experts Bruce Mau and William McDonough to find out just what mankind can do about the most pressing issues of our time."


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Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism
by Ha-Joon Chang
Reviewed by Thom Hartmann

The fundamental myth of the Milton/Thomas Friedman neoliberal cons is that in a "flat world" everybody is not only able to compete with everybody else freely, but should be required to. It sounds nice. America trades with - and competes with trade with and for - the European Union. France against Germany. England against Australia.

But wait a minute. In such a "free" trade competition, who will win when the match-up is Canada versus the Solomon Islands? Germany versus Bulgaria? Zimbabwe versus Italy?

There are two glaringly obvious flaws in the so-called "free trade" theories expounded by neoliberal philosophers like Friedrich Von Hayek and Milton Friedman, and promoted relentlessly in the popular press by (very wealthy) hucksters like Thomas Friedman.

First, "infant" economies - countries that are only beginning to get on their feet - cannot "compete" with "mature" economies. They really only have two choices - lose to their more mature competitors and stand on the hungry and cold outside of the world of trade (as we see with much of Africa), or be colonized and exploited by the dominant corporate forces within the mature economies (as we see with Shell Oil and Nigeria, or historically with the "banana republics" of Central and South America and Asia and, literally, the banana corporations).

Second, the way "infant" economies become "mature" economies is not via free trade. It never has been and never will be. Whether it be the mature economies of Britain (which began to seriously grow in the early 1600s), America (late 1700s), Japan (1800s), or Brazil (1900s), in every single case, worldwide, without exception, the economic strength and maturity of a nation came about as a result not of governments "standing aside" or "getting out of the way" but instead of direct government participation in and protection of the "infant" industries and economy.

The modern history of protectionist trade policies goes back to ancient Rome, stretches through the reigns of a series of King Henry's in the UK, through Alexander Hamilton's tenure as Secretary of the Treasury under George Washington, through the trade policies of Dwight D. Eisenhower and JFK, and continues today with China, Korea, the Middle East, and the rapidly-growing Brazilian economy.

The way economies go from being underdeveloped, anemic, and uncompetitive to becoming developed, strong, and aggressively competitive is simple and straightforward: government steps in.

Government first determines which industries are worth growing and which are not. Having a strong machine-tool industry in the United States both creates good jobs and is in our strategic interest - machine tools are necessary for virtually every other form of heavy manufacturing (and even light/sophisticated/electronics fabrication), and being dependent on Italy or China or Japan for them is crazy. On the other hand, do we really need to spend the resources of We The People to encourage and grow a sandalwood-carving industry (actually a substantial industry in Thailand) when we neither grow sandalwood nor have a long and historic tradition of carving it into both artistic and utilitarian forms?

Once "strategic" and "important" industries are identified, government both encourages and protects their domestic growth in a variety of ways. These include subsidies, legal protections (like patent laws), import tariffs to protect against foreign competition, strong industry regulation to ensure quality, and development of infrastructure to ease manufacture, distribution, sales, and use of the product.

As Ha-Joon Chang points out in his brilliant book Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism," in 1933 a clothing manufacturing company decided to branch out into the manufacture of automobiles. They had everything going against them - their nation had no really serious domestic auto industry, the company had no experience with the product, and other nations (particularly the US and Great Britain) were already making world-class vehicles that had captured most of the world's markets.

But the company caught the imagination of its country's leadership, and a ministry of trade decided to help it along. Government subsidies helped the company develop their first car. Decades of high import tariffs protected it from foreign competition as it grew into a serious contender. Domestic content laws both made sure the company used parts made within the country, and also guaranteed that domestic competitors would have to, thus building a strong base of domestic companies supportive of an auto industry, from tires to plastic components to precision machine tools and electronics.

In 1939 the country even kicked out both GM and Ford from sales within the country, and the nation's single wholly-owned bank bailed out the struggling textile manufacturer as it moved relentlessly forward in the development of an automobile.

That company, originally known as The Toyoda Automatic Loom Company, is today known as Toyota, and manufactures the infamous Lexus that Tom Friedman mistakenly thought was successful because the world is "flat" and trade is "free." In fact, the success of the Lexus (and the Prius and every other Toyota) is entirely traceable to massive government intervention in the markets by Japan over a fifty-year period that continues to this very day.

To illustrate how infant industries must be nurtured by government until they're ready to compete in global marketplaces, Chang points to the example of his own son, Jin-Gyu. At the age of six, the young boy is legally able to work and produce an income in many countries of the world. He's an "asset" that could be "producing income" right now. But Chang, being a good parent, intends to deny his son the short-term "opportunity" to learn a skill like street-sweeping or picking pockets or shining shoes (typical "trades" for six year olds in many countries) so he may grow up instead to become an engineer or physician - or fully reach whatever other potential his temperament, abilities, and inclination dictate.

Somehow this is lost on Thomas Friedman and the whole "free trade" bunch. As Chang writes, "[E]ven from a purely materialistic viewpoint, I would be wiser to invest in my son's education than gloat over the money I save by not sending him to school. After all, if I were right [in sending him out to work at age six], Oliver Twist would have been better off pick-pocketing for Fagin, rather than being rescued by the misguided Good Samaritan Mr. Brownlow, who deprived the boy of his chance to remain competitive in the labor market.

"Yet this absurd line of argument is in essence how free-trade economists justify rapid, large-scale trade liberalization in developing countries. They claim that developing country producers need to be exposed to as much competition as possible right now, so that they have the incentive to raise their productivity in order to survive. Protection, by contrast, only creates complacency and sloth. The earlier the exposure, the argument goes, the better it is for economic development."

But history proves the free-traders wrong. Every time, without exception, a developing nation is forced (usually by the IMF, WTO, and/or World Bank) to unilaterally throw open all their doors to "free trade," the result is a disaster. Local industries, still in their developmental stages, are either wiped out or bought out and shut down by foreign behemoths. Wages collapse. The "Middle Class" becomes the working poor. And in the process the largest corporations and wealthiest individuals in the world become larger, stronger, and more wealthy. It's "Monopoly" (the game) on steroids.

Even worse, opening a country up to "free trade" weakens its democratic institutions. Because the role of government is diminished - and in a democratic republic "government" is another word for "the will of the people" - the voice of citizens in the nation's present and future economy is gagged, replaced by the bullhorn of transnational corporations and think-tanks funded by grants from mind-bogglingly wealthy families. One-man-one-vote is replaced with one-dollar-one-vote. Governments are corrupted, often beyond immediate recovery, and democracy is replaced by a form of oligarchy that is most rightly described as a corporate plutocratic kleptocracy.

When this corporate oligarchy reaches out to take over and merge itself with the powers and institutions of government, it becomes the very definition of Mussolini's "fascism": the merger of corporate and state interests. As China has proven, capitalism can do very well, thank you, in the absence of democracy. (You'd think we would have figured that out after having watch Germany in the 1930s.) And as so many of the Northern European countries show so clearly, capitalism can flourish and generate great wealth and a high standard of living within the constraints of intense regulation by a democratic republic answerable entirely to its citizens.

Consider the United States of America.

In the earliest days of our nation, George Washington's Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, with some writing and editing help from Tench Coxe, outlined what came to be the foundation of American industrial policy. At its core was the protection of what Hamilton referred to as "infant" industries.

Although the invention of the term "infant industry" is usually credited to Friedrich List (in 1841 to support the idea of protecting new industries in Germany by government actions), the man who originated the phrase (and most aggressively promoted the idea in the USA) was Alexander Hamilton. In his "Report on the Subject of Manufactures," written together (but not credited to) Hamilton's friend and sometimes-assistant Tench Coxe, Hamilton wrote:

Bounties [subsidies] are sometimes not only the best, but the only proper expedient, for uniting the encouragement of a new object of agriculture, with that of a new object of manufacture. It is the interest of the farmer to have the production of the raw material promoted, by counteracting the interference of the foreign material of the same kind. It is the interest of the manufacturer to have the material abundant and cheap ... By either destroying the requisite supply, or raising the price of the article, beyond what can be afforded to be given for it, by the conductor of an infant manufacture, it is abandoned or fails; …

It cannot escape notice, that a duty upon the importation of an article can no otherwise aid the domestic production of it, than giving the latter greater advantages in the home market.

Hamilton's point was that there are two things needed for an "infant industry" to turn into a genuine manufacturing power. The first was cheap raw materials, the second protection from foreign competition.

To provide the cheap raw materials - for example, cotton or wool, if we were talking about the manufacture of clothing - Hamilton suggested both short-term subsidies for the production of the raw material, and tariffs (import taxes) on cotton or wool brought in from overseas. This would both provide a sure and inexpensive supply of raw material, and ensure that the raw materials were - and would continue to be over the long term - produced here at home.

To protect the nascent clothing industry (in this example), Hamilton also strongly advocated short-term supports to the budding industries (for example, government support or gifts of land for the production of factories) and tariffs on foreign-made clothing. This would make domestic products cheaper for the consumer and foreign ones more expensive, thus encouraging Americans to buy American-made clothing, thus building up a strong domestic fabric and clothing industry (remember the mills that John Edwards' dad worked in?).

As Hamilton noted (this is only referenced in the book - I'm filling in Hamilton's actual words here):

    It is a primary object of the policy of nations, to be able to supply themselves with subsistence from their own soils; and manufacturing nations, as far as circumstances permit, endeavor to procure, from the same source, the raw materials necessary for their own fabrics.

As to how to accomplish that, Hamilton and Coxe had a straightforward plan, which was adopted by the Founders of this nation:

    I. Protecting duties.

    Protective duties, or duties on those foreign articles which are the rivals of the domestic ones, intended to be encouraged. [B]y enhancing the charges on foreign articles, they enable the national manufacturers to undersell all their foreign competitors.

    II. Prohibitions of rival articles or duties equivalent to prohibitions.

    Considering a monopoly of the domestic market to its own manufacturers as the reigning policy of manufacturing nations, a similar policy on the part of the United States in every proper instance, is dictated, it might almost be said, by the principles of distributive justice; certainly by the duty of endeavoring to secure to their own citizens a reciprocity of advantages.

    III. Prohibitions of the exportation of the materials of manufactures.

    The desire of securing a cheap and plentiful supply for the national workmen, and, where the article is either peculiar to the country, or of peculiar quality there, the jealousy of enabling foreign workmen to rival those of the nation, with its own materials, are the leading motives to this species of regulation. …

    IV. Pecuniary bounties [industry direct financial subsidies].

    This has been found one of the most efficacious means of encouraging manufactures, and it is in some views, the best. Though it has not yet been practiced upon by the government of the United States (unless the allowances on the exportation of dried and pickled fish and salted meat could be considered as a bounty) and though it is less favored by public opinion than some other modes. Its advantages, are these -- It is a species of encouragement more positive and direct than any other, and for that very reason, has a more immediate tendency to stimulate and uphold new enterprises, increasing the chances of profit, and diminishing the risks of loss, in the first attempts.

    V. Premiums [incentives for production, innovation, or quality].

    These are of a nature allied to bounties, though distinguishable from them, in some important features. Bounties are applicable to the whole quantity of an article produced, or manufactured, or exported, and involve a correspondent expense.

    Premiums serve to reward some particular excellence or superiority, some extraordinary exertion or skill, and are dispensed only in a small number of cases. But their effect is to stimulate general effort. Contrived so as to be both honorary and lucrative, they address themselves to different passions; touching the chords as well of emulation as of interest. They are accordingly a very economical mean of exciting the enterprise of a whole community.

    VI. The exemption of the materials of manufactures [raw materials] from duty [import tariffs].

    The policy of that exemption as a general rule, particularly in reference to new establishments, is obvious. It can hardly ever be advisable to add the obstructions of fiscal burdens to the difficulties which naturally embarrass a new manufacture; … exemptions of this kind in the United States, is to be derived from the practice, as far as their necessities have permitted, of those nations whom we are to meet as competitors in our own and in foreign markets.

    VIII. The encouragement of new inventions and discoveries [patents and copyrights].

    The encouragement of new inventions and discoveries at home, and of the introduction into the United States of such as may have been made in other countries; particularly those, which relate to machinery.

    This is among the most useful and unexceptionable of the aids, which can be given to manufactures. The usual means of that encouragement are pecuniary rewards, and, for a time, exclusive privileges. The first must be employed, according to the occasion, and the utility of the invention, or discovery: For the last, so far as respects "authors and inventors'' provision has been made by law.

    IX. Judicious regulations for the inspection of manufactured commodities [regulation and inspection].

    This is not among the least important of the means, by which the prosperity of manufactures may be promoted. It is indeed in many cases one of the most essential. Contributing to prevent frauds upon consumers at home and exporters to foreign countries--to improvement quality and preserve the character of the national manufactures, it cannot fail to aid the expeditious and advantageous sale of them, and to serve as a guard against successful competition from other quarters.

    The reputation of the flour and lumber of some states, and of the potash of others has been established by an attention to this point. And the like good name might be procured for those articles, wheresoever produced, by a judicious and uniform system of inspection; throughout the ports of the United States. A like system might also be extended with advantage to other commodities.

    X. The facilitating of pecuniary remittances from place to place [a stable currency and banking system].

    The facilitating of pecuniary remittances from place to place is a point of considerable moment to trade in general, and to manufactures in particular; by rendering more easy the purchase of raw materials and provisions and the payment for manufactured supplies. …

    XI. The facilitating of the transportation of commodities [transportation infrastructure].

    Improvements favoring this object intimately concern all the domestic interests of a community; but they may without impropriety be mentioned as having an important relation to manufactures. There is perhaps scarcely any thing, which has been better calculated to assist the manufactures of Great Britain, than the ameliorations of the public roads of that kingdom, and the great progress which has been of late made in opening canals. Of the former, the United States stand much in need; and for the latter they present uncommon facilities. …

This understanding of the role of government in helping "infant industries" grow to become mature industries capable of international competition was well-known by Americans for most of the history of our country. After Hamilton published his "report" during the George Washington administration, Congress, at Hamilton's and Coxe's urging, raised tariffs on imported finished manufactured products from 5 percent to 12.5 percent. Three presidents and two decades later, Congress doubled them in response to the War of 1812, when the British and Canadians made their way all the way to Washington, DC and set fire to the White House just a few days after President James Madison left to command troops (the only sitting president to do so in our history). The War of 1812 exposed the weakness of our industrial base's ability to shift to wartime footing, leading directly to the increase of import tariffs from 12.5% to 25%.

As these tariffs made foreign-manufactured goods more expensive and increased demand for domestic-manufactured items, American industry began to take off. Not being idiots, Congress saw this cause-and-effect and raised tariffs two more times, in 1816 and 1820, to 25% and 40% respectively. It set the stage for one of the greatest industrializations in world history - from the 1830s straight up to and through World War II - and also produced the world's first truly large-scale middle class.

During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln raised tariffs to a full 50%, where they stayed - the world's highest, as Chang notes - until 1913 when Teddy Roosevelt's defection from the Republican Party led to a three-way split and Republican defeat and the anti-tariff Democrats (of that day) dropped them to 25%. After World War I and the 1921 Republican victory, tariffs were again raised back up, hitting 37% in 1925, and then raised slightly higher still a year into the Republican Great Depression when Herbert Hoover and the Republicans in Congress pushed through Smoot-Hawley, raising tariffs back to the more-or-less average rate during the industrialization of America, 48%.

FDR ran, in part, in the election of 1932, on slightly lowering the Smoot-Hawley tariffs back down to the 37%-45% range. As Chang notes in Bad Samaritans:

[T]he stupidity of the Smoot-Hawley tariff has become a key fable in free trade mythology. … but this view is misleading. The Smoot-Hawley tariff may have provoked an international tariff war, thanks to bad timing, especially given the new status of the US as the world's largest creditor nation after the First World War. But it was simply not the radical departure from the country's traditional trade policy stance that free trade economists claim it to have been. Following the bill, the average industrial tariff rate rose to 48%. The rise from 37% (1925) to 48% (1930) is not exactly small but it is hardly a seismic shift. Moreover, the 48% obtained after the bill comfortably falls within the range of the rates that had prevailed in the country ever since the Civil War, albeit in the upper region thereof.

And tariffs are only one part of the equation. As Chang notes, "Between the 1950s and the mid-1990s, US federal government funding accounted for 50-70% of the country's total R&D funding …" Lacking such assistance, Chang notes, "the US would not have been able to maintain its technological lead over the rest of the world in key industries like computers, semiconductors, life sciences, the internet and aerospace.

Country by country, region by region, era by era, Chang shows how countries that rose to become industrial or trade superpowers did so only by totally repudiating the Milton Friedman/Tom Friedman "free trade" and "small government" mythos, and instead following Alexander Hamilton's tried-and-true formula. Hamilton, after all, hadn't invented it - he simply observed what the British had been doing since the year 1601 when Queen Elizabeth chartered the British East India Company, and she had simply been observing what the Spanish, Portuguese, and Dutch had been doing for a hundred years before that. And all of them had the example of the Roman and Greek empires, which rose and maintained their economic power by similar Hamiltonian policies.

America held such policies, too, until the 1980s when Ronald Reagan became president and his economic advisers began advancing the radical Libertarian views of Milton Friedman, and the (Ayn Rand) Objectivist views of Alan Greenspan (who had been inducted into Rand's cult in her New York apartment in the 1960s). Reagan began his overt push during the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trades (GATT) talks in 1986, suggesting what was needed was a radical worldwide leveling of tariffs and reduction of government participation in everything from R&D funding to support for higher education (Reagan had ended the nearly-free tuition rates at the University of California while Governor of that state). As the Uruguay Round was about to get underway, Reagan's speech writers had him suggest "new and more liberal agreements with our trading partners - agreement under which they would fully open their markets and treat American products as they would treat their own."

George H.W. Bush, initially decrying Reagan's economic world view as "Voodoo Economics," embraced it, as did Bill Clinton, who really kicked the door of tariffs and "protectionism" down by signing the United States up for both the full GATT, the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

For the first time in its history, our country's industries stood essentially naked and defenseless against those of other fully developed nations, most of which were still holding in place tariffs, R&D supports, and intense support of the commons infrastructure including free higher education and free health care.

The result was just what Alexander Hamilton feared - the rapid unraveling of the American middle class as the nation bled its industrial base into the gutter of cheap labor countries. While today both China and India have import tariffs that average between 20% and 30% on manufactured goods (to protect their domestic industries and markets), we've dropped our average tariffs from a 1973 average of 12% to today's average of around 2 percent.

If you want to understand how - and why - America has become so rapidly and radically deindustrialized, read Bad Samaritans. And buy an extra copy to send to Tom Friedman. He needs it.

Thom Hartmann is a New York Times bestselling author and host of "The Thom Hartmann Program" syndicated nationally by Air America Radio. His website is ThomHartmann.com. You can find information on how to listen to his program (online if you don't have a radio station that carries it) and read more about his great books.


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The Trial
by Franz Kafka

Reviewed by Thom Hartmann

"There can be no doubt --" said K., quite softly, for he was elated by the breathless attention of the meeting; in that stillness a subdued hum was audible which was more exciting than the wildest applause -- "there can be no doubt that behind all the actions of this court of justice, that is to say in my case, behind my arrest and today's interrogation, there is a great organization at work. An organization which not only employs corrupt warders, oafish Inspectors, and Examining Magistrates of whom the best that can be said is that they recognize their own limitations, but also has at its disposal a judicial hierarchy of high, indeed of the highest rank, with an indispensable and numerous retinue of servants, clerks, police, and other assistants, perhaps even hangmen, I do not shrink from that word. And the significance of this great organization, gentlemen? It consists in this, that innocent persons are accused of guilt, and senseless proceedings are put in motion against them ..."

Franz Kafka is one of the most complex writers of the past two centuries. Chronically disabled by health problems that may have arisen from his partnership in an asbestos company (or simply may have been TB and a weak constitution), he died just a month before his 41st birthday, leaving behind a large collection of unpublished and often-fragmentary works. Most of his fame as an author came after his death, when, against his wishes, his friend Max Brod -- to whom he'd entrusted his manuscripts before his death -- cleaned up a few, reassembled others, and published several, including "The Trial."

But as iconic and mysterious as Kafka was as a man (his biography over on Wikipedia is really worth the read), his novel The Trial could (and should -- I'm doing it here) be put forward as an icon of the modern American Republican Party mentality of the all-powerful Security State trampling not just the rights but the psyches of its citizens.

The Trial opens with this first sentence: "Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything wrong, he was arrested."

It goes downhill from there.

Throughout the novel, Josef K. (we never learn his last name) is treated to the vagaries of a kangaroo court system that would make Alberto Gonzales and Michael Mukasey proud. He never learns the charges against him, his lawyer is a preening incompetent who has built a mini-industry defending similarly "slandered" innocent (or maybe not so innocent -- we don't ever learn what's legal and what's illegal) men, and the reaction of the other characters in the novel ranges from mild shock to resignation to an irony that's half-comedic and half-tragic.

In the end, men he doesn't know confront him with one of the greatest of human horrors for reasons he doesn't understand and with a timing he doesn't suspect: "Was there still help? Were there objections that had been forgotten? Of course there were. Logic is no doubt unshakable, but it can't withstand a person who wants to live. Where was the judge he'd never seen? Where was the high court he'd never reached?"

Kafkaesque is a word that has become deeply rooted both in the English language and the psyche of the "free world." Having The Trial in your personal library is essential for the appearance of cultural literacy ("appearance" being a notion that fits perfectly with much of the middle of the book); but to read it is to understand how an obscure (at his death) author's last name has given birth to a powerful and enduring adjective known around the world.

The Trial is such a powerful and rich book that Orson Welles made a movie of the same name from it in 1962. He called it the best movie he ever made, and chose Anthony Perkins for the starring role, following on Perkins' success two years earlier in "Psycho."

The book is a dense and, at times, difficult -- but ultimately rewarding -- read. Written originally in German, Kafka was fond of using a style that can only work in that language of creating long sentences that ended with the powerful punch of the sentence's primary verb. This presented a considerable challenge to the series of translators who have presented Kafka to English-speaking audiences, and Breon Mitchell does a brilliant job of handling the story. His preface to the book and his explanation of his translation process is particularly enlightening, and in my humble opinion this is one of the best translations of The Trial extant. (You may want to read the preface after reading the novel, though, as it gives away the details of the ending that I've obscured in this review.)

As Mitchell notes about the German word Prozeß, the original title of the book:

The German word "Prozeß," as has often been noted, refers not only to an actual trial, but also to the proceedings surrounding it, a process that, in this imaginary world, includes preliminary investigations, numerous hearings, and a wide range of legal and extra-legal maneuvering. 'The Trial' is a reasonable translation [of the title] of the German, combining as it does the literal and figurative associations surrounding Josef K.'s yearlong struggle. Yet the shadowy and seemingly infinite hierarchy of mysterious courts depicted in The Trial does not correspond to any legal system so far as we know, then or now.

That preface was written in 1998.

As the construction of the Death Chamber at Guantanamo Bay is now nearly finished, to carry out sentences that will be rendered in secret against men who are unaware of the specific charges against them, unable to participate in the court's proceedings, whose lawyers may not see the "evidence" against them (which may be obtained by hearsay or torture), and cannot be appealed before their execution, there is no more important time than now to read The Trial -- and share it with every high school or college student you can find.

Thom Hartmann is a New York Times bestselling author and the host of "The Thom Hartmann Program" syndicated nationally by Air America Radio. His website is ThomHartmann.com. You can find information on how to listen to his program (online if you don't have a radio station that carries it) and read more about his great books.


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