Monday, July 23, 2007

Why Kill the Goose?

Once more, I have spent my parents' vast wealth acquiring books at auction -- why, yesterday alone, I spent nearly $45, and ended up with only 300 books to paw through...

I left the majority behind for others to take if they wanted them. I brought home only about 50, many of them to be given away to family and friends. And to the college. Mustn't forget the old alma mater.

Today, I had the pleasure of finding a slim paperback, 6x9 inches by 80 pages, with a picture of a golden egg in a nest on the front cover, and a poor dead goose on the back. The book, Why Kill the Goose?, by Sherman Rogers, is a compelling little work on economics I wish were available for all to read, even 60 years after its original publishing date.

The foreword, titled "Why Mr. Rogers wrote this book", sets it up nicely:

From 1900 to 1917 Sherman Rogers worked in lumber camps, copper mines and on cattle ranches – in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. During twelve of those years he was a relentless worker among the I.W.W., led by "Big Bill" Haywood, a movement aimed at the overthrow of private ownership and the establishment of a communistic state. In other words, Mr. Rogers knows radicals and the notions which turn honest, hard-working men to the ways of socialism and to the use of force to attain it.

According to Mr. Rogers, "Big Bill" Haywood was more responsible than any other American for the widely-held belief that under private enterprise workers get but a fraction of the income they produce and that the owners and employers receive "the lion's share." Specifically, "Big Bill" contended that "under the American system workers get but ten to fifteen cents of each dollar of income produced, that the owners get from eighty-five to ninety cents."

IN 1917, something happened to Sherman Rogers – according to his own admission –"the most militant socialist in the Pacific Northwest." Charlie Schwab made a speech in Seattle to revolting shipyard workers and exposed Haywood's pernicious division-of-income fallacy. Rogers observed the effects of these enlightening facts on himself and on his radical colleagues. They simply ceased as socialist revolutionaries.

These facts about the division of income, although published by the Department of Commerce since 1936, persist in escaping men's understanding – employers' as well as employees'.

Sherman Rogers has devoted thirty years to traveling and speechmaking, in an attempt to remove a fallacy that is more at the root of industrial strife than perhaps any other notion.

This is his book, presented to you as he gave it to us.

The chapter headings are as follows:
  1. Why kill the goose?
  2. New investment means "Help Wanted"
  3. Profit – reward for risk-taking
  4. Division of industrial income
  5. The misinformed public
  6. Some men have what it takes

I'm kinda partial to his Fallacy vs. Fact approach in the first few chapters -- especially this one (John Edwards followers, take note!):


A few ultra wealthy families in the United States own the greater part of its wealth." We hear the story that 2 per cent of the people own 90 per cent of the wealth.


The National Industrial Conference Board reports (The Economic Almanac for 1946-47) that there were in 1936 ( latest complete figures available) 61 persons in the United States who had incomes (before taxes) of more than $1,000,000 for that year. The combined total wealth of these 61 persons – not their yearly incomes, but their total holdings – amounted to $2,342,000,000. The whole wealth of the nation in that year was $304,000,000,000. Thus, we find that the total wealth of the extremely wealthy in 1936 was but 3/4 of 1 per cent of the total national wealth. It should also be remembered that most of this 3/4 of 1 per cent was comprised of factories and businesses.

Now, let us consider further that in this same year the total annual income which these millionaire owners obtained from their properties amounted before taxes to only 1/6 of 1 per cent of the total payments to all individuals in 1936. After they paid their Federal income taxes they had left an amount equal to less than 1/20 of 1 per cent – or 1/2000 – of the total payments to all individuals in the nation! Since 1936, these figures have been greatly reduced.

There is much more, but, you get the picture.

As I continue to read this, I'm thinking I may have to post this, in its entirety, at Friday's Klips, chapter by chapter. There's just too much worthwhile stuff to cherry-pick from it.

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