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Gordon Haskell

Moulton Report Proves Possibility of
Plenty for All – in a Sane Social System

(29 August 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 35, 29 August 1949, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Condensed from a talk delivered by news commentator Gordon Haskell over radio station KPFA-FM. (Berkley [sic!], California). Gordon Haskell is heard by residents of the San Francisco Bay Area over this station every Thursday evening at 7:45 – 101 on your dial.


For a change, let’s take a look at a cheerful item in the news: the report, issued recently in Washington, by Dr. Harold G. Moulton, president of the Brookings Institution.

In this report, Dr. Moulton states that a hundred years from now the United States should be able to support double its present population at a standard of living eight times as high as the present one.

Just let your mind dwell on the matter for a moment. If you’re making fifty dollars a week now, your child or grandchild Will be able to hold down your job at a neat wage of $400 per week, with the cost of living the same as it is how. Or, if at that happy time people should decide they’d rather have more leisure and fewer yachts, your grandchild will be able to work four hours a day at your job and still draw $200 per week.

Even if you’re unemployed at the present time, be of good cheer! Just keep in mind that a hundred years from now if your grandchild should happen to be unemployed he’d get $200 per week compensation!

The Resources Are There

Of course; Dr. Moulton didn’t put things in such gross monetary terms. He has figured out just how much more each of the items which make up our standard of living could be produced in the next century.

Food and nutrition will have to increase eight times; shelter and house maintenance, 16 times. (Incidentally, I figure this would give me 32 rooms to live in.) Attire and personal care will increase 20 times (which leads me to think that the additional rooms will have to be used to store the shoes and dresses for the little woman and the kids). Health and education will be expanded thirty times, and recreation and travel 33 times.

Of course, all this will represent national averages, so one shouldn’t get lost in fanciful calculations multiplying what you have by the above figures.

When you consider that in the slums all over the country poor people are living five and six to a room, and that in vast areas of the South millions of families are living in one- and two room shacks without running water, toilets or bathrooms, and that for millions of Americans ten times the clothes they now have would amount to a couple of good suits and a warm winter overcoat, you’ll see that so much of the bounty Dr. Moulton foresees for us will have to go to the poorest third of the nation and that for the rest of us it may mean an increase of only three or four times our present standard of living.

Of course, Dr. Moulton doesn’t confine himself to painting this beautiful picture. The Brookings Institution is probably the most thorough and responsible private research outfit in the country on social and political problems. He shows that our natural resources are quite adequate to provide that kind of a standard of living, if they are not wasted and are used properly.

So we begin to search Dr. Moulton’s report for his answer to the things we’ll have to do to reach this paradise in a century.

Tell Ford About It!

First, Dr. Moulton says, we’re going to have to continually increase our productivity, that is, we’re going to have to use more labor-saving machinery, and to organize our whole production process more intelligently so as to avoid duplication and waste and thus to get more goods for the same amount of effort, or even for less.

Next, writes Dr. Moulton, we’re going to have to achieve a “progressive expansion of mass purchasing power.” Along the same lines he says that the “unfulfilled desires of the masses constitute the great potential market of the future,” and he proposes that to fulfill these desires we must achieve a “constantly broadening distribution of income.”

He’s absolutely right, and I only hope the Brookings Institution rushes a copy of this report to Henry Ford II, and the head of United States Steel, and the president of the company for which I make money. Then I’m sure they’ll all see the light and grant wage increases to their workers which will progressively expand mass purchasing power and constantly broaden the distribution of income ...

Of course, one has to admit that neither Henry Ford nor the other great corporation heads and bankers of the nation seem to share Dr. Moulton’s idea of spreading the wealth around more broadly.

As a matter of fact, they seem vigorously determined to resist to the limit any demands for wage increases, pensions, health plans and other things which would cost them money and would bulge the standard of living of the masses up a little toward that 800 per cent mark.

But perhaps Dr. Moulton has some ideas about how we can clip the wings of these gentlemen so that the forward movement of spreading purchasing power can get under way?

Here’s the Gimmick –

At this point I have to warn you that the cheerful note in Dr. Moulton’s report has to give way to sobering reality.

Dr. Moulton informs us that “under modern conditions, considerations of efficiency require operating companies of great size.” This endorsement of big business so pleased the San Francisco Chronicle

Now I too agree with Dr. Moulton that modern industry needs large-scale operation. Even more important, this very fact makes all ideas of trust-busting and a return to small, free individual-enterprise a dream of the past which is gone forever.

The efforts of well-meaning people toward breaking up the great corporations or limiting their power under our existing economic system is wasted effort, and takes our attention away from the REAL problem.

This problem is the PRIVATE OWNERSHIP of these corporations, which permits a small handful of extremely wealthy and powerful men to exploit our natural resources, rig our price structure, control our politics and deprive the masses of the people of the economic advancement which is made possible by the increase in the productivity of labor.

And, sad but true, Dr. Moulton has no plan to transform these vast aggregates of private wealth into social wealth. Quite the contrary. Dr. Moulton believes that one of the foundation-stones of his prosperity in a century is “a fair degree of assurance with respect to the perpetuity of the private enterprise system.” Put in more blunt words this simply means: you’ll get all these things if you don’t scare big business with any talk about taking over the great wealth and power they control and subjecting it to the control of the people.

And when I read further that Dr. Moulton says that depressions are inevitable, that they have no single cause nor any single cure, and that neither government nor business can prevent them, then I am sorry about the prospects for all of us held out by Dr. Moulton in the first part of his report.

Concentration Has Grown

I’m sorry, because Dr. Moulton has played on us one of the oldest and shabbiest tricks known to the confidence racket. He has held out a prospect of prosperity and security which I’m sure is quite realizable. And then he has told us that all this can be ours if we continue to give our confidence to an economic system which for the past fifty years has been holding back productivity, which has kept the majority of our people in poverty, and which bids fair to drag us through depressions and wars to some kind of totalitarian barbarism rather than to a world of plenty and security and peace for the masses.

Just take, for instance, Dr. Moulton’s proposition about passing on the increased productivity of labor through lower prices. I wouldn’t dream of questioning the fact that over the past century increased productivity has in fact led to an increased standard of living in the United States. But it has NOT led to a wider distribution of the wealth of the nation, but rather the opposite.

For every hundred per cent in increased productivity, the workers have got perhaps ten or twenty per cent increase in standard of living, and that only after bitter and often bloody struggles. This means that every increase in productivity has brought a greater SHARE of the increased wealth to the owners of capital, and this is the fundamental reason for the indisputable fact that wealth in our country today is LESS equably distributed than it was a hundred years ago.

It is this growing accumulation of wealth in a few hands at the expense of the purchasing power of the mass of the people that is the bedrock cause of depressions in America, and I agree with Dr. Moulton that neither business nor government can do anything about it – AS LONG AS BUSINESS CONTROLS GOVERNMENT!

But There’s a Way!

And there’s the nub of the matter. To get at the vast concentrations of economic wealth and power in America, to break their hold on the natural resources and their restrictive power over the development of industry, to socialize the productive wealth of the country and thus usher in the century of plenty for all – to do all this it is necessary first that the working people of America organize themselves politically and take the government out of the hands of business.

For this purpose they need a party completely independent from and completely uncompromised by any control or association with big business – a party based first on organized labor, and embracing the interests of the poor farmers and all other productive groups in society.

Such a party must have a program of widening the distribution of the national income and increasing productivity, and as such a program clashes with the control of industry by the great corporations and banks, it will be forced to socialize these controllers of the standard of living of tiic people if it is to remain true to its purposes.

That’s the road to Dr. Moulton’s eightfold increase in the standard of living for all of us, not in a hundred years, but in a much shorter span of time. The raw materials are there, science is there, the industrial knowhow is there. What stands in the way is the control of all these things by a handful of powerful people who run them in their own interest and against the interests of the mass. Once we break that control – and we’ll have to – we’ll be able to march forward to the century of plenty and security for all.

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