Monday, August 04, 2014

Unsanctioned Voice; Individualism and the Garrett novels; Harangue; Lincoln Steffens; Emma Goldman; Wobblies - IWW; American Omen; Rockefeller Center

Click these links for discussions of the Writer's Note , Chapters 1 and 2, Chapter 3, Chapters 4-6, Chapters 7-10 , Chapters 11 and 12 , Chapter 13 , Chapter 14 and Chapters 15 and 16 of Bruce Ramsey's Unsanctioned Voice.




Chapter 17 focuses on individual self-reliance and its relation to capitalism and Christianity. Ramsey expands on this focus with discussions of three of Garrett's novels - The Driver, Cinder Buggy and Satan's Bushel. Click here for the first part of my 2008 recap/review of The Driver, here for the beginning of my 2004/2005 recap/review of Satan's Bushel and here for part 1 of my recap/review of Cinder Buggy.

Ramsey discusses the Ayn Rand connection with The Driver, including alternative origins for the name "Galt." (p. 121, n. 4). My own belief is that there is enough Garrett material that influenced the Rand novels that the name "Galt" doesn't matter. Even if Rand got the idea for the name "Galt" from The Driver, there is nothing wrong with that. There was no plagiarism. Rand wrote very different books than Garrett, partially by building on some of Garrett's ideas and integrating those ideas into a philosophically-based plot.

Garrett, failing to foresee the plot of Atlas Shrugged, had written in 1913 that "Capital cannot strike." (p. 121, n. 4).

Ramsey writes that "The Driver is not a good novel." (p. 117). I am sure that it does not measure up to the classic fiction works of the past and would not hold the attention of a modern audience. But the story does have merit. The plot of an investor fighting to gain and remain in control of a struggling company despite attacks from all sides is compelling. Gail Wynand's struggle in The Fountainhead is more compelling because Rand was better at integrating philosophical issues into the plot. Modern fiction regarding large companies is spiced with sexual content and/or violence to appease modern audiences. But The Driver serves as an example where the plot turns on a company's value without relying on modern plot devices extraneous to capitalist considerations. Rand's plot elements were definitely based on capitalist issues, but also involved far deeper and more basic philosophical issues.

Ramsey quotes one noncommittal statement about The Driver from Bernard Baruch (p. 117), but Baruch also made a very positive statement here, in which he referred to The Driver as "one of the great novels of the day." Also click here for Time Magazine's review from March 17, 1923.

Ramsey barely mentions Cinder Buggy, except to say that it is similar to The Driver. (p. 117). I think Cinder Buggy showed growth, as the personal stories were more closely integrated into the capitalist message than in The Driver. Garrett did a better job of demonstrating the importance of the underlying industrial activity (iron and steel) and such activity's role in the history of mankind.

Ramsey also quotes Cinder Buggy on the issue of luck as it relates to individualism (p. 119) - a quote that I did not mention in my review. The quote appeared at a point where luck played a role in the advancement of the plot and the characters' fortunes (pp. 201-202 of Cinder Buggy). I had criticized the use of luck as a plot device without realizing that Garrett might have used the concept of luck to help explain individualism.

Ramsey quotes Weaver's speech from Satan's Bushel and compares Dreadwind to Mered from Blue Wound (pp. 117-119).

Ramsey provides clues to the roots of Garrett's economic beliefs (pp. 119-121), citing Herbert Spencer, Simon Newcomb and Francis Amasa Walker.

Garrett understood inflation as confiscatory theft based on his own reporting from post-WWI Germany. (p. 120). This writing shows how far down modern "conservatives" have sunk when they criticize this or that president for "failing to control" or "failing to stop" inflation.

Most importantly, Garrett understood that capitalism was not merely a "system" imposed upon a nation or a people, but was a natural part of life. Capitalism "grew out of life . . . gradually, and is therefore one of the great natural designs." (pp. 119-120). Reading even Ramsey's brief quotation from Garrett's writing is refreshing in light of modern conservatives who fumble in attempting to justify capitalism as merely the best among many "systems."

Chapter 18 begins with the statement that "[a]ll of Garrett's fiction is about work, industry and making a living." [p. 123]. [I made a similar comment in August 2007.]

Most of Chapter 18 is about Garrett's 1927 novel, Harangue and his fictional socialist takeover of North Dakota. Ramsey speculates that the title was conceived by the publisher, and that the subtitle (used as the title in the Saturday Evening Post serialization) was more descriptive. Ramsey identifies this subtitle as having come from the Book of Judges. [p. 123].

Ramsey identifies Harangue as Garrett's best novel. [p. 124]. Ramsey includes a more detailed description of the plot than he does for Garrett's other novels. [pp. 124-127]. Part of the plot overlaps real life events surrounding the Wobblies (IWW) [pp. 125-126].

Ramsey notes that Garrett's condemnation of socialism "lacks the bite" of his later attacks on the New Deal. [p. 127]. I have noted many times before that the New Deal would focus Garrett's writing. In the post-1932 world, Garrett wrote with the understanding that the battle against the New Deal was the only relevant issue.

Ramsey also discusses (and cites sources for) Garrett's association with Emma Goldman and Lincoln Steffens. [pp. 127-129]. Footnote 12 [p. 129] is one example that gives the reader some appreciation for Ramsey's task in ferreting out the various pieces of information that he would string together to create Unsanctioned Voice.

Chapter 19 focuses on American Omen and Garrett's travels around the United States. It begins with the sentence, "The 1920's was the last decade in which Garrett was optimistic about America." [p. 131]. I suspect that this statement applied to many people in addition to Garrett, although many people since the 1920's would display "optimism" about superficial matters far different than what Garrett marvelled at in the passages referenced in Chapter 19.

Ramsey focused on the portions of American Omen (1928) that described innovations in business training and management, the role of profit and the relation of technology to labor. [pp. 131-133].

The rest of Chapter 19 quotes Garrett's first-hand descriptions (in various articles) of American highways, Kansas City rail yards, Birmingham steel plants, California redwood forests and the softening effects of mild climates on the work ethic and ambition of the inhabitants. [pp. 133 - 137]. Much of this chapter has the feel of small portions of the old "Route 66" television series (without the drama). There was much about America that justified optimism at that time. Industry was growing and beginning to show its full potential. The changes in American life were visible and inspiring. Today, "urban explorers" seek out and examine the ruins and rubble that once created so much optimism before the government began its scorched earth policy of destruction known as the New Deal (and all that followed).

The chapter ends with curious quotes about the economic justification for skyscrapers in New York and the entire cities of Los Angeles and Wichita. Garrett speculates that these items were not economically motivated, but were created solely as a showcase for American economic power. The final quotation is from a 1929 Garrett article that applies this theory to Rockefeller center, which was under construction at that time. [p. 137].

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Sunday, August 03, 2014

Garet Garrett sighting; Ebay; Country Gentleman; Satan's Bushel

I do not look at ebay regularly. There are usually many items for sale relating to Garet Garrett - usually recent reprints of his old books. I happened to check ebay today and noticed two separate items that are quite old.

This auction and this auction each contain the December 1, 1923 edition of Country Gentleman - the magazine that serialized Satan's Bushel in 1923. The edition for sale appears to contain Chapter 7 (which I think is a reference to the seventh part of the serialization instead of Chapter 7 of the book).

These are not my auctions and I have no idea about the conditions of the magazines. I mention them only because it is interesting that old copies of Country Gentleman continue to exist and be traded among collectors. I have recounted here how I found (before the modern reprints existed) my first copy of Satan's Bushel in the microfilmed pages of Country Gentleman in the basement of the Pennsylvania State Library.

The auctions are currently listed at $ 4.75 and $ 9.99.

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Unsanctioned Voice; Saturday Evening Post; George Lorimer; French occupation of Ruhr; Calvin Coolidge; Herbert Hoover; agriculture; H.A. Nestos

Click these links for discussions of the Writer's Note , Chapters 1 and 2, Chapter 3, Chapters 4-6, Chapters 7-10 , Chapters 11 and 12 , Chapter 13 and Chapter 14 of Bruce Ramsey's Unsanctioned Voice.




Chapter 15 deals with the beginning of Garrett's career with the Saturday Evening Post and Garrett's writings on the war debt.

Garrett's writings for the Post included a fictional piece in 1917 about a "clerk in a bond house who figures out during the gold run of 1895 that the government is bankrupt." (p. 97). I am sure that this work (like almost all of Garrett's Post writings) is available on microfilm in larger libraries.

Ramsey describes the Post articles as "long articles, written for a world before television, when Americans had the patience to read." (p. 97).

Ramsey quotes and cites (pp. 98-99) two Garrett Post articles about France's attempts to collect reparations from Germany by occupying the Ruhr in 1923. Garrett described his visit to the Ruhr during the occupation and German resistance to that occupation. The story of the French occupation is fascinating and virtually unknown in mainstream history discussion.

The articles cited regarding the war debt cover much of the same material that later appeared in A Bubble That Broke The World. Bubble was a reorganized compilation of writing that appeared in the Post in 1931 and 1932. Two of the (many) articles cited in end note #2 (p. 104) have similar titles to two chapters of Bubble. The chapters are undated in Bubble. Ramsey's research thus has helped provide more background for Bubble.

Ramsey's discussion of Garrett's writings on the war debt included Garrett's conversations and meetings with the famous and powerful. "From World War I through the 1930's Garrett had the closest contacts he ever would with high politicians." (p. 101). Chapter 15 would include references to Garrett's contacts and relationships with Bernard Baruch, Secretary of State Elihu Root, Post publisher George Lorimer, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, and Presidents Coolidge and Hoover. (pp. 99-101). Hoover and Garrett remained life-long friends. (p. 102).

Chapter 15 also includes Garrett's views on immigration (p. 102) and how a culture and nation can be changed irreversibly by unfettered immigration.

The chapter also sets forth Garrett's views on the Phillipines in the 1920's (pp. 102-103) and quotes liberally from The American Story (1955) on several subjects. Ramsey also refreshingly uses the word "nationalism" to identify concepts that modern orthodoxy attempts to denigrate with the misleading label "isolationism."

Chapter 16 deals with agriculture. Here, Ramsey confusingly uses "nationalism" to mean the opposite of "individualism" (p. 105) even though a government policy promoting and allowing individualism tends to make the entire nation strong. Nationalism and individualism go hand-in-hand.

Reading this and the immediately prior chapters gives one an appreciation of the size of the task confronting Ramsey. Most of the knowledge available about Garrett comes from his many articles, essays and columns. Ramsey had to find these items (presumably) on old library microfilm, print them from the old machines (an arduous task itself) and organize them by subject so that a larger picture of Garrett's (sometimes changing) views could be developed. End note #1 (p. 112) from Chapter 16 alone cites more than two dozen lengthy magazine articles written by Garrett. These and other articles and writings are then compressed and summarized in an 8 page chapter and integrated into the broader picture of Garrett's life in the 1920's.

Garrett wrote about agriculture's role in the bubble that burst in the early 1920's. He resisted attempts to create more federal involvement in farming and sparred with North Dakota governor H.A. Nestos over these and other issues. (pp. 105-109). Garrett owned his own farm in New Jersey. (pp. 109-110).

Garrett compared farming with railroads and lamented that federal controls had tamed the railroads. (pp. 110-111). Chapter 16 provides a preview of the federal controls that would come to farming with the New Deal in the 1930's. (p. 109).

Update - click here for discussion of Chapters 17 through 19.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Unsanctioned Voice; Blue Wound; National Self-Containment

Click these links for discussions of the Writer's Note , Chapters 1 and 2, Chapter 3, Chapters 4-6, Chapters 7-10 , Chapters 11 and 12 and Chapter 13 of Bruce Ramsey's Unsanctioned Voice.




Chapter 14 contains Ramsey's discussion of Blue Wound. (My review of Blue Wound from 2007 begins here.)

Blue Wound is a 1921 novel that followed in the immediate aftermath of World War I. Garrett presented panoramic views of the distant past and lost civilizations while projecting then-current trends into the distant future. The reader, in 1921, was presented with descriptions of World War II (including conflicts with Germany and Japan) and technological advancement that would not actually exist until our own time. The reader would also confront America's later dependence on foreign countries for vital materials (a problem that did not exist in 1921). Garrett used these visions to demonstrate that the United States should remain self-sufficient so that it would not need to fight foreign wars and would be immune to foreign countries' attempts to dominate the United States through dominance of vital materials.

Ramsey focuses on Garrett's advocacy of self-sufficiency, but misses many of the best aspects of the novel. Many of Garrett's predictions - the history lessons, the ancient Rome analogy, the story of Japan's rise, the imagery of the rise and fall of cities - are missing from Ramsey's description.

Ramsey points out (p. 92) similar and overlapping concepts in Blue Wound, Ouroboros and A Time Was Born, including the idea of "national self-containment."



Ramsey finds "national self-containment" the "least attractive of his (Garrett's) ideas." Ramsey quotes (pp. 93-94) a 1940 Garrett column in which Garrett argues that Germany had ample opportunity for foreign trade and economic growth without going to war. Economics was thus not a justification for aggression. Nations could live in peace without fighting over resources. Ramsey found this argument (p. 94) inconsistent with Garrett's arguments for self-containment found in Blue Wound and elsewhere.

But Ramsey's argument (p. 94) misses a very important point. Nations might be aggressive even if it is not in their own economic best interest. We cannot expect foreign nations to act as would a corporation that answers to shareholders. Nations make war for religious or ideological reasons while sacrificing their own prosperity. (A similar concept is the U.S.' adoption and enforcement of Obamacare.) Can we ascribe economic motives to the constant war wrought by Islamic nations/movements or the totalitarian empires of the 20th century?

That nations need not make war for economic reasons does not mean that nations will not make war. That nations will make war means that other nations must protect themselves. Garrett's argument for self-containment is one such way that nations protect themselves. The United States might protect itself by becoming self-reliant, regardless of whether foreign aggressors come to believe in peace and economic freedom. Garrett was being descriptive in his discussions of the options that aggressor nations enjoy and the justifications (or lack thereof) for war. But Garrett was advocating specific policies for the U.S. The policies that Garrett recommended recognized the aggressive tendencies of enemy countries. It is not inconsistent to (1) recommend that the United States follow a self-reliant policy while (2) acknowledging that aggressor nations need not make that policy necessary.

update - click here for a discussion of Chapters 15 and 16 of Unsanctioned Voice.

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Unsanctioned Voice; That Satan Said; Lincoln Steffens

Click these links for discussions of the Writer's Note , Chapters 1 and 2, Chapter 3, Chapters 4-6, Chapters 7-10 and Chapters 11 and 12 of Bruce Ramsey's Unsanctioned Voice.




Reading Unsanctioned Voice gives one an appreciation for how much of Garrett's work remains unpublished. The Garrett articles, columns and editorials from the New York Times and the New York Tribune are historically significant not only for an understanding of Garrett, but for a deeper understanding of World War I. While this material is apparently available for research, having it published in book form would be far better for promoting a broader historical perspective of Garrett and his times.

Chapter 13 provides another example of the need for more publication of Garrett's unknown works. Garrett wrote a play around 1920 entitled "That Satan Said." The play was never performed. Ramsey provides evidence that this play is somewhat autobiographical, especially as it relates to his second wife Ida (p. 83). The play seems very touching and I would enjoy reading it in its entirety.

I have written previously about the parallels between Garrett's and Ayn Rand's writings. "That Satan Said" provides another more obvious, if coincidental, similarity. Each of them wrote one play (although the plays are very different).

Ramsey also includes correspondence (from a decade later) consistent with the theme of this play (p. 86) between Garrett and writer Lincoln Steffens, as discovered in Steffens' papers.

It is my hope that someday this play will be published.

update - Click here for a discussion of Chapter 14.

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Unsanctioned Voice; New York Tribune; World War I debt; Hearst newspapers; Louis Budenz; Daily Worker; Eugene Lyons; Red Decade

Click these links for discussions of the Writer's Note , Chapters 1 and 2, Chapter 3, Chapters 4-6 and Chapters 7-10 of Bruce Ramsey's Unsanctioned Voice.




Chapter 11 covers the period (1916-1917) when Garrett was the business editor at the New York Tribune. Garrett focused in this period on the effects of U.S. selling and manufacturing for the war. He noted rising stock prices (p. 67) and rising wages (p. 68). He questioned the true value of stocks notwithstanding then current stock prices.

He especially noted the elimination of U.S. debt, celebrating that "We owe the world nothing." (p. 69). He commented extensively on the U.S.' newfound status as a lender. He was unsure of how far we should go in lending for the war and the ability of the borrowers to repay the debt. Ramsey comments that Garrett did not ask what effect our possible entry into the war would have on repayment from the borrowers. (p. 69). Neither Garrett nor any other commentator anticipated our allies' eventual position that our entry into the war would somehow justify our allies' failure to repay the war loans. To understand the eventual default and the broader context of this issue, it is helpful to read The Bubble that Broke the World in conjunction with Chapter 11.



Garrett's thoughts on goverment regulation remained incomplete (and somewhat inconsistent) (pp. 70-71), as he had not yet experienced the New Deal and had yet to confront big government as the main threat to freedom.

In Chapter 12 Garrett becomes the managing editor of the New York Tribune (July 1, 1917). The United States entered the war in April 1917. Ramsey describes how Garrett used his position to support efforts to seek federal prosecution of the Hearst Newspapers for opposing the war and supporting measures that would hinder the war effort. (pp. 76-79).

It was clear from later writings (p. 79) that Garrett, by the late 1920's, had lost any enthusiasm for foreign wars and had firmly decided against the type of pro-war fervor that had carried away him and the Tribune during World War I.

On page 80 Ramsey writes and quotes the following about Garrett's views on foreign infiltration:

When World War II came, the loyalty issue came up again. In 1940, after Nazi Germany and Communist Russia had dismembered Poland, the Saturday Evening Post's editorial page, edited by Garrett, called for the banning of political organizations "subject to foreign influence," namely those Nazi and Communist. And during the loyalty drive during the first year of war in Korea, Garrett wrote:

Why do Americans embrace the Communist Party? And this is not the same as to ask why Americans embrace the philosophical idea of communism. That could be understood and there need be nothing alien about it. But an American who joins the Communist Party becomes in fact an alien. (reviewing Men Without Faces: The Communist Conspiracy in the U.S.A., by Louis Budenz (1950))(further citations omitted).
Since those days, we have learned that the Communist Party was, in fact, directed and financed largely by Moscow, which was then an enemy of the United States. To some people, that would make no difference in the rights of its members to advocate and engage in the American public square. To Garrett it did. [p. 80].
In fact, it was not "since those days" that we learned that Moscow directed the American Communist Party. This direction and control was known long before Garrett wrote his review of Budenz' (1950) book. In fact, Budenz had been a loyal Communist and the editor of the Communist Party Daily Worker for many years. Soviet control of the American branch of the party and the Daily Worker was the very point of Budenz' 1950 book.



Budenz had written and testified in Congress about this very point for several years:





Just as importantly, mainstream journalist Eugene Lyons had written his book-length study of the American branch of the Communist party in 1941 (The Red Decade), in which he thoroughly documented the extent to which American communists slavishly followed the Soviet party line on every issue - even to the point of alternately supporting and opposing Nazi Germany depending on whether the Soviets were allied with Germany at that moment. It was clear from Lyons' book that American communists did not base their decisions on their own opinions, but on the Russians' immediate diplomatic and military needs and on orders from Moscow.



Garrett's opinion expressed in his review of Budenz' (1950) book reflected thoroughly documented and publicized information that has since been forgotten or obscured. In fact, it is very difficult to read Lyons, Budenz and their contemporaries without reexamining all of our assumptions about that era.

Click here for a discussion of Chapter 13 of Unsanctioned Voice.

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Unsanctioned Voice; World War I; Adolph Ochs; Gay Talese; Leo Frank; Walter Rathenau; New York Times

Click these links for discussions of the Writer's Note , Chapters 1 and 2, Chapter 3 and Chapters 4-6 of Bruce Ramsey's Unsanctioned Voice.




I catalogue these chapters so that I might find this information more easily at some future date and so that the information will appear online and can be cited, quoted or linked more easily.


Chapter 7 deals with Garrett's time on the editorial board at the New York Times in 1915 and 1916. Ramsey relies on Garrett's private journal for insights into Garrett's thinking during this time. Ramsey quotes a 1969 book by Gay Talese (The Kingdom and the Power) for some indication of Garrett's influence on the Times.


Chapter 8 (pp. 47-53) discussess the case of Leo Frank, a sensational murder trial that receieved national attention in 1915 and was the subject of much ink in the pages of the New York Times. Ramsey notes the personal involvement of publisher Adolph Ochs, the role played by Garrett, the changing positions of the Times and Garrett's frustration with the Times' focus on the Frank case instead of the ongoing diplomatic situation involving Germany and the war.

Chapter 9 provides more background into Garrett's thoughts on the war (pp. 55-59) during 1915, including his writing for the New York Times and his discussions with Adolph Ochs (as reflected in Garrett's Journal). Garrett's pre-war opinion on U.S. involvement was still developing at that time. It was nearly impossible in 1915 to foresee the broader context into which the war would fit (Federal Reserve creation, massive debt expansion to fund the war, credit expansion/bubble during the post-war period, bubble collapse leading to worldwide depression and the resulting massive government expansion in the 1930's). One obtains a much broader picture of the whole scenario from Garrett's Bubble that Broke the World a decade and a half later. It would have been difficult, in 1915, to fit the war into a larger scenario that, even today, continues to spiral out of control as the United States transitions to its eventual status as a bankrupt empire.

Chapter 10 continues the discussion of the war (1915-1916) and includes roles for Garrett beyond mere writing. In 1915, the Times sent Garrett to Germany to interview Walter Rathenau (p. 61), the head of Germany's war production. The interview lasted for hours and remained off the record. Rathenau was murdered in 1922. Garrett later included accounts of the meeting in The Saturday Evening Post (1940), Ouroboros (1926) and A Time Was Born (1944).

Garrett returned from Germany with a diplomatic message from Berlin, which the President refused to receive. Garrett instead presented it to the Secretary of State. Garrett was not optimistic that it would do any good. (p. 63).

The chapter concludes with Garrett's resignation from the Times in 1916 and hiring by the New York Tribune (p. 65).

Click here for a discussion of Chapters 11 and 12 of Unsanctioned Voice.

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