1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content
  3. Skip to sidebar
Source link: http://archive.mises.org/6339/the-ethic-of-the-peddler-class/

The Ethic of the Peddler Class

March 6, 2007 by

Frank Chodorov’s brilliant tribute: “The peddler was the backbone of the American economic and social system. He was the middle class man who prided himself on his initiative, self-reliance, independence and, above all, his integrity. He might be shrewd and even grasping, but he never asked for favors and certainly did not expect society to take care of him. In fact, if he thought of society at all, he thought of it as a collection of individuals, like himself, each of whom contributed to it, and that without them society simply did not exist…. He was society.” FULL ARTICLE

{ 10 comments }

N. Joseph Potts March 6, 2007 at 9:29 am

This excerpt shows its age. I graduated from high school the year the book came out.

45 years later, somehow, entrepreneurism is in rather better shape than it looked then as though it was going to be. And the giant corporations seem to me in aggregate a somewhat smaller part of the economic picture than they seemed (TO ME) then.

All this is DESPITE the enduring validity of the points Chodorov makes. Not only do the points remain valid, but the trends at present may well have reversed and again be quite as he described them 45 years ago.

We’ll know better 45 years from now.

Grayce Gadson March 6, 2007 at 11:21 am

Greetings,

I enjoyed the article, yet couldn’t help but notice glaring omissions. No discussion of U.S. economy rings with validity or truth unless a discussion of the laudable contribution of the captured Africans whose labor income was taken from them and put into the pot of Europeans and their descendants. While the peddler and every endeavor should have pride of placement, it can be argued that captured Africans made to work for -0- income, in this land were the real backbone of the U.S. economy and any prosperity the system of the United States has ever enjoyed. No income meant no opportunities to build and invest and provide legacy for descendants. Many African vendors and business people were politically destroyed through laws and violence and property and income redistributed to Europeans occupiers and their descendants.

What would be nice is to see articles that take the truth into account. Many fairy tales were written in the past to elevate and secure a place for one group of people. I believe the future and its generations are served better when we can finally clean our eyeglasses, get our eyes checked, and make sure we are including all the important elements of the American and European economy.

And because no rents are paid to some of my ancestors, native peoples of the land (not occupiers and descendants–original indigenous owners), then the discussion should also include their contribution as the foundation of the American economy of theft of rents and lease payments. Every person who claims citizenship of the U.S. should demand correct accounting and distribution of the BIA. To not do so, indicates the perpetrating of a continued theft. Where are the morals?

Regards,

Grayce Gadson

–interesting sentences:

“Now, the peddler, using the term figuratively, was the backbone of the American economic and social system. He was the middle class man who prided himself on his initiative, self-reliance, independence and, above all, his integrity. He might be shrewd and even grasping, but he never asked for favors and certainly did not expect society to take care of him.”

“And, above all, security has become a fetish among all classes of society, from the lowliest wage-earner to the president of the corporation. To be sure, security against the exigencies of life has always been a human aim. But, while in the last century man made provision against disaster, in insurance, in paying off the mortgage on the old homestead, in savings, the tendency during the latter half of the twentieth century is to put the burden of one’s security on society.”

Stuart McGeady March 6, 2007 at 5:47 pm

Ms. Gadson:

Points of clarification regarding your blog: What does the acronym BIA represent? With regard to the theft of rents, would the victims of theft be Native Americans? Or did you mean African Americans?

Stuart McGeady

Peter March 6, 2007 at 11:08 pm

Presumably native Americans; but while nobody would dispute that some land was forcibly stolen from the natives, not nearly as much as most people probably think. (E.g., Rothbard writes in Conceived in Liberty that Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island, bought the land off the natives, but, in fact, the natives in question had no legitimate claim on most of it, and this gave rise to some problems)

Vince Daliessio March 6, 2007 at 11:32 pm

Just above the lines Gadson quotes are the best, and most telling lines in the piece;

“This is the story… in broad outline of many of the industries that make up the American economy, from steel to automobile; some pioneer, beginning in a small way, exercised industry and thrift and plowed back his savings into his business to serve the needs of the community. He might have, as conditions warranted, borrowed the savings of others to expand his enterprise, but until he had demonstrated his ability to render service, and the need for it, his capital consisted mainly of his own savings.

That practice has gone by the boards these days for one reason: the income tax absorbs the savings of the entrepreneur before he can lay his hands on it. The tax-collector gets the accumulations that might have been plowed back into the business, and growth from modest beginnings is therefore impossible. This has the tendency to discourage enterprise, to freeze the proletarian into his class regardless of his ambition or ability. The imaginative entrepreneur of today must begin on a relatively large scale, by borrowing from the government against a government contract or some enterprise undertaken on a government grant or guarantee. The “little man” must remain little.”

Chodorov is right, taxation and debt financing have killed most small-scale entrepreneurialism or driven it underground. Government confiscates the profits of a man’s labor for a corporation then largely disposes of the workingman’s rightful profit in ways that are against the interests of the workingman but very often expressly in the interests of the corporations.

This has destroyed the trades of huckster and peddler even more effectively than any Wal*Mart could ever hope to in direct competition, but also seriously harmed our social and economic mobility, as well as having many other deleterious effects.

B. D. Howard March 15, 2007 at 9:43 am

The following comments are for Mr. Stuart McGeady.

First of all, the BIA is the U.S. Government’s Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Secondly, are you the same Stu McGeady with whom I once shared a house (w/ Bill, when I was w/ Terry)?

Just curious…

Mark March 24, 2007 at 2:17 pm

As a farmer with a BS and MS in mechanical engineering, whose father was a farmer and engineer with a BS in mechanical engineering, whose father was a farmer with two BS degrees: mechanical engineering and agricultural science, etc., I found this statement to be blatantly false for my family and most other farming families. -

“It never occurred to this middle class man that society owed him a living, or that he might apply to the government for help in the solution of his problems. The farmer is a particular class in point; the present day agriculturist, who must be included in our present day middle class in terms of income, holds it quite proper to demand of government, that is, the rest of society, a regularized subsidy, even a subsidy for not producing; the farmer of the early part of the century would hardly have thought of that.”

In 1962 farm subsidies were few. What subsidies there were went to areas of the country where severe weather had ruined farms. The subsidy was not a wage, it was a small grant, or more commonly, a loan from the government. The money was to provide stimulus to the economies. If the farmer has no money, he buys no machinery or crop supplies. Without money, the farmer cannot afford to grow another crop to start again. The lack of spending by the farmer hurts other industries: banks, steel mills, fuel refiners, grocers, textile, etc.

Currently, family run farms cannot support a family. Every active farmer I know works a full time job and runs the farm from dusk to dawn, weekends and holidays. Equipment costs (if you thought your car broke down often, try farm machinery) are higher than buying a new home! While trying to get ahead, American farmers have become skilled in maximum production – To the point where we produce so much, that the price of wheat per bushel (approx. $2.00) is the same as it was during WWII!
– 1 bushel of wheat makes about 150 loaves of bread.

There are inactive farmers, given their increasing age, low return, and increasing operating costs, who take government subsidies. And why should they not? The government pays the farmers not to farm, hoping a decrease in productivity will increase the return to farmers. Unfortunately, the same government buys large quantities of food stuffs from other countries at such low prices, that the farm subsidies have no effect on the market.

How can you blame the farmer? In a good year, affter operating costs, say a farmer profits $50,000. In a bad year, the same farmer loses $20-40,000. Through this cycle, the farmer breaks even every 8 years. That means there is no money for investment, savings, new machinery, or anything else. The farmer is not in the middle class, the farmer is poor.

Many people see farmers in new trucks or tractors every few years and think that the farmers are rich. What can be purchased, is owned by the bank and the reason for the new purchases are 1. the old equipment broke down for the final time, and 2. tax write-offs.

Tax write-offs are so valuable to a farmer. At a time when property taxes increase yearly, but the land produces the same income each year, there is no other way to save on paying out more and more on taxes.

A blanket statement that farmers are, “… a particular class in point; the present day agriculturist, who must be included in our present day middle class in terms of income, holds it quite proper to demand of government, that is, the rest of society, a regularized subsidy, even a subsidy for not producing,” is entirely wrong. If such a statement was made about women, blacks, illegal immigrants or any other minority, there would have been a nation out-cry.

Stuart McGeady April 25, 2007 at 1:13 am

To B. D. Howard:

Well… when and where?

Stu

Stuart McGeady April 25, 2007 at 1:14 am

Sorry… skm (at) mcgeady.com

Stuart McGeady September 25, 2007 at 2:21 am

Bruce Howard from Old Columbia Pike, and Wild Bill’s Packard Parts?

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: