Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Few Words from Huey Long

Huey P. Long was elected governor of Louisiana in 1928, was then elected to the United States Senate, and was assassinated in the lobby of the Louisiana State Capital in 1935. Many recall him as "The Kingfish", and to this day characterize him as a crazed despot. Perhaps he was in many ways. But those who demonize his memory ignore his underlying belief in the right of every person to a decent life. His credo was "Every Man A King". And in 1933, he wrote and self-published an autobiography with that title. It wasn't a great seller, only a thousand or so copies, but there was truth in it. This passage rings as true today as it did in 1933.

"I had come to the United States Senate with only one project in mind, which was that by every means of action and persuasion I might do something to spread the wealth of the land among all of the people. I foresaw the depression in 1929. . . I had predicted all of the consequences many years before they occurred.
The wealth of the land was being tied up in the hands of a very few men. The people were not buying because they had nothing with which to buy. The big business interests were not selling, because there was nobody they could sell to.
One per cent of the people could not eat any more than any other one per cent; they could not wear much more than any other one per cent; they could not live in any more houses than any other one per cent. So, in 1929, when the fortune-holders of America grew powerful enough that one per cent of the people owned nearly everything, ninety-nine per cent of the people owned practically nothing, not even enough to pay their debts, a collapse was at hand.
There is no rule so sure as that one that the same mill that grinds out fortunes above a certain size at the top, grinds out paupers at the bottom. The same machine makes them both; and how are they made? There is so much in the world, just so much land, so many houses, so much to eat and so much to wear. There is enough--yea, there is more--than the entire human race can consume, if all are reasonable.
All the people in America cannot eat up the food that is produced in America; all the people in America cannot wear out the clothes that can be made in America; nor can all of the people in America occupy the houses that stand in this country, if all are allowed to share in homes afforded by the nation. But when one man must have more houses to live in than ninety-nine other people; when one man decides he must own more foodstuff than any other ninety-nine people own; when one man decides he must have more goods to wear for himself and family than any other ninety-nine people, then the condition results that instead of one hundred people sharing the things that are on earth for one hundred people, that one man, through his gluttonous greed, takes over ninety-nine parts for himself and leaves one part for the ninety-nine.
Now what can this one man do with what is intended for ninety-nine? He cannot eat the food that is intended for ninety-nine people; he cannot wear the clothes that are intended for ninety-nine people; he cannot live in ninety-nine houses at the same time; but like the dog in the manger, he can put himself on the load of hay and he can say:
'This food and these clothes and these houses are mine, and while I cannot use them, my greed can only be satisfied by keeping anybody else from having them.'
Wherefore and whence developed the strife in the land of too much, beginning in the year 1929."
(Every Man A King, Huey P. Long, 1933, pgs. 291-292)

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