Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Croaking Class of Persons

Every now and then I read a quote that makes me want to shout out "Yes, that's exactly what I want to say, and damn does it sound good!" I've been reading historian Burton Folsom's book Entrepreneurs vs. The State (With a title like that, you know it's good. I think it's out of print now, but I think his The Myth of the Robber Barons is very similar if not the same). It's a very entertaining and enlightening read, and I recommend it if you get the chance.

Anyway, he has a chapter devoted to the founders of Scranton, PA. They were the Scranton brothers and their associates, who started the Lackawanna Iron and Coal Company as well as the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad. Some of these men were great capitalists who amassed a fortune, as well as built and planned the city of Scranton.

In this chapter, Folsom discusses how the local farmers were not too keen on these city boys buying nearby land and building factories on it (although they did not complain about the easy freight access). They did not want "the 'machine' [to] transform their 'garden' into an industrial community." It's easy to see that these farmers were anti-capitalist Luddites of the oldest and most enduring breed. Folsom then presents the reader with a quote from a Lackawanna Valley historian, Horace Hollister, describing the farmers. No description would do justice to this quote, so just read:
There were then, as there are yet, and as there always will be, a debilitated, but croaking class of persons who by some hidden process manage to keep up a little animation in their useless bodies, who gathered in bar-room corners, and who, with peculiar wisdom belonging to this class while discussing weighty matters, gravely predicted that "the Scrantons must fail!"
Substitute "capitalism" for "the Scrantons" and you've got a description of every whiny, lazy, self-hating moocher now crowing for government to lead them and tell them what to do. "Croaking class of persons;" I love it!

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