The Long Story: Huey Long and Socialism

I mentioned Huey Long a few days ago in the post about Sinclair Lewis’s book It Can’t Happen Here. Huey Long was corrupt, anti-capitalist, socialist … and very popular indeed, as he proposed to take money from the 1% and give it to the 99%.  (At the time, he was using 95% as the popular number.)By “popular,” I mean that Long’s “Share Our Wealth” program (take money from wealthy job-creators and promise to divide it up among Long’s supporters) was very well-thought-of indeed. His plan to confiscate private property and “share” it had organized clubs pushing the notion across the country, generating 60,000 pieces of mail to the Senate per week. There were 27,000 Share Our Wealth clubs and the membership included about 7% of the entire country. Of course, they should have been called “Steal Their Wealth” clubs.

Franklin Roosevelt was greatly concerned about Long’s rise to power, and came up with a plan to “steal his thunder” by advocating and implementing some of the “steal their wealth” and entitlement programs that Long was pushing. As a result, we got the “New Deal” — which the Huey Long website now brags about as being the result of Long’s proposals. From his fan site:

Huey Long never received credit for the government reforms that resulted from his Share Our Wealth movement. The Great Depression persisted for six years after Long’s death, and the federal government gradually adopted policies to regulate the economy and provide for the public good. Many of today’s federal programs address causes championed by Huey Long:

  • Social Security
  • Veterans Benefits
  • College Financial Aid
  • National public works
  • FDIC bank insurance
  • Labor rights, minimum wage and 40-hour work week standards
  • Farm assistance
  • Public utility regulation
  • Graduated Income Tax and Inheritance Tax
  • Medicare and Medicaid
  • Food Stamps
  • Housing Assistance

In implementing these systems, we’ve put hundreds of thousands of charities out of business, and are now spending dozens of times as much money to accomplish a portion of this though the government. This has several effects, in m,y opinion:

  • It has created a new and ever expanding “dependent class” — people who now have spent six generations on the dole, and can conceive of no other way to live.
  • It has pushed black people back into servitude, and undone the isolation from society that Teddy Roosevelt worked hard at eliminating. (Famous Democrat segregationist and anti-Constitutionalist Woodrow Wilson undid this back in 1913, when he decreed that blacks were to be re-segregated from whites in government buildings and in the military. He is why the Pentagon was built with separate “colored” bathrooms.)
  • It has placed the control of large amounts of money in the hands of people incentivized to never solve the problems — as they would lose their jobs and power.
  • It has created a giant bureaucracy aimed at taking care of the neediest class of people: US government employees.
  • And by injecting government into business, it has created a crony capitalism system that is no longer free-enterprise, but favor-buying. The effects of this can be seen today in the intercession of government to get rid of non-union GM stockholders, and to get rid of Republican owners of Chrysler dealerships.

Roosevelt was able to head Long off at the pass, “stealing his pig” as the saying went. Of course, this did not solve the Depression — that would not happen for several more years, when the US launched into World War II.

But it did make Lewis Sinclair’s book about a thinly fictionalized Huey Long popular with the administration: FDR liked it a lot, and was responsible for indirectly selling a lot of copies. But it is eroding America’s capabilities at the individual level, sapping our will, our skill, and our ability to persevere, and this is happening at an ever increasing rate.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  • Do you have in mind any of these “claims” that you believe are incorrect?

    Indeed, Theodore Roosevelt the progressive took many troubling actions even at that early stage of progressivism. This newspaper article, though from the middle of the mine dispute, is talking about another such executive branch overreach:

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  • BarryO

    You are funny. This Libertarian nonsense never gets old. TR in particular would find your claims humorous. TR who famously told mine owners that if they did not recognize and negotiate with a Labor Union he would nationalize the mines. But that would be “unconstitutional” they whined. TR said that his responsibility was to the people before a piece of paper.