The "Free Market Entrepreneurs" & the World They Made
My Father's Memories
A bit later, 1931 as I recall, my maternal grandmother took me along with her to the Hippodrome on West End across from Centennial Park to see a 'Marathon Dance Contest'. Today I remember the dancers, moving like the sleepwalkers they in fact were, and the recorded dance music they were supposed to dance to. It was an outstanding example of The Free Enterprise For Profit System at work, and one I have never forgotten; poor out-of-work men and women going through the motions of dancing almost without stop for days until only one of the couples was able to more or less stand on the floor. These completely exhausted people were then rewarded with, I think, one hundred dollars.
The Free Market Entrepreneurs, following time honored custom, charged viewers (most of whom were only marginally employed if at all) a dime to view other poor out-of-work people so desperate as to engage in this legal torture. What a system, and so strongly supported by the poor! I'm sure the promoters all made money on the deal, which produced not a single thing of value to a suffering society but had the virtue to be an example of the free market system approved by God - or so the Bible thumping preachers all declared. I should like to point out here that a dime then would have purchased a loaf of bread and would have been more humanely spent. But the gods of the market place had spoken, and the prosperity we were assured was just around the corner remained there.
The economic destruction of the first world I hoped to grow up in is clear in my mind. The concernit brought to my childhood home was of huge proportions, and I can still hear my father, closeted with mother in their bedroom at night, crying aloud "What am I going to do?". Then the deply concerned voice of my mother would reassure him "god will provide a way". Indeed, in the passage of time a way developed and, if it was not quite the way they would have liked, it was a way to make a living and keep the family together and educate me - not a bad deal in those horrid days. I was there, and the churches could not help, for their members were as bab off as any. The state could not print money and was flat broke as well. What happened?
What happened was the 1932 elections, and FDR became president. While the righteous and the Republicans tried hard to blunt everything he did, we began a slow recovery. How the church people hated FDR and the New Deal, but all who could took the Relief offered, the CCC and the WPA jobs they preached against even as they ate the government's salt. It has been a long lasting lesson to me, and I know how the Christian gentlemen then returned good for ill. Nearly all tried to bite the hand which was feeding them. I may not remember much, but that I will remember as long as I live.