SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
From “The Enemy of Prosperity: Overproduction,” in the November 1930 Harper’s Magazine.
Overproduction, particularly in this
year of world-wide depression, is on
every man’s tongue. What precisely
does it mean? There are indeed distinguished savants who affirm there is.
no such thing. In one sense they are
perfectly correct. Let us look into the
term a little more carefully.
The actual overproduction of goods
destined for the ultimate consumer, in
the sense that they never reach him but
have to be thrown away, is a reasonably
rare phenomenon. Cases have been
cited of shiploads of bananas and carloads of vegetables making gay the
waters of Manhattan because they
could not be given away, but the authenticity of such reports is dubious.
Far more frequent is a conflux of
goods upon the market which can be
absorbed, but only by a very painful
lowering of the producer’s price–often
below the cost of production. The
phenomenon is however a very ancient
one; the consumer often secures some
advantage from it, if not the producer;
while the nation-wide policy of hand-to-mouth buying by both manufacturers and merchants, inaugurated
after the depression of 1921, has tended
to reduce the ravages of overstocked
shelves and sacrifice sales.
The average wage in the United
States is somewhere in the vicinity of
$1,500 a year. If the gentle reader has
ever tried to support his family on that
sum he knows the number–the very
considerable number–of goods he
would like to purchase but must
forego. In respect to the whole body of
finished goods, it is not so much over-production as underconsumption which
is the appalling fact. As a nation we
can make more than we can buy back.
Save in certain categories, there is a
vast and tragic shortage of the goods
necessary to maintain a comfortable
standard of living. Millions of tons of
additional material could readily be
marketed if purchasing power were
available. Alas, purchasing power is
Thus one horn of the dilemma is a
money and credit system which does
not throw off purchasing power as fast
as factories can throw out vendable
commodities. It is the more acute with
the entrance of mass production upon
the economic field. While average income creeps slowly upward, potential
industrial output may increase at twice,
five times, a hundred times the pace.
In “Renegade: The Making of a President,” his insightful new book about Mr. Obama, Richard Wolffe— an MSNBC political analyst, who covered the Obama campaign for Newsweek magazine— extends the basketball metaphor further, depicting the president as a clutch player, who, like Michael Jordan, lives for Game 7 of the finals. He likes getting into his opponents’ heads (though without talking a lot of trash), thinks of himself, in Mr. Wolffe’s words, as “a playmaker” who can “direct the game and outsmart his opponents,” and he knows how to raise his game when it counts, often cranking up the pressure on himself by raising expectations to deliver the game-winning layup as the shot clock is running down. “A fear of failure and a vaulting ambition,” Mr. Wolffe contends, are the “twin forces that drove Obama onward and upward.” But when things went smoothly on the campaign trail— after the crucial Iowa win, or after the 11 straight wins after Super Tuesday— the candidate could “feel too self-assured about his own abilities and accomplishments.” The same thing happened with his 2004 Senate race, Mr. Wolffe writes, when the front-runner stumbled and Mr. Obama rose from the field: “Without the threat of failure, Obama seemed to lose his drive,” and despite being poised to win the nomination and “ideally placed to become the next United States senator for Illinois,” he often “seemed lackluster, disinterested and distant from the contest.” In the case of the 2008 presidential race, the shock of losing New Hampshire stomped out the campaign’s post-Iowa complacency, Mr. Wolffe says, just as “the late rise of Sarah Palin and the panic that she triggered among some Democrats” combined to drive Mr. Obama “toward the finish line.” –“Playing Basketball, Playing Politics: Lessons From the Top Game Changer,” Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
Thousands of mourners lined the streets of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, on Thursday morning to mourn Omar J. Edwards, the 25-year-old police officer who was fatally shot last week by a fellow officer who mistook him for a robber. Gov. David A. Paterson, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and scores of other dignitaries stood at attention outside Our Lady of Victory Roman Catholic Church, at Throop and MacDonough Avenues, as the black hearse bearing Officer Edwards’s body pulled up outside at 10:05 a.m. Preceding the hearse was a procession of 12 motorcycles, a police cruiser and a funerary vehicle, its rear filled with flowers. Then, to the slow but distant beat of drums, a line of Catholic clergy— including Nicholas A. diMarzio, the bishop of Brooklyn, and the Rev. Paul W. Jervis, the church’s pastor— came and stood at the front of the church. Then an honor guard slowly made its way up Throop Avenue. It included some three dozen kilt-wearing bagpipers, and about a dozen drummers. –“Slain Officer Is Mourned in Brooklyn,” Sewell Chan, New York Times
Obama gave a comprehensive, balanced, impressive and enlightening speech. His words give the optimism that the United States is going to seek justice and have us living in a peaceful world. He courageously dealt with truly all of the problems confronting the Muslim world and he was not reluctant to refer to the discrimination Coptic Orthodox Christians receive in Egypt. He also acknowledged the rights of Lebanon’s Maronites, Muslim men and women, Israelis, Palestinians as well as Muslims living across the world and in that regard, pleased everyone. It was good that he quoted a number of Quranic verses and that, at the end of his speech, he even cited two verses from the Bible. He also did a great job in representing the US abroad. In short, I found the speech to be an excellent piece of literature and there’s no doubt in my mind that this will go down as a historic speech. –“Vox pop: Obama’s words debated,” Adam Makary, Al Jazeera
President Obama spoke with his usual charm, polish, and eloquence in Cairo this morning. These virtues are formidable and, no doubt will win him, if not our country, some friends. But this speech was, like so many of his utterances since taking office, tarnished by a desire to be all things to all people. To be Barack Obama is to be, as he says, a person who can see all issues from all sides and defend American interests while at the same time being everyone’s best friend. He sees himself as someone who can achieve Olympian detachment. Speaking of the Arab-Israeli conflict, he says: “If we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth.” But there is more than one type of blindness. The search for the truth is not merely an exercise in which all grievances are considered the same. To assert the truth of the Holocaust is appropriate— if unfortunately necessary when addressing an Arab audience— as is calling on the Palestinians to “abandon violence” and to cease “shooting rockets at sleeping children” or blowing up old women on buses. But the problem with this conflict is not that both sides won’t listen to each other or give peace a chance…[it is not] that the Israelis don’t want the two state solution that Obama endorsed in Cairo. Rather, it is, as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in Washington only a week ago, that the Palestinians aren’t interested in negotiating with Israel. — “Obama’s Age of Moral Equivalence,” Jonathan Tobin, Commentary
Freddie Gray’s relatives arrived for the trial in the afternoon, after the prep-school kids had left. By their dress, they seemed to have just gotten off work in the medical and clerical fields. The family did not appear at ease in the courtroom. They winced and dropped their heads as William Porter and his fellow officer Zachary Novak testified to opening the doors of their police van last April and finding Freddie paralyzed, unresponsive, with mucus pooling at his mouth and nose. Four women and one man mournfully listened as the officers described needing to get gloves before they could touch him.
The first of six Baltimore police officers to be brought before the court for their treatment of Freddie Gray, a black twenty-five-year-old whose death in their custody was the immediate cause of the city’s uprising last spring, William Porter is young, black, and on trial. Here in this courtroom, in this city, in this nation, race and the future seem so intertwined as to be the same thing.
Average speed of Heinz ketchup, from the mouth of an upended bottle, in miles per year:
After studying the fall of 64,000 individual raindrops, scientists found that some small raindrops fall faster than they ought to.
The Playboy mansion in California was bought by the heir to the Twinkie fortune, and a New Mexico man set fire to his apartment to protest his neighbors’ loud lovemaking.
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”