SEPTEMBER 3, 1947
HYDE PARK, Tuesday—I have been watching with very great interest the attack on the cooperative at Greenbelt, Md., a government-owned community, and on all cooperatives in general. The idea seems to be that a cooperative prevents private enterprise from functioning freely. As a matter of fact, it is purely a matter of competition, as it is between the chain stores and a small independent store.
All of the figures that I have seen of late show a steady trend toward absorption of small individual business by big business and by chains of various kinds, until in certain lines there are complete monopolies. The opponents of the cooperatives have not attacked this type of monopoly. They leave that to the anti-trust laws apparently. But the anti-trust laws have not been used to attack the cooperatives.
It is true that when people join together in a cooperative, they can buy in greater quantities and can bring to the people lower prices. I know something of Greenbelt, because I remember its beginnings. The people who lived there could remain only if their incomes were limited. They were struggling to get as much as they possibly could for themselves and their children with a minimum of cost.
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It is true that a cooperative formed for selling certain farm products is able to accomplish some economies which might be impossible for the individual. But a cooperative benefits the small man in his small business venture. It benefits the individualist who is willing to join with his fellows to better himself but who does not wish to be dictated to by anyone else. This would cover the average farmer and his attitude as he enters a cooperative.
Traditionally, the farmer in this country has been a member of the Republican Party, and so one cannot help being rather surprised at an attack of this kind when that party is in the majority.
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I must say that in a country where big business flourishes with the kind of regulation which often looks the other way, the sincerity of an attack made on the cooperatives does not strike me as self-evident. And I cannot help hoping that the average citizen has by now learned to weigh very carefully any government action which actually accrues to his benefit, and not to make up his mind on any propaganda basis.
Since the rapid rise in prices, we have tended to forget that, when price controls were removed, we were told by the party in power in Congress that this was the answer to all of our difficulties—that there might be a temporary sharp rise in the cost of living but that everything would soon settle back to normal. Some of us, having been through the aftermath of the last war, were not quite so sure of this, and today we find our misgivings amply justified.