Rexford Guy Tugwell

The publication of an old (bur still timely) political cartoon triggered memory of the name Rexford Guy Tugwell. This is a name that a few might remember from courses in American History. It is a rather quaint name.

Rexford Guy Tugwell is the sort of name that breeds suspicion in the same vein as Stringfellow Barr. Barr founded the Great Books program and can be forgiven for his lapses into political lunacy. But where do parents get such names? Is it an elitist version of A Boy Named Sue? Is it possible that Ayn Rand satirized this phenomenon with Ellsworth Toohey? The character was fictional but represented the elitist twerp with a plan for controlling lesser mortals.

Tugwell epitomized the ‘academic twit’ who offered little of value but who could rest on his credentials. L. Frank Baum satirized this concept in The Wizard of Oz.

As with so many of his ilk, Tugwell went to Stalinist Russia and got the socialist version of the Potemkin Tour. The Gulag was not on the agenda and he came too early to observe the Purge Trials. Tugwell praised the Stalinist approach to agriculture and seemed to have no second thoughts after the largely forgotten holocaust in Ukraine.

Tugwell had some strange ideas and a contempt for our Constitution. This was evident in his enthusiasm for a replacement document that would provide less of a barrier to a collective society. His book, The Emerging Constitution, would allow a President for life. Hugo Chavez might see this as a great idea and so might his friend in Honduras. Would Obama and friends dare to harbor such a thought? Has he sought any advice on this topic from Mugabe?

One of Tugwell’s experiments was the ‘model city’ of Greenbelt in Maryland. It was a planned community. I lived there for a year or so (it was convenient for those of us working at NASA) and even joined the “Co-op”. It included a supermarket, gas station, and a furniture store. The furniture store was not in the city and near the Montgomery County line. The prices and selection were excellent and it featured Scandinavian products. Someday I expected to get a modest dividend as the result of my purchases. Then someone decided that the store needed a union. There was a picket line that I was pleased to cross. The union won and their rules were imposed. The next time I shopped at Scan, the prices had escalated drastically. I bought nothing and never went there again. Many others did the same and the store quickly folded. I never got my dividend but did get some good products.

4 Comments

  1. Tugwell had some strange ideas and a contempt for our Constitution. This was evident in his enthusiasm for a replacement document that would provide less of a barrier to a collective society. His book, The Emerging Constitution, would allow a President for life. Hugo Chavez might see this as a great idea and so might his friend in Honduras. Would Obama and friends dare to harbor such a thought? Has he sought any advice on this topic from Mugabe?

    Having fun with the casual racism still?

    “Ooooh – black President! Let’s compare him to Mugabe!”

    (And, before you break out a lame “President for life” excuse – Obama has never mentioned anything about going past two terms. The only similarity between Mugabe and Obama is their skin colour.)

  2. “The only similarity between Mugabe and Obama is their skin colour”

    That is a silly remark, even if one thinks that there are no politically significant moral commonalities between them or their ideological committments.

    Apart from the matter of melanin levels,

    … father, abandoned the family …

    … he taught …

    … he became interested in Marxism …

    African paternity …

    African nationalist or member of a self-proclaimed afro-centric church.

    Bill Clinton qualifies for some of this too, and one might well construct a parallel between all three of them on the basis of their pasts and their adult sensibilities.

    Now, that leads to a differnt consideration, not just psychological.

    We might consider that the reason we believe – the prime if not only logical reason to believe – that racism is objectively (in some sense) wrong, is because we hold the following proposition to be true, that: there is no predictable connection between “race” or lineage on the one hand, and moral behavior or innate moral sensibilities on the other.

    In other words, we assume that one will not be systematically cheated or one’s interests harmed by associating on the basis of political and social equality and acceptance with persons who differ in superficially obvious ways, because we assume that their moral capacity and fundamental sensibility and preferences are precisely the same as ours, barring some individual dysfunction.

    Now, superficial black and white notions aside, suppose it could be proved that George Galloway and Robert Fisk and others like them had a genetic inheritance (prevailing in some identifiable lineage) that besides manifesting itself in annoying and neurotic behavior, also disposed them to a complex of behaviors in political communities, which we might justly call coercive-minded socialism.

    Does that leave them as part of the same moral community as those who do not share the same innate tendency or manifest preference as Galloway’s?

    Granting the hypothetical: Does there remain any obligation on the part of those who do not share this innate preference to share a political structure or engage in social relationships with Fisk or Galloway, given that they, per the hypothetical might constitute a significantly different moral kind?

    If so, on what basis does this obligation to tolerate and share risk and costs exist?

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