Capital and Communities

Capital and Communities

In the 1960s, when I was a writer and organizer for the International Union of Electrical Workers, one of my jobs was to travel to communities where
plants were closing (sometimes in the aftermath of a strike or other militant union action) and to explain to the community leaders that the union was not to blame for the loss of jobs. The union was always on the defensive. The contract gains, which had built the well-being of the community, were now blamed by the corporation, and believed by the citizens, to be the cause of the shutdown. The corporation almost always escaped the community’s wrath.

I saw the impact of plant closings first-hand — the loss of a worker’s status and skills, as well as material security. I took pictures of the four-lane highways that led to empty factory buildings—buildings and highways often built by community bond issues for companies that demanded this sacrifice for locating there and providing jobs.

I went to Paducah, Kentucky, to Sandusky, Ohio, to Selma, Alabama—I knew that even though the first of these runaways went from North to South, it could just as well be from Upper South to Deep South, or maybe out of the country altogether.

Now the Progressive Alliance has published an account of the impact that the unrestricted mobility of private capital has had on communities, on the national economy, and on the world economy.* In Capital and Communities, Barry Bluestone and Bennett Harrison challenge capitalists’ royal prerogative in the U.S. to move their investments without concern for social consequences or human costs. The authors, both economists, have analyzed virtually all the significant studies in the field, along with data used by the business community, to build a carefully documented case that leads to their ultimate recommendations for reform and action.

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