“The American Dream remains alive. It is threatened, however, by those who would seek to have the government punish those who reach too high a level of success.” The words are those of Mike Stuart, a corporate lawyer, who is no doubt endowed with the genes of a king and the portfolio of the pampered and who probably believes that the acquisition of a billion and a feathered nest in Nice is definitive success and the ultimate American Dream.

“In 1895, Gov. William A. MacCorkle vetoed a bill to increase the number of state mine inspectors from three to five, calling it an affront to the mine owners: ‘I suggest that the passage of this bill is attended with too much risk to our greatest commercial interests. The greatness of West Virginia is founded upon our coal. Nothing else approximates coal in its effect upon our marvelous prosperity. … There is absolutely no necessity for five mine inspectors.’” (Bob Miller, a Charleston historian, from an article in the Gazette, 2-13-06.)

MacCorkle, a man of success, who from the sweat of miners’ brows, from the value of their labor expropriated and at the expense of the lives of God only knows how many coal miners— enjoyed “marvelous prosperity” and built a mansion in the South Hills of Charleston. He is commemorated by an equestrian statue and by that great house on the hill and his buggy rides thereto. He became governor and vetoed a bill to increase mine inspectors for the benefit of the miners, claiming that it was in the best interest of the citizen of West Virginia to do so, when it was most likely in his interest and those like him. Today, the miners’ lot is better but it has been a long struggle against profit-worshipping capitalists. I remember John L. Lewis and his bitter fight to bring decency to the coal fields.

“I see one-third of the nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished … the test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” (Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his second inaugural address, March 1937.)

It is the same today, thanks to Reagan and Bush I and Bush II. It is the same and probably worse relative to the wealth of this country now and 1937. Millions still live in poverty and thousands are homeless, millions have no medical insurance and millions work for wages that are inadequate for them to live decently. It is worse because Republicans have with purblind zeal reduced government’s power to regulate and thus   government has a weaker bridle and bit to rein in those capitalists who know no bounds or scruples. And they have given to the rich and taken from the poor in lockstep, creating the widest divide between rich and poor ever.

Mike Stuart, Esquire, I feel certain was not alive during the Twenties, when capitalism had no bridle to restrain it. It ran wild and while it carried an elite to great wealth it ran rough shod over the populace that produced the wealth but realized little of it. The result was the Great Depression, a result the much maligned Karl Marx had long ago predicted. And anyone with common sense could predict that, if capitalists acquire all the money in the world and there is nothing left for the people to buy what the capitalists produce, then, disaster is inevitable.

Capitalists for the most part are predators with an insatiable desire to acquire. The social contract is a document that either they did not sign or are unaware that such a document exists. Thomas Jefferson opined long ago that capitalists had no nation; that is, they had no allegiance to any land but only to profits, regardless of where they lived. Capitalists believe that success is the acquisition of great wealth. History, religion and philosophy give the lie to such a belief. The goal of society should be a healthy, educated, enlightened and united citizenry. Wealth concentrated in the few is a condition subversive to that goal. Wealth should be a means and not an end. Only government can assure a just distribution of a nation’s wealth. Philanthropy comes after the crime.

Diogenes, a Cynic philosopher who lived more than two millennia ago, lived frugally. His only possession was a wooden cup; and, when he saw a child drink by cupping his hands, he threw away his cup as superfluous. He spoke rather strange words, if not blasphemous words, to a people who not only have cups but cans and bottles by the billions, when he opined: “A man’s happiness is best promoted by the decrease in his wants, rather than the increase of his income.” Christ taught that riches and material things were obstacles to entering the Kingdom of God. I dream of walking with Diogenes and Jesus through Wal-Mart and its miles of aisles separating canyons of shelves of things, mostly of which are trivia and stuff to take home—soon to be trash. What would Diogenes and Jesus think of this vast cave of merchandise, of material things that have a short shelf-life in the homes where they are brought as the kill, so to speak, of the day? This nation’s addiction is shopping. There seems to be no joy anymore but the purchase.

America is killing itself with stuff and things. The chief culprit is capitalism and its accomplices. They are in the business of pandering to the appetites of people. They produce bush-button devices that do with machines what muscles once did. They produce automobiles, which have caused feet to be all but obsolete. They entice and seduce mankind to eat too much, to sit too much, to ride too much, to spend too much, to indulge itself in all the appetites to an extent that is unnatural, unhealthful and detrimental to it in every respect.

To advocate unbridled capitalism is to advocate disaster in the long run and anyone who is a responsible person considers the long run; that is, considers now the time when his children and grandchildren must face what future he has by his decrees and decisions fashioned. Unbridled capitalism is expediency sanctified. It acknowledges no future or cares about tomorrow. Enough is its antithesis and sufficiency its bane.

About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (, and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation ( I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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