You are here

To Work, To Work, Off We Go To Work

George A. Grant, courtesy National Park Service Historic Photograph Collection
Sunday, January 4, 2009

With talk swirling that President-elect Obama might be thinking of a 21st century Civilian Conservation Corps, it seems only fitting that we take a look back at the original CCC.

This photo, taken in May 1933 in Rocky Mountain National Park, depicts CCC workers ready to head off to their various work sites in the park.

I just can't wait to revisit American socialism at its finest. No one can allocate scarce resources like a centralized bureaucracy. It'll be just like the 1930's all over again. Sounds like a party to me. Everyone grab a shovel and let's dig right in!

Actually, the CCC did some beautiful work in the Parks that has mostly endured and seldom been equalled since by the National Park Service. I'll bet they could lay a water line that would not need replacing several times a decade as has the one at Paradise, Mt. Rainier. Judging by the photo, the vegetative impacts look to be about the same though. The proposed new program might do alright if the Army ran it again instead of the NPS. And what could be more socialist than the idea of National Parks?

I worked atop a CCC lookout built in the late 1930s. The CCC craftsmanship was durable, and the character or work ethic of the men employed are not at issue.

The fundamental issue is that the CCC was an expensive decade-long program that failed to "create jobs", failed to improve the economy, and failed to "get us out of the Depression".

Government does not have the ability to "create" jobs; they can merely transfer resources. During the Great Depression, government artificially kept wage rates high, which caused under- and unemployment. Unemployment rates were high throughout the 1930s, so we can not attribute the "creation of jobs" to public works.

While some benefited from public works (those workers and public lands), the government allocated resources to a non-productive sector. Before arguing "creation of jobs" as being productive, remember that government paid those workers either through taxes, which is simply redistribution--not creation--of wealth, or inflation--the debasement of the currency; the first steals from the rich, the second robs the poor and middle class.

Lookouts, trails, and benches are all nice, but their creation did not increase the industrial productivity of Depression-era society. In fact, these programs likely decreased productivity, increased unemployment, and prolonged the Depression.

@Frank: You really believe that, do you? And your economic theories aren't shattered by the recent developments, right?

Fact is: The CCC created values. Values that we still use because they still enhance our National Parks, National Monuments, National Recreation Areas and about 800 State Parks that were created in the first place by the CCC. They build roads and installed tens of thousands miles of telephone lines in rural areas. They preserved soils in the Dust Bowl by planting trees (OK, I admit that some of them were tamarisks that are giving us trouble now). They put up around 8 million man-days fighting fires in National Forests, preserving primary forests and the wealth in timber.

The CCC kept up the work ethics of the participants, who came from families where no one in the whole family did any work, had any reason to get up in the morning. In Chicago the crime rate dropped by 55% with the introduction of the program and a judge attributed that exclusively to the CCC. The participants got healthy and enough food, health care, trained their skills and furthered their education. Some 40.000 illiterates learned to read and write while in the CCC. After 1937 all camps had courses in a variety of topics, some up to College level.

The direct economic stimulus was distributed between the rural areas where the camps were located and the urban centers where the participants came from, because from their salary the participants kept only a nominal part and at least $25 per month had to be send to the families at home. Imagine what those $300 per family and year did to the local businesses.

Frankly: I doubt there was any better way to spend the costs of around $1000 per Person.

It's the same old story: theft is okay as long as the proceeds go to something I approve of.

While liberals don't like the booty going to fund war, conservatives object to it being spent on wilderness trials. The theft and unproductive redistribution is never called into question, just where and when it is to be unprofitably squandered.

I really don't expect this state of affairs to change until the government is finally totally insolvent-----and that time is a comin' soon to a theater near you.

Happy New Year y'all!

You can't eat values. And forests would have been better off and more productive without the CCC's fire suppression.

The economic theories of Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard have been confirmed, not shattered, by recent events, and Peter Schiff, an economist of the Austrian School, was recently proven right while Keynesian theory has been proven wrong.

Beamis, California, an economic indicator, is effectively bankrupt. Ahnold is sending out IOUs instead of tax refunds because the state is insolvent. Real change is around the corner.

Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide