Thursday, June 05, 2008

Are you suggesting socialism? 

It seems many want to take Gov. Pawlenty to task for vetoing the bill the DFL legislature passed that would have suspended mortgage foreclosures. An admiring history lesson in the MinnPost calls attention to Floyd Olson's "bold move":
On Feb. 24, 1933, Floyd B. Olson � the state's first Farmer-Labor Party governor � issued an executive order halting mortgage foreclosures in the state. The short-term suspension, scheduled to last until May 1, was intended to buy time for people facing sheriffs' sales and to pressure the Legislature to come up with a longer-term approach to combating foreclosures.

Knowing that he was on shaky legal grounds, Olson maintained that he was not ordering a foreclosure moratorium although that was the effect of his action. The executive order applied to urban homesteads as well as to farm property, but the governor's proclamation focused on the rural impact of the wave of forced evictions sweeping through the state.

Olson's bold move at the start of his second term would do much to embellish his reputation as an activist governor who used the powers of his office to combat the economic and social devastation caused by the Great Depression in Minnesota.
This from the same governor who once said that same year "I do not believe there can be any economic security for the common man or woman in this country until and unless the key industries of the United States are taken over by the government." (Geo. Mayer, The Political Career of Floyd B. Olson, University of Minnesota Press, p. 149.) Olson had also acted to depress farms by, for example, offering the previous year to use the state militia to prevent the "export" of farm crops to the rest of the country, if other farm states would join in. (They didn't.)

It's hard to imagine why anyone thinks that, when all discussion turns to a credit crunch, violating the property rights of creditors will make more credit flow. Unless you intend to seize the property itself. A propos today, this column by Jerry Bowyer makes a similar point. The bill vetoed makes banks a target, after which nothing else really matters.

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