glyph 533: law, economics, employment ... National Recovery Act of 1933, Roosevelt ... American Mercury Magazine, archive of journals: Ludwig von Mises Institute ... David Eccles III's story of Luke Simpkins' lumber business, what it did, how it was killed, effect on employment during a depression


Luke Simpkins' Lumber Business, 1936

simple story, profound principle

Things that don't change: A complaint about the fate of the lumber business of Luke Simpkins under rules of the National Recovery Act, 1933. This simple story illustrates a principle as good today as then. The same thing is now happening in thousands of ways, and will continue until we set ourselves free of regulators in service to those to whose advantage it is to restrict trade, i.e. to use law to cripple competitors.

"... neither did I like the way NRA turned out for my friend Luke Simpkins. Luke was operating two portable saw mills out in the woods. He employed a couple of dozen men and made a fair living for himself. He had no illusions about the kind of lumber you turn out of a portable sawmill. Stacked up against boards cut in a big, modern plant with all kinds of newfangled machinery it didn't compare so well. On the other hand, there is a market for all kinds of lumber and if yours is cheap there are lumber buyers who will overlook details. Luke sold his lumber to fellows like that and so far as I know everyone was satisfied. But the new lumber code wasn't. It set up minimum prices, arrived at on the basis of what the highest cost boom-time operator with expensive timber had to get. Big operators had been losing money and wanted to get some of the pests out of the industry. Well, the upshot was that only a damnfool would buy second grade lumber when first grade lumber sold for the same price. Luke had to give up and go to work selling for one of the large mills. The only payroll in his town went out of existence."

David Eccles III, from "American Mercury," September, 1936, Volume XXXIX, Number 153, pg. iv: "An Open Letter to President Roosevelt"

The entire issue of the magazine is searchable: this specific quotation by searching for "Luke Simpkins".
May 4, 2014; edited/updated October 5, 2018

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