Day By Day

Friday, February 24, 2006

More Lies of the Left -- Upton Sinclair Revisited

The well-deserved bashing of Upton Sinclair continues. Recent revelations have raised questions regarding the ethics of his behavior chronicling the Sacco-Vanzetti case [here]. Now comes an indictment of the way in which left-leaning scholars have presented Sinlair's much more famous treatment of the meat packing industry in "The Jungle."

Lawrence Reed systematically dismantles both Sinclair's work and the indictment of capitalism that has been erected on its allegations. A few quotes:
In 1906, in large part because of the firestorm Sinclair generated, Congress passed the famous Meat Inspection Act. A century later, American schoolchildren are still taught a simplistic and romanticized version of this history. They think that unscrupulous capitalists were routinely tainting our meat, and that the moral crusader Sinclair rallied the public and Congress to act. Government then shifted from bystander to do-gooder and disciplined the marketplace to protect its millions of victims.

But this is a triumph of myth over reality, of ulterior motives over good intentions. Reading "The Jungle" and assuming it’s a credible news source is like watching "The Blair Witch Project" because you think it’s a documentary. [from the "introduction"]
President Theodore Roosevelt wrote of Sinclair in a letter to William Allen White in July 1906, "I have an utter contempt for him. He is hysterical, unbalanced, and untruthful. Three-fourths of the things he said were absolute falsehoods. For some of the remainder there was only a basis of truth."
Historians with an ideological axe to grind against the market usually ignore an authoritative 1906 report of the Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Animal Husbandry. Its investigators provided a point-by-point refutation of the worst of Sinclair's allegations, some of which they labeled as "willful and deliberate misrepresentations of fact," "atrocious exaggeration," and "not at all characteristic."
As popular myth would have it, there were no government inspectors before Congress acted in response to "The Jungle" and the greedy meat packers fought federal inspection all the way. The truth is that not only did government inspection exist, but meat packers themselves supported it and were in the forefront of the effort to extend it!
But of course that's not what students are taught in university history classes, where anti-capitalist screeds are the norm.

Read the whole thing here. [hat tip John J. Miller]

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