Jim and Oscar stopped by my site at the campground in Republic., in northwestern Ohio We chatted a bit about how capitalism has worked in his life.
Jim grew up on his family's farm in nearby New Riegel. At 18 he started working at a Ford spark plug factory in Fostoria (not far away). He described the plant being sold in the early 1970s because "the government told them they had to sell because of monopoly". Later, when I had a chance to look online, I found the case he was referring to, Ford Motor Co. v. United States, 405 U.S. 562. According a report at the time, "The ruling on the 1961 acquisition re quires Ford to sell the spark plug factory in Fostoria, Ohio, and not to manufacture spark plugs for 10 years. In Dearborn., Mich., Ford expressed disappointment with the decision. Justice William O. Douglas said for the court, that acquisition aggravated an already oligopolistic, or limited market, but with new merchandisers expected to grow substantially in the next decade, the separation of Ford from Autolite should increase the competition". (The New York TImes, 3/30/1972)
According to Jim, at the time of the sale the plant employed 1,400 people. He continued working under new owners Allied Signal and retired after 30 years at the age of 48 with a pension. Eventually the factory was resold and eventually production was moved to Mexico. Recently a rubber company has bought the building. Jim said that these days a number of small manufacturing plants (tool and die, plastics, etc.) operate in the area around Tiffin (the larger town nearby).
As for agriculture, he described how over the last 30 years many smaller family farms had been sold to local families (not multi-national firms) with more capital to invest. He said these larger farms (3,000-8,000 acres) had the money to buy big equipment, GPS-guided combines and tractors, etc. Most dairy farms closed in the 1980s when, he said, "the government bought up their cows to limit production and control prices". Later, dairy farmers couldn't get back into production because newer regulations required expensive stainless steel equipment they couldn't afford. These days, "it's all corn, wheat and soybeans".
After he retired from the spark plug company Jim worked in the area to walk the fields, certifying fields for Monsanto. Eventually he moved to Florida and he continues to live there in the winter months, returning to his RV in Republic during the summer. In Florida he is very happy with his job driving a motor coach: "I never knew there was a job out there I have so much fun at!". He drives groups of kids, retirees and others on excursions and, "everyone shows up in a good mood". As he said, smiling, at this point in his life it's important to him to "be very selective about work".
Jim's brief account of capitalism in his - and his community's - life highlighted interactions between government, democratic authority and business as well as the impact of work on our lives. Thank you, Jim, for taking the time to talk!