The Omaha platform is attached in the link above.. As far as I know that was the beginning of the common use of the term, populism.  This is  not 1892 and I'm not trying to be a purist in the language, but it would help to know the origin of the political/economic concept.  Then we can see if it is useful  term nearly 130 years later.  Obviously capitalism in 2020 is not the same as capitalism in 1892 either.  As Fagg Foster used to say, won't it be nice when these isms become wasms?  The social world evolves!  I do reject Trumps and Steve Bannon's claim to the concept.  

I have learned a lot from this discussion, especially from those with a Latin American and European perspective. My U.S. perspective is based on the effects of transportation and especially the railroads.  We moved from local markets to distant, impersonal markets with railroads, where railroad corporations and monopoly grain storage facilities held all the power. Think global economy.  The ruthless power imbalance led to the Granger movement by grain farmers in the midwest.  States had been able to regulate prices until the Chicago, Milwaukee & St Paul case in 1890.  In that case, the U. S. Supreme Court determined for the first time that rate regulation could take intangible property.  That little decision changed the nature of property and capitalism.  It gave legal protection to intangible property.  These are the economic circumstances on the ground that led to the fight for Populism. States lost power to the Federal courts.  This is a short hand version of a complicated story.  I am sure that my counselor, Steve Paschall will correct it where necessary.  In the meantime, the errors are mine.   

As we know, the Interstate Commerce Clause is in the Constitution, but there was little interstate commerce until the railroads, except in a few places such as the New York Harbor.  Interstate commerce became paramount with the transnational railroads and later. The economic and political base of the U.S. were not well integrated without wide transportation and communication networks.  An article posted by Dave Zalewski noted that populism was not defined by an overarching ideology.  It couldn't have been in my opinion.  The problems and social structure of the impoverished farmers of the deep south were very different than the grain farmers of the midwest.  Huey Long mobilized his people because he knew them.  The point I tried to make earlier was that his rhetoric and reach was a more visible target than the Omaha Platform. The vested interests went after him.  

Then we had the Okies and the dust bowl.  Timothy Eagan, a journalist, published an excellent book a few years ago.  The title was The Hardest of Hard Times. The dust bowl was centered in southwestern Kansas and the Oklahoma Panhandle.  There were few people living there and most of them stayed.  The big migration came from eastern Oklahoma, Arkansas and central and east Texas.  They were an impoverished group who said they had been "tractored out"  This was the people that Steinbeck wrote about.  The Grapes of Wrath had more to do with the Okies experience in California.  Paul Schuster Taylor, a student of E.A. Ross (sociologist) and John R. Commons (economist) spent lots of time in the central valley of California interviewing Mexican migrant farm workers.  He met the photographer, Dorothea Lange and  hired her as a typist because he didn't have a position in his government contract for a photographer.  His research was to interview migrant Mexican farm workers in the central valley of California, but he felt he could convey the conditions better with photographs than numbers alone.    His faculty colleagues at Cal, Berkeley told him several times to come back to the campus office and do some real work.  Lange's work was very effective.  I recommend a book by Linda Gordon, Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits.  There is  chapter on Taylor too.  

There is a book by Lange and Taylor titled An American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion.  That book has text and photographs. Lange and her assistant talked to many of the subjects and some of their observations are recorded in the book.  An old couple (probably younger than they looked) who were in a rattletrap pickup stopped and responded to Lange's assistant -- "yessir, we're starved, stalled and stranded."  Taylor found  it hard to be an impartial scientific observer when dealing with that kind of DATA.  

Let's not ignore the role of Woody Guthrie in making us aware of what's happening in places we avoid. Woody's son Arlo found a note in Woody's papers sometime after Woody had died.  It was from John Steinbeck who wrote --- Dear Woody,  You little bastard, you covered in twelve verses (The Ballad of Tom Joad) what it took me a whole novel to say.  

I think this is what Bill Dugger calls Walk Around Economics.  Then it's up to us to make sense out of what we learned when we walked around.  It can't all be found in data sets, especially when we haven't taken the time to understand the data.  Leontieff covered this in his AEA presidential address in the early 70s.             

I am concerned about the term populism because too many people are misusing.  How do we handle that?  Does populism go beyond the agricultural economy to the industrial, now the financial economy?

On Thursday, April 16, 2020, 01:16:27 PM PDT, Wray, Randall <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Thanks Ramon. Yes it is confused and I think that is intentional.

The way I've always thought of it is that the correct definition of "populist" is: "one who would get elected in a free and democratic election" 

Such a person would not always be an angel, and perhaps not even a progressive. But one can see why the official media and party apparatus would be horrified at such an outcome, and hence would want to denigrate "populism" and also try to make it as confusing as possible so that a trump or bolsonaro is equated to a bernie (or allende or obrador).

They are terrified that even with all their rigging of the elections (and with the American media's "all trump all the time coverage") a true populist might still win and represent the interests of the voting majority.

L. Randall Wray
Senior Scholar, Levy Economics Institute

Professor of Economics, Bard College

Emeritus Professor, University of Missouri-Kansas City

Co-editor Journal of Post Keynesian Economics
ISSN 0160-3477 (Print), 1557-7821 (Online)

Recent Books:

A Great Leap Forward: Heterodox Economic Policy for the 21st Century; Randall Wray; Paperback ISBN: 9780128193808; Academic Press; Published Date: 22nd January 2020;


Macroeconomics; Author(s): William Mitchell, L. Randall Wray, Martin Watts; Red Globe Press, Macmillan International; February 2019;


Why Minsky Matters: An Introduction to the work of a maverick economist, Princeton University Press


Modern Money Theory: a primer on macroeconomics for sovereign monetary systems, Palgrave Macmillan 


Please make note of my new email address as I will be transitioning all email to:

From: AFEEMAIL Discussion List <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Ramon Garcia Fernandez <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Wednesday, April 15, 2020 10:29 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [AFEEMAIL] Lock-down reading
Dear AFEErs, 

A very short point: populism is a very complicated category, it cannot just be simply dismissed as something dangerous/bad. Ernesto Laclau has written very interesting reflections on it (e.g., "On Populist Reason"). 

Just to add to the uses of the term, here in Latin-America conservatives use the term populism trying to put in one same bag anti-free traders as Trump with authoritarian clowns as Bolsonaro, and with all the left-wing governments of the Latin-American turn to the left in the 2000s (people as different as Chavez, Mujica, Correa, Evo Morales, Nestor and Cristina Kirchner and Lula; Lopez Obrador is now included in the mix).

In a very confusing way, any redistributive policy proposed in these very unfair Latin American countries gets levelled with Trump´s moves raising taxes to Chinese or European products, and all of them are considered "populist". "Serious" "non-populist" policies are only austerity, low taxes and free-trade.

Finally, it is important to remind that historical controversial but yet very important figures as Juan and Eva Perón have their dark sides, but the typical criticism to them as populists attacks all the good things they did, not the bad ones. 

Best wishes, keep safe.

Em qua., 15 de abr. de 2020 às 13:45, Michael Keaney <[log in to unmask]> escreveu:

Hi Bill, AFEEers


The issue of choosing one’s battles is not unique to US progressives, but the uniqueness of the US predicament often seems to make that choice even more unpalatable than it might be elsewhere. I know you revere Doug Dowd’s “Twisted Dream”. His memoir, “Blues for America”, contains a brief but very thoughtful section on the tragedy of Lyndon Johnson, “Requiem for a heavyweight”, especially poignant given Doug’s anti-war activism.


Best wishes to you and yours,



From: AFEEMAIL Discussion List <[log in to unmask]> On Behalf Of BILL and PAULY DUGGER
Sent: tiistai 14. huhtikuuta 2020 19.07
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Lock-down reading


Re U.S. Populism, Huey Long and Short-Run Realities


Dear Gentle Colleagues:


Huey Long was a great egalitarian who was able to popularize the democratic ideas of wealth redistribution ("Share the Wealth!") and abundance for all ("A Chicken in Every Pot!"). Quite frankly, he scared the shit out of the establishment democrats and liberals on the make of his time. Sadly enough, he had to push his egalitarian ideas in a country burdened with diabolical institutions from its bloody past (classism, racism, sexism, jingoism, homophobia, religious intolerance and much else). He chose classism as his enemy and gave it his best shot. Nevertheless, in some sense he could be said to have signed  cease-fire agreements with his other enemies.  Even FDR had some tacit cease-fire agreements that do not look so progressive in the cold light of historical hindsight. I say, "Rest In Peace" to the Kingfish and FDR. Now it is our turn with Joe Biden. Beat Trump in November.










William M. Dugger

Professor Emeritus of Economics



On Tuesday, April 14, 2020, 10:25:28 AM CDT, Glen Atkinson <[log in to unmask]> wrote:



My reference to Huey Long was in part speculative.  However, I think the vested interests used such movements as Long's to confuse the message stated in the Omaha Platform.  Call me an radical but I thought their goals were reasonable.  But I'm not as radical as Mitch McConnell and his right wing Republicans are in Congress. 


If I read the Harper's article correctly that Randy forwarded, the vested interests, including many Democrats, have tried to conflate populists as the ignorant productive farmers we now need to fill our Food Banks.  We love our farmers, truck drivers, toilet paper makers now.  The goal of the Goldman Sachs Tribe is not to increase the commonwealth but to grab as much for themselves and their clients as possible.  As we we moved from workers to employees and now Associates and Team Members our disrespect for production workers continues.  


I am comfortable being identified as a populist as an updated Omaha Platform person.  Let's identify populism ourselves rather letting the vested interests do it.  


We have become a financial economy rather a production economy.  We can't even produce protection gear for our beloved health care team members.  




On Monday, April 13, 2020, 12:35:20 PM PDT, Henry, John <[log in to unmask]> wrote:



Glen raises a most important issue. Just when/how did "populism" change from a progressive term to one associated with all the things we AFEEers deplore? Huey Long may be a step in this development, but my recollection places the change in a very recent period. When I started to see it used significantly, maybe 20-25 years ago, I thought that it was a misplaced reference to the real populists of the late 1800's. But, no..... So, why this term used to describe white nationalists, anti-immigrant, religious fanatics, etc.? Someone has had to have written to this specifically. 




P.S. AS much as I hate to admit, I did purchase Atkinson and Paschall Law and Economics...., and actually read significant portions of the thing. For those who haven't dipped their toes in these waters, I'd recommend they do so. 


John F. Henry

Levy Economics Institute of Bard College



From: AFEEMAIL Discussion List <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Glen Atkinson <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Sunday, April 12, 2020 12:58:27 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Lock-down reading


Thanks Randy.  I recommend reading the "The Omaha Platform -  The Launching of the Populist Party"  that was adopted in 1892


They wanted to eliminate tariffs, which was a major source of funding of the the federal government, and create a progressive income tax.  The other significant source of federal revenue was land sales.  


The party wanted radical changes such as direct election of U.S. Senators and secret ballots.  They stopped short of other radical policies such as national health insurance, but they did want to eliminate private banks and the Cross of Gold.  We have been assisted to forget all of this by the folks who opposed these measures and identify populism with the likes of Huey Long.  What if we had adopted some the important planks in the Omaha Platform?  Would it have stolen some of the appeal of the likes of Long?  We will never know, but it is worth considering.  The situation facing mid-western grain farmers in the nineteenth century was quite different from the truly impoverished southern farmers of the 1930s.  


The mid-western farmers were drawn into the mysterious price system system created by the wider market that was enabled by transcontinental railroads.  You will see some of their gripes against the consequences of the railroads in the platform.  Forty acres and a mule would not help them.  SELF PROMOTION WARNING - See Atkinson and Paschall "Law and Economics from an Evolutionary Perspective 2016" , pp. 31-33 for a brief discussion of this development.   


It might be worth reading John Steinbeck's novel, East of Eden along with Grapes of Wrath to appreciate the differences in agricultural communities.  Rosevile, CA became one the largest railroad yards in the nation because of the economic goal portrayed in East of Eden.  And it did become the largest  ice facility in the nation.  Steinbeck's talent was in connecting these major developments to people's lives.  We do remember Tom Joad as iif he were a natural -not a corporation- person.  


At least let us agree on what we mean when we reference populism.   





On Sunday, April 12, 2020, 08:12:25 AM PDT, Wray, Randall <[log in to unmask]> wrote:



All of us probably need some good reads to cheer us up in what will be a long lock-down. This is going to go on for months, maybe years, longer than our pundits are now claiming. So hunker down and take a look at these uplifting pieces.


Here's one on the upside to the downsides: Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting* by Julio Vincent Gambuto

Message: fight the return to normalcy. This is our opportunity to reflect on our unsustainable pre-crisis path.


A remarkable piece by Tom Frank:

You will recognize all the memes raised against Bernie over the past 4+ years. It's Deja Vu all over again. Oh well, we've got Biden. Right. 4 more years of Trump.


Sit down before you read this one; scariest one I've seen: venture-capitalist-stuns-cnbc- by-saying-we-should-let-hedge- funds-fail/?eType= EmailBlastContent&eId= f85f10a9-b749-4087-a67f- 8c0c97db6ecf 

maybe a bit pollyannaish but any big firm with a viable business plan would survive bankruptcy so he's right; the bailout alternative is really for firms with no reason for existence. Let them all fail.



FINDING the MONEY Documentary Launch

Dear Randall
As you’ve hopefully heard, we are producing a documentary about the most important shift to hit politics and economics in decades: Modern Monetary Theory. And we are excited to announce the launch of our crowd-funding campaign as a crucial next step to bring the film to life!
Today we are launching the 
campaignwebsite, and social media pages to share with the broad and diverse MMT community with a goal of raising $15,000. All donations are tax deductible! Thanks to our fiscal sponsor Filmmakers’ Collaborative SF.
As someone on the forefront of MMT, you know it is more relevant to the political debate now than ever, with the urgency to respond to coronavirus and mitigate the economic consequences.
But you also know what a complex story this is. Politicians will not be the first ones to come out and explain to the public how government financing and taxes actually work. The groundwork for this debate must be laid; that is the work many of you are doing today, and that is the work of this documentary.
This campaign is important to show the size of the audience that is already following and engaged with the MMT story, to show the potential for what I know is a film that will have broad appeal, a story that will affect our daily lives, affect daily political decisions, and affect the planet. Visit and share our 
GoFundMe page!
Although $15k is not the full budget for the film, it will bring an editor on board with the goal of completing a short film/work sample to release in September 2020. The film will then expand into a feature length form to give the full picture perspective of the story, get to know the characters involved, the conflict and drama with top tier economists, and explore fascinating examples from the past 5,000 years of the history of money.
Please share our 
GoFundMe page, or reach out to your contacts individually. A $25, $50, or $100 tax-deductible donation will go a long way in making this film a reality!
And please follow us on social media below to continue to connect the ever-growing MMT community.
Don’t hesitate to be in touch if you have any thoughts, suggestions, or advice! I would love to hear from you!
I look forward to continuing on this journey with you.
Take care of each other, and all my best,
Maren Poitras
[log in to unmask]




L. Randall Wray

Senior Scholar, Levy Economics Institute


Professor of Economics, Bard College


Emeritus Professor, University of Missouri-Kansas City

Co-editor Journal of Post Keynesian Economics
ISSN 0160-3477 (Print), 1557-7821 (Online)


Recent Books:

A Great Leap Forward: Heterodox Economic Policy for the 21st Century; Randall Wray; Paperback ISBN: 9780128193808; Academic Press; Published Date: 22nd January 2020;


Macroeconomics; Author(s): William Mitchell, L. Randall Wray, Martin Watts; Red Globe Press, Macmillan International; February 2019;


Why Minsky Matters: An Introduction to the work of a maverick economist, Princeton University Press


Modern Money Theory: a primer on macroeconomics for sovereign monetary systems, Palgrave Macmillan 




Please make note of my new email address as I will be transitioning all email to: