Sunday, February 21, 2016
  What happened to them?

Last week I quoted a prophetic little book written in 1889 by a Kansas populist leader named JW Graybill.

What happened to Graybill? Found out accidentally.



This paragraph is in a 1919 publication by the trade journal of Fraternal Benefit Societies. Graybill had become the head of the Kansas branch of American Union of Workmen, which was the biggest of the FBSs at the time.

FBSs were a MAJOR force in American life around 1900. They were the IMPLEMENTATION of the Populist idea, as Graybill demonstrated. FBSs provided most of the services that we now get from government. Pensions, health insurance, nursing homes. The 1919 trade journal shows a movement getting ready to splinter, fighting invasions on all sides, but mainly from the regular insurance industry.

What happened to all those FBSs? Some were mainly for workmen in specific industries, and morphed into labor unions. Some degenerated into what we now know as lodges: drinking and gambling clubs with a charitable facade. Some decided to join the insurance industry instead of fighting it, and became regular insurance companies with a 'mutual' label.

Kansas example: Security Benefit Assn began in Topeka in 1892. It built a nursing home, a hospital, an orphanage for children of deceased members, and a collective farm to supply its institutions and give work to the poor. Members paid 5 cents per month to gain access to these services. Not a typo.

Security Benefit lasted much longer than other FBSs in its original proper form. In the '50s it finally converted to a commercial life insurance company and sold its massive grounds to the Menninger outfit. It's still running, after NEEDLESS TO FUCKING SAY an LBO by GuggenheimCapitalPartnersLLC.

= = = = =

Later thought: A more interesting question is what DIDN'T happen to these FBSs? Many of them were strictly ethnic, which would be strictly illegal today unless the ethnicity is CORRECT. For instance, Bnai Brith is still around but Fraternal Patriotic Americans would be shot. Legal or not, ethnic associations that handle money OFTEN mutate into gangs or "terrorist" groups. IIRC, the original Sicilian Mafia started this way. Mutual protection ---> Protection racket. None of these groups went in that direction. They either moved toward union or commercial success, moved into frivolity, or dissolved. I wonder if the strong association with 'proper' insurance kept them more honest? In the modern world of commerce and investment, 'proper' insurance companies are the only honest players. Everything else is a racket.

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Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.

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