Posts Tagged ‘Harold Loeb’

Worship of Money Trumps Morality

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

By Michael Kaufman

An essay written and published more than 90 years ago explains a lot about the current competition for casino sites in the Hudson Valley. Titled “The Mysticism of Money,” the essay was written by Harold Loeb, whose uncles (the Guggenheim brothers) may well be described as the Koch brothers of their day. 

In 1914 one of the worst mining disasters in U.S. history occurred at a West Virginia coal mine owned by the Guggenheim family. Between 183 and 186 workers were killed. The explosion and deaths led to widespread unionization in the mines and prompted legislative safety and labor reforms. The Guggenheims held major interests in mining all over the world. Their three-fold strategy, according to the Biographical Dictionary of American Business Leaders, “was first, always go in for the big development when the business barometer is low; second, always use the cheap labor and raw materials of undeveloped countries to depress your own country’s industries, to force its wages and prices down until they are so cheap you can afford to buy them up and integrate them into your own monopoly; and third, to own everything from mine mouth to finished product.”

In his essay Loeb argues that the “mysticism of money” has assumed the role of religion in the United States. Among his observations:

                “Money has become the measuring staff of all values and the goal and reward of all efforts conventionally accepted as proper.” Thus it is entirely proper for casino developers and Orange County elected officials to stick a knife into the backs of people in neighboring counties—especially Sullivan—who had pinned their hopes for much-needed economic revival on having one or more casinos built there. 

Numerous resort hotels once thrived in Sullivan and some of the old properties seem like perfect locations for a Las Vegas or Atlantic City style casino resort hotel. But when there is money to be had, concepts such as loving thy neighbor or doing unto others as you would have them do unto you are tossed aside.

“The validity of the money standard and the intrinsic merit of money making are accepted on faith, extra-intellectually. One does not question them; the rash interlocutor who seeks to know why the banker continues to augment his unspendable wealth is catalogued as slightly touched…” The rash interlocutor today is one who dares raise doubts in the face of promises of financial rewards dangled before proposed host communities. Front-page headlines herald “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!” “More money for cops, schools.” Ignored is the experience of other communities previously enticed by similar promises. Former U.S. Congressman Robert H. Steele of Connecticut visited Tuxedo June 26 to explain how his community was transformed for the worse by the casinos.  By then, however, Town of Tuxedo officials had already hastily voted their approval of the Sterling Forest Resort Casino.

Genting (the Malaysian-based company with major interests in casinos all over the world) had donated hundreds of thousands of dollars—“no strings attached”—to the Tuxedo public schools. But if they really wanted to make a no-strings-attached gift they would have given the money to a hard-up school district in Sullivan County as a goodwill gesture. One would probably be deemed “slightly touched” for making a suggestion to that effect, as would one who suggests that some of the money expected soon to be flowing into Orange County be used to help our neighbors in Sullivan. 

“The casinos were never intended for our county, one of the fastest growing in NY State,” notes attorney Michael Sussman of Goshen, who will host a public meeting on Thursday, July 10, at Town of Wallkill Town Hall, Tower Drive, Middletown. (Tower Road is off route 211 across from the entrance to Galleria Mall.) The meeting is co-sponsored by Democratic Alliance and casiNO-Orange. “We strongly believe casinos should be opened in Sullivan and Western Ulster County,” says Sussman, “economically depressed areas with excellent sites [Concord and Nevele hotels].” Residents of all three counties are invited to attend and participate.

Michael can be reached at