Stuart Chase was born in Somersworth, New Hampshire, on 8th March, 1888. He attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology briefly and then Harvard University, graduating in 1910. He went to work with his father but in October 1911 he wrote in his diary: "So many are the roads and lanes and byways that branch from this open portal. I look back and see the straight, calm thoroughfare that has led me here. I look forward and stand dazed and blinded before the myriad ways that lead to ultimate darkness or light. Now I must choose my own path… from among the many and follow it in all faith and trust until experience bids me seek another. The world always turns aside to let one pass who knows where they are going."
In 1917 Chase joined the Federal Trade Commission. According to his biographer: "There he worked to hold corporations to his own high standards. When his study of the meatpacking industry revealed corporate accounting irregularities, congressional Republicans (including then senator and future president Warren G. Harding) successfully pressured the commission to fire him in 1920."
Chase had been influenced by the writings of G.D.H. Cole and the early Fabians. Others influences included Henry George and Thorstein Veblen. In 1925 he published The Tragedy of Waste, a book that dealt critically with modern industrial systems and corporate advertising. In 1927 Chase visited the Soviet Union. Although he was not a Marxist he approved of the planned economy: "The Russians, in a time of peace, have answered the question of what an economic system is for". He also remarked: "Democracy, as has been said of Christianity, has never really been tried."
In 1927 Chase published Your Money’s Worth, written with fellow consumer-advocacy pioneer F. J. Schlink. In 1929 the two men founded Consumers Research, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization, the precursor to Consumers Union and its publication Consumer Reports. Chase worked hard for what he called “consumer literacy” in response “to the confusion of consumers beset by an ever more clamorous mass media.”
Chase met Franklin D. Roosevelt, the governor of New York, in 1931, where he explained his economic views. Chase wrote an article for The New Republic, entitled A New Deal for America: The Road to Revolution , that was published on 6th July, 1932, where he argued that the economic crisis could only be solved by national planning. He ended the article with the words: "Why should Russians have all the fun remaking a world?"
This article influenced Senator Hugo Black of Alabama and in December 1932 he introduced a bill to bar from interstate commerce articles produced in plant in which employees worked more than five days a week or six hours a day. Black claimed that his proposal would create six million jobs. William Green, the president of the American Federation of Labor, claimed the Black measure struck "at the root of the problem - technological unemployment" and threatened a national strike in support of the 30-hour week.
Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated Herbert Hoover at the 1932 Presidential Election. On 9th March 1933, President Roosevelt called a special session of Congress. He told the members that unemployment could only be solved "by direct recruiting by the Government itself." For the next three months, Roosevelt proposed, and Congress passed, a series of important bills that attempted to deal with the problem of unemployment. The special session of Congress became known as the Hundred Days and provided the basis for Roosevelt's New Deal. It has been argued that the got the term "New Deal" from Chase.
Although he was never a member of Roosevelt's Brains Trust, Chase was one of Roosevelt's economic advisors. In 1937, Roosevelt told Chase’s father that his son was “teaching the American people more about economics than all the others combined.” It is claimed that Chase said: "Common sense is that which tells us the world is flat." He added: "For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don't believe, no proof is possible."
In The Tyranny of Words (1938) Chase said: "Looming along the coasts are two horrid monsters, with scaly paws outstretched: Fascism and Communism. Confronting them, shield in hand and a little cross-eyed from trying to watch both at once, is the colossal figure of Democracy. Will he fend them off? We wring our hands in supplication, while admonishing the young that governments, especially democratic governments, are incapable of sensible action. From Atlantic to Pacific a huge, corpulent shape entitled Business pursues a slim, elusive Confidence, with a singular lack of success. The little trembling ghost down in the corner of Massachusetts, enclosed in a barrel, is the Taxpayer. Liberty, in diaphanous draperies, leaps from cloud to cloud, lovely and unapproachable."
In 1939 Chase published The New Western Front, where he argued that Roosevelt should resist attempts to get involved in the Second World War. Instead he thought Roosevelt should concentrate on developing a better political system in the United States. He pointed out: "Democracy, as has been said of Christianity, has never really been tried."
In 1942, Stuart Chase, published his book The Road We Are Traveling, where he put forward his economic ideas. It included: (1) Strong, centralized government. (2) Powerful Executive at the expense of Congress and the Judicial. (3) Government controlled banking, credit and securities exchange. (4) Government control over employment. (5) Unemployment insurance, old age pensions. (6) Universal medical care, food and housing programs. (7) Access to unlimited government borrowing. (8) A government managed monetary system. (9) Government control over all foreign trade. (10) Government control over natural energy sources, transportation and agricultural production. (11) Government regulation of labor. (12) Youth camps devoted to health discipline, community service and ideological teaching consistent with those of the authorities. (13) Heavy progressive taxation and hidden taxes on nations wealth.
Chase biographer has argued: "A steadfast believer in adult education and lifelong learning, which he considered essential for participatory democracy, Chase was a noteworthy defender of the common citizen’s aptitude for understanding vital civic questions. Across seven decades and 49 states, he mesmerized lecture audiences with disarmingly simple and inspiring insights into the social issues that were his passion."
Chase was an opponent of the Cold War. In a May 1961 he made a speech to a Soviet-American conference on disarmament and peace, where he declared, “Along with the personal view and the national view, we must cling to the world view… Today the citizen can only save his home, and his country, by helping to save mankind.”
Stuart Chase died on 16th November, 1985.
So many are the roads and lanes and byways that branch from this open portal. I look back and see the straight, calm thoroughfare that has led me here. I look forward and stand dazed and blinded before the myriad ways that lead to ultimate darkness or light. Now I must choose my own path… from among the many and follow it in all faith and trust until experience bids me seek another. The world always turns aside to let one pass who knows where they are going.
Corporations fill but one cage in a large menagerie. Let us glance at some of the other queer creatures created by personifying abstractions in America. Here in the center is a vast figure called the Nation - majestic and wrapped in the Flag. When it sternly raises its arm, we are ready to die for it. Close behind rears a sinister shape, the Government.. Following it is one even more sinister, Bureaucracy. Both are festooned with the writhing serpents of red tape. High in the heavens is the Constitution, a kind of chalice like the Holy Grail, suffused with ethereal light. It must never be joggled. Below floats the Supreme Court, a black-robed priesthood tending the eternal fire. The Supreme Court must be addressed with respect or it will neglect the fire and the Constitution will go out. This is synonymous with the end of the world. Somewhere above the Rocky Mountains are lodged the vast stone tablets of the Law. We are governed not by men but by these tablets. Near them, in stain breeches and silver buckles, pose the stern figures of our Forefathers, contemplating glumly the Nation they brought to birth. The onion-shaped demon cowering behind the Constitution is Private Property. Higher than Court, Flag, or the Law, close to the sun itself and almost as bright, is Progress, the ultimate God of America.
Looming along the coasts are two horrid monsters, with scaly paws outstretched: Fascism and Communism. Confronting them, shield in hand and a little cross-eyed from trying to watch both at once, is the colossal figure of Democracy. Will he fend them off? We wring our hands in supplication, while admonishing the young that governments, especially democratic governments, are incapable of sensible action. From Atlantic to Pacific a huge, corpulent shape entitled Business pursues a slim, elusive Confidence, with a singular lack of success. The little trembling ghost down in the corner of Massachusetts, enclosed in a barrel, is the Taxpayer. Liberty, in diaphanous draperies, leaps from cloud to cloud, lovely and unapproachable.
Here are the Masses, thick, black, and squirming. This demon must be firmly sat upon; if it gets up, terrible things will happen .... Capital, her skirts above her knees, is prepared to leave the country at the drop of a hairpin, but never departs. Skulking from city to city goes Crime, a red, loathsome beast, upon which the Law is forever trying to drop a monolith, but its aim is poor. Crime continues rhythmically to Rear Its Ugly Head. Here is the dual shape of Labor -- for some a vast, dirty, clutching hand, for others a Galahad in armor. Pacing to and fro with remorseless tread are the Trusts and the Utilities, bloated, unclean monsters with enormous biceps. Here is Wall Street, a crouching dragon ready to spring upon assets not already nailed down in any other section of the country. The Consumer, a pathetic figure in a gray shawl, goes wearily to market. Capital and Labor each giver her a kick as she passes, while Commercial Advertising, a playful spirit, squirts perfume into her eyes.
From the rear, Sex is a foul creature but when she turns, she becomes wildly alluring. Here is the home, a bright fireplace in the stratosphere. The Economic Man strolls up and down, completely without vertebrae. He is followed by a shambling demon called the Law of Supply and Demand. Production, a giant with lightning in his fist, parades reluctantly with Distribution, a thin, gaunt girl, given to fainting spells. Above the oceans the golden scales of a Favorable Balance of Trade occasionally glitter in the sun. When people see the glitter, they throw their hats into the air. That column of smoke, ten miles high, looping like a hoop snake, is the Business Cycle. That clanking goblin, all gears and switchboards, is Technological Unemployment. The Rich, in full evening regalia, sit at a loaded banquet table, which they may never leave, gorging themselves forever amid the crystal and silver..