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James M. Fenwick

Off Limits

Prices: They’re Off!

(29 November 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 48, 29 November 1948, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the ETOL.

We would like to call the attention of C. Wright Mills and the rest of the sociology people to an event of sympathetic importance. We refer, of course, to the recent opening in Newark, New Jersey, of the Man-o’-War Horsemeat Market (“The Fastest Steaks in Northern New Jersey”).

Not knowing much about horseflesh, except for certain parts of the anatomy which we have on occasion been identified with, we dropped into the market the other day to see how things were going.

“What’ll it be, pal?” asked the butcher as we entered.

“I’d like something in a nice, two-pound steak,” we replied.

“You want to eat it today or tomorrow, pal?”


“The paper says rain for tomorrow, pal.”

“What’s the gimmick? Pal.”

“Well, if you want it for tomorrow, pal, I’ll give you this piece here. It’s from a great mudder.”

“YUK, YUK, YUK!” we both screamed.

Having, as we sociologists say, established ourselves on the same – if low – level of abstraction, we got down to more serious matters.

Business Is Booming

“How’s business,” we asked, “pal?”

“Booming, pal. We’re going to open two more stores – the Gallant Fox Horsemeat Market, and the High Strung Horsemeat Market.”

“How do you account for your success?”

“It’s economics, pal – that old high cost of living. People can’t afford to buy regular meat.”

“How does the future look to you?”

“Rosy, pal, rosy.”

“How do you figure?”

“Look, pal, the day when you could run a business on – it’s a gag, pal – horse sense is over. You gotta be an analyst.”

“Analyst? Psychoanalyst?”

“BUSINESS analyst, pal – like this Jack Ranger. Boy, what a horsemeat market he could run!”

It Means ... More Horsemeat!

“How do you work it?”

“Look, pal, it’s like I’m reading in this quotation from Leon H. Keyserling in an article by Fritz Sternberg in the Nation: ‘Among families with incomes under $2,000 a full quarter suffered actual decreases of income during this period’ – since 1946 – ‘and an additional 40 per cent of these families received no increase in income ... real earnings of all wage earners have declined about 10 per cent since June, 1946! You know what that means, pal?”


“Horsemeat, pal, horsemeat. Or listen to this by Sternberg: ‘Radical measures to combat inflation are not to be expected. The power of the big corporations has been so increased that they are able to block any serious anti-inflationary measure.’ You know what that means, pal?”


“No, pal, MORE horsemeat, MORE horsemeat. If you’d like a gander a little farther into the future, listen to this by Thomas Sancton in the same issue of the Nation: ‘In a future war the anticipated shortages of consumer goods would create a black-market problem and general inflationary bidding for scarce items that would require more stringent controls than in the last war. This short supply of goods, combined with the astronomical expansion of the war debt, would make imperative a drastic tax rate on earnings and salaries.’ And if you want to go still further here’s the U.S. News and World Report sounding off on the post-World War III world: ‘The dollar of today, worth less than 60 cents in pre-war purchasing power, readily could become the 10-cent dollar of the times after World War III.’ You know what that means, pal?”

“Horsemeat,” we whispered.

“Yep,” wound up our butcher friend ... “Yep, grandfather was a dope. When the old gray mare got to the point of not being what she used to be, grand paw never thought of eating her. O tempora, O mores, pal.”

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