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Post Blue Hens and Bogus Politicians: A Treatise on Delaware
Created by John Eipper on 12/22/20 10:05 AM

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Blue Hens and Bogus Politicians: A Treatise on Delaware (David Duggan, USA, 12/22/20 10:05 am)

Delaware is to corporations what South Dakota is to cattle: more than the number of people. Because cattle and corporations can't vote, each has 3 votes in the Electoral College and is comparably inconsequential on the national political stage. Curiously both of these states have had economic resurgences by becoming havens for credit-card issuers that offer what once were deemed usurious rates on unpaid balances. 

Delaware is the haven for so many corporations because in the late 19th-century era of the robber barons fleeing from New York, the First State welcomed them with open arms. Teddy Roosevelt was NY's governor, and a number of "progressive" laws were passed (e.g., wages and hours limits and taxation of corporations--anathema to the Morgans, Drews and Fisks). Delaware was more than happy to accommodate those who wanted to abuse minority shareholders by paying corporate managers high salaries (pre-income tax), doling out exorbitant perks (private rail cars, dining privileges, club memberships) and limiting their remedies if they squawked. Delaware won the race to the bottom in terms of fair treatment of minority shareholders, a dubious distinction. See among other sources, Judge Frank Easterbrook's 2009 Virginia Law Review piece, "The Race for the Bottom in Corporate Governance."

Economically, and apart from offering drop-box corporate offices, Delaware is noteworthy for its poultry industry (the university's athletic teams aren't known as the "Blue Hens" for nothing) and for where DuPont made gunpowder for the Union Army. DuPont has been merged out of existence (now part of Michigan-based Dow though the name remains as a spin-off dealing in specialty products). Jim Biden, the president-elect's younger brother who could be Joe's stunt double, has gotten fat and happy by selling his influence in Delaware corporate matters. 

I said that Delaware, like Arkansas and Georgia, were "waystops on the highway to mainstream." Yes, I-95 cuts off a sliver of Delaware, just as I-40 (a major East-West trucker highway--breaker one-nine) bisects Arkansas and I-75, one of the most heavily traveled interstates, cuts through Georgia (and comes within a few miles of Plains). The fact that you have a road through your state doesn't mean that the state itself is mainstream, or its residents. You become mainstream by adopting policies and attracting population that create a critical mass of self-sustenance. Poultry (Delaware and Arkansas), credit-cards (South Dakota and Delaware), and textiles and Tyler Perry films (Georgia) are hardly self-sustaining industries. 

With the Internet which disguises (or allows circumvention of) a host of foibles, perhaps the former paradigm that a presidential candidate had to come from a state (New York, California, Texas) with heft on the national stage no longer applies. Twenty or more years ago you had to build a track record and defend it against an inquiring (and not sycophantic) press. Two out of the last five presidents  (Clinton & Biden[elect]) had escaped the gaze of a national audience pre-election since nobody cared whether they'd consorted with floozies or taken showers with their 5-year old nieces. Two others (Bush II & Obama) had opponents so flawed (Gore, McCain) that their places of origin were not material to the outcome. The one fair fight in this grand guignol of blood-sport politics, Trump-Hillary 2016, turned out to be a contest between who was hated least. Being the least hated candidate may get you elected the first time out, but don't count on it the second time. 

JE comments:  Delaware's sliver of I-95 does collect a toll of four bucks from drivers going either direction.  Given its span of just 23 miles in the state, this must be some sort of cost-per-distance record.  As the son of two Blue Hens and the grandson of two "serfs" on the DuPont manor Winterthur, I cannot be impartial here, but I offer one nugget for thought: Delaware may have been the First State to join we may call the "modern" economy--services and legalities more than actually making and selling stuff.

I don't share David Duggan's Delaware disdain, but I accept his point that the "inconsequential" states seem to be more adept at generating national politicians.  Is this the inevitable result of our 50-state federal system?

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