Gretchen Dykstra: Pragmatism on the Prairie





Gretchen Dykstra is working on a book about North Dakota from 1915 to 1920.

REPUBLICANS often accuse Democrats of being socialists. But in North Dakota, socialism has been thriving for decades. It is the only state with a state-owned bank and a profitable state-owned grain elevator and flour mill, both of which the good people of North Dakota, who mostly vote Republican in presidential elections, embrace and value. Both institutions began embroiled in controversy. With all the vitriol about socialism and radicalism in the national debate today, is there anything we can learn from North Dakota?

All state revenues are deposited in the Bank of North Dakota, which promotes agriculture, commerce and industry in the state. It was the first bank in the country to provide a federally insured low-interest student loan; it supports new farmers in a state that has some of the toughest laws in the country limiting corporate farms; and through partnerships with local banks, it guarantees loans to commercial and industrial enterprises that directly benefit North Dakota. Before he became governor and then a United States senator, John Hoeven, a Republican, was the bank’s president. A Socialist Republican? That’s weird....



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