THEY WILL BE WHAT WE MAKE THEM
By CARL A. HATCH, U. S. Senator from New Mexico
Before the New York Board of Trade January 8, 1941
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 252-256
MR. CHAIRMAN, Gentlemen: It is a pleasure for me to be here with you at this, your annual luncheon, celebrating your sixty-ninth birthday. Those sixty-nine years have been most eventful years in the growth and development of our country. During its lifetime your institution has witnessed and has played a great part in the development of the vast commercial empire of this nation. That development of trade and industry in America during those sixty-nine years has never been surpassed in the history of all the world. It has been a wonderful thing to have lived and to have played a part in the tremendous advances made during this period of our country's growth. I congratulate you today and express the wish that the years to come will bring even a fuller measure of service, usefulness and prosperity to you and your Association.
Speaking of years reminds me of the title I chose for my remarks today. In selecting this title, "Our Days," I am not guilty of plagiarism, nor do I seek to copy after a brilliant, able and distinguished American lady, who writes her column, "My Day," each day. The fact is, I was sitting alone in my office in Clovis, New Mexico, during the noon hour, in a meditative mood, thinking of the days in which we live, when a telegram came from your Mr. Griffith, askingthe subject of my remarks. On the spur of the moment, replying, I said I would use "Our Days" as my subject. Frankly, I may have been hedging just a little bit, for under this most comprehensive title I can and probably shall include anything and everything which may come to mind. Seriously, I was thinking then as all of us are constantly thinking and pondering over what Our Days may really mean. Are they days described by a prominent and distinguished writer in a beautifully written book as a "Wave of the Future," or are they, as others have declared them to be, but the backwash of waves of the past; backwash returning to men and civilization some of the ugly and evil things we hoped had been carried far out into the oceans of time and eternity never to come back again? Just what do these days of our portend, or what do they promise? I wish I knew the answer. I doubt if any living person knows the fall answer, but perhaps we do know something of what our days include. May I speak for a little while of some of the things they may embrace?
First of all, let me say that Our Days should include all the days and years which have gone before. All the rich and wonderful experiences of men, the wisdom of all the years past, should be for us, for our guidance and for our benefit. All the things men of other generations learned through trial and error, sometimes by war and bloodshed, should be our knowledge and our learning.
As we look at conditions in the Old World today we may well wonder whether man has learned anything from the past. We may well wonder whether wisdom, past or present, exists anywhere today. Certainly, with nation against nation and people against people, with all the horrors of war being brought to the cities, towns, and even into the homes of civil populations, we may well believe that the lessons of charity and brotherhood preached two thousand years ago on the shores of Galilee have not been learned by a single human being in all the world. But notwithstanding these things, I repeat, the lessons from the past should be ours to know and understand. Where men failed before, we should succeed, for we have those failures to guide our footsteps away from the pitfalls into which they fell.
We do know some things which have been proved and established by the experiences of other generations. We know that for hundreds of years the theory of the divine right of kings to rule over men and the belief that man was incapable of governing himself were the only principles upon which government rested. Men, then, existed for the state; not the state for men. It was not until a little more than a hundred years ago, at least in modern history, that this philosophy of government was questioned or denied.
Under the leadership of our own statesmen, theories of government progressed until we established here, in the New World, a government designed and set up to exist for men, with the governed as the real rulers. We proved the ability of man to govern himself. We established freedom for the individual. We drove from the world forever, we thought, the principle that made a few men tyrants and other men slaves. The right of men to be free, to live freely in a free government, belongs to Our Days, because men of other days sacrificed, toiled, and some of them died, to give this land of ours and our nation our glorious heritage of freedom and liberty.
Perhaps Our Days may mean that it is for us to maintain this principle of freedom and liberty for man. Such may be the mission of this generation. It may be the destiny of Our Days to preserve liberty and freedom here in America, almost the only place in the world where it survives today. It is hard for us who were born free men and have lived ourlives in a free country, under conditions and with opportunities such as no generation ever had in the entire history of the world, to realize that there is any danger to that liberty which came to us so easily. Even now, in the midst of world upheavals, some seem to think of liberty, fraternity and brotherhood, as meaningless generalities. The fathers who founded the republic did not so consider them. To the declaration of principles laid down on July 4, 1776, they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. They knew, they prized, they loved, the words liberty, fraternity, and brotherhood.
Calling upon divine Providence as their witness, they laid before a startled and unbelieving world the principle that all men are created equal. They declared that all men are endowed with the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Governments are established to secure these rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, for all men, they told the world in language of unmistakable meaning.
In Our Days there may be some who are prone to forget these fundamentals of life and government. They look back at the years which were, with the thought that those were easy years; that the young Republic had a whole continent before it in which to expand, grow, and develop. It did. Quite true it is that the days of the past were filled with opportunity. Benjamin Franklin one time, in answer to the threat of England to starve America into submission, defiantly said: "Every man who can bait a hook or fire a gun can live in America." Franklin was right; such were the conditions then, but the hook had to be baited, the gun had to be fired. It took initiative; it took effort and industry to live in America in those days. More than that, it took courage, courage on the part of every person who conquered the wilderness, or crossed the desert, or scaled the mountains of our western country. As we think of the earlier years and of those who pioneered this country, and of the things they faced, fought, conquered and subdued, we well understand the growth and development of this great nation, for it was born and grew through the industry and efforts of great and brave men and women.
Men were free then. The country lent itself to the freedom of the individual. The riches of land and forest and mine, and all the things with which this country of ours had been so generously endowed, awaited only the hand of strong, enterprising men. Economic freedom was possible for all. Political freedom they wrested and won from George III. By their strength, their wisdom and their courage, they established here in the New World both economic and political freedom.
It is true that the natural resources of this great land gave our forefathers opportunities to expand and grow to an extent never before afforded in the history of men.
I am willing to acknowledge the debt our country owes to nature, but I do not ascribe all progress and advancement to natural resources and opportunities. Those resources had to be discovered; they had to be developed; the opportunities had to be embraced. To take advantage of those natural conditions required men of vision, industry and courage. It required more than this; it required a system of government by which men could be free, and under which they could strive for, win and retain the fruits of their labors, the profits of their toil, the wealth which nature and their industry made possible. Such a system of government our fathers set up and established. Under no other system could this progress and development have been made.
Yet, while I assert these things, all of us know that our great expansion and growth founded upon our system of freegovernment and free economic enterprise is vastly changing. The more or less simple colonial conditions do not exist now. No longer can every man who can bait a hook or fire a gun make a living in America. If he tried to do so, the game wardens would arrest him before sundown.
The time of complete economic independence for the family as it once existed, when the husband felled the trees and built with his own hands the home; when the wife spun the cloth and made the clothes; when the food came from the earth, fields and streams, and all was processed, manufactured, cooked and consumed, by the family unit, is no more. These conditions belong to other days. They are not a part of Our Days.
I trust you will not think me an alarmist when I say that the new and changed conditions all over the country and the world, for that matter, present problems for Our Days which must be met successfully and solved correctly, if the system we have known is to endure. In a recent work by a contemporary historian and philosopher, written in the period of the prosperous twenties, before the days of the dark depression, it is said: "In a land where competition, equality of opportunity, and social fraternity begin to disappear, political equality becomes worthless and democracy is a sham."
Many believe that this condition is already beginning to appear in America. It is true that ever since the struggle for independence was won, and the first steps toward establishing our constitutional democracy were taken, the history of this country has been one of constant growth and expansion; one of opportunity, or competition, and, to a large degree, of social equality. The growth and expansion of our earlier years continued until comparatively recent times. I myself come from a pioneering family. Young as I am, I can recall the homesteaders, new railroads, new towns, the march of people to new lands westward, and all the things that went with that kind of growth and development. Today we are told these things are gone forever. It is said that it was our free land, our ever-increasing population due to births at home and the steady influx from European countries, that constantly created new markets and new industries, new factories, and that during those times we had to have more of everything to keep pace with the steadily growing demand. Today these same people tell us our present industrial plants and equipment are sufficient to care for all present and future needs; that even at the peak of our last boom period our plant capacity was more than sufficient to supply the demands of those prosperous years. We are also told that our population will soon begin to decline, and no longer do we live in a period of growth, expansion, and development. If these things be true, we do indeed face in Our Days the most crucial period, perhaps, in the history of our country, and in saying this I am not speaking of wars, I am thinking only of problems within our own borders.
I am willing to agree that in the sense our fathers knew it, our economy may seem to be in a contracting period today. There is no more free land, it is true. There may be no new inventions such as the automobile to create new demands. It may even be true that the present industrial plant of the nation is sufficient to supply all present demands. Likewise, it may be true that our population will soon become fixed, or it even may decline. But if all of these things be true, I am not yet ready to agree that we have reached the peak of our economic life and that we must hereafter adjust our course to a contracting economy, with no hope for future expansion and development. If I ever agree to that theory, then I think I agree to the decline and fall of the republic. Democracy thrives, it is said, perhaps truly, only with growth. That seems to be a law of nature. All living things must grow. When they cease to grow they begin to die.
Surely to say that we have reached the limits of our possibilities for expansion is to admit defeat. It is to agree that with all our broad intellectual capacity we are unable to use the vast means at hand today, to use the wealth and resources of this great country and apply them to meet changing conditions, and yet preserve the fundamental principles of freedom and enterprise for individual and for government.
In denying such defeat, as I do deny it, I do not ignore the facts which exist. Millions of unemployed people constitute a direct threat. Every curtailed activity threatens our economic structure. A shut-down factory is waste. Idle farm lands, when men are hungry, present a tragic situation. Idle men, like idle machines, rust and become less useful as they stand idle and remain unemployed. These are the problems which Our Days present. They do not mean ruin, only to those who believe in ruin. They present for Our Days the wilderness we must conquer, the new lands we must subdue. They mean we must create new demands. There must be new fields. There must be new and enlarged markets. As our fathers pioneered the wilderness, we also must pioneer and build with the same faith and courage that they pioneered and built.
Some months ago, in addressing a group of businessmen, I used an article written by William Hard, published in the Readers Digest, where the author discussed the possibilities of growth and development here in America. He discusses some of the very things I have mentioned today: the loss of free land, the loss of old time methods belonging to steadily advancing and enlarging markets, and in that article Mr. Hard points out what he says is the last frontier, the last method of expansion and growth, and I quote Mr. Hard:
"The hardest way, which at the same time is the best and most enduring way. Work. Only the increasing of our productivity per man. Only—as a result—the lowering of prices, which means the increasing of our purchasing power, which means the increasing of our employment power. Only the lifting up of our whole population, layer after layer, into being better consumers of better goods.
"The truth is that we have always chiefly gone forward in this way. I will summon as witnesses two eminent scholars of the Brookings Institution.
"Dr. Harold G. Moulton, its president, remarks that in the period from 1900 to 1929 our 'per capita production—and with it our per capita income—rose almost 40 per cent.'
"That is, every inhabitant of this country in 1929 was (on the average) a 40 per cent bigger producer, a 40 per cent bigger spender, a 40 per cent bigger market, than he had been in 1900."
The article envisages not a new land or a new country, but a new frontier, a frontier of "the principle of more for less." This principle means, and I quote again:
"The cheaper we can produce and sell each of ourproducts, the more will be consumed and the greater willbe total employment."
There is nothing new, and certainly nothing startling, about this doctrine. It has been demonstrated over and over again in business and industrial life. Some of our greatest corporations have followed the principle and have built such a tremendous volume of business that their own profits far exceeded their expectations. From a Brookings Institution publication we learn that the first batch of aluminum produced by the Pittsburgh Corporation was sold at $5.00 per pound, the current market price. With the intention of expanding its market, late in 1889 the company reduced the
price to $2.00 per pound. In less than ten years the price had been reduced from the original figure of $5.00 per pound to 33¢ per pound in 1897. The volume of business during that period tells its own story. When the average price was $4.08 per pound, 50,000 pounds were produced; in 1900, with the average price 33¢ per pound, 5,062,000 pounds were produced. During the period of business activity which followed this program of decreasing prices, the use of aluminum became so greatly extended the company declared a stock dividend of 100% in 1904, and another of 500% in 1909.
The same book, "Industrial Price Policies and Economic Progress," not only gives instance after instance of what happens when the principle of "more for less" is followed, but it also points to many other industries which followed the contrary doctrine and through monopolistic control, arbitrarily maintained prices at high levels. Industry tells its own story of what happens when prices are maintained at too high a level.
Let me give you, not my own views, not the views of a radical, or perhaps of a New Dealer, but let me give words from men of practical business experience. Mr. Alfred P. Sloan declares:
"One thing is perfectly evident today. Those who have followed the practice of lowering the cost of goods and services are the ones who show the smallest amount of unemployment and have therefore made the most progress toward recovery. On the other hand, those who have followed, to some extent, the principles of stabilization, have progressed the least, and are, today, still the most depressed. As selling prices mount, consumption is reduced. As consumption is reduced, unemployment is increased. It is a vicious circle . . . Business, big or small, survives only when it is based upon efficiency, when it delivers to the consuming public a greater dollar value than is obtainable in any other way."
The National Association of Manufacturers, in the industry's platform for 1938, says:
"The key to improved American living standards is an increasing flow of products to consumers. More desires—more goods—more employment."
Here lies the boundary to be crossed, not by government, not by statute, but by businessmen. Businessmen of vision and foresight and patriotism; the businessman whose ingenuity and courage can make his products reach two customers instead of one is pushing into a market of untold possibilities.
Our capacity has not been developed. It has not even been reached. Mr. Hard, in the article to which I referred, points out that about one-half of all families not on relief receive incomes of less than $1250.00 per year, and quotas from Dr. Isadore Lubin, of the Bureau of Labor Standards, as to what would happen if each of those five million wage earning families would get $2.00 more a day per family. This is what those five millions would be able to spend each year:
"$213,000,000 more on fuel and light and refrigerators. (Forty-seven million for the refrigerator industry).
"$224,000,000 more on household furniture.
"$385,000,000 more on motorcars and other transportation.
"$208,000,000 more on medical and dental services.
"$334,000,000 more on recreation (Forty-five million for the movies).
"$74,000,000 more on 'personal care;' cosmetics, toilet preparations and the like.
"$416,000,000 more on clothes.
"$613,000,000 more on housing.
"And $800,000,000 more on food. That is almost exactly what the federal treasury is now paying out to our farmers in subsidies. If everybody ate as much, and as many different sorts of things—as the eaters in our surtax income brackets, there would be no farm acreage surplus. The Department of Agriculture and the National Resources Committee have proved that.
"And what would be the total of new sales, according to Dr. Lubin's figures, for all industries? More than $3,000,000,000 for those five million families alone."
These figures show that there are many fields yet to be developed and explored before any man dare say that we have reached the limit of expansion and development in America and are ready for decay and finally death.
"America Unlimited" is the title of the article by Mr. Hard. I like that vision of America. No limits can yet be set upon this great country, unless our own ignorance and our own stupidity establish boundaries which we do not have the courage to cross.
"The new frontier," says Dr. Lubin, "is in more food, more shelter, more clothes, more light, more health, more education, more play for that large segment of our population which does not today have a sufficiency of those things."
Here lies but one of the avenues toward further expansion, growth and development. There are others. Neither time nor imagination permit an attempt to enumerate where the next field of employment will be developed, but I am convinced there will be not one, but many fields where men may continue to exercise their initiative and industry. In fact, men have been doing that all during the depression years. Private enterprise can and will survive, provided all of us cross the frontiers of Our Days with one half the degree of courage and fortitude which our fathers possessed.
Some governments claim these problems can be met by official mandate and decree. Such is the method of the totalitarian state. Dictators boast that they can and have solved their problems of unemployment. They likewise point to our numbers of unemployed as evidence that democracy has failed and democratic principles will not work in our day of complex industrial, commercial, and economic life. I deny their claims and deny their conclusion as to the failure of democracy.
Solving problems of unemployment with concentration camps, by keeping millions of men under arms, and making boastful talk, is no solution. Such methods promise nothing save the total loss of liberty and freedom for the individual, both politically and economically. The price demanded and paid in the dictatorial states is too high. Loss of individual liberty cannot be compensated for by any so-called security of the moment The ancient Greeks had a saying that "one day of liberty is worth a lifetime of slavery." That saying embraces my whole philosophy of government. Whether it be economical or political, it remains true today that one day of liberty is worth a lifetime of slavery. Let that be America's answer to all governments which would transgress upon or destroy the principle of free government any place in the world.
"Liberty" is still a precious word in America. It shall remain a precious word throughout Our Days. By these words I do not want to be understood as denying the proper place and part government has in our lives. There are many places where government has to act. Vast monopolies creating controls tending to higher price levels and reduced consumption are dangers which students of government everywhere view with grave concern and know full well that such dangers cannot be met without some degree of governmental intervention. Having no particular business in mindjust now, I think we can all agree that free enterprise only thrives in a highly competitive system; that too powerful monopolistic practices are as deadly to the free capitalistic system as the dictator is to the free political state.
These are but some of the problems of Our Day; some of the things which present a vigorous challenge to our wisdom and true patriotism. To deny their serious import is to refuse to face the facts which actually exist. To refuse to meet those facts, however, and to think only in terms of failure and defeat, is to deny our own ability and our own intelligence, and to discredit our wisdom and our patriotism. No other group in America has a greater and a graver responsibility in this regard than American businessmen. In the book from which I have previously quoted, "Industrial Price Policies and Economic Progress," it is said:
"If American businessmen demand the right of freedom of economic enterprise, society in granting it to him, may properly ask that he use that freedom aggressively in the public interest. This, to our way of thinking, is the challenge which the industrial system makes to the industrial executive. If he cannot meet it, the system of free enterprise under private capitalism is doomed to a condition of individualism, low vitality, and unproductiveness which is utterly incompatible with the natural resources, productive equipment, and man power which the nation has at its disposal."
I agree with this challenge, but I do not call it a challenge as much as I call it opportunity—opportunity to serve the very system which has made business great; opportunity to serve the system of free government under which business has grown and prospered; opportunity to serve our country, and, perhaps, save for us as a people a free nation of free men, in a world where freedom appears to be dying each day and hour. This challenge strikes no dismal note; it is a privilege—a privilege for American businessmen such as our fathers had when they faced the facts of their days and built a great land and a great nation, which we have inherited.
What if times have been hard? The world has seen hard times before. What if we do face crisis after crisis? Mankind has ever faced a crisis. What if wars do rage abroad? Wars are not new. What if tyrants do strike across the face of the earth? Conquerors have trodden the globe before. None of these things means defeat; none of them means that democracies fail. Democracy may fail. It may fail even here in America. We may be the last generation to enjoy theprinciples of free government. But if such things come to
pass, the failure will not be the failure of democratic principles; it will be the failure of men—your failure and my failure. The death wounds to democracy will not come from the outside; they will be self-inflicted wounds coming from the inside—wounds inflicted because we have lost our hope, our faith, our initiative, our enterprise, and our courage. When that happens, but not until then, will democracy die. Our Days may include wars even as they do include now the threat of war, but whatever Our Days may encompass, let not craven fear be a part of them. Let us say, with an American historian who recently wrote:
"Napoleon, with more political and military genius in his little finger than the sawdust Caesars of today have in their whole bodies, lasted about twenty years. When the first cracks appeared in the edifice of despotism which Napoleon had raised, the people from Spain to Russia rose to demolish that edifice and send its architect to die in exile on the barren island of St. Helena. Drunk with power, which breeds ambition for more power, he had dared to challenge the historic progress of the emergency of political, religious, and economic liberty out of the bondage of feudal, prescription and royal absolutism. For all his great genius, he failed.
"Finally, even if the situation were ten times worse than it is, we should not despair. Defeatism will get us nowhere. * * * 'If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars.' Who knows how soon the dawn may succeed the dark? At any rate, it will be sooner the greater the number of courageous souls whose only fear is that fear may seize the people. A Washington and a William the Silent could lose every battle and win the war. If we can not have the superb courage and endurance of such as these, we can at least have the pluck of Milton's Satan who surveyed his fallen host and cried 'What if the field be lost, all is not lost'."
Yes, let us continue to exclaim, "What if the field be lost, all is not lost!" In the midst of the world stirring events which surround us everywhere, let us not in Our Days forget our faith or lose our courage.
In these thoughts I am trying to present, I have given you no new panaceas; I have prescribed no nostrums for the years of Our Days. The things I have presented are tested principles, proved by the experiences of men. Our Days will be what we make them. Let our days be glad days, brave days, and better days.