By CHARLES E. WILSON, President of the General Electric Co.
Delivered before the Midwinter Convention of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, Phila. Pa., January 29, 1941
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 301-306
TONIGHT I should like to submit to you what I believe to be a realistic view of both the world conflict and its impact upon our way of life. Then, against that background, I should like to invite your constructive consideration of a program—and of a proposal or an American Free Enterprise System constitutional convention, if you will. These I shall submit in the belief that with the support of this serious minded body of citizens, this program and proposal could result in a worthy contribution to the solution of the exceedingly complicated problem of preserving our democratic way of life and our Free Enterprise System in the dark decades ahead. In this statement, I am anxious to have you see evidence of an ambition to serve America—and you—rather than to seek support of a particular plan. In fact, it is my hope that all of this presentation will be received as an effort to serve the land and the institutions we all love so much.
Now, certainly in these critical and confusing times, a clear conception of the character and significance of the world conflict is essential for obviously, if we are to proceed to the development of a program which will contribute to out total security—total security on our moral, physical and economic sectors—we must start from a realistic premise. And proceed we must promptly in the development of such a program.
In truth, "It is later than we think"—and chaos can be the consequence of confusion and procrastination.
In the course of this presentation, I may seem, at times, to express some thoughts which might be interpreted as a criticism of industry. Therefore, at the outset, I should like to establish understanding on that point. My whole career has been in industry, and, fortunately, the character of that career has been such that I have been brought into intimate association with almost every form of industrial and commercial enterprise. Out of these associations, there has grown a tremendous pride in the accomplishments of industry, as well as an intense admiration and respect for the progressive citizens who, in the preponderant majority, compose it—the conscientious citizens in the shops and offices—in the drafting rooms—and in positions of management of every degree and kind, who, operating as organizations in enlightened enterprises, have given employment and enjoyment to millions of people, while providing America withthe highest degree of economic security and the highest standard of living in the world. Therefore, in anything which I may later say which seems to suggest shortcomings, I hope you will see in my comments not a presumptuous inclination to criticize, but, instead, a positive indication of my infinite confidence in the ability of industry to do an even better job in the building of an even better America—a confidence which is coupled with a driving desire to have industry, as an integrated entity, go forward faster and more fruitfully that it ever has before.
Having given you that assurance, I shall now proceed to outline my conception of the true character of the world conflict—with one intervening assertion. This is that, in order to save you time. I shall speak rather emphatically, assured that you will accept my words for what they really are—words which are merely the earnest expression of the convictions of some of your fellow-citizens who are concerned, above all else, with their country's welfare—the carefully considered words of fellow-countrymen of yours who seek the collaboration of the splendid minds which comprise this body in finding the most effective means of preserving individual initiative and private enterprise as the mainstays of our economic life.
What, then, is the true state of the world as I see it? It is this:
The world is immersed in more than a war of historically conventional character. Our own beloved nation is involved in more than a temporary emergency, from which, after a few years, it will emerge, and return to "normal" living in a "peaceful" world—a world made "peaceful" by the fact that some "national leaders" had gained military ascendancy over others and had thus forced the signing of some papers. In the critical circumstances confronting the world in general, and our country in particular, failure to recognize these facts is not only unrealistic but dangerous.
Instead, there must be a complete, realistic comprehension of the fact that the world—our nation included—is passing through what history may later record as the second stage of a revolutionary movement of the masses—a movement born during World War I and likely to last, with intermittent armistices of one kind or another, for two or three decades more. We must fully realize that this is a movement based upon a sense of frustration—an emotional manifestation frequently approaching unreasoning, sacrificial hysteria—and we must see that, as such, it can be turned to a course of reason only by reasonable and sacrificial actions of a character which appeal to the emotions and the aspirations of the masses more than do the actions and the appeals to which they are now responding.
Today, the practical controlling fact is that hundreds of millions of people throughout the world have been persuaded, to the point of evangelistic conviction, that the capitalistic system is the cause of the economic insecurity of the common man and that, as the root of his economic ills, this system must be drastically modified, or failing that, destroyed.
Recognition of the revolutionary character of this world conflict will also lead to a fuller realization of the fact that Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler and the Japanese army leaders are but symbols of this movement. Further, from this realistic point of view, it will be seen that, notwithstanding the ruthless force exercised by these leaders in beating the more mature segments of their peoples into a state of resentful spiritual resistance, there is abundant evidence that they are strongly sustained as symbols by a preponderant majority of the generations under 40 years of age. These are the newer generations born and bred and ideologically conditioned under the almost exclusive influence of the "new" leaders. They are the generations which, after willingly sacrificing their political freedom, are now sacrificing their lives—and they make these sacrifices willingly because they sincerely believe that, through these leaders, a better and broader form of economic freedom will be gained, either for themselves if they survive, or for succeeding generations, if they pay the supreme sacrifice.
This realistic point of view also leads to the sad conclusion that should these symbols meet the disaster or the death so widely and so earnestly wished upon them, this revolutionary movement, most probably, would suffer no more than temporary confusion while substitute symbols were being elevated to leadership. Further, it suggests that such an eventuality might lead to chaos more easily than to a return to conventionality.
But as a world movement, the scope of this conflict extends beyond the sphere of these symbols. In the Central and South American countries, manifestations of it have been and continue to be common, and this is equally true of many parts of the British Empire. While the war aims of England have not been officially expressed, public speeches, parliamentary debates, the prominence given labor leaders, and many other indications of public sentiment supply ample evidence of the ambition of the British people. From this evidence, it may be clearly seen that the ardent aim of the millions of heroic common people in Britain, first to defend themselves against the dictators, and finally to destroy them, arises, basically, from the deep-held desire to insure for their masses and for their fellow men in other lands a much larger measure of economic freedom and security than the conventional capitalistic and imperialistic system has previously provided. True it is, of course, that they treasure the democratic tradition, but let us be sure to see that they insist upon its preservation in an atmosphere of economic freedom for all.
Therefore, while political freedom has happily been preserved in the British Isles, in its associates in the Commonwealth, and in the United States, it is important to remember that in these countries many economic controls have been willingly granted to government by the masses of the people in exchange for promises and for performances serving the mass revolutionary aim—more economic freedom andsecurity. Hence, while, in this country, so far, we have had no more than an acceleration of the evolutionary process-rather than the revolutionary process—it should be borne in mind that the aim of the majority of the American people, as evidenced by their insistence that this acceleration continue, has been substantially that of the revolutionaries. Further, it should be remembered that in the last national election both presidential candidates, recognizing the aspirations of this majority, and realizing that this was a mass movement overshadowing all partisan considerations, pledged their efforts to an enlargement of economic security for ever larger strata of society—and that these candidates differed only regarding the manner in which this aim might be best attained.
Now, if you believe as strongly as I do that this is a realistic appraisal of the aspirations and the forces underlying the conflicts and confusions abroad in the world today—the conflicts and confusions which have brought civilization almost to the brink of chaos—your natural questions will be those with which I struggled—such questions as:
What more can the Free Enterprise System do, in the face of this world revolutionary movement, heretofore unmatched, either in extent, or in emotional intensity, or in destructive potentialities?
How, in the midst of this dynamic world disorder, shall the capitalistic system—or what we, in this country, call the American Free Enterprise System—which, parenthetically, I should like to call the capitalistic system in its most constructive form—How shall this system of ours be sustained in its most useful form—the form in which it can be the primary provider of economic security for all of the people at all times—in times of peace and plenty—in times of depression—in times of national emergency—and in times of war?
How may an ever broadening bulwark of public faith be built to protect this Free Enterprise System against its communistic and totalitarian enemies, as it seeks to serve this purpose?
How may we control and conquer the causes of suspicion and condemnation which too often create breaches in this bulwark of public faith upon which the protection of the system depends?
Basically, the answers to these questions seem simple. Practically, the solution of the problems they present is most difficult.
The simple answer seems to be that again—and again—and again the financial and managerial components of our Free Enterprise System must prove, by deeds as well as by words, their full comprehension of their social responsibilities—their deep sense of public service—and their unmatched capacity to positively plan—to put into effect—and, if you will, to police, by self-imposed rules, a constitution for industrial and commercial progress acceptable to the majority of our people—people whose economic security and destiny are vitally affected by the decisions of these controlling components of the system. And in the circumstances surrounding us today, who will doubt that this action must be prompt and positive, and of a character which will demonstrate, beyond the chance of successful challenge, that the public-spirited people administering private enterprise inherently and actually excel the people comprising political organizations—no matter how sincere the intentions of the latter may be—as instrumentalities for insuring an ever increasing measure of economic freedom and security for all of the people—save the indolent—all of the time.
Never before has the American Free Enterprise System been confronted by such a serious challenge. And neverbefore has there been-and perhaps never again will there be—such an opportunity-—or such an obligation—to prove the full worth of this system as an efficient, economical and trustworthy servant of society. Moreover, in these dark days we may be sure that, as the American Free Enterprise System sees this enlarged opportunity—as it assumes this greater obligation—and as it proves still more fully its worthiness, it will re-establish emotional bonds of mutual regard and respect between all elements of our economy—the bonds of national unity which will serve as a firm foundation for our moral security—the first fortification of our political and economic freedom.
Happily, it may be stated as a fact that this first fortification is rapidly rising, and, that being true, the comforting consequence is that behind it there is rising, with equal rapidity, the vast and varied reservoir of materials required for our physical security. For that physical security, our immediate necessities have been repeatedly and comprehensively stated by our commander-in-chief, and by those drawn from management, labor, and government upon whom he has placed the responsibility of organizing, coordinating, and leading our immense industrial resources, to the end that our nation may be in fact—and on time—the "arsenal of democracy." Therefore, on the subject of our necessities for physical security, let it be enough for me to say here that everything I have heretofore said tonight has had as one of its most important aims the lending of emphasis to the urgency of meeting our physical needs, as well as our moral needs, for national security. Further, I hope that I have helped to make clearer the fact that these physical needs are so frightfuly pressing that absolutely nothing else—no other conceivable consideration—can possibly be important enough to justify the slightest interference with maximum progress in the provision of these materials to the full extent of industry's total capacity.
For my part, I am sure that enlightened industry in every part of our land is fully conscious of that fact, and I am equally certain that it is proud of the additional fact that its experience, its skills and its forms of organization place it in front-line position to provide most of the materials needed in this great emergency. That being true, no one need doubt that industry will do its full patriotic duty, and no one need fear that, in the performance of this duty, it will fail to employ every resource required for the provision of the materials needed for our nation's physical security, just as fast as human ingenuity and an intense desire to serve makes possible—and that, I'm sure, will be awfully fast—for, after all, you know we are Americans.
However, as we proudly remember that we are Americans capable of performing production miracles, let us not forget that the deliberative processes of democracy are inherently slow in arriving at decisions—particularly in times of crisis—and that much of the defense delay which distresses our nation today is due to the very processes we are preparing to defend. This is said not to criticize the democratic process—for that I hold to be the greatest form of free government that man has ever devised—but I do say that, as a nation, we must place the responsibility for deferred and indecisive action where it belongs—upon the whole people, whose reactions and aims are slowly reflected through the democratic deliberations of their Congress.
To this, I may also add that many of the delays within industry itself may probably be traced to the fact that the democratic deliberative process is also a common practice in the determination of decisions within the institutions of enlightened enterprise.
Now, for continental physical security, the relative orderof urgency seems to be the provision of materials and the training of men for the Navy, for the Air Corps, and for the Army—closely followed by the need for enlarged reserves in our power and transportation facilities. In the broader and more realistic sense, we must see that defense materials for Britain, or for any other nation combating the supporters of the philosophy of force, are, in fact, an integral part of our own national defense. Here, again, the realistic view will clearly reveal that, as a nation, we must now be prepared to pay any price for the time we have lost—and for the time we require to actually provide for our own national and hemispheric defense. Taking that view, we shall see that so long as any aid we give Britain or any other nation gives us this precious time, we serve ourselves best—even selfishly, if you will—by submerging all other conflicting and confusing considerations until after this elemental purpose of our aid has been served.
Therefore, as we now come to a consideration of our economic security, I wish to re-emphasize, with all the force at my command, the fact that the requirements of our physical security come first, without quibble or question—and that any economic consideration must be immediately subordinated the moment it comes into conflict with our primal concern for the protection of our lives and liberties.
Now, against this background, I should like to present the program I mentioned at the outset—a program which attempts to establish a general pattern of the stages and steps I consider essential to the further fortification of our political freedom and the extension of economic freedom to our whole society through the instrumentality of the people who comprise the American Free Enterprise System acting in close, cordial, and constructive cooperation with the people who comprise the Government of the United States.
While the steps under the various stages will be set before you in what appears to be the approximate order of their importance, I am sure it will be apparent that each is not a distinct, successive step. Obviously, some require continuity from the time of their initiation—and these I shall try to identify as I go along. Others are overlapping in various degrees. And still others are temporary. Nevertheless, their interrelation will be clearer, I think, if you have the relativity of their importance in mind.
Connected with the relativity of these stages and steps, in terms of importance, I should also like to emphasize the importance of timing the actions I shall propose by stages. This I consider extremely important, because some of these steps, taken too soon or too late, could very easily have an effect contrary to that sought.
Also, it will be evident that some of the elements of this pattern are logically within the province of government—that others are logically within the province of private enterprise—and that still others are of an uncertain category. The point to be re-emphasized in this connection—and it is a point requiring very special emphasis—is that the components of the private enterprise system should take the initiative in defining the obligations the whole system can and will positively assume—while, collaterally and coordinately, it defines those obligations which it will actively support government in assuming. In this suggestion, I present no thought of arm's-length cooperation, overshadowed by suspicion between government and business. Instead, I seek arm-in-arm concord and coordinated effort in the common good—the kind of concord and effort which can, in my judgment, eliminate the causes of conflict, competition, and confusion between government and business.
At this point, also, I should like to recall my earlier remarks tonight suggesting that we might very readily deludeourselves if we fall into the error of laying our plans on the premise that when the next peace papers are signed, the national emergency will cease, and we shall return to that nebulous state known as "normal living." I recall these remarks in order to make the point here that, in my belief, world conditions in 1943—and 4—and 5, coupled with an acceleration in the obsolescence of defense materials, will require this nation to devote much more of its energy and its substance to defense production than is generally believed probable by the majority of people today. Therefore, while I believe that the peak of defense production and employment will be passed during the next two to four years, I am also of the opinion that the prospective reduction in employment, after this point has been passed, may be measured in terms of three to six million people—rather than ten to twenty million, as some quite sincerely believe—and in my estimate I include those who may lose their jobs, both in direct defense production and in the production of normal needs, the demand for which can diminish—unless the private enterprise system, in cooperation with government, starts right now to plan the way to keep all employables employed.
For our economic security then, upon which our cherished democratic way of life and our dynamic Free Enterprise System may depend for survival during the coming dangerous decade, I submit this program:
The first period in this program I identify as the "recovery stage." This is the stage in which we are now, and in which I believe we shall remain until the Federal Reserve Board Index of Industrial Production (Unadjusted) averages 140 during a two months' period. This figure roughly represents the absorption of 90 per cent of all employables and approximately the same percentage of all effective production capacity now available. In this recovery stage we need:
(1) First—a sincere, determined, and unswerving devotion to democracy—coupled with a clear understanding of and infinite patience with its deliberative processes—and need I say that this is a primary and everlasting essential?
(2) Next—universal respect for the rules which the people, through their freely chosen representatives, establish for the protection of their rights—which is, of course, only another way of saying, universal respect for the sanctity and the spirit of the laws of our land—quite obviously an eternal essential.
(3) Next—a wholly free and enterprising system of free enterprise—another continuing necessity.
(4) Next—full-time employment of all employables—and, of course, this, too, is always essential to total economic security.
(5) Next—the free flow of all goods, purchasing power, and enterprise capital for production.
(6) Next—the encouragement and development of new inventions, accompanied by aggressive pioneer product promotion. (Parenthetically, I submit this essential in economic security as a very special responsibility of electrical engineers)—and this, too, is a continuing necessity.
(7) Next—rural electrification, and the industrialization of agriculture, to the end that a strong agricultural economy and contented people on our nation's farms may be the constant companions of and constructive contributors to a strong industrial economy comprised of contented people.
(8) Finally, in this stage—development of hemispheric self-sufficiency, through the development of South America as a source of raw materials—a development which should be subsidized, if necessary. Clearly, this, too, is a continuing necessity, as I shall later try to emphasize in connection with another reference to our relations with South America.
These, then, are the requirements of the recovery stage. Now we come to what I label the "stabilization stage"—the period immediately after the Federal Reserve Board Index of Industrial Production (Unadjusted) has averaged 140 for two months. The necessities in this stage are—
(1) First—credit and price control against inflation—against long-term commitments of durable consumer goods purchases—and against nonessential personal loans.
(2) Next—maintenance of a full supply of normal needs of a nondurable character to all strata of society-still another continuing necessity.
(3) Next—an acceleration of the modernization of industry—including within that identity all utilities—power, transportation, communication, etc. Again a continuing necessity, to the end that we may always be in a position to provide more goods and services for more people at less cost.
(4) Next—gradual reduction in governmental activities, expenditures, and loans connected with all non-defense purposes in the conventional field of private enterprise.
(5) Next—taxation to balance the non-defense budget—a step which, with the one just passed, you will notice I place in the second stage of this program because we want no restraints upon employment and increased purchasing power in the first.
(6) Next—industrial development of the Temperate Zone of South America—another continuing necessity, which should be aided by subsidy in the degree necessary.
(Here may I interrupt this step-by-step presentation long enough to say that special emphasis is given to the development of hemispheric self-sufficiency and to the industrial development of the Temperate Zone of South America for these reasons:
It is my belief that, no matter what the outcome of the present phase of the foreign revolutionary movement may be, political and economic slavery—if not actual slavery—will widely prevail. Fleeing from this slavery—a slavery which will be most intolerable to the best minds in the war-torn countries—the oppressed will find ways—no matter how perilous these ways may be—to migrate to this Hemisphere, hoping that here, in the still New World, they will find a haven where a new beginning in an atmosphere of freedom may be made. Similarly situated, our forefathers of every race and creed did this in the 17th and 18th Centuries, and just as, in these centuries, our forebears from across the seas developed our continent, these 20th Century immigrants can develop the South American continent to the advantage of themselves—of the countries of their adoption—and of the whole Western Hemisphere. Therefore, humanitarian considerations connected with these prospective immigrants suggest that we help our South American neighbors to industrially prepare themselves to support these people—while the latter, in turn, are preparing themselves to make their contributions to the industrial growth, to the crafts and culture, and to the security of the continent to the south of us.
In addition to this humanitarian consideration, self-interest suggests this help because a strong, self-sustaining, self-defending South American continent will obviously add immeasurably to hemispheric security and hence to our own security, at less cost to ourselves ultimately.
Further, with their industry growing, and creating, as industry always does, great middle classes which are the mainstays of any nation, our South American neighbors could domuch to replace our present and prospective loss of normal trade with the rest of the world—and, again, this would serve the common interests of both continents—and strengthen the bonds of mutual understanding and good will.
As I leave this brief consideration of hemispheric collaboration, I should like to make very clear that what I have in mind is, in fact, collaboration with the interests of our neighbors in the Americas the primary concern—and not commercial exploitation of the character which, too often, has created hemispheric discord.)
Now, returning to our step-by-step program, we come to what may be called the "backlog building stage"—the stage during which we undertake to dam up a part of the demand for goods, in order that we may have a reservoir of nonessential unfilled wants in reserve for the days ahead, when employment connected with defense could diminish in a degree sufficient to be dangerous to our economy and to our way of life. This is the stage which will be reached when the Federal Reserve Board Index of Industrial Production (Unadjusted) has averaged 145 for two months. In this stage we shall require:
(1) First—further credit and term restraints upon durable consumer goods purchases, and nonessential personal loans.
(2) Next—the encouragement and expansion of individual, industrial, and governmental reserves in cash or its equivalent. This we may accomplish through—
(a) Personal savings, induced by the active promotion and sale of Government Savings Stamps and bonds of small denominations—stamps and bonds which serve the additional purpose of providing the people at large with a means of sharing in the financial support of our national defense effort.
(b) Increases in the amounts of payment, the extension of coverage, and the extension of the time period under our unemployment insurance laws.
(c) Increases in the amounts of payment and the extension of coverage under our social security laws.
(d) Medical and hospitalization insurance on a national scale for the people of our country whose insufficient incomes do not permit them to purchase this protection from private organizations.
(As I propose larger commitments under our unemployment and social security laws as a socially desirable form of accumulation against adversity—and as I invite the initiation of a national insurance plan to cover medical and hospitalization expenses, for the underprivileged, I, at the same time, propose that all of these activities be jointly supported by contributions from every individual prospective beneficiary under these plans—by all employers—and by the government.)
(3) Next in this stage—drastic curtailment of all governmental activities, expenditures, and loans connected with all non-defense purposes in the conventional field of private enterprise.
(4) Next—restraints on business expansion loans for non-defense purposes.
(5) Next—taxation for reduction of the National Debt.
(6) Finally—the diversion of the major portion of sales promotion and advertising expenditures to the speculative promotion of pioneer products.
Here the catalog of requirements of the backlog building stage is concluded.
And now I come to the final stage—the stage when the private enterprise system will meet its most serious challenge—and therefore the stage which we may very consistently callthe "Free Enterprise System Challenge Stage." This is the period after the Federal Reserve Board Index of Industrial Production (Unadjusted) has declined—mark this word "declined"—to an average of 150 for two months.
Then, indeed, at this time when our future economic security is at stake, we must call upon all of our vision and imagination—upon all of our resources—upon all of our ingenuity—and, above all, upon the same deep sense of service that now motivates us, as we move forward in providing the materials for our physical security—to the end that all employables will be kept employed—and that the preponderant majority will find employment on the payrolls of the private enterprise system.
With these thoughts in mind, then, these are the needs in this most critical stage:
(1) Here I submit, in all seriousness, as a first step—prayer and the wholehearted practice of the Golden Rule—and this, I hardly need say, is a continuing, compelling, and comforting requirement—and, happily, that fact is gaining greater force with each passing day as a bedevilled and bewildered world seeks the solace of divine inspiration from the source of all righteousness and all human rights.
(2) Next—Passing from this sublime step to one more material—liberal credit and term expansion, as a strong stimulant to purchases of all kinds.
(3) Next—More goods and more services for more people at less cost—first of all, more and better housing for more people at a price they can afford to pay—then, more and better furnishings of every kind for these houses, to the end that, within the means of their occupants, these houses may be converted into comfortable, convenient, and happy homes—then, more consumer goods of every character at lower cost—and, finally, low-cost distribution as a means of filling the people's wants at the least possible cost. Of course, more goods and services for more people at less cost is another continuing necessity.
(4) Next—Intensive sales promotion and advertising.
(5) Next—Intensification of industrial and utility modernization.
(6) Next—Conversion of surplus defense plants on private property to the production of goods for the normal needs of the Nation.
(7) And, finally, permanent government public works.
With this outline of the requirements of our most challenging stage, I conclude my presentation of the stages and steps—with the reminder that, as heretofore stated, all of the foregoing is an attempt to first present a realistic view of the forces underlying the world conflict, and then to provide a specific basis for discussion, to the end that, together, we may find the way to best insure our moral, physical and economic security—the total security I feel we must have if, amidst the destructive forces flooding the world with false philosophies, the democratic process and the American Free Enterprise System are to be preserved in their most useful form.
This, then, leaves only a suggestion pertinent to an earlier statement that "the components of the private enterprise system should take the initiative in defining the obligations the whole system can and will positively assume—while, collaterally and coordinately, it defines those obligations which it will actively support government in assuming."
This proposal is that, with this whole presentation as a starting point, public-spirited leaders in finance—in industry—and in commerce consider what kind of a program they can develop, to which they can gain the whole-hearted support of those elements representing 70 per cent of the financial,industrial, and commercial power of the private enterprise system. Then, having established the obligations of business—the manner in which these obligations would be discharged, and the manner in which business would exercise internal self-discipline, they should urge equally enlightened leaders in labor and agriculture to proceed to the same end. Then, finally, after all factors have reconciled their differences and reached an agreement upon the responsibilities they would jointly discharge, government—the servant of all the people—could have a clearer definition of the public service the Free Enterprise System could be definitely relied upon to supply. And, collaterally, government could be constructively presented with a clear definition of the province within which it could operate in the common interest, with the firm and full support of all elements of the private enterprise system, as well as with the support of the general public.
This suggestion is made with a deep realization of the difficulties involved—but it is also made with a comprehension of the fact that the private enterprise system is faced with two alternatives—either private decisions will be made and enforced by public-spirited and fully supported leaders in finance, industry, commerce, labor, and agriculture—or public decisions will be made and enforced by the government of the whole people for the whole people. Therefore, it must be seen that, if no way can be found to make and enforce the first kind of decisions, there can be little justification for resistance to the second kind.
And at this point let us recall to mind some impressive lessons of history.
The Magna Charta was the work of a few wise and courageous men whose minds and hearts were brought into concord by their common zeal for service in the common good. This, too, was true of our own Declaration of Independence—and of our cherished Constitution. Yes—these historic guides to greatness were the work of a few men whose words and ideas, falling like a pebble in the center of the pool of world thought, set up ever widening circles of acceptance and support. Now, as I propose the gathering together of a few wise and courageous men from the ranks of free enterprise—men whose minds and hearts are in concord because of their common zeal for service in the common good—men whose work could be the composition of a constitution for the Free Enterprise System—I remind you of the process whereby progress is made.
And as I do so, I also assert that it is the duty of the American Free Enterprise System to fully recognize the advent of a new and dangerous era, and, recognizing that fact, to adjust itself in a manner which will permit it to freely exercise its full potentialities for service to the public, while preserving its entirely consistent purpose of producing a profit.
The call to the people who comprise the American Free Enterprise System today is the call that all Americans must heed—no matter what their walk of life may be. It is a call best expressed in the words of John Milton, recently quoted by a famous American editor. Milton's cry was—"Awake—arise—or be forever fallen."
Tonight, as I repeat that challenging call to you, I am certain that we shall meet it—and I shall conclude this lengthy presentation with a statement of the conviction upon which this certainty is based.
First—I am completely confident that, notwithstanding the difficulties and dangers before us, the public-spirited citizens who preponderantly comprise the American Free Enterprise System will see in this new era, not an occasion for disheartenment and despair, but, rather, an inspiring and challenging opportunity to regain both the full faith of the common people and the cordial, constructive support of the servant of all of the people—the Government of the United States.
Further—it is my firm conviction that my enlightened associates in industry, commerce, and labor will seize this challenging opportunity with a clear, deep, and broad conception of the social obligations of the American Free Enterprise System—the system upon which all of us rely in some way or another, no matter what our occupation may be.
Holding this conviction, I am equally certain that, with this complete comprehension of our opportunities—of our obligations—and of the character of the challenge confronting us, we shall all play our full part—earnestly, enthusiastically, and effectively.
And, finally, my most positive and most comforting conviction is that, as we thus play our full part in sustaining the dynamic character of our democracy, we shall have the soul-stirring satisfaction of knowing that we have done our full duty—the duty of providing our noble nation with the solid foundation of moral, physical, and economic security—the solid foundation of total security upon which we, as a free, friendly, and united people, shall continue to courageously construct an ever greater and grander America.