Production and Patriotism
WE WANT TO KEEP OUR AMERICA
By WHEELER McMILLEN, President, National Farm Chemurgic Council, and Editor-in-Chief, Farm Journal and Farmer's Wife
An address delivered before the Seventh Annual Chemurgic Conference, Hotel Stevens, Chicago, Illinois, March 26, 1941
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 440-444.
THE United States—our constitution, our riches of freedom, our wealth of natural and created resources, the farms and enterprises and institutions that flourish under our flag, the soil from which we have grown and the ways of life that are ours—these we cherish. Today we affirm our patriotism with an understanding more clear-minded than ever before in our time.
We want to keep our America. Living and dynamic, it isstill in process of creation. Not only do we want to keep it, but we want to keep on creating it.
We know the way. The way is to produce. Production built the nation great, and only production can either preserve or advance our country.
At this present interval the task of defense demands vastly increased domestic production in order that every military and civilian need may be safely and continuously supplied.
Should the needless tragedy of war engulf our people, the ultimate effort in production will be desperately required throughout the conflict.
The after-era following defense or war, whatever the eventual shape of the world, will present conditions from which the only rescue will be production balanced to create jobs as well as goods.
Were there no need for defense, were there no impending catastrophe of war, the already monumental burden of national debt would admit but one possible solution, and that is the production of enough income to make its payment possible.
Leave out war, defense, debt, and future depression—even then, the needs and desires of the economically less fortunate in our population would imperiously demand that there be more and more production. Their chance to earn comes only when production makes jobs for them.
Today we open the Seventh Annual Conference of Agriculture, Industry and Science. The theme of our meeting is "Chemurgy in Defense—and Beyond."
Chemurgy is a doctrine of production. Chemurgy's philosophy seeks that every American may produce, earn and consume more. The spiral of prosperity is production, jobs, earning power, consumption, more jobs, more earning, more buying. The spiral starts wherever new earning power can be initiated.
So the effort of our economy should be directed toward enabling our own people to earn more buying power. You can't import jobs.
Our 132 million people can absorb fabulous quantities of goods. Few indeed are those who have reached the ceiling of consumption—who have bought everything they want.
Neither have Americans approached the ceiling of production. We may not even be in the basement.
A dramatic illustration of how science will expand America's power to produce can be taken from within the membership of this organization.
At the California Institute of Technology, a member of our Board of Governors, Dr. Robert A. Millikan, is installing a new 200-inch telescope. This instrument will penetrate space for a distance of one billion light years—twice the present maximum. The scope of space which it will permit to be examined will be multiplied by eight; eight times as much of the universe will be seen as is now within the reach of human knowledge. So great will be the power of this instrument that if the Stevens Hotel were located on the moon instead of here on Michigan Avenue, it could still be seen.
On this program Friday morning another member of our Board of Governors, Mr. Howard R. Huston, has promised to describe the first commercial electron microscope, now in use in the laboratories of his company. A mild glimpse toward the vast new universes of knowledge this instrument will open may be had by a comparison. The most powerful of present optical microscopes might enlarge the appearance of a human hair to the thickness of your wrist. The electron microscope would give it a diameter of forty feet, or greater than the width of most city streets. The behavior of bacteria, the character of cellular and molecular structure, will become known far more intimately.
The historian who writes in 2041 may very likely put down that the great events of the 1940's were not international wars, but the first use of these two instruments for the multiplication of man's seeing power. From these new realms of knowledge will come wholly new forms of goods for human use. Lower cost methods and greater durability will permit more people to enjoy more things. Wastes fromignorance and disease will be lessened. Surely no one can doubt the power of the United States, if freedom of initiative is preserved, to continue its history of heightening human well-being.
The immediate prospect is darkened by the hideous shadow of war. Wars are made by politicians and plunderers. The fruits of war are misery and poverty and taxation, eaten in the bitter sauces of hatred and moral disintegration. The earth is growing poorer with each day of destruction. International thinkers and international politicians now want to intensify the destruction. They would force Americans to exchange what could well be our impregnable security for a share in the world's blood, hate, misery and debt. They may succeed. Some of us are marking down their names, one by one, in our books of memory.
Wars may consume the accumulated tokens of wealth, they may destroy incredible tonnages of material, they may blow out the brains and shed the life-blood of our ablest youth. We have to deplore the setbacks from war at a time when science and industry and agriculture have prepared new advances in well-being.
But after war comes reconstruction—building up after the destruction. Unless the savagery goes on endlessly, there will still be some soil. There will be sun and rain and atmosphere. We may hope to preserve the skills and sciences. With these and with earnest labor we can rebuild the American dream—provided only that politicians do not entangle us too deeply in the snarls of internationalism, and provided that the one galvanic generator of productivity remains, individual human freedom. Free Americans can outproduce totalitarian slaves.
A foremost danger is that internationalist thinking will tend to center attention on fifth-rate markets in other continents to the neglect of the world's one first-rate market here in North America.
The government, industrialists, bankers and traders have spent, lent and given enormous sums to make sales in the Orient, the Antipodes and in the faded markets of decadent Europe. Even while they are being tempted by the orchids of the tropics, the home orchards are full of golden fruit. One American making four dollars a day is a better and easier prospect than any ten coolies or peons each earning forty cents a day.
On the farms alone of the United States there awaits a hungry reservoir of needs. Once amply energized with buying power, the already voracious rural market will perform incredible feats of consumption.
The United States census counts more than six million farms. Half of these earn nearly nine-tenths (89 per cent) of the whole national farm income. These three million produce by far the most, and therefore earn the most. Chemurgy's assignment is to enlarge the opportunity for all the six million farms to produce profitably. The way to accomplish that is to enable farmers to produce every possible one of the agricultural items Americans consume; and, beyond that, to discover opportunities for farmers to produce new things, and further to find markets for the agricultural wastes.
Almost every one agrees that nine billion dollars is not a fair income for agriculture. For years groups of farmers have been demanding that the government guarantee "parity." Parity, as defined, is a movable figure, a complex sort of mathematical will-o'-the-wisp, compounded on the relationship between what farmers bought and sold thirty years ago when it is assumed they got an even trade in the exchange of goods. If parity had been reached last year the national farmincome would have been around eleven and one-fourth billions.
The goal of parity is insufficient and inadequate. The services of farmers are certainly no less valuable and vital than a cross-section of other services.
The 1940 national income was 70 billion dollars. The 32 million farmers were 25 per cent of the people. A fair goal, it seems to me, would have been 25 per cent of the national income, or 17 1/2 billion dollars.
I might easily draw an enticing picture of the jobs that would make and of the flood of industrial goods that would move from factory to farm were the agricultural income raised by any substantial figure. More pertinent is how the income can be increased.
Most observers have long recognized the basic trouble in agriculture. Too much has to be sold in a buyer's rather than in a seller's market. Whenever supply and demand relations result in a seller's market the situation expresses itself in good farm prices.
Chemurgy's constant search is for new markets, new buyers. That's the urge in chemurgy. The percentage need not be large to swing a situation over to the seller's advantage. We have seen the expansion of soy bean uses exert that effect. Several million acres grow soy beans which are in larger demand than the corn and oats that otherwise would have occupied the same acres. A lower-priced product is replaced with a higher priced one. A domestic product moves into uses formerly filled by imported materials. More than 15 per cent of the soy beans are turned to non-food uses, enough to help make the markets. The growers have more money than if the new crop had not appeared. That is chemurgy in action.
No crop situation is more difficult than that of cotton. No crop is so definitely faced with a buyer's market. Has chemurgy anything to contribute?
Ordinarily, some twelve million bales are grown. From eight to ten million bales can be consumed domestically. The problem is either to find buyers for the four million bales, or to find something more profitable for the growers to raise. The export market is about gone; in the long run a blessing may be seen in the disappearance of a market that forever restricted the price to what a coolie in Peking or Penang could pay for his shirt. The process of finding new uses may add a little to the much too small dent it has so far made in cotton supplies.
But are Southern farmers able to grow nothing else than cotton? If they grew all the vegetable oils now imported, a greater acreage would be required than is occupied by the excess portion of cotton. They cannot immediately grow all of the two-billion-pound oil imports, but we know they can grow some. For their cottonseed and peanut oils chemistry finds added uses. They can grow castor beans for drying oils, and chemurgy hopes soon to see that crop on a sound domestic basis. We know that perilla grows wild in the South and therefore wonder why it can't be grown tame.
Sweet potatoes grown there can be made into starch to replace the three to four hundred million pounds of imports. Woodpulp and paper manufactured there will add further opportunities. The utilization of southern wood products, as well as northern, is steadily opening into a variety of new markets. More sugar would immediately be grown, both in the South and in the beet areas, if restrictions against earning by farmers were removed. And on this program tomorrow we shall hear that cotton itself can be grown to industrial specifications so as to bring a premium in a seller's market instead of a loss in a buyer's market. Has chemurgyanything to offer toward the cotton problem? All it asks is a chance!
The export crops are the headaches of agriculture because they constantly struggle for outlets in buyer's markets. What then could be plainer common sense than to make the utmost effort to bring new crops to enough acreage that the competition will be among buyers for the product instead of among sellers for the market?
That is a basic part of chemurgy's program. New crops for existing or new markets, new uses and markets for the old crops, and profitable uses for those portions of production—stalks and straw, culls and by-products—that now bring little or nothing.
Now, when defense is an uppermost thought, is a favorable time to push new crop research and trial. The national defense will be imperfect and incomplete until every single item of either military or civilian need can be produced at some price and in some place within our borders or very nearby. You can't defend the United States with imports.
This phase of defense is being neglected almost wholly by our government. Already shortages in drying oils, in certain essential oils and herb products, are apparent. Your Council is doing all it can in these situations. One small result has been contracts between users and farmers for some hundreds of acres of formerly imported products. Industrial laboratories, working with the spirit of chemurgy, are helping to meet the drying oil and other situations.
The great defense task of the years ahead is economic. Against the combined assaults of world-wide depression, poverty-stricken producers abroad and tax collectors at home we shall have to defend American jobs, American farmers, American business and the American standard of living. The time to begin on that task is now. The one possible insurance against the foreseeable disasters of that era is to take every possible step toward increasing the profits of farmers. When the slump comes we dare not depend on foreign markets. There won't be any that are permanent.
Industry's one real hope then will be the American farm market. If the one-fourth of America that farms is then prosperous, the other one-fourth which depends directly on farm earnings will also be prosperous. Thus half of America will be in shape to consume the products and services that sustain the other half.
I see no other feasible insurance against the depression every one anticipates. If any one can offer something more practicable, he should be heard.
Only one school of thought objects to chemurgy's program. This is the school of internationalism. This badly educated school has never learned the fundamental principle that production has another function than the mere supply of goods. A highly necessary purpose of production is to supply consuming power to the producer.
The internationalists contend that goods should be imported from wherever they can be obtained most cheaply. They fail to take into account that buying power must be produced in the United States.
What would be the consequence if, when the wars are over and the munitions machines turn to other tasks, the United States were to follow that policy to its ultimate absurdity? Conceivably somewhere in Europe automobiles, plastics and steel and farm implements may then be made more cheaply than here, so we buy them from Europe. Industrial Asia may be sending radios, ceramics, textiles, electrical items, and a multitude of products of the two-dime-a-day labor of the Orient. The whole earth will have bargain then to pour into America's market. Would not the logicsresult approach extinction of the purchasing power of our people?
If carried to the extreme such a policy would leave Americans unable to buy either from each other or from other countries. As long as we have unemployed acres and unemployed men, our policy should be to give our own people preference at every opportunity for production. The exporters, importers, shipping interests and bankers would be wise indeed, if they would look at the records which show that the years when their business is most active are the years when domestic prosperity is highest. The internationalist trade doctrine of giving away American earning power is evil nonsense, of about the same compound as the curious internationalist political doctrine that foreign trade is an instrument for the promotion of peace. Full productivity and prosperity at home provide the soundest base for rational expansion of our trade with other nations.
Chemurgy is forthrightly nationalistic. Ideas, however, respect no international boundaries. Chemurgy is not only good for the United States, but it is good for any other nation which follows its philosophy of full development for all productive agricultural resources. On this occasion I would like particularly to extend a hand of fellowship to our friends the chemurgists of Canada, our best neighbors, who have organized their own Council and to whom all our material is available. The literature of the Council goes to members in a dozen countries of the world.
The concepts of chemurgy are not political. They are economic and scientific. The National Farm Chemurgic Council is not political in its intent, never has been, and shall, I trust, never become so. I emphasize these facts, in order that what I wish to say next shall not be misunderstood.
The most fundamental division of opinion in the United States today is the cleavage between nationalism and internationalism. A large number of Americans believe firmly that the destiny of their country can best be achieved by undertaking to maintain freedom of speech and of worship, and freedom from fear and from hunger, within the borders of this nation. They are nationalists.
They favor full development of the natural, human and spiritual resources that are within the United States.
They definitely do not believe that the growth of the national economy has been completed. They are certain that wherever the energies and skills of Americans are not restrained the frontiers of production will be expanded.
Nationalists believe that the productive powers of the United States are such that, unaided and unentangled, every border and shore of our states can be defended against any possible combination of aggressors.
Nationalists hold deeply the conviction that the most precious rights of man can best be preserved, and that his highest economic and cultural destiny can most certainly be realized, by concentration toward building higher the great plateau of well-being upon which the United States now towers above a less fortunate world. Nationalists favor the peaceful cultivation of this plateau in preference to plunging down into the bloody swamp of international poverty.
The internationalists hold other views. Their doctrines of confusion and catastrophe are widely disseminated. Indeed, by determination of a majority of Congress and of the Executive, they are now national policy.
No matter how far we may disagree, in times of genuine crisis and emergency we all, as loyal Americans, subscribe to the sentiment of Stephen Decatur in support of our country.
There is no disloyalty, however, in pointing out that the great issue of internationalism versus nationalism has neverbeen decided by the suffrage of the American people. The internationalists were successful at the 1940 conventions of both parties. The issue was not debated in last year's campaign.
No one of us these days can see far into the future. There is every indication that we shall see worse times before we shall see better. At some date the forces of destruction will have run their course. Then will come the task of paying for the damage, and of endeavoring to resume a forward course. Far-seeing leadership will not await the bottom before beginning to chart the course upward. The policies of internationalism will then have to justify themselves in the light of events.
The thoughtful citizen of that time may reflect upon history. He may observe that during a century and a quarter of essentially nationalistic policy his country prospered and the well-being of its people steadily increased; and he may reflect that from the time his leaders turned to internationalism the advance of his country has been irregular and halting.
If this guess at the future is at all correct, the doctrine of nationalism will be thought about, and discussed. Its values will emerge more clearly in the public mind. The issue is not yet closed. The post-defense and post-war procedures are still to be determined. It will not be surprising if major political parties will be forced to draw their lines on this division. One party may fly the banner of internationalism, and another the ensign of nationalism. A conservative prediction is that as destruction and annihilation proceed, the virtues of domestic production will become more clearly understood.
I have drawn this theme to your attention for a definite reason. It has seemed to be appropriate that the political connotations of these two forces be brought out into the light. With the future implications in full view, perhaps we can see more clearly than otherwise that chemurgy, as a program of production, can and should proceed regardless of political events.
Internationalism for a time may set us back faster than we can go forward, but it cannot prevent us from facing to the front, making whatever counter-gains are possible.
In the final analysis, though we speak here of goods and things, these are not what really concern us. Our real concern is people—the human beings who find their lives most happily expressed in productive activity and their families best protected by the fruits of production. The great objectives of holding the economic machine in high gear are not mere goods nor mere dollars; the great consideration is that when the machine is not in high gear, the weakest, the least able are the first to be unemployed. If America can continue straight ahead to produce, there will be work and opportunity. With less than that industrial statesmanship cannot afford to be content.
Whatever the course of our country, now or later, there is patriotism in production. It is not "isolationism" that we preach, as may be said by those who use words in place of reason. If we are going to have effective defense against any imaginary or real aggression, self-sufficiency is plain common sense. When we can foresee the relentless approach of post-defense or post-war slump, it is plain common sense to prepare by starting to produce more earning power, and to earn more buying power, for those who will need it most.
I am one who firmly believes that we in the United States of America have an inspired mission on earth. Our farmers, working with our scientists and industrialists, have banished famine for the first time in human history. Our scientists and industrialists have dissolved distance, overcome gravity, conquered pestilence, and have made tremendous inroads on poverty. Ignorance is retreating. Humanity has been elevated to new heights in America, by Americans, here in our invigorating atmosphere of freedom, under representative government.
First among present obligations is to maintain liberty here—liberty for men to think, speak, worship and work. Under the blessing of liberty we can show all the world the supreme example of human well-being in a nation where freedom, production and patriotism go hand in hand. We cannot hope to force our ways upon the peoples of the earth. But if we let the people of the earth see that we ourselves have devotedly adhered to freedom of speech and worship, that by our way of life freedom from fear and hunger can be enjoyed, we shall most effectively fulfill our inspired mission to aid humanity.