Business As Usual


By W. J. CAMERON of Ford Motor Company

Broadcast on the Ford Sunday Evening Hour over the Columbia Broadcasting System from Detroit, November 2, 1941

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VIII, p. 128.

WE rightly judge other nation's morale by the way they sustain their normal life under abnormal stress. As evidence of the British people's morale, their motto "business as usual" is often cited and admired. What does this oft abused and much discussed phrase mean? What ought it to mean?

In this country "business as usual" means preserving the process of production and distribution that support any effort this nation may make. It does not mean retaining things that never were essential to the nation's life, nor is it a petulant protest against unavoidable readjustments; rather it indicates a clear perception that if we are to have anything to defend and something to defend it with, the sources of essential civilian supply must be kept at highest efficiency, for they are also the sources of essential military supply. How else do we get defense? Food, clothing, medicines, machine tools, raw materials, transportation, housing, reliable information by newspaper and radio—all these are defense essentials and all of them are products of "business as usual." Automobiles, for example, are now as necessary as shoes; how could defense workers get to the shops without shoes or automobiles? The nation is justly proud of its speed in enlarging its defense production plants, but how was that enlargement made possible?—only by using more and more of the things produced by "business as usual"!

Since defense calls upon the whole vast variety of American skills and energies, the idea at the root of this motto should have the effect of making us all emergency conscious. Some of us are called to work directly and exclusively for defense, in the armed forces or in industry. Others of us are given defense work to carry along with our own. But most of us find ourselves left with just the ordinary daily job. That is, while Government is working to defend the American economy, most of us have the not less important duty of keeping the American economy going. It is not so glamorous a post by far, but those assigned to it should be helped to understand that it is just as essential and just as patriotic as any military or naval post and that the tens of millions of daily transactions of production and exchange are absolutely indispensable to the nation's economic health and vigor.

If this were only a 30-day emergency we could all drop everything for its duration and hie us away to the camps, hut since it promises to last, and since civilian work hasa higher ratio of importance to military work than ever before, we take a practical view of it. In Napoleon's time

two soldiers in the field could be supplied by one civilian. Today, in mechanized warfare, the work of 18 civilians is required to maintain one soldier in the field—the ratio between soldier and civilian has been just that heavily reversed. Surely this suggests that the economic process that supplies our armies, is not a secondary matter.

We have the smaller businessman particularly in mind tonight. Although he is part of the very backbone of our service of supply he is often the first to be imperiled by the first sharp emergency restrictions. The importance of smaller businesses as sources of employment and production is likely to be overlooked in our haste—with rather costly consequences sometimes. It must not happen here as it has elsewhere that small independent industries shall be unintentionally ruined and then be gobbled up and monopolized by syndicates that always lie in wait for such profitable wreckage. Businessmen who produce usable, life-sustaining wealth are, in their way, as important to the State as statesmen are in their way; statesmen would have little scope for action, armies would have little to defend and nothing to defend it with, were it not for these men.

However, no difficulty, no hindrance, can relieve us for one moment from our duty. Meeting difficulties in these times is part of the citizen's soldierly service. Just now everyone is more important to his country than to himself. Let every manufacturer and merchant, big and little, know that every piece of goods produced and exchanged for necessary use is a pulse beat denoting the stronger heartbeat of our national economy. Let him know that profiteering is a form of disloyalty and avoid it by keeping prices close to costs and controlling costs as far as he can. In that mind, for the country's sake, we shall endure the initial maladjustments in hope of their speedy correction, and we shall look upon our business service as our station in the defense line.

The President has spoken; the Congress is acting; the national policy is clear. It now becomes our duty as Businessmen, as Shopmen, as Citizens in every walk of life, to mobilize our energies wholeheartedly and unitedly behind the Chief Executive in full support of the nation's emergency defense program. Disunity is confusion, it is also encouragement to the arch-aggressors of the world; but Right is might, and Unity is the strength that wields it.