Government in a Civilized State


By CLINTON H. CRANE, President, St. Joseph Lead Co., New York City

Delivered at the commencement exercises of the School of Mines and Metallurgy, University of Missouri, May 2, 1942

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VIII, pp. 536-539

IT is a privilege to be with you today, and although it is my first visit to Rolla, Missouri, I do not feel at all a stranger as, during the past thirty years, more than fifty-six of your graduates have been working with me in the Lead Belt, and today there are still eighteen of your graduates on our salary rolls.

The Graduating Class whom I am particularly addressing are going into the world at least a month earlier than normal, because of the war. You have been free to choose your work. You have chosen to be mining engineers. The principal importance of your engineering education to date has been in teaching you how to think and how through books to have ready access to the accumulated experience of previous generations, as well as the current experience of the day. You should by now have acquired something of the engineering point of view, the open skeptical mind, the power to observe, experiment and draw conclusions, form theories and test these by further experiment, and weigh the inherent probability of conclusions drawn by others. I am asking you today to consider certain facts and the conclusions I am drawing from those facts.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in normal times have been taken so much for granted in the United States that it is hard for us to realize that they can be in jeopardy today. Let us consider how our country obtained these benefits. The Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson and unanimously adopted by the Continental Congress on the 4th of July, 1776. Jefferson andhis associates were undoubtedly influenced by the liberal writers of the time in England and France; but it is interesting to remember that it was the troops and ships of a French King which made the severance of the Colonies from England possible. Individual freedom as we know it did not exist in the world at that time; the Russian serf was virtually a slave, the Hessians who fought on the side of the British were hired from their Sovereign and were conscripts not even personally paid by the nation they served, seigneurial rights still were exercised in France. Englishmen were the freest people in the world, but even there men were being transported for killing a pheasant. The main body of the Declaration is taken up with a citation of the various forms of exploitation practiced by the British Government on the Colonists; the King is personally blamed, although the probability is that the British merchants were largely responsible for the restrictive laws on the trade of the Colonies.

The idea that government is instituted among men for the purpose of promoting the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of all its citizens, was a dream of the philosophers but had never been given practical trial, except in the City States of Greece, and there the majority of the inhabitants were slaves.

Let us consider the result of the experiment of freedom in the United States, with barely enough government to protect society from its anti-social members. In 1783 the fringe of the Atlantic Seaboard from Maine to Florida was inhabited by 3,000,000 Colonists, impoverished by seven years of war; today 130,000,000 occupy our continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific and possess a large share of the world's wealth. In the 1920's the U.S.A. used 52% of the world's production of copper, 42% of the lead, 41% of the zinc, 47% of the tin, 50% of the steel and 50% of the rubber. Even in the depression years, the figures show 37% of the copper, 26% of the lead, 30% of the zinc, 41% of the tin, 35% of the steel and 60% of the rubber. With 130,000,000 people out of the 2,000,000,000 inhabitants of the world, 6 1/2% of the people in the world are using from five to seven times their share of this world's goods.

The question how this amazing growth in population and use of the world's goods could have been accomplished is challenging to the imagination. The beginning must have been the hardest kind of hard work for both men and women, no eight-hour day and forty-hour week for the pioneer and his wife. Virgin forests, virgin soil were certainly a help; it gave us cheap lumber for our growing merchant marine and agricultural products to exchange. But these were not new things. Settlement by the ancestors of the revolting Colonists had been begun nearly two hundred years earlier. It seems to me that the reaction of a new and unsettled country to "The Industrial Revolution" under a free government gives us a most logical explanation.

Remember, that Watt and Stephenson and Fulton's inventions were all post-revolutionary. More and more, the power-driven machine came to help the human hand. Let me emphasize the power-driven machine, not the machine alone. I have seen the productivity of the individual worker increase from six to sixty-fold in my own lifetime. Compare the five-yard or twelve-ton electric shovel in one of our open pit mines and the 20-lb. shovel in the hands of an old-time miner. It should be plain that only by the aid of power machinery has it been possible to produce so much more than our forefathers did, and it is only because we are producing more per man in the United States that we are able to command such a disproportionate share of this world's goods. Some of the materials I have mentioned we find in a raw state inside our own borders, but others like tin and rubber must be bought from others. It needed a setting such as ours, where power-driven machines have been used to enable the same men to produce more, rather than the disturbing condition where less men produced the same amount, to have so quickly reaped the benefit of the machine age. I was amazed on a recent visit to Spain to see a small sand barge being unloaded with buckets on men's heads, the sand dumped on the ground, then reshoveled into baskets on the backs of donkeys. Not a mile away a collier was being unloaded in the modern manner, with grab buckets and steam hoists To have altered the first procedure would temporarily have put local men out of work; the second actually added work.

All of us, just as in the case of the individual worker, have benefited from this increased production. When I first visited the Lead Belt, men were receiving one dollar for ten hours work and only six dollars a week. Today the average wage is fifty dollars a week and men are only working eight hours a day. Housewives no longer draw water from a well, trim whale oil lamps and wash clothes by hand. Everyone has an automobile, and a greater variety of food is on every American table at all seasons of the year than was in the banquet halls of Kings in olden times.

During this same period, no such progress has been made in other lands which, a century and a half ago, were just as untouched and just as rich in natural resources as theseUnited States. Why have the descendants of the original Colonists, and those who have come since, outstripped the same type of colonists in other lands,—Africa, South America, Canada, Mexico, where, too, power machinery should have increased production without causing serious unemployment? May we not regard it as a tribute to the system of free enterprise, to the freedom from governmental interference, and the almost total lack of Class feeling? Everyone was so certain that he too might become rich, that the rich were admired, not envied. In fact, everyone knew so many men who had risen from nothing to fortune that in this land of opportunity, all things seemed possible. Was such freedom only possible in a sparsely settled country? I think our experience teaches us that the American system has been sufficiently flexible to accommodate itself to the denser population of the land.

Government in a civilized state has two important functions: (1) to protect society from its anti-social members— the criminal, the gangster, the monopolist, the diseased, and those who insist on leading a life which will spread disease among their fellows; (2) to do those things which in general affect all of us, and which cannot be so safely handled by individual enterprise—Army, Navy, currency, water supply, roads, forestry, etc. In our society, the units, the town, the county, the state, and the Federal Government, each has its important part. I wish to emphasize that our system is based on each smaller unit functioning as freely as possible in the larger group: The family controlling its own affairs, then the town, the county, the state and the United States the larger unit interfering as little as possible with the freedom of the smaller. A strong central government was neither desired nor necessary in the early years of the Republic. We were protected by our distance from enemies strong enough to attack us. In fact, we feared that a strong central government might bring a new tyranny. However, as the population grew, little by little the power of the central government has necessarily grown—for example, the welfare of all required a sound national currency; the War of 1812 showed the necessity of a professional Army and Navy with officers who were professionals. The Military School at West Point dates from that year, although halfhearted attempts had been made to start it earlier; the Naval Academy at Annapolis dates from 1845. The Mexican War showed the great superiority of the professional over the amateur soldiers, and the outstanding Army and Navy officers of the Civil War on both sides had all been professionally trained. In war, all must recognize that for the safety of all, complete power must be lodged in the hands of the central government, preferably in the hands of the executive who should have power to delegate his authority to subordinates. In times of peace we too quickly forget the lessons of war and when the next war comes we always find ourselves with an inadequate supply of trained officers and less than a safe minimum of arms and munitions. This has always been true in a democracy. Every war entails a disagreeable sacrifice of personal liberty, and everyone desires to forget it as soon as possible.

From our history, we are forced to realize that various units of our government have too often allied themselves with the anti-social members of the community, but fortunately, under our system, it has always been possible for the mass of the good citizens to unite and cast out the erring guardians.

The more civilized the state, the more specialized are the services of each one of its citizens. To provide sufficient leisure in the older civilizations, to develop the niceties of life, art, literature, music and science, the drudgery was carried on by slaves. The Machine Age has freed the slaves and at the same time has provided more leisure and luxury than in any other period of the world's history. Science in the past sixty years has advanced more than in all the world's history before 1880. The expectancy of life of a baby born today is twenty-five years greater than a baby born one hundred years ago and thirty years greater than in New England in 1789. As might have been expected, America's contribution has been more to the machine than to pure science—Edison, Westinghouse, Bell, as compared to Kock, Pasteur and Lister. But since the beginning of the present century, the leadership of medical and chemical research has swung to the United States, particularly in the line of preventive medicine. To mention a few outstanding Americans in medicine: Dandy, 1918; Whipple, 1925; Cox, 1938; Williams, 1940, Strumia, 1940.

I am confident that the most efficient arrangement is for the smaller unit to do as much as possible to protect the individual from the anti-social members of its community. A mutual benefit society where a hundred individuals contribute a dollar monthly to help the members of the society who are ill, is almost never preyed on by the malingerer and the pretended sick, whereas the large insurance company is always considered fair game and the ordinary jury is likely to find people sick who are really only lazy. In fact, at the beginning of the depression the large insurance companies had to give up writing total disability insurance because it had been turned into unemployment insurance and everyone out of a job was found by juries to be totally disabled.

This is just an example of the fact that we realize more readily our common interest with those nearest to us,—family, town, county, state, nation, and last of all, the world at large. Is it unreasonable to say that the most efficient notion must he the one where its individual citizens are leading the most efficient lives? Efficiency, meaning greater output, with less man hours of work? Let us consider whether human happiness does not promote human efficiency. Webster's definition of Happiness is: "A state of well-being characterized by relative permanence. Mental and moral health and freedom from irksome cares are its normal condition." It seems to me to depend on bodily, mental and ethical health. By ethical health, I mean successful adaption of our own lives to the lives of others, being of service in the broadest way possible in our own circumstances to the community in which we live. Good health and a good digestion are undoubtedly a help to our happiness, but work which is congenial, which is efficient and skillfully performed, which is useful, which requires thought, is even more of a help. The urge of being important to our fellow men must be satisfied. In a community of human beings, this urge to be of importance is one of the most natural and most universal of all human emotions. We see it at the very beginning in childhood, where the child is always saying, "Watch me do this," "Watch me do that." It is the driving force of ethical living. We crave the recognition of our friends and associates of our accomplishments, and if those accomplishments have resulted in bettering the conditions of our community, we may well be and are happy. The social unit of the family is happiest where the father's work is productive not only of a wage which will support the family, but is developing to his powers of thought and mental effort, as well as the use of his body. Work without thought is a dull business and can only be compensated for by increased leisure which allows for recreation and other stimulating mental interests.

I have found that the most successful organization is one in which men are expected to think and not simply to carry out the orders of someone who has thought for them. Each unit of the St. Joseph Lead Company functions under its own local manager, who is responsible for results and reasonably free as to methods. Results are not temporary results. The most significant figures to me are Labor Turnover. If employees are leaving us, it means dissatisfaction on their part, bad working conditions, unfair foremen, unsatisfactory living or wage conditions. It is up to the local manager to correct these conditions; I am prepared to advise, but not to direct. There is not a concentrating mill belonging to the Company where the flowsheet has been constant more than three months. In Southeast Missouri none of our mines are run exactly alike, because the individuals in charge are not alike.

A man cannot begin too early to take responsibility, and the happiest and most successful work leaves the choice of how a particular job shall be done to the individual and brings with it its own reward and punishment. It is better that we should make mistakes than that we should never do anything; it is better that our work should be so arranged that we shall recognize when we have made a mistake and likewise we shall recognize when we have made a success, and our associates shall also be able to so recognize. Man's brains, the reasoning part, or the fore-brain, is so much larger than the most intelligent of the animals, that it is impossible to make any comparison. In fact, this fore-brain, or reasoning and planning part of the brain, is really never used to the limit of its power. I was told by one of our leading neurologists that the brain was the one organ of the human body which did not grow old in itself, that it could be damaged by disease, but lacking disease, the brain at the end of life was just as capable of creative work as in the adult of 25. I expressed great surprise at this statement and asked him how it could possibly be, and he said with a smile, "Probably because it is never really sufficiently used." There is probably no one of us whose brain is not of ample size to do the work of an Einstein, an Edison, or a Newton, if it is sufficiently trained. Anatole France's brain, which was donated to science, is the smallest on record, not much bigger than an Australian Aborigine. If our life is so led that week by week and year by year we gain in competence to do our work, and in the confidence of others, we progress upward in whatever occupation we have chosen, so that we are more important and more useful. If we so use our leisure that we keep our bodies fit and our minds interested, if we are ready to help our friends and glad to do so, we will be leading a happy life.

Although health and work contribute to happiness, without freedom, real happiness is not possible. Each one of you chose four years ago to devote yourself to becoming a mining engineer, I am sure that each of you also desires to be free to choose your own wife. After graduation, your next choice will be the choice of your employer. You are still free to make that choice, but at once you are confronted with a second freedom—the freedom of the employer to choose you; in other words, you have come to a human contact, you have to persuade somebody that you are worth employing, that you have got something to sell. Possibly you have already earned money; if not, your first relationship with an employer in which you are paid for what you do will be a thrilling experience. You will be free, furthermore, if your first employer and your first job is not satisfactory, to make a change. Just now, however, you mayfind that necessities of our country in time of war will interfere with this normal freedom of choice. You may be required to go into military service, or you may be required to devote your work to some necessary war industry. However, you should realize that the sacrifice of freedom, in time of national crisis, is a normal condition for the ultimate safeguarding of that freedom. To-day, once more, the concept of individual freedom is being attacked from without and from within. The doctrine of the corporate state, whether it is Communistic, Fascist or Nazi, which requires complete subservience of the individuals to the state in peace, as well as in war, would bring us all to a condition of complete slavery. The ruling class in these states is a self-perpetuating group or party headed by a leader who is deified, as were the earlier Oriental Potentates and the Emperors of Rome from the time of Augustus. That form of government pretends to direct what work we shall do and where, whom we shall marry and when, and if we are considered unfit, where and when we shall die. The daily life in these corporate states tends to become like a beehive, with but a single queen and all the work done by sterile spinsters.

Can we, a free people, meet the challenge? If we are united, who can doubt it? Here, inside our own borders, we have been using from 40 to 60 per cent of the world's raw materials. That means that we have not only been enjoying the products made therefrom, but that we have the necessary men and machinery to convert them into finished goods, whether for peace or war. We are a machine-minded people and certainly in the past a basically happy people, and anyone who has seen the speed with which we have been converting our peacetime factories into war work cannot fail to believe that Pearl Harbor united us. This is a machine war requiring more intelligence and initiative on the part of the individual soldier and sailor than any previous war. My faith is that the human product of our system is superior to the product of the corporate state. Our young men, understanding the issues, are prepared for the ultimate sacrifice, and our young women are the daughters of those who loaded their husbands' guns in the old frontier forts. For the reasons which I have outlined, 1 am confident of victory.

A final word to you young men who are beginning your professional career, from one who has been greatly honored today by your University and by your attention to his words. My experience teaches that Faith, Courage, and Character are the watchwords of success: Faith, in yourself and in your fellow man, which is a spiritual quality, partly based on experience, but in the main transcending experience; Courage, to take responsibility and to meet adversity with a smile. But the greatest of all is Character—the quality which inspires trust. A man who is trusted implicitly by his fellows, has an advantage which the man with the super brain without character finds impossible to overcome. Give more than you receive, don't worry if you make mistakes, be more interested in a job well done than in what you are paid for doing it, and I promise you a happy and successful life.