The Road Ahead
THE POWER OF OUR ECONOMIC SYSTEM
By THOMAS E. DEWEY, Ex-District Attorney of New York County
Delivered at a luncheon in his honor by the Republican Women of Greater New York, at Hotel Astor, May 9, 1942. Broadcast on a nation-wide hookup by the Columbia Broadcasting System
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 490-492.
WE meet today in the midst of the greatest war of all history. We meet, not in an atmosphere of despair, but of hope, confidence and determination. We are Americans. America is young and does not know defeat. Somehow, with the tragedy of war, there are many compensations to sustain us. The most important of these is a greater unity among us all—a unity fused by the white heat of patriotism. The lesser unities merge into greater ones, Factionalism stays its hand. Self-interest is subordinated. Controversy is tempered by understanding.
We meet here today as Republicans. But our first thought of our country. As members of an honored political party we recognize that its roots were planted in love of country: the purpose of its existence is to serve our country. The Republican Party lives because it breathes the air of a free nation—a nation which it helped keep free. It will continue to live because it is a great instrument by which our freedom shall be preserved.
But unlike some over-ambitious or over-zealous partisans, we do not claim a monopoly of patriotism. Such claim ill becomes either an individual or a party. There is no one of us but desires only the means by which he can render the most effective service, however humble, to the cause of all.
In every effort necessary to victory in the war the Republican Party stands and will continue to stand vigorously behind the President of the United States. Let us make it clear: even where the government makes mistakes, we shall support it so long as they are honest mistakes. To the same end, it is the particular duty of every Republican to criticize where better results can be obtained. It is also our duty to refuse to condone mistakes that result from neglect, poor organization or partisan politics.
All of us had hoped against hope that we could be spared participation in another great war. Even after the first year of the war our leaders, from the President down, had voiced that hope and expectation. In the election of 1940 the platforms of both parties and both Presidential candidates gave repeated and firm pledges to avoid direct involvement in the war. We were all eager to lend full aid to all who resisted aggression. But it seemed incredible that American lives would again have to be sacrificed to stop a few madmen who had temporarily acquired superiority in modern instruments of destruction.
But our hopes were not to be fulfilled. The waves of war broke over our own shores. Now we are in this war until we win total and crushing victory. To the service of our nation we have dedicated ourselves and every resource at our command.
To this end we are united. There are, of course, those who would divide us here at home. There are the apostles of appeasement—those sympathizers with alien ideologies who seek to impede American action. And there are those who can see only defeat in war and who despair of our future afterward. We shall give no heed to these apostles of despair whether alien or home-grown.
We shall win the war and then we must win the peace. For as the most powerful of nations, we have learned thatpower begets responsibility. Never again shall we foreswear hard-won victory.
The attempt is sometimes, made to lay the blame for the whole disastrous cause of world events since the last wars to America's refusal to join the League of Nations. That is an absurd over-simplification. The whole truth lies in many factors. There was the failure to deal realistically with reparations and war debts. There was the large scale lending of money for the rehabilitation of Europe, followed by the sudden stopping of those loans. There was the refusal by our government, even after Hitler came to power, to co-operate in joint plans for economic stabilization at the London Economic Conference with the nations of Europe—Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and the Scandinavian nations. There was our total failure in the 1930's to recover from the most profound of all depressions and the resulting distress throughout the world. These are some of the many mistakes which contributed to the breakdown of world security. For these failures neither party is without blame.
It will not do now, in my judgment, merely to voice again the aspirations that were shattered twenty years ago. The world has greatly changed since them. Even after the total victory upon which we shall insist, it will be impossible to put back into their bottles the genii which have been released. National and racial aspirations, long subdued, have been awakened. The hopes of hundreds of millions of people all over the world are on the march. The victory at arms will not be the end but only the beginning.
While there does not live the man wise enough to draw a blue print for the future, there are some things of which we may be certain. As the shape of the world to come emerges we must and shall meet it with understanding. We must be prepared to formulate and participate in sound solutions for the future. The striking power and the cruising range of the modern airplane confronts us with the necessity for the organization of a peaceful world, free from the continuous danger of sudden attack. Of our responsibility and our power in the family of nations there is no question. Enlightened national interest requires that out of this war we help create a stabilized world. As other nations prosper, we prosper; as other nations become diseased, the infectious germs attack us too. We know we can work together with other nations for war. We must work together with other nations for peace.
We know that when the freedom of one nation is destroyed, the freedom of other nations is already in peril.
Young men of our country are fighting and dying in many countries. They are fighting to defend their own country. They are fighting to defend our free way of life against aggressive systems of government which will not let us live at peace. They are fighting so that another such holocaust will not devour their sons and their sons' sons. We are determined that their sacrifice shall not be in vain.
It is equally essential that we remember always that our power in this war and our influence in the peace must rest upon our own integrity and strength as a nation. The inherent strength of this nation has long been suppressed.
It is beginning to assert itself. In spite of delays, confusion and lack of foresight, America is rising in its might.
Somehow our industrial progress is concealed from the American people by a confused and self-defeating censorship. It is a censorship that has been clamped down upon our factories, our shipyards, our mines and railroads. It is important to have a censorship which withholds confidential information from the enemy. Fifth columnists and saboteurs must not be aided by details about the places and size of our productive plant. But there are facts not known to the public that should be known—facts that would put courage and buoyant faith into the American people—facts which would strike fear and defeatism in the hearts of our enemies.
The truth is that miracles of energy and ingenuity are being performed by our productive forces. I wish it were possible for all of us to see the great aircraft plants scattered over the country. They are turning out planes of a variety, a quality and a quantity that exceeds the wildest dreams of two short years ago. As the fragmentary news of the achievements of our planes drifts back, and we turn from it to the actual production in our factories, our wonder grows. For many of the very planes that are scoring triumphs abroad are considered already obsolete in our American factories. New models, enormously improved, are rolling off our production lines. There are fighters with speed and fire-power that will write the name of America in every sky over Germany and Italy and Japan. There are bombers to avenge London and Crete, Rotterdam and Dunkirk, Pearl Harbor and Corregidor. There are transport planes that will revolutionize all methods of hurling force where force is needed. The genius of America is at last released.
I cannot be discouraged when I see the great army of men and women in these plants inspired by the same indomitable will and patriotism that carries our men-in-arms to the far comers of the world. I cannot be discouraged when I see the leaders there—the managers of American industry—men of brains and integrity. Speed of production has been not only increased: it has been multiplied. Managerial skill has in one type of tank alone, reduced the man hours by 50 per cent. There are MacArthurs in American industry. There are fighting men in overalls.
Take another example—shipbuilding. For ten years our national policy has starved the American merchant marine. It has been reduced to a pitiful shadow of our once-proud pre-eminence on the seas. But there, too, miracles are under way. Testifying before a congressional Committee only two weeks ago, Admiral Land described what he called the revolutionary achievement of one of our great shipbuilding companies. The Higgins Company is operating new plants, built on its own initiative. Out of their own skill and with their own money, they created a new type of boat. Today thousands of boats are being produced and are changing naval warfare in every quarter of the globe. When you read of the exploits of the British Commandos, bear in mind that where the Commandos go, there go boats built by Higgins of the U. S. A. This company has now accepted a contract to build great ships of ten thousand tons. It has promised what would have been beyond imagination even a year ago: a ship a day.
The same drive and ingenuity has made of our automobile and other industries a veritable Vulcan's forge. Everywhere the men who made American industry the envy of the world are now making it the greatest power in the world. They are turning out planes and motors, ships, guns and tanks at a speed which makes new records of production every day.
What did this madman Hitler think America was made of? What could have been his thought when he drove usto rise, an avenging nation in arms? Did he think we would do less than this? Hitler has been building for nine years. We have been building for less than two years. Hitler hasn't seen anything yet.
When we turn our eyes from these realities of economic life to the political leadership that directs that economic life, the contrast is challenging. It took a year and a half of prodding before the Administration even began to accept the plain lessons of the last war. It took a year and a half to get unified war production under one man. Meanwhile, industry had to get itself under way as well as it could, while Washington tried to catch up with it.
How strange it is that for nearly ten years, defeatist economists and politicians have been speaking of our dying economy! Funeral orations have been repeatedly read over our economic system. Now it is producing the power that is saving the United Nations. From Vladivostok to Madagascar anxious eyes are turning for aid to the factories of the United States.
Our factories are turning out the arms. Meanwhile the Administration is busy putting into reverse, every economic concept it has preached for years. It used to tell us that our industrial plant was over-built. Now untold billions must be poured into the construction of new plants. It used to tell us to borrow, spend and consume. Now it must warn us to save, conserve and pay our debts. It used to promote inflation by adaptations of every device advocated in America from William Jennings Bryan to Doctor Townsend. Now, it belatedly warns us against the terrible consequences of inflation. It used to tell us that we had too much food, and throttled its production. Now it must ration what it so long tried to destroy. It used to pillory industrial managers as public enemies. Now it calls upon them to save the nation from disaster.
These foolish, false prophets who could not plan for a war they said was inevitable would now plan for a new world. A recent report reveals that thirty-five government agencies are engaged in post-war planning.
If this were not so serious, its grim irony would provoke us to laughter. They would have us believe that those who were blind to the realities in a pre-war world will have inspired vision in a post-war world; that those who were foolish about what they could see will be wise about what they cannot see; that Mr. Wallace, erstwhile high priest of scarcity, now, as Chief of Economic Warfare, can give us an economy of abundance, not merely for ourselves, but for all the world.
Is this the kind of leadership that millions of Americans in uniform must face when they return from winning the war? I do not believe we are compelled to accept a future built upon a repetition of the mistakes of these architects of error. Our young men and women have a right to know their country is determined to avoid the mistakes of the past. They have a right to expect us to build on sound foundations, a better and a sounder future.
Fortunately in a free Republic the means exist to prevent repetition of the mistakes of the past. We call that means free government. Free government includes freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free elections and, with us, two great political parties. By them we have remained free and grown great as a nation. By them we shall remain free, win the war and meet the problems of the peace to come.
This is no matter of partisanship. It should not be allowed to become a partisan matter. The future for which we build is too important. We must, all of us, refuse to sound a note of retreat. We honor the past, but we know, too, how new are the problems before us. This country need endure no reaction either to the far or to the immediate past.
We must be vitally alive to the changes enforced by this war upon economic life. Science and invention are leaping ahead to meet the problems of war. Out of their discoveries, industries hitherto unknown will rise to greatness. We stand on the threshold of a new era, and the future is quick with hope.
When this war passes we shall never again tolerate a pinched standard of living or a lowered horizon of production. We shall never again tolerate scarcity or the politics and economics of scarcity. Our burdens of debt and taxation must be lightened by pushing ever upward the levels of national production. The national income must be more equally divided. Business will have no monopoly of power, but it will have the assurance of stable policies in law and government. Agriculture, vitally necessary to an impoverished world and new industrial outlets, must not subsist upon reduced production, but thrive upon increased consumption.
The hard-won rights of labor will be taken for granted and fortified in a growing, free economy.
Such a fluid and growing economy can never come from defeatists who doubt the capacity of their own country. It can never come, as it did not come these last nine years, except by the fullest use of our most promising assets of enterprise and progress.
The people of America are entitled to a future of hope and faith and confidence. Resolved to win this war quickly and overwhelmingly, they willingly suffer the sacrifices that war requires. They will meet the future, as they meet the present, boldly and with courage.
They deserve the best and the freest of political systems. As Republicans we, must fight to preserve and strengthen that system. We are the sole bulwark against the fatal one-party system. We shall not fail in our high duty. We shall do our share for a fuller life and a better world in the days to come.