The State of this Country's Affairs


By JOHN W. BRICKER, Governor of Ohio

Delivered before the Wisconsin Bar Association, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, June 25, 1943

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. IX, pp. 616-619.

ALTHOUGH our Legislature really adjourned several weeks ago, the Sine Die adjournment became effective today. The National Governors' Conference was held in our Capitol City the first three days of this week. Preparation for that, the sessions held, the immense amount of work done and territory covered prepared me for this particularly pleasant trip into your state.

I enjoy therefore very much meeting the Wisconsin Bar. You have produced great leaders in the field of the law. This is the profession to which I have devoted my life and to which I will return. It is a short step from the practice of the law, dealing constantly with public matters into political life. I made that step several times. It is likewise a very easy step to take back again. I suppose one should not call it a step, but rather a push and that I have done also.

The years of public service have not in any way diminished my love of the law or my gratification in association with lawyers.

At the Governors' Conference, two important matters were considered. The first—how we can implement and aid the conduct of the war from the standpoint of the states and second—how we can best meet the problems of rehabilitation and reconstruction following the war. The deliberations of that conference brought clearly into the foreground of our dunking many national problems.

The national problems that we are facing these days result from the accumulation of unsettled questions over a long period of years. For that reason, those problems are of supreme importance. Upon the wisdom of our solutions for them rests the welfare of our people for many years to come. It is necessary, therefore, in discussing them to do so with the utmost care and, so far as possible, in the most specific manner. There are those who believe that these problems can be settled through the method of easy generalities. I do not share that view. The problems that beset as cannot be solved by words or phrases, however happy;they can be settled only by consistent thought and determined action. I should like, therefore, today to limit myself to one aspect of our postwar problems. My subject concerns the principles and policies that should be adopted and followed by the United States in order that this nation may, as we hope it will, be strong and effective and cooperative when the war is won.

Beyond this war lie two vital and grave decisions. Those decisions will have to be made by the American people after wide-spread discussion and long and serious thought. The first is, what part this nation will play in world affairs. What, in short, will be its foreign policy? The second is the question of what domestic policies this nation will adopt in fitting itself for its proper role in the world beyond the war.

It is obvious that these two problems are intimately related. There are those who are able to discuss the one without any consideration of the other. But I cannot share such easy and complacent assurance. Whatever we promise to the world is in the nature of a promissory note. When men give promissory notes they must, if they are honest, know how their promises can be kept. If their personal future is cloudy, if their health is infirm and their earning power doubtful, they must take that into consideration. We dare not destroy the hopes of the world because we have not been honest with ourselves.

I join with those who wish to lend the strong arm of American help in the solution of world problems. I find, moreover, as I meet people in all walks of life and talk with them of their fears and hopes, that they feel that the destiny of America must be, to a greater extent than before, involved in the destinies of the world at large. I find, in short, the people want to be shown how the United States can effectively join with other nations in solving some of the fundamental causes of war. Since that desire is so widespread and so evident, no one should ignore it. I shall neverdo so. That desire born of the suffering of war must be strengthened and implemented. I propose, at a time not too far removed, to speak of the possibilities of American participation in world affairs, in some detail and with specific suggestions. But today I should like to create the foundation for such an expression by looking to the state of this country's affairs and to discuss with you the basic reason why our position in the world depends upon policies and principles which we pursue within our borders. For what we do abroad, must in peace as well as in war, depend upon what we do at home.

For ten years our national administration has pursued a domestic policy which, at every point, hampers and contradicts its professed foreign policy. Ten years ago, we adopted certain domestic policies that were based upon an America isolated from the currents of world affairs. In the field of agriculture, the President announced and compelled the adoption by Congress of a policy which was professedly intended to free the farmer from the shackles of world prices. That agricultural policy was set up for the purpose of establishing within the borders of this country a self-sufficing economy. We were to grow what we needed for our own purposes, and only what we needed for our own purposes. Surpluses of food were viewed as a national calamity. We embarked on a policy of suppressing production. Millions of acres were put out of production. The tragic results of that policy now face us with grim and forbidding reality. Hunger stalks around the world and we arerationed here, because of such fallacious programs. But that is only one of the handicaps under which we shall suffer as we seek to take our proper place in the world after the war. Let us consider another example. One of the most obvious necessities, not only for our own sake but for the sake of all nations, is the need that America participate freely in the trade of the world. Since we have proved, in this war, that our capacity for production is so great that we can meet the necessities of half the world at war, we ought to be able to look forward to that time when, after swords are turned to plowshares, we shall be producing for many nations no longer the machines of war, but the machines of peace. If we can supply the world with tanks and guns, we ought to be able to supply the world with trucks, reapers, refrigerators and automobiles.

But at the end of the war we shall meet, in foreign markets, competition of a most formidable nature. That competition will produce goods created by workers who are able to work for low wages. But American workers are not willing to lower their living standards. And they are right. We must, therefore, make up the difference by the superior efficiency of our system of production. I have confidence that we can make up that difference under conditions that are tolerable to bear. But if, at that moment of trial, we encounter another handicap, we shall be crippled beyond measure in our effort to carry on world trade. That other handicap that threatens is destructive inflation. If, as the result of unsound financial policies, inflation overtakes us, the cost of production in this country will grow prohibitively large. That will mean that when we attempt to meet foreign competition in the markets of the world, we shall be laboring under an insuperable handicap. Any man who deals in goods and knows the simple rules of trade realizes that the misfortune that we shall meet is a misfortune from which wise policy might have saved us. And yet, we have an administration in Washington so divided within itself that for ten years the State Department and, at times, the President and other agencies, have exalted the mission of America in promoting foreign trade. At the same time we have had other departments, and you can supply the namesof those responsible for those departments, who have been telling us that sound economic policies require continuous inflation. And the President has supported that side of his administration too. But the New Deal cannot change the laws of mathematics. The consequences of this ruinous division of policy are already appearing. No official pronouncement, no matter how exalted, can reconcile a policy of inflation with a policy of increased foreign trade. There, in all of its reality, is perhaps the most striking of the examples of how foreign policy must, in the last analysis, depend upon domestic principles.

Another aspect of this conflict of policy has to do with the management of our economic life generally. There were those in high office who sought to lead us to believe that our industrial production should, in all of its details, be managed by an all-wise bureaucracy. Manufacturers were to be told what to make and how much to make. Businesses were to be regulated in every detail. The farmer was to be told what to plant and where, how many pigs to let live and how many to kill. The abundant life was to come from a nice set of blueprints made by some bureaucrat in Washington. Here again, a matter of infinite importance to the foreign relations of our country is involved. A nation which has launched itself upon a totalitarian economy cannot be the good neighbor of any other nation. You cannot have a managed economy at home and abundant trade abroad. That choice the President has never made. Whether he has perceived it, I do not know; but if he has perceived it, his words and policies have never given evidence of it. If there were one point on which all the governors agreed it was that the people ought to have the right to vote on our policy making officials, and that rampant and costly bureaucracy must be curbed or our free government will be destroyed.

The most tragic aspect of an economy of scarcity is already being pressed home upon us. We shall, when this war is over, be faced with a hungry and impoverished world. Whether we give food or whether we sell it, there will be demands from the four corners of the world; but we shall have to answer that we have had different plans with respect to food in the past few years. We have systematically cut away our power to produce what the world needs. Continuation of these policies, or a continuation of those responsible for such policies makes an empty mockery of any expressions by them of a desire to help the world. I believe that we should contribute in every way that we can to the abolition of want in the world, but I cannot believe in the sincerity of a national administration which tells the world, in one breath, that we shall keep it from want, and at the same time tries to limit our capacity to meet those wants.

I have no desire to claim that all regulation is bad. I find few people who believe that under modern conditions we can go back to unbridled individualism. Neither business, labor nor agriculture wants that. They all recognize that the increasing complexity of life requires many government regulations. The public interest can be protected in no other way in the Republic. And when we have laws we must have people to enforce them. Nor do I claim that all of the increased Federal regulations of the past ten years are bad and unnecessary and should be abolished. I have the honor to have served four and a half years as governor of a state that, like your own state of Wisconsin, has pioneered for more than thirty years in social and economic reform. I only wish that the experience of the states had been studied more carefully by Washington. Nor am I going to be intimidated by the shop-worn New Deal question begging cry of "What would you abolish?" In my good time, I propose to be very specific on that point and my specifications will not be pleasant reading in some high quarters in Washington.

ton. But because the New Deal has never made up its mind on either its economic principles or its policies of regulation it is necessary to clear away the underbrush before we survey the land and set the stakes. When we know what we want to accomplish, we can know what laws we need to achieve those purposes. Law should follow policy, and policy, to be effective, must be consistent within itself. Law, it has been said, is the public opinion of yesterday. That is another way of saying that before we make tomorrow's law, we must know our policy today. Let us look at a few basic principles. When a business is sufficiently invested with a public interest, and when, in the conduct of that business, a monopolistic interest is involved, it is a proper exercise of governmental power to provide the means by which the public can be protected from unfair prices and poor service. In such cases, the government should not, except in the most extreme cases, enter into direct competition with private business. The public interest is never protected by the government using the taxpayer's money to compete with him or to deprive him of a right to engage in business.

But the public must at all times be protected from the evil of public or private monopoly, and to that end laws are placed upon the statute books. Those laws should be strictly enforced, but they should not be used as official blackmail to compel business to conform to economic theories inconsistent with a free economy. There is such a thing as using the anti-trust laws to enforce not free competition but iron-bound government regimentation of little and big business alike.

Through the states and the nation in close cooperation, it is a legitimate purpose of government to assist citizens in their quest for security gainst the needs of old age, against unemployment. In the administration of social security, the beneficiaries are entitled to the most sacred trusteeship by government and to the full truth in all promises of future benefits. I believe that our existing social security facilities in states and nation should be reconsidered after this war, to the end that inequities may be eliminated, and that extension of its benefits be made wherever they are consistent with a sound economy and fiscal system. Our fiscal experimenters must not gamble with the dollars that our tax collectors take from our people. By faithful performance in this field we can build an abiding confidence in our government.

All government regulation of business, labor and agriculture must be imposed as a quasi-legislative function of government but with a judicial impartiality. Rules of procedure must be kept within the limits of established law. Such agencies as are vested with this responsibility must not usurp the powers of the courts. Their orders ought to be reviewable by the courts. Those in charge should be persons of balanced judicial temperament, concerned with strict justice and fair consideration of the rights of all parties concerned. These agencies should never be empowered to determine public policy under the cloak of administrative processes.

Moreover, in every act of Congress extending Federal authority, the competence and constitutional authority of the states must be respected, in ten years, during which Federal authority has added to its power, many powers were seized from the states that might better be left to the states. Our Federal government has the right to grow. But there is a big difference between growing and swelling. Growth is normal, swelling is evidence of disease.

Finally, in the extension of regulation in the nation and in the states, every step should be taken in line with consistent economic policy. Either we believe in the future offree enterprise and competition in America, or we do not. Either we believe in the future of America, or we do not. If men contemplate the present state of American enterprise as mature, washed up, finished and ready for the Socialist undertaker, those men are not competent to guide the destinies of a vital, growing nation. And dozens of official New Dealers have said just that of our economy. In fact, so many have expressed that view that we can only conclude that such is the official New Deal party faith. That feeble faith is not enough for the times beyond this war. We cannot move forward half socialistic and half capitalistic. For my part I choose America of private enterprise and equality of opportunity.

The presence of such un-American doctrines does a lot to explain the tragic inconsistency of policy that we have witnessed. In the field of anti-trust law enforcement, the inconsistency has been glaring. In a Federal court in this very state, Wisconsin, the spectacle was revealed of one department of the Federal government prosecuting people for the very thing that another department had told them to do. Mr. Thurman Arnold sought certain changes in labor regulation. Other Federal departments opposed them. The controversy became a public scandal. And Mr. Arnold was elevated to the bench. It seems to be a favorite practice with the New Deal, when two New Dealers cannot get along with each other, to silence their outcries by making them Federal judges. This is a curious test for judicial fitness. It suggests that the Federal courts are to be regarded as a species of official dog houses. That makes for neither good administration nor good courts.

Even in our agencies created to meet the specific problems of war, this inconsistency is apparent. Under the guise of war, administration activities looking toward permanent radical changes go on. Only recently, it was revealed to a House committee that the former chief counsel for the O.P.A. had spent his time gathering material wholly irrelevant to his job of price administration. Perhaps that is why price control has been such a tragic failure. Some men are so intent on making America over that they would ruin America in the process. Like an amateur at watch repairing they can easily take the thing apart, but they cannot make it run.

Nor are we given any assurance of when or how our war controls will be terminated. In the last war, President Wilson was most explicit again and again that war controls were temporary. He said something in that connection that might well be repeated now:

"Our people, moreover, do not wait to be coached and led. They know their own business, are quick and resourceful at every readjustment, definite in purpose, and self-reliant in action. Any leading strings we might seek to put them in would speedily become hopelessly tangled because they would pay no attention to them and go their own way. All that we can do as their legislative and executive servants is to mediate the process of change here, there, and elsewhere as we may. I have heard much counsel as to the plans that should be formed and personally conducted to a happy consummation, but from no quarter have I seen any general scheme of 'reconstruction' emerge which I thought it likely we could force our spirited businessmen and self-reliant laborers to accept with due pliancy and obedience." No such assurance has been given during this war.

Meanwhile, in spite of official confusion, our war effort proceeds. The strength and spirit of our people is a tribute to the deep patriotism and efficiency of a people grounded in freedom. Our armed men are winning victories wherever they fight. The leadership of our armed forces is superb.

The nation to which our fighting men return must be worthy of their courage and sacrifice. We must resolutely prepare for the future beyond the war. The United States, in that future, will play a generous and constructive part in building for permanent peace and a better way of living. In our public discussion, we shall examine every reasonable plan for world order as our sacred duty.

I have sought today to make clear how closely we must match our considered foreign policy with rational domesticpolicies. For a nation which is to play a helpful part in the world must be sound at home. America cannot reach out a helping hand unless we have a strong arm. We cannot inspire others to be free unless we love liberty here at home. We cannot show others how to govern themselves unless we save and strengthen self-government in America. Nature has given us the materials for that righteous role and our Creator has given us minds and hearts to achieve it. Let us build a nation worthy of our great opportunities.