The Magic of Production


By HENRY A. WALLACE, Vice-President of the United States

Delivered at the New York Herald-Tribune Forum, New York City, November 17, 1943

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. X, pp. 147-148.

PIONEERING for a civilized world is an excellent theme for a forum at this particular phase of history. The whole world is on the move as never before. We want a world where men are free to grow physically, mentally and spiritually. To get this world we shall have to work harder than our grandfathers when they subdued the forests, the plains and the mountains. They battled physical difficulties, but we in the spirit of St. Paul have the task of wrestling against the rulers of the darkness of this world and against spiritual wickedness in high places. Our task is to make this the century of the common man. This idea, this dream, can become a reality.

Once a man was discussing with Carlyle the whole question of ideas and how ineffective they were. Carlyle, half in fun, half seriously, replied: "There was once a man named Rousseau. He wrote a book which contained nothing but ideas. People laughed at it. But the skins of those who laughed went to bind the second edition of the book."

Here in our own country we have seen the great liberating force of a common purpose. Twice in a generation we have found unity and strength in the act of buckling down to war. The war has shown us the magic of production. Production—the full use of our labor and materials—is in itself the cure of most of our social and political evils. Production is good for the body and soul. Full production, full employment, and fair distribution will give us a tough-fibered, self-respecting people, moving on with strength and courage to the job of hewing out a better world. The common man wants free enterprise. But private enterprise is not a goal in itself. Private enterprise was made for man, not man for private enterprise. It is a means to production, not the end of life. The common man will turn from private enterprise only if there is not full production and jobs enough to go around.

Sees Ten-Year Government Role

Is production so great an enterprise that it demands not only the full use of the energy of all the people, but also of government? Is government cooperation an indispensable factor in securing full production? In time of war, yes. In the decade immediately following war—also yes-undoubtedly.

Governmental planning can be reduced to a minimum only if certain sweeping over-all decisions are boldly made by Congress. For example, we must plan our governmental policy so that we are not compelled to give things away to other nations in Peace II as we did in the peace after WorldWar I. In Peace I, in the years of normalcy, those who insisted that we raise our tariffs thought they were hard-headed businessmen. They were not. From the standpoint of serving the national welfare all of them were impractical and some of them were selfish morons. The tariff subsidized our manufacturers by billions of dollars every year and made it impossible to sell our customary exports of wheat, cotton, pork and tobacco abroad unless we were willing to loan foreigners money. We loaned Europe money not only to buy farm products, but also to build factories, apartment houses and swimming pools. We rehabilitated Germany. All this was done by private loans unpoliced by government. The big bankers got the commissions. The small bankers got the bonds. And the people got it in the neck.

American private industry—seduced by unsound promoters in the decade of the 20's—ran the greatest charitable institution in the world. But those who finally paid for the billions of private charity to Europe were not those who raised the tariffs or those who floated the bonds. Most of the bill was finally paid by the farmer, the worker, the small banker, and the small investor. Europe finally got free of charge from the United States less than fifteen billion dollars worth of goods, but our failure to plan the simple arithmetic of international exchange eventually cost the United States more than one hundred billion dollars. In this loss the big businessmen finally were hit. The ultimate payment was in terms of Hitler, Mussolini, Tojo and the blood of our young men.

At this late date we need not blame the little men who defeated Wilson and produced that false peace after World War I. Our concern is that Peace II recognize the simple realities of international trade. When the greatest creditor nation in the world holds its debtors to account and at the same time makes it impossible for them to pay, the wrath of the foreign victims sooner or later revenges itself tenfold. Twenty years ago we, the great creditor nation, could have led the world toward full employment of men, skills and resources. The short-time cost would have been many billions, but the long-time cost would have been nothing. On the contrary, there would have been a great profit in an expanding volume of world trade based on confidence in enduring peace.

Assails High Tariff

Today Peace II is rapidly coming upon us. By lack of planning and the selfishness of so-called hard-headed men we can turn Peace II into World War III. The common mandoes not want that. Nor the farmer, nor the businessman, large or small. But to save Peace II we must make freedom from want that reality which is implicit in our resources, man power and skills. We must resolve that we shall not again produce world-wide explosion by allowing certain private interests to high pressure Congress into higher tariffs; while other private interests are financing unsound loans abroad at the expense of the small American investor. When this war ends the greater part of the seventy billion dollars of savings accumulated by United States citizens during the last three years must be used right here. We must use these savings to rebuild America and not to rearm Germany.

Properly invested, the money we. sent abroad can and J should increase jobs in the United States. The loans should be self-liquidating and should, if possible, furnish the borrowing nation with the means of repayment. Such loans are pioneering loans. They are the kind of loans which the East made to the Middle West to get it settled. The building of roads, bridges and airports in Latin America and Asia illustrates what I mean. American-built highways, American-built airways and American tourists, with all the development which will inevitably follow, can furnish millions of jobs for the whole world on a basis which will enable the world to repay the United States for her help. If American tourists spend a billion dollars annually in foreign lands, the money which we loan for highways and airways can be soundly liquidated over a period of fifty years. We shall keep our engineering firms busy, furnish markets for our automobile and airplane factories, and develop friendships over the entire world. I am looking ahead to the day when the Iowa farmer can drive his own car to Buenos Aires— when the Oklahoma oil man can go by air to Chungking and there hire an auto to drive himself into India and finally west to Moscow and Paris. Then, when millions of our people have seen the realities of a world on the march, isolationism, already dead, will be buried for all time.

The time has come for that vast group which stands for the general welfare in the United States to rise in its majesty to adopt methods which will prevent pressure groups from leading us to a temporary peace or a partial employment. There must be jobs for all, and we cannot have them if there is fear of another war. The service of Peace II requires an enthusiasm like that displayed by the common man of Russia during the war. The new democracy, if it solves the problem of full production and fair distribution, can give our common man the enthusiasm and faith of the Russian common man and even more.

Americans have learned at last that we cannot isolate ourselves from the world. It is no longer a question of whether isolationism is good or bad. Isolationism is impossible. The airplane and radio settled that.

Cites Food as First Problem

When the war is over the central fact will be hunger— physical and spiritual hunger. Within two years the United Nations will rebuild with physical food the shattered bodies of the tens of millions who have been starved by the Nazis. Food that they can get their teeth into—food they can fill their stomachs with—comes first. Europe can eventually pay for this food in healthful labor, provided we of the New World are willing to accept goods in payment. But even more important in the long run than physical food is the spiritual food represented by genuine democracy. Those who have lived for years under the dictator's heel want to be sure that Fascism and the forces that lead to it are stamped out everywhere in the world.

Unfortunately, we are much further from victory over Fascism than from victory over the German armies. Fascism fights us on both sides of the line. Fascism fights us in both continents in the New World. Fascism will fight on from new bases after military victory is complete. Let us not commit the tragic folly of underestimating our enemy. No country has escaped it. The world-wide assault on the power, on the worth and dignity of man is the living issue of our time. Fascism flourishes in a time of faltering and divided purpose. It will die in a time of dynamic common purpose and faith.

We must make that common purpose inevitable. The future of the world holds a promise greater than the past has ever shown us. The future is not a fixed thing. It is not predestined. We have only to bestir ourselves in order to realize our dreams. For we have the lands, the forests, the mines and the people. We have in our hands the tools of science, gigantic in their power, miraculously swift in their accomplishment. We can control floods, make the desert bloom, house a nation in comfort, conquer poverty and stamp out most disease. We know we can do these things if we will to do them. The common man is on the march. His vision of the future will largely determine the world's future.

We must realize that we are a part of the great world and start to plan to live in that world. We want life to be more humane. We want to live up to the great historic issue of America—freedom—freedom for our own land and for all the world.

America will find a new song, a new opportunity. In her world relations she will demonstrate the practicality of Christianity—that in serving the world she serves herself. The really hard-headed are those who see furtherest. Christ was the hardest-headed man of historic record. Truly we are members one of another. Christian precepts and common sense will save the coming peace. The common man, well informed, working with good will, is the greatest force in producing the world we want.