"We Have Sniffed Our Destiny"
MASS APPRECIATION OF COMMON OPPORTUNITY
By EARL WARREN, Governor of California
Delivered before the Pacific Coast Sales Executives' Conference, Los Angeles, Cal., April 14, 1944
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. X, pp. 432-43.
A WRITER in one of the national magazines recently started an article on West Coast postwar thought by writing that we people out here in the West have our noses high in the air. His explanation was that we have sniffed our destiny.
I rather liked that figure of speech. I liked it chiefly because it infers unanimity of thought—mass appreciation of common opportunity.
Anyone who has had opportunity to travel and consult with Western business, finance and industrial leaders during the past year has been heartened by the atmosphere of expectancy, faith and determination which is everywhere encountered. Never before have there been quite so many people possessed of faith in our future or quite so intent on giving voice to the conviction that we have our foot in the door of an era of dream realization.
I hope you will not imagine, however, that I have come here this evening to attempt a profound analysis of just what is contained in this exhilarating air of destiny which we are reported to be sniffing. If you have, you will be disappointed for I am going to start at the opposite end. I want to direct your thoughts for a few moments to where I think we are standing.
In much of this exhilarating air which we breathe, we can detect war-induced components which have fogged the atmosphere. It seems to me that our first job is to watch our footing with care lest we stumble and fall.
I need not tell a sales executive that these are far from ordinary times in which we are living. Most of you have had old customers call up and beg to take you to lunch. A few years back it was you who did the calling. That, in brief, is what has happened to our entire Western economy. California, Oregon, Washington, and other Western states used to spend money trying to induce people, industry, and capital to come West. Today we are so loaded with war requirements, so congested and so busy that even the familiar welcome mat has been temporarily obscured.
We get some idea of what has been happening in California when we realize that while total civilian employment in the Nation has gone up 14 per cent, total civilian employment in this state has gone up 40 per cent. Manufacturing employment in California jumped 201 per cent while it was advancing 51 per cent in the Nation.
In terms of resident civilian population these figures represent an increase of nearly 1,000,000. In terms of total population, including our Californians in service, an increase of over 1,600,000. In terms of physical assets they represent tremendous new industrial plants financed largely by the Federal government. In terms of market they represent billions of dollars in government war purchases.
Any summarization of the manner in which California and the West have been able to marshal resources, manpower and initiative in support of the war effort leads to the perfectly logical conclusion that we possess the essentials for tremendous peace time development. In the record of what has been accomplished we find assurance of what might well be defined as native ability—ability as represented by resources, by manpower, by production ingenuity, and by trade advantage.
But native ability and desire are not all that will be required from our Western economy during the years ahead. The postwar problem of California or of America, is not one of ability to produce. We have proven to ourselves and to the world that our industrial and agricultural producers can meet any production challenge. We have proven our ability to produce planes, ships, munitions and goods, not only for our own needs but for the needs of much of the world.
In times of peace we will not lose this ability to produce. We can produce so abundantly that every man and woman and child in America can be supplied with all their needs. But, let us not forget that we could have done this 10 years ago when millions of people were suffering real hardships and had no active place in our scheme of things.
Our greatest apprehension here in the West is the outgrowth of the realization that cyclic unemployment is a curse for which we have, as a people, not yet found complete remedy. Having sniffed our destiny and measured our native production ability, we still seek the remedy.
Each time we encounter evidence of our sudden expansion in population, wage earners, production, retail and wholesale trade, construction, finance, agriculture and resource utilization it increases the conviction that there can be no safe return to the standards of 1940 in our western economy. Two thirds of the working time of our available work force would more than satisfy the needs of 1940.
To go backward would be to tell one third of our working population that we have no further need for their services. While this thought applies to our national economy as a whole, I believe it assumes its greatest force when balanced against our western resources and native potentialities. To tell men their services are not needed in a land where all the tools and potentialities for keeping men busy exist in apparent abundance is to admit that man himself has failed.
If our ship is to steer clear of the rocks of fear and the pools of stagnation which caused the last depression, we must have a new chart to follow and the course must be forward,
not backward. We must steer toward a standard of living which includes the demand for more production of goods and services than we had in 1940.
There are two ways in which demands for the level of production needed to keep us advancing can be created. One way is simple and we know where it can lead. It is for government to create the demand and make customers of us all as it does in war time. It would be possible for government, through deficit financing, to buy for all of us an unlimited supply of both necessary and unnecessary public works and services and give employment to all workers. It wouldn't be the democratic American way of doing things, but it could be done.
The other method is not so simple, but it has the true virtue of being democratic and American. That way is for every American, by his own will and his own choice, to buy his share of a higher standard of living.
Some of this higher standard, it is true, we must buy from Government. We must demand and buy from our National Government the best of care for the disabled or handicapped veterans who have fought for us. We must buy from the Nation, the readjustment of certain areas which the Nation has necessarily revolutionized for the war needs. We must buy from Government a better standard of roads and highways, a new provision of civilian airport facilities and other needed public works. We must buy, and pay for, a higher standard of health and safety, better controls of monopoly, more effective and equitable regulation of commerce, labor-management relations and corporation practices.
The real challenge of the postwar period will be to bring American peace time production up to a satisfactory level, in the light of what we have proven we can do in war production. In a true humanitarian and democratic sense the comparison is odious for it assumes we are a people who can do all right in war but lack the self-determination and the strength to do as well for ourselves in peace time.
In my opinion, such an assumption in no way reflects either the interest or the concern of the American people. I know too much of the humanitarian desires of the American people not to believe they want to be able, as individuals, to assist in stabilizing and improving our economy. I have too much faith in the basic principles of our economy and form of government not to believe the opportunity for correction and improvement lies within our present structure. The fault rests with our failure to plan and use the full strengths which are at our disposal.
American industry will accept the challenge to plan courageously, to invest courageously and to produce courageously. But that will not be enough. Industry cannot do the job alone any more than labor can do it alone or government can do it alone. There is a task for everyone. There is a task for you as sales executives of our western enterprises.
Industry will be making no contribution to the whole if it invests for the production of goods and services which consumers do not buy. No one but consumers can actually keep the work force of America employed and no one but salesmen can lead the people to make purchases and become consumers. In partnership the advertising profession, the newspaper profession and the sales profession can lead us all to a new level of economic activity and new experiences in comfort and progress.
To those who guide the sales activities of these Western States, the war years have brought a combination of startling new factors.
Your market has expanded. No new frontier which ever opened in all the great Westward march of our nation, ever delivered as many new sales opportunities as the movement of war workers to our western states during recent war years.
Into your trade area have come millions—more people than the pre-war populations of Los Angeles and San Francisco combined—more people than the pre-war populations of Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, Oakland, San Diego and Salt Lake combined.
They have come to help in the war effort. Most of them will remain to become permanent customers of our stores, our service establishments, our industry and our agriculture when the war is over.
While it is true the postwar period will open a greatly expanded peace time home market, our western economies are such that it cannot be accepted with complacency. That market will have to be carefully cultivated and nourished if it is to serve the purpose which postwar necessity assigns. Both our new and old residents must be made better customers than they were in 1940 or in 1930 if we are to keep hundreds of thousands of people employed. There can be no resting on the oars. We must move ahead or thousands will soon be without the purchasing power to become the kind of customers we need if we are to advance in our economy.
It is no small responsibility which our postwar planning assigns to the sales force of the West. The war has brought us not only these millions of new residents but it has brought us new industries. We have new capacity to produce old materials and new capacity to produce the innovations which war research has perfected. The survival of these new industries and the employment level in old industries will be dependent upon a number of factors, but most prominent among these will be your ability to sell what is produced and in quantities not yet experienced.
We all recognize that some unemployment in the transition period which will immediately follow military victory is inevitable. We also know that if we just allow ourselves to drift into that position we may soon find ourselves facing a condition of widespread and prolonged unemployment. Hardships which can result from any such prolongation of unemployment can eventually become the cause of fatal discontent—fatal to our system of government and fatal to our system of economy.
Strange as it may seem, I am here tonight advocating as both a preventative and an antidote for this fatal discontent, another form of discontent which you as sales executives can and should create. It is your task to make all of us in this Western region discontented with the standard of living which we had in 1940. You can and must make us so discontented that we shall demand for ourselves and buy for ourselves enormous improvements in that standard of living.
We can be led to demand better public and private faculties, better schools and highways, better hotels and stores and theatres. We can be led to buy better homes and to create better cities. We can be induced to demand better transportation in all its forms, better recreational facilities and better access to them. We can be led to create an insistent market for Western-built conveniences for our homes and offices, ranging from air conditioning equipment to television.
As our discontent expresses itself in these new buying demands you will be lading us to the creation of new Western industries for peace. You will be leading us to make the survival of our new steel and magnesium and aluminum industry, not only possible but necessary. You will be leading us to placing in everyday use the new gadgets, conveniences and comforts which scientists fighting a deadly technological war tell us have accumulated in blue print form as the byproducts of their heroic efforts.
I wish I could hear from each of you the story of what you are doing—in your association and in your own company. Iwish I knew how well we have all come to realize that it is a job in which we must help each other with a long view of the goal involved. It makes little difference whether one man's product or another's receives the first direct benefit. The man who sells clothing must throw himself into the task of creating a demand for better transportation. The man who sells radios must enlist in the drive to make us buy new homes. The man who sells recreation must devote himself to creating demands for better books, better clothes and foods, better schools and churches.
This kind of discontent, translated into action, means jobs. Jobs mean payrolls, purchasing power and progress. If you in your company have not already done so, you should now assign men to plan for both yourselves and your area. Create as your own particular discontent a program calling for increased buying by your company, for better buildings, better lighting and better equipment. Then make it your duty to contribute to the task of creating the general discontent which will lead to the demand for a flood of buying of goods and services which will add up to economic progress.
Many salesmen with vision are looking out across the Pacific to the great natural markets of the Orient. They know American products can be sold there in the postwar years. They know American salesmen can take the job in stride. But, here again a broader selling responsibility must be considered.
Those hundreds of millions of people in the Orient can be persuaded to buy our products only when they can pay for them and payment is accepted in products of their own. Salesmen must also carry the responsibility of making us better customers for the products we must take from other areas and other nations in payment for our sales to them. To fail in this will be to retard our own production.
I have said this job of converting our expanded war time economy into a vibrant, living and satisfying peace time economy is the task and responsibility of all. Government at all its levels must share in that responsibility.
Recognizing that our major industrial advancement here in the West has come about by reason of war requirements and by order of the Federal government, we quite naturally look to the Federal government for consideration in its deliberations over many policies yet to be formed.
Federal decisions in regard to the termination of war contracts, the disposal of government owned plants, the disposal of surplus materials; its decisions in regard to finance and taxation, will all have a material influence upon our general welfare. Particularly will this be true during the period, immediately following the war when war plants must be closed for reconversion, when safeguards against inflation must be measured in terms of ceilings which encourage investment risks and when hesitation and stalemates will mean loss of employment.
California state government has already made what might be called a two-front attack upon postwar problems. We have considered it an obvious state responsibility to help cushion the employment drop expected during the period of transition from war time economy to peace time economy.
Illustration of the interest and concern of state government in assuring the existence of a timely and realistic cushion for employment is found in the fact that $62,000,000 has already been earmarked by the state Legislature for postwar state construction. Earlier this week I met with a group of legislators in Sacramento to consider the advisability of immediately boosting this figure to $102,000,000.
That $62,000,000 which I mentioned is already something real. Actual plans and specifications for $20,000,000 worth of construction out of this fund could be made ready to hand contractors within but a short time. Legislative leaders have expressed a willingness to take action at a special session soon to be called, which would result in similar detailed plans being prepared for the balance of the fund.
California's Legislature is providing these guarantees of a timely public building construction program for the postwar period on the theory that our citizenry has the right to look to government to provide stop-gap assistance while private enterprise is readying itself for assumption of its responsibilities. I can assure you tonight that when this war ends California will be ready with plans, contracts and money for a building program which will give employment to thousands of returning service men and others in need.
This state has placed itself in a position to use no less than $62,000,000 and possibly $102,000,000 of its tax dollars to double advantage—for badly needed construction at a time when employment will be most needed by workers forced to wait for private industry reconversion. In my opinion this program is the most tangible contribution state government can make at this time.
While the realism of this type of postwar planning is apparent to all, state government in California has taken another step in postwar planning which is no less important Recognizing that no superimposed planning agency of government can ever take the place of individual and community effort, it has created the State Reconstruction and Reemployment Commission and instructed that commission to marshal all facts obtainable in regard to California business, industrial and employment opportunities, and to promote plans for realizing these opportunities.
This commission has approached its responsibilities with two convictions uppermost in mind. We in state government believe there are facts existent within the state which when properly correlated and explored will inspire many new industrial and business ventures in the postwar period. That is conviction number one. The other is that government's best contribution to postwar planning will be to stimulate and coordinate a tremendous program of study and action by all the citizenry. We have recognized from the outset that the real planning for postwar achievements must come from individuals and groups able to carry out the plans. That is conviction number two and the explanation of why the State Reconstruction and Reemployment Commission is continuously calling upon practical leaders in the fields of industry, labor, agriculture, public and private finance, education, social welfare, veterans affairs and government in general to jointly share its responsibilities.
We recognize it will be groups of employers, farmers and workers possessing the courage and the "know how" who will carry out the plans for reconversion of our economy from war to peace. And, we recognize it will be sales executives such as are meeting here this evening who will weld the link between producer and consumer and stimulate the market expansion which will be our peg against economic decline.
It will be the combination of the efforts of all that will lift us to the higher standard of living which we know is well within the range of our potentialities. It will only be through our combined efforts that we keep open the opportunities for which hundreds of thousands of our young men and women in uniform are now fighting. It is a joint responsibility, a democratic responsibility which we face for it embodies the dream of every true American, the dream of a job, a home, a family and happy associations. It is a dream of opportunity for individual advancement in a land which we here in the West in particular must never sell short