JUNE 24, 1939
HYDE PARK, Friday—In a speech made by Dr. Harcourt A. Morgan, at the University of Western Ontario, Canada, a short time ago, there occurs the following paragraph: "We have come to appreciate more keenly our system of free enterprise. At the same time, we have come to recognize that the continuity of that system depends largely on the discipline which we impose upon ourselves. I am confident that democracy will survive. However, if it does not, it will be because we have failed to reconcile the demands of the individual's initiative with the public in the conservation of our basic natural resources."
It is natural that anyone who has worked in the Tennessee Valley Authority should think primarily of the conservation of our basic natural resources in the public interest and I am glad to have that stressed. What has impressed me most, however, in all the variety of results which have been achieved by the TVA, is the benefit which the conservation work there has brought to individuals throughout the surrounding areas. Of course, Dr. Morgan is pointing out that our danger today is that we will not outgrow quickly enough the pioneer idea of each man for himself and the Devil take the hindmost. We still seem to think that liberty means the right to do as we like with land, timber or natural resources, even though we have learned to our cost that individuals frequently do things which are harmful in the long run to the interests of the neighborhood or the people as a whole.
Not living under a dictatorship, this discipline must come from ourselves and that is very much more difficult to achieve, though it is the only way that can preserve for us our democratic freedom.
I must say that talking to young people gives me great hope. There is a willingness among them to think along cooperative lines, and a desire to act unselfishly which is heartening to their elders.
I wish that in considering loans to small business, which is one of the things I saw mentioned in the newspapers recently, we could also consider some agency of the Government which would lend small sums to individuals on a character basis. I am coming across situations, where, in order to get a new start, a person needs anywhere from $50 to $500. It may be to do some remodelling in a house in order to take boarders, or to buy tools, or to take a course to fit oneself for something which will put a person in line to earn a more adequate income. Sometimes these people have jobs but cannot spend a sum of money all at once. Sometimes they are temporarily out of work but have the promise of something if they can bring tools or acquire some skill.
Credit unions are the answer in many places, but they are not as yet sufficiently developed and are particularly hard to start in small places or in rural areas. Banks are loath to lend unless one has some tangible assets which they can put into a safe deposit box and sell if necessary. Of course, it would be a risk, but so are many of the agricultural loans which are made, and I sometimes think that character is not any more of a risk than a crop which the Lord may or may not bring to fruition.