MARCH 22, 1946
EN ROUTE TO LOS ANGELES, Thursday—In one of my lectures recently, I happened to mention the fact that production was extremely important to the world at the present time. During the question period, I was asked whether production in itself was sufficient or whether any other considerations were necessary to make production effective. This led me down some fascinating paths.
What do we mean when we talk about production? We do not mean, of course, merely creating things that have no value. We must produce things that people really need. Or, when you go beyond actual needs, production must be justified through its contribution to better living and the enjoyment of the finer things of life.
For production to have real value, it must also come up to certain standards. Just to multiply the things in the world, unless they meet the needs for which they are produced, would be a rather stupid procedure. People everywhere soon discover whether they are receiving value for their investment. Though, for the moment, we are probably the only source from which people can obtain certain essentials with which to rebuild their economic life, it would be foolish to believe that we can let down on the quality of our production. Sooner or later, someone would step in and do better.
We in this country, however, have always believed that, in ordinary times, volume production was what we were after, since that would bring down the cost and therefore make it possible for more people to enjoy more things. This belief of ours is one reason why we want to avoid a depression if possible. During a depression, less money is in circulation. The prices of things drop because fewer people spend money. Fewer things are produced, fewer men are employed, and the cycle of a contracting economy is upon us, which requires different and sometimes drastic measures to change the trend.
* * *
We hope that, having learned how this comes about, we will never allow it to happen in our country again. But when I see the National Association of Manufacturers demanding that we remove price controls before we are in full production, I wonder whether our greed makes it impossible for us to profit by the lessons of the past. If we were to remove price controls now, when there are so few goods on the market, we would force prices sky-high and compete against each other. The rest of the world would also compete because, without certain essentials, they cannot start producing certain things for themselves. Price controls can be removed when there are enough goods on the market for us all to obtain what we need, but to say that these controls should be removed now as an incentive to production is courting disaster.
My questioner the other night suggested that production applied to many fields besides the manufacture of goods and, of course, in that he is entirely correct. But I think that, if we remember that in every field quality is as important as quantity, it will help us not to go astray. Of course, in the field of the arts, mass production can never be considered. In any creative art, it is beauty of execution and individual expression which is of value and each product bears the stamp of the artist—something that can never be mass produced.
That does not mean, however, that each artist should not produce for his own satisfaction and the joy of those who appreciate his work. This brings us, I think, to the ultimate reality that each one of us, in our own way, must be a productive member of society. If our job is to scrub the floor and we do it with the spirit of the artist or the skilled worker, in our own little sphere we have done our part of the world's production.