SEPTEMBER 27, 1946
HYDE PARK, Thursday—We accomplished miracles, or rather, some of our enterprising businessmen accomplished miracles in building ships during the war. I see that we now are beginning to take stock of what profits were made in the shipbuilding industry.
Will we also examine the profits in munitions, airplanes, coal and steel? All industries have made profits. Labor, too, was well paid during the war. Prices were controlled and some companies, such as the Kaiser companies, found that giving their labor certain services increased the efficiency of their plants.
Money invested was often borrowed from the government, but all enterprises took great risks. We needed men who would take great risks. I rather imagine that, even with high taxes, many of them made fortunes. But we were grateful to these men of enterprise and daring when we needed them, and I do not think we should cavil now.
Fortunes made out of munitions never appealed to me. But fortunes made out of ships or planes which saved our lives and the lives of many other people during the war, and the production of which must have cost the manufacturers many sleepless nights, do not seem so disquieting. Ships and planes can serve in peacetime and can increase our trade.
We had to make an atom bomb to win the war. Had Germany made it first, the whole course of history might have been changed. That does not mean, however, that one would enjoy making a fortune out of the atom bomb, and I hope that any future profits from atomic energy will be made out of peacetime uses to which this great new force can be turned.
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What I really want to say is that, if labor has been well treated and if there has been no dishonesty, I do not feel any resentment over profits made by men who were willing to take great financial risks in order to save their country. They saved it and they won. They might have lost. Instead, some of them made fortunes. Why should we complain?
These fortunes seem to me more legitimate than if they had been made in enterprises such as those of some of the old international cartels which, in some cases, based their plans on the fact that there might be a war, somewhat of their own creating, in which money could be made. We hope that such cartels will never be allowed to flourish again.
All of us know that many projects were undertaken, some by the Government and some by private enterprise, which had to be undertaken solely because of the war. Under investigation now, even some of the government enterprises may be found not to have been necessary and to have cost us a great deal of money. But if the war had turned a little differently, these very enterprises might have been the only things which lay between us and defeat.
We risked much in making the atom bomb. Suppose we hadn't won the race or suppose we hadn't been successful? There are lots of "supposes" in life. And being human beings, all that can be expected of us is that we will use our best judgement.