OCTOBER 29, 1946
NEW YORK, Monday—The British decision to socialize basic industries in their zone in Germany marks the realization of a fact that very few people in the United States seem to understand.
Our free-enterprise system has been successful because we came to a new and rich country. We were able to obtain from the old countries certain financial backing and some of the necessary tools and materials. In that more than 150 years, our system has yielded wonderful opportunities for the making of great fortunes to a surprisingly large number of people. Of late years there has been some circumscribing of these opportunities, but we are still a nation with a great deal of undeveloped land and many natural resources, besides having, as a people, a certain inventive genius in mechanical things that has served us well.
But in the century and a half of our growth, we have never known, except perhaps for a short time in the South, the kind of devastation which at present faces the greater part of Europe.
Our system has offered new incentives to the enterprising. It has certain drawbacks to be sure. We still have slums; we still have people who cannot afford proper medical care; we have others who do not earn enough to eat properly and to give their children the proper environment in which to grow. A few years ago it was said that one-third of our nation was ill-clothed, ill-housed and ill-fed. So with that as a background, we should be able to picture to ourselves what it must be like in nations today where perhaps more than 90 percent of the people are ill-clothed, ill-housed and ill-fed.
I think Great Britain, in electing a Labor Government, faced the fact that new conditions demanded new remedies. Being closer to Europe than we are, and more realistic for that reason, she is facing the fact that, in the desire for rehabilitation, there may be only two ways open to the greater part of Europe, namely, the Socialist or the Communist way.
Communism made its great appeal in Russia because the great mass of people had so little that it was the way of hope for them. If we are looking at Europe today with the idea that the old type of investment and loan can serve the people, I am afraid we are not being very realistic. Some may be willing to build up and support the type of international cartel system that has flourished in certain great industries in the past, and has been used as a political weapon as well as an economic one. On the whole, however, I think that we, as a people, are opposed to doing that, since that system has so often fostered war.
There remains, therefore, a study to be made in how to cooperate with the British semi-socialist Government in the economic world and with the Communist economic system. This study would include recommendations on making our own system work where it is profitable and can serve the needs of the people, but accepting the fact that other economic systems, when they meet the needs of the people better, must be accepted and a way to work with them must be found.
This is a test in the economic field where we consider ourselves as able, if not more so, than any other people in the world. Here, at least, we should be able to lead in the finding of solutions. It requires imagination and understanding of the conditions that face people in other parts of the world. But if our industrial leaders fail in this vision, they are laying the foundations for the wiping out of our system in the future.