JUNE 21, 1947
NEW YORK, Friday—The other day there was a speech made in Chicago by Robert R. Wason, chairman of the board of the National Association of Manufacturers. To anyone who has watched developments in Europe and seen the conditions there, it was a strange and unrealistic speech.
First he accused our Government of hamstringing American Production with "Communist economic controls," while demanding more money and production to prop up "authoritarian states of Europe." He apparently thinks that, if we did away with the gradual changes which have come about in this country and went back to the days which were only possible when we had a new continent to develop, we would then aid Europe best by exporting our economic system into countries whose conditions make it utterly impossible for anything of the kind to succeed.
Mr. Wason made the statement: "When competitive enterprise functions in Europe, only the governments will suffer because their controls will be reduced. The people will prosper because incentives will be restored."
There is plenty of incentive today for every farmer in Europe to till his fields because he wants to eat, but unfortunately he has ground which is not prepared to bring forth ample harvests. He has no money with which to buy fertilizer or seed beyond what he himself has garnered and, above all else, he has little or no strength of body or of spirit. Men are trying all over Europe to start small businesses again. They have to join in cooperative enterprises because individually they haven't enough to go ahead.
Even in our most individualistic days, our communities were cooperative communities. And unless there is cooperation in Europe on a very large scale, plus government help and international help, the job that has to be done in war-torn countries cannot possibly be accomplished.
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As to the complaint that we help authoritarian countries, I think we had better be realistic. We are doing all in our power to help those countries which wish to be free and whose people want to function democratically. Our cardinal principle is that the people of the world shall be free, that they shall make their own changes and that we shall not interfere.
We have to live in the same world with some countries which we feel are authoritarian, but quite evidently the majority of their people are content. It would be well to realize, I think, that the better off these countries are, the less authoritarian they will probably remain. Therefore, from an economic standpoint, it is in our own interest that we help them to rehabilitate themselves and have a higher standard of living.
If Mr. Wason would concern himself more deeply in showing the world that our economic system works to the advantage of the majority of our people, and that, at the same time, we have learned to produce enough to keep the greater part of the world from starvation and to help them get back on their feet, I think he would be doing a real service.