NOVEMBER 1, 1947
NEW YORK, Friday—An advertisement in Fortune Magazine this month attempts to bring home to people a fact which many of us had hoped the business and agricultural world would face sometime ago. This advertisement points out that we should send tractors and other farm machinery to Europe. They are asking for 12,000 heavy tractors and 14,000 light tractors with which to plow and cultivate their fields. By sending this machinery, we might possibly be able to cut our exports of wheat, according to this advertisement, to 55 percent of the present amount and thereby not only help Europe to feed herself but curtail our rising price index.
Our people pay indirectly for this wheat we send to Europe. The Government buys it from the farmers, but the farmers and the rest of the people of the United States pay for it through their taxes. Temporarily, of course, the farmers feel better off. Therefore, they make greater demands for farm machinery, and cultivate more and more land so as to send more and more wheat out of the country.
The proposal to export more machinery rather than more wheat sounds like common sense to me. Machinery sent to Europe will enable them to produce for their own use and for export, so that they can begin to repay their debts and buy other things from us. Only in that way can we ever hope to recover what we have put into Europe.
This is a purely dollars-and-cents proposition. There are other things which cannot be measured in dollars and cents but which are of great importance to both Europe and ourselves. However, until economic recovery begins, there is little hope for a return to any of the other values which in the past have made Western Europe a storehouse of cultural inspiration to the world.
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More and more housewives are writing to me about the value of "buyers' strikes," and the cost of living seems to be stirring many of them into real action. There is no question about it—if women stop buying certain things because prices are too high, those prices will come down.
Probably in every country in the world, a large amount of the money spent, at least on household expenses, is spent by women. In our own country a great many women have independent incomes, either earned or inherited, but even where they are dependent on their husbands' incomes, the average outflow of money is largely in the hands of women. So they are an economic factor in the life of the nation.
I think it is well that they are beginning to realize their importance. And I hope that the women of modest means, as well as those who are better off, will feel a sense of responsibility, since the greatest turnover of money is in the hands of those who have modest incomes.