APRIL 12, 1949
HYDE PARK, Monday—I heard some very disturbing talk the other day. I was told that it was becoming more and more clear that many of our legislators are deeply concerned about the amount of money the rehabilitation of Europe is costing us. Also, passed on to me was the remark that we would be better off to leave Europe to stew in its own juice and to devote our time and money to surrounding ourselves with radar protection and every kind of possible military defense so that we bristled on all our borders.
Then my informant said that someone asked the gentlemen who were casually emitting these thoughts: "How do you suggest that we find markets for our goods, and how do we keep our people working?"
The answer was: "Oh, well, living conditions will go down and the great mass of people will be back where they should be."
This seems to me a most callous and sinister domestic philosophy, which would put us on a par with the police state! We certainly would need all the force that a police state requires if anything as stupid as this should become the philosophy of a majority of the representatives and influential people of our country.
We have developed skills and production to such a point that we are forced to trade not only in the markets we have known in the past but to seek new markets throughout the world as well. That is what lies back of President Truman's suggestion that we help to develop the undeveloped areas of the world. In helping to develop them we will create new needs and they will absorb more of the goods which we and other industrial nations produce.
Even if we can help the Soviet Union to improve its economic conditions, we will profit by it, since it will make it possible for their people to have things and to buy them. Today there is not much point in having money in Russia, because there is no great amount of goods to buy. The establishment, however, of economic intercourse between us would be beneficial to both of us, and this would be equally true in every part of the world.
To shut ourselves off from the world and then tax our people for the kind of defenses that only might possibly be of use against other countries' weapons of war would be to do very much what Russia has done. The more she shuts herself off, the less well off her people are. They can stand up under it because they haven't much in the way of comparison. We wouldn't take it so well.
I thought all of our isolationists had learned their lesson, but apparently from the recent rumors that have come to me some legislators are like the poor woman who wrote to me before the last war and said:
"I want the President to keep our boys at home. If he would just promise they would never fight outside of their own country, I would be happy."
The result, of course, would have been a war in our own country. It was as shortsighted a hope as that of those legislators who dream of this country hiding behind impregnable defenses and letting the rest of the world go hang. It might indeed "go hang," but we would hang, too.