AUGUST 15, 1949
HYDE PARK, Sunday—Ex-President Herbert Hoover on his birthday announced that he thought we in this country were on the "last mile" to collectivism. President Truman, when asked to comment on that statement, smiled and said he thought perhaps it was a slight exaggeration. The really important thing for us to think about, of course, is whether as individuals we are actually not taking our full responsibility—whether we are letting other people decide too many things for us and are turning over to government things that we should do ourselves.
One newspaper, in discussing Mr. Hoover's statement, cited Social Security as a good example, arguing that in the old days children would have been responsible for their parents, with individual or group charities being responsible for many of the things done under Social Security. Strangely enough, the newspaper did not mention the fact that in the old days the individuals themselves would have been putting away money for their old age—and, as far as the present plan is concerned, that is actually what they are doing. The present plan is more secure because today the government receives their money and is back of it; and as long as the government is stable, they are sure of their old age insurance. They will not go through the tragedy of putting their money in a sock and then losing the sock or having it stolen, or of putting it in a bank run by individuals whose bad judgment sometimes made the bank fail.
I do not think we have really changed the basic obligations in this case. We have simply made it a responsibility of government and thereby a little more secure for the individual. The same thing can be said in answer to the question of whether the blind and the handicapped should be taken care of under Social Security or by private charity. If it is well done through government, as it should be, we are more secure and the cost to the individual is no greater than when he had to do it through private charities.
This kind of thing does not seem to me to lead us to collectivism. We keep the control in our own hands as long as we keep our secret ballot, and as long as we insist on the right to free expression of everyone's opinion so that we can hear all sides of any question and make up our own minds as to what we think is right.
Nor does it seem important to me that more of our money goes into government and less into private charity, even if that private charity was carried on in the past by our churches or our most responsible groups. This is not to be regretted if it makes us more secure and if, through our control of government, we hold in our hands the power to insist that its business be run as we think it should be run.
There is still plenty of room in the world for us to cultivate helpfulness to others, as well as a real human understanding and charity along lines which cannot be turned over to government but which can be done by individual contacts. I am not frightened that we are approaching the "last mile" before we reach collectivism. I just want to be sure that we watch every program of government and use to the very best advantage our power as individual citizens in a democracy.