DECEMBER 27, 1949
HYDE PARK, Monday—Christmas having come and gone, and most of us having spent more money than we intended for Christmas, I find upon my desk a rather interesting and pertinent communication from the Advertising Council. It is in the form of a booklet called "The Miracle of America," which tells why Americans live better than many of the people in other parts of the world. Some Americans may at times wonder whether they actually do live better. But viewed in terms of percentages and not individuals, I am sure there is a higher standard of living in America for a majority of people than in any other country in the world.
The booklet next tells how machines make jobs. That is an important subject, for in some of our unions many workers almost go hand in hand with some of the employers who occasionally hold back new discoveries because they want to be sure they have made all that can be made out of a previous discovery before trying a new one that might effect an improvement. Fear, of course, is the motivation in both instances.
I happen to believe that machines do make jobs. Yet I think the increase in the use of machines must go with an understanding that we believe in an economy of plenty as against an economy of scarcity. We have functioned very largely in the past on the basis of an economy of scarcity. It has conditioned much of our thinking. Not only here, but in many other parts of the world, we will have to change our economic thinking before we accept and really work with complete confidence in an economy of plenty.
The Advertising Council booklet also contains a discussion of why freedom and security go together. That is a very important thing to know. They do go together, I believe. Part of the time, however, a great many people would much prefer to be controlled by others than really to try to control their own destinies themselves. That is partly because they have to make up their minds about a great many questions, if they are going to make wise decisions, and that entails a good deal of trouble on their part. For this reason, security without freedom occasionally looks pleasant to a great many people.
There are some interesting ideas at the end of the booklet, in a Platform for All Americans. The men who form the Advertising Council policy committee are of such calibre that their ideas are bound to be listened to respectfully. They represent a wide range of business, academic and government experience. No one can say that their ideas are influenced by any outsider's thinking, and hence it is wise to pay attention when they endorse a paragraph such as the following, which appears under the heading, "Increased Recognition of Human Value as a Prerequisite to Better Living"
"As a technological society develops, it inevitably produces a varying amount of industrial displacement and unemployment. While no solution of this problem has been found, the American people have sought to deal with it, not through compulsory assignment of laid-off workers to other tasks, but through such devices as unemployment insurance, employment services, vocational retraining, public works, community employment projects and family welfare programs. But much more remains to be done."
That last sentence will undoubtedly give a number of people in this country the jitters. What is the Advertising Council thinking about as the next steps that remain to be undertaken?