MARCH 24, 1947
NEW YORK, Sunday—All day Friday we traveled through endless miles of country, most of it uncultivated and used for cattle ranges. Whenever a windmill appeared there was a human habitation and, usually, some tilled fields. Part of the time we could see mountains in the distance; at other times, just flat plains as far as the eye could reach. For hours trees did not appear, but in the afternoon more of these became visible, with more habitations and more tilled land. Everywhere some good paved roads linked what looked like wilderness to some more populated area. But the spirit of the frontier must still live in the people who have homes in this area and who ride the ranges.
Perhaps it was the wide-open spaces that made me think over my country as a whole. A letter I received while en route a few days ago told me that, among business circles in New York, the "jitters" have set in. It said that the bankers were worried by the serious condition of Great Britain's economy. They foresaw collapse, and so they were beginning to make it more difficult to obtain money for business purposes, particularly where anything new wanted to get started. One of the old, big businesses which probably would not go under decided to play safe and retrench by dismissing a large number of employees.
It seems to me that somewhere I have read that depressions are brought about by drying up consumer buying power. Employees are consumers, and the "jitters" is contagious. Great Britain is only one factor in an after-war world situation which economists and industrial leaders must have faced long ago. I cannot help wondering, of course, whether this is perhaps an unconscious, final stand against the change from an economy where a few people dictate conditions to a cooperative economy where employers and employees work together and more equitably share the results of their labors.
Whatever the reason for this reported attitude, it can bring ruin not only to the people of the United States—rich and poor alike—but to the people of the world. If we communicate confidence to Great Britain, she will pull herself through. But we cannot allow high tariffs to restrict trade. Great Britain needs exactly what we need at the moment—production and more production. All of us in this country, whether we work by lending money or with our hands, must accept one fact—having more money when there is less to buy spells ruin for us all. We wanted to get rid of price controls. We have done so. Now we will have to learn that we still have to keep prices where they are, even if that means going without things we want and setting up a buyers' strike.
Capital must use its money, preferably by lending to new enterprises. Returning G.I.s want businesses of their own. The G.I. loans are not enough in themselves. Human enterprise must be encouraged and not restricted. Years ago, a very conservative banker told me that the best financial risk was a man with character.
On the other hand, labor must face the situation which exists. Wages cannot go up unless production goes up correspondingly. You cannot earn more and produce less and have a healthy economy. This country has limitless resources still undeveloped, as well as opportunities for many more people than now live here. We are a young nation. But no nation will succeed without confidence in itself, without courage to accept the situation as it is or without a recognition that in the world of today the principle of cooperation is essential whether you deal with business or politics.