THE title of this chapter is the slogan made famous by the Army Service Forces. I don’t know any slogan that’s more genuinely American than that one. It characterizes the spirit of the Service Forces. But it doesn’t stop there. What about the rest of the Army and the Air Forces? What about the Navy and the Marines? What about the splitting of the atom and the harnessing of its gigantic power? What slogan catches the spirit of the whole war effort—from 100,000 planes a year to the atomic bomb—a tenth as well as this one: “The miraculous takes a little longer”?
But the real significance of that slogan is emphasized by the whole peacetime development of our country. Go back to the founding of our American Union in 1789. That was a new and impossible way for men to govern themselves!
Go back to the spanning of the continent with railroads. That was so miraculous that there were few who heard of it until we did it—in one short generation. Then, we cut a canal to join two oceans—a canal that had been already proved impossible, and to do it we licked yellow fever, a disease that people said only a miracle could conquer.
But while we’ve had our heroic periods, we’ve had the other kind, too. The periods of vision, courage, and drive have given way to periods of timidity, blindness, inaction, and despair. And even in the best of our years, there was a seamy side—the things we left undone, the things we should have done better.
It seems to me that as we look back over our past we ought to see where we have been weak as well as where we have been strong. And we ought to keep those weaknesses in mind, along with those strengths, as we look toward the future.
The future that we seek will not just happen. It will not come about by wishful thinking or by pushing some economic buttons. Our progress in the past took work and then more work, and so, too, will our progress in the years ahead. Our production of goods and services hasn’t been doubled every twenty years just by the parade of dates on the calendar. It took the hardest kind of work—not only physical effort to overcome physical obstacles, but the even harder moral effort—to overcome the ignorance, and prejudice, and fear that stood in the way of our national growth.
Let’s not kid ourselves about the tasks and the obstacles that lie ahead. The tasks that confront us are every bit as big as those we have had in the past. And the chief of our obstacles will be, as they always have been, not the physical difficulties, but these same forces of ignorance, prejudice, and fear.
There will always be those who say of any suggested forward move that it is visionary, impractical, and impossible. It is only because we, as a people, have always resisted this counsel and overcome these obstacles that we have got where we are today. And that must be our rule for the future, too.
As we tackle these tasks that lie before us, we can save ourselves a lot of heartache and worry if we bear in mind the broad sweep of our history and the achievements of the past. It is an old saying that the only thing we learn from history is that we never learn anything from history. But unlike many old sayings, this one is basically untrue. We have just witnessed a demonstration of that.
The war effort included hundreds of mistakes, to be sure, but the big mistakes that held us back in World War I—the mistakes on the production front, the price control front, the transportation front—were not repeated. We had learned our lesson and learned it well.
The proposition should be clear to anyone that, while we don’t always learn from our experiences, there isn’t any other way we can learn.
The war provides one example. The collapse of our economy in 1929 provides another.
Does anyone think that we are going to miss the lessons of the Great Depression? Does anyone think that our people will again sit idly by while our economic life is slowly suffocated? Does anyone think that we shall again wait, as we waited in 1930 and 1931 and 1932 and into 1933, until the closing of our banks brings almost complete economic paralysis?
The answer to these questions seems to me to be self-evident. The real question is: Have we learned the more difficult lesson—that it is easier to keep a truck on the road than to haul it out of a ditch, that it is easier to keep a depression from getting rolling than to recover from it after our economic life has been paralyzed?
That lesson I am not so sure we have learned. For as everyone knows, voices are still being raised to resist the very suggestion that any effort should be made to stop a depression before it gets started, and even more are raised to resist vigorously the specific programs that we must have in order to stop it.
Even these people would learn in time. But I don’t think we can afford another depression to provide the final necessary lesson. We’re a wealthy nation, but not that wealthy. We’ll just have to go about building a solid wall against depression even if some of us still can’t see the need.
As I see it, there are four big questions to which we must be able to answer “Yes” before we are safely on our way. These are:
1. Can we keep our feet in the treacherous going of the transition from war to peace? Can we avoid the mistakes that were made after the last war? In short, can we avoid the danger of inflation in the period before supply catches up with demand?
2. Can we organize ourselves to carry out the program that we have seen must be done? Can government streamline its own legislative and executive organization and operations so as to discharge smoothly and effectively the responsibilities which we have seen government must carry? And can management and labor and planners and all the rest of us, working with each other and with government, make teamwork as integral a part of our peacetime operations as it was during the war?
3. Can we learn, all of us, to understand our economy and what makes it tick? Can we learn, each group among us, that only as we serve the national interest can we serve our group interests best?
4. And finally, can we learn, as a nation, what our responsibilities in world affairs are and what we must do to make our full contribution to world peace and prosperity?
The first three of these four questions I would like to discuss together. The fourth, because of its special importance, I am reserving for a chapter by itself— a chapter which I have entitled “Live and Help Live.”
We face innumerable difficulties in the present period of transition, but the principal one is the danger that an inflation such as that which followed the last war may be repeated.
We Must Not Lift the Lid on Prices
As this book is being written, there are irresponsible demands everywhere to pull off price and rent controls and to let prices find their own level.” In some cases, these demands are purely selfish. In others, they are sincere but the result of ignorance. Whether the. one or the other, they are equally dangerous to us all.
To strip off our controls before we have enough goods to supply our needs would put prices and rents right through the roof. Prices would find no “level”— they would go straight up! Can you look at the hundreds of billions of dollars of cash and liquid assets that have been accumulated during the war and doubt that?
These hundreds of billions have been held safely in bank balances and government bonds because we all have had confidence that prices would be stabilized and the value of the dollar protected. But if price and rent control is ended prematurely, or if the hands of the OPA are tied, that confidence will be weakened and before long destroyed.
What would be the result? Fearing an increase of prices, more and more people would take their money out of bonds and savings accounts and put it into stocks. They would put it into real estate. They would take it out of business reserves and put it into inventories. And that would push up the prices of stocks, of real estate, and of commodities at a faster and faster pace.
But that very rise would serve to increase the fears, and would cause even wider and greater speculation, until those hundreds of billions of hot dollars” would be stampeded into a wild scramble for stocks, real estate, raw materials, clothing, food, personal belongings —anything but money itself.
This is the way it has always happened before. This is the way it would happen again. Do you doubt it? As t his is being written, prices and rents generally are still under firm control. But look at the stock market! Look at the real-estate markets!
One reason for booming stocks is the high profitability of business, just as was the case in 1929. More of it is due, however, to pure speculation! The elevator boy and the cab driver are beginning to bet on market tips they pick up from their passengers, as they did during the boom of the twenties. And finally, it is now clear that money is being put into the market because of fear of inflation. Irresponsible investment advisers in Wall Street are telling their clients to get rid of their bonds and their cash because all prices (they hope!) will soon be on the move.
In the real-estate markets where Congress has thus far refused us the legal authority to hold down prices, you can see the same upward surge of inflationary pressure. The shortage of housing is approaching the proportions of a national scandal. Millions of veterans cannot rent a place to bring their families. When in desperation the veteran seeks to buy a house already priced way above its true value, he finds himself competing not only with other veterans whose plight is as desperate as his, but with speculators who are out to make a killing in an inflationary market
In the commodity markets and in rents, OPA ceilings keep prices reasonably well in line, but here too the evidence is plain. Prices everywhere are pushing up hard against ceilings. In a number of cases, so confident were we that supply had come into balance with demand that we suspended price control. In too many of these cases, prices simply squirted above our old ceilings.
I have been working on price and rent control, one way or another, ever since Pearl Harbor, and I don’t just fear—I know—that the dangers of inflation are greater now (spring, 1946) than they have ever been before. That’s not just a feeling—that’s a conviction. And I tremble to think of what would happen to us if, through selfishness or ignorance or lack of courage or for any other reason, we slackened our grip.
A runaway inflation would benefit no one. It would rob us of our savings and of our security—those of us who have it. It would disrupt our reconversion, with hoarding and speculation taking the lead ova: production and merchandising.
Even the speculator who made a killing couldn’t come out ahead, because in the crash that would follow, his paper profits would go up in smoke just as paper profits always have. And, if ever we let ourselves in for such an inflationary spree, a crash will surely come—a crash that will carry us all down, a crash from which none of us will escape.
We simply cannot take another such depression. Perhaps our system could survive it Perhaps it could survive another decade like the thirties. But I doubt it. If we are foolish enough to let that happen again, Mr. and Mrs. Average American, patient as they have shown themselves to be, might do more than change the administration, as in 1932.
I hope and pray that price and rent control will be continued until the danger of inflation is past. And I am profoundly convinced that the American Congress, after supporting the stabilization program throughout the war, is not likely to throw its benefits away just as we are entering the home stretch back to peacetime operations. I believe that we will see this particular job through to the finish.
In the present period immediately following the end of the war, it is the dangers of inflation which are predominant and which are obvious to all responsible people. But the forces which make for future depression are also at work. As the work week is reduced, the weekly pay checks of millions of our workers are being cut and cut sharply. Still further reductions are resulting from the downgrading of workers who are reclassified into lower-paying jobs. There have already been sharp cuts as men and women have been forced to shift from the high-paying war industries to lower paying peacetime occupations.
For many months these potential forces of depression will be more than counterbalanced by the billions of dollars of wartime savings, by the huge backlog of unfilled needs built up by the war. For some time now one knows how long—we can have a kind of giddy prosperity, just as we did in the late twenties, regardless of the fact that the purchasing power of millions of our people is too low to give them a decent living.
But at some point, the backlogs of war-created demand will be satisfied. At some point, people will decide they have used up enough of their savings. When that day comes, if we still have too little purchasing power in our weekly pay checks and in the incomes of our farmers to match our ever-growing ability to produce more goods, our economic house of cards will tumble about our ears just as it did in 1929.
And I can’t draw any comfort from those who say that when that day comes, it will be time enough to raise wages. If we let that day come and prices have already begun to fall, it will be too late to raise wages. That’s common sense. The time to check the forces which make for a future depression is before those forces are in command of the situation. That’s common sense, too.
Remember that it was government wartime spending that kept the wheels of industry humming since 1942. The backlogs will help us for a while, but when they are worn off, labor will need to be getting, even higher wages than were paid in wartime, that is if we are to keep our economy going full blast, producing civilian goods and services.
Wages will have to be higher in the years immediately ahead. More than that, they will have to be a growing proportion of a growing national income. If we are going to accomplish this—and accomplish it we must—we can’t afford to take any backward step. We can’t afford to let wages fall now. We need to press forward.
There will be some who ask if the increased purchasing power which higher wages will give us in a period when our supply of goods is still insufficient to meet the already present demand doesn’t add to the danger of inflation. To some extent, it does.
But if price and rent controls are kept firmly in place until production really gets moving, if wage adjustments are moderate and reasonably well geared to present prices, the danger is not too great. And it’s a risk that we should run to protect ourselves now from trouble in the future.
Certainly I do not mean that every wage demand can or should be met. Some industries cannot raise wages at the present time without raising prices as well—and the general level of prices, as we have seen, must be kept firmly in place. But I do mean that industry must search its heart and examine its books to see what it can afford to pay without increasing prices. And having done that once, it must make a habit of it as labor productivity increases and our workers are able to produce more goods for every hour of effort.
A Government Geared to Meet the Challenge
This brings me to the second of our four big questions: Can we organize ourselves as a nation to get the job done? Can government streamline its operations and can all our economic groups pull together so that as a nation we come up with the right answers, the right policies and programs, not as a matter of accident, but day after day as a matter of course?
In the crisis of war, we had to get the answers and we had to get them fast. And we got them, though I sometimes wonder how. The machinery of government was not prepared—either in the legislative or the executive branch—for the load that was placed upon it. We had to improvise as we went. We had to create the machinery to do the job at the same time we undertook the job itself. What is surprising is not that we occasionally fumbled, but that for all our improvising we achieved so good a record.
Our governmental machinery is not much better prepared for the problems of peace than it was for the problems of war. We must, therefore, still improvise. But we cannot afford to continue to operate on this basis. We cannot afford to operate with catch-as-catch-can organizational devices, however brilliant. We need to apply intelligence to the business of government, so that the tools we use are adapted to the job to be done. If the job calls for a steam shovel, let’s not break our backs trying to do it with a spade.
Everybody knows the present organizational state of the executive branch with war agencies superimposed upon the peacetime establishment. A first step has already been made toward bringing order out of the present confusion. Congress has granted the President broad authority to reorganize the executive branch.
There can be no doubt that we need to reorganize the executive branch of the Federal government. We need to streamline it so that overlapping is eliminated and responsibility is clearly placed, with somebody in position to do each job that needs to be done and not a single person more than that. But when I say that government needs the most efficient organization and the smoothest operation and the best talent, I mean just that. The best government is, in the end, the only economical government.
There are some people, of course, who think that the way to reorganize is to “economize” at any cost. These people want us to scrap the steam shovels we already have and start shopping around for some second-hand spades.
No sensible man wants to see a cent spent unnecessarily. Clearly, now that peace is here, our overall governmental expenses must be sharply cut. But the business of governing this country is the most important business in the world. Anyone who can’t see that just can’t add and subtract. And if we are to handle our governmental responsibilities successfully, we need the most efficient organization, the smoothest operation, and the best talent we can find.
If we are going to reorganize our government by simply taking a hacksaw to all expenditures, the result is going to be more costly to the American people than we can afford, no matter how low the Federal payroll is brought. This should be obvious. But it is surprising how often talk of reorganization runs simply in terms of slashing.
The same observations hold for the legislative branch as well. The Congress operates under a constantly expanding committee system that goes back to the First Congress a century and a half ago. Most members of Congress will agree that the Congressional committee system is simply not set up to deal as effectively as it should and must with the affairs of a complex economic system, such as we have today.
I hope that I have succeeded in this book in making it clear that it is the interrelation of all the economic elements of our society which counts most in our march toward sustained prosperity. The amount of wages that are paid to New York garment workers affects the price of wheat in Kansas. The tax on cigarettes that is borne by the smoker in Oregon affects the price that the tobacco grower in Kentucky gets. And the wages paid the tobacco worker in North Carolina affect employment in the typewriter and sewing machine factories in Connecticut.
As against this interrelationship of e very part of the economic system with every other, what do we find in the Congress? We find dozens upon dozens of committees, many of them overlapping and without coordination, without sufficient staff or sufficient time, harried and overworked.
When the leadership in the Congress is exceptional, legislation is pulled together into some semblance of a unified program. But this makes the effective functioning of the Congress dependent upon the accident of personality. When Congressional leadership falls below the level of brilliance, the Congress gropes and fumbles and becomes ineffective—and that through no fault of any single person.
Revamping of the legislative branch of the government to fit it to discharge its present-day responsibilities seems to me, as well as to many members of Congress, imperative. The changes that are called for seem to me to be these:
1. The committee system needs to be overhauled to eliminate overlapping and to establish clear-cut responsibilities for each committee. The jurisdiction of the committees and their number should be so determined that, on the one hand, there will be no gaps of responsibility and, on the other hand, no member of Congress will have to serve on so many committees that he has inadequate time to give to any of the matters requiring his study and judgment.
The seniority system through which the oldest committee member in terms of service on the majority side automatically becomes chairman should be revised. The chairman should, of course, be a member of the majority party. But his selection should be based on his intellectual ability and capacity for leadership rather than on his years of service.
2. There should be set up a joint committee of both Houses on national economic policy such as was proposed in the Full Employment Bill. The responsibility of this committee would be to draw up a general economic program, every part of which dovetailed neatly into the whole.
Once accepted by the Congress, this program would provide the general policy directives for all other committees in the light of which to consider the legislation before them. If there is a simpler and more obvious way to bring legislative order out of confusion, I have yet to hear it.
3. The committees and members of the Congress should provide themselves with expert staffs competent to draw upon the statistical resources of the executive branch and to put the material so secured into the form in which the committee or member needs to have it for effective use.
There is no need to duplicate the large research departments of the executive branch, but there is crying need for established channels through which the legislative branch can draw upon these departments. That requires experts in the service of the committees and members, experts who know what questions to ask and who can judge whether the answers fit the questions. This will take money, but it will be money well spent.
4. Congress should increase its members’ salaries at the same time it revises the salary scale for the executive branch. If we are to have in government the talent we need, well have to pay for it. The legislative and judicial branches, no less than the executive branch, are today losing the services of badly needed men because these men cannot afford to spend the best years of their lives in government service under present salary scales.
Unless we are prepared to see the quality of government service deteriorate or to see the business of government done by men of independent wealth, there simply must be a substantial increase in Federal salary scales.
To accept deterioration of quality in our public servants is unthinkable. And while a man should not be barred from public office because of his wealth, neither should wealth be a condition of public service. Democratic government requires the services of men of ability, regardless of their economic status.
It is true that some men are willing to come into government at a salary well below the income they could secure in business or in the professions. But they cannot be expected, nor is it fair to ask them, to deprive their families of the comfort and security with which they could provide them if they stayed outside government. And that’s what a really capable man without independent means is usually doing when he runs for Congress or accepts a post in the executive or judicial branches.
5. Finally, better working arrangements between the legislative and executive branches must be worked out. Today the two branches of government are frequently working at cross-purposes. When the President presses for adoption of the legislative program which under the Constitution it is his duty to recommend, there are always some who cry out that Congress is in danger of becoming a “rubber stamp.”
And there have been occasions when desirable legislation has been voted down for no better reason than to make a show of Congressional independence. No great corporation could conduct its affairs if the board of directors were to work at cross-purposes with the chief executive. Government can’t work effectively on that basis, either.
In England they avoid this difficulty because the Prime Minister, who heads the executive branch, is also a Member of Parliament and the head of the party in power. And his cabinet, heads of the executive departments, are also Members of Parliament, leaders of the party in power.
There is no room, therefore, for conflict between the executive and the legislative arms of the British government. When conflict arises it is between the leadership of the party and the majority in Parliament. If this cannot be resolved within the party, the result is a general election and the people make a fresh start.
Ours is a different system of government, but some steps to secure better working relations between the legislative and executive branches are essential if our Federal government is to live up to the responsibilities which today confront it. Representative Kefauver of Tennessee has proposed that cabinet officers and other department heads be given the opportunity of explaining their policies on the floors of Congress, where members could question them freely.
Whether this would be enough to get smooth working relations, I don’t profess to say. I believe, however, that it is a step in the right direction, and I think it ought to be tried.
These suggestions, although I have pulled them together and explained why I think they are essential, have originated with others. For the most part, they have come originally from members of the Congress themselves. Indeed, for the past two years or so there has been a real ferment on Capitol Hill as the Congress, both individual members and the special committees which they have established, have wrestled with the problem of making the legislative branch an efficient and thoroughly modernized arm of the Federal government.
A joint committee under the leadership of Senator LaFollette and Representative Monroney has recently issued a comprehensive report after extended hearings on the subject. All this study and effort will certainly bear fruit in the near future.
I have had a unique opportunity to work with Congress and to study its operation and its make-up.
I am convinced that no group of people in this country is more underestimated or less appreciated. Our average Senator or Congressman is a person of ability and integrity, with a high sense of public service. He works long hours and under the most trying conditions. In spite of many rather superficial editorials and cartoons to the contrary the record of our Congress from Pearl Harbor to V-J Day is one of the outstanding chapters of the entire war effort.
With an adequate staff and a streamlined committee set-up, our Congress could make its influence felt with increasing effectiveness. It could prove to people all over the world that a democratic government is an assurance, not only of freedom for the individual, but of greater efficiency as well.
Farmers, Labor, Management, Consumers
But however smooth and efficient the operations of the Federal government may become, that is not the whole of our requirements. We need teamwork among all our economic groups—farmers, labor, management, consumers—working with each other and with government.
In the kind of economy we live in today, no group can long profit at the expense of the national interest As we have seen throughout our discussion, any group which seeks to do so does not pull itself up, but only holds all groups, including itself, down.
What is required, therefore, is not subordination of group interests to the interest of the whole, but appreciation of the fundamental truth of our age that the interest of the part is identical with the interest of the whole. It is one thing to recognize this truth and quite another to operate on the basis of it. That takes teamwork, organized teamwork.
One of the most interesting and important developments of the war was the machinery of teamwork that was gradually built up. Nobody planned it that way, but circumstances required it and so it was brought into being. Every major war agency—the War Production Board, the War Manpower Commission, the Office of Price Administration, the War Labor Board, and all the others—called upon the leaders of the various economic groups for help. And they got it.
In some instances, as in that of the War Labor Board, the agency itself was set up on the basis of group representation. In others, the groups were invited to participate in an advisory capacity. In some agencies these advisory groups were few in number, in some they ran into the hundreds. The OPA, for example, had hundreds of industry, trade, labor, consumer, and farm advisory committees functioning.
For some purposes these committees consisted of members from a single group or industry. For others, for example, the Advisory Board of the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion, they included members from every economic group, representing every economic interest in the country.
It simply would not have been possible to ring up the wartime record we did without teamwork, not only the teamwork of the rank and file, teamwork in the factory and on the farm, but the organized teamwork of these emergency committees and boards. Our problem is not to invent a mechanism for organized teamwork, but to use and improve the mechanism that has been set up.
There are some people who, although not objecting to the use of this machinery during the war, will strongly oppose it as part of our peacetime arrangements. They will object on the ground that it would bring pressure groups under the roof of government and make them part of the government itself. The pressure groups, they point out, already have their foot in the door. If they are invited in, it will not be long before they have crowded everything else out and we shall be left with pressure-group government in all its naked ugliness.
Now, I must confess that there is danger. No one can view without concern the development of pressure group politics. The lobbyist, the paid representative, who feels he must stir up a fuss at Washington to justify his salary, is a far cry from what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote into the Constitution the right of petition, the right “peaceably to assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
I recognize the danger, but it is a danger we must master, not shrink from. For our society does fall into economic groups as well as into geographical districts, and as long as our society remains free, these groups will organize to make their voices heard and then power felt in government.
The remedy for the present evil in the operation of pressure groups, it seems to me, is not to abridge our fundamental freedoms, not to restrict the right to organize and the right to petition. The remedy is rather to couple power with responsibility and to set up an effective mechanism for teamwork.
This is just what the developments of the war have provided. In my judgment, our course must be to make even wider use of this machinery in the future than we have done in the past.
By bringing these groups into government in an advisory capacity, responsibility is placed upon them. They are no longer free to make demands upon their government, leaving it to someone else to find a way to meet them without sacrificing the interests of others and of the nation. They are free to make demands, but they are under responsibility to justify them in terms of the national interest.
In my experience there have been only a few cases in which the representatives of the various groups have not welcomed the opportunity of participating in the formulation of policy and the development of programs, helping to carry the responsibility of making them work as well as the privilege of helping to devise them.
At least as important is the opportunity which these boards afford for the representatives of the various groups to sit down around a table and work out together their own problems and problems affecting us all. It is only in some fashion such as this that we all can really learn and put into practice the basic truth of our society, that we cannot advance except as we all advance together.
The problem of pressure groups has another aspect that can be met only in part by bringing these groups as advisers into the executive branch of the government. Anyone in Washington is familiar with the clamor that these groups create in the halls of Congress, before its committees. The public is familiar with the organized campaigns that bring floods of form telegrams into Congressional offices, telegrams prepared beforehand at headquarters and distributed to the membership for copying with just enough difference of wording to avoid giving the game away completely.
People are not so familiar, perhaps, with the carefully arranged parade of witnesses and of evidence, seldom manufactured out of whole cloth, but often twisted and distorted out of any relation to the truth. Recent months have witnessed some of the most beautifully organized and at the same time most flagrant examples of this in Congressional history.
These difficulties will, of course, be met in part as economic groups are drawn more fully into participation on advisory boards and committees of the executive departments. With the development of a tradition of responsibility on the part of these participating groups, the influence of their responsible approach to problems of government will inevitably be felt in the lobbies of Congress as well.
And Congressmen, once satisfied that full opportunity for participation has been provided by the Federal departments, will know how to discount the claims of the irresponsible pressure groups, the maverick lobbyists, who continue in their old ways.
It is essential, too, that the people organize more fully to protect their interests as consumers, just as manufacturers, retailers, labor groups, and farmers organize to foster their interest as producers. Wells elected consumer committees, working with various governmental bureaus and departments, can provide an economic conscience against which to balance the pleas of the special interests.
Our joint interest as consumers is a unifying interest A strong consumer movement is the essence of economic democracy, as the Scandinavian nations have demonstrated for several decades.
The proposal for a Department of Consumers in the executive branch of our Federal government to represent all of us who buy in the stores deserves particularly careful study.
In this connection the proposed reorganization of the Congressional committee system, with its lightening of the burden imposed on the individual Congressman, should be extremely helpful. Today members of Congress are operating under such pressure and are so harassed and torn by conflicting duties, that they do not have time to get back home frequently to talk to their constituents and to see for themselves how the people—all the people—are getting on and what it is they really feel government should do differently from what is already being done.
It is not surprising that, overburdened as they are, members should occasionally mistake the clamor of the lobbyist for the voice of the people. The simple and sufficient remedy is for Congress to provide its members the opportunity to remain close to the people.
I have tried to stake out what I think government must do to organize itself and all the rest of us to do the job that can be done only by organized teamwork. You may not agree with every point. Indeed, I hardly expect you to. But I don’t think you will disagree with the principle that I have tried to keep always in mind, a principle that the elder Bob LaFollette always invoked. When democratic government is ailing, he insisted, the cure is not less democracy. The cure is more democracy.
I have discussed two sets of difficulties, those of keeping our footing in the period ahead and those of organizing our government and ourselves to do the job that lies before us. I come now to the third and the most fundamental difficulty of all. Unless we overcome it, I do not see how we can hope to overcome the others. The question, you will recall, is: Can we learn to understand the nature of our problems? Can we learn to understand our economic system? Can we learn to understand each other?
I think we can, but again we will have to hurry. Our economy, as we have seen, is exceedingly complex. Most of us are busy on our own immediate affairs. And yet unless we take time out to see where we are going, to study the relationship of our individual interest to the whole, to figure out just what makes our economy tick and what makes it wheeze and stumble—we will certainly fail to achieve the kind of future which I have outlined in this book.
As I have pointed out, a good share of the responsibility for our economic future rests on our businessmen, most of whom are bogged down in the details of their own specific problems. As a result, their views on economic questions are sometimes emotional and based on political prejudices. Their economic advisers are frequently chosen because their advice is comfortable and reassuring rather than because it represents the most enlightened economic thinking.
Not only every businessman but every labor leader, farm leader, civic leader, and public official has a sacred obligation to search everlastingly for the right economic answers, which are the answers which will lead us to the full use of our tremendous productive powers for the benefit of all of us, under a vigorous democracy. That calls for reading, study, discussion, and debate. It calls for intelligence and patience and plenty of old-fashioned common sense.
The fourth question which I have asked in this chapter—how we can best contribute to world peace and prosperity—I will discuss in the next chapter.