I AM indebted to Senator Charles Tobey of New Hampshire for the title of this chapter. In a very moving statement made on the floor of the United States Senate some months ago, Senator Tobey, speaking of our international obligations, said that it was no longer enough to “live and let live” but that we must learn to “live and help live.” This is a fresh and arresting statement which puts into the words of today an ancient truth which has been preached by all the religions of the world since the dawn of human conscience.
This statement is particularly appropriate today because never before have the requirements of ethics been so closely intertwined with the requirements of our economic life. Never before have good morals and good economics matched so perfectly.
Good morals and good ethics have, of course, been the same throughout the ages, though in every age men fell far short of living up to them. And it has always been true that those communities in which the strong extended a helping hand to their weaker neighbors have been economically stronger and healthier for it. But only in recent generations has it become true that the smooth functioning of our economy for the benefit of all of us actually requires the practice of the best of our moral teachings. Today our economy simply cannot operate effectively on any other basis.
In an earlier chapter we saw how the Eskimos met their old-age problem. When a man’s productive years were over, the tribe abandoned him to freeze in the Arctic waste. However brutal this may appear to be, there was about it a stern necessity. Since there wasn’t enough to keep both the young and the old alive, they necessarily sacrificed their old folk.
In primitive times something of that stern necessity has colored the behavior of men of all races through the centuries. The sacrifice of their aged did not in any way weaken the young and more vigorous in their struggle to wrest a living from nature. On the contrary, by relieving them of the burden of those who could no longer produce, it enabled them to go on living themselves.
Gradually in mankind’s progress the stage was reached when such brutal treatment of the aged and the weak and the underprivileged groups of whatever sort was no longer a matter of iron necessity for the survival of the strong. But still neglect of these groups did not seriously interfere with the effective functioning of the economy. On the eve of the French Revolution there were hunger and cold and disease among millions of peasants and city workers. This violated every moral principle, but it did not mean that food rotted in the fields, that workshops stood idle and rusting, and that workers sat on their hands.
Poverty in the midst of plenty is a development of our own times, of the last few generations. And that is why poverty for any group in our modern economy means that everybody is dragged down to a lower level—the strong as well as the weak.
So in our modem world, for the first time in history, what makes good morals makes good economics, too. As we organize our economy to provide more and better food for the hungry, the corner grocer and the farmer find their incomes increased. As we increase the incomes of the needy, the textile mill begins to run again, people go back to work, and the factory owners see their businesses move up out of the red into the black.
As we get the better distribution of income that will enable families with smaller incomes to live in comfort and decency and to share in the living standards which the better-income groups already enjoy, then and only then will our economy begin to operate with the sustained speed and power of which it has long been capable.
As we have seen, this means rising standards of living not only at the bottom of the income scale, but at the top as well. Greater equity in sharing our economic pie costs no one anything. Instead it means a bigger pie for all of us to share and, hence, more pie for every one of us.
The same proposition holds for the world economy as well. National boundaries don’t change it. As the great industrial nations of the world extend the helping hand to their agricultural and undeveloped neighbors, their export industries will spring to life and grow as never before, increasing the incomes and the purchasing power of millions of their people.
Here in America, the future health of the cotton and tobacco industries, of steel, of machinery and machine tools, depends upon our finding additional markets in other lands. There is hardly an individual or an industry in this country that does not feel the effects of prosperity in the industries I have named. When these are working full blast, the purchasing power they pay out quickens the economic life of all the others. And when these industries slow down because of shrinking foreign markets, or for any other reason, a creeping paralysis is felt in the last nook and cranny of our economic system.
As I have said before, we need to lend to the other countries quite as badly as they need to borrow from us. They need the equipment and machinery that we can build, and we need the productive and job producing outlets for our billions of savings. Unless we can find outlets for what we save, these idle hoards of cash will choke the arteries of our economic system as they have in the past.
We have long recognized that when American citizens borrow American savings and invest them in American plants and machinery they create jobs and purchasing power and markets. We need to learn that when the people of other countries borrow American dollars to buy American equipment and machinery and materials, that creates jobs and purchasing power and markets in exactly the same way, and right here in America.
Some of you may ask at this point: What happens when all other countries become industrialized? Wont that rob us of our export markets, close some of our factories, and throw many of us out of work? The answer to that is: Not in the kind of full-employment world we are determined to live in.
Surely there is no lack of need in this world of ours. In Asia, Europe, Africa—the human needs are overwhelming—even, as we have seen, in our own America. It is purchasing power which is lacking—lack of income with which our needs and the needs of people everywhere can be fulfilled.
As we help to increase the productive power of other countries and so increase their output, we will at the same time be increasing their ability to buy more of our goods. A steadily improving standard of living all over the world means steadily increasing markets for all of us. Here in America it means more jobs and better jobs, higher purchasing power for our farmers, better profits for our businessmen.
Today two thirds of all the people in countries overseas devote their energies to the production and marketing of food. And yet, two thirds of all the world’s population is living below the minimum levels of proper nutrition while one half of those are near the borderline of actual starvation.
The short-range answer is greatly increased emergency food shipments. The long-range answer lies in modern farm equipment, river developments and irrigation projects, increased supplies of fertilizer and improved farming methods which will free tens of millions of people in China, South America, Russia, India, Africa, and Europe from grubbing a meager existence -from the soil. It will free them to change hovels into homes, to produce new transportation systems, more adequate clothing, to free their fellow citizens from disease and ignorance.
The world, unlike America, cannot achieve a high level of prosperity in which all can share during the next five years, or ten years, or even fifty years. But the faster the standard of living can be raised in India, Russia, China, Britain, Italy, Greece, Brazil, and Panama—among people everywhere—the healthier, the happier, the more prosperous our America will be.
To the extent which we can help through our own exports, in this world-wide struggle for peace and prosperity, to that extent will we benefit also. We will benefit in greater world security, in lasting peace, and in greater prosperity from Bangor to Los Angeles.
We shall, of course, accept interest on the loans which we have extended and we must accept it in the form of imported raw materials, goods, and services. But why should that present a problem? It is only because we are so accustomed to a world in which markets and purchasing power are inadequate that we ask ourselves how we can use the goods and services with which other countries will repay us.
Britain, Russia, China, and Latin America—indeed, about every foreign nation—need modern factory machinery and transportation equipment, textiles, food, and a thousand and one other items. The savings that we loan them to buy part of our production will earn their way, not only in material dividends on the actual loans, but in good will, peace, and understanding.
Let us remember that there are many raw materials obtainable in other countries in which we are now seriously deficient. Let’s remember that our own needs for those goods which can be bought only abroad will increase tremendously as we achieve full employment and sustained high purchasing power.
Let us remember that there are many other products which can be made better abroad than we can make them here. Let’s remember the hundreds of millions that we will spend each year traveling in other countries—millions which will pay for a huge amount of American exports.
As we gradually solve the question of purchasing power and markets, the difficulties of international payments will disappear along with the others. In that kind of world, no one will be fearful, as some of us have been in the past and some of us are today, that the more we produce the greater our difficulties will be.
In that kind of world, in which purchasing power and demand and markets keep pace with expanding output, we shall all see plainly what has always been true—that production, production, and still more production is our strength and our well-being. The greater our production—the greater our strength, and the greater our well-being.
In our own history it was Britain’s hand that first helped us to our economic feet. It was British capital that built our railroads and our textile mills, and it was British technology, which we imported along with British equipment, that gave us our start.
We have long since outstripped the British in the martch of technology and industrial production. The time has come for America, not only to establish liberal credits for Britain herself, but to take the lead and to do as much for the young and undeveloped countries of the earth as Britain did for us in our national youth.
And as the hand which Britain extended to us in past generations helped her as well as us, so our hand extended today will help us as well as other countries.
It is nearly a century and a half since Britain took the lead in opening the age of steam and in harnessing the power of steam to do men’s work all through the world. Today America must take the lead in opening the new age of atomic power and in helping others as well as ourselves to do the peoples’ work all over the world.
We are entering a new cycle of human progress. Just as at the beginning of the age of steam no one could foretell what nation would contribute most or benefit most, so today no one can say what the age of atomic power will bring to all the nations of the world.
When Becquerel and the Curies were experimenting in France with radioactivity, when Einstein in Berlin was formulating the mathematics of the relation of matter to energy, when Niels Bohr in Denmark, Lise Meitner in Germany, and Sir Lawrence Bragg in England started exploring the atom, who could have foreseen that we in America would build upon this knowledge and bring to final conclusion the splitting of the atom and the first harnessing of its power?
And just as no one could have foreseen that turn of history, no one today can tell where the next great triumph of man will be achieved, who will contribute to it, and where it will come into full flowering. When we extend help to others no one can say how rich will be the dividends or from what quarter they will come.
To create international good will and world prosperity, we do not need to be international suckers, nor am I proposing that we neglect our own tremendous domestic needs. A program of expanded exports simply means good sense, however you may slice it. It’s proof again that in our modern world good morals are also good economics.