WE COME now to the end of our book. I have tried my best to put before you just as clearly as I can what I think has been the trouble with us in the past. I also have tried, however inadequately, to stake out what I think could set things straight, and the difficulties we must overcome in doing so.
You may not agree with me on all points, although I hope you do on most. And even if you don’t, I am grateful that you have taken the time to let me tell you the story as I see it.
By now I think you know why I have called this book, Tomorrow Without Fear.
When you look into the source of most differences between people and their conflicts over policies such as we have been discussing, you find that an amazing amount of it is based on fear and on the prejudices that are born of fear. I have no doubt in my own mind that the greater part of all that is mean and nasty and shameful in our history and in our life today can be traced to that one thing—fear.
What are the occasions when we have fallen farthest short of our great traditions? They are always the occasions when we have allowed fear to blur our visions and to stifle our creative energies. How else can we explain the economic chaos of 1931 and 1932? We were paralyzed by fear. How else can you put it?
Or consider our foreign policy in the early twenties, when we shrank back, fearful of the responsibilities which must fall to a great nation in the new world community. Because of our fears, we rejected the League of Nations, dooming it to failure and ourselves to a Second World War.
And even today, when the American people have finally put isolationism behind them and are prepared to accept the responsibility that must go with our great strength, our prospects are again clouded by fear. Here we stand, a great nation among other great nations who together have just fought and won the greatest war in all history! With the economic strength the war has shown we possess and the teamwork we have demonstrated, what better basis could there be for confidence and for good will?
Yet voices are already raised to warn us against communistic plots for world dominance and British plots to tie us to the tail of the Imperial Lion. “Beware of the Russians. Beware of the British and Chinese and the French. You can’t trust these foreigners—any of them.” Through it all, the same paralyzing theme: fear —fear—fear!
I do not see how anyone can fail to see the tragic fact that where we have failed in the past it has been through fear and that if we are not to fail in the future, we must conquer fear.
This holds in smaller affairs as well as in large ones. Why do some leaders of the medical profession oppose the national health-insurance program proposed by the President? What is it that blinds them not only to common sense but to the lessons of our experience?
Why do some people resist raising the floor under wages or increasing unemployment-compensation payments? Is it not fear that hardens their hearts against the plain needs of the present and closes their minds to the plain lessons of the past?
But it’s the same thing everywhere. The businessman fears he will have no market for his output. Workers fear there will be no jobs. So we get high prices and low production and we get “feather-bedding” in railroading and antiquated, inefficient work methods in construction.
Among both businessmen and workers there is the stubborn fear of minorities—fear that business will be lost to certain competitors, fear that wages will be pulled down or jobs taken away. And so we have discrimination against Negroes, Catholics, Jews, Italians, and every other minority strong enough to offer competition, but weak enough to be attacked or undermined.
There is so much else we are fearful about, too. Some people fear corporations. Some fear unions. Others fear bureaucracy. Up and down the line, it is shocking to realize how much of our thinking and acting is colored by fear, or by the unthinking prejudices into which so many of our fears get frozen.
Now, let me ask, what is it that this nation has to be afraid of? President Roosevelt spoke truly when he said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” He spoke for the crisis in which he took office in 1933, but the truth he spoke is not limited to that painful period. It is universal. For what is it that this great nation has to fear other than fear itself?
Everyone who thinks about it knows that it has never been the physical difficulties that held us back. It has always been timidity and fear that have blocked our way. Once fear has been overcome, we have always found, with the Army Service Forces, that “the impossible we do immediately—the miraculous takes a little longer.”
Today we know our own strength. We know what we have done and what we can do. In the confidence that this strength gives us we can shake off these fears and move steadily forward toward our goal. As we move ahead, the timid ones among us will lose their fears, too. For just as fear breeds fear, so does confidence breed confidence.
And it is not alone here at home that fear and distrust blur men’s vision and alter their behavior. As we take the lead in shaking off our own fear and distrust, other nations will follow. Our confidence will stimulate their confidence. If we will recognize that this is one world and that its rule must be to live and to help live, what people will deny that truth and refuse the hand we offer?
Through most of this book, I have been obliged to talk about things, the things we must have for a minimum of decent living as well as the better things of life. But my real interest lies in what can’t be measured am hoping for is an economy that will be rich in its material output, but even richer in what it offers the human spirit.
In this full-employment economy, there will be jobs and opportunities for all. That means that the haunting dread of unemployment—of no income at the end of the week to keep the family going—will be lifted from every corner of our land. It means that no mother’s heart will ache hopelessly because her child is undernourished and there is no food, or because he is ill and there is no doctor. In such a nation, moving ahead to new levels of prosperity, freedom will come to lose the empty sound it has held for impoverished millions.
In the kind of nation which we must build, our young folk, all of them, will look to the future with hope and confidence. In our middle years we shall all know the self-respect that comes from being a productive member of society, from pulling our weight in the boat. And our old folks, independent as a matter of right, will finish out their years in security and comfort, finding happiness not only in their own lot but in the opportunities, the hopes, and the security of their children and grandchildren.
As our productive power increases year by year, we will have vastly more leisure as well as more goods to distribute. There will be more time for recreation, for reading, for movies, for plays, for the vigorous development of our intellectual life, and for the creation of a mature civilization.
In such a nation, the tensions and conflicts, the inhumanity of man to man, which have poisoned our lives in the past, will disappear. We—140 million of us —shall then at last truly be good neighbors, free from want and free from fear. And as we learn to live kindly and generously with one another, we shall become a better neighbor to other nations, living at peace among ourselves and with all the world.
That, it seems to me, must now be America’s objective: So to conduct ourselves, so to plan our lives, so to use our great productive power for the benefit of all of us, that we and all the world’s people shall move steadily toward that tomorrow without fear, and without cause for fear, for which all mankind yearns.