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Chapter 2
The Abolition of Poverty
THE cosmic alchemist, almost as soon as he has decided to cooperate to the fullest
extent in carrying out the Divine Plan, is abruptly halted by the wall of economic
want. The easiest course for the ordinary man is for him personally to get over or
around it as best he can, and then hope that others also will be able to pass it without
his assistance. But the cosmic alchemist cannot do this; for as such he has taken upon
himself the responsibility of assisting the advancement of all other members of the
cosmos, and particularly, because he understands them better, the advancement of
the members of the human race. It is, therefore, an essential part of his work to assist
others to pass the economic barrier and to enable all the people of the world to have
FREEDOM FROM WANT.
Yet even as we previously discussed the benefits and detractions of war, so also
before discussing possible means to attain freedom from want let us first be sure it
would actually aid intellectual and spiritual progress.
It is undoubtedly true, as explained in detail in Course 3, Spiritual Alchemy, that any
and every situation offers opportunity for creating spiritual values. But he is only the
rare individual, who has already made enough progress to become skilled in spiritual
alchemy, who is able to convert privation into strength of character. And even he may
not rise to what otherwise would be possible in the refinement of his conceptions, the
exaltation of his emotions, and the elevation of his works through lack of adequate
leisure for meditation, and through inability to contact the thoughts and works of
others.
Whatever is spiritual in this earthly life rests firmly upon an adequate physical
foundation. Doctrines emanating from the Orient tend to discountenance this; but in
spite of theoretically spurning material things, their most saintly men are dependent
upon things physical. Even the Lord Buddha had to have leisure in which to think. He
deserted his wife and child with a clear conscience because he felt assured their
material needs would be provided. But if, instead of sitting seven years under a
banyan tree, he had supported his family by the arduous long hours of toil customary
to his less prosperous countrymen, it is doubtful if he should have had enough energy
left for much thought of any kind, let alone the protracted clear thinking and
extension of consciousness that led to illumination.
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According to tradition, he consumed very little food. But even the single grain of rice
a day had to be raised by someone's toil, and brought to him at the expense of other
labor. Someone, likewise, raised the grain that Jesus allowed His disciples to pluck
and eat as they passed the field, and about which there was so much disturbance
because it was plucked on a Sabbath.
No one should object either to the Nazarene's corn or to Buddha's rice, as both
rendered to society infinitely more than they took. They were specialists, each doing
a valuable work, and it was quite proper, on the plan of division of labor, that they
should share in the fruits of the work of others. The point is that each required
physical sustenance both before and after commencing his life work, and that while
preparing for this work there seems to have been freedom from unduly severe,
grinding, heartbreaking toil.
Furthermore, if we scan the periods of history closely in which the advancement of
man is recognized to have been most marked, we find without exception -- Egypt,
Babylon, Greece, Rome -- that these were times in which there was a rather large
leisure class. Freedom from constant drudgery gave this class the opportunity to
develop philosophy, literature, music, art, astrology, alchemy and the social niceties.
But when this leisure class fell, in each instance there followed a period of
stagnation; for the common people had not gained enough leisure to develop an
appreciation of cultural advantages.
From these and numerous other considerations it seems clear that through affording
more leisure, not merely to a special class, but to all the people of the globe, industrial
development may be made a means to intellectual and spiritual advancement. Those
thus freed from too long hours of numbing labor may, or may not, take advantage of
the time so gained to advance themselves. It is not compulsory, but there is
opportunity. Anything, therefore, that lightens the labor and shortens the hours that
man must devote to gaining a livelihood is certainly beneficial to the race.
It may be objected that man can live without a multitude of the things by which he
now surrounds himself. This is undoubtedly true; but the quality of life would not be
the same. To understand and make use of these things require considerable skill and
intelligence. They thus afford an incentive to mental development. Contact with any
of them enlarges the vision by that much, and adds something to the sum of the
individual's knowledge. Still others are more directly and intensively educative. The
auto, through popularizing travel, the radio and press through the information they
bring, and the movies through familiarizing the people of each nation with the
customs and living conditions of each other country of the globe, are tremendous
engines of enlightenment.
Yet gain of information is but a single side of human progress. Another and equally
important side is emotional appreciation. If, as students of ancient art infer, because
their literature contains no words for such colors, the Greeks were unable to see the
orchid shades, they missed something in their emotional experiences that adds
richness to present-day life. Even the multifarious and seemingly useless gadgets
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that are manufactured to entice the buyer to part with his money must appeal to some
human want to find a sale. Such as add to man's comfort or afford him recreation
increase his ability to work and think efficiently. Such as afford non-destructive
pleasures, through building thoughts into harmonious combination within his astral
form enable him to render better service to himself and to humanity. And those that
appeal to him through their beauty tend to refine his emotional nature, and thus
contribute to his spirituality.
New things are being invented every day. More and more things are coming into use.
There is danger, therefore, that people will so burden themselves with variety of
possessions that their time and energy will be consumed in caring for them. But the
penalty of 211 advance is the opportunity to use it for destruction as well as for
construction. Every gain in knowledge gives man more power to injure others. Every
mechanical invention can be put to some subversive use. So, likewise, an ever
increasing abundance of material things is not without its dangers But with this, as
with other steps in progress, real gain implies discrimination.
The opportunity for the individual to select those things his development needs
increases with the number of material objects available. Just because his neighbor
has a car, a radio and a new-fangled ultraviolet lamp, he is under no compulsion to
own them He may prefer a comfortable and quiet library; where he can read and
meditate at length, or the apparatus with which to carry out original scientific
experiments.
We may be sure of this, that whatever continues to be made appeals to some human
want. If it is detrimental, experience with it will make this evident. If not, it serves a
purpose in man's welfare. Too many possessions may encumber the individual; but
only by having the largest assortment from which to choose can those most suitable
to individual progress be selected. We should not, then, discourage the production of
material things. On the contrary, as cosmic alchemists, we should encourage
production and invention, not only of those things which save labor, but also of those
that conduce to man's pleasure, to his convenience, and to the development of his
finer tastes and more exalted emotions.
From this viewpoint, work is for the purpose of providing people with the things they
want. Yet there are those who seem to take the view that one of the main objects of
society should be to keep everyone employed. That is, they seem to think
employment is an end in itself, instead of a means to an end.
As frequently takes place, suppose a machine is invented that may be operated by one
man that does the work previously performed by ten men. Some would have it that
such a machine is a disadvantage to society because it throws nine men out of
employment. Yet if we hold the view that the object of industrial work is the
production of things to satisfy human wants, there is no loss to society even should
the nine men remain idle, because just as much in the way of goods is produced to
satisfy human wants.
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But as it actually operates, the nine men thus thrown out of employment do not
remain idle. They are really freed from the work previously performed so that their
energies may be devoted either to their own cultural development, or to producing
other things to satisfy human wants. Every machine or device, therefore, which
lessens the amount of human labor necessary to produce something used by mankind
is an advantage to humanity and its use should be encouraged. It liberates human
energy that may advantageously be applied in some other direction. But any effort to
enslave human energy needlessly, by using more human labor to accomplish a task
that can be done with less, should be discouraged. The effort of human industry
should be to produce as much to satisfy human wants as possible with the lowest
consumption of human time and strength.
Civilization Measured by
Surpluses of Energy and Materials
--There is now the promise that the binding energy of the atom may become
available for industrial use. If this promise is realized, energies will become available
which if used for that purpose, rather than to give special privilege still further selfish
advantages, will quickly free the people of the world from want. For that matter, as
production and distribution during World War II amply demonstrated, even without
atomic power there is enough energy available to provide freedom from want in a
properly organized world economy. But let us review the part surplus energy has
played in the development of civilization.
Before the time of the building of the great pyramids of Egypt, it is believed that man
made almost no use of mechanical forces, work animals or slaves. He had, therefore,
at his command almost no energy other than his own. As a consequence, progress
was very slow. There was too little surplus in the way of either time or accumulated
goods. The people of this early day were able to carry only the heavy burden of
economic necessity.
It was the habit, at that time, to put a vanquished enemy to death. But later certain
peoples found that they could retain some of those conquered and force them into
service doing menial work. These were slaves. An individual having one such slave
found himself with double the energy at his command that he had before. This gave
him some leisure either to think or to produce goods that previously he had been
compelled to do without.
In time, also, animals were domesticated and pressed into service. The burdens of
their masters, to the extent they were capable of assuming them, were shifted to their
backs. This released still more human energy to be used in other enterprises. Only as
man made available for his own uses the energies of other creatures or other things
did civilization advance.
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Egypt, Babylon, Greece and Rome each moved forward by these steps while
adjacent nations, failing to take advantage of such additional energies, remained in
primitive stagnation. Historians believe that each of these nations at times had
available for each freeman the energy of one human slave plus combined animal and
mechanical energy equivalent to still another slave. Is it any wonder, then, that the
people of these nations, each freeman with the energy of two slaves at his command,
should forge ahead of other peoples with no additional energy supply?
Another group also made unusual progress, not so much through the steps mentioned
as through appropriating from peoples who had taken these steps. Moses found ready
at hand a culture and material surpluses built up by the Egyptians. And when the Jews
were in captivity in Babylon they also made great strides; because they were able to
borrow from the culture of their captors, and because the material surpluses ready at
hand afforded them sufficient leisure to develop a written literature. The Jews were
able to make a remarkable advance then, and seem to continue to make advance
through the same means, by availing themselves of the surpluses of other peoples
who have developed some additional supply of energy.
Starting with the ancient civilizations that made some advance through each man
having additional energy at his command the equivalent of his own, then taking
Egypt, Babylon, Greece and Rome at the height of their ancient power when each
freeman had at his command energy the equivalent of two slaves it could be shown,
step by step, how what we term civilization advanced through the centuries in
proportion to the energy available. This would take us through feudalism and the
early development of the present machine age.
Here we might pause an instant at a census at the close of the Civil War, after human
slavery had been abolished in the United States. This census of 1869 reveals that the
combined power of draft animals and machines gave to each man, woman and child
in the U. S. on the average, an additional energy supply the equivalent of 12 slaves.
That is, the additional energy available for productive purposes was six times as great
as that of the ancient civilizations at their height.
Yet since the Civil War the amount of energy made available to man has increased
amazingly, the 1930 Census indicating that at that time there was serviceable energy
of 853,015,755 horse power in the U. S., which works out as the equivalent of 177
slaves for every person in the country. The greatest source of power at that time was
the automobile, next came the locomotives, then manufacturing plants, with central
power stations fourth on the list, and horses and mules taken together constituting a
poor fifth. It will be seen, therefore, that the burden of labor has not only been lifted
from the backs of slaves, but is rapidly being lifted also from domestic animals.
Statistics are not yet available as to the amount of additional energy supply that was
used during World War II. But in the U. S. it was far more than the equivalent of 177
slaves for every person in the land, and it was ample throughout the globe that had it
been so used it could have afforded every person on earth freedom from want.
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We know from the success of the effort to produce for war that, even without atomic
energy which promises so much, the people of the world are quite capable of turning
out sufficient foods and goods that no person anywhere need suffer privation.
Freedom from want actually can be a reality for every person in the world if the
people and the nations will but cooperate sufficiently in the effort to banish want.
Surveys of the natural resources of the world and the aptitudes of its manpower, and
how these resources and aptitudes best can be utilized for the benefit of the people of
the world so that all may enjoy physical and educational advantages is not beyond the
ability of present-day engineers. Technical experts are available who could without
much delay blueprint such a plan of effective world production and distribution. The
great problem is to induce people to abandon their desire for selfish advantage
sufficiently that they will permit such a plan to be put into operation.
Opportunity for Full Employment
is Essential
--Freedom from want requires abundant production and adequate distribution. The
greater the amount of production to supply human needs the nearer does freedom
from want approach. Utilizing new energies, improved machinery and better
management can produce more for each man-hour employed. But in addition to these
generally recognized methods of increasing output, production probably would be
doubled if each person were placed, not in the job chance forces him into, but in the
job where he has most opportunity to exercise his natural aptitudes.
There is an unpardonable loss of production through people trying to do work, or
engaging in business, for which either they have no talent or in which, due to the
inharmonious organization of certain thought-cells within their finer bodies, they are
just unlucky through continually encountering unfortunate events.
The birth chart shows unerringly both the natural aptitudes and the environment
within which these aptitudes can be employed that will result in the attraction of
fortunate events. Taken with the training and experience of the individual, the birth
chart indicates the kind of job or the business in which each individual will be most
efficient and content. Thus placing each individual where he can best exercise his
talents is an important step toward freedom from want.
But whatever talents he possesses, he is unproductive during periods of idleness. The
nation and the world is deprived of wealth that otherwise would be produced for
every day an individual seeking work is unable to find employment. Strikes,
lockouts, and economic conditions that result in unemployment deprive people of
products or services they otherwise might have enjoyed.
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Furthermore, any system which permits either raw materials or the machinery of
production to fall under the control of a special privilege group which, for the sake of
larger profits, curtails production and causes unemployment, is a detriment to the
nation and a detriment to the world. It deprives people of the things they want and
which otherwise they could have.
Full employment is essential to abundant production not merely from the standpoint
of output, but also to enable employment to continue. That which is produced by one
group must be exchanged for that which is produced by another group. And if the
other group is idle, and has nothing to exchange, the first group has no incentive for
further production.
It is said the Khufu, or Cheops, employed 100,000 men during the three months of the
year that the population otherwise would have been idle due to their farms being
flooded by the Nile. It took him three years to build the road over which the stone was
hauled, and another 20 years to build the Great Pyramid. He was able to accomplish
so large a task because he could avail himself of concentrated energy. Those who
accomplish large tasks today also require concentrated energies and material
surpluses in large amounts. But for the most part they face a very different problem
than did Cheops; for Cheops was unhampered by thoughts of how he would dispose
of what he produced.
The modern industrialist, however, is entirely dependent upon his ability to dispose
of his products, just as the professional man or the laborer is dependent upon
disposing of his services. In order for a product to be sold or exchanged, the other
person to the transaction must have something to exchange or with which to buy.
Cheops needed to take no thought of the lack of wealth of his slaves; but our modern
producers, whether they be one-horse tenant farmers or wealthy manufacturers,
know that they can dispose of their products only as others have wealth to exchange
for them.
Because the energy at the command of industrial leaders is now so enormous, if they
are to keep busy they must have a very wide demand for their products. That is, their
products must be such that a great many people can secure them. But these people can
secure them only if they have enough wealth to afford them. Thus it is that what is
produced with the enormous surplus energy now at our command is dependent upon
the buying power of the masses.
The buying power of the masses, in turn, is dependent not upon the amount of goods
they produce, but upon the amount of goods, or their equivalent, that they receive.
That is, they can exchange for other goods only the share they receive of that which
they produce.
In the olden days, before the development of mass production, it required only that a
small fraction of the public should possess some wealth to be able to dispose of what
was produced. But today the wealthy industrialist is dependent upon the buying
power of a wide public. If the masses cannot buy his products he can no longer
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produce them; for they are of value to him only as he can exchange them for various
things others produce.
A few of the more brilliant industrialists have already realized that only as people
have money to buy with can such industrialists dispose of their products; and that
only as they are able to get employment and receive a larger measure of what they
produce do people have the money with which to purchase. No longer can the output
of goods be absorbed by the few. Instead, it requires the combined consumptive
power of the whole public. The more wealth the people of the world have the more
goods they can purchase, and the more goods purchased by the people of the world,
the more demand there is for what the industrialist has to sell.
Wealth thus is a complete circle which is kept revolving only so long as the public has
the ability to secure what is produced. But if the buying power of the public is
hampered by receiving an inadequate share of what it produces, by many of its
members remaining unemployed, by being swindled out of its wealth, or through its
wealth being tied up in unprofitable enterprises, the circle is broken. That is, if from
any one of a number of causes the purchasing power of the public is reduced,
everyone engaged in productive enterprises is injured, the wealthy man as well as the
laborer. It is, therefore, advantageous to the wealthy individual, even from the most
selfish standpoint, that there shall be no poverty.
Some hold that the poverty of the many may be cured by taking the wealth of the rich
and dividing it among the poor. But the wealth of the world is not a constant factor.
When things are produced they add that much wealth to the world. When things are
used up this detracts that much from the wealth of the world. If there is greater
production there is greater wealth. Therefore, that there shall be wealth in the future,
production must continue.
Skillful Managers Needed
--Production, in this industrial age, is not merely a matter of unintelligent labor.
Production, to be efficient, depends upon intricate machines, proper organization of
men, and skillful management. Such efficient management is possible by
comparatively few men in the world. If more men had high skill in management there
would be fewer failures in business and more outstanding industrial successes.
That production and distribution of wealth may be efficiently accomplished, the
world must enlist the services of the men who have this unusual ability. And that they
may exercise this ability to the highest extent, there must be some inducement
offered. The unusual efforts of these men to meet and overcome competition, to
produce something better, or more cheaply, or to distribute it more efficiently, at the
present time is called forth largely by the offer of personal reward in the form of
money.
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We have a right to hold that a man should put forth just as tireless energy to better the
conditions of his fellowman as to advance his personal interests and those of his
family; but at the same time we must concede, from observation, that only a very
small minority have been educated as yet to a point where they follow this in the
practical affairs of life.
With many individuals the attainment of honors is quite as strong an incentive as the
making of money, and affords an inducement to productive work. To what extent this
may take the place of the money incentive in causing people to work ceaselessly to
develop higher abilities to produce and be of service probably largely depends upon
the type of education they receive. In those regions which for over a quarter of a
century have been experimenting with a system of equal pay for everyone, this
appeal to the Drive for Significance has not been 100% successful. To stimulate
maximum effort it has had to be supplemented with certain material advantages not
available to those of less ability. Nevertheless? it has played a large part in
stimulating high productivity.
The thing that should be emphasized here, however? is that freedom from want
depends upon the continued activities of men who have unusual ability in leadership
and management. Freedom from want depends upon both the production and the
worldwide distribution of abundant good; and this adequate production and
distribution requires ability of the highest order. Those who have this ability must be
kept on the job using it; and to keep them as active as they are under the present
system some ample incentive must be offered.
It is undoubtedly true that the undue appropriation of wealth by certain people is a sad
handicap upon its wide distribution and the abolition of poverty. The real question is
not so much a matter of right or wrong, as to what extent it is possible for mankind to
utilize the maximum productive and organizing ability of those with this kind of
ability, without permitting them the opportunity to take altogether too large a share of
the wealth they help to produce.
Nor is this the only side of the situation that needs consideration; for men work to the
limit of their powers not merely to accumulate money for themselves, but also to
provide for the security and luxury of their children. Would the person with unusual
productive ability, as soon as he had acquired all the money he could use, retire from
work and deprive society of his usefulness if he were prevented from leaving wealth
to his children?
Here again it is not so much a question of right or wrong as of expediency. We cannot
afford, if we can retain them at any reasonable cost, to deprive society of the
continuous and maximum efforts of certain exceptional individuals. As a matter of
human rights, there is no reason why one child should inherit more in the way of
material wealth than any other child. The right of bequest could well be done away
with were it not that it would discourage the productive activity of parents. Parents,
very frequently, will work more arduously to provide for their children than to
provide for their own wants. If this incentive is removed through society prohibiting
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the inheritance of wealth, society will suffer unless some other equally strong
incentive be substituted.
Accumulations of Wealth Essential
--Then again, to what extent should society permit wealth to accumulate in the
hands of any one individual? To build machines, to harness power, and to conduct the
distribution of goods economically, requires the concentration of vast wealth.
Freedom from want requires that such accumulated wealth be available for the use of
those possessing the technical and managerial skill to devote it most effectively to
the production of still further wealth.
There is a tendency today thus to handle accumulated wealth through corporations.
Shares are issued and sold, and profits are distributed on the basis of the number of
shares owned. Often wealthy individuals purchase 51% of the shares, or manage to
control the votes of 51% of the shareholders, and the balance of the shares are sold to
as wide and numerous a public as possible. The influence of the many shareholders is
depended upon to block legislation unfavorable to the corporation. But the one or a
few wealthy individuals controlling 51% of the stock are able to determine the
policies of the corporation.
Such a corporation often is able to produce and distribute far more economically than
can enterprises with less wealth at their command. But some have been known to buy
inventions which would enable a superior product to be produced far more cheaply,
or which would give the public some great convenience, and neither use the
invention nor let anyone else use it, because its use would make the equipment or
some product of the corporation obsolete.
Big business may, or may not, be beneficial to the public interest. Just as this is being
written, at the end of World War II, there is a great paper shortage. The paper mills
have attempted to supply their old customers on the basis of a percentage of what
each used before the war. But, to be able vastly to increase their circulation, a few of
the big magazines have purchased the paper mills producing coated papers, and the
orders of other firms have been canceled. This means that many worthwhile books
will not be published for a long time to come. People will get more of certain
magazines, but will be deprived of other magazines and will be deprived of books
badly needed.
Because great wealth often is not used to benefit the public, some advocate that only
the government be permitted to accumulate wealth on a large scale. Everything then,
requiring much wealth to handle, would be done by the government. Yet the general
experience has been that as soon as there is a monopoly in any activity, efficiency
rapidly deteriorates. Competition between rival firms leads each to exert its utmost
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efforts to develop its product to the highest quality, to devise means to lower costs,
and to manage its affairs with the utmost economy. There is a realization that any
slackening of effort will be followed by personal loss. Each also strains itself to the
utmost to think of improvements, both in the product and in the efficiency of
methods, that an advantage may be gained over the rival.
Such competition, undoubtedly, is wasteful in the sense that there often is
duplication of effort, and that the incompetent are forced into failure and loss. But it
does work to promote efficiency of operation and excellence of product. It is, after
all, the method Nature has used throughout the ages. Forms of life unable to adapt
themselves to changing environment have perished, even as obsolete machinery and
obsolete business methods are now being pushed into the junk heap. This is hard on
the individual who owns the old type machine, or who follows old time business
practices; but it means better conditions for society as a whole. It was hard on lower
types of life when man appeared upon the earth. Dangerous beasts and reptiles had to
go, and many types of insects are putting up a losing fight; being forced aside by the
competition of man. Yet as the result of this competitive struggle the world as a
whole has made marked progress.
And we may be sure that so long as there is strenuous competition between business
firms, between manufacturers, and between other forms of productive activity, that
those dependent upon the gain derived from such undertakings will see to it that they
are run at maximum efficiency. Stockholders and a board of directors care little
whether the manager of a firm is, or is not, a good fellow, or if his private life is
according to approved standards. What they require is that he run the corporation at a
profit. If he does not, in spite of excuses and alibis, he is removed and a manager hired
who can make the enterprise a success.
But when there is a monopoly the firm continues in business in spite of obsolete
methods and inefficient management. Its stockholders and directors have no
adequate standard of comparison with which to gauge its performance. It is in a
position to force the public, regardless of the quality of its product or services, to
yield it an adequate return.
Government Ownership
--If the government were to go into the various lines of business, as it would be
compelled to do if it alone were permitted to accumulate large-scale wealth, or as it
would be compelled to do if labor unions and private management were unable to
reconcile their differences, it would be a monopoly of the most powerful kind.
Through more complete organization of its resources much duplication of effort
would be eliminated, and much of the waste now due to individuals entering business
with inadequate capital, or failing because new competitors enter the field, would be
saved. But at the same time, the leading positions in any government enterprise are
usually obtained, not because of unusual ability in handling such an enterprise, but
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because of unusual ability to make friends, or because of usefulness to political
candidates.
The number who make outstanding successes in large-scale production, compared
with the number who fail even to escape business failure, implies that very few men
have the qualifications successfully to manage large industrial organizations. There
is serious question if the few really competent men, who seldom are good politicians,
would be chosen to head any business conducted by the government.
Then again, there is the question whether or not the government can be induced to
spend money for the development of worthwhile projects, or with complete
efficiency in the alleviation of human distress.
Our President during most of World War II, under the stress and uncertainties of that
war, set aside two billion dollars for nuclear research and the development of the
atomic bomb. Under peace-time conditions such a gamble would have been
unthinkable unless taken by private enterprises.
At their inception, from the locomotive, steamboat and telephone on, our
congressmen have had a habit of scoffing at new inventions. Kings and emperors,
likewise, have been scoffers. It takes a very different kind of ability to be a politician,
or even a statesman, than it does to perceive the commercial possibilities of some
new device. Consequently, not only in the development of inventions, but wherever
there has been a hazard, government officials, in fear of condemnation if there should
be failure, have declined to offer government's support. There are always
ultra-conservatives with enough voice to block the government from entering any
enterprise where they, because temperamentally so inclined, fear a loss. Such
hazards have been taken, as a rule, by optimistic individuals who have risked their
own capital. Many times such optimism is followed by failure and loss. But those
who do make a success of something new not only are recompensed more or less
financially, but also contribute to the advancement of society.
The elimination of the hookworm in America and the sleeping sickness in Africa, as
well as numerous other diseases which lower human efficiency, should have had
immense government appropriations. The educational requirements of the country
called for government expenditures to install numerous libraries. This was perceived
by various politicians; but they were also well aware that their constituents at home
would withdraw their support if, for any such purposes that were commonly
considered visionary, they increased taxation.
But the Rockefeller Foundation not only saw the need, but was supplied with the
capital to fight these diseases; and Andrew Carnegie saw the need and devised a way
to furnish libraries. Many other individuals who have had the peculiar ability
necessary to accumulate wealth also have used quite as exceptional ability in
spending it for the benefit of the public.
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Whether private ownership or government ownership of wealth is more effective in
giving freedom from want depends not so much upon the form of ownership as upon
the kind of individuals that in each instance have control of the wealth. If it should
become a universal habit of wealthy men, who have acquired their wealth through
the exercise of initiative and ability, to devote most of such wealth to bettering the
conditions of their fellow man, private ownership seems to offer the most hope of
advancement. But if such men withdraw too great a portion from accessibility to their
fellow man, it is better that the government alone should possess great wealth.
Not only national planning, but world planning and considerable control by some
central authority is necessary to free all peoples from want. But the extent to which
government ownership should or should not replace private ownership of industry
and wealth varies with the human attitude toward responsibility to others. And this is
in a constant state of flux. Private enterprise can be made to abolish poverty in the
world if those of unusual wealth-accumulating ability can be induced to perceive
their responsibility to their fellow man. On the other hand, if the government
conducted all business, poverty could be banished in the world if those who now
make a success of private enterprise could be induced to work as hard and be given
the responsible positions.
Banishing Poverty
--The world has become so narrowed in recent years that what affects one nation
affects all nations. We cannot afford to have backward nations in this world, no more
than we can afford to have illiterate regions within the United States. We cannot
afford to have poverty stricken nations in this world. No more than we can afford to
have poverty stricken areas within the United States. Poverty stricken people cannot
buy what we produce, and poverty stricken nations cannot buy -- either with dollars
or the things they produce and we need -- the things we produce. Poverty in any
section of the world restricts distribution. People must have products or services to
exchange -- at first perhaps turning them into money -- for the products and services
of others. Provided the variety is sufficient, the more that is thus produced and
exchanged the nearer they come to freedom from want.
Every case of poverty represents an individual who under more fortunate
circumstances would be a potential customer. Over-production is merely a lack of
customers; and with an increase of customers there would be no over-production.
Even if the world want for one article were completely satisfied, production readily
could be turned to the output of something else that still was wanted. There is thus no
real over-production, only a lack of people with wealth enough to buy. For until
every human want for material things is satisfied there is still underproduction.
Therefore, the cure for so-called overproduction is the cure of poverty. And the cure
of poverty lies in opportunity for full employment in which the great run of mankind
receive as great a share as possible of what they produce.
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Idle individuals are unproductive of wealth. No one is permanently benefitted by the
enforced idleness of those desiring to work. Nor is anyone permanently benefitted by
the existence of a class of individuals that receives so little for energy expended that
their purchasing power is confined to the bare necessities. In fact, it narrows down to
this: so long as there is a poverty stricken individual in the world, other people suffer
through the lack of this individual's purchasing power.
Consequently, it should be a chief function of government to devise whatever means
may be necessary to enable every individual willing to work to have as remunerative
employment as possible. There should never be lack of opportunity for any
individual to produce wealth. And it should be another function of government to
make it possible for every person to receive training in the use of the natural aptitudes
indicated by his chart of birth, thus increasing his skill, and enabling him to produce a
maximum of wealth.
With wealth at hand, there must also be sufficient leisure for those possessing it to use
it. Leisure to make intellectual and spiritual progress is essential. Furthermore,
whatever is produced must be used if it is to create a demand for more. Everyone thus
should be both a producer and a consumer.
At all times there is work that needs to be done, because human wants are never
satisfied. But the money-chain that exists between the person who wants and the
person who has the ability to provide may be inadequate to meet the strain placed
upon it. It may be weakened or completely broken through certain individuals
hoarding too great a share of wealth, through raw materials or the machinery of
production falling into the hands of those who restrict production to gain greater
profits for themselves, through numerous individuals ceasing to spend through lack
of confidence in their ability to continue gainfully employed, or through any number
of other causes that decreases public purchasing power. When such a situation arises
an unusual number of persons are thrown out of employment. And even at other
times the wealth-distributing system is now so ineffective that numerous individuals
who desire employment are idle.
To banish poverty and provide freedom from want every person in the world should
have opportunity at all times for productive and remunerative activity. Such full
employment is possible only when the worker gets as large a share as practicable of
what he produces so that there is buying power to purchase the things produced. And
that this buying shall be adequate, the greatest possible facilities of trade between the
nations of the world must be established.
Thus the cosmic alchemist works vigorously to create an overwhelming public
sentiment for full employment everywhere, at as great a share of what is produced as
practicable, and for measures to facilitate trade between all the inhabitants of the
earth; for through these three all the people of the world can have Freedom From
Want.