Hunches, 4-22-37

 We need an amendment to the constitution: Resolved that hereafter Ben Franklin shall be quoted thusly, “A penny saved is a penny earned--for the tax-gatherer”. However, an amendment is scarcely necessary, in these days of broad and liberal interpretations of our fundamental rules, to enable the New Deal to make one of their intelligent, modernistic, and gallant steps forward.

 Now, lest I appear too sarcastic, there is much to be said in favor of a government which is supposedly making conscientious efforts to meet present day conditions: he who makes no mistakes, does nothing. And, even the captious critic cannot help but admire the aptitude of the President for taking the bull by the horns. But all this haste in upsetting the sound traditions of our form of government leaves me cold. Human nature is the same today as it was when the country was first founded, as well as when King Solomon organized the heterogeneous Hebrews into a unified nation; and then preceded to wreck the whole thing, because his sense of power went to his head.

 The President, in his radio address inaugurating his idea of executive control of the national umpire, spoke solemnly of the torch he would pass along to his successor in 1940. (He didn’t say "torch”, but that expresses it.) In other words, he would feel that his job well done involves making these United States safe for future dictatorial democrats. History records not a single instance of lasting benefit of government by men; and it does record a century and a half of hectic but sane checks and balances in this country of ours.

 That’s one side of the question: We do not want a dictator in Washington. The other side arises from the question--what started all this rumpus anyway? And the more I think of it, the more I am convinced that we are merely getting just about what we deserve. The standards of living, or no living at all as the case may be, of the average American have been entirely at the mercy of the dictates of the managers of the great technological institutions of our country. As long as an employer was also the owner he was in close contact with his hired hands--their interests were his--and no one disputed his exercise of property rights. But mass production changed this picture: Ownership and management were divorced, except for the dollars in dividends. Management was given the owner’s unquestioned proxy, as long as the ledgers were out of the red. Business became abstract, rather than personal, as far as the owners were concerned. And the president of the missionary society to convert the heathen became the owner of sweat shops, without knowing it.

 And what did management do in the early days, after owners ceased to be interested in employees? Labor became a commodity, just like so much lumber. But Cleveland and Teddy Roosevelt didn’t think so, and the long parade of reforms started.

 Later it began to dawn on the management under pressure of strikes that perhaps labor was human after all, and that the failure to recognize that fact was poor business. So, many progressive companies adopted policies of recognizing the social responsibilities of collecting a large number of bread-winners in specialized groups. But today this recognition is far from universal. And the distress of depression has instigated a governmental intrusion which can only result in the ultimate unanimous acceptance by management of this responsibility, or be smothered by some fantastic form of socialism.

 There is a way out of this dilemma. If  every supervisor in an organization, from the president down, were to approach every subordinate in the spirit of consultation, without yielding in any sense his authority, labor difficulties would be minimized. This is opposed to dictatorial supervision, and is essentially a demoncratic process. It involves a fundamental and abiding respect for the intelligence, experience and feelings of other people. From a practical standpoint, it will reduce employee conflicts, and government interference in labor matters; it will improve morale because each man will consider himself important enough to be consulted; it will increase efficiency through planning from collective judgment, and causing smoother execution and great personal development.

 This is not a panacea, but a policy that is worthy of any executive’s attention. Or else!

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