Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Some two thousand years ago the greatest teacher who ever walked the earth advised a group of people not to build their houses on the sand. What he had in mind was that they were looking too much to the structure above ground, and too little to the spiritual forces which must be the foundation of any structure which is to stand.
Following the war we enjoyed the greatest prosperity this country has ever witnessed;—the greatest activity, the greatest bank clearings, the greatest foreign trade, the greatest railroad gross earnings, the highest commodity prices.
The fact is, we have become crazy over material things. We are looking only at the structure above ground. We are trying to get more smoke from the chimney. We are looking at space instead of service, at profits instead of volume. With our eyes focused on the structure above ground, we have lost sight of those human resources, thrift, imagination, integrity, vision and faith which make the structure possible. Only by the business men can this foundation be strengthened before the inevitable fall comes.
We are spending millions and millions in every city to develop the good-will of customers, to develop in customers a desire to buy. This is all well and good, but we can’t continue to go in one direction indefinitely. We cannot always get steam out of the boiler without feeding the furnace. The time has come when in our own interests, in the interests of our communities, our industry, and of the nation itself, for a while we must stop adding more stories to this structure. Instead, we must strengthen the foundations upon which the entire structure rests.
Those things which we look upon as of great value:—the stocks, bonds, bank-books, deeds, mortgages, insurance policies, etc., are merely nothing. While fifty-one per cent of the people have their eyes on the goal of Integrity, our investments are secure; but with fifty-one per cent of them headed in the wrong direction, our investments are valueless. So the first fundamental of prosperity is integrity. Without it there is no civilization, there is no peace, there is no security, and there is no safety. Mind you also that this applies just as much to the man who is working for wages as to the capitalist and every owner of property.
A man may be honest and wonder why he does not get ahead; a man may have vision and still remain only a dreamer; but when integrity and vision are combined with hard work, the man prospers. It is the same with classes and nations.
It has been said that genius is the author of invention. Statistics do not support this statement. The facts show that industry is the mother of invention. Struggle, sacrifice and burning midnight oil have produced the cotton gin, the sewing machine, the printing press, the steam engine, the electric motor, the telephone, the incandescent lamp and the other great inventions of civilization.
Why is it that most of the able men in our great industries came from the country districts? The reason is that the country boy is trained to work. Statistics indicate that very seldom does a child; brought up in a city apartment house, amount to much; while the children of well-to-do city people are seriously handicapped. The great educator of the previous generation was not the public school, but rather the wood box. Those of us parents who have not a wood box for our children to keep filled, or chores for them to do, are unfortunate.
Run through the list of the greatest captains of industry, as they come to your mind. How many of the men who are really directing the country’s business gained their position through inherited wealth? You will find them astonishingly few. There is no “divine right of kings” in business. In fact, statistics show us that the very things which most people think of as advantages, namely, wealth and “not having to work” are really obstacles which are rarely surmounted.
Industry and thrift are closely allied. Economic studies show clearly that ninety-five per cent of the employers are employers because they systematically saved money. Any man who systematically saves money from early youth automatically becomes an employer. He may employ thousands or he may have only two or three clerks in a country store, but he nevertheless is an employer. These same studies show that ninety-five per cent of the wage workers are wage workers because they have systematically spent their money as fast as they have earned it. They of necessity remain wage workers. These are facts which no labor leader can disprove and which are exceedingly significant. This is especially striking when one considers that the employer often started out at the same wages and in the same community as his wage workers. The employer was naturally industrious and thrifty; while those who remained wage workers were not.
Civilization is ultimately dependent on the ability of men to coöperate. The best barometer of civilization is the desire and ability of men to coöperate. The willingness to share with others,—the desire to work with others is the great contribution which religion has given to the world. The effect of this new spirit is most thrilling when one considers the clothes which he has on his back, the food which he has on the table, the things which he has in the house, and thinks of the thousands of people whose labor has directly contributed toward these things. Now this clearly shows that another great fundamental of prosperity is coöperation, the willingness and ability of men to coöperate, to serve one another, to help one another, to give and to take.
Feelings rule this world,—not things. The reason that some people are not successful with collective bargaining and profit sharing and all these other plans is because they think that men act according to what they say, or according to what they learn, or according to that in which they agree. Men act according to their feelings, and “good feeling” is synonymous with the spirit of coöperation. One cannot exist without the other and prosperity cannot continue without both.
We have gone crazy over structures above ground. We are absolutely forgetting the greatest of our resources,—the great spiritual resource, upon which everything depends. How shall we develop these resources?
The masses to-day is getting their real education from the daily newspapers. Many of these newspapers have much good material, but the great effort of the daily press is not to make producers, but rather to make consumers. The policy of the daily press is not to get people to serve, but rather to get them to buy. Not only is the larger portion of the newspapers given up to advertising, but most of this advertising is of non-essentials, if not of luxuries. With this advertising constantly before the people of the country, it is but natural that the material things should seem of greatest importance.
We have forgotten to consider whether or not goods are needed. We only consider whether or not they are being bought. We are forgetting to establish new markets, but rather are scrambling over the markets already secured. Tremendous opportunities exist in developing new industries, in creating new communities, in relocating the center of production from one community to another community to match up with the center of consumption.
We have forgotten the latent power in the human soul, in the individual, in the community, in the different parts of the country. We have forgotten those human possibilities upon which all prosperity ultimately depends. The foundation of progress is spiritual, not material.
The greatest resources of the world to-day are human resources,—not resources of iron, copper and lumber. The great need of the hour is to strengthen this human foundation and revive in men a desire to produce and a joy in service. Business men are the one group that can do it. They understand the emotions; understand the importance of the intangible things. They understand how to awaken in people new motives, not to wait too long to revive man and awaken the soul which is slumbering to-day.
The nation is only a mass of individuals. The true prosperity of a country depends upon the same qualities as the true prosperity of its people. As religion is necessary for the man, it is also necessary for the nation. As the soul of man needs to be developed, so also does the soul of the nation.
(Adapted from The Project Gutenberg EBook of Fundamentals of Prosperity, by Roger W. Babson)

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