Address by Economic Club President Allen B. Crow (12-27-44)

Address by Economic Club President Allen B. Crow
December 27-28, 1944

Delivered at Michigan Conference on Higher Education, Ann Arbor, Michigan

I am very grateful for the honor and the privilege of having been asked to participate in this Michigan Conference on Higher Education because of certain guideposts to my thinking and my attitudes toward the future, which have become firmly implanted as a result of having earned my own way, as well as that of my children, through the colleges and the universities, and of more than 35 years’ experience – both personally and in cooperation with others – as an employee and as an employer – in the field of H-I-R-E education.

Also, I am pleased that I am here among friends. Certainly, no other group is so dependent upon and so indebted to the prosperity of American industry as are all of those who are engaged in the pursuit of higher education, whether it be as students, instructors or administrators.

The schools, colleges and universities of the United States, and those who participate in their affairs, are supported from one or more of the following sources: Taxes, gifts and tuition fees. All of this money is derived and can be maintained only to the extent that American industry is profitable to those who own and operate the business.

Further, only prosperous industries can provide jobs in sufficient number, variety and with adequate vocational opportunities to employ the graduates, not only of Michigan’s institutions of higher learning, but also of the much larger number who come from its primary and secondary schools.

If you ask for proof of this, let me refer you to those states and to those communities of the United States and of other nations, which in relation to their population have not become highly industrialized and whose industries are not being conducted upon a profitable basis. There I will show you schools, colleges and universities which are below standard in every particular, because the taxes and the gifts derived directly and indirectly from those industries which have not been sufficiently developed along modern lines and which are not prosperous, are inadequate to provide those educational institutions with the funds necessary for their support and enlargement, for adequate salaries for their instructors, for the maintenance of their buildings and equipment, as well as jobs for the students who graduate from their classes.

Also, wherever industries are not prosperous, gifts and bequests to institutions of higher learning are not numerous nor can they be, since self-preservation is the first law of life and of industry.

Taxes which cannot be paid out of the profitable earnings of industry and of those employed by it, are confiscatory, and under such conditions both the educator and the taxpayer awaken to discover that “the power to tax is the power to destroy.”

Further, the amount and the security of the income to be derived from whatever endowment funds generous alumni and friends have donated in the past to the colleges and universities of Michigan are also entirely dependent upon the prosperity and the profits of the industries, the railroads, the utilities and the real estate into which these funds have been invested.

I am quite aware that there are some among us who are clamoring to have our institutions of higher education more largely subsidized by appropriations from our federal government. I ask you, however, do you want the control of our Michigan educational institutions to pass on to Washington? Where is such great wisdom for training the youth of Michigan to be found, outside the State of Michigan? What money has Washington to give to our colleges and universities, which it has not already taken away more than a hundredfold from the taxpayers of Michigan? How can the schools, colleges and universities of Michigan accept money from Washington in larger and larger amounts and still maintain their “academic freedom”? Rather let us help the industries of Michigan to become prosperous for the years that lie ahead. Then, and then only, will our educational institutions be assured of abundant income from endowment funds, taxes, gifts and tuitions to maintain their operations on higher levels of accomplishment and efficiency, and also to provide worthwhile jobs and advancement for their students upon graduation.

Do you, as the administrators and the faculty members of the institutions of higher learning in Michigan, want your courses, your textbooks and your lectures to be supervised and censored by an omnipotent centralized government, where three percent or less of the population control the life, the liberties and the limits on the pursuit of happiness of every citizen of the state; where those in control determine what is to be printed; what books are to be destroyed; what subjects are to be taught; which schools and libraries are to be closed or torn down and which professors are to be banished or liquidated as political exiles?

Where the people are regimented and rationed by the edicts or the ruler of a highly centralized government, whether he reigns in his own right or as the puppet of a group without regard to constitutional limitations on his authority, of what avail is the study of law? Where the weak and the aged are lulled or allowed to starve, of what avail is the practice of medicine? Where the sciences and the arts of engineering are directed primarily to the instruments and methods of war, of what avail is industry? Where the family and the worship and the laws of God are of no concern to the state, of what avail is education, religion and even life itself?

What shall we say of the future of education if it is to be determined by those who aspire to change our nation from a government of, by and for all our people to a government of, and for only those who work with their hands – regardless of their educational and character qualifications and their willingness or unwillingness to assume responsibility for the consequences of their own acts, upon the welfare of our people as a whole?

You tell me that they are now organizing the office workers, the professional workers and the teachers of our elementary and secondary schools and of our institutions of higher education. May I ask you, is it not about time that we begin to recognize that there is room only for one big union in America – “E Pluribus Unum” – “an indissoluble union” for the common purpose of achieving and maintaining peace, freedom and prosperity for all, and not to permit American men and women to become the pawns of any group, class or business agents who cannot agree among themselves, so that production must be stopped while they engage in wildcat or in jurisdictional strikes?

Also, is it not about time for those who are seeking “security from the cradle to the grave” to be told that we must first lift some of the shackles which have been imposed by both government and by organized labor upon industry in the hope of catching a few rascals, but which have been holding all business down?

How can our industries provide jobs and maintain our American standards of living, in which our “barest necessities” constitute “the luxuries” for almost all the other countries of the world, unless labor and government first unite with industry in taking steps immediately to insure the greatest possible production, prosperity and security for those industries upon which we must all depend, if we are to survive in the fierce post-war competition against lower-cost-production areas in Europe and in the Far East for the trade and commerce of the world?

Back in 1912 and 1913, while a student at Columbia University in the classes of that great philosopher and teacher, John Dewey, I learned, “Nothing is good in itself. To be good, anything and everything must be good for something.”

Now let us examine three specific problems which the colleges and universities of Michigan should recognize in planning their policies and their programs in the fields of higher education during the years that lie immediately ahead.

Following the war, the American people will not be satisfied to drive automobiles of 1942 and prior vintage, very long.

They are awaiting only victory, to begin spending billions now held in cash, bank accounts and war bonds with the producers of new automobiles, houses, furnishings, radios, television, airplanes, travel and whatnot, more than ever before in the history of mankind.

Competition is the life of trade in America. Those industries prosper most which give most to their customer for his dollar. The growth and the profits of every industrial concern in the United States is ultimately the measure and the reward for values which their customers have received for the money which they have paid for what they could buy from those firms rather than from their competitors.

You men award the highest degrees and honors of your colleges and universities to those members of your faculties, your students and to those citizens of the world who have “made a contribution to knowledge,” or who have stood out among their fellows because of distinguished and unselfish service to mankind.

Daily in your classroom and in your laboratories the work of each student is graded “Average,” “Above Average” or “Below Average.”

On athletic fields and in your gymnasiums, your students train for months as individuals and as teams to win in competition. You and those whom you instruct, are not satisfied to be listed as among those who “also ran.” Every one of you on the campus is there to win, and each of you want each and every team of your alma mater to win.

Breathes there even a Professor, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself has said
(As he grades the examination papers
Of the stars on your football and track teams)
That it is far better to pass said stars
Than for said stars
Never to have played at all.

Further what does “making the team” and “winning one’s letter” mean, except that you are promoting loyalty to “the old college spirit,” whereby each of your students will highly resolve that he,
In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Now suppose we follow one of these young potential industrial heroes, after he has listened to your commencement address, and after you have given him his sheepskin, perhaps inscribed with a summa cum laude, or perhaps after he has come back from World War II with a Congressional Medal and the Purple Heart. We shall watch him as he goes into one of our industrial plants to land a job, and to win new laurels in his chosen life career, as well as the wherewithal to provide a home for himself and his loved ones.

It will not be long, however, until our young hero will find himself confronted with some of those who are working, “tooth and toenail,” to put every employee in every industrial plant in America into a situation of which this is typical:

“Which union do you belong to, Buddy?”

“Well, if you don’t join our union right now, and hurry up and pay your initiation fees and dues, it’s just going to be too bad, for you ain’t going to get and keep any job around here.”

“Anyhow there’s too many ahead of you now what’s got seniority.”

“Why work so hard and show up the rest of us?”

“Just take it easy now, young man. Make your job last longer, so that all of us will get more overtime pay.”

“Also don’t you dare ask anybody what we are going to do with your money, either.”

“Don’t you know that the only way to get what we want, around here, is to have the shop steward call a strike?”

Presidents, deans and faculty members of the colleges and universities of Michigan, what I have just recited to you is not imagination, nor is it fiction. To make it very concrete, you, yourselves, realize what it means when the students of your schools of music are not permitted to play in hotels or over the radio, or when those who have to earn their way through college cannot work in a restaurant as a waiter to secure their own food without a union card.

Instances like the above are occurring day after day in industrial plants all over the United States.

While we have laws to punish any industrial concern which operates under “cartels” in international commerce, and laws to abolish “monopolies” and “combinations in restraint of trade” upon the part of any corporations or individuals doing business and providing employment here in America, such monopolies and restraints on trade practiced by the representatives of organized labor are apparently still “above the law,” or as in the case of Mr. Petrillo, they have not yet been made to “come under the law.”

Consequently, freedom in competition, especially to secure employment and to advance one’s self on the job, constitutes one of the major “new problems which colleges should recognize in planning for the years that lie ahead.”

So, I ask you – what do you think should be done about it?
It is the squeaking axle that gets the grease

The above is the very practical slogan of certain pressure groups which crowd the Halls of Congress, of our State Legislatures and of our City Halls.

Although this slogan is quite prevalent in the ranks of organized labor, it is by no means confined there. Trade associations, business and industrial organizations as well as the representatives of the farmers, the professions, of various racial and other minority and class-conscious groups have become equally proficient in maintaining large and aggressive lobbies to “get what they want, when they want it.” Accordingly, never has it been more true than in this year of our Lord, that “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

Also, in too many instances it has become a case of–
If you will scratch my back, I will scratch yours–
and this has been further supplemented with–
It is not so important what you know
As who you know.

Because of the above, your students must learn a lot more than they can ever discover in books or on the University Campus. In fact, the world is moving so fast, that most of our books are out of date even before their authors can get them printed. Life has become so complex, and so technical that it may well be said of almost any of our leaders of industry,
…still the wonder grew,
That one small head could carry all he knew.

Indeed, is not the genius of America’s top industrial executives, and of those who assist them in directing their affairs, to be found in their ability to make progress by cooperating with others who know more about a given subject than they do themselves?

If you can ever get an industrialist to admit that he knows a subject, you will find that he means that he has, after long and laborious research and experiment, been able to invent or create something. He has been able to put it together and to make it work so that his fellow men want to use it and will buy it. Thus, it has come to make him, as its producer, enough profit whereby he can remain in business as long as he keeps at least a jump ahead of his competitors, who are constantly galloping close at his heels with improvements.

Now the main difficulty with many of our institutions of higher learning, is that their students too frequently have gained the impression that if they can tear something to pieces, which God or man has originally put together, and then give names to its various component parts that they know a subject. Also, such students somehow have gained the impression after they have crammed enough courses with sufficient points to graduate that they have been fully educated, “once and for all time.”

To correct this, a few colleges and universities have been selecting their instructors from among those who have had some actual experience in business or in industry in addition to their academic or technical training. Further, the subject matter of the courses in these college and university classrooms and laboratories is geared in directly, but not so as to overlap, with the responsibilities which their students later will be called upon to assume following graduation.

Finally, as the third and most important step, the students themselves alternate their time between their studies in their classrooms and laboratories and their work in actual production in the shops or offices of the industrial plants, commercial establishments or financial institutions.

Consequently, upon graduation they will be able to continue their work-study program, so as to learn while they earn. Such graduates are respected by their fellow workmen for what they know how to use in production, as well as for what they have studied. More important, such graduates have acquired sense enough to ask intelligent questions. They are able to find out what they do not know, from those who do know. They do not claim themselves to “know it all,” and false pride will not make them afraid to reveal what they do not know because of the questions that they ask.

Rather than being defeated at the outset, by “an inferiority complex” which arises from having to work alongside of men and women who unblushingly declare that they themselves “know a damn sight more about the job, because they have not been educated,” the graduates from such courses of industry-education cooperation, at the beginning of their permanent jobs are ready, and unafraid, to make progress through gaining the cooperation of those with whom they are working. Certainly, in an industrial plant in particular… It is always better not to know so much than to know so much that ain’t so.

During a recent conference which I was privileged to have with an instructor who had the responsibility for arranging a schedule of courses for one of our Engineering Schools, I gained the impression that educators frequently find it necessary to proceed like the dermatologist who shoots 100 irritants into our body in the hope that he will discover at least one to which the student is allergic, or will “get excited about” – knowing full well that most students so injected will not produce any distinctive reaction whatever – and that the percentage of negative reactions will greatly increase with the number of injections inserted into either the curriculum or the cranium. Or to phrase it differently, if our children are to be expected to learn to swim to save their lives and those of others, perhaps the sooner and the more frequently both they and their instructors wet at least their feet, in the world of actual experience in the production of goods and services, the better, regardless of whether the water in which they are learning to swim has 98 degrees or not.

Hence progress through cooperation between industry and education presents not only one of the newest problems, but also one of the most potentially fruitful opportunities which “colleges should recognize in planning for the years that lie ahead.”

In far too many instances, have we not been content to let our educational processes atrophy at the childhood, “Gimme,” or “Letter to Santa Claus” stage? Are we not inclined to refer to ourselves, as being educated, because of the “breadth of our culture,” and the “heights and depths of our appreciation.”

Accordingly, another problem which our colleges and universities must not only recognize, but also one with which they must wrestle and finally solve in the years that lie ahead, is how to make education function more largely in providing all the people of America, with both the “knowhow,” and the means by the time they have reached voting age or before, to discover that “There is no Santa Claus.” Hence, higher education, if it has not been learned before, must include among its primary functions, the instruction of folks in how to acquire what they need and what they want, by taking care of themselves.

In international affairs, we roughly divide the world into “The Have” and “The Have Not” nations.

International security may mean, therefore, any one of three things:

A. Shall we attempt to set up a permanent arrangement in the hope of maintaining the “status quo”? Call it by whatever name you please – this will not work in the future, as it has not worked in the past, since the nations which are now big and strong, will want to stay big and strong. Also, one or more of the nations which are now small and weak, will want to become big and strong, so that shortly "power politics” will begin its devilish work of destruction. Shall we attempt to take away from the nations which are big and strong, and distribute what they have acquired, by means which have been both fair and foul, among the nations which are now small and weak? This is the process of war, from which the pages of history are still dripping, red with human blood.

B. Shall we educate those nations which are big and strong, to the point where they will finally discover that they may enjoy their greatest prosperity for themselves, not by exploiting but rather by industrializing and trading with those which are small and weak. This is our hope for achieving freedom, peace and higher standards of living for all the nations after victory in World War II, not by America providing a bottle of milk for every Hottentot, but by our helping every Hottentot to become a capitalist, an industrialist and a businessman.

Regarding the desirability of our attaining the above very worthy objective, there can be no question. As to the possibility and probability of America soon participating in such a program of world development, prosperity and peace, however, there is now arising in the minds of some of us a very serious question. That question in substance is this:

How can American industry pay its labor increasingly higher wages for less and less work and continue to sell its products in the markets of the world, particularly during the postwar period? We are advised by those who have recently returned from abroad that England’s labor cost in production, is about one-half that now prevailing in the United States; that Russia’s is also considerably less than England’s because of Russia’s lower basic wage rates, their wide adoption of various types of incentive payments, longer hours of employment and centralized control and regimentation, not only of production and of the living conditions of their people but of their markets as well?

Then add to this, that Germany’s and Japan’s costs of production on manufactured items are about one-third to one-sixth of our own, and that unless we destroy both Germany and Japan they will destroy us, industrially and commercially, as well as by force of arms.

Further, let us consider the competition which we must face through industrialization of India, China and of Latin America to whom we are now making available our products, our machines and our equipment, together with our engineering genius, our manpower and our capital funds.

How are we to engage in international trade and raise the standards of living of the people of the backward nations, while we at the same time are promoting their further industrialization by teaching and equipping them to manufacture products which will compete with our own, not only here in America but also in our other markets around the world? As things are now tending, will it not shortly be labor, rather than industry, which will be asking for higher and higher tariffs to maintain present and prospective wage levels here in America, and thereby promote general nationalistic isolation and restrictions on world trade? May not this unbalanced international situation provide American capital with strong inducements to leave high-cost production areas, such as Michigan, and to decentralize its operations through the establishment of new plants in the south, and in the west of the United States, where labor and living costs are lower, if not indeed to invest its money beyond the boundaries of the United States, as England and other colonizing countries have done for years? By doing this they will be able to compete in larger measure in raising the standards of living of the backward nations and to develop their own trade, employment and prosperity, because of the lower unit-costs of production which such foreign investments may make possible for them? In other words, how shall we be able to provide increased postwar employment in the United States by raising the standards of living from improved methods of production by the backward peoples of the earth, without incurring the risk of lowering the levels of our own “American way of life” to theirs, through the channels of free competition in international trade, because of the higher and higher costs for labor, and for taxes which the industries of the United States are being called upon to assume?

Likewise in our efforts to provide security for our individual citizens and in our national affairs, are we not brought back to the same alternatives which we face if we are to obtain peace, prosperity and security in international affairs?

A. Shall we attempt to maintain the “status quo,” whereby those industries and those individuals which are today big and strong, and those industries and individuals that are small and weak, shall continue as such? Human nature and progress being what they are, this is both inadvisable and impossible.

B. Shall we follow the injunction of the Apostle Paul, that those who are strong among our industries and our individual citizens “should bear the infirmities of the weak”? If this is to be our answer, shall the many be taxed for the benefits of the few, or shall the few be taxed to provide benefits for the many? Assuming that we enforce by taxation or otherwise such a distribution of this world’s goods, rather than to depend upon the voluntary basis recommended by St. Paul, upon what theory of law and equity shall we proceed, and be justified, and how long will such equal benefits be held or enjoyed by those to whom they are so distributed?

C. Our only remaining alternative then, if America is to attain security for all, in its relation with its corporations and its individual citizens, appears to be to proceed as in the case of its international affairs referred to above, viz: with incentives for performance and penalties for failure, to educate those corporations and those individuals which are big, strong and efficient, as well as those corporations and those individuals which are small, weak and inefficient, until they can be made to understand, that their highest obligation and their greatest opportunity for prosperity for themselves, and for all our peoples, is to dedicate and to employ themselves, and all that they have, so as to produce in fair competition in the markets of America and of the world, the highest possible volume of goods and services which their customers want, and at prices which their customers are willing to pay.

Here is an uncharted sea for adult education, as the colleges and universities of Michigan look to the future. Universal education therefore remains as the only lasting hope for security in our democracy and in a war-torn world. It must be the kind of education, however, which promotes freedom in competition, progress through cooperation, and security for all peoples around the world. Further, unlike the education of ancient China, it must provide instruction which deals directly with the world in which we are living and as we find that world today.

When a great man dies, we are accustomed to ask “What did he leave?” and the answer always comes back, “He left all that he had.” You, as educators, however, are the trustees of the ageless past for the eternal future.

To you educators, we look for “survival of the fittest.” To you is given the challenge of leading us on to new and better days. You carry the torch to guide us, for “without a vision, the people perish.”

The problems I have enumerated above have been set forth only because you have asked for them. I also have kept constantly in mind that you are in the business of making men and that when strong men appear, big problems disappear.

To each of you in attendance at this conference I am, therefore, making available a copy of Victory for Freedom.

Also, in the event that anything which I have said may prove worthy of further consideration by any of you, I have in this loose-leaf binder which I hold before you, letters which I shall be pleased to make available to a committee which Superintendent Eugene B. Elliott may care to appoint, bearing upon the subject that I have attempted to discuss today, and which I have received in answer to my requests during the past ten days, from leaders in every phase of the industrial life of the State of Michigan and beyond. The observations and recommendations of these men are given in a way which I am confident will stimulate not only your interest but also your constructive and vigorous further investigation and cooperation, in working out a program, particularly among the colleges and universities of Michigan, which will enable us all to measure up increasingly to the responsibilities which business, labor, education and government will be called upon to face during the months and years immediately ahead.

Because of the outstanding contribution which the colleges and universities of Michigan, and you men in particular who are responsible for conducting their affairs, have made in the past in training and equipping the men and women of Michigan for leadership in every field of endeavor, in the arts and in the sciences, I am sure that insofar as you, your students and all of the people of America have the zeal to discover the facts, and the courage to deal with them, that we shall be able to work out together the answers to these problems and that again out of the agony of war, “this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

If we are to avail ourselves fully of the benefits of civil aviation, and if we are to use the automobiles we can produce, it will be necessary to construct thousands of airports and to overhaul our entire national highway system.

The provision of a decent home for every family is a national necessity, if this country is to be worthy of its greatness – and that task will itself create great employment opportunities. Most of our cities need extensive rebuilding. Much of our farm plant is in a state of disrepair. To make a frontal attack on the problems of housing and urban reconstruction will require thoroughgoing cooperation between industry and labor, and the federal, state and local governments.

An expanded social security program and adequate health and education programs must play essential roles in a program designed to support individual productivity and mass purchasing power. I shall communicate further with the Congress on these subjects at a later date.