I Dare Say – Prophecy (5-8-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (May 8, 1944)



By Florence Fisher Parry

There are great men, granite men, today. There must be, else how could the great miracle of our war production and invasion preparation astound the world and provide history its most miraculous page?

Yet when we look around us to single out the giants, we find that they are hard to find. Their single stature does not tower above the others; rather are we struck by the aggregate strength, the aggregate stature.

We look at our Supreme Court and we find there, not the great jurists of the past, but rather a duplication of any average group of 12 men that could be assembled from any town’s or city’s leading citizens. We look at the men in the President’s Cabinet, and their faces no not strike us as being marked by an unusual statesmanship; nor is the composite face of our Congress much different than that of any man who is rated a factor in his community.

Today I read an editorial that was written by one of the giants of 40 years ago. He was called “the Horace Greeley of the West.” He was indeed the West’s pioneer editor. He founded and built The Portland Oregonian, and during the years of his custodianship, more great truths, prophecies and warnings were to be found in the editorials he wrote than in any that have been penned since by one man.

I want you to read this editorial written March 16, 1901 (43 years ago), by Harvey W. Scott. It is called “Industry’s Immortal Foe.”

The threat

Here it is, in part:

What is the goal toward which the unions are tending with their strenuous effort to destroy competition? The only way to answer this question is to consider what competition has done for the world; and what competition has done for the world is simply everything.

All that has been done came through struggle, has been built up through struggle, which alone gives strength. In the fight is developed valor, in the battle of 10 for the subsistence that suffice for only five, are the weak and inefficient eliminated. Do we want ease? The only path thither lies over the rough rocks of acquisition and denial.

What gave New England its leadership in American achievement but its fierce winters and stony soil and enforced vigilance against king and savage? What made England great at sea but the hostile fleets that menaced her isolated island’s very existence? What has given us modern electrical appliances of power and light but the pressure of competing interests upon inventors? What but the fierce rivalry of opposing camps has perfected telegraphy, and steel manufacture, and coal production, and goldmining processes, the texture of our fabrics, the attractiveness of our newspapers, the appointment of trains and steamships, the convenience and endurance of our buildings, the excellence of the very clothes we wear and the food we eat?


Is one man more expert than another? Then shall he join the union, do no more work than his lazy mate, and earn no more pay? Is one factory better equipped than another? Then shall it run fewer hours or close up altogether? Has one railroad a shorter line than its rival? Then shall it run on slower schedule? Is one superintendent more deft than another in dealing with his men? Then shall he deliver his authority over to an employer’s association, that all may share alike?

Socialism is in the air. It has conquered the ranks of labor and permeated the schools of learning, and now it marches on the erstwhile citadel of individualism, the captains of industry. They may not succeed, but if they succeed, they will fail, and in the crash of that failure will go down the most colossal ruin of human history. In the day that the competitive system is thrown away, our doom is sealed.

Without incentive, ambition will die away. Without rivalry, exertion loses its point. We shall fall to a dead level of mediocrity, the props will be withdrawn. The great machine will revolve a whole of its own accumulated momentum, and then it will stop.

And upon the ruins of what is left the survivors will erect another system, still imperfect, no doubt, but purged of this insidious error of socialism. Through some such dread experience as this we may have to pass, for Nature will make her lessons understood, at whatever cost is necessary, to those who would set her at defiance.

The process of creation is not to be reversed because some of the participants are tired of the struggle!

Thus spoke a prophet 43 years ago. What eloquence would have been his today!


Interesting that the ‘Horace Greeley of the West’ didn’t understand industrial production. No matter how good an individual is they can’t outperform the team, a process can only work at the speed of it’s slowest element and achieved through the co-operation of the team rather than internal competition. Excellence comes from a healthy balance of competition and co-operation, not through adherence to monolithic dogma.