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No. 109 "Entrenched Greed" Speech of Dr. George Barton Cutten, President of Colgate University before the New York Chapter, American Institute of Banking, February 8, 1936. American Liberty League. 400dpi TIFF G4 page images Digital Library Services, University of Kentucky Libraries Lexington, Kentucky Am_Lib_Leag_109 These pages may freely searched and displayed. Permission must be received for subsequent distribution in print or electronically. No. 109 "Entrenched Greed" Speech of Dr. George Barton Cutten, President of Colgate University before the New York Chapter, American Institute of Banking, February 8, 1936. American Liberty League. American Liberty League. Washington, D.C. 1936. This electronic text file was created by Optical Character Recognition (OCR). No corrections have been made to the OCR-ed text and no editing has been done to the content of the original document. Encoding has been done through an automated process using the recommendations for Level 1 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines. Digital page images are linked to the text file. AN INVITATION TO JOIN THE AMERICAN LIBERTY LEAGUE We extend to every American citizen who believes in the fundamental principles which gave birth to the Constitution of the United States an invitation to become a member of the American Liberty League. Yon may indicate your acceptance of this invitation by rilling in the necessary information as to your name and address on the enrollment blank below and mailing it to American Liberty League, National Press Building, Washington, D. C. There are no fees or dues. If you are willing and able to give monetary help for the League's support your contribution will be appreciated, as our activities are supported entirely by the volnntary gifts of our members. ENROLLMENT BLANK Date_ I favor the principles and purposes of the Ameri Liberty League and request that I be enrolled as ( regular [ *contributing Signature_ membe Name (Mr. Mrs. Miss) *As a contributing member I desire to give % _ to help support the activities of the League: Cash herewith_Installments as follows: _ Entrenched Greed â˜… â˜… â˜… Speech of DR. GEORGE BARTON GOTTEN President of Colgate University and Member of the National Advisory Council of the American Liberty League before the New York Chapter, American Institute of Banking February 8, 1936 AMERICAN LIBERTY LEAGUE National Headquarters NATIONAL PRESS BUILDING WASHINGTON, D. C. Document No. 109 Entrenched Greed â˜… ThOSE WHO occupy high offices in the land, and especially is this true of elective offices, should be listened to with careful consideration and respect by those who are citizens of the great republic. Up to the present time, this does not prevent us from scrutinizing any uttered statements questioningly, and, I may say, even critically. With this in mind I should like to bring to your attention two quotations from the address which the President of the United States made to Congress on the occasion of the meeting of that body on January third of this year. The first quotation consists of two words "entrenched greed" used in reference to certain of our citizenry. Whom he meant by this was quite apparent. He left no ground for ambiguity. He meant such men as you are- or such men as you hope to be. What he said about you was far from flattering. He left the impression upon all who heard or read his address that you are dangerous men, and the more successful you are in your professional and business life the more dangerous you will become. It is a matter of great regret on the part of those who possess wealth that it is not entrenched more securely. Concentration of wealth is a temporary affair and less potent than many suppose. Wealth tends to dissipate itself by its own weight. It has a way of disappearing. If it lasted and increased as the mathematicians would have us believe is possible, it would crush us. For example, the mathematician will tell you that one dollar invested at the beginning of the Christian era would increase at compound interest to some staggering sum far beyond my comprehension but it never does! If Croesus' possessions had any lasting power, and interest had to be paid on them, he would long ago have exhausted all wealth, have owned the whole world and had a mortgage on its satellite. Where is the Croesus fortune now? Who can tell? Our MEMORY does not have to be very tenacious to lead us to know what effect depressions have upon fortunes. Now taxes are helping depressions. Changes of values make rich men poor. My grandfather, a bluff old sea captain, saved his money and invested it in wooden ships. As a sailor, he knew how safe such investments were. He never made a voyage when he did not make money for his owners. He lived to see wooden ships a drug on the market and his modest fortune entirely gone. You have seen the same process of destruction going on within the last few years in connection with interurban railroads and trolley lines; at one time a profitable investment, now the unused rails are rusting in the streets. I do not know that the economists have formulated a law concerning this, but we all know that fortunes tend to flatten out. If all else fails, the second or third generations effectively distribute it, and shirtsleeves again appear in the family. The fact that we have no law of primogeniture in this country and that a fortune goes not to the oldest but is distributed among aU the children tends to divide whatever power money has and to equalize its benefits. How few fortunes have lasted a century! As the lasting quality of fortunes has been greatly exaggerated, so also has the political power of money been exaggerated. It has some effect, but it has always been local and limited. The instinct of flight with its accompanying emotion of fear can sway elections in this or any other country so much more effectively than money that the two are not to be compared. The last two elections in this country were so dominated by flight that money would have been without influence had it been used: it was the merest bagatelle. In 1928 we fled from Smith, in 1932 from Hoover we cared not where we went. The attempt to try to prove that monied interests took us into the world war has so far appeared a boomerang to the investigators. Documentary evidence proved the desire on the part of the capitalist to conform to the wishes of the government. Patriotism is not a prerogative of the poor, and love of country is not a stranger to the rich. ON THE OTHER hand, no country in the history of the world has ever benefitted more than America from the concentration of capital. Examples surround us. See the benefits which have come from the RockefeUer fortune: colleges endowed, hospitals built, medical research encouraged, fatal diseases banished. Millions of people not only in this country but all over the world who have never heard the name of Rockefeller have been benefitted and made whole. I never saw Mr. Carnegie but I am a beneficiary of his business ability. Aged college professors, widows and orphans have been made glad, libraries have been builded, international relations have become more friendly because this man lived and gathered wealth. Not only colored men of the south but indirectly the white men as well have benefitted because Mr. Rosenwald chose to gather money in order to distribute it. My classmate Edward S. Harkness has lavished money upon Harvard and Yale as well as upon many other institutions and objects, so that men of the future may have advantages which no government could or would bestow. So one might continue if these are the greedy they have a magnificent way of expressing their greed. No monied men have ever destroyed a country or a civilization by their wealth, but, on the contrary, have contributed to both. Millions of people think that wealthy men keep their money in ten dollar bills deposited in a bank. When they talk about distribution of wealth the matter becomes very simple. All that is necessary is for those men to withdraw their money and pass it around. They little know that this is the money which provides steel mills and railroads and cotton factories and oil wells and the thousands of different industries which furnish opportunities for labor and for the new foundation for the creation of more wealth for the world. We are told that government could do this as well, but so far that is to be proved. Experiments up to the present date have not been encouraging. Wealth is not created by destroying property, and so far governments have been far more successful in spending money than in making it. ONE ADVANTAGE of the concentration of wealth in private hands is that individuals are always willing to take a risk for the benefit of progress too willing some times. In the days of canals in this state, whether they were owned and operated by the government or by private persons, the capital for railroads must have come from individuals, for no government would have dared to have invested in an enterprise like railroads which would have destroyed the work and income of so many citizens. While the government has given some encouragement through mail subsidies, it has been private capital which has developed the steamboat, the railroad engine, the motor truck, and the airplane. What is true in transportation is equally true in the other branches of industry. But we may go a step further: objection is made not only to concentration of capital in individual hands, but to the concentration of the wealth of many individuals in trusts or corporations. Some objectors have not thought their way through. We are living in the days of large enterprises, and large enterprises require great amounts of capital. When telephone lines operated in one town or county, when a railroad ran from Schenectady to Utica, when a large factory employed twenty men, not much capital was required for such a business. Now a telephone company operates from New York to California, railroads are transcontinental, single factories employ tens of thousands. Think of trying to telephone to San Francisco if sixty telephone companies operated the wires, think of going over a succession of railroads eighty miles long. You say it is impossible we cannot do it, and you are right, but with that inevitably comes a concentration of capital to finance the giant combinations of today. Fortunately, too, these large combinations do not increase costs but lower them, notwithstanding the claims of the trust busters. Did the breaking up of the Standard Oil in various companies reduce prices? Has the combination of automobile companies increased prices? Probably there has never been an industrial triumph equal to the automobile industry in this country which has successively year after year since the days of the gas buggy, given us a better automobile for less money. WHILE IT SEEMS that the capacity for greed was, by the President, attributed to persons like yourselves, greed is a state of mind not to be measured by success or attainment. I fear a college president may be as greedy for money as a millionaire, and a pauper may be as greedy as a college president. The hold which the so-called Townsend Plan and similar share-the-wealth schemes have gained among the people who have been financially unsuccessful shows quite conclusively that the capacity for greed for money is not confined to any one class, or if so, not to the successful class. Nor is greed confined to any one object. The original object of greed was food and some still show greed in this form. I would not be greedy for your money but I'm sure I would be for your old American silver, especially your spoons. Others would be greedy for stamps or for good clothes or for public acclaim. These forms of greed can only be harmful to the greedy, and others might not know or care concerning our greed. TflERE IS, however, another form of greed which is charged with danger to both the individual showing it and the community at large. The testimony of history is unanimous concerning its malignant results. It affects the most wealthy and the poorest in the land and lays its clutching hand upon great and small, the prince and the pauper, and that is the greed for concentrated political power. So I come to the second quotation from the President's speech to which I wish to call your attention. "In thirty-four months we have built up new instruments of political power," and he intimates that there are more to come. This greed we have a right to fear because its effects are so widespread and so vital. Never before have they been so dangerous. Formerly they were local and constricted, now because of the means of communication they are far more effective and widespread. Formerly they meant little to us economically for governments thought their duty was concerned with the regulation of conduct, the administration of justice, public defence, and public lands. Now with governments even trying to peek into our potato hills, and with all the resources of the country used as jugglers' toys, with billions passed to one man for dispersion on the eve of an election, concentrated political power touches the inmost being of the humblest citizen, and especiaUy does it affect him financially. We have really combined in modern days both political and economic power. And what power! The wildest dream of the nineteenth century could not have conceived of it. FOR TWO THOUSAND years and more we have been trying to reach a position where the danger of political greed would be eliminated. It has been a long road, it has been a rough road, and the way has been sprinkled with the blood of far-seeing men. It has, however, been a road which was leading toward the light of a better day. Feudalism curbed the absolute monarch, and both had to be destroyed to bring about the time when every man's home was a castle and when every voter was a king. Magna Charta had to be signed amid the threatenings of the people, and kings' heads rolled from the block. It was a stern business but a necessary one. We thought we had made concentration of power in an individual or a group impossible and we have done it in two ways. In the first place, we have distributed power over areas. Certain rights were granted to the federal government for all the country. Certain rights went to the states for definite area. The state in turn gave certain rights to counties, and townships, and cities, and these in turn gave certain rights to smaller areas such as boroughs and wards. We have believed that this distribution of power by areas would prevent the concentration which we feared. But we have not stopped there; we have tried to make assurance doubly sure by a distribution of power according to function and by different agencies. So we have the legislative, the executive, and the judicial functions to distribute power in another way. This distribution of power, admittedly formulated to prevent the concentration under which for milleniums the world has suffered, is guaranteed to us by the different constitutions, and our greatest fear now is that the safeguard which the Constitution vouchsafed to us will be overridden and disregarded and through political greed we shall again have slipped back two thousand years and have concentration of power. Is not that what we fear? Well, there is one thing I have had to admire in the President; amid many inconsistencies his attitude toward the Constitution has been most consistent. When the 18th Amendment was with us he showed little regard for the Constitution and he has shown little since. Some others who are now expressing their unbounded love and concern for the Constitution were not so expressive five years ago either in precept or practice. I have no doubt but that some present here thought it a great lark to flout the Constitution then, who are expressing overflowing adoration for it now. Well, you are reaping what you sowed it was you who taught the law makers to make a football out of the Constitution, and you cannot blame them for refusing to listen to your avowals of tender solicitude now. It IS NOT necessary for us to look into remote history to see disastrous results from political greed. Napoleon's greed for wealth did not destroy France, but his greed for political power which soon found France too small a field for its exploitation, endangered the whole world. Whatever may be our idea of the origin of the world war, there is no doubt but that the political greed of the German Kaiser was an important factor and we are still reaping the results. I am told that the richest man in the world is an Indian Prince. I am sorry, but I do not even know his name. No one fears him! He is not a world menace, he is not feared in his own country I believe I have read that he is much beloved and admired. I am told that the richest man in this country is Mr. Henry Ford. No one fears him; when his name is mentioned it brings pleasure rather than woe to everyone's heart. It is true he did not turn over his business to Wall Street for exploitation, or the conduct of it to Washington for destruction, but I admire him for these things. He is, I believe, a fine citizen. I know Mr. Ford, and think of him always as an interesting, kindly man whom I should like for my friend, not injuring anyone but giving employment at high wages to thousands and thousands of workers. If we do not fear this richest Indian Prince or this wealthy Mr. Ford, whom do we fear? We fear men who have concentrated political power in their hands. We fear Mussolini who seems to have no greed for wealth but unlimited greed for political power. A greed which has expanded beyond his own country and which threatens the world. We fear Hitler who is almost ascetic in his personal demands but whose greed for political power is increasing with the days. We fear Stalin who lives the life of a pauper but who rules with a rod of iron one of the greatest empires in the world, and whose greed for power may not stop there. If a person has money, so has some one else and the one has no monopoly; if he has concentrated political power he alone reigns and as greed fattens on its own growth more power is asked, more power is demanded, and the danger is that more power will be seized. Entrenched greed: i ask you to give your imaginations free rein and to endeavor to conjecture a situation which in this country would be most favorable to the entrenchment of political greed. When all the factors of the most fertile imaginations were brought together would they not add up to something like this: a time of depression when people are discouraged and confused, and willing to try any remedy; a time of unemployment and need; a theory of paternal and benevolent government; a belief in the inexhaustible resources of the Federal Government; a decision to force unborn generations to pay the bills; a subservient and spineless Congress looking for re-election; a carefully trained and much practiced spoils-master to distribute the gravy; and the modest implication and evident belief that only one man from among our one hundred twenty-five million population is capable of occupying the chief position in the government and by a fortunate concatination of circumstances only this one person can be trusted with the responsibility. Again I appeal to you can you imagine any additional factor which would aid in the entrenchment of political greed? Entrenched Greed! There is the greed of the glutton whose god is his body and whose glory is indigestion, there is the greed of the miser who gathers to hoard, there is the greed of the spendthrift who gathers to scatter, there is the greed of the collector whose instinct is simply to collect, but these are honest greeds we desire these things and we admit them. There is also political greed which always tries to disguise its intentions and hide itself behind the good of the people especiaUy the poor people, which sacrifices itself for the salvation of the country and for the deliverance of the world. Other greeds are picayune and harmless, but political greed gambles with the destinies of individuals born and unborn, nations present and to come, and allows no consideration to stand in the way of fulfiUing an insatiable urge for power.