Which rich businessmen are our friends and which are not? An interesting ethical question.

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Henry Ford built motor cars for everybody, paid his workers well and advanced the nation in many positive ways.

On Sunday, September 16, 2012, John Begg wrote:

..a friend sent me this–have a look–his attitudes are in basic sync with some of my own:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/03/opinion/henry-ford-when-capitalists-cared.html?_r=1

On Mon, Sep 17, 2012 at 2:05 AM, Stephen wrote:

Thanks, John.

That’s exactly what you’ve told me about Ford and his workers.

Both parties still need convincing. Especially that one party which seems to believe Jesus wrote the second amendment and well paid workers is wealth redistribution and a pernicious form of communism.

Hedrick Smith First became well-known for a book on “the Russians” written back during the Reagan administration. Oops, longer ago than that-it was in 1975. I don’t think he has spent much time being a reporter since then. Although apparently he is a producer for frontline.

Steve

Good morning Steve, good morning to our early group:

Yes, indeed, Mr. Henry Ford understood the basics, that seem to have been forgotten by many today, that in a consumer society, if the majority cannot afford to buy your products, you are out of business. In fact, Ford had some real hot exchanges with Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and others who wanted to keep motor cars exclusive to our set–which is odd as, it was Ford, who separated Rockefeller from the large league of merely very rich men to a place occupied by Rockefeller alone, the richest man in the world, by making Ford motor cars available for everyone.

Rockefeller was famous for saying that “I believe that the ability to make money is a gift from God Jesus.” Well, well, when I first read this quote as a lad, I laughed and asked the teacher–“Is Rockefeller not Catholic? “That is, does he not realize that the ability to make no money and to be homeless and poor is likewise a gift from God Jesus–every condition and ability is a gift from God? That is, the condition of all of us is a gift from God?”

The teacher’s response was “John, Mr. Rockefeller was the richest man on the world.” I could not see the connection between my question and teacher’s response, but the minds of my teachers were generally not curious, top-tier or very interesting. From first day of first grade, I found formal schooling to be boring and tedious and unproductive, as did Rockefeller, who left school as a wee lad despite his teacher having warned “you’ll not get very far without even a grade school education.” To which Rockefeller responded “I know what I want, school is a waste of my time.” I, too, was largely inattentive at school as teachers were generally boring, second and third tier minds, at best, and had nothing to say of any consequence or of interest to me–with a very few, most notable, exceptions. Their minds were simply not arrested by interesting things.

Steve, I am indebted to you, and others addressed, for introducing me to your Mr Hedrick Smith, until yesterday unknown to me. A brief spin through Mr. Smith’s new book Who Stole The American Dream?, linked here, suggests to me that Mr Smith is on a path similar to the one travelled by myself and others in our group:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/03/opinion/henry-ford-when-capitalists-cared.html

Mr Hedrick Smith wrote recently in The New York Times words on point to this subject of today, an outtake from his comments follows and I agree with his sentiments in this outtake wholeheartedly:

“In short, German leaders have practiced stakeholder capitalism and followed the century-old wisdom of Henry Ford, while American business and political leaders have dismantled the dynamics of the “virtuous circle” in pursuit of downsizing, offshoring and short-term profit and big dividends for their investors.

Today, we are all paying the price for this shift. As Ford recognized, if average Americans do not have secure jobs with steady and rising pay, the economy will be sluggish. Since the early 1990s, we have been mired three times in “jobless recoveries.” It’s time for America’s business elites to step beyond political rhetoric about protecting wealthy “job creators” and grasp Ford’s insight: Give the middle class a better share of the nation’s economic gains, and the economy will grow faster. Our history shows that.”

As to present day political follies, my Party is, or at least was, supposed to be the Party of enlightened self-interest. Of which, Mr Ford, who realized that in order for him to get very rich, normal men needed a good wage to buy his product in mass numbers. “I want everyone in America driving a Ford motor car he would say–everybody.” Of not which, Mr Rockefeller, on whom that lesson was lost, but who profited mightily from Ford’s idea to get everyone behind the wheel and could not see that goal would make him, that is Rockefeller, truly rich, as he would be pumping his product into all the Ford motor cars in the land.

I suppose the lesson, or simply one lesson, from all this, is that there is a need for societal discourse on this topic: The rich are necessarily and beneficially much-needed elements of the social contract, in fact they are the sine qua, as it is they who have the capacity to improve the physical lot of man by employing him at a good job. To those who have adopted alien attitudes respecting the rich, I caution them, destroy rich men and you kill the golden goose. To those rich men who have forgotten that making poor men comfortable is the surest way, perhaps only way, to ensure that rich men will get richer still, I caution them to say every morning in the shaving glass “I, rich man, will become richer man only if my product is purchased by the mass population and the population can only purchase my product if I, and other rich men, pay them well and take good care of them.”

I know nothing at all of the other Party, but I do hear murmurings that the other Party, or at least some members, are in high lather for hanging all the rich–an idea misguided, silly, self-defeating and dangerous. Both Parties need to adopt a formula through which to view the rich which asks–does this fella’s business model improve the lot of his workers or does it not?” If it does, please embrace this man. If the rich man is simply a gambler in Wall Street or City who produces nothing and employs no man and who connives to gamble with the lives of the poor, do anything you want to him. After all the purpose of allowing rich businessmen to be fairly free and unfettered is, that the enlightened among them, will mass produce consumer products for our consumer economy and help the people to advance the social ladder.

I recall here the patriarch of the Kennedy’s, Joseph, who, as youngest bank president in America was presented with this very dilemma and when a fellow from the neighborhood came in cap in hand to ask assistance–this was back when there were real neighborhoods in America, Kennedy directed that his partner, who had $50 bill at the ready to help the neighbor in strained circumstances and who had a family to feed and was now not employed, to attend to a lesson.

Kennedy said to his partner, “do not give the man $50 bill, a fair amount back then, give him $50 bill and a job, so that he can hold his head up and be a proud member of the neighborhood.” Daddy Kennedy was a bit frisky and unfettered respecting how he, personally, made money, as were the other men named here, but he had the correct attitude, in that vignette at least, about the workers. Happy and industrious workers are what makes the world spin ’round.

So lets agree, in our morning group with guidance from all we know, a formula: let’s agree that if a businessman produces a product that discernibly, tangibly, helps his employees to a better life, and by extension, other businessmen piggy back off that fellow to likewise help other workers, he is our friend. And, if he does not conduct his business in this manner, he, is, well, not our friend.

John

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