Herbert Hoover Speeches: October 26, 1937
The New Deal
An Affirmative Program of American Ideals
This club has made this evening an especial occasion for the younger Republican leaders. It is a happy participation. The same spirit should be extended over the country. The Party must have new faces and new blood. It must incorporate more youth, both men and women, in its councils. The Party needs the sincerity, the undaunted courage of youth. It is the idealism and virility of youth which bring forward motion.
The rumor has been going about for the past five years that opportunity for youth is gone in American life. We hear of a lost generation. I said once that for 150 years God-fearing people under the blessings of freedom have built up quite a plant and equipment on this continent. The nation teems with millions of farms and homes and cattle and pigs, despite the AAA. There are railroads, highways, power plants and factories, stores and banks, and economic royalists. There are towns and magnificent cities. There are newspapers, colleges, libraries, orchestras, bands, radios, and other noises. It is very sad to contemplate but it has probably occurred to you that all the people who live in these houses and all those who run this complicated machine are going to pass into the new world. Just as sure as death the job of running it is yours. And there are increasing opportunities in every inch of it. Furthermore, science and invention yearly give to us further mighty powers of progress. They create a thousand new frontiers of opportunity for youth.
But over this world have come vast problems in government which are the challenge to youth. Unless they be rightly solved there will be less opportunity.
One phase of these solutions is political party organization. So I propose to talk to you as Republicans about the Republican Party and the service it can offer in these days of national perplexity.
I am interested in building up the Republican Party not as a partisan but as a citizen. So let us look at it as citizens and not as politicians. We are concerned now with something greater than a game or securing public office.
The Republican Party even out of office is a national necessity as a unified opposition party to check excesses and protect minorities. But it has a mission far greater than just being against. Nor can it be built solely from a collection of politicians and a mass of committees, no matter how earnest and self-sacrificing they may be.
This party must have a fighting cause; it must have an affirmative program; it must present effective methods; it must have a forward purpose; it must have idealism, and it must be responsive to the needs and crises of the people. If a party should come into power without such definite purpose it would be of little good to the nation. It would mean only that a few people have got up to the public trough.
We are concerned with service in a national crisis. Our country must have emancipation from the moral degeneration of current government methods. It must have emancipation from what Walter Lippmann so aptly calls "gradual collectivism.” It must bring sanity and reform to destructive fiscal and economic policies which undermine the standards of living of the great economic middle class. It must make possible humanitarian objectives which are otherwise wrecked by wrongful and ineffective methods. Peace must be made more secure.
If that be so, all the wiles, the tricks, and the petty artfulness of politics are of minor moment.
Before I go further (not that it is of any importance but just to keep the air clean) let me repeat once again that I do not want any public office. I shall keep on fighting for those things vital to the American people. There is no form of words that will convince a suspicious politician that any man under 85 can have any other purpose for interesting himself in public affairs. The accusation of seeking office seems to be the highest intellectual level to which the opposition can rise when they are made uncomfortable by argument and new proposals.
There are five great categories of national issues today. The first are issues of moral integrity in government. The second are the vital issues of personal liberty and its safeguards. The third are those financial and economic policies which affect the standards of living of the people. The fourth are the humane issues of security and of aid for the less fortunate. The fifth are our relations to other nations.
Some of these issues are new in the last five years. Some have developed since the election. All of them are becoming increasingly vivid to the people.
The time has come when the Republican Party should be reoriented to these fundamental issues. No civilization is static. It must move forward or die. Therefore no party can be static. It must move forward with the times.
Our national question is not alone—Where are we going? But even more—Where do we want to go?
A group of important Republican leaders of all shades of thought have put forward a proposal that the party should select a Policy committee of its most distinguished men and women to draft an honest, courageous declaration of convictions, of positive principles and forward action. It is proposed that this draft should be submitted to a general conference of party leaders prior to the Congressional election. I support that suggestion. Such a Policy committee could well be continued to work out methods within those principles and convictions for solution of many national problems to be presented later on or to the 1940 convention. I am not concerned over details. I am deeply concerned that people who are losing their way shall be given a banner of moral and intellectual leadership around which they can rally as the inevitable day of disillusionment comes to them.
In the meantime no greater service can be given than discussion and debate of these fundamental questions. Governor Landon a few nights ago made a notable contribution to such discussion. Our Senators and Congressmen in their daily battles contribute to the formulation of ideas. Nothing could be more helpful than the formulation of constructive convictions and positive purposes by our State and local organizations and our Republican clubs and the press. The ideas of the Democratic Party are made by one man. We want to develop Republican ideas from the party. In the face of this crisis there is an ample area of ideas upon which to build unity.
My purpose tonight is not to forecast such a declaration. It is to urge that it be undertaken by the party and to outline something of the attitude or the point of view that could be considered in formulating it.
ATTITUDE ON MORALS IN GOVERNMENT
Today as never before we are faced with moral questions in public life. We have had a New Deal in public honor. To indicate its significance let me ask you a few questions.
The first of these questions involves intellectual honesty in officials and in government.
Can your government broadcast half-truths and expect the citizen to tell the whole truth?
Do you think you can pollute thought with framed government propaganda and maintain honest thinking in the citizen?
Do you think the government, which engages hundreds of paid publicity agents daily and hourly to eulogize its official acts, can hold the faith of the citizen in what his government says?
Is it honest or sportsmanlike to answer the argument, protest or appeal of the citizen by smearing him as the enemy of the people?
Do you believe all the official statements today?
Do you think you can let down intellectual honesty in high officials and hold up conscience in citizens?
And there are questions relating to public administration.
Does not the wholesale appointment of government officials by politics and not by merit mean a decadence in public morals?
What is the morality of the recent return to the spoils system?
And there are questions involving commercial honesty.
Can your government repudiate the covenant of its bonds and expect citizens to hold to their obligations?
Can the government ruthlessly crush competition and hold the businessman to fair play?
Can the Treasury deliberately manipulate the market in government bonds and expect the citizen not to do the same thing in stocks?
Is it moral for a government to collect hundreds of millions from the wages of workmen under the promise that they are kept in a fund for their security and then spend this fund on its current expenses and extravagances?
Is it moral to evade the Corrupt Practices Act by selling books to corporations for political funds?
And there are questions involving the sacredness of law.
What happens to the morals of a people when the Federal Government connives at lawlessness?
What of governors who obstruct the courts and refuse to maintain public order?
Or of workmen beaten and killed by police squads on one hand and beef squads on the other?
Do not all moral restraints disappear and the ugly specters of vigilantes arise?
And there are questions involving the building of character in men.
When the public purse is used to subsidize, threaten, or cajole the Congressmen and the local communities, are you not corrupting the people?
When you direct the mind of the citizen to what he can abstract from the Treasury, are you building for self-reliance and stamina in the citizen?
And there are questions involving the spirit of a people.
Is it moral for high government officials to stir hate of group against group, of workman against workman?
Is not hate a moral poison to a nation more deadly than fear?
And there are questions involving the sacredness of the ballot.
What does the common expression—"you cannot beat Santa Claus” mean in public morals?
Can democracy survive with more and more of its cities in the hands of corrupt political machines?
Do not a multitude of vicious rackets, of bribery, blackmail, coercion and crime flourish under the hands of these corrupt city governments? What does this do to the moral standards of citizens and the community?
Is the Federal Government not abetting these machines when it places enormous sums of public money directly and indirectly at their disposal—too often just prior to elections?
Can we hope for self-government when these city political machines regularly manipulate the vote? Does not this influence not alone municipal but State and federal elections?
Do you think you can maintain confidence in our institutions and continually pollute the ballot box?
A nation is great not through dams in its rivers or its ships on the sea or the deposits in its banks. It is great by the moral fiber and character of its citizens. Nations die when these weaken.
Is it not the duty of the Republican Party to raise the banner of emancipation of the American people from this degradation, both national and local?
ATTITUDE OF COLLECTIVISM
The worldwide conflict today is True Liberalism against collectivism.
Huxley said the first need of debate is definitions. By "collectivism” we mean any system where the tendency is to make the people the servants of the government or personal power as opposed to the government being the servant of the people. That is a complicated idea but it is the age-long fight of human liberty. We certainly do not mean collective bargaining or co-operative marketing. They begin and end among the people and are democratic processes.
I have used the term "True Liberalism.” I would prefer to use the more direct term of "Americanism.” The term liberal has now become the fashionable clothing of all collectivists, whether they be New Dealers, with creeping collectivism, or frank and open Socialists, or the unconscious Fascists. Its folds can apparently even be entered through the Ku Klux Klan.
Our Republicans should not use this term without distinction between true and pseudo. Gradually the public is learning that Liberal spelled with a capital L means New Deal Collectivism.
True Liberalism is liberty organized under law. It everlastingly reacts to one test: Does this or that act make for the freedom of mind and spirit of men? Does it make for the dignity of all men? And let no tell you that intellectual and spiritual liberty is not the sole anchor of American civilization.
It is the most difficult of all philosophies to realize in government, because the very freedom which fertilizes the soil of progress sprouts also the weeds of selfishness and sordid ambition. It can only be realized through prohibitions and protections which prevent invasion of the freedom of others. And it rests greatly upon responsibility and self-restraint by the individual.
True liberalism does not start as an economic system. An economic system flows from it. The only economic system which will not destroy intellectual and spiritual freedom is private enterprise, regulated to prevent special privilege, or coercion.
Every new scientific discovery, every new invention introduces new possibilities of privilege, as well as progress. Reform must be ever in motion. We agree with the New Deal objectives in removal of abuses. Many abuses are cured, and these objectives were advocated by Republicans long before the New Deal was born. But the cure is not by their method of government by men in the place of government by law. Moreover, they seek to make us believe that abuse cannot be cured without that creeping Collectivism called Planned Economy.
That "gradual collectivism” is creeping upon us should be evident by this time to any understanding America. The government manipulation of money and credit, government restriction of production, government control of hours and wages, the entry of the government into competitive business on a large scale, government coercion of upright citizens—these are but part of it. The conflict of the two systems creates at once attack on constitutional government. Undermining the independence of Congress, packing the Supreme Court, the weakening of local and State government, the new proposals to invade judicial authority under the guise of administrative reorganization are but part of the centralization of government and the increase in personal government.
Once economic life is started in this direction it creates its own demand for more and more personal power. And one of its results is a Frankenstein of hate and national disunity. There cannot be a system part collectivist and part regulated private enterprise. The very conflict of the two systems creates one economic emergency after another. We witness that at this very hour. Do you think the confidence of men, the enterprise of men, is not today chilled to the bone?
The Republican Party can declare the principles of free enterprise regulated to prevent abuse and it can set these principles against all forms of collectivism. It can do still more.
It can declare the principles for cure of abuse which will not shackle the enterprises and initiative of men. It can do still more.
It can declare the principles upon which alone a progressive economic system can produce increasing standards of living and security. It can do more.
It can declare the principles that will emancipate the American people from the collectivism which has already crept over us. It can do still more.
It can propose the principles of justice that will stamp out the fires of hate and cure the wounds of class conflict. It can do more.
It can declare its convictions on the rights and responsibilities of free men. That is the spirit of constitutional government. In those ramparts it can hold against every assault on human liberty.
And here is a paradox. The Republican Party becomes the conservative party in the sense of conserving true liberalism.
Incidentally a new form of Planned Economy has been announced from Washington. That is to be a balanced abundance. It seems to recall the trapeze.
ATTITUDE ON SOCIAL QUESTIONS
What of the attitude toward humanitarian or social problems? After five years of New Deal remedies Mr. Roosevelt has said one-third of the people are still underclad, underfed, or under housed. One could debate that figure as too high, but out purpose is not a statistical discussion. Whether it is one-fifth or one-fourth or one-tenth it is too high for America.
We have all of us tried to picture the kind of America we would wish to see. I pray the day will come in America when it cannot be said with truth that any one who will work shall be underclad or underfed or underhoused. We want more for our people than a minimum of food, shelter and clothing.
But America must think also of the other nine-tenth or two-thirds, or whatever it is, which are mostly the great economic middle class. I am not thinking of the drones, either rich or poor.
It is the great economic middle class who have spent years learning to do their job skillfully who must carry these burdens. The skilled workers, the farmers, the professional people, the small merchants, and manufacturers—they need to be remembered. Why should they be the forgotten men? They have worked and saved to secure the homes, farms, insurance policies and savings, which build and sustain the productivity of this country.
Government policies which tax, harry and demoralize the productivity of the great economic middle class are the greatest catastrophe which can come to the one-third of underclad, underhoused, underfed. Their redemption must come by preserving the two-thirds, not by dragging them down. In all his long years Santa Claus never increased the standard of living of a nation.
Our people want jobs. They want a just return for their labor. They want opportunity to rise in their jobs. They want security on the job. They want security from want in old age. They want collective bargaining by labor, free from coercion. They want decent returns from the farm. They want education, health and recreation. These and many others are the vital things which our civilization must produce.
They are the objectives and the hopes of every decent man and woman. They are the righteous objectives of civilization itself. The New Deal did not discover these objectives. No person or party ever had a self-righteous monopoly of them. The bright colors of wordy objectives are being used to camouflage failure. Samuel Johnson said the road to the hot place was paved with good intentions. Truly it can be said that the New Deal road to salvation is paved with objectives. That road badly needs repaving with practical methods.
The Republican Party can declare the sane principles under which we can reach our social goals and not destroy them.
ATTITUDE OF FISCAL POLICIES
And there is the point of view of the Republican Party toward budget deficits, debts, taxes, currency inflation. When you deal with other people's money the word is conservative not Liberal, especially with a capital L.
The Republican Party can declare the principles of economy which will lift a burden from all who toil. It can declare principles of taxation that will not choke enterprise and destroy men's jobs.
There is discussion in the Republican Party as to whether it should undertake to declare its position upon these fundamental questions now or wait until 1940.
I realize the theory of some political leaders is that most people vote against something. It is their further theory that you only have to stand by and criticize. Give the other fellow enough rope and he will hang himself, and thereby you win elections. That is an old belief. But I insist it is inadequate for the needs of this day.
If the Republican Party has not learned the lesson that it must produce principles and program besides being against and joyriding on mistakes it has not read history.
You do not long hold the goal and devotion of men and women without definite purpose and principle. The Whig Party tried all that.
There is talk of fusion and coalition. Let me make but one remark on that. It is a result devoutly to be wished for. But the people fuse or coalesce around ideas and ideals, not around political bargains or stratagems. If the Republican Party meets the needs and aspirations of the people who are opposed to the New Deal, they will fuse and coalesce and not before. They only join in the march if they know where we are going.
And again I return to my opening.
There is a mighty service to be performed. This party must make the humanitarian objectives of the nation possible which are otherwise wrecked by wrongful and ineffective methods. It must reform destructive economic policies which undermine the standards of living of the economic middle class and thus all the people. It must emancipate the people from this creeping collectivism and restore true liberalism. It must emancipate them from the moral degeneration in government. The interest of the nation requires that the Republican Party shall provide the country with positive and affirmative principles and proposals that will meet these yearnings of the people today for a way out and forward. It is a gigantic task. But should we not make a beginning?
That is a task in which youth must join.
You have the blood and urge of your American forebears. You are as good stuff as they. You are better trained and equipped than they were. I have no doubt of your character and resolution.