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High Finance - IV

1. I

2. II

3. III

4. IV

5. V

What, then, can and should finance do on its own part in order to
gain and preserve for itself that repute and status with the public to
which it is entitled, and which in the interest of the country, as well
as itself, it ought to have?

1. Conform to Public Opinion

It must not only _do_ right, but it must also be particularly careful
concerning the _appearance_ of its actions.

Finance should "omit no word or deed" to place itself in the right light
before the people.

It must carefully study and in good faith conform to public opinion.

2. Publicity

One of the characteristics of finance heretofore has been the cult of
silence, some of its rites have been almost those of an occult science.

To meet attacks with dignified silence, to maintain an austere demeanor,
to cultivate an etiquette of reticence, has been one of its traditions.

Nothing could have been more calculated to irritate democracy, which
dislikes and suspects secrecy and resents aloofness.

And the instinct of democracy is right.

Men occupying conspicuous and leading places in finance as in every
other calling touching the people's interests, are legitimate objects
for public scrutiny in the exercise of their functions.

If opportunity for such scrutiny is denied, if the people's legitimate
desire for information is met with silence, secrecy, impatience and
resentment, the public mind very naturally becomes infected with
suspicion and lends a willing ear to all sorts of gossip and rumors.

The people properly and justly insist that the same "fierce light that
beats upon a throne" should also beat upon the high places of finance
and commerce.

It is for those occupying such places to show cause why they should be
considered fit persons to be entrusted with them, the test being not
merely ability, but just as much, if not more, character,
self-restraint, fair-mindedness and due sense of duty towards the

Finance, instead of avoiding publicity in all of its aspects, should
welcome it and seek it. Publicity won't hurt its dignity. A dignity
which can be preserved only by seclusion, which cannot hold its own in
the market place, is neither merited nor worth having.

We must more and more get out of the seclusion of our offices, out into
the rough and tumble of democracy, out--to get to know the people and
get known by them.

Not to know one another means but too frequently to misunderstand one
another, and there is no more fruitful source of trouble than to
misunderstand one another's kind and ways and motives.

3. Service

Every man who by eminent success in commerce or finance raises himself
beyond his peers is in the nature of things more or less of an
"irritant" (I use the word in its technical meaning) to the community.

It behooves him, therefore, to make his position as little jarring as
possible upon that immense majority whose existence is spent in the
lowlands of life so far as material circumstances are concerned.

It behooves him to exercise self-restraint and to make ample allowance
for the point of view and the feelings of others, to be patient,
helpful, conciliatory.

It behooves him to remember that many other men are working, and have
worked all their lives, with probably as much effort and assiduous
application, as much self-abnegation as he, but have not succeeded in
raising themselves above mediocre stations in life, because to them has
not been granted the possession of those peculiar gifts which beget
conspicuous success, and to which, because they are very rare and
because they are needed for the world's work, is given the incentive of
liberal reward.

He should beware of that insidious tendency of wealth to chill and
isolate; he should be careful not to let his feelings, aspirations and
sympathies become hardened or narrowed; lest he become estranged from
his fellow men; and with this in view he should not only be approachable
but should seek and welcome contact with the work-a-day world so as to
remain part and parcel of it, to maintain and prove his homogeneity with
his fellow men.

And he should never forget that the advantages and powers which he
enjoys are his on suffrance, so to speak, during good behavior, the
basis of their conferment being the consideration that the community
wants his talents and his work, and grants him generous
compensation--including the privilege of passing it on to his
children--in order to stimulate him to the effort of using his
capacities, since it is in the public interest that they should be used
to their fullest extent.

He should never forget that the social edifice in which he occupies so
desirable quarters, has been erected by human hands, the result of
infinite effort, of sacrifice and compromise, the aim being the greatest
good of society; and that if that aim is clearly shown to be no longer
served by the present structure, if the successful man arrogates to
himself too large or too choice a part, if, selfishly, he crowds out
others, then, what human hands have built up by the patient work of many
centuries, human hands can pull down in one hour of passion.

The undisturbed possession of the material rewards now given to success,
because success presupposes service, can be perpetuated only if its
beneficiaries exercise moderation, self-restraint, and consideration for
others in the use of their opportunities, and if their ability is
exerted, not merely for their own advantage, but also for the public
good and the weal of their fellow men.

4. Stand up for Convictions and Organize

In the political field, the ways not only of finance but of business in
general have been often unfortunate and still more often ineffective.

It is in conformity with the nature of things that the average man of
business, responsible not only for his own affairs, but often trustee
for the welfare of others, should lean towards that which has withstood
the acid test of experience and should be somewhat diffident towards
experiment and novel theory.

But, making full allowance for this natural and proper disposition, it
must, I believe, be admitted that business, and especially the
representatives of large business, including high finance, have too
often failed to recognize in time the need and to heed the call for
changes from methods and conceptions which had become unsuitable to the
time and out of keeping with rationally, progressive development; that
they have too often permitted themselves to be guided by a tendency
toward unyielding or at any rate apparently unyielding Bourbonism
instead of giving timely aid in a constructive way toward realizing just
and wise modifications of the existing order of things.

Apart from these considerations and leaving aside practices formerly not
uncommon, but which modern laws and modern standards of morality have
made impossible, it may be said generally that business is doing too
much kicking and not enough fighting.

In fact, almost the only instance which I can remember of business
asserting itself effectively on a large scale and by a genuine effort
for its rights, its legitimate interests and its convictions was during
the McKinley-Bryan campaign, in saying which I do not mean to endorse
some of the methods used in that campaign.

And yet, the latent political power of business is enormous. Wisely
organized for proper and right purposes it would be irresistible. No
political party could succeed against it.

If this country is to take full advantage of the unparalleled
opportunities which the developments of the last two years have opened
up to it, if, in the severe competition which sooner or later after the
close of the war is bound to set in for the world's trade, it is to hold
its own, it must not only not be hampered by unwise and antiquated laws,
as it now is, in certain respects, but it must be intelligently aided
and fostered by the legislative and administrative powers.

Business in the leading European countries has been backed up by the
respective governments in the past and will be backed up, more than
ever, in the post-bellum period.

Everywhere else through the civilized world in matters of national
policies as they affect business, the representatives of business are
consulted and listened to with the respect which is due to expert

It is only in America that the views of business men in general (as
distinct from the agitation of particular business men or organizations
having a special object to serve, such as on the occasion of tariff
making in former days) are ignored, their advice brushed aside or even
resented, their representatives treated as interlopers.

It is only in America that the exigencies of politics not infrequently,
I might almost say habitually, are given precedence over the exigencies
of business.

Objectionable methods and practices sometimes resorted to in the past by
corporate interests in endeavoring to influence legislation and public
opinion have been abandoned beyond resurrection.

It is only fair that with them should be abandoned the habit of
politicians, sometimes politicians in very high places, to denounce as
"lobbying" every organized effort of large business to oppose tendencies
and propositions of legislation deemed by it inimical to the best
interests of business and of the country.

It is only fair that there should be abandoned the habit of sneering at
and suspecting organized efforts by business men to educate public
opinion on questions affecting business and finance as improper attempts
to "manufacture" or "accelerate" public opinion.

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