Tuesday, July 3, 2018

A Future from the Past

I recently came across a copy of the December 26, 1969 issue of Life magazine. It was a retrospective on the decade and so you can imagine the content (war and protest and sports and fashion and assassinations and moon landings), but the thing that caught my attention the most was the advertising, and especially this two-page spread:

Here's what it says:

If Africa, Asia and South America go communist, don't blame him [Karl Marx].

Karl Marx is not responsible for famines in Asia or epidemics in Africa. It's not his fault that the average South American earns 75¢ a day.

All he did was predict the consequences.

That a population living in misery will turn to communism as a way out. Unless something is done to alleviate these conditions.

But the countries themselves don't have the economic or technical resources to make these changes. The U.N. doesn't. Even the United States doesn't.

They need the help of world industry. Particularly U.S. industry.

Industry is in an ideal position to do this. It can deal directly with the people of a country. It can change their lives in a way no government can.

A small case in point: in 1958, Olinkraft, a subsidiary of Olin, bought a paper mill in Igaras, a small town in the remote interior of Brazil.

Igaras was the kind of town on which communism thrives—a declining mill, shoeless children, men working an 84-hour week, etc.

It wasn't hard to increase the production of the mill eightfold, to lower hours and raise wages, to reforest the woodlands—but that wasn't enough.

We hired a doctor, nurses, teachers, expanded the school; built a dispensary, a clubhouse, provided free medical and dental care (and medicines at cost to non-employees); financed housing loans and helped set up a cooperative store.

And then the people joined in. They rebuilt their own homes, paid for their own teachers, built and operated their own store and, in effect, revitalized the whole town.

But the people weren't the only ones to benefit. Olinkrat did well enough from the mill to start an extensive expansion program.

Igaras, of course, is only one town.

But Olin is only one company.

Imagine this kind of success multiplied by tens of thousands of companies and towns all over Africa, Asia and South America.

The deeds of industry may well be as important as the gospel of democracy.
Is there a company anywhere in the U.S. that would run such an ad today? Imagine companies that feel responsible for not just their employees but even the non-employees, unlike Walmart and fast food companies, whose business models are built on their employees getting publicly funded benefits. This ad is like a page out of the Endicott Johnson handbook.

Corporate owners and the 1 percent were really scared at the end of the 1960s, but then they regrouped along the lines of the Powell memo and now, here we are.

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