I enjoyed a few minutes reading from Henry Ford again last night. He had a good sense of business, back before everything got so complicated with derivatives and all. To him, business existed to convert raw materials to helpful things for trade. Business was about kindness and pragmatism more than profit margin. I must admit I like that. It was spoken well before the time anybody would take seriously somebody’s request that a business operate at a loss or any other such nonsense demanded from local boards. On the subject of using government as a pump to move money where it deems rationalizable, he said:

The moral fundamental is man’s right in his labor. This is variously stated. It is sometimes called “the right of property.” It is sometimes masked in the command, “Thou shalt not steal.”

As for the modern exercises in economic development, he advised:

There is plenty of work to do. Business is merely work. Speculation in things already produced – that is not business. It is just more or less respectable graft. But it cannot be legislated out of existence. Laws can do very little. Law never does anything constructive. It can never be more than a policeman, and so it is a waste of time to look to our state capitals or to Washington to do that which law was not designed to do. As long as we look to legislation to cure poverty or to abolish special privilege we are going to see poverty spread and special privilege grow. We have had enough of looking to Washington and we have had enough of legislators – not so much, however, in this as in other countries – promising laws to do that which laws cannot do.

When you get a whole country – as did ours – thinking that Washington is a sort of heaven and behind its clouds dwell omniscience and omnipotence, you are educating that country into a dependent state of mind which augurs ill for the future. Our help does not come from Washington, but from ourselves; our help may, however, go to Washington as a sort of central distribution point where all our efforts are coordinated for the general good. We may help the government; the government cannot help us. The slogan of “less government in business and more business in government” is a very good one, but not mainly on account of business or government, but on account of the people. Business is not the reason why the United States was founded. The Declaration of Independence is not a business charter, nor is the Constitution of the United States a commercial schedule. The United States – its land, people, government, and business – are but methods by which the life of the people is made worthwhile. The government is a servant and never should be anything but a servant. The moment the people become adjuncts to government, then the law of retribution begins to work, for such a relation is unnatural, immoral, and inhuman. We cannot live without business and we cannot live without government. Business and government are necessary as servants, like water and grain; as masters they overturn the natural order.

The welfare of the country is squarely up to us as individuals. That is where it should be and that is where it is safest. Governments can promise something for nothing, but they cannot deliver. They can juggle the currencies as they did in Europe (and as bankers the world over do, as long as they can get the benefit of the juggling) with a patter of solemn nonsense. But it is work and work alone that can continue to deliver the goods – and that, down in his heart, is what every man knows.

And I didn’t even get past page 15.