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THE “BIG BUSINESS” MAN AS A

SOCIAL WORKER
A SERIES OF PERSONAL PORTRAITS

BY DONALD WILHELM

III—DR. STEINMETZ, OF THE GENERAL ELECTRIC

COMPANY

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HE most interesting man in America consulting engineer of the General Electric

is: President of the National Asso- Company, inventor or perfecter of the induc

ciation of Corporation Schools. He tion motor, the polyphase motor, other motors, is Socialist i who

earns one hundred now President of the National Association of thousand dollars a year as a consulting Corporation Schools. engineer. He has a bent little boy body with One can feel the reach and play of his enormous bristling brown head lodged be- intellect. He has a tremendous mind, a tween up-shot shoulders. His body makes tremendous heart; his heart and his mind one suspect he has been sprawled over a are all of him. : He is a Socialist; he is also planning board ever since he was born, where- a social worker. As a Socialist he sees what by one accounts for the forward curvature industry can be, as a social worker he sets in his spine

:out to help: alter it, as Socialist and social One finds him in the arcade adjoining, a i worker he is president of a big business convention hall -a 'brown, bushy; dynamic organization that is undertaking to do a little little man, standing hardly more than table ; more than make the United States the first high against the white wall. - He is: puffing a industrial nation of the world.com cigar and chatting wisely, eying his listeners In his hotel room, coatless, sipping tea, the through gold-rimmed glasses cocked on his <- little man explains that the Association is a thick nosei

- young organization of private and quasi-pri" “No," he said; "there is no sentiment in vate corporations, of railways, manufactories,

. business."

mercantile and other business concerns, that His forehead wrinkled. He reconsidered :: representa perhaps half the industrial capital

“ I might just as well say yes. Business of the United States. has no sentiment, but often men in business, "We want to correlate the educational are sentimental. There is Williams, the first :.. facilities of the corporations with each other President of the Association; and there is and with the educational facilities of the Edwards, of the General Electric; and Insul; whole country,” he explained 1 “We want in Chicago—these men are sentimental. to increase the production of every worker They are very enthusiastic. I am senti- so he can earn more, increase his consumpmental—”

; tion, and thereby raise his standard.!' “ Because of public opinion ?”

One hears that this Nation is first in point He wagged his head. “Public opinion of resources, third in point of production. it is overestimated; it forgets." in .. It is third in point of production because its

He went, for illustration, back to his workers are third in point of efficiency. Most turgid journalistic days in Germany when are mistrained, many are illiterate. Illiteracy he ran a weekly. Socialistic paper till the is costing the Nation five. hundred million Government confiscated it, then ran another dollars a year, the United States Commisweekly, then a bi-weekly. "The public sioner of Education says. Inefficiency is forgets; it forgot the Colorado massacre in costing the Nation much more. Greater three days. But the unions do not forget; i efficiency presupposes greater contentment the unions have a memory.”

in work through a longer period of time, and He chatted, glanced about. Men passing those considerations mean that more than through the tiled arcade stopped, looked, four per cent of our grade school graduates listened, inquired; were told that the wise lit- must have industrial training, and that—to tle sage was Charles Proteus Steinmetz, chief illustrate-ninety thousand New York City

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boys must not be turned into blind-alley-lives to co-operate with the State," the first kresie each year; must, instead, reach the summit dent of the Association replied. of their hopes and their maximum average The welfare of industry is the welfare of income of forty dollars or so a week at the late America, for the furtherance of industry is age of thirty-three, as the college man does, the furtherance of production, and producrather than their present maximum average tion itself, theoretically at least, is provision of ten dollars a week at the early age of for, and presupposes the welfare of, the twenty-two.

undistinguished many in the working world. In other words, the organization of which Everywhere there is new alliance between Dr. Steinmetz is President is setting about education and industry and between the cordeliberately to supply, for want of any simi- poration and the community. Even capital lar provision by the States, a substitute for and labor are, in the big new tendency in the old apprentice system. It is seeking to education that has in it almost the only prolong the life and the hopes of grade promise of industrial peace, reaching across school graduates, of every untrained Ameri- from diverging paths to co-operate with one can worker, and to conserve and to develop another in gaining the greatest happiness for them—the most neglected and the most vital : all. Corporation executives are not underof American resources.

taking a 'function of the State for charity, and A corporation school, Dr. Steinmetz ex- the workers want no charity ; each is doing plains, is an elementary school conducted by his part, as Dr. Steinmetz pointed out, to ina corporation to Americanize alien railway crease his production, to better the standards labor, for instance; or a commercial school of his own life. with university class-rooms, and sometimes Dr: Steinmetz likes to feel his mind rununiversity lectures and credit; or a technical ning to broad theory. He reverted again school with a course extending, as in one and again to the industrial and social significorporation, through four years of work of cance of the Corporation School Association, company work-time, demanding two hours then he took a breath and leaped away once each day, and a total of 10,960 hours in all, more to broad theory : for bonus and diploma.

"In any business," he said, "three phases He went on; he summarized what he had of organization have always been considered said: “It is a question of efficiency—this -the financial, administrative, and technical new education.

phases, I call them. But there is a fourth phase. There is a new education, he believes, com- It has been coming to attention for a long time,

a ing in America. The determination of it has but we are just beginning to notice it. It is the in part come from the fact that but four human phase. It is just as important, just as per cent of American boys and girls are suf- essential, as the others—the labor unions and ficiently educated, and from the perception many other forces have made it so. .. . The that it takes a good man to stand an American unions ? What is fair for one side is fair college education. It has been stimulated by for the other. You must let the unions orthe cry for efficiency; but that cry is signifi- ganize. You see, when the small employer cant primarily because it indicates that it is hired one laborer the two men bargained on coming to be realized that the cardinal func- an equal basis, but when many employers tion of a good citizen is meritorious produc- got together the employee did not have a tion, or, what eventually will be considered fair chance. You must remember that a synonymous with production-service. corporation is just many small employers

Because their service is less than one hun- banded together into a unit ; instead of havdred per cent efficient public opinion pounces ing them as individuals you have them as a corupon the railways and upon other corpora- poration. Therefore as soon as you get an tions, and now is resolutely turning to pounce organization of employers logically you should upon the farmer and the planter too. And

get an organization of employees. That is planter and farmer and corporations are be- good—the unions have helped to force ginning to retaliate. They are pouncing on the corporations to notice the fourth phase. the State and its educative processes, preach- “The fourth phase—it has been considing and teaching efficiency.

ered last. It is going to be considered first." You are usurping a function of the He grew suddenly enthusiastic. His blue State," the Industrial Relations Commission eyes beamed so kindly that one was reminded averred. “We are trying to show we want of his life, so lonely that once he spent a

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1914

THE “BIG BUSINESS” MAN AS A SOCIAL WORKER

499

year alone in a little German hovel to perfect joke till the authorities suddenly took after an electric principle, and of the son he him in such terrorizing mien that he accepted adopted, and the three orphan children of a supply of cigars, took to his heels, and Aed whom he now is grandfather. He went on : over the line to Switzerland and America.

“I liken these four phases of industry to He has been smoking cigars ever since. the parts of a machine. You know, a ma- One learns to associate his cigar with him. chine will not run unless all its parts are oiled; At the General Electric shops an order to but some of the parts can be oiled last and stop smoking appeared one day. The next cleaned last. Now the least important cog in day Dr. Steinmetz was missing. He had a machine is just as necessary as any cog, but quit. The president of the company had to perhaps you do not have to give it the same send an automobile for him. He went on attention at first; indeed, some render serv- smoking now, his elbows propped on the ice a long time without any attention at all.” table, his cigar flaming between his first and

He puffed his cigar vigorously, was envel- second fingers. oped in a sudden cloud of blue, fragrant “ If any of the four phases of a business smoke. He has been smoking all his life are neglected,” he said, “if either the finanand drinking tea. In his student days at cial, administrative, technical, or human Breslau he smoked a pipe and he drank phase is neglected, there is bound to be disbeer, in keeping with the profundity of the aster. It may escape notice, like a rusty cog, little group of student friends with whom he for a few years, but you will hear from it. sat in frequent determination of the eco- Thus if you neglect the financial phasenomic and social destiny of the world. He well, you have trouble. And if you neglect had a lot of excitement in those days, and the human phase, you will get inefficiency he tells of them so infectiously that one sees every time, and the Industrial Workers of the the early part of his life in outline, and re- World will catch you if you don't watch out.” members that his mother died when he was He laughed.

Yes, yes; that's what the very young and his father was a lithographer Industrial Workers of the World are forand railway employee who sacrificed nearly they are to frighten employers when they get everything to get his son a technical educa- rusty on the human side.” tion.

He thinks that it is not the big corporation Comrade Steinmetz belonged to a club. but rather the little competitors that first The members of this club were suddenly “get rusty” on the human side—that it is arrested because a photograph of them ap- big business, and not little business, that peared in a photographer's window the self- throws fewer employees to the industrial same day as, and within less than twelve and scrap-heap. He believes in the large corpoa half feet of, a photograph of Lassalle, the ration, he believes in the carefully regulated eminent Socialist. The little group of stu- trust. His mind looks far beyond any stage dents were haled before a justice, and the of nationalism, and yet he is doing his utmost good German Court, viewing with disfavor to bridge his old-time Socialism to the newthe conclusive fact that there was no evi- time industrialism, confident that they are dence obtainable for or against the club, synonymously American, and that, with corstraightway imprisoned some of its mem- porations and all that goes with them, in bers, but freed the forgetful little boy body this Nation lies the hope of the world. of a man. Straightway the boy inventor He believes in the large corporation because tested the resourcefulness that has built. u it is an inevitable step in the progress one invention after another since.

He went forward, and he notes pleasurably that it home and invented an ink with which, quite is removing the lines between nationalities, indistinguishably, he wrote up and down the developing the same great common interests blank pages of books he was privileged to for all, and working indomitably along in send the prisoners. This writing one of the the groove of an inevitable tendency. He prisoners, a young man engaged to be mar- pointed out some of the good the corporaried, was told how, from chemical elements tions are doing—welfare work, safety work, obtainable from tooth-wash and blotting-paper, educative work, compensation for injuries, to develop and read. The little man sent sick benefits, old age pensions, service annuieven love letters, and he built up an impreg- ties, profit-sharingnable defense for his student friends, go He caught on the words " profit-sharing," them acquitted, and enjoyed his good college rose from his chair, in eight words explained

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why he is a Socialist accepting one hundred “ Both labor and capital are grateful for thousand dollars a year from a corporation : the corporation,” he said. “No one is ungrate

. · Profit-sharing,” he said ; “it is half-way ful but the Government. The United States to Socialism.”

Government—it has its army and its navy "It is half-way?"

planning to help to train young men for work Yes, yes, it is the half-way mark. It is a in the big corporations. Yes, and President

. very ingenious way for labor to get half Wilson-he is trying to get Government instead of all. ..

ownership of railways and trying to break up He stood his feet squarely by the end of the corporations at the same time. He is the bed, a smiling little mental giant only five not consistent. He does not understand. feet high.

And Mr. Taft-he did not understand. They Yes, as soon as all our big indus- have the old ideas about small production. trial and transportation corporations have They try to break up the large unit into the combined, under stricter and stricter regula- small." tion, into one big corporation so powerful His keen blue eyes narrowed; he grew a that it must be called the United States, we little more serious. will have reached the goal. The rates of “ The Sherman Law—it was intended to interest will be so low--

regulate the big corporations, not to break them He galloped on with an enthusiasm that

up. It was used to break up Standard Oil, knew no bounds. He laughed infectiously the biggest and most powerful corporation now and then ; he was having a good time. we had, and now there are thirty-four parts

It was suggested that the big business and the Government can't control them bemen of any era are the broad, humanitarian cause they have no central responsible body. men of that era, and that some of the big And it is very noticeable that the interests business men of the present era, therefore, are are more powerful than they were. It Socialists.

cannot be done. You can't turn back ** Yes,” he laughed. “I can show you—" economic fact; when you try to turn back a He returned from broad theory once more. fly-wheel, something's got to break."

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66

COMMERCE AND FINANCE

A MONTHLY ARTICLE BY THEODORE H. PRICE

THREE MONTHS OF WAR: LOOKING BACKWARD

AND FORWARD

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Y the time this is published the war

will have been in progress nearly three

months. In taking account of its effect upon business it must be admitted that up to this time, in so far as America is concerned, the anticipated has been worse than the reality.

Thus again has it proved true that“ have many troubles, but most of them never happen."

The loss of life and economic waste which the struggle has entailed are, of course, distressing and deplorable, but in England and America, at least, the consequences have been far less cataclysmic than has been expected.

No banking or commercial concern of firstrate magnitude has failed in either Great

Britain or the United States. No great corporation has confessed embarrassment, and no one entitled to credit has been denied such financial facilities as were absolutely essential to the conservative continuance of business.

In England the Government stepped into the breach with extraordinary boldness, and by guaranteeing to the Bank of England the repayment of debts at present uncollectable made them an acceptable basis of credit. Recently it has gone even further, and has arranged to guarantee the lenders against loss by loans made to members of the London Stock Exchange on collateral which may have been depreciated by the war.

It is generally believed that this far-sighted action was taken upon the initiative of Sir

Detit 1914

COMMERCE AND FINANCE

501

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George Paish, chief financial adviser to the Lavish expenditure has already become English Treasury, who is now in this country. unfashionable ; display provokes criticism In the columns of his paper, “ The Statist,” rather than approval or distinction; and a the course that the Government has pursued moderate competency, in the opinion of most is defended upon the ground that since it is people, is now more to be desired than great to the interest of all the nation that business wealth. and industry should as far as possible be un- Those who will compare the ideals of disturbed by the war, it is equitable that all youth to-day with the aspirations of young the people through the Government should men at the commencement of the present

share the risk and loss involved in maintain- century will realize the degree in which our Ting the machinery of credit upon which busi- National standard of what is most worth ness and industry depend.

while has been changed for the better. In America the limitations which the Con- Fourteen or fifteen years ago the glamour stitution and Congress have imposed upon of the great fortunes created by the formathe executive officers of the Government have tion of the United States Steel Corporation made the direct interposition of our National and kindred consolidations deluded many credit impossible, but under the able leader- men just commencing life into the belief that ship of Mr. William G. McAdoo, Secretary great wealth was a guarantee of happiness of the Treasury, the banks and bankers of as well as of social and political power. The the country have organized a co-operative illusion had commenced to disappear before life-saving service, and have mobilized their the war began, but its destruction has been resources with great efficiency for the protec- greatly hastened and almost completed by tion of the Nation's business.

the prominence into which the vaster issues The only great problem that is still un- of life have been brought by the titanic solved at this writing is that of the cotton crop, struggle now in progress. and a plan has already been approved which, More and more are we coming to realize if it is made effective, will put at the disposal that happiness is not a matter of money, luxof the cotton producers a fund of $150,000,000 ury, and self-indulgence, but rather of selfwith which to carry over the surplus of this respect, self-restraint, and selflessness. year's crop until it shall command better prices. Upon these aspects of the changes which

The spirit of co-operation between the the war has thus far wrought we can conGovernment and the people which the great gratulate ourselves without any abatement of emergency has aroused is the most satisfac- the sympathy that we should feel for the tory consequence of the war.

people of Europe whose lot is so much more When the struggle is over, many old habits unfortunate than our own. will doubtless have been abandoned and As to the future, there is no precedent to many new usages established, but in no guide us or any mind sufficiently clairvoyan respect will society be more benefited than to predict the conditions that will prevail by the sympathetic solidarity which necessity when peace is re-established. Gradually and distress have developed between the most people are coming to believe that the people and the government.

struggle will be ended only through the ecoAnother consequence of the European nomic exhaustion of the combatants. war madness is the charity and unselfishness No matter which of them shall yield first that it evokes, and the economy that it com- to the compulsion of want and hunger, it is pels, which qualities, because they imply self- evident that the resources of the others will restraint and the thought of others, are as be sadly taxed also. essential to credit as they are to character. To Edmund Burke, who died in 1797, is

Ever since our petty war with Spain attributed the statement that national habits of luxury and extravagance have been debt is a national blessing," but he also enervating and weakening the moral fiber said that “you can never plan the future by and dissipating the resources of a constantly the past ;" and if from some vantage-point increasing proportion of our population. beyond the grave Burke can see the struggle The present war and the diminution or in- in which the world is now engaged he will terruption of income that has followed it probably be inclined to revise his opinion as have already worked a palpable change in to the beneficial effect of a national debt. this respect, and are destined to work a still The ability to pledge the credit of a nation greater reformation.

has undoubtedly made the present war pos

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