Read CHAPTER IV of Fundamentals of Prosperity What They Are and Whence They Come , free online book, by Roger W. Babson, on


Our industrial system has resulted in making many men economic eunuchs. The salvation of our cities, the salvation of our industries and the salvation of our nation depend on discovering something which will revive in man that desire to produce and joy in production which he had instinctively when he was a small boy.

A few days ago I was present at a dinner of business men in Boston who were called together in order to secure some preferential freight rates for Massachusetts. The principal theme of that gathering was to boom Massachusetts at the expense of the rest of the country. At the close of the dinner I was asked to give my opinion and said: “Let us see how many things there are in this room that we could have were we dependent solely on Massachusetts. The chairs and furniture are from Michigan; the cotton is from Georgia; the linen from Ireland; the silver from Mexico; the glassware from Pennsylvania; the paper from Maine; the paint from Missouri; the clock from Connecticut and so on.” Finally I got the courage to ask if there was a single thing in the room that did not originate from some state other than Massachusetts. Those men were absolutely helpless in finding a single thing.

The same fact applies in a general way to every state and every home. Look about, where you are sitting now. How many things are there in the room just where you are, there is a table, a chair, a shoe, a coat, a necktie, a cigar, a lampshade, a piano, a basket for all of these you are dependent upon others.

The same fact is true when we analyze one staple like shoes which, primarily, are made of leather. Where does the leather come from? Just follow that leather from the back of the steer until you buy it in the form of shoes. Think where that steer was raised, and where the leather was tanned. Think of all the men engaged in the industry from the cow-punchers to the salesmen in the stores. But there is more than leather involved in shoes. There is cotton in the shoe lacing and lining. There is metal in the nails and eyelets. Not only must different localities cooeperate to produce a shoe; but various industries must give and take likewise.

Civilization is ultimately dependent on the ability of men to cooeperate. The best barometer of civilization is the desire and ability of men to cooeperate. The willingness to share with others, the desire to work with others is the great contribution which Christianity has given to the world. The effect of this new spirit is most thrilling when one considers the clothes which he has on his back, the food which he has on the table, the things which he has in the house, and thinks of the thousands of people whose labour has directly contributed toward these things. Now this clearly shows that the fourth great fundamental of prosperity is cooeperation, the willingness and ability of men to cooeperate, to serve one another, to help one another, to give and to take.

But the teachings of Jesus along these lines have a very much broader application than when applied merely to raw materials, or even manufactured products. As we can begin to prosper only when we develop into finished products the raw materials of the fields, mines and forests, so we can become truly prosperous only as we develop the greatest of all resources, the human resources. Not only does Christianity demand that we seek to help and build up others; but our own prosperity depends thereon as well.

When in Washington, during the war, I had a wonderful opportunity of meeting the representatives of both labour and capital. I had some preconceived ideas on the labour question when I went to Washington; but now they are all gone. I am perfectly willing, now, to agree with the wage worker, to agree with the employer, to agree with both or to agree with neither. But this one thing I am sure of, and that is that the present system doesn’t work. The present system is failing in getting men to produce.

By nature man likes to produce. Our boy, as soon as he can toddle out-of-doors, starts instinctively to make a mud pie. When he gets a little older he gets some boards, shingles and nails and builds a hut. Just as soon as he gets a knife, do you have to show him how to use it? He instinctively begins to make a boat or an arrow or perhaps something he has never seen. Why? Because in his soul is a natural desire to produce and an inborn joy in production. But what happens to most of these boys after they grow up?

Our industrial system has resulted in almost stultifying men economically and making most of them economically non-productive. Why? I don’t know. I simply say it happens and the salvation of our industries depends on discovering something which will revive in man that desire to produce and that joy in production which he had instinctively when he was a small boy.

Increased wages will not do it. Shorter hours will not do it. The wage worker must feel right and the employer must feel right. It is all a question of feeling. Feelings rule this world, not things. The reason that some people are not successful with collective bargaining and profit sharing and all these other plans is because they think that men act according to what they say, or according to what they learn, or according to that in which they agree. Men act according to their feelings, and “good feeling” is synonymous with the spirit of cooeperation. One cannot exist without the other and prosperity cannot continue without both. Hence the fourth fundamental of prosperity is Cooeperation.