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ARTICLE

A Rural Minister Insists that Money Talks

APRIL 01, 1959 by CARLTON WILLIAMS

The Reverend Mr. Williams of Rockton, Illinois, also is interested in farming—and free­dom. This article is from his address before the Annual Meeting of the Northeast Illinois Production Credit Association at Woodstock, January 18, 1958.

The phrase, "money talks," is a commonplace saying, used chiefly in a facetious sense, indicating that if you have the money, you can buy almost anything, or, if there’s enough money in it, a man will undertake to do what he otherwise would not think of do­ing.

Certainly, this is not the mean­ing in which the words are used here. Instead, I propose the old phrase as a sort of sounding board to emphasize certain thoughts which I hope may echo and re-echo in our minds.

If money actually does talk, what—in heaven’s name—is it trying to say to us?

I believe sincerely that if we can hear and understand what our money is actually saying, it is vastly more important than any­thing that any man, however gifted or however wise, can pos­sibly say to us.

If money does talk, what it says to us is of vast importance because it tells us some blunt truths of economics and of the economic welfare that conditions the whole life of every individual. The nat­ural ambition of everyone is to improve his own condition. We all want better things. We want hap­piness. We want peace in the world and stability in our own communities—which can come only from more dependable, moral, and spiritual relationships among men. And above all, we want eco­nomic justice. Economic justice is, indeed, the cornerstone of human progress the world over. That is true because where there is no economic justice there is no free­dom, and when people are not free there can be no real progress.

This is not to reduce the vastly complicated interests of human affairs to economics. But the sober fact remains that if there are no physical and material supports for life, there can be no life.

A starving musician is more concerned with food than he is with a Beethoven sonata; and a poverty stricken philosopher is probably more concerned with the problem of how he is going to pay the rent, so that he will have a place to live, than he is with categorical panaceas for the salva­tion of the world.

But give this musician and philosopher the physical things they need, and you liberate their talents for greater production.

It follows, then, that material blessings are among our first and most important needs; and for this reason all human welfare is directly and inseparably connected with money.

But money is nothing more than an expression of value—a mutu­ally recognized symbol of prop­erty. It is the property which con­stitutes the real wealth. Hence, when the right of private prop­erty is denied, the value of money, its symbol, is gone. When money talks, it says, above all things: "Look well to your property, for when you have lost that, you have lost everything."

We profess to believe that the right of private property is, in­alienable. Yet within the brief span of memory of most of us, the property of untold millions of people in the world, from Russia to Bolivia, has, in one way or an­other, been taken away from them. If we think our property is as safe in America today as it ever was, just remember that even here the very concept of the right to pri­vate property is under attack from several quarters. For the most part, the attack is indirect—the main effort is directed at the im­position of national welfare pro­grams designed to minister to each according to his need.

"Need" Always Exceeds Supply

It would be a most comfortable situation if the needs of every­one could be met automatically by some super power. "To each ac­cording to his need!" That is a teaching which is being accepted by millions. But the other part of the equation goes with it: "From each according to his ability." The fallacy in that socialistic philos­ophy is that the second part can­not possibly equal the first part. The "from each according to his ability" cannot satisfy the "to each according to his need." For the need is always greater than the supply. The only way it can be done is for all of us to supply our own needs with our own labor, frugality, and ingenuity, and then lend a helping hand where it is most needed.

Now, it is not my purpose to question claims or to judge the relative merit of human needs, for our economic fortunes or mis­fortunes have a profound influence on all other relationships. There can be no doubt that eco­nomic prosperity breeds personal satisfaction as well as a high de­gree of spiritual well-being, while poverty is a festering cesspool of disease, maladjustments, discon­tent, social unrest, and crime.

But for the most part, the way out of poverty lies in the fruit of our own efforts, for we live in a universe of natural law.

Nothing in this universe can or will succeed which is not in har­mony with the universe. Eventual success in any enterprise, be it personal or governmental, depends upon and is conditioned by its essential harmony with the irref­utable facts of the universe. This is as true in the realm of eco­nomics as in the field of science. Our fortunes or misfortunes, of whatever nature, reach deep into the basic laws which govern the entire universe.

Basic Laws of the Universe

To illustrate, let me relate two very dissimilar incidents in my own experience.

1. As a child some five years of age, I discovered it was fun, or so I thought at the time, to wet matches with my tongue or soak them in my mouth, then rub them on my fingers so that they glowed with a fascinating and beautiful phosphorescent fire. This I did, not knowing what might happen. But it happened! From the time I was six until I was 14, I was a complete invalid, not knowing whether I would live or die; the poison went through practically every bone in my body—finally settling in the tibia of my right leg. My body is scarred from ab­scesses and operations caused by infected bone.

An ugly disease—chronic osteo­myelitis. And there’s no known cure except to cut out the diseased bone with literal hammer and chisel, hoping to stop the infec­tion before the whole bone be­comes necrotic. Now, no matter how ignorant the child, his dis­obedience of natural law caused the man to be a virtual cripple all the days of his life.

2. The second illustration is more pleasant. About twenty years ago, when recovering from the periodic bone surgery which has been the rule rather than the ex­ception during my life, on crutches most of the time, incapacitated and unable to follow my profes­sion, I locked myself in my study and wrote a couple of novels. Then my wife inherited a little money from her father’s estate, and we set out to buy a farm. We didn’t have enough money, and no one with a good farm for sale thought a crippled preacher was too good a risk; the farm mortgage people felt the same way. But finally we bought 380 acres of about the poorest land in Winnebago County. The owner was willing to carry the mortgage for a time—glad enough to get rid of the land.

There you have it, a thin farm on a very thin shoestring and a heavy mortgage. Perhaps I didn’t know enough about it to be scared. We even got the local Production Credit Association to loan us money to buy feeder cattle. They finally got their money back—but take my advice: Don’t ever loan anybody money to buy cattle if he knows nothing about how to feed them!

Part of our 380-acre tract was too sandy to plow, and more than one-third of it too wet. We have now planted nearly 150,000 pine trees on the sandy land for Christ­mas tree production, and dug ditches and built dykes in the slough land. We even bought 120 acres more of the stuff at the fab­ulous price of $17.50 an acre. Then we threw a couple of carloads of muriate of potash on the peaty loam and changed the value of the land from $17.50 per acre to—you name it!—let us say con­servatively, $300.00.

In the first instance, calamity followed disobedience. In the second, all the success my family and I have achieved has come as reward for obedience to economic and physical laws. This was a per­sonal and a family struggle, the success of which was guaranteed by no one. In the light of this ex­perience I am convinced that such struggle is a blessing, not a curse.

Strength Through Struggle

No people ever became greater than the difficulties they had to overcome. Strength comes from exercise, work, struggle. It is in effort that physical and mental health is born.

These are days of terrific ten­sion. The lines of our problems seem to be drawn almost to the breaking point. Perhaps we need to remember that there is no music in a violin with loose strings. The strings of a fiddle have to be stretched almost to the breaking point to bring it in tune, and only then can a musician play upon it. I have faith to believe that something great, perhaps divine, will eventually come out of the staggering tension which now grips the world. For great prob­lems produce great men as well as great events.

Still, there are plenty of people who plead for subsidies, hoping to benefit from federal aid without suffering the hardship of federal control. But that is a false hope. Controls are inseparable from grants. The mess agriculture is in today, the staggering government supports, and the creeping paraly­sis of government control of agri­cultural markets as well as the attempted control of production, puts every farmer deeper and deeper in subjection, and more and more dependent on the ca­price of bureaucratic dictation. How can we be naive enough to think that the government can give us anything which it does not first take away from us?

Think of it as we will, argue about it as we wish, habitual fed­eral aid is indicative of a vast transformation from a free econ­omy to a planned economy. And may we never forget, when we no longer have a free economy, we are no longer a free people. And that is the dynamic and didactic thing our money is trying to say to us today.

I have a neighbor who has done exceedingly well in the farming business, yet he consistently takes from the Agricultural Stabiliza­tion and Conservation Committee (ASC) every dollar he can get, not because he needs it, but be­cause he argues that if you can get it, you’re a fool if you don’t take it. He said to me: "Why not? I figure those fellows in Wash­ington are a lot smarter than I am, and if this is the way they want it, who am I to object?"

Now a man like that can’t con­vince me that he is in favor of government economy so long as he eagerly grabs government pay­ments, money which has come out of the pockets of other people who owe him nothing.

Character Will Stand

In the last analysis, our salva­tion will not come out of Wash­ington. It will come, if it comes at all, in that secret relationship which each man works out be­tween himself and his God. Per­sonal responsibility, integrity, and faith are the building blocks which erect that stalwart edifice of character which is the only building worthy to stand through tomorrow. The only loyalty that has the power to save modern civilization is loyalty to truth. If we consistently practice a lie, we will inevitably be destroyed by that falsehood; for only the truth will survive. That is the judgment of human history, as it is the de­cree of God’s universe, and it will be the verdict which shapes the future.

Money talks! It is saying to us with all its power: "Economic wrong-doing and economic false­hood lead eventually to economic poverty and human slavery. Eco­nomic rightness which is in har­mony with eternal truth alone will lead us to economic prosperity and human freedom."

 

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April 1959

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