The Little People

The war has hit many small businesses. Here an expert tells how they can be made strong and vigorous again

LITTLE people and little business were the creators of this nation and have always been its foundation and support. The United States will become weak and backward whenever economic freedom is taken from the little people.

As Chairman of the Smaller War Plants Corporation, I am working to guarantee that small business, the foundation of free enterprise, remains strong and vigorous after the war.

Conversion to war production was hard on little business. Thousands of useful small enterprises were crushed because they were unable to get war contracts or material.

We must get these little people back into individual ownership. We must find jobs and business for returning soldiers.

IF WE are to preserve our way of life, and not go into some form of collectivism, we must balance the trend to bigness, which was pronounced even before the war. When war came, military authorities could not take time to spread the business around among the little people. But now, as we face partial reconversion — getting hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians back into normal life — we must do the big job of seeing that the little people get their individual places under the free sun of America.

What do we mean by little business?

The Smaller War Plants Corporation defines it as a business with fewer than five hundred employees. But generally speaking, nearly all little businesses employ under a hundred people. Over a million have fewer than five employees. But I think we ought to add this definition: It is any not-too-large business which is locally owned, and locally operated.

What do we ask for little business?

Only that it have a fair opportunity to compete in all fields. We do not ask that the little man be given special advantages, or special privileges, because that is contrary to free enterprise, and the little man neither needs nor wants such an advantage.

But we do believe it is unfair that the small concern should be handicapped in the financial field. The tremendous resources of giant concerns make it possible for them to secure financial aid for expansion and operation at much lower rates.

To overcome this, there should be a system of government insurance similar to that used by the Federal Housing Authority, but adapted to the needs of small business. Then, within adequate and prudent safeguards, the fifteen thousand private banks&#8201— most of which are little businesses themselves — could profitably give aid to small business.

WE MUST be bold in the years to come. By setting up this insurance, we can make present-day banking as bold as pioneer banking used to be. The small, independent producer can then blaze new paths of economic glory. He can compete with the large concerns — and there will be economic opportunity for all.

The little concern must have access to the technological discoveries of this age. The small concern cannot afford huge research laboratories. Nevertheless, it must not be forced to use handicraft tools and obsolete equipment in its competition with modern industry. Out of this war have come discoveries which will usher in a new world of living tomorrow. Little business must have available at least the wealth of non-confidential technical information in this country. Certainly it should be given full use of all existing government laboratories, and aid in using government-owned and alien property patents. Where government funds have financed huge war plants in which new processes have been developed, these, too, should be available to it.

THE little man puts all his life and labor into his business. Give him the tools with which to make his life dream come true!

For months the tide of war beat down upon us in mighty fury. A free people stood against the tide and are now turning back the enemy. Our victory tomorrow must not be dimmed by mass unemployment and economic change growing out of reconversion.

The answer lies in the nearly three million small businesses of America, where men are bold, brave, and imaginative. Buffeted as small business has been by the force of war emergencies, it asks only an opportunity to rise again. Given that opportunity, it will continue as a way of life for millions of our people.

But we must act now. Cut-backs and cancellations of war orders will cause a violent change in our pattern of production. Let the small man have a chance when we return to civilian production. Granted an equal chance, little business can do again what it did in the beginning of the Republic — form the basis of a free economy and a free America.

Maury Maverick, The Milwaukee Journal, Aug. 13, 1944

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