The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt


NEW YORK, Wednesday—A gentleman has sent me an interesting pamphlet, the whole thesis of which is based on the reasonableness of human beings.

I will grant that if we were all reasonable and trustworthy the troubles of the world would soon be solved. But—and it's a big but—we will have to correct our own older generation's standards before we can expect to see this assumption either on the level of our youngsters or on the level of national and international affairs.

The gentleman says that if we remove conflict on a national basis—and he takes as an example the conflict between labor and capital—we can have a peace instantly in our nation. According to him, historically the whole difficulty began when men were paid only in cash wages and were not given a percentage of the margin of profits in whatever industry they worked. Profit-sharing, in other words, would remove all friction in the industrial world.

Unfortunately, however, we come to the question of on what basis profits shall be derived, and what percentage shall go to those who invest money, to those who manage and to those who do the work?

My correspondent says the second great mistake was that labor did not explain to employers why the basis of paid wages was not sufficient incentive for full production, and that they should have done this by persuasion.

I can hardly think that the gentleman could have been very close to the early conflict between labor and capital. I wanted to ask as I read whether he knew anything about Peter Altgeld and a few other early labor leaders. Men at that time did not ask for a share of the profits but for a living wage, and they were denied. That's what led to friction. The basis of dissension could be laid to greed on the part of the employers and, unfortunately, that is a very common human failing.

Sweet reasonableness is what the author of this brochure suggests we can always find where there is conflict, but I have not always found that to be the case. He proceeds to apply this to the international scene where it is even more difficult of application because nations suffer from greed in much the same way as human beings, and many other complications are added when you come to the international actions.

I would be delighted to see this plan tried because the one thing all of us want is a peaceful world. But most of us realize that it will take much education, which would effect a change in human beings over a period of several generations.

The best we can hope for is, I think, to hold the world together and keep from self-destruction while we learn to live by certain rules that seem to appear in almost every world religion. In our own they are expressed by the two great Commandments: Thou shalt love thy God with all thy soul and with all thy heart, and Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.



Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • New York (N.Y., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, November 20, 1952

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
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MEP edition publlished on June 30, 2008.

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.