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

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NEW YORK—Speaking to a group of the world's finance ministers the other day, Britain's new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Reginald Maulding, suggested that they consider setting up a mutual currency account where countries would make guaranteed deposits of their surplus accumulations of the world's major currencies. This is not only a novel addition to the methods that might strengthen the world's major currencies, but it is also a pooling idea that I wish we could extend to other areas, such as foreign aid.

For a long time, reports from overseas have shown that on the whole the economies of most European countries are, if anything, on a sounder basis than our own. And yet, when these countries are urged to contribute to the development of the new nations, or to the development in old countries of ancient civilizations that are trying to move into new ways, their response is not over-enthusiastic.

I believe our own government, particularly in the Congress, is not reacting favorably to this. The feeling is that we are being used because we have been a generous people, anxious to help. For a time immediately after the war, of course, it was imperative that we help Europe recover. But our people are beginning to realize the exent of the economic comeback in these countries, and their feelings are reflected in Congressional reaction.

Quite naturally, these people say: "We are being asked to pay high taxes, but not to improve certain areas in our own country that need stimulation, or to give us more money for research on education, or to build up a better school system and better teachers' training. Rather, we are paying taxes to help other people. True, we are told that this is part of the struggle against communism; that if we do not help these people the Communists will, and in this way gain in influence. And, as we are the major bulwark against communism, we should carry the major part of this particular battle."

This argument, however, does not really hold water. Every free country in the world has a stake in persuading the neutral and newly-developed countries that there is a better form of government, and a better way of life, than communism. One way to do this is to prove at home how well you can make your own system serve the needs of your own people.

Another essential is to show very clearly that we understand how different countries, with different natural resources and at different points of development, may quite well have to have different types of economies. Some may be mixed, as in Norway and Sweden; some may be completely Socialist, and a few may be completely capitalist.

Some capitalism will probably appear in all, but this is not the important thing. You can live with many different kinds of economies. What we must persuade people to accept is the value of our belief in the sacredness and importance of the individual human being, not as an asset to the state but in and for himself. We must convince them of the democratic tenet that each individual has the right to function as a free and independent citizen, the equal of any other man or woman regardless of birth, race or financial position. Above all, the responsibility to participate in their own government must be accepted by each individual.

My husband used to say that no people who had a secret ballot, and used it, could ever be enslaved. Of course, in a new country that knows little or nothing of setting up a government, the installation of a true democracy will probably take some time. A number of phases may have to be gone through—perhaps even the acceptance of one strong man who will draw around him those who are capable of understanding what they are trying to do. The danger is that it will be difficult to make the transition from a one-man dictatorship to a democracy. But this is a risk we must run and therefore I think pooling of foreign aid—and the channelling through the United Nations of far more of the action that is taken—would be one of the best things that could now happen to the world.


(Copyright, 1962, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, September 21, 1962

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