Back To The Future

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A friend last week re-introduced me to Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. I had read Hill’s uplifting message many years ago; revisiting it in the wake of the economic earthquake we’ve just experienced provided some interesting insights.

A quote or two from chapter 7 of Hill’s book serves to illustrate how little has changed between the crash of 1929 and that of 2008:

“…first, both the employer and the employee of the future will be considered as fellow-employees whose business it will be to SERVE THE PUBLIC EFFICIENTLY. In times past, employers and employees have bartered among themselves, driving the best bargains they could with one another, not considering that in the final analysis they were, in reality, BARGAINING AT THE EXPENSE OF THE THIRD PARTY, THE PUBLIC THEY SERVED.

“The depression served as a mighty protest from an injured public, whose rights had been trampled upon in every direction by those who were clamoring for individual advantages and profits. When the debris of the depression shall have been cleared away, and business shall have been once again restored to balance, both employers and employees will recognize that they are NO LONGER PRIVILEGED TO DRIVE BARGAINS AT THE EXPENSE OF THOSE WHOM THEY SERVE. The real employer of the future will be the public.” [Bold emphasis mine—Frank]

Mr. Hill’s assertions—some 70 years later—are unfortunately revealed to be naive when it comes to the course of human nature. Today’s businessmen and labor have not learned the lessons of the past, for they still clamor for “individual advantages and profits” at the expense of the public.

Alas, the public is ignorant of history, as well. Otherwise, we would elect trustworthy individuals to public office and immediately remove those who have proven to be corrupt. A good friend of mine urged the employees at his stations to “always conduct your personal affairs so as to be beyond reproach.” Should we ask less of those who hold the public trust?

History does repeat itself and those who fail to learn from that history are doomed to bear the cost of that repetition. One can only hope that this most recent unpleasantness has served as a wake-up call to the public; that it’s not too late to avoid repeating the full measure of the 20th century’s depression in that of the 21st.