BY DAVID PERRYMAN
Henry Ford was quite a character. The Ford Motor Co. website contains a page called “Henry Ford’s $5-a-Day Revolution,” explaining the industrialist’s motivation to double the average daily wage of his workers. According to the webpage, Mr. Ford wanted to retain workers and also believed that he could sell more vehicles “if employees could afford to buy them.”
Ford Motor Co. claims that its higher wages improved the conditions for “all American workers and contributed to the emergence of the American middle class.” Providing employees with disposable income created a consumer class that purchased refrigerators, washing machines and other home appliances in addition to just cars. Consumers consumed and the resulting effects of demand side economics expanded the manufacturing base of this country and created jobs.
Along with the increase in pay, Ford initiated the eight-hour day and the 40-hour workweek. Based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the $5 per day wage set by Henry Ford was equivalent to $117.39 per day or $14.67 per hour in 2014 dollars.
While Henry Ford’s legacy is often thought to be one of an innovative industrialist, he was also a philosopher and philanthropist. Ford said in 1930 that, “If there is one thing which I would banish from the earth it would be fear.”
Three years later, President Franklin Roosevelt, during his first Inaugural Address, attempted to comfort and encourage American by telling them that, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Advice on dealing with fear is not new. Around 470 BC, Sophocles, the Greek philosopher, said that when a person lives in fear, “everything rustles.” The Apostle Paul urged the Philippians to not be anxious, but to put their trust in God to receive peace that is beyond understanding. Seneca, the Roman philosopher and Paul’s contemporary, flatly stated that, “If we let things terrify us, life will not be worth living.”
James M. Cain in his 1943 novel, Double Indemnity, wrote, that it only takes “one drop of fear to curdle love into hate.” John Steinbeck in 1962 wrote in Travels with Charley: In Search of America that even when we think ourselves informed and certain, humans have a tendency to “populate the dark with horrors.” We are reminded of the words of Yoda in Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace, when he said, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering.”
The Oklahoma Legislature provides no safe harbor. Each legislative session, many bills are introduced because of someone’s fear or distrust.
Using President Roosevelt’s eloquent terms, the fear of fear results in legislative proposals that sap our energy, drain our resources and ultimately divert our attention from the real problems that need solutions. Instead of advancing Oklahoma forward, we are being paralyzed by conversion into retreat.
As a legislative body and as a society, we must overcome the temptation to “circle the wagons” and instead do what we can to facilitate a society in which our children and grandchildren may prosper.
Imagine my frustration when I was handed HB 2623 that sought to mandate that electric power companies develop and install “electromagnetic shield protection technology” so that in the event a “Buck Rogers” type solar-generated geomagnetic storm occurs the electric grid will be protected. The proposed legislation provided that customer’s electric bills would be increased to cover the cost of protecting against this remote possibility.
When I questioned why this was necessary, I was handed a booklet that listed this “geomagnetic storm” threat as one of a number of threats that we must diligently prepare for.
Some of the other threats were: 1] Unpredictable pathogens which spread to humans and could result in millions of people suffering and dying in every corner of the world in less than six months; 2] Climate changes that could result in monsoons in India and the rest of Asia and sharply disrupt that region’s ability to feed its population; and 3] the European Union or China could collapse and trigger political unrest and shock the global economy.
Other potential risks that the booklet warned of are: 4] nuclear powers such as Russia and Pakistan and aspirants Iran and North Korea could compensate for their military weakness by using nuclear weapons; 5] the use of cyber-attacks or weapons of mass destruction by non-governmental groups could occur; and 6] if the U.S. were to withdraw or retreat as the “guarantor of international order” an extended period of global anarchy could result.
I am certain that these imminent threats have been covered on the 24-hour coverage format of Fox News or MSNBC. I am certain that we can spend sleepless nights worrying about these and a thousand more possibilities and throw trillions of dollars toward protecting ourselves.
However, we could simply heed the advice of Daniel DeFoe in The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe that, “Fear of danger is ten thousand times more terrifying than danger itself.”
Perhaps it is time to turn off our televisions, read a book, spend some time with our neighbors or – better yet – enrich the life of a child.
In short, it is time to “Get a Life.”
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives