WISDOM FROM YALE PRESIDENT: United States must continue to exalt competition and reward efficiency


The Boston Daily Globe reports on a speech given yesterday by Arthur T. Hadley, president of Yale University, in which he stood up for traditional American institutions, in particular, its system of free enterprise.  His subject:  “National efficiency.”  His message:  “unless the United States pays more attention to the conservation of brains than to natural resources America’s greatness will be a thing of the past.”

Ten years ago, the country was aroused to the necessity of conserving its natural resources. But there is a more important need to which we are not yet fully awake, the need of conserving our mental resources in the way of brains and character.

What was it that made our country great?  Not our mines and our forests: not our unoccupied stretches of fertile land. Mexico had these; Canada had these.  It was the efficiency of the men that tilled the land and worked the mines and organized the trade of the country. New England was prosperous on account of her brains and character, in spite of adverse climate and sparing natural resources.

. . . [I]t was a system of competition which made people work hard and brought the strongest men and most responsible workers to the front. Very few people understand how much we owe to competition.

It had its chief value as a stimulus to hard work in the service of the community.  The man who did the most got the prize. The man who was most responsible occupied the position of leadership. When competition is done away with, the industrial prizes are likely to be awarded on some other basis than hard work and responsibility. We are then brought face to face with the danger that there will not be enough work done to make our people prosperous.

One hopes that Yale University will always remain at the lead in defending traditional American values, both in the area of public policy and in the area of personal character.

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