Department of State Press Release No. 58
Transcription or Extemporaneous Remarks by Secretary of State Dean Acheson, Concerning Point 4 of the President’s Inaugural Address, at His Press Conference, January 26, 1949
First of all, I hope that you all understand the setting of Point 4 in the President’s Inaugural Address.1 It was one of four major courses of action which the President said would be carried out by his Administration over the next four years, for the purpose of achieving the great objective which he talked about mainly in that address. That objective was to make clear in our own country and to all the world the purpose of American life and the purpose of the American system. That purpose is to enable the individual to attain the freedom and dignity, the fullness of life which should be the purpose of all government and of all life on this earth except in so far as it may be a preparation for some other life.
The President went on to point out that the other theory—of the place of the individual in society—was not a modern theory, was not a radical or a new view, but was reactionary in the extreme. It is a view which goes back to the period before the Renaissance. It is a view which is founded on the basic idea that status is the governing factor in life; that every person is born into the world in a position and that that person becomes a mere cog in a machine. That is a basically reactionary attitude and philosophy. It is not, as I say, modern. It is an attempt to crawl back into the cocoon of history. The American view of life is one which flows directly from the Renaissance and is one which says that the worth and dignity and freedom of the individual are the objectives of government.
Then the President went on to point out courses of action which we were going to take over the next four years to try to bring about that purpose of life, not only in this country, but in any other country which wished our help and association in that effort. To me the essential thing about it is that it is the use of material means to a non-material end. It is not that we believe that other people need or wish things for their own purpose merely to have these material objects. It is not that material objects in and of themselves make a better or fuller life, but they are the means by which people can obtain freedom, [Page 759]not only freedom from the pressure of those other human beings who would restrict their freedom, but help in the ancient struggle of man to earn his living and get his bread from the soil. That is the purpose; that is the objective of this program.
Now, the President was not announcing a project to be completed within a few weeks or months. He was announcing in this, as in the other three respects, a long program for his Administration. It was a program on which much has been done in the past and on which more can be done in the future. The President pointed out that the United States has no monopoly of skills or techniques. Other countries have vast reservoirs of skill. In almost every country there is some nucleus of skill, some group of people whose technical abilities can be expanded with help from the outside. With all of those people, the President stated, we wish to work. He particularly stated that we wished to work through the United Nations and all those affiliated organizations which are associated with it. He pointed out that in so far as his program is successful and in so far as peoples in less developed areas acquire skills, they may also create the conditions under which capital may flow into those countries. He did not say this was to be governmental capital and indeed, if the proper conditions are created, the reservoirs of private capital are very great indeed. He pointed out that these must be two-way operations. There is abroad in the world an idea that there is a magic in investment. There is an idea that if every country can only have a steel mill, then all is well. There is a failure to understand that it is a long and difficult process to develop the skills which are necessary to operate many of these plants. There is sometimes failure to understand that plants should be located where the natural resources exist and not on purely nationalistic bases. There is also in many places a failure to understand that unless the conditions are created by which investors may fairly put their money into that country, then there is a great impediment to development. It is no solution to say, “Well, the private investors won’t do it. Therefore, governments must.” So he pointed out that it must be a two-way street.
Now, as I say, much has been done in the past to try to make technological skill and advice available from the United States and from other countries, through the United Nations and through many of its organizations. All of those efforts can be brought together and intensified. The President pointed out that we are willing and anxious to work with every country that wishes to really enter into a cooperative system with the rest of the world to this end and with every country that wishes to help other countries to develop.
Now, that is the broad background of the Inaugural Address. I have talked at some length about this because it seems to me important that it be put in its setting of American foreign policy.
- In the transcript of a question and answer period that followed this passage occurs: “Asked if he had discussed this subject [Point IV] with the President before he made his inaugural address, Mr. Acheson replied in the negative. He added that he was conversant with the draft and in complete accord with it.” (800.50T.A./1–2849)↩