Hon. Franklin MacVeagh, Secretary of the Treasury, delivered a lecture in Emerson D last evening on "The Life of the Business Man." Special stress on the importance of trade and industry in the world's progress was laid by Mr. MacVeagh.
Business in the past has not been as favorably recognized as its merits have warranted. For centuries there has been intense rivalry between privilege on the one hand and business and trade on the other, and business always has been greatly depreciated. There has been, however, from the beginning a slow but steady social evolution, and business has gained some of the prestige that rightly belongs to it.
Commerce has been from the beginning the basis of international communion and to a very large degree of the wealth of the world. It has been and is today the support of leisure occupations that are not commercial and industrial. In other words, it has been the foundation of the progress of the world.
From a period of depreciation of wealth secured through trade and industry, lasting during many centuries, there has come a time when wealth is perhaps recognized too much and given too great prestige. The world has come to adopt very generally commercial ideals and standards, and it would seem as if some sort of reaction were necessary. This prestige, however, has been brought about largely through the public service done in our country by business men. Although the standards of business today are undoubtedly high, there is need to make them higher, for the position of any calling must depend upon the standards existing in that calling. It is not sufficient that we accumulate large fortunes. We must have something besides mere accumulation of wealth to justify a life spent in trade, industry, or commerce.
Business standards in this country have advanced immeasurably in the last ten years, due largely to the influence of Mr. Roosevelt. During his administration, for example, the great abuse of rebating was done away with permanently.
Business as a career offers wonderful opportunities in the way of moral and intellectual development, and for public service along various lines. If business men properly order and organize their businesses, they have more leisure than men in almost any other calling for public service and altruistic work. But with the increased opportunities there come increased responsibilities, and to fulfill properly those responsibilities business men must entertain the right sort of ideals.
The business man should not have as his ideal the accumulation of excessive wealth, but should strive for moderate wealth, allowing leisure time for the proper development of the moral and intellectual side. To acquire great wealth is not any longer a sign of great personal achievement, and does not carry with it any great personal distinction.
In addition to this ideal of moderate rather than excessive wealth, the busi- ness man should entertain a right standard of living. The simple life is undoubtedly the ideal life, but the simple life does not mean a life without comfort and refinement. It does mean a life that is not lowered by undue extravagance and the reckless expenditure of large sums of money.
With the added opportunities for public service in modern business, then, there come likewise greater responsibilities, and these responsibilities should be entered upon with ideals that are at once in the direction of moderate wealth, simple living, and pronounced development of the moral and intellectual life