Education creates leaders. We can educate leaders who defend tyranny, or we can educate leaders who protect freedom. Whether in the family, school, or workplace, education on basic economics and principles of freedom is essential to the preservation...
Education creates leaders. We can educate leaders who defend tyranny, or we can educate leaders who protect freedom. Whether in the family, school, or workplace, education on basic economics and principles of freedom is essential to the preservation of liberty. Have you ever wondered if your educational efforts are worth your time and resources? Do you wonder if you are having a positive impact? This episode includes behind-the-scenes details of a famous company that boldly taught employees about free market capitalism, and little-known facts about the employee who became a world leader and hero for freedom as a result. Listen as Linda and political expert, author, and commentator, John Fund, share insights about the unlikely leader who changed the world. You may never know the impact of your educational efforts. Maybe you are educating a future world leader who will preserve freedom for millions or people across the globe.
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Linda J. Hansen: Welcome. Thank you for tuning in to this episode of the Prosperity 101 Break Room Economics Podcast. My name is Linda J. Hansen, your host, and the author of Prosperity 101: Job Security Through Business Prosperity, the essential guide to understanding how policy affects your paycheck, and the creator of the Break Room Economics online course. The book, the course, and the entire podcast library can be found on prosperity101.com. I seek to connect boardroom to break room, and policy to paycheck by empowering and encouraging employers to educate employees about the public policy issues that affect their jobs. My goal is to help people understand the foundations of prosperity, the policies of prosperity, and how to protect their prosperity by becoming informed, involved, and impactful. I believe this will lead to greater employee loyalty, engagement, and retention, and to an increased awareness of the blessings and responsibilities of living in a free society.
Listen each week to hear from exciting guests and be sure to visit prosperity101.com. Thank you for tuning in today. I'm recording this in March of 2022, the two year anniversary of launching my podcast. I launched the podcast just days before all the COVID lockdowns and mandates began. So much has changed in our country in the last two years. We are at a critical point in our nation's history. We have sacrificed freedom on the altar of perceived safety and security and now we are reaping the consequences of that choice. No matter which side of the political fence you are on, you cannot help but feel big government intrusion in your daily life. Whether it is the price of gasoline at the pumps, the empty shelves at your local store, the mandates affecting your livelihood, or the burgeoning tax bill you're facing, big government has intruded upon your life, your family, and your livelihood.
But what can we do? I talk to many people who feel at a loss as they see their beloved country deteriorating. I understand that at times it can feel like a David and Goliath fight, but I will share an amazing story that will encourage you whether you are an employer, employee, parent, or student. Many younger listeners have no memory of President Ronald Reagan. They only have history books, and those may or may not tell the full story of the truly great leader he was. I can still remember his powerful words, "Mr. Gobachev, tear down this wall!" The world was never the same. I admired his courage and the skill he used to communicate his bold vision and defense of freedom. Our country was emerging from a dark season when Reagan was elected. He brought hope. I believe his words can help to guide us today, too.
So, I'm sharing a few quotes from his first presidential inaugural address given on January 20th, 1981. President Reagan said in that address, "In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem. From time to time, we've been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?
All of us, together, in and out of government must bear the burden. The solutions we seek must be equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price. We hear much of special interest groups while our concern must be for a special interest group that has been too long neglected. It knows no sectional boundaries or ethnic or racial divisions, and it crosses political party lines. It is made up of men and women who raise our food, patrol our streets, man our mines and factories, teach our children, keep our homes, and heal us when we're sick. Professionals, industrialists, shopkeepers, clerks, cabbies, and truck drivers. They are, in short, we, the people. This breed called Americans."
Later, in the same speech, he said, "If we look to the answer as to why, for so many years, we achieved so much, prospered as no other people on earth, it was because here, in this land, we unleashed the energy and individual genius of man to a greater extent than has ever been done before. Freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and assured here than in any other place on earth. The price for this freedom, at times, has been high, but we have never been unwilling to pay that price.
It is no coincidence that our present troubles parallel and are proportionate to the intervention and intrusion in our lives that result from unnecessary and excessive growth of government. It is time for us to realize that we're too great a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams. We're not, as some would have us believe, doomed to an inevitable decline. I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing. So, with all the creative energy at our command, let us begin an era of national renewal. Let us renew our determination, our courage, and our strength, and let us renew our faith and our hope. We have every right to dream heroic dreams.
Those who say that we're in a time when there are not heroes, they just don't know where to look. You can see heroes every day going in and out of factory gates. Others, a handful in number, produce enough food to feed all of us and then the world beyond. You meet heroes across a counter, and they're on both sides of that counter. There are entrepreneurs with faith in themselves and faith in an idea, who create new jobs, new wealth, and opportunity. There individuals and families whose taxes support the government and whose voluntary gifts support church, charity, culture, art, and education. Their patriotism is quiet but deep. Their values sustain our national life."
As you can see from these quotes, Ronald Reagan believed in the beauty of America and the principles of our constitution. He believed in we, the people, and that government wasn't the solution to all our problems. Government often was the problem. You may be surprised to learn that Ronald Reagan did not always hold the values that made him one of the greatest world leaders of all time. One of my earliest podcast episodes was an interview I recorded in the fall of 2019 with my good friend John Fund. The conversation was originally done on video and was not released until the podcast series began in March of 2020, so it will seem a little past tense at times as you listen.
But the story he told about president Ronald Reagan is timeless. I'm including it in this episode today as a reminder of the importance of education and, especially, economic education in the workplace. As I celebrate the anniversary of my podcast, I hope you will join me in celebrating one of our greatest presidents and the principles he promoted as you listen to my previous episode with John Fund. We, the people, can save this country and protect the freedoms we hold dear.
When we take time to educate others on the principles of our constitution, we may be educating an upcoming world leader who will protect freedom for millions. And now, enjoy listening to John Fund share one of my favorite stories about one of my favorite presidents.
I've heard it said that if you think education is expensive, try ignorance. As an employer, you may wonder if the time, energy, and financial resources you spend to educate employees will be worth it. You may wonder if helping them to understand the founding documents of our country and the blessings and responsibilities of living in a free society will actually make a positive difference. But you never know how far your educational efforts may reach. You may be educating an entire family as the employee shares with loved ones what they have learned. Or, like the company mentioned in today's episode, you may be educating a future world leader who will change the course of history.
Our next guest will share some little known facts about a well known company that helped to change the course of history through their employee education program. He will also share some little known facts about one of our nation's greatest leaders, someone who helped to bring freedom to millions of people and whose policy views were shaped through an employee education program designed to help people gain a basic understanding of free enterprise economics.
Our guest for this episode is John Fund. John is a national affairs columnist for National Review. He worked for the Wall Street Journal for more than two decades and was a member of the Newspapers Editorial Board. John has written for many, many other publications, almost too numerous to mention. He has authored several books, including Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy. He is a sought after speaker, author, and news commentator. He is considered a notable expert on American politics and the intersection between politics and economics. Not only that, he has been an advisor to me with the Prosperity 101 program since it began. I know you will be encouraged and inspired by this episode. Please welcome John Fund.
Today. My special guest is John Fund.
John Fund: Thank you.
Linda J. Hansen: John, I've already told everybody your introduction and I'm just so thankful to have you here for this podcast.
John Fund: It's great to be back in Wisconsin.
Linda J. Hansen: Thank you. Thank you. You've been a big part-
John Fund: Which is the land of economic opportunity, your lowest unemployment rate in 50 years.
Linda J. Hansen: Isn't it amazing? Isn't it amazing?
John Fund: And we can even make the jobs that people have now even better and more prosperous.
Linda J. Hansen: That's fantastic. Well, that's what we love to focus on here with Prosperity 101 and helping people understand, through break room economics, how the foundations of prosperity, the policies of prosperity can help them protect their prosperity as they become informed, involved, and impactful. So, John, you've been with me a long time on this journey with Prosperity 101, and I thank you so much for all the advice and input and writing you've done for me.
John Fund: You're the one who started this and it was your inspiration, and now we're going to carry it to a next level.
Linda J. Hansen: Ah, it's exciting. What I'd really like to have you talk to us about today is your study of Ronald Reagan and how he got his conservative views from his time at General Electric. Can you share a little bit of that with our audience?
John Fund: Sure. Well, first of all, your audience should know that I grew up in California and I'm old enough to have met and had conversations with Ronald Reagan when he was governor and after he was governor. This would've been the 1970s when I was in high school. I grew up in Sacramento, which was the state capital. And this didn't come directly from Ronald Reagan, but from people who I've interviewed, including Ed Meese, the former attorney general, who just won the presidential medal of freedom awarded by President Trump.
Linda J. Hansen: I saw that. Amazing.
John Fund: And from various books that have been published about Ronald Reagan's gradual transition from liberal Democrat to a conservative principal believer in free market economics. The story basically goes like this. Ronald Reagan grew up as a Democrat, his family was all Democrats and liberals. But in the 1940s, the tax rates hit 90% and Reagan realized, and he told friends, "This is not good either for me or for the country, because at 90% tax rate, I'm not going to make as many films. And that's not good for me because it means I'm working less and it's not good for the country because when I make a film, I employ dozens of people. If I'm the star of a film, there are people who have to cater, there are people who have to do makeup, there are people who have to direct, there are cameramen and all of that."
So, he started to realize the impact, the negative impact that government can have on the economy. So, then we transition to, Reagan met Nancy Davis and they married in 1952 and had a daughter, Maureen. And Reagan then was, his movie career was tailing off because he was no longer of the age to be the leading man. So he decided to-
Linda J. Hansen: Happens to the best of us.
John Fund: It does. So, he decided to go into television. And in 1954, he became the host and spokesman for General Electric Theater, which was an anthology series of dramas, the kind of show that was very popular at the time. And during those eight years, Ronald Reagan starred with everybody from Humphrey Bogart to James Dean. And he was not only the host, but he actually played the lead or a character in many of those dramas. So, in General Electric Theater, they tape for six months out of the year. For three months out of the year, Ronald Reagan, he didn't like to fly, he only learned how to overcome his fear of flying later, for three months out of the year, Ronald Reagan took trains from GE plant to GE plant and served as sort of a traveling ambassador for the company.
Linda J. Hansen: Amazing.
John Fund: So, he didn't just do the General Electric Theater, he explained how General Electric was a top government contractor in the defense industry, how the products were used overseas. He became a sounding board for complaints or advice from the employees of the shop floor up to management.
Linda J. Hansen: So, he was basically the grassroots face of General Electric, in a sense.
John Fund: Well, yes. And over time, what he discovered is that the people he met on the assembly line or the women who met working in the cafeteria or working in the offices, they didn't always want to hear his Hollywood anecdotes. They had other things and other concerns like big government, high taxes, why their friends who were farmers or small businessmen couldn't succeed. And he gradually started figuring out that he was going to have to address these issues as part of his normal speech. And then there was a guy who was traveling with him, he was sort of the body man and the advisor who would help him out with these programs. And one day he mentioned, "Well, you know Ron, there are book clubs at General Electric." The company was a pioneer in working with its employees to understand management's point of view, not necessarily agree with it, but to understand management had to make a profit if you were going to get paid, and don't listen to everything the labor unions tell you because they have their own special interests, just like management does.
So, in order to do this, Lem Boulware, who was the guy who hired Reagan at General Electric, he was the industrial relations manager, he had founded book clubs for General Electric employees to read books about American patriotism, about the founding fathers, our constitution, and economics, including Henry Hazlitt's Economics In One Lesson, including Bastiat's-
Linda J. Hansen: My kids read that book.
John Fund: There you go. Frederic Bastiat's The Law, the condensed version of the Nobel Prize winning economist, Friedrich Hayek's Road to Serfdom. And so Reagan said, "If these people are reading these books, I got to read them." So, on these long train trips, because it took two and a half days to travel back then from Los Angeles to New York by train, Reagan would read these books. And they gradually convinced him that our greatness as a country stemmed, in part, from our free market economy and its respect for individualism. And to the extent that it had been weakened by not only the centralization of government brought about by the great depression and World War II, we had to have a rebirth of freedom in this country, stimulating-
Linda J. Hansen: A new dawn.
John Fund: We needed a morning in America.
Linda J. Hansen: A morning in America.
John Fund: Yes. And so by the time Reagan left General Electric Theater in 1962, and there's another story as to how that got canceled because the Kennedy administration actually leaned on General Electric to fire Ronald Reagan, because he was saying things against the Kennedy Economic Program.
Linda J. Hansen: I suddenly hear Paul Harvey's voice saying, "And now you know the rest of the story."
John Fund: Well, actually the last couple years of John F. Kennedy's life had turned around again because John F. Kennedy became a committed supply-sider. He proposed a big tax cut. And Kennedy's tax cut in the 1960s, which was passed after his assassination, his tragic death, was followed by, Ronald Reagan picked up that example. And, of course, had the supply-side tax cut of the 1980s.
Linda J. Hansen: Yeah. People often say now that Kennedy would be seen as a conservative now. In some ways-
John Fund: Well, he would certainly have been, at the very least, he would've been a much more Centrist Democrat than what we have today. So, by the time Reagan left General Electric Theater in 1962, he told people, "This was my graduate school in politics, government, and civics." And he took those lessons and he adapted them and put them to use for the eight years he was governor of California from 1967 to '75, then, of course, as president in the 1980s.
Linda J. Hansen: Mm-hmm (affirmative). That's just a fantastic story. And when I'm working with employers to help educate their employees about these public policy issues, I always tell them, "You never know who you might be educating." We never know-
John Fund: Well, I can tell you some of the people Ronald Reagan educated, and the people in the audiences that he addressed, there were people who went on to form their own businesses, there were people who ended up serving in the state legislature, there were people who ended up becoming prominent in their community, whether it was through philanthropy or through other areas. And there were people who also, of course, rose in the ranks and joined the executive ranks of General Electric, which for many, many years was a very successful company. Unfortunately, in the 1990s and 2000s, General Electric lost its way. It went into all kinds of lines of business it wasn't qualified for, and it became addicted to government loans and government spending and government subsidies as it a contractor. And sure enough, General Electric hollowed itself out and is now a pale version of itself. So, it just goes to show what can happen, not just when a company loses its way, but if a country loses its way, there's no limit to how far it can fall, and, well, frankly, do badly by the people who depend on it.
Linda J. Hansen: That's really true. One of the things I point out in my course is that when people become dependent upon government and government can no longer supply those needs, often unrest and rebellion follow. We've seen this in countries all across the world. We've seen it over history and we see it in the fail of a company too, there's going to be some unrest.
John Fund: The pension plan can collapse. We've seen private pension plans collapse. A healthy economy that can make a profit and can overcome the kind of over regulation that's exists now, obviously, we want some regulation, but we don't want-
Linda J. Hansen: Right. Reasonable regulation.
John Fund: Exactly. That can really damage and destroy a company. By the way, Reagan had a great line for what you just mentioned. He once addressed a group of businessmen and he was warning against their seeking corporate welfare because corporations are profit maximizers in different ways. Not only do they want to earn a profit in the private sector, sometimes they go to government for subsidies. The Foxconn scandal in Wisconsin is a perfect example of that. And it may have helped cost Governor Walker his reelection, because of the misuse of eminent domain in clearing land for that company. So, Reagan would tell them, warning them against seeking undue favors that were influenced from government. He said, "Now, I would remind you, never, never get into bed with the government because you'll never get a good night's sleep."
Linda J. Hansen: That's great. You are just great at remembering all of these things. And I do want to let people know a little bit about some of the books that you've written that they may want to be educated.
John Fund: Well, I've addressed-
Linda J. Hansen: [crosstalk 00:22:28] share your books.
John Fund: I've written books for other people as well, collaborated on Rush Limbaugh on his first book. But on my own, under my own name, I've written a book on the dangers of regulations, litigation or a lawsuit culture, can sometimes overregulate the economy more than the actual regulations. I've written a book on term limits, limiting the number of years that someone can conserve in Congress. I've written a couple books on election security and ballot fraud and voting issues. And I'm currently working on a book on citizenship, how we've no longer teach citizenship and we no longer revere citizenship.
Linda J. Hansen: So glad you're doing that.
John Fund: And we no longer understand what a citizen's role in a free society is.
Linda J. Hansen: Yeah. Well, you are a wealth of information and I'm so thankful that you're doing that. Now, if people want to get your books, could they just Google your name-
John Fund: They're on Amazon.
Linda J. Hansen: Go to amazon.com. Okay.
John Fund: Amazon.com is a great place. And, of course, all of my articles at National Review, if you just go to nationalreview.com and put my name in the search box, you'll find every-
Linda J. Hansen: You'll find all of your articles
John Fund: And I just want to tell you how important I think the work that Prosperity 101 is doing-
Linda J. Hansen: Thank you.
John Fund: Because education on the basics of what a free economy is all about is no longer taught in high schools or even colleges. If we don't have private sector outreach programs telling people what the foundations of a successful free country are, we're going to lose it because, just to close with one final Reagan quote, "Liberty is not something you can transfer through the bloodstream to someone. You must teach it to the next generation, otherwise it is lost forever." And that's the good work that you're about.
Linda J. Hansen: He said it only takes one generation to lose it.
John Fund: Exactly.
Linda J. Hansen: Right. Well, I'm so grateful that you took the time to be here today. And I thank you-
John Fund: Thank you, Linda,
Linda J. Hansen: Thank you for sharing-
John Fund: And good luck
Linda J. Hansen: Thank you and thank you everybody for watching today. If you, again, would like to see John Fund's writings, go to National Review and just type in his name. And if you'd like to order his books, you can order them at Amazon or find them at your favorite book seller. So, again, thank you John Fund.
John Fund: Thank you.
Linda J. Hansen: My good friend and we're so glad that you were here today.
John Fund: Pleasure. Good luck.
Linda J. Hansen: Thank you. And this is Linda J. Hansen closing with Prosperity 101 Break Room Economics, where we teach people the foundations of prosperity, the policies of prosperity and how to protect their prosperity by becoming informed, involved, and impactful. Thank you for joining us today.
Thank you again for listening to the Prosperity 101 Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, share, and leave a great review. Don't forget to visit prosperity101.com to access the entire podcast library, to order my newest book, Job Security Through Business Prosperity, the essential guide to understanding how policy affects your paycheck, or to enroll you or your employees in the Break Room Economics online course. You can also receive the free ebook, 10 Tips For Helping Employees Understand How Public Policy Affects Their Paychecks. Freedom is never free. Understanding the foundations of prosperity and the policies of prosperity will help you to protect prosperity as you become informed, involved, and impactful. I give special thanks to our sponsors, Mathews Archery, Incorporated, and Wisconsin Stamping and Manufacturing. Please contact us today at prosperity101.com to let us know how we can serve you. Thank you.