I Came To Stay, P. F. Hurst, 1969, by Ron Hurst

(Editor’s Note:  Ron Hurst is the elder son of Peter Hurst, whose memoir appears on this website.  Ron offers the following essay as commentary on his father’s views)

 

March 2010

 

Today I had a wonderful experience.  A neighbor, who had just finished my father’s memoir, I Came To Stay, returned it to me and we had a delightful discussion of its meaning and impact.

“Every kid in America should read your dad’s book.  I’m tellin ja, he hit the nail on the head with that statement about from womb to tomb”, my neighbor said.

Here is the statement he was referring to:


 “It is with growing concern that I watch a trend among the younger generation to forget the pioneering spirit that built the greatness of this country, and to look instead for security, pensions, and other so-called benefits to take care of every human life from womb to tomb.”


Since a retired ex-employee of my dad’s published the memoir on the Internet I have thought a lot about what it would mean to readers today.  If dad were alive today, how would he reflect on the world as it presents itself with the financial crises of 2008, the Iraq war(s), Afghanistan, the first African-American President of the USA (who is also a Democrat), and the global population explosion (3 billion in 1960 / 6.7 billion in 2008)?

I am sure he would have applauded the Reagan years and the resultant liberalization of the banking system as well as today’s unprecedented low personal income taxes.  I am also sure that the shock of the 2008 financial crises and excesses it brought to light would have galled him.  I am also quite sure that dad would have been very critical of the horrendous federal budget deficits and foreign trade deficits and fearful of the consequences of an exploding global population. Being a fugitive from Nazi Germany, dad would have certainly had a unique perspective on war and the U.S. as a global Super Power. What I am not sure of is how he would view the current domestic political climate, and the social problems which have come out of a 15-year-long enterprise restructuring (out-sourcing) commensurate with the liberalization of government regulation begun in the 1990s, as well as the tripling of the global population since he passed away in 1969.

In regard to dad’s view of youth I ask myself, haven’t young people, or just people in general, always been more likely to live within their comfort zone rather than stick their necks out and take big risks?  Was the trend my dad spoke of really a new “sign of his time”?  I am more inclined to think that people all over the world are very similar, and that they have always had the same basic needs and goals.  People’s basic needs are to have a secure, safe environment with enough food, water and shelter to survive; they want to be given equal opportunity to provide themselves with those basics; they want a system which establishes the framework for them to succeed; and, they want a better life for their children than they had been given. 

The latter means that there must be an existent strategy or mechanism for “life style improvement” in order for our children to be able to have a better life.  And, in a free democratic society, elected representatives are behooved to deliver political solutions which offer certain guarantees that these needs and goals may be attained.  That is why we have social security, minimum wages, cost of living indexing, Medicare, Medicaid, tax free savings options, and all kinds of government-sponsored and run social services.  And no one is willing to give up these services and benefits regardless of political persuasion and social need.  Does Bill Gates or Warren Buffett need Social Security benefits, Medicare or Medicaid?  It is important to remember that the huge federal deficit which resulted from the second world war was in part reduced by high taxation, something no one sees as a necessary solution today to reduce the unprecedented deficit we have. And, any effort to expand government sponsored and/or run social services, such as a much needed universal health care plan, are deemed too expensive and require an increase in taxation.  Lastly, the fact that the middle class which supported my dad’s entrepreneurship has all but disappeared, leaving a small percent of super wealthy and a huge percent of working poor, has meant that those basic needs and goals are not attainable for most members of society. Therefore, it does not surprise me that the population at large is unhappy with government: the wealthy because they do not want higher taxation and the rest because their lives are neither what they need nor want.

We still have, and I believe always will have,  the risk takers, like Bill Gates, Steven Jobs, Larry Ellis, Scott McNealey, and the Google founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, to name just the obvious ones.  And, opportunities are still abundant for those who have the means (education, skills and genius) to recognize them and act on them. Of course we must not exclude luck from the success equation.  Dad often mentioned the role luck had played in his good fortune.  

I see no trend among the youth today, or of my own generation, that says we are becoming a society of comfortable, lazy, and entitled people.  Society is made up of people who are today basically the same as they always were.  I would, on this point, disagree with my father.  I also think it important to point out that the risks my father took were forced on him by the circumstances in Nazi Germany.  It was a matter of survival for him which, nonetheless, took lots of courage, cunning, genius and luck. 

Societies are the same today as they always have been in my opinion.  And they are governed as they always have been; some by despots, some by dictators, benevolent or otherwise, some by democratically elected representatives.  Nevertheless, all governments basically do the same thing; try to keep the masses happy, and eliminate social unrest while serving the property owners and wealthy better.  After all, the property owners and wealthy are the ones who wrote the constitutions, who run for office and get elected, or are the perpetrators of a putsch.  That is a universal fact.... in my opinion.  Cuba may be the exception to the rule.

There is one undeniable fact that we should not lose sight of; that all societies have relied on some form of slavery at one time or another in their history.  The Romans had them, the Greeks had them, Egyptians had them, modern Europeans had them, and God knows Americans had them ....and Americans did not JUST have African slaves!  There were Chinese, Irish, Italian, Polish, Scandinavian, child and female slaves as well. Today outsourcing is the way to cheap labor.  We also have the migrating masses from the less developed world to the developed world who are easily exploited.  Just as in the past, our economic and political systems demand that business take advantage of cheap and abundant labor wherever it may be.

I believe a fairly regulated (policed) social and economic system is necessary for social stability (peace and security) in this overpopulated and exploding world.  If dad were alive today I believe we would agree on this.  I also believe he would worry, as I do, that the existent inability of government to do what their constituencies require will lead to a world where my children (his grandchildren) and my grandchildren are very likely to not experience the affluence and luxury we have enjoyed.  I worry that my generation has failed them miserably!!!!!