Changing the Course of History – Employee Education & the Making of a World Leader (with John Fund)

Join Linda as she interviews John Fund, the well-known political expert, author, speaker, news commentator, and Columnist at National Review.  You will be fascinated as John goes behind-the-scenes with details of the famous company that boldly taught employees about free-market capitalism, and you’ll be inspired as he shares little-known facts about the employee who became a world leader and hero for freedom as a result.   

Transcript

Linda J. Hansen: 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 who’s 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 newspaper’s 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: John, I’ve already told everybody your introduction, and I am just so thankful to have you here.

John: Thank you. It’s great to be back in Wisconsin.

Linda: Thank you. Thank you. You’ve been a big part…

John: Which is the land of economic opportunities, your lowest unemployment rate in 50 years.

Linda: Isn’t it amazing? Isn’t it amazing?

John: And we could even make the jobs that people have now even better and more prosperous.

Linda: That’s fantastic. Well, that’s what we love to focus on here with Prosperity 101™, and helping people understand through breakroom 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 that you’ve done for me.

John: You’re the one who started this and it was your inspiration. And now, we’re going to carry it to the next level.

Linda: 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: 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 have been the 1970’s when I was in high school. I grew up in Sacramento which was the state capital. 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, and from various books that had been published about Ronald Reagan’s gradual transition from liberal democrat to a conservative principle 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 1940’s, the tax rates hit 90%. And Reagan realized, and he told friends, “You know, 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 you know, cater, there are people who have to do makeup, there are people who have to direct, the cameramen and all of that.” So, he started to realize the impact, the negative impact, that government could 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– the career, his movie career was tailing off because he was no longer, the age to be the leading man. So he decided to go…

Linda: Happens to the best of us.

John: It does. 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 that were very– the kind of show that was very popular at the time. During those 8 years, Ronald Reagan starred with everybody, from Humphrey Bogart to James Dean. 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 6 months out of the year. For 3 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 3 months out of the year, Ronald Reagan took trains from G.E. plant to G.E. plant and served as sort of a traveling ambassador for the company. 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: So he was basically the grassroots face of General Electric in a sense… 

John: Well, yes. And over time, what he discovered was that the people he met on the assembly line or the women he 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 the government, high taxes, why their friends who were farmers or small businessmen couldn’t succeed. 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 a body man and the adviser who would help him out with these programs. 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 understand management had to make a profit if you were going to get paid, and don’t listen to everything they tell you because they have their own special interests just like management does. So in order to this, Lynn Bollwear, 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: My kids read that book.

John: There you go. Frederic Bastiat’s The Law, the condensed version of the Nobel Prize-winning communist Friedrich Hayek’s Road to Serfdom. Reagan said, “If these people are reading these books, I’ve got to read them.” So, on these long train trips, because it took two and a half days to travel way back then from Los Angeles to New York by train, Reagan would read these books. They gradually convinced him that we– our greatness as a country stemmed in part from our free-market economy and its respect for individualism to the extent that it had been weakened by not only the centralization of government brought about by the great depression in World War II, we had to have a rebirth of freedom in this country, stimulating…

Linda: A new dawn. 

John: We needed the Morning in America. By the time, Reagan left General Electric Theater in 1962, and there’s another story as to how that got cancelled because the Kennedy Administration actually leaned on General Electric to fire Ronald Reagan because he was saying things against the Kennedy Economic Program.

Linda: I suddenly hear Paul Harvey’s voice saying, “And now, you know the rest of the story.” 

John: Well, actually, you know, the last couple of years of John F. Kennedy’s life, it turned around again because John F. Kennedy became a committed supply-sider. He proposed a bid tax cut. You know, Kennedy’s tax cut in the 1960’s, which was passed after his assassination, his tragic death, was followed by– Ronald Reagan picked up that example, of course, of the supply-side tax cut of the 1980’s.

Linda: People often say now that Kennedy would be seen as a conservative now.

John: Well, he would certainly have been– at the very least, he would have been a much more centrist Democrat than what we have today. By the time Reagan left General Electric Theater in 1962, he told people, “This was my graduate school in politics, government, and civics.” 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, and of course, as president in the 1980’s.

Linda: That’s such a fantastic story. 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: Well, I can tell you some of the people Ronald Reagan educated. They were the people in the audiences that he addressed. They were people who went on to form their own businesses. They were people who ended up serving in the state legislature. They were people who ended up becoming prominent in their community whether it was through philanthropy or through other areas, and they were people who also, of course, rose in their ranks during the executive ranks of General Electric, which for many, many years was a very successful company. Unfortunately, in the 1990’s and 2000’s, 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 a contractor. And sure enough, General Electric hollowed itself out and is now a pale version of itself. It just goes to show what could 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: 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 right, 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: The pension plan could collapse. We’ve seen private pension plans collapse. A healthy economy that can make a profit and can overcome the kind of overregulation that exists now. Obviously, we want some regulation, but we don’t want the kind…

Linda: Reasonable regulations.

John: 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 businessman, and he was warning against their seeking corporate welfare because you know 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. It may have helped cost Governor Walker his reelection, because of the misuse of eminent domain and clearing the land for their company. So, Reagan would tell them, warning them against seeking undue favors or influence 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: That’s great. You are just great at remembering all of these things. 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– speaking of book clubs, I would like to have you share your books.

John: Well, I’ve written books for other people as well. I 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 over the economy more than the actual regulations. I’ve written a book on term limits, limiting the number of years someone can serve in congress. I’ve written a couple of books on election security, and ballot fraud, and voting issues. And I’m currently working on a book on citizenship, how we no longer teach citizenship, we no longer revere citizenship, and we no longer understand what a citizen’s role in a free society is.

Linda: 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 and go to Amazon.com?

John: They’re on Amazon. Amazon.com is a great place. Of course, all of my articles are at National Review. If you just go to nationalreview.com and put my name on the search box, you’ll find whatever you need. I just want tell you how important, I think, the work of Prosperity 101™ is doing 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 to the bloodstream of someone. You must teach it to the next generation. Otherwise, it is lost forever.” That’s the good work that you’re about.

Linda: He said it only takes one generation to lose it.

John: Exactly.

Linda: Well, I’m so grateful that you took the time to be here today. 

John: Thank you, Linda, and good luck.

Linda: Thank you for sharing. Thank you. 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. If you’d like to order his books, you can order them at Amazon or find them at your favorite bookseller. Again, thank you, John Fund.

John: Thank you.

Linda: My good friend. We’re so glad you were here today. 

John: Pleasure. Good luck.