Introduction: What is the Idea?
The following are quotes from the introduction to Henry Ford’s autobiography. The entire text to the introduction can be read at CashCourse.com.
Power and machinery, money and goods, are useful only as they set us free to live. They are but means to an end. For instance, I do not consider the machines which bear my name simply as machines. If that was all there was to it I would do something else. I take them as concrete evidence of the working out of a theory of business…
If I merely want money the present system is all right; it gives money in plenty to me. But I am thinking of service.
Almost any one can think up an idea. The thing that counts is developing it into a practical product.
I take it for granted that we must work.
We learn from Russia that it is the minority and not the majority who determine destructive action.
Freedom is the right to work a decent length of time and to get a decent living for doing so; to be able to arrange the little personal details of one’s own life.
The primary functions are agriculture, manufacture, and transportation. Community life is impossible without them. They hold the world together. Raising things, making things, and earning things are as primitive as human need and yet as modern as anything can be. They are of the essence of physical life. When they cease, community life ceases. Things do get out of shape in this present world under the present system, but we may hope for a betterment if the foundations stand sure.
As long as agriculture, manufacture, and transportation survive, the world can survive any economic or social change.
As long as we look to legislation to cure poverty or to abolish special privilege we are going to see poverty spread and special privilege grow.
When you get a whole country–as did ours–thinking that Washington is a sort of heaven and behind its clouds dwell omniscience and omnipotence, you are educating that country into a dependent state of mind which augurs ill for the future.
The Government is a servant and never should be anything but a servant.
The welfare of the country is squarely up to us as individuals. That is where it should be and that is where it is safest. Governments can promise something for nothing but they cannot deliver.
But it is work and work alone that can continue to deliver the goods–and that, down in his heart, is what every man knows.
The economic fundamental is labour. Labour is the human element which makes the fruitful seasons of the earth useful to men. It is men’s labour that makes the harvest what it is.
There is no reason why a man who is willing to work should not be able to work and to receive the full value of his work. There is equally no reason why a man who can but will not work should not receive the full value of his services to the community. He should most certainly be permitted to take away from the community an equivalent of what he contributes to it. If he contributes nothing he should take away nothing. He should have the freedom of starvation. We are not getting anywhere when we insist that every man ought to have more than he deserves to have–just because some do get more than they deserve to have.
A man ought to be able to live on a scale commensurate with the service that he renders.
It is the function of business to produce for consumption and not for money or speculation. Producing for consumption implies that the quality of the article produced will be high and that the price will be low–that the article be one which serves the people and not merely the producer. If the money feature is twisted out of its proper perspective, then the production will be twisted to serve the producer.
The producer depends for his prosperity upon serving the people. He may get by for a while serving himself, but if he does, it will be purely accidental, and when the people wake up to the fact that they are not being served, the end of that producer is in sight.
Being greedy for money is the surest way not to get it, but when one serves for the sake of service–for the satisfaction of doing that which one believes to be right–then money abundantly takes care of itself.
Money comes naturally as the result of service. And it is absolutely necessary to have money. But we do not want to forget that the end of money is not ease but the opportunity to perform more service. In my mind nothing is more abhorrent than a life of ease. None of us has any right to ease. There is no place in civilization for the idler.
Our clothing, our food, our household furnishings–all could be much simpler than they now are and at the same time be better looking.
Real simplicity means that which gives the very best service and is the most convenient in use.
I cannot imagine where the delusion that weight means strength came from. It is all well enough in a pile-driver, but why move a heavy weight if we are not going to hit anything with it?
A farmer doing his chores will walk up and down a rickety ladder a dozen times. He will carry water for years instead of putting in a few lengths of pipe. His whole idea, when there is extra work to do, is to hire extra men.
Rushing into manufacturing without being certain of the product is the unrecognized cause of many business failures. People seem to think that the big thing is the factory or the store or the financial backing or the management. The big thing is the product, and any hurry in getting into fabrication before designs are completed is just so much waste time. I spent twelve years before I had a Model T–which is what is known to-day as the Ford car–that suited me. We did not attempt to go into real production until we had a real product.
It makes no difference how finely made a chisel is or what splendid steel it has in it or how well it is forged–if it has no cutting edge it is not a chisel. It is just a piece of metal. All of which being translated means that it is what a thing does–not what it is supposed to do–that matters.
Failure is only the opportunity more intelligently to begin again. There is no disgrace in honest failure; there is disgrace in fearing to fail.
…profit must and inevitably will come as a reward for good service. It cannot be the basis–it must be the result of service.