Debating Whether Or Not Government Should Compete With Private Industry – 1957 – Past Daily Reference Room

Factory workers in the 1950s
Factory workers in the 1950s – America’s Workforce. As long as the bills got paid . . .

American Forum – Should Government Compete With Private Industry – NBC Radio – March 17, 1957 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

America’s workforce in the 1950s – who made the better employer – Private Industry or The Government? That was a debate sure to be a hot-button topic among business circles. Much of the debate centered around our Military budget and who was best equipped to oversee the massive yearly expenditure on weapons and delivery systems. Some felt the next war (sooner or later in the 1950s) would rely primarily on nuclear weapons and not so much on ground support and conventional weapons – and conventional weapons would be something best left up to the private sector, as some felt the government possessing the checkbook would be reckless. President Eisenhower’s budget for the Military in 1957 was the largest in peacetime history – due in no small part by increased agitation brought on by The Soviet Union.

Of course, the bottom line was – the government had so many in-house agencies who were actively engaged in manufacturing that the Private sector was in the process of bidding against the government for contracts. That there was some 200,000 employees of the government and some 2600 in-house services that could be performed by the private sector.

During the course of this debate John S. Coleman, President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, representing the Private Sector and James A. Campbell, President of the American Federation of Government Employees, argued over the notion that most of the current government programs be scrapped in favor of turning them over to Private Industry, thereby reducing Federal expenditures. The response was, the government had so many specifications in manufacturing and they often required such a short turn-around time that no private company could fulfill those requirements.

In the end nobody won and the controversy continued – and most likely still continues to a certain extent.

Here is that episode of American Forum from March 17, 1957 as broadcast over the NBC Radio network.

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