Business Argument. Part 3
At present the whole subject of business argument, and especially advertising argument, is not without its humorous aspect to a literary man. He has seen the public taking a certain kind of book greedily to-day, and absolutely refusing it tomorrow. And he watches with amusement the advertisement writer who succeeds astonishingly with one kind of argument to-day, and sees it fail completely tomorrow. The public - or the publics, for there are many - seems at times as uncertain as trout. But it is some consolation to writers to know that Shakspere and Dickens keep on selling. And this is because there is a deep human appeal in these men. By the same token, the man of business argument will never fail to hope that by appealing to genuine human needs he will some day see his goods become staple and stock, and pass beyond the need of special pleas.
It is interesting to note the many means by which writers attempt to close with persuasion. They make a last appeal. Very often it is an imperative:
Do it today.
Just clip this coupon and send it
If you would be a leader, not a subordinate, write today.
Remember that this booklet is absolutely free.
Your copy is waiting for you - send for it
To get this appointment you must act at once.
Just make a notation at the bottom of this letter.
You may never have another chance.
Such endings are not arguments. They are commands and suggestions. The advertising pages of some magazines are filled with them, and as you read you seem to be at an amusement park, with the raucous cries of barkers commanding you to enter; or in a camp-meeting, where an evangelist is exhorting you, more or less hysterically, to come and be saved from hell-fire. They have their effect, however, precisely as the barkers and the exhorters have. But in some magazines they are rare. There are some people who don't care to be ordered around, and in whom a command produces what is called the contrary suggestion.
Let me close this chapter with two good pieces of business argument of some length. The first is abridged from the New York Nation. The second is a part of the famous Liverpool speech of Henry Ward Beecher, against slavery.
1 A few days ago, an item of news which attracted considerable attention told how a man who had begun life as a bank messenger at the age of fourteen rose to the presidency of the greatest bank in Chicago. Mr. Reynolds, it was stated, "has never lost a day from sickness; he has never taken a vacation that did not have business inside; he does not drink; he does not smoke; he does not play bridge; he does not play golf; he has no favorite author; he has no hobby but banking; he has no country residence; he does not even take exercise; he works nine hours a day." Mr. Reynolds himself declared that he had adopted as a rule of life the maxim, "Make your business your pleasure."
But the problem of life obviously admits of no such simple solution. Even if we were to suppose that everybody could follow the prescription if he chose, and that it would be a good thing if everybody did follow it, we should be confronted, first of all, by the manifest impossibility that the result should be similar to that recorded in the case of Mr. Reynolds. High distinction for everybody is a contradiction in terms. It is only in comic opera that the prospect is held out for all to become rulers of the Queen's Navee as the reward for sticking close to their desks.
As for the maxim, "Make your business your pleasure," it is in itself excellent. To take pleasure or satisfaction in one's work is a prime requirement of contentment. But in most fields of activity, keen satisfaction in the pursuit of the daily business is possible only if a man feels that he is exercising unusual powers and accomplishing unusual results. A man may well be satisfied to be simply an industrious and competent cashier, or foreman, or manager, or what not; but, unless he has a sadly limited range of thought and feeling he can hardly find that this occupation of itself supplies all the pleasure and gratification that he has reason to look for in the world about him.
There is nothing, therefore, to regret, in the fact that we are not all equally great lovers of work. There is room in the world for an indefinite number of comfortable, easy-going people - people who do not shirk work, but whose appetite for it is limited. Here in America, we are quite as much in need of encouragement to make pleasure a business as to make business a pleasure. Both rules are good in their degree; neither is absolute. Keep your nose to the grindstone by all means, if you enjoy it; but don't tell everybody else that he must enjoy it as much as you do.
2. It is a necessity of every manufacturing and commercial people that their customers should be wealthy and intelligent. Let us put the subject before you in the familiar light of your own local experience. To whom do the tradesmen of Liverpool sell the most goods at the highest profit? To the ignorant and poor, or to the educated and prosperous? The poor man buys simply for his body; he buys food, he buys clothing, he buys fuel, he buys lodging. His rule is to buy the least and the cheapest that he can. He goes to the store as seldom as he can - he brings away as little as he can - and he buys for the least he can. Poverty is not a misfortune to the poor only who suffer it, but it is more or less a misfortune to all with whom they deal.
On the other hand, a man well off - how is it with him? He buys in far greater quantity. He can afford to do it; he has the money to pay for it He buys in far greater variety, because he seeks to gratify not merely physical wants, but also mental wants. He buys for the satisfaction of sentiment and taste, as well as of sense. He buys silk, wool, flax, cotton; he buys all metals - iron, silver, gold, platinum; in short, he buys for all necessities and of all substances. But that is not all. He buys a better quality of goods. He buys richer silks, finer cottons, higher grained wools. Now, a rich silk means so much skill and care of somebody's that has been expended upon it to make it finer and richer; and so of cotton, and so of wool. That is, the price of the finer goods runs back to the very beginning, and remunerates the workman as well as the merchant. Indeed, the whole laboring community is as much interested and profited as the mere merchant, in this buying and selling of the higher grades in the greater varieties and qualities.
The law of price is the skill; and the amount of skill expended in the work is as much for the market as are the goods. A man comes to the market and says, "I have a pair of hands"; and he obtains the lowest wages. Another man comes and says. "I have something more than a pair of hands - I have truth and fidelity"; he gets a higher price. Another man comes and says, "I have something more; have hands and strength, and fidelity, and skill." He gets more than either of the others. The next man comes and says, "I have got hands and strength, and skill, and fidelity; but my hands work more that that. They know how to create things for the fancy, for the affections, for the moral sentiments"; and he gets more than any of the others. The last man comes and says, "I have all these qualities, and have them so highly that it is a peculiar genius"; and genius carries the whole market and gets the highest price. So that both the workman and the merchant are profited by having purchasers that demand quality, variety, and quantity.
Now, if this be so in the town or the city, it can only be so because it is a law. This is the specific development of a general or universal law, and therefore we should expect to find it as true of a nation as of a city like Liverpool. I know it is so, and you know that it is true of all the world; and it is just as important to have customers educated, intelligent, moral, and rich, out of Liverpool as it is in Liverpool. They are able to buy; they want variety; they want the very best; and those are the customers you want. That nation is the best customer that is freest, because freedom works prosperity, industry, and wealth. Great Britain, then, aside from moral considerations, has a direct commercial and pecuniary interest in the liberty, civilization and wealth of every people and every nation an the globe.
You have also an interest in this because you are a moral and a religious people. You desire it from the highest motives, and godliness is profitable in all things, having the promise of the life that is, as well as of that which is to come; but if there were no hereafter, and if man had no progress in this life, and if there were no question of moral growth at all, it would be worth your while to protect civilization and liberty, merely as a commercial speculation. To evangelize has more than a moral and religious import - it comes back to temporal relations. Wherever a nation that is crushed, cramped, degraded under despotism, is struggling to be free, you, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, Paisley, all have an interest that that nation should be free. When depressed and backward people demand that they may have a chance to rise - Hungary, Italy, Poland - it is a duty for humanity's sake, it is a duty for the highest moral motives, to sympathize with them; but besides all these there is a material and an interested reason why you should sympathize with them. Pounds and pence join with conscience and with honor in this design.