All quotes are from Today and Tomorrow by Henry Ford, 1926
(Model T was produced from 1908 to 1927)
“The real progress of our company dates from 1914, when we raised the minimum wage from somewhat more than two dollars to a flat five dollars a day, for then we increased the buying power of our own people, and they increased the buying power of other people, and so on and on. It is this thought of enlarging buying power by paying high wages and selling at low prices which is behind the prosperity of this country.
It is the fundamental motive of our company. We call it the ‘wage motive.’” p. 9
“It has always been taken for granted that big business brings in its wake big buildings and great numbers of men working in these big buildings and going home at night to slums or hovels. And many well-meaning people have opposed big business because they saw in it only the slum with all that the slum means.
Big business animated only by the profit motive makes all this inevitable. The plants are concentrated, and they open up and shut down according to whether the getting is good or bad. Under these conditions the workman never has enough ahead in money to choose where he may live. And also he has been compelled for lack of transportation to live within walking distance of his work, or to spend a sizable part of his income and energy riding on crowded cars. He has had to take what he could get in the way of housing. And as long as industry believes in concentration and does not follow the wage motive, just so long will this condition continue. But the remedy is not to be found in any charitable housing schemes. If you apply the wage theory to the building of houses, then it will be easily possible to build good houses which self-respecting people can live in at a rental they can pay. And the owners of those houses can earn a profit - any sort of operation well conducted will earn a profit. If it does not, something is fundamentally wrong with the plan.. ” p. 138
“Money put into business as a lien on its assets is dead money. When industry operates wholly by the permission of "dead" money, its main purpose becomes the production of payments for the owners of that money. The service of the public has to be secondary. If quality of goods jeopardizes these payments, then the quality is cut down. If full service cuts into the payments, then service is cut down. This kind of money does not serve business. It seeks to make business serve it. Money that takes no risks in an industry, but demands its toll whether there be profit or loss, is not live money.” p. 31
“The steam hammer group has ninety-six hammers. The smallest hammer in the group carries a ram and piston of 800 pounds weight, and the largest strikes a blow with a ram and piston weighing 5,600 pounds. Dies are set in the anvils and hammer-faces. As in the case of the upsetting machines, each hammer is set with dies that enable it to perform a complete phase of the work of manufacture. There is no division of labour between hammers. In the forging of a crankshaft a bar of hot steel is placed across a bending die at the left of the anvil; a blow from the corresponding die on the hammer-face wrinkles the bar into the semblance of a crankshaft. The crank-bent bar is moved to the right; several blows from a second die complete the resemblance - the result is a crank shaft, in the rough, though the two ends are of equal size, and the whole forging is framed in a thin flashing of excess metal. The hammer work is complete.” p. 70
When I was in school Metropolis, by Fritz Lang, 1927, was pretty much considered a documentary of the Ford production line. Henry Ford sat behind a big mahogany desk and was just concerned with ”the bottom line”. He’d scream at the managers and the managers would scream at the lazy workers to work harder for less money.
In actual fact Henry Ford wanted workers to make enough money to buy cars and all sort of other consumer goods. A rising tide lifts all boats. Paying high wages meant getting good workers. He wanted machines to work long and hard. He disliked bankers who just wanted a return on their money. I’ll bet lots of you just want to make a return on your money and couldn’t care less what business it is invested in. (Real estate really allows you to meddle in your investments.) Henry Ford would be considered a “micro-manager” today in that he was concerned with optimizing every single detail of his business. He pretty much hand built his first cars. Of course, building 8,000 cars a day is a bit different. He despised waste and inefficiency. OK, the American dream is no longer being able to rent a nice home.