Patricia O'Toole
Patricia O'Toole
Money & Morals in America
ISBN: 0517586932
Money and Morals in America
Patricia O'Toole discussed her book, "Money and Morals in America: A History," published by Clarkson Potter. The book examines historical incidents where the "super rich" attempted to use their wealth to change the lives of lower economic classes.
TRANSCRIPT
Money and Morals in America
Program Air Date: August 16, 1998

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Patricia O'Toole, author of "Money & Morals In America," where did you get the idea for this book?
Ms. PATRICIA O'TOOLE, AUTHOR, "MONEY & MORALS IN AMERICA": I was in Washington in Lafayette Square about nine years ago on a summer day, and I woke up early in the morning, was staying at the Hay-Adams Hotel, which is a very fancy hotel. Went for a walk in Lafayette Park and was surprised to find there, at 7:00 in the morning, some two or three dozen people sleeping there, homeless. When I fir--saw the first couple, I thought, `Well, maybe they're fresh air eccentrics, you know, and just spending a nice summer night out of doors.' But I was just shocked to see this many homeless people basically in the front yard of the White House.

So I first thought I would write a book about the '80s and the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots, but the more I thought about it, I--I started wondering whether this problem had been with us for longer than the '80s and--and started re-reading American history from the Puritans forward. And this is just something we've been struggling with from the beginning, the--America has always represented both the opportunity to get rich and the aspiration to create a better society. And we cherish both sets of possibilities, so we often find ourselves in a big wrestle with them.
LAMB: So how did you approach this book?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I thought that the way to do it was through stories. And that's probably because I really like stories, and stories about people rather than tracing the ups and downs of the GNP over 350 years or whenever they started keeping track of it. So to take this issue of the--the--wrestling between `getting mine' and `taking care of ours' and put that in the hands of people who had actually tried to do that, in one way or another were somewhere along the spectrum of idealism and opportunism. So I picked the best stories that I could find in different periods from the Puritans to the present.
LAMB: Who is your first story?
Ms. O'TOOLE: The first story is about John Winthrop and the Puritans coming in 1630, and they had the absurd notion that they could create a society based on Christ's most exacting command, which is to love one another. And they lasted for about a week and a half before the--the fighting broke out. But they really--they really did try, and I--I think that was a--a wonderful beginning to our American struggle with this issue.
LAMB: Was that the first person that you thought of, or is that--I know it's the first person in the book, but what was the first one that you wanted to write about?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I was--I had done some work in the late 19th century, and Andrew Carnegie is an intriguing figure to me. He set himself--when he was 33, he decided he was making way too much money and it was making him very nervous. So he said he was going to retire and set himself the task of giving away his entire fortune. And his retirement didn't actually come about until a lot later, but he gave away $350 million. I was always intrigued by that story and what made Andy run.
LAMB: How did he make his money, and where was he from?
Ms. O'TOOLE: He was born in Scotland, came as a very young child to western Pennsylvania. His formal schooling stopped when he was about eight, and he went to work as a bobbin boy in a factory and then was working on his own ever since. Bright, young lad who attracted the notice of a railroad executive and was his assistant--he was a telegraph boy at one point. Then he started a bridge-building company, and out of that came a big steel company. So that's where his money came from.
LAMB: What was the steel company called?
Ms. O'TOOLE: It was called the Carnegie Steel Company. And later, when J.P. Morgan bought it at the beginning of the 20th century, it became the US Steel Company, now known today as USX.
LAMB: What did he look like?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, he looked a little bit like you, actually. He had wonderful blue eyes--penetrating blue eyes--and white hair from quite a young age, I think, and built on the sk--not on the string-bean model but more compact. Lots of energy, very electric. Everybody--even if people disagreed with him, they seemed to like him personally a lot.
LAMB: What were his business ethics?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, here--here comes the paradox because he thought that poverty was a wonderful thing and poverty built character. It had done that for him, and he imagined it could do it for other people. He also thought that as an employer, even though he made tons of money, he shouldn't raise wages because you just couldn't trust the poor. So he--he seemed to trust poor children; that they would grow up to be just fine, but he didn't trust their--their fathers who worked for him. So he kept wages low.

And then his idea was to take all these profits and--and give them away, which is an attractive idea if you have a lot of money because it gives you much more control over what's going to happen with it. You can build lots of libraries and swimming pools and donate lots of church organs, all of which he did, and you don't have to worry that anybody's spending it in some indulgence, as he put it.
LAMB: How did he spend it?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, he ga--he--he gave money for about 2,500 public libraries. There were some towns in western Pennsylvania who were so angry with him after some bitty--bitter strikes in the 1890s that they said, `No, thank you,' to this offer of a library. And he would build the building, but the town had to then come up with a way to keep the library going and get all the books and so on. And he was a little bit that way with church organs, too. He loved organ music, so this was a special project of his. He gave away something like 7,500 of them, but you had to show that your church's finances were in good order before Mr. Carnegie would--would give you an organ.

Carnegie Hall, it was a great--one of his benefactions. He gave other concert halls, museums, funded a lot of educational programs and kind of late in life discovered that there were all these elderly college professors who weren't retiring because they didn't have any money. And he started--started a pension fund for them, the Teachers Insurance Annuity Association, which survives today. It's one of the biggest pension funds in the country.
LAMB: How long did he live?
Ms. O'TOOLE: He lived a long time. He lived from the 1830s until toward the end of World War I. So 75 years.
LAMB: What about the Carnegie Endowment for Peace and all the think tank stuff? Is that him, too?
Ms. O'TOOLE: That's him, too.
LAMB: Did he want that?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Yes. He--early on, wh--in his steel business, he could have made a lot of money from armaments, and he just didn't believe in doing that at all. So he gave a lot of money to peace and believed in arbitration and was instrumental in setting up a--a peace organization in The Hague.
LAMB: What do you do when you're not writing books?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, I do magazine articles and I teach at Columbia University, the writing program there.
LAMB: What--what year do you teach?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Graduate students. You know, I teach them how to do research. It's a lot of fun.
LAMB: What--let me ask you about the research for this book. How many different places did you go to find your information?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Oh, a couple dozen, from Lowell, Massachusetts, out to Berkeley, California, and up to Minneapolis and down to Chapel Hill and Savannah. The stuff is all over the place. And I looked at all different kinds of things, from the standard manuscripts and letters and diaries to corporate records, congressional documents, presidential papers and even sheet music at one point.
LAMB: When you think back on the--on the research--and you said this--did it take nine years to do it or...
Ms. O'TOOLE: No, it took about six years to do it.
LAMB: How much of that was research?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Probably about half. And then I ended up not doing some of the chapters that I thought I would do, just because I couldn't find an original aspect of them to ……
LAMB: Give us an example of something you didn't do.
Ms. O'TOOLE: Something I didn't do was--one of the really great stories in American history is the story of the writing of the Constitution. And because it's such a great story, it has attracted really wonderful scholars forever. And I just couldn't find a little piece of it that was unique enough for me to want to tell the story.
LAMB: So of all the places you went, where were you the most surprised about what you found?
Ms. O'TOOLE: One of the big surprises was out in Berkeley, California, where the archives for the Kaiser family are. Henry J. Kaiser was a big industrialist. In the--in the '30s, he helped build a lot of dams and bridges in the West through public works programs. And then when World War II came along, he built some shipyards on the West Coast and turned out about 1,000 ships, mostly cargo ships. And most of them were built just across the bay from San Francisco in the town of Richmond. And these archives are amazingly complete. He was quite an innovative employer. The Kaiser HMO is a descendant of the health care that they started in a large way at the shipyards in California.
LAMB: So the Kaiser Permanente name is his?
Ms. O'TOOLE: That's right. Mm-hmm. They first started it in a very small way. They were doing a construction project in the '20s out in the boondocks in California, where there wasn't any health care. So he built--brought in a doctor, built a little hospital and wanted to make it a nice place to be. You know, they had colored sheets and--and then that--and Permanente was some name in California where they were, out in the middle of nowhere. And then when they built the shipyards--working in the shipyard is quite a dangerous thing--the company paid a lot of attention to safety, and there're just wonderful, very rich documents there. He ordered up reports on all kinds of things. And my sense was that there was a lot more candor in them then than we might find now.

It was very interesting because a lot of women went to work for the first time during World War II, so all of a sudden you have--they reinvented welding, for example, so that women could actually weld for eight hours a day. They assembled everything on the ground so that you would hold your welding rod this way rather than up over your head and--and get tired faster.

And after I looked at those archives, I sat down to write the--I thought I had the whole story, and I sat down to--to write it and I just kept thinking, `I--I don't have any workers' voices in here. I really miss that. I'd love to know what they thought about all of this.' So I sent some letters to the editor of various newspapers around San Francisco, inviting people to--who had worked in the shipyards to call me. And about 75 of them did. So I conducted about 60 interviews. Some called to say they didn't remember anything. But I conducted about 60 interviews and got just wonderful material about the daily experience of working there that I wouldn't have been able to get any other way.
LAMB: What did you learn about the daily experience?
Ms. O'TOOLE: How hard it was, what really hard work it is to be in a shipyard, noisy, dangerous. And this little town of Richmond had had about 25,000 people before the war and then boom, overnight there were 100,000 people there, putting a great strain on everything in the town. People not only working around the clock, but sharing rooms around the clock. They had what they called hot beds, you know. It'd be your bed for eight hours and then somebody else's bed for the next eight hours.

And--and the other thing that--the thing that impressed me most about it was how cooperative--maybe this is just the rosy glow of 50 years of--of distance, but it made me wonder whether we could do that again, have--have that kind of cooperation between so many different kinds of people without endless wars over turf.
LAMB: I--I'm old enough to remember the Henry J. Kaiser automobile.
Ms. O'TOOLE: In the early '50s, right. That was one of his...
LAMB: And whatever happened to that?
Ms. O'TOOLE: He just was no match for Detroit. He thought having won World War II, he would be able to go conquer Detroit, but it didn't exactly work out that way. Apparently, a wonderful car by all accounts, but some problems on the marketing end. And I think his swagger offended a lot of people in Detroit as well.
LAMB: Do you find, like, in the case of Kaiser or in Carnegie's case--and there are a lot of other names in your book--that the--are the descendants still--are there many here that would talk to you or did you try?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I didn't try in the case of the Carnegies. In the case of the Kaisers, I made a couple of efforts, neither of which was successful.
LAMB: And why was that, do you think?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I don't know. I don't know. I mean, when people don't answer a series of letters, you don't know why they're not answering. So I don't know.
LAMB: I read your book "The Five of Hearts," which was--when I started to read your introduction in this book, I thought, `That's interesting that she should would go to the Hay-Adams Hotel to--to stay.' Explain why that would be important if somebody hadn't read "The Five of Hearts."
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, "The Five of Hearts" is a story of five friends who lived in Washington in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And the two key figures are John Hay and Henry Adams, who had adjoining houses that were on the site of the present Hay-Adams Hotel at 16th and H Streets, just across from Lafayette Park. So it is a hot bed. I finished one book that's all about that neighborhood, and the idea for the next one is born right there. I hadn't expected that at all.
LAMB: And you were writing a--an article for Lear's magazine.
Ms. O'TOOLE: Right.
LAMB: Is that still around?
Ms. O'TOOLE: No, it isn't. Hasn't been around for about five years.
LAMB: What was it?
Ms. O'TOOLE: It was a women's magazine started by a woman named Frances Lear, and she wanted to aim it at an older audience. And it's an idea that many very smart women in magazine publishing have had, and it's--it's very difficult to attract advertisers. They have it in their heads that older women don't have money. So...
LAMB: Go back to what you said in the introduction about being at the Hay-Adams, and I think I remember you had the fancy robe that they provide on or something like that and the food that they brought to the table in the restaurant or whatever. It--it--what moved you, as an individual, to take that food out to the Lafayette Park and give it to the people that were on the benches out there?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, after I went out for the walk and saw these people, I went back up to my room, which was a wonderful room on the eighth floor with a little balcony looking out on the White House. And I looked down into the park to see if I could see any of those people, and I couldn't because all the--the trees are--were full of leaves. And I realized that I was just eight stories away from them, but I might as well have been eight planets away from them for the difference in our lives. And I just wondered, you know, `What went wrong here? Why are these--why are these people here? Why aren't we, the rest of us, taking care of them? How did they slip through the--through the net?'

So after I finished my breakfast, I got a laundry bag out of the closet and there were tons of leftovers. And I--I took them, gave them to these two first men that I saw on a bench. And what--what got me were their eyes. I--it--I'll--I'll just always remember their eyes, the--the deadness of their eyes. There was no joy there at all. And it didn't look to me as though they'd lost their joy. It looked as though they'd had it bombed out of them somehow. And I thought, you know, `Whose sons are these? Whose brothers are these?' And it was because of my little encounter with these two men that I wrote this book.
LAMB: You have a st--statistic. As of '95 or whatever, '96, 1 percent of the people in this country own 40 percent of the wealth.
Ms. O'TOOLE: That's right.
LAMB: Is that going up or down?
Ms. O'TOOLE: These--these--this is '96, and the numbers l--always lag by a couple of years, so I don't know. But I would imagine with the great run we've had in the stock market that that concentration of wealth at the top continues.
LAMB: Are you in that 1 percent?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I wish. No, not by a long stretch. No.
LAMB: What do you think of that?
Ms. O'TOOLE: What do I think that I'm not in it?
LAMB: No, no. What do you think of the fact that in this country, 1 percent of the people own 40 percent of the wealth?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I think it's a bad sign. I think that it creates a kind of erosion that is hard for us to see now because there is so much prosperity and nobody is paying attention to the people who've been left out. But people at the bottom, they don't have benefits in the way that--that most other people do. Sixty percent of American families are not as well off as they were 25 years ago, despite the fact that many of those families now have two breadwinners instead of just one. So that doesn't mean that, you know, the system isn't working for a handful of people. It means it isn't working for 60 percent of the people. And I think we're starving the goose that lays the golden egg when you get rid of the middle class.
LAMB: Why did you put Control Data in your book?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Control Data was started after World War II by a man named William Norris and a couple of partners, and they built big supercomputers. And in the '60s, looking at all the riots, William Norris thought, `This just shouldn't be. You can't do business in a society that's on fire,' is more or less what he--he said. So he started building factories in inner cities.

And there were lots of problems associated with trying to make employees of people who had perhaps never worked or hadn't worked in a long time, didn't have good educations. So he started a--this series of support programs for them that evolved into the employee assistance program, which is now a--commonplace at a lot of corporations. And then he got the idea that corporations could actually turn a profit by solving social problems, so that's how he was thinking about the direction of the company. It was a fascinating i--idea to me.
LAMB: You say he ended up losing his job when they lost--lost some money.
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, there's n--there's no real connection. People are always trying to say that it's these social programs that made Control Data go down the tubes, and that's not really what happened. They made big mainframe computers, and in the '80s there was a shake-out when microcomputers--we all started getting laptops. And there were certain people who made a bet that mainframes would always be really big and important, and those people who bet that way turned out to be wrong.
LAMB: Did you talk to Bill Norris?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I did. I went out to Minneapolis.
LAMB: How old is he now?
Ms. O'TOOLE: He's in his late '80s, and he still has a little--still goes to work every day, has a--a little non-profit organization called the William C. Norris Institute, which carries forward some of these ideas: working on low-income housing built of materials that people don't usually think of building houses of--various plastics and other inexpensive materials. Educational software is an area where he was a real pioneer, and he continues to support efforts in that area.
LAMB: Go back to what he--he specifically did when he was at Ca--Control Data on the north side of Minneapolis building a plant in a--in an area. How did that--what motivated him to do it? Does he think it worked? And what did he specifically do?
Ms. O'TOOLE: He--it's a wonderful story, really, because he didn't come riding in like the big sh--white knight on the shining horse. He went about it very quietly, held a lot of discussions with leaders in the African-American community to find out whether, first of all, they even wanted to have a plant there. And all of this--these discussions went on for a very long time. And he said to his--his people who were working on this, `You know, we're not going to do something trivial and unimportant there. We want to build one of our most important components in that plant.' And I think, by doing that, he wanted to demonstrate that these people who had not worked before or whom many considered not the cream of the labor force could make good, high-tech products as well as anybody else. So they made these a key component of these big mainframe computers. And it--it worked very well.

I mean, there were--there were lots of headaches they had to deal with. The--a key manager in the plant had a pad of bail bonds, more or less, so he could go down to the jail on Monday morning and bail out people who'd gotten in trouble over the weekend. And the company made a real commitment to develop these people. They put in a day-care center that was sponsored by several companies in that neighborhood. And it still is--is a model one. That's--there's a whole lot of learning that goes on there. It's not just a place to warehouse kids during the day.
LAMB: What didn't work?
Ms. O'TOOLE: What didn't work is this thing I was alluding to earlier about the--the mainframe--the spi--the juncture in the road when--between mainframes and microcomputers.
LAMB: But did they learn anything about the ability to train someone...
Ms. O'TOOLE: Yeah.
LAMB: ...in the--in the minority community? Was it--was it just a matter of putting things in front of them they learned or was there a--something missing from their past that they couldn't catch up to?
Ms. O'TOOLE: No. They--they feel that they made successful employees out of just about everybody. They had a very good employee retention rate at this plant. But it took a real commitment. And they hired a lot of black employees--I shouldn't say a lot but a handful of black employees in key positions to--who had advanced degrees in psychology and social work and that--that sort of thing to make sure that in their training programs, they were addressing all the baggage of poverty that people bring with them when they come to work.

Interestingly, this had to be done somewhat at the Kaiser shipyards in World War II because there were a lot of people who came to work who'd been out of working during the Depression or had never worked before. They were not used to coming to work every day, all day. And there was program after program to make that happen, lots of training programs, lots of rewards for, you know, having good attendance records at work and that sort of thing.
LAMB: Where did you get the title for this book, "Money & Morals"?
Ms. O'TOOLE: It's actually a compromise kind of title. The--the phrase money and morals is one that I--I used a lot when I would talk about this book with people while I was working on it. But I wanted to called it "All That Glitters" and then have a subtitle that was "A History of the Tension Between Money and Morals in American Life." And "All That Glitters" just--there were lots of people who didn't like it, so we settled on "Money & Morals In America."
LAMB: Now what do you tell you students at Columbia about research?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I should have them there to--to tell you. They come to the class with a subject they want to research, and that's what they work on for the whole semester. And we skate through all kinds of things, the classic archival kinds of research with letters and manuscripts and diaries and the whole new world of electronic research. The Internet's just a very small part of that. There're all manner of specialized databases now available, whole books online. And then they learn the basics of interviewing because most of them haven't done that.
LAMB: What do you...
Ms. O'TOOLE: They should come and study that part with you.
LAMB: What do you tell them the basics are from what your--what your experience is?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Of research or...
LAMB: No, of interviewing.
Ms. O'TOOLE: Of interviewing? Prepare, prepare, prepare. And benevolent skepticism and...
LAMB: What's that mean?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, that you--you--they--they sometimes have an idea from having watched confrontational interviews on television, I guess, and in the movies that an interview is a--a knock-down, drag-out fight. And I make a pitch for it's eliciting the best this person can give you in--in the situation and that you want to approach all these people you're interviewing with a lot of good will but not believe everything they might tell you, that everything needs to be checked out.
LAMB: What's the difference if you confront vs. the benevolent skepticism?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, the difference is that you get theater, I suppose, when you confront. But when you get benevolent skepticism combined with a lot of preparation, I think you have a lot of respect from the person that you're interviewing and trust. And often when you're interviewing people, as you know, you just see them once. So if--it--it's always a tricky business to make this stranger feel that he or she can trust you.
LAMB: What would you do if you sensed somebody wasn't being truthful?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I think I would take in what they're telling me in that encounter, I would check it out with other sources and then I would go back to them and say, `You know, your account of this doesn't square with so-and-so's account of it. So how are you going to--how do you explain the difference between these two things?'
LAMB: Can you remember anything that you did for this book where somebody was misleading you or maybe didn't remember correctly and you had to go back and say, `That wasn't the way it happened'?
Ms. O'TOOLE: No. And that's mostly, I think, because this is a book where the number of interviews that I did was rather small in proportion to the whole of the book. I mean, most of the time, you're struggling with a written historical record and, you know, you search for every document you can think that bears on what you're trying to do. And in the end, some--some questions just have to go unanswered and you just can't find out.
LAMB: What part of the world were you--were you--did you grow up in?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Michigan.
LAMB: Where?
Ms. O'TOOLE: A little town called Rogers City, which is way up north. It's the same latitude as Montreal.
LAMB: Is that up in the UP, up in the Upper Peninsula.
Ms. O'TOOLE: Not quite that far. It's about 50 miles short of the UP.
LAMB: What were you parents like then? What'd they do?
Ms. O'TOOLE: My father worked on--he actually worked for US Steel on a ship on the Great Lakes and was gone most of the time, home only in the winters. And my mother, before my brothers and sisters and I were born, was a schoolteacher and went back to that.
LAMB: I see a lot of names here: to Kathryn and Paul and Rob and Melissa. Who are these folks, by the way?
Ms. O'TOOLE: These are my nieces and nephews, plus the three children of my oldest childhood friend.
LAMB: Sean and--how do you pronounce the...
Ms. O'TOOLE: Maive.
LAMB: Maive.
Ms. O'TOOLE: Yeah.
LAMB: And Emily and James and Kate and Joe and Ellen, `who inherit this world.' Do you like what the--do you like the world they're going to inherit?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, I have--I--I finally figured out that I'm a short-term pessimist and a long-term optimist. Looking at 350 years of our history makes me realize that there--it's just full of wonderful examples of people who made a difference and real contributions to society and do care about the balance between getting rich and--and taking care of people who are not rich.

But in the short-term, I worry about this income gap; this, you know, increasing concentration of wealth at the top; the fact that despite this long economic boom, we still have 20 percent of children living in poverty. And the only thing that's really changed in that is that there are two and a half million more of them. And, you know, there are people who don't like welfare and they don't like programs for the poor because they think the poor should pull up their socks, but we shouldn't think that way about children. It's not their fault they're living in poverty and...
LAMB: When did you leave Michigan?
Ms. O'TOOLE: In 1968, I graduated from the University of Michigan and...
LAMB: What'd you study?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I studied journalism and a lot of American history.
LAMB: Then what'd you do?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Then, like everybody in the Midwest--I think a lot of students in the Midwest and in the South have to--feel they have to go somewhere else. So I went off to California. It was the late '60s. Everybody was going to California. So...
LAMB: Where'd you go?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I went to Los Angeles. And I worked at a little wire service for business and financial news, and on weekends I'd work on my own writing.
LAMB: And then where from there? What'd you...
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, I kept thinking I didn't like my job very much, but my employer was generous. And when I would talk to people about other jobs, they would say, `Well, you're going to have to start all over at $600 a month.' And I couldn't think of another job that I wanted. But the idea of being on my own as a writer really appealed to me. So I saved up $10,000, which is what I thought I would need to live on for a year back in 1976, and quit my job and I thought, `If it doesn't work, I'll go do something else.' But it worked.
LAMB: And so what did you do in the writing world?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I--well, the first day I sat at my desk, I thought, `Oh, gee, now what?' And I was embarrassed to have declared myself a writer that I couldn't actually write to a real magazine. I had an idea for Esquire, but I thought, `Well, I don't have anything to demonstrate that I can do this.' So I actually proposed some story ideas to Ranger Rick, which is the nature magazine of the National Wildlife Federation. And they said yes to one of them. I wrote them a little piece about cactus. And then from Ranger Rick to The New York Times Magazine, it was a year and a half.
LAMB: So for 22 years you've been a writer?
Ms. O'TOOLE: That's right. Mm-hmm.
LAMB: And the 10 grand, did you ever spend it all?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Oh, sure. Yeah. I--I had a little financial management system that I picked from--remember Marlo Thomas in "That Girl"? Well, she had this thing she called the `envelope system,' where every month, when she got her money, she would put this much for groceries in this envelope and this much for clothing and so on. So I created an envelope system that I never really could live with. I mean, all the money was always spent before the month was up, so that just spurred me to earn more.
LAMB: How long did you work with The New York Times Magazine?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I only freelanced for them, and I've over the years written a number of pieces for the magazine and the rest of the paper.
LAMB: Now in this book, there are 13 chapters.
Ms. O'TOOLE: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: Most of them revolve around a person.
Ms. O'TOOLE: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: A couple of others, Henry Ford--why'd you pick him?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, he's an interesting sequel to Andrew Carnegie, who had to, you know, give people low wages and then collect all the money and disperse it for his idea of the good of society. Henry Ford was more of a populist than that, and he thought, `I have all the money I could ever want. I'm not particularly interested in philanthropy. I'll double everybody's wages,' which is what he did when he announced the $5 day in 1914. But if that had been all there was to it, I think I would've just written a paragraph about it. What intrigued me was he didn't really trust people anymore than Andrew Carnegie did not to waste the money. So he up this whole brigade of snoops and gave them all Model T's, and they would come around to your house and say, `Let's see your bankbook, Brian. We wanna make sure you're saving money. And is this woman over here really your wife? We'd like to see the marriage certificate.' And so there was kind of a--a creepy aspect to his--his paternalism. But he did some good things, too--set up a sort of forerunner of the credit union, gave--set up a staff of lawyers to help people h--employees with contracts for houses and that sort of thing.
LAMB: By the way, when you were doing the book, did you ever sense that you had enough information to do a full book on any one of these people?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Oh, any one of these people has been the number of--has been the object of any number of books, yeah. I mean, there are lots of books about John Winthrop and Andrew Carnegie and Henry Ford and...
LAMB: Are you going to go back and do one then? Are you...
Ms. O'TOOLE: I don't think so. I don't think so.
LAMB: Go back to Henry Ford for a moment. What did he do with his money?
Ms. O'TOOLE: He mostly--he paid out a lot of it in wages and then after his death, two things happened. The Ford Foundation was set up with a huge amount of money. The Ford Foundation was for a long time the largest foundation in the country, maybe the world. And then the company was--went from being a family-owned business to a publicly held corporation. So it's a whole different set-up now with stockholders to please and...
LAMB: Did you find anybody that you wanted to write about that didn't give their money away, didn't do anything at all for anyone?
Ms. O'TOOLE: You mean someone who's a total greedy, miserly kind of person?
LAMB: Just kept it all, yeah.
Ms. O'TOOLE: Just kept it all? Well, I thought about writing more about the atmosphere in--on Wall Street in the '80s. And then by the time I was--I--I ended up just writing a couple of pages about that, because I--to me, the individual examples came to mean less than sort of the aggregate, a fact that we see in this disparity of wealth. So, you know, rather than do it anecdotally, I think the numbers are a more powerful way to tell that story.
LAMB: Why did you put Whitney Young Jr. in your book?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, he was an interesting person to me. He was the leader of the National Urban League in the '60s and that the...
LAMB: What's that?
Ms. O'TOOLE: It was founded around World War I--a little before World War I, an organization to help blacks who were migrating up from the South to the cities of the North and experiencing all kinds of difficulties.
LAMB: But funded by?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Funded by businessmen, for the most part.
LAMB: Rockefeller Foundation?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Rockefeller Foundation, Henry Ford II was a big backer of the Urban League. And Whitney Young built the Urban League into a much bigger organization than it had been. It has this national organization, as well as chapters across the country. And he--it--he really became a person who could talk to corporate leaders on--on their level and get them to see the wisdom of hiring and promoting people who were not white.
LAMB: You--you have an area in that chapter where you--you're painting the scenario around the march on Washington in 1963 where John F. Kennedy didn't want the march for some reason or other and...
Ms. O'TOOLE: That's right. John F. Kennedy was working on civil rights legislation, and in the original planning of the march, it was thought that they would focus things on Congress, and Kennedy was afraid that that would make Southern congressmen in particular antipathetic to doing something about civil rights, that they would feel, you know, sort of they had a gun to their ribs to do something about it. So they actually kind of turned the march around. Instead of marching toward Congress, they started at the Washington Monument and--and marched toward the Lincoln Memorial.
LAMB: Because we've done a recent book with John Lewis...
Ms. O'TOOLE: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: He's in the book--in your book in that Whitney Young chapter where you had A. Philip Randolph, who organized the march, and then whether or not Whitney Young would join the march and whether or not then John Lewis would tame his remarks. Can you explain all that? Why would Whitney Young not automatically join this march?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, the white men who sat on the board of the National Urban League didn't think very much of protest marches. They thought protest marches were what you did when you couldn't get in through the front door. And Martin Luther King more or less said that was--was--was true, that we have to write our essays with the blunt pen of marching ranks, is what he said. It's the only way to get people to pay attention to you. And at the National Urban League, they thought, `No, no, no. The way we're going to make a difference here is we're going to talk to our powerful white friends and--and enlighten them, and they will make change happen from the top down.' So they didn't think the Urban League should be mixing it up with all these protesters.
LAMB: What did you learn about either Whitney Young or white people a--based on doing that chapter and--and the whole business of race?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I was fascinated by Whitney Young's strategy that he set for himself. I--I called that chapter The Man in the Middle because he always--he got criticism from both sides. He'd get criticism from whites who didn't think he was sufficiently appreciative of all they were trying to do, and then he got criticized by more militant blacks who thought that he had sold out to whites. And he deliberately positioned himself in the middle so that he could be the one that everybody talked to and--and that he could be the one to sort of conciliate and bring together these disparate interests. And I th--I think that's a fascinating style of--of leadership.

What I learned about whites, I think, is--I mean, I was fascinated by the openness of these corporate leaders to a man like Whitney Young, and they--they were willing to change. And I think that a lot of quarters of the businessworld, especially large corporations, were very influenced by this period and are much more progressive in terms of affirmative action than they're often given credit for.
LAMB: How did Whitney Young die?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Very suddenly. He drowned when he was 49 years old. He was at a conference in Africa and went on a picnic one afternoon, went for a swim and drowned.
LAMB: Do you remember what year?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I think it was 1971, early 1971.
LAMB: And when you went to research Whitney Young, where'd you find the material?
Ms. O'TOOLE: It's at Columbia University. It's where he gave his papers. And the--there--various things had been written about Whitney Young, and when you come along after that kind of thing, you wanna see, `Well, what can I do that's original here?' Very little attention had been paid to his speeches, which is what I mostly worked with. And he participated in the writing of those speeches to a degree that's, I think, now uncommon for most people high in government or business or the philanthropic world. And one of the things that interested me was after the riots in the middle '60s, you might think that a black leader would say, `Well, I have to tone down my message now because we have this big white backlash,' you know, people--there were a lot of anti-riot measures, you know, calling for more police, more appropriations for police, that kind of thing, as a result of the riots. And he took a very tough line, and I admire him a lot for that.
LAMB: Now did you listen to any of his speeches or watch any of them on television?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I saw a few--a few video clips, but mostly I read them. A lot of tapes were not available.
LAMB: What was--he was--I think you mentioned, like, he was, like, 6'2"?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Yes, 6'2", very handsome, magnetic...
LAMB: Had he lived, what do you think he--you know, 49 in '71. That would make him--What?--in his late 60s or so today. What do you think he would've turned out to be in the civil rights movement?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, various people have said that he was looking to leave the National Urban League and go on and do something different. I'm--I'm not sure what he would've done. Certainly, he was discouraged by the Nixon administration's attitudes toward school integration and lax enforcement of voting rights in the South and--and that sort of thing. So I don't know whether he would've wanted a break from what he was doing or--or what.
LAMB: Anyway, we were talking earlier about you had the 13 chapters and other people--Andrew Carnegie--your research on him, most of the material was where?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Library of Congress.
LAMB: In Washington?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: Research material on Henry J. Kaiser.
Ms. O'TOOLE: Mostly in Berkeley.
LAMB: Where?
Ms. O'TOOLE: At the University of California.
LAMB: Did these men all give it to the universities or did their ancestors give it to universities? Do you know?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I believe in the case of Kaiser, for example, that there came a point when the company decided it didn't wanna keep these records anymore, and so they made some kind of arrangement with the universities--hundreds of, probably, thousands of boxes of material.
LAMB: Henry Ford's material that you found.
Ms. O'TOOLE: Henry Ford's people did a very interesting thing. In the--in the late '40s and early '50s, I don't know who commissioned the book, but there was a big three-volume history of him and the Ford Motor Company that was undertaken by a man named Allan Nevins and an assistant. And they kind of invented the modern version of oral history. They conducted a lot of interviews with people who'd been key to Ford in the early years, and this project has continued, and so when you go out to Dearborn, Michigan, to Greenville Village, where all these records are, it's amazing what you can draw on--you know, recollections of people who were there in 1908 and that kind of thing.
LAMB: When did you decide then in your own life to teach?
Ms. O'TOOLE: It came about by accident. I had an invitation to do this about four years ago, and so I tried it out and it seems to have worked, so I continue.
LAMB: And you teach students how to research. How about in your own case? How do you gather the material physically when you go around?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Oh...
LAMB: What little techniques do you use?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I try to take as many notes on the spot as I can, because otherwise there's a temptation to copy everything and you--you're just postponing the inevitable task of--of distilling things. So I travel around with a little laptop--before there were little laptops, I had a little Panasonic portable typewriter that operated on batteries, had a memory of 16 characters--that was all--and you typed on this funny thermal sort of paper--and a lot of cutting and pasting. I--I think I will--for another book, I will master some kind of database software and get as high-tech as I can.
LAMB: You mentioned the Internet earlier. What is that doing for research? Helping or hurting?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I think that I'm very glad to have learned how to do research before the Internet so that I didn't imagine that everything in the world I could possibly want is there. But it is amazing, what's available. For the last chapter of my book, which is about these religious shareholders who use their standing as shareholders to lobby corporations for social change, one of the issues they're concerned about is the incredible debt of Third World nations to Western banks. And usually when you read about this in the Western press, the line is kind of, `Well, they borrowed the money, so they have to pay it back.' But with the Internet, I could actually find things written by finance ministers in countries in Africa, for example, and their point of view is a little bit different. It's thinks like, `Well, you know, it was Mobutu who borrowed this money and it was Idi Amin who borrowed this money. And why should we get stuck having to pay what these dictators that we finally--pay for these dictators that we've finally thrown out?'

Also, in Burma, which is now known as Myanmar, there's a very repressive militator--m--military dictatorship, and there's the young man at the University of Wisconsin who has organized the Human Rights Campaign on the Internet and he's organized student actions all over the world to protest companies who do business there. And it's achieved certain things like--Pepsi was one of them, and these students got together and they kept a Pepsi restaurant company, Taco Bell, from operating on the campus at Stanford University, and finally, Pepsi has made some changes as a result of this. So it's a wonderful democratizing tool.
LAMB: Who's Tim Smith?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Tim Smith is the executive director of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.
LAMB: Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, ICCR...
Ms. O'TOOLE: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: ...you call them. And wh--h--I know at one point you said he was 28 and--when he started this whole thing. How old is he today?
Ms. O'TOOLE: He's in his late 40s.
LAMB: Still doing it.
Ms. O'TOOLE: Still doing it, yeah, and...
LAMB: How does it work?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, the way it works is they now have, I think, about 400 members, and the members are organizations that might be as small as a little order to monks and nuns in Pennsylvania and as large as the Baptist Church. And they all have investment portfolios, and a lot of people don't know this, but when you're a stockholder in a company, you have a right to present certain issues to the board of directors, and these things can find their way into a document that comes to shareholders of every corporation in advance of its annual meeting. So you can do things like say, `We think you should get out of South Africa.' That was a big campaign of ICCR in the '80s, and they were the ones who led that in the United States and were instrumental in getting American corporations to--to leave. They've al--they also do things like they say, `We notice you don't have any women or minorities on your board of directors, so we're going to withhold our vote for your slate of candidates and...'
LAMB: Does it work?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Sometimes it works and the best thing about it is it's a really--it's really, in my view, a wonderful David and Goliath kind of tool because all you have to do to participate in this is own $1,000 worth of stock, a stock, for a year and then you can begin talking to them about some of these issues that you're concerned about, and eventually, you could get one of these resolutions into a proxy statement and all shareholders would vote on it. So it's a wonderful way to bring an issue to a vote. And often, it's rare that you have to win 51 percent of the votes to get some kind of change. Usually when the vote gets up to 10 percent or 15 percent, there's enough publicity and heat that the corporation does respond.

And a lot of issues are settled even before this. There was a famous one in the '80s when some religious shareholders discovered that an Asian affiliate of Colgate was selling toothpaste in Hong Kong called Darkie toothpaste with a blackface logo on it, and they went to discuss this with the chairman of Colgate-Palmolive and--and said, `What would you like to do about this?' And he said, `We'd like to get rid of it right away, thank you very much.' And so lots of things don't even happen in a confrontational way.
LAMB: Other people in your book, other chapters include Ben Franklin. Why Mr. Franklin?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, he's the one who synthesized this getting rich and doing good in himself better than anybody else I came across. He was a printer, very successful and prosperous printer until he was about 42, and then he gave himself to good works for the rest of his life, which turned out to be about another 42 years. And he--he started in his community, which was Philadelphia, did all kinds of things. One of them was he redesigned the streetlamp. Before Benjamin Franklin, streetlamps were globes and they were always getting broken, and they--the smoke was collecting in there, so he figured out that if you made four panels of glass around them, one panel got broken, that's all you had to replace. And he put a little vent in the bottom to let the smoke out so that they didn't have to be cleaned every day.

He also invented, I think, the challenge grant, as far as I--I never found an earlier example of this. You know, now we have these in non-profit organizations all the time, `I'll give you $1,000 if you can raise $1,000 with somebody else.' And he wanted to build a hospital in--in Philadelphia, and the Legislature for the rest of Pennsylvania thought, `Well, we don't wanna spend money on that and it'll be--all just be in Philadelphia. We don't even know if the Philadelphians want a hospital.' So he said, `If I can raise X amount of money, will you match it?' and they said, `Yes,' thinking he wouldn't be able to do it. But he did.
LAMB: Now you pointed out that in 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was written, that Ben Franklin was 70 but that Thomas Jefferson was 33...
Ms. O'TOOLE: That's right. Isn't that amazing?
LAMB: ...and that John Adams was 40 and George Washington was 44. And then when they--you didn't say anything about this, but when he went to the constitutional convention later on in 1787, in that time frame, he was in his early 80s.
Ms. O'TOOLE: That's right, he was 81, yeah.
LAMB: And the rest of them were still young.
Ms. O'TOOLE: That's right, yeah.
LAMB: What did his age have to do with anything in that time period? Did it matter to the younger ones that he would--had been around a long time?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, it's interesting to me--it seems he was the most radical of all of them, and I think sometimes you can afford to be that when you're older. So that w--that was...
LAMB: What would he d--what'd he do radic--what were--what was radical about him?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, he was--he called for a plan of union a long time before anybody else was ready to do it. He called for that in 1754 and none of the governors of the colonies--they just saw that as having to give up some of their authority over the colonies. So that was kind of a radical idea.
LAMB: Poor Richard's Almanack was his. How did he start that?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Mm-hmm. He basically copied it from other almanacs that he knew about that were successful.
LAMB: How'd you research Ben Franklin?
Ms. O'TOOLE: The Benjamin Franklin papers--it's an enormous, long-standing project at Yale University. It's many volumes of--of papers and they'll be going on probably for another generation before they get all the way to the end of his very long life. So most things are right there in those papers.
LAMB: Did you go to Yale?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Yes. Yeah. Mm-hmm. Many times.
LAMB: When you do a project like this, who pays all that travel?
Ms. O'TOOLE: The author, yeah. It was very expensive to do this book.
LAMB: You gonna end up making money on the book in the end?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, maybe if you'll run this show about 100 times.
LAMB: Will it matter to you?
Ms. O'TOOLE: It's up to you, Brian.
LAMB: I mean, are--at this stage in your life, are you trying to make money off this book or th--are there other reasons for doing it?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, this one--I c--I can't imagine ever getting out of the hole with this one. My publisher was as generous as it felt it could be. We didn't have any higher offers. But the amount of money that they put up is--was about a sixth of what it cost me to live during the time I did it and to take on all the research that--that needed to be done. So all I know for sure is that I can't do this again. It has to be a paying proposition next time around.
LAMB: In--in another chapter, you focus on the transcendentalists and the Concord, Massachusetts, folks--Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. What--what impact have they had on this whole discussion?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, they're very interesting to go back to at--at our time, look back 150 years, because they were really the first ones who said, `Hey, this--this marketplace frenzy that we're in is crowding all the rest of society to the margins, and that's probably not a good thing.' And in the beginning, they thought that what they would do is drop out, you know, `Well, we can't save them, so we'll just save ourselves and forget the rest.' But the issue of slavery made activists out of them. They felt they had to use their powers of persuasion and their privilege and influence to change people's minds about this issue. So I don't know what w--issue we need in our time to mobilize the people who've dropped out, but...
LAMB: Which one do you like more, Ralph Waldo Emerson or Henry David Thoreau?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I have such a soft spot for Henry David Thoreau. I even thought one time about trying to talk somebody into letting me go live at Walden and try to repeat his--his experiment.
LAMB: How long did he live there, by the way?
Ms. O'TOOLE: A couple years, two years and a couple of weeks.
LAMB: What was the story about--he wanted to do something or somebody wouldn't let him--I remember you writing about it--at--at Walden Pond, either the fellow that owned the house or somebody refused him.
Ms. O'TOOLE: Oh, it was a--a different pond that he wanted to camp on the shores of and the farmer...
LAMB: Ah.
Ms. O'TOOLE: ...the farmer wouldn't let him. Actually, he ended up camping on land that Emerson owned, so Em--Emerson was a wonderful benefactor of Thoreau.
LAMB: How much of--of Thoreau do you like because of his civil disobedience and that whole political side of it?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I am very attracted to that. I think that's a wonderful example. I--during the Vietnam War, that was a very important touchstone for me. My form of civil disobedience consisted of protest marches and writing a lot of letters, and then I, through the whole Vietnam War, wouldn't stand up during "The Star-Spangled Banner" but always with Thoreau--and I never did go to jail the way he did. Also, his--his love of nature and he's such a misfit, s--sort of, you know, very awkward and socially awkward. And his brother, to whom he was very close, died when they were very young, when they were in their 20s, and I think he never really got over that. There was one point when his parents thought that he should go away and live on his own, he's all grown up now, and he just got tears in his eyes and they said, `All right. We won't--we won't make you--we will let you stay.' He's a very touching figure to me.
LAMB: Wh--where do you think you got your--either your political view of the world or your anger about money and morals or money and things like the Vietnam War? Where--where was the first place in your life that somebody kind of tipped you in that direction?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, I don't feel angry about money and morals. I think Emerson said that poverty demoralizes. That's why it's a bad thing. In other words, goodness requires spare change, you know. You can't expect people to--you can't expect those two men I saw on the park bench to care very much about the well-being of society when they're hungry and they don't have a place to live. So I really believe that that's why we need to have a basic level of decency for every citizen, whether we approve of their behavior or not, because otherwise they're just disconnected from the rest of society. And where that comes from is, I think, growing up in a small town in the Midwest, because you can see how the whole town works. You can see that it is a community, you know everyone and you see people taking care of one another. So you just--you know, what I want is that to be extrapolated to the whole society.
LAMB: You say earlier in your book that one of the guides for you in your life is--or maybe just for this book is Henry James. We just did a book on William James, his brother. Why Henry James? What's the--what--what do you like about him?
Ms. O'TOOLE: That's a wonderful book, by the way, that Linda Simon book. I--I saw your show and enjoyed it. What I like about Henry James is that he--he said--well, what pertains to this book in particular, he said, `It's a complex fate to be an American,' and I think it is, because we have enormous natural resources and enormous opportunities. So we're--we always need to be thinking about, what kind of a society do we want to have? Now that we've created all this wealth we've created in the last three years in the stock market in particular, what--what do we want--what kind of society do we want to have? And this was a question asked in a novel by--I forget who at the moment, but what kind of society would you create if you couldn't know in advance your place in it? And I think that's how I would like every--everyone to think about it.
LAMB: Our guest has been Patricia O'Toole. The name of the book is "Money & Morals in America: A History." And last quick question: On the front page--or the f--cover of your book is a--either a photograph or a painting. What is it? Do you know?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Yes. It's a cityscape of St. Paul, Minnesota, back around the turn of the century.
LAMB: Thank you very much.
Ms. O'TOOLE: My pleasure.


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