White House Conference on the Industrial World Ahead

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The White House Conference on the Industrial World Ahead was the first White House conference "exclusively concerned with American business and the first one on the future."[1] The conference was called by President Richard Nixon and jointly chaired by Secretary of Commerce Maurice H. Stans and Secretary of Labor James D. Hodgson.[2] Taking place February 7–9, 1972, in Washington D.C., its stated purpose was to bring together key business, labor, university, and government leaders "with an interest in our industrial society to take a long-range look and develop policies that will help shape the future."[2] The conference themes were the social responsibility of business, technology and resources for business, the human side of enterprise, the structure of the private enterprise system, and business and the world economy of 1990.

The conference included presentations from scientists, futurists, Chairmen/CEOs of large multinationals, and academics. One address included a provocative statement that set the tone for the event: "several clues indicate that the industrialized world may be experiencing the beginning of a socioculturai revolution as profound and pervasive in its effects on all segments of the society as the Industrial Revolution, the Reformation, or the Fall of Rome."[1] It was at this conference that Carl A. Gerstacker, Chairman of Dow Chemical, described his vision of the "anational" corporation when he said "we appear to be moving strongly in the direction of what will not be really multinational or international companies as we know them today...but what we might call 'anational' companies — companies without any nationality, belonging to all nationalities."[3] He further stated, "I have long dreamed of buying an island owned by no nation, and of establishing the world headquarters of the Dow company on the truly neutral ground of such an island, beholden to no nation or society.” [4]

James P. McFarland, Chairman of General Mills, said "the corporation of 1990 would have an employer‐employee relationship with its personnel that is dramatically different from that of today (1972)." He offered several examples of change: "a substantive reduction in the retirement age, but with full benefits; rapid development of corporately sponsored day‐care centers for employees’ children, and a great increase in programs that give employees lengthy paid leaves of absence to pursue interests in fields not related to business."[4] Treasury Secretary John B. Connally "inveighed against complacency, sloth, greed, the expectancy that Government alone can cure the nation's ills, and especially against the idea that zero net economic growth might be a means to save society and protect the environment."[5]

Perhaps the most accurate prediction was made by Roy Ash, co-founder and president of Litton Industries, during a spirited discussion with Peter G. Peterson, Robert Roosa and Roberto Campos. He proclaimed, "state capitalism may well be a form for world business in the world ahead; that the western countries are trending toward a more unified and controlled economy, having a greater effect on all business; and that the communist nations are moving more and more toward a free market system." He then posed the question of whether "East and West would meet some place toward the middle in about 1990," which was a prescient query that accurately forecasted the timing of the rise of a free-market among former communist states.[1] During a dinner with President Nixon, the President urged the business leaders "to roll up your sleeves and increase productivity" so that their companies would be more competitive in world markets.[5]

Presenting members[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "White House Conference on the Industrial World Ahead: A Look at Business in 1990" (PDF). White House Conference on the Industrial World Ahead. 1972. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  2. ^ a b "Request for records" (PDF). 1982. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  3. ^ Jensen, Michael (1972). "Anationals". "The New York Times". Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  4. ^ a b Jensen, Michael (1972). "Connally Rejects Idea of Zero Growth". "The New York Times". Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  5. ^ a b "BUSINESS TAKES UNCERTAIN LOOK AT 1990". Chemical & Engineering News. 50 (7): 2–3. 1972. doi:10.1021/cen-v050n007.p002.
  6. ^ Margalit Fox (November 3, 2005). "William O. Baker, 90, an Adviser to Five Presidents About Scientific Matters, *Dies". New York Times.