Can Capitalism Survive?
By Benjamin A. Rogge
One of the signs of advancing age in the American college professor is a tendency for him to write less and publish more. This seeming paradox is easily explained by the phenomenon of
Collected Works, that is, by what on television would be described as reruns. As in television, no great public outcry is needed to bring forth the reruns; a question from his wife, a polite suggestion from a colleague, and the cut-and-paste operation is under way.I have put together here what I believe to be the best of the rather meager output of my professional career up to this point. For reasons (mostly financial) that always seemed adequate at the moment, I have been more of a speechmaker than a writer. Thus, you will find that many of the pieces in this collection are but speeches put down on paper…. [From the Foreword]
First Pub. Date
Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund, Inc. Liberty Fund, Inc.
The text of this edition is under copyright. Picture of Benjamin Rogge: file photo, courtesy of Liberty Fund, Inc.
- Part I, Introduction
- Part I, Chapter 1, Can Capitalism Survive
- Part II, Introduction
- Part II, Chapter 1, The Case for Economic Freedom
- Part II, Chapter 2, The Libertarian Philosophy
- Part II, Chapter 3, Who is to Blame
- Part II, Chapter 4, Paradise in Posey County
- Part III, Introduction
- Part III, Chapter 1, Adam Smith, 1776-1976
- Part III, Chapter 2, Christian Economics: Myth or Reality
- Part III, Chapter 3, College Economics: Is It Subversive of Capitalism
- Part IV, Introduction
- Part IV, Chapter 1, Profits
- Part IV, Chapter 2, The Businessman
- Part V, Introduction
- Part V, Chapter 1, The Labor Monopoly
- Part VI, Introduction
- Part VI, Chapter 1, The Long-Run Economic Outlook
- Part VI, Chapter 2, Alleged Causes of Inflation, Corporate Monopolies
- Part VII, Introduction
- Part VII, Chapter 1, The Problems of Cities
- Part VIII, Introduction
- Part VIII, Chapter 1, Financing Higher Education in the United States
- Part VIII, Chapter 2, The Promise of the College
- Part IX, Introduction
- Part IX, Chapter 1, The Businessman and the Defense of Capitalism
- Part IX, Chapter 2, Reflections on the Election of 1964
- Part IX, Chapter 3, The Foundation for Economic Education, Success or Failure
Part IV, Chapter 2
I should like to begin with a paragraph from an article in a recent issue of the
Wall Street Journal. The headlines read as follows: “Scorning business. More college students shun corporate jobs, choose other fields. Teaching, Peace Corps lure Harvard grads: company hiring quotas go unfilled. Martinis, ulcers and profits.”
The word on the campus is that business is for the birds. At college after college an increasing percentage of graduates is shunning business careers in favor of such fields as teaching, scientific research, law and public service. Amherst College says that 48 percent of its alumni are businessmen, but fewer than 20 percent of recent graduates have been entering business. Only 14 percent of last spring’s Harvard graduates plan business careers, down from 39 percent five years ago. Arthur Lyon Dahl, a June graduate of Stanford University, says of his classmates: “I know of almost no one who even considered a business career.”
One of the toughest obstacles confronting company recruiters on many campuses is a general atmosphere of scorn for business.
particular person should be a businessman. There are many for whom other careers are clearly indicated. I am asking only if it is one of the acceptable alternatives confronting a young person today.
deceiving others into
thinking he is serving them? Isn’t a kind of sophisticated dishonesty a requirement for success in business? I make no claims for the superior moral fiber of the businessman, but I will say this: A basically dishonest man can survive longer in the church or the classroom than he can in the grain exchange or the furniture business. The penalty system in the business world operates with some real precision and certainty, largely unencumbered by a mystique of occupational sanctification.
are dishonest men in the business world, of course, but if you go into the business world, you will be under no greater pressure to stretch the truth than if you get a job as an editor of a college catalogue or as a speechwriter for candidates for political office or a member of Nader’s Raiders.
ought to want to be served. This may be what rules out the businessman as a public servant. The public servant is perhaps a man who serves others as they
ought to be served, rather than as they
want to be served or perhaps more accurately, as they are willing to pay to be served.
are interested in making a living, then you are usually well advised to take some account of what others are willing to pay to get. Admittedly there is a way out; rather than serving B as B is willing to pay to be served, A can sometimes be paid with C’s money to do for B for free what he, A, knows to be best for B. This, by the way, is more in keeping with the modern concept of public service than is the direct exchange with B on a quid pro quo basis.
can, in fact,
must serve others if you wish to be a businessman. I would go so far as to argue that the young man who goes to a country like Brazil as an employee of (say) Sears Roebuck will end up doing more real good for the people of the country than will the young man who goes there as a member of the Peace Corps. This is not an argument against the Peace Corps, which is largely meant to be symbolic anyway. But it is an argument for giving some thought to Sears Roebuck, even though you would be paid more by Sears than the Peace Corps.
Lord Jim, says of the man who serves as water-clerk for a supply firm that “he must have ability in the Abstract and demonstrate it practically.” This is true of all roles of any significance in the business world, and the intellectual challenge in such roles is hard and clear. These roles call for imagination and for analytical skills of no mean order.
all interest in the
bookish variety of intellectuality. Wallace Stevens combined his career as an insurance executive with his other role as a poet. Crawford Greenewalt, once Chairman of the Board of the Du Pont Company, has written a definitive work on the hummingbird. The men who buy the works of art, who attend the concerts, who fill the theaters are in the main drudges from the world of business—and this in spite of the fact that in the usual Broadway play, the businessman is portrayed as either a knave or a fool. Many businessmen have no intellectual interests of this kind, but it
is possible to be a businessman without also being a Philistine.
Any organization you join, whether business, educational, governmental, or philanthropic, subjects you to this problem. The organization man is found wherever organization is found. If you really want to be subjected to
no pressures of this kind, then you’d better decide here and now to go it on your own, whatever you do—whether it’s teaching history or producing glassware.