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influential and have the most at stake in preserving our form of Government and our free society. They, above all, should be concerned with preserving our freedoms. This is best expressed in the Biblical injunction: "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required".
Businessmen must do more than merely seek to preserve the freedom to make money. The unrestrained pursuit of profit is the heart of the problem; it cannot form a part of the solution. They should seek a higher purpose. They should restore ethical behavior to business practice.
In recent years there has been much talk about the need for businessmen to accept "social responsibility" and help solve critical national problems. Too often, however, they appear to conceive of social "projects" as substitutes for legal and moral practice. Often these projects are not substantive but only the familiar panoply of public relations, and the public has become skeptical of such gimmicks. They would be far more sympathetic if more businessmen demonstrated by their actions the determination to conduct their affairs ethically.
Businessmen need to exercise self-restraint. Capitalism in America. should be practiced within a strict moral code. Morality benefits business, those who operate illegally or unethically threaten it. In failing to exercise self-restraint, they are stretching the rubber band until it is near breaking. If they so continue, they will inevitably be faced with being called "malefactors of great wealth" and having their large empires broken up as was done by Theodore Roosevelt. Many today see this as the basic way to remedy the excesses that pervade business. Besides this, there will also follow, as in the administrations of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt the establishment of powerful Regulatory Commissions to replace today's toothless ones.
Trust and good faith facilitate business. The underpinning of the capitalist system is to a large extent trust-the faith that men will deal fairly and honestly with the customer; with the general public; with each other; and with the stockholder.
There is another reason to adopt a strict code of moral and ethical conduct. As heirs to the ideas and accomplishments of all men who have ever lived, it is the responsibility of all of us to preserve a free society, where knowledge, truth and justice flourish, so that our inheritance can be passed on to posterity. Our responsibility involves dedication to an ideal higher than self. This means love of country and love of one's fellow man-present and future. It is marked by excellence, courage, honesty, selflessness, and many other terms which for millenia have represented the best traits of man.
Few would dispute that men should live morally and ethically according to these higher ideals. Why do we then not pursue this alternative? Primarily because it is the most difficult of all paths. Men have tried for thousands of years to be ethical and moral, with differing degrees of success. The duty to uphold the rights and interests of others often succumbs to selfishness. Then, when chaos threatens, many find it easier to accept the discipline of strict laws, regulations, and even curtailed freedoms than to exercise self-discipline. That is why, for a basic change to be made, it is necessary that men change their way of thinking. Change which is significant manifests itself more "in in
tellectual and moral conceptions than in material things." As difficult as this appears, such changes have occurred in the past.
The Hebrew concept of one God was one of these; it ultimately replaced the many gods of the pagan world.
The ancient Greeks adopted the attitude that reason must prevail among men and that the citizens themselves should govern.
The English Revolution of 1688 and the French Revolution of 1789 did away with the concept of divine right of monarchs; this led to greater democracy and freedom.
The ideas and works of Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, and Darwin entirely changed man's concept of his place in the universe.
But men do not change their thinking overnight. For that reason we will continue to need laws and regulations to govern our personal lives and our business activities. I do believe, however, that individuals can change and can make a difference. People are eager for leaders who will give of themselves for the good of their communities. They are sick of platitudes, of high talking and low living, of fine words and selfish deeds. They want and will follow those who live by higher values.
Our Bicentennial should remind us that the leaders of our Revolutionary period showed that the individual can make a difference. These men, properly honored by the title "Founding Fathers," valued freedom and culture more than wealth. They brought fundamental honesty to the business of government, and dealt with their countrymen on frank and open terms. They lived by the ideals that propounded. The Declaration of Independence was no idle statement for them. In support of it they pledged, and some lost, their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. Through their beliefs and individual deeds our Revolutionary leaders stirred their fellow countrymen to struggle and sacrifice for independence. More important, they set a moral tone and example for their age and ours.
To set an example, an individual starts with himself. He puts his family and community above his own desires. He puts high moral and ethical principles into his personal and business dealings. He accepts as his personal responsibility the duty of restoring the concepts of honesty, truth and morality.
As a Nation, we can choose one of two ways to bring about the changes needed in our country: We can use the power of the State or we can entrust the task to our capitalist system. In my opinion, to use the State will result-as it has in other parts of the world-in a loss of freedom. I believe the job can best be done by our capitalist system provided those who lead it understand that the methods used must be legal, must be supported by our Government and people, and must transcend some of the current ways of conducting business. While capitalism must be based on the opportunity to make profit, those in charge must not use their special position to gain advantage over our country and our citizens.
The great problems facing us today-energy, population, the environment-demand the highest degree of ability and initiative. Solutions require basic changes in thinking and a willingness to question. past practices. Although these problems are national in scope, the search for solutions can begin with day-to-day activities. For example, businessmen would be well advised to question their effect on our
society by creating, through advertising, artificial demand for products of questionable value. They would also do well to consider the implications for the future of capitalism of a recent study which shows that misleading television advertising may permanently distort children's values of mortality, society and business. And they should examine whether their practices exploit the fact, reported by another study, that 62 percent of adult Americans are rated either incompetent or barely competent on consumer economic questions.
Businessmen have a special opportunity and responsibility to effect beneficial change in our society. To do so they must set demanding goals for themselves. They should ask what will be their contribution to the legacy which American civilization leaves to the world? The Hebrews endowed mankind with concepts of mortality; the Ancient Greeks left concepts of democracy and self-government. The legacy of the Roman Empire was law.
It is my hope the American legacy will be more than a business structure whose major objective is attainment of wealth; more than a facility for self-serving public relations; more than a highly developed advertising industry with its propensity to "image-making." I hope America's legacy will be the accommodation of the forces of capitalism, democracy and mortality in a highly industrialized society. Such a rich legacy would be worthy of a great nation.
8. "THE ROLE OF NEW TECHNICAL ENTERPRISES IN THE U.S. ECONOMY," BY JOHN O. FLENDER AND RICHARD S. MORSE, MIT DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION, OCTOBER 1, 1975
THE ROLE OF NEW TECHNICAL
ENTERPRISES IN THE
Report of the
Secretary of Commerce