Nancy Huntting, Aesthetic Realism consultant, writes:
Why can’t our big, beautiful country meet the needs and hopes of every man, woman, and child in it? Do we want and need an economy that’s both practical and ethically good? In “Looked For in America,” you’ll see that ethics is more powerful than you may have thought. There are thrilling logic and solid answers in this latest issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known!
The commentary by Ellen Reiss begins:
Dear Unknown Friends:
Here is the first part of What Was Going On, a lecture that Eli Siegel gave in April 1975. It is a lecture important for our own time, for these very days of ours.
Nearly five years earlier Mr. Siegel had begun his series of Goodbye Profit System talks. In them he showed that a way of economics which had gone on for centuries, and which had always been contemptuous and unjust, now no longer worked. This failing thing was economics based on the profit motive: that is, based on the ill will of seeing one’s fellow humans as beings through whom to aggrandize oneself—through whom to acquire as much money as possible. Mr. Siegel said in 1970:
What is being shown today is that without good will, the toughest, most inconsiderate of activities—economics—cannot do so well….There is a feeling all over the world on the part of persons who work that they are not getting their just share of the gross national product, and they feel that their not getting it is caused by ill will….The world is saying: We don’t want ill will to hurt and poison our lives anymore. I wish I could call it something else—good will and ill will are such pale words; but that is what it’s about….In May 1970, the conduct of industry on the basis of ill will has been shown to be inefficient.
He explained that while persons might make profit-motivated economics grind on for decades more, it would never flourish again. Today, Americans are increasingly demanding that life in our nation be based on respect for all people. In fact, the only way our economy can now succeed is to have that basis of respect and good will.
Then, Now, & Years to Come
In those Goodbye Profit System talks Mr. Siegel gave evidence from history, literature, past and current economists, daily events. And in this journal I have commented on what he explained, in terms of life today. The wealth of our nation is in the hands of fewer and fewer people. For millions, including of the erstwhile middle class, there are joblessness and worry about how to feed one’s family and have a place to live. Millions of children are going to bed hungry. In the years to come, the idea that our economy was based, not on justice to people, but on making profit through them, will be seen as shocking, utterly immoral—and inefficient indeed.
In the 1975 talk What Was Going On, Mr. Siegel discusses an article in the bicentennial issue of Fortune magazine: “Reshaping the American Dream,” by Thomas Griffith. Mr. Siegel looks at the feeling in America of then (nearly 46 years ago). The situation now is different, of course; yet what he explains is a means of our understanding ourselves and our country now. Since Griffith writes about “American institutions,” Mr. Siegel comments, in this early section, on what an institution is. He gives a definition of the word. And he mentions various institutions, which continue today and are also in the midst of change. Mr. Siegel describes those institutions in a way that is lively yet deep, that has lightness yet exactitude. We feel the humanity, the lives, concerned in them.
The Family, Recurrent & Different
I’ll comment a bit on one of the institutions he mentions, as a means of illustrating something Mr. Siegel explained: that “ethics is a force” in history and life….Read more