Joe’s Journal: On Bread, But Not Bread Alone

“We already have given up the belief that economic progress is always and by necessity the highest goal. And once we have given up economic achievement as the highest value and have come to regard it as no more than one goal among many, we have, in effect, given up economic activity as the basis for social life. The abandonment of the economic as the socially constructive sphere has gone further. Western society has given up the belief that man is fundamentally Economic Man, that his motives are economic motives, and that his fulfillment lies in economic success and economic rewards.

We have to develop a free and functioning society on the basis of a new concept of man’s nature and of the purpose and fulfillment of society. A basic ethical concept of social life must be developed. It lies in the philosophical or metaphysical field.”

—Peter F. Drucker

The deep recession we have suffered through is depriving a large number of individuals of status and function in life because they are either unemployed or underemployed. These individuals suffer not only economically, but also socially since their connection to society has been broken.

Meantime, at the higher end of income distribution there are a number of people who are doing very well, and for them amassing more money beyond all their needs, just for the sake of doing so, seems empty. As Peter Drucker once said to me: Like manure, it doesn’t smell any better the more you pile it up. It does not bring more happiness. For these people we should provide strong incentives to give to the needy of society.

While the notion of economic man is not an effective basis for organizing society “man cannot live without bread,” even though “man cannot live by bread alone.” And herein lies the paradox. We must try to organize society so there is maximum opportunity for those who wish to enjoy the “right to rise.” At the same time, we must help and protect those who are truly unable to help themselves to find gainful employment.

Unemployment among African Americans, for example, is above 15% and has been so for at least the past four years. The causes are complex, and yet a society can hardly be functioning well when such a large percentage of the population is in despair. Polices that encourage “welfare-to-work” have been effective. Pubic and social sector organizations do exist with the mission of providing people at the lowest economic levels with employable skills.  And the most effective form of financial aid to these unemployed is providing them with opportunities to become employable.

Americans also tend to support charities that show results. For example, there is a torrid love affair between the American people and the Salvation Army. Why? Because it is effective in its social programs, and that can become self-feeding. Results produce contributions and contributions, in turn, can help produce results.

–Joe Maciariello