Skill and Diligence


.We know today that nothing will restore the pre-machine condition of reasonably universal employment save an artificial allocation of working hours involving the use of more men than formerly to perform a given task. . . . The primary function of society, in spite of all the sophistries spurred of selfishness, is to give men better conditions than they could get without it; and the basic need today is jobs for all not for “property” for a few of the luck and the acquisitive. . . . In view of the urgent need for change, there is something almost obscene in the chatter of the selfish about various psychological evils allegedly inherent in a New Deal promising decent economic security and humane leisure for all instead of for a few. . . . What is worth answering is the kindred outcry about “regimentation”, “collective slavery”, “destruction of the right of the individual to make his own way” and so on; with liberal references to Stalin, Hitler, Mustapha Kemal, and other extremist dictators who have sought to control men’s personal, intellectual, and artistic lives, and traditional habits , as well as their economic fortunes. That which is essential and distinctive about a man is not the routine of material struggle he follows in his office; but the civilised way he lives, outside his office, the life whose maintenance is the object of his struggle. So long as his office work gains him a decently abundant and undisputedly free life, it matters little what that work is,what the ownership of the enterprise, and what and how distributed its profits, if profits there be. We have seen that no system proposes to deny skill and diligence an adequate remuneration. What more may skill and diligence legitimately ask? Nor is any lessening in the pride of achievement contemplated. Man will thrill just as much at the overcoming of vast obstacles, and the construction of great works, whether his deeds be performed for service or for profit. As it is, the greatest human achievements have never been for profit. Would Keats or Newton or Lucretius or Einstein or Santayana flourish less under a rationally planned society? Any intimation that a man’s life is wholly his industrial life, and that a planned economic order means a suppression of his personality, is really both a piece of crass ignorance and an insult to human nature



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