January 27, 1995
Raymond B. Carey, Jr.
34 Brown’s Dock Road
Locust, NJ 07760
Dear Mr. Carey,
It was both intellectually engaging and a pleasure to have the opportunity recently to discuss the draft copy of your book on Democratic capitalism with colleagues Michael Hartoonian, David Earle, and you. By about 4:30 p.m. that afternoon I was reminded of the Farside cartoon in which the student raised his hand and asked the teacher if he could be excused because “his brain was full.” In my case, any exhaustion reflected both a satisfying fulfillment and stimulation.
In as much as each of us promised to follow up with summary thoughts on your book, I would like to include mine here. Much of this will reference points from our discussion at Junior Achievement’s national office.
To start, I was very impressed with the depth and scope of your knowledge on political and economic thought as well as your ability to weave these ideas into a larger theme. Your the promise of democratic capitalism and the welfare of our economic society was compelling. You are quite right to imply that most Americans have a seriously incomplete and distorted view of the economic system within which all of us sustain ourselves, and some thrive. Your ideas help the reader, American and Western culture generally, to understand capitalism for its deserved complexity and to gain a deep appreciation for its variations.
Many people do view capitalism only in its financial and speculative form, causing some to be cynical towards the system while others become corrupted with narrow visions of self interest, private gain, and economic power. We all have the need to better understand the potentially more humanizing dimensions embedded in democratic capitalism, which you richly capture in the manuscript.
However, I’m not so convinced that some of the culprits in your analysis deserve such harsh treatment. For example, while the liberal arts in our colleges and universities, particularly those with the strongest academic reputations, foster a critical analysis and skepticism of capitalism, that is the function of sound liberal arts. It doesn’t necessarily follow that such students acquire negative or distorted attitudes towards the system, rather that they have the ability to analyze, evaluate and ideally build a more just and strong system. In fact, those who have benefited from a solid liberal arts education seem to have the best understanding of democratic capitalism.
Likewise, I think a balanced assessment of the effects of government policy on economic society during the past century would reveal how its benefits to democratic capitalism have substantially outweighed the damages. I should think that in the absence of pervasive ethical behavior among participants in the economy, public policy is both compatible with and indispensable to democratic capitalism. Of course, neither higher education nor government is always sensible and prudent; likewise, I am not suggesting that you paint a negative or one-sided view of either in the book. On the contrary, Democratic Capitalism offers a complex portrait of the nature of our economic system and role that institutions such as government, banking, and education play.
I also strongly believe that the potential of democratic capitalism will not be realized unless we go considerably beyond traditional ways of rewarding all participants in the workplace. I’m referring to your emphasis on the value of profit sharing as the catalyst to democratizing our corporations and even smaller businesses. My observations suggest that many corporations still are excessively hierarchical places where workers often do not feel engaged in important, enriching, and personally meaningful work. I agree with writers and consultants, such as the late Edwards Deming and Peter Senge, that most workplaces must be extensively restructured. Given the nature and diversity of young people that our modern affluent culture nurtures, nothing less than fundamental change in the workplace is likely to accommodate their spirits.
I believe that I’m in concert with both David and Michael in encouraging you to find a first-rate publisher for Democratic Capitalism. It deserves a wide readership. However, don’t be surprised if you find publishers and editors who want to condense some of both the historical analysis and contemporary insights. While we mentioned that this blending of knowledge and xperience uniquely enhances the text, many readers will appreciate it being thoughtfully tightened.
I hope this finds you well.
Richard Van Scotter
Vice President-Education Marketing
cc: David Earle