Tomorrow's Business

THE importance of this book rests not so much on its content as on its author. The advocates of a socially controlled democratic capitalism, dedicated to the abolition of unemployment and depressions, have gained a powerful ally. More important, he is from the most unlikely of places — business.
Perhaps this is unfair to Beardsley Ruml. There is no reason to suspect that his indifference to a balanced budget, his acceptance of government regulation, and his insistence on the government’s economic role are of recent origin. Nor is businessman Ruml a newcomer to those other ideas which bring him under the “liberal ” mantle. True, he has never stated those concepts so clearly before. Certainly the more orthodox compensatory spenders have not succeeded in presenting their philosophy with Ruml’s suave good nature and urbane irresistibility.
Yet the book will not be manna to the New Dealers. The propriety of government action is not its central thesis; the propriety of business action is. As an apology for business, the book is as skillful and shrewd as any that has been written. But it will take more than Ruml’s willingness to accept government spending to endear him to those whose affection for business is at best secondary. And Ruml’s approach to business will not reduce the disaffection with it. When he says there should ordinarily be no limitations on profits, because “the greater the profit, the greater the service,” the reply will be “Yes — in an atmosphere of perfect competition.
In part, Ruml’s proposal to abolish corporate taxation flows from this premise. But in the absence of perfect, unlimited competition, some compulsion to distribute corporate income seems a necessary companion to tax elimination. Even Ruml s co-planner, H. Chr. bonne, disagrees with Ruml here.
The ultimate debate on these very provocative pages will revolve around Ruml’s acceptance of the philosophy of regulating the economy as a whole through fiscal controls and public works. He presents a convincing case for making-the construction industry a quasi-puhlic utility. That’s dynamite. Once high-level production and employment are accepted as a social responsibility, there may be no logical halfway house short of government regulation of all the basic industries subject to cyclical fluctuations.
Tomorrow’s Business has been recommended to businessmen. It deserves an unlimited audience. Even if you do not read this book, you will not be able to avoid the issues, ideas, and proposals so skillfully presented. Farrar & Rinehart, $2.50.