The Cure for Suspicion Is Knowledge

Of the readers who wrote us about the first Advertorial, published in the December Atlantic, a great many liked the idea and the method of presentation. But there was criticism too. One reader wrote: “It seems a waste to devote precious reading time and mental energy to a commercially biased presentation of a controversial question.”Another letter said cryptically:We have enough propaganda.”These letters come from people who are suspicious of business. The Atlantic believes that the answer to that distrust is knowledge.

The ideas which are the driving force of business should be understood. “We live a national paradox,” said one of our readers the other day. “We are so proud of our phenomenal genius for organization that ‘biggest in the world’ has become a phrase of habit and the prime American cliché. But mixed with this admiration is fear, a fear of the very size of which we boast. Audiences applaud a speaker who rips into some company because iL is ‘too big.’ The speaker who makes that charge never bothers to consider the paradox in his own life. When he leaves the rostrum, he steps into his General Motors car and goes home to listen to the late news over his RCA radio while he drinks a glass of Borden’s milk which he took from a Westinghouse refrigerator. Refreshed, he falls into a blissful sleep on a Beautyrest.”

This paradox needs to be resolved. Since we nourish big businesses by our daily preferences, since we cannot live, or arm ourselves, without them, doesn’t it follow that we must understand them?

The Atlantic believes that the curse can be taken off “bigness” by a forthright, vivid accounting in words. Such an accounting should be in terms of the broad public interest, rather than in terms of dollars.

It is equally important that small companies, labor unions small or large, and others with a message that can help us understand the economic forces that affect our lives, should document their arguments.

After all, it is not size that is a bugaboo. It is lack of knowledge. There are many business fields in which sufficient information is lacking. Profit, for instance, particularly unanalyzed profit; and the part that profit plays in the advancement of standards of living.

Business stewardship is another subject we should know more about. A new crop of managers has grown up under the stress of depression, war, and taxes. The business climate has created a broader-gauge executive mind than ever existed before. The new sense of stewardship which many businessmen are showing interests us. We want to see their ideas put down on paper where they can engender other ideas.

We want to know what the answer is to wage and salary scales, other than the exercise of force. Do escalator clauses cancel out their inflationary effect by getting more work done? Are retirement funds stimulating to production or do they have a soporific effect on ambition? What company has succeeded in taking paternalism and pawkiness out of community relations? Do the railroads have a plan for reversing the generation-old trend toward socialization? What are businesses doing on their own hook to conserve natural resources? How does research in “pure science” fare at the hands of business? What chance do we have of reducing the cost of distribution after the days of easy selling are past? Are obsolescent machines beginning to hold back the improvement of our standard of living as they did in Britain?

These questions seem vital to us. We believe they will seem so to our readers. We expect some of them to be the subject of future Advertorials. If they are, each will be plainly marked “advertisement.” You can be sure that only those will be accepted that seem to us to be worth a reader’s time.