fallout is appalling
To the Editor:
It is appalling to read the daily revelations
of the Enron collapse, with their alarming, wide-ranging effects, which
include thousands of employees who lost their jobs and their entire life
savings, while company executives grabbed an estimated 1.1 billion dollars
We are saddened by the personal accounts
of individuals who are directly affected: a father who doesn't know how
he will be able to meet mortgage payments on his home, the husband who
suddenly lost all his company health benefits just as his wife became seriously
ill, a woman nearing retirement age, whose 401(k) plan is now worthless.
How did the Enron bankruptcy happen?
Did it arise only out of corporate misbehavior, which can be remedied through
accounting regulations and reforms; or, is there something fundamentally
wrong with profit economics itself? Is the Enron debacle only a dramatic
example of business as usual, that is, to gain as much wealth as possible
for yourself without thought of what other people and things deserve?
We learned from Aesthetic Realism,
the education founded by the American historian and economist Eli Siegel,
that the basis of our nation’s profit economy—where a person’s being able
to work at all depends on whether someone else can make a profit from his
or her labor—is unethical, is contempt for people. Mr. Siegel defined
contempt as "the addition to self through the lessening of something else."
In a series of lectures he gave on economics in the 1970s, Mr. Siegel showed
what he was first to see then but is so clear now with the many industries
closing and hundreds of thousands of people losing jobs: that the profit
system has failed. He said, “The much touted mode of American industry
doesn’t work. The conduct of industry on the basis of ill will has
been shown to be inefficient.” This is what happened at Enron.
In issue 1504 of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, titled “Enron—and
What Americans Truly Want,” editor Ellen Reiss powerfully explains:
“If economically your central aim with people, products, the
possibilities of earth, is to make profit from them--not see meaning in
them, not be just to them--you will want to do that as thoroughly as possible.
Those running Enron simply took the profit motive seriously. Since
the facts and what human beings deserve tend to be interferences with your
making profit, to go after your main goal you try to get around or change
the facts and make unreal what people deserve. That is why the profit
motive has made for child labor, sweatshops, wages so low that families
starved to death. The large upshot of the Enron happening should
be the seeing by Americans: the motive that has impelled economics has
been no good; it's been un-American; it's been contempt. We have
to have an economics impelled by somethingelse--something fair to and respectful
of human beings.” [www.AestheticRealism.org]
That economics, we are grateful to have
learned, has to be based on ethics: the giving of what is coming to ourselves
by being fair to what is not ourselves. It is urgent that men and
women everywhere--in businesses, in homes, in government offices--answer
honestly this beautiful, ethical question first asked by Mr. Siegel: "What
does a person deserve by being alive?" When it is, economics will
be kind, efficient, and flourish!
and Michael Palmer
New York City