The National Council of Churches has promoted 10 books on social ethics. Sponsored by its Department of the Church and Economic Life, the project was launched 10 years ago under a large subsidy from the Rockefeller Foundation. Most of these books now also appear in popularized paperback summaries.

A member of the NCC’s General Board has suggested purchase of these books as gifts to church libraries. His endorsement describes the 10 volumes as “tremendously effective tools for your Christian work—the product of nine years of research by top economists, theologians, political scientists and psychologists.… You will find in these books invaluable insight … for use in all your efforts at guiding men toward that larger understanding which we know to be so essential to their effective Christian living.”

Other Christian leaders have taken exception on the ground that some of the volumes reflect left wing social philosophies. An influential layman has described the NCC’s promotion of this series of volumes on “The Ethics and Economics of Society” as “one of the boldest attempts to use the church for the purpose of disseminating the Collectivist philosophy that I have so far run across.”

CHRISTIANITY TODAY has sought an objective verdict on this series of studies by inviting 10 leaders to submit 350-word reviews with an eye on the presuppositions of these volumes. The several books are not lacking in individual differences. But the reviewers are in general agreement that the underlying bias of the series favors the “New Deal society” against a limited government, free enterprise, private property philosophy, even though this thesis is resisted in some of the volumes.—ED.

Goals Of Economic Life

Goals of Economic Life, edited by A. Dudley Ward (Harper, 1953, 470 pp., $4), is reviewed by J. Howard Pew, Director, Sun Oil Company, and President of the Trustees of the Foundation of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

Launched by the old Federal Council of Churches some years ago, this book, Goals of Economic Life, supposedly to determine to what extent our economic system is consistent with Christian principles, provides the introduction to the whole series of books on ETHICS AND ECONOMICS OF SOCIETY. It contains 15 essays, each by a different author taking his own approach to the subject, be it that of a philosopher, social scientist, biologist, anthropologist, economist, psychologist, or theologian. Such rarified atmosphere makes for strange observations which often fail to check with either Christianity or sound economics.

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But the National Council takes cover in assuming no responsibility. Charles P. Taft makes this unequivocally clear in his Foreword to the book: “The National Council of Churches has taken no official position and assumed no responsibility regarding the content of any of the volumes.” This is tenuous cover, indeed, when it is stated specifically in the Introduction that the 15 authors were selected “with an eye to the requirements of the project …,” and in view of the aggressive promotion given to the “project” by the National Council.

Can the National Council sidestep responsibility so easily? It is incredible that a business man of integrity could or would hold himself aloof from any responsibility for the wares he produces or sells. By that same token it is incredible that the National Council can hold itself aloof from even a quasi endorsement of the authors’ theses which—give or take some points here and there—seem colored by Kremlin instructions to Party workers in our country to cast doubt on the efficacy of the free market system of economics and to advocate measures which would substitute government control or ownership for private control and ownership of property, and in other ways regulate the lives of its citizens. Such would be a sad day for freedom and Christianity. To this much of the world today gives dramatic testimony.

The final chapter—the summation and Statement of conclusions—was left to the skillful pen of Reinhold Niebuhr, but who, according to an earlier statement by his colleague, John C. Bennett, “follows the Marxist pattern in his political thinking.…”

Such Marxist overtones seep insidiously through the whole book. It lacks Christian motivation. It lacks a realistic understanding of the relationship between the Christian ethic and economics. And it is my conviction, in contradistinction to the statist philosophy that emerges from its pages, that Christianity and freedom are inexorably tied together, and the free market is but one of freedom’s parts.

Organizational Revolt

The Organizational Revolution, by Kenneth E. Boulding (Harper, 1953, 286 pp., $3.50), is reviewed by Dr. Hudson T. Armerding, Dean, Gordon College.

This work is a descriptive and analytical study of the organizational revolution which today is of compelling significance. The author, an economist, demonstrates competence as a social scientist by his balanced and perceptive treatment of the subject. Despite the sponsorship by the National Council of Churches, Professor Boulding asserts that he writes in this volume as an individual, not as a spokesman. Inclusion in the text of verbatim comments by his critics supports his assertion that he is contributing to a discussion.

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With the descriptive material there can be little disagreement. Some of the author’s analyses, however, are controversial, for his assumptions are those of the so-called classical economist. He insists, for example, that to the capitalists in their corporate activity should go the credit for the Western world’s economic development, including the improved status of labor. This is a viewpoint too little articulated today, but one bound to be vigorously challenged.

In attempting to explain the causes of the organizational revolution, Professor Boulding stresses the interaction of society and its environment. This, he believes, has become dynamic because of technological advance, particularly in communications, and not primarily because of a response to social needs. According to the author, sanctions governing group behavior locate primarily in human or social imperatives with the distinctive tenets of Christianity adjudged too intensely personal to be effective for organizations or groups. This apparent failure of the author to utilize Christian perspectives is nowhere more evident than in his suggested solutions to the major problems of the organizational revolution. In endorsing a limited world government as a practicable expedient to resolve the organizational dilemma, he does not even speculate upon what part the return of Christ or the establishment of the kingdom of God might play in this process.

The contribution of this study to the perspective of the Church, therefore, will be determined largely by the wisdom and skill with which informed Christians utilize such materials in relating revelational truth to the contemporary scene.

Social Responsibilities

Social Responsibilities of the Businessman, by Howard R. Bowen (Harper, 1953, 276 pp., $3.50), is reviewed by the Rev. Edmund A. Opitz of the senior staff of the Foundation for Economic Education.

Readers of this book may feel that businessmen are unwarrantedly lumped together as a class, and then singled out as the group in our society most in need of reformation. If they do, their suspicions are not without foundation. In effect, this book asks businessmen (to paraphrase the old leading question), “When are you going to start behaving responsibly?” If they were to protest the impropriety of starting an inquiry with an accusation, Dr. Bowen would inform them that, “In general, Protestant thinkers are … suspicious of arguments used by businessmen that their power is being used—or will be used—benevolently and point out the frequent proclivity of men in a given social class to hold views consistent with the interests of their class” (p. 35). The men in the dock are presumed guilty, and no testimony in their own behalf, it is alleged, can rise above mere special pleading.

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This hardly qualifies as fair play. There are scoundrels in every walk of life, and virtue is not limited to the professions. The producer of honest goods and services has a vocation which doesn’t suffer by comparison with any other. Moreover, no businessman is just that and nothing else. Like most of the rest of us he functions in many capacities; as a citizen, a husband, a father, a churchman, a neighbor, second clarinet in the town band, coach of his son’s Little League team, and so on. In each of these roles he acts as a responsible person, trying to meet the moral, aesthetic, and legal demands that are made upon him. He is the same many-sided person when he enters his place of business. In his role as a businessman he manufactures some item, such as men’s suits; or runs a store selling a variety of merchandize; or operates a service, such as a garage or laundry. In no one of these pursuits does the businessman consult merely his own inclinations, as if they were hobby activities; he tries to form an estimate of the economic needs and wants of other people which he might be in a position to fulfill on a voluntary exchange basis.

As a result of his work, goods and services appear on the market in competition with all other products available to the buying public. If he wins customers, he prospers and makes a profit while they enjoy goods and services not otherwise available to them. The sum total of human satisfactions is increased, and no one is enriched at the expense of anyone else. But sometimes the customers turn in a negative verdict; there are no sales, and consequently no profits. In such a situation some businessmen have turned to government for a monopolistic grant of privilege—in which case they cease, in strict definition, to be businessmen. If Dr. Bowen understood the distinction between monopolist and businessman he might have written a more valuable book.

Income And Its Use

American Income and Its Use, by Elizabeth Hoyt, Joseph McConnell, Janet Hooks, and Margaret Reid (Harper, 1954, 362 pp., $4.00), is reviewed by Donald Grey Barn-house, Editor, Eternity Magazine.

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American Income and Its Use maintains that the Christian Church should utilize the strengths of capitalism and the welfare state to formulate a practical, working compromise which will benefit society in general.

This volume contains five studies: “The Ethics of Consumption,” by Elizabeth E. Hoyt, Professor of Economics, Iowa State College; “Distribution of Income and Consumption,” by Margaret G. Reid, Professor of Economics, University of Chicago; “The Changing Family and Its Dependents,” by Joseph L. McConnell and Janet M. Hooks, both of the University of Illinois; “Conclusion: What Lies Before Us,” by Dr. Hoyt; and “Ethical Aspects of Income Distribution and Consumption,” by Walter G. Muelder, Dean of Boston University School of Theology.

The writers of this book believe that private wealth should serve the best interests of society. They do not believe that this can be achieved, however. They recognize the weaknesses of state socialism, and they do not believe that laziness should be encouraged, nor incentive destroyed.

Dr. Muelder sums up the study thus: “An adequate Christian stewardship, with a philosophy of vocation, recognizes the spiritual significance of detachment, non-possessiveness, and even renunciation, but it proceeds from a new motive and a vision of inclusive community responsibility. There is a need to restore the awareness that even man made things come ultimately from God. There is a need to see the diversity of gifts and talents in men in terms of the mutual service which all can render” (p. 317).

According to Dr. Muelder, the theological basis of this approach is the doctrine of the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. Herein, I believe, lies the weakness of this book. The problems of the world arise not primarily from a faulty view of economics but from man’s faulty relationship to God. Although this view of the Christian social ethic aims at a Christian goal, nevertheless any attempt to build a better world with inferior material is bound to fail. The primary purpose of the Christian community is to so live before men that they see us as a people redeemed by Jesus Christ. Only thus can men know the true Fatherhood of God and exercise the true spirit of brotherhood.

Christian Values

Christian Values and Economic Life, by Howard R. Bowen, John C. Bennett, William Adams Brown, Jr., and G. Bromley Oxnam (Harper, 1954, 272 pp., $3.50), is reviewed by Harold J. Ockenga, Minister, Park Street Church, Boston, Massachusetts.

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This is the last of a series of treatises purporting to set forth a Protestant economic ethic, to be used as a standard in attempting to solve the complex problems resulting from our rapidly changing social institutions. The authors reaffirm commitment to the value and integrity of the individual, the character of government as a tool for service of the people and the capacity of human life for essential decency and justice. A sincere interest in human welfare, in avoiding totalitarianism, and in being Christian marks the work throughout. The reader (and I read the entire book) is impressed with the desire of the authors to grapple with difficult problems and to apply permanently valid Christian principles.

These principles are declared to be “a religious perspective, a sensitive concern for the human consequences of all economic behavior, a spirit of dedication and self-criticism.” The biblical doctrine of the depravity and hence the selfishness of the human race is lightly referred to and the biblical admonitions about the responsibility of wealth are emphasized. Responsibility corresponding to power of unions, management, farmers and government is recommended.

The authors all believe government must take a large responsibility and initiative in controlling and directing the economic life of the nation. Basic is their belief that the people have given a mandate to government to prevent a serious depression, to control inflation, to relieve unemployment, to set a subsistence support to the family unit, to care for the aged, to maintain educational opportunities.

Lack of faith in the law of supply and demand, in the self-regulating power of a free market, in the processes of capitalism, is evident. Large graduated income taxes are advocated even in a peace economy to enable the government to more equally distribute income and to lift the level of the masses. The profit motive as such is not condemned except when disproportionate to other motives and interests. Equalitarianism of incomes is repudiated in the interest of initiative, but stress is placed on social responsibility. The authors lean upon government regulation, control and direction of economic life to right the wrongs of society under Christian idealism. The work is critical of capitalism, but affirms belief in modified capitalism. This modified capitalism gives large place to the state in the economic order. But Christianity is identified with no form of social order.

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The governing view is that of the social gospel stemming from Walter Rauschenbush. Personal evangelism is associated with laissez-faire capitalism. The book’s preoccupation is with the brotherhood of man, social justice, and labor’s rights. We cannot take exception to the application of the Christian ideal in a changing society, but can ask, what is this ideal? This whole study lacks the lift and incentive of “the eternal view.”

The resulting impression of the book is that though the authors repudiate socialism by name, they lay the groundwork for socialism in their resort to the state’s activity in the economic order. At best we have here no answer to socialism or communism or fascism.

The American Economy

The American Economy—Attitudes and Opinions, by A. Dudley Ward (Harper, 1955, 199 pp., $3.50), is reviewed by the Rev. Irving E. Howard, Christian Freedom Foundation.

The main drive of the classical economists was to find laws written into the nature of things which govern economic activity in the same inexorable fashion as the laws of physics and chemistry. In their search for these laws, they leaned heavily upon deduction, but not without observing the activity of the marketplace.

The reaction against the classical school provoked an inductive approach to economics which stimulated the gathering of statistics. This has made a worth-while contribution to the understanding of economics, but it has been carried to excess. All “fact finding” is useless unless the facts are interpreted, but the interpreter of facts must first select his facts from the overwhelming mass, and then he must interpret them. In both activities he is guided by some given philosophy. Knowledge is never arrived at by “fact finding” alone.

Nevertheless, the pretense of “going to the facts” and being “completely objective” became popular in the so-called “social sciences.” The American Economy-Attitudes and Opinions by A. Dudley Ward is an example. The Reverend Ward, a Methodist minister and graduate of Union Theological Seminary, is now Executive Secretary of the Board of Social and Economic Relations of the Methodist Church. Director of Studies for this series on ETHICS AND ECONOMICS OF SOCIETY, he compiled this sixth volume which reports the results of individual interviews and group discussions in various parts of our country.

While the volume pretends to be a random sampling of public opinion, a collectivist social philosophy clearly lurks in the background. Social justice by means of government intervention and social injustice as a result of “laissez-faire capitalism” are the two alternatives that are suggested. For example, one group is reported as concluding: “The social order of the day tends to reward, at least economically, the dishonest.” The possibility of social cooperation and economic justice resulting from a genuinely free market is never raised. Questions used in the interviews and discussions were loaded. One questioner frankly reported: “It had never occurred to these people that there were tensions such as so many of the questions in the questionnaire suggest.”

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The American Economy—Attitudes and Opinions is evidence that a purely inductive approach to social and economic problems is an impossibility. Pretending to be engaged in objective fact finding is an excellent way to mold opinion while the people so molded think they are coming to their own conclusions.

Business Ethics

Ethics in a Business Society, by Marquis W. Childs and Douglass Cater (Harper, 1954, 191 pp., $2.75), is reviewed by Maxey Jarman, Chairman of the General Shoe Corporation.

It is difficult to understand the purpose of this book. Published as part of a survey sponsored by the National Council of Churches, it apparently has as its general thesis that “the Social Gospel is being grounded in a deeper theology.” It does not clarify that deeper theology, nor does it bring into focus the ethical problems of a business society.

A large part of the book is made up of quotations from a miscellaneous group of writers and speakers. Since many of these quotations are necessarily given out of context, the original meanings are frequently obscure.

The authors apparently have no personal knowledge of the actual conduct of business or the ethical problems involved. Few of the many quotations are by men active in business affairs. The absence of definite proposals or recommendations or clear discussion of many real ethical problems that do arise in business produces confusion. For example, there are a number of statements of politicians and professors about a growing concentration of power in big business. Yet several references, including statistics, show that small business and the total number of individual businesses are growing at a faster rate than big business.

There is evidence of a much greater concern about the material side of life than the spiritual side. But, supposedly, the book is written from a religious point of view. An indication of the viewpoint might be drawn from this quote: “There is no tendency [by the National Council of Churches] toward an easy acceptance of … complete socialism.” Consider the implications of this statement.

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The book is scholarly but disappointing and lacking in worth. It confuses rather than clarifies. It has many pious platitudes, but has no strong message.

Mass Communication

Responsibility in Mass Communication, by Wilbur Schramm (Harper, 1957, 392 pp., $4.50), is reviewed by V. Raymond Edman, President, Wheaton College (Illinois).

Out of wide experience in newspaper and research work this Stanford University professor has presented a realistic approach to the problem of mass communication in mid-twentieth century America, and a careful evaluation of solutions. After surveying the historical background of communications since Gutenberg’s fifteenth century press, he depicts the tremendous power that has now accumulated to mass communications. The problem of responsibility to control communication is accentuated by the very largeness of the media, their relative fewness, centralization, mechanization, and distance from the general public.

Historical experience has proposed four approaches to the problem of responsibility for communications. They are the old authoritarianism based on medieval concepts such as the divine right of kings and the authority of one church; and second, the newer authoritarianism such as communism or fascism which in reality exercise totalitarian control over every aspect of national life. These two philosophies are ruled out at once. The third is libertarianism with its eighteenth century laissez-faire doctrine in which “free market of ideas” is alleged as inevitably banishing error. Twentieth century conditions call for a review of this basic concept of freedom so as to maintain liberty and require responsibility.

After an excellent and well-documented discussion on ethics in mass communication, the major problem is faced: whose responsibility is it to preserve and to promote the freedom and corresponding responsibility of the press, radio, television, and movies? The government is the ready answer of some social planners. But Schramm declares this to be the worst possible solution. He states clearly: “Our kind of mass communication system will be more healthy if the government keeps its hands off as much as it possibly can.” The government’s responsibility is to promote the public interest, and not to augment its power. However, experience has shown that the government moves into areas of responsibility not assumed by others. A large measure of social control can be exercised by the public if it is alive, articulate, and discriminating.

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The major responsibility is on the media of communications themselves. Self-regulations and self-imposed standards are quick ways for assuming increased responsibility; however, most self-imposed codes have evidenced only minor effectiveness. The “czar” of an industry like motion pictures is, of course, an employee. The development of professional attitudes is a slower method, but is more promising in the long run. While mass communications can hardly become a profession like medicine or law, it can personalize professional responsibility and develop attitudes and programs for deepened responsibility to the public. If the media and the people are indifferent to their responsibilities, or are unwilling and unable to assume them, sooner or later government will take over.

Spiritual values as such are largely overlooked in this thought-provoking volume. But there is the suggestion that our basic freedoms must have a religious basis. In discussing libertarianism, Schramm quotes Toynbee who declared that “in relinquishing our hold on Christianity, we have deprived our belief in freedom of its religious foundations.”

Organized Labor

Social Responsibilities of Organized Labor, by John A. Fitch (Harper, 1957, 237 pp., $3.50), is reviewed by Gordon H. Clark, Professor of Philosophy, Butler University.

Under this title one would expect to find arguments imposing some moral obligations on organized labor, especially since the Introduction says that the inquiry is based on Christian assumptions. One’s expectation, however, is largely disappointed. A few mild criticisms of the labor movement are made in the last two chapters, but the bulk of the book is almost totally historical.

Furthermore, the Christian assumptions are discarded in chapter one. The author speaks of ethical concepts, not as the commands of God, but as the outgrowth of human experience. The basis of moral conduct is asserted to be the result of man’s search for an acceptable way of life. “Social responsibility, then, is a response to the generally accepted code of behavior … and a sense of obligation to its major and most firmly established principles” (p. 4). Thus majority opinion, with no norm by which to correct or oppose it, is substituted for divine revelation.

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The majority opinion which controls the selection of historical detail and by which the concluding criticisms are made is largely the opinion of labor officialdom. Thus Charles P. Taft in the Foreword can assert that the labor revolution of the past years “has been accomplished without violence.” F. Ernest Johnson in the Introduction speaks of “the stern measures provided for in the Taft-Hartley Act.” The author in several places shows his hate of the Right to Work Laws. Religious scruples against unionism are to be “compromised” by extorting dues from the resentful worker but graciously allowing him to be absent from meetings (p. 70). Indeed, one gets the impression that the author disallows all rights of minorities. He also admits (p. 46) that in President Truman’s 1945 conference the unions refused to specify a single area within which management decisions could not be questioned.

The author quotes Walter Reuther with apparent approval: “We have to assume ever increasing social responsibilities.” These include all national politics, foreign affairs, and public education. Only a person for whom the unions can do no wrong, for whom official union opinion is the norm, can acquiesce in this bid for unlimited power.

Farm Leadership

Social Responsibility in Farm Leadership, by Walter W. Wilcox (Harper, 1956, 194 pp., $3), is reviewed by Horace H. Hull, President of Hull-Dobbs Enterprises, Inc., Memphis, Tenn.

About half the book under review deals with the general farm picture in America. The author quite accurately relates the history of price stabilization, “surpluses,” migratory workers, farm credit and soil conservation.

The second half of the book surveys the leading farm organizations and summarizes their policies. The largest, the American Farm Bureau Federation, stands for limited, constitutional government, and free market farming. It vigorously opposes price supports, subsidies and other government interventions. Its opposite is the Farmers Union, which supports the welfare state idea, calling it the “legislative economy.” This group recommends a political program of “immediate action to eliminate rural poverty and to solve the problems of low income farm families. As many of these families as wish to remain in farming should be enabled to do so through assistance of federal and state programs.…”Somewhere between these two organizations is the National Grange. An appendix is devoted to farmer cooperatives.

Now for the ethics of the book. “Equity,” writes the author, “is perhaps the most important of the ethical considerations which have shaped our economic institutions, (although) such ethical norms as honesty, truth, and productivity also have left an indelible imprint.” Equity is defined as “even-handed impartiality.” Dr. Wilcox rightly regards equity as “a basic ethical goal in our society.” As the reviewer sees it, fair play as an ideal is based on the recommendation that all men in some aspects (but by no means all) are equal before God and the law.

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However, there are those who have the conception that equality, fair play, and equity embrace a political redistribution of the economic spoils, a dividing of the wealth, the philosophy of “from one according to his ability to another according to his need.” The fact that these theses on social and economic life have been distributed under sponsorship of the National Council of Churches by no means guarantees the justice and equity of the pronouncements which some would beguile us into believing are true Christian principles. The effort to make us equal in a materialistic sense necessarily means the abandonment of fair play, justice, the rule of law and equity—both in concept and practice. Dr. Wilcox says as much, but hardly recognizes the implications. His first instance of how “considerations of equity come into play” deals with the effect of welfare state legislation.’some individuals, communities, and groups will gain,” he says, “if a proposed legislative or administrative action is taken; others will lose a part of their current economic advantages.”

Every piece of welfare state legislation is of this character: deliberately and on principle some people are hurt for the assumed benefit of other people. Such political action really denies the principle of equity. Nor is the principle restored by further political action which tosses a sop to the losers at the expense of a third group in society. This third group doesn’t like the short end of the deal either, and seeks redress by putting a fourth group at an economic disadvantage; and so it goes ad infinitum. We must indeed admit that this is the way things now are. But this is not the way things ought to be. “Injure no man” is the basic minimum of every sound moral code. Certainly, a religiously sponsored ethic for economic life must, at the very least, meet this minimum demand. The principle, “one man’s rights cease where he begins to trespass upon the rights of another,” is hardly subject to debate.

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