America's anti-intellectual and anti-cultural history has undoubtedly hurt us as a nation and while U.S. education is now receiving increased attention, the symptoms of our earlier prejudices are still reflected in the public primary and secondary school systems across the nation, which devote more time, money and effort—special instruction, special classes, special schools—to the subnormal child than to the superior one. Although both deserve extra attention, it seems clear to us that society would benefit far more from a reverse of the present emphasis, since it is from among the superior children of today that most of tomorrow's leaders will come—and the first years in the life of any person—normal or abnormal—are the most important in determining motivation, interests, personality, etc. Whereas our institutions of learning should stress free inquiry and academic achievement, too often they only perpetuate conformity, reinforce society's prejudices, promote social and nonacademic curricula, suffer from low teacher status and pay, and are plagued by political and religious interference.
In class-structured societies, intellectual and cultural interests traditionally have been perpetuated by an elite leisure or ruling class and filtered down thence to the lower classes. In a relatively class-free democracy, no such process exists and an interest in such pursuits should be emphasized at every level of society.
Those in positions of prestige, influence and power in a democracy can be especially valuable in promoting education and intellectual achievement, cultural and civic interests, and in promulgating the growth of the democratic process by directing attention to the significant issues of the day, seeing that all sides of important questions are given full and proper coverage, and keeping open the channels of inquiry and communication that are the foundations of a free society.
It is obvious that those in positions of prestige, influence and power in the U.S. have not always done this, that the men in control of our various media of communication have too often simply pandered to popular taste and prejudice rather than making any serious attempt to lead or enlighten.
Though we have as free a press as any nation in the world, some unpopular ideas and issues of public concern do not often receive full and unprejudiced coverage in the mass magazines and newspapers; among them: communism, Cuba, Red China's membership in the UN, world government, the dangers of radioactive fallout from atomic testing, religious totalitarianism in America, censorship, sexual morality and law, divorce, birth control, abortion, prostitution, sex in prison, capital punishment and drug addiction.
Even the heads of our leading institutions of learning cannot always be counted upon to publicly endorse the most basic tenets of democracy—as when loyalty oaths were required of the teachers of many of our prominent universities and colleges, during the hysterical period of the McCarthy and House Un-American Activities probes; when the president of the University of Illinois fired biology professor Leo Koch for writing a letter to the Daily Illini expressing a liberal view on sexual relations before marriage; or when the president of Baylor, early this year, forced the university's drama department to close its production of Eugene O'Neill's prize-winning play, Long Day's Journey into Night, in mid-run, because, "the language of the play was not in keeping with the ideals of the university." The Baylor incident prompted Paul Baker, the highly regarded head of the drama department, and 11 members of his staff to quit. In a joint statement, the departing faculty members said, "Our decision is not a hasty one. It has evolved from many hours of soul-searching conferences and prayer on the part of each faculty member. It was a heart-wrenching decision. The faculty, representing 140 combined years of dedicated effort, has worked to make a contribution to the promotion and growth of Baylor. It is not easy to leave such a large investment.... It is our fervent hope and prayer that Baylor University will grow beyond the confines and pressures of the present moment and that it will fulfill its destiny as a complete and great university." During his 28 years at Baylor, Baker had pioneered in many phases of theater and attracted international attention and acclaim: Thankfully, comstockery does not infest the entire academic community: Within an hour of his resignation, Trinity University announced Baker's appointment as chairman of its speech-and-drama department.
This fall Yale's president, Kingman Brewster Jr. was confronted with a difficult decision concerning academic freedom in the student body: a request from the school's Political Union to allow rabid segregationist George Wallace, governor of Alabama, the opportunity to speak at Yale. Brewster denied the request, because he felt it might insult or incite New Haven negroes. We believe it was the wrong decision for, as Time pointed out, in a democracy free speech must be "for the bad guys as well as the good guys."
Other Ivy League schools did not compound Brewster's error: The Harvard-Radcliffe Young Democrats invited Wallace to speak there after receiving a ruling of "no-objection" from President Nathan M. Pusey; when the Brown University Daily Herald invited Wallace to speak. President Barnaby Keeny said that Brown is open to all speakers—"communists, fascists, racists, and bigots." Princeton's president , Robert Goheen, sanctioned a student invitation to Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett, though he termed it "untimely and ill-considered," adding, however, that free inquiry is "pivotal to the very idea of a university."
The reaction to the Yale refusal became so intense that law students at the school decided to reinvite Wallace, and this time Kingman Brewster, while making it clear his considered it "offensive and unwise," did not interfere. Voltaire expressed the pertinent point best, more than 200 years ago, when he said, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Voltaire understood, as all those who believe in democracy should, that a free society depends upon the free interchange of ideas—an unhampered interchange of ideas both popular and unpopular, ideas that seem significant and those that seem insignificant, ideas with which we agree and those with which we disagree. And when we refuse the right of free expression to anyone, we have reduced—to that extent—the freedom of us all.
Free Enterprise in a Free Society
We favor capitalism above any other economic system—not because it is "The American Way," but because it is consistent with our belief in the individual and his freedom: Competitive free enterprise is the logical economic counterpart of a free democratic society.
We have expressed our concern over the degree to which capitalism has become a dirty word—even in America. We believe this is caused by a lack of knowledge of what capitalism really is, how it differs from controlled economics like socialism and communism, and the extent to which it has proven its superiority over them. Americans' mixed emotions about capitalism stem, in part, from the puritan religious and moral heritage that equates material possessions and the accumulation of wealth with sin, and in opposition to the supposedly more worthwhile spiritual aspirations of man. But, for us, no conflict need exist between the spirit, mind and body of man, nor between a consideration of spiritual values and the acquisition of both knowledge and the material benefits of a free economy.
Americans have traditionally "worshiped the Almighty Dollar"—as our social critics have expressed it—and suffered a gilt-edged guilt complex as a result. But the emphasis on competitive enterprise and economic gain has given this country the highest standard of living in the world, producing not only an unequaled national prosperity and the physical possessions and comforts that only money can buy, but also the elimination of illiteracy, famine and disease (the compatriots of poverty), a longer life expectancy, greater upward social and economic mobility, the benefits of fuller, freer communication (through books, magazines, newspapers, radio, television, films and theater), increased education (despite our failure to give education its full due), more opportunities—both vocational and avocational—and more leisure time to enjoy the latter.
Capitalism has proven itself superior to any controlled economy, just as democracy has proven itself superior to any other political or social order. Free enterprise is the best, most productive economic system because it assures the fullest scope to individual initiative, taking advantage of man's naturally acquisitive and competitive nature and offering the greatest opportunity to the greatest number, with maximum potential benefits to all.
Capitalism places the ownership of property in the hands of individual citizens instead of in the hands of government. Property represents power and if power is to rest with the individual in a free society, as it must if the individual is to remain free, then he must have the right to possess property. A society in which the state owns all property, or so controls the use of all property as to enjoy the equivalent of ownership, is not free. Without private property, the individual is a slave of the state.
Because the individual cannot be truly free if he is robbed of the power of property, the economic system of socialism is incompatible with the sociopolitical system of democracy. A simple example of the way in which freedom is linked to property will help to make the point: A society may profess the ideal of a free press, but if all paper, printing and binding equipment, and the book-, magazine- and newspaper-publishing firms themselves, as well as the distributing companies, bookstores, and magazine and newspaper stands are owned by the government, a free press does not really exist.
We do not believe it is possible to return to a completely laissez-faire economy—some minimal controls over our economic life are desirable and necessary. But the clear purpose of these controls should be not to stifle individual initiative and enterprise, but to stimulate them—to keep the economy truly competitive through checks and balances that make impossible the undue acquisition of wealth and power by any group—be it of management or labor.
We are familiar with the seemingly negative aspects of the free-enterprise system—the tendency to cycles of boon and bust; the fact that in a competitive economy not everyone can come out on top; the waste of duplicated effort, products and services, by competing companies; the creation of unreal "needs" through aggressive advertising; the evil of built-in obsolescence.
But not all such negatives are the inevitable by-products of a free competitive economy. In addition, our economic advisors have found remedies for the worst of these deficiencies and the negatives that remain are slight, indeed, when compared with the benefits that accrue to society as a whole from private ownership, the profit motive and free competition.