Today's date:
Fall 2002

Even America Needs Values

For a healthily functioning social system, the economic, cultural, religious and political dimensions must all have a place. And the core values of justice and equity cannot be marginalized.

Soviet Socialism, bearing the heavy-handed stamp of Joseph Stalin, failed because the religious and cultural dimensions were suppressed and subordinated to economics. Justice was an arm of totalitarian politics and equity, especially in the later days of the Soviet Union, merely spread the poor standard of living around.

Today's Islamists like Osama bin Laden, who want to challenge the secular liberalism of "the end of history" with their own Islamic system, lack any workable economic or political dimension in their thought, especially in the age of globalization. If Afghanistan under the Taliban was their model there will be few who try to emulate this Islamist way. The only equity was widespread poverty; justice consisted of politicized mullahs interpreting the Koran as they saw fit.

Now, after the bursted bubble and the ensuing corporate corruption scandals from Enron to Adelphia to WorldCom, our own values in America-less so in Europe-are revealed to have become corroded as well. Like the other alternatives, our system of the market economy and democratic liberalism is also wanting. With the accounting ruses that led to inflated valuations, even the vaunted "efficiency" of the market is now open to serious doubt.
And who can talk of equity or justice when workers lose their pension savings while the telecom moguls of now bankrupt companies prepare for retirement on their $40 million estates?

And the inability of the US Congress to put any teeth into campaign financing laws throws into question whether democracy itself has been corrupted beyond repair.

Where do we find the root of the problem in our own system? And how do we fix it? The problem is that in our own educational system-both at the upper levels and lower-the teaching of values-philosophy, if you will-has fallen by the wayside as we have concentrated more and more on "productive efficiency" and materialism and less on the morality and values of the good life. Something is giving way. As with Communism during the Cold War years ago, we find it easier to embark on a new struggle against the Isalmist radicals and terrorism in the name of defending our way of life than to face the crisis in our own values.

Here and now, materialism dominates at the expense of all the other dimensions of life. That can't last for us anymore than for anyone else.

Stanley K. Sheinbaum, founding publisher

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