Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The End of Economic Man, Introduction (pt 2)

I don’t know who H. N. Brailsford might be and I really don’t care, even though he wrote the introduction to Drucker’s first book in English, The End of Economic Man. He is an English political figure of some import, a liberal that is “advocating a broad union between all schools of liberals and socialists.” (p x)

Just as he identifies himself with liberal ideas, Brailsford shows that he also embraces certain conservative ideas in that combination that is a hallmark of Drucker. He, Brailsford, suggests that European liberals are actually conservatives of a sort, as they are placed in the position of preserving “for Europe, the liberties our fathers won.”

We think of business people as being a relatively conservative group. They support unfettered markets and defend private property. Yet, they can also embrace certain aspects of liberalism, certainly when liberalism is defined as equality before social and civic institutions.

In his day, my businessman father combined that free-market conservatism with social equality. On several occasions, he found himself defending the rights of African Americans. I believe that held his convictions on moral principles but made his arguments in terms of equal treatment in business. Everyone is the same in the market. All customers get equal treatment. In one case, he made a public argument when a club said that they would not serve two of his African American customers in their public dinning room. (I describe it in Too Soon to Tell, Wiley 2009) The club manager eventually retreated, though he made my father pay a price – a bowl of soup dumped in the laps of a colleague.

The incident at the club was a small event, a minor event when compared to the stand against Nazi Germany that Brailsford and Drucker are advocating. Still, it illustrates the fact that business people make decisions with a fairly sophisticated set of criteria, ideas that may not be easily categorized as liberal or conservative.

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