Letters to the Editor – Weekly Issue of April 26, 2010

Readers write in about business values.

On the right business values

Regarding the opinion essay "A 17th-century solution to America's economic woes" (April 12):

Kenneth and William Hopper suggest that to understand our current recession we should look beyond recent developments to long-term historical trends, especially to the rise of Puritanism and its emphasis on craftsmanship and willingness to "get one's hands dirty."

The writers state that our current problems have been caused by the perversion of this, represented by the rise of the " 'professional manager,' often with an MBA degree."

But the Puritan connection could be significantly more complex and interesting.

In his book "Cousins' Wars," Kevin Phillips explains how the rise of Puritanism has involved three wars: the English Civil War, the American Revolution, and the American Civil War – all of which have involved the struggles between two groups and two modes of thought "bottom-up" versus "top-down" – i.e., entrepreneurial versus autocratic: the Puritans versus the Royalists.

This long-term continuing struggle is different than the Hoppers's contention that our current economic woes have been caused by a sudden perversion of Puritan values.

It suggests that there are two distinct approaches and two extremes of thought and that we should understand and manage them so that neither can hold sway and produce managerial mischief or more aggressive and destructive historical events.

Rod Carlson

White Plains, N.Y.

The writers really hit the nail on the head with this opinion piece.

I have long felt that American business has lost the focus to operate the business in order to provide a quality product for the market place, or to support the locale of the business, the local workers, and America's economy.

Sadly, no longer valuing experienced workers (whose salaries are higher than brand-new workers), large companies like Wal-Mart still continue to grow in spite of employee turnover in excess of 40 percent.

I'm an international-marketing manager who returned home after working in Germany for three years and found the American economy in turmoil.

It's sad when a whole country loses its way. Maybe MBAs should be required to study history!

It's time for Americans to "get their hands dirty" again and return to the Puritan values that made America strong, wealthy, and powerful.

It's also time for managers to learn while on the job and gain a proper view of business instead of walking around calculating "innovative savings" that wind up leading to the demise of a business.

Peter J. Jensen

Chesterfield, Mo.

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