The severity and the suffering of the present depression might have been mitigated had the American businessman been permitted to devote himself to his own business affairs instead of being heaped with civic offices so numerous that he could not possibly have given any of them adequate attention.
This assertion is made by Louis E. Kirstein of Boston, prominent Jewish philanthropist, businessman and communal worker, writing in the current issue of the “Atlantic Monthly.”
In an article entitled “Mind Your Own Business,” Mr. Kirstein, who is a vice-president of Wm. Filene & Sons, and president of the Associated Jewish Philanthropies of Boston, proceeds to analyze what he calls the American habit of pyramiding its leadership.
“We are tending more and more to draft for important public responsibilities a few business men who already carry upon their shoulders the heavy burdens of their own office,” Mr. Kirstein writes.
“One thing that is wrong with business,” he asserts, “is that businessmen do not attend to it.
“Practical demonstration that a man can do one thing well does not by any means constitute evidence that he can do everything well. And yet because of the possible prestige of their names, it has been fateâ€”or shall I say the temptation?â€”of many businessmen to take on so many responsibilities outside of their own offices that they have ended up by doing nothing permanently well or thoroughly good, and what is more serious, by having neglected their own immediate jobs in factory, store, bank or whatever the business unit may happen to be,” Mr. Kirstein states.
Mr. Kirstein asserts that the American public “has built its leadership upon exactly that model which it is now criticizing so sharply in finance. We have not only ‘pyramided’ our financial structure, we have also ‘pyramided’ our leadership; and in my opinion ‘pyramided’ leadership is the more serious danger.”
To pyramid leadership, according to Mr. Kirstein, is to dissipate responsibility.
The real task as he sees it, “is to find for each socially necessary job the man best fitted to do it.
“For we must recognizeâ€”and soonâ€”that those public and civic functions are every bit as important as those which enter into the conduct of business and industrial enterprise.
“But to achieve this all important end in American life, the American public must acquire an entirely new attitude toward its public servants…. We must train and develop professional men for these functions…. We must hold them to their posts by paying them adequately and by giving them that status and prestige which the public business deserves,” Mr. Kirstein counsels.