We Make bold to suggest a comprehensive economic survey of American Jewish life as a basis for a program of national economic planning.
The hour has arrived for it. The task is becoming increasingly more urgent.
Our economic structure in this country seems to be top-heavy and unbalanced. We are over-urbanized. We have crowded into a few professions which are now over-congested. Too many Jews are in mercantile pursuits where many of them are being “liquidated” by the rapid development of big business and the chain store. As industry and trade become more centralized the Jewish employee is progressively disadvantaged. There are vast areas in our American industrial life from which the Jew is practically excluded. There are great corporations and financial institutions which employ no Jews. As economic opportunities diminish the tendency towards still greater discrimination against the Jews grows.
The over-crowding of the professions contributes to the lowering of incomes and standards and to an aggravation of anti-Semitism. German Jewry was made to pay a frightful toll for the tragic lack of balance in its group economy. The Nazis have been exploiting this fact to the utmost in their world-wide apologetics for their annihilationist program.
From the standpoint of abstract principles of freedom and human rights, we might argue, and argue successfully, that every man, in a free society, should be privileged to follow whatever career he chooses. We might even take our position with the orthodox economists and maintain that free competition for economic opportunities and the laws of supply and demand will ultimately regulate the situation and correct any excesses or maladjustments which might arise. But this is a naive and unavailing position for a minority group to take in a world which we know to be further removed from the millenium than ever before. Furthermore, orthodox economics is being thrown overboard even in strong conservative states today, and political considerations are everywhere coming to control economic policy.
Ought we not, in view of the great changes which are coming over our country, and in view of the inescapable conclusions which our recent economic experiences have thrust upon us, to proceed forthwith with a thorough-going stock-taking of our position?
Is it possible to plan nationally for our economic future in this country? Can we give intelligent vocational guidance to our young people? Can we redirect the economic trends among them? Can we direct many of them from the more congested to the less congested occupations and professions? Can we discover for them new opportunities in fields wherein we have been only slightly represented till now,â€”in agriculture, in civil service, in skilled labor?
Under the new dispensation the status of the skilled worker and the scientific farmer will carry with it far more economic security than that of any other section of our population, and no stigma of social inferiority any longer attaches to it in the modern world.
It is clear to every thoughtful observer that we must begin to “lengthen the cords and strengthen the stakes” of our economic dwelling places in this land.
That there are valid historic reasons for our present unbalanced economic situation is an explanation but not a solution. That the Jews of other countries have the same problem is only an added reason for this, the largest Jewish community in the world, to assume a pioneering task in national planning.
But first of allâ€”the facts! Can we spare enough time, thought andâ€”a little money, from our all-absorption in foreign relief and counter-propaganda to make a scientific survey of our economic position with an eye towards some future statesman-like planning for the sake of the economic stability of four and a half million Jews, before the need for frantic, desperate reorganization arises….?
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.