The American Economy-Attitudes and Opinions

By A. Dudley Ward | Go to book overview

7
Security

In the preceding chapters there has been frequent reference, direct or indirect, to security as an incentive to work, as a goal of effort, as a criterion of satisfaction or dissatisfaction, and as a favorable or unfavorable condition of retirement. A special effort was made in both individual interviews and group discussions to explore attitudes toward economic security not only as a value which individuals and groups attach to their work but also as a responsibility of the community or more broadly of organized society.

The continuing industrial revolution, with its accompanying "organizational revolution," has wrought an increasing change in the basis of economic security. Now by far the greater part of the business of the United States is conducted through organizations which intervene directly or indirectly, more or less, in everybody's economic activities, and so limit the scope or modify the character of the traditional person-to-person relationship. Individual rights and individual responsibilities are not submerged -- but certainly are altered and have to be reinterpreted in various ways.

During the past twenty-five years both private and public organizations have given much attention to the provision of economic security. Corporate employers, labor unions, and other private organizations have set up pension and benefit systems -- including disability, accident, and other provisions. Insurance companies have vastly extended the use of their plans. And the economic depression of the 1930s created a situation where action by not only local and state but also by the national government was required to relieve widespread distress. The outcome of this experience was the first American national program of "social security" and related welfare measures.

It is understood, of course, that economic security, like other forms of security, can be only relative. The problem is both what degree of protection individuals and families may obtain, through individual, group, and social action, against various common hazards and how the responsibility for such protection may be so distributed as to serve

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