by CHARLES P. TAFT
Chairman of the Department of the Church and Economic Life and of Its Study Committee
This volume forms part of a larger study of Christian Ethics and Economic Life which was begun in 1949 by the Department of the Church and Economic Life of the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America. At the beginning of 1951, the Federal Council was merged with other interdenominational agencies to form the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America, made up of thirty Protestant and Orthodox church bodies within the United States.
In recent years, religious leaders have recognized that the ethical problems of economic life have become increasingly urgent. The ethics of everyday decisions and practices in economic life, private and public, where we earn our living, are matters of wide public concern. We need to go behind observed individual acts and group pressures for a deeper understanding of the motives underlying what people do in their economic activities, of how the system fits together, and of how close our preconceived ideas are to reality.
Change is dominant in our national life and perhaps nowhere so much so as in its economic aspects. During the past half-century our ways of life and work have undergone a vast alteration. This change has been accomplished without violence and without great apparent upset, but the tempo of its pace is revolutionary. Certainly if people whose span of life was in the nineteenth century could see what we see in everyday life, they would hardly accept any word but revolution for the process that has brought it about.
This accelerated change demands, for all thoughtful people, an understanding of the effects of this revolution upon ethics and human values. How shall we deal with the dynamism in our economic life so as to preserve and extend the dignity of the individual, respect for the rights of minorities, sensitivity to the public welfare, and free discussion and peaceful persuasion? We cannot rely upon business statistics to measure these intangibles. Judgments of even the bestqualified