In this essay Professor Barzun points out that all of our public professions are under attack and for good reasons. He reminds us of the difference between the professions, which wax and wane, and their functions in society, which are eternal. He warns of unionization and government controls when professions do not handle autonomous governance adequately. He insists that the Problems of contemporary Professions are essentially matters of ethics and competence and warns that they will not survive without "the recovery of mental and moral force." He makes an appeal for individual professionals to exercise responsible moral and intellectual leadership. Although Barzun does not specifically mention the military profession in this article, it seems clear that all of his comments about other professions and the professions in general are readily applicable to the military profession.
Something new has happened when the heads of two of the three branches of our government publicly attack two of the leading professions. The President has called down the lawyers and the doctors in turn; the Chief Justice has twice criticized the men of law. But the feelings behind these acts of censure are not new; they have agitated the public and the press for a decade or more, and it is evident to all that the learned professions are not the splendid companies, held in awe and respect, that they once were.
The doctors, formerly worshiped as omniscient Good Samaritans, are now seen as profiteers, often of doubtful competence. Lawyers
Reprinted from Harper's Magazine, October 1978, pp. 61-66. © 1978 by Harper's Magazine. Reprinted by special permission. All rights reserved.