Volume > Issue > Short-Term Thinking & the Decline in Values

Short-Term Thinking & the Decline in Values


By Norman Lear | September 1986
Norman Lear is head of Act III Communications Inc. in Los Angeles, which pursues acquisitions and/or the creation of businesses within the entertainment and communication spheres. Before his entry into Hollywood, he founded a company to produce novelty ashtrays (it failed), and then worked as a door-to-door furniture salesman, and, later, as a sidewalk photographer. As a television writer/producer, he was responsible for All in the Family (which won him three Emmy Awards), Sanford & Son, The Jeffersons, and numerous other programs.

Ed. Note: The following is the text of a speech de­livered recently to the Securities Industry Associa­tion, meeting at the Wharton School at the Univer­sity of Pennsylvania.

It was suggested that I explore with you to­day the issue of “economic literacy” — because it is believed that too many Americans are ignorant about the dynamics of our economic system. I as­sumed, after my failed attempt to take over the Ev­ening News Association last year, that your pro­gram committee was determined to bring on one of the more ignorant of those Americans!

So, because I know less than you about economic literacy, I’d like to go beyond discussing the Federal Reserve Board, the M-1 money supply, or the workings of the stock market — to explore an aspect of economic literacy that I am comfortable with — namely, the values that undergird our econ­omy, and which help define our society.

Let me say up front that I fear for those val­ues, and as a consequence, I fear for the long-term health of the economy — of our country — and of our country’s future.

Those of you who heard me speak at your spring meeting two years ago at Hilton Head may remember that it was the computer that helped crystallize my thoughts on this issue — not the cal­culations of a computer, but the metaphor of a computer. The computer is now so pervasive in our society, its language and logic so wrapped up in our daily lives, that it is something of a metaphor for our imagination. In the computer mentality, all da­ta is distilled into binary codes, either one or zero — and then elaborate chains of these binary codes are strung together to assemble entirely new “im­ages” of the world.

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