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A Public Service Message from the American Income Life Insurance CompanyExecutive offices, Waco, TexasBernard Rapoport, Pres. Come into the business world By Bernard Rapoport The following is an address given before the students, fapulty and guests of Wilmington College, Wilmington, Ohio, on May 6, 19 75. I am the product of a misadventure between a very Jewish, Hasidic mother and a chauvanistically Jewish and totally Russian revolutionary father. So, if I appear. confused, and concomitantly the result of what I say is confusing to you, you will at least understand this capacity for so-doing comes naturally to me. The thrust of what I would like to say to you is that we need you young Liberal Arts graduates in the business world. My own mother would have rebelled at the thought of her son advising young people to do this; in fact, her exhortations from almost the first day that my sister and I came into the world had a singleness of purpose; to wit, BE PROFESSORS. When people would ask her about her two children she’d reply loudly: “My daughter is a professor,” then she would lower her voice and say, “and my son has an insurance company.” She would conclude \(raising her voice again, after apologizing for me with boy.” So you see, recommending to you that you come into the business world wouldn’t come easily for me; although it is contrary to everything I was taught, I do so enthusiastically. Thorsten B. Veblen taught us many years ago about the nature of institutions, and more especially about the dominance of the business ethic. There is no society about which I have any knowledge in which the business ethic does not prevail whether the society be capitalistic, socialistic, or even of a primitive nature. With the mess that we capitalists and socialists have gotten ourselves into in the Twentieth Century, I am not so certain that I ought not to define primitive as that time prior to the industrial revolution. Man is innately aggressive and predatory, but I suspect that he is also innately good and sensitive. He usually tries to hide the former and let the latter show. The reality is that the smaller the group the more likely the conduct of the individual will be good and sensitive; the larger the group the less likely that this situation will prevail. There is less crime in the rural area than in the overpopulated urban areas, but not because the quality of folks is better than that of city folk. If this statement is in fact true, we could conclude that it is so because one doesn’t like to be bad in front of those with whom he has a relationship. As I use the terminology “small group” and “large group,” what I am attempting to illustrate is that situation where the individual is anonymous vis-a-vis the group, and where he is well known within the small group. As students, have you not enjoyed those classes that were small and where you really felt that you could have some kind of impact on the group? Was not the quality of your learning better in smaller classes than in the larger ones? I am going to be talking to you about the evils of bigness and the goodness of smallness, and just as I have used this illustration in terms of your present experience, I want to assure you that it will be just as true for your experiences when you get out of school. Now what does all of this have to do with my advice that you come into the business world? The business ethic today contributes to our institutions, whether they be business, labor, government, or universities, mirroring one another. Therefore, if you have big business it follows almost automatically that you will have big labor unions, big government, big universities and so on, with their attendant intransigent and inflexible bureaucracies and this contributes to the anonymity of the individual within these large groups, and, in my view, contributes to the pejorativeness of the quality of living in our society. We all know democracy can be meaningfully effective in a small country what we don’t know and what is becoming increasingly suspect is whether democracy is possible in an overpopulated urbanized and highly technological society. You do not know the answer to this, nor do I. I do not think we ought to take the chance of finding out and it is my belief that we do not have to. I do not, that is, if we can get a lot of young people out of Liberal Arts colleges to come into the business world. Now you can rightfully ask: How do I get into business, and what do I have when I get there? First, I do not consider as business EXXON, AT&T, GENERAL MOTORS, or multinational corporations, I consider these ‘governments.’ What I consider to be business is that particular size enterprise where its success is dependent on entrepreneurship rather than sheer size and power. There are many such businesses that would be delighted to have associates such as you. After you have had a few years of experience I would hope you would go into business for yourself; if you do, do not fall into the cul-de-sac that has led so many small businessmen astray, and it is this they identify their interests with giant corporations who end up gobbling them up, in most instances. As a small businessman I can assure you that it’s a lot of fun aggravations notwithstanding that it requires as much mental agility as any other profession, and that it necessitates more discipline than most professions. It can provide you with greater satisfaction than almost anything else you can do, because when you are successful it allows you not only to run your own business but to engage in so many meaningful activities and this whether your interest be in philanthropy, academia, or causes. You see . . . it even makes it possible for you to make speeches to college students. It was Jean Paul Sarte that said, “Every man paints his own portrait.” That this portrait is in fact what he has done, not what he has dreamt, not even so much as what he thought, but the actual portrait is what he has accomplished. It seems to me that there is no area where you are so much in control of the paint brush as when you ‘are in business for yourself. Let us agree for just a moment that yout are accepting what it is that I have advocated, then you rebut with “Is it really possible for me to go into business?” The answer is “Yes, BUT .” And the “but” is that it is , increasingly difficult. The institutions are getting bigger and more difficult to pierce, but it can be done. My company is a relatively successful one in an industry of some eighteen hundred companies in which one to two per cent do some eighty per cent of all the volume. Our approach was to delve into those markets that the giants were ignoring. Some of the companies in our industry have had problems because they seek to emulate what the giants were doing. It is not a universal axiom but, generally, I think that our