In response to:
The Company He Keeps from the March 19, 1964 issue
To the Editors:
I am compelled to ask why you needed a sociologist to review Alfred Sloan’s book on General Motors.
It is of course, great sport to bait G.M., it is even greater sport to bait the free-choice economy, and Professor Bell is welcome to do both. But so anxious is he to prove his prejudices that he fails to deal with a fundamental contradiction in his own position.
He says that G.M. operates under a “protected price policy.” I would ask: protected by whom? Certainly not by Robert Kennedy or by our restraint-of-trade laws, both of which institutions seem dedicated to catching G.M. in some illegal act. The only referent I can find in his review is his statement that G.M. is “prudent,…and it wants to hold up a price umbrella for its less efficient competitors” to avoid a government monopoly action. Is this his “protected price policy?”
The contradiction, dear professor, is that you can’t have the cake and eat it too. so which do you prefer: that G.M. put its competitors out of business and make less profit, or that G.M. avoid vigorous competition in order to protects its competitors?
This is a fair question which is neither legalistic nor academic; the tragedy is that only lawyers and academicians are debating it, whereas it really is a question to be decided by democratic process.
What kind of an economy does the public want? Did the public really want to put those General Electric executives in jail for their failure to compete, or would the public prefer that less efficient competitors be protected from unrestrained (but honest) competition? These are important and fundamental questions, too important to permit them to be obscured by the ignorance or prejudice of your professor of sociology.
Marshall C. Lewis
April 30, 1964