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Godfrey, Kneeland, Jr. (ed.) / The Wisconsin engineer
Volume 59, Number 4 (January 1955)

Fisher, Armen
Too much security,   pp. 17-19

Page 17

Too Much Security
                         by Armen Fisher
    Among the requirements for initiation to Tau
  Beta Pi, honorary engineering society, is the sub-
  mission of a non-technical paper. Mr. Fisher re-
  ceived first prize during the current semester for
  this provocative essay.
  It is said that necessity is the mother of invention;
it might be added as a corollary that competition is
the father of production. A society may be evaluated
largely by its material well being; its productivity and
standard of living; and its moral fiber. Neither is stim-
ulated by an economic system that eliminates insecur-
ity, obligation, and effort.
  Certainlv the trend toward collective security was
initiated by the laboring classes in self protection from
exploitation and industrial tryranny maintained by a
class protecting its own security. But some industries
now sustain fringe benefits as high as twenty to twenty-
five per cent of the wage paid. I would be the last to
advocate a return to the days before the graduated
income tax, social security, or pension funds; and it
cannot be denied that a man is not motivated to work
effectively when his family must live in a condemned
tenement or when his whole community lives under
the shadow of a severe business cycle. But such an
extreme argument is no answer. What will be the effect
on a man's desire to work hard if he is born into a
society that provides for his wants without exacting
an equitable effort from him? He will make little effort
indeed. unless Marx was right-that man is essentially
social and will produce for the social good with no
thought of competition or gain. This hypothesis is
highly doubtful. Somewhere between fear of the fore-
man's right to fire or anti-union blackballing on the one
hand, and the indulged, even subsidized inefficiency of
the featherbedder or the 200-bricks-a-day clan on the
other, there must be an answer.
  Even management is promoting the trend with in-
creased ballyhooing of promotion from within-on the
surface a fine policy, but a further example of compen-
sation for seniority and elimination of the perils of com-
petition. The man with tenure faces few competitors;
the man casting around for opportunities to demon-
strate, competitively, his worth, or the man who is for
some reason released from his job, finds doors shut by
"promotion from within." The very essense of profes-
sional work is contrary to such security; the professional
man is supposed to have a salable commodity which
he can freely market anywhere-his technical educa-
tion and training. More and more the engineer is being
tied to the company with which he now finds himself
-essentially an industrial feudalism. We cannot deny
that men want security, but we can certainly point out
the consequences and corelationships: Increased secur-
ity, decreased competition, decreased motivation, de-
creased productivity, and increased dissolution born
of too much leisure and not enough necessity.
  Today's college graduates are asking "What is your
company's pension plan? What is the retirement age?
Am I sure of promotion and of regular wage raises?"
Security and opportunity are to a large extent mutually
exclusive and we graduates cannot expect to gain one
without sacrificing the other.
  Another indication, of interest to all professional
technical men, is the movement to unionize engineers
which, though still relatively small, is gaining. This
movement has been studied by sociologists, social psy-
chologists, and industrialists alike; all seem to agree
that the cause lies in poor intra-organizational com-
munications-a comparatively recent field of concern
for industrial relations departments. The laborer ex-
presses himself through his union, the manager carries
the weight of his prestige and organizational author-
ity, but the wishes and opinions of the engineer are
overlooked and he incurs the frustration of being ig-
nored, hence the appeal of unionization. If obligations
on both sides were met, such a situation need not
arise. On his part, the engineer-if he expects to be
considered a professional, not a laboring man, and as
potential managerial material-will derive his job satis-
faction not from wielding his voice in a collective
movement for his own working group, thus setting him-
self apart from the company's interests, but from his
accomplishment and the recognized competence of
his work. The management, on the other hand, is com-
posed and derived primarily from the ranks of engi-
neers and other professionals and must hold the inter-
ests and opinions of this group foremost. If the profes-
sional man finds opportunity, he should not and will
not see security first.
  There is no such thing as the "freedom from fear
and want," nor any "inalienable right to life, liberty,
and the pursuit of happiness;" any such is a privilege
earned. Nor is there a "right to work," or to hold a job,
or to be absolved from the insidious incentive of being
competed against. Some progress has been made to-
wards a guaranteed annual wage. But what next? Does
the mere fact of being born entitle us to cradle to grave
security?, to a guaranteed lifetime wage?, to a 30-hour
work week? If our civilization is decayed by any
"ism," it will be collective protectionism and conse-
quent elimination of the incentive of competition.

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