A New Bottom Line

Letter From Corporate Headquarters

In his provocative book Ideas Have Consequences, Richard Weaver offered some poignant observations regarding modern times. Western man, he wrote, has fallen prey to a "falsified picture" of the world, characterized by materialism and an egotism which assumes that "man's destiny in the world is not to perfect himself but to lean back in sensual enjoyment." Like spoiled children, Weaver claims, our generation can't think beyond the limits of our own sovereign wills. Sociologist Amitai Etzioni called it the "hollowing of America"—the widespread, passionate search for self-fulfillment, the egregious preoccupation with "inner self."

Christopher Dawson said it earlier and perhaps more forcefully in his Religion and the Modern State. "Never before in the history of the world," he wrote, "has civilization been so completely secularized, so confident in its own powers and so sufficient to itself as our own." He would have no quarrel with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who in his 1978 Harvard address declared that our moral poverty results from the mistake of "anthropocentricity . . . with man as the center of everything that exists."

Gerhart Niemeyer calls modern times "The Age of the Autonomous Man," an age when feelings, imagination, the subjective, and the will prevail. Having dispensed with norms, hierarchies, and structures,...

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