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REVIEW: The Trimtab Factor

anon — July 1984

Harold Willens
New York 1984
Wm. Morrow & Co. $14.95

Reviewed by Wayne Preston

Although very little new information is presented in this book, the author ingeniously dangles the tempting morsel of self-interest before American businessmen as a reason for stopping the arms race. He cleverly and. concisely compares the United States to a company going bankrupt mainly because of poor business practice.

“Militaritis” and “Russophobia” are two major ingredients sapping America’s funds, wasting her best minds, and diverting her energies from the quintessential task to develop the best product she can. This product will take the form of a re-vitalized, democratic free-enterprise system that will leave the Soviets in her dust.

The author argues that a diversion of funds from the arms race to a “Marshall Plan” for the Third World will serve as the best guarantee that these countries will not be seduced by Marxist ideologies.

The second fascinating aspect of .the book is the concept that businessmen can be the turn-around catalyst in American attitudes and policies. Much like a ‘trim-tab’ acts on the large rudder of ships or aircraft, business will provide the small but significant nudge that can alter the direction of the seemingly unyielding mass of American opinion and deep-seated prejudices. This is the essence of his treatise – a call for those “who have done well to now do some good.”

The author’s past (born in Russia and a refugee from the Bolshevik Revolution) hardly makes him a typical “peace activist.” However, his belief in the virtues of re-invigorated free enterprise, unsullied by ideological hang-ups, brought him to lead ~he 1982 California Bilateral Nuclear Weapons Freeze Initiative. Not an advocate of total disarmament, at least not in this chaotic world, he does offer specific solutions that embrace a nuclear freeze and incremental bilateral arms reductions. The book is a compelling quick read that one can easily get through in a night or so, but it is outrageously over-priced.

The inspirational call to a segment of society that has traditionally been highly resistant to the peace movement is exciting. The demand for diversion of funds from the arms race to socially useful production is timely in the light of the recent (June 22 – 24) first International Economic Conversion Conference in Boston. It appeared to be dominated by academics, politicians and labour leaders. Perhaps we will see better representation by business at future conferences.