The View from the Tub, Betting on Fancy Dress, Swimming without Bias, and Other Matters. Touchy-Feely-Dopey

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Last November this department ran an ''Only in America'' item about the California Task Force to Promote Self-Esteem and Personal and Social Responsibility, or CTFPSEPSR (rhymes with ''dtfpsepsr''), and assumed it would be instantly laughed out of existence. This turns out to have been a serious misjudgment. Late returns show the governing classes in California have now totally sold out to the touchy-feely mafia. Even Republican Governor George Deukmejian, nominally a Reaganesque conservative, has bought the need for a self-esteem task force (he had vetoed an earlier proposal for one) and was recently stated in the Los Angeles Times to be cloudily reasoning that such groups will pay for themselves many times over if only they make Golden Staters feel good about themselves, since everybody knows the social costs of low self-esteem to be incalculable. And the statewide task force is not the only one. Evidently fearful that this entity is remote from dispirited mopers at the grass roots, the executive director of the California County Supervisors Association is reported to be encouraging the idea of task forces for each of the state's 58 counties. Meanwhile, the 25-person task force at the state level will be issuing a report on the endless ramifications of low self-esteem, posited to be at the root of all social problems except ingrown toenails. These selfsame characters also claim to be getting requests from government officials in other jurisdictions who wish to know ''how self-esteem task forces can be implemented in their states.'' (Huh? People in Utah and Delaware don't know how to implement a task force?) That quote too is from the L.A. Times, a once- conservative publication that somehow seems to have been infiltrated by hot- tub meditators and now stands there solemnly reporting that ''increasing numbers of corporations are bringing in self-esteem experts to boost the productivity of their workers, adding further to the validation of the concept.'' (Further? What was the previous validation?) In the same rhapsodic vein, the Times enthuses that ''even authors are jumping on the self-esteem bandwagon,'' and that when Gloria Steinem recently broke the big secret of what her next book's title would be, the answer was The Bedside Book of Self- Esteem. One cherishes that ''even authors'' touch, implying as it does that authors are normally loath to jump on bandwagons.