A Reviewer's Notebook - 1966/4
APRIL 01, 1966 by JOHN CHAMBERLAIN
King of the Road
Jimmy Hoffa is the current devil among labor leaders. But a close reading of Hoffa and the Teamsters: a Study of Union Power, by Ralph and Estelle James (Van Nostrand, $6.95), leaves you wondering whether he is any worse or better than other professional brokers of the workingman’s "interests." The Jameses make you feel that Hoffa differs from others in the guild mainly by his contempt for public relations. He has been ruthless in his drive for power, and he uses his pension fund to build influence, and he is cynical about the law (which he regards as something to be manipulated). But if you accept his premise that society is a battleground of warring interests, everything that he does falls logically into place. His end, which is to get good contracts for his truckers, is the excuse for the means, which are elaborated in terms of Chinese-style "fight, fight, talk, talk" military campaigning.
The genesis of this book about Hoffa is curious, and explains a good deal about Jimmy’s "take it or leave it" character. When Dr. James was teaching industrial relations at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1961, he induced Hoffa to give a talk to his students. Hoffa accepted on condition that he might quit after getting two "unintelligent" questions in a row. He spoke for three hours, complaining that government investigators, reporters, and academicians do not depict how the world really operates. Finally, after defending certain notorious figures involved in corruption cases, he challenged Dr. James to travel with him for six months, disguised as his assistant, to learn the "truth" about unionism.
Dr. James took him up on the offer, insisting, however, that he pay his own travel bills. As he and his wife dug deeper into the Teamsters’ activities, Dr. James constantly expected Hoffa to call the deal off. But, possibly because he felt he had less to fear from two objective academicians than he had to fear from investigator Bobby Kennedy (whom he calls the "little monster"), Hoffa let the Jameses carry their project through. Hoffa registered some personal objections to the Jameses’ characterization of him as "an extremely competent, complex, and ambiguous individual, subject to rapidly changing moods and substantial self-deception." But, other than to say "you make me look like a bum," he did nothing to get them to change a word in the manuscript.
Exploiting the Situation
As a matter of fact, it is not Hoffa who "looks like a bum" in this book, it is the American people. The truckers, whether they are local carters or long-distance delivery men, travel on roads that are the property of federal, state, and municipal governments, and "society," as the owner of the highways, could presumably make its own rules for road use. But the "owner," in this case, has stood aside. The "rules of the road" don’t insist on an open road for anybody.
In his campaign to control the use of the roads insofar as commercial haulage is concerned, Hoffa has been a great military strategist. Though he cut his eye teeth in the labor wars of Detroit, Hoffa really went to school under Farrell Dobbs and the three Dunne brothers of Minneapolis. Dobbs and the Dunne brothers were Trotskyite Marxists who thought of assailing the capitalist system at its crucial bottlenecks. The road system of America, to Dobbs and the Dunnes, was of jugular importance. Anyone who could impose his will on the highways could obviously dictate his terms to society as a whole.
But where Dobbs and the Dunne brothers were ideologues, Jimmy Hoffa is a pragmatist. His idea is not to overthrow capitalism, but to milk it for all that it will yield for the teamsters. Instead of being a revolutionary, he is a twentieth century robber baron, reaching for control of the "narrows" in the interests of his own band of followers.
Coming and Going
Crucial to Hoffa’s strategy is his notion of "leapfrogging." By organizing over-the-road truckers, he can dictate what goes into the towns to be picked up by local carters. Or, by organizing at the local end, he can impose his terms on long-distance carriers who need access to the town. There is "leverage" in all this, for the right to "interline"—i.e., to transfer cargo from one carrier to another — is essential to most business survival. All you have to do is to cut the cartage connections at a single point to get the whole circuit under your control.
Having picked up the "leapfrogging" concept from Farrell Dobbs’s first operations in the Middle West, Hoffa has applied it on a national scale. Nobody can stand out against it. If the businessmen of Omaha, say, resist dealing with Hoffa, they may wake up to discover that shipments into Nebraska have been cut off at Denver and Cheyenne, and that nothing is coming up from a strike-bound Kansas City.
Since local unions are dependent on handling "interlined" goods from the outside world, Hoffa has the key to total union discipline in his hand. He has used the key to "level up" wages in depressed trucking areas, as in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, and to restrain union exuberance in the high-wage San Francisco Bay region to the end of making his deals in Oregon and Idaho look better. Much of Hoffa’s power comes from his detailed economic knowledge of what employers will be able to bear. ("It’s a lousy contract," he said in one instance, "but if we take any more he’ll go broke.") This general concern with profitability has led to charges of "selling out to management." But Hoffa lets his critics talk.
The laws prohibiting secondary boycotts have not restrained Hoffa’s application of "leapfrogging" techniques. By insisting on his own patented "open-end grievance procedures," Hoffa can always threaten a strike wherever one is necessary in order to affect a decision elsewhere. The "connection" between a strike in Oklahoma City over the application of freight interchange rules and a campaign to adjust wages somewhere else may not be admitted, but Hoffa works his "coincidences" with supreme contempt for government lawyers. If there is always an "open-end grievance" to take up, there can be nothing but a series of "legal primary disputes."
The Jameses make it plain that Hoffa’s organizing and bargaining strength derive from a canny man’s ability to use the existing social codes to his own advantage. In doing this he does not differ from a Walter Reuther, or a George Meany, or a Mike Quill. The "law" may be circumvented, but if courts won’t issue injunctions and governors won’t call out national guards, then there is little use in putting new laws on the books.
Changing the Climate
But what are we to do about monopolistic union power? What if Jimmy Hoffa were to tie up the country? Hoffa himself derides the possibility of a "national strike." He has studied the transit systems of the United States, and has it figured out that he could substantially halt trucking all across the country by striking "six strategic terminal cities." The Jameses say that in case of a "six city" terminal strike, the main body of Teamsters, thrown out of work as "a consequence of interrupted interlining, would collect unemployment compensation from the government instead of draining strike benefits from the IBT treasury." Thus the citizens of a nation would find legality used against them. They would be feeding the union that was throttling their production.
The Jameses say that "Hoffa is unlikely to test this plan." But this is just another way of saying that Hoffa will get what he wants anyway. Even if he goes to jail it would hardly make any difference, for Hoffa is the product of a way of thinking about unions, and someone would quickly move up to take his place.
PUBLIC REGULATION OF THE RELIGIOUS USE OF LAND by James E. Curry (Charlottesville, Virginia: The Mitchie Company, 1964), 429 pp. $12.50.
CHURCH WEALTH AND BUSINESS INCOME by Martin A. Larson (New York: Philosophical Library, Inc., 1965), 120 pp. $3.95.
Reviewed by Edmund A. Opitz
New church construction is going on all over this land, at the rate of about a billion dollar’s worth a year. Every one of these new churches needs a suitable site for its buildings, parking lot, and grounds, so church committees go into the real estate market and dicker with potential sellers of land for the location of their choice. This is as it should be. But then they bump into the local zoning board, an agency operating in just about every major community in the nation except Houston. The church building committee may have completed arrangements with the architect, the bankers, the builder, the real estate men, and then be told by the zoning board backed by the authority of the police power: "You can’t build your church here!" At which point the famed partition between church and state erodes a bit.
This is where Mr. Curry’s unique book comes in. The author is a veteran of more than thirty years of law practice, specializing in the kind of cases treated in this book. Actually, this is several volumes in one, each aimed at a different category of reader. Serious students of the church-state relationships are familiar with political impairments of religious liberty, but lack knowledge of the kind of impairments that go on at the level of mere zoning. This book’s careful legal analysis of one hundred court cases involving churches with location problems makes it an indispensable text for the lawyer, and a church group about to build might save itself a lot of grief by consulting this book.
Zoned for Worship
Those concerned with the problem of zoning as such will find much meat here. And those who raise such philosophical questions as What is religion? and What is the Church? will note well the impropriety of dumping such questions into the lap of the courts. No branch of government, however well disposed, is equipped in the nature of the case, to tackle questions of this order. Small wonder, then, that the results are so generally unsatisfactory! We have reached the critical point in at least one state where the Court of Appeals has declared, in effect, that a community may actually ban churches by refusing a congregation the right to buy land and build! Simple religious or antireligious prejudice is always with us, and we can take it in stride — unless it joins forces with the police power. But this is something different. Zealots willing to invoke nonreligious means to further their one true faith were once the problem; but now the threat arises from the mindless, noiseless, impersonal processes of zoning laws, or appears in the wake of "urban renewal."
Raise our sights and it becomes evident that the denial of religious liberty by means of a zoning ordinance is but one instance of a growing disposition to turn all sorts of social problems over to government. Government is uniquely an agency for redressing injury. Confine it to this difficult job and the peaceful relationships of men in society are no longer its concern; it merely acts to deter and punish acts of aggression, and men are free to administer their private affairs. The public sector is small and well defined. In a society so organized, power is dispersed and limited; there is no one big lever by which society is moved, and so the opportunities are minimized for evil men to seize control and do a lot of harm. Such an attitude toward government — characteristic of the old Whig-Classical Liberal tradition — cannot but appear mean and niggardly among a people afflicted with ideas of grandeur.
The Man in Charge
Modern hubris dictates that the political problem be conceived as the task of concentrating power in society into one gigantic lever capable of getting the whole show into operation, then putting virtuous men in charge in order to achieve great good. Once such a political scheme gets going the people will be permitted one last decision; they will be allowed to decide who will, from now on, be given power to make their decisions for them! This is Tocqueville’s "democratic despotism," and it is a measure of our decline that we insist on calling it "freedom."
The tumult and the shouting about Church and State goes on at the level of Bible reading and prayers in the classroom. Generation after generation of Americans violated the First Amendment, we are to believe, but virtually no one noticed it — until now. Then, all of a sudden, and with the help of some eminent jurists, we were made aware that the wall was not in place; and we joined forces to prop it back by banning religious exercises in the tax-supported schools.
But while our attention is engaged at this largely theoretical level we have been backed into a much more serious problem. Few, if any, local zoning boards are animated by antireligious feelings; they simply accept the commonly held belief that most folks don’t know how to use their property or plan their lives, and therefore somebody else should tell them. As the cartoon character, Peanuts, says: "The world is full of people who long to act in an advisory capacity." Better yet, in a managerial capacity.
The First Amendment to the Constitution places a restriction on Congress. Congress, it says, shall take no steps leading to an official religion. No national church may be established here, nor is any man to be impeded in the exercise of his religious preferences. Heresy is not a crime. Jefferson’s phrase, "wall of separation," came later, and although it is repeated on every side today, it does not accurately reflect American mores or practices, nor the mind of the First Congress. These men, after passing the First Amendment, actually voted money to send four missionaries to the Indians; for they believed that sound morals are necessary for the civil order, and that religious instruction is the indispensable basis for morality. It was in this context that religious, educational, and charitable institutions were granted certain exemptions from taxation.
Taxation then was a means of financing the operations of government; now, taxation is largely an instrument for accomplishing social change. Political exactions employed for this purpose are necessarily unfair, and in order for the governing class to secure the compliance of the educational and religious communities it must introduce some "sweeteners" in the form of exemptions. At the same time, this iniquitous tax structure will provoke other sectors of society to invent all sorts of ingenious schemes for living with an impossible situation. If the present system of taxation were applied rigorously across the boards to all men and organizations alike it would not last a week, and if anyone had thought it would be so applied it never would have been foisted upon us in the first place!
The Growing Scope and Problem of Tax Exemption
Mr. Larson, author of the second book under review, does not see it this way at all, but rather regards the various loopholes in the tax laws as beating government out of what rightfully belongs to it. Nevertheless, he has brought together a host of fascinating and disquieting statistics, nearly all from unimpeachable sources.
Mr. Larson focuses on four cities, Buffalo, Baltimore, Washington and Denver, which collectively typify America, and then he argues convincingly that he has valid grounds for extrapolating to arrive at a reliable estimate for the country at large. The figures are well nigh incredible, even as pertains to the market value of the plant owned by religious, educational, and charitable institutions used for those particular purposes; but these enterprises also own and operate various businesses, and they have enormous holdings of stocks and bonds. These chunks of real estate and other property, and the income deriving from them, are largely tax exempt, and percentage wise they increase year by year. During the past generation in Buffalo, for instance, the ratio of exempt to taxable real estate rose from 19 per cent to 44 per cent; and more than half of this exempt property is held by churches and other religious institutions. The picture in every part of the country is much the same, but there’s no way of straightening out this mess short of confining government within its proper boundaries so that freedom might perform its remedial work in the economic, educational, and religious sectors of society.
SCIENTIFIC MAN VERSUS POWER POLITICS by Hans J. Morgenthau (Chicago: Phoenix Books, 1965), 245 pp. $1.95 (paper).
Reviewed by Robert M. Thornton
The men who had most to do with launching this republic had no illusions about human nature. They viewed man as a flawed creature, and hence not to be trusted with power over his fellows; and they sensed the tragic dimension of human life. As John Jay put it in one of his Federalist papers: "I do not expect that mankind will, before the millennium, be what they ought to be; and therefore, in my opinion, every political theory which does not regard them as being what they are, will prove abortive."
This realistic view of human nature, dominant in our tradition since the days of the Greeks, was already giving way to another outlook even as Jay wrote. The optimistic rationalism of the Enlightenment equated evil with ignorance. It held out the promise that a perfect human society was attainable just as soon as the boundaries of knowledge were pushed back to the edge of things — in a generation or two at most.
Professor Morgenthau criticizes this philosophy in no uncertain terms: "Rationalism misunderstands the nature of the world, and the nature of reason itself. It sees the world dominated by reason throughout, an independent and self-sufficient force which cannot fail, sooner or later, to eliminate the still remaining vestiges of unreason. Evil, then, is a mere negative quality, the absence of something whose presence would be good. It can be conceived only as lack of reason and is incapable of positive determination based upon its own intrinsic qualities.
"This philosophical and ethical monism, which is so characteristic of the rationalistic mode of thought, is a deviation from the tradition of Western thought. In this tradition God is challenged by the devil, who is conceived as a permanent and necessary element in the order of the world. The sinfulness of man is likewise conceived, from Duns Scotus and Thomas Aquinas to Luther, not as an accidental disturbance of the order of the world sure to be overcome by a gradual development toward the good, but as an inescapable necessity which gives meaning to the existence of man and which only an act of grace or salvation in another world is able to overcome."
Lacking this sober view of human nature, people think in exuberant terms of Man taking charge of his destiny — which means in practice that some men will ride herd on their fellows. Politics will be regarded as a science of control, rather than an art. The social engineer, coming to the fore, will try to impose a rational order on society, and any problems which arise will be submitted to "fact-finders," "neutral parties," or other "experts." People must never be allowed to work out and resolve their problems in freedom and by their own devices. Shepherded by those who know best, they will be protected from the consequences of their own folly.
Some people are wiser than the rest of us, and many people are foolish indeed; but none are so foolish as those who think themselves wise enough to assume control of human affairs.
BURKE AND THE NATURE OF POLITICS by Carl B. Cone (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, Vol. I, 1957, 415 pp.; Vol. II, 1964, 527 pp.), $15.00 the set.
Reviewed by Edmund A. Opitz
Edmund Burke may have suffered from misinterpretation during his own lifetime as well as from commentators since his death, but no one can say he has been neglected. Controversy swirled about him while he was alive, and has not ceased. The note on which he ended his public career, his fierce antagonism to the revolution in France, still sounds above the tumult of modern politics. For there is a sense in which the French Revolution is the fountainhead of the various social movements which today claim men’s allegiance and divide their loyalties.
The collectivist ideology appears in several guises today, but its parentage may be traced to the ideas unleashed in eighteenth century France. Likewise, there are several varieties of anticollectivism, but each owes something to Burke’s response to the challenge to European civilization posed by the Philosophes. Stated differently, it may be said that there are, broadly speaking, two conflicting philosophies of man and social organization; today’s neoliberalism, with its offshoots and extensions, and conservatism-libertarianism similarly developed. The former stems directly from the French Revolution; the latter’s point of departure is Burke’s mighty answer to that revolution.
Neoliberalism overlooks the "accidents" that divide human beings into male and female, Englishmen and Frenchmen, Moslem and Hindu, and the like; it reduces every unique person to a mere unit of humanity. Its advanced thinkers, struck by the evils which plague mankind and regarding society as a mere artifact, draw up a blueprint for a form of social organization in which every human unit has its place and awaits only the political command which will cause it to function properly in lock step with every other unit. There will, of course, be recalcitrants who obstruct the march toward utopia, so the Plan includes an active enforcement agency to take care of such people! But one day, when all the lingering effects of ancient class antagonisms are beaten and bred out of the citizenry, Man will have his utopia!
The opponent of this nightmare, whatever he chooses to call the banner he serves under, takes account of the variety and complexity of human beings, regarding them as imperfect and imperfectible in this life. Of course, there are evils in human affairs and, of course, we should work to diminish them by restoring justice. But the human situation at best will be only tolerable, never perfect.
Samuel Johnson says in the Preface to his English Dictionary that it "was written with little assistance of the learned, and without any patronage of the great; not in the soft obscurities of retirement, or under the shelter of academic bowers, but amidst inconvenience and distraction, in sickness and in sorrow."
His distinguished contemporary and friend, Edmund Burke, made his noble contributions to political philosophy under similar conditions. Burke was no cloistered thinker, but quite the opposite; his philosophy was hammered out to meet the exigencies of an active and abrasive political career. It dealt with real people and not with bloodless abstractions; with Englishmen pursuing their ancestral ways amid institutions half as old as time, not with Man living up on cloud nine — the target of the Philosophes across the channel.
Something for Everyone
Burke in his natural political habitat is the subject matter of Professor Cone’s two massive volumes. They are obviously the fruits of prodigious research, and are addressed as much to the professional historian of the period as to the interested amateur. They are detailed but readable, and the author respects Mr. Burke’s privacy; only his public career is dealt with, and we learn as much as anyone needs to know about that career.
Learning about a public figure is all we want to know of most of them, but this is not true of Edmund Burke, a master of rhetoric as well as one of the great political philosophers. Whether he is read as literature, or philosophy, or for the role he played in the history of his nation and ours, matters not at all so long as he is read. Go to Dr. Cone for the background, then pick up one or more of the several anthologies of Burke’s writings now in print.
Start with the fat Anchor paperback of selections edited by Peter Stanlis, well remembered for his book, Burke and the Natural Law. Or, if you wish to add a handsome volume from Knopf to your library shelf, look up the large selection of Burke’s writings skillfully edited by Hoffman and Levack. These will do for a starter.
Civilization progresses at about the rate at which mankind abandons superstition in favor of thinking.
It should follow that the greatest benefactors of mankind are those who teach others to abandon the blind fears of superstition and to seek natural causes of natural phenomena.
When men realize that they are dealing with natural and not supernatural causes, they bestir themselves to improve their environment.
As superstition is pushed back, human thinking and achievement get their chance. So long as the ocean was thought to be a fringe of black horrors around the land, men clung to the shore and let superstition have its way.
When Columbus exploded the superstition and discovered that the ocean was just more water extending to more land, the men of the Old World became explorers, built ships, and settled a new hemisphere.
WILLIAM FEATHER, from the William Feather Magazine, January ¹966