Originally published in 1948 by the Foundation for Economic Education
“Let every man
make known what kind of government
would command his respect
and that would be one step
toward attaining it
Let anything become valuable enough, or any name popular enough, and thieves will try to steal it. The name Liberal was made popular by a long line of British and American liberals from Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill to Herbert Spencer and John Morley in Britain, and from Thomas Jefferson and James Madison to Grover Cleveland in this country. These men all believed in the freedom of the individual and opposed the extension of government control. They made the name of liberal so popular that thieves are now trying to steal it and apply it to themselves, even when trying to extend the authority of government, which is the direct opposite of liberalism.
Leonard Read has made a brave attempt to rescue the word liberal from those who would prostitute it to base ends. I know of no more courageous crusader for individual liberty, or who is doing more to bring the word liberal back to its true meaning.
He is, of course, under no illusions as to the possibility of absolute liberty ever being attained among men who live together in large groups. Maximum liberty is what all liberals want. It means the minimum of restraint.
Restraint is of two kinds, physical and mental. Physical restraint consists of such things as walls, handcuffs and other such hindrances to physical motion. Mental restraint is mainly fear.
The kind of liberty which all liberals want is the minimum of fear. What is religious liberty except freedom from fear of persecution? What is freedom of speech or of the press except freedom from fear of punishment for one’s spoken or published opinions? Freedom of enterprise is freedom from fear of violence or fraud, which may be committed either by private criminals or political tyrants.
Pattern for Revolt conies like a breath of pure mountain air after one has inhaled for a long time the smoke and dust of political controversy with its smearing campaigns of misrepresentations, innuendo, and demagogic appeals. It throws expediency to the winds and does not compromise or give an inch of ground to sentimentality. It is a product of the intellect.
Probably every American has, at one time or another, dreamed of what he would do if he were president or, more particularly, what he would like someone else to do. Leonard Read has not only dreamed, but has set down in vigorous English the content of his dream. Imagining a true and uncompromising liberal to have been nominated, a man who actually preferred not to be in public office, Read, after presenting the political setting, begins with the kind of an acceptance speech he would expect to hear. This is followed by two campaign speeches, and an inaugural address, all on the same lofty, uncompromising level.
Needless to say, this book is not milk for babes. It is strong meat, probably too strong for stomachs that have long fed on government pap and can’t imagine how they can get along without it. To all such, my advice is, “Bite into it, chew and inwardly digest it. It can’t do you any harm and may do you some good.”
Thomas Nixon Carver
The Political Setting
Revolt by whom? Against what?
There are many American citizens, perhaps a majority, for whom this pattern is designed. They are genuine liberals—the lovers of liberty. This answers the first question.
Against what would they revolt? Against America’s present reactionary. Old World movement. If given the opportunity, they would revolt against all of those political devices and ideas incidental to government in the role of master.
There is little need for review. Something almost akin to a dynasty began in our country in 1933. A four-term president, heading an administration seeking and obtaining more and more power, and expounding a collectivistic, anti-liberal philosophy, has been succeeded by the heir-apparent. The 15-year old program aimed at the all-responsible, and its concomitant, the all-authoritarian, state marches on its merry way, not only unhampered and unchecked, but aided and abetted by an ever-increasing number of gravy-trained citizens.
The Republican Party, with Wendell Willkie as standard-bearer, was unable to head off the third-term aspirant, even though the American tradition bore heavily in his favor. The same party with Thomas Dewey performed but little better against the same aspirant in his fourth successful attempt.
I believe these failures were to be expected and that they were appropriate to the occasions. Republican success, along the lines attempted in 1940 and 1944, would have been undeserved and disastrous.
Furthermore, I believe that many of the millions who voted for President Roosevelt did so with no firm conviction that they were voting for a representation of their views. The same was true of the millions who voted for Messrs. Willkie and Dewey. Acceptance was not what the American people had for their political leaders. Their attitudes could better be described as an acquiescence in confusion.
However, I am not concerned with the present dynasty or with those who want what it stands for, but with those who would, if they could, vote it and all of its collectivistic policies out of office.
Had Mr. Willkie or, later, Governor Dewey, won the election, this country would have been without a party of opposition. Under our two-party system the responsibility for opposition to our present collectivistic dynasty would seem to lie with the Republican Party. With the political INs pursuing the government-as-master course it should be the duty of the political OUTs to pursue the government-as-servant course. This always has been, is, and likely always will be the fundamental issue as it relates to the organization of society. By the two parties taking opposite stands, individual citizens would thus be given a chance to choose the course they prefer. Having the choice is the thing.
But, what, actually, has been the case? The Republican Party, in the last two campaigns, took the government-as-master course, precisely that which the dynastic group was already and still is pursuing. Therefore, the people had no choice except between power-seeking personalities and groups, each promising a superior administration of government-as-master. Such a choice was and still is no choice at all.
Because it has been kept out of office, the Republican Party is stilt a potential vehicle for those millions who wish to travel the truly liberal course. Thus far, however, it has demonstrated no signs of hope for these liberals. However, in spite of collectivistic behaviors on the part of nearly every aspirant to its titular headship, the party has not been totally destroyed as an instrument of liberalism. It is possible for it still to direct its course toward freedom under limited government.
The Democratic Party, it is true, contains many genuine liberals, perhaps more than does the Republican Party, but, as everyone knows even if they won’t acknowledge it, control of its national organization has been taken over and successfully retained by the most collectivistic and illiberal elements in the nation. Until the liberals in the Democratic Party are again in control of that party, liberals have no political banner under which to sail except the Republican Party, as dim a hope as that is.
If there is to be any political hope for liberals, if they are to have any banner, if they are to have even a single candidate, such possibilities can be realized only if there be an understanding of how the Republican Party has erred and, understanding, proceed forthwith to the creation of a party of opposition as a replacement for one of only pseudo-opposition.
The error is simply explained. The Republican Party, on the occasion of the last two contests, as well as in the one now under way, listened to the voice of expediency. The party leaders, platform writers and their advisers, when determining a course of action, have in effect asked and are asking today, “What must we say and do to win votes?” The voice of expediency, and the question is addressed only to expediency, answers. “Endorse the Wagner Act. Advocate ‘Social Security.’ Stand for those things of the New Deal which have proved popular.”
The voice of expediency misled and is misleading the Republican leaders. This voice always misleads. Of necessity it must mislead because it represents the rejection of moral principles for the hope of temporary gain.
If we are to regain a two-party system the Republican Party leaders must divorce themselves, totally, from expediency. They must turn to the only other voice, the voice of integrity and moral principle. They must ask, simply and exclusively, “What is right?” They may never receive precisely the correct answer. A discovery of the whole truth, always, is impossible. But the pursuit of truth is the basis of all moral action. To this pursuit we owe our loyalty, to this and nothing more.
If the Republican Party had been a truly liberal party, the platform writers and the titular heads would have been asking, “How can we liberate the individual from the tyranny of the State?” The voice of conscience would answer, “Repudiate the New Deal farm program of government subsidies, loans, parity payments and crop controls. Advocate the repeal of all price-maintenance laws, including the Federal Wage-Hour Law. Repudiate the idea that national prosperity may be promoted by protective tariffs. Denounce the Wagner Act and the racketeering and restriction of output by labor unions or by any other type of organization. Show the fallacy of the Federal ‘social security’ program. Stand for the right of every adult citizen to make his own bargain, if he wishes, with anyone who wants to buy his goods or services. Tell the people what is honestly believed to be true. Disregard votes. Pay no attention to popularity. ‘To thine own self be true.’”
The voice of expediency, through the mouths of well-wishers, would whisper, “Heed the voice of conscience and you will lose five million votes on that Wagner Act statement. You will lose other millions if you do not embrace Federal ‘social security’.”
But remember, the voice of expediency is a cheat.
Nothing better affirms this reasoning than the political history of Mr. Willkie. He started out with a perfectly horrible political cross to bear. He was the president of a big utility! Yet, as he went about the country stating his economic and political convictions, he impressed people with his honesty and forthrightness. He gave the appearance of being unequivocal. The American people so admired what they believed to be his qualities that they nominated him by popular acclaim.
Then, something seemed to happen to his demeanor. For the first time it became obvious that he was thinking in terms of winning the election. It became clear that he was thinking of methods for capturing votes. He seemed to think less and less of being right. The voice of expediency persuaded him to say in his speech of acceptance that he believed in the Fair Labor Standards Act, a position at complete odds with liberal tenets. He went more and more down the New Deal path, as did Governor Dewey after him, not because either one necessarily believed in that course but because they must have thought it was the way to defeat the Roosevelt Party and to secure the office for themselves and their party. They acted from motives of expediency rather than from moral convictions. Yet this action proved to be not even expedient. By it they did not succeed.
The mere changing of parties or personalities is not important. The transfer of power from one party to the other is important only if the ascending party has principles which it is important to substitute for the principles of the party in power. Nothing else matters.
Governor Dewey spoke in the Los Angeles Coliseum before 95,000 people. Millions were listening on the radio. He espoused “social security,” a New Deal item, but a “vote-catching” plank in the Republican platform. Competent authorities say that he chose Los Angeles for this wholly anti-liberal presentation because that city was the birthplace of pension schemes such as the Townsend Plan and Ham & Eggs. The response was unenthusiastic. He had listened to the voice of expediency.
Had he and the Republican policymakers listened to the voice of conscience, he would have chosen Los Angeles as the place to expose the fallacies of “social security.” He would have done as Theodore Roosevelt once did, when speaking in Denver in 1900. The big issue of that campaign was the gold versus silver standard. Colorado was a silver state. Political advisers joined his Denver-bound train at Omaha and urged him to avoid the subject. Teddy faced his audience in what seemed minutes of silence. His legs were spread, his jaw set. His first words were, and he yelled them, “Ladies and Gentlemen, I am for the gold standard!” The place was a bedlam of applause, not because the people of Colorado had changed their position on the silver question but because there stood before them an honest and a courageous man, a man devoted to what he thought to be right. He was unequivocal in his position, a trait in character that Americans love.
But back to Governor Dewey and Los Angeles. He lost the election. He might have lost it anyway. That isn’t the question. What did he and the Republican Party do for liberalism? They gave away the case! He testified before millions of radio listeners to the rightness of the New Deal. If he honestly believed in the rightness of the New Deal, he was the wrong man to lead the liberal movement, which the Republicans should have sponsored.
Think what might have happened. Citizens listen to candidates contending for high office. Statements have influence entirely out of proportion to their wisdom. That night in Los Angeles Governor Dewey could have so thoroughly exposed the fraud of “social security” that further extensions of it, even with the New Deal Party in power, would have been improbable. One more vicious trend toward totalitarianism could have been halted. And, in victory or in defeat, Governor Dewey would have become the champion of the liberals. As it is, he is neither the champion of the liberals nor of the New Dealers. Nor is he President.
I do not know when the next real election will be held. Most persons think it is scheduled for November, 1948. But in my book there will be no election unless there is at least one truly liberal candidate. Choosing among numerous aspirants to office who vie with each other as sponsors of public housing, socialized medicine, the nationalization of education and a host of other socialistic items is like choosing between Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum. That is not an election in any significant sense, that is, not in any ideal sense, but only in an unimportant, personality sense.
The way to begin is to begin! The time to begin is now, whether for November, 1948 or November, 1952. In any event, there are several things liberals should do:
1) Gain a widespread acceptance of the theory that it is not the label of the Party in office nor the name of the President which concerns us. We care only that liberal principles be re-affirmed and practiced.
2) Show that the responsibility of the Republican Party is to carry the standard of the opposition; that the espousal of liberal doctrines is its present and proper role. That and nothing else.
3) Begin a movement for the Party nomination of an informed liberal who loves liberty better than power and who does not want office.
The last point needs clarification. John Stuart Mill was a great British liberal. He did not want public office. Least of all did he want to be a Member of Parliament. But his friends were persuasive and solely out of a sense of duty he consented to become a candidate. Mr. Mill, not wanting the office, thought he would lose the election if he spoke his own liberal views, honestly and frankly. He avoided catch phrases and all of the devices supposed to be vote-getters. He made his first speech at a labor meeting. He berated the ideas they were sponsoring. At the conclusion of his talk a leader in the audience asked if he had not made such-and-such a derogatory remark about one of labor’s plans. Mill saw in the acknowledgment of the truth a chance not to be elected. He admitted the charge with some vigor. He was roundly cheered. Why? Because here was not a politician in the usual vote-seeking sense of the term but a man whose manifestation of honesty warranted the confidence of labor. Mill was elected to Parliament, and re-elected.
It was Jefferson who said, “Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct.”
The rottenness to which Mr. Jefferson referred was, no doubt, an abandonment of moral principle as a basis of action or, an acceptance of expediency, which is the same thing.
It may be argued that this rottenness ought not to set in. There are some cases in which men have desperately wanted public office and have been strong enough in character to hold fast to moral principles. But these cases are rare exceptions. For the most part, when once decided to seek public office, men undergo something as effective as a chemical change. Something does, indeed, set in. All experience attests to it.
However, there is another reason for securing a candidate who does not want the office. It relates to the axiom: the office should seek the man, not the man the office. This is a sound axiom though we rarely seem to observe it.
If the Republican Party nominates the man who demonstrates the most enterprise in getting himself nominated, and it more than likely will, the party will have made a mistake from which there is no recovery. Not only will this office-seeker resort to expediency to attain office but, once in office, his very enterprise will prove a handicap to the nation.
The point is explained thus: When man seeks the office he follows his natural expansionist inclinations. Man normally, and quite properly, tries to expand his wealth, his influence and the approval of himself by others. He not only tries to extend himself but, as well, those properties or offices he identifies as his. He measures his success by the degree of these expansions. A man who seeks and secures public office, in most instances, will try to make it a bigger and more powerful office.
Government should not be so expanded. If all of us were perfect we should need no government. While perfection is not possible on this earth it is, nevertheless, an appropriate objective. Men in government, therefore, should be those who aim at making government as unnecessary as possible. Contraction, not expansion, should be the aim.
Only those men who must be sought after for office are likely to be capable of wisely reducing the domain which they have been chosen to administer.
Find this man. He can be any one of a thousand, maybe of several thousand, American citizens. Persuade him that he should accept the nomination. Choose him for his ideas, not for the State from whence he comes. Select him for his principles and his abilities, not for the job he holds. If he turns out to be a Democrat, what of that? To hell with expediency! If courage for the right is not demonstrated in the nomination it will not be manifested in the nominee. Don’t confine the search to the well-known, it may be that he will not be found there. He, like a multitude of great Americans, has, in all probability, never been heard of, except by a few friends.
What kind of a man should he be? What ideas ought he to have? How should he regard himself in relation to the Presidency? In short, what kind of a man ought liberals to look for?
The following chapters, a few imagined speeches delivered following the summer conventions of 1948 or, perhaps more realistically, during the same period in 952, assume that a true, honest, courageous and unequivocal liberal has been found and nominated.
Does this political allegory, being but a sampling of what such a man might say, please you? Does this straightforwardness appeal to you as a necessary ingredient in political life? Is there a substantial minority left in our country who would give support to such a platform?
If so, then liberalism in America can be regained. If so, then honesty and frankness—actions on the basis of moral convictions—are a part of the pattern for revolt. Add as much wisdom as can be found and the pattern is complete.
A final thought: It is somewhat saddening that anyone should think a piece of this kind at all necessary, especially in a nation so brilliantly founded, so ably begun, so incomparably better than anything revealed by history, and yet so early in its youth.
Bronxville, N. Y.
I accept the nomination by the Republican Party for the office of the Presidency of these United States.
Acceptance, based on the manner of my selection, is a duty which any good American citizen would feel impelled to assume.
You violated all the rules of the political game in choosing as your candidate the head of a chain-store organization and a resident of the State of Mississippi.
But you said that votes were not your prime objective. You contended that the espousal of liberal ideas was your central purpose, that votes were wanted only as liberal doctrine should be sanctioned by the American people.
You said you wanted a person who was opposed to present collectivistic trends. In this respect I qualify.
You said you were seeking a citizen who prefers his present employment even to the presidency. I prefer my own home to the White House, the operation of the business I built to the management of political structures built by others.
You said you wanted someone who believed in a Federal Government of limited powers, in free competitive enterprise, in freedom, generally, and in individualism. I am an ardent disciple of these tenets.
You said you wanted a man who wouldn’t shade a word in his faith to gain ten million votes. Let my performance speak for itself.
Your next requirement was an informed and thoroughly competent advocate of liberal principles. I cannot meet this requirement. As freedom is the ultimate in social achievement, so is an understanding of how to be free the ultimate in earthly wisdom.
In a sense, I cannot win this campaign. We cannot win it. It will never, finally, be won. We can make some gains, but maximum freedom, being social perfection, is impossible. No freedom at all can exist in the midst of effortless and ignorant living. It is attainable only to the extent that hard work, intellectual integrity and intelligence become universal.
Freedom is an assertion of man’s God-given free will, a resurrection of man from deadening arbitrary authority, whether this authority be exercised by democratic majorities through the instrumentality of the State or by oppressive men in anarchy. Authority of men over man exists in the presence of error and ignorance, folly and wrongdoing.
The principles which brought America to the greatest heights of freedom yet known on this earth are easily forgotten. Each generation, every individual, must acquire them anew. They endure only as they are learned and retained by an ever-flowing succession of citizens.
We shall win this campaign only as we succeed in substituting the good ideas and practices essential for freedom for the errors and wrongdoing incidental to arbitrary authority.
We do not need to care who is elected to the presidency if we carry our ideas. What could I do in office on behalf of liberalism if the people’s ideas were those of slaves? On the other hand, what will our collectivistic opponents be able to do in extending their authority if the people subscribe to the principle of liberty?
Let us start this campaign on the right basis and keep it there. Let us make it a contest in ideas and ideologies—but a vigorous contest. Personalities among our adversaries or among ourselves are unimportant. We betray our cause and our high purpose if we indulge in them. Encouraging hatred for any man is bad manners. On the other hand, idolatry for any human being is abandonment of individualistic principles.
It is now proper to ask, how can we achieve our purposes? What is the duty of each liberal? Since the nomination thousands have asked me, how are we to organize?
I do not favor organization in its commonly accepted sense. Again I ask, what is gained if I get into office without support among the people for our ideas? I succeed only in acquiring a job I do not want. And if you want me there under such circumstances your efforts are meaningless and this campaign is but another sham.
Our task is not to organize states, counties and precincts. Unwisdom efficiently spread is no service to our cause. Our assignment is to cultivate an understanding of freedom—in ourselves and in others. Such understanding is not acquired by a mass or a class. Only an individual can achieve wisdom.
Our campaign, then, is not one of ringing doorbells and rushing confused people to the polls. It is a much more difficult process.
It calls, first, for a personal conviction respecting the individual and his responsibility for his own welfare.
It calls, secondly, for a perfection of the individual—one’s self.
It calls for virtuous men, that is, men who are industrious, thrifty and of good faith; men distinguished by self-respect, self-reliance and self-control; men who aspire to wisdom and who prize a reputation for reliability. The virtuous man is a moral man, which is to say, one who puts being right ahead of any and all supposed expediences, whether laboring as a farm hand or contesting for the highest office in the land. The virtuous man is a good sport asking only for a fair field and no favors.
Our cause requires men and women who seek popularity with the ages, not with the moment—men and women who seek approval only of their God, their consciences and of those fellowmen whose judgments they respect.
Our fight needs those who perceive that general enlightenment begins with our own personal enlightenment: that we can become influential in any beneficial way only as our own understanding is superior in its quality. We shall hope and endeavor, first of all, to learn for ourselves rather than attempt to impose our wisdom on others.
Our campaign demands citizens who will acquire abilities in exposing the fallacies of socialism and who will strive to know how to reduce, rather than to increase, the use of coercion and restriction in our relations with one another.
In every field where arbitrary authority is imposed we shall inquire how it may be removed and replaced by a reliance on the initiative and enterprise of individual citizens. We must give to the art of self-government its American renaissance.
Our cause requires volunteers who will never give their consent to further extensions of the “Welfare State” idea. It calls for men and women who will aim to destroy the inroads already made; but at the same time, for those who are realists enough to know that perfection in freedom is only possible as individuals, themselves, become perfected.
We need patriots who will stand against wrong even though they cannot see the time when right will triumph.
Let us make one point clear to all who will listen. In our attempt to dislodge the ideas which make the present Federal administration possible, and thus to divest it of its derived power, we are not trying to acquire power for a few of us. Our aim is to take the brakes off the only real power there is—the power that is in the minds and hands of individuals.
For instance, the real power imagined of a president is fallacious. He has no more than others equally endowed with virtues. What he actually has is derived power—derived from others who, voluntarily, surrender some of their liberty to give power to government. This derived power, police force, if used beyond its properly limited purposes, merely magnifies the damage done by his mistakes which, being fallible, he must make. It is as though one were so strong that he breaks the bones in the hands he shakes; or kills the people on whose back he slaps a friendly paw.
Real power, that is, power properly acquired, comes only with the perfection of the individual—perfection to the point where others seek counsel and guidance. Real power comes only with moral and mental development. Derived power must be sparingly permitted only sufficient adequately to suppress fraud, violence (private coercion), predatory practices and monopolistic abuses. It is never a power we should permit anyone to seize for himself.
As we begin this campaign let it be understood that even we who think of ourselves as liberals and as individualists shall find many points of disagreement.
Our adversaries, on the other hand, those who wish a master chosen from fallible men, who seek for themselves human shepherds and sheep dogs, who would transfer their responsibilities to other shoulders, have a simple platform of agreement. They want to he led. To accomplish this, they need only to let themselves go—stop thinking and learning, stop working and saving, stop planning and trying. To lose freedom, no more effort or thought is required than that needed to fall down an elevator shaft. Acting in this fashion they can if they wish, choose someone to lead them or, failing even in this, there will be many professional “leaders,” (likewise among our adversaries), ready and anxious to assume for them that direction over their lives which they have so carelessly or lazily abandoned to others.
As liberals and individualists we can agree that we do not want to be led; that we do not want to “lead” by force; that government must be a servant and not a master. We can agree that we do not like what we are getting nor the direction in which we are trending. But, as there are thousands of ways to be wrong and only one way to be right, so there are thousands of variations in what even liberals believe to be a perfect freedom.
Freedom, like justice, is difficult to define. Justice is the absence of injustice. Acts of injustice can be identified and described, but who can describe a condition of complete justice? So it is with freedom. Freedom is the absence of restriction and coercion. Acts of restriction and coercion can be seen and felt. They can be attacked. This is why liberals are so often regarded as “agin-ers” and are referred to as destructive. The only way to guard freedom is to remove, to destroy, unwarranted restrictions and coercion.
However, our disagreements, which assuredly will be evident, must not discourage us. Variation is a primary fact of nature. We are all different in our ideas as well as in our physical make-ups. The genius of the liberal philosophy is that it recognizes these differences by denying that government shall make conformists of us. The liberal philosophy accepts the individual in his variety and insists that the State be only an instrument to protect these natural, variable conditions. If we do not disagree among ourselves we should look about us for something very wrong.
I shall make several speeches during the campaign period, but only the number necessary to make it plain what I stand for and what I stand against. These will be made at places convenient to our work and with an eye to the minimum of expense. Which state or states does not matter. Being in the Union is qualification enough. Any town is sufficiently large if it can accommodate the wire services and radio hook-ups. I am not going on a political parade, either around the country or within a town.
If our ideas are good they will travel under their own power. It is not your nominee who is at issue—it is the cause of human freedom. Therefore, it is our ideas and our philosophy which should be put on parade.
This is why I have come to Smithville for the acceptance speech. True, I was born on a nearby ranch to which some sentiment attaches. But making this speech in this village, where large audiences are impossible, symbolizes my belief that the personality should be subordinated to the principles one holds. An idea can be better appraised if detached from a person.
It is important to remember that the campaigning devices used by our opponents, such as glamorizing and idolizing an individual, radio trumpetry, being all things to all people, expediency, and appeals to mass emotions, are neither available to, nor wanted by, us. Should we use any or all of these we, as persons, might get into office, but liberalism would achieve no victory. We do not want victory without substance.
This campaign is not going to be organized by me or by any nationally-centralized, super-strategy board. It is going to be conducted as liberals would have the work of the nation conducted—by individuals working in their own way, using their own enterprise and initiative and responsible for their own actions.
Does this approach appear inadequate, impractical, a denial of effective organization? Then the appearance is deceptive. The persons who will respond to common-denominator prescriptions, and to platitudinous directives, or who can be “organized,” are not people who can spread our ideas.
The aid which we need primarily to hope for is that which arises from personal conviction that our cause is right. Men and women with convictions thus gained will apply that genius peculiar to their persons to their own areas of influence. Conformity to a pattern set by someone doing the thinking and the directing from above only frustrates individuals who act from honest convictions.
The power of organization can be as conducive to the promotion of evil, which is ignorance, as it can be helpful to the extension of good, which is wisdom.
Organization, therefore, to be useful, has to come into existence as the result of convictions born in wisdom.
The truly helpful organization work will originate among those inspired to our support, acting in those sectors with which they have familiarity; where they know what they are doing; where they are able to use the power of organization wisely.
It is spontaneous organization that we want, from and of individuals. This is the American method, already operating in infinitely various ways. We are so much a part of it, so close to it, that we are hardly aware of its nature, its strength or even its existence.
I shall do my best, in my own way, to state the liberal case. You do what you want to in your own way. Only if this proves sufficient is true liberalism possible.
AT KANSAS CITY
First Campaign Speech
A friend of mine, whose judgment I admire and whose criticism always proves useful to me, was sent a copy of this address. His comment, in part, was as follows:
“I think your address is courageous and sound, but I doubt that it will win any converts. Few of your listeners will get more than a dim impression that they have been berated. They will think of you as some kind of a strange, holier-than-thou creature who is probably a phony anyway, although what your game is they’ll swear they do not know.”
That comment determined me that this address would be a good beginning for the campaign. If the ideas to follow are to drive voters to cover, then the sooner we find it out the better.
First, I want to say something about words and their meanings.
It is the business of language to say what we mean; and it is a moral imperative to mean what we say.
Before this country embarked on a program of national socialism, and when there was a general acceptance of the idea that governments should have only limited powers and functions, economic and political terms, if uttered by one person, conveyed an accurate meaning to other persons.
Today, however, morality has been dangerously sacrificed for “practicality”—and terms and phrases are used to obscure the truth. Opponents of freedom, in this country as elsewhere, have pre-empted the language of freedom so extensively that we who attempt to speak on behalf of freedom now find it difficult to convey our meaning.
For instance, to speak of ourselves as liberals, without a careful explanation of the term, is to classify us popularly as New Dealers and socialists, although the term originally meant lovers of liberty. To say that we advocate free competitive enterprise is to take a position verbally with Earl Browder and a host of other collectivists.
F. A. Hayek, in his recent reference1 to the methods of the statists has this to say:
“And the most efficient technique to this end is to use the old words but change their meaning. Few traits of totalitarian regimes are at the same time so confusing to the superficial observer and yet so characteristic of the whole intellectual climate as the complete perversion of language, the change of meaning of the words by which the ideals of the new regimes are expressed. . . . If one has not oneself experienced this process, it is difficult to appreciate the magnitude of this change of the meaning of words, the confusion which it causes, and the barriers to any rational discussion which it creates.”
Perhaps then, in the light of this situation, we shall have to coin some new words and give them clear definitions. Anyway, I have coined the word plunderstorm to convey the impression of an impending disaster, a kind of disaster that no other word seems adequately to describe.
To understand what I mean by “plunderstorm” it is first necessary to refer to a word having a German derivation. The word is plunderbund.
“Plunder” is a familiar word. We have always had, do have, and always will have individual acts of plunder. To suppress them we properly use the police powers of government.
Parenthetically, it may be said that there are three ways of making a living. First, a man may perform a service, or grow or make what can be exchanged for what he wants. This is work, and the results show up slowly. Second, he may get a gun and rob others of their possessions. This is risky business. Third, he may form or join a political party or pressure group to vote money for himself and his friends. This is plunderbundism, and its practitioners are plunderbundists.
The word plunderbund, therefore, means a bund of legalized plunderers. Legal plunder is the act of using the law to exact wealth from him who has acquired it, without his consent, and without compensation, and to give this wealth to him who has not produced it.
Plunderbundism, today, is an American institution. It is an American institution by reason of its general prevalence, by reason of millions who are both its perpetrators and its victims, and by reason of its broad acceptance as an instrument of national economic policy. Plunderbundism is so pervasive that it now looms in the economic skies as a plunderstorm.
The word “plunderstorm,” as I use it, means a lot of simultaneous plunderbunds. It means lawful robbery of the mass type, in profusion.
Let’s indulge in a few examples:
The sugar beet growers demand and receive protection and a subsidy from all of the American people, although the cost of this aid at times has been greater than the total value of sugar beet production.
The silver miners have long succeeded in getting the Federal Government to pay an artificially high price for silver. The difference between what would be the price for silver on a free market and the price the government pays is the amount of the subsidy. The subsidy is paid by the American people, the benefit accruing to the producers of silver.
Does your product bear a higher price than it otherwise would because of the protective tariff, and is the tariff applied for no other reason than to make this higher price possible? Then you are using the law to plunder other citizens—by reducing the purchasing power of their earnings.
Do you propose that government take other people’s money and make loans to help your business—to finance your exports by a World Bank, to stimulate home demand for your products by building unneeded post offices and dog-pounds, to raise prices by buying surpluses, or to save you from your own recklessness in borrowing or lending? Much of this money is never paid back and never intended to be paid back; it is plunder, pure and simple. But even if every cent were paid back, these loans would still represent merely another form of plunder. The funds thus loaned are obtained by the force of taxation or by the fraud of inflation. They are taken from other uses for which the rightful owners had intended them. What are these but forced loans, more plunder in the plunderstorm.
This is the center of a good farming section. Have you advocated government-supported parity prices for agricultural products? Then you also are a contributor to the plunderstorm which now darkens our future.
Suppose a carpenter should make an agreement with a builder in St. Louis to do a certain type of work for not less than twenty dollars per day, and suppose by reason of that single agreement the law of Missouri dictated that no carpenters should thereafter do that type of work in your state for a less amount. Wouldn’t this encourage and protect monopolistic plunderbunds? Yet, if you are an advocate of the so-called Fair Trade laws you sponsor that identical principle.
Have you been a Chamber of Commerce socialist? That is, have you voted for your Chamber of Commerce to seek money from the Federal Government for projects that would primarily benefit you and your section? Then you are a plunderbundist.
Have you asked your City Council to take some of everybody’s money to do something that was not of benefit to everybody? If so, be careful about taking out after other plunderbundists.
Labor unions use the force of government, as well as legally sanctioned intimidation, to exact uneconomically high wage rates. Thus, they raise costs of living and reduce opportunities for their fellow-citizens, including other wage earners. Again just plain plunder.
More illustrations would be easy to find but they seem unnecessary. Other monopolists, restrictionists and share-the-wealth “reformers,” deserving mention as much as those I have used as examples, are to be found on every hand.
Moreover, our plunderstorm economy is a matter of common knowledge. The many plunderbunds which go to compose the plunderstorm have become sacred cows which none but the most reckless politician or public figure dares attack. All the signs point to a long and successful run for these legalized rackets until the mounting plunderstorm reaches hurricane proportions. Why is this? Whence comes this plunderstorm? Why is it continually growing in violence and destructive power?
It seems to me there are several reasons. The first reason is a deep-rooted conviction on the part of millions that they have, by reason of their existence on this earth, a right to share in the property of others. The idea that this is a wholly immoral notion has never occurred to most of them. It hasn’t occurred to them any more than it has occurred to efficient monopolists, restrictionists or protectionists that they are destroying the property rights of others.
Perhaps you have taken care of an unfortunate relative over an extended period of time. If so, have you noticed how soon this care is taken for granted as a right?
On occasion, bankers accommodate customers by honoring their overdrafts. How quickly most customers regard this gesture of good will as a right can be attested to by any banker who has seen fit to call a halt to careless repetitions of the practice.
A second reason for the plunderstorm is that one plunderbund creates an appetite for another, and another. As one group achieves temporary security by the guarantee of fixed wages or prices it increases the insecurity of other groups by increasing tax burdens, raising living costs and reducing opportunities for employment. Chambers of commerce say, “Our community must pay for government’s leaf-raking expenditures in other communities. Therefore, we should get our share of the spending to help us pay for the relief projects elsewhere.”
Farmers say, “The city producers have their tariffs, monopolies and trade-union restrictions of output. Therefore, we need crop controls and subsidies to enable us to pay the higher prices resulting from the special privileges of those who produce the goods we farmers must buy.”
The result is this group-thirst for political plunder. It becomes the pig-trough philosophy of economic behavior.
For this situation there is no cure at all except to re-establish in the minds of people the normal boundaries of personal right. The present situation calls for an understanding of where personal rights end and infringement on the rights of others begins.
The third reason for this plunderstorm is the fallacious assumption that old people would live in poverty if we didn’t have public pensions; that we would have a shortage of sugar without subsidies; that silver would not be mined without artificial prices; that agriculture would perish without parity; that home towns would have no improvements without Federal hand-outs; that manufacturing would cease without protection; that wages would be pittances without minimum wage laws; that young folks would go unschooled without public education; that the mails would not arrive short of government delivery.
Now, even now, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, there are millions who believe that the blessings of electrical energy have been brought about by the Federal government’s invasion of this field with its TVA’s. When the government, following its present trend, has finally completed its usurpation of all public utilities, one will hardly dare to question the notion that these conveniences would be impossible were the government not conducting them. To dare to intimate that these utilities might be owned and efficiently operated privately will be quite like advocating, today, the possibilities of private education and private saving for one’s old age. It will be suggested that you do not understand the “dynamics” of a modern economy; that your thinking originates from pioneer and agricultural days; that we now have an industrial and an urban society; that you should “bring yourself up to date.”
A fourth reason for this plunderstorm is a conviction, as deeply rooted as the others, that plunderbundism is good economics.
It is assumed, largely in ignorant sincerity, that one group can take from another group and benefit not only the group which takes, but also the group which is robbed.
The pension people say, “Give us pensions which, of course, will benefit us, but you who are forced to give will also benefit because we shall spend our money for your goods and services.”
The farmers say, “Pay us parity prices, or incomes, so that we can buy the products of the city.”
The monopolists say, “Assure us high prices and we can pay high wages.”
Labor union leaders argue, “Pay us high wages and lots of social security benefits, and we can buy more of the products of industry.” Accepting this line of reasoning as a correct theory, I can enter your store, hold you up at the point of a gun, take the money from your cash drawer and logically contend that I am benefiting you because I shall spend all the money for your merchandise.
This is the infamous “purchasing-power” theory, perhaps the most mischievous economic fallacy in circulation. It has captured federal officialdom, it is the foundation for the Townsend Plan, for Ham and Eggs, and for the many vast, spending programs originating along the Potomac.
How do people reason in order to arrive at the conclusion that we can be enriched by paying government a huge overhead to take from all of us and give to some of us, or even to most of us? This merry-go-round in economic thinking is too confusing for me. Yet there can be no question of the fact that millions of our fellow citizens accept this idea as gospel truth.
The plunderstorm economy, therefore, originates in four false assumptions, namely: (1) that people have rights to the property of others; (2) that special privileges and legalized racketeering by one group justify pursuit of the same ends by every other group; (3) that special privileges are a necessary price of production or progress; and (4) that taking other people’s property is good for the exploited as well as the exploiters.
What has been the result? In the hope of plundering more from others than others succeed in plundering from us, we have voted away the inestimable benefits for which government and law were originally instituted.
We founded our government and wrote our laws on the premise that the individual citizen has certain inalienable rights and that government and law should protect these rights. But let me quote Frederic Bastiat, the brilliant French economist and social philosopher of a century ago:
“The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense.
“Unhappily, law is by no means confined to its own department. Nor is it merely in some indifferent and debatable views that it has left its proper sphere. It has done more than this. It has acted in direct opposition to its proper end; it has been employed in annihilating that justice which it ought to have established, in effacing amongst Rights, that limit which was its true mission to respect; it has placed the collective force in the service of those who wish to traffic, without risk, and without scruple, in the persons, the liberty and the property of others; it has converted plunder into a right, that it may protect it, and lawful defense into a crime, that it may punish it.”
While it is perfectly obvious that we should restore government and law to their proper functions, limit them as we originally intended they should be limited, it is equally obvious that this is now impossible until false ideas are removed, those false ideas which brought about the perversion of government.
As long as people entertain these false ideas about rights and property, so long will they seek their fulfillment through government and the law. When they use the government and the law for these purposes they are embarked on the road of communism. If we are a party to these purposes we are supporters of communism. Calling ourselves Republicans and Democrats and vowing hatred for everything communistic does not alter the fact in the slightest. The plunderstorm economy is communism.
This nation is in the grip of a plunderstorm. Of late, elections have been held merely to decide which party can offer the most attractive forms of plunder and the most effective administration of the plunderbund machinery.
It is different this time. You have a choice. You may vote for a continuance and a further elaboration of plunderbundism. Or, if you wish, you may vote for some of us who are dedicated to the proposition of eradicating it insofar as it is humanly possible.
Vote the Republican ticket and vote away whatever plunderbund booty you are now getting. But, of one other thing you may be certain: Plunderbund booty going to others, for which you are paying, will also come under our anti-plunderbund axe.
One point ought to be understood. Plunderbundism must go on to its ultimate disaster or it must be destroyed now. It is impossible to “drop an anchor,” to accept what we now have and let it go at that.
If the booty from public looting is not taken away from those who are getting it, those who are now without this booty will press their demands beyond the point of governmental resistance. The choice is only one of going on with the filthy business or getting out of it entirely. Our country cannot endure half robbers and half robbed. It is only my function to present the issue. It is yours to determine which course you wish to follow. It isn’t any of my business how you decide.
I would add, however, that citizens have three, rather than two, courses of action open to them.
The first, on behalf of plunderbundism, is frankly to acknowledge that the American ideal of a government of limited powers and functions, a government as the servant of the people, is only an unattainable ideal. Confess that it isn’t worth working for anyway. Take a stand for the Totalitarian State, the government that is the master of the people, your master. Assist in getting all the instruments of the economy under the control and the operation of the government.
The second course of action, more in favor of plunderbundism than the first, is just to let yourself go. Apply neither effort nor intelligence. Keep silent about your doubts and fears. Or else, play the expedient game. Compromise! Proclaim that you have faith in the American people while you haven’t even faith in being able to do anything about America yourself. Be like Nero and fiddle while Rome burns; in other words, be an optimist while the whole edifice in which you had your opportunity topples on your children’s heads. Boldly believe that a happy, prosperous America can be created with our present plunderstorm economy as a premise. Make your plans with confidence and, like the ostrich, with your head in the sand, ignore the hard, cold facts of monetary unbalance between existing purchase orders2 and available goods and services. Fool yourself with the idea that we will out-produce all the fictitiously-created money of the past decade. Be wishy-washy: practice the life of a plunderbundist, but give lip service at every opportunity to free competitive enterprise and “the American Way of Life.” Comfort yourself with the notion that you can enlighten the so-called “masses” with catch phrases, and thus save the nation, while you support by word and deed the policies that are undermining the foundations of everything honest and right.
The third course of action is the difficult one. It is the moral course. The one I sketched in my Acceptance Speech. To repeat, it is the course of those who will stand against wrong even though they cannot see the time when right will triumph.
I began this address with a statement concerning it by a friend. I also asked another for his comments. What he had to say referred to the moral course just mentioned. He said, “You are absolutely right but you are impractical.”
This, only, would I add. If you and I do not adopt moral principles as a basis of action, be the action political or economic, many of our children will starve and they will kill each other in revolution. I leave it to your judgment whether morality as a basis of action is practical or impractical.
In short, it is for you to decide whether we go on with plunderbunding or whether we destroy it—whether you vote to maintain these ill-gotten and illusory benefits or whether you vote to take them away from everybody, including yourself.
Make no mistake—that is what we are voting about.
1 The Road to Serfdom. (University of Chicago Press. 1944).
2 Bank deposits and currencies.
AT LOS ANGELES
Eighth Campaign Speech1
In a variety of ways this nation has legalized plunder. Plunderbundism has become an instrument of national economic policy as we seek prosperity by the fruitless process of picking each other’s pockets.
Discussion of one of the more vicious forms of plunder—Federal “social security”—I have reserved for this final address, so that there can be no misunderstanding on election day of where I stand on this subject.
To demonstrate the meaning of Federal “social security,” as it is now conducted, is fairly simple. This is its substance:
First, government compels an extraction of money from my personal account in exchange for a pension promise. A legally prescribed sum of money is taken from my earnings, my property, regardless of my wishes.
Second, government compels a seizure of money from my employer. This levy is credited to my pension account. A legally prescribed sum of money, his property, is taken from him, regardless of his wishes.
Third, whatever sum of money is needed to balance my pension account, so that a legally prescribed number of dollars may some day be paid to me, is taken from everybody’s property, by government compulsion, regardless of whether everybody favors such a deduction or not.
Fourth, the monies thus coercively collected are spent by the Federal government on thousands of projects, from paying farmers not to grow wheat to subsidizing Federal projects in their competition with tax-paying citizens.
Fifth, an I.O.U. in the form of a government bond, a lien on my property and my earnings, is deposited in lieu of a portion of these monies which have been collected and spent.
All that can be said for this complex fiction is that the Federal government owes me a pension.
But what, actually, does this mean? It means that all-of-us owe some-of-us a pension—and with nothing, actually, saved with which to pay it. Governmental prestidigitation and political double-talk cannot change that simple fact. The whole process, as it is now practiced, means only that the Federal government owes us a pension. In order to pay, the hat must be passed again in order to collect the entire amount which is to be paid. And government force will back up the second levy as it did the first.
Some of you may expect me to promise that, if elected, I shall change the fraudulent features of “social security” and that I shall institute a more efficient administration of it.
Any such suppositions are wrong. I promise nothing except to use what influence I have to rid the national government of the whole system of compulsory security.
I do not wish to attack, on this occasion, the present administration of Federal “social security.” I wish to attack Federal “social security” itself. Good administration of a bad practice may be worse than a bad administration of it.
In principle, Federal old-age pensions and so-called unemployment insurance are quite alike. Both are compulsory. Both decree an arbitrary distribution of the fruits of one’s labors. Both invoke governmental management of the individual citizen. Both reduce security instead of increasing it. I shall, therefore, discuss the principle of “social security” rather than its details.
Of all the objectionable features to “social security,” the coercive features are given last place by most people, even by many who consider themselves liberals. Coercion is my first objection. Its unlimited application, which is unlimited power, is the most dangerous thing on this earth. No man has ever lived who has been big enough or competent enough to apply it, justly and wisely, to any responsible adult person, arbitrarily. Yet, coercive influence over others is as common an ambition as financial affluence. Tyranny is only arbitrary coercion carried to its logical conclusion.
The American Revolution was conducted and the American government was formed to deliver Americans from arbitrary coercion and to insure us against it.
Coercion has its place. It should be carefully delegated and, then, vigilantly watched, but sanctioned only for the purpose of suppressing fraud, violence, predatory practices and monopolistic abuses. Coercion, of which government and the laws of God should have a monopoly, has its place solely as a restraining force for the protection of the individual citizen’s life, liberty and property. Use of coercion to relieve the individual of responsibility, to direct his activities, and to dispose of his property, which is the self-support of life, destroys that which makes life worth living, and even life itself.
It is one thing to limit governmental coercion, which is police force, to the suppression of evil. It is quite the opposite to extend it for the doing of good. Coercion cannot do good; it can stifle evil. Coercion stifles whatever it touches, be it good or evil.
Using governmental coercion to protect your goods from a thief is proper. Using it to protect a thief in taking your goods is improper. It makes no difference whether the thief be a thug or a legally recognized pressure group, using democratic processes.
It is no more right for all-of-us to take from you by force something which you have legitimately acquired than it is right for you to benefit yourself by forcing something from all-of-us.
Here is how I stand on “social security” coercion: I do not even favor compulsory savings. That is, I am opposed to government using the police-power to compel you to look out for yourself—let alone coercing you and others to look out for you, which is the “social security” idea.
If you join me in rejecting the use of coercion as it applies to your earnings, which is your means of self-support, there is simply nothing left to talk about on this subject. Without coercion no Federal system of pensions or unemployment insurance would exist.
Given freedom of opportunity, protection from fraud, violence and predation and a dependence for our welfare on our own initiative, we can and will look out for ourselves better than will any other person or any governmental agency.
What is it that gives so many of us the idea that government can manage us better than we can manage ourselves? If we knew the answer to this we would know the source of the “social security” fallacy. Perhaps it is an hereditary trait cropping out in us from Old World tradition. After all, most of the peoples of most of the world for the most of time have lived under authority. Perhaps we have forgotten the purpose for which we fought our Revolution—to get out from under arbitrary authority.
Why not refresh our thinking with the question, “What is government?” Is it anything else but men and women, quite ordinary folks, to whom certain authority has been delegated, or by whom authority has been seized? Is it possible that the authority thus granted or seized has enhanced their worthiness or their abilities? We ought to doubt this. Power, delegated or seized, has more tendency to corrupt morals than it has to extend virtues. Seized power, whether by individuals or groups, establishes the seizers as the enemies of freedom and the foes of liberals.
All of us have our moments of greed for power, with thoughts of what we would do were we in the driver’s seat. It seems to be a natural weakness which only cold reason can overcome. Recently a distinguished scholar, Ludwig von Mises, gave me a never-to-be-forgotten example of good, liberal thinking. He was asked, “What would you do were you dictator of these United States?” Quick as a flash came the answer, “I would abdicate.”
I wonder if your experiences in this respect do not parallel mine. With a moment’s reflection I can recall the troubles I have had in managing my own life. My working associates, for instance, respond to my requests in ways different from my intentions. My children, on whom I try both suasion and scolding, behave in a manner quite unlike the designs I have for them. On occasion even my wife acts contrary to what I consider my excellent judgment. As a result, I have conceded that I am unable to manage the lives of those intimately familiar to me. How stupid to hope for efficiency in the management of a great mass of people, the bulk of whom I shall never see, the majority of whom have ways of life, interests, conditions and situations almost wholly outside my capsule of knowledge.
These have been some of my reflections about personal power, that is, unlimited police-power over others. I don’t want it for myself and I don’t trust any living person with it.
In what manner do the heads of the collectivist regimes, or their functionaries, in America or elsewhere, differ from you and me? These people who draft rules of life for millions of others? Have you ever had occasion to see how incompetently they manage their own little lives? It just isn’t possible that they have some mystic quality, some hidden superiority, that qualifies them for tasks for which you and I, if honest, admit no abilities.
No person, no set of persons, in or out of government, is capable of decreeing how much you should spend or save, or whether you should do either one or not. These are matters as personal as your toothbrush. They are not the concern of anybody else on this earth. For anybody to assume that they are, is an effrontery to your birthright of liberty and personal responsibility.
A governmental program of social security, however, makes your saving and your spending the business of other people. Your savings are confiscated for a supposed social good. Your savings are meted out to others by a coterie of governmental functionaries, and spent, in many instances, in the most useless of ways. Savings of others, to which you have no right, may be, eventually, meted out to you. The process is plunderbundism. It is immoral. It is an adaptation of the communistic principle of “to each according to need.” It is a denial of the American principle of “to each according to merit.”
As pointed out, the political danger of this program lies in the arbitrary use of governmental coercion.
The financial danger lies in political management of such vast funds. One has only to note the wasteful projects in which politicians “invest” the earnings coerced from us.
It has another danger that is at once economic, social, political and financial. Experience and knowledge of human nature alike teach that when people undertake to reduce the hazards of life by placing the primary responsibility on government and by depending on governmental action, in the end it is insecurity and not security of the individual citizen which is increased. Reliance upon government for protection against these hazards increases insecurity for these reasons:
1) It inevitably and immediately leads to reliance upon political pressure for a constant increase in forcible distribution of the wealth of productive citizens in order to satisfy the ever-increasing demands of non-producers.
2) The demand for the mere prevention of suffering rapidly changes to a demand that everyone shall be given an arbitrarily defined “decent,” or “American,” scale of living.
3) “Social security” becomes a leading political issue as political leaders and candidates for political office encourage the attitude that the beneficiary is asserting a right and is entitled thereunder to be given a higher and higher scale of living.
4) Once a democratic government assumes this unlimited responsibility, those who conceive themselves to be the direct and indirect beneficiaries of “social security” allotments wield the balance of power in elections. Hence, they determine by their votes the size of the “benefits” they will receive.
5) The change is always toward greater and greater allotments—toward larger pensions, larger unemployment and sick benefits, and toward expansion of the numbers and the hazards to be covered.
6) Political processes simply cannot lend themselves to decreases but only to increases in plunder, in the “take” from other people’s earnings.
Thus, the burden becomes heavier and heavier until it is no longer bearable and government bankruptcy ensues. We have many examples in Europe of just that sequence of events. It was not the failure of these governments to meet “human needs” that drove them into totalitarian socialism and impotency; it was their guarantee to meet “human needs” and their inability to meet the ever-growing demands and impossible responsibilities to which they thus exposed themselves. Indeed, it is not necessary to go to Europe for proof of the danger of government embarking upon this road of guaranteeing to meet “human needs.” Several of our own states, today, are carrying old-age pension burdens so great as to threaten their solvency, and this, after only a few years since beginning with a small pension! Surely, neither national nor state bankruptcy, nor serious inflation, advances a real social security. Just the contrary is true.
Federal “social security,” I repeat, is not security. Security is something we cannot vote to ourselves. Security comes as a result of our willingness to take risks. Every wealth-producing step we have made, every measure we have taken to lower costs, has involved chances for failure as well as promises for success. Every individual who has attempted to move into that niche which he thought better suited his abilities or appeared to enhance his position in life, has faced the danger of loss as well as the hope for gain.
Slaves and prisoners have security of a sort. They are housed and fed, though only as the master prescribes. They are told what to do and how to live, even when to quit living. This is the kind of “security” toward which we move when we attempt it by the ballot.
People living under completely authoritarian governments are slaves. People living under partially authoritarian governments are partial slaves. Slavery develops in proportion as governmental direction is substituted for self-direction.
It can be fairly well demonstrated that completely authoritarian governments can provide their people with only a fraction of the level of prosperity that can be attained by people as free as Americans have been. There is a direct relationship between the liberty which people enjoy and the scale of living they can achieve. Living standards go down as authoritarianism increases and, conversely, they go up as it decreases. There is a scientific reason why this is a fact.
Federal “social security” is a piece of authoritarianism. A portion of everyone’s income is brought under governmental coercion—the police force. If you doubt this, see how far you get by demanding that your next pay check be given you without a “social security” deduction.
“Social security” ought not to be increased. It should be abolished entirely. America was founded as an opportunity for the lovers of liberty, not as a haven for slaves.
In arguing against the policy of government guaranteed livelihoods and government “insurance” against non-insurable risks, in the face of an apparent widespread, popular acceptance of these measures, I am doing so because I believe governmental attempts at social security lead to failure and disaster. I cannot accept the defeatist attitude that it is useless to oppose these measures because they are popular. I believe the American people should be told the truth, and that it is the function of anyone speaking on behalf of liberalism to encourage our people to re-institute freedom and voluntary, individual and group action2—the new American way which succeeded in establishing the greatest social security in the world. Let us not revert to the old, European, government-guaranteed methods which have failed and which will fail disastrously if pursued under our political system with its numerous democratic characteristics.
I shall work with liberals, whether in or out of office, to promote and improve security by promoting and stimulating the source of security—individual and family responsibility, self-discipline, private enterprise and voluntary agreement.
Does all of this mean that I am taking a stand against the destitute and those who are ill-fed, ill-housed, and ill-clad? It does not. It means I am taking a stand against policies which will in the end reduce everyone to destitution. It means I am trying to do my part to stop a trend which, if continued, will lead America back to Old World conditions and standards of living from which they, slaves to authority, cannot remove themselves.
You ask me, then, how do I propose to deal with those who are now in distress? The answer is simple. I have no proposal for dealing with them through government. Under no circumstances is it a Federal job. It cannot be properly done at that level by me or by Congress.
While I shall not concede that the relief of distress ought ever to be a governmental function, at any level, this much I insist on: If government undertakes at all to give to any citizen a portion of the wealth that it takes from all citizens, let it be at local levels. There, it is destructive. It is fatal on a Federal scale.
The real reasons for most of the present and recent distress inhere in the suppressions of liberty, in the sabotaging, wittingly or unwittingly, of the free competitive economy, which alone produces general prosperity. Re-establishing a free economy is the only road to progress, to continued increase of real social security and to new opportunities. Free enterprise can be re-established only by the repeal of those laws, rules and regulations which impede it. I stand for their destruction.
Such relatively unimportant distress as would remain, were freedom of opportunity assured, should be relieved by private charity which, in the past, has shown itself not only adequate but actually extravagant.
Federal relief, or political relief at other levels, encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character. Political relief, that is, relief supported by coerced exactions, not only prevents but stultifies charity, that friendly sentiment which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.
This brings the campaign to an end. This time you have had the issues presented. The two sides are as different as night and day. They are as far apart as the Old World and the New World. It has been for me to present the liberal point of view. This I have done as best I know how. It has been my mission to perform. Yours is the more critical mission. It is that of determining which way our ship of state will sail. The choices are as opposite as right and wrong, truth and falsehood.
1 Our nominee made eight campaign speeches, mostly in small towns. He dealt with the Wagner Act and Fair Labor Standards Act which he vigorously repudiated. He gave his views on internationalism and world peace, in which he contended that wars were inevitable, except among free people. In another he condemned the World Bank and the international stabilization fund set up under the Bretton Woods Agreements on the grounds that these are means of plundering on a worldwide basis. The balance of the speeches were on several aspects of free competitive enterprise. He raised a furor when he contended that free markets should extend to services as well as to commodities. Only two of his campaign speeches are printed in this booklet to demonstrate the spirit of a liberal's approach, which is the booklet's purpose.
2 The American insurance industry has a far greater responsibility in preaching the philosophy of private insurance than it has assumed. Too many in this business, as in banking, have “gone along” with socialistic invasions, not because of any change in their free enterprise shibboleth but because they have thought it expedient. Many have acquired that kind of public relations-mindedness which is nothing but a disease found among businessmen where totalitarianism is on the upswing.
Election Eve Message1
The civilization by which we live is a vast invisible web ever woven anew of countless acts of sacrifice, fortitude, faith and foresight by unnumbered nameless men.
Thread by thread these unseen strands of individual aspiration, effort, adventure and accomplishment are spun into those indestructible cords of endurance, industry, independence and integrity of spirit which bind society together.
This frail fabric from the ceaseless loom of generations of unremembered lives is the strongest and most precious substance in the world, for by it alone we hang suspended above the abyss of savagery.
We shall win prosperity only if we have the strength to suffer poverty; leisure, only if we have the will to labor endlessly; security, only if we have the courage to risk ail; and peace, only if we have the pride to die fighting for freedom, truth and honor.
1 This is a Christmas message by Virgil Jordan. It is a beautiful expression of several liberal thoughts and appropriate for a nominee whose primary objective is not his own election to office, but the progress of human freedom.
In obedience to your decision I am about to dedicate myself, under the sanction of a solemn oath, as one of your servants.
You have given me this task not because of any qualities peculiarly mine, but because I am a spokesman for the philosophy of government which is an American heritage.
This philosophy does not admit of an official being a leader, that is, in the sense that Americans are to be led by those they select for servants. It denies that there are indispensable men, infallible men, omniscient men, supermen, which such Old World “leadership” implies.
This denial does not mean that we are common men. Americans are the most uncommon people this world has known. Nowhere else have men so successfully escaped from arbitrary authority—from men lording it over man. Only here, and because of our uncommonness, has the flowering of freedom shown promise.
The American philosophy insists that adult individuals shall be self-controlling, capable, each and every one, of varying degrees of self-reliance, self-development and self-discipline.
This American philosophy of government is premised on our countrymen being free men. That is what our birth as human beings gives us a right to be; that is what we ought to be; it is the object to which our Constitution commits us—all of us.
No position, no office, however elevated, must be permitted to impair this premise.
Those whom you select as your chief executive, from time to time gain no new qualities by virtue of your selection. Each one is, at best, but one of you to whom you have delegated limited duties. You do not place them in office to do you good. You place them there to assist in securing to yourselves that good which you can do for yourselves. To grant any president more than this is to impose an assignment he cannot fulfill and is to deprive you of responsibilities as necessary to your self-development as any rights.
Holding firm to these beliefs concerning the fallibility and the limitations of men, regardless of the station to which they may be raised, it becomes my duty, on this occasion, to outline how I shall apply myself to this high office. For if there are to be important changes in presidential policies you need to know of them. And there are to be changes, many, indeed!
To share my point of view it is necessary that you agree on one basic assumption: I am not, nor should any person consider himself, or be considered, the general manager of these United States.
To assume that the chief executive is general manager, a common error, is to betray the ways of freedom and to deny the concept of limited powers, upon which this government was founded. The people, the individual American citizens, are their own managers.
Properly, this office has only the function of executing the policing details which the Congress finds it necessary to impose and of managing such federal services as the Congress has, wisely or unwisely, thought it expedient to provide.
While the chief executive is the spokesman for his country in dealings with other nations, thereby giving a “general manager” impression, the idea induced is an illusion and contrary to American principles of government.
There is, also, a companion idea which I hope you will share with me. It has to do with a simple fact about organization. This fact is that authority for carrying out an administrative assignment must always accompany the responsibility for completing that assignment.
This means that I shall not appoint anyone to a position unless his authority corresponds to his responsibility. In practical application, this means that all appointees will be able to make decisions within the framework of their responsibilities. I shall select those in whose judgment I have confidence and “give them their heads.” They shall be responsible to themselves and to me for their actions. I shall be responsible to you for my selections.
Under this plan of organization I become the assistant to my appointees, aiding them if and when I can, but only if and when asked. This plan assures harmony for there is no short-circuiting of authority and responsibility. It achieves the maximum of efficiency. Without it there can be only loss of energy and inefficiency. Without it no two people can, in one kitchen, cook a Sunday dinner without friction. No man can be the sole dispenser of decisions, except those decisions which control his personal actions.
Appointments will be based on a devotion to the liberal philosophy. This means that appointees will aim at economy; that they will contract, rather than expand, their offices, whenever possible. The political party under which one is registered will not be given consideration. Neither will the places from whence they come. “What are your principles and how do you act in respect to them?” That is the question.
No patronage can exist in this form of organization. Patronage is simply inapplicable to it.
To those who object to this I say: Are there those among us to whom the emoluments of public office are so much greater than the rewards we could receive in private enterprise that we would rely on bribery to remain in office? If so, we do not belong here. We are here to perform a public service. We have submitted ourselves as the servants of the people. Is this a relationship we crave so dearly that we would force ourselves to continue it? Isn’t it rather a duty citizenship imposes? If we seek to falsify the imposition of these duties by patronage or other devices we are lacking in the virtues which these officers require.
If this Republic is to continue to protect the liberty of American citizens, and, therefore, the progress and prosperity of American society, public office must seek the man, not the man the office.
Another change which I propose to make is more profound in its significance than at first may be acknowledged. I intend to see to it that the executive branch of the government divests itself, immediately, of publicity and public relations personnel. It is not the function of the servant to exact money from his master in order that the servant may glorify himself in the eyes of the master. If we do good work we can rely on the representatives of a free press and a free radio to find it out. And if we do something worthy and it isn’t found out, just who has been injured? If we require a simulated adulation isn’t this proof in itself that the electorate erred in sending us here?
Furthermore, it is essential that we turn the spotlight of national attention away from Washington. It has too long been here. Let the spotlight shine in the souls of millions of individuals who are doing the real work of the nation. They are the source of energy, virtues and wealth. Nothing is in the nation’s capital except that which is taken from individuals.
Let Washington restore itself as the seat of a self-effacing government, where good men come to perform their unpublicized, unglamorized duty. May they come, and remain, unaffected by the popularity virus. For, it is well to remember, enough clever publicity can confer the awed stare of the crowd, the snooping curiosity of the multitude, the plaudits of the unthinking, on the ignorant as well as the wise, on the ass as well as the statesman, or on an old barn door as well as the pyramids. Popularity by publicity is commonly coveted by those who value thoughtless applause more than their own self-respect.
Now let me announce the first major act of this administration. I shall ask the Congress to co-operate with me in the appointment of a committee. I should like to call it “The Committee for Economic Liberty.” Its functions shall be to recommend to the Congress, and to me, every agency of the Federal Government which can be done away with, every business venture of the government which can be sold to private enterprise, and every economy in the Federal budget which can be effected. Further, it shall have the task of identifying every law, rule and regulation which impedes citizens in legitimate endeavors, in order that these impediments may be immediately removed.
This Committee will require funds for so large an undertaking. Rather than recommend an appropriation I shall ask Congress to approve a plan whereby the Secretary of the Treasury may receive voluntary contributions from the nation’s citizens. I know these contributions will be numerous. They should be small and anonymously given.
Generally speaking, government agencies fall into two classifications: First, those established by acts of Congress, and, second, those set up by previous administrations under permissive legislation.
The latter I can abolish by executive order, and many I will. However, I shall aim at orderliness in this dismantling process. The complexity and confusion of the bureaucracy is too great for me or any other one person to comprehend, or even grasp. Further, it is folly for me to issue an order unless it is sanctioned by your representatives. I would only abolish something that would soon be replaced by Congressional action.
I shall ask the Senate and the House to appoint three each of their members, to be joined by three from my Cabinet. It seems to me unlikely that I shall disapprove of any recommendations of the Committee for Economic Liberty when it proposes to abolish an agency, effect an economy, or repeal a law or rule. You know my philosophy of government. You know in what manner such influences as I have will be directed.
But of this be certain: I shall stick to my own job and will avoid assuming any responsibilities not clearly mine. The enactment or repeal of legislation, for instance, is the function solely of Congress. Whether the job is done well or badly is the responsibility of your representatives in Congress, not of your President. My job is to administer the government as it is. This, and nothing else!
I do not desire to reorganize the lives of other people under the pretext of doing them good, I have no heart for the administration of any kind of government except that which insures every person the fruits of his labor.
It is now time to turn your hopes from this place along the Potomac as a source of livelihood. It is the most unproductive spot in these United States. Any opinion to the contrary is because of the Robin Hood role it has played in the past. That role, let us pray, is but a bitter memory. May your Federal Government no longer be condemned for what it plunders from some. And may it never have applause because of the loot it bestows on others.
All of which suggests it is time to go to work. I can take my own hint; it is now time for me to go to work at my job.