The Flight From Reality: 26. Conclusion: The Pen and The Sword


Dr. Carson is Professor of American History at Grove City College, Pennsylvania. Among his earlier writings in THE FREEMAN were his series on The Fateful Turn and The American Tradition, both of which are now available as books.

It has been said that the pen is mightier than the sword. The phrase is poetic; it calls attention to a paradox. Taken literally, the statement is not true, of course. A swordsman pitted against a pen­man might be expected to make quick work of him. Obviously, the phrase is not meant to evoke the vision of any such contest when it is employed. It is meant, instead, to call attention to the sway of ideas in the affairs of the world, a sway more complete and determi­native even than that of the sword.

However this may be, there should be no doubt that the pen and the sword together are invin­cible. That is the situation which confronts us today. The flight from reality has culminated in the linking of the pen and the sword. The commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the United States with his brain trust signalizes the union.

The direction in which we are impelled by the combined force of pen and sword should not be in doubt. Earl Browder, former head of the Communist Party of the United States — but unrepentant socialist — has lately described the tendency felicitously:

America is getting socialism on the installment plan through the pro­grams of the welfare state. There is more real socialism in the United States today than there is in the Soviet Union.

Americans may not be willing to vote for a program under the name of "socialism," but put it under another party label — whether liberal Republican or Democrat—and they’re by and large in favor of the idea….

We have no real socialist party, no socialist ideology, but we have a large — and growing — degree of what 50 years ago would have been recognized as socialism.¹

Some of Browder’s points may be debatable, such as that there is more socialism in America than in the Soviet Union, or that we have no socialist ideology; but his main contention—that the United States has been moving gradually toward socialism — should be beyond dis­pute. The evidence for this is mountainous. It can be seen in the spreading government interven­tion in the economy, in the in­creasing control of the economy, in the numerous welfare pro­grams, and in the amazing array of governmental activities and programs. The question for the historian should be not whether we have been moving toward what was once billed as socialism but rather how has this development come about. In the absence of a victorious Socialist Party, without political leaders who profess the socialist ideology, in a situation in which most of the populace has never consciously accepted social­ism, how has America proceeded to the point that an old Commu­nist can proclaim we are achieving socialism?

To Meet Changed Circumstances

Though few American histori­ans would be as blunt as Earl Browder, there is a conventional explanation of the phenomena to which he refers. Indeed, in the in­terview cited above, Browder re­ferred to and used the conven­tional explanation. He said, "We got it… merely in the piling up if [sic] single decisions under the pressures of need and crisis."2 In greater detail, the explanation would go something like this: In consequence of industrialization, the mechanization of agriculture, urbanization, and the transporta­tion revolution came depressions, concentrations of wealth, the de­pendency of the worker, declining opportunity, "monopolies," and spreading poverty. Government had to intervene to bring justice to the people in view of these changing circumstances. Politi­cians, operating pragmatically, have tried first this, then that, to come up with programs which would work. They have been moved not by ideology but by the pres­sure of circumstances.

The generality of men do not question familiar explanations; they do not even analyze them. In order for an explanation to be­come familiar it need only have been repeated enough times. This has occurred regarding the justification of reform on the grounds of changing circumstances. It has been drummed into our ears for decades now. It sounds right to us. The rhetoric by which it is ex­pressed has etched grooves in our minds which allow each additional statement of it to be taken in without causing pain. The point approaches where it is hardly more apt to be challenged than was the view that the earth was flat seven hundred years ago. Yet, it is an explanation that does not explain when put to the test.

Some of the reformist surges have come at times of general prosperity. The Progressive move­ment, in the early twentieth cen­tury, came at a time of the great­est prosperity America had known. The Kennedy and Johnson pro­grams were introduced at times billed as ones of unprecedented prosperity. The rationale changes with the times, not the programs or direction. If it is a period of de­pression, the programs are de­scribed as remedies for depression. If it is a period of prosperity, they may be justified on the grounds that poverty is inexcus­able in a land of plenty.

Disappointing Results

Nor does the pragmatic claim stand up under analysis. If the re­formers were pragmatists, they should be concerned with whether their programs work or not. On the contrary, they cling to them, once established, and press for the en­actment of others of like nature. If workability were the test, the farm programs should have been scrapped long ago. They were sup­posed to rescue the small farmer and benefit agriculture generally. On the contrary, the number of farmers has decreased from 1930 to the present, and the brunt of this has been borne by small farm­ers. Large farmers generally have become more wealthy; and we have all paid for this continuing experiment with higher prices for certain products.

Various programs, such as hous­ing projects, were supposed to re­duce delinquency, yet crime mounts in America. Americans were supposed to be helped by gov­ernment programs to become in­dependent, but dependency on gov­ernment increases apace. Anti­trust legislation was supposed to prevent the fixing of prices, yet prices in numerous instances are set by government decree and union monopolies. Far from work­ing as intended, the programs often have produced results the op­posite of those desired. If their proponents were pragmatists, they long since should have abandoned many of the programs which they still cherish.

Though a much more thorough analysis of the explanation by cir­cumstances and comparison of it with the evidence would be valu­able, it is not necessary. An ex­planation is satisfactory to the ex­tent that it accounts for all of the relevant phenomena. This one does not, and it must be discarded as inadequate. There not only are too many loose ends, but it does not even come to grips with the proc­ess of historical change.

The Conspiracy Theory

Another explanation has gained some following, though not gen­erally in academic circles. It is that the trend to socialism is a product of a conspiracy, or of conspiracies. Such an explanation is particularly appealing because, if true, it would account for the fact that we have moved toward socialism without those respon­sible for it ever announcing it as the goal. The plausibility of this explanation is increased by the existence of a communist conspir­acy, by a magnetic field surround­ing it into which sympathizers are drawn, and by the affinity which many reformers have had for Communists. Its attraction is probably greatly enhanced by the obvious solution it offers: expose the conspiracy or conspiracies, im­prison the malefactors, throw the scoundrels out, and get on with the business at hand.

The exposé occupies a position today in the Conservative move­ment similar to the place it had for Progressives at the beginning of the century. Books gain consider­able currency that deal with Red spies at the United Nations, that rehash the story of the fall of Na­tionalist China, that tell again the story of Pearl Harbor, and so on. Much of their appeal is but testi­mony to the frailty of human na­ture, to the preference of men for reading something that will make their blood boil rather than help to make their minds work. Even so, if the present Conservative movement should emerge victori­ous politically, some part of its rise probably could be attributed to the exposés. Moreover, some of these have made valuable contri­butions to our understanding of what has happened.

Nonetheless, the exposés are largely offshoots of the conspiracy theory, so far as they offer any general explanation of what has happened. They deal with events which are only the flotsam and jetsam of the major developments of our time. They are of the sur­face of the waters on which we ride, not of the undertow which pulls us in the particular direc­tion. The conspiracy theory may account for a particular coup d’ état, for this or that hidden ma­nipulation, for some particular bit of espionage, for the introduction of some unfortunate phrase in a document, and so on. But it does not tell us what made the con­spirators become what they are. Moreover, it does not account for the millions, perhaps billions, of people in the world who are drawn to support what is being done, or what they think is being done.

Victims of Illusion

We are the victims, not of con­spiracy, but of illusion. Even the conspiracies are largely sustained by the illusion. The illusion is that men are, or can be, gods, that they can by taking thought reconstruct human nature, that they can create a world of their own devising, that decision-mak­ing can be separated from power, that tension and stress can be removed from the world, that re­ward can be separated from ef­fort, that all-embracing govern­ments can bring peace, that peo­ple can be treated as things and retain their dignity, that men will cease to pursue their own interests when the social system is changed, that evil is the prod­uct of circumstances and not of men, that consequences are de­termined by motives rather than by the nature of the acts, that the nature of acts is altered by the number of people who participate in them, that the nature of man is plastic, and that the universe is malleable.

The heart of the illusion is in the view that the meaning of life is to be found in participation in the political process through which utopia is to be achieved by con­tinuing social reconstruction. Ac­cording to this view, men find their fulfillment in voting, in col­lective activity, in group projects, in civic undertakings, and in ex­tending these methods as widely and universally as possible. This ethos goes by the name of democ­racy. It provides the rationale for the progressive politicalizing of life, for the interpenetration of all human activity with force.

The transcendant rituals of this pseudo-religion are group discus­sion and voting. Its end is a heav­en-on-earth utopia which is to be achieved by social transformation. Its chief virtue is action, social action, action to produce the de­sired changes according to the modes of the rituals. Anything that is not politicalized is an af­front to the adherents of this ethos. They talk continually of peace, but they foment strife be­cause they continually intrude in the affairs of other men. They arouse the vague and restless dis­contents which are a part of the human condition and attempt to harness these for the purposes of social reconstruction.

The Philosophical Break

The burden of this work has been to show that men have suc­cumbed to illusion by a flight from reality. This flight from reality has had a long and checkered ca­reer. It began at a level remote from the lives of most people, on the philosophical plane. Philoso­phers began to break the connec­tion between cause and effect, be­tween the evidence of the senses and logic, between the metaphysi­cal and the physical realms, be­tween ideas and reality. After Immanuel Kant, if there was a duality to reality — if there was body and soul, heaven and earth, physical and metaphysical, tem­poral and eternal, and so forth —the two realms were so disjoined from one another as to make them distinct and unrelated orders of being. The pure reason cannot ar­rive at validatable propositions; the practical reason can establish facts, but these fall far short of the truth for which man yearns.

Kant had, in effect, demolished the connections which enabled philosophers to provide a unified account of all the levels of reality. Philosophy gave way to ideology, and "isms" multiplied as thinkers attempted to account for all of reality by some piece from the wreckage of philosophy. Perhaps no better description can be given of ideology than that it is an attempt to account for the whole of reality by some abstraction of a fragment of it.

Many ideologies emerged in the nineteenth century, but two of them were basic to the particular direction of the flight from real­ity: idealism and materialism. Dualism did not disappear; it tended to survive in the more or less independent development of idealism and materialism. Idea and matter remained, and thinkers labored to bring them together into some kind of synthesis. The work of G. W. F. Hegel was cen­tral to the development of thought. He held that idea became actuality in the historical process. All of reality was reduced to the his­torical plane where its being con­sists of its becoming. The purpose of life becomes the rendering of the ideal into the actual. Here is the tap root of the meliorist and revolutionary roads to socialism.

There was no longer any fixed and enduring reality for most thinkers, only an historical process of change. Some followed Hegel in holding that ideas can be used to shape actuality from matter (though Hegel did not think much of matter); others followed Marx in holding that there is a dialectic of matter and that ideas are really a product of this. To the material­ists, all things are determined by the fluctuations of matter; to the idealists, all things are a product of ideas. Both of these notions went into the stream of thought picked up by American meliorists, have been strangely combined and eclectically used.

At any rate, idealism provided the mental framework for the construction of utopias, while ma­terialism gave substance. For many, the utopian vision served as the idea which they would make an actuality. The utopian idea was not new to the nineteenth cen­tury; it had been around for some time. But men had treated such ideas largely as playthings of the imagination, ridiculous because unattainable, undesirable even if attainable because they do not take into account the character of life on this earth.

A Fragment of Truth; Ideas Have Consequences

The atmosphere began to change in the nineteenth century. Not only were more utopian novels written but also they began to get a wider acceptance. For some at least, utopia began to seem both possible and desirable. Many had lost their certainty of a meta­physical and enduring order which would make them impossible. The declining vitality of belief in life after death opened up the possi­bility that Heaven would have to be on this earth.

Even so, most men have not consciously accepted the notion that utopia actually could be achieved. Any man of common sense can find numerous flaws in any particular version of utopia. Probably, most men will never accept the notion that utopia act­ually can be attained. They can, however, be convinced that con­ditions can be improved. This has been the method of the meliorists in America. Behind the thrust of meliorist effort lies the utopian vision, which is itself the impel­ling dream of socialism, but the programs which are supposed to lead to it are billed neither as socialism nor utopianism in Amer­ica. They are only called improve­ments. Not all of them would pro­duce utopia, but each of them might result in some improve­ment, so men have been led to believe.

There is a fragment of truth in the conception of translating ideas into actuality, a most inter­esting and important fragment of truth. Men do translate ideas into actualities, not perfectly but suf­ficiently well for us to recognize that it happens. A boy has a dream, a vision, an idea of what he will become when he is a man. If he plans well, if his idea is viable, if he works hard at it, the man he will become will bear some relationship to his dream.

Ideals, too, have played an in­valuable role in the lives of men. The world would be immeasurably poorer, indeed an intolerable place, if individuals did not seek truth, strive to act justly, and yearn for the good. The Revelation by Jesus Christ of what is good in the sight of God contains the highest ideals for Christians. Each man who labors to order his ac­tions to accord with ideals is, in a sense, translating idea into actu­ality.

In many ways, both mundane and sublime, men labor to trans­late ideas into actuality. The farmer who raises a crop trans­lates his ideas about the employ­ment of his land, labor, and capi­tal into the actuality of produce. The man who builds a factory starts with a conception of it, even a dream, just as does the builder of a house. An artist who paints a picture begins with an idea; so does a novelist, a com­poser, an architect, and a cook. The inventor begins with a con­ception of a device that does not exist but which he believes can be produced by combining certain materials and principles. If his idea is valid, and if he knows how to apply it, an invention can re­sult. Indeed, translating ideas in­to actuality plays a most impor­tant part in our lives. That this can be done is such an important fragment of truth that men might be expected to want to apply it universally.

Let us return to the process of invention. Inventors have supplied us with an amazing array of con­veniences and technology in the last hundred years. In no other area of human activity has the process of translating ideas into actuality been so dramatically demonstrated. We have come to associate this process of techno­logical development with progress, and the word "progress" has for us the attraction derived from the association. Meliorists were able to capitalize on this association and claim that they were using the method in a new area. Both Lester Frank Ward and John Dewey talked of "social invention." The pseudo philosophy of prag­matism, with its emphasis upon experimentation, is largely built upon an abstraction from the process of invention. Reformists were going to produce the mar­vels in society that mechanical in­vention had done for technology. Their innovations would consti­tute progress in the social realm just as invention does in the realm of technology. Hence, those who were opposed to the political inno­vation and intervention which re­sulted would be described as anti-progressive and reactionary.

There is a major difference, however, between mechanical in­vention and "social invention."

The mechanic works with things.

He shapes them in such ways that they do his bidding. He becomes master of them. By contrast, the "social inventor" deals with peo­ple. They have hopes, plans, and wills of their own. Otherwise, the analogy with mechanical invention holds. The "social inventor" at­tempts to shape people so that they will do his bidding (though this is supposed to be for their own good). He becomes their master to the extent that he gains political power over them. That is, to the extent that the "social inventor" (or social planner as he has come more commonly to be called) succeeds in his efforts, men lose control of their own af­fairs. The association with what men have thought of as progress is a bogus one, though it does be­come progressively tyrannical.

The Path to Tyranny

The flight from reality has had many facets. Some of them have been described in earlier chapters. My point, however, is that the flight from reality took place in the realm of ideas and was a product of what are called intel­lectuals. Many ideologies have pro­vided grist for the mills of Amer­ican reformers or meliorists, but the central idea is the translation of a vision, a vision of utopia, into actuality by the use of political power. It is a perversion of idealism, an extension of it into unwarranted areas.

For an individual to have an ideal which he wishes to translate into the actuality of himself is healthy on the whole. But for a man to have an ideal for what others should become is likely to make him a nuisance at the best and a tyrant at the worst. When he uses force to make others over, he certainly becomes a tyrant.

The idea of transformed men and society was projected as uto­pia. It was taken up by American thinkers, read into an evolutionary framework, and methods were de­vised for a gradual movement to­ward its fulfillment. The ideologies were subsumed into mythologies which bent those who accepted them toward programs of amelio­ration and reform. These reform­ist ideas were intermingled with religion by the social gospelers and injected into educational the­ory and practice by progressive educationists. They were propa­gated in the media of communica­tion. Earl Browder would have been correct if he had said that most Americans have no conscious socialist ideology; they have, in­stead, a mythology which carries in it an implicit socialist ideology. The method of translating these ideas into actuality is epitomized and concentrated in the presiden­tial four-year plans — the Square Deal, New Freedom, New Deal, Fair Deal, New Frontier, and Great Society. The pen has been linked with the sword in these plans. As was shown above, intel­lectuals provided the ideas. It will be enough now to indicate briefly that Presidents put them into effect.

Most of these Presidents have not frankly avowed their aim to reconstruct society. However, oc­casionally it has come out, as in the following declaration by Wood­row Wilson:

We stand in the presence of a rev­olution, — not a bloody revolution; America is not given to the spilling of blood, — but a silent revolution….

We are upon the eve of a great reconstruction. It calls for creative statesmanship as no age has done since that great age in which we set up the government under which we live, that government which was the admiration of the world until it suf­fered wrongs to grow up under it which have made many of our com­patriots question the freedom of our institutions and preach revolution against them. I do not fear revolu­tion…. Revolution will come in peaceful guise…. Some radical changes we must make in our law and practice. Some reconstructions we must push forward, for which a new age and new circumstances im­pose upon us. But we can do it all in calm and sober fashion, like statesmen and patriots.3

In milder language, Franklin D. Roosevelt made a similar procla­mation:

At the same time we have recog­nized the necessity of reform and re­construction — reform because much of our trouble today and in the past few years has been due to a lack of understanding of the elementary principles of justice and fairness by those in whom leadership in business and finance was placed — reconstruc­tion because new conditions in our economic life as well as old but ne­glected conditions had to be corrected.4

As a general rule, however, Presidents with four-year plans have not emphasized the revolu­tionary character of what they were proposing. On the contrary, they have made as little of the in­novation as possible and have tried to maintain that what they were doing was somehow pro­foundly in keeping with true American tradition and purpose. For example, when Theodore Roosevelt called for out-and-out regulation and supervision of American corporations in 1905, he described the program as in keep­ing with the American past. He said, in part:

This is only in form an innovation. In substance it is merely a restora­tion; for from the earliest time such regulation of industrial activities has been recognized in the action of the law-making bodies; and all that I propose is to meet the changed con­ditions in such a manner as will pre­vent the commonwealth abdicating the power it has always possessed not only in this country but also in Eng­land before and since this country became a separate nation.5

The second Roosevelt was even more masterful in describing his alterations as if they were entirely constructive in character. On one occasion, he likened them to the way an architect can renovate a building, joining the new to the old so felicitously that the whole will retain its integrity. The fol­lowing references were to a reno­vation of the White House that was going on:

If I were to listen to the arguments of some prophets of calamity who are talking these days, I should hesitate to make these alterations. I should fear that while I am away for a few weeks the architects might build some strange new Gothic tower or a factory building or perhaps a replica of the Kremlin or of the Postdam Palace. But I have no such fears. The archi­tects and builders are men of com­mon sense and of artistic American tastes. They know that the principles of harmony and of necessity itself require that the building of the new structure shall blend with the es­sential lines of the old. It is this com­bination of the old and the new that marks orderly peaceful progress, not only in building buildings but in building government itself.6

Emphasis on Gradualism

The above is, of course, the rhetoric of gradualism. It is the beguiling language which has con­cealed the thrust of the sword into virtually every area of Amer­ican life. The sword is an apt symbol for the use of government power. The first penetration of the flesh by a sharp sword will hardly be noticed. It is a mark of the ingenuity of American gradu­alists that they are able to appeal to the fact of the lack of pain caused by their programs at first as an argument for extending them. The argument goes some­thing like this, figuratively: the sword is already in; the first thrust did not hurt much; there can, therefore, be no objection to driving it further in. It is not even much of an innovation to drive the sword deeper once it has been introduced into the body.

Rhetoric aside, however, this is how the application of meliorism has resulted in extending force into more and more of American life. Step by step the control, reg­ulation, and intervention has mounted. It began mildly enough in the early twentieth century. At first, it involved only such things as regulating interstate transportation, a pure food and drug law, a meat inspection act, the establishment of a postal sav­ings system, the interstate trans­portation of females for immoral purposes, and the bringing of telephones and pipelines under government regulation. It pro­ceeded to the passage of a mini­mal graduated income tax, to the setting up of the Federal Reserve System, to the establishment of rules for dealing with railroad la­bor, to the exemption of organized labor from antitrust legislation, and to special rules for the di­rectors of large corporations.

Leaving out of account the war years of World War I, the speed of intervention mounted precipi­tately in the 1930′s. Farm prices were subsidized, crops restricted, the stock exchange regulated, la­bor unions empowered, a govern­ment arbitration board created, the income and inheritance tax raised, minimum wages and maxi­mum hours established, loans to farmers provided, Federal aid for slum clearance authorized, vast relief programs undertaken, and so on.

Since World War II, the pace of intervention has been main­tained. Social security has been extended to ever larger portions of the population, labor unions regulated in new ways, Federal aid to education extended, con­scription extended into peacetime, relief programs of various sorts continued, disaster relief inau­gurated, vast programs of urban renewal started, world-wide em­broilment by foreign aid begun, and so on.

The above only scratches the surface of the total regulation, control, and intervention by gov­ernments in America. There are, in addition to the above, many Federal laws not alluded to, the rules and regulations propounded by boards and commissions, and the fantastic variety of state and local laws, rules, and decrees. To these should be added an increas­ing number of judicial decrees which are given the force of law.

Depending upon the circum­stances and locale, in some in­stances, an American cannot de­cide how much he will plant, how he will build, what interest he will charge, what he will buy, to whom he will sell, whom he will serve, what price he will charge, how much education his children will have, what school they will at­tend, what he shall say (on radio and television), what causes he will support, what size container he shall use, what medication his family shall receive, what busi­ness he will enter (since there are government monopolies in certain enterprises), whom he will hire, whom he will fire, with whom he will negotiate, whether he will go out of or remain in business, whether he will contribute to funds for his old age or not, what kind of records he will keep, what he will pay to those he employs, what books his children will be exposed to, and much more besides. The amount determined by the exer­cise of political power increases and those things left to individual choice decline.

A Fatal Dosage

The sword is now deep in the body. However slowly it has en­tered and however gradual the thrusts, it must eventually reach the vital organs. That this has already occurred and is occurring is indicated by the loss of liberty, the destruction of money by infla­tion, a mounting and unpaid na­tional debt, rising costs, increas­ing relief rolls, inflexibilities and rigidities, and spreading lawless­ness.

It is not illusion alone that sustains the movement toward social­ism, however. Some men may have succumbed to the illusion that the politicalizing of life is desirable. There may be those, even a great number, who believe that the meli­oristic programs of politicians are advanced for altruistic reasons. Some portion of the populace may believe that the meaning of life is to be found in democratic partici­pation. Certainly, there are ideo­logues who are committed to so­cialism and are utterly blind to the consequences of the efforts in that direction. But behind the fa­cade of altruism, beyond the cloud cover of rhetoric, there is a solid reality which sustains even the flight from reality. It is the reality of government favors and the en­ticements of political power and prestige.

Men do not readily succumb to illusion in matters close to them with which they are familiar. They follow their own interests, narrowly or broadly conceived or misconceived. Pen and sword are linked together in a web of self-interest that extends outward from the centers of power in America to embrace almost everyone who has some special prerogative, franchise, benefit, exemption, con­cession, or office derived from gov­ernment. These are too numerous even to summarize here, but they include such diverse favors as welfare checks, government con­tracts, radio and television fran­chises, oil depletion allowances, F. H. A. requirements for escrow balances, loans, subsidies, build­ing projects hoped for, military establishments in the vicinity, and so on through an almost endless array of special privileges.

Almost All Are Involved

Virtually every American has been drawn into the orbit of de­pendency upon government, will­ingly or not, and to a greater or lesser extent. It may be an illu­sion to believe that each of us can benefit from the largess taken from all of us, but it becomes in­creasingly difficult, if not impos­sible, for an individual to calcu­late whether his benefits exceed his costs or not. Since they do not know the answer to this sixty-four (or 104) billion dollar question, men fear to disturb the status quo of benefits.

At the apex of this structure of power and privilege is an elite of politicians, intellectuals, labor leaders, scientists, military men, and assorted leaders of specially privileged minority groups. At the pinnacle is the President and those who enjoy his favor. Here, the benefits are such as would dazzle and tempt a saint. There are the obvious perquisites of office, of course: the black limousines, the jet planes, the helicopters, the Marine band, the medical care at Walter Reed Hospital, the admir­ing crowds, and the fawning as­sistants. Some of these might be found, even if there were no wel­fare state, no movement toward socialism, and no spreading asser­tion of government power.

But the pushers of the pen have provided the wielders of the sword with a rationale and justi­fication of their position that places them above mere mortals. They have set forth an ethos sup­porting the concentration and ex­ercise of power which makes of those who wield it virtual gods. As more and more of American life is politicalized, the stock of the politician rises in direct ratio. As more and more of our actions are politically directed, the im­portance of the politician in­creases. As decisions over their lives are taken from individuals and made political, the politician who makes the decision rises in his own estimation and that of his fellows. As the political mode of doing things — that is, voting, de­bating, legislating, negotiating —is made the ideal for all activity (such procedures being called democratic in the contemporary argot), the man who has politics as his profession can believe that his is the most meaningful of lives.

My point is that meliorist intellectuals have shown politicians the way to enhance their prestige and increase their power. They have led them to believe that they can control the economy, increase purchasing power, rehabilitate cities, rescue farmers, promote learning and the arts, integrate the races, abolish poverty, pro­duce plenty, develop undeveloped nations, remove fear and want, provide medical care, and give se­curity to a whole people. Politi­cians have not been slow to claim the credit for anything desirable that is accomplished. If the "na­tional income" increases, it must surely be the result of political effort. If unemployment decreases, the party in power must have pro­vided the jobs. The following pro­nouncement by President Johnson is typical of such claims:

We have come far in the past few years. Since January 1961 [the date of inauguration of John F. Kennedy, by which we are to understand that what has been done can be credited to the Democrats] our gross national product has risen 22 percent, industrial production is up 25 percent, the unemployment rate is down 24 per­cent, disposable personal income is up 18 percent, wages and salaries are up 19 percent, and corporate profits are up 45 percent.7

Presidents have claimed credit for virtually everything now but the weather, and they are work­ing on controlling that.

There has been an attempt to give the electorate a sense of par­ticipation in the heady experience of exercising power. The instru­ment by which this is supposed to be accomplished is voting. Accord­ing to the lore of our time, when a man votes, he is making the ul­timate decisions, is causing the whole paraphernalia of govern­ment to dance to his tune. What­ever action government takes is his action; whatever good is ac­complished is done by him; what­ever power is exercised is his power. Through the mystique of the ballot box, the mighty are sup­posed to be brought low and made to answer to the will of the voter.

Voting is important; it can be used to hold politicians in check, to control, to some extent, the ex­ercise of power, and to short-cir­cuit the surge to power of govern­ment agents. But voting does not work this way when it becomes an instrument in the gradual move­ment toward socialism. The voter does not increase his power by voting for more government in­tervention; he decreases it. It is an illusion that an increase in gov­ernment power over the lives of the citizenry is an increase of the power of the individual voter. The man who votes for more govern­ment intervention is voting for diminishing his control of his own affairs. It is a sorry swap to trade the very real control which a man may have over his life for the illu­sory control this is supposed to give him over the lives of others. He who does this is exchanging his heritage for a mess of pottage. He exalts the politician and de­bases himself.

A Vested Interest in Promoting Socialism

Politicians have acquired a vested interest in moving the United States toward socialism. Not only does it provide them with prestige and power, but it helps them get elected to office. Politi­cians run for office on the basis of benefits, favors, subsidies, exemp­tions, grants, and so forth which they did or will provide for the electorate. Notice how this impels us toward more and more govern­mental activity, for the man who would continuo to be elected should promise ever greater benefits to his constituency. Most men have long since forgotten how to run for office without buying votes with money to be taken directly from the taxpayers, or indirectly by way of inflation.

There is a sense in which meliorist politicians may be de­scribed as pragmatists, though not in the way we have been led to be­lieve. The workability or success of a plan or undertaking is rela­tive to the goal for which it has been adopted. The stated goal of the various meliorist programs is the improvement of the lot of the people. If this had been the goal of the farm program, for instance, it has not "worked." Instead, farmers have left the farms in ever larger numbers; the marginal farmers were progressively im­poverished and those with large holdings and considerable capital enriched. The generality of the population have paid for this by taxation and higher prices for farm products.

If, however, the objects of the farm program (and other such programs) were socialization and/ or political power, it has worked. More and more of the decisions about the utilization of farm land are politically ("socially") deter­mined, and those who have sup­ported the farm programs have quite often been elected and re­elected to office. The same is true for many other interventionist programs. In short, the programs do "work" in moving America toward socialism and in maintain­ing or increasing the political power of those who advance them. In this sense, they are pragmatic, and those who advocate them are pragmatists.

The Pleasures of Power

Those who provide the justifica­tion for Leviathan have their re­ward, too. A select few are able to move into the circle of the President himself. One intellec­tual who did — Arthur M. Schles­inger, Jr. — has described the re­wards dramatically: "One could not deny a sense of New Frontier autointoxication; one felt it one­self. The pleasures of power, so long untasted, were now being happily devoured — the chauffeur-driven limousines, the special tele­phones, the top secret documents, the personal aides, the meetings in the Cabinet Room, the calls from the President."8

There are other rewards of a more tangible nature. Schlesinger wrote a best-selling book which was an account of the Kennedy days when he was close to the President. It won a Pulitzer prize. Nor did the rewards end with the period of residence in the White House. Since leaving Washington, Schlesinger has "signed a contract for the $100,000 Albert Schweitz­er chair in humanities at City University of New York."9 The rewards are not so great for the generality of intellectuals, of course, but those who support Lev­iathan are more apt to find their talents rewarded than those who do not.

Yet the reality of power and privilege is based on illusion, too. It is an illusion that the wielding of the sword can produce prosper­ity. The actions of Presidents Ken­nedy and Johnson did not really increase the gross national prod­uct by 22 per cent, or industrial production by 25 per cent, or re­duce unemployment by 24 per cent, and so on. They could, of course, have used political power to inflate the currency to the extent that these statistics would be accurate in monetary terms, and that un­employment could have been re­duced because workers formerly priced out of the market could now be afforded. But any solid gains that occurred would have been the result of the efforts of those who actually produced the goods or hired the workers. If this were not true, we could all quit work and let Presidents provide for us by waving the magic wand.

Facing the Consequences

The most profound illusion of all is that men can escape the con­sequences of their acts. Jesus said that "all who take the sword will perish by the sword." There are different levels upon which Scrip­ture should be interpreted, but this one seems to apply, too, to what actually happens in history. From 1865 to the present, four Presidents have been assassinated, and attempts have been made on the lives of others. In the twen­tieth century, Presidents have been placed under heavier and heavier guard. They are now pre­ceded by a host of government agents on their visits anywhere, agents who strive to make sure no dangerous characters shall get a vantage point from which to at­tack the President. There is an obvious explanation for this in­creasing danger of assassination. It is the increasing power of the President. To the extent that the President symbolizes the govern­ment, to the extent that he is responsible for government action, to that same extent does his posi­tion become more perilous for him. In short, the increasing power and prestige of his office exposes him the more to an assassin’s bullet. When he becomes the wielder of the sword, he becomes subject to perishing by the sword.

The nation that takes the sword may be expected to perish by it also. This can occur in numerous ways, or combinations of them. Most obviously, a nation may be defeated by some foreign power. But this is most apt to occur after death has already begun. It may perish by the corruption that at­tends reliance upon the loot brought in by wielding the sword. It may succumb by the route of the runaway inflation which fol­lows prolonged political manipula­tion of the money supply. It may be weakened gradually by the loss of incentive to produce that at­tends the ever larger amounts taken from producers by taxation. It may fall finally as a result of the inflexibilities and rigidities in­troduced by government interven­tion which eventually make it im­possible to adjust to changed con­ditions. Any or all of these, or others unnamed, may cause a na­tion to perish.

Fate of the Intellectuals?

But let us return to the par­ticular once more to exemplify the destination of those on the flight from reality. What of the intel­lectuals who have engineered the journey? What is their fate? What are the ineluctable conse­quences of their act? They have moved the pen into the orbit of the sword; in a sense, they, too, have taken the sword. The pen is only mightier than the sword so long as it is independent of the sword. Once it comes into the orbit of the sword, it comes under its sway. Those who push the pen must serve those who wield the sword. They must become the adjuncts of those who have political power, or give up their influence. It depends upon the circumstances whether they will literally perish or not. For those interested, there is an object lesson in what happened to com­munist intellectuals in the Soviet Union. They either knuckled down to the political power or were si­lenced. What is going on in the United States is much more sub­tle today. More and more research and teaching are becoming depen­dent upon government bounty. Al­ready the path to preferment — to research grants, to positions in great universities, to book publi­cation, and so forth — is virtually closed to those who will not pay their tribute to Caesar in the form of fulsome praise for Leviathan.

The pen is mightier than the sword when it is moved to express truth; it is but an adjunct of the sword when it can only be effec­tively used in praise of the state. Free speech and press may never be forbidden in America, but the time approaches swiftly when there will be no organizations which are independent of govern­ment support and whose leaders will dare to risk the consequences of biting the hand that feeds them by succoring those who dissent from official positions. When this occurs, tyranny may have come, but there will be no effective voices to say it nay. Those who take the sword perish by it


November 1966

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October 2014

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