Freeman

ARTICLE

Two Experiences

DECEMBER 01, 1973 by HERBERT V. PROCHNOW

Dr. Prochnow of Evanston, Illinois, is a former professor, government official, and banker and is well known as an author and lecturer on political and economic affairs.

On the top of a great hill, the Acropolis, in the center of Athens, there stand the proud columns of the ruins of the Parthenon, one of the most magnificent and inspiring architectural works man has ever created. Late one afternoon, Mrs. Prochnow and I were climbing those long stone and gravel steps that lead up to the Parthenon, in order to see the golden rays of the setting sun fall on those majestic ruins.

A large unit of the American fleet was in Greek and Turkish waters. Two American marines on shore leave were walking with us, and as we climbed the stairs one marine said to the other, “I suppose the day will come when others will walk up the stone steps to the ruins of the White House, and they will say as they look at the ruins, ‘This was a great civilization before it fell.’

On another occasion, we went by automobile the short distance from Beirut to the little city of Byblos. This city is one of the oldest in the world. There the ruins of many early civilizations are now exposed by the excavations of the archeologists. One can stand and look down through seven thousand years of history. One civilization was built on top of the ruins of the last. The floor of a home of one civilization may be seen only a foot above the floor of a home in a preceding civilization. There one sees the Stone Age, the civilizations of the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Greeks, Arabs, Romans, Crusaders and Turks. One after another, through seven thousand years, great empires and great nations rose and then fell from power. It is a sobering thought.

Through the centuries great em­pires have risen and fallen — Spain and Portugal in the Western Hemisphere; the Netherlands in the Far East; France in Indo-China. In this generation we have witnessed the decline in power of the British empire, upon which it was said, with understandable pride, that the sun had never set.

Now another power — the United States — is striding majestically across the horizon of world affairs. Its armies, its planes, its ships, its money, its merchandise, and its in­dustrial genius are moving to the remote parts of the world. In a world where two-thirds of the peo­ple earn less than one hundred dollars a year we are far richer than any nation in history has ever been. The call of economic comfort is loud. Leisure becomes more attractive than labor. Spend­ing becomes more alluring than saving. Lest we forget: every great nation which has risen to power has declined. Confronted with the challenge today of major world problems, we must remain strong, and we must hold fast in our minds and hearts to those great ideals and eternal values up­on which our freedom and even survival may ultimately rest.

 

***

The Crisis of Social Security

It has been well said that, while we used to suffer from social evils, we now suffer from the remedies for them. The difference is that, while in former times the social evils were gradually disappearing with the growth of wealth, the remedies we have introduced are beginning to threaten the continuance of that growth of wealth on which all future improvement depends. . . . Though we may have speeded up a little the conquest of want, disease, ignorance, squalor, and idleness, we may in the future do worse even in that struggle when the chief dangers will come from inflation, paralyzing taxation, coercive labor unions, an ever increasing dominance of government in education, and a social service bureaucracy with far-reaching arbitrary powers — dangers from which the individual cannot escape by his own efforts and which the momentum of the overextended machinery of government is likely to increase rather than mitigate.

F.A. HAYEK, The Constitution of Liberty 

ASSOCIATED ISSUE

December 1973

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