All Commentary
Wednesday, February 1, 1961

A Reviewer’s Notebook – 1961/2


If We Were In Russia‘s Shoes?

We need more education, yes. But do we need more of the type we have been getting?

Here we have very learned people—for example, Professor Alvin H. Hansen of Harvard, au­thor of Economic Issues of the 1960′s (McGraw-Hill, $7.50)—scaring readers by telling them that if present comparative growth rates continue, the Soviets “would catch up with us by 1980.” While admitting that the present Soviet rate of growth is statisti­cally impressive because it starts from a low base, the Harvard pro­fessor says it would be a “mistake to become too easily convinced that the spread between their rate of growth and ours will completely disappear, automatically, in a suf­ficiently short time span to ensure the maintenance of American eco­nomic superiority.”

The answer to this sort of thing is to be found, not in statistical economics of the currently prevailing type, but in the sort of sturdy common sense that is to be found in Jameson G. Campaigne’s Amer­ican Might and Soviet Myth (Regnery, $3.95). Where Profes­sor Hansen subscribes to the neu­tralist economic theory that the input-output equation can be suc­cessfully solved by any type of political and economic system, Mr. Campaigne knows that when input is largely a matter for govern­ment decision, the efforts of people deteriorate over the long pull. He is first of all a moralist, not an economist. And because he is pri­marily a moralist, he is a sounder judge of the conditions making for progress in such purely economic categories as efficiency, statistical growth, and the output that is the other face of efficient input.

It is Mr. Campaigne’s conten­tion that character will decide the Cold War. What Americans must worry about, he says, is their own self-respect. He wants them to stop “huddling,” to cease the end­less search for propitiation. Amer­icans have nothing to worry about in Soviet might; what they do have to worry about is their own unwillingness to face whatever strength the Russians may have.

Mr. Campaigne doubts that the Soviets are an economic menace for reasons which he expresses both quantitatively and qualita­tively. Instead of taking Soviet statistics at face value, he relies on the evidence of travelers whom he trusts. He draws heavily on the conclusions of Professor G. Warren Nutter of the University of Virginia, who made an exten­sive visit to Russia in 1956. Be­hind the statistics Nutter looked for the qualitative reality. There was one plant manufacturing cur­tains with European machinery dating from 1886. Industry, in general, was “between fifteen and seventy years behind the United States.” In place of wheelbarrows, the Russians used sledges and two-man litters. Brooms were still made of twigs. The Zis automobile was a copy of the 1939 Packard; the Zim, of the 1939 Buick; the Zil, a Cadillac-based model of 1940. Work forces used shovels where Americans used bulldozers; bricklaying hadn’t changed in fifty years. As for Soviet housing, Professor Nutter said: “Picture the slums of any major Americancity and magnify them to occupy nine-tenths of the city. That is the nature of Soviet housing.”

Hard-Earned Subsistence

It may be argued that it is the percentage of effort that the Rus­sians devote to the production of such things as submarines, tanks, and missiles, not to houses, that is the worrisome thing. But it takes manpower both to build and serv­ice the missiles and to fight a war, and Mr. Campaigne finds it impos­sible to be scared by a nation which locks up fifty-two per cent of its population in farm labor in order that everybody, the army in­cluded, may be fed. According to the U. S. Department of Agricul­ture’s World Food Survey, the 1958 estimated food production per capita in the Soviet Union was eight per cent lower than their pre-World War II average. In 1959 Khrushchev himself complained that Soviet collectivized agricul­ture was using “more than seven times as much labor to produce grain as the United States, over five times more labor to grow pota­toes, over six times as much to grow beets, over fourteen times as much to raise cattle, over sixteen times as much to raise pigs.” Then there is the job of moving the food from here to there—say, to ad­vanced military bases in Poland, Czechoslovakia, or Korea in case of war. Russia is “sixty-nine years be­hind” the West in the production of freight cars. As for storing the food, “in canned food they are forty-five years behind.”

Regardless of current compara­tive indices of growth (and if you own a single shirt it is easy to in­crease your clothing affluence 100 per cent by merely acquiring an­other one), Mr. Campaigne thinks it will be many a long moon before the Russians, under communist organization of production, will come within striking distance of matching the economic growth of the West. A clumsily-built Rus­sian radio set costs 1,500 rubles—or more than a month’s salary for most workers. A bad pair of Rus­sian men’s shoes costs 350 rubles. In the satellite countries (which the Soviets must carry along) things are bad, too. In Poland it takes twenty minutes to earn a pound of bread as compared to ten minutes in 1938. In Hungary it takes two hundred hours of work to buy a new suit (the compara­tive figure for the U. S. is thirty hours).

Through the Looking Glass

All of this affects the Russian military situation. Imagine, says Mr. Campaigne, if the tables were turned around and we were in the Soviet position. We would be faced with more than 2,000 modern

Soviet planes, all better than our own and stationed at two hundred and fifty bases in Mexico and the Caribbean. There would be over­whelming Soviet naval power close to our coasts. Half of our own population of 180,000,000—or 90,000,000—would be hard at work on our farms to keep us all fed. We might be making boasts about our missiles, but the Rus­sians would have a missile system deployed, say, in Guatemala and Trinidad, and ready at a word to demolish Dallas, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Miami. Furthermore, submarines off the New Jersey coasts would be carrying the Polaris missile, which would have the range to hit Pittsburgh, Chi­cago, and St. Louis.

If we were faced with such a situation we might have reason to doubt our capacity to win any kind of war, hot or cold. But it is Khrushchev who is in that posi­tion, not the U.S. Say what you will about Khrushchev, he has the character—or should we say the effrontery—to push the Cold War against us in spite of the obvious weakness of his hand.

Mr. Campaigne thinks we might dissolve some of Khrushchev’s ef­frontery if we would stop trying to buy love through government­to-government waste. We don’t win elections in Laos, for example, by financing a capital flight from that country. (When cash grants are combined with a laxity in im­port controls, the country getting the cash does not necessarily use it for local capital investment.) We don’t help build sound econ­omies by giving socialist and semi-socialist governments money to spend on grandiose five-year plans when local farmers need individual instruction in methods which will expand food production.

A Voluntary Program of Foreign Aid

Lest he be thought of as an isolationist Scrooge from the American Midwest (where he edits the Indianapolis Star), Mr. Cam­paigne advocates a foreign pro­gram of his own. He notes that an American physician, Dr. Tom Dooley, is busy fighting disease in Laos and Thailand. Another American, Paul Rusch, who spent the war in a concentration camp in Japan, now turns the other cheek by showing the Japanese how to raise dairy and beef cattle on the “bitter hills” that used to be wasted land. Dr. Dooley and Paul Rusch are volunteers; they do not depend on government-to­government programs. And be­cause they are volunteers, they “develop” solutions instead of “im­posing” them. Mr. Campaigne notes that wherever there is a Dr. Dooley or a Rusch, a “new idea “comes in to “grow by its own vitality on native soil.” This does not happen under the “arrogant parody” of our official “foreign aid” programs.

Mr. Campaigne does not like the United Nations because such an organization makes for “faceless” nations. In ordinary life, decisions are not made by collectivities but by individuals in the inner re­cesses of their own minds and souls. In international political life, so Mr. Campaigne argues by extension, a nation must also fol­low its own conscience. It was in a “lonely hour” that the U. S., through its executive, made the decision to send troops to Lebanon. “The decision to withdraw the troops similarly was made by the United States alone.”

Mr. Campaigne’s book is offered to the American people at an ap­propriate hour. In Washington, there has been a change in the guard. That the new guard itself, left to its preferences, would choose to act on Mr. Campaigne’s principles is unlikely. But politi­cians no longer follow past election returns; they follow the latest thing in public opinion polls. Mr. Campaigne may still make himself felt, for he represents a growing feeling that there is no health in being a patsy when the other fel­low’s cards are certainly no better than one’s own.

4

Employment Opportuni­ties In Later Years By James R. Morris.

Burlingame, Cali­fornia: Foundation for Voluntary Welfare. 125 pp. $2.50.

Reviewed by Paul L. Poirot

The poor we have with us always; and some of us are old enough to remember when it was perfectly proper, if not indeed something of a moral obligation, for the indi­vidual of good will to lend comfort and assistance to anyone less for­tunate than himself. Likewise, the aging we have with us always; and some of us can recall when it was possible to grow old without neces­sarily or automatically becoming a statistic of a major national problem—the problem of the ag­ing.

About 1935, however, the notion became official in America that the welfare of the poor and the aging was a governmental rather than a personal or voluntary responsibil­ity. This marked the beginning here of Social Security and other Welfare State programs. At about the same time—earlier, in a few cases—business firms began de­vising pension plans and other pa­ternalistic practices to help relieve older employees of the personal re­sponsibility of looking after them­selves in later years.

Each of these developments was modest at first. Social Security taxes were low. Businesses found it easy enough to start funding their pension programs and pay­ing other minor fringe benefits. But, then, costs began to rise as more persons became eligible to collect the promised benefits. And almost before anyone realized it, the time had come to inquire about a prospective employee’s age and calculate the cost of caring for him in his later years before de­ciding to hire him or not.

After a generation of Social Se­curity and the Welfare State, it begins to appear that the compul­sory welfare activities of govern­ment are creating more problems for us than they were supposed to have solved. Many persons now know by experience what James R. Morris, Senior Economist with the American Enterprise Associa­tion, abundantly documents in his study of Employment Opportuni­ties in Later Years: that it is be­coming increasingly difficult for older women and men to find em­ployment and look after them­selves, and increasingly burden­some upon taxpayers to sustain this foolish waste of productive resources, not to mention the de­moralizing and stultifying effect upon the real victims—the aging persons themselves.

The recent activation of a Foun­dation for Voluntary Welfare, which sponsored Dr. Morris’ study, is a telling commentary on the idea that personal responsibil­ities can be turned over to govern­ment and then forgotten. It is high time to re-examine in Amer­ica and reactivate the glorious po­tentialities of self-help and volun­tary welfare.

You Can Trust The Com­munists By Dr. Fred Schwarz.

Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 187 pp. $2.95.

Reviewed by Bettina Bien

You can trust the Communists! You bet you can, says Dr. Fred Schwarz, to lie, to cheat, to fight, to do whatever may serve their ends. The title of his book is a shocker. But Dr. Schwarz planned it that way.

The study of communism and its techniques has been practi­cally a full-time activity for Aus­tralian born Fred Schwarz. As a student in the 1930′s at the Uni­versity of Queensland, he argued with Communists on the philo­sophical conflict between God and materialism. Since then, as a med­ical doctor, psychiatrist, lay preacher, speaker, and lecturer, and now as Executive Director of the Christian Anticommunist Cru­sade, his studies of Marxian doc­trine and religious philosophy have led him ever more firmly to the conviction that the war with communism is ideological. Those who try to fight it with guns and dollars must inevitably lose, for the appeal of communism lies in the field of ideas and ideals.

Dr. Schwarz cites specific com­munist tricks for getting ideas across, for securing respectable backers for “front organizations,” for gaining power in labor unions, and for brainwashing to extract “confessions.” He shows that com­munism appeals to intellectuals because it presumes to be a con­sistent application of an ideal, but this, too, is a “trick” for Commu­nists “can be trusted” not to let consistency to an ideal deter them from seeking their goal of world power.

Dr. Schwarz’ description of a college football game as seen by an Australian (page 124) has rolled many of his American audiences in the aisles. But this story makes an important point: that a careful observer who lacks understanding may completely misinterpret what he has seen. Thus he dramatizes the fact that eye-witness reports of Russian marvels may give com­pletely erroneous impressions. Yet Dr. Schwarz failed to realize that this same danger might lurk in at­tempts to describe market phe­nomena without adequate under­standing of economic principles. To be comprehensible, capitalism, like football, must be correctly interpreted. Fortunately, the few pages on economics are relatively unimportant for the thesis of the book as written, but they might better have been omitted.

Probably the most important part of Dr. Schwarz’ book is his plan for action. He sees little that big governments or huge organi­zations can accomplish in the war against communism. This is a war of ideas which must be waged by individuals singly and in small groups:

“When faced with this chal­lenge, the average person raises the objection that the power of the individual is very limited. From one point of view, that is true; but from another point of view, what can be accomplished by individuals is unbelievable. Most of my time is spent trying to inform people and to arouse them to the Com­munist threat. However, even if I were to speak to a thousand peo­ple every night and could convince the thousand, it would take me five hundred years to speak to everybody now living in the United States, and I would go behind at the rate of two and a half million a year due to the continuing popu­lation increase. If, on the other hand, I were to speak to one per­son a week and could convince, in­form, and instruct that person, and if we each convinced, in­formed and instructed another per­son the following week, and the four of us each enlisted another the following week, by this process everyone in the world could be reached in less than twelve months.

“The power of individuals is limitless. The time has come for people to cease looking for great organizations afar off, and to be­gin looking for things that can be done close at home. Every man who invites a friend into his home, gives him literature to read, and informs him of the danger, is help­ing to thwart the Communist pro­gram. The powers of multiplica­tion are limitless….The success of this book can be measured by the number of readers whose at­tention has been redirected from the responsibility of others to their own responsibility; who are asking the question, ‘What can I do?’”

Dr. Schwarz has written an im­portant message which boils down eventually to this: The war against communism is one of ideas and of spiritual philosophy, a war that governments are ill-equipped to fight. We should avoid “the temptation to try to form a totalitarian organization modelled on communism…. Organizational unity is a mirage. The great need is multiplicity, not unity. The unity of a free society resides in its diversity.”

In this era of government propaganda and “freedom” academy proposals, it is well to be re­minded of this again, again, and again.


  • John Chamberlain (1903-1995) was an American journalist, business and economic historian, and author of number of works including The Roots of Capitalism (1959). Chamberlain also served as a founding editor of The Freeman magazine.