A Reviewer's Notebook - 1967/3

Governmental Grievance Procedures

When Bertrand Russell was a younger and more philosophical philosopher than he has since be­come, he asked a Chinese peasant woman why she was so careful to avoid state officials. The wom­an’s answer was that "govern­ment is more terrible than tigers."

We still can’t believe that gov­ernment might become tigerish in America, where the Madisonian tradition of checks and balances lives on. And so, while govern­mental behemoths take on more and more responsibilities for the young, the sick, the aged, the slum dwellers, the farmers, the unemployed, the inhabitants of depressed areas, et cetera, et cetera, men hopefully rack their brains in the effort to make all the new interferences bearable by adapting the check-and-balance system to new situations. The idea of "review boards" spreads; a Nassau County executive on Long Island in New York State (Eugene Nickerson) appoints an Ombudsman (the word is Swed­ish) to investigate citizens’ com­plaints against public officials; and committees of Congress keep up a steady running fire of in­vestigations. And still the criti­cism swells; government, if not more terrible than tigers, seems to provoke an adversary for every advocate.

To document the situation, Pro­fessor Walter Gellhorn of the Columbia Law School has written a small book called When Ameri­cans Complain: Governmental Grievance Procedures (Harvard, $3.95). My trouble with reading the book is that I kept bristling all through its 232 pages at the author’s assumption that the march of government to a million­ and-one social service goals can­not be halted.

"Organized power," says Gell­horn, "makes the wheels of life go round, makes modernity feas­ible. Restraint and coercion can destroy citizens’ freedoms, but can also enlarge them — as they do when government acts affirma­tively to protect physical well-be­ing, to maintain social services that diminish life’s pains and pressures, to ensure against the devastations of unemployment, ill­ness, and old age, to provide ed­ucational facilities and cultural amenities."

The entirely valid complaint that, when a government tries to become "affirmative" about prac­tically everything, it must end by provoking a universal destruction of values (with the currency be­ing one of the important things to go), is not the sort of griev­ance that Professor Gellhorn has in mind. He assumes that we must have an ever-increasing tribe of public servants, and that voluntary organizations aren’t capable of supplying enough hos­pitals, or art centers, or medical insurance, to take care of our needs. But it is probably churlish to mention the matter of Profes­sor Gellhorn’s basic political phi­losophy, for it amounts to criti­cizing him for not having written an entirely different book.

For the Sake of Argument

Granting for the sake of argu­ment the assumption that "mo­dernity" is only "feasible" with a vast multiplication of govern­ment-directed energy, Professor Gellhorn makes out a good case for developing "external" critics of public administration. When citizens complain, the complaints all too often wind up on the desks of those who are being complained against. Legislatures try to de­fine the exact scope of adminis­trative agencies, but it is impos­sible to detail in advance the ap­plication of law. Moreover, by fol­lowing the absolute letter of the law, an obnoxious public servant can sometimes defeat the inten­tion of it. Complaints can get lost in a run-around, and appeals outside the system to the courts can take forever and cost entirely too much.

Since it is impossible to get administrators to give adequate satisfaction in meeting criticisms of malfeasance and misfeasance in their own agencies, the Amer­ican people have tended to treat their legislative representatives as their defenders against bureau­cratic wrong-doing. Professor Gellhorn says that it is a good guess that well over 200,000 com­plaints about administration reach Congressional offices in the course of a year. Since congressmen are convinced that the way to win elections is to handle grievances themselves, they and their staffs get involved in never-ending case­work. Very often the complaining citizen establishes his point. But tiny victories rarely lead to ge­neric improvement over a broad front. The patterns of adminis­trative policies or behavior do not change. Constituents’ cases are disposed of episodically in individual congressmen’s offices and, since neither the Congress as a whole nor its standing com­mittees are aware of what has happened, nothing is done to keep it from happening all over again with different principals being in­volved.

A "Citizen’s Protector"

Professor Gellhorn is enamored of the Scandinavian concept of the Ombudsman. In Sweden, Nor­way, Denmark, Finland, and New Zealand, the idea of a "citizen’s protector" has taken firm root. It is even being tried in Japan and in the Soviet Union. But no single "citizen’s protector" could pos­sibly take 200,000 cases off the hands of 536 congressmen.

Admitting the difficulties which derive from the size and com­plexity of the United States, Pro­fessor Gellhorn sees great merit in the national adaptation of the ombudsman system that has been proposed by Representative Henry S. Reuss of Wisconsin. What Reuss suggests is that an "Administra­tive Counsel of the Congress" be appointed by the Speaker of the House and the President pro tem­pore of the Senate to review citi­zens’ complaint cases. The Ad­ministrative Counsel would un­dertake reviews only when mem­bers of Congress requested them. And the outcome of each case would be reported to the consti­tuent by the congressman him­self. Thus Senators and Represen­tatives would continue to get credit for casework. But the work­load on Congressional offices would be reduced, and there would be a better overall focus on defects in statutes or administrative meth­ods that generated the complaints in the first place.

Police Review Board

In U. S. county and municipal areas the idea of single ombuds­men, or citizens’ protectors, might be counted on to succeed. But an ombudsman must be impartial as between complainants and city or county officials. When New York City made a partial gesture to­wards accepting the ombudsman idea by setting up a civilian police review board, the police felt they were being singled out among public servants for discrimination. Gossip soon had it that they were dragging their heels. The taxi drivers began saying that police in Harlem or in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn tended to look the other way when help was needed to deal with unruly cab fares. The police, so the taximen insisted, wanted to stay out of trouble lest the citizens’ re­view board might second-guess them.

Professor Gellhorn steps rather gingerly around the subject of the citizens’ review board as it is limited to the performance of single bureaus. But it would seem obvious that if New York City had had an Ombudsman to listen to any and all complaints about any office or department from that of the Mayor on down, the police would have accepted surveillance from him without murmur. And the taxicab drivers might have gone to the Ombudsman instead of cynically talking to themselves. Professor Gellhorn’s prose suf­fers from the constant staccato interruption of innumerable and frequently turgid footnotes. Of course, the reader is free to skip them, but some of them are essen­tial to the unfolding of the argu­ment. The book would have been a better artistic unit if the neces­sary material had been incorpo­rated into the text and the rest segregated in an appendix.


CAPITALISM: THE UNKNOWN IDEAL by Ayn Rand with Alan Greenspan, economist; Nathaniel Branden, psychologist; and Robert Hessen, economic historian. (New York; New American Library, 1966, 309 pp., $6.50)

Reviewed by Elizabeth Gillett

In her novels as well as in two re­cent nonfiction books, Miss Rand has slashed through many cher­ished clichés with radical new ideas. Here, she and her fellow authors focus on the phenomenon that be­sets both antagonists and support­ers of capitalism, including busi­nessmen: the fact that almost no one understands it. This book dev­astates the anticapitalists and forcefully expands the arsenal of pro-free-enterprisers by consis­tent, sophisticated deployment of novel idea weapons — especially the concept of laissez-faire.

Many of capitalism’s professed defenders have partly or fully swallowed the smear spread by its avowed enemies: that capitalism absolutely requires governmental regulation to assure any measure of justice to all concerned—and the more controls the better.

Miss Rand and company show what a perversion of basic facts this widely held estimate is. They argue further that only laissez-faire capitalism, with state and economics totally separated, can naturally assure the greatest pos­sible justice by providing an ob­jective standard in a free market, determined by the voluntary choices of participants from among goods and services pro­duced for profit to meet people’s needs and desires. Force and fraud do get punished — when they oc­cur; they are not paranoically an­ticipated by imposed regulations. The book covers many crucial economic and governmental insti­tutions, myths, and labels. Among these, in that order, are: antitrust laws, regulatory agencies, foreign aid, patents and copyrights, and the gold standard; the alleged in­evitability of monopolies and de­pressions and the presumed accom­plishments of labor unions and public schools; "self-determina­tion," "extremism," "consensus," and "conservatism."

Especially memorable, besides "The Nature of Government" and "The Roots of War," both of which appeared in THE FREEMAN, is Miss Rand’s "Notes on the History of American Free Enterprise." In it she argues that the villains of transcontinental railroads were power-hungry legislators and their greedy parasites, not independent entrepreneurs. The old leftist bro­mide about how cruelly women and children were exploited under early capitalism is exploded in an essay by Robert Hessen.

The two final essays make an impressive climax. Miss Rand’s "The Cashing In: The Student Re­bellion" identifies the Berkeley riots, point by point, as a cultural abscess fed by several fallacious trends calculated to distort or dis­credit free enterprise. Nathaniel Branden’s piece on "Alienation" brilliantly traces the psychological premises that must operate in a collectivist’s mind.

At the core of the book’s theme rest the Objectivist views of man and morality. Among their revolu­tionary aspects are: reason as an absolute, an objective standard of value, and the rejection of altru­ism for rational self-interest.

The book also offers a precise index of topics, individuals, and publications, and a "Recommended Bibliography" of many works that contain relevant material.

Readers may or may not agree with all the book’s basic premises. Yet anyone who believes he favors capitalism owes himself the ex­perience of becoming acquainted with the unique arguments pre­sented in Capitalism: The Un­known Ideal. Whether or not he accepts them all, he will come away better armed than ever before.


THE CHRISTIAN ALTERNA­TIVE TO SOCIALISM by Irving E. Howard (Arlington, Virginia: Better Books, 1966. 153 pp., $2.50)

Reviewed by Norman S. Ream

There are two separate but related arguments supporting a free enterprise, limited govern­ment economic system. One is the pragmatic argument; the other the moral argument. Both arrive at the same conclusion. Consider­ing the ends which the majority of men have considered most wor­thy, capitalism is always in the long run more effective than so­cialism.

The present volume by the well-qualified assistant editor of Chris­tian Economics presents the moral argument from a strictly Chris­tian point of view. "It is not by accident that communism assumes an atheistic view of the universe and a materialistic view of man. It is no accident that the Ameri­can system grew out of a strong faith in God and a spiritual view of the nature of man."

Christianity insists on certain basic moral principles. Each indi­vidual is of supreme worth. Every normal man has and ought to have freedom of the will. Every man has a responsibility to help his less fortunate neighbor. The use of force and violence by one man against another is immoral. Steal­ing is wrong.

Irving Howard documents the socialist’s denial of each of these moral principles. In reality, the socialist scorns the common man and talks only about "lower class­es." He denies that man, using his free will, can make wise de­cisions, and therefore the socialist planners must make decisions for him. If men will not do voluntarily what the planners think wise, then they must be forced to do so even though this means the plunder of private property in the form of taxes and the coerced redistribu­tion of wealth. Socialism thus be­comes the complete antithesis of Christianity.

The author defends the idea of "Christian economics" by insist­ing that what one believes deter­mines how he acts, and only the fundamental principles of Chris­tianity can give an adequate moral foundation to capitalism, while they invalidate the fundamental principles of socialism. Such fac­tors as land, labor, money, and government are all discussed from this basic point of view.

Running through the whole book is a strong passion for freedom coupled with a strongly orthodox religious philosophy. "Freedom is not primarily a political concern, it is a religious one. Freedom is a quality of life that has its roots in the worship of God, a worship which produces a man with a high sense of moral responsibility, who does not need external restraints and who will, therefore, make a society in which external re­straints are reduced to a minimum and freedom enlarged to a maxi­mum."


OUR WESTERN HERITAGE and THE SCRIPTURAL STAND­ARD IN ECONOMICS AND GOVERNMENT. Both by Edward P. Coleson, Ph.D. (Privately printed and available from the author, Spring Arbor College, Spring Ar­bor, Michigan, 49283. $1.25 each, postpaid)

Reviewed by George Charles Roche III

As a college teacher of history and philosophy, this reviewer re­peatedly found himself confronted with a problem which many teach­ers of "Western Civilization" courses have faced: most of the in­troductory texts and readings available for undergraduate survey courses in the heritage of Western Man fail to present a complete and meaningful picture of their sub­ject. The Judeo-Christian roots of our past, founded upon faith in God, belief in an objective stand­ard of right and wrong, and an af­firmation of the dignity of the in­dividual, often are submerged in a sea of "modern" cultural relativ­ism, behaviorism, moral subjectiv­ism, and the rest of the ideology which dominates the textbooks of our superscientistic age.

Professor Coleson’s books are en­couragingly different. Clearly and simply written, well-documented, and containing a helpful list of suggested readings, these paper­back volumes offer, within the com­pass of approximately 200 pages each, a straightforward and sound introduction to many aspects of the religious, historic, and moral heri­tage of Western Man. Throughout, the author relates that heritage to the problems we face today and lays a foundation for the reader to do some fundamental thinking of his own in contemporary economic, political, and ethical questions.

Either or both books would make a genuine addition to many courses in introductory "social science" on the college level. They would be es­pecially valuable as supplementary readings for courses already estab­lished, but would also make good reading for anyone interested in the restoration of the values of Western Civilization.



The Greatest Evil

I like bats much better than bureaucrats. I live in the Mana­gerial Age, in a world of "Admin." The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid "dens of crime" that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the offices of a thoroughly nasty business concern.

C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters 

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