A Reviewer's Notebook - 1977/1

The Collapse of Democracy

There are so many facets to Robert Moss’s The Collapse of Democracy (Arlington House, $8.95) that one hardly knows where to begin a review. The chapter that follows a brilliant introductory discussion of Walter Lippmann’s idea of the "public philosophy" is Orwellian fantasy in the form of a letter written from the England of 1985. But Mr. Moss did not have to invent much. His vision of 1985 Britain is simply a projection of trends that have become all too oppressively familiar over most of the earth.

What informs Mr. Moss’s extrapolation with such a terrifying authenticity is his detailed knowledge of what happened in Berlin in 1933, in Prague in 1948, in Chile in 1970, and in Portugal just the other day. Outside of Russia , which was a special case, totalitarians of the Right and the Left in the West have always relied on what Garet Garrett used to call a "revolution within the form." The trick is to march on Rome with the permission of the king, or to take power through a legal election and then stage a phony fire that justifies the outlawing of lesser parties, or to wreck the economy by spreading inflation ("the disease of money") as a prerequisite to declaring a crisis that requires suspension of the ordinary rules. Thus we have the "peaceful road" to socialism, which is peaceful only to the extent that it fills the jails without much bloodshed in the streets.

As foreign editor of the London Economist, Mr. Moss has done more than his share of traveling. He also happens to be as thoroughly grounded in the political theory of his own tradition as any stay-at-home don. The British tradition calls for a tacit recognition that there are many things beyond politics. It is not permissible in this tradition to use democracy to destroy democracy. The family must be respected. Fathers and mothers must be allowed to exercise their individual choices in educating their children, in going to church, and in disposing of their property. There must be pluralism in both economic ownership and in political representation.

No Effective Resistance

Well, England has the tradition, but Mr. Moss’s travels have convinced him that other nations, not so well grounded in theory, have had better "objective" conditions to support a resistance to totalitarian takeover. In Britain there is no big counter pressure group that is capable of standing up to the labor unions. France has an agrarian interest and a shopkeeping class that has known how to sidestep inflation(by burying coins) and how to avoid taxes. England was once a nation of shopkeepers, skilled in competition, but, for reasons of a misapplied sense of decency, the English middle class has declined to make labor monopolies illegal. This trust has been badly repaid. Using the threat of strikes, the unions have had their way. Only the strength of the tradition has saved England from becoming an Orwellian socialist dictatorship long before this.

As a warning to his countrymen, Moss goes over the ground of what happened in Weimar Germany (where the inflation set the stage for Hitler), in Prague (where Communists infiltrated the existing democratic institutions), in Chile (where a minority President, Salvador Allende, tried to cheat his way to total power), and in Portugal (where the issue was still in the balance when Moss was writing his book). It took a world convulsion to get rid of Hitler. The Czechs, with Russian tanks always at the ready to move in, are still enslaved. But Mr. Moss takes heart from what happened in Chile , even though he doesn’t like to contemplate an eternity of military authoritarianism anywhere.

A Lesson from Chile

In Chile the socialist President Allende tried to foist Communism on his country by hypocritical means. He "intervened" in businesses by declaring even the middle-sized companies to be monopolies and hence legally liable to State control. He wiped out unemployment by loading industries and banks with unnecessary personnel. He pushed agrarian "reform," but didn’t let a new peasant class have property rights in land. The roaring inflation that resulted from inefficient businesses, lack of food and a necessity to import practically everything needed to sustain life created a revolutionary situation. But the truck-owners (small businessmen), the housewives and the Christian Democratic Party weren’t ready to capitulate. When the courts held Allende had stretched the law beyond recognition, the military decided it had had enough. It moved in, suspended normal politics, and now rules with the tacit consent of a majority.

Break Union Grip

Mr. Moss doesn’t want to see the Chilean experience repeated in England . But the "logic of breakdown" could bring the British to the verge of asking for authoritarian rule. To prevent this, Moss suggests that the union grip on the country must be broken. There should be a new British Bill of Rights to codify the traditional liberties that are now menaced by the tide of socialist legislation. The power of the Commons must be checked by a Supreme Court or a "people’s veto"— say, a referendum on life-or-death issues. (Such a referendum has already been used to put England into the Common Market.) And the right to strike should be made far less absolute than it happens at the moment to be.

Like any normal Englishman, Mr. Moss would prefer to depend on sanity and good will. But he thinks democratic governments are justified in using "the minimal force that is necessary" to combat subversion and terrorism. Political concessions should never be made to terrorists—"the personal background and the ideological claims of a terrorist are secondary to the fact that he is waging a war on society." Mr. Moss believes in tolerance. But he thinks we should limit our tolerance to the expression of opinion. Once a subversive opinion has moved somebody to action, the crackdown should be swift and conclusive.

But the very definite subversion that is practiced by legitimate governments to produce inflation is a real poser. Modern governments have found ways of clipping the coinage without ever calling it in. Mr. Moss confesses that he has "nothing original to contribute on this subject," but maybe originality is not needed. His call to return to the "external discipline of gold" would take the possibilities of subversion out of the politico’s hands.


CONGRESS AND THE NEW INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC ORDER by E.J. Feulner, Jr. (Heritage Foundation: Washington, D.C. 1976) 86 pp. $3.00.

Reviewed by Amy S. Mann

Massive subsidies of capital, technology, expertise, food, finished goods, and even military hardware have been given by the United States and the industrialized nations of Western Europe to the "developing countries," but all over the Third World the signs say "Yankee Go Home."

How did we get saddled with nearly $300 billion of post-war obligations? Have any net benefits accrued to the recipient nations as a result of so many years of foreign aid programs? Are such programs likely to benefit those nations in the future?

This monograph deals admirably with these and other questions. Mr. Feulner is a senior staff assistant in the U.S. House of Representatives. Formerly on the staff of the Secretary of Defense, he has done research at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and the Center for Strategic and International Studies at Georgetown University .

Foreign aid has been with us since the post-World War II Marshall Plan. About a dozen years ago the aid program escalated into the concept of a plan to redistribute the world’s wealth and thus close the gap between the developed and the underdeveloped countries.

The crucial years seem to have been 1974 and 1975, when the foundation for the New International Economic Order (NIEO) was laid at the Sixth and Seventh Special Sessions of the United Nations. NIEO, it should be noted, is not one coherent program, but rather a number of diverse proposals presented at different meetings, ostensibly designed to aid the less-developed countries (LDC’s).

One such program is the Charter of Economic Rights and Duties (CERDS). Adopted without debate at the Sixth Special Session, this charter gives LDC’s the "right" to nationalize foreign-owned property and to make restitution, if any, according to their own laws.

Mr. Feulner offers an expert analysis of the problems involved, and also cites the definitive studies of Professor Peter T. Bauer of the London School of Economics. Bauer deftly demolishes the "exploitation" theory. Several conclusions emerge:

1.    One nation’s wealth is not gained at the expense of another. he first beneficiaries of multinational corporations are the host countries (LDC’s) themselves.

2.    The LDC’s which have made the greatest economic progress to ate are those which have welcomed rid encouraged private capital investment (e.g., Taiwan, Brazil, Singapore, the Ivory Coast ).

3.    Transfer of wealth from governments of developed nations to those of the LDC’s is not likely to reduce poverty or promote economic development. Aid programs may, a the contrary, discourage local inmtive and productivity. Subsidies may be used by ruling elites to enhance their political position, maintain their high standards of living, and entrench them in power.

4.    In the long run, capital investment and productivity are necessary for the advancement of any nation. The proof, once again, is seen in the success of those few Third World countries which have relied primarily on private enterprise. "The proponents of NIEO," concludes Feulner, "tend to see themselves as arguing for human dignity when they demand ‘equality . . . . Really, what is being demanded is unequal preferential treatment toward the LDC’s so as redistribute wealth international . . . Were the LDC’s actually demanding equal rights and treatment, they would insist on the removal of trade barriers and the operation of unrestricted international markets, and the elimination of international cartels."

Is it not time for a change of policy toward the Third World? Mr. Feulner provides a convincing answer in the affirmative.


4 THE ANTICOMMUNIST BLACKOUT IN AMERICA , by Dr. Clarence B. Carson (New Rochelle, New York 10801: America’s Future, 1976) 23 pp., 25c.

Reviewed by Bettina Bien Greaves

In this exceptional pamphlet, Dr. Carson reports and interprets many events important for a clear understanding of Communism.

In almost 60 years since the Communists gained power in Russia, they have pressed every advantage, used every opportunity to gain their dreadful goals. Many countries have been forced under their sway. Others have come into their sphere of influence by default. But even more important for our situation is their success in the field of ideas. Anti-communism has been effectively discredited in the popular view. Ideological communists exert inordinate influence over practically all our means of communication and education and over the major political parties. All this in spite of the documented record of Communism as a system of force, violence, cruelty and destruction. And all this also in spite of the fact that the idea of freedom which it displaces is far superior in every way.

Dr. Carson says little about why the communist ideology has gained such an upper hand. To venture an explanation, I would say that the emotional appeal of freedom, the generous nature of people who want to help the less fortunate, and the increasing tolerance for the views of others have undoubtedly played a role. The fact that many persons are motivated in part by personal feelings of envy, guilt and the desire for "something for nothing" at the expense of others who are richer has also helped. Yet the overriding reason must be the widespread lack of a firm understanding of basic economic principles, of the importance of private property, and of the advantages of peaceful, social cooperation. But whatever the reason, the fact remains that ma people are now vulnerable to Communist propaganda. And as D Carson’s vivid account reminds us Communist propaganda is just that: pure propaganda, complete unrelated to truth.

I would quibble a bit over Carson’s use of the word "liberal. Why refer, without quotation marks, to modern, socialist-communist minded thinkers as "liberals"? I do not want to relinquish without a fight such a suitable word for describing those who speak out for free markets, private property and individual rights.

However, Dr. Carson’s pamphlet is excellent on the whole. He spotlights many events we are apt to forget or ignore and he explains their significance for present trends. He furnishes substantial in sight into the way Communist have gained such a stranglehold o the thinking of so many people and he writes well. This pamphlet is well worth reading yourself and recommending to friends. 

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