Harry L. Smith is a businessman in
There is considerable confusion today as between democratic institutions and democratic ideals. Democratic institutions such as the judicial, legislative, and administrative branches of the government, the constitution, parliamentary procedures, and the voting system are devices to guarantee individual liberty. They are a modus operandi and their only justification is their performance in defending freedom.
Today, however, these institutions are becoming more sacrosanct than the ideals they were supposed to defend. The Western world seems to prefer a constitutional government to other forms, even though it destroys democratic ideals. Consequently, dictators who have usurped power by devious means try desperately to have themselves "elected," and often maintain a captive congress or distort a constitution to suit their ends.
According to the basic democratic ideal, individuals should be free to determine their own destiny. This concept presumes that all men are basically human and with few exceptions can be trusted to live harmoniously and take care of their own needs.
The original democratic philosophers recognized that two small groups could not be so trusted:
(1) After many centuries of experience it had been shown that men could not be trusted to handle vast political power. Therefore, checks and balances were devised to effect limited government. Democratic institutions were to be highly decentralized through state, county, and township authority, and thus political power could be spread thinly throughout the land.
(2) The other group comprised the few who proved themselves incapable of assuming the responsibilities of life and could not take care of themselves because of mental or physical deficiencies. Such cases would be restrained or helped through family responsibility or by the community.
But it was presumed that the vast majority of families were composed of responsible, self-reliant individuals capable of originating and controlling their behavior and of providing for their own wants in sickness and in health.
The democratic experiment proved eminently successful. Freedom developed dignified, self-sufficient, hard-working individuals.
This was especially true in the
Human behavior apparently had some natural checks and balances of its own, as predicted by the philosophers. Trust engendered trust, and wealth developed wealth. The enjoyment and benefits of freedom rang throughout the world.
Opposed to the democratic ideal have been various political concepts devised throughout the ages. Monarchs and emperors presumed that only the few at the top should be trusted, and that their subjects were basically inhuman and belligerent, incapable of taking care of themselves, fit only to be directed and ruled.
To avoid chaos, the tyrants severely disciplined their subjects while the more benevolent monarchs tried to help them, but neither trusted the individual to lead his own life. This lack of faith in human nature has evolved into modern communism, which also assumes that order can be maintained only by rigid centralized control.
Less Faith in Individual, More Reliance on the State
The trend of the twentieth century depicts a waning faith in the individual, who in turn responds with less faith in himself. Immorality is on the rise, family responsibility is declining, and state security is becoming the goal of ruler and subject. Compulsory social security schemes are being imposed on entire nations and on people in all walks of life. Men are no longer trusted to take care of medical bills or retirement problems. Other necessities, such as food, clothing, and housing, are often provided.
Formerly, the law established general rules to be followed in various activities, and the few who broke these laws were prosecuted. Today the majority are so mistrusted that mushrooming federal agencies arbitrate day-to-day decisions in communications, travel, trade, labor, investment, and industry. Complex economic theories are constantly being devised to justify the procedure. Gone is the ideal of decentralized authority and self-responsibility. Greater political power is now concentrated in the capitals of the great democracies than was ever dreamed of by Charlemagne or Napoleon.
The threat of communism is being met halfway. Nationalism, the sentiment which makes men hate all countries but their own, is on the rise. Governments, impotent to create wealth of their own, depend on the few most gifted individuals to finance their burgeoning schemes and bureaucracies. When the few prove incapable of providing all the services required, the general populace finds itself taxed to provide its own "benefits." The creation of wealth is thus seriously hindered. Democratic institutions are proving defective under the lure of political power and regulated security. Foolproof protections for democratic ideals have not yet been devised.
The Prod of Insecurity
Like it or not, life has been designed to foster personal striving. Had nature planned otherwise, we would all be provided with thick hides to obviate the necessity for clothing and shelter, and with stomachs which could digest plentiful grass.
But man is destined for greater things than a cow-like character, and the prod of insecurity is required to make him face up to life. Life is also stratified for a purpose. No two individuals are born exactly alike, and each has his capacity for living, learning, and loving. All but the pitiful few have a capacity for self-improvement and can aspire to a higher stratum. Without this ladder, there would be no rewards in life. From man’s worm’s-eye-view, the ladder appears to have too many steps and the penalties at the bottom seem too severe.
In his frantic effort to avoid the prod of insecurity man has consented to slavery, feudalism, fascism, and communism. Yet these systems have only spread the rungs farther apart.
The insidious horror of centralized authority is that the more men depend on government, the less they become men. Natural maturing processes are arrested—the result of pity and paternalism misapplied. This is not an unusual condition in history, but a sharp reversal from the ideals developed during the past two centuries.
There is a great conflict of ideologies between the free and communist worlds. In Western civilization it is believed that men are composed of mind, body, and spirit.
Communist atheists believe in only mind and body. If in truth the spirit does not exist, then it makes little difference under what form of government we exist.
If we are nothing but intelligent ants, then communism may very well be an excellent way of maintaining law and order. But if the spirit exists, we must live by its rules and have faith in its powers. Those who do not believe in the spirit cynically look on life as a vale of tears to be lived craftily and warily.
Those who believe in the spirit seek to satisfy the hungers of the heart with rich rewards in this life and the next. Such people try to face life squarely, and thereby learn to love it. Authorities who interfere with this process are tinkering with delicate mechanisms of the universe.
The greatness of a nation is not determined by the size of the population, by its wealth, or by its military might. It can be as small as
A great nation is one composed of free, dignified, self-reliant individuals having faith in God and themselves. Such men can only be created in an environment of freedom. Men must be inspired to seek this ideal. If this is accomplished, material benefits will come by themselves.