All Commentary
Friday, May 1, 1964

Watch That Low Breaking Stuff

Mr. Raley is a free-lance author, speaker, philosopher from Gadsden, Alabama.

The parliamentary procedures to which I’m regularly exposed as an “after dinner” speaker are usu­ally routine. But last evening was a notable exception.

Of the forty-six present, all seemed to be men of affairs. The food and fellowship were first-rate. What a fine audience and set­ting for my speech, I was think­ing, when an item in the order of business caught my attention.

A motion to participate in a “get out and vote” campaign was being debated on the floor. I hap­pen to believe that an individual’s right to vote includes his right not to vote, if no candidate or issue in­volved seems worthy of his en­dorsement. Superficial appeals to vote for anybody or anything grate on my nerves like the sound of a dull rasp on a rusty nail. So I forgot my speech to listen.

Three or four persons spoke briefly in favor of the motion; the majority didn’t seem to care one way or another. I was thinking bitterly that it would pass with no word of opposition, when a large, stoop-shouldered man was recog­nized by the chair. He seemed to be just a bit embarrassed but very determined; and when his purpose became clear, I hung on every word.

“Gentlemen,” he said, “I play to win, and I’m not one bit ashamed of it. I like to win, hate to lose. Now, I don’t always win, but I always aim to. There have been a few times that I beat my­self but I’m not noted for this; it generally takes a stronger team to do the job. When I lose to a strong­er team, it cuts pretty deep, but the games I have lost by my own stupidity are a hundred times worse.

“Of course, most of you gentle­men know this. I am a charter member of the club and have coached our youth’s baseball teams for many years.” The coach was perspiring freely by this time. Ob­viously, he found it difficult to find the words he wished to use, but his determination had not diminished in the least. He unbuttoned his coat, straightened his tie, ran a finger around between his neck and shirt collar, and plunged in again.

“Gentlemen, if I understand this motion, it states that we will spend a certain amount on newspaper, radio, and television advertising in an effort to persuade people, who might not do so otherwise, to vote. In addition to this we would offer our services on election day to haul anyone who called to the polls and back. Well, I am one hundred per cent opposed to this motion. It’s not that I mind spend­ing the money, you understand, and I haul a whole ball team, with spikes, in the car, so it’s not that. But—well—a thing like that could beat you, and I’ll show you how.

“The boy who must be pressured into playing baseball, the one you have to hunt down and take to practice, call before each game to make sure he doesn’t forget about it and go swimming, is going to hurt you more than he helps. I’ve seen boys of this type who had a world of talent; but if they have no interest, I don’t want them on my team. It’s the boy who can’t be kept from playing, the one that starts calling the first pretty day after Christmas, wanting to know when practice starts, that will win ball games for you.

“In baseball our goal is winning the game, and the only way to do this is to score more runs than the opposition. Before a player can score, he must get on base; one of the better ways to accomplish this is a base hit. Now, each batter has the right to strike at any pitch de­livered to the plate, but how many games do you think we would win if players were not taught to judge a pitch? What kind of coach would I be if I inhibited the efforts of a few determined players by rounding up a group of boys who refused to take time to learn any­thing at all about the game, and inserted them in my lineup with no instructions except that they had the right to swing at every pitch?

“Sounds stupid, doesn’t it? Not only would we lose every game we played, but when the opposition discovered the brand of ball we were playing we would never get another decent pitch to hit at. They could afford to walk our experienced players, knowing the others would strike out and leave them stranded.

“Gentlemen, I vote to win just the same as I play ball to win, and I’m not ashamed of that either. The goal I hope to reach—the thing I hope to win by voting or refusing to vote, is better govern­ment. To me, better government is less government, more individual responsibility, less restraint on free enterprise, but I am not go­ing to make a political speech. What I do want to say is this: A citizen that must be persuaded in­to voting will contribute as much to winning or maintaining consti­tutional government as a disin­terested, uninstructed player will contribute to winning a ball game.

“This matter of voting is serious business, gentlemen. I know from talking with people and hearing others talk that the vast majority want about the same kind of gov­ernment I want, but we are not getting it. As a matter of fact, we are getting further from it all the time. Now, if there were two clearly defined political parties, one for those who favor republicanism and one for those who want social­ism, the voters’ task would be easy, but this is not the case.

“Within each major party we find old-line, new-line, and what-a ­line. Then we have the Northern, Eastern, Southern, and Western factions. There is also a liberal and a conservative element within each party and local branch. Even more confusing is the fact that many liberals wish to maintain the present trend or existing condi­tions, while conservatives gener­ally hope to change quite a few things.

“From the little I have been able to observe, I know there is no easy way to understand politics. Many people are upset by govern­ment action from time to time and set out determined to do some­thing about it, but it is not unusual to find these same people voting for the very same factors they have sworn to defeat.

“Personally, I try very hard be­cause I am vitally concerned. I study the issues, ideology, and rec­ords, but in spite of this, I still go for the low, breaking stuff occa­sionally. Not often, you under­stand, but often enough to keep me on my toes.

“Now, if a man who devotes con­siderable time to politics finds it difficult to determine how he should vote, how can you expect one that must be pressured into voting to cast an enlightened bal­lot? On the other hand, if it makes no difference to you how a man votes, as stated in this motion, I don’t see how it could possibly make any difference if he votes or not. So why should we spend our time and money to see that he does?

“Just one more thought, gentle­men, and I’ll sit down. You can see, I am sure, how stupid this theory would be in a ball game. I don’t believe there is a man here who would think of using it on the ball field. Now, gentlemen, it seems to me the real question is: What is more important to you, winning the kind of government you want or winning a ball game?”

The motion was killed unani­mously. I delivered the briefest talk of a long career, primarily noted for short talks, and drove home feeling sure that I knew ex­actly how Elijah felt when he found that his was not the only knee that had refused to bow to Baal.



Formal Justice

A principle of the widest application in ethics and politics as well as in economics, which may be described as the principle of formal justice, has begun to operate in a remarkable manner. A government which lends its power and assistance to one set of people must be prepared to act in a similar manner in all similar cases. If once this principle is abandoned, governmental action becomes either a matter of chance or depends upon clamour and jobbery.

It is wonderful how quickly the human mind discovers analo­gies in grievances, and how soon one cry leads to another. Mi­crobes are not more rapid and relentless in their multiplication. A plain man may have his doubts about the similarity of trian­gles and consent to arbitration on the question, but he has no doubt that for the purpose of governmental grants and aids his needs are similar to his neighbour’s. And the plain man is right. How can we justify the use of state credit for the purchase of lands in Ireland and fishing boats in Scotland if we are not pre­pared to give similar aid to the poor of England who are simi­larly situated? If we grant judicial rents in the country why not in the towns, and if we fix by law one set of prices why not all prices?

From The Reaction in Favour of the Classical Political Economy, by Professor J. Shield Nicholson, M.A., Nottingham, September, 1893. 

  • Mr. Raley is a free-lance author, speaker, philosopher from Gadsden, Alabama.