Consequences to Liberty of Regimentation
by Herbert Hoover, Sept. 15, 1934
The most gigantic step morally, spiritually, economically, and governmentally that a nation can take is to shift its fundamental philosophic and social ideas. The entry upon such a movement presents the most fateful moment in the history of a people.
But before entering upon the subject of the further and broader consequences of National Regimentation or the adoption of other social philosophies in American life, I shall clear the road of some unrelated subjects.
I am not here discussing any of the current measures except so far as our present experience of them illustrates the effects which they have upon liberty. Although I hold that emergency neither necessitates or justifies departures from fundamental liberties - and incidently will in the end retard recovery itself through disturbance of confidence in the future - I am not here dealing with temporary actions as such. Overshadowing temporary actions, whether wise or unwise, is the far larger issue. An emergency program for recovery is one thing, but to implant a new social philosophy in American life in conflict with the primary concepts of the philosophy of true liberalism is quite another thing.
We are told by men today high in our government, both legislative and administrative, that the social organization which we have developed over our whole history is "outworn" and "must be abandoned." We have been told that it has "failed." We are told of "outworn traditions," that we are passing through a "bloodless revolution." We are also told that the American system "is in ruins," that we must "build on the ruins of the past a new structure." It is advocated now that many of the emergency measures shall be "consolidated" and made "permanent." We should earnestly and dispassionately examine what the pattern of this transformation of the economic, social, and governmental system is to be, and what the ultimate effect of its continuance would be upon our national life.
Among the important measures of government, both in the present Administration and the last, are a large number devoted to relief of distress, both personal and institutional; the expansion of public works; revisions of the older laws regulating business; the reenforcement of State regulation by Federal acts; and the support of cooperative action among the citizens by temporary use of Federal credit. Many of the additional measures undertaken in these directions during the past months if properly administered.
Proper action in relief of distress is inherent in the social vision of the true American system. No American should go hungry or cold if he is willing to work. Under our system relief is first the obligation of the individual to his neighbors, then of institutions, then of local communities, and then of the State governments. The moment the need exceeds the honest capacities of the local agencies, then they must have the support of the Federal Government as the final reservoir of national strength.
This includes indirect relief through public works, direct relief when all other measures have failed, and proper support to financial institutions when failures will reduce large numbers to destitution. We may not approve the current methods of applying relief. We may feel that some of these methods undermine state and local responsibility; that they are wasteful or futile or alive with corruption. We may fear that they may be misused, by subversion of the electorate through partisan organization, to create future artillery against the walls of liberty. But even so, these are correctable abuses and lesser questions, evanescent in the long view of national life.
The depression has brought to the surface a number of weaknesses and abuses in the economic system. I deal elsewhere more fully with the whole subject of abuse of liberty. For this immediate discussion I may state that reform and revision of our older regulatory laws in banking, commodity and stock markets, transportation, utilities and natural-resource industries are absolutely necessary. So long as these revisions conform to the conditions of liberty there can be no difference of opinion except as to method. All reform entails some degree of experiment. I have no fear of experiments that take account of experience, do not remake the errors of history, and do not set out to experiment with the principles of liberty. We may feel that some reform measures do not reach to the heart of the problems they undertake to solve; that they are in part punitive rather than constructive; that they are in part impractical of producing the desired result; that in attempting to suppress a dozen scoundrels they are retarding the normal and active flow of economic life among a thousand honest men, and are thus retarding recovery from the depression. But we must remember that reform is a hard horse to ride in the blinding storm of world-war liquidation.
Free-Will Cooperation and Coercive Cooperation
There has run through all the dissertations of the past months the promises and slogans of "National Planning," "Planned Economy" or "Permanent Planning." Obviously, these phrases have been given new meaning. They do not mean mere charts and blue prints. They mean execution as well. They do not mean only the planning and executing of the normal functions of government. Obviously there is included also regimentation of industry and agriculture, management of currency and credit, government competition with business, management of foreign trade, and many other activities, all to be definitely dictated by officials acting from Washington. That is the coercive execution of plans for the daily economic life and social lives of the people.
We have engaged in planning, and the execution of plans, within the proper functions of government ever since the days of George Washington's Administration. We have planned and executed public-school systems, safeguards to public health, conservation of natural resources, the reclamation of desert lands, vast river-and-harbor development, a magnificent system of highways and public buildings, the creation of parks, the beautification of cities, and a thousand other activities in every state, town and village. We have planned and executed laws controlling semi-monopolies and maintenance of competition. We have set up the Federal Reserve System, the Land Banks, the Home Loan Banks. We planned and built the Panama Canal. The Government has cooperated with the people in planning and executing a great system of railways, of airways, of merchant marine. It has gone further. The Government through its constituted officials has cooperated in furthering great social activities, by determining facts and by assisting organizations to make plans for social advancement, to create standards, to coordinate thought and stimulate effort.
Nor have our non-governmental activities been without plan and execution by the people themselves, as witness the gigantic physical equipment of the nation and its intellectual progress. If this vast achievement was not the result of conscious planning, then it is eloquent proof that these things come spontaneously out of our American System.
No civilization has hitherto ever seen such a growth of voluntary associative activities in every form of planning, coordination and cooperation of effort, the expression of free men. It comes naturally, since the whole system builded on liberty is a stimulant to plan and progress. The unparalleled rise of the American man and woman was not alone the result of riches in lands, forests or mines; it sprang from ideals and philosophic ideas out of which plans and the execution of them are stimulated by the forces of freedom.
The assertion is made that these regimentations are merely extended cooperation. Civilization dawned when the first group of men acted in cooperation, and men have ever since been divided over how far they should be forced to group action or whether they should join of their own free will. Our American civilization is based upon the maxim of free will in an ordered Liberty. Aside from the very philosophy of Liberty, the practicalities are that when free men come together in economic life they pool a wealth of practical experience and conscientious responsibility. They are compelled to find workable methods of cooperation. Over every deliberation hangs the sobering threat of personal loss for a wrong decision. There is no one to whom the cost of error may be passed. But under coercive cooperation, the final determination of method for the joint action is made not by men of large experience in practical affairs, but by government agents - often by men lacking in both vision and ability. The bureaucrat is above accountability as long as his political support holds. Cooperation appraises its methods and consequences step by step and pays its bills as it goes. Bureaucracy rushes head long into visions of the millennium and send the bill to the Treasury.
The methods of planning progress cannot be through governmental determination of when and how much a factory may be operated, what the farmer may plant or sell, or any other of the processes of regimentation. The forces of true cooperation may be less immediate in their results than coercion, but they are more permanent, for they do not wither the real impulses of progress and they do not atrophy the responsibility of the citizen.
There are transcendent obstacles to the successful working of these ideas of coercive National Planning or National Regimentation of our economic and social life. The first is the ability to command the omniscient genius required to plan and coordinate and direct the operation of the economic and social machine. This is true even if the Government enjoyed the powers of complete dictatorship as in the case of Fascism and Communism. The second and higher obstacle is created when these ideas are mixed with democracy, for they are based upon wholly different conceptions of human rights which instantly clash.
There arise from this mixture conflicts and interferences which will undermine true Liberalism by rendering its economic system only partially operative, and they do not give any other system a fair trial. The mixture automatically destroys confidence in the future, which is the essential of our system, and that at once delays initiative and new enterprise. It produces astonishing effects, from the behavior of men part free, which thwart the hoped-for results. It develops surprising conflicts between the regiments created, because of the inability of any human mind to coordinate such vast plans and activities. Complete dictatorship is, of course, abolition of representative government, but even partial regimentation raises at once conflicts which are destructive to it. One result is to drive unceasingly for more drastic steps. Our American System cannot be made to work part free and part regimented. It is a new form of an old conflict. No system can be part dictatorship and part democracy.
We may confirm these observations if we examine actual results of the operations now in progress and if we examine their tendencies toward the future.
As I have said, the first necessity of this program of National Planning or National Regimentation, whatever the name we apply to it, is obviously a vast concentration of political and economic authority in the Executive. All these plans and regiments must be invented. Their execution must be commanded, administered and enforced by a delegated somebody. Thus overhanging all these organisms of "managed currency," regimented industry," "government operation," and "regimented agriculture" is the most vital of questions: Who is to invent? Who is to manage? Who is to command these regiments? And above all, who is to coordinate their activities?
It is not enough to answer, "the Government," "the state," or "the Executive." This direction ultimately must be reposed in government bureaus, and they are comprised of human beings with dictatorial powers over us all.
These proposals necessitate that a large part of leadership and managerial responsibility and authority in business and agriculture is to be wrenched from the hands of those who have risen to leadership by success and skill in each specialized calling, and placed in the hands of those who appear to merit political power. An enormous extension of bureaucracy is inevitable. Already a host of new government bureaus and nearly twenty thousand commissions have been established with authority over every trade, and in nearly every town and village. We have witnessed this host of government agencies spread out over the land, limiting men's honest activities, conferring largess and benefits, directing, interfering, disseminating propaganda, spying on, threatening the people and prosecuting for a new host of crimes. It is pertinent therefore to inquire shortly into the course and characteristics of bureaucracy, for in the end that is the agency that will rule over us.
Bureaucracy's Incompetence in a Democracy
No one with a day's experience in government fails to realize that in all bureaucracies there are three implacable spirits - self-perpetuation, expansion, and an incessant demand for more power. These are human urges and are supported by a conviction, sometimes justified, that they know what is good for us. Nevertheless, these spirits are potent and possess a dictatorial complex. They lead first to subversive influence in elections. They drive always to extension of powers by interpretation of authority, and by more and more legislation. Power is the father of impatience with human faults, and impatience breeds arrogance. In their mass action, they become the veritable exponents of political tyranny.
Above it all there arises the question of how these masters of our farms, our factories, our stores, our daily lives - with power to deprive citizens of property and income or even to send them to jail for selling good cheaper than a competitor - are to be selected. No one is so foolish as to believe they can be elected. No one believes that genuine judgement and experience to direct economic activities can be determined by written examinations. No one believes that selection by political tests will produce these qualities, but they will be selected by politics nevertheless. Leadership to command in economic life cannot be picked by bureaucracy; it must be ground out in the hard mills of competition. Genius cannot be created by bureaucracy; it must push upward among free men.
And all these proposals of regimentation lay upon bureaucracy a job it cannot competently do in a democracy, even did it possess all other qualities. Bureaucracy engaged in the ordinary functions of government, under defined rules, by the building up of precedent and routine and repetitive experience, can become competent. But the moment bureaucracy must show that creative sense, that instant judgement and responsibility which business requires, it becomes hopeless. Does anyone believe that the automobile would have been invented, constantly perfected, and the enormous industry built by a bureaucracy? Or the railroads, or the mines?
Moreover, in a democracy every member of Congress, every newspaper, is a potential critic, and the accumulative effect upon government agents is to destroy willingness to take that responsibility, risk and adventure which economic activities require every moment of the day. Private industry failure in the net sum of accomplishment. Public criticism measures it by one failure only. The inevitable result is to deaden even any initiative, enterprise, efficiency of bureaucracy that might exist.
It is worth remembering, also, that so long as we continue as a democracy, then leading government employs shift every few years to new and inexperienced men - whereas industry thrives only with continuity of leadership.
The ultimate attitude of bureaucracy in Regimentation to democratic principles is indicated by a statement by Signor Turati, the Secretary General of the Fascist Party, at Bologna in 1929:
"We are tired of being branded as undemocratic, for we certainly are undemocratic if democracy means the conferring of powers on those above by those below. An army takes its orders, goes out and executes them, dies if necessary, but it does not question those orders, nor does it elect its officers."
Even if we might assume a competent and continuous administration by bureaucrats, we have yet to face the fact that no centralized, coordinating authority interfering with these billions of daily activities and shifting the direction of the deep currents which effect the welfare of everybody, even if it were composed of supermen, ever could hope to remain abreast of the infinite diversity of life and circumstance in this nation of 125,000,000 people. This is being daily proved in the experience of every citizen.
We can test the ability to dictate the economic life of the people, and above all to coordinate these regiments, by observing some of the contradictory, conflicting and confusing results which we have experienced already in the past months. At the same time we can indicate the surprising effects of human behavior in the mixture of Regimentation with freedom.
Conflict of Ideas Among the Regimenters
Inescapably there is a conflict between the idea of the commanders of one regiment that artificial price rises will increase business activity and employment, and thereby consumption of goods, and the idea of another regimental command that, in order to increase consumption and employment, prices must be kept down.
There are conflicts between artificial price increases undertaken to restore agriculture to parity with other industry, and those taken to increase prices of the things the farmer buys. The result has added practically nothing to agriculture. There is contradiction in destroying food when people are in want. There is direct conflict between the policy of eliminating marginal agriculture on the one hand and, on the other hand, the policy of maintaining marginal production by subsidies and by expansion of production through reclamation.
Through regimentation of employers, employees and consumers there are the conflicts as to who is to bear the cost of these artificial price-rises. The consequent struggle between employers and employees have resulted in more days' labor lost in nine months through strikes than in the whole of the previous three years. The consumer regiments set their buying resistence against the producers, so that consumption slackens and surpluses increase. This is especially evident in perishable agricultural products where the processing tax, by decreasing consumption, has in effect forced back part of the tax to the farmer instead of adding it to the consumer.
There is the conflict between lenders and borrowers as to who shall take the risk of unstable currencies, the result of which is to continue unemployment in the durable-goods industries. There is a conflict between government absorption of capital by taxes and borrowings from the common pool for the purpose of giving employment, and its urging of private industry to secure from the depleted pool the capital with which it might give employment. There is a conflict of plans, on one hand, that the people should spend a larger part of the current income, and steps, on the other hand, which frighten them into restricting spendings.
There is a conflict between maintaining antitrust laws, and the setting of monopoly under the codes, one result of which is to squeeze out the smaller business and another result is to increase prices and the cost of living and thus to promote strikes to equate wages. There is at least incompatibility between a system which makes its progress through invention and improvement, and governmental action which creates drags upon the competition which alone inspires them. There is inherit conflict between the theory of government limitation of private production, and the Government going into business where there is already ample production. There is a conflict between attempts to move industry to the rural districts, and the tendency of production to move to urban areas because of fixed regional wages.
The Demand for More Power
Industry is further confused by the Government's payment of higher wages for relief than that fixed in the codes. There is inconsistency between commanding increased wages, shorter hours and greater employment in industry, and cuts and dismissals in government service. There is a contradiction between repudiation of government obligations under contracts, and the insistence by the law that private contracts be observed. There is inconsistency between the stern reprimand for dishonesty and incapacity in administration of industry, and the constant outbreak of waste, corruption and spoils in government.
There is conflict between the theory of one regiment holding to lower tariffs and to the lending of government money to promote trade, and the theory of another regiment which increases the tariffs and puts on import quotas and currency wars that restrict trade. There is inconsistency between the government denunciation of private lenders of money to foreign countries, and the Government itself lending them money.
These are but part of the catalogue, but sufficient for examples.
These are not surprising results, for they represent in part the inability of men to know the destiny of economic forces, artificially created, even if it is all planned in advance; they represent in part the inability of any government tp coordinate these artificial forces when set in motion.
They represent also another phase of equal importance, and that is the effect of partial; regimentation of the economic system. So long as it is partial, human behavior still controls some elements in the individual's interests, and he uses them. And because of all these difficulties there arises an insistent demand for more power, and the danger of further and further assumption of it. Such is the march of Regimentation. The effect upon our liberties needs no amplification.
The seeking of opportunities for expending huge sums of public money, upon the theory that this will prime the economic pump, ignores the fact that the priming water is the exhaustion of the living water of the public credit. And even beyond that, it enfeebles the power delivered to the pump through stifling confidence and enterprise. Its cost in huge budget deficits must ultimately necessitate huge increase in taxes or the manipulation of either currency or credit or all three. Government postponement of paying for these unprecedented expenditures by expanding bank credits and then borrowing the expansion has implications which no one can foresee. But so far no nation or individual has been able to squander itself into prosperity. So far as history shows, every such borrowing government has had to repay either by a mortgage on the social development of the next generation, or by desperate measures of repudiation through inflation in its own generation. Either leads to devastating invasions of Liberty.
The greatest shock of Regimentation, Fascism, Socialism, and Communism is upon representative government. The whole fabric of popular election, of separation of executive, legislative, and judicial powers, and of separation of national and local responsibilities is integral to the American system. No one will doubt that pure Fascism and Communism can exist only under the abolition of every vestige of democracy. The illusion is that the institutions of popular government will not become mere ghosts under continuation of even partial Regimentation or government ownership and operation of competitive business. We should examine this illusion with care, for a destruction or weakening of the vitality of the protections of our liberties is the sure highway to destruction of liberty itself.
Weakening of the Legislative Arm
The encroachments upon our liberties may not be overt - by repeal of any constitutional guaranties - but they may be insidious and no less potent through encroachment upon the checks and balances which make its security. More particularly does the weakening of the legislative arm lead to encroachment by the executive upon legislative and judicial functions, and inevitably that encroachment is upon individual liberty.
If we examine the fate of wrecked republics over the world we shall find first a wekening of the legislative arm. Herein lay the decay of Continental European liberalism. The lack of adequate cohesion among the members of these legislative bodies, the disintegration into blocs, the futility of discussions and negative action which was the inseparable result, so aroused resentment of the people that they turned them out for despotism and "action." It is in the legislative halls that liberty commits suicide, although legislative bodies usually succeed in maintaining their forms. For 200 years the Roman senate continued as a scene of social distinction and noisy prattle after it had surrendered its responsibilities and the Roman State had become a tyranny.
If we study our own legislatures over these later years we witness some of the same forces and the same turning of the people toward the executive arm, with consequent encroachment upon the militant safeguard to Liberty - legislative independence. We have seen some of the same lack of political cohesion, the growth of indefinite blocs of business, farm, veteran, labor, silver, public works, socialist, and what not. We have seen the potency of these groups upon legislation, the primaries and the elections. With every extension of the government into economic life, these blocs become more and more influential. These weakening poisons have further reactions.
Thus one of the astonishing evidences of legislative weakening has been the surrender of the parliamentary principle that the control of the purse was the surest check upon the executive, for which parliaments have fought and men have died over centuries. In place of this hard-won legislative control we now have the curious idea that the executive must protect the people from legislative endeavors to please group and sectional interests by huge and wasteful expenditures. It evidences and enormous surrender and shift of powers.
The difficulties of sustaining the balance of power between the executive and legislative arms, upon which the inviolability of liberty depends, were thus great even without the impact of Regimentation.
The first result of this impact was evidenced after the legislation necessary to cure a banking panic, in that a host of bills affecting the whole future of the country, giving unprecedented powers to the Executive, were drafted outside the halls of Congress, presented and enacted with scarcely any debate and no opportunity for public opinion to express itself. These surrenders of legislative responsibility will lower respect for the weight of the legislative arm in representative government that will last a generation, even if they have no worse effects. The acts of the recent months may be a passing eclipse of representative government, but a further examination of the consequences of continued Regimentation will show the inevitable increase of atrophy in the legislative arm.
Regimentation leads inexorably to an extension of bureaucratic politics in the election of the members of the Congress. That all bureaucracy, old and new, must move and have its being in politics to maintain itself is evident. That it will as in the past - and with equally increased potency - constantly interfere in the choice of elected officials, including members of the Congress, needs no demonstration to those who know something of public life.
By the side of all this, Regimentation has already organized some four hundred trades and industries with their officially recognized representatives in the capital. These representatives are made effective in influence upon government by the cloak of government agency. Their 1,500,000 different business firms are in every town and village, and each of them has potentially more than one vote. The interests of these regiments run parallel in many directions. Sooner or later their political good-will becomes necessary to every elected person. Thus we have organized invisible government into a smoothly oiled machine. Congress cannot run business, but business can run the Congress - to the bankruptcy of liberty.
Another process withering to representative government is the reaction upon a free legislative body of these enormously extended governmental activities.. This becomes evident if we penetrate into a few details of this relationship. Any program of government, no matter how laudable or beneficial its aim, to change the habits or extend direction over the daily activities of the people must, perforce, adversely affect the interests of some of them. And the things here in action cannot be accomplished without many injustices, infinite hardships, deprivals of property and livelihood. Its sponsors believe these sacrifices must be made. We have a people highly sympathetic with those who thus suffer, for they are still much indurated with their old-fashioned ideas of justice, personal liberty and rights. When great changes are proposed as temporary measures, such hardships will be borne with patience. When these same changes are developed as permanent new forms of government, even though they may seem attractive to a majority, yet, encroaching upon centuries of heritage of personal liberty, they will not be received by the minority without protest. Such resistence will rise from a host of the constituents to each member of the Congress and their appeal is at once to him or to the press.
Regimentation has already produced a factory of prayer wheels directed at members of the Congress. Every one of millions of transactions by the Government is at once of selfish interest to the constituents of some member. Every group interest, every sectional and group protest, every failure in working instantly reflects itself in demands upon him. Thus the legislative arm becomes at once entangled in a vast complex of interferences in the administration, out of which the member may win or lose votes at home.
In all this welter of pushing and pulling of the administrative bureaucracy by members of the Congress, the inescapable criticism and investigations from the Congress, the log-rolling and politics, no administrative can function properly. As a result, the Executive must sidetrack the legislative arm if administration of such a gigantic complex is to be effective. Either a free Congress will sooner or later destroy the ability of the system to function, or the system will destroy the freedom of the Congress.
It is not my purpose to discuss the constitutionality of the many measures and acts upon which National Regimentation has been based.
Whatever that situation may be, to adhere to the spirit of the Constitution and its safeguards, including orderly amendment, is the shelter of American life. To move away from these safeguards endangers the whole future of the philosophy of Liberty and thus the whole future of America. On that road one misstep leads to another and then another until primary liberties are gone.
We have already noted many examples of the violation by Regimentation of the spirit and philosophy of liberty. We may add further particulars which indicate where continuance of such a system will lead. They include instances of refusal of the right of men accused of wrong to be heard by independent tribunal; the cancellation of contracts with the Government without any semblance of the process of law; refusal or circumvention of the protection of the courts to citizen's seeking redress from the Government's own infringement of constitutional rights; vesting of taxing powers in executive officials; the prosecutions of men for selling good and services at less than their competitors; the coercion of merchants and manufacturers into accepting the Blue Eagle, and the instances of subsequent withdrawal of it to the ruin of their business by administrative officials, and that without any processes of the courts; the set-up of machinery which in effect dictates what manufacturers and farmers may produce and sell; the coercion of men to sign the codes and then the denial to them of the constitutional protections from administrative action on the ground that they had contracted these protections away to the Government; the coercions of the people to sell a commodity - gold - to the Government for less than it was worth, by denial of an open market and by threats; the whole business of devaluing every insurance policy and every savings-bank deposit; the surrender by the Congress of its most serious responsibility for taxes and expenditures; and the whole invasion of the legislative responsibility, thus weakening the basic safeguards of Liberty. All this, and much more that could be recounted, indicates the way regimentation invades the spirit if not the letter of the Constitution and becomes a transformation of government to the point where the citizen is entirely subjective to the state.
One of the greatest achievements of America has been the repression of the growth of class distinctions. To cast the nation into the trenches of class conflict, artificially stimulated by government regimentation and propaganda, is to stifle the very impulses to progress. The camps engage in struggle for self-preservation, and in this struggle the true interests of the nation are lost in the battles for self-interest with all their destructive consequences. That generates more and more repression.
The attempt to impose a forced system upon a people who have the traditions of generations of freedom drives a wedge through the heart of the whole nation. Whereas, under true Liberty, men are divided on ways and means for its fruition, under the attempt to impose forced economic life they must divide on the most fundamental principle of all - liberty or government domination. Thus the nation is divided upon the issue which stirs most deeply the emotions of men.
Civilization has advanced only whenever and wherever the critical faculty in the people at large has been free, alive and unpolluted. It slumps whenever this is intimidated or suppressed. That is the most certain lesson of history. This shift of human liberties by placing the government into business and agriculture, whether by operation or dictation, will be repulsive to the instincts of millions of people, and the Government, in order to protect itself from the political consequences of its actions, is driven irresistibly and without peace to a greater and greater control of the nation's thinking.
[Note for today: Let's use the income tax. When Herbert Hoover wrote this American workers paid no income tax. Is not all information fed to the people today by the media and the press designed to make all working people think they have a legal obligation to file and pay income tax on the money they have been paid for their labor (wages)? Who can deny that this one-sided propaganda campaign that is yearly waged over the airwaves and though the printed page has had a profound impact on the way people think? It reminds me of what Adolf Hitler wrote in Mien Kampf, when he discusses the "nationalization of the broad masses."]
Bureaucracy has already developed a vast ramifying propaganda subtly designed to control thought and opinion. The constant use of the radio, the platform, and the press by device of exposition, new and attack with one point of view becomes a powerful force in transforming the nation's mentality and in destroying its independent judgement. Bureaucracy's instinctive defense to criticism is to color the information and news with its objectives rather than presenting a cold analysis of results. It goes farther in resentment to criticism, and attempts to meet it with denunciation. We witness this vituperative impatience from those who believe they are serving the common good. Critics are smeared by personal attacks upon character or motives, not answered by sober argument. Managed opinion is as much a part of "managed economy" as is "managed currency" or as "managed agriculture." All this is the backward steps to repression of free thought and speech. Free speech and free press have never lived long after free industry and commerce have been repressed.
No greater commentary is possible upon the whole question of free press or the invasion of constitutional protections than the amazing contract insisted upon by the organized proprietors with the Executive for a confirmation of the constitutional guaranties of a free press. That is unique in our history.
The most profound of many illusions in the whole theory of Regimentation are that the instincts and impulses in human nature which impel our whole productive system can be ignored; that Regimentation is compatible with democracy; that such a system can be imposed without impairment or destruction of fundamental liberties.
If we needed any further evidence of the consequences of permanent Planned Economy or Regimentation upon our whole economic or governmental system, we may find it in the statement of one of its leading American advocates who is under no illusions. He says: "It is in other words a logical impossibility to have a planned economy and to have business operating its industries, just as it is also impossible to have one within our present constitutional and statutory structure. Modifications in both, so serious as to mean destruction and rebeginning, are required."
From the examples of National Regimentation that we have examined it is obvious that many of these measures represent not reform or relief within the boundaries of Liberty, but that they are emulating parts of some of these other systems with the hope of speeding recovery from the depression.
If Emergency Measures Persist
The constructive forces of recovery among free men are stronger than the destructive forces which brought on the depression, and while these forces may be retarded by unsound governmental policies, recovery from this depression is inevitable. Recovery had begun before those measures, and has moved without interruption in our neighbor liberal nations. In appraising the vitality and adaptability of our system to solve the grave problems which confront us and its merits in comparison with other systems now urged upon us, we must look beyond the immediate complications of the depression.
We must not confuse war wounds as incurable or as defects in our social system. Rather, our view must be upon the sweep of history.
One may disagree and keep silent as to the justification of some of these measures if they are to be limited to "emergency," for in the march of a great people that is relatively unimportant if that is all of it. Then these dangers and stresses will disappear as an eddy in the stream of national life. The important thing is whether this drift from essential liberties is to be made permanent. If not permanent, these emergencies will have served the purpose of having exhausted the pent-up panaceas of a generation and broken them on the wheel of resistant human behavior and the spirit of a people with a heritage of liberty.
The threat of the continuance of these "emergency" measures is a threat to join the Continental retreat of human progress backward through the long corridor of time. In the demands for continuance there lies a desperate seeking for justification of their adoption and subtle ambitions of those advocating other philosophies. Whatever the motive, the promise of permanence now stares the American people starkly in the face. It is not the mere evolution of an economic procedure that this Regimentation implies - it steps off the highway of true American Liberty into the dangerous quicksands of governmental dictation.
Thus what I am interested in, in this inquiry, is something that transcends the transitory actions, as important as they are, something far more pregnant with disaster to all that America has been to its people and to the world. No nation can introduce a new social philosophy or a new culture alien to its growth without moral and spiritual chaos. I am anxious for the future of freedom and liberty of men. That America has stood for; that has created her greatness; that is all which the future holds that is worth while. Saint Paul said nearly two thousand years ago, "Ye have been called unto liberty."
The Bill of Rights
The unit of American life is the family and the home. Through it vibrates every hope of the future. It is the economic unit as well as the moral and spiritual unit. But it is more than this. It is the beginning of self-government. It is the throne of our highest ideals. It is the center of the spiritual energy of our people.
The purpose of American life is the constant betterment of all these homes. If we sustain thatm purpose every individual may have the vision of decent and improving life. That vision is the urge of America. It creates the buoyant spirit of our country. The inspiring hope of every real American is for an enlarged opportunity for his children. The obligation of our generation to them is to pass on the heritage of liberty which was entrusted to us. To secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity was the purpose in the sacrifice of our fathers. We have no right to load upon our children unnecessary debts from our follies, or to force them to meet life in Regimented forms which limit their self-expression, their opportunities, their achievements.
Our American system and its great purpose are builded upon the positive conception that men "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness"; that the purpose and structure of government is to protect these rights, that upon them the Government itself shall not encroach. From these liberties have come the unloosing of creative instincts and aspirations which have builded this, the greatest nation of all time.
The Bill of Rights - our forefathers' list of inalienable liberties and personal securities - was written a century and a half ago. We have had need to work out both practical application of these liberties and the machinery for maintaining them in the changing scene of the years. We have seen some of them fade from memory such as the protection from the quartering of troops. We have had to add new rights to assure freedom from slavery and to give universal franchise. We have had to keep the balance as between some of them, and to see than some - chiefly property rights - are not used to override other rights. [Note for today: Labor is not only property, but it is the very foundation of all other property. Think about it.] We have steadily developed from the spirit of freedom high standards and ideals of human relationship, a great system of advancement to mankind. We have at times failed to live up to our ideals, but that they shall continue to shine brightly is the important thing.
Those are today denounced who, on the one hand, dare assert that these liberties and personal securities still live, and, on the other, they are equally denounced who assert that they have been transgressed. It will be denied that any one of them has ever been mentioned in our country for repeal or modification. Nor has it been proposed today that any new rights and securities be added to those guaranteed by the Constitution. Therein lies the intellectual dishonesty of the attack upon them. If we have discovered that any one of these liberties is not our individual endowment by the Creator, the right thing is to propose a change in the Constitution and allow us to examine it, not to extinguish it by indirection. Such an alteration would not get far, for whether people know them by name or not, the principles of liberty and security are imbedded in their daily thought and action. Perhaps not one in a hundred thousand of our people knows the detailed list of liberties our forefathers insisted upon, or the development of them since, but never a day goes by that every man and woman instinctively rely upon those liberties.
We are confronted with a maze of problems. The boom and depression brought discouraging disclosures of the abuses of liberty and the growth of economic oppressions. I have discussed these abuses in previous chapters because these betrayals of trust, exploitation, monopoly, and all the rest of them are the battlegrounds of liberty.
Protections of Liberty
The American system has steadily evolved the protections of Liberty. In the early days of road traffic we secured a respect for the liberties of others by standards of decency and conduct between neighbors. But with the crowding of highways and streets we have invented stop-and-go signals which apply to everybody alike, in order to maintain the same ordered Liberty. But traffic signals are not a sacrifice of Liberty, they are a preservation of it. Under them each citizen moves more swiftly to his own individual purpose and attainment. That is a far different thing from the corner policeman being given the right to determine whether the citizen's mission warrants his passing and whether he is competent to execute it, and then telling him which way he should go, whether he likes it or not. That is the whole distance between ordered Liberty and Regimentation.
The achievements of our own economic system have brought us new problems in stability of business, in agriculture, and in employment, and greater security of living. But the first constructive step in solution is the preservation of liberty, for in that sphere alone are the dynamic forces with which to solve our problems successfully.
The whole history of humanity has been a struggle against famine and want. Within less than half a century the American system has achieved a triumph in this age-long struggle by producing a plenty. The other systems now urged for permanent adoption propose to solve the remaining problem of distribution of a hard-won plenty by restrictions that will abolish the plenty. To adopt this course would be an abject surrender. Worse, it would be a surrender to the complexities of distribution after the major battle, which is production, has been won. It may be repeated that if we undermine the stimulants to individual effort which come alone from the spirit of Liberty, we may well cease to discuss the greater "diffusion of income," of "wealth," "minimum standards," and "economic security," the "abolition of poverty," and its fears. Those are possibilities only in an economy of plenty.
It is not that the proposals or philosophies or tendencies of National Regimentation are new discoveries to humanity, which offer the bright hope of new invention or new genius in human leadership. They have the common characteristic of these other philosophies of society and of those of the Middle Ages - that the liberties of men flow only from the state; that men are but subjective to the state; that men shall be regimented, not free men. Herein is the flat conflict with true liberalism. It is all old, very, very old, the idea that the good of men arises from the direction of centralized executive power, whether it be exercised by bureaucracies, mild dictatorships or despotisms, monarchies or autocracies. For liberty is the emancipation of men from power and servitude and the substitution of freedom for force of government.
Our National Heritage
Liberty comes alone and lives alone where the hard-won rights of men are held unalienable, where governments themselves may not infringe, where governments are indeed but mechanisms to protect and sustain these liberties from encroachment. It was this for which our fathers died, it was this heritage they gave to us. It was not the provisions with regard to interstate commerce or the determination of weights and measures or coinage, for which the Constitution was devised- it was the guaranties that men possessed fundamental liberties apart from the state, that they were not the pawns but the masters of the state. It has not been for the aid and comfort of any form of economic domination that our liberties have been hallowed by sacrifice. It has not been for the comfort of machinery that we have builded and extended these liberties, but for the independence and comfort of homes.
Those who proclaim that in a Machine Age there is created an irreconcilable conflict in which Liberty cannot survive, should not forget the battles of Liberty over the centuries, for let it be remembered that in the end big business and machinery will vanish before freedom if that be necessary. But it is not necessary. It is not because liberty is unworkable, but because we have not worked it or have forgotten its true meaning that we often get the notion of the irreconcilable conflict with the machine age.
We cannot extend the mastery of government over the daily life of a people without somewhere making it master of people's souls and thoughts. That is going on today. It is part of all Regimentation.
Even if the government conduct of business could give us the maximum of efficiency instead of least efficiency, it would be purchased at the cost of freedom. It would increase rather than decrease abuse and corruption, stifle initiative and invention, undermine the development of leadership, cripple the mental and spiritual energies of our people, extinguish equality of opportunity, and dry up the spirit of Liberty and the forces which make progress.
The Issue of American Life
It is false Liberalism that interprets itself into government dictation, or operation of commerce, industry and agriculture. Every move in that direction poisons the very springs of true Liberalism. It poisons political equality, free thought, free press, and equality of opportunity. It is a road not to liberty but to less liberty. True Liberalism is found not in striving to spread bureaucracy, but in striving to set bounds to it. Liberalism is a force proceeding from the deep realization that economic freedom cannot be sacrificed if political freedom is to be preserved. True liberalism seeks all legitimate freedom first in the confident belief that without such freedom the pursuit of other blessings is in vain.
The nation seeks for solution of its many difficulties. These solutions can come alone through the constructive forces from the system built upon Liberty. They cannot be achieved by the destructive forces of Regimentation. The purification of Liberty from abuses, the restoration of confidence in the rights of men, the release of the dynamic forces of initiative and enterprise are alone the methods by which these solutions can be found and the purpose of American life assured.
The structure of human betterment cannot be built upon foundations of materialism or business, but upon the bed rock of individual character in free men and women. It must be builded by those who, holding to ideals of its high purpose, using the mold of justice, lay brick upon brick from the materials of scientific research, the painstaking sifting of truth from collections of facts and experience, the advancing of ideas, morals and spiritual inspirations. Any other foundations are sand; any other mold is distorted; and any other bricks are without straw.
I have no fear that the inherent and unconquerable forces of freedom will not triumph. But it is as true today as when first uttered that 'the condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.' We have in our lifetime seen the subjection of Liberty in one nation after another. It has been defeated by the untruth that some form of dictation by government alone can overcome immediate difficulties and can assure entry into economic perfection. America must not and will not succumb to that lure. And that is the issue of our generation. It is not a partisan issue. It is the issue of American life.
The spark of liberty in the mind and spirit of man cannot be long extinguished; it will break into flames that will destroy every coercion which seeks to limit it.
Comments: These two articles by former President Hoover shows that something significant was happening at this period of history that concerned him greatly. In all the historical research I have done, I've never found articles like this by a former president. As far as the common working people are concerned, the primary liberty that has been taken away without constitutional amendment is the right to free labor. But the real question today is: Do the people really care if it's been taken away in violation of the Constitution? I submit that the majority do not, and that is why I believe this book is primarily for people to read in the future after the Cannibalistic system is destroyed. Mr. Hoover was wrong when he predicted that people's desire for liberty would overcome the government coercion that was taking their liberties away. He grossly underestimated most people's desire for security. He also could not see the impact that television would have in molding and managing public opinion. Since all television stations operate under a license from the FCC, an executive bureaucracy, there will be no information disseminated to the public that will cause doubt or hesitation in the system. For example, every year all the information presented to the people through this medium is pro-income tax. All information is designed to make the people feel that they have a duty to file and pay income tax every year. They are not told the truth. Television programs can go back into the times of Ancient Egypt and report on things, but they can't go back a mere century to report on the history of the income tax and how it developed since that time?