When War Comes
[Reprinted from The Freeman, November, 1938]
A recent citizen of Austria said to me: "I am a Georgist. I
believe in free trade. But I disagree with your statement that free
trade would prevent Germany from going to war. I have lived with
Germans, and I tell you these people are different from other people.
They are inherently different. They don't understand or want freedom.
Their nature is to be both subservient and dominating. They crave war."
He had suffered from Nazi terrorism so much that he completely forgot
the Germany that was Schiller and Heine and Leasing and Goethe. The
brutishness which as a Georgist he should know is the product of Nazi
environment, he ascribed to the "nature" of Germans, because
his reason was thrown out of balance by the bitterness of his
experiences with this environment. He, too was a product of it.
Ever the "chosen people" has as its counterpart the "barbarian".
The slaying of non-believers was sanctioned by Jehovah. The helenes
proudfully scorned all who dwelt outside the peninsular. Not to be a
Roman was to be a slave. The self-assumed halo of Marxists casts a
shadow on the human qualities of all who do not accept that faith. And
to the Aryan -- which, undefinable, merely means in practice "our
mob" -- the shedding of blood in the name of "race purity"
is sanctified murder. Power makes rulers drunk; poverty makes their
I remember 1914. I remember how we hated the Huns. Everybody was
either pro or anti. A sane position did not seem possible, so virulent
were the hatreds aroused by the propagandist methods employed by
European agents in this country. One recalls with a wry smile the bite
mess aroused in those days by "atrocity" stories -- since
then revealed as propagandist fiction.
We rationalized our emotions, of course. The Georgists, being fond of
logic (but completely submerging In their passion the logic of their
master) were quick to fortify their hysteria with the most specious
For instance, the group of Georgists with whom I sided said that
while we opposed war in principle we nevertheless thought this war
against Kaiserism was necessary. For, a successful Kaiser would
destroy political democracy, and the cause of economic democracy would
then toe destroyed forever! Wilson's shibboleth made fools of us. How
insidiously a nice-sounding phrase can rationalize the most idiotic
passion. Of all people the Georgists should know that war is the steed
upon which the monopolist rides to greater victories over the
exploited; that war always results in a stronger government and a
weaker people. As a result of the holocaust of 1914 - 1918 there is
less democracy throughout the world than ever before. Could it have
been any worse if the Kaiser had been "successful" against
We all know now that Americans gained nothing from our participation
in that crazy affair except a huge debt-yoke, an Increasingly
burdensome pension system, more bureaucracy and less democracy -- to
say nothing of the human suffering involved. But did we know that in
1917? Then we knew only that we were making the world "safe for
democracy". How we hated the Germans and all things German!
Sauerkraut was eaten under the pseudonym of "victory cabbage."
The study of the language of Kant and Schubert was "verboten"
in our public schools. Eating places famous for their delectable
German cuisine had to anglicize their names to retain patronage. As if
sauerbraten and beer had any nationality!
Silly? We can say so now. But it won't be silly when the next war
comes -- as it will come soon, and again and again, as long as
civilization rests on the volcano of economic maladjustment. And all
our reasoning, all our logic, will vanish before the poison of hatred,
injected into our marrow by the subtle propaganda of our masters. And
those of us who try to retain some modicum of sanity will be scorned
by our erstwhile friends, spit upon, persecuted, imprisoned. So bitter
are the passion aroused by war that love, the most persistent or human
emotions, weakens from the competition. The girls won't even dance
with boys in civilian clothes.
We must steel ourselves for the inevitable. Every day we must repeat
to ourselves, as a liturgy, the truth that war is caused by the
conditions that bring about poverty; that no war is justified; that no
war benefits the people; that war is an instrument whereby the haves
increase their hold on the have-nots; that war destroys liberty. We
must train our minds, as an athlete trains his body, against the
inevitable conflict with the powerful propaganda that will be used to
destroy our sanity. Now, before it is too late, we must learn to think
peace in the midst of war.