National Security and the Loss of Innocence

Chapter 3 (Part 4 of 4) of the book

The Discovery of First Principles, Volume 3

Edward J. Dodson

Cooperative Individualism
The Long Road Back

Once communism lost its lure as the reform ideology, its former adherents in the U.S. and other social democracies either sounded loud warnings or disappeared into the wilderness to await the passage of time and of the Stalinist era. At the same time, a window of opportunity seemed to open, if only so slightly, for those who espoused the principles of cooperative individualism. These few determined souls did what they could to warn against the emerging national security state and of attacks on liberty. Oswald Garrison Villard, now solidly associated with those who continued to raise the banner of cooperative individualism, argued that in the longer run the Soviets could never hope to compete with the Democracy, provided the lessons of history were recognized and acted upon by Americans:

It is not yielding to sensationalism or being unduly alarmed by the Communist menace to stress the gravity of the domestic situation as evidenced by the lack of leadership and of few clear-cut economic or labor policies in Washington, the drift toward collectivism in our labor movement, the rise of the treasonable belief in some quarters that "only a strong man can get us out of this mess," and that "the days of free competition in America are numbered." The price paid for the war in the destruction of more than five hundred thousand small businesses, and the increased power of the great corporations, trusts and monopolies because of their enlarged resources and equipment and their general superiority to their competitors where there are any, threaten the future development of our industrial machinery and our social advancement along the historic American line. If it is not countered by greater and greater freedom of action whenever that is possible, then the movement toward totalitarianism is certain to be accelerated and stimulated. The enemies of democracy will declare that this Republic cannot govern itself in these days of an ever more intricate and interwoven industrial system, especially in the face of the tremendous rise in the power of labor; that halfway government controls of agriculture and industry, the commodity markets, and numerous other forms of private enterprise have failed.

...Only one country really rivals us in the variety and richness of its natural resources, and that is Russia. But, is it not preposterous to assert that we shall have to defend ourselves by tariff barriers against the products of that great people, shackled and impoverished as they are by their own system, confined within their own boundaries except when sent en masse to kill, deprived of a free press, and devoid of all knowledge as to what is really going on in the world, riddled with corruption, and harassed, according to their own leaders, by traitorous practices within government and industry which can only be stopped by almost regularly recurring bloody purges? ...[91]

...The remedy is ... to maintain every possible economic freedom even in the face of the ever-present pressure for greater and greater government control of the lives of individuals, their movements and their businesses. Of these liberties none is more important than freedom to trade in the lowest priced markets and to sell in the highest available. ...The abolition of tariffs would mean notable progress back to individual self-reliance and self-respect, to business independence. For this it is hard to think of a price too high. The only requisite is that the process of readjustment be made deliberately and as painlessly as possible when the United States fulfills its duty to itself.[92]

How ironic that among the nations destined to develop into the most highly organized of industrial societies in competition with the U.S. were Germany and Japan. The Germans had the advantages of accumulated scientific knowledge and technological skills, along with reasonably adequate natural resources to draw on. The Japanese initially lacked depth in the first two and few natural resources; what they benefited from was MacArthur's constitutional prohibition against a military rebirth and a national determination to become a powerful producing nation. In the U.S., Liberalism was already narrowing the range of issues over which the mainstream political parties debated. Government intervention in society and the economy was already considerable and growing. Liberalism, however, downplayed the need for central planning in favor of measures to redistribute purchasing power (although the actual effect more often than not was to do so from those who produced wealth to those who did not). To be sure, a safety net of sorts was being constructed for those prevented from or otherwise unable to produce wealth by their labor. Far more was being spent by government in ways that benefited the already wealthy and powerful at the expense of the middle income taxpayers and the working poor. Billions of tax dollars spent on highway construction brought unearned gains to those who possessed land on the fringes of every major urban center in the United States. This was a transfer of purchasing power unprecedented in history that went largely unreported and unchallenged, other than by those who found their core moral principles in the writings of Henry George, the most prominent of whom remained Harry Gunnison Brown.

Henry Wallace's campaign for the Presidency represented a last gasp effort at substantial restructuring of the socio-political order in the U.S. Had he used his prestige as one of Franklin Roosevelt's closest advisers to champion the cause of cooperative individualism, he might have accomplished something. He was, unfortunately, so dangerously out of sync with the concerns of most Americans that he left the thoughtful little choice but to oppose him. When in 1947 Wallace attacked U.S. and British foreign policies as imperialistic, while defending Soviet aggression as a natural desire for secure borders, Oswald Garrison Villard joined Adolf Berle, Norman Thomas, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., Sidney Hook and other old-line anti-communist Liberals in signing a letter sent to Ernest Bevin, the British Foreign Secretary, denouncing Wallace's views. The door was now open wide to the advance of Liberalism. Activism on behalf of true and penetrating reform of existing socio-political arrangements and institutions yielded to a dangerous but deliberate shift toward the national security state, accompanied by an accepted loss of liberty in thought and action. From the intellectual wilderness, Francis Neilson took time to reflect on what to him was this rather odd turn in events:

One of the most curious phenomena observed in the party politics of this generation is that which has brought about the new use of old labels. Those of us who are old enough to remember the straightforward political struggles of more than forty years ago find ourselves living in a strange world. ...It might be said that there are only two old labels that have not been put to misuse: Toryism and Whigism. But even Toryism has not quite escaped, for now it is frequently applied to the capitalist class, whereas a hundred years ago it was applied exclusively to the landlords. ...

...Today, if the names of the candidates were suppressed and only the party platforms presented to him he would scarcely be able to choose the place where he would put his mark upon the ballot paper. For all parties vie with one another as to the attractiveness of the bribe that will draw the voter to the poll. ...[93]

The bribe, of course, was the use of the regulatory and taxing powers of the State to mitigate the extreme harms resulting from entrenched privilege and monopoly license. And, once the average person acquired a healthy fear of Stalinist methods, interventionists within the political and intellectual leadership ranks of the social democracies had more or less a free hand in guiding their societies into the apparent security of Liberalism. All the while, warnings were being raised by individualists of various stripes within the Remnant. Individualists were slow to examine the inconsistencies of their own ideals - to distinguish as Mortimer Adler did between what fell within the realm of liberty and what needed to recognized as license.

Even in the midst of the Second World War, a small cadre of intellectuals, almost exclusively in the English-speaking societies, had rallied round economist Friedrich Hayek's critique of state socialism, The Road to Serfdom.[94] Looking primarily at the British experience and the growing commitment to social engineering as public policy, Hayek examined the tradeoffs arising when the quest for broad economic security supplanted the commitment to principles of individual responsibility. Guarantees of employment and income to some result in "privilege at the expense of others whose security is thereby necessarily diminished,"[95] reasoned Hayek. He preferred to place his faith in competition and markets -- markets in which competition is maintained by the rule of law and purged of monopoly privilege. Although attacked by British socialists, Hayek's methodical analysis was difficult to ignore. Harold Macmillan later credited Hayek's book with having influenced Winston Churchill to go on the offensive against state socialism. The book reached a broad and general audience in the United States by virtue of its publication in condensed form by Reader's Digest. Even from the individualist corner, however, not all reviewers hailed Hayek as a beacon light. Lancaster M. Greene, a dedicated admirer of Henry George writing in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology, warned that "Hayek's criticism of the Marxists and their ilk suffers fundamentally from his failure to understand that the trouble with our economic system is precisely what Marx said it was, the private appropriation of land and other natural resources. It is this that set us on the road to serfdom, and the collectivism he deplores is its inevitable outcome."[96] This was criticism of a different sort, from a corner of the Remnant itself considered to be clinging to old and poorly reasoned ideas but still working to capture the hearts and minds of those not yet lulled into complacency by the conventional wisdoms of Liberalism or Libertarianism (of which Hayek emerged as a founding father).

Hayek had left Britain (and the London School of Economics) soon after publication of The Road to Serfdom, eventually joining the faculty at the University of Chicago. Despite the war and the drift of universities toward corporate and government-directed research, the University of Chicago remained under the leadership of Robert M. Hutchins one of the last bastions of a classic liberal education. Hutchins, along with Mortimer Adler and Mark Van Doran, had fought to preserve the university as a place where knowledge could be acquired, discovered and shared. In his own writing and teaching Adler had embarked on a campaign to resurrect the place of moral philosophy, of objectively proven moral principles, in the deliberations over public policies and socio-political arrangements. Less disciplined and rigorous in his thinking, economics professors Frank Knight (1885-1961) and Henry C. Simons (1899-1946) championed the cause of the market system. Knight recognized the dangers of unbridled freedom and warned that "its excess can have disastrous consequences."[97] Yet he feared the expansion of statist power even to preserve what the Physiocrats and Henry George had called "a fair field with no favors." Broad participation in governing would create an environment in which "the self-evidence of a harmony of interests in free relationships, excluding force and fraud and presupposing mutual respect for the freedom and the competence of [others]"[98] would thrive. Some individuals would, to be sure, attempt to secure privileges and monopoly licenses. The more direct the process of democracy, the fewer the administrative (as distinct from judicial) powers of government the less chance there would be for corruption and the advance of special interest. Knight and Simons were joined at Chicago in 1946 by Milton Friedman (fresh from completing his doctorate program at Columbia University). Hutchins had also attracted Richard Weaver, a southerner who yearned for a return of agrarian values, into Chicago's midst. Weaver's major contribution to the intellectual struggle appeared in 1948 with the publication of Ideas Have Consequences. This book traced the decline of Western civilization to the adoption of moral relativism in the Old World. Political scientist Leo Strauss, a Jewish escapee from Nazi Germany, also arrived in 1949, after ten years at the New School of Social Research in New York.

New York City became home to a rather more diverse group of self-styled successors to the neo-anarchism of Albert Jay Nock. Frank Chodorov we have already discussed. Nock and Chodorov, personally and as mentors, appealed to a younger generation of anti-Liberals that included Murray Rothbard and William F. Buckley, Jr. Felix Morley (who in 1945 had stepped down from a college presidency to become editor of Human Events to offer his own probing insights into what had gone wrong with the Democracy and what needed to be done). Morley's book The Power in the People was published in 1949, adding to individualism's latent base of moral insights. Morley had called upon Bertrand de Jouvenel,[99] among his circle of friends, to give his manuscript a critical reading before publication. At Irvington-on-Hudson, not far from New York City, Leonard E. Read established the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). Read invited Ludwig von Mises to join the faculty, and over the years after 1946 virtually every ranking intellectual within the individualist movement rubbed shoulders with Read. In 1950, FEE began publishing The Freeman. Journalist John Chamberlain and economist Henry Hazlitt stepped forward to take on editorial responsibilities. Chodorov would take over as editor in 1954, but in the meantime he continued his quest to influence the thinking of a gradually expanding core of individualists. By this time, Chodorov was convinced that more than any other tool acquired and employed by the State, the power to confiscate income earned from production and commerce ate away at the Democracy:

Were the disposition of the current crop of Americans comparable to that of their forebears, a new revolution, to regain the profit of the first one, would be in order. There is far more justification for it now than there was in 1776. But, people do not do what reason dictates; they do what their disposition impels them to do. And the American disposition of the 1950s is flaccidly placid, obsequious and completely without a sense of freedom; it has been molded into that condition by the proceeds of the Sixteenth Amendment. We are Americans geographically, not in the tradition. In the circumstances, a return to the Constitutional immunities must wait for a miracle.[100]

In the process of working to rekindle an attitude of self-reliance among Americans, Chodorov was always the willing teacher and mentor. He recognized in William F. Buckley a determined spirit and did what he could to nurture his individualist inclinations. God and Man at Yale, published in 1951 by Henry Regnery, catapulted Buckley into the vanguard of a resurgent conservative movement within the national security state. After four years as an undergraduate student at Yale, Buckley emerged feeling that the university had been captured by the orthodoxy of interventionism. Felix Morley affirmed Buckley's sentiments in a review that appeared in Barrons. That same year and in 1952, Robert M. Hutchins delivered a series of lectures at the Universities of Uppsala and Toronto that appeared in 1953 in book form. After thirty years as a teacher and administrator, Hutchins told his audience that "the decay of philosophy has taken place on a world-wide scale; but the effects of this decay on education have for many reasons been more immediate and pronounced in America than anywhere else."[101] Buckley's generation was enduring the consequences. Hutchins' generation of intellectuals had allowed the dialogue to narrow, a process that now threatened the very existence of the intellectual educated in the liberal tradition. "Almost by definition," declared Hutchins, "nobody can know anything except a specialist, and he can know nothing outside his specialty."[102] The result was grave danger for participatory government dependent upon an educated citizenry. The educational establishments of virtually every society had been captured by either pragmatism, positivism or Marxism, all of which had in common a repudiation of the past as a source of knowledge (i.e., of truth) and an exaggerated dependency on the experimental sciences. In point of fact, the responsibility for education of the young had been turned over to a bureaucracy, run in some instances by the State and in others by private concerns. Where were there examples of teachers coming together because of a shared philosophy of education to form schools, hire administrators to handle the mundane aspects of operations, offer their services in an open market and survive or not based on their ability to attract and retain students? Almost nowhere were the trustees of privately-endowed schools elected from the faculty. Teachers were forming unions to fight for higher wages and better working conditions. University professors formed associations to restrict competition and brought socialism into their profession in the guise of tenure. Chodorov as well had found that even the Henry George School of Social Science, where he had served as director, could not overcome the burden of a governing body only peripherally involved in teaching. Bureaucrats and boards of trustees tend to be far more concerned with finances and their own influence than with actual success in affecting people's lives. Chodorov's answer was to initiate the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists (ISI), and he recruited Buckley to become its first president.

The character of the Remnant was now beginning to change, to become organized but less and less cohesive in adherence to socio-political principles. Individualists selected for themselves labels they felt most comfortable with: anarchist, libertarian, communitarian or classic liberal. Others gravitated to the more familiar conservative and its more or less laissez-faire property-centric traditions.

Anti-communism and the quest to forge a strong national security state imposed a heavy cost on the individualist commitment to decentralized, minimal government. Held in common was a conviction that human progress depended upon an understanding of and adherence to a moral code, what some continued to equate with natural law. And, here rested the great debate, over what ought to be versus what is. "[T]he very concept of natural law means that those who hold it believe that the gap between the real and the ideal, between what we have and what we want, is no abyss, not actually a gap, but a relation,"[103] observed historian Crane Brinton. Our survival depended on our ability to live cooperatively with one another, which in turn was closely linked to the nurturing of our instinctive moral sense of right and wrong. Some looked to philosophy, others to religion for guidance. There now began a period of rapid development of the privately-endowed educational foundations whose members set out to challenge or defend conventional wisdoms. Hutchins and Adler were among the more ambitious and open-ended in their pursuit of knowledge, as Adler recalls:

Bob Hutchins left the University of Chicago in 1951 to become vice-president of the Ford Foundation... My departure from academic life followed, in 1952, after more than thirty years, ten at Columbia University and twenty-two at the University of Chicago.

Neither of us regarded our separation from the academy as an abandonment of the intellectual life. On the contrary, we made that move in order to initiate and carry on intellectual undertakings that had little chance of prospering within the confines of a university.[104]

With a Ford Foundation grant, Adler established the Institute for Philosophical Research. He also became involved in the creation of the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies, which began conducting moderated seminars on the great ideas of Western civilization. Hutchins also enlisted Adler's assistance in several conferences designed to be a preliminary to a new type of global academy. Their efforts proved extremely difficult, for, as Adler later wrote, "I learned ... how undisciplined are even the very best minds in the world when they turn from the solitary tasks of thinking and writing to the collaborative task of discussion."[105] Their quest for open, intellectual inquiry into the crucial issues affecting civilization was about to be challenged in a direct way by the national security state and its proponents, some of whom came from within the inner circle of the Remnant. Anti-communism and the challenge of Soviet military adventurism tested the convictions of those who had found direction in the individualism of Albert Jay Nock. Chodorov had long ago declared his position, and late in 1950 he restated in analysis what were for him the clear lessons of history:

When we look into the nature and substance of peace, and make comparison with the business of politics, we see how silly is this faith in the superstate. ...Just as primitive man sought the answers to all his questions in the totem pole, so does modern man look to political power to solve the problems of life. In both cases we have the same flight from self-reliance, the same escape from individual responsibility, the same mother complex.[106]

Chodorov's editorship of The Freeman under the auspices of FEE lasted only a year. During that time, Chodorov embarked on a last gasp effort to retrieve the Remnant from the depths of statism. For his troubles he attracted only scorn from the new conservative ranks. Russell Kirk, whose The Conservative Mind (published in 1953) was hailed by old guard Republicans and pre-Roosevelt Democrats as their call to arms, relegated Chodorov to the philosophical wilderness. For Kirk and those who found comfort in many of the early twentieth century's conventional wisdoms, Chodorov was "a philosophical anarchist who declares that government is an unnecessary evil and that radicals are the salt of the earth,"[107] in short, a utopian dreamer who had nothing to offer the true conservative in an age of superpower confrontation.

For a few fleeting years, Chodorov had held in his grasp the torch of cooperative individualism that dropped from the hands of Henry George a half century before. More than most others in the Georgist community, he had understood that the Democracy was as seriously threatened by accelerating interventionism as the monopolization of nature by a privileged few. Privilege had to be attacked on a broad front, he believed, so that our moral sense of right and wrong could be nurtured by education into right action. After his departure from the Henry George School, Chodorov's commitment to the core ideas of Henry Geroge fell nearly silent. The School continued on during the Second World War under the direction of a Canadian Georgist, Margaret Bateman. Anna George de Mille, the last surviving child of Henry George, held the presidency of the board of trustees until her death in 1947. Margaret Bateman stayed until the war ended, then resigned. Robert Clancy, who had studied under Oscar Geiger and worked and taught at the School until called to serve in the military, was made Acting Director in 1946 and then Director. After the death of Anna George de Mille in 1948, industrialist John C. Lincoln became President of the Board of Trustees. Under Robert Clancy, the School was now firmly in the hands of someone whose Georgism was wholly orthodox. Enrollment improved with each year, and the School reached an impressive number of people through classroom instruction, correspondence courses and its speakers bureau. Nearly 3,000 students were enrolled in classes during 1947 (although the completion rate was less than half). An equal number began the correspondence courses; but, here, the dropout rate was nearly 90 percent. Extensions and affiliates of the School operated in Chicago,[108] Los Angeles, St. Louis, Boston, Newark, Philadelphia, Montreal and several other cities. Georgists were neither a real political nor a recognized intellectual force, but they were keeping alive the philosophy of cooperative individualism Henry George had espoused. The following year (1948) brought Lawson Purdy, president of the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation, to the School's faculty. Economist Harry Gunnison Brown also made an appearance to speak at the School's annual banquet.

The end of war also brought a renewed effort by Georgists to forge a global movement. They came together under a reinvigorated International Union for Land Value Taxation and Free Trade, headquartered in London. Land and Liberty, the Union's monthly periodical continued with A.W. Madsen as editor. Membership, though limited, extended throughout the world. Delegates from twelve countries met during August of 1949 in Swanwick, England to assess their strength and develop a coordinated international thrust. The Georgist ranks included many dedicated activists and effective educators. Outside of Raymond Moley and John Dewey (still the honorary president of the Henry George School), however, there were no individuals with name recognition beyond the rather small community of intellectuals who bothered to read one another's socio-political writings. The American Journal of Economics and Sociology continued in the late 1940s to highlight the writing of Francis Neilson and Harry Gunnison Brown. Mortimer Adler, interestingly, served with Brown on the American Journal's Board of Editors. Despite all this activity, the Georgist cause languished, overtaken by the Cold War and the broader struggle between those who desired to maintain or overturn the status quo. Cooperative individualism was to experience a deepened loss of mainstream support, left to be preserved by a very few, a remnant within the Remnant who struggled to keep alive a socio-political philosophy and economic analysis traced to Thomas Paine and brought ever so close to public acceptance by Henry George.

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