A Philosophy of Approach
"LAWS OF GOD FOR HUMAN CONDUCT AS POLITICAL PRINCIPLES"
By WALLACE SPEERS, Vice President, James McCutcheon & Co., N. Y.
Delivered before the Sub-Committee on Social Legislation, National Affairs Committee, National Republican Club, New York City, March 8, 1945
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. XI, pp. 399-401.
I REALLY do not know where to start with this undertaking of a Social Legislation Committee. Mr. Bennet has given us a perfectly free hand, which means that we do not have any instructions of any kind as to what our duties should be.
It seems to me that the possibilities are in three different classifications—either we could examine what social legislation is being considered locally, in the state, and the nation, and pass judgment upon it and issue recommendations for supporting it, or not supporting it, or asking for changes in it. The second thing we could do would be to survey the social and economic situation in our Country, and perhaps the world, and recommend legislation to make our Country function more smoothly, fairly and efficiently. The third thing, which may be the most important, is to set up a philosophy on social action to recommend to the Republican Party as a basis for its making democracy grow, expand and become more adequate.
I would like to just talk for a few minutes to give you the background of my thinking on this subject, and then we can decide how we would like to go to work, and in what direction.
There is a social revolution going on all over the world. It is impossible to stop it. One can resent it, or fight it, or disregard it altogether, but it is like a mighty juggernaut and keeps going anyway. To my mind, the most significant thing that the Republican Party could do, with regard to this social revolution, is to attempt to channel it within the sounds of intellectual honesty and economic possibility and, at the same time, keep it within the framework of a free society so that in the end this revolution will represent human progress.
Whether we like it or not, or whether we are religious or not, the only pathway that will avoid both reaction on the one hand, and Communism on the other, in such an effort is by the expression of the laws of God for human conduct as political principles.
When we examine the perfectly functioning system of nature we discover that all inanimate things obey implicitly, the laws of God. Crystal structures always break up in the same form, chemical elements always unite in the same proportions, the sun, moon and stars travel in their prescribed orbits and on a definite time schedule, etc.
Mankind, on the other hand, has been given freedom of choice. Of course there are laws of God concerning human conduct which replace the fixed laws for inanimate objects, but man does have the right to choose whether he obeys them or not. However, the choice is an awe inspiring one, for upon whether our decision is to obey or not to obey depends the actual workability of the world. Indeed the laws of God concerning human conduct are actually the laws of workability in mankind's use of things.
I do not mean by that that we should express social legislation in religious or sanctimonious terms, but we must express the spirit and intent of religious principles if we are to remain on the right track.
Without any intent to find fault, but rather to arrive at the basis for progress, it seems to me that the Republican Party within the last few years has represented the forces of reaction, and whether because it did not understand the forces that were at work in the world, or whether it was motivated by a desire for things as they were, it has tended to fight against the social revolution.
On the other hand, I believe that the Democratic Party has swung all the way in the opposite direction, and even though they did seem to understand to some extent the implications of this revolution, they have not attempted to keep it within the bounds of intellectual honesty or economic possibility, and have swung strongly toward Communism. If the present direction of that Party is maintained we will not only lose our freedom and become a totalitarian state, but the whole process will represent a loss in human progress, for at its end a physical revolution would probably be required in order to re-establish human rights and start the process all over again.
Communism is not a thing to be dealt with lightly, or to be laughed at, any more than the first grade in school can be disregarded simply because we have graduated from college. Communism is a first step in the development of government and for us to turn to Communism would be a step backwards and would constitute reaction of a very muchmore fundamental sort than that which the Republican Party has been displaying within recent years.
In that connection, you may be interested in an experience which I had in Barcelona, Spain, the day before the so-called "Popular Front" came into being prior to their revolution. I was being shown through a factory by the owner of it, and remarked on the splendid group of employees that he had working for him. He said, "Yes, they are a fine group of men and women. However, you would be surprised to know that out of nearly four hundred employees there are not more than a few who can read or write! However, the Communist Government that is coming in tomorrow is going to fix all that. They are going to build about five thousand schools. You will also be surprised to know that we will have to go outside Spain to get our school teachers because there are no more than a couple of hundred people in Spain who could or would teach."
"My," I said, "that is a funny way for a capitalist to be talking. You sound as if you are glad you are going to have a Communistic Government!"
"Yes," he said, "it would be peculiar anywhere except in Spain. The wealth of Spain has been owned by a comparatively few families who did not have to develop that wealth and, therefore, we have had terrible poverty and illiteracy. When the Communist Government comes in, the wealth will be developed for everyone's benefit, and there will be more customers for my product and every other person's product as well.
"Spain would like to be like the United States. They thought that by becoming a Republic they would be more like it, which to them meant that everyone would own a car, a radio, an electric ice-box, and would have plenty to eat and money to spend. However, when they did become a Republic in 1931, they woke up the next morning and found that they were just as hungry, just as poor, and did not have a car, or a radio, and they felt that they had been cheated.
"It is simply impossible to support a representative form of government until the people can read and write and get enough education in order to be able to vote intelligently. Until we can achieve that education and develop our natural resources for the benefit of everyone, Communism is the best form of Government that we possibly could have. If we gain that fundamental basis necessary to a Representative Government, we can move onward toward Democracy."
That is a very important thing to remember, that governments are not fixed entities. They are always in a state of flux, and even the finest form of government, the Liberal Democracy, is at best an equilibrium which has inherent in itself the forces which can destroy the equilibrium if they get out of balance.
That is the very purpose of social legislation, to adjust inequalities and any lack of balance in these forces ahead of time, to prevent them from destroying the equilibrium of Democracy.
As I said a moment ago, the only pathway that will avoid both reaction on the one hand, and Communism on the other, is composed of the expression of God's laws for human conduct in terms of political principles.
The primary background of all the Bible teaching is the dignity of the individual and the everlasting freedom of his soul. However, the Bible does not leave this to chance. It very definitely classifies this value and freedom of the individual as the responsibility of other individuals. That is the basis of freedom.
I would like to add to that old statement that "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty," that "the coin with which the bill must be paid is responsibility." This feeling of responsibility has been broken down steadily since the advent of the machine, because the machine brought in so many new problems in human relations which seemed difficult and complex to solve. Instead of trying to solve them ourselves, we have gone to government to turn over our responsibility to it, or else government has demanded that it be allowed the responsibility for the solution. That is the easiest way out, of course, but it is the pathway to slavery. If we, as individuals, will not attempt to understand our own difficulties and solve them, freedom will go out the window no matter what political party is in power. It is, therefore, our responsibility to recommend a social philosophy for the Republican Party, founded upon the responsibility of the individual. Naturally the world is not all "sweetness and light," and the outer fringes of our citizenry simply will not take this responsibility in an honest and straight-forward manner. We must, therefore, temper our social. philosophy of responsibility by placing floors under it, and ceilings over it, at which point the government will take over regulation of human conduct in cases where the inability or unwillingness of the individual to take responsibility and make his actions conform to the demands of sense of duty, cause a situation in which government must step in and take over for the public good. It is my conviction, however, that if the true facts of the responsibilities of freedom are placed before the public in a logical and reasonable way, for a long enough period of time, no matter how complex our society becomes, these floors and ceilings can become a less and less important part of our whole framework of life.
In other words, we must have a large central portion of our national life made up of individual responsibility, with the smaller outer fringes on both sides composed of government responsibility for the individual. The larger the center section of individual responsibility is, and the smaller the outer fringes, the nearer we are to perfect Democracy.
Conversely, the larger the outer fringes of Government! responsibility, and the smaller the individual responsibility core, the nearer we are to Communism, or Totalitarianism. We must make the center section of individual responsibility as large as possible right away, and keep increasing its size.
This is going to be difficult because if you will examine the people who voted for Mr. Roosevelt in the last election I believe that you will find most of them had very little knowledge of the international situation—some of them perhaps did feel that a change should not be made during the war, but I believe the large majority voted for him because they felt rightly or wrongly that he had done something for them. The first requirement, therefore, of the Republican Party must be a change from a desire for power, to a desire to be of service. This desire to be of service does not mean to promise super hand-outs, more liberal than the "New Deal" has offered, which seemed to be the pattern of the last Republican campaign. It means, rather, the explanation of the whole background of freedom, and the value of a life provided with the promise of free ability to develop one's self as it seems best to himself, and the guarantee of opportunity, coupled with a defense against the exploitation of the individual by any other individual, or groups of individuals, or government itself.
The Bible again provides us with a formula for freedom. It says, "the truth shall make you free." But truth is an entirely different matter from fact. Fact is a statement of the sum total of human knowledge, while truth is an expression of absolute knowledge and, as such, can come only from God, the source of all knowledge.
When we attempt to approach truth we must use all the facts that are available to us, and add to them everything that we can find by the use of our intelligence. Even then we are still a long way from truth. We still have to copewith that large area which is controlled by the laws of God concerning human conduct, where the major possibility of error exists. Most of us forget that the Bible's complete statement about truth and freedom is that, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." These laws must be applied to human knowledge if we are to come near truth.
We can see this demonstrated if we look at the political scene. One political party, when it was in power, tried to do a job by using all the facts that were available to them, but did not go much further. This resulted in a serious lack of social and economic balance.
Another political party coming into the ascendancy, saw some of the reasons for this lack of balance and started from the other end. They applied an inadequate humanism to an insufficient number of facts, and it also resulted in a lack of social and economic balance.
If we are to aspire to truth and freedom in any form of human endeavor, we must take all the facts and apply to them the laws of God concerning human conduct, such as justice, mercy, sense of duty, human understanding, brotherhood, the "Golden Rule," and all the rest. In a word, what the world needs to be successful is to have the things of the spirit applied to the most expert use of economics, sociology, politics, and racial adjustments.
To my mind, the greatest fault that we can find with the present Administration is that the President has not been President of all the Country, but of parts of it. In other words, if we are to channel this social revolution within the bounds of intellectual honesty and economic possibility we must get all the facts about all our people and then attempt to establish the truth about them in the way that the Bible outlines. When one does this, a good many things become clear that were not so before.
The Republican Party is primarily Management, or at least it is considered so by Labor. To all intents and purposes Management and Labor are at opposite ends, and their interests are completely opposed to one another. When we try to use this formula of getting all the facts and using sense of duty, justice, human understanding, and the "Golden Rule" on them, one discovers immediately that the aims of Management and Labor are exactly the same. Management needs to have as many people employed, at as high a wage as possible, in order to have customers capable of buying its products. In just the same way Labor needs the success of Management in order to have a place to work and to be provided with an income for adequate living. It is our job, as I see it, to promote facts such as these in a way that they will become evident to both Management and Labor.
Probably the most glaring cause of not taking all of the facts into account is the gap in the democratic process composed of the individual's inability to make his needs and desires known to anyone in authority. The filling of this gap is the most momentous opportunity that was ever placed before a political party, both as a method of revivifying itself, and as a marvelous contribution to the whole progress of the democratic idea.
This Country's form of government was originally based on the town meeting idea, where every individual had the ability to stand up and make his needs and desires known to someone in authority. As we grew and became more complex this was no longer possible, until at the moment there is no way whatsoever in which his needs and desires may be made known except through the medium of inadequate private polls and investigations.
Indeed, it is my understanding that there is no money or no machinery provided for any Senator or Representative for getting information about the needs and desires of his constituency. The extent of our ability to make ourselves felt consists really only in making a choice at election time between two people who have been appointed as candidates by some county committee man, or some party official. Natural forces, of course, go to work to attempt to correct this situation and fill this gap.
Indeed the, pressure groups of farm, labor, etc. are merely evidences of people with similar needs and desires getting together to create sufficient power so that their needs and desires can be made known to those in authority. However, because? there are not pressure groups for all classes in our society, only part of the facts are made apparent to our legislators. This results in very biased legislation.
The "New Deal's" answer to this is to set up bureaus and boards, ad infinitum, to try and correct the very lack of balance caused by such legislation.
The Republican Party can wipe out the need for such bureaucracy by providing a method by which all the facts are placed before our law makers, with equal force, at the same time. This goes back again to our Bible statement about "the truth shall make you free." I believe that this can be done by the adoption of a system of functional representation right down to the election district. At that level, representatives should be elected for management, labor, consumer, farmer, health, education, etc, that they in turn could elect a smaller group from their own numbers for the county level—the same process for the state level—and again for the national level.
These functional representatives would have no power whatsoever except to present the needs and desires of their constituency to the legislators at whatever level they are appointed for. This would mean that at a time when labor's needs are being presented, right along with them are being presented management's, the health needs of the community, etc. As a result, having all the facts before them, our law makers could pass very much more simplified legislation.
It is my suggestion that during the four years that the Republican Party is out of power, that it formulate itself into a pressure group larger than any other, and perhaps larger than all of them combined. But you cannot have a blind pressure group and in order to make it intelligent, we might set up this system of functional representation within the party, starting with the election district, which would really hold an old fashioned town meeting in which representatives for each category would be nominated and elected.
This would be an exceedingly healthy thing for the Party because the information filtering up from the bottom would give us an entirely new knowledge of what our people really want.
At the same time the Democratic Party would not be able to allow such a tremendously powerful thing to come into being without doing the same thing itself. The result would be that you would continually have both sides of all people's needs and desires being presented all the time, which would give us a coalition form of government in which neither Party would ever be completely out of power as they are now.
Perhaps this is not the place to present such a suggestion, and I am not doing it in the form of a formal recommendation, but rather to give you some of the background of my feeling concerning the needs of the Country, and particularly those needs as they can be satisfied by the Republican Party.
I have been talking entirely too much, and I would like to hear a discussion of what your wishes in the matter are, about the direction of our effort, and how we could undertake it.