Steps Toward a More Successful Government
(a paper written in 1957 as part of the Telluride Association Summer Program in Deep Springs, California)
The need for assurance of an adequate political foundation for the future
The future with its impending uncertainties and mysteries demonstrates the need for the type of society that will continue to spiral the human race to better things. Accordingly, adequate foundations of a future successful society must be provided today. Several Utopians societies have been offered to meet this great need - many of them purely socialistic in nature. The existing societies, mostly competitive, also present likely solutions to future problems, although not specifically designed for that purpose. Let us examine these kinds of societies - or more specifically the government that regulates each type since the governing body tries to mold society into its stereotype of the perfect society.
One method of discovering the best form of government is to examine the past and search for a more successful example. This government has proven most workable in actual experience, and hence should be considered potentially most fit for the unknown times ahead.
Many criteria for success are available, most of them quite impractical and indefinite. Thomas B. Macaulay once gave his learned opinion, “That is the best government which desires to make the people happy, and knows how to make them happy.” Happiness is a pretty vague thing, though. The task of polling the governed on how happy they are would be much too difficult, and the results far too inaccurate. Responses would be flavored with personal prejudice, different degrees of concern, or other impurities that mar the actual truth. Yet, since nearly everyone agrees that happiness is the ultimate criterion for the better government, we must find a method to mirror public sentiment, indirectly but accurately.
A democracy, based on the will of those governed, allows the people to effectively voice their objections if they disapprove of what the government is doing. If enough wished to replace it with some other form of government, the people would easily be able to accomplish this end. In practice, this aim would be achieved through some Constitutional amendment to remove the objectionable part of government or society.
This action has been illustrated in the last half century by the public clamor raised first for prohibition of liquor and then against it, both resulting in Constitutional amendments. Even in a totalitarian state, the people can still very easily express their wishes very effectively - by revolting or by threatening to revolt, a move that will mortally frighten the despotic ruler who realizes the extremely dangerous position he occupies. Alexis de Tocqueville, a keen French political thinker, stressed the value of this public pressure through rebellion, stating, “Nevertheless, public opinion as a directing power is no less above the head of the one than the other. This power is less definite, less evident, and less sanctioned by the laws in France than in America; but it really exists there. In America it acts by elections and decrees; in France, it proceeds by revolutions. Thus, notwithstanding the different constitutions of these two countries, public opinion is the predominant force in both of them.” Nor would there be much difference in the speed of reform in spite of the tyrannical restraints brought against the popular proposal in the despotic society, for in the democracy much time would be spent in weighing the popular proposal and in translating it into law through the slow democratic processes, whereas in the totalitarian state the populace would necessarily be of one opinion and ready to act immediately. In either case, the people would eventually be able to select the government they choose, and discard the other.
Since popular approval determines whether a government exists or not, that type that is allowed to govern for the longest period of time must be the best form, using Macaulay’s standard. Then, this government would be the most successful, both in the biological sense that the species which can survive over the greatest duration of time is the fittest, and in the practical sense that this government had lasted longer because the people wished it to continue. Thus, this government body would necessarily be the most virtuous as well.
A government, seeking success, must then dedicate itself to the quest for long duration. This policy might seem a bit narrow at first notice, but all other broad aims are embodied in this one goal, since the most successful, the longest lasting, must be, as already demonstrated, the most virtuous. A sound program must be adopted before the government can obtain popular approval and long life. This fact seems to lead to an astoundingly obvious conclusion - that the government which rules better is better - practically a definition, and very inconclusive as it offers inferences toward a program. Luckily, however, we can also evolve a program patterned specifically after gaining long life that would necessarily encompass better governing as well.
A government functions primarily according to society. This relationship characterizes the type of government, and also the type of society. Before we can better understand the correlations between the two, we must understand how society and the forces in it operate. These inherent processes assume an essential role in this relationship.
Primarily, the institutions of the society constitute the desires and characteristics of the whole community and incorporate the forces that determine the relationship between the government and the society. We shall thus be largely concerned with these organizations for as Benjamin Disraeli once revealed, “Individuals may form communities, but it is institutions alone that create a nation.”
The foundation of an institution consists primarily of the goal set forth for it to achieve by its members. A business, then, is organized to make money for its owners; an intellectual study group, to further knowledge and increase the understanding of its participants; a labor union, to create more desirable jobs for its membership. The organization mobilizes its membership to work for the common cause, or toward the common goal. As the realistic mechanics of this operation, equipment is employed to improve efficiency, the group arranges its members in the most effective and orderly fashion, and techniques develop to more quickly and effectively active the common goal.
When an institution advances to a larger extent toward the achievement of its goals, it becomes more powerful than before. This present power, then, exists because of the advancement in the past, as I shall now illustrate.
Let us assume that there is a dam, representing some institution, across the competitive stream. The objective of this dam is to build itself higher,and store more water behind it in the stream. The level of the water, let us assume then, determines the amount of power this dam possesses. Starting from the normal level of the stream, the dam gradually through the adoption of better methods of reaching its goal (the high level arbitrarily set by the institutional dam) builds the level of the water higher and higher, thus increasing the power of this dam - the pressure built up at the bottom. This dam would be powerful, then, not because of the present pressure, but because of the past when this water was stored. Yet, still this pressure would permit the present ability to act. Such is the case with power in actual society. [Footnote: In the actual competitive society, success and power do necessarily correlate, for it is essential to accumulate enough power to achieve success.]
Power, defined in most dictionaries as “the ability to do or perform something” [more specifically from the Winston (College Edition) Dictionary, Copyright 1951], refers in the case of institutions to the means or ability to influence others (primarily) in a manner favorable to the attainment of its goals. Therefore, powerful General Motors is able to induce the customer to buy huge supplies of its product and has, thus, furthered its goal of making money.
Some form of a competitive struggle for power occurs on every level of organizational development. [Footnote: These levels in order of hight are: individual, institution, faction (or industry), realm (or field), society.] For the institutional plane and for most above this level, the power promises an easier attainment of goals. For the individual, the power offers hope of placing the aspiring person in the desired position - generally of receiving a larger share of the benefits from institutions of which he is a member, or for simple prestige purposes. Obviously, a man can usually be ranked with another man in the same group by their relative positions in that group; [Footnote: This process does not account for the fact that each may have more important interests. President Eisenhower is, thus, inferior in his church to the pastor, but vastly more important to society.] the groups by their relative statuses in an industry; the industries or factions by their rankings in some realm of endeavor, and even these realms by their positions in society. Yet, what about the places of men in different groups, groups in different realms, etc.? Does the Vice-President of the leading corporation in the seventh largest industry possess power superior to that of the President of the third largest company in the fifth largest industry? In such a case, the positions would be determined by the impact of each on the smallest category they have in common, in this case the realm of business. The individual can, thus, improve his competitive power position by strengthening any one of the categories which he occupies. Hence, the goal of every person in this struggle would be to be the most powerful person in the most powerful group in the most powerful industry in the most powerful field in the most powerful society.
I have assumed in the analysis of the forces of society that man has an inherently competitive nature. A great many people, though, have no apparent inclination to advance their positional lots. Several reasons could be proposed for this stray from human nature - largely because of a lazy lack of effort or the absence of imaginative optimism and enthusiasm. Some follow the illusion that they could lose more than gain in the rivalry for power, and so withdraw to complete reaction. Others are unwilling to devote energy to competitive advancement in one field because they have more important interests elsewhere. As a whole, however, these people who lack the spirit or energy for a competitive battle assume the role of pawns rather than players in society. As they seldom rise to influential positions in organizations, groups are generally more competitive than individuals, having been influenced by those men in key roles who do have competitive tendencies. Thus, the ambitious, rising to the top, determine the competitively active nature of society.
Strong personal competition does often exist in many places, on the other hand. Even when the rival are not on an equal footing, such as the relationship between owner and employee, a great personal struggle for real power appears, although often disguised by the challenger for reasons of obvious expediency. the incident of Harry Bennett’s subtle rise to near ownership of the Ford Motor company during Henry Ford I’s last years provides a good example of such a battle. Yet, most such cases are those of a strong personal challenger attacking an established hierarchy for leadership. [Footnote: After a successful fight against the hierarchy that succeeds in wresting real power from it, the victor often contents itself with the actual authority waiting for an opportune moment to consolidate this position with the titular power as well. James Hoffa, for instance, probably gained real authoritative control of the Teamsters under Beck’s presidency, but has only recently decided to consolidate his power by running for the presidency of this large union.]
On the institutional level, competition springs much more freely than on the others. In the event of nearly perfect competition, many organizations battle for supremacy with strictly competitive forces as envisioned by Adam Smith in economics holding free sway. Should there be a monopoly or collusive oligopoly. On the other hand, the climate of that particular restricted industry or field would be artificially controlled to suit the few in power by advancing their goals and attainment of these goals to an unlimitedly beneficial degree. Onlookers, who could become future rivals to these monopolists and oligopolists, would recognize the desirability and advantage of sharing these unusually large amounts of power and profit. These groups, or rather the potential founders of these yet unfounded groups, would seriously desire and consider entering these profitable areas strictly for self-motivated reasons, since the climate would be favorable for the whole field or industry and since they would certainly gain control over part of that area, no matter how small it might be. These factors would establish a basic desire to enter the cartellized field and then necessarily competing with the incumbent giants.
The practical side of competing with monopolies and oligopolies presents a rather gloomy picture for the smaller competitor, however. The giants would undoubtedly use their size and entrenched position to great advantage in excluding competition. Through superior magnitude, the giants can increase efficiency of operation to sell goods at a lower price in the business world, can afford to spend large percentages of their resources for research and expert advice to maintain a superior product, and are able to mold public opinion through types of advertising. Is there no advantage for the underdog to offset the disadvantage of size?
Every large institution has risen from an humble position of very little power, having entered the competitive arena either as an equal among midgets in an unexplored field or as an underdog against giants. After a certain time wrestling for survival and fumbling their policies through trial and error, these groups have discovered some method to beat competition, some way to make maximum use of its resources, ability, a and power. These techniques of getting in competitive shape and other methods of internal improvement gained by experience allowed these organizations to hold their places against the competition and eventually to rise to the top in this struggle. [Footnote: Other factors contributing to the competitive rise in these groups such as the possibilities of better personnel, nurturing support of another powerful group, and the absence of stiff competition are really only secondary considerations. The first possibility was important only as much as it led to better methods. The later two contributed elements that made these methods, techniques, and policies more successful.] This good competitive condition, then, allowed more power to accumulate in the hands of these groups in spite of the many forces wishing to prevent this rise.
After certain well-adapted practices have been carried these large organizations to the top of the competitive heap, the powerful groups become better able to cope with the competitive forces and need not switch tactics often “to keep a jump ahead” of the rivals. Furthermore, the present practices that have created success are usually the best adapted to the conditions or they would not have achieved the results they did. Thus, these policies and techniques become guidelines for the group to insure success and stability.
Numerous reasons could be cited against the old and then necessary policies of trial and error being continued, now that the organization became successful. First, any unproven and drastic measures, which the underdog has to take to survive, are far too dangerous for the giant to undertake. [Footnote: To a certain extent, the large group may instituted sharp changes on the divisional level, but these do not suffice for those made by the whole large group. The entire organization must have methods to combat competition as many attacks are made upon the total aggregate concern.] Smaller rivals can fail many times through superior numbers while the giant can make a serious mistake only once to lost vast control over a large percentage of the industry. Packard once tried a bold, but drastic move in introducing a cheaper version of its expensive line and lost the position of leadership in the luxury car market to Cadillac. This unfortunate move is the type of risk the leader cannot afford to take. Second, cone they have developed a sound and successful program, the large concerns are reluctant to abandon it, even at the risk of obsolescence due to some “temporary” change in conditions. This fear and procrastination in fundamental change, so soundly imbued in the minds of the managers of the forerunning institutions, evolves a general inflexibility of operation in the large organization. Furthermore, these often obsolete guidelines usually become so deeply rooted in the fabric of the institutions because of long resistance to change that their abolishment would seriously rip the fibres of this group. At any rate, the large institution eventually becomes strait-jacketed by its own policies and accompanying inflexibilities, an extremely dangerous position.
Ultimately even more significant than the tendency to become reactionary in operation for these large institutions is the inevitable decline in competitive relations. This decaying plays an important role in the ultimate collapse of the large concern.
When the giant was young and rising, it had to develop successful competitive techniques to survive among the other increasing groups that also helped to fill the vacuum of an unexplored field or perhaps of a dying order in that field. These competitive practices allowed this organization to survive and increase in power as competitive forces whittled away the ranks of its rivals. Eventually, either a monopolistic or oligopolistic condition remained to rule the former scene of a vigorous competitive battle. (Almost invariably in modern business with increased technology)
As soon as the monopolist gains control over his field, he no longer has any competitive problems for there are no remaining rivals to fight.
Eventually, the same favorable situation develops for the oligopolist. As the fact become increasingly evident that no degree of competitive effort can dislodge the other entrenched rivals without the oligopolist’s risking collapse through the drastic and unproven tactics such a policy would entail, the oligopolist gradually shifts his competitive efforts to the next higher level in an attempt to make his field more powerful and important, indirectly increasing his own power as an institution and bringing all the oligopolistic rivals together in a common cause. Furthermore, recognizing that any further vigorous competitive efforts promise not only to be futile, but also dangerous, each of the oligopolists relaxes his competitive attempts, cautiously in steps as each of the others willingly follows suit. [Footnote: The American automobile industry is now approaching this stage as evidence by the “Big Three’s” reluctance to abandon the fallacious “longer, larger, lower” trend in styling.] This relaxation not only allows the rivals to naturally develop safer and more conservative policies, but also permits greater competitive security and profits.
By common consent, this co-operative attempt to “share the profits” develops and degenerates by mutual consent into an automatic, yet perfectly understood, collusion in practice - practically complete competitive stagnation. [Footnote: Having once tacitly agreed to such a policy, these oligopolists are obliged by their own declining ability to compete to stick with it.]
In either case, the result remains similar; the monopolist or collusive partner can no longer hold its ground in a competitive struggle - its ability having stagnated and diminished through lack of practice. This ability had swept the giant to power in its youthful days, and had constituted power itself.
Created by the basic desire to share the unusually large benefits in the cartellized field, new rivals appear on the scene. Though these are generally and promptly crushed by the giant, other groups arise to take their places, induced to follow by the clearing of competition. Even the inherent difficulties caused by size and lack of equipment may be overcome. [Footnote: These smaller rivals need not compete with the giants in full scope, but could, for example, rival them locally and then expend to the national level. In industries requiring huge initial capitalization, the underdogs could either float a stock transaction with interested individuals, or could even be another group elsewhere with large resources seeking to profit by entering this competitively weak field.] Yet, by virtue of their inferior positions, these underdogs are obliged to become competitively sharp to survive the destructive forces. They test and experiment with many different practices and tactics, searching for the ones that could bring them success and competitive advancement through trial and error. Eventually, some will fulfill this quest and survive, while many other less successful competitors shall perish. These survivors will have gained the ability to successfully compete through experience in actual combat and will have the competitive methods mastered, best suited to the times. At some point in this natural rise, they will collide strongly with the entrenched giants at the very top.
At this point, the old giant still has a slight advantage in size, but is fundamentally weak in every other aspect. [Footnote: This inevitable cycle does not foresee premature collapse through uncontrollable fortune or accident. Several German firms folded after World War II upon legal and military pressure from the Allies - yet the same result as the inevitable in any case.] No longer able to easily change policies to fit changing times nor able to effectively compete, the monopolist or oligopolist of former days faces the brunt of a vigorous onslaught of experienced and enthusiastic rivals. thus straight-jacketed and incapacitated, the old order retreats steadily and generally collapses with a few exceptions. [Footnote: A notable example was the Ford model change in 1927 reversing a decade of reaction and allowing further survival.] In such a manner, the new generation of power succeeds the old and begins the same cycle once more.
The competitive forces are mainly applicable to the institutional level of struggle for power, though also common on the others. The aluminum and copper industries are battling for supremacy in the business world while individuals like James Hoffa and Walter Reuther struggle for superiority on the personal level, for instance. The competitive forces in these two levels are hampered to some extent by uncontrollable circumstances - technological and intellectual advances interfering with the former field, and personal contacts by accident and natural handicaps meddling with the latter. Institutions are not as restricted and influenced by these uncontrollable outside influences. Furthermore, as Disraeli stated, institutions do compose the society, and, hence, we should be more concerned with these organizations.
The members of a society possess many different wants and needs. To further each of these desires, a group is founded by individuals of these same interests, willing to labor together for attaining t his common desire, the goal of this new institution. Indeed, institutions function to achieve practically every basis human desire, each one devoted to furthering one of these specific longings. The classic institutions, the family, church, school, government, and business solve the more basic needs which have persisted throughout the ages. In addition, other organizations have arisen to handle the increasing complexities of modern society, and have done so quite freely with amazing flexibility. [Footnote: These organizations include in part humane societies, labor unions, Rotary clubs, fraternities, Shakespearian societies, political parties, fan clubs, stock markets, citizens’ councils, country clubs, social register cliques, Boy Scouts, the Salvation Army, finance committees, and other covering even more minute desires.] Should a person wish to rob a bank, for example, he could organize a gang to facilitate the operation. If this person is annoyed that people ridicule his strong conviction that the moon is formed from green cheese, he could found an intellectual type of group to convince others in doubt of this basic truth through evidence and argument, or he could join a party to salvage this wasted food and make fortunes hauling the cheese to market on earth. In essence, then, these groups represent the desires and interests of the society.
All institutions, in spite of apparent diversities, are arranged by their goals between two opposite poles of interest - material and idealistic. Generally those groups seeking material ends compete quite vigorously with their rivals and for selfish purposes whereas those near the other pole altruistically strive for aesthetic satisfaction for their members, often though cooperation to the fullest degree with similar institutions, their competitors. The benefits, solicited by the group in his latter case, proceed to the society rather than primarily to the group itself. Thus, competition between Humane societies operates far less intensely than between businesses.
The materialistic groups, by virtue of their greater degree of rivalry, entail more power than the other; they must be well equipped with power to survive the greater rivalry. But because people generally desire these material benefits to such an extent that they are willing to fight fiercely for them, the groups able to satisfy these desires can more ably with these material inducements influence people to act in a manner favorable to their interests, or are, in the definitive sense of the word, more powerful.
With the general pattern drawn, let us glance more specifically into the institutions and their position in the spectrum. At the upper extreme appear such strictly unselfish groups like the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Humane societies, and other charities. Just down the scale from the top are located the family, fraternities, churches, and perhaps even country clubs. [Footnote: I place the church in this second category because it does offer the material reward of reaching heaven in addition to much aesthetic pleasure.] These offer a more selfish type of aesthetic benefit to their participants, but by no means materialistic. Another jump lower are found groups in the middle of the spectrum such as the school, citizens’ committees, and the government. The state should occupy the center of the scale as the molder of the entire society, using definitely materialistic means to achieve generally idealistic ends. A shade below the middle form the Shakespearean societies, social class organizations, and fan clubs, answering man’s quest for recognition, either for its members or a popular idol - basically self-motivated desires. Still farther down the line, just a mite above the bottom, appear labor unions and political parties, groups generally following an ideal, though a totally self-minded one. Lastly arrive the businesses and armed forces, very powerful and earthly groups seeking strictly material goals and inherently unconcerned with ideals.
In spite of general differences, each group in the spectrum holds a certain amount of power and is subject to the same competitive processes. Country clubs, for instance, compete to recruit more or higher calibre members for prestige purposes to a slight degree. Yet, because these processes develop much more rapidly at the very bottom of the spectrum and thus offer more incidents with more competitive emphasis on this end of the scale, I shall emphasize primarily the economic field in explaining the competitive evolution.
The great motivating fuel and lubricant in this scheme of organizations and competition is power. Those possessing much of it are constantly besieged and viciously attacked in the simultaneous onslaught of those less fortunate. These owners can, however, employ this power to defend itself from changing hands, and can even seek to increase their holdings by wresting further power from the smaller sources. On the other hand, those less powerful must try to gain this ability to further its ultimate objectives or perish as a group. These goals must be achieved for they represent the binding force that holds the group together. Thus, all these institutions compete with everyone else - other organizations in the same field, in different fields, individuals, or total industries - in brief, anyone who has that power which they vitally need to further their own goals. In the vicious struggle of life and death to the institution to obtain this power, anyone or anything represents a potential or actual carrier of power - an object that an be wrung for every drop of that life giver. It is never safe to be a holder, especially in large amounts. Yet, since power enables a group to achieve its all-important goals, the accumulation of it becomes the necessary immediate aim for every institution in spite of the extreme dangers of possessing it.
Nor does this conflict inherently harm anyone, for it provides just equality of opportunity for everyone, thus usually condemning the weakling for lack of competitive effort or imagination. By forcing the participants to erase their weaknesses and expand their strengthly virtues, the struggle molds and develops institutions better equipped to face any challenge or danger hurled at it. Yes, every competitive institution must first improve itself constantly to survive, and then, by attacking its rivals for power, force these to improve also. Thus, the lot constantly improves through this sublime conflict. [Footnote: Advertising, contrary to appearance, provides a constructive role in rivalry as its prevents the public taste for superior products from stagnation and, therefore, perpetuates the constant need for product improvement that would otherwise diminish.]
The society, accordingly benefits greatly by this processes, first by consisting of healthier and fitter institutions, then, by receiving constantly improving products and results from these groups in many cases. A great many institutions such as businesses depend on popular acceptance for their efforts (in the form of products) for power. Therefore, to further their goals, they must please the public by constant improvement of their results. These, consequently, will be better suited to benefit society.
This important institution occupies a most unique position among the other organizations in that it attempts to mold society into the moral and practical pattern that society considers the best for itself. to achieve this end, the state has been given total physical power in the society for enforcement of this molding, necessarily monopolistic in nature. This pattern in a democracy, for instance, generally involves equality of justice, tranquility, etc. - as Thomas Jefferson phrased it, “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” All these aspects exist incidental to the basic task of the government to match society with its stereotype, generally set by the governed. Specific functions are provided for the government to carry out this aim, the broader ones in America being outlined in a chart at the end of the paper. These functions and other aspects of the state shall be discussed later after you have glanced at the chart.
Because of its primary goal to match society with the best possible stereotype, the government necessarily tends to spread its influence more widely throughout society as time progresses. A nation is usually founded on ideals. If founded on the principles of socialism or communism, the state supposedly would have already reached the maximum degree of permeation into society. If founded, however, on the natural free enterprise system, this new state would vigorously seek to continue this type of society that fit into the pattern it thought best in spite of circumstantial hardships which might arise, hoping to set a strong precedent of competition, which would eventually reach a balance. However, as this new society matures and grows more complex, the governmental leaders start to realize that the competitive system is one of basic inequality, in which the industrious or perhaps fortunate personally accumulate the greater portion of society’s benefits, leaving the rest impoverished and destitute. Furthermore, these unfortunate ones, who have lost in the struggle for power, complain in tears to the omnipotent state about their wretched plight. [Footnote: Because of the natural trend toward a monopoly or oligopoly, the few succeed to any degree while the many fail. This is reversed, however, by the losers jumping on the winner’s bandwagon to some extent.] Basically charitable and good hearted, especially toward the society, the state has pity on those oppressed by the merciless competitive system and desires to help them. Some states, like Great Britain, either out of tender-heartedness or public pressure, turn socialist at this point. [Footnote: Often, as probably in the United States, the failures fancy themselves as robbed by free enterprise (G.M. etc.) and seek jealous vengeance on the industrious by pressuring politicians through votes to equalize the wealth. This still has results.] Others, like the United States, seek to aid these underprivileged persons and groups by means of, or at least still retaining, free enterprise. In any case, most states change their stereotypes of a perfect society towards a pattern that will relive the oppressed and wretched groups to promote equality as a human right and tend to eliminate human suffering - a very high-minded and charitable feeling and deed.
Thus, abandoning former ideals for the society, the state has established a new primary goal of helping the circumstantially unfortunate members of society. Because matching society the stereotyped Utopia is the prime function of a government, and because the concept of human equality becomes more and more a leading feature of this perfect society as envisioned by the state because of the pressures of the Unfortunates, establishing equality to offset the competitive differences becomes increasingly the major function of this advanced, but yet free enterprise, state to which all other considerations become secondary. Then, with one specific goal set as the primary objective, the government is found to a policy seeking rapid attainment of that goal, performing as thorough an operation as possible. But since private enterprise fundamentally opposes the leveling courses of action sought by the state, it is impossible to assume that, left by itself or even with mild inducement b the government, the competitive system will achieve any substantial degree of equalization. The government must, then, penetrate and achieve control over society with its competitive institutions before it can effectively attain the primary and humanitarian goal. Therefore, only by monopolization of the fields in the society can the government reach the primary goal, basically alien to a competitive society.
Not to even mention examples like Britain or the Soviet Union, America, the bulwark of competitive institutions, is gradually falling into the realm of government domination. From an era around the turn of the century which abhorred state penetration into business, the government has increased its percentage of the gross national product to slightly more than ten per cent in 1929 and nearly double that figure in 1956. A steadily increasing portion of those funds have, furthermore, been spent to finance means of equalizing the wealth within a competitive society through such ventures as Social Security, Commodity credit Corporation (Farmer’s aid), and the Tennessee Valley Authority. Further considering the fact that the democrats, the majority party, are temporarily out of office with their price and wage stabilization boards, and that even these measures proved far too mild to reverse the competitive process toward inequality, one can well imagine what steps must be taken to achieve the Utopia without poverty through more even shares of society’s benefits which many vociferously demand. Unless present and future governments discontinue their increasing penetration into the various realms and fields of the society and their sympathies for equalization, that shall have to monopolize the competitive avenues even more in years to come, for only complete control of society and its institutions can assure achievement of these apparently charitable objectives. [Footnote: Much of the governmental infiltration in economics to date have been attempts to benefit the underprivileged as consumers by establishing an agency to produce goods and sell them at a loss, thus raising consumptive saving. This practice likewise maintains a governmental monopoly.]
In spite of the moral justice, if human suffering represents the greatest evil, the government-directed community is usually seething with discontent. [Footnote: The present “communist” nations with their numerous revolts of late furnish as good a present example of extreme discontent under state domination as any.] Why? Is this phenomenon caused by some sentimental attraction to the competitive institutions?
The normal society contains countless organization, each representing the fulfillment of some particular goal. This goal, in turn, represents to the constituents of the group their common conception of a better world in some form or manner. Every normal man dreams of a better world, at least for himself, and is keenly interested in achieving this private aim, his only hopes and aspirations - hence, something extremely important to him that he is willing to fight for if necessary. The institutions, each furthering one of the hopes for a better life ahead, provide the most practical and effective means for man to fulfill these wishes, allied with other people of similar hopes and interests. thus, with every effort made by the group an attempt to achieve this dream of a better life, man’s basic interests and hope , the things he lives for, are embodied in the very fibres of the institutions of the society.
Within this area lies grave danger for the government. For when transcending its fundamental role of the removed molder of society to actually share the power of these groups, the government is necessarily rendered a rival in the competitive arena. As a competitor always withholds power from circulation and must seek to stifle the other rivals to maintain ground, the mere existence of the state as a rival constitutions a stab at other institutions. Let us remember, though, that behind every organization lies the all-important hopes for its members for a better world, and that practically everyone in the community has some vested interest in the institutions of the society, though probably only some of them. Thus, when the government competitively attacks the institutions for the power to perform some scheme, it is at the same time attacking the basic interests of every member of the community, and their fulfillment. And so, as one competitor against another, the people through their institutions engage in the deathly struggle for power with the state in their cherished “pursuit of happiness.”
As long as the government remains an equal rival in the competitive battlefield, the institutions are perfectly able to attain their goals by licking their competition. Yet, we have already observed that in a complex competitive society, the government must have nearly monopolistic powers to achieve its own goals effectively and quickly. furthermore, this tendency is almost certain to accelerate in the future as it has in the past, the government being perfectly able to enforce any measures it wishes. Faced by such an irresistible and unconquerable monopolist like the state, the incumbent groups and their participants can do little to avoid losing all their power and ceasing to operate as institutions in that newly-monopolized field. Through sheer size or possibly legal action, the government has robbed the members of the chance to fulfill their most precious dream, to foster a better life in the future. There it is - a dream, a hope shattered through no fault of their own. the institution, plundered of its competitive power and life, will have no recourse but to attack the thief; resentment against the state will run extremely high among the members of the fallen group.
With no legitimate means to respond to defend their hopes and ideals, legitimacy having been overthrown by the state, these embittered people shall turn to an acidly relentless antagonism of the state. After all, is not the government a public servant, seeking to please the governed and defend t heir fundamental human rights? The people are supposed to be the master; and the government, the servant. Is it fair for the servant to overwhelm the master and tell him how to think and act? What a colossal insult! Is there any other alternative but to strike back and force the servant to mend his ways, or fire him - or should these robbed people submit docilely to his tyranny while the servant subjugates the rest of the household?
But while we are on the subject of a totalitarian state - would not a socialist state, in which the individual merely must conform to the state planning program’s suggestions to have all his basic needs answered, actually work effective and satisfy everyone? Several theorists including Karl Marx and Joseph Schumpeter have concluded that a permanent socialist state shall follow their “decaying capitalist” order. Yet, would such a state actually solve the problems of society permanently?
Several human factors render this permanence highly unlikely. First, man’s primary goal of better life for himself is usually relative to that of his neighbors, assuming that man is not just a dull, unambitious machine. The socialist state contains no provision for this basic human desire, but, on the contrary, restrains the hope for comparative advancement. Second, the planner’s estimate of the community needs can at best represent a well-estimated average, which seldom correlate with those of the individual, who is now powerless to join a group offering solutions to the specific problems. Man likes to be creative, free to solve his own difficulties without having to depend on another entirely and hope without basis for a quick solution to these. And so, preferring to create his own destiny, man naturally forms these private organizations to solve individual needs and goals even in a socialist or communist tyranny.
Therefore, in a totalitarian state or any in which the private institutions have been totally or partially replaced by the government, the seeds of resentment and indignation are sown among those whose hopes have been thwarted by government intervention. Those ambitious enough to think imagine that there must be some better system where their dreams can come true.
One small group of bitter members of a fallen organization does not signal the downfall of the government, of course. In the case of T.V.A., for instance, the wounded executives of the replaced power companies might number at best two hundred. [Footnote: These first groups to fall do not have too many problems to face, for they can find work at other private companies. At the end, though, these will almost be non-existent.] Even considering the slight number of enraged stockholders and laborers, now unable to strike or improve conditions against the state, the number of those actually pinched by T.V.A. seems a trifle compared with the one hundred sixty-five million Americans, backing the government.
On the other hand, we have observed how the government is steadily increasing its penetration into business and must continue this trend to effectively meet its own goals, with every move in this direction a step on someone’s toes. Arbitrarily, let us suppose that in a thousand steady years the state might control American economic enterprise - big business, little business, everything. [Footnote: Even the small businesses receiving costly yet ineffectual government aid could not face many of the government’s price cutting tactics to benefit the consumer. The larger companies are better equipped to face this hopeless fight, anyhow, so would probably last longer than the smaller ones.] In the process, millions of these small, insignificant managerial dreams would be shattered, millions of stockholders deprived of their possessions, millions of workers up against the same brick wall when they wish to demand better wages and conditions, and the consumer - he would definitely be handicapped by the absence of competitive benefits in spite of any extra favors the government might wish to bestow upon them. For everyone, though, as in the case of the small businessman, the odious fact would not be that they were receiving less from the state than they could accumulate themselves, but that the cherished dream of self-improvement which causes the competitive system to flourish would be hopelessly smashed. The resentment grows.
Now what about the non-economic institutions - the church, labor union, family, school, political party, and most others? As the tradition protecting business from government control succumbed, so might these barriers collapse as government sought to fit society into the patterns of thought and behavior it deems best for the perfect community. thus, government control could surge forward into these depths - more power lost to the government, more dreams smashed, more resentment against the state by members of these former institutions. The penetration could really accelerate; as one man was crushed by the state, he might jealously demand that this neighbor sacrifice the same fortune to society and put pressure on the government to achieve this selfish satisfaction. Thus, with all cherished hopes and desires in some institution that fell, eventually everyone would be deprived of his “pursuit of happiness” and, accordingly his appreciation of the government.
With a universal loathing of the state, depending on the amount of control, established, the only missing ingredient that would precipitate a revolution combined with the basic resentment is some crisis around which the people could rally with wrath, especially if the government was unable to handle this new turn of events by itself. Government control over society and its naturally competitive forces, even without waiting for the inevitable but unforeseeable snapping of the government’s success at its weakest link, could possibly even provide this immediate cause for revolt by itself.
The process quite simply consists of these factors and steps: Because a monopolist cannot screen all the competition forever, he must eventually face the smaller rivals who have arisen under his absolute regime, as we have previously observed. The younger rivals, more militant and flexible, would easily be able to overwhelm the reactionary and competitively stagnated monopolist, and so sweep into supreme power as the giant plunged to absolute ruin in most cases. Such would inevitably be the fate of the government as monopolist in a competitive arena.
Yet, let us not assume that the government is merely an ordinary competitor and would fall like one, for the state does possess additional power that enable it to withstand the pressure to crumble. First, sheer size with the inherent advantages creates a very tough uphill climb for the private rivals, though monopolistic advantages and benefits offset this tendency to discourage rivals. [Footnote: With increased control over the economy, the government could not continue aiding the poor through selling products to the consumer at a loss. It would have to depend on making a profit through the controlled economic ventures as there would be little additional revenue through taxation to permit these costly measures. Thus, state underselling would not discourage the rivals.] Second, the government could employ legal means to prohibit competitors from entering a field. [Footnote: This end could also be reached by excessive taxation measures to bankrupt private ventures.] The classic example of such an attempt in the United States, prohibition of liquor, demonstrates the basic weakness of such an attempt. The distilleries merely went underground and and continued their profitable activities, thus demonstrating flagrant contempt for the oppressive authority of the government, while public pressure eventually forced the state to retract its measure through Constitutional amendment. In tyrannies, this repeal of a similar illegality would appear as a revolt - too dangerous for the state to gamble.
Thus one major device could be employed to rescue the falling governmental agencies, the pouring of governmental resources, as great as the strength of the society, into these declining enterprises. But, as we have previously noticed, the boost these agencies need is not additional size and resources, though each such increment definitely furnishes an invigorating “shot in the arm”, but a complete revamping of its competitive approaches and practices. These improvements would have to be performed by the agency, itself, and extremely difficult for the stiffened and decrepit giant without competitive experience. Besides, the size of the field would definitely limit the effectiveness of large-scale aid. On the other hand, with the state tending to nurture the weaker agencies to equality of health with the stronger ones, thus keeping all public enterprise at the same degree of development, when these agencies simultaneously reached a state of decline, public opulence would rapidly and constantly be drained to revive these ventures. [Footnote: Feeling that its basic goal, matching society with a stereotype, could be best or only furthered by these projects, the state would be pledged to continue supporting these losing ventures.] Beyond the point where excessive aid ceases to improve the situation very much lies extreme danger for the state.
With the collapse of the first major enterprise and the subsequent inquiry by the public into the circumstantial causes of this failure, imagine what the populace will think when they discover that the result of government bankruptcy, chaos, and the thorough draining of society by the state is only dozens of similar public enterprises ready to fold. [Footnote: To a certain extent, this result happened in the downfall of Peron when people learned how he had drained Argentina.]
Remember, of course, that long ago the government had instituted a universal, deep-seated resentment against itself by depriving the citizens of fulfilling their hopes and ambitions, needing only a weak link for the people in society to rally about in revolutionary anger. [Footnote: To a certain extent, this resentment due to the lack of means to fulfill man’s basic hopes would be abated by the return of the private groups to plague the state. By this time, though, anger against the state would be a public tradition.] With the total collapse of public enterprise and its accompanying problems, this crisis is certainly supplied in full. What greater provocation to rebel can exist than a violent change in the structure of the society due to the collapse of public enterprise, general public bankruptcy, and a deeply-rooted desire to overthrow the government by most?
Thus, this state which remained true to the principles of extensive governmental permeation into society, would inevitably collapse, and, hence, cannot be considered a successful type of government. It is my guess, though, that due to extremely one-sided sentiment the orders of government would change without much bloodshed. With the horrid example of government control that failed miserably still fresh in their minds, these new leaders of society would seek to discover a state which would avoid similar regressions of years in the future. But is there any form of government which, if left unchanged in form as long as it remains healthy, should last indefinitely and allow society to spiral upward in true progress?
Notice now the important fact that the chief reason for the downfall of this unsuccessful government lay in its attempt to hold real power by intervening or competing or controlling extensively the institutions of the society. The vulnerability of a government to attack, decay, and collapse is, therefore, directly proportional to the amount of real power it exercises in the society. This factor is the primary consideration that we have been searching for in this paper.
Since the danger of the state’s collapsing increases relative to its real power, the object for the government requires shedding all power not strictly essential toward attaining the usual fundamental goal in a democracy of fair and orderly “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Because of America’s relative minimum of governmental power and still maintenance of that goal, we can eliminate all the extra powers held by the state in socialist and other totalitarian nations as non-essential. But as some of the United States government’s functions might also not be necessary, but dangerous, let us examine those governmental powers listed in the chart more closely, having to draw a line somewhere between the evil of government domination and anarchy. As we can see, nearly all governmental functions are divided into three major categories - regulation of society, management of its own affairs, and public enterprise.
The right of the government to manage its own affairs leaving ultimate control to the governed, I believe, is practically essential for adequate use of its powers and to keep government above the direct influence of any particular group in society. Yet, these powers of the state of self-regulation are little related to the primary consideration, the balance of power between the government and the people through their institutions.
The government’s regulatory power actually compose much of the hard-core essential functions. One iron rule should prevail in this area - the state should have no authority to alter the existing balance of power among the institutions and individuals of society. Government in such a case would act, as a competitor with real power, to prevent some group that would ordinarily have gained in the natural competitive process from doing so, thus able to effectively deny an institution the attainment of its goals.
This rule, however, should have one very broad exception - to restrain all unfair practices in a groups pursuing advancement. Unfair tactics are those immoral devices used to gain supremacy over a rival, in any form, other than sheer obviously advantageous excellence of competitive technique - emphasis on constructive rather than destructive rivalry. Thus, any stifling of competition resulting from successful advancement by a group would be considered legitimate, whereas those moves initiated for the purpose of crushing competition would not.
The state would, of course, assume all functions in the regulatory category not directly related to competition. [Footnote: Still a major portion of the visible regulation would cease with the death of such agencies as the Federal Trade Commission, National Labor Relations Board, Federal Communications Commission, Interstate Commerce Commission, at least in their present form.] These roles would include the maintenance of order through the prevention of crime among other things, the evils of anarchism.
The government incurs the greatest risk of precipitating a revolution both through the deep-seated resentment and final collapse in entering the competitive arena through public enterprise. If these great evils increase proportionately to the amount of real power held, the obvious solution entails holding no real power. This measure is precisely the answer to this problem, though not necessarily requiring the abandonment of all public enterprise. in holding no real power, government must avoid operating in a field where it would be sharing power with some institution, thus must always constitute a monopoly because no one else cares to enter that field of endeavor. [Footnote 1: As power is the ability of a group to achieve its goals, the state could safely hold power toward different ends without conflicting with the free, competitive groups. thus, military power, unnecessary to the achievement of the goals of most legitimate groups in society, is not real power. [Footnote 2: Two exceptions to the volition rule as forbidden territory to private groups are the other two major categories of governmental functions previously mentioned.] In the new society, the private institutions would have first choice of the areas they wished to enter, while the government would have to be content with the unclaimed projects it felt were helpful to the society. [Footnote: While business would naturally assume many of the state’s former economic roles, perhaps the church would carry much of the state’s former altruistic burden - or maybe the private charities.]
In performing as thorough a change from public to private enterprise as possible, the government must provide for groups now screened through obvious limitations from such activities as the Post Office and public education, adopting a general plan, with cushions to absorb much of the transitionary shock, such as the following [Footnote: This very general outline is by no means intended to serve by itself as a specific, workable plan.]
institutions, offering unlimited hope to their
members for a better
in a wider,
and more promising society;
the consumer would accordingly
more with less effort
from the competitive
institutions; and finally,
the government would
taxes, work less,
off financially - and
- stand a much
better chance to last
longer if all but the worse and
A comparative situation with the downfall of the state through increasing control over society is quite hard to find, and indeed rare for substantial government control has been significant only for a relatively short number of years, and governments have lasted short periods due to outside military pressure for the most part. The only important example of a durable and long-lasting institution in modern times has been the Christian church. Yet, in spite of shallow differences between the actors in both cases, the medieval church provides a basically similar and striking parallel to the light the powerful government must face.
In those days the church played the role which the state shall assume in the future, and the state represented at that time what the future society shall. As the Encyclopedia Britannica described the church, “At first it was persecuted by the State, then established by it, and finally dominated over it” - at least a partial, though overemphasize, similarity to the state and society. [Footnote: Volume 5, p. 636 All facts used concerning the church are assumed to be from the Encyclopedia Britannica unless otherwise indicated.] Indeed, felling itself morally dedicated (as the state generally feels) to establish its will as the representatives of God, the church gained control over society backed by the belief of the populace. Near the height of its power in 1215 church intervention into the secular realm reached such magnitude that it could annual civil laws and, therefore, did repeal the Great Charter Resentment, accordingly, multiplied rapidly, and inspired Geoffrey Chaucer to speak of the impious friar who cared for the rich more than for the poor because he could live more luxuriantly that way. The church even thought it had the divine right to establish or abolish kingdoms, part of a fallacious stereotype of the perfect situation.
At this point the competitive civil authorities began slowly to rally against this monopolist, who never had any competitive experience after its spontaneous rise and was becoming hopelessly bound by its insistence upon divine will in resisting rivalry. With inspiration be Dante in Italy, men like Marsiglio and Jean of Iandun, literary allies of Louis IV of France, hammered verbal punches at papal overextension of authority, while seeking separation of the “temporal and spiritual.” The first great rival to reach the height of the papacy was Frederick Ii of the Holy Roman Empire as he waged a continuous struggle against Popes Gregory IV and Innocent IV for nearly a quarter of a century until he finally died. Later kings made even more headway until finally the state achieved dominance over its own real - precisely the manner and result in the struggle of private society against an entrenched state.
Once in control of the competitive realm, society through the state (as the people through the society) forced the church to retreat farther and farther. Here, too, papal fiscal abuses and the collapse of deeply wedded feudalism caused the church to decay at public pressure quite rapidly. [Footnote: A History of Christianity, by Kenneth S. Latourette, p. 624] Finally, after the equally crippling Renaissance and Reformation, the state and society forced the Catholic church to contract within strictly religious bounds where it has continued relatively unmolested, yet less powerful, and intact ever since, even regaining much of the lost respect.
Quite often a scheme might possibly work in theory, but is seriously marred and distorted by complicating factors in actual practice. This theoretical decline in powerful government likewise has drawbacks although I believe that the extent of their effectiveness ends chiefly in causing what might be the actual case in resembling very little what was forecast. Here are some of these considerations.
This, then, is the new part for government. No longer involved in the destructive competitive conflict, the state stands above society inaccessible. There is no profit to be had in controlling society, for the government would not be a part of society, but an equal. It is weaker, but stronger; passive, but firm. Never would it be competing with a private group for gainful, but corrupting and destroying power, yet always insisting that fights be fair. As the kind of resentment against a thief of power would be nil, the respect for an the authority of the government would soar supreme, the uncontested public servant and regulator alike. This right and duty, untainted by other pursuits, would be the final and moral word in society. It would be simply out of reach of all power - contaminated forces, powerless to aid them, and to be destroyed. Out of the turbulent competitive society would come strength and even more fluctuations. Institutions would rise and fall; the society would change and progress; but above all in majesty would stand the state throughout the age, passive, but inestimably strong.
General Comments from Teacher
1. Your internal logic is usually sound, although you show some tendency to exaggerate the conclusion to which your logic leads you.
2. Your use of evidence is sometimes weak, although this may be due in part to a lack of proper research facilities.
3. Your writing style is good with the major weakness one of exaggeration and a tendency to use excessively flowery & strong adjectives.
4. The weakness of your theory lies largely in the basic implicit assumptions; which we have discussed at some length.
5. I hope you will try a research paper in which you have to appraise synthesize other people’s ideas & work. We have discussed the reason for this. Good luck to you in your future work.
J. Y W.
Comments from the Writer Fifty-Five Years later
I am surprised by how much I disagree with the opinions I held as a 16-year-old attending the Telluride Association Summer Program held in Deep Springs, California, in 1957. My opinions were strong. Having a half century of further experience, I now think they were naive. I greatly underestimated the power of entrenched interest groups to subvert democratic government. Government has no motive of its own. The political power of money reigns supreme.
At the time, I was an intellectual high achiever preoccupied with maintaining my competitive edge. I was focused entirely on competition. My father was then a vice president of American Motors Corporation, manufacturer of the Rambler automobile, an archetypal underdog competitor struggling for survival against the “Big Three”. Its CEO, George Romney, held up clay figure of a dinosaur on the Disneyland television show to dramatize the type of product which the Big Three automakers were then offering.
This paper was written on the campus of the Deep Springs Community College just before the summer-program participants were to climb Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain peak in the lower 48 states. Having taken the time to produce a presentable handwritten manuscript, I had only a few hours sleep as I hiked up the mountain and reached the summit.
The theme of the paper was inspired by a thought I had in preparation for a high-school class, or maybe a debate, that a large organization, beset by spirited and able underdog competitors, might erase that disadvantage simply by copying the methods used by those challenging their dominance. And that, of course, is what the Big Three did to American Motors when the fuel-efficient Rambler gained increasing market share: They brought out their own small, “compact” cars.
This was the first extended writing project that I ever undertook; and, while embarrassed by the content, I include it in this collection for that reason. Four years later, while living in Germany, I wrote a “conservative manifesto” plugging my version of conservative politics and George Romney for President. However, George Romney was not a conservative and he politely disregarded my views. His son, Mitt, a conservative of another stripe, is now well-positioned to reach the goal that eluded his father.
This paper reminds me of how foolish I was as a young man. On the other hand, the penmanship exhibited in the manuscript is better than what I can produce now. I lost my legible calligraphy about the time when, as a college student, my thoughts became more complicated. But I do not regret having been foolish at one time. I cannot even be sure that, as a 71-year-old man, I have entirely overcome that deficiency. Life is, I think, a race to shed that youthful naivete in time to spend the bulk of one’s years.