Author: Kevin Cole•January 6, 2015
Tags:america, carroll quigley, democracy, england, Republic, tragedy and hope
[Source: Perspectives in Defense Management, Winter 1972-1973 ]
Originally posted by www.carrollquigley.net
THE MYTHOLOGY OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY
By Carroll Quigley
I COULD easily make this talk a self-praising, Fourth of July oration, vintage 1880. But that’s not what you want and that’s not what I am qualified to give you.
I am going to give you an historical view of the American democratic tradition with analytical overtones showing how democracy has changed over the course of our history. The United States is a democracy. I think there is no doubt of that — but the American democratic tradition is largely a myth.
First, a few definitions. I define democracy as majority rule and minority rights. Of these the second is more important than the first. There are many despotisms which have majority rule. Hitler held plebiscites in which he obtained over 92 percent of the vote, and most of the people who were qualified to vote did vote. I think that in China today a majority of the people support the government, but China is certainly not a democracy.
The essential half of this definition then, is the second half, minority rights. What that means is that a minority has those rights which enable it to work within the system and to build itself up to be a majority and replace the governing majority. Moderate deviations from majority rule do not usually undermine democracy. In fact, absolute democracy does not really exist at the nation-state level. For example, a modest poll tax as a qualification for voting would be an infringement on the principle of majority rule but restrictions on the suffrage would have to go pretty far before they really abrogated democracy. On the other hand relatively slight restrictions on minority rights — the freedoms of speech, assembly, and other rights — would rapidly erode democracy.
Another basic point. Democracy is not the highest political value. Speeches about democracy and the democratic tradition might lead you to think this is the most perfect political system ever devised. That just isn’t true. There are other political values which are more important and urgent—security, for example. And I would suggest that political stability and political responsibility are also more important.
In fact, I would define a good government as a responsible government. In every society there is a structure of power. A government is responsible when its political processes reflect that power structure, thus ensuring that the power structure will never be able to overthrow the government. If a society in fact could be ruled by a minority because that elite had power to rule and the political system reflected that situation by giving governing power to that elite, then, it seems to me, we would have a responsible government even though it was not democratic.
Some of you are looking puzzled. Why do we have democracy in this country? I’ll give you a blunt and simple answer, which means, of course, that it’s not the whole truth. We have democracy because around 1880 the distribution of weapons in this society was such that no minority could make a majority obey. If you have a society in which weapons are cheap, so that almost anyone can obtain them, and are easy to use — what I call amateur weapons — then you have democracy. But if the opposite is true, weapons extremely expensive and very difficult to use — the medieval knight, for example, with his castle, the supreme weapons of the year 1100 — in such a system, with expensive and difficult-to-use weapons, you could not possibly have majority rule. But in 1880 for $100 you could get the two best weapons in the world, a Winchester rifle and a Colt revolver; so almost anyone could buy them. With weapons like these in the hands of ordinary people, no minority could make the majority obey a despotic government.
Now there are some features of democracy that many people really do not understand. It is said, for example, that our officials are elected by the voters, and the one that gets the most votes is elected. I suggest that this is misleading. The outcome of an election is not determined by those who vote, but by those who don’t vote. Since 1945 or so, we have had pretty close elections, with not much more than half of the people voting. In the 1968 election about 80 million voted, and about 50 million qualified to vote did not. The outcome was determined by the 50 million who didn’t vote. If you could have got 2 percent of the nonvoters to the polls to vote for your candidate, you could have elected him. And that has been true of most of our recent elections. It’s the ones who don’t vote who determine the outcome.
Something else we tend to overlook is that the nomination process is much more important than the election process. I startle a lot of my colleagues who think they know England pretty well by asking them how candidates for election are nominated in England. They don’t have conventions or primary elections. So the important thing is who names the candidates. In any democratic country, if you could name the candidates of all parties, you wouldn’t care who voted or how, because your man would be elected. So the nominations are more important than the elections.
A third point is one I often make in talking with students who are discouraged about their inability to influence the political process. I say this is nonsense. There never was a time when it was easier for ordinary people to influence political affairs than today. One reason, of course, is that big mass of nonvoters. If you can simply get 2 or 3 percent of them to the polls — and that shouldn’t be too difficult — then you can elect your candidate, whoever he is.
There are three key factors in elections — money, organization, enthusiasm. If you have two of them you can win. Students may not have much money, but they can organize — apparently McGovern has an organization — and they are enthusiastic. Gene McCarthy went pretty far on enthusiasm alone four years ago, even though he didn’t have an organization or much money.
That Anglo-Saxon Heritage
Now let’s look at some democratic traditions. Most people say that our democratic traditions began in England. This is totally a myth. England was in no sense a democratic country in 1775, when we declared our independence. It remained an undemocratic country until well into the 20th century. Candidates were not nominated by the people, and members of parliament were not even paid until 1911.
Furthermore, England had an oligarchic political structure. It did reform itself radically in the 1820’s and became one of the best governments in the world by shifting to what I would call an aristocratic structure, that is, one with a sense of responsibility to the public welfare. But they didn’t have a democratic system. An ordinary person couldn’t get a secondary education at all until after 1902, and higher education didn’t become widely available until after 1945 and the reforms of the last quarter of a century.
Furthermore, both in England and in our country — this is part of our undemocratic heritage from England — access to justice is strictly limited. Until 30 years ago England had a rigidly stratified society, the only one in Europe where you could tell a person’s social class the minute he opened his mouth. The upper classes had a different accent. Today, with the BBC and more popular education, speaking accents are blending, as opportunities for changing status are opening upward. But access to law, to the courts, to justice, as well as to education, were strictly limited, and for he most part still are in the English-speaking world.
When somebody infringes your rights, it’s usually too expensive for you to defend them. This is true even in income-tax disputes. And it hit me, for example, in the matter of copyright. A fellow published a book a couple of years ago, in which 30 of its 121 pages came right out of a book I had published. I cannot sue him for infringement of copyright because I can’t afford it. And he’s made so much money out of his book, that he could fight me right up to the Supreme Court, and he might even win. But I don’t have the $150,000 it takes to flight a case to the Supreme Court.
So, the American democratic tradition was born here, not in England, and its antecedents go back to non-English sources — for example, the Judaeo-Christian tradition.
The Constitution and the Powers
Next, the Constitution. It is not democratic but republican, a different thing. That means only that we don’t have a king. It protects minority rights chiefly in the first ten amendments. Before they were added, it provided very little protection for minority rights. It did provide for jury trial, but as I have shown, access to the courts was a class privilege.
These first ten amendments were the basis of minority rights in the Constitution. But they were accompanied by many weaknesses, which have remained throughout our history. It is important that we realize this, because our safety, our lives, and our happiness depend upon our constitutional forms of government.
The Constitution established three branches of government — executive, legislative, and judicial — but any governing system has more than three parts. For instance, the taxing power was split up. Two other powers are especially important: the administrative power and the incorporating power. These are vital in any government. They are not allotted to anyone in the Constitution, certainly not to the Federal Government.
By the incorporating power I mean the right of a government to say that a group of people will be regarded in law as a person with the right to hold property and to sue and be sued in the courts. That power is left with the States.
The administrative power is that discretionary power which is absolutely essential to government. It is best represented, I think, in a policeman controlling traffic at a busy intersection. He starts and stops the traffic according to his judgment of what is best to keep traffic flowing smoothly and safely. That is the administrative power. It is one of the original powers of government. It involves such things as protecting the health and sanitation of any community by such means as requiring vaccination. In constitutional law we call it the police power but that does not mean the policeman’s power. It means discretionary power.
For almost 100 years after the Civil War there was a struggle among the three branches of the Government for control of the administrative power. Now we have independent administrative and regulatory agencies which are subject to the courts or to the executive branch or to the congressional branch. In many cases they have become autonomous. For instance, one of the things they did, without guidance from any of the three main branches until very late, was to introduce all the inequities of the English-speaking judicial and legal system into the procedures of administration.
The Constitution made no provision for breaking a deadlock among the three branches. It was assumed that in such a case whatever action was at issue should not be done—in other words, anything worth doing will be supported by all branches of the government. If they don’t agree, it’s better not to do it. The basic assumption was, of course, that no disasters would result from paralysis in government, because we were secure from sudden and overwhelming attack from abroad. Domestic paralysis we could live with. And as long as we were protected by our two oceans and the British Navy, and later by our own armed forces, we were able to muddle through. Since the advent of nuclear weapons, the situation is different, and the problem of how to ensure prompt action in a crisis, has been a continuing constitutional issue.
One of the most essential parts of our political system is our political parties, which grew up wholly outside the Constitution and the legal system as the links between the three branches of our government. You have been reading about the dispute over delegates for the Republican National Convention. For a long time about a quarter of the Republican delegates did not represent the voters at all because they came from purely Democratic States in the South. Today the non-Republican States do not have so large a block of delegates. McKinley’s nomination in 1896 was arranged ahead of time in Thomasville, Georgia, the preceding winter by Mark Hanna’s buying up the Southern delegates to the Republican Convention of 1896. The Southern delegates were paid $200 plus rail fare and hotel bills to vote for McKinley. Anyway, the party system has evolved to make up for one of the major deficiencies of the Constitution, the lack of provisions to translate the citizen’s vote into a government responsive to the popular will.
Another extraconstitutional development is judicial supremacy. This was simply asserted and exercised by the judiciary, which determines whether legislation is constitutional and makes rulings which the executive branch is supposed to carry out. But in adopting this principle, we have simply taken over the undemocratic feature of the English system, which requires the citizen to defend his rights in courts of law. Today people who are penniless do enjoy that right because they can get the American Civil Liberties Union, or some foundation, or somebody else, to finance their litigation. But an ordinary middle-class person of limited means is denied that right. Both of these institutional developments, political parties and judicial supremacy, are outside the Constitution. Both of them are largely irresponsible. They are not responsible to the people.
The Stages of Political Growth
Let me quickly review the history of American democracy in terms of how candidates are nominated. There were five stages in that historical evolution. In the first, beginning in 1789 and for more than 40 years thereafter, candidates were named by the legislators. This method was called the legislative caucus. Up to the early 1840’s there was a steady extension of democracy by changes in the State voting laws, culminating in the Rhode Island reforms of 1842, resulting from Dorr’s rebellion, extending the suffrage to the ordinary man. By 1843 voting democracy was established more or less in all the States.
The second stage was the era of the spoils system, and it lasted for a little over 40 years, from just before 1840 to just after 1880. The spoils system arose, from the fact that in a system of mass democracy, where most men at least have the right to vote, there must be some way of nominating candidates for office. The method chosen was the nominating convention. This raised the problem of how to finance sending the delegates to the convention.
The solution developed around 1840 was for the party machine of the winning party in an election to reward the party faithful by appointing them to government office. To the victor belong the spoils. These appointees then kick back money to the party kitty, say, a quarter or 10 percent of their salary every year; and these kick-backs provide the funds for the nomination convention and the process of political campaigning. In that new system government officials themselves went as paid delegates to the nominating conventions, and the nominations and getting out the vote in elections were controlled by the party machines. All of these were local in cities or on a State basis. It was a feudalistic power structure.
One of the interesting features of the whole system is the role that polities played in people’s lives. In this period, from 1840 to 1880, politics and religion, frequently revivalist religion, were the chief entertainment outlets the American people had. They did not have organized sports or other kinds of entertainment except an occasional traveling company of actors, and, more often, revivalist preachers. So people identified with a political party.
The closest parallel to this in our own time perhaps, is the national hullabaloo in the late thirties and early forties over the contest between the Yankees and the Dodgers in the World Series, when everybody at least in the eastern part of the country and everybody in New York, was rooting for one or for the other, for totally irrational reasons. This was a purely emotional thing. If their team won they were ecstatic, if their team lost they were downcast. Well, that’s what politics was like in the era of the spoils system, and it continued until about the mid-1890’s.
Here’s how the system worked. Professionals, not amateurs, ran the elections. Issues were of little importance. Charisma was not important; in fact, it was a drawback. The parties put up the most colorless dark horse they could find—the less people knew about him the better—and then counted on enthusiasm for the party to get out the votes.
Elections in that period were pretty close, although after 1865, on the whole, the Republicans did better than the Democrats because the South had become a minority area and the Democrats a minority party. But on the whole few people were interested in issues or in candidates, and it was very difficult for a winning candidate to be reelected because once people got to know him they quickly discovered how dull a person he was. That’s why he got nominated in the first place. The nominee was by definition the candidate that the local State party machines had nothing against. The local machines had an effective veto, and by the time they finished vetoing everybody who had any importance or was known, the only one left might be a man like James A. Garfield, a completely dark horse. The only alternative was a Civil War general, who did, of course, exercise some attraction. The elections were extremely close, and up to 80 percent of the electorate voted. We have the exact figures for most of this period. The average was 78.5 percent. We have never gone that high since 1896.
This spoils system was, in a sense, a shakedown operation, particularly against business. And as business and finance became stronger, they became increasingly restive under this exploitation by party machines. Take the New York Customs House, which had 1,100 officials who were the very core of the New York election machine, which in turn was the core of the system for the whole country. Those 1,100 officials kicked back a good part of their salaries to the New York State party machine. So they in turn, charged businessmen outrageous tariffs, as much as the traffic would bear. The laws were ignored. The customs officials would tie up a shipment of steel and keep it tied up until the tariff they demanded was paid.
As a consequence, businessmen changed the system in 1880-1883. A great man, William C. Whitney (who later started the modern American Navy as Secretary of the Navy in the Cleveland administration), devised a scheme to cut the very roots out from under the party machines. He established the Civil Service in the Pendleton Act of 1883. This had the effect of cutting off most of the funds on which the party machines depended. So the parties now had to look to big business to finance them.
This led to the third historical stage, the era of big-business domination, from 1884 to 1932. It was radically different from the one preceding. Voting dropped off drastically. In the 1870’s political activity had cut across all groups and classes — rich and poor, while and black, Catholic and Protestant. Negroes were more active in politics in the 1870’s and 1880’s than they have been at any time in the 20th century until very recently. Politics was everybody’s game. But once big business got control, voting fell off and hovered around 52 percent, instead of the 78 percent it had been before. The professionals were pushed out and amateurs took over — people who came in for one campaign or two, generally financed by business — men like William McKinley, who was elected President in 1896.
Then, big business discovered it could control the Republican National Convention, because of all those delegates from the Solid South who did not represent voters and who therefore could easily be bought. From 1896 on, as a result, the Republicans dominated the national scene through amateur control of politics, and increasingly restricting political activity among middle class whites to the WASP’s. It was in the 1890’s that we got the Jim Crow laws and other restrictions which in one way or another ensured that certain minority groups really couldn’t expect to make it.
Eventually big business undermined its own dominance by being too greedy — there’s no other word for it — in the 1920’s. They alienated not only the workers and the farmers and the petit-bourgeois white-collar workers, but much of the middle classes, including most of the merchants and light industry. All that was left, still in control at the top, was high finance (sometimes called Wall Street) and heavy industry — steel, coal, the automobile industry, and so on. By running politics solely for their own benefit they alienated everybody else.
So in 1932 everybody else lined up behind a Democrat. In the once solid mid-West, which for decades had voted Republican year in and year out — except rarely for a third party as in 1892 and in 1924 — many people now decided that the Civil War had been over for a long time and it was time to vote Democratic.
Out of this situation came the New Deal, the fourth stage. The New Deal was a system of organized blocs. Formerly organized finance and organized heavy industry had run everything else. Now the New Deal set about organizing all the other interests, especially mass labor in the CIO, the Steel Workers’ Organizing Committee (SWOC), and the United Mine Workers, which had been the only really strong labor union before 1930. They organized mass labor; they organized the farmers, they organized others: Most of their money came from merchants. The largest contributor to Franklin Roosevelt’s campaign in 1932 was the Strauss family of R. H. Macy. Second largest was Vincent Astor, whose real-estate holdings in New York City had been injured by the depression. Third was Bernard Baruch (who is considered one of the founding fathers of this institution), who was a professional contributor to the Democratic Party.
These were the groups that the New Deal organized. What they wanted to set up was a system of countervailing blocs: finance, heavy industry, light industry, professional groups, labor, farmers, and so forth. They figured that if any party or political group got control of the Government and acted too selfishly, the others would form a coalition and restore the balance.
Threats to Democracy
Well, the New Deal ran its course, and since about 1950 or so we have had plutocratic control. I said before that three things were necessary to win elections: money, enthusiasm, organization. The role of money has increased to the point where it’s more and more difficult to offset the lack of it with good organization and enthusiasm. Organization must be super-efficient and enthusiasm has to be sustained and widespread. Because the costs of elections, what with TV air time, air transportation, and all the rest of it, have climbed sky-high. It cost McGovern $6 million just to get the nomination, and God knows what it would take to win the election. The Democrats just don’t have it. Do they have organization and enthusiasm? It’s hard to tell. I’m afraid the enthusiasm has dwindled to some extent.
Anyway, we now have a plutocratic system, and many politicians see it simply as a matter of buying elections. Here’s why. As our economy is now structured, the big corporations — aerospace, oil, and so on — are able to pour out millions to support the candidates they favor. The restrictions on the books are easily evaded, and the politicians in power won’t do much about it because they want some, too.
The second reason is that labor unions are now a part of the system. They too want to get on the gravy train, and are no longer concerned with defending the rights of ordinary men or making the political system more democratic. Their outlook is little different from that of the big corporations, because this in effect is what they are. They are enormously rich, they are not democratically run, and they have increasingly taken on the characteristics of great corporations: irresponsibility, anonymity, and undemocratic procedures.
So money is one of the great threats to democracy. A second threat is what Roman law called persona ficta, fictitious persons—corporations, labor unions, and similar organizations which have the legal status of persons in the sense that they can buy and sell property, they can sue and be sued in the courts, they are generally anonymous, they are certainly irresponsible, and they are increasingly powerful. The 15th amendment and various court rulings have given corporations all the rights of living persons. This is dangerous because they already have certain rights that real persons don’t have, principally immortality. That’s the saving grace about even the worst scoundrel: someday he will die, and maybe we can wait that long. We felt that way about, Hitler, and Stalin. Maybe Mao is different; we’ll see. But a corporation never dies. It has the first quality of divinity, as the ancient Greeks defined it. They called their gods the immortals, because the only quality they had that set them apart from men was that they never died.
Besides setting limits to corporate immortality, we must put other restraints upon all fictitious persons, including foundations, universities, and all such entities. From 1890 there was competition among the States to lower the restraints on corporations. Originally, when a corporation was set up, its charter specified what it was entitled to do, sell hamburgers to the public or whatever. Today there are no restrictions, no restraints, no reporting. Even the Congress can’t find out what are the actual costs, expenditures, and profits of the automobile manufacturers, whose profits are incredibly high and yet they are going to raise their prices even higher.
We’ve got to make our corporations more responsible.
Another danger to democracy. I have just spent 3½ years studying ancient China, Islam, and Byzantium. What undermined all these civilizations is clearly evident. You see it most clearly in Augustus Caesar. What did his power rest upon? He wore many hats. He had the powers of a tribune, he was chief priest, he was commander in chief, he was consul. There were two consuls, but does anybody know the name of the other one? One of the threats to our constitutional system, it seems to me, is that the President of the United States has many hats.
First he is head of the State. Secondly, he is head of the government. As you know, these are different things. Ambassadors are accredited to the head of the State. This seriously hurt us at the Paris Peace Conference, after World War I when President Wilson represented the United States. Of the five major powers, four were represented by prime ministers, who are heads of governments. Wilson, who was a head of State had the power of immediate decision, and the English really took advantage of this. They got him to commit himself to certain things and then used them to bargain for other things they wanted. He wanted Latin America more or less out of the League of Nations, so in return for that they got him to promise to reduce the U.S. Navy in the 1922 Naval Conference. The head of the State in most, countries is the king or the president. But our President is both.
Thirdly, he is head of a political party. Look at the problems this creates for Nixon right now. If the bugging of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate is ever pinned on the Republican Party, many people will see the President himself as responsible.
Fourthly, he is Commander in Chief. The point came up yesterday in some law court that there has been no declaration of war in Southeast Asia either by Congress, as the Constitution provides, or by a President.
Now, let’s look at Augustus Caesar again. Augustus Caesar’s real power was in his role as commander in chief. The Latin word is imperator which we now translate as emperor. He was emperor because be was commander in chief and for no other reason.
I won’t go into any fantasies or scenarios about what could happen. You could think of them yourself. Thank God, in this country — I believe also in Russia — the armed forces do not directly or even significantly interfere in politics as armed forces, as they do for example in Latin American countries, or in the recent attempt by part of the Moroccan Air Force to assassinate the King. This is unthinkable in our country. And what makes it unthinkable has nothing to do with restraints placed upon the military in our government, but with their self-restraint, their sense of obligation to our system. And for that we should be very thankful.
But suppose a Presidential candidate lost the election, decided he wanted to be President anyway, and persuaded the military leaders to support him. To you military types this may seem an absolute fantasy. How could the generals and admirals be sure the rank and file would support such an undertaking. But historically this has happened again and again in almost every civilization, usually in the later stages of decline.
The President is also the head of the administrative system with discretionary and emergency powers.
Another threat to democracy is mass culture. There is an increasingly pervasive belief in the United States that equality of opportunity is not enough; we should also have equality in rewards for performance. Everybody starts the race together and finishes together; everybody wins. You see this in universities which are abolishing all grading, all track systems, all encouragement of excellence. The whole trend both in colleges and in high schools is toward equalization and uniformity.
Our democratic system is not based and cannot be based on uniformity. It must be based on diversity. We need the diverse talents of many people working together because of their shared belief in the necessity and value of our constitutional way of life.
Finally, more and more we have subordinated means and methods to goals. If the end is good, to hell with the legality. You can see this clearly in the Southeast Asia war. It should have been put up to Congress to declare war. You say that’s mere legality. But when legality and constitutional restraints go by the board, then you are simply saying that might makes right, and more and more you will rely on force to achieve your goals.
What to do about this? Well, reduce the influence of money. There are many ways of doing this. I urged 30 years ago public financing of elections. Try in every way possible to reward enthusiasm and dedicated effort, strive to internalize individual controls by built-in restraints. Our Armed Forces have these to a considerable degree. But let’s internalize controls also in the business world and in labor unions and in the universities and everywhere else. This involves social restraints and the kind of social relationships in which people attach more importance to the good opinion of their friends and associates than to material gain, power, or success.
We must provide nuclei of pluralistic balancing of forces which can unite to resist despotism by agreement on the widest possible interests. What are those interests? Being human is one, and an important one. We’re all people and we’re all consumers, so the rights of human beings and of consumers should be the big issues around which the pluralistic grouping and constant reshuffling of power groups should revolve.
We must curtail gross growth. I would distinguish between expansion, which is good, growth, which is neutral, and gross growth, which is damaging. We’ve got to reduce gross growth by going back to the beginning with new methods of doing things.
Here’s an example of what I mean. Consider the related problems of pollution and shortage of energy. We are now going to spend at least $3 billion to ensure delivery of Middle East oil to this country by building supertankers and deep-water harbors to accommodate them. At present we have only one port in the United States that can handle them, near Seattle. They’re even talking about spending $47 million, I think, to deepen the tunnel bridge across the Chesapeake Bay so that supertankers can come under it.
There’s another solution, the hydrogen engine. Its emissions will be only water vapor. Or we can use the sun’s energy directly. Out in New Mexico they get 400 or 500 days of consecutive sunshine. So cover some of these sun-baked surfaces with energy accumulating devices and channel the energy into our electric grid. There was an article on this in Science three weeks ago and a book came out recently on the hydrogen engine.
Now one last point. In the Government there are trigger points. A trigger point I call a point where slight changes, if you press it, will have enormous repercussions. I’ll give you one example. Congress operates on the seniority principle. Seniority is an obstacle to responsibility and to democracy. Does that mean we must abolish seniority? Not at all. We can make a very simple change, what I call a trigger point change. Simply provide that any committee at any time by majority vote can bring out legislation on the floor. Who can object to that? Let the committees become responsible instead of authoritarian.
QUESTION: Would you elaborate on your statement that we need to reduce our gross growth? I don’t understand that term as you use it.
DR. QUIGLEY: Look at it this way. Our society is made up of a series of what I call operational lines, each of which satisfies an area of human needs — military, political, economic, social, emotional, intellectual, religious. At the far end of these lines are resources. Behind resources are the technologies that exploit and use them. Technology is embedded in technological systems; in the military, these would be weapon systems. Behind these systems are the patterns of thought, feeling, and action in the society. Behind them, in turn, are human desires, and behind these are human needs.
Now human needs are socialized into desires. We need food but we desire steak or hamburger and will not eat roast locusts or pickled whale blubber, as a friend of mine had handed to him in Iceland one time. So needs are socialized into desires, desires operate through patterns of culture upon a technological system — business system, military system, some other kind of system — and technology works on resources.
A system is past its prime and in trouble when it increases the satisfaction of needs simply by using more and more and more resources, instead of using the same or fewer resources more efficiently. In short, as our needs and desires increase, we need better technologies and better systems which can satisfy our needs without using more resources. For example, Japan, Italy, and Germany were have-not countries before World War II. They went to war to get more of the world’s economic goods for themselves. They were defeated, and lost a lot of their resources. Then we reformed the organizational structure of their economic system, and introduced new technology, and today all three of them are have nations, with the highest standard of living they have ever had, on a smaller resource base.
In short, you have to improve the technology and systems portions of the operational line in order to increase satisfaction of need. The operational or output end of the line should be dominated by the input of needs and desires, but without continually increasing the consumption of resources. Gross growth results when, say, the need for moving around is satisfied by a transportation system which uses the same old technology to produce more and more automobiles, superhighways, concrete parking lots, underground offices (to make room for the parking lots), and so on. That is gross growth.
Expansion occurs when you satisfy more needs with the same resources by improving the operational system which is processing resources into satisfaction of needs. This is not the system we’ve got today.
QUESTION: Which powers of the President do you believe should be curtailed?
DR. QUIGLEY: I didn’t say anything about curtailing his powers. All I want is responsibility. Particularly when responsibility is already fixed in the Constitution, it should be exercised. Specifically, the power to make war is vested in the Congress. If that’s where we want it, then let’s use it. If we don’t, then we should change the Constitution and maybe give the President the power to make war. But he doesn’t have it now.
In other words I want to bring the legal situation closer to the actual situation, because I think it dangerous for the legal situation to deviate noticeably from the actual power structure. That’s how you get into wars. A war occurs only when one, if not both sides, misjudges the actual power relationships. As long as the legal situation is what they both agree upon—in other words, it reflects the actual power relationship—then they will act according to the law. We always prefer to act upon the basis of our conception of what the facts are and law is a kind of conceptualization or idealization of the real world—rather than on the basis of an objective view of reality.
So it’s important that the ideal and the real not be too far apart when vital decisions are made. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, or when Hitler attacked Russia, both had perceptions of reality that were dangerously at varience with the real power situation. Their decisions, in other words, were irresponsible.
QUESTION: You expressed concern over our multihatted President. What remedies would you suggest to deal with the threat of a President who wears many hats?
DR. QUIGLEY: I think we should start with the Congress. If the President gets away with a lot of things that are or may be unconstitutional, that’s the fault of the Congress. The Congress should enforce their responsibilities. They should never go along with a President like Johnson who could go down there and get them to agree to just about anything, because he was a very difficult man to say no to.
Walter Lippmann says the Congress is getting stronger and the executive weaker, but this is the reverse of the truth. The Congress is getting weaker. They let all kinds of things go by, because they’re interested in their own vested interests, particularly their committee chairmanships.
The Congress should be more responsible to the people, and the best way to do that is, of course, to have a well-informed electorate. So this goes back to my original proposal to curtail the power of money in elections and increase the power of enthusiasm and organization.
QUESTION: You started to talk about trigger points. Could you give some more illustrations of what you mean?
DR. QUIGLEY: Well, the nomination process is an important one. We have had some improvements in the process over the last 8 years, but in the Democratic Party, at least, there is a tendency to fall for slogans and make changes which don’t really get at what is needed. Specifically, I would not favor any nomination process which stipulates how many women or how many blacks or how many young people must be delegates. The important thing is that any black or any young person or any Catholic or any Hottentot who wants to function in the system can do so. So the place to begin, I would say, is the the nomination process. There again you have to restrict the power of money.
Then in the election we have to get the nonvoters to vote, make them feel it’s important. You have no idea the struggle I had with my students two or three years ago. All they wanted to do was to destroy the system. I told them they were crazy. They simply had no idea how the system worked, what determines which legislation comes to the floor of Congress, how candidates for Congress are nominated, and things like that. They were just against the system. Burn it down, blow it up, destroy it.
Do you know that the McCarthy campaign began in my freshmen class at Georgetown? I didn’t realize at the time that Ellen McCarthy was in the class. After I talked to the class that December, she got the whole crowd to go up to New Hampshire for the primary. I’m sure Gene had the same idea. But what I tried to show the kids was that they could influence the process by working in the system. There are all kinds of ways to do it, and above all there are those 50 million people who are nonvoters.
First, however, you have to know how the system actually functions. Today no system functions the way it seems at first glance, and never the way the people who are in it describe it. That is certainly true in the system of higher education in which I operate, where the jobs go to the fellow who has a Ph.D., not to the one who is best qualified!
QUESTION: Would you comment on the relationship of the availability of cheap weapons to the current efforts to control small handguns?
DR. QUIGLEY: Well, I don’t think the American people should be disarmed, but on the other hand I think it’s perfectly possible to keep track of every gun that is made. We could have a licensing system, with every gun numbered and every time it changes hands it is reported to a central computer. Just make sure that the person who gets the identification actually is who he says he is, and hold him responsible if the gun gets into someone else’s hands, unless it is stolen and he promptly reports it.
Of course, the small handguns can’t be equated with the cheaper weapons of the 1880’s because the latter were really the basic weapons of their day. A citizenry armed with rifles and revolvers at that time was in little danger of succumbing to the military, which didn’t have anything much better. That has no relation to today’s situation, and that’s why I’m worried about the prospect of an all-professional army, which as I said, is a terrible threat to any democratic system. We’re going for a professional army for the same reason that the Romans did. They couldn’t keep people in the army, away from their homes, for 20 and 25 years if they were just drafted men. So they established a professional army.
Well, pretty soon the soldiers married the girls in the locality and pretty soon barbarians were enlisting, and one day the Romans woke up to discover they didn’t, even have a Roman or a Latin-speaking army at all, but an army of barbarian mercenaries. And you’ve all read about what that army did to Roman society in the early centuries of the Christian era.
I’m not saying this is likely to happen to us — the emergence of a non-American mercenary army, I mean — but high pay and fringe benefits are going to attract a pretty varied assortment of types, and I just don’t foresee what it may lead to. And I do know, as a historian, that whenever weapons become difficult to use and expensive to obtain, democracy as a functioning political system is in grave danger. How can we avoid the danger? I believe internal restraints are the only solution, in the long run. And how you build those I don’t know.
The crime rate of the largest city in the world, Tokyo, is approximately one seventh of the crime rate of a city like New York. Why? Internal restraints. Those internal restraints are rooted in something that maybe we don’t want to buy, in the Japanese family. In the United States, crime rates among, Chinese-Americans are infinitesimal on a percentage basis compared to, say, those among the Irish in the 1860’s or the Italians in the 1920’s. The reason is that the Irish and Italians were broken up sociologically into atomized, self-centered individuals.
A political aspirant in the United States begins by discerning his own interest, and discovering those other interests which may be collected around, and amalgamated with it. He then contrives to find some doctrine of principle which may suit the purposes of this new association, and which he adopts in order to bring forward his party and secure its popularity: just as the imprimatur of the king was in former days printed upon the title-page of a volume, and was thus incorporated with a book to which it in no wise belonged.