And last, the third archetype: Of the three classifications of persons involved in social leveling by compulsion, the authoritarian—the one who administers the taking and the giving—has been too little diagnosed. It is not difficult to understand the discouragement and the destruction that come to the person from whom honest income is confiscated. Nor is it difficult to perceive the eroding of the moral fiber of those who become the “beneficiaries” of confiscated property. But what about “the humanitarian with the guillotine”—the well-meaning social reformer at the top of the political heap who uses the police force as his means of persuasion? Is harm done to him? Yes, though what happens to him may be difficult to portray.
The person who attempts by force to direct or rearrange the creative activities of others is in a very real sense a slave-master. And here is the crux of it: A slave-master becomes a slave himself when he enslaves others. If another has me on my back, holding me down, he is as permanently fastened on top of me as I am under him. Both of us are enslaved. True, he can, by force, keep me from being creative; but in so doing, his own energies must be diverted from creative to destructive actions. He cannot upgrade himself while he is employing his energies to downgrade. One who only destroys is himself destroyed. This is the same as saying that he who practices only evil is himself evil. Man’s usefulness to himself, to other men, to Creation’s purpose is to be achieved only by personal upgrading. If I reason logically from my premise, it follows that I cannot be helpful to others except as others find in me something of a creative nature that is available to them—in a voluntary relationship.
Materialistically, the valuable person is the one who has money or tools to use or to lend, or goods or skills to exchange. Intellectually, the valuable person is the one who has knowledge and understanding which are available to others in search of knowledge and understanding. Spiritually, the valuable person is the one who, by reason of a love of righteousness, discovers some of the divine principles of the universe and becomes able to impart to others that which he has perceived—by deed as well as by word.
All aspects of upgrading are creative in character. Necessarily they first demand an attention to self—that is, to self-cultivation. Nothing creative is induced by compulsion. With the possible exception of a low form of imitation, compulsion has only the power to restrain, repress, suppress, penalize, destroy. By the use of sufficient force, I can keep you from acting creatively; but no amount of force can compel you to think, to invent, to discover, to attune yourself to the Infinite, the source of all knowledge and understanding. Compulsion is antagonistic to creativeness.
The point under discussion is this: I cannot indulge in my own upgrading at the same time I am inhibiting someone else’s creative action. Therefore, to the extent that one’s life is spent in using force to coerce others, to that extent is one’s life destroyed, its higher purpose frustrated.
In a reference to political authority, Lord Acton observed, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This warning is not to be taken lightly, for the evidence is all about us and the reason plain to see.
Observe the profound change that comes over men when they are given power over others. When acting as responsible, self-controlled human beings—when attending to their own affairs—they were admirable both in their thinking and in their behavior. Now let power over others be vested in them. In due course—usually soon—they begin to think like authoritarians; they talk like authoritarians; they act like authoritarians; for, indeed, they are authoritarians. It is as if a chemical change had taken place in their persons.
Power or authority over the creative activities of others—that is, a responsibility for the creative behavior of others—is an assignment with an inevitably destructive consequence. Thus overburdened, a wielder of power eventually becomes intolerant, quick-tempered, irrational, disrespectful, and unrespected. How could he be expected to function as a strictly self-responsible individual under burdens which are not within his nature to shoulder?
Further, when in possession of political power over the creative actions of others, a fallible human being is almost certain to mistake this power for infallibility. The obeisance paid to a person in such authority, the drooling of the weak-willed who like to be led, the lies told by those who seek the favors he has the power to dispense—all these tend to aid and abet the process of his disintegration. It is not easy to reject flattery, regardless of its source. Indeed, the authoritarian loses his capacity to discriminate among sources. The mentality for directing others cannot simultaneously attend to the art of discrimination, the latter being a purely personal, introspective accomplishment of the intellect. This is why it is often said of authoritarians: “They surround themselves with ‘yes men.’ ” They cannot abide dissenters; in running the lives of others, they must have helpers who agree. This process spells inferiority for the life that erroneously claims superiority.
Daily experience affords a clue as to what happens to the person who accepts dictatorship in any of its many forms. For example, observe two persons, with somewhat different views, rationally discussing some subject of common interest. Each offers the other his most intelligent ideas, thus encouraging friendship and mutual confidence. This setting, plus the privacy of the occasion, combine to elicit from each the best that he has to offer. The exchange of intellectual energies is mutually beneficial, and the awareness of this fact encourages thinking and understanding.
Now, place these same two individuals on a stage before a multitude, or place a microphone between them and announce that 50 million people are listening in. Instantly, their mental processes will change. Thoughtfulness and the desire to understand each other will all but cease. No longer will they function as receiving sets, drawing on the expansible capacities of their own and each other’s intellects. They will become only sending stations; outgoing will take the place of intaking. And what they say will be influenced by how they think they sound to their audience and by their competition for applause. In short, they will become different persons because their psychological directives have changed. Those who forego self-improvement for the sake of directing the lives of others experience changes in their drives no less profound than the above illustration. The authoritarian act is always directed outward at other persons.
The directing of, or the meddling in, the creative activities of others—the dictator role—is so compellingly corrupting that no person, interested in his own upgrading, should ever accept the role. If he has made the error of acceptance, abdication for his own mental and spiritual health would seem advisable. The likelihood of corruption is so great that any person is warranted in confessing, “Even I cannot assume this role without being corrupted.”
Each Man Plays Many Parts
The three classifications discussed above are merely archetypes. In our country, today, it is almost impossible to find a person who is strictly representative of but one of the three archetypes. By reason of the scope of social leveling by compulsion, and because of our general participation in power politics, most of us are more or less combinations of all three archetypes. No one of us is entirely one or the other; no one of us is entirely free of the ill effects.
In summary, all of us are, to some extent, in this socialistic arrangement together. And all of us are degraded to the extent that social leveling by compulsion is practiced, whether we are primarily the ones with “ability,” the ones with “need,” or the ones who act as the coercive do-gooders or levelers.
The only way, then, that we can avoid personal degradation is to avoid social leveling by compulsion. Not a single person is benefited; all are harmed by socialism.
A positive suggestion! Let government confine itself to defending the life, liberty, and property of each of us equally; in short, let government keep the peace! Leave all creative action to men acting freely, all creative energy flowing unrestrained and uninhibited. Only the release of creative energy can produce abundance, be it material, intellectual, or spiritual. Given these kinds of abundance, along with the unrestrained freedom to act creatively, and there will be as much good done by each for others as there is good within us to give.