“I want less talk and more action.”
That sentiment of a business leader typifies the initial reaction of many persons when they suddenly awaken to the increasing dangers which beset their liberty. They demand action.
To most people, in spite of this “let’s do something” attitude, the problem is all rather nebulous. Things are not quite right, it is readily agreed. There are strikes with their paralyzing effects; idle workers standing in front of work to be done; a growing national debt which, despite political assurances to the contrary, forebodes an evil day, perhaps not too far ahead; numerous individuals who, by the mere exercise of their capricious wills, can throw millions of American families into chaos; prices going higher; government getting bigger, and demands for vast extension of the same as a cure for the ills it creates; a growing number of people in the world believing themselves the proper objects of our charity; class hatreds developing along occupational and other lines; world-wide police actions accompanying cries for a security that the mad mess denies; more wars in the offing. No, things aren’t quite right. And the record, over a period of years, seems to indicate a whole string of costly, dismal failures in our attempt to set them right.
Is there some common fault which serves as the root of all these ills, a fault that can be defined and for which treatment can be prescribed?
Man Is Interdependent
The population in America would soon be zero if every individual elected to live as a hermit. Perhaps as much as 99% of our present population would perish in even a primitive, foraging society. For instance, there were only several hundred thousand Indians here before us; their number was limited not by their inability to breed, but by the inability of a foraging society to feed. There are now well over 200,000,000 Americans with a higher standard of living than any people have ever known. Why? Because our economy is more efficient than that of a hermit or of foraging natives. The further advanced the economy, the more people it will support at a high level of living. This is by way of saying that the size of the population and the standard of living it enjoys is ultimately determined by the perfection of specialization, division of labor, and exchange. For man is interdependent! And his existence on this earth beyond a primitive state requires a recognition of this fact and a knowledge of how to deal with it skillfully.
It is true that this fact of interdependence is widely recognized. But how to deal with it skillfully is where divergence of opinion in social affairs originates. This divergence takes the shape of two diametrically opposed recommendations. One commends life in accordance with the principle of violence. The other commends life in accordance with the principle of love. It is important, at the outset, to call these two opposed principles for social conduct by their correct names.