Page:Rise and Fall of Society.djvu/22

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Introduction

looked. The "same pants" notion rests on the identification of the amorphous "national economy" with the well-being of the individual; he is thus merged into the mass and loses his personality.


Of a piece with this kind of thinking is a companion phrase, "We are the government." Its use and acceptance is most illustrative of the hold collectivism has taken on the American mind in this century, to the exclusion of the basic American tradition. When the Union was founded, the overriding fear of Americans was that the new government might become a threat to their freedom, and the framers of the Constitution were hard put to allay this fear. Now it is held that freedom is a gift from government in return for subservience. The reversal has been accomplished by a neat trick in semantics. The word "democracy" is the key to this trick. When one looks for a definition of this word, one finds that it is not a form of government but rather the rule by "social attitudes." But what is a "social attitude"? Putting aside the wordy explanations of this slippery concept, it turns out to be in practice good old majoritarianism; what 51 per cent of the people deem right is right, and the minority is perforce wrong. It is the General Will fiction under a new name. There is no place in this concept for the doctrine of inherent rights; the only right left to the minority, particularly the minority of one, is conformity with the dominant "social attitude."

If "we are the government," then it follows that the man who finds himself in jail must blame himself for putting himself there, and the man who takes all the tax deductions the law allows is really cheating himself. While this may seem to be a farfetched reductio ad absurdum, the fact is xxii