The Promise of American Life eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 523 pages of information about The Promise of American Life.

Impartiality is the duty of the judge rather than the statesman, of the courts rather than the government.  The state which proposes to draw a ring around the conflicting interests of its citizens and interfere only on behalf of a fair fight will be obliged to interfere constantly and will never accomplish its purpose.  In economic warfare, the fighting can never be fair for long, and it is the business of the state to see that its own friends are victorious.  It holds, if you please, itself a hand in the game.  The several players are playing, not merely with one another, but with the political and social bank.  The security and perpetuity of the state and of the individual in so far an he is a social animal, depend upon the victory of the national interest—­as represented both in the assurance of the national profit and in the domination of the nation’s friends.  It is in the position of the bank at Monte Carlo, which does not pretend to play fair, but which frankly promulgates rules advantageous to itself.  Considering the percentage in its favor and the length of its purse, it cannot possibly lose.  It is not really gambling; and it does not propose to take any unnecessary risks.  Neither can a state, democratic or otherwise, which believes in its own purpose.  While preserving at times an appearance of impartiality so that its citizens may enjoy for a while a sense of the reality of their private game, it must on the whole make the rules in its own interest.  It must help those men to win who are most capable of using their winnings for the benefit of society.

III

CONSTRUCTIVE DISCRIMINATION

Assuming, then, that a democracy cannot avoid the constant assertion of national responsibility for the national welfare, an all-important question remains as to the way in which and the purpose for which this interference should be exercised.  Should it be exercised on behalf of individual liberty?  Should it be exercised on behalf of social equality?  Is there any way in which it can be exercised on behalf both of liberty and equality?

Hamilton and the constitutional liberals asserted that the state should interfere exclusively on behalf of individual liberty; but Hamilton was no democrat and was not outlining the policy of a democratic state.  In point of fact democracies have never been satisfied with a definition of democratic policy in terms of liberty.  Not only have the particular friends of liberty usually been hostile to democracy, but democracies both in idea and behavior have frequently been hostile to liberty; and they have been justified in distrusting a political regime organized wholly or even chiefly for its benefit.  “La Liberte,” says Mr. Emile Faguet, in the preface to his “Politiques et Moralistes du Dix-Neuvieme Siecle”—­“La Liberte s’oppose a l’Egalite, car La Liberte est aristocratique par essence.  La Liberte ne se donne jamais, ne s’octroie jamais; elle se conquiert.  Or ne peuvent la conquerir que des groupes sociaux qui out su se donne la coherence, l’organisation et la discipline et qui par consequent, sont des groupes aristocratiques.”  The fact that states organized exclusively or largely for the benefit of liberty are essentially aristocratic explains the hostile and suspicious attitude of democracies towards such a principle of political action.

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The Promise of American Life from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.