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THE CLEVERNESS OF THE RICH
There is a lush literature, much of it monographic, on the creationof the modern worlds large fortunes--most of them originated in and still concentratedin the United States, the self-advertised paradise of the common man. Almost alwayswriters flatly claim or imply that the schemes of fortune-builders, legal or illegal,were extraordinarily clever, infinitely complicated and without supplemental support.
Actually, scrutiny of the way any very large fortune was puttogether shows that the method was simple, often but not invariably at least partlyillegal, usually secret and sooner or later supplemented with the direct or indirectaid of sovereignty or its agents. One can show the creation of singularly few verylarge fortunes that was not aided by the stealthy support or benign tolerance ofgovernment agents. A preponderance of politicians, like flies around garbage, isalways on the side where the money is.
Whatever cleverness was shown invariably lay in the transparentsimplicity of the scheme. In the case of no known large fortune was there a complexscheme. Apart from three exceptions by type every large fortune is the consequenceof a simple formative pattern, pursued in most cases in secrecy, in all cases withpertinacity and with the direct or indirect aid of sovereign power or its agents.
The three typical exceptions to the rule of secrecy are: Wherethe scheme involved a patent, land title or franchise that effectively kept othergrabbers off the known valuable terrain. There is also the special case of a lawfuloperation that got such a head start out of gusher earnings others found it difficultor impossible to raise the capital to overtake it.
As to patents, themselves often covering complex processes,in virtually all instances the operative patent holders were not the inventors. TheMelIons, for example, did not invent the aluminum extraction process although theytook the lion's share for financing its beginnings with bank money, "other people'smoney"--a true case of "nothing down."
It is noticeable that whenever anyone puts into play a goodcommercial idea others (such is the widely distributed appetite for easy lucre) instantlycopy it. Competitive copying is especially noticeable in the spheres of fashion andnovelties although it extends to designs and innovations in almost everything. Theperson who first develops the idea does not derive full profit from its exploitationowing to the rapid appearance of panting interlopers. He is thus prevented from makinga full killing but in theory a wide and infinitely deserving public is cateredto at constantly lower prices by many avaricious sellers.
On the other hand, the man especially protected by the umbrellaof sovereignty or its agents and who has a franchise, effective possessionof a basic patent, or is working a good thing in secrecy with respect to potentialcompetitors and the public, need not fear being forced to share with others. In thepresence of fully established competition no one can build a fortune; competitiondivides the market, diminishes the share of each operator, impedes or prevents fortune-building.
But can this be true? the careful reader will ask. Is it nota fact that fortunes are being openly made or monumentally added to all around ustoday by giant competitive corporations, without benefit of special franchises asin public utilities, of effectively held patents or of operating secrecy?
The prime money-making factor for nearly all existing largecorporations and many smaller ones--not merely legal monopolies like AT&T--isthat they are parts of discreet monopolies. They only pretend to be competing. Ifthey had to compete, they would be little better off than a fashion designer whosework is infringed overnight.
There is no need venturing to show here that the large corporationsare monopolistic units within each industry. The job has been done many times. Thereader is referred to a long line of analytic literature, much of it monographicand scholarly and dealing with specific monopoly situations, many formally adjudicatedas monopolies under the laws and others not so adjudicated either because the purposelyimperfect law does not prohibit their monopoly practices or has not been broughtto bear owing to lack of zeal in law-enforcement officials. 1
Earlier the illegal monopoly conspiracies in the electricaland steel industries were touched upon, each formally and solemnly adjudicated assuch under the Great Seal of the United States in federal court. Until the time ofexposure (an unfortunate occurrence to all corporate right-thinkers) such frequentconspiracies are secret--meeting one of the prime requirements of fortune-buildinghere laid down. Analogous conspiracies seem to exist at all times in all Americanindustries, although the facts are hard to produce. In Europe such cartel practicesare legal, a triumph for candor if not for distributive justice.
The Rockefeller Story
As complicated a money-making scheme as any that led to a largefortune (and it was essentially a simple scheme) was that devised by John D. Rockefeller,the proverbial poor boy who became very rich almost overnight. As the high-pressuremethods he diligently employed have been copiously recorded, there is no need toreview them in detail. The methods were secret and conspiratorial at every step ofthe way--so much so that it took nearly forty years to bring even the earliest stepsto light. Standard Oil was in its long formative period one of the world's biggestclandestine operations. And always there was assistance from the agents of sovereignty;for Standard Oil infiltrated its well-rewarded henchmen into strategic nooks andcrannies of the political system as well as into the ranks of its competitors. Itdeveloped one of the earliest systems of industrial espionage, hardly gentlemanly.
Rockefeller's advantage, which he used to beat down thousandsof producers and to force hundreds of rival refiners into his hands, was the consistentlylower freight rates he obtained from railroads and pipelines as a large buyer ofcrude oil and shipper of refined oil. The railroad rebates and drawbacks, secretlygranted by common carriers which under law were required to give everyone the samerates, were only one aspect of illegality that saturated Standard Oil up to the finalpaper dissolution by Supreme Court decision in 1911. But Rockefeller kept his holdings;and the constituent parts of the one-time trust remained intact, loosely united bystockholdings in foundations, trust funds and the hands of family members and partners.By his ability to control transportation rates unfairly with the connivance of railroadsfighting each other for huge shipments, Rockefeller could force down the price ofcrude oil to him at the well-head and could undersell refineries outside his combinationuntil they sold out to him at sacrificial prices or went under. By this process hebecame what Establishment writers joyously salute as an industrial statesman.
Rockefeller, after a sketchy education and a brief apprenticeshipas a bookkeeper, started in business for himself in 1859 at the age of twenty. Bythe early 1880's, slightly more than ten years after the Standard Oil Company ofOhio was founded to succeed the firm of Rockefeller, Andrews and Flagler, the company'sportion of the national oil business, crude and refined, was rated at 85 per centand the fledgling company was already extending its spiderweb into California andTexas. As early as 1883 the company took the output of 20,000 wells, held 4,000 milesof pipeline, used 5,000 tank cars and employed 100,000 people. 2 It wasalready an obvious monopoly, alluded to as such on the floor of Congress.
Apart from some new capital early brought into the coercivecombination by investors such as whisky-distiller H. V. Harkness, most of the moneyfor the expansion came from especially favorable secret transportation rates. Thesewere always Rockefeller's hidden ace, his major source of growing capital. 3
With variations of detail one will find a similar pattern ofsecrecy in the building of virtually every large fortune.
Why the Fortune-Builders Succeeded
The builders of the large fortunes succeeded, then, becausethe crucial part of their operations was kept secret. When attempts were made touncover the inelegant facts, they were blocked by Horatio Alger officials under thepurchased control or influence of the fortune-builders.
This last was true, for example, of the Standard Oil Companyas of others. From a very early stage its partisans bloomed miraculously in the Ohiolegislature and executive branch and in the Congress and the national executive branch.These "representatives of the people" at every turn nipped one attemptafter the other at investigation, despite widespread indignation in Congress andamong the then free-entrepreneurial newspapers. 4
The question widely asked was: If there is nothing wrong, whywill not the friends of Standard Oil permit an investigation?
When effective investigation finally took place, despite herculeanopposition and proclaimed attempts to bribe officials such as the attorney generalsof Ohio, there was indeed found much reason for concealment. In his annual reportto the governor of Ohio in 1899, Attorney General F. S. Monnett detailed chargesof six attempts to bribe his predecessor, David K. Watson, to withdraw a suit filedin 1890 against the Standard Oil Company of Ohio for participating illegally in theStandard Oil Trust. 5 Mr. Monnett also charged in court that he had beenoffered a bribe of $400,000 to quash a later suit to enforce the court decision inthe first. 6 This and other suits brought by Monnett were abruptly quashedas soon as a successor took office in January, 1900, but not before enough informationabout the secret operations of Standard Oil had been developed to prepare the wayfor later federal dissolution suits. 7
"It was a matter of constant comment in Ohio, New Yorkand Pennsylvania that the Standard was active in all elections, and that it 'stoodin' with every ambitious young politician, that rarely did an able young lawyer getinto office who was not retained by the Standard." 8 This practicepromoted by Rockefeller prevails among corporations today with their coast-to-coastchains of retained political law firms. As a result, most of our legislators in Washingtonand the state capitals are bluff and hearty corporation men, yet they speak in publicin common accents, as though they were human.
It is evident, then, that although some elected officials performtheir duties as required by law and the expectancies of constituents, a majoritydo not. For proof, turn to the tax laws. This prospect brings into range for considerationthose who elect officials, the people themselves.
That the public in general through the shallow criteria it bringsto bear in selecting its wayward officials makes possible the ostensible clevernessof the rich is, as far as I know, a thesis never before explicitly laid down andforthrightly argued. As we are interested in ascertaining how the lopsided distributionof the world's goods came about in so short a time in the United States and why itis likely to continue for the indefinite future, this phase is germane. For withouta public and a system constituted in a certain way it would be impossible for anyone,clever though he might be, to become extremely rich in the ways that have been practiced.
Nobody, first of all, would be rich if he had not been favoredby circumstances. Favoring general circumstances in the United States have been anaturally rich virgin continent, an enlarging widely skilled population, a basiclaw designed to facilitate private property under earlier purely agrarian-mercantilecircumstances, an expanding machine technology that took multiplied advantage ofagrarian-mercantile law and a plethora of purchasable officials.
Had Henry Ford been a Swiss, operating under Swiss law, he couldnever, no matter how shrewd, have developed the Ford Motor Company. Had Rockefellerbeen a citizen of England, France, Russia, Germany or China, functioning in any ofthose countries, he could never, by whatever hook, crook or cleverness, have developedthe Standard Oil Company.
If one nevertheless insists that the fortune-builders were unusuallyclever men, entitled to their fortunes as a reward for performing vast economic services--andthis is the line apologists do take--one cannot go on to argue equal cleverness intheir heirs. For the performance of what service, for the display of what cleverness,do they hold their enormous riches and transcendent power? Does their clevernessconsist of their pre-selection of ancestors?
In the case of either the originators or the inheritors thefortune was hardly derived by conspicuous cleverness but a set of fortuitous circumstances,one element of which (still bearing particularly on inheritance) was a body of pre-existinglaw reasonably designed to fit more modest cases, not designed to apply to huge internationalestates enjoying the application of machine technology in mass production. In theUnited States it is now common for heirs (sometimes quite stupid) to come into estates,largely untaxed, that make the inherited dukedoms decried by eighteenth-century republicansand democrats seem microscopic. No grand duchy ever came near the proportions ofmany American corporations and banks. The United States is the most exaggerated caseof plutocracy in all history, eclipsing all others combined.
The Demon of Demos
A big factor in modern fortune-building, however, was unquestionablythe state of popular opinion and understanding. This opinion has never been morethan occasionally, in fits of temper, opposed to fortune-building. The common iflanguid supposition seems to be that everyone may have his fair chance in this inspiringgame. As every clean-living, clear-eyed, pure-souled American boy may look forwardto being at least president, so every American virgin may marry a millionaire. Thoseboys who fail to achieve the presidency may quite easily (one gathers in readingthe Wall Street Journal, Time and Fortune) as consolation prizes becomemillionaires or marry an heiress. The films play about a good deal with this popularfantasy of heir-pauper marriage, blissfully passing over the fact that if every nubilescion of wealth each year married someone on the relief rolls there would be hardlymore than a hundred such marriages a year. To look for the sociologists' preciousUpward Social Mobility by this route is veritably to chase dancing moonbeams.
To understand fully how fortunes came to grow so profusely inthe United States to grotesque, diseased dimensions and how they are so readily maintainedin full panoply amid outlandish cries that they are being whittled away by taxation,one must give some attention to the general populace.
Referring to this populace, the profoundly experienced P. T.Barnum said: "A sucker is born every minute." 9
The late H. L. Mencken referred to the common citizen as a booband to the collectivity of common citizens, what sociologists now drably refer toas "the mass," as the booboisie, a thesis he tirelessly embellished withcopious examples in voluminous brilliant writings over several decades. Mencken nevertired of pointing to the obvious chicaneries and obscenities in the spectrum of phenomenawhich disoriented professors and clear-eyed politicians call democracy.
Expressing the purely operational as distinct from the formalattitude of American society, Texas Guinan, joyously echoed by W. C. Fields, whooped:"Never give a sucker an even break." 10
There was hardly any need to give utterance to this thoughtfulhomily, which appears to have been ventured in gleeful satire at contemplation ofthe absurd American scene.
It would be advisable here, or so I suppose, to avoid such epithetsborn of anguished subjectivity and find some other meaningful term for the masseswith reference to their inadequacies of judgment. I propose, therefore, that theybe regarded, in varying degrees, as handicapped, crippled, unable to make sound judgmentsand decisions in their own self-interest. They live blindly in a system that offerswide although not unlimited free choice and they are unable to choose wisely. Theyare victims of their own choices. Nobody protects them from themselves!
What qualifies most of the mass for being regarded sympatheticallyas handicapped people, mental cripples, rather than astringently as willful suckersand boobs is their seemingly inherent infantile gullibility. The masses arehandicapped in that they are ready believers in tales and promises of nimbler wits,prone to give credence to the improbable or very doubtful. They believe that someobvious charlatan--a preacher, a politician, a vendor of cheap merchandise--is goingto do something very good for them, at only a slight fee or absolutely free. At theirmost extreme these people are the followers of astrologers, spiritualists, religiousdervishes and messiahs of all kinds, very often political messiahs. They believe,for example, that installment selling is something contrived for their special advantage,rarely suspecting that it is elevating already high prices of shoddy goods by 14to 30 per cent. "Nothing down"--and they buy happily. Furthermore, theytend strongly to resist whatever is objectively the case if it does not harmonizewith their delusions. Tell most of them today that Lyndon B. Johnson, or anyone else,has no more serious intention of establishing the Great Society than he has of becomingsheriff of Buncombe County and they will want to report their veracious informantto J. Edgar Hoover as seditious, possibly a full-fledged heterosexual and viviparous.
Gullibility and muddle-headedness are functions of insufficientintelligence. The intelligent person is prone to make significant distinctions, toanalyze, compare, reflect and seek out difficulties in proffered propositions whetherflattering or promising to himself or not. Skeptical self-analysis is beyond thepowers of the gullible because they already feel insecure, must (as they say) "believein something" if only in believing. Intimations of any lack in their judgmentare resisted. Hence it follows that they believe whatever ethnic, religious or nationalgroup to which they belong is inherently superlative. "If I belong it must begood; hence, I'm proud to be a Ruritanian." Having little sense of individualidentity, they derive their identity from some extensive tribe--hence White Supremacy,Black Power, etc.
While all men may have been created equal, whatever that means,what strikes the most casual observer is their disparity of age, circumstance, capabilityand condition. And, considering people in general with respect to their judgmentalpowers, what is most unequal about them is their intelligence,
During World War II the government administered what was knownas the General Education Test to nearly ten million men. A score of 100 representedthe average. Approximately 50 per cent of all who took the test scored from 86 to114; 25 per cent were below 86; and 25 per cent above 114. The method of gradingwas based on earlier inquiries of psychologists into the national distribution ofintelligence. Of college graduates who took this test more than 81 per cent scored115 or higher so that by present standards four out of five persons completing collegehave the ability suggested by the test score of 115 or higher. An IQ of 110 is theminimum required for admission to standard colleges and universities today, excludingat a stroke 75 per cent. Colleges, however, do not get all the high IQs.
Testing for IQ, although regularly done by government, universitiesand corporations in selecting personnel and admitting students, is a scientific practiceas widely resisted today, and roundly condemned, as was the assertion by Copernicusand Galileo in the sixteenth century that the earth was spherical and revolved aboutthe sun. IQ testing yields information generally unwanted because, among other things,it strikes at the basis of the democratic dogma: the doctrine of equality and thealleged ability of people to act with equal skill in their own interest.
Resistance to accepting the idea of an IQ is reinforced by itsfrequent presentation as something honorific, like having blue blood in the old days.Yet a person of lower IQ will often outachieve one of higher IQ who may, owing toadverse emotional factors, amount to nothing. However, everything else being equal(which it rarely is) the higher IQ will have the edge, and the very low IQs willnever get into the running. Nonetheless at most levels IQs can be raised at leasta few points--sometimes many points.
Although widely assailed by radicals as well as democrats asrevealing nothing inherent (a doubtful contention) but only skills acquired in acertain cultural milieu, the methods of psychological testing are expertly defendedby specialists. Children in the same family, subject to identical cultural influencesalthough to different kinds of stress in the family constellation, often show widevariations in IQ. Cultural deficiency, therefore, although it often plays some role,cannot be designated the sole cause of low ratings. There is more than training ina Heifetz or Einstein. Tests have been devised, as a matter of fact, that bypasscultural influences in testing. They show no uniformity in intelligence. 11
It is this utterly pathetic low state of IQness in much of thepopulation that points up the observation made some forty years ago by an acute politicalobserver that "Actually the great bulk of the 119,000,000 [citizens] are thoroughlymuddy-minded about politics, swayed by feeling rather than reason, really incapableof clear-headed thought or understanding." 12
Open elections, where they take place, are quite correctly citedas one of the hallmarks of a democratic system. But, considering the confused mentalityof the mass, the two-party or multi-party electoral system is much like a formallyfair duel between a man stricken with palsy (the general public) and a dead-shotduelist (the professional politician) or a chess match between a tyro and a master.Only one outcome is possible: the way of the politician.
What is the case, then, is that a largely incapable public exercisesits judgment in validating the selection of its legislators and officials, with themelancholy results for that same public shown by the history of popular electionssince before the Civil War. Voting behavior has been extensively studied. Althoughmany new details have since been brought to light in various studies, nothing essentialhas been changed since Frank R. Kent made the foregoing observation in 1928.
Where the Public Goes Wrong
Where the voting public goes wrong is in whom it accepts ineach jurisdiction as plausible candidates--not men of proven knowledge, ability andpurpose but men who appeal to various unexamined prejudices: ethnic, religious, national-origin,occupational, aesthetic, regional, personal and the like. As Plato brought out inhis dialogue Gorgias the politician uses rhetoric to flatter and seduce hispublic and to carry the decision even against the man of knowledge and sound judgment.People in general, it seems, are far more responsive to blandishment than to reason.They love obvious charlatans.
Although bemusingly capable men are by chance indeed electedoccasionally, thereby serving as justification and embellishment for the system,in most cases the public elects flexible men who are prepared to betray it at thefirst sign of personal profit. Such officials have no more sympathy with the public,itself callous, than have Soviet commissars, possibly less. Each set, Soviet or U.S.-typedemocratic, is cut out of the same bolt, concerned only with advancing their ownsmall-bore careers.
The electoral system, then, is the setting for a cat-and-mousegame between the greater part of the demoralized public and the professional politician,who knows what he wants for himself and usually gets it. One of the many outcomesof it all is seen in the tax laws. Here, of course, we find that the rich have indeedmanaged rather cleverly.
There has never been an even approximate correlation of levelof IQ with voting statistics, but studies in the sociology of political participationshow clearly that it is the socially lower and less skilled classes who most abstainfrom electoral voting. The largest voting turnouts in Europe and the United Statesare among higher income receivers--the more educated, businessmen, white-collar workers,government employees, commercial-crop farmers, miners, whites, people over age thirty-five,men, industrial workers in western Europe, older residents, married people and membersof organizations. Lower voting turnouts are consistently seen among low-income receivers--unskilledworkers, servants, service workers, peasants, subsistence farmers, Negroes (oftenbarred), women, persons under age thirty-five, newer residents, industrial workersin the United States, unmarried people and isolated individuals. Voting in generaltends to rise in crisis situations, and then the otherwise quiescent lower orderstend to vote more heavily but from authoritarian and anti-democratic points of view.13 In crisis, extremism and strongarm tactics become de rigeur,appealing especially to the lowly, no doubt satisfying feelings of frustrated hostility.
Self-Defeat: The Lot of the Common Man
Just how and why the common man in the United States gets spunoff the merry-go-round as he does is most precisely shown by systematic stages.
When it comes to voting the choice narrows down to two almostindistinguishable men. In Russia there is ludicrously only one man to vote for; butit is hardly more absurd than voting for almost identical political twins like Johnsonand Goldwater. Both systems are equally absurd.
Before an election the choice of candidates has already beenmade and almost always either one of two men is going to win although both may beabsolutely undesirable--as undesirable, indeed, as a Russian might find a candidateon his single slate.
The crucially important political phase, then, as Frank R. Kenthas pinpointed it, is when the candidates are selected. All the sociological analysisof partisan and class voting after this stage, as far as the American two party systemis concerned, is politically quite beside the point. The fundamental line has beenpre-determined.
In almost all cases in the United States candidates are selectedin primaries or by conventions of delegates themselves elected in primaries. Exceptin the South the choice of candidates--whether by primaries, caucuses or conventions--isdetermined wholly by political leaders, bosses, owing to the voluntary abstentionof the public from serious political activity.
In Russia the bosses will not allow anyone else to present candidates.In the United States anybody may present candidates but usually fails to do so. Politicalbosses in the United States come into being by reason either of the political defaultof the people or of circumstances such as specialized nonpolitical occupation thatkeeps people from broad political activity. Politics, democratic or otherwise, isintrinsically a specialty.
Because in the South there is broader public participation inthe primaries, although not very broad, in this respect the South seems more alertpolitically. But the candidates in the southern primaries usually differ from eachother only in contending that each would be more diligent in repressing Negroes.The South, then, has been not only one-party but, stupidly, one-issue.
Where conventions determine the candidate, the bosses obviouslyhave the determining role. But in the primaries, too, they determine the outcomebecause the broad public virtually boycotts the process. The participants are almostentirely political jobholders or patronage beneficiaries, informally compelled tovote and to vote in ways that enable them to hold their benefices. If it were notfor this compulsory voting by beneficiaries, primaries could not be held in mostcases.
It is the primaries that give the major parties their legalstatus. This is because the law of most states stipulates, with no broad dissent,that parties shall hold primaries participated in by party voters for nominatingparty candidates and officers. The only other way a candidate can get on the ballotis by petition, signed by a certain number of voters, and such a candidate does notrun under a party label and has no established organization working for him.
"There could not be a greater mistake" than abstentionfrom primaries, says the able Kent. It is this public abstention that gives the politicalmachine its chance to control the situation, which it does through the precinct executives."It actually permits the machine to run the country." Here is the veritablefoundation for the various legislative Establishments and for legislation biasedin favor of the propertied. It rests on pervasive popular ineptitude.
As there is no other effective way for candidates to get onthe ballot, the primary is the political key that unlocks all doors.
"It ought to be plain, then," says Kent, "thatso long as the machine controls the primaries, it is in a position to limit the choiceof the voters in the general election to its choice in the primaries. That is thereal secret of its power, and, so long as it holds that power, it cannot be put outof business. Defeating its candidates in the general election not only does not breakits grip, it often does not make even a dent in it. The only place a machine canbe beaten is in the primaries."
As for the candidate who gets on the ballot by petition, "Nothingshort of a political tidal wave or revolution can carry an independent candidateto success," Kent points out. "He may pull sufficient votes from one sideor the other to bring about the defeat of one of the regular party nominees, buthis own election is a thing so rare as to be almost negligible."
To the established party the primary, which validates it legally,is far more important than the election, which alone seems important to the public.Even if it loses the election, the party organization remains intact owing to patronage--federal,state, county and (over the long term) judicial--gained in past elections. The partyorganization can, indeed, survive many election defeats. Remaining organized, itis always a threat and draws some deferential attention from the ascendant partywhich, in fact, helps it out from time to time with "nonpolitical" and"bi-partisan" appointments. The legal parties have much in common, notablytheir tender joint concern and realistically proper solicitude for their angels,the propertied classes. There are many informal party intermediaries.
The Republican Party long survived in the Deep South despiteendless election defeats, owing to its nourishment by federal patronage. Althoughit held primaries, where federal jobholders voted, it never won state elections orsent members to Congress. The party delegates, however, often played a determiningrole in the choice of presidential and vice presidential candidates at Republicannational conventions. They had something to sell--their organizational votes.
Although the party organization can survive a long series ofelection defeats, it could hardly survive a defeat in the primaries and could absolutelynot survive two primary defeats. If twice defeated it would be clear that it hadbeen outwitted by rival organizers or an intelligent public to whom recipients ofparty patronage would turn for protection. Organizers able to outwit an entrenchedmachine are men obviously more capable of outwitting the opposing party in the comingelection.
Sometimes factions contend in primaries--the Old Guard, Reformersand independents. Each puts up a slate, for public office and party office. Eachis committed to high-flown party principles, and contends that it can best implementthose principles and achieve electoral success. On such a question the general voterin effect has the difficult job of a personnel manager for a large corporation. Hemust know principles and policy and he must pick out the electorally most plausibleman. This, obviously, is usually hard to do. Information is lacking--all the menseem superficially good. If one seems better in some ways the others seem betterin other ways. Whose side are they really on? What to do? Here the average voter,who isn't versed anyhow in the ins and outs of the situation, throws up his hands.The primary and its ends baffle him and he stays away. Yet here is the very heartof the electoral process and from now on nature takes its course.
Generally the Old Guard wins owing to its control of patronage.If enough patronage holders are discontented, owing to what the Reformers call poorleadership, they may vote with the Reformers or Independents. In this case partyleadership changes, perhaps party policy. What change, actually, has been wrought?Usually it is nothing of broad importance--perhaps only a change from Anglo-Saxonto Irish candidates, from Irish to Italian, from Italian to Puerto Rican. In a changingelectoral district the new candidates have more "political sex appeal,"are more likely to entice more boobish voters.
An important feature of party primaries often is that they notonly nominate party candidates but also party officials: county and state committeemenwho elect chairmen. The party chairmen may or may not hold public office, but theyare the main part of the continuing party machinery. They are, legally, the party,and they participate in party decisions, convey party views to officeholders. Theyare men who have immediate access to executive officials, legislators and judges.What they have to say is always very, very important, not to be lightly disregarded.
As Kent points out, by not participating in the primaries thegeneral voter loses at least 50 per cent of the effectiveness of his franchise. Hethereby assumes his actual political status--a second-class citizen. As few participatein primaries it may seem, by this token, that virtually everybody is a second-classcitizen. But this is not so, for there are those, nonvoters in primaries, who recapturethe first-class citizenship at a later stage by contributing to political campaignfunds. They "buy in." They are politically first class. They are rich peoplein a plutocracy.
Nobody has chased the common man away from the primaries. Hejust does not feel up to participating. His democratic franchise here he finds justtoo much to handle. He does not, in fact, have anything to contribute; he is politicallyempty. As a result, the party apparatus and candidates on both tickets belong toprofessionals, often men never heard of in the community, usually men of limitedoutlook. They function behind the scenes. They have the party power. They are Americanversions of Gromyko, Kosygin, Brezhnev et al. 14
The party managers must find men ready, able and willing tocampaign and at the same time men who will be acceptable to a broad, culturally differentiated,intellectually and emotionally low-grade public--Mencken's boobs, Barnum's suckers,Kipling's "muddied oafs." The party managers are, contrary to common supposition,restricted to a very narrow potential group, with characteristics shared by lessthan 5 per cent of the population.
Men selected as candidates must, first, have independent financialmeans or be in occupations that will permit long leaves of absence. Persons dependenton an assured wage or salary would, even if approached, turn down the offer becausethey could not take a chance on being out of a job if they lost the election, norcould they take a chance on not winning the next election in two to four years. So,most of the labor force is automatically self-excluded. True, here and there somebodyat times takes the long chance; but not many. Again, scientists, physicians, surgeons,scholars, engineers cannot be had because even if they won election they would notbe able to keep abreast in their professions; only men willing to abandon their specializedlife work might be obtained and they are virtually nonexistent among high-level practitioners.Again, successful corporation executives, unless retired, cannot be induced to runbecause if they won they would be automatically excluded from the line of corporatepromotion and extravagant remuneration and if they lost they would probably be outof any job. They would be "controversial." As it turns out, most of thehighly capable men in the country are in sober fact not available to stand as candidatesfor public office. Either personal economics or professional commitments keep themout. 15 Yet, the inferior types that predominate in politics seem to satisfythe propertied. One can easily make deals with them. They are purchasable.
The political manager, then, must go shopping under conditionsof extreme scarcity for prospective candidates. He finds most of them among younglawyers, men with partners willing to see them take long leaves of absence and who,if defeated, can return to the practice of law. Thus Matthews found that among Democratsin the Senate, our supreme political body, 63 per cent were lawyers; among Republicans,45 per cent. Those who defined themselves as businessmen were 17 per cent among theDemocrats and 40 per cent among Republicans. Among the Democrats 7 per cent werefarmers, 7 per cent professors and 5 per cent other professionals; among the Republicans8 per cent were farmers, 1 per cent professors and 5 per cent other professionals.16
The up-and-coming men in politics, then, must be lawyers, menof independent means or in some business they can run by remote control as an adjunctto politics. The lawyers chosen are usually not at the top of their profession eitheras pleaders, brief specialists or jurisconsults but are men seeking to make theirway, hopeful that their political participation will bring big retainers to theirlaw firms--and it will! With nice corporate retainers in the office, however, thesepublic officials develop a sound procorporate point of view. While rhetorically theymay swing far to the left or right, when it comes to voting and deciding, they mustsee things as the corporations do. They must then follow the corporate "partyline." They are at least corporate fellow travelers.
People in Politics: Pop Politics
People in politics all, contrary to popular supposition, workvery hard. It is common for a citizen to walk into some public building and, noticingits rather soiled condition and easygoing atmosphere, make an invidious comparisonwith the trim premises of a tightly run corporation. Here is mute evidence of thedifference, he thinks, between shoddy government enterprise and efficient privateenterprise. Bank pens work smoothly, post office pens sputter.
The rank and file in the political organizations put in longhours and work hard, often at two or three jobs-and most of them put money in thebank every week, usually sufficiently honest money. Many of their tasks are boring.Others would not perform them. But, in some measure, they carry with them a headysomething called power.
In the selection of candidates, however, the political organizermust be careful to select men who will not offend large blocks of voters, As experiencehas shown, the average mentally handicapped or boobish citizen, his brain in a scramble,attaches vast importance in candidates to religion, race or ethnic grouping, nationalorigin, sex and generally conventional conformist outlook and behavior. He feelsgrimly punitive toward any sort of deviation from a fixed norm, a stereotype, inhis mind. He wants, above all, no independent thinkers--freaks who emit horriblepropositions about the importance of intelligence tests, read books--or use threesyllable words. 17
Politicians oblige. If the voters wanted men who spoke Sanskrit,dressed in kilts or used the language of mathematics, the politicians would procurethem.
Voters, it has been found, are also partial to men against women,married men against bachelors, fathers as against the childless, the personable againstthe less personable, the fluent and expansive against the reflective the generallyreassuring, humorous and blandishing against the fellow who raises odd difficulties.They prefer Gorgias to Socrates. They will not, as politicians know, take anybodywho lectures to them or even indirectly appears to be lecturing to them, althoughthis is precisely what they need before anything else. They need hard instruction,prolonged, grueling, on the line.
The party leaders, to give them credit, do the best they canin selecting candidates. They do the best they can, too, in seeking to detect hiddenaberrancies in a new man, such as penchants for reading, concert-going, tennis-playingor a compulsive desire to speak the exact unvarnished truth at all times--all ofwhich in the budding statesman would spell trouble with the booboisie.
The Role of Money
With the organization now functioning smoothly, something elseis needed: money. Here is where the affluent regain their first-class citizenship.
If the organization has not been very successful it must dependon its own resources, mainly "kickbacks" from its successful candidatesand appointees. But with victory comes prosperity in the form of campaign contributions,always and almost only from the affluent and well positionedthe wealthy, corporationexecutives and lawyers, government contractors, brokers, influence-seekers, friendsof the candidates, etc. Here and there trade unions are heard from, but for the mostpart the labor force is now quiescent, not in sight. It is at work, out at the beachor watching television.
Because it is almost entirely the affluent that put up partycampaign funds, knowing that some lucre is going to stick to the fingers of politicalmanagers, we see here the reason both the Republican and Democratic Parties are,basically and primarily, the parties of the propertied classes--the corporations,the trade associations, the real estate lobbies, the millionaires, the big rich andthe super-rich. This is the simple, nonscandalous fact. Money, big money, rules theroost from now on.
Leftist agitators have thundered about this thousands of timesfrom soap boxes at gaping hinds, as though this ought not to be and as though itwas sinful. This, as it happens, is the way babies are born in politics--or by evenrougher methods as under totalitarianism. They are not brought in by the stork.
The electoral process, owing to the childish nature and behaviorof the public, is expensive, and is really paid for by the public in elevated prices.Much is at stake in the public policy that will be made by officeholders--who willpay most of the taxes in an increasingly expensive welfare-warfare state, who willget contracts of $100 million, $500 million, $1 billion, where $200-million roadsand dams will go and where they won't go, etc. This is obviously a game (as mostparticipants see it) for big stakes, far from the pitifully petty concerns of theelectorate about the religion of the candidates, whether they are divorced and whetherthey are hetero-, homo-, bi- or a-sexual.
As the public has the franchise, almost without restrictionexcept for Negroes, if it does not like the way matters are arranged all some eightymillion members of the labor force need do is (1) participate intelligently in allprimaries and (2) contribute about $5 a year to their party, amounting to about $400million a year in all. If it did this, the public might have more to say in determiningpolicy--if it knew anything at all about policy.
This is an easy prescription but hard to apply to an enginewith some eighty million separate parts. Not only does the public consist of manyparts but many of these parts are mutually and irrationally antagonistic on groundsirrelevant to the welfare of each. Their various ethnic, religious, nationalistic,regional, occupational, class, caste and cultural differences have in most casesnothing to do with their personal and mutual welfare. Yet they enjoy indulging theseirrelevant infantile predilections as though they mattered--and politicians are solicitouslyattentive. Where the constituency would not like a Ruritanian on the ticket thereis no Ruritanian. Where a Ruritanian would help, there he is. Is he pro-bono publico?Maybe yes, maybe no, but it is electorally irrelevant. And so with all other types.
If the voters participated intelligently in the primaries, theirspokesmen would need to find truly representative candidates--not too easy to do.Most likely persons would turn them down for more agreeable pastures.
In any event, the rank-and-file citizen prefers to accept theready-made pre-financed, pre-fixed parties, in which in most cases he is permanentlyenrolled as in a religious brotherhood. Most voters ploddingly vote straight tickets,for one party, year after year. They are, as anyone can see, creatures of easy habitwith little genuine political discernment. One can count most of their votes in advance.Politicians do.
But here, as elsewhere, he who pays the piper calls the tune.Although each of the major parties is usually (except when befogged by ideology)alert to whatever may transiently pull the handicapped boobs to their banners, theydeliver in major matters, always and invariably, for their main financial supporters.Considering the way everybody performs politically and thinks privately, this isthe only way it could possibly be. The idea of democracy first killed itself in ancientGreece. In modern times it did it again in the United States.
Left and Right
Much is made by such writers as Professor Seymour M. Lipsetof Left and Right and of which of the major parties is the friend of the common manand which of Big Business. 18 In these respects, in fact, there is littleto choose. The Democratic Party came by its latter-day reputation as a peculiar friendof the common man because of its purely sensible emphasis since 1932 on federal programsin sagging domestic affairs and on adjusting to some of the dislocations broughtabout by technological change. Earlier, this one-time party of the southern slaveowners had made friends in the North by welcoming the European refugees of the immigration,each of whom had a vote, most of whom were politically snubbed by the well-washedWhigs and Republicans.
The Republican Party has tended, impolitically, to decry recentDemocratic emphases and has consequently lost majority support, which it held from1860 to 1932, as long as it was able to guarantee low-paid jobs. What money the workerswere not paid in those days went, in general, into the sprouting fortunes and forthe most part now rests comfortably in trust. The benign Carnegie paid $10 a weekfor seventy hours and more in the withering heat of the steel mills--a humanist!
But the aims of both political parties, declared and achieved,are to maintain the existing politico-economic system and the same relative distributionof its rewards. This is all Franklin D. Roosevelt ever said he sought to do and allhe really did. His main promise was to get the system back in operation and thishe did so thoroughly that the 1960's are little different in their externals fromthe 1920's.
All this is inevitable, as it must be when given the generallow-level, don't-know-where-I'm-going-but-I'm-on-my-way outlook of the common citizen.He's bound to be short-changed.
The Dirty End of the Stick
Just what the common man gets by voting the prearranged preferencesoffered him in elections we may see by looking at the case of Negro Congressman WilliamL. Dawson of Chicago.
Dawson's 90 per cent Negro First Congressional District containsone out of every three Negroes in the state of Illinois. Dawson has ruled it as aprivate fief for 24 years, and cooperative fellow politicians have continued to changethe shape of the district as the Negro population keeps swelling and moving intowhite neighborhoods. If you are a Negro on the South Side, and you need a job, afavor or a bail bondsman, you see someone from Dawson's organization. His recordin Congress is shabby; not a single Chicago journalist can remember a piece of legislationthat bears his name. It doesn't matter.
"This man is not interested in politics as a means of helping his constituents," one political writer said. "What he is interested in is staying in power."
Dawson in power has obtained for his faithful constituents the worst housing conditions in the city, a soaring crime rate, an increase in heroin addiction and the spread of teenage gangs who flock together in vicious packs, preying on strangers, extorting money from businessmen, and killing each other out of boredom. It is a record so marvellous that it should qualify Dawson for an ambassadorship to Haiti. . . .
Dawson stays in power at an age when most men are writing memoirs because he commands an organization that makes good old Tammany Hall seem like a congregation of Ethical Culture teachers. Every one of the 446 precincts in the district has its own captain and two assistants, and if possible a worker for every street. There are seven wards in the district, and each ward office is responsible for controlling the precinct captains. The seven wards in turn answer to the people who run Dawson's own Second Ward office.
Dawson has plenty of what Chicagoans call "clout." He is vice chairman of the Cook County Democratic Central Committee, and Mayor Daley understands perfectly just how important Dawson and his organization are in the general scheme of Chicago politics. In 1963, Daley won reelection by 139,000. Dawson-controlled Negro wards contributed 115,000 of those votes. 19
Representative Adam Clayton Powell, the Negro clergyman-sybarite,for more than twenty years ran a similar district in New York City.
The point here is not to highlight invidiously Negro personalitiesbut to cite two extreme cases as models of what most people more or less get by votingalong ethnic, religious, regional and national-origins lines. In almost every caseof such widespread voting, it can be shown that the constituents in the home districtor state are in some way getting the dirty end of the stick, not perhaps so blatantlyas under Dawson and Powell but perceptibly nevertheless. They get it especially intaxes but also in many other ways. Catholics are rooked by Catholics, Protestantsby Protestants, Irish by Irish, Negroes by Negroes, and so on, all very democratically.
In the better-grade suburban, city "silk-stocking,"Jewish and advanced farm districts it is different. Only in a diluted sense are thealert constituents there ever let down. For the most part they are served as theyintelligently if narrowly understand their interests.
An inflexible rule can be stated here: The further one movesdown the socio-economic-cultural scale the less the sweet-talking political organizationsdeliver on behalf of the broad constituencies, which is one reason politicians arerepeatedly found by pollsters to be in popular ill repute. People realize that, somehow,they are short-changed. But it is defective understanding in most of the people themselvesin attempting to utilize the popular franchise that is considerably to blame, althoughplenty of teachers have offered to instruct them. Boobs will not heed, however. Theyjust do not seem to get the point. They think it's great to be a Ruritanian and acommunicant of the Hocus-pocus Church.
Instances of Boobishness
As one out of many thousand instances of widespread boobishnessone may cite the abrasively intrusive surveillance by the public over the privatelife of officials. A senator, photographed at a wedding holding a champagne glass,sought to have the picture suppressed owing to the painful impression it would makeon constituents; he would not have minded if it had been a glass of whisky. 20Deviations from local folkways are not tolerated in politicians by most Americanconstituencies.
What can be done for a public who insist upon bringing irrelevantcriteria to bear in voting for officials and who decline to participate in the basictask of seeking out and supporting suitable candidates?
Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller of New York is a case very muchin point. Professor Lipset as of 1960 thought it more likely "that Nelson Rockefeller,the liberal Republican Governor of New York, will ultimately prove to be the truerepresentative of the revived pattern of direct participation in politics by membersof the upper class-participation through their traditional party, the Republican"rather than upper-class people like Franklin D. Roosevelt, Adlai Stevenson, G. MennenWilliams, John F. Kennedy and Averell Harriman in the Democratic Party. At the timeall politicians conceded that Rockefeller, had he forced his own nomination as hecould have, would have beaten John F. Kennedy hands down.
Yet Lipset's Republican hope was buried in political ashes foryears owing largely to his subsequent divorce and remarriage. By reason of this purelypersonal action, which could not affect a man's managerial capability, a large sectionof the small-town Republican Party followership turned against him. As far as thepresidency is concerned, Rockefeller was long pronounced dead by politicians butwas at least tentatively exhumed as 1968 approached. Now many sophisticated observerssuch as Walter Lippmann and Gore Vidal began looking upon him as the nation's singlehope of escape from Johnsonian realpolitik.
Wealthy party supporters proceed quite otherwise. If a man votesright in committees, on the legislative floor, makes the big decisions in favor ofproperty, they are behind him no matter what he does privately. They could not careless if he maintained a string of supple mistresses of all colors, shapes, religionsand sizes and smoked opium. All that would bother them about this sort of thing ina sound legislator or decision maker would be the danger of the public getting windof it. But the man's private life, if he was politically on the beam, would be strictlyhis own business. He could listen to string quartets and detest baseball for allthey cared. He could even be civilized!--the ultimate of extreme democratic tolerance.
The common run of voter, a person nobody pays any attentionto most of his life, when it comes to casting his ballot suddenly feels that he hassome power: Intolerant of all differences, he intends to use his paltry power tothe hilt. As anticipated by the politicians, he looks the candidates over and comparesthem with a mental cartoon of the perfect philistine and asks himself these questions:Is he baptized? Does he belong to the right Christian sect? Does he go to churchregularly? What is his race? Does he show the least sign of being superior, uppity,in any way, such as by seriously using long words? Does he seem to enjoy himselfin some unorthodox way?
Has he at any time stepped out of a petty conventional mold?Does he ever say anything original? The wrong answers to such questions, as politiciansknow, will usually swing large decisive blocks of votes and will cause ordinary boobsto break party regularity.
Aside from party regulars, most voters, in the belief of politicians,vote punitively. What they are voting against, furthermore, is not ordinarily somedisliked policy but, usually, some personal characteristic of the man. He may, likeAdlai Stevenson, be too witty. In this way the boobs, calling upon all other boobsto join with them, work off a good deal of their frustrated hostility. What theirvote will do for them taxwise they have no idea. They don't know most of them arealready paying 50 to 80 per cent more taxes under Democratic "leftism"than they ought to be paying under an equitable arrangement.
For some time to come, Negro politicians are going to have aneasy task snaring boobish Negro votes. They are, borrowing a leaf from southern whitecolleagues, simply going to talk tough about the white man. They are not, however,going to overcome the white man. They are going to make deals with him, for theirpersonal benefit, behind the scenes. Their Negro constituents meanwhile are goingto continue more or less to eat humble pie in one form or other, like their whitefellow-democrats. Adam Clayton Powell and William L. Dawson and the late Oscar DePriest of Chicago are merely precursors of a long line of coming Negro politicianswho, under enlarging liberalized attitudes toward Negroes, will have found the roadto Upward Social Mobility. They will have money in the bank, possibly a lively whitemistress--or two--under the bed.
As to his ethnicity or national origin a politician cannot usuallydeceive his public. If he is a Ruritanian he has to admit it and bray loudly thathe is inordinately proud of it, thus securing the votes at least of nitwit Ruritanians.On the score of religion, except for sect, it is another matter. Being for the mostpart intelligent men, most politicians, although conspicuous church-goers, unquestionablyhave no more conventional religious belief than Lenin, Marx or Robert Ingersoll.True, most of them probably believe also that organized religion is a good thingfor keeping the boobs in line, joining here the thought of Plato in his Laws.But it is almost a certainty that, tested under the influence of a truth serum, mostpoliticians would admit they themselves had little or no religious belief. Indeed,every significant action of their lives shows most of them are devoid even of naturalpiety. Not only do most of them have little genuine respect for people, hesitatingnot at sending tender youth into trackless jungles on sleeveless errands of death;they clearly show they have no respect even for the universe; they do not hesitateto pollute the atmosphere with lethal dust. They are simply low-grade technicians,in outlook so many plumbers (although it is probably an insult to hardworking plumbersto say so).
Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?
Reasonably sure of most of their men after election, the propertiedelements--inheritors, nouveaux riches and their many power-elite agents--unlikethe general public do not sit back and wait to see what is brewing in the halls ofgovernment. Through lobbyists and other intermediaries they forcefully interveneat any and all times in the legislative and administrative processes, leaving nothingto chance.
They also prudently keep a close and constant watch at all timeson their elected representatives through the medium of the corporate press, tradepress and private reporters. Many trade associations and corporations maintain theseprivate reporters in Washington and the state capitals, women as well as men whomove about, mingle, socialize, listen, observe and write long regular reports. Indistant files dossiers build up on all or on the key men in relation to general orspecial interests. Into these dossiers goes everything, including gossip, carefullylabeled as such. All of this information is useful when it comes to making nominatingor appointive recommendations, campaign contributions, "reaching" a manor developing a public offensive against some recalcitrant official. In a very realsense officials are captives of these elements.
Public office, said Grover Cleveland, is a public trust. Butbig property owners, having large stakes, do not allow their trust officers, eitherin finance or politics, to get far out of sight. Heeding Jefferson, they believein being vigilant and forehanded in defense of their profitable liberties. As totrust officers in finance, although they are carefully selected, thoroughly screenedand carefully watched by stages through the years, they are nevertheless heavilybonded. This ultimate precaution makes sense because one can be most thoroughlybetrayed only by someone one trusts most implicitly. One can never tell when anyman may slip a neuron and dip into the till or cook the books. Strange chemical reactionssometimes take place when a trust officer encounters a nymph or a betting agent.
Public officers, however, are not ordinarily bonded. They can,though, be carefully watched, monitored, consulted, instructed, advised and personallyassisted--in brief, surrounded. This they are, but only with respect to the specificfelt interests of the propertied. The ordinary public, members of the labor force,cannot maintain such close vigilance and must depend on newspapers and the occasionalreports of large organizations. Most of the electorate, in fact, does not even readthese, preferring the sports pages, comics, crime sensations. Roll-call votes donot interest them unless they are about school prayers,
What the public learns about its representatives is only whatappears in the newspapers or hostile pamphlets. It may learn to its dismay that theirsenator loves "the purr of a Cadillac, the genial clink of ice cubes late atnight, the company of lovely ladies. . . ." 21 By means of such trivia,which might easily have applied to George Washington (who liked fast horses ratherthan Cadillacs but was fond of the ladies and a touch of the grape), home sentimentis raised to an angry simmer.
Any legislator who, perhaps seeking higher office, levels alance at some large propertied interest, like the late Senator Estes Kefauver, instantlyraises against himself formidable under-the-surface forces. And crusades such asKefauver's against politically protected crime syndicates, high drug prices and monopolyare, beyond doubt, educational, informative and entertaining, and they do producesome temporary modifications. But in the long run matters settle back pretty muchas they were, awaiting the appearance of another nine-day giant-killer.
Most people in politics--organization types--do not aim at beingthe Number One Man. And most who do, know that the spot is more easily attained deviouslythan by appearing as a fierce tribune of the people. For this reason crusaders arefew and far between. But anyone in politics who feels neglected can always step intothe crusading role. For this reason, among others, the propertied interests try tosee that nobody feels neglected, everybody instead feels facilitated. "Don'tstir up the animals," is the working maxim.
It should always be remembered that the man in office, evenbefore he is approached by minions of the propertied, does not feel angry at anyestablished interest. He is, usually, already in some degree a man of property himself,perhaps with glowing prospects ahead. While public promises he may rashly have mademay be forgotten or disregarded, there being nobody immediately present to hold himto his duty, he is always in contact with those to whom he has made private promises.These must always be kept unless he is "let off the hook" for good reasonshe can show.
The common erroneous assumption of the voters is that anyoneof their ethnic or national-origin number, class, fraternal order, religion or regionis sympathetically inclined toward them. Such a representative, they believe, "understands"them better. Yet, as the record shows, such voters have pretty consistently beenlet down in their day-to-day interests all the way down the line. Money cancels allprior obligations.
It is not necessarily that the politicians intend it this way,which is merely the way the ball bounces, the cookie crumbles, the rainbow disintegrates.It is simply that intelligent pressure and attention directed on them come mainlyfrom the propertied. The nonpropertied are either absent or are interested chieflyin a long line of irrelevant nonsense like school prayers and ritual conformity toshopworn shibboleths. What can one do for people who believe their true friends arecharacters like the Reverend Billy Graham, Norman Vincent Peale, Archbishop FultonSheen and Francis Cardinal Spellman? It costs a politician or his moneyed supportersnothing to declare in favor of school prayers; it may sound commendable to many.But, whether the prayers are held or not, they make no difference as between povertyand affluence.
It should not be thought, however, that a tight leash is kepton officials by the propertied. For it is not. The watchers are always sensitivelyaware that officials must play peekaboo with the larger public and must sometimesvote or act in ways that are thoroughly unsound from a propertied point of view.Such grandstand action is seldom resented by the watchers unless it is felt to begratuitous and avoidable.
But any elected official who consistently goes against the grainof the propertied interests is quickly tagged "anti-business," tantamountto being labeled an anti-party deviationist in the Soviet Union. The man so labeledhas been marked for political destruction, will have to fight to the hilt for hispolitical life. Anti-labor he may be and live, anti-immigrant, anti-farmer, anti-intellectualand even anti-veteran. But if he consistently gives the watchful lobbyists a hardtime he must depend strictly on his own resources and ingenuity to gain and holdelectoral support. Very few have succeeded at it.
Public Discontent: How Deep Is It?
Most Americans, most of the time, nevertheless live in a stateof mild semicontent in the substandard habitations that compose substandard residentialareas of the richest industrial country on earth. Where there is positive discontentit is usually not very thoroughgoing and could usually be easily removed. Almostany person questioned, of course, would usually like a better job, perhaps a morelively or varied one; somewhat better pay but not necessarily a great deal more;a somewhat better neighborhood to live in, perhaps less noise, soot and crowdingin the region; somewhat better schools for the children but nothing outstanding;a longer vacation; not necessarily shorter hours but perhaps somewhat lower taxes(but not very much lower); possibly somewhat lower prices in general; a new car (possiblya Thunderbird); a color television set or even two; maybe a little fishing shackin the country but nothing fancy; some new or additional electric appliances forthe home; possibly less crowded transportation to and from work; some deferred dentalwork; and the like. There is little among an average American's visualized needs,including medical, that would not be taken care of by just a little more money. Asto cultural quality there is little felt need. Culturally, everything is thoughtto be good enough.
I am not referring here, of course, to the lower 20 to 25 percent, too stupefied by its condition to look for anything better or even to complain.Some at this level do remark plaintively, true enough, of rats infesting their scabroushomes or leaks in the roof and seem to hope that somebody will some day come andremove them. Unable to qualify for readily available jobs because of low intelligence,lack of training, psychic depression, uncouth manners or general debility (hereditaryor acquired), lack of accurate information and personal neglect, often concentratedin regions to which they have earlier been enticed at temporarily good pay for now-abandonedmining or industrial processes under what economists blithely call Labor Mobility,they listlessly sit and vaguely hope that something new will turn up. What wouldsuit them as well as anything else would be a first-class war for which they couldget good wages making ammunition. In the meantime, forehanded fly-by-night, freedom-lovingentrepreneurs extract from them whatever they may have in cash, usually public reliefmoney, by means of conscientious overcharges for rent, food, clothing and dispensablegadgets dispensed on the basis of free misrepresentation.
Little noticed about the habitual poor is the fact that mostof them are poorest of all in spirit. Most are from unusually large families in whichthey have been pointedly depreciated and "put down" by habitually irritatedparents or, when such is not the case, they have come to see themselves as an operativecause of the harsh family condition--another troublesome mouth to feed. Contrastingwith the low sense of self-esteem among the poor is a correspondingly high senseof quiet self-esteem among the established rich, a reflex to their having usuallybeen catered to by parents and servants and always spoken of as entitled to the best--inclothes, in food, in schools, in marriage, in trips to Europe and the like. The habitualrich do not place a high value upon self merely because they have money (as is oftenthought) but because in most cases they have been conditioned to being highly valuedor overvalued by everybody around them. In many among poor as well as rich thereis a noticeable reaction-formation to these basic feelings of value and nonvalue.Many of the poor react by assertively proclaiming their high value (which they donot really feel) and respond approvingly to the assertions of clergy, democraticideologists and politicians about their superlative value: "God must love thepoor because He made so many of them." Some no doubt feel in their bones thatit is a fairy tale--but it is a pleasant one. The rich, per contra, reactby developing an outward mien of modesty, unassumingness, tentativeness and self-deprecation.Everybody remarks: "What a nice democratic guy! He'll talk with anybody, realfriendly. Who'd ever think he was worth $100 million? A real gentleman."
But, whether overassertive or submissive in attitude, most ofthe poor feel marked down. From birth onward their entire experience, with only unusualexceptions, has underlined and emphasized their lowliness and dispensability. Here,indeed, is the purely human difference between most of the rich and the poor, whichF. Scott Fitzgerald correctly sensed in noting that the rich were different and whichErnest Hemingway failed to register when he observed in response that the only differencewas that the rich had more money. Money, indeed, is the least of the differences,man for man and pound for pound, between the rich and the poor, always allowing forexceptional cases on both sides of the fence. The broad difference lies in self-valuation--toolow in one case, too high in the other.
Two things the working American dreads but seldom talks about:loss of his health and loss of his job, which loss of health by itself usually entails."Thank God for your health," it is commonly said reprovingly to complainersunless they are on their last legs.
Without the ownership of income-producing property, holdingat most some small savings, some life insurance and possibly some equity in a mediocremortgaged home, 90 per cent of Americans (as we have seen) are completely dependenton wages or salary. Relatively few hold jobs under tenure or long-term contract.If the jobs are removed the jugular vein is severed, not only on the means of livelihoodbut on self-esteem. Most Americans out of a job, no matter how they got that way,feel beaten. If joblessness continues very long they begin to be looked at askanceby family and friends. Are they flat tires in the land of success? They begin towonder themselves.
Full-scale employment is a prime basic aim of American publicpolicy, supported by both parties. It has been recognized since the massive layoffsof the 1930's that here, if nowhere else, is a problem that could generate reallybig political upheaval. Although the labor force has grown with the population, unemploymentremains and a number work part time as well as some at two jobs. Those the politicalmanagers have not been able to absorb into the labor force they have tried to providefor by (1) prolonged routine schooling, (2) the maintenance of a German-style standingarmy of more than three million men and (3) paid retirement at ages 62 to 65. Anyoneretired, in the Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe or in school is obviously not unemployed. Yetapproximately one-third cannot qualify for military service for physical or mentalreasons; many of the same group plus others cannot absorb available schooling--aproblem.
By way of providing for the inexorably growing labor force,the political parties foster schemes of government-subsidized capital expansion athome-- economic growth"--and investment abroad--"economic imperialism"undermilitary protection.
There is present, then, especially as population growth hasnot even been tardily curbed, an obviously explosive situation--what professors areprone to call "a dynamic configuration." This last implies only that almostanything can happen.
As long as they are employed at fairly reasonable wages Americans,far less politicalized than their European counterparts, are sufficiently content.Only low prices for farmers, low wages or unemployment, as history shows, can puta noticeable number of them into serious political motion and make them start thinking,reading and talking about their plight. Even then their political expression in theform of dissident parties has never amounted to a considerable percentage of thepopular vote. As long as there seems any hope simply of bottom-level, hand-to-mouthemployment, they remain glued to one of the prefabricated parties. In this they arevery much like the diligent Germans who, as history attests, will go any way politicallythat the jobs lie. Perhaps this is only reasonable.
Americans, moderately content (except for certain minority blocsin times of crisis), are almost to a man grateful for living in such a marvelouspolitical and economic situation, extending liberty and equal justice to all--thelast in part a reflex attitude to propaganda that begins early in the public schools.Those rank-and-file Americans who do not feel grateful tend to feel guilty over theirlack of gratitude for such a reputedly fine system.
The intense gratitude felt by many is well illustrated by acase cited by Drew Pearson: Nick Galinfianakis, a lawyer, Duke University professorand member of the North Carolina state legislature, stood as a candidate for Congressin 1966 against Smith Bagley, young grandson of R. J. Reynolds, the tobacco tycoon.Pearson noted that Galinfianakis got into politics when friends put up $18 to filehis name as a candidate for the state legislature. Said Galinfianakis to Pearson:
"With a name as monstrous as mine I thought it was a joke.I didn't think anyone would vote for a name like mine. However, my father was bornin Crete and had a sense of gratitude toward this country. He used to run water outof a spigot and say, 'Look at the clean water we have to drink. We couldn't get thatback in Greece!' My father ran a little hot dog stand, and he felt a deep obligationto this country. I feel that in the Legislature I've been discharging his obligation--andmine." 22
This is far from an isolated instance but typifies, I have found,a general attitude especially among immigrant groups down to the third generationand among recent refugees from Soviet and Nazi totalitarianism. Second- and third-generationchildren of immigrant families have in millions of cases been told, when complainingof anything, to "be grateful you have a roof over your head," "begrateful you have something at all to eat." "Be grateful. . . ."
In most of the immigrant families, and among many of the earliernative frontier families, there remains a family tradition about some sort of distant,life-sapping and perhaps nameless hardship that has been narrowly escaped. The descendantsof those who escaped that hardship, whatever it was, are repeatedly told to be gratefulfor living in a country of so many opportunities, such wide liberties, such bountifulfields, such clean water, such blue skies. The children owe gratitude above all toparents for choosing such a country. Examples of poor boys who have "made good,"from Rockefeller and Carnegie to Everett M. Dirksen and Lyndon B. Johnson, are oftencited and the mass media can run the list up into the thousands, the ten thousands.But, and here is the dazzling moment of truth, they can't run it up to a million,not to 500,000, not perhaps even to 100,000. There are enough showcase examples of"successes," however, who have made it to become the biggest used-car-lotoperator in all history, to overwhelm most dissenters. The unconvinced are merelycarpers. Whatever is amiss, it is implied, will soon be rectified, perhaps afterthe next big election.
If times are bad or uncertain they will sooner or later improve.In any event, there is no need for anything drastic although many persons would nodoubt agree it would be a boon if there were only guaranteed jobs or income, perhapshereditary jobs.
In reading their newspapers Americans reinforce their attitudesby making note of wholesale death camps in Germany; concentration camps and secretpolice in Russia; mass slaughters in India, Turkey, China and Pakistan; famines inGreece and elsewhere; overpopulation; lack of water, and, in general, secret police,executions, a bad situation all over the earth. They little realize that foreignnewspapers, with equal truth, regularly feature lynchings and riots in the UnitedStates, American unemployment and slums rivaled perhaps only by those of India, floods,soup lines, Hoovervilles, gangsters, periodic American depressions and recessions,McCarthyite cultural vigilantism, widespread American lawlessness, traffic jams,ugly cities, water and air pollution, advertising fakery, and other vile conditions.There is, evidently, widespread editorial selection all over precisely with the ideaof fostering in-group feelings of complacency. Actually, things are varyingly badin most places. All Utopias are bogus.
Not everybody, of course, has traditional grounds, however tenuous,for feeling grateful. There are, first, the Negroes--10 per cent of the population.Negroes provide clamorous evidence that the American system, whatever it is, is notbenign in all its dispensations. Oddly, to those nurtured on myth, it has its Siberias.
There are, as a matter of fact, many others who seem to havelittle ground for gratitude; most of them appear to be of the politically apatheticstrata that cannot even bring themselves to vote. As a financial writer for the NewYork Post, commenting on an analysis in the Social Security Bulletin,puts it:
The number of "poor" Americans-officially defined as having a yearly income of about $3,100 or less for a non-farm family of four-has been slashed a minimum of 6,000,000 since 1960. In the same period, the number of "near poor" just above this lowest income bracket has jumped at least 1,000,000. In totals today, 34,000,000 are living under the "poverty" line and 16,000,000 Americans are living right above it. These facts . . . are a warning of what even a slight economic recession could mean to 50,000,000 Americans. . . .
According to the Social Security yardstick, the poor individual today has 70¢ a day to spend on food plus $1.40 for rent, clothes, home maintenance, transportation, everything else. The near poor person has 93¢ a day for food, plus $1.85 for everything else. The fact is that one in four Americans (including 22,000,000 children under 18) now exist at these levels. The fact is that 43 per cent of all Americans over the age of 65 today are either poor or near poor. 23
This is about what many smokers spend in a day on cigars.
Perhaps even most of these feel grateful for something. If theydo not, their discontent is not translated into political action. Very possibly mostof them are of low IQ, perhaps inordinately low owing to diet deficiencies and self-depreciation.
But if 25 per cent of Americans live in poverty and near-povertyanother 50 per cent can hardly be said, in the light of official income statistics,to be living more than meagerly. Touches of "the affluent society" beginto be encountered only in the lower levels of the economically upper 25 per centand do not amount to much until one gets into the upper 10 per cent of income receivers.The "affluent society" is really a not too thick veneer, mostly a surchargedinstallment-credit affair.
According to the 1960 census, the formal schooling of Americanstwenty-five years old and over was as follows: 24
Number Per Cent Total persons in this age range 99,024,000 100.0 No schooling 2,251,000 2.3 One to four years of school 5,997,000 6.0 Five to seven years of school 13,710,000 13.8 Eight years of school 17,397,000 18.0 One to three years of high school 19,047,000 19.2 Four years of high school 24,330,000 24.5 One to three years of college 8,705,000 8.8 Four years or more of college 7,588,000 7.5
Impressive when compared with the data for Basutoland, as theysometimes are, these statistics, as educators warn, do not portend what they aretaken to portend owing to the general low quality of the American educational system,especially at the elementary and secondary levels and more than half of the collegelevel. Most formal education in the United States is of the once-over-lightly, hit-and-run,masscult, bargain-counter and vocational variety so that even many college graduateshave lingering difficulties about spelling, writing plain prose, identifying crucialhistorical figures, events and ideas or reading beyond the level of Reader's Digest.If one is seeking effectively schooled people one must reduce the high schooland college figures of a largely Potemkin-Village system by more than half. 25No other large country, however, has a better system.
Education, of course, is not to be confused with mere schooling.Eric Hoffer, lightly schooled longshoreman-author of The True Believer, standsout as a far more thoroughly educated man than, for example, William F. Buckley,Jr., Yale graduate who wrote the grotesque God and Man at Yale, as good asample as any of the Buckley lucubrations. If one concedes Buckley every one of hispoints against Yale--and a civilized man would hold them to be positive virtues--onesees that he has unwarrantably built his case about a complex institution on fewand untypical cases relating wholly to the minor undergraduate college, ignoringthe mountain for the mouse.
It should not, then, be supposed that I make a cult of schoolingand believe that even at its best it necessarily represents education. A cultivatedautodidact like Hoffer (and there are others) can, as it so happens, hold his ownwith swarms of Ph.D.'s. A few topflight professors do not even have a bachelor'sdegree--Lewis Mumford for one example.
George Gallup, the poll wizard, every so often makes a popularsurvey on topics of immediate public interest. Invariably, on whatever is of, trivialinterest he finds the public well informed, on whatever is of serious concern thevast majority is abysmally ignorant even though the newspapers have gone overboardon the subject. Few will know what a cyclotron is; nearly everyone will be quiteexpert on something like the Profumo Affair or miniskirts.
If one gives credence to the bare school statistics, however,a considerable part of the population is sufficiently educated: 40.8 per cent overtwenty-five as of 1960 had graduated from high school, with 7.5 per cent finishingfour years or more of college and 8.8 attending college for one to three years, mostlyone. There is obviously a weak base here for general intelligent political action.Statistically, the certified laggards outnumber the certified competents. Recallingthe figures on the distribution of intelligence, knowing that formal completion ofschooling in a loose system is not always indicative of solid knowledge and goodjudgment, it is evident why the populace is not able to select, elect and retainrepresentatives who will act in their broad interests.
The Brain Drain
Educational attainment in the United States, indeed, is generallyso low that this complex industrial nation must now increasingly draw much of itshighly skilled personnel from abroad, often attracting from needier nations theirpeople of great skill. Just as the United States now processes far more of the rawmaterials of the world than any other country so it seems well over the thresholdof attracting to its shores by offers of higher salaries and better professionalfacilities most of the brains of the world. The process has been called "thebrain drain." Immigration, once confined to the unskilled, now features thehighly skilled.
According to Foreign Affairs on the subject of the "braindrain" to the United States, "the statistics that have been developed onthe so-called 'brain drain' present a somber picture. According to one UNESCO report,43,000 scientists and engineers emigrated to the United States between 1949 and 1961,'many' of whom came from the less developed countries. Of the 11,200 immigrants fromArgentina alone between 1951 and 1963, nearly half were technicians and professionalpeople, 15 percent were high-level administrators and 38 percent skilled workers.In 1964-65, 28 percent of the internships and 26 percent of the residencies in U.S.hospitals were filled by foreign graduates--nearly 11,000 in all--and 80 percentof the foreign interns and 70 percent of the foreign residents were from developingcountries. The drain from Asian nations, particularly Taiwan and Korea, is the mostserious: it is estimated that over 90 percent of the Asian students who come hereto study never return home." 26
Those who came to the United States as advanced students cameunder foreign assistance programs; but they remain to fill in gaps of higher personnelthat are not filled by the native products of the American school system.
England, which itself drains the Commonwealth countries of talent,is alarmed at the drain of its own physicians, surgeons and scientists to the UnitedStates. It is losing physicians and surgeons in the proportion of one-fifth to one-thirdof the graduates of its medical schools each year, some of them intensively trainedspecialists. 27
While the official unemployment rate hovers a little below 4per cent and the extreme poverty rate around 25 per cent, the Department of Laborhas advised that there are three million high-level jobs more or less permanentlyvacant in the country--for engineers, scientists, technicians, statisticians, administrators,nurses, physicians, teachers and the like. Neither the populace nor the educationalsystem seems able to supply fully the needs of a technologically advanced system,partly because of native incapacity, partly because of educational shortsightednessand parsimony and partly because of low-level communal goals set by half-literatelocal community leaders and politicos.
Corporations, universities and government agencies compete madlywith each other for well-schooled personnel. Local communities flounder and sinkbecause men of informed judgment have been drawn away to distant points of the compass,leaving local Chamber of Commerce mentalities in charge.
These figures, true enough, can be interpreted in various ways.It can be said that technology has advanced so fast that it has left much of thepopulation behind, breathless, which is strictly true. It can also be said that thepopulation and communal institutions have not been adequate to meet rising needs,which is equally true.
Just as the level of educational attainment is not sufficientto meet the general needs of the time so, it is my argument, the level of educationalattainment is not sufficient to meet the political needs of the people in selectingpolitical personnel devoted to the needs of the nation. One gets instead the well-knownvariety of peanut politician, mainly exemplified at or near the top in streamlinedhicks like Lyndon B. Johnson, Everett Dirksen, Orville Faubus and George C. Wallace,to name only a few of the currently most obtrusive and obnoxious. 28
As politics is the realm productive of public policy, the troublesof the country trace back inevitably to politics. Here we find largely inadequateofficeholders chosen by largely inadequate people on the basis of largely irrelevantcriteria, always allowing for the fact that a minority of the officeholders and aminority of the people are fully adequate to their responsibilities.
The democratic system thus comes full circle and in the UnitedStates presents a parody of itself on the governmental level. 29 As aconsequence the entire land is officially plunged into Madison Avenue nonsense. Thesystem, it turns out, has been infiltrated and subverted by boobocrats.
While institutional inadequacy is involved it is (contrary toa long line of radicals, liberals and plain democrats) by no means the whole story.Although many Americans above age twenty-five are inadequately educated and schooled,nobody at all is twisting their arms to make them remain that way. The majorcities are all heavily supplied with public night schools on every level from theprimary grades to university postgraduate levels and anybody may rectify his educationaldefects very readily, usually free of direct charge. Some do; most don't. Again,most of the major cities have excellent libraries, very lightly patronized.
Where the interests of the broad public he may be discernedon any weekend when they hit the roads in their cars. While this aimless drivingabout on superb highways may be cosmically innocent, like praying, it is not doneby a populace seriously concerned about its destiny. It is done, in fact, by handicappedboobs.
The Market Place
What we have before us is an operative and a formal political-legalsystem. The latter, it should be perfectly understood, is quite well devised to respondin an orderly, systematic way to the collective will of the populace.
The operative system, the real system--control by corporation--subsidizedpoliticians--quickly came into being and prevailed owing simply to the inabilityof the electorate to understand and use properly the system offered. This electorateconsisted almost entirely of rustic Anglo-Saxon and Scotch-Irish hinds and, in thecourse of time, largely illiterate continental European immigrants.
With the spread of the popular franchise after 1830 the systemdecreasingly elevated characters like George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jeffersonand James Madison, the choices of an educated landed and mercantile enfranchisedpolitical elite, and instead pushed up from the soil confused Jacksons, Van Burens,Buchanans, Grants, McKinleys and more recently Hardings, Coolidges, Eisenhowers,Johnsons et al. The trend was even more marked on the lower levels and onlyexceptionally did men of genuine political grasp make their way upward. Many of thisorder simply did not make it and turned away from politics.
The operative system that came into being, then, was a reflexto popular rather than institutional inadequacy, an important distinction. It isthe Marxist idea that all social evil is traceable to existing institutions. I denythis although I do not deny that existing institutions are often influences towardevil, especially as these institutions are distorted under usage. Beautiful parksare despoiled by ordinary people misusing them, not by their managers. 30
In glancing at the market place, it will be observed that whatis chiefly criticizable about it is that much of it, as in "democratic"politics, represents a genuine adjustment to the low-level understanding and goalsof much of its public, the customers. It is also true, however, that much of thismarket place simply ignores the customer, the public, and goes about blithely fryingits fish in its own way, as in the establishment of monopoly arrangements. In manyways the market and its institutions, as it turns out, pointedly do not exist toserve the public; the public exists to serve the market, to facilitate its operation.31
The American economist Thorstein Veblen developed the conceptof economic surplus, most recently employed by the neo-Marxists Baran and Sweezyin computing it (for the first time) for 1929-63. It was Veblen's contention in TheTheory of Business Enterprise and The Theory of the Leisure Class thatmuch, perhaps most, of this surplus was wasted, purposely and conscientiously, sothat it could not be used to improve institutions or the life of the people as awhole. The argument was: Capitalism establishes monopolies and uses advanced technologyin order to increase surplus to a certain point and then wastes much or most of thissurplus in order not to alter the necessary conditions for generating such surplus.Instead of operating to uplift and improve everybody and ameliorate the conditionsof life, thus altering institutions, it was held it operated to keep everybody rightwhere he was, which meant that the rich became richer and the poor remained pooror meagerly sustained.
The economic surplus, specifically, is the difference betweenwhat a society produces and the cost of producing it. The larger the surplus themore a society has to dispose of in various ways of its theoretical choice.
As derived by Baran and Sweezy with the assistance of JosephD. Phillips from orthodox official data, since 1929 the American surplus has rangedfrom a low of 40.4 per cent of gross national product in 1934 to a high of 71.6 percent in 1943; it stood at 56.1 per cent in 1963. It stood at 46.9 per cent in 1929and has shown a definite tendency to rise over the decades. As estimates are usedeven in some of the official government figures employed, there is room for error.But even if error went as high as 10 per cent, or even 15 per cent, either way, thecomputations would be broadly indicative.
The major components of the surplus for 1963, for example, wereas follows: 32
Total property income $104,618,000,000 (Corporate and noncorporate income, rents, interest, profit component of corporate officers, etc.)Waste in distribution (sales effort, trade advertising, etc.) 29,749,000,000Nontrade corporate advertising 7,700,000,000Surplus employees' compensation 17,650,000,000 (Finance, insurance, realty and legal services, which last cost only $870 million)Absorbed by government 168,008,000,000Total surplus $327,725,000,000Percentage of Gross National Product 56.1
The direct return to property, then (out of gross national productof $589.2 billions-plus), amounted to more than 17 per cent, which accrued in allto not much more than 10 per cent of the populace by any reckoning and was concentratedmost heavily in a thin upper level of this 10 per cent. With respect to the surplusitself, the take of property was nearly 30 per cent.
Waste in the Business Process
The components of waste in the business process shown in theBaran-Sweezy computation consist of expenditures for advertising, market research,expense-account entertaining, maintaining an excessive number of sales outlets, publicrelations and lobbying, salaries and bonuses of salesmen, maintenance of showy officebuildings and business litigation. None of this adds anything to the value or utilityof what is produced. 33
There would be an element of waste in any system, but the argumenthere is that the waste under capitalism is institutionally determined in order tomaintain capitalism itself rather than a high quality of social life. It does nogood to argue with a Moscow-oriented Marxist that there is as much or more wasteand irrationality in the Soviet system, because the defensive answer here would bethat the Russian system was not an outgrowth of capitalism, as Marx stipulated thatsocialism should be, but is an originally backward system that must pass througha capitalist phase of labor exploitation and the like in order to establish an industrialbase for socialism, which is something that will be ushered into being in due course.Those who believe this, in view of the rise of a Soviet vested political bureaucracy,must draw upon whatever credulity they possess. My own view with respect both tocapitalism and to sovietism is: There is no Santa Claus. Under whichever system onehas, workers, it seems, will work and administrators will administer, on terms moreor less unequal in all cases unless administrators deliberately choose to play fair.
As to advertising, it is recognized by many economists of reputeas an uneconomic aberration, introduced by corporations as a substitute for competitivepricing. The advertisements create the illusion of product differentiation amonglarge varieties of essentially identical products. These essentially identical productsare, it is true, differently styled and packaged but in most cases the "talkingpoints" are irrelevant.
Economists agree that the ultimate consumer pays for the advertisingwhich in turn defeats the ultimate consumer in his search for lower prices, maintainsmonopoly prices. The worst thing that can happen in the system, in the view of itsmanagers, is price-cutting, which reduces surplus.
Continual advertising itself, by its overwhelming success, insome cases leads to a virtual monopoly of some products--for example, the Gilletteamong the wet-shave safety razors.
As the gilt-edged economist E. H. Chamberlin observed, "sellingmethods which play upon the buyer's susceptibilities, which use against him[my emphasis] laws of psychology with which he is unfamiliar and therefore againstwhich he cannot defend himself, which frighten or flatter or disarm him--all of thesehave nothing to do with his knowledge. They are not informative; they are manipulative.They create a new scheme of wants by rearranging his motives." 34
"Madison Avenue" has come in for a great deal of condemnation.It should be observed, however, that the irrational extravagances of advertisingcould not be employed if there were not a vast public unable to see through the transparentlydeceptive devices used. It is public response that sustains advertising.
It is not that the advertisements are false in general, althoughfalse advertisements, advancing direct claims that can be disproven, have been foundin abundance by the Federal Trade Commission. But, even though not false, the advertisementsare almost invariably grossly misleading. They are vague, ambiguous, irrelevant andoften absolutely nonsensical. By freely using improper techniques, advertising effectivelysubverts the work of the schools in teaching the proper uses of language and clarityin thinking. The multitudes of handicapped are intellectually defenseless when theycome to advertising, and the process of absorbing the nonsense of the free-rangingadvertisers intensifies their intellectual handicap. Many people talk and think aboutthe world the way Madison Avenue has vividly but zanily taught them. 35
The logic of Madison Avenue is to employ language and picturesirrationally with a rational view to selling price-fixed goods and making money.It is able to do this because it carefully exploits human weakness--suggestibilityand ignorance. In saying this, nothing is said about products or their quality--anotherstory.
Reinvestment of Surplus
Whatever property owners do not consume or allocate to variousself-serving nonprofit purposes they reinvest. Such reinvestment may be in alreadyestablished areas or in new areas: new industries or foreign lands. Precisely whatthe propertied element consumes cannot be directly computed. Small property holdersprobably consume most of their income. In the case of large property holders, incomecannot be consumed without resorting to colossal extravagances such as the maintenanceof six large homes.
What is left for consumption and personal reinvestment one mayobtain some glimpse of by taking account what is reinvested by corporations. In 1962,as Baran and Sweezy show, expenditures of surplus by nonfinancial corporations forresearch and development totaled $12 billion and for outlays on plant and equipment$32 billion, of which a fantastic 81.9 per cent was greedily charged as depreciation.Since 1953 the totals for research and development, plant outlays and abnormallyexaggerated depreciation had climbed steadily and phenomenally. There was, thus,$48 billion reinvested out of total property income for the year of $99.2 billion,or nearly half.
There was, furthermore, the item of foreign investment, possiblynot more than half of which represented actual flow of capital from the United States.The total of direct foreign investments increased from $11.8 billion in 1950 to $40.6billion in 1963, an increase of $28.8 billion, according to official figures. Between1950 and 1956 such investment each year ranged from half to three-quarters billionbut thereafter in each year has usually far exceeded $1 billion and in 1957 exceeded$2 billion. It therefore seems safe to say that on the average at least half of propertyincome is usually reinvested, with the proportions of what is reinvested increasingas one moves up the scale of property holders in point of individual magnitude. Ingeneral, the invested position of the propertied is steadily improving. Foreign investmentis far more lucrative than domestic and the quest for foreign markets is what enablesAmerican industry to bypass in so many ways its own population.
Some of the approximate $50 billion that was left over may alsohave been reinvested as new personal investments. In any event, the property ownersin that year had some $50 billion of unearned income at their personal disposition,roughly equivalent to the sum absorbed by the armed forces.
Yet, as Baran and Sweezy remark, the monopoly system tends towork at cross purposes with itself.
It tends to generate ever more surplus, yet it fails to provide the consumption and investment outlets required for the absorption of a rising surplus and hence for the smooth working of the system. Since surplus which cannot be absorbed will not be produced, it follows that the normal state of the monopoly capitalist economy is stagnation. With a given stock of capital and a given cost and price structure, the system's operating rate cannot rise above the point at which the amount of surplus produced can find the necessary outlets. And this means chronic underutilization of available human and material resources. Or, to put the point in slightly different terms, the system must operate at a point low enough on its profitability schedule not to generate more surplus than can be absorbed. 36
Compensation for surplus or intermediary employees, as Baranand Sweezy admit, would exist in any system; but it is their argument, for whichthey cite good reasons, that under the American system much of it is excessive andwasteful. The intermediation of brokers and agents adds nothing to the value of products.A real estate or stock broker, for example, may mediate the sale of the same propertymany times a year, drawing a commission each time. Nothing new has been added.
Government Absorption of Surplus
The largest absorption of the surplus of the highly productiveAmerican system, however, takes place through government. Here, as official datashow, absorption of surplus has risen steadily from $10.2 billion in 1929 to thelevel of $168 billion in 1963. Here is the statistical basis for the cry of statismagainst the welfare-warfare-subsidy state. From 1929 to 1961 government spendingsteadily rose from 9.8 per cent to 28.8 per cent of gross national product. 37
It is common knowledge that some of government expenditure byanybody's standards represents waste, expenditure for socially unnecessary ends.The common notion of the congressional "pork barrel," with respect to whichcongressmen trade votes in order to get unnecessary expensive projects for theirdistricts, supports the notion. The local folks are pleased but are postoffices inthe form of Greek temples and colonial mansions necessary? Are various airfieldsand army posts necessary? Governmental absorption and spending of surplus, however,whether wasteful or not, "pumps" money back into the economy. The government,thus--local, state and federal--is the biggest customer in the marketplace and, ifit considerably reduced or withdrew its patronage, the so-called private enterpriseeconomic system would almost instantly collapse. By running Keynesian deficits itcan push the economy ahead. By curtailing expenditures it can depress the whole structure.
Despite the outcries against statism, it has been mainly forthe military establishment that government demands on the economy have been made.Whereas in 1929 less than 1 per cent of gross national product was devoted to militarypurposes, by 1957 it had risen to more than 10 per cent and accounted for approximatelytwo-thirds of the aggregate expansion of all government spending. Government spending,then, is largely military spending.
Which government expenditures are socially necessary or sustainingand which are waste of surplus? We know already there is some waste, by common agreement;the question is only to determine how much there is, a difficult if not impossibletask.
Whereas nondefense or civilian expenditures by government increasedonly from 7.5 per cent of gross national product in 1929 to 9.2 per cent in 1957,the military proportion increased by fifteen times. Transfer payments increased from1.6 per cent to 5.9 per cent, less than four times. 38 Transfer paymentscomprise interest on government debt, subsidies minus surpluses of government enterprises,veterans' allowances, old-age pensions, unemployment benefits and the like.
Although some argue that military spending is not a prop tothe economy and contend despite the 1930's that there would not be a depression ifmilitary spending were reduced (because with the reduction in military expenses therewould presumably be a corresponding reduction in taxes and a compensating rise inprivate spending or in redundant investment), it seems inescapable that no scatteredprivate spending or investment could replace the massive concentrated military effortwhich currently takes more than three million men out of the labor force and makesan effective demand for more than 10 per cent of the production of the labor force.
Instead of military spending, others argue, there could be anincrease in socially necessary civilian spending as for hospitals, schools, sanatoria,playgrounds, health resorts, community centers, galleries, museums, lecture halls,libraries, public housing and the like. While such creations would indeed absorbsurplus at as great a rate as one liked they would, clearly, be "socialistic."Such a civilian creation by government would in many directions, as in housing, medicineand other areas, conflict with profit enterprises and by supplying libraries, museums,lecture halls, playgrounds and the like would provide alternate uses for the freetime of people, to the possible detriment of profit enterprises like TV, movies,automobiles and so on. All this is precisely what is not wanted by the vested interestswho exert decisive political leverage. But if there were effective political leadership,overswollen military budgets could be trimmed for these domestic purposes.
Merely to staff a great expansion in such socially useful facilitieswould require the diversion of much upper-level personnel from profit-making enterprises.
Some percentage of the military establishment, by the testimonyof all schools of thought, represents waste. Some of it is necessary waste, arisingfrom unavoidable circumstances; some is avoidable waste. There are, again, thosewho would argue that, humanly speaking, it is all waste; we need not follow thisline of thought in a highly imperfect world. Owing to continual technological advance,moreover, there is rapid obsolescence of much military equipment in a situation whereit is felt, hysterically, that the nation must be prepared at any moment for a maximummilitary effort to save its very life.
Large portions of civilian outlay by government can also readilybe interpreted as waste. The federal roadbuilding program, as indicated in Note 28,supra, is considered (I think rightly) a huge example of compounding socialwaste by Baran and Sweezy, who also interpret slum clearance as in good part a wasteof public money. This last item of waste comes about in this way: Instead of utilizinglow-cost open spaces, readily available, the slum-clearing programs buy up deterioratedproperties at good prices to the owners and then supply contractor-promoters withhuge sums and excessive tax rebates to construct new buildings that rent at suchprices as to bar slum dwellers. Slum clearance thus becomes indirectly subsidizedluxury building, a delight to politicians, many of them participants in the buildingsyndicates.
Government expenditures for schools and hospitals, health andsanitary measures (water supply, sewage and garbage removal), conservation and recreation,housing and facilitation of commerce, police and fire protection, courts and prisons,legislatures and administrative offices are conceded by these writers to be sociallynecessary. Presumably they would agree that libraries, post offices, government printingand the maintenance of rivers and harbors are in the same category. But, as theypoint out, there has been little expansion of such services relative to the expansionof gross national product. Most expansion of governmental spending and allocationof funds has been in areas that are more or less, or entirely, socially and economicallywasteful or rationally questionable.
Thus, while socially necessary services are skimped and helddown with cries for "economy in government," the sluice gates are wideopen for the military in repelling a Leninist communism held to be lapping at distantshores and in underwriting schemes of roadbuilding and urban renewal that not onlyfacilitate huge profit-making enterprises but undermine those that are socially moreefficient such as railroads.
In general, what Baran and Sweezy say here is true. The stakeof property is steadily being increased under the camouflage of high depreciationwrite-offs. Persuasive advertising is wasteful and exploitative of credulity, a substitutefor genuine competition. More surplus employees are utilized than is socially necessary,although not more than this kind of system requires. Much of what the governmentspends is indeed wasteful in various degrees and from various points of view andmuch of it, as in the approach to housing and the automobile complex, is positivelyharmful. In this last category we have, not merely social waste for profit, but positive,certifiable social harm for profit. Beyond the harm produced by the approachesof public policy to urban housing and the automobile complex there is the harm inducedby misallocation of resources, as in military overspending for Over-Kill.
The prime virtue of capitalism in theory is that it providesa mechanism--the ostensible free market--for meeting the effective varied demandsof people at the best prices. What happens, however, when people are deviously inducedto make an effective demand for something they do not need (automobiles instead ofhouses) or something that will not meet some need (chewing gum instead of psychotherapy)is not embraced in the theory. People must know their need and how to satisfy it.Again, if the market is under monopoly, people cannot make effective demand at thebest possible prices even for things they do not need--things that do not cater tonecessity, convenience or comfort. Ideas of spurious need are inculcated by playingupon latent fears, such as that other people will ostracize them if they do not usedeodorants and a long line of other products. Advertising, seen in this aspect, isobviously a vast booby trap, a legally condoned swindle for profit. 39
Quality in the Consumer Economy
As to the quality of goods in the Consumer Economy, where consumptionin and of itself is regarded by many public men as the remedy for all ills, thereis a wide range. In order to appeal to the impecunious, much of what is offered issleazy, saturated with built-in obsolescence. The case made by Ralph Nader aboutthe Detroit automobile could in general be applied to many products, although inthe automobile it was more serious than usual owing to the immediate life-and-deathaspect. 40
In order that at least the more literate portions of the middleclasses may pick their way about among a large variety of substandard, overpricedand absolutely unnecessary products that cater at most to free-floating anxiety andsuppressed restiveness, there have emerged successful private enterprises such asConsumer's Union and Consumer's Research. By means of regular reports these organizations,and others, advise subscribers of the results of product analysis and price comparison.
Strong in the production of capital goods (generally machinerydesigned for further production), the American productive system in the line of consumerofferings is about as uneven as the American school system. The main considerationall along the line is admittedly the rate of profit. Producers, it must be conceded,are entitled to fair returns for effort, but the object of business enterprise ingeneral and of the American business system in all its parts is to obtain maximumpossible return without regard for quality or social necessity, comfort or convenience.Do-nothing products, economic placebos, are quite common. Under the rubric of gloriousfreedom, if they make a big profit through misleading advertising as in the caseof deodorants, they are justified. The vendor has given the customer what he hasbeen frightened or cajoled into wanting and has given employment perhaps to thousandswho are raising children to grow into another army of worker-consumers making nullor below-par products--all, however, for somebody's profit.
Many products in the market, especially in pharmaceuticals andfoods, are repeatedly found in government laboratories to be positively harmful.This is a long story in itself.
Just how little fear of authority producers feel under the skull-and-crossbonesof freedom we learn from Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, of the Bureau of Ships of theNavy and known as "The Father of the Atomic Submarine," a really competentman. Rickover announced that work on many atomic submarines was being delayed becauseparts, upon which performance depended, were being delivered that did not followspecifications. He cited "the inability of American industry to meet the exactingdemands for quality and reliability posed by modem technology." and chargedthat industrialists did not know what went on in their plants, which were left toadministrators chiefly interested in getting more contracts. The National Aeronauticsand Space Administration at the same time voiced similar complaints, which it latersmothered in a tribute to the cooperation of industry. Rickover not only held tohis position but has many times made it known in the same terms. 41 Thedeaths of three astronauts were ascribed to poor equipment.
Not all officials react disagreeably to treating the governmentas though it was a rank-and-file customer. The political authorities of Massachusetts,for example, accepted the Massachusetts Turnpike as constructed. Soon after completionthe road was already crumbling over long stretches and was being extensively rebuilt.As one who has driven over this road many times and experienced its undulations,seen it pitted with holes and watched repair crews at work over its entire length,I can personally testify to its generally poor condition, especially as contrastedwith the New York State Thruway, with which it connects. As soon as one travels onto the New York State road from the Massachusetts road one is aware of a dramatictransition from uncertainty and hazard to a well-engineered, well-built road. Theancient Romans built roads that are still used for heavy-duty purposes.
A very wide range of consumer goods conforms more to the standardsof the Massachusetts Turnpike than to the New York State Thruway, all produced underthe pressing motivation of a quest for maximum profits. Cheap goods, perhaps notparadoxically, are often socially expensive goods.
Institutions or People
'The full-blown Marxist will have no difficulty putting hisfinger on the difficulty. He will say it is capitalism, or monopoly capitalism. Withthis convenient analytical abstraction, I do not agree.
Capitalist institutions, being oriented toward private profitin return for the commitment of private capital, no doubt facilitate and reinforceinherent selfish drives in the acquisitive-minded, encourage corner-cutting. It ispart of self-serving capitalist theory that the driving self-interest of the entrepreneurindirectly serves society, with an invisible hand conferring benefits out of theprocess. Up to a point this may be true, or it may once under competitive conditionshave come nearer the truth than it is under monopoly conditions. But as the screwsare rationally tightened to generate more and more profits, more and more surplus,the gains in the productive sector of the economy are increasingly made at the expenseof the consuming sector. And social welfare lies at least as much as or more in theconsuming sector than in the producing sector. Production is merely the means, consumptionthe end. In dominant American thinking, this order is reversed, Again, much of whatis termed capitalism has been simple illegality, outside the system.
If the general public were as rational as the producers andhad at its fingertips as much knowledge and insight, and ability to apply knowledgeand insight, all would perhaps be well. But a very large section of the public, amajority, is woefully handicapped through the possession of insufficient rationality,knowledge and insight. Its members are as amateur participants in a card game withexperts. Not only are the politico-economic adversaries of the broad public highlyexpert but they are what is known among card players as sharpers, prone to violatethe rules. These sharpers play a cooperative game with marked cards. Not only thisbut to some extent they are mind readers. Armed with a knowledge of psychologicallaws and backed up by computer technology, the large-scale entrepreneur knows inadvance what plays the amateurs in elections and markets are bound to make. The amateurs,in fact, are inherently restricted in the plays they are able to make in their owndefense. Even if they were pantologists they would not be able to make better choicesthan a mass-oriented monopoly market and complex political system offer.
In the selection and purchase of goods and services, the disorganizedpublic is led in some cases by necessity, in others by the quest for convenienceand comfort and, at times, by the attraction of dispensable diversion and luxury.Beyond these ends it may, too, as advertisers well realize, be led by the prospectof purely imaginary and illusory advantages, as that ladies will become intenselyamorous at the sight of men who use certain pomades.
By Way of Summation
The cleverness of the rich, as I see it, has consisted largelyof the fact that the acquisitors among them have been able to operate practicallyunhindered by law among multitudes of thoroughly confused people, who are readilyvictimized in politics and economics. The victims have at all times been left externallyfree to choose in their own way. The rich, whether they knew it or not, could alwayshave been fortified in the thought that the handicapped will usually make the wrongchoices under the rule of external freedom.
Approached from the standpoint either of IQ or formal education,far more than half the population has not had the knowledge, intelligence or abilityto make choices in its own interests. It has merely drifted with the tide, trustingto its feelings, while others gathered in the hay. Nobody in most instances twistedthe arms of this population to make it perform as it did in the polling booth andthe market; on the other hand, rescue parties have been few and have not been understoodas such by the victims, who regarded saviors such as Mrs. Sanger as enemies. A wholeline of would-be saviors, including socialists such as Norman Thomas, have been rotten-eggedfor taking the trouble to make known their panaceas to this same population. Leftand right, radicals, reformers, liberals and labor organizers have been bustled offto jails, not usually by capitalists or even by capitalist agents, but by the localrank and file of victims and their duly elected officers.
Underlying the low IQs and faulty education have been deliberatelycontrived cultural deprivation as in the case of Negroes and spontaneous, self-inducedcultural deprivation as in the case of rural and small-town Protestants and urbanCatholics. These, it is evident, have been self-designated victims in a game withrules the rank-and-file did not understand.
What is evidently the case is that a large section of the populationis dependent-emotionally, intellectually, economically and politically--and is unableinherently or by conditioning to function in its own behalf under free institutions.A large section of the population, indeed, if it is to be properly served, shouldbe regarded as public wards, ethically subject to rather close highly informed benignguidance in making life dispositions. No doubt much of this dependency arises fromits conditioning, from its unreasonably inculcated faith that provision will be madefor it, if not by man then by some remote deity. Perhaps a socialist sector of societyshould be established for it, perhaps true socialism itself is the ultimate answer.
As to socialism as the answer to social ills: I have never beena socialist simply because socialism has seemed to be a dispensation out of practicalreach. As shown by the nonindustrial countries where it has been forced by revolutionarymeans, installed at a time of total social collapse, it can hardly be attained byforce. The consequence is simple totalitarianism, with heavyhanded politicians inthe saddle. Nor, as is evident from public indifference to it in the face of persuasiveargument by a long line of intelligent men from G. B. Shaw to Bertrand Russell, canit be attained by persuasion. Socialism, which long antedates Karl Marx, who merelygave a distinctive romantic turn to the way of attaining it, is in fact an aristocraticdoctrine, originated by a French count-Claude Henri de Rouvroy de Saint-Simon (1760-1825),who fought in the American revolution and was imprisoned during the French revolution.Like socialists in general, aristocrats were disdainful of men of business, who believedin turning everything, including all of society, into a profit-making scheme. AsVeblen said, "Men whose aim is not an increase in possessions do not go intobusiness." 42
Not only is the profit-seeking way of the businessman distastefulto aristocrats, who long looked down on "people in trade," but it has beenlooked at askance by professionals from time immemorial. To the ancient Greeks, Hermeswas not only the god of commerce but also of cunning and theft. While traders haveperhaps been more influential than any other group in the diffusion of culture-morethan the philosopher, theologian or writer--their influence here was no more thanan unconscious byproduct of their intrusions into all corners of the world.
It was basically the existence of this sort of trusting, optimistic,dependent, happy-go-lucky population that made it possible within a single generationfor the wealth of the nation to find its way into hands almost as few as in someof the long-established older countries. The cleverness of the American rich comesdown to the fact that acquisitors found themselves, like delirious foxes in a chickenfarm, turned loose among so many unprotected suckers and boobs--the handicapped.From this situation sprang the rule, the overriding operating principle of Americansociety: Never give a sucker an even break.
The result was not brought about by capitalism, as the socialistsclaim, for such an abstraction has no power to do anything whatever. It was broughtabout by individual capitalists--that is to say, it was brought about by peopleseeking wealth, using convenient institutions, ideologies and strategies, versusless adroit people.
Human life, in truth, is less an affair of institutions andsystems than of people and an interplay of motivations and abilities.
What I have said in this chapter, it is evident, reflects onthe sagacity of most of the public, the darling of the democratic ideologue, whoreplaced God with "The People" as an object of veneration and faith. Anycritical evaluation of the public usually is rejected as, somehow, unacceptable inthe light of democratic dogma. 43
The objective role of the democratic ideologue is preciselyas follows: Out of his own inner need to see humanity liberated from the rule ofothers be preaches his ideology. Into the network of institutions and policies therebygenerated steps the economic entrepreneur and the politician, who convert democraticinstitutions into something of vast profit-to themselves. It is time, by now, tosee that most people are not capable of wielding this instrument of democracy intheir own interests. They do not know by what standards to select representativeswho will secure the popular interest. Perhaps, even, they do not care.