REFLECTIONS ON POLITICAL THEMES

Samuel M. Thompson

POWER

The methods necessary to get and to keep power insure that it will not be exercised in benevolence.

Power corrupts because its exercise is always in ignorance of the consequences.

One who places high value upon the candid and honest relationships of men in mutual consideration and understanding is unqualified for positions of power.

The existence and maintenance of a society require the services of some who are willing to exercise power; we are thus indebted to those who dehumanize themselves for humanity.

FREEDOM

Freedom is not opposed to order but rests upon it, for freedom is possible only as activities of lower value are ordered for the sake of a activities of higher value.

A man is incomplete and inadequate by himself and is equipped by nature to join with others in common interests; but unless he can do this without destroying his individuality he sacrifices ends to means.

Restriction upon personal freedom is either confession of weakness or expression of injustice. It may be necessary to accept some weaknesses and injustices in order to avoid worse ones, but it is well to recognize them for what they are and not confuse them with strength and justice.

He who refuses obedience to the state on grounds of conscience shows himself to be a man. But the nobility of his act does not free him from its consequences; they are the price he pays for being both a man and a citizen.

Those who distrust individual differences among men are fearful of ability and feel safe only with persons of obvious mediocrity; so they seek codes and rules that will operate automatically and uniformly.

Some say that error has no right to be heard. Strictly speaking, no opinion has a right to be heard, for such would imply an obligation upon others to listen. But people have the right to speak, and to speak error as well as truth.

To deny freedom to error is to deny freedom to truth as well, for unless we are acquainted with error we cannot recognize truth as truth.

The competent performance of the duties of a moral censor is impossible, for willingness to act as censor is conclusive evidence of moral unfitness.

LAW

Government by law is impossible and the idea is absurd, for no law executes itself.

The implementation of law is through individual judgments, and the only safeguard against judgment that goes wrong is more judgment. The best protection against error and abuse is in devices which require one judgment to be confronted by another.

COMMON GOOD

Authority can be justified only in so far as it is needed in order to enable people to act together to secure a common good.

A common good is not one that can be divided among individuals, for that would be but a sum of goods. A common good is one that each individual possesses more or less completely as a whole. Consequently a common good, in so far as it is common, is not material.

I properly claim as my right both what I need for the performance of my duties and the opportunity to share in the common good. My duties are what I can do to secure and preserve the common good, and their nature and extent depends upon my abilities and opportunities. My share in common good is what I have the capacity to use and enjoy.

No one has any obligations to society; duties are owed only to persons. Society is but a complex of relationships, and our obligations are to the men and women who exist and act in those relationships.

COMMUNISM

It is a part of the basic strategy of the communistís war against us to provoke us to act toward him in such a way as to compromise our own principles.

The strongest argument against communism is that in spite of his own contention to the contrary a communist is a person, with human powers of understanding and of response to truth.

Each member of the Communist Party has the duty of spying upon the others; thus the preservation of unity is by distrust and harmony is sustained by suspicion.

When a Marxist says a statement is true he means that belief in the statement promotes the interests of the proletariat. But what can he mean if he says that it is true that belief in the statement promotes the interests of the proletariat?

People sometimes find they cannot stomach their own perfidy and turn from it in disgust and self-condemnation; but few have been able to make the process pay off as handsomely as did Whitaker Chambers and Louis Budenz.

Both Hobbes and Marx thought that evil is inherently stronger that good, so that only by force can good prevail over evil. But Marx was less pessimistic than Hobbes, for Marx believed that human nature can be changed. Marxism has thus become a rival of other religions of redemption. There was no such tendency in Hobbes and he was entirely willing to welcome the church into his political arsenal.

DEMOCRACY

Democracy as such is not self-limiting, for it excludes nothing in principle from control by majority rule. The result is that a democracy cannot commit itself to anything ultimate. It is for this reason that democracy by itself has no positive dynamic; its appeal is the negative one of escape from tyranny.

Give the people political power as well as liberty and they trade their liberties for economic benefits. But which the loss of liberty goes the ability to exercise power, and so they find they cannot retain the benefits.

Democracy is correct in its principles that a man is an end in himself; its error is in mistaking the mass for the individual.

PROGRESS

The belief that social conflict can be ended is like the belief in perpetual motion or the belief that death can be abolished. As friction is inherent in motion and as death is inherent in life, so conflict is inherent in society and each remedy for one conflict creates new ones.

Is it not good that a society suffer disaster if it is the kind of society that wills disaster? The triumph of a societyís evolution may well be its self-destruction.

CONSERVATIVES AND LIBERALS

Conservatives and reactionaries do not have to have ideas; they either defend what is or advocate a return to what was. Liberals are full of ideas but have no responsibility, for they are concerned not with what is but with what may be. If what a liberal advocates becomes a fact, he either turns into a conservative or else repudiates what before he had supported.

The distinction between conservative and liberal pertains not to program but to temperament.

The young tend to be liberals; what they have is little and they have not yet found out who they are.

A conservative is usually willing to gamble, provided he has the choice of game, sets and odds, deals the cards, and gets the house percentage.