'Things Are in the Saddle'



SOMETHING new has come to confront American democracy. The Fathers of the Nation did not foresee it. History had opened to their foresight most of the obstacles which might be expected to get in the way of the Republic: political corruption, extreme wealth, foreign domination, faction, class rule; what history did not advise them of, their truly extraordinary understanding of human nature and of political science supplied. That which has stolen across the path of American democracy and is already altering Americanism was not in their calculations. History gave them no hint of it; what is happening to-day is without precedent, at least so far as historical research has discovered. And surely nothing approaching what has taken recognizable shape in the twentieth century ever entered the mind of any philosopher of the eighteenth century, of any economist, any forward-looking statesman. No reformer, no utopian, no physiocrat, no poet, no writer of fantastic romances saw in his dreams the particular development which is with us here and now.


This is our proudest boast: ‘The American citizen has more comforts and conveniences than kings had two hundred years ago.’ It is a fact, and (his fact is the outward evidence of the new force which has crossed the path of American democracy. This increasing stream of automobiles and radios, buildings and bathrooms, furs and furniture, liners, hotels, bridges, vacuum cleaners, cameras, bus lines, electric toasters, moving-pictures, railway cars, package foods, telephones, pianos, novels, comic supplements — these are the signs. And it is just these which we accept naturally. We think of them as particularly American, as the logical growth from that particular beginning which was ours; these we think of as America’s second chapter. The first chapter was concerned with the Fathers and their struggle, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution. The second chapter is the present — the chapter in which we use the opportunity secured for us, the chapter in which every American comes into his own, the chapter in which every American lives better than once a king lived. This America to-day, this vast magazine of things, isregarded as the successful development of the Fathers’ work, the natural fruit of that democratic seed which they planted in the fertile American soil.

But, although to us this development may seem natural, be sure it would not have seemed natural to the Fathers; be sure it would have seemed abnormal to them. Is this to say that the Founders of the Republic never looked forward to the time when every citizen would have his own conveyance, his own house with abundant furniture, when every wife and daughter would have silk garments and a piano to play upon like a princess? No; it might be said that this was precisely that to which they did look forward; this was an essential part of their expectation. Surely they saw a nation of free citizens in a land flowing with milk and honey, gradually lifting themselves to a new economic level; they saw that citizens would be educated to more and more comforts; that men’s tastes would improve; that women would want better surroundings. But they could not foresee what has happened. They could not foresee at what a rate the machine would multiply things; they could not foresee how the prosperity — indeed, the very existence — of the nation would come to depend upon people being forced to use what the machine pours out.

What is the first condition of our civilization? In the final reason, is it not concerned with the production of things? It is not that we must turn out large quantities of things; it is that we must turn out ever larger quantities of things, more this year than last year, more next year than this; the flow from mill and mine must steadily increase. There are a thousand programmes cooking throughout the country, there arc a thousand isms and causes and parties, each with its own notion of what must be done for the national good and the human good. Some of them are at war with each other, but at one point they are allies; some of them are worlds apart, speaking languages strange to each other — yet one word they have in common. The minister in the pulpit cries out upon materialism, commercialization, science, politics, rum, divorce, the young folks. He offers this or that or the other as the cure. But no minister in any pulpit offers any cure which requires that what is called the nation’s ‘standard of living’ sag back. The Capitalist and the Socialist are at each other’s throats, but the issue between them is, Which can ensure the distribution of the most goods to the people? No statesman, no pacifist, no League-of-Nations enthusiast, would entertain his pet scheme for a moment longer if he believed it would mean that ten years later people would buy half of what they buy to-day. For the standard of living to sag back, for the people to buy but half of what they used to buy — everybody knows that that means ruin, and not the ruin of business alone. The national prosperity gone, the national safety is in danger. This is not a fear; it is a fact. If anything were to happen to industry, there would be first confusion and then decline in all our institutions; our greatsystemof free education for the nation would wither, our organized charities would dry up, the thorn and the nettle would spring up in our parks, our slums would become fever spots, our roads would fall into decay; more than all, our ideals of political authority would be a heap of jackstraws; we should hold the kind of government the Fathers gave us to be a broken reed.

Production has played many parts in history; it has taken various forms. The form which it takes in this, the Machine Age, is strange and new. Consumptionism is a new necessity. Consumptionism is a new science. Through the centuries, the problem has been how to produce enough of the things men wanted; the problem now is how to make men want and use more than enough things—‘the science of plenty,’ it has been called. Formerly the task was to supply the things men wanted; the new necessity is to make men want the things which machinery must turn out if this civilization is not to perish. To-day we dare not wait until men in their own good time get around to wanting the things; do we permit this, the machine flies to pieces. The wind blewand so the windmill went around. Under the new order,the windmill goes around and so the wind must blow. It is becoming a matter of general remark that the economic emphasis is changing; it is shifting from how to make things to how to dispose of the things that are made so that the machine can be kept in constant operation. The problem before us to-day is not how to produce the goods, but how to produce the customers. Consumptionism is the science of compelling men to use more and more things. Consumptionism is bringing it about that the American citizen’s first importance to his country is no longer that of citizen but that of consumer.

The purpose of this paper is to point out how the new factor in our national life has already wrought recognizable changes in American democracy. There are some who believe that representative government has served America’s purposes, and that in the new stage of her progress another form will serve her better; a few even say that democracy is not a good form for any good purpose. This paper does not attempt to argue such questions; it seeks only to show that already Consumptionism is making important changes in the American use of law, in the American Press, in the political freedom of the American citizen.


No great changes are ever the result of temporary conditions; they must have been long on their way; as Lord Halifax remarked, they are half made before it is plainly visible that men go about them. Prohibition is the expression of a change which has been a century in forming. It is reasonable to explain why Prohibition happened to come in the year it did come rather than in some later or earlier year; but it is unreasonable to believe that but for this or that particular circumstance there would have been no Prohibition. It is unreasonable to believe that Prohibition is here because the church people and the fanatics caught the nation off its feet in war time, or because the young men were in France, or because the women had come to have an influence in public affairs.

The movement which now reveals itself in the form of Prohibition has been stretching its massive might through more than a hundred years. Men first saw the Temperance movement as something sentimental, as springing from religious and ethical convictions, as being a loving, spiritual force which moved against disease and poverty, against drunken husbands who beat their wives in hovels, against liquor dealers who prospered when their customers lay drunk in the gutter. Looking back upon it now from our vantage point, it is not difficult to see how this was but the superficial aspect of the Temperance movement; the deeper meaning can be seen showing through even in this initial stage. The demand, for example, that no child be robbed of its chance in life by parents who drank — did not this already suggest the movement’s real character?

But it is in the shape which the Temperance movement next took that retrospection obtains a plainer view of its essential nature. For in the second half of the century the denunciation of drink for the cruelty and suffering it causes has dropped down to second place in the Temperance platform; now the first plank is the plank which describes the liquor traffic ‘to be a nuisance and a crime’ because it is bad for the factory. Now the crime of drink is that it retards the worker’s reactions, wastes his energies, endangers the costly machines he operates; drink, in short, keeps down the national output, and so deprives the nation of its full measure of prosperity. The voice of Temperance still sounds in church and in tabernacle, but it sounds louder now in the mill and on the railroad; it is still moral in guise, yet morality has now ceased to predominate. Temperance now presents itself as the agent of efficiency, as the friend of machinery.

This movement has been from the beginning a purposefully broadening stream. Narrow at first, only wide enough to take in the drunkards and wasters, the stream next broadened to include the workers, particularly those who worked with machinery. Finally with a great rush it swept out and reached everyone; no longer a stream, it became a sea. The twentieth century has seen it spread to include more than the nation’s workers; the twentieth century has seen it reach out and take in the entire people.

What was it brought this latest extension of the Temperance movement? Was it still the needs of efficiency, and was Temperance but following the development of machinery, following the machine from the factory out upon the city streets and country roads? None but workmen used to run machines; today everybody runs machines: workmen, clerks, merchants, doctors, schoolteachers, men, women — everybody.

The automobile can be made to account for Prohibition plausibly enough. The argument runs easily along the line of the facts. So long as machinery was in the mill and on the railroads only, so long as the question of drink lay between employers and workmen, there was authority enough in the pay envelope to command abstinence where abstinence was needed. But machinery on the streets and on the roads, machinery tended not by workers but by citizens, creates altogether another problem. The authority of the pay envelope does not reach to the citizens on the streets; only the authority of Government can reach to them. The factories turn out four million motor cars in a year. With this amazing development a saloon on each corner and a drinkingplace at every crossroads do not quite fit. A man refuses to contemplate the prospect of his wife and child in daily danger of being run into by the driver whose eyes are blurred and whose hands are unsteadied by drink. Machinery becomes more and more necessary to existence; if existence is to be safe, the use of machinery must be attended with safety. Was, then, the attainment of safety the ultimate purpose of the Temperance movement? Had it no further goal than this? Is the Eighteenth Amendment thus to be accounted for? The argument does not go far enough.

The deep purpose of the Temperance movement was no more to provide safety for citizens than it was to provide efficiency for workers or morals for drunkards. These were incidentals. Had the only need been to do away with drunkenness and immorality and the brewers’ white horses, private philanthropy and public opinion had amply sufficed without going so far as an Eighteenth Amendment. The factories and the railroads took care of their drink problem; they needed none of Government’s thunderbolts. And as for the safety of citizens upon streets and roads swarming with automobiles, would not the police and the people between them have managed without invading the Constitution? Between Government’s power to punish drunken drivers and the people’s fear of being hurt by drunken drivers, would not the streets and roads eventually have become reasonably safe? To be sure, this corrective fear of the people would have meant a less great consumption of automobiles; accidents would have considerably restrained the passion of the people for this new convenience; the increase in the number of cars on the streets would have been not stupendous but gradual. True, this would have meant that four million cars could not have been sold in 1923. But Prohibition was not merely the response to the need for disposing of four million automobiles in 1923.

The Eighteenth Amendment was the response to closer pressing Consumptionism. Prohibition is not here for the sake of the automobile industry; the automobile is but one member among many. When Mr. Henry Ford, who is a man born into his time, says we must give up either drink or industrialism, he is not moved to say so merely because drink would make people buy fewer automobiles. Instinctively he understands that drink makes people buy less of everything, and so less of automobiles. When Mr. Gary says that drink and prosperity are incompatible, he is not moved to his conclusion by mere questions of efficiency in the steel mills.

Consumptionism is the science of intensifying consumption. It is not enough that the desire for this or that particular thing be made to increase; desire must not run into any blind alleys; every thing of any kind in the great variety of our output must be able to stimulate the appetite for more things of every kind; consumption is all interrelated, feeding upon itself and stupendously growing by that it feeds upon. Under the old order, the products of brewery and distillery added up in the prosperity columns just as steel did, and ploughs, and corn; beer and liquor were equal with all the others. Under the new order, drink subtracts from the total. Drink cuts down general consumptive power. Drink takes from the nation’s ability to use up goods; drink takes from a man’s efficiency to consume; drink lessens the desire for things. Drink, to be sure, limits its own consumption; when it has its man under the table, that is the end; there is a limit to the amount a man can drink. But what is intolerable is that drink makes inroads into the consumption of all else. Consumptionism cannot suffer drink because in drink men find a substitute for that satisfaction which is in the acquiring of luxuries; the pleasure in drink takes the place of the pleasure in things. The more things men have, the more they need — this is the working philosophy of Consumptionism. The more drink men have, the less things they need. Consequently we have the Eighteenth Amendment.

There is a righteous resentment of Prohibition. Lawyers, for example, cry out that ‘something must be done about Prohibition’; politicians, men in office, publicists, political philosophers, are genuinely alarmed by what they call the Prohibition mess. Prohibition is seen by this sort of men to be a failure; the country has tried Prohibition and found it cannot be enforced; to keep it longer in the basic law of the land is to incur gravest risk; something must be done, they reiterate — what they mean is that something must be done to preserve the integrity of Government.

In other quarters, however, there are a great many people, not inevitably Prohibitionists, who are for Prohibition to-day, a large class who never had any moral convictions or any sentimental notions about drinking. These do not see Prohibition as a failure or a menace. Perhaps they once believed that wines and beers must be restored, but they are doubtful now if they would lend their votes to even a wine-and-beer modification. These citizens see how the liquor laws go widely disregarded; some of them do themselves disregard the laws; they know all about the bootleggers and the stills; they see the struggles of Government. And they are satisfied; they are complacent. According to the rules, Prohibition has proved not enforceable. But they find it well enough enforced for all that; they may not be able to put their finding into words but instinctively they feel it.

‘Enforced’ — what do they mean by ‘enforced’? The Eighteenth Amendment makes liquor dear; a man’s circumstances do the rest; his circumstances enforce Prohibition so far as it needs to be enforced for the purposes of Consumptionism. Those who break the law — what do they amount to in the view of Consumptionism? For mostly those who can afford bootleggers and roadhouses are already provided to the point of saturation with furs and motor cars and entertainments; it is the millions with the hankering for these things still hot within them who matter just now to Consumptionism. From this point of view, Prohibition has proved a success, not a failure at all. If it were not for Prohibition, less money would today be going to the department stores, the garages, the movies, the bookshops. There are more lawbreakers in the nation because of Prohibition. But because of Prohibition there are both more consumers and better consumers. A great number of America’s citizens, and the number does not decrease, feel that it is the consumers who count first to America.

Those who go through the land crying out that ‘something must be done about Prohibition’ imply that Prohibition was a mistake, a slip, a misadventure. They imply that the difficulty of getting rid of Prohibition is not very much more than a legal difficulty.

Prohibition was not made by a mistake; it was made by a movement. It was not American democracy that needed Prohibition. The purpose of Prohibition was not to make more valuable citizens. The purpose was to make more valuable consumers. If more valuable consumers could be made only at an expense to citizenship, at an expense to democracy, at an expense to Americanism, it could not be helped; Consumptionism had to be considered first; all else has come to depend upon Consumptionism.

Prohibition is the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution. But it is not of the same stuff as the other amendments. Prohibition is the first Consumptionist amendment.


Turn now to the Press. ‘The Press is the chief democratic instrument of freedom,’ wrote De Tocqueville. Americans have truly believed it.

Something has happened to the Press. All have remarked it. What is it? Radicals have no difficulty in putting their finger on it; they can tell you that the advertisers and the ‘Interests’ control the newspapers, that is what the trouble is. The Radicals are a generation behind their time. The conservative citizens have their own way of saying it; they say the whole trouble is that the Press has become commercialized, and by ‘commercialized’ they mean that greedy men have used the newspapers to make great fortunes for themselves. And this explanation is, on the whole, no more accurate than the explanations from the soap-boxes. It is obvious to anybody who turns over the forty pages of his morning newspaper, nearly every page half advertising, that the newspapers do make a great deal of money. In scores of communities the newspaper is now as profitable as the department store, while in former days one could count on the fingers of the hands the number which made more than a decent livelihood for the publisher. But this change has not come about because men with itching palms saw the newspapers as their opportunity. It has come about because the movement of the time, the movement of the industrial forces, has had need to make use of the Press, and is adapting the Press to its own necessities.

Advertising is part of the circulatory system of twentieth-century industry; without it the system chokes up. Industry’s need to make use of advertising is forcing certain changes in the newspapers, certain developments, additions, improvements, a certain new kind of progress by which the newspaper is rapidly tending to become another sort of institution. It is because this has not yet begun to be generally recognized, because they would describe to-day’s newspapers in terms of yesterday’s newspapers, that those who criticize the Press make irrelevant criticisms. They see that something is not as it should be, but they give only the old, old reasons.

‘The palladium of our liberties’ was the way of describing interchangeably the Constitution and the newspapers. And the people meant just that. So long as Americans might publish without first having obtained the permission of somebody in authority, and so long as there were no unlighted corners in the nation, Government was safe. It would seem, then, as if the newspapers should be doing the work of freedom better now than ever before. Certainly few corners of the nation are left unlighted, and never have so many readers read so many newspapers. To say nothing of the news of events which was never before gathered with such completeness, the views and prejudices of the community have never been given such generous publicity. Whatever is spoken at meetings that has any news value at all, whatever is said in pulpits, put forward in statements, embellished in interviews, is printed for millions to read. By all the rules, the newspapers should be more than ever capable to lead the citizens;compared to those pitiful, biased, limited, amateurish sheets of 1850, of 1830, how magnificent seems the newspaper of the twentieth century, how fit to inform and incline, to direct and guide!

Yet what is the fact? Many and many have observed how little of late the people are influenced in their political decisions by what they read in newspapers, how often a candidate or a policy succeeds in face of opposition from substantially all the largest and most important newspapers; or just the other way about — how often a measure or a nominee supported by all the newspapers fails utterly. The most striking instance was the League-ofNations affair; here the voice of the people on the editorial page and the voice of the people at the polls were two flatly different matters; the preponderating newspaper influence of the country was thrown for the League and the preponderating will of the country was registered dead against it.

The newspapers are losing the ability to lead citizens. They are exchanging it, more of it each year, for the ability to lead buyers. To business, a newspaper strike has come to be of grave consequence. A week’s interruption of a city’s newspapers, and business is damaged. Without the facilities for daily advertising, the custom of stores, of places of amusement, falls off dangerously. The power of the Press is not growing less; the power is being shifted; the Press is powerful still, but not so much to direct men how to think, how to feel, how to vote, as to direct them how to buy.

America’s newspapers used to be, before all else, the expression of the tempers and beliefs which set small groups of citizens apart from one another. Newspapers are coming to be, before all else, instruments for those needs and desires men have most in common. Large communities which formerly had a dozen newspapers are being reduced to two or three newspapers; what logical reason eventually to have even so many as two or three?

Industry did not set out to deprive the nation’s thousand opinions and prejudices of their means of expression. Industry set out to reduce overhead. Industry set out to substitute for the many financially uncertain newspapers a few financially certain newspapers. Small groups of readers, those who happened to feel alike in regard to the tariff or immigration or vivisection, did not efficiently serve the advertiser. The advertiser needed readers to be centralized; he needed the largest possible number of readers divided into the smallest possible number of groups — divided, that is to say, not according to what readers believe, but according to what readers are likely to buy. The advertiser has small interest to know whether the circulation of a newspaper is composed of Republicans or Democrats; but to pursue his advertising efficiently he must know whether the newspaper’s readers buy on the main floor or in the basement.

A half-dozen newspapers, one for each stripe of belief in the community, was good democracy. It was bad business. Why a separate building and machinery for each newspaper? Why not a single plant for the half-dozen? Why not one newspaper to include all opinions, instead of several newspapers, each excluding all beliefs save its own?

The newspaper to-day is a mammoth institution. It requires prodigious capital. No newspaper publisher with little means can possibly get his head above water now. Where formerly it needed thousands of dollars to run a newspaper, it takes hundreds of thousands, even millions now. Rich men? Of course the publishers are rich men. They have to be.

And the public is not in the least disturbed that this is so. Recently a publisher in New York City, announcing another merger, stated that now at last all the metropolitan newspapers are owned by very rich men — which, he said, is a most desirable consummation. And the public acquiesces. Once such a condition would have seemed impossible in America, or, if it had secretly developed, any publisher would have been thought demented who openly boasted of it. The public would have been in a panic of fear and indignation. To-day no one is even perturbed; the people see what the publisher means, and they are willing it should be so. They see it must be so. Formerly men would have demanded to know what was to become of the freedom of the Press, the safety of democracy, in such a circumstance; they would have cried out against having all measured to them by a millionaire’s bushel. But now they make no demur. They see it must be; if it were not, how could there be the comics, the rotogravure supplements, the folded-in pictures for framing, the songs and puzzles, the magazine sections, the cutouts, the ‘features,’ the extravagant rations of news, all the great variety which gives every sort of reader something to his particular taste, all the great quantity which ‘carries’ the ever mounting volume of the advertising that must lead buyers to buy. The readers understand very well that it takes wealth to provide such a wealth.

Consumptionism is steadily substituting rich newspapers for poor newspapers, inclusive newspapers for clannish newspapers, forty-page newspapers for eight-page sheets. And what of it?

Is not this all advantage? Is not all that was of value still here? Fourteen editors in one place instead of fourteen editors in fourteen places: what has gone save waste, and inefficiency, and instability, and poverty? Has nothing gone then? Is the freedom of the Press nothing? For it is no less than the freedom of the Press that is going.

Why the freedom of the Press? In order to have a free Press, must we have a financially unstable, inefficient Press? How should it take from the freedom of the Press to have one strong newspaper with room for all prejudices and all preferences, rather than to have many weak ones with room for only one pet abomination and one passionate predilection? Should this make the difference between a newspaper Press with political influence and a newspaper Press with a rapidly diminishing political influence? Perhaps it should not: perhaps there is no logical reason why it should. But that is what it does just the same.

Liberals talk of consolidating the churches. Well, suppose the churches were to be really consolidated, not only all the Baptist churches merged with the Methodist, but the synagogues, the Friends’ meetings, the Roman Catholic churches, the Greek Catholic churches, and all the variety of Protestant churches reduced to one or two very large, strong, centrally located churches fitted with plenty of amplifiers. The Sundaymorning service would not be the meagre, narrow, intense service of the old churches; there would be something to every taste; there would be a sermon by the rabbi and one by the Quaker, a reading by the Christian Science leader together with an exhortation by the priest, a discourse by the Naturalist and one by the Supernaturalist. The churchgoer, sitting there among his twenty or thirty thousand fellows, would not exactly ‘hear both sides’; he would hear only what could give offense to none; real differences would change automatically to merely formal differences. These consolidated churches would be financially better based, more efficient. And religion would be free, very free indeed, broad, so broad it would eventually be pretty nearly fiat.


One more consideration; it relates to the manner in which leaders elicit opinion, obtain the public will. A change is taking place here. So far in our actual experience there is but little more than a hint of what may come. It is difficult to think that it will ever come, that free Americans will go through with this. But meanwhile there can be no doubt of what it is and whither it tends.

The new terminology in this field of our activity is itself significant of what is taking place. When heretofore it was a matter of shaping public opinion, when it came to eliciting the public will, America’s leaders said they sought the approval of the people, they talked of ‘going out to the people’ with their plan for a tariff, of ‘educating the people’ to the gold standard, or ‘winning the people’s consent’ to a centralized banking-system. These are the phrases which have been usual. Now the proposal is to ‘sell ‘ the people a plan for a merchant marine, now the job is to ‘sell ‘ them a taxing programme. Yesterday the candidate, the Senator, the Cabinet member, put his scheme before the American people; to-morrow he will put it over. These are not merely new words for old ways; they are new words for different ways.

They are honest words too. They say what they mean and they mean exactly what they say. To seek the approval of the citizens meant to persuade them, it meant to use the human arts of eloquence, argument, rhetoric, advice, personal influence, and often a good deal of expedient deception. To sell citizens a scheme, to put a programme over, means something else than this; it means to use the power of suggestion, of association, to use ‘stereotypes,’ mechanical repetition, ‘dramatization,’ ‘interrupted ideas, ‘ to use the new and complicated science of Publicity — Publicity, which is not meant to deceive the people as did the old-fashioned propaganda, but which is meant only to overpower them.

Where does the idea of Publicity come from? Publicity comes from business; it is an adaptation of a method which business developed for its own purposes and which has become indispensable in the business world.

The office of business is to supply men’s material wants. Men have several kinds of needs; for their educational needs, for their religious needs, for their need of freedom, they look to other institutions; for their physical needs, the need of shelter and clothing and transportation and food, they look to the industrial institution. How does it come about that the particular instrument of industry is adopted by those agencies which supply us, not with our physical needs, but with these other needs; is adopted by the university and the church; by the charity organization and the reform association; by Causes and Movements — above all, how does it come about that it is adopted by Government?

The manufacturer who has something to sell to a man appeals to what he should appeal to — he appeals to the man’s love of comfort, to his interest in health and personal safety, to his appetites, to his love of novelty, to his acquisitive instincts; he does not appeal to his reason, his prejudices, his judgment, his moral sense. So-and-so’s milk — cleanest; So-and-so’s powder — finest; this make wall paper— different; that brand flour — satisfaction. With these devices it is sought to fix in the reader’s consciousness the association of the article to be sold with the quality of desirability. This is done through the eye, not through the mind. This result is brought about by reiteration. The suggestion of the perfume, of the package food, and desirability must confront the consumer over and over again. The consumer will not stop to read the poster on the billboard, the card in the car; he will scarcely glance at them; almost it could be said they do not gain his attention. But the posters and cards are doing their work just the same; the association which is to be established is silently deepening in that part of the consumer’s psyche which the psychologists call the subconscious; slowly, steadily it is bringing about the desired result.

But now when it is a matter of organizing for a tax programme? Or, let us say, organizing for a peace programme. The publicity expert suggests some brief device be chosen — ‘Let there be Peace, ‘ for instance. These four words are to do the work, these four words are to elicit the public ‘will.’ These four words are printed in black capitals across the white fronts of pamphlets, on wrapping papers, on stickers; they are displayed in colors on the billboards, on the fences; shown at the movies, placarded on the motor buses. The programme itself is printed at length in millions of folders with which the entire nation is flooded; it is discussed by this leader and that society; an interview here, a statement there; the newspapers are full of it. The people do not read all that is printed; they are contented to know that the details are public, are available, and have been examined by ‘authorities.’ The four-thousand word arguments and expositions and analyses come to the same result in the public consciousness as do the four words; they result in the association of this peace programme with the notion of desirability.

The specific merits of the peace programme? What are its defects? Does it fit in with American policies? Is it practicable? ‘Why, the programme must be all right or there would not be so much said in favor of it by so many people; it must be a good plan or you would not hear of it everywhere you go.’ The impression, you see, has been made, the reiteration, not of facts, not of reasons, the reiteration of sheer words has done its work; the people have been overwhelmed; ‘public opinion’ on this particular programme is formed. If on Election Day the man at the polls should be asked to vote yes or no on this peace programme, he would vote as a man in a trance; up from the subconscious, up from the region where reason, where patriotism, where morals never operate, comes the command to vote yes on the peace programme.

Is it because many of the men who are leading the nation in the matter of its tax programmes, its peace programmes, its agricultural programmes and all the rest, are men ignorant of the science of government, are men who can use only the methods to which they are accustomed, the methods of business? No, nor do political leaders use Publicity in the feeling that this new complicated science can better elicit the will of the people than could the old natural method. The leaders have no choice. They must act less and less through men’s reason and men’s enthusiasms and men’s faith, and more and more through men’s subconscious abilities, through their irrational powers.

Is it that the American to-day has not the time to compare and weigh and estimate for himself? Partly this, to be sure. How can the citizen have time to form a judgment who must crowd forty pages of newspaper into the twenty minutes before work in the morning, or thirty pages into the fifteen minutes after work in the evening; or who, as often as not, tries to do both? How much reflection can a man indulge in who must turn on the radio when dinner is done, and who falls asleep reading the latest best-seller? How can the man have time to feel who runs to catch the seven-thirty to the office and runs to catch the five-eighteen back again, so as to be in time for a motor ride before dinner? Feeling takes time, patriotism involves leisure, indignation does not thrive in the five minutes between the evening meal and the hour the movies begin.

But it is not really a question of the time which men have at their disposal; it is not really a question of their being ‘too busy.’ It is not that they are too busy to read through a considered argument on taxes or a foreign policy; no other people at any time have ever read so much as do to-day’s Americans. It is a question of a new habit of mind. In a world which is dominated by things, men are gradually becoming accustomed to act in all the relations of life as they act in relation to things. The processes by which they obtain good things are coming to them to seem the processes by which they obtain good government. That an obsession with things makes a difference in the fibre of citizenship, in the stuff of character, must be true. But this leads down into subtle moral considerations; it is enough for the purpose here to consider just the difference in the purely psychological processes, the difference in the point of attack, the difference in the ‘reaction,’ as the psychologists seem to call almost any kind of action.

The consumer can take on trust the suggestion that the new yellow soap is a good soap; he need ask no questions; there is that in the nature of industry now which justifies his trust. He knows that the soap-manufacturers would not spend the handsome sums needed to bring him to buy unless they had a good article to sell. The day is long past when industry will misrepresent its wares to the public. Industry’s interest lies all the other way now; the first thing the expert will tell the manufacturer is that no amount of promotion can make a success of a bad article.

That is the check and balance in industry. But what sort of government would this be? What kind of government is it in which the people ask no questions, ponder nothing, use no judgment? What kind of government is it in which the people take on trust the assurances of those with political projects to sell? What kind of government is it in which the citizens accept without demur what their leaders prepare, acknowledging that the leaders could not afford to offer a poor article, confident that it is to the interest of the leaders to bring about what is best for the people, secure that the leaders always know just what is best for the people? It is not a new form of government, by any means, neither is it the government Americans set out to live under.

No one will pretend that the history of public opinion in America has been all a pleasant democratic revelation, that all which glittered in it was gold. But even if it might be shown that the public will has been more of an involuntary than a voluntary result, more a will extracted from the people than a conviction of the people, this at least must be conceded: it was the whole presupposition of democracy that the people have judgments, judgments from which they can be swayed undoubtedly, but judgments which can help correct the mistakes they endorsed when so swayed. It was the whole presupposition of democracy that the reason of the people, the judgment, the spiritual sensibilities of the people, would improve with exercise. This growth through exercise was what was meant by democratic progress.


Men subscribe to-day to what they call ‘the economic interpretation of history.’ They mean by this that history is the record of Nature’s forces, of extra-human forces; they mean that this human will which we brag about, this power of choice with which we fancy ourselves invested, is nonexistent; men do not move, but are moved only; they are only cogs in the great machine. This may be the truth as it lies under the aspect of eternity. But the fact as it shows itself in the workaday world seems to be that a man can choose most of his courses but none of the results of them. A century and a half since, men came to want more things. Men became enthusiastic over things. Men preached a new creed — the faith in things. Men set to work to make and to get things; men devoted the best of human energies to things, men pinned their progress, their civilization to things. To-day the force of things which they developed, the industrial force, may indeed be regarded as having the dominion over men. To-day men may be regarded as cogs in the great machine. But this machine they themselves chose to build.