BY BERTRAND RUSSELL
‘IN passing by the side of Mount Thai, Confucius came on a woman who was weeping bitterly by a grave. The Master pressed forward and drove quickly to her; then he sent Tze-lu to question her. “Your wailing,” said he, “is that of one who has suffered sorrow on sorrow.”She replied, “That is so. Once my husband’s father was killed here by a tiger. My husband was also killed, and now my son has died in the same way.” The Master said, “Why do you not leave the place?” The answer was, “There is no oppressive government here.” The Master then said, “Remember this, my children: oppressive government is more terrible than tigers.”’
The subject of this paper is the problem of ensuring that government shall be less terrible than tigers.
The problem of the taming of power is, as the above quotation shows, a very ancient one. The Taoists thought it insoluble, and advocated anarchism; the Confucians trusted to a certain ethical and governmental training which should turn the holders of power into sages endowed with moderation and benevolence. At the same period, in Greece, democracy, oligarchy, and tyranny were contending for mastery; democracy was intended to check abuses of power, but was perpetually defeating itself by falling a victim to the temporary popularity of some demagogue. Plato, like Confucius, sought the solution in a government of men trained to wisdom. This view has been revived by Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Webb, who admire an oligarchy in which power is confined to those who have the ‘vocation of leadership.’ In the interval between Plato and the Webbs, the world has tried military autocracy, theocracy, hereditary monarchy, oligarchy, democracy, and the Rule of the Saints — the last of these, after the failure of Cromwell’s experiment, having been revived in our day by Lenin, Mussolini, and Hitler. All this suggests that our problem has not yet been solved.
To anyone who studies either history or human nature, it must be evident that democracy, while not a complete solution, is an essential part of the solution. The complete solution is not to be found by confining ourselves to political conditions; we must take account also of economics, of propaganda, and of psychology as affected by circumstances and education. Our subject thus divides itself into four parts: (1) political conditions, (2) economic conditions, (3) propaganda conditions, and (4) psychological and educational conditions. Let us take these in succession.
Copyright 1938, by The Atlantic Monthly Company, Boston. Mass. All rights reserved.
The merits of democracy are negative: it does not ensure good government, but it prevents certain evils. Until women began to take part in political affairs, married women had no control over their own property, or even over their own earnings; a charwoman with a drunken husband had no redress if he prevented her from using her wages for the support of her children. The oligarchical Parliament of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries used its legislative power to increase the wealth of the rich by depressing the condition of both rural and urban labor. Only democracy has prevented the law from making tradeunionism impossible. But for democracy, Western America, Australia, and New Zealand would be inhabited by a semiservile yellow population governed by a small white aristocracy. The evils of slavery and serfdom are familiar, and wherever a minority has a secure monopoly of political power the majority is likely to sink, sooner or later, into either slavery or serfdom. All history shows that, as might be expected, minorities cannot be trusted to care for the interests of majorities.
There is a tendency, as strong now as at any former time, to suppose that an oligarchy is admirable if it consists of ‘good’ men. The government of the Roman Empire was ‘bad’ until Constantine, and then it became ‘good.’ In the Book of Kings, there were those who did right in the sight of the Lord, and those who did evil. In English history as taught to children, there are ‘good’ kings and ‘bad’ kings. An oligarchy of Jews is ‘bad,’ but one of Nazis is ‘good.’ The oligarchy of Tsarist aristocrats was ‘bad,’ but that of the Communist Party is ‘good.’
This attitude is unworthy of grown-up people. A child is ’good ’ when it obeys orders, and ‘naughty’ when it does not. When it grows up and becomes a political leader, it retains the ideas of the nursery, and defines the ‘good’ as those who obey its orders and the ‘bad’ as those who defy it.
Such a point of view, if taken seriously, makes social life impossible. Only force can decide which group is ‘good’ and which ‘ bad,’ and the decision, when made, may at any moment be upset by an insurrection. Neither group, if it attains power, will care for the interests of the other, except in so far as it is controlled by the fear of rousing rebellion. Social life, if it is to be anything better than tyranny, demands a certain impartiality. But since, in many matters, collective action is necessary, the only practicable form of impartiality, in such matters, is the rule of the majority.
Democracy, however, though necessary, is by no means the only political condition required for the taming of power. It is possible, in a democracy, for the majority to exercise a brutal and wholly unnecessary tyranny over a minority. In the period from 1885 to 1922, the government of the United Kingdom was (except for the exclusion of women) democratic, but that did not prevent the oppression of Ireland. Not only a national, but a religious or political minority may be persecuted. The safeguarding of minorities, so far as is compatible with orderly government, is an essential part of the taming of power.
This requires a consideration of the matters regarding which the community must act as a whole, and those regarding which uniformity is unnecessary. The most obvious questions concerning which a collective decision is imperative are those that are essentially geographical. Roads, railways, sewers, gas mains, and so on, must take one course and not another. Sanitary precautions, say against plague or rabies, are geographical: it would not do for Christian Scientists to announce that they will take no precautions against infection, because they might infect others.
Where there is a geographically concentrated minority, such as the Irish before 1922, it is possible to solve a great many problems by devolution. But when the minority is distributed throughout the area concerned, this method is largely inapplicable. Where Christian and Mohammedan populations live side by side, they have, it is true, different marriage laws, but except where religion is concerned they all have to submit to one government. It has been gradually discovered that theological uniformity is not necessary to a State, and that Protestants and Catholics can live peaceably together under one government. But this was not the case during the first one hundred and thirty years after the Reformation.
The question of the degree of liberty that is compatible with order is one that cannot be settled in the abstract. The only thing that can be said in the abstract is that, where there is no technical reason for a collective decision, there should be some strong reason connected with public order if freedom is to be interfered with. In the reign of Elizabeth, when Roman Catholics wished to deprive her of the throne, it is not surprising that the government viewed them with disfavor. Similarly in the Low Countries, where Protestants were in revolt against Spain, it was to be expected that the Spaniards would persecute them. Nowadays theological questions have not the same political importance. Even political differences, if they do not go too deep, are no reason for persecution. Conservatives, Liberals, and Labor people can all live peaceably side by side, because they do not wish to alter the Constitution by force; but Fascists and Communists are more difficult to assimilate. Where there is democracy, attempts of a minority to seize power by force, and incitements to such attempts, may reasonably be forbidden, on the ground that a law-abiding majority has a right to a quiet life if it can secure it.
I come now to the economic conditions required in order to minimize arbitrary power. This subject is of great importance, both on its own account and because there has been a very great deal of confusion of thought in relation to it.
Political democracy, while it solves a part of our problem, does not by any means solve the whole. Marx pointed out that there could be no real equalization of power through politics alone, while economic power remained monarchical or oligarchic. It followed that economic power must be in the hands of the State, and that the State must be democratic. Those who profess, at the present day, to be Marx’s followers have kept only the half of his doctrine, and have thrown over the demand that the State should be democratic. They have thus concentrated both economic and political power in the hands of an oligarchy, which has become, in consequence, more powerful and more able to exercise tyranny than any oligarchy of former times.
Both old-fashioned democracy and new-fashioned Marxism have aimed at the taming of power. The former failed because it was only political, the latter because it was only economic. Without a combination of both, nothing approaching to a solution of the problem is possible.
The arguments in favor of state ownership of land and the large economic organizations arc partly technical, partly political. The technical arguments have not been much stressed except by the Fabian Society, and to some extent in America in connection with such matters as the Tennessee Valley Authority. Nevertheless they are very strong, especially in connection with electricity and water power, and cause even Conservative governments to introduce measures which, from a technical point of view, are socialistic. We have seen how, as a result of modern technique, organizations tend to grow and to coalesce and to increase their scope; the inevitable consequence is that the political State must either increasingly take over economic functions or partially abdicate in favor of vast private enterprises which are sufficiently powerful to defy or control it. If the State does not acquire supremacy over such enterprises, it becomes their puppet, and they become the real State. In one way or another, wherever modern technique exists, economic and political power must become unified. This movement towards unification has the irresistible impersonal character which Marx attributed to the development that he prophesied. But it has nothing to do with the class war or the wrongs of the proletariat.
Socialism as a political movement has aimed at furthering the interests of industrial wage earners; its technical advantages have been kept comparatively in the background. The belief is that the economic power of the private capitalist enables him to oppress the wage earner, and that since the wage earner cannot, like the handicraftsman of former times, individually own his means of production, the only way of emancipating him is collective ownership by the whole body of workers. It is argued that if the private capitalist were expropriated the whole body of the workers would constitute the State; and that consequently the problem of economic power can be solved completely by state ownership of land and capital, and in no other way.
Before examining the argument, I wish to say unequivocally that I consider it valid, provided it is adequately safeguarded and amplified. Per contra, in the absence of such safeguarding and amplifying I consider it very dangerous, and likely to mislead those who seek liberation from economic tyranny so completely that they will find they have inadvertently established a new tyranny at once economic and political, more drastic and more terrible than any previously known.
In the first place, ‘ownership’ is not the same thing as ‘ control.’ If, say, a railway is owned by the State, and the State is considered to be the whole body of the citizens, that does not ensure, of itself, that the average citizen will have any power over the railway. Let us revert, for a moment, to what Messrs. Berle and Means say in The Modern Corporation and Private Property about ownership and control in large American corporations. They point out that in the majority of such corporations all the directors together usually own only about one or two per cent of the stock, and yet, in effect, have complete control: —
In the election of the board the stockholder ordinarily has three alternatives. He can refrain from voting, he can attend the annual meeting and personally vote his stock, or he can sign a proxy transferring his voting power to certain individuals selected by the management of the corporation, the proxy committee. As his personal vote will count for little or nothing at the meeting unless he has a very large block of stock, the stockholder is practically reduced to the alternative of not voting at all or else of handing over his vote to individuals over whom he has no control and in whose selection he did not participate. In neither case will he be able to exercise any measure of control. Rather, control will tend to be in the hands of those who select the proxy committee. . . . Since the proxy committee is appointed by the existing management, the latter can virtually dictate their own successors.
The helpless individuals described in the above passage are, it should be noted, not proletarians, but capitalists. They are part owners of the corporation concerned, in the sense that they have legal rights which may, with luck, bring them in a certain income; but, owing to their lack of control, the income is very precarious. When I first visited the United States in 1896, I was struck by the enormous number of railways that were bankrupt; on inquiry, I found that this was not due to incompetence on the part of directors, but to skill: the investments of ordinary shareholders had been transferred, by one device or another, to other companies in which the directors had a large interest. This was a crude method, and nowadays matters are usually managed in a more decorous fashion, but the principle remains the same. In any large corporation, power is necessarily less diffused than ownership, and carries with it advantages which, though at first political, can be made sources of wealth to an indefinite extent. The humble investor can be politely and legally robbed; the only limit is that he must not have such bitter experiences as to lead him to keep his future savings in a stocking.
The situation is in no way essentially different when the State takes the place of a corporation; indeed, since it is the size of the corporation that causes the helplessness of the average shareholder, the average citizen is likely to be still more helpless as against the State. A battleship is public property, but if, on this ground, you try to exercise rights of ownership, you will be soon put in your place. You have a remedy, it is true: at the next General Election you can vote for a candidate who favors a reduction in the Navy Estimates, if you can find one; or you can write to the papers to urge that sailors should be more polite to sight-seers. But more than this you cannot do.
But, it is said, the battleship belongs to a capitalist State, and when it belongs to a workers’ State everything will be different. This view seems to me to show a failure to grasp the fact that economic power is now a matter of government rather than ownership. If the United States Steel Corporation, say, were taken over by the United States Government, it would still need men to manage it; they would be either the same men who now manage it or men with similar abilities and a similar outlook. The attitude which they now have towards the shareholders they would then have towards the citizens. True, they would be subject to the government, but, unless it was democratic and responsive to public opinion, it would have a point of view closely similar to that of the officials.
Marxists, having retained, as a result of the authority of Marx and Engels, many ways of thinking that belong to the forties of last century, still conceive of businesses as if they belonged to individual capitalists, and have not learned the lessons to be derived from the separation of ownership and control. The important person is the man who has control of economic power, not the man who has a fraction of the nominal ownership. The Prime Minister does not own No. 10 Downing Street, and Bishops do not own their palaces; but it would be absurd to pretend, on this account, that they are no better off than the average wage earner. Under any form of socialism which is not democratic, those who control economic power can, without ‘owning’ anything, have palatial official residences, the use of the best cars, a princely entertainment allowance, holidays at the public expense in official holiday resorts, and so on and so on. And why should they have any more concern for the ordinary worker than those in control have now? There can be no reason why they should have, unless the ordinary worker has power to deprive them of their positions. Moreover the subordination of the small investor in existing large corporations shows how easy it is for the official to overpower the democracy, even when the ‘democracy’ consists of capitalists.
Not only, therefore, is democracy essential if state ownership and control of economic enterprises are to be in any degree advantageous to the average citizen, but it will have to be an effective democracy, and this will be more difficult to secure than it is at present, since the official class will, unless very carefully supervised, combine the powers at present possessed by the government and the men in control of industry and finance, and since the means of agitating against the government will have to be supplied by the government itself, as the sole owner of halls, paper, and all the other essentials of propaganda.
While, therefore, public ownership and control of all large-scale industry and finance is a necessary condition for the taming of power, it is far from being a sufficient condition. It needs to be supplemented by a democracy more thoroughgoing, more carefully safeguarded against official tyranny, and with more careful provision for freedom of propaganda, than any purely political democracy that has ever existed.
I come now to the propaganda conditions for the taming of power. It is obvious that publicity for grievances must be possible; agitation must be free provided it does not incite to breaches of the law; there must be ways of impeaching officials who exceed or abuse their powers. The government of the day must not be in a position to secure its own permanence by intimidation, falsification of the register of electors, or any similar method. There must be no penalty, official or unofficial, for any wellgrounded criticism of prominent men. Much of this, at present, is secured by party government in democratic countries, which causes the politicians in power to be objects of hostile criticism by nearly half the nation. This makes it impossible for them to commit many crimes to which they might otherwise be prone.
All this is more important when the State has a monopoly of economic power than it is under capitalism, since the power of the State will be vastly augmented. Take a concrete case: that of women employed in the public service. At present they have a grievance, because their rates of pay are lower than those of men; they have legitimate ways of making their grievance known, and it would not be safe to penalize them for making use of these ways. There is no reason whatever for supposing that the present inequality would necessarily cease with the adoption of socialism, but the means of agitating about it would cease, unless express provision were made for just such cases. Newspapers and printing presses would all belong to the government, and would print only what the government ordered.
Can it be assumed as certain that the government would print attacks on its own policy? If not, there would be no means of political agitation by way of print. Public meetings would be just as difficult, since the halls would all belong to the government. Consequently, unless careful provision were made for the express purpose of safeguarding political liberty, no method would exist of making grievances known, and the government, when once elected, would be as omnipotent as Hitler, and could easily arrange for its own reëlection to the end of time. Democracy might survive as a form, but would have no more reality than the forms of popular government that lingered on under the Roman Empire.
To suppose that irresponsible power, just because it is called Socialist or Communist, will be freed miraculously from the bad qualities of all arbitrary power in the past is mere childish nursery psychology: the wicked prince is ousted by the good prince, and all is well. If a prince is to be trusted, it must be not because he is ‘good,’ but because it is against his interest to be ‘bad.’ To ensure that this shall be the case is to make power innocuous; but it cannot be rendered innocuous by transforming men whom we believe to be ‘good’ into irresponsible despots.
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a state institution which shows what is possible in the way of combining freedom of propaganda with government monopoly. At such a time as that of the General Strike, it must be admitted, it ceases to be impartial; but at ordinary times it represents different points of view, as nearly as may be, in proportion to their numerical strength. In a Socialist State, similar arrangements for impartiality would have to be made in regard to the hiring of halls for meetings and the printing of controversial literature. It might be found desirable, instead of having different newspapers representing different points of view, to have only one, with different pages allocated to different parties. This would have the advantage that readers would see all opinions, and would tend to be less one-sided than those who, at present, never see in a newspaper anything with which they disagree.
There are certain regions, such as art and science, and (so far as public order allows) party politics, where uniformity is not necessary or even desirable. These are the legitimate sphere of competition, and it is important that public feeling should be such as to bear differences on such matters without exasperation. Democracy, if it is to succeed and endure, demands a tolerant spirit, not too much hate, and not too much love of violence. But this brings us to the psychological conditions for the taming of power.
The psychological conditions for the taming of power are in some ways the most difficult. Fear, rage, and all kinds of violent collective excitement tend to make men blindly follow a leader, who in most cases takes advantage of their trust to establish himself as a tyrant. It is therefore important, if democracy is to be preserved, both to avoid the circumstances that produce general excitement and to educate in such a way that the population shall be little prone to moods of this sort. When a spirit of ferocious dogmatism prevails, any opinion with which men disagree is liable to provoke a breach of the peace. Schoolboys are apt to illtreat a boy whose opinions are in any way odd, and many grown men have not got beyond the mental age of schoolboys. A diffused liberal sentiment, tinged with skepticism, makes social coöperation much less difficult, and liberty correspondingly more possible.
Revivalist enthusiasm, such as that of the Nazis, rouses admiration in many through the energy and apparent selfabnegation that it generates. Collective excitement, involving indifference to pain and even to death, is historically not uncommon. Where it exists, liberty is impossible. The enthusiasts can only be restrained by force, and if they are not restrained they will use force against others. I remember a Bolshevik whom I met in Peking in 1920, who marched up and down the room exclaiming with complete truth, ‘If vee do not keel zem, zey vill keel us!' The existence of this mood on one side of course generates the same mood on the other side; the consequence is a fight to a finish, in which everything is subordinated to victory. During the fight, the government acquires despotic power for military reasons; at the end, if victorious, it uses its power first to crush what remains of the enemy, and then to secure the continuance of its dictatorship over its own supporters. The result is something quite different from what was fought for by the enthusiasts. Enthusiasm, while it can achieve certain results, can hardly ever achieve those that it desires. To admire collective enthusiasm is reckless and irresponsible, for its fruits are fierceness, war, death, and slavery.
War is the chief promoter of despotism, and the greatest obstacle to the establishment of a system in which irresponsible power is avoided as far as possible. The prevention of war is therefore an essential part of our problem — I should say, the most essential. I believe that if once the world were free from the fear of war, under no matter what form of government or what economic system, it would in time find ways of curbing the ferocity of its rulers. On the other hand all war, but especially modern war, promotes dictatorship by causing the timid to seek a leader and by converting the bolder spirits from a society into a pack.
The risk of war causes a certain kind of mass psychology, and reciprocally this kind, where it exists, increases the risk of war, as well as the likelihood of despotism. We have therefore to consider the kind of education which will make societies least prone to collective hysteria, and most capable of successfully practising democracy.
Democracy, if it is to succeed, needs a wide diffusion of two qualities which seem, at first sight, to tend in opposite directions. On the one hand men must have a certain degree of self-reliance and a certain willingness to back their own judgment; there must be political propaganda in opposite directions, in which many people take part. But on the other hand men must be willing to submit to the decision of the majority when it goes against them. Either of these conditions may fail: the population may be too submissive, and may follow a vigorous leader into dictatorship; or each party may be too self-assertive, with the result that the nation falls into anarchy.
If democracy is to be workable, the population must be as far as possible free from hatred and destructiveness, and also from fear and subservience. These feelings may be caused by political or economic circumstances, but what I want to consider is the part that education plays in making men more or less prone to them.
Some parents and some schools begin with the attempt to teach children complete obedience, an attempt which is almost bound to produce either a slave or a rebel, neither of which is what is wanted in a democracy. As to the effects of a severely disciplinary education, the view that I hold is held by all the dictators of Europe. After the war, almost all the countries of Europe had a number of free schools, without too much discipline or too much show of respect for the teachers; but one by one the military autocracies, including the Soviet Republic, have suppressed all freedom in schools and have gone back to the old drill, and to the practice of treating the teacher as a miniature Führer or Duce. The dictators, we may infer, all regard a certain degree of freedom in school as the proper training for democracy, and autocracy in school as the natural prelude to autocracy in the State.
Every man and woman in a democracy should be neither a slave nor a rebel, but a citizen — that is, a person who has, and allows to others, a due proportion, but no more, of the governmental mentality. Where democracy does not exist, the governmental mentality is that of masters towards dependents; but where there is democracy it is that of equal coöperation, which involves the assertion of one’s own opinion up to a certain point, but no further.
This brings us to a source of trouble to many democrats — namely, what is called ‘principle.’ Most talk about principle, self-sacrifice, heroic devotion to a cause, and so on, should be scanned somewhat skeptically. A little psychoanalysis will often show that what goes by these fine names is really something quite different, such as pride, or hatred, or desire for revenge, that has become idealized and collectivized and personified as a noble form of idealism. The warlike patriot, who is willing and even anxious to fight for his country, may reasonably be suspected of a certain pleasure in killing. A kindly population, a population who in their childhood had received kindness and been made happy, and who in youth had found the world a friendly place, would not develop that particular sort of idealism called patriotism, or class war, or what not, which consists in joining together to kill people in large numbers. I think the tendency to cruel forms of idealism is increased by unhappiness in childhood, and would be lessened if early education were emotionally what it ought to be. Fanaticism is a defect which is partly emotional, partly intellectual; it needs to be combated by the kind of happiness that makes men kindly, and the kind of intelligence that produces a scientific habit of mind.
The temper required to make a success of democracy is, in the practical life, exactly what the scientific temper is in the intellectual life; it is a halfway house between skepticism and dogmatism. Truth, it holds, is neither completely attainable nor completely unattainable; it is attainable to a certain degree, and that only with difficulty.
Autocracy, in its modern forms, is always combined with a creed: that of Hitler, that of Mussolini, or that of Stalin. Wherever there is autocracy, a set of beliefs is instilled into the minds of the young before they are capable of thinking, and these beliefs are taught so constantly and so persistently that it is hoped the pupils will never afterwards be able to escape from the hypnotic effect of their early lessons. The beliefs are instilled, not by giving any reason for supposing them true, but by parrotlike repetition, by mass hysteria and mass suggestion. When two opposite creeds have been taught in this fashion, they produce two armies which clash, not two parties that can discuss. Each hypnotized automaton feels that everything most sacred is bound up with the victory of his side, everything most horrible exemplified by the other side. Such fanatical factions cannot meet in Parliament and say, ‘Let us see which side has the majority’; that would be altogether too pedestrian, since each side stands for a sacred cause. This sort of dogmatism must be prevented if dictatorships are to be avoided, and measures for preventing it ought to form an essential part of education.
If I had control of education, I should expose children to the most vehement and eloquent advocates on all sides of every topical question, who should speak to the schools from the B. B. C. The teacher should afterwards invite the children to summarize the arguments used, and should gently insinuate the view that eloquence is inversely proportional to solid reason. To acquire immunity to eloquence is of the utmost importance to the citizens of a democracy.
Modern propagandists have learned from advertisers, who led the way in the technique of producing irrational belief. Education should be designed to counteract the natural credulity and the natural incredulity of the uneducated: the habit of believing an emphatic statement without reasons, and of disbelieving an unemphatic statement even when accompanied by the best of reasons. I should begin in the infant school, with two classes of sweets between which the children should choose: one very nice, recommended by a coldly accurate statement as to its ingredients; the other very nasty, recommended by the utmost skill of the best advertisers. A little later I should give them a choice of two places for a country holiday: a nice place recommended by a contour map, and an ugly place recommended by magnificent posters.
The teaching of history ought to be conducted in a similar spirit. There have been in the past eminent orators and writers who defended, with an appearance of great wisdom, positions which no one now holds: the reality of witchcraft, the beneficence of slavery, and so on. I should cause the young to know such masters of eloquence, and to appreciate at once their rhetoric and their wrong-headedness. Gradually I should pass on to current questions. As a sort of bonne bouche to their history, I should read to them what is said about Spain (or whatever at the moment is most controversial), first by the Daily Mail, then by the Daily Worker; and I should then ask them to infer what really happened. For undoubtedly few things are more useful to a citizen of a democracy than skill in detecting, by reading newspapers, what it was that took place. For this purpose it would be instructive to compare the newspapers at crucial moments during the Great War with what subsequently appeared in the official history. And when the madness of war hysteria, as shown in the newspapers of the time, strikes your pupils as incredible, you should warn them that all of them, unless they are very careful to cultivate a balanced and cautious judgment, may fall overnight into a similar madness at the first touch of government incitement to terror and blood lust.
I do not wish, however, to preach a purely negative emotional attitude; I am not suggesting that all strong feelings should be subjected to destructive analysis. I am advocating this attitude only in relation to those emotions which are the basis of collective hysteria, for it is collective hysteria that facilitates wars and dictatorships. But wisdom is not merely intellectual: intellect may guide and direct, but does not generate the force that leads to action. The force must be derived from the emotions. Emotions that have desirable social consequences are not so easily generated as hate and rage and fear. In their creation, much depends upon early childhood; much, also, upon economic circumstances. Something, however, can be done, in the course of ordinary education, to provide the nourishment upon which the better emotions can grow, and to bring about the realization of what may give value to human life.
This has been, in the past, one of the purposes of religion. The churches, however, have also had other purposes, and their dogmatic basis causes difficulties. For those to whom traditional religion is no longer possible, there are other ways. Some find what they need in music, some in poetry. For some others, astronomy serves the same purpose. When we reflect upon the size and antiquity of the stellar universe, the controversies on this rather insignificant planet lose some of their importance, and the acerbity of our disputes seems a trifle ridiculous. And when we are liberated by this negative emotion we are able to realize more fully, through music or poetry, through history or science, through beauty or pain, that the really valuable things in human life are individual, not such things as happen on a battlefield or in the clash of politics or in the regimented march of masses of men towards an externally imposed goal. The organized life of the community is necessary, but it is necessary as mechanism, not something to be valued on its own account. What is of most value in human life is more analogous to what all the great religious teachers have spoken of. Those who believe in the Corporate State maintain that our highest activities are collective, whereas I should maintain that we all reach our best in different ways, and that the emotional unity of a crowd can only be achieved on a lower level.
The essential difference between the liberal outlook and that of the totalitarian State is that the former regards the welfare of the State as residing ultimately in the welfare of the individual, while the latter regards the State as the end and individuals merely as indispensable ingredients, whose welfare must be subordinated to a mystical totality which is a cloak for the interest of the rulers. Ancient Rome had something of the doctrine of State-worship, but Christianity fought the Emperors and ultimately won. Liberalism, in valuing the individual, is carrying on the Christian tradition; its opponents are reviving certain pre-Christian doctrines. From the first, the idolaters of the State have regarded education as the key to success. This appears, for example, in Fichte’s Addresses to the German Nation, which deal at length with education. What Fichte desires is set forth in the following passage: —
If anyone were to say: ‘How could anyone demand more of an education than that it should show the pupil the right and strongly recommend it to him; whether he follows these recommendations is his own affair, and if he does not do it, his own fault; he has free will, which no education can take from him ’: I should answer, in order to characterize more sharply the education I contemplate, that just in this recognition of and counting on the free will of the pupil lies the first error of education hitherto, and the distinct acknowledgment of its impotence and emptiness. For inasmuch as it admits that, after all its strongest operation, the will remains free, — that is, oscillating undecidedly between good and bad, — it admits that it neither can nor wishes to mould the will, or, since will is the essential root of man, man himself; and that it holds this to be altogether impossible. The new education, on the contrary, would have to consist in a complete annihilation of the freedom of the will in the territory that it undertook to deal with.
His reason for desiring to create ‘ good ’ men is not that they are in themselves better than ‘bad’ men; his reason is that ‘only in such [good men] can the German nation persist, but through bad men it will necessarily coalesce with foreign countries,'
All this may be taken as expressing the exact antithesis of what the liberal educator will wish to achieve. So far from ‘annihilating the freedom of the will,’ he will aim at strengthening individual judgment; he will instill what he can of the scientific attitude towards the pursuit of knowledge; he will try to make beliefs tentative and responsive to evidence; he will not pose before his pupils as omniscient, nor will he yield to the love of power on the pretense that he is pursuing some absolute good. Love of power is the chief danger of the educator, as of the politician; the man who can be trusted in education must care for his pupils on their own account, not merely as potential soldiers in an army or propagandists for a cause.
Fichte and the powerful men who have inherited his ideals, when they see children, think: ‘Here is material that I can manipulate, that I can teach to behave like a machine in furtherance of my purposes; for the moment I may be impeded by joy of life, spontaneity, the impulse to play, the desire to live for purposes springing from within, not imposed from without; but all this, after the years of schooling that I shall impose, will be dead; fancy, imagination, art, and the power of thought will have been destroyed by obedience; the death of joy will have bred receptiveness to fanaticism; and in the end I shall find my human material as passive as stone from a quarry or coal from a mine. In the battles to which I shall lead them, some will die, some will live; those who die will die exultantly, as heroes, those who live will live on as my slaves, with that deep mental slavery to which my schools will have accustomed them.’
All this, to any person with natural affection for the young, is horrible; just as we teach children to avoid being destroyed by motorcars if they can, so we should teach them to avoid being destroyed by cruel fanatics, and to this end we should seek to produce independence of mind, somewhat skeptical and wholly scientific, and to preserve, as far as possible, the instinctive joy of life that is natural to healthy children. This is the task of a liberal education: to give a sense of the value of things other than domination, to help to create wise citizens of a free community, and, through the combination of citizenship with liberty in individual creativeness, to enable man to give to human life that splendor which some few have shown that it can achieve.