THE CRIMSON BOOKSHELF
American individualism: by Herbert Hoover. Doubleday, Page and Co. New York: 1922.
It is generally admitted that Isaiah and Jeremiah (they seem to be hitched inseparably like Conkling and Platt) needed a great deal of courage to speak their minds, and they undoubtedly did need all they possessed. So has every critic of similar stamp who has made his voice heard since that time, but in the present year of the Republic the shoe is on the other foot. Whereas before it has been dangerous in the extreme to knock the existing order the challenge now is for men to defend it. It is always easiest to go with the crowd--the crowd always does--and while the general public of other times used to cherish the vague idea that everything was all right it now cries with a morbid glee that Heaven and Earth and Hell thereunder are all hopelessly out of joint with no chance of ever being set straight again.
Under these conditions it is only a man that dares, in defiance of popular support, to come out flat-footed for existing conditions and to offer arguments in support of his thesis. This is what Mr. Hoover has done in his refreshingly brief and trenchantly powerful essay entitled "American Individualism".
Not that Mr. Hoover is a "stand-patter"--far from it. He is however, a man of wide experience, clear thinking and great devotion to liberty, and it is because he possesses these qualities that his opinions on civilization are of value. The belief he here states is that of all social philosophies now featured Individualism is the only true one. By this he means American Individualism; the doctrine that allows every man, unrestricted by class strata or any prejudices, an equal opportunity with others to make his way in the world. It is not, as Mr. Hoover points out, a creed that holds out promises of Utopia or one that can be disseminated by catch phrases, but it is the very essence of freedom and the backbone of progress.
Concerning present conditions Mr. Hoover might be described as having the point of view of an optimist. An optimist is popularly described as a man who has just talked with a pessimist, although generally he can do no more than listen. Mr. Hoover must have heard a great many in his time and various activities, and he has reacted accordingly. Not that he attempts to be a little sun-shine in the home. He does not sing with Pippa (who is by the way, no relation to Mr. Browning, the poet): "God's in his heaven All's right with the world"
He does not rely on metaphysics to prove that in the United States, which have in the main been consistent in their adherence to the principles of Progressive Individualism, there is today a higher standard of comfort, culture and intelligence than there has ever been in any country at any previous time. He relies on facts and on reasonable interpretations. What he concludes is not what might be called reassuring but it is inspiring. There is much still to be done and in more ways than one it is often good for us to realize that, before us others have achieved great things.
As a rule we do not like books that speak of "this America of ours", but once in a great while we do appreciate the sentiment. By all means don't make the American eagle scream, but after he has been dubbed everything from hawk to cuckoo it is only fair that the poor bird should say something to remind us that he is, after all, an eagle.