Walter Lippmann '10, concluded his series of Godkin lectures with an eulogy of the middle class and an attack on the alliance of plutocrats and proletarian groups which menace the operation of democracy, at the New Lecture Hall yesterday afternoon.
Mr. Lippmann's solution for the difficulties which Democratic, governments encounter from special interests and "pressure groups" was to lift the proletarian classes to a point where they would be independent and where their "right to work" would be secure. He referred to Aristotle's belief in the reliability of those of the population in the "middle condition" and quoted from "The New Party Politics" by Professor Arthur N. Holcombe '06. He demanded that the state guarantee the right to work. This problem is not insoluble, he said, as the possibilities of useful public works are "really inexhaustible," and it is not the public imagination" that makes the problem appear so difficult.
He pointed out that the cause of pressure groups is a desire to stabilize their condition in a changing world. The answer to these powerful, organized minorities, he said, is not to try to destroy them or suppress them but to establish a compensated economy which will in part remove the causes of their organization and particularly will remove the large groups of idle proletarians whose votes can be controlled either by bribery or enchainment.
Unemployment insurance, old age pensions, and the like, while necessary parts of the present system do not offer a final solution for in the last analysis they are regarded as charity and destroy the fellowship of moral equality that should exist between all members of the population. Now that no frontier exists some equivalent of a right to stake out a claim in virgin territory must be offered and this equivalent is work on public projects.
The theory of eliminating both extremes of society, the insecure proletariat and the plutocrat seeking to gain more power through the use of his idle wealth is not socialism or communism any other ism, Lippmann declared. On the contrary it is a project to "make the people independent of the state."
Real economic freedom, he stressed, depends upon the preservation of property rights. The rise of communism in Russia and of Fascism in Italy were due on the one hand to the absence of a powerful middle class and in the other to the weakening of the middle class by economic stress associated with the war. Hence preservation of economics freedom depends upon the development of this middle class which is not susceptible to "the contagious emotions of huddled crowds"; which neither covet nor possess such wealth as to inspire coveteousness in others.
"They have hold of the substance of liberty," he declared and a society made up of such material will preserve individual freedom for all and realize that the "domain of authority should be as limited as possible."