THE DEFLATION OF AMERICAN IDEALS, by Edgar Kemler; Washington, American Council on Public Affairs, $2.00.
Inflation is a more popular topic than deflation nowadays, but Mr. Kemler's deflationary remarks are particularly valuable for their timeliness. His "Deflation of American Ideals" is sub-titled "An Ethical Guide for New Dealers," and is aimed at contemporary progressives.
His thesis, briefly stated, is that American progressives have developed from an idealistic belief that the faults of the world are in the nature of man, that his nature is perfectible, and that progress and reaction may be equated with good and evil, to a pragmatic point of view which sees progress in material terms, and leaves moral regeneration to the churches. Kemler acclaims this development, and illustrates by an historical account of progressivism that efficiency and high-mindedness seem to vary inversely, and that honest effort too often evaporates into moralizing mouthings.
The book is divided into a Prologue, which sets forth the thesis in general terms, and sections on deflation in moral content, in economic policy, and in foreign policy. One need not agree with the validity of all the author's conclusions to recognize the value of his approach. His recognition that for the Roosevelt administration to produce a workable economic system it must employ methods which are the antithesis of Jeffersonian democracy is typically realistic.
One can only take issue with Kemler on his underemphasis of the lack of planning and of long-range goals, implicit in the Administration's experimental attitude. It is true that he admits "the developmental implications of the various measures fly off at tangents--often in contradiction to one another." But he tends to pass off this defect a little too lightly. He agrees that "we must adopt a more explicit plan," but he doesn't consider the possible conflicts between his deflation of ideals and the development of long-range objectives.
Every progressive, however, should be grateful to Mr. Kemler for removing some of that unpleasant burden of righteousness under which no man can act freely.