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POLITICAL FUND AMENTALISM IS REPUDIATED BY MUNRO

Phrases More Influential Than Ideas But Progress Is Evident, He Declares

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

The following are excerpts from an article by Professor W. B. Munro '99, Jonathan Trumbull Professor of American History and Government, which appeared in the October number of the "Atlantic Monthly" magazine entitled "The Worst Fundamentalism".

The Scopes trial in Tennessee provided the biggest and best newspaper story since the war. It kept the headlines for weeks and provoked an immense amount of discussion all over the country. Especially among scholars and scientists this episode aroused a fine display of indignation. It was looked upon as a throwback to mediaevalism, an attempt to stultify the convictions of men by due process of law. One would think, from the reaction in academic ciroles, that religious belief is the only field in which great bodies of our fellow citizens decline to be guided by science or by history.

Of course religion is not the only field in which fundamentalism challenges science. It is not the most important field. There is more fundamentalism in the political than in the religious thought of the American people today, and it works greater injury both to the cause of national progress and to the interests of the social order.

More Belief Outside Religion

Even the most casual observer of our political psychology must have noticed that there are literally millions of Americans who decline to accept things on faith in the realm of religion, but who do not have the slightest compunction about swallowing the catchwords, phrases, formulas, and slogans that go to make up a creed in politics. They scoff at the miracles of Holy Writ, but are continually looking for the miraculous in government, or what would be miraculous if it ever happened--the conduct of a government according to business principles, for example. Most intelligent people regard as preposterous the idea that man was created from the dust of the earth; but they appear to see that all men are created free and equal. They call that proposition a self-evident truth, when by all the teachings of science and history it is neither true nor self-evident....

We merely look upon the American democracy as something that rests upon inalienable rights and universal principles, a paragon of excellence which the rest of the world ought to copy but does not. Hence our laws insist that the Constitution be studied in our schools and colleges with due regard for the sanctity of the text and with no taint of higher criticism, but rather in all its textual literalness--that is to say, in the same uncritical spirit that characterizes the fundamentalist approach to the first chapter of Genesis....

Political Creed of Citizen

Let me try to put together, in skeleton form, the political creed of the average American citizen, the dogmas which he accepts as fundamental truths notwithstanding their repuguance to the dictates of reason and to the teachings of experience. "Government must rest on the consert of the governed." "Democracy is government by the whole people." "The cure for the ills of a democracy is more democracy." (What a strange, article of faith that slogan embodies' Were I to say that the remedy for the evils of misgovernment is more misgovernment I should be saying something just as rational, but I should be giving you a poor opinion of my intelligence.) "Ours must be a government of laws, net of men." "The executive and legislative branches of the government should be kept separate"; or, as it is sometimes expressed, "Checks and balances are essential safeguards of popular liberty." "No taxation without representation." "Self-determination and municipal home rule." "Avoid entangling alliances." "State rights." "The office should seek the man, not the man the office." (The office does seek the man sometimes, but not often-about as often as a burglar goes seeking a policeman.) "The rule of public opinion." "Political parties are groups of voters who think alike and have a common programme." And last, but by, no means east. "The equality of all citizens before the law."

Slogans Taken on Faith

These phrases and slogans, I believe, are accepted as gospel by the great majority of our people. They are taken on faith by men and women who insist on nationality in religion. Yet it can readily be demonstrated that no one of these principles is true without large qualifications, while some of them embody only a half truth or no truth at all. They have come down to us from earlier days, enshrined in the literature of patriotism, and so often reiterated from generation to generation that they have become a sort of biological inheritance. They are firmly stamped on the national imagination, and it is to one or another of these creedal tenets that the average citizen relates his reactions on most questions of public policy....

Doctrine of Equality Harmful

In the practice of American government this doctrine of human equality has done a lot of harm. By its implications it has afforded good soil for the growth of the spoils system and the practice of rotation in office, two of the most noxious weeds in the garden of American politics. If all citizens are equaly competent to govern their fellow men, why should we endeavor to choose among them on the basis of their special qualifications? If all citizens are endowed with the same political capacity, why let any one stay in office very long? Our reluctance to make use of experts in any branch of public administration is in large measure a by-product of this national obsession. The most formidable obstacle in the path of civil service reform is not the avarice of the politician. It is the deep-seated popular conviction that any able-bodied citizen, whatever his competence or lack of it, has an equal and indefeasible right to a place on the public pay-roll....

No Equality of Taxation

Of course we have been careful not to carry the doctrine of equality too far. We do not project it into the field of taxation, for example. Oh, no, not at all! Men may be equal in their capacity to govern, but not for one moment do we hold them equal in their ability to earn and in their ability to pay. In other words, we exalt the common man so far is his shared in the control of government is concerned, but when it comes to liquidating the cast of this control well, at that point the common man seems to have all interest in the philosophy of Jeterson and Rensseau.

I am not srguing, of course, that all money earned be equally taxed. I am merely pointing out that this postulate of human equality goes quickly into the discard when it conflicts with the practical necessities of government. A principle always gives way when its application conflicts with the plain interests of the governing class.

Government must rest on the consent of the governed. This rule, of course, does not apply to aliens, Negroes, Filipinos or inhabitants of the District of Columbia. The consent of the governed is a synonym for the will of the majority, and the will of the majority is expressed by a plurality of those who take the trouble to vote. ...Taking our state and municipal elections, and averaging them for the country as a whole, the figures show that the will of the people is regularly expressed by less than twenty per cent of our adult citizenship, or about ten per cent of the population. What was have in fact, therefore, is not a government by the whole people, or by a majority of the people, or even by a majority, of the registered voters, but government by a mere plurality of the politically active.

So widely, then, is our doctrine of popular sovereignty at variance with the facts. Nor does the situation seem to be growing better....

We are asked to believe that public opinion rules the Unitd States. It is the ultimate sovereign, the supreme law of the land. This is proposition number three in our fundamentalist decalogue. Government by public opinion is a phrase that slips easily from the tongue and has been so often repeated that most people believe it to be true. Yet public opinion, when you try to define it, proves to be a very elusive thing. What passes on public opinion, in perhaps the majority of cases, is simply the outcome of propegrade and counter-propaganda working the upon the traditions, prejudices, aversions or inertia of the people. The rst. inclination of most men and women is to connect every new problem with something already silhouetted in their imaginations some principle that has already found lodgment there. Very few of us approach any new public question with open minds; or rather, we do it with minds that are open at the bottom only, not open at the top. Arguments and appeals to reason go in and fall right out again. The stereotype remains unaltered.

Public Opinion Not Spontaneous

Public opinion does not exude spontaneously from the cogitations of the multitude...In large measure it is a manufactured product, prepared for the purpose of selling it to the people and marketed to them in the accustomed way. We are prone to forget that you can sell an idea to the people in the same way that you sell them any other commodity, from a Liberty Bond to a break and our politicians are the brokers who put through the sale. Our political brokers even deal in futures, and have marketed to the country a large block of that somewhat speculative stock known as "America's entry into the League of Nations," when, as issued.

No Chance for Qualified Opinion

We speak of the refundum as an expression of the public will. But this is merely one of the pleasant self-deceptions which a democracy likes to cherish. For a referendum is at best nothing more than a call for the yeas and nays, with no opportunity for anyone to voice a qualified opinion. It assumes that every voter is ready to say yes or no to any question that may be placed before him, whether it relate to the extension of a street-railway franchise, the independence of the Philippines, or the pay of the police force. The unthinking person may be able to do this, but the thoughtful man or woman, when confronted with an issue of public policy, is truely able to express his true opinion by the simple expedient of marking a cross on a slip of paper and this is particularly true when the question carries various implications as referendum questions so often do... Small wonder it is that under such conditions the voice of the people turns out to be a babel of discordance like unto that which was heard on the plain of Shinar when men sought to build a city whose tower should spike the sky....

No, the justification of elections, referenda, and majority rule is not the wisdom of the multitude, much less its omniscience, but the pressing necessity of devising some crude makeshift whereby decisions can be reached which the people will accept....

Substitute for Revolution

A presdential is merely our modern and highly refined substitute for the ancient revolution a mobilization of opposing forces, a battle of the ins against the cuts, with leaders and strategy and campaign chests and all the other paraphernilia of civil war, but without bodily violence to the warriors. This refinement of the struggle for political control, this transition from bullets to ballots is perhaps the greatest contributor of modern times to the progress of civilization.

Public opinion does not follow the dictates of human reason, for if it did it would have some degree of stability, which it has not. It obeys what we may call, for lack of a better name the law of the pendulum swinging from one extreme to another, with almost mathematical regularity.

"Who rules England?" asked a Stuart satirist. "The King rules England, of course." "But who rules the King?" "The Duke." "Who rules the Duke?" "The Devil." And so it is public opinion that rules in a democracy, and propaganda makes public opinion, and the politicians make the propaganda.

No Government of Laws Alone

We come to the fourth commandment "Ours must be a government, of laws, not of men." ...So, indeed, it was written by the Fathers in the Federalist.

Put no government ever has been or ever can be a government of laws alone. Laws are inanimate things. They have no motion of their own. Like clocks, they go from the motion that men give been. They must be interpreted, applied and enforced by human agencies. Hence every government must be to a large extent a government of men, no matter what our delusions to the contrary may be....

Our tenacious belief in a government of laws the like of which the world has never seen elsewhere...There are now on the statute books of the nation and the states no fewer than twenty thousand laws relating to the railroads alone. Thomas Jefferson once asserted that a government was best when it governed least. What would he say, were he to rise from his grave and survey a government which practices the principle of non-interference to the tune of twenty thousand statutes affecting a single branch of our transportation system.

Our Federal and state laws are increasing at the rate of about ten thousand a year. Thing of the New York policeman who carries in his pockets a list of the sixteen thousand ordinances and regulations which he is expected to enforce...

Our zeal for the making of laws has been matched by our lack of success in enforcing them...

Much has been written upon the ways of securing a better enforcement of the laws of the land. But the first essential step in that direction, as I see it, must be a reorientation in the mind of the ordinary citizen...

Party Affiliations Inherited

Let me invite attention to another aspect of our political life and to some widespread misconceptions relating to it namely, the party system. Nowhere does the fundamentalist character of our political creed disclose itself more plainly than here. A political party is commonly defined as a large group of men and women who profess allegiance to common principles and who think alike on public questions. We are asked to believe, in fact, that voters choose a political party as the outcome of their own thought and reflection. In reality this is very seldom the case. Far more often the voter's allegiance to a political party is the result of his ancestry, or his occupation, of his personal associations, or something else that is largely irrele-

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