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Professor Friedrich's "New Belief in the Common Man" is a rare example of the political thcoretician's ability to write good literature. The volume (based for the most part on a series of Lowell Institute Lectures) is no less delightful than it is profound. As a discussion of its important theme, it is indispensable not only to the student of government, but also to anyone who wishes to understand the crucial problems of our time. It bears its reasoned faith with grace and charm; and as an exercise in the delicate art of conducting controversy it is a model hard to over praise.
Broadly speaking, the crux of the argument consists in a belief that the rule of the people, fumbling though it often is will ultimately result in fewer mistakes than any dictatorship of a self-appointed clite. Faced by a new aristocracy of the "expert," Professor Friedrich, himself a high ranking member of that aristocracy, is still sufficiently plebian to assert his faith in the common man's capacity for self-government. This faith is "an extraordinary one." Historically considered, it has often remained inarticulate, since by nature "the intellectual is predisposed toward the uncommon man: he strives to be uncommon." But let the uncommon man, the trained expert, be faced with the concerns of the community and "he is apt to be as much of a propagoose as any ordinary citizen, if not more so." The moral is plain. We need to insist, most of all, "upon the limited competence, indeed upon the fallibility of every man, be he ever so uncommon," and hardly less, upon the belief that "the mass of common men are, in the long run, less likely to be wrong than the individual judgement of any superman."
From his analysis of the inexpertness of the expert, the author turns to a discussion of the problem of propaganda in a democracy, showing clearly the distinction between education for citizenship and teaching the citizen to choose between the conflicting counsels to which he is exposed. For Professor Friedrich, the solution to the conflict between democracy and bureaucracy would seem to lie in a democratic process of decision and a self-imposed routine of carrying out decisions. "What is required," he writes, "is a willingness and ability to take orders and instructions and to carry them out faithfully, even when you disagree." The book concludes with a clarion call for a new belief in the common man, the core of the democratic creed.
Professor Friedrich has developed both a defense and a masterly vindication of the democratic idea as a regime for civilized man. In the holocaust, his words are calculated to pump new life into a fighting democracy. In the days to come they may well serve as the basis for a happier world.
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