Perspectives in Defense Management, Winter 1972-1973
article was edited for publication here with the author's approval from a
transcript of his presentation to the Industrial College of the Armed Forces on
August 17, 1972.
An unromantic historian argues that the great
traditions of American democracy tell us little about how the system has
actually worked and evolved.
THE MYTHOLOGY OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY
I COULD easily make this talk a self-praising, Fourth of
July oration, vintage 1880. But that's not what you want and that's not what
I am qualified to give you.
I am going to give you an
historical view of the American democratic tradition with analytical
overtones showing how democracy has changed over the course of our history.
The United States is a democracy. I think there is no doubt of that — but
the American democratic tradition is largely a myth.
First, a few definitions. I define democracy as majority rule and
minority rights. Of these the second is more important than the
first. There are many despotisms which have majority rule. Hitler held
plebiscites in which he obtained over 92 percent of the vote, and most of
the people who were qualified to vote did vote. I think that in China today
a majority of the people support the government, but China is certainly not
The essential half of this definition
then, is the second half, minority rights. What that means is that a
minority has those rights which enable it to work within the system and to
build itself up to be a majority and replace the governing majority.
Moderate deviations from majority rule do not usually undermine democracy.
In fact, absolute democracy does not really exist at the nation-state level.
For example, a modest poll tax as a qualification for voting would be an
infringement on the principle of majority rule but restrictions on the
suffrage would have to go pretty far before they really abrogated democracy.
On the other hand relatively slight restrictions on minority rights — the
freedoms of speech, assembly, and other rights — would rapidly erode
Another basic point. Democracy is not the
highest political value. Speeches about democracy and the democratic
tradition might lead you to think this is the most perfect political system
ever devised. That just isn't true. There are other political values which
are more important and urgent—security, for example. And I would suggest
that political stability and political responsibility are also more
In fact, I would define a good government as
a responsible government. In every society there is a structure of power. A
government is responsible when its political processes reflect that power
structure, thus ensuring that the power structure will never be able to
overthrow the government. If a society in fact could be ruled by a minority
because that elite had power to rule and the political system reflected that
situation by giving governing power to that elite, then, it seems to me, we
would have a responsible government even though it was not democratic.
Some of you are looking puzzled. Why do we have democracy
in this country? I'll give you a blunt and simple answer, which means, of
course, that it's not the whole truth. We have democracy because around 1880
the distribution of weapons in this society was such that no minority could
make a majority obey. If you have a society in which weapons are cheap, so
that almost anyone can obtain them, and are easy to use — what I call
amateur weapons — then you have democracy. But if the opposite is true,
weapons extremely expensive and very difficult to use — the medieval knight,
for example, with his castle, the supreme weapons of the year 1100 — in such
a system, with expensive and difficult-to-use weapons, you could not
possibly have majority rule. But in 1880 for $100 you could get the two best
weapons in the world, a Winchester rifle and a Colt revolver; so almost
anyone could buy them. With weapons like these in the hands of ordinary
people, no minority could make the majority obey a despotic government.
Now there are some features of democracy that many people
really do not understand. It is said, for example, that our officials are
elected by the voters, and the one that gets the most votes is elected. I
suggest that this is misleading. The outcome of an election is not
determined by those who vote, but by those who don't vote. Since 1945 or so,
we have had pretty close elections, with not much more than half of the
people voting. In the 1968 election about 80 million voted, and about 50
million qualified to vote did not. The outcome was determined by the 50
million who didn't vote. If you could have got 2 percent of the nonvoters to
the polls to vote for your candidate, you could have elected him. And that
has been true of most of our recent elections. It's the ones who don't vote
who determine the outcome.
Something else we tend to
overlook is that the nomination process is much more important than the
election process. I startle a lot of my colleagues who think they know
England pretty well by asking them how candidates for election are nominated
in England. They don't have conventions or primary elections. So the
important thing is who names the candidates. In any democratic country, if
you could name the candidates of all parties, you wouldn't care who voted or
how, because your man would be elected. So the nominations are more
important than the elections.
A third point is one I
often make in talking with students who are discouraged about their
inability to influence the political process. I say this is nonsense. There
never was a time when it was easier for ordinary people to influence
political affairs than today. One reason, of course, is that big mass of
nonvoters. If you can simply get 2 or 3 percent of them to the polls — and
that shouldn't be too difficult — then you can elect your candidate, whoever
There are three key factors in elections —
money, organization, enthusiasm. If you have two of them you can win.
Students may not have much money, but they can organize — apparently
McGovern has an organization — and they are enthusiastic. Gene McCarthy went
pretty far on enthusiasm alone four years ago, even though he didn't have an
organization or much money.
That Anglo-Saxon Heritage
Now let's look at some democratic traditions. Most people say
that our democratic traditions began in England. This is totally a myth.
England was in no sense a democratic country in 1775, when we declared our
independence. It remained an undemocratic country until well into the 20th
century. Candidates were not nominated by the people, and members of
parliament were not even paid until 1911.
England had an oligarchic political structure. It did reform itself
radically in the 1820's and became one of the best governments in the world
by shifting to what I would call an aristocratic structure, that is, one
with a sense of responsibility to the public welfare. But they didn't have a
democratic system. An ordinary person couldn't get a secondary education at
all until after 1902, and higher education didn't become widely available
until after 1945 and the reforms of the last quarter of a century.
Furthermore, both in England and in our country — this is part of our
undemocratic heritage from England — access to justice is strictly limited.
Until 30 years ago England had a rigidly stratified society, the only one in
Europe where you could tell a person's social class the minute he opened his
mouth. The upper classes had a different accent. Today, with the BBC and
more popular education, speaking accents are blending, as opportunities for
changing status are opening upward. But access to law, to the courts, to
justice, as well as to education, were strictly limited, and for he most
part still are in the English-speaking world.
somebody infringes your rights, it's usually too expensive for you to defend
them. This is true even in income-tax disputes. And it hit me, for example,
in the matter of copyright. A fellow published a book a couple of years ago,
in which 30 of its 121 pages came right out of a book I had published. I
cannot sue him for infringement of copyright because I can't afford it. And
he's made so much money out of his book, that he could fight me right up to
the Supreme Court, and he might even win. But I don't have the $150,000 it
takes to flight a case to the Supreme Court.
American democratic tradition was born here, not in England, and its
antecedents go back to non-English sources — for example, the
The Constitution and the Powers
Next, the Constitution. It is not democratic but republican, a
different thing. That means only that we don't have a king. It protects
minority rights chiefly in the first ten amendments. Before they were added,
it provided very little protection for minority rights. It did provide for
jury trial, but as I have shown, access to the courts was a class privilege.
These first ten amendments were the basis of minority
rights in the Constitution. But they were accompanied by many weaknesses,
which have remained throughout our history. It is important that we realize
this, because our safety, our lives, and our happiness depend upon our
constitutional forms of government.
established three branches of government — executive, legislative, and
judicial — but any governing system has more than three parts. For instance,
the taxing power was split up. Two other powers are especially important:
the administrative power and the incorporating power. These are vital in any
government. They are not allotted to anyone in the Constitution, certainly
not to the Federal Government.
By the incorporating
power I mean the right of a government to say that a group of people will be
regarded in law as a person with the right to hold property and to sue and
be sued in the courts. That power is left with the States.
The administrative power is that discretionary power which is absolutely
essential to government. It is best represented, I think, in a policeman
controlling traffic at a busy intersection. He starts and stops the traffic
according to his judgment of what is best to keep traffic flowing smoothly
and safely. That is the administrative power. It is one of the original
powers of government. It involves such things as protecting the health and
sanitation of any community by such means as requiring vaccination. In
constitutional law we call it the police power but that does not mean the
policeman's power. It means discretionary power.
almost 100 years after the Civil War there was a struggle among the three
branches of the Government for control of the administrative power. Now we
have independent administrative and regulatory agencies which are subject to
the courts or to the executive branch or to the congressional branch. In
many cases they have become autonomous. For instance, one of the things they
did, without guidance from any of the three main branches until very late,
was to introduce all the inequities of the English-speaking judicial and
legal system into the procedures of administration.
Constitution made no provision for breaking a deadlock among the three
branches. It was assumed that in such a case whatever action was at issue
should not be done—in other words, anything worth doing will be supported by
all branches of the government. If they don't agree, it's better not to do
it. The basic assumption was, of course, that no disasters would
result from paralysis in government, because we were secure from sudden and
overwhelming attack from abroad. Domestic paralysis we could live with. And
as long as we were protected by our two oceans and the British Navy, and
later by our own armed forces, we were able to muddle through. Since the
advent of nuclear weapons, the situation is different, and the problem of
how to ensure prompt action in a crisis, has been a continuing
One of the most essential parts
of our political system is our political parties, which grew up wholly
outside the Constitution and the legal system as the links between the three
branches of our government. You have been reading about the dispute over
delegates for the Republican National Convention. For a long time about a
quarter of the Republican delegates did not represent the voters at all
because they came from purely Democratic States in the South. Today the
non-Republican States do not have so large a block of delegates. McKinley's
nomination in 1896 was arranged ahead of time in Thomasville, Georgia, the
preceding winter by Mark Hanna's buying up the Southern delegates to the
Republican Convention of 1896. The Southern delegates were paid $200 plus
rail fare and hotel bills to vote for McKinley. Anyway, the party system has
evolved to make up for one of the major deficiencies of the Constitution,
the lack of provisions to translate the citizen's vote into a government
responsive to the popular will.
extraconstitutional development is judicial supremacy. This was simply
asserted and exercised by the judiciary, which determines whether
legislation is constitutional and makes rulings which the executive branch
is supposed to carry out. But in adopting this principle, we have simply
taken over the undemocratic feature of the English system, which requires
the citizen to defend his rights in courts of law. Today people who are
penniless do enjoy that right because they can get the American Civil
Liberties Union, or some foundation, or somebody else, to finance their
litigation. But an ordinary middle-class person of limited means is denied
that right. Both of these institutional developments, political parties and
judicial supremacy, are outside the Constitution. Both of them are largely
irresponsible. They are not responsible to the people.
The Stages of Political Growth
Let me quickly review the history of American democracy in terms of
how candidates are nominated. There were five stages in that historical
evolution. In the first, beginning in 1789 and for more than 40 years
thereafter, candidates were named by the legislators. This method was called
the legislative caucus. Up to the early 1840's there was a steady extension
of democracy by changes in the State voting laws, culminating in the Rhode
Island reforms of 1842, resulting from Dorr's rebellion, extending the
suffrage to the ordinary man. By 1843 voting democracy was established more
or less in all the States.
The second stage was the era
of the spoils system, and it lasted for a little over 40 years, from just
before 1840 to just after 1880. The spoils system arose, from the fact that
in a system of mass democracy, where most men at least have the right to
vote, there must be some way of nominating candidates for office. The method
chosen was the nominating convention. This raised the problem of how to
finance sending the delegates to the convention.
solution developed around 1840 was for the party machine of the winning
party in an election to reward the party faithful by appointing them to
government office. To the victor belong the spoils. These appointees then
kick back money to the party kitty, say, a quarter or 10 percent of their
salary every year; and these kick-backs provide the funds for the nomination
convention and the process of political campaigning. In that new system
government officials themselves went as paid delegates to the nominating
conventions, and the nominations and getting out the vote in elections were
controlled by the party machines. All of these were local in cities or on a
State basis. It was a feudalistic power structure.
of the interesting features of the whole system is the role that polities
played in people's lives. In this period, from 1840 to 1880, politics and
religion, frequently revivalist religion, were the chief entertainment
outlets the American people had. They did not have organized sports or other
kinds of entertainment except an occasional traveling company of actors,
and, more often, revivalist preachers. So people identified with a political
The closest parallel to this in our own time
perhaps, is the national hullabaloo in the late thirties and early forties
over the contest between the Yankees and the Dodgers in the World Series,
when everybody at least in the eastern part of the country and everybody in
New York, was rooting for one or for the other, for totally irrational
reasons. This was a purely emotional thing. If their team won they were
ecstatic, if their team lost they were downcast. Well, that's what politics
was like in the era of the spoils system, and it continued until about the
Here's how the system worked.
Professionals, not amateurs, ran the elections. Issues were of little
importance. Charisma was not important; in fact, it was a drawback. The
parties put up the most colorless dark horse they could find—the less people
knew about him the better—and then counted on enthusiasm for the party to
get out the votes.
Elections in that period were pretty
close, although after 1865, on the whole, the Republicans did better than
the Democrats because the South had become a minority area and the Democrats
a minority party. But on the whole few people were interested in issues or
in candidates, and it was very difficult for a winning candidate to be
reelected because once people got to know him they quickly discovered how
dull a person he was. That's why he got nominated in the first place. The
nominee was by definition the candidate that the local State party machines
had nothing against. The local machines had an effective veto, and by the
time they finished vetoing everybody who had any importance or was known,
the only one left might be a man like James A. Garfield, a completely dark
horse. The only alternative was a Civil War general, who did, of course,
exercise some attraction. The elections were extremely close, and up to 80
percent of the electorate voted. We have the exact figures for most of this
period. The average was 78.5 percent. We have never gone that high since
This spoils system was, in a sense, a shakedown
operation, particularly against business. And as business and finance became
stronger, they became increasingly restive under this exploitation by party
machines. Take the New York Customs House, which had 1,100 officials who
were the very core of the New York election machine, which in turn was the
core of the system for the whole country. Those 1,100 officials kicked back
a good part of their salaries to the New York State party machine. So they
in turn, charged businessmen outrageous tariffs, as much as the traffic
would bear. The laws were ignored. The customs officials would tie up a
shipment of steel and keep it tied up until the tariff they demanded was
As a consequence, businessmen changed the system
in 1880-1883. A great man, William C. Whitney (who later started the modern
American Navy as Secretary of the Navy in the Cleveland administration),
devised a scheme to cut the very roots out from under the party machines. He
established the Civil Service in the Pendleton Act of 1883. This had the
effect of cutting off most of the funds on which the party machines
depended. So the parties now had to look to big business to finance them.
This led to the third historical stage, the era of
big-business domination, from 1884 to 1932. It was radically different from
the one preceding. Voting dropped off drastically. In the 1870's political
activity had cut across all groups and classes — rich and poor, while and
black, Catholic and Protestant. Negroes were more active in politics in the
1870's and 1880's than they have been at any time in the 20th century until
very recently. Politics was everybody's game. But once big business got
control, voting fell off and hovered around 52 percent, instead of the 78
percent it had been before. The professionals were pushed out and amateurs
took over — people who came in for one campaign or two, generally financed
by business — men like William McKinley, who was elected President in 1896.
Then, big business discovered it could control the
Republican National Convention, because of all those delegates from the
Solid South who did not represent voters and who therefore could easily be
bought. From 1896 on, as a result, the Republicans dominated the national
scene through amateur control of politics, and increasingly restricting
political activity among middle class whites to the WASP's. It was in the
1890's that we got the Jim Crow laws and other restrictions which in one way
or another ensured that certain minority groups really couldn't expect to
Eventually big business undermined its own
dominance by being too greedy — there's no other word for it — in the
1920's. They alienated not only the workers and the farmers and the
petit-bourgeois white-collar workers, but much of the middle classes,
including most of the merchants and light industry. All that was left, still
in control at the top, was high finance (sometimes called Wall Street) and
heavy industry — steel, coal, the automobile industry, and so on. By running
politics solely for their own benefit they alienated everybody else.
So in 1932 everybody else lined up behind a Democrat. In
the once solid mid-West, which for decades had voted Republican year in and
year out — except rarely for a third party as in 1892 and in 1924 — many
people now decided that the Civil War had been over for a long time and it
was time to vote Democratic.
Out of this situation came
the New Deal, the fourth stage. The New Deal was a system of organized
blocs. Formerly organized finance and organized heavy industry had run
everything else. Now the New Deal set about organizing all the other
interests, especially mass labor in the CIO, the Steel Workers' Organizing
Committee (SWOC), and the United Mine Workers, which had been the only
really strong labor union before 1930. They organized mass labor; they
organized the farmers, they organized others: Most of their money came from
merchants. The largest contributor to Franklin Roosevelt's campaign in 1932
was the Strauss family of R. H. Macy. Second largest was Vincent Astor,
whose real-estate holdings in New York City had been injured by the
depression. Third was Bernard Baruch (who is considered one of the founding
fathers of this institution), who was a professional contributor to the
These were the groups that the New
Deal organized. What they wanted to set up was a system of countervailing
blocs: finance, heavy industry, light industry, professional groups, labor,
farmers, and so forth. They figured that if any party or political group got
control of the Government and acted too selfishly, the others would form a
coalition and restore the balance.
Threats to Democracy
Well, the New Deal ran its course, and since about 1950 or so we
have had plutocratic control. I said before that three things were necessary
to win elections: money, enthusiasm, organization. The role of money has
increased to the point where it's more and more difficult to offset the lack
of it with good organization and enthusiasm. Organization must be
super-efficient and enthusiasm has to be sustained and widespread. Because
the costs of elections, what with TV air time, air transportation, and all
the rest of it, have climbed sky-high. It cost McGovern $6 million just to
get the nomination, and God knows what it would take to win the election.
The Democrats just don't have it. Do they have organization and enthusiasm?
It's hard to tell. I'm afraid the enthusiasm has dwindled to some extent.
Anyway, we now have a plutocratic system, and many
politicians see it simply as a matter of buying elections. Here's why. As
our economy is now structured, the big corporations — aerospace, oil, and so
on — are able to pour out millions to support the candidates they favor. The
restrictions on the books are easily evaded, and the politicians in power
won't do much about it because they want some, too.
second reason is that labor unions are now a part of the system. They too
want to get on the gravy train, and are no longer concerned with defending
the rights of ordinary men or making the political system more democratic.
Their outlook is little different from that of the big corporations, because
this in effect is what they are. They are enormously rich, they are not
democratically run, and they have increasingly taken on the characteristics
of great corporations: irresponsibility, anonymity, and undemocratic
So money is one of the great threats to
democracy. A second threat is what Roman law called persona ficta,
fictitious persons—corporations, labor unions, and similar organizations
which have the legal status of persons in the sense that they can buy and
sell property, they can sue and be sued in the courts, they are generally
anonymous, they are certainly irresponsible, and they are increasingly
powerful. The 15th amendment and various court rulings have given
corporations all the rights of living persons. This is dangerous because
they already have certain rights that real persons don't have, principally
immortality. That's the saving grace about even the worst scoundrel: someday
he will die, and maybe we can wait that long. We felt that way about,
Hitler, and Stalin. Maybe Mao is different; we'll see. But a corporation
never dies. It has the first quality of divinity, as the ancient Greeks
defined it. They called their gods the immortals, because the only quality
they had that set them apart from men was that they never died.
Besides setting limits to corporate immortality, we must put other
restraints upon all fictitious persons, including foundations, universities,
and all such entities. From 1890 there was competition among the States to
lower the restraints on corporations. Originally, when a corporation was set
up, its charter specified what it was entitled to do, sell hamburgers to the
public or whatever. Today there are no restrictions, no restraints, no
reporting. Even the Congress can't find out what are the actual costs,
expenditures, and profits of the automobile manufacturers, whose profits are
incredibly high and yet they are going to raise their prices even higher.
We've got to make our corporations more responsible.
Another danger to democracy. I have just spent 3˝
years studying ancient China, Islam, and Byzantium. What undermined all
these civilizations is clearly evident. You see it most clearly in Augustus
Caesar. What did his power rest upon? He wore many hats. He had the powers
of a tribune, he was chief priest, he was commander in chief, he was consul.
There were two consuls, but does anybody know the name of the other one? One
of the threats to our constitutional system, it seems to me, is that the
President of the United States has many hats.
is head of the State. Secondly, he is head of the government. As you know,
these are different things. Ambassadors are accredited to the head of the
State. This seriously hurt us at the Paris Peace Conference, after World War
I when President Wilson represented the United States. Of the five major
powers, four were represented by prime ministers, who are heads of
governments. Wilson, who was a head of State had the power of immediate
decision, and the English really took advantage of this. They got him to
commit himself to certain things and then used them to bargain for other
things they wanted. He wanted Latin America more or less out of the League
of Nations, so in return for that they got him to promise to reduce the U.S.
Navy in the 1922 Naval Conference. The head of the State in most, countries
is the king or the president. But our President is both.
Thirdly, he is head of a political party. Look at the problems this creates
for Nixon right now. If the bugging of the Democratic National Committee
headquarters in the Watergate is ever pinned on the Republican Party, many
people will see the President himself as responsible.
Fourthly, he is Commander in Chief. The point came up yesterday in some law
court that there has been no declaration of war in Southeast Asia either by
Congress, as the Constitution provides, or by a President.
Now, let's look at Augustus Caesar again. Augustus Caesar's real power was
in his role as commander in chief. The Latin word is imperator
which we now translate as emperor. He was emperor because be was commander
in chief and for no other reason.
I won't go into any
fantasies or scenarios about what could happen. You could think of them
yourself. Thank God, in this country — I believe also in Russia — the armed
forces do not directly or even significantly interfere in politics as armed
forces, as they do for example in Latin American countries, or in the recent
attempt by part of the Moroccan Air Force to assassinate the King. This is
unthinkable in our country. And what makes it unthinkable has nothing to do
with restraints placed upon the military in our government, but with their
self-restraint, their sense of obligation to our system. And for that we
should be very thankful.
But suppose a Presidential
candidate lost the election, decided he wanted to be President anyway, and
persuaded the military leaders to support him. To you military types this
may seem an absolute fantasy. How could the generals and admirals be sure
the rank and file would support such an undertaking. But historically this
has happened again and again in almost every civilization, usually in the
later stages of decline.
The President is also the head
of the administrative system with discretionary and emergency powers.
Another threat to democracy is mass culture. There is an
increasingly pervasive belief in the United States that equality of
opportunity is not enough; we should also have equality in rewards for
performance. Everybody starts the race together and finishes together;
everybody wins. You see this in universities which are abolishing all
grading, all track systems, all encouragement of excellence. The whole trend
both in colleges and in high schools is toward equalization and uniformity.
Our democratic system is not based and cannot be based
on uniformity. It must be based on diversity. We need the diverse talents of
many people working together because of their shared belief in the necessity
and value of our constitutional way of life.
more and more we have subordinated means and methods to goals. If the end is
good, to hell with the legality. You can see this clearly in the Southeast
Asia war. It should have been put up to Congress to declare war. You say
that's mere legality. But when legality and constitutional restraints go by
the board, then you are simply saying that might makes right, and more and
more you will rely on force to achieve your goals.
What to do about this? Well, reduce the influence of money. There
are many ways of doing this. I urged 30 years ago public financing of
elections. Try in every way possible to reward enthusiasm and dedicated
effort, strive to internalize individual controls by built-in restraints.
Our Armed Forces have these to a considerable degree. But let's internalize
controls also in the business world and in labor unions and in the
universities and everywhere else. This involves social restraints and the
kind of social relationships in which people attach more importance to the
good opinion of their friends and associates than to material gain, power,
We must provide nuclei of pluralistic
balancing of forces which can unite to resist despotism by agreement on the
widest possible interests. What are those interests? Being human is one, and
an important one. We're all people and we're all consumers, so the rights of
human beings and of consumers should be the big issues around which the
pluralistic grouping and constant reshuffling of power groups should
We must curtail gross growth. I would
distinguish between expansion, which is good, growth, which is neutral, and
gross growth, which is damaging. We've got to reduce gross growth by going
back to the beginning with new methods of doing things.
Here's an example of what I mean. Consider the related problems of pollution
and shortage of energy. We are now going to spend at least $3 billion to
ensure delivery of Middle East oil to this country by building supertankers
and deep-water harbors to accommodate them. At present we have only one port
in the United States that can handle them, near Seattle. They're even
talking about spending $47 million, I think, to deepen the tunnel bridge
across the Chesapeake Bay so that supertankers can come under it.
There's another solution, the hydrogen engine. Its emissions will be only
water vapor. Or we can use the sun's energy directly. Out in New Mexico they
get 400 or 500 days of consecutive sunshine. So cover some of these
sun-baked surfaces with energy accumulating devices and channel the energy
into our electric grid. There was an article on this in Science three weeks
ago and a book came out recently on the hydrogen engine.
Now one last point. In the Government there are trigger points. A trigger
point I call a point where slight changes, if you press it, will have
enormous repercussions. I'll give you one example. Congress operates on the
seniority principle. Seniority is an obstacle to responsibility and to
democracy. Does that mean we must abolish seniority? Not at all. We can make
a very simple change, what I call a trigger point change. Simply provide
that any committee at any time by majority vote can bring out legislation on
the floor. Who can object to that? Let the committees become responsible
instead of authoritarian.
QUESTION: Would you elaborate on your statement
that we need to reduce our gross growth? I don't understand that term as you
DR. QUIGLEY: Look at it this
way. Our society is made up of a series of what I call operational lines,
each of which satisfies an area of human needs — military, political,
economic, social, emotional, intellectual, religious. At the far end of
these lines are resources. Behind resources are the technologies that
exploit and use them. Technology is embedded in technological systems; in
the military, these would be weapon systems. Behind these systems are the
patterns of thought, feeling, and action in the society. Behind them, in
turn, are human desires, and behind these are human needs.
Now human needs are socialized into desires. We need food but we desire
steak or hamburger and will not eat roast locusts or pickled whale blubber,
as a friend of mine had handed to him in Iceland one time. So needs are
socialized into desires, desires operate through patterns of culture upon a
technological system — business system, military system, some other kind of
system — and technology works on resources.
A system is
past its prime and in trouble when it increases the satisfaction of needs
simply by using more and more and more resources, instead of using the same
or fewer resources more efficiently. In short, as our needs and desires
increase, we need better technologies and better systems which can satisfy
our needs without using more resources. For example, Japan, Italy, and
Germany were have-not countries before World War II. They went to war to get
more of the world's economic goods for themselves. They were defeated, and
lost a lot of their resources. Then we reformed the organizational structure
of their economic system, and introduced new technology, and today all three
of them are have nations, with the highest standard of living they have ever
had, on a smaller resource base.
In short, you have to
improve the technology and systems portions of the operational line in order
to increase satisfaction of need. The operational or output end of the line
should be dominated by the input of needs and desires, but without
continually increasing the consumption of resources. Gross growth results
when, say, the need for moving around is satisfied by a transportation
system which uses the same old technology to produce more and more
automobiles, superhighways, concrete parking lots, underground offices (to
make room for the parking lots), and so on. That is gross growth.
Expansion occurs when you satisfy more needs with the same resources by
improving the operational system which is processing resources into
satisfaction of needs. This is not the system we've got today.
QUESTION: Which powers of the President do you believe
should be curtailed?
DR. QUIGLEY: I
didn't say anything about curtailing his powers. All I want is
responsibility. Particularly when responsibility is already fixed in the
Constitution, it should be exercised. Specifically, the power to make war is
vested in the Congress. If that's where we want it, then let's use it. If we
don't, then we should change the Constitution and maybe give the President
the power to make war. But he doesn't have it now.
other words I want to bring the legal situation closer to the actual
situation, because I think it dangerous for the legal situation to deviate
noticeably from the actual power structure. That's how you get into wars. A
war occurs only when one, if not both sides, misjudges the actual power
relationships. As long as the legal situation is what they both agree
upon—in other words, it reflects the actual power relationship—then they
will act according to the law. We always prefer to act upon the basis of our
conception of what the facts are and law is a kind of conceptualization or
idealization of the real world—rather than on the basis of an objective view
So it's important that the ideal and the
real not be too far apart when vital decisions are made. When the Japanese
attacked Pearl Harbor, or when Hitler attacked Russia, both had perceptions
of reality that were dangerously at varience with the real power situation.
Their decisions, in other words, were irresponsible.
QUESTION: You expressed concern over our multihatted
President. What remedies would you suggest to deal with the threat of a
President who wears many hats?
I think we should start with the Congress. If the President gets away with a
lot of things that are or may be unconstitutional, that's the fault of the
Congress. The Congress should enforce their responsibilities. They should
never go along with a President like Johnson who could go down there and get
them to agree to just about anything, because he was a very difficult man to
say no to.
Walter Lippmann says the Congress is getting
stronger and the executive weaker, but this is the reverse of the truth. The
Congress is getting weaker. They let all kinds of things go by, because
they're interested in their own vested interests, particularly their
The Congress should be more
responsible to the people, and the best way to do that is, of course, to
have a well-informed electorate. So this goes back to my original proposal
to curtail the power of money in elections and increase the power of
enthusiasm and organization.
You started to talk about trigger points. Could you give some more
illustrations of what you mean?
Well, the nomination process is an important one. We have had some
improvements in the process over the last 8 years, but in the Democratic
Party, at least, there is a tendency to fall for slogans and make changes
which don't really get at what is needed. Specifically, I would not favor
any nomination process which stipulates how many women or how many blacks or
how many young people must be delegates. The important thing is that any
black or any young person or any Catholic or any Hottentot who wants to
function in the system can do so. So the place to begin, I would say, is the
the nomination process. There again you have to restrict the power of money.
Then in the election we have to get the nonvoters to
vote, make them feel it's important. You have no idea the struggle I had
with my students two or three years ago. All they wanted to do was to
destroy the system. I told them they were crazy. They simply had no idea how
the system worked, what determines which legislation comes to the floor of
Congress, how candidates for Congress are nominated, and things like that.
They were just against the system. Burn it down, blow it up, destroy it.
Do you know that the McCarthy campaign began in my freshmen
class at Georgetown? I didn't realize at the time that Ellen McCarthy was in
the class. After I talked to the class that December, she got the whole
crowd to go up to New Hampshire for the primary. I’m sure Gene had the same
idea. But what I tried to show the kids was that they could influence the
process by working in the system. There are all kinds of ways to do it, and
above all there are those 50 million people who are nonvoters.
First, however, you have to know how the system actually functions. Today no
system functions the way it seems at first glance, and never the way the
people who are in it describe it. That is certainly true in the system of
higher education in which I operate, where the jobs go to the fellow who has
a Ph.D., not to the one who is best qualified!
QUESTION: Would you comment on the relationship of the availability
of cheap weapons to the current efforts to control small handguns?
DR. QUIGLEY: Well, I don't think the American people should
be disarmed, but on the other hand I think it's perfectly possible to keep
track of every gun that is made. We could have a licensing system, with
every gun numbered and every time it changes hands it is reported to a
central computer. Just make sure that the person who gets the identification
actually is who he says he is, and hold him responsible if the gun gets into
someone else's hands, unless it is stolen and he promptly reports it.
Of course, the small handguns can't be equated with the
cheaper weapons of the 1880's because the latter were really the basic
weapons of their day. A citizenry armed with rifles and revolvers at that
time was in little danger of succumbing to the military, which didn't have
anything much better. That has no relation to today's situation, and that’s
why I'm worried about the prospect of an all-professional army, which as I
said, is a terrible threat to any democratic system. We’re going for a
professional army for the same reason that the Romans did. They couldn’t
keep people in the army, away from their homes, for 20 and 25 years if they
were just drafted men. So they established a professional army.
Well, pretty soon the soldiers married the girls in the locality and pretty
soon barbarians were enlisting, and one day the Romans woke up to discover
they didn't, even have a Roman or a Latin-speaking army at all, but an army
of barbarian mercenaries. And you've all read about what that army did to
Roman society in the early centuries of the Christian era.
I'm not saying this is likely to happen to us — the emergence of a
non-American mercenary army, I mean — but high pay and fringe benefits are
going to attract a pretty varied assortment of types, and I just don't
foresee what it may lead to. And I do know, as a historian, that whenever
weapons become difficult to use and expensive to obtain, democracy as a
functioning political system is in grave danger. How can we avoid the
danger? I believe internal restraints are the only solution, in the long
run. And how you build those I don't know.
rate of the largest city in the world, Tokyo, is approximately one seventh
of the crime rate of a city like New York. Why? Internal restraints. Those
internal restraints are rooted in something that maybe we don't want to buy,
in the Japanese family. In the United States, crime rates among,
Chinese-Americans are infinitesimal on a percentage basis compared to, say,
those among the Irish in the 1860's or the Italians in the 1920's. The
reason is that the Irish and Italians were broken up sociologically into
atomized, self-centered individuals.
A political aspirant in the United States begins by
discerning his own interest, and discovering those other interests which may
be collected around, and amalgamated with it. He then contrives to find some
doctrine of principle which may suit the purposes of this new association,
and which he adopts in order to bring forward his party and secure its
popularity: just as the imprimatur of the king was in former days printed
upon the title-page of a volume, and was thus incorporated with a book to
which it in no wise belonged.
—De Toequeville, em>Democracy in America