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Lectures to the Chinese by Alfred De Grazia

PART TWO:  The Eight Goods

2. Joining Together

Everyone, said Hsun Tzu, can be like Yu, who founded the Hsia dynasty.

The man on the street can become a Yu.... Every man on the street can on the one hand know the righteous relation between father and son, and on the other hand he can know the standard of uprightness of prince and minister. Now if the man on the street uses his power of knowledge and his ability of acting on the nascent ability of knowing benevolence and justice and the means of becoming so, then it is clear that he can become a Yu...

In America we say that any child can become President. That may be so, but the high improbabilities make the statement largely symbolic. The real question is, "Can every child become a good citizen?" And, "How do good citizens combine to form a great republic?"


The American and communist theories of why people are active in politics are far apart. The communist theory has never worked properly. The syndicalist aspects of Marxist thoughts have been dumped overboard; dictatorial and bureaucratic elements have won the struggle.

Marx proposed to eliminate the external forces that I have described as necessary for free politics. He foresaw their incorporation or rebirth within the communist society. This society was to be identical with government. The government was to be a beautiful gossamer net over the hard-workings parts of society.

To be eliminated, then, as gross exploiters of the proletariat, were free enterprisers, rentiers, middlemen, the free professions, and sundry "enemies of the people." The state was to be purged of all agents of these groups and then wither away.

The society was to be organized by internal voluntary associations of producers. Workers and farmers, organized at their place of work and branching upward through the principle of representation, could oversee and coordinate all of a country and finally the world economy. The general culture would blossom richly out of the nutrition supplied by the countless well-spaced-out decentralized soviets of workers and farmers.

In fact, what has happened everywhere in the communist world is that the cadres who seize power do carry out the first step of ridding themselves of the independent classes. Then they build a centralized state and only allow such authority to the roots and cells of the society as they must. From that stage on, the activity of the citizens becomes automated. On order, they turn out in parades, distribute literature, attend meetings, stone embassies, and vote of politics with here and there some oases of "enemies of the people."

In a real sense, the American system of political activity is more Marxist than the communists.' It is in America that the Communist Manifesto of 1848 is being observed, for in fact, before Marx and Engels wrote it, many Americans were practicing the idea that "In place of bourgeois society, with its classes and class conflicts, we will have an association in which the free development of each will be the condition of the free development of all."

Long before Marx, Marxist principles were enunciated: Political activity is a voluntary and spontaneous need of humanity, properly regarded. Activity is to be decentralized in order to be effective. Activity is not to be controlled by anyone, including the state. For as one American revolutionary leader, Alexander Hamilton, said, "The power over a man's subsistence is a power over his will."


Americans have had a double experience in regard to political activity, just as in respect to many of its bads and goods. Most of its history witnessed a struggle to actualize these ideas by extending the suffrage finally to everyone over eighteen, smashing political machines that dictated people's votes, etc. On the other side has occurred that trend which we have described and so detest and deny throughout this book, which is in effect eroding the very foundations of free political activity through general aggrandizement, centralization, bureaucracy, and general dependency.

Suppose you were to take at random a sample of Americans who are politically active. You will discover that they are composed mainly of the very elements that communism, socialism, and the present trend of American society would eliminate. They consist of the independent professions, usually lawyers and teachers; self-employed businessmen and shop owners; independent commercial farmers; the leaders of groups such as unions and civic associations; university students; non-working women of unusual education and upbringing; and persons who have government jobs that are deliberately maintained so as to permit political activity and which they lose if they lose an election (we call these "patronage jobs").

The top leaders of America come out of the professional, proprietary, and administrative classes, with a considerable but declining number from farming families and, in labor, from wage-earning families.

You may be curious to know how many people rule America. I can tell you. First, however, two things must be clear. It is highly unlikely, but still possible, for any lout who has been sleeping and lazing his life away for thirty years to be suddenly seized by the political spirit and to go into civics and politics. Nothing can stop him except the good sense of his acquaintances.

Secondly you will well recall how widely distributed all kinds of political and social decisions are in America and therefore you can expect that a person may be a "political leader" in the broad sense without holding a party or government office.

Whereupon I may say that half of the Americans over seventeen years of age are quite uninformed and apathetic about everything political or civic except the grossest caricatures of the larger scene. Another 40 per cent have a smattering of knowledge and move in and out of civics and politics from time to time, as enthusiasms strike them or they become diverted to other goals and people. About 7 per cent are the alert public that can be energized sharply can even ordinarily know what is going on in government. About 2 per cent more or less continuously alert and form the active public, and these are distributed as I have already indicated among the occupational categories, plus many in lifetime government and paragovernmental careers. Less than I per cent, which would amount to less than a million people, are capable, because of their background, resources, acquaintanceships, persistency, and strategic placement,, to exercise a continuous impact and manage the political, civic, and governmental process. Finally, every great shift or decision in American policy in any or all spheres is almost sure to come from 10,000 highly placed and powerfully equipped persons, less than 1 in 10,000 adults or 1 in 20,000 of the population.

Thus, the pathesis or participatory democracy of America comes in the form of a steep pyramid, where the mass is apathetic and the top is politically energetic. It would be in correct to regard the ten thousand as proof that America is an integrated oligarchy. It is still far from that, because the great majority of the ten thousand have independent power bases, and they hold their positions mostly for a few years and then lose them to others. Furthermore, they take the lead on different issues and in separated realms. They are an aggregate of "barons" who are elected, appointed, possessed of great inheritances, or raised on high by a combination sets of alliances among themselves on single issues like the divorce laws or groups of issues like international detents. They dip down among the public for resources and the public focuses pressures upon them, now here and now there.

Are there enough activists to run the country well? All would be chaos if as many as 10 per cent decided to become activists. Even 6 per cent might be too numerous. The desire for power is normally satisfied on the personal level or, elsewhere, in modest amounts of consultation and decision-sharing. The other value of politics can be satisfied throughout the fields of social and civic action.

The major problem is to raise the participation to about 4 or 5 per cent. In all areas freedom of opportunity for those affected by decisions to contribute to their conclusion needs to be assured. Then steps have to be taken to block new restrictions upon participation: as I have shown there is a direct depressing effect produced by bureaucracy (taxesis) upon free participation (pathesis). All too often, legislators and managers have jumped to restrain persons from participation on grounds that they would have a conflict of interests or have a job that should have no political overtones to its performance. The"merit system" or "career system" of administrative bureaucracy has probably halved the number of free activists in America. It should encourage incentives, such as leaves of absence and time off for politic. Finally, to the extent that a broad influx of new elements enters the corps of activists, competition for influence and tasks within the corps will increase and a large number of persons of mediocre judgment and skills will be encouraged to drop out.


If the commercial sector of America supports a large proportion of the political activists and leader, it is equally true that the independent governmental sector contribute large numbers. Besides those who are government bureaucrats or careerists, there are those who are appointed for having helped to win an election or for giving promise of "doing a good job" (which you might translate as "helping to win the next election").

The governments perform every activity that the civil sectors perform, whether it is catching mice or supplying electric power. This may amount to ten thousand different kinds of activities. The civil sector, not to be outdone, performs every function that government performs. Yes, even non-governmental armies and police. At the present rate of increase, the number of private police, hired by companies, groups, and individuals, will soon exceed the total number of police who work for all the governments.

This is only another indication of the capacity of Americans for solving problems through independent means, refusing to distinguish between the state and the person, and blocking the advances of statism. The example I have chosen, of private police forces, also marks of course what I have mentioned before-the extreme volatility of American society and the relatively low regard for property values. Property is to be protected, but not obsessively when compared with life and liberty. Is this the same trait that causes Americans to blast everything in their path in wartime, hoping to reduce to the maximum extent possible the loss of life among their soldiers? Probably so.

At this point, feeling that you have a sense of the governmental and commercial systems or sectors of America, I am irresistibly tempted to provide you with a mere list of the forms of human organization there which are neither commercial nor governmental. At the risk of boring you, therefore, I mention them rapidly. The family, the friendship network, the communes--these are well known to you. There are political organizations of many types ranging from the great Democratic and Republican parties to such tiny groups as the Communist, Socialist Workers, Vegetarian, and States' Rights parties. There are many kinds of neighborhood groups with short or prolonged lives. Doctors form into cooperative clinics. Most government jurisdictions of some size are accompanied by civic betterment and reform groups. Every industrial groups forms its association Many corporations set up non-commercial offices to perform social functions such as education of employees, or scholarship programs.

Fraternal tongs abound, as do service clubs that promote welfare and educational activities (as well as personal business connections). Labor unions are found in every town and are usually affiliated with state and national organizations. Consumer cooperatives, producer cooperatives, purchasing cooperatives, insurance cooperative, investment cooperatives number into the thousands. There are many research centers performing technological tasks. The possession and governance of cultural assets--art museums, planetariums, libraries, exhibition halls and grounds--are often the work of non-governmental societies. Every type and level of school from the nursery to institutes of post-doctoral study in economics are in the hands of non-state governors. (I do not speak here of the immense government schooling system, but only of the independent system.) Ten thousand foundations collect and distribute assets without paying taxes, aiding causes that range from developing creativity in children to aiding in the development of new edible plants in the Philippines.

The churches should be considered part of this independent sector inasmuch as almost all of them profess a "social gospel," by which is meant caring for people on Earth as well as helping to achieve a blessed afterlife. The thousands of churches are social centers as well as religious centers; they are trainers of social welfare workers and are often centers of political agitation, sometimes conservative and sometimes radical.

Taken altogether, the independent non-profit, non-coercive associations of America fall into six general categories with respect to their goals. About one fifth have "the Protection of Interests and Power Achievement" as a prominent goal. Nearly the same fraction have "Economic Gain and Productivity" as a guiding value, and "Education and Culture." About a tenth are interested strongly in "Morality and Religion" and another tenth in "Health."

Discounting the churches, families, and networks of friends, America still shapes up as a country over half of whose people belong to at least one of the groups I have cited. These Americans want something that is left out of the other sectors, something that they believe cannot be accomplished within the frameworks of commercial profit or state coercion. So, to economics, with its focus upon decisions that imply coercion and taxes, there is added the independent sector.

If the independent sector is dissolved, the character of American society would be changed overnight. (I was going to say, as it was in China or the Soviet Union, but neither you not the Soviets had experienced the kind of society that I am speaking of, except in its rudiments.)

The effects would be too numerous to permit naming more than several. Freedom of expression would be severely constricted, because the independent sector provides more rostrums and communications than the press. No government or corporate system could substitute for the variety of topics and views that pours out. The freedom to associate, to join, and to develop diverse interest would disappear, and with it certainly one of the most satisfactory, if exaggerated, features of American society.

A great part of all spending would be diverted into commercial or, more likely, governmental channels. Many more billions of dollars would be spent by many more thousands of officials. The thongs of coercion or the profit nexus would replace the voluntary and light bonds of voluntary association.

The variety of work in the economy would diminish. Perhaps America has already too many thousands of different jobs. Yet a beautiful trait of many independent-sector jobs is that they are precisely manifestations of human spirit and energy that cannot be framed within the dictionary of governmental and commercial occupations. Some forms of scientific work, for example, could never be the beneficiaries of a bureaucratic or profit-oriented organization.

The independent sector, then, forms a counterpoise to government and commerce; it also bridges them; it also contributes something varied, risky, new, and humanistic and humanitarian on its own distinct account.


If the pathesis of Americans --their ability voluntarily to act personally and together -- is so magnificent, why, you may ask, do they form a million groups? Why not "One Nation Under T'ien," as our salute to the flag goes? But it is precisely this quality of forming a million groups and meshing them into a nation that is the admirable pathesis of Americans. Only by the chance to do something and yet is everything accomplished.

I would readily admit, of course, the deficiencies of the system. In particular, there is the great waste that comes as many people choose to move by paths that trample the commons. Grant that it is good that many people are active on their own initiative. And that they are continually trying "to find something better to do," as you hear on all sides. Grant, also, that it is a political blessing to divide up decisions among as many people as possible (and to fight off attempts to concentrate decisions in a few hands). Grant, too, that Americans have moved toward solving one of the eternal problems of government: the pumping out from many issues of the sovereign emotive force that either halts or coerces an action; it is no mean achievement to squeeze the indignation from thousands of issues and to treat them matter-of-factly.

It has become for the time possible, under the American way of government, to think of the levels of politics and government as lawmakers, yes, but in a real sense as a task force on planning, foresight, coordination, and over-all supervision; under such conditions, lawmaking can become what St. Thomas originally conceived it to be: the promulgation of a rule for the good of the whole.

Withal, national (and world) goals are lacking. Raised in the system of pathesis, but facing taxesis, less and less are Americans inclined to step forward, take a long view, and speak frankly to their countrymen. They forgot what the Master said: "A gentleman takes as much trouble to discover what is right as lesser men take to discover what will pay."

No prominent American travels the country urging the public to consider a generous new world order. No great American leader yet is ready to tell his people that the country has to find for itself and its next generation a modest form of happiness. No leader says, of the alliances continually contesting for more of the less that is available,"Both of you are wrong. Neither of you can get anything, unless you reframe your objectives in view of the future that is shaping up and of the role the U.S.A. must play in that future."

Americans are playing in their myriad groups essentially their old games that they have found to provide for them well in the past."What does it profit you?" "What do I gain from it?" "Here, let us split the difference." It is a species of politics -heavily ethical in one kind of society-that two generations of social scientists and their students, the politicians and businessmen, have come to think is an absolute fact of life, an iron law of group behavior. They regard it, if not good, as absolutely required; but indeed they come to regard it as good. As the author Arthur Bentley might have stated it: if the interest at issue bump together and bounce in the direction of the vector of their forces, the public policy is that vector, and should be. Whereas, in truth, the time has come when, if interests are close enough to fight and close enough therefore to agree, a third force must supply the differential for the common goal and good. The third force splits the different for the greater good.


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