Originally published: 1943
Volume 1 343 pages
Volume 2 396 pages
Chapter 39


Karl L. Popper

Taking the study of mankind's efforts at rational governance back to its origins and trying to build a sustainable paradigm requires consideration of the basic social conundrum any political theorist or author faces-how to make the world work for its inhabitants while recognizing our imperfectability; that human beings are prone to both mistakes and self-interest. In reality, unfortunately, it is a fact that we can only make the world work as well as the character of the individuals who inhabit it will allow.
     Karl Popper begins this intense and penetrating investigation into social comity with the early Greeks. These men were the first to consider, in an organized fashion, the subject of government by the governed. Because they lived in relatively small societies, their assumptions and conclusions were somewhat skewed. But they conjectured on the possibilities-and became revered in many circles for their efforts, even their wisdom. However, some of that veneration was later thought to have been misplaced, and certainly not as useful for a large society as it might be for a smaller one (Rousseau was one of the first to comment on this disconnection). Popper was one of those who looked more closely at what had been and was unafraid to question what he saw in spite of the almost universal admiration of Greek society and what were thought to be its accomplishments.
     In Volume 1 of The Open Society and Its Enemies Popper examines what Plato, the most thorough and intentional of the Greeks, designed as a prototype for governance. He finds problems with Plato's


immoderate emphasis on security over freedom and on the elite over the people. (And we must recall that in Greek society, as in almost all early cultures, the People did not include an often substantial slave population, who had no rights at all.) In Volume 2 he investigates various political constructions as they evolved over the centuries and were then introduced into a modern setting; he finds as many inconsistencies and dead-ends in this era as he did within Greek society. In spite of these difficulties, however, Popper does find reasonable, if not perfect, solutions to the question of who shall govern, and how.

Volume 1

With rhetorical subtlety Popper begins his discussion of the open society, where man's freedom and his individuality are sacrosanct, by asking why so many people with seemingly strong intellectual capabilities respond favorably to the siren song of collectivist utopian political theories. Although none of these idealistic hypotheses of government have borne fruit after hundreds of attempts over thousands of years, people continue to trust their false promises.
     Popper seeks, as his first task, to explain why utopia is unachievable: humankind strives for a visionary, perfected condition, but fails because the very notion of perfection is a fantasy. That is a simple and straightforward answer, yet the prospect of an equalitarian and "just" society brings many people to the brink of rapture-thus the effect of hope over experience, as societies try again
and again to achieve the unattainable. Fantasy is so much easier to embrace than the harsh reality of a constant struggle to sustain a real-world, functioning community inevitably marked by successes and failures. Put simply, a mirage is a powerful force.
     The open society of Popper's study is one in which man relies on his reason and uses the power of criticism as he seeks improvement. It is a social setting wherein both personal responsibility and perforce, the community's responsibility, have as their goal the advancement of knowledge. The open society was originally created in the time of Socrates, when Athens became the first democracy, and was immediately denounced by those who were disappointed with the ensuing results. In other words, perfection was not quickly achieved (people had opinions and desires, and their convictions and cravings differed, one from the other) and discussion seemed never-ending.
     Standing in conceptual opposition to the open society was the closed


society, which took its cues from mysticism rather than rationality. In early closed societies, people were governed by magical rules delivered by shamans and derived from superstitions and fears of the unknown or the unexplainable. Modern closed societies are founded on the same proposition-that the rulers somehow know better than the ruled what is best for the population. This message is still delivered by shamans, albeit better dressed and more presumptuous than their pre-modern predecessors. These false prophets deliver mysticism-the kind that says they can create a path to the perfect society, one that is "unknown" to the people, and thus the mystic's guidance is necessary. The truth is that their perfect society is as unreachable as the ancient magical construct; both are utter myths. However, the concept is so fantastic that people want to believe and thus do so-or at least accept it (albeit sometimes when directed by cudgel or rifle).
     As Popper explains, the evolution of the open society is the product of man's ability to reason deductively, to explain magic through investigation, and to employ the scientific method to discover the basis of our world in both its palpable and its desired or imagined forms. It requires effort to detect, comprehend, and institute. The closed society is just easier all the way around, for all knowledge and expectations of behavior are handed to the subjects. That is, it is easier at the start, but much more difficult to retain in the end. The human condition-of striving, hope, imagination, and critical assessment-ultimately gets in the way of the closed society's demands.
     Since many modern utopian political theorists looked to Plato's pronouncements for guidance, Popper dissects Plato's writings to expose what he really intended to accomplish. To reconstruct the circumstances, we must recall that Plato wasn't writing directly for the ages; he was writing for his contemporaries and to address then-current realities. Popper argues that the reverence with which we esteem Plato is idealized and misguided if we wish to sustain political institutions suited to the real world. Popper goes so far as to aver that Plato must be proven unworthy of our respect before we can embark on a new course, one that does not venerate him as the founder of modern democratic principle.
     Popper's disappointment in Plato is straightforward; Plato offers totalitarian answers to mankind's failures in self-government. Signal defects in Plato's thought, Popper contends, are his hypocrisy and his use of argument to conclude the obverse of what his argument supports. Plato's striking error is in placing too much trust in institutions.


He did not appreciate that they are mere tools by which we multiply our social powers, much as a lever multiplies the force of our muscles.  Popper observes that institutions are only as good as the people who run them. He contends that social institutions are analogous to fortifications: they are of little value in protecting us because of their design alone; they must also be managed well.
     Popper describes Plato's utopian thinking thus: although individuals are imperfect, if the state is under the control of certain "wise" individuals (as in a closed social order) it can render society perfectible even though its human components-real people-are less than perfect. In other words, if everyone were to do as he was told, everything would be fine. The problem, of course, is that ensuring full obedience to any set of rules or conclusions is quite impossible-not to mention the difficulty of ensuring full understanding and then agreement on the rules themselves. People reason differently and seek different goals; they find themselves in different circumstances and thus arrive at different conclusions. Conflict inevitably ensues. The best we can hope for is cooperation, not submission; utopian good will is seldom ever achieved, and when it is, it only remains for a limited time. (Recall the popular patriotic reaction in the U.S. after Pearl Harbor or 9/11 and the fights over the prosecution of each war that ensued.)
     From Plato's society, which was founded in class distinctions, later philosophers following his line extrapolated a different, but also allegedly perfect society-the controlled society. In this manifestation the rulers not only decide what each of the ruled will do and be, but also what they will hear and see (the twentieth century's Soviet Union, the twenty-first's China, and to an extreme extent this thinking is seen in the last two pure Marxist enclaves, North Korea and Cuba). By restricting information, the rulers of a controlled society hope to prevent people from going astray. Of course, information control, which is difficult enough, ultimately aims at thought control. Obviously the latter is simply not conceivable-as George Orwell conjured when he wrote 1984, his dark novel about totalitarianism. For Popper, the most important reality, irrespective of these totalitarian constructions, relates to the bankrupt intellectual presumption that if someone isn't "educated" to think (if what they know or see or hear is controlled), they can't and won't think-and will, therefore, obey. Reliance on this patently false supposition shows the design of a closed society was fated to failure from the outset.
     Popper observes that Plato's charge-that justice must be in the best


interest of the state, rather than the people individually-leads to a totalitarian result antithetical not just to the idea of individuality, but to its essence. If the individual must bow to the state, then collectivism is established. Plato's reasoning proceeds along the following lines: the state is the supreme good; necessarily, then, the individual must be subservient to the state; if all individuals are subservient to the state, then all individuals are unselfish; our lack of self-interest or self-action/aggrandizement frees us all to be equal. For Popper, it was clear that people were thus rendered "equal" only in the most restrictive, least individualistic, even least humanistic manner.
     For Popper utopian dreams had run their course; it was time to deal in facts. The emperor had no clothes, but because the emperor was Plato, Socrates' pupil (yet thought a traitor to Socrates), no one could say such a thing. Yet Popper was unafraid to shoot at the king, in an eloquent and seamless dissection, and as the aphorism notes, "if you are going to shoot at the king, you'd better kill him." Popper does just that, but there was a caveat. The caveat explains the longevity and the continued reverence that Plato receives, while at the same time demonstrating the false premises and distorted logic of modern totalitarian constructions supposedly devised on the Platonic model.
     Popper's caveat rests in the distinction between Platonic totalitarianism and modern collectivist totalitarianism. Plato's intellectual design intends stability for society, and public contentment. His society is not one intended to allow exploitation of the masses by a few. Platonic interpretation thus differs markedly from its evolutionary heirs. Of course, exploitation of the masses and corruption of Plato's system were inevitable simply because government must be operated by human beings; these leaders are weak and selfish and no more susceptible to perfection than anyone else. Actually, as Popper notes, they are especially prone to self-assertion when they encounter no one stronger than themselves to check their base or other desires. Plato looks to the good of the whole as he yields to his totalitarian impulses-and his good intentions save his historical reputation. But because he does not deign to leave the masses free to act in their own interests or even out of self-preservation, his closed society allows for dictatorial rule and thus the devastation wrought by those who claim his mantle. The people are disenfranchised before they get the vote.  (See de Jouvenal, On Power [Chapter 15], regarding the nature of power and why, when the people vote, they are “rulers for a day and subjects for four years.”)


     Plato's search for who should rule, which culminates in his assertion that only the best will suffice, results in his equally closed approach to selecting leaders. Popper states that the real search is for how we shall govern ourselves to ensure that our rulers do the least harm. The person who rules is not the answer, since all people are fallible and encumbered with frailties. Far more important are the rules put in place to prevent the fallible from perpetrating their own mischief. The rule of law serves this function far better than does any philosophical plan-let alone the cult of one personality or another, or the creation of one institutional form or another.
     Popper concludes that Plato's whole approach to governing is fundamentally flawed because it focuses on the who rather than the how. Although Plato was sociologically astute in recognizing that only a few can rule, he was politically naive in his proposals for finding or choosing those few or controlling the governors when one of the few good leaders was not at the helm. Popper asserts that a system can be designed to reduce the opportunity for the rulers to do wrong; but the reality is that no institutions can be devised to maximize the chance that all of their actions will be good. Only rules (including punishment for their violation) that proscribe behavior or limit the opportunity for evil can ultimately work to control the rulers. Popper recognizes how the possession of power invariably debases the ability to make reasoned judgments. In other words, individuals always have been and always will be corruptible; the people must be left free to correct that corruption.
Utopianism, and the totalitarianism to which it leads, Popper condemns as a failure for two additional reasons. First, utopian planning demands a perfect design, implemented in its entirety, such that the failure of any part of it leads to the disintegration of the whole. Second, totalitarianism fails not because men cannot agree on most things, but because they cannot agree on all things. They will not agree because they are individuals. Collectivism is appealing because life would be simple if everyone were to follow government's or the governor's directives. But, people cannot follow another's dictates in all instances; in most cases they should not have to at all-so long as they do not trespass on the rights of others.
     Faith in reason funded by facts, an understanding of the meaning of freedom, comprehension of the value of prescription (what we've learned from the past), respect for the individual, and equal treatment for all are the foundations of a rational society, an open society. If man


were perfectible, society would be as well; the truth of the matter is really as simple as that. The cry of the utopians and totalitarians (that if we want security we must give up liberty) is the opposite of the truth. When we abandon our freedom we experience no security at all, only subjugation often in its most malevolent form. There is no absolute security in life, no matter who is in charge. Security that is attainable must be achieved through watchfulness over ourselves-and in watching over the guardians who watch over us.
     Popper notes that the law of unintended consequences is the biggest impediment to a rational society. Unintended consequences abound-even in the simplest economic choice of buying one loaf of bread rather than another. Thus, freedom of choice, an unfettered marketplace, and the liberty to be oneself are the only conditions that can enable a society to correct its occasional wrong turns-initially small and noticeable in an open society-before they become insurmountable and insufferable. Various features of totalitarianism (e.g., central planning, collectivist conformity, and choosing for others) eventually make life intolerable, and that leads people to demand change, most often at the expense of peace.

Volume 2

In the second book of his treatise, Popper reviews the philosophers and philosophy of the modern era: Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Marx, and others. He avers that progress since the Dark Ages has had so many fits and starts that we sometimes find it hard to tell the forward from the backward steps. In Volume 2 Popper attempts to give order to that history.
     He commences with a comprehensive treatment of the "master criminal" of modern political thought, Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), whose dialectics Popper demonstrates to be the foundation for spurious thought, moral turpitude, and boundless inanities. Popper observes that Hegel did not devise his philosophy independent of earlier thought. Indeed, he relied heavily on Plato, who, as Popper explains, feared the future and dwelled so much on the more secure past that he offered a plan and a justification for recreating it by reversing progress. Popper describes Hegel as having based his thoughts on the idea that mankind is here only to meet its fate and that the pre-ordination of future developments can be discerned from history, if one just looks at the record in the right light. This philosophy is known as historicism, or


determinism. What was constructed, in part, from Hegel's theories in the twentieth century was Nazi Germany. For the Nazis, history led ineluctably to the rule of one man, Adolf Hitler, whose exactions resulted in the flight or prostration of all others.
     Popper, who was a man of his times, scrutinizes Hegel and his progeny in then-current (World War II) Germany and finds them deficient in common sense, rectitude, and an appreciation of reality. He also finds the rest of the world to be timid and desperate to hide, which he was not. The black and white confrontational stance of the German followers of the distorted version of Hegel's historicism forced the rest of the world to fight them on those terms. Of course, the insane brutality of the Nazis ultimately made this choice easy. But viewed retrospectively, Hegel was probably not as simple to explain as Popper indicates. How relevant is this discussion today? When viewed in light of how often history repeats itself, understanding how the Nazis justified their efforts is still important. We have not seen the last Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, or Mao in this world take a relatively complex philosophical comprehension and simplify it for popular consumption and personal political aggrandizement.
     Hegel's "historical determinism," by way of but a single example of Popper's condensing of Hegel's theory, can more accurately be seen as historical tendencies than historical certainty. Hegel's view is that what is real is rational; in other words, things happened in the past for a reason, mostly a rational reason. His critics find determinism in this; Hegel finds only ramifications in the past
and possibilities for the future, not determinism. For Hegel, what one sees in the reality of the past determines how we should view the present, not what is going to happen now. These are important philosophical distinctions that help bring a greater understanding to what Hegel actually preaches. They are mentioned so that in reading Popper, as when reading any of the authors presented here, one can still avail oneself of skepticism vis-à-vis both the author and his contentions. Popper is harsh with Hegel because of the times and the intentions and actions of the Nazis and their use of Hegel to justify themselves; viewed in an historical light Hegel's supposed philosophical transgressions appear less malignant.
     [Note: Readers who consume all of the authors who appear in First Principles will see that contradictions in authorial contentions exist. When this occurs, it is most important to recall that no one idea or theory or philosophy fits all situations perfectly in all circumstances


and throughout all time periods, thus the diversity of opinion-and the need to comprehend many different ideas and circumstances. It is difficult to compare the thinking of an eighth-century philosopher with an eighteenth-century essayist. The times are very important in understanding various points of view. Hegel is one of those cases where his "bad press"-because of the Nazis' use and partial distortion through simplistic scholarly devices of certain tenets he espoused-is so overwhelming that he now serves almost exclusively as a bad example. To ferret out his constructive observations and essential thoughts is perhaps more than anyone other than the student of pure philosophical history wants or needs to do. These observations are offered here because assessment of Hegel's reputation is a very good example of the phenomenon that occurs when, in an overview such as First Principles, we paint only with a broad brush.]
     Popper points out that the authoritarianism of the two thousand years between the flowering of Greek democracy and the American and French revolutions (the latter of which was set in motion partially by Plato's defense of the superiority of "elite" intellects over the knowledge and experience of the rest of society) began to die when economic individuality became a reality and when feudalism and serfdom faltered. Authoritarianism declined, in other words, as the world grew complex; exponential economic, social, (and equally important) technological progress was achieved when mankind was voluntarily left alone to act (or forcibly left alone through revolution). In the end, it became an article of faith that the road to freedom can be navigated only in an open society. Popper observes that Hegel, and then Karl Marx (1818-1883) after him, denied this truth.
     The notion of citizen control of the governing, and thus economic processes brought Popper, because of the times and the circumstances, to a substantive consideration of Marx, who saw such freedom only as a danger to the ordinary citizen (to whom Marx offered wholesale protection). Marx witnessed the ravages wrought by uncontrolled capitalism, when power in the form of economic control over the workers' lives was often close to absolute. In Marx's view, capitalism was successful only in engendering the hopeless subservience and grim degradation of the people it oppressed. That this is not a fully accurate picture of eighteenth and nineteenth-century working conditions is another matter, and is addressed by modern research that aids in the deconstruction of stereotypes and anti-capitalism myths.
     To a not insignificant extent, the workers in the early years of the


Industrial Revolution were enamored of the money they were making. Small as that amount may seem today, it was infinitely more than they made before capitalistic employment was available-when they received no wages but were allowed to keep, out of their own work product, subsistence levels of goods. Thus, when it became possible to break the cycle of poverty some worked long hours in shops or factories, and had more than one job simply because their lives were so changed by the advent of real money in their pockets. The dawning of feelings of independence was an almost irresistible incentive to want more. That the portrayal of worker exploitation in those times, which no one suggests did not happen but which is also not the entire picture, is conveniently used to denigrate capitalism for twenty-first-century political purposes is still a given.
     Ultimately it was the freedom to take action and sometimes experience failure that was so important in creating the free market we know today.  These elements, that Joseph Schumpeter (Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy [Chapter 38]) explains led to the rationalization of human behavior, and that John Chamberlain (The Roots of Capitalism [Chapter 26]) discusses so passionately as he offers that people were willing to risk and even sacrifice their lives for the right to these freedoms, are what bring us to today’s free market system.  The seeds of rationality, and the fuel that made those seeds grow, individual incentive and the dawning comprehension of enlightened self-interest, are what demanded progress.  However, to those with an agenda, the crime once committed is a useful place from which to begin any and all assessment.
     Over the past three centuries as human activity was forced to self-monitor through free economic competition, and as people experienced what they could do when freedom of choice and consequence were allowed to find their own level, the early shortcomings of capitalistic activity have been corrected and the gains made make the pain of the beginning understandable in context.  Today that context is gone and the defects of that era no longer exist except in the hands of a very few criminals and thieves over whom control can be effected.  But if the errant politician wants to find a false platform on which to place his bets, capitalism’s freedom to do right or to do wrong is sure to work…but only with the gullible, those who will not see the 2 billion people who have been lifted out of poverty since World War II by capitalism’s tools.  Human behavior can result in bad consequences, but the open society is far more likely to reveal bad things when they occur than


a closed government where objection cannot easily be voiced nor change easily stimulated.
     Karl Marx's solution to nineteenth-century capitalistic excess was to scrap the system in its entirety. Popper, however, even though he sympathized with Marx's motives, recommends only continued piecemeal adjustments to free-market economics. Marx thought in one plane-what was happening to workers on the job in his time. But the benefits of increased and discretionary income and of improved living conditions because of economy-wide gains also need to be considered before a blanket indictment of the system ensues. Popper's melioristic approach takes into account all the fruits of capitalism-the good and the bad. Popper sees that adjustments to alleviate bad conditions allow the beneficial effects of capitalism to increase exponentially-which is exactly what happened over the course of the century between when Marx published The Communist Manifesto and Popper investigated its modern consequences.
     Popper's basic recognition is that freedom for individuals is embodied in free markets, freedom of association, and freedom of action. These freedoms are manifest in the fundamentals of capitalism, and they interact in such convoluted ways that we cannot intellectually muscle our way through the maze of options and decisions in order to control mankind's economic interrelations. We have to travel the actual road to know how best to proceed. For example, capitalism's nineteenth-century owner class often denied basic rights to workers. This did not make capitalism as an economic system bad, although the extremes to which the capitalists of that era sometimes took their power were unreasonable. A real-world balance was both needed and achieved in late nineteenth and twentieth-century reforms and it was partially the province of government to act so that those with power did not use their dominance indiscriminately.
     Popper uses that simple fact as vindication of his thesis and validation of his deconstruction of Marx. In the modern era, however, the power of government to make those adjustments also needs to be controlled. If it is not (by such simple means as observing Constitutional restraints) it too will travel to twenty-first-century extremes that are as inappropriate as were those of the nineteenth-century capitalism it formerly needed to constrain. Moving forward a century and a half from Marx's theories it is seen that government, which initially benefited the public with its powers and used them effectively, has since waxed confident, then strident, and finally omnipotent in its supposed


expertise at guiding capitalism, and, more to the point, in remedying its alleged defects. It is no longer the power of the market that is to be feared, but the power of those who regulate and tax. This results from political inhalation of a witch's brew: an intoxicating combination of conceit
and ignorance. This swill induces a euphoria that allows the first consequence of political hubris to grow unabated-that only government can protect the people and counter the supposed force of the market.
     In his long polemic reducing Marx to a bad economist and a worse psychologist, Popper demonstrates Marx's paucity of human feeling in his solutions to the excesses of capitalism as the system visited itself on its mid-nineteenth-century workers. This deficiency, as Popper notes in fairness to Marx, was typical of his era. Marx accepted conventional wisdom in his conviction that things would only get worse because more and more power was being concentrated in the owners of production. He missed two classic points of industrial psychology; first, if one treats people better, they work better, thus allowing the excesses of developing capitalism to be self-curative as industrial barons found that they could make more profits through fairness than through exploitation. Henry Ford got it right, Marx did not. Second, as workers become more sophisticated, and are able to save a few dollars, they eventually strike out on their own-singly or in groups. The economic base thus expands rather than becoming concentrated. At that point working conditions become a bargaining chip for the workers, and conditions can only improve when this second tier competition (competition among producers for workers rather than for customers) enters the picture.
     Popper notes that Marx also misses a fundamental point of governance, i.e., the importance of continuity. The rejection of an entire governing system, as Marx advocates, would create a vacuum that must be filled by the immediate establishment of a "whole" new one. Such a wholesale change is a monumental task that would engender many unintended consequences. We act far more wisely in political matters when we retain what we know does work even as we eliminate what doesn't. The basis for such wisdom is that we know less about what is true than what is not true. We should find it easier to be rid of the false than to search endlessly only for the absolutely true.
     Although it is easy to dismiss Marx today and look upon reference to his writings, plans, and times as anachronistic, there is a valid point to be made: where might capitalism have gone-intermediately and


over the longer term-without the juxtaposition of Marxist thought to push political and economic matters in the direction they took? That is to say, Marx didn't come out of the blue, with no justification and no valid reason to oppose capitalism in its nineteenth-century incarnation. Thus Popper's revelations and investigations are still worthy of consideration today, for history, as has been observed interminably, does have a tendency to repeat itself. And human beings persistently attempt to reinvent square wheels.
     This is seen, by way of example as the twenty-first century opens, in dictatorships that are again in the forefront of Latin American politics. Claims for the validity of socialism and paternalism resurface. The reversion to economic fallacy in this instance is made possible for a simple reason: as a supposed antidote to corruption. Corruption is the operational foundation of both political and economic relationships in many Central and South American societies. Corruption is what distorts free markets and the political process so that neither works as it might and both work as those in power deem they will. It is endemic corruption in the supposedly free markets that allows untenable populist social sentiments to re-emerge.
     When the markets are distorted by means of the thievery of the political and owner classes the masses are simultaneously disenfranchised and made poor. That corruption-both petty and grand-can have such an overwhelming effect that it can murder a society is analogous to a cancer-it cannot be stopped piecemeal because it takes on a life of its own inside its host. When the citizenry is promised change and offered a distribution of wealth through re-introduction of socialist tenets,
initially the people cheer. That no redistribution will occur because of the further corruption of these new political promises is equally a given (the corruption is imbedded in the society, not in one particular economic system); that only the leaders and their cronies will profit is equally true, and that the nation's economy will again collapse, and that chaos and then reform will ensue is surely as certain. Nothing moves forward on square wheels, no matter how sleek the design of the vehicle they supposedly support.

*       *       *

The paradox of freedom, that freedom defeats itself if it is unrestrained, is central to Popper's understanding of both how the world works and why people need to govern themselves. Irrespective of


Popper's appreciation of the self-contradiction of freedom, he is nevertheless reluctant to accept government intervention in the affairs of humanity when liberty's license goes awry. He recognizes that people throughout history have achieved most progress by themselves in spite of government rather than because of it. Formalized freedom (or ordered liberty) guided by democratic principles ensures the right of people to judge and dismiss their government, and is how the ruled control the rulers. Economic freedom, i.e., competitive and enlightened free enterprise founded in law, is what marks social progress.  Free enterprise mirrors life.  The free market is productive and efficient because a core human emotion—incentive—is central, and because freedom puts substance in people’s lives.  These elements promote human progress, they are the foundation of our national enterprise—embodied in the Declaration of Independence—they foster the pursuit of happiness.   The freedom of choice embodied in economic autonomy (with true excesses controlled by government only when the people themselves have absolutely failed) brings the most benefit to a society. A government that begins to take either political or economic freedom away will eventually abolish both, in a supposedly benign and grand gesture.
     Popper ultimately returns to the Greek question of how the citizenry will tame the rulers or hold them in check so that their purposes will remain the purposes of the people. Popper notes that universal laws, those that help ensure these purposes, are usually so ingrained in our nature that we unconsciously take them for granted (the Golden Rule, the salutary effects of honesty, integrity, discipline, and responsibility, etc.). Our predecessors over the last few centuries created sound, working governments, but only through a natural process of fits and starts. Between the starts and fits there was sometimes anarchy. When the dust settled after those times it was once again apparent that all progress was achieved only in open societies. In any era, the next question becomes, so long as society remains open, will the rulers react in the manner of these given, ingrained, and universal laws, or will they fail themselves and us-in a fit that will require a new start?
     Karl Popper lived and thought in dangerous times. The breadth and the creativity of his scholarship are not just bold, but reflect a fundamental understanding that can get lost without a long view. His delineation of history's common threads is functionally core to a comprehension of modern democracy, and of capitalism-democracy's economic strut. The way in which he analyzes how both governments and economies work-considering learned truths-makes for substan- 


tive reading, a fact underscored by footnotes and almost necessary digressions that equal the length of his text. The reading is not light, but then, neither is the subject matter.

About the Author
Karl Popper was one of the most important philosophers of science and the scientific method since Sir Francis Bacon, the sixteenth-century English pioneer in this field. Popper was born in 1902 in
Vienna, Austria. He had a modest upbringing and worked as a cabinetmaker and schoolteacher before entering the world of academia and becoming one of the most influential economic and political theorists of the twentieth century. He left Austria in 1937 and immigrated to New Zealand where he taught at the national university until the end of World War II. In 1946 he traveled to England where his theories and teaching did not find favor within mainstream thinking (produced at Oxford and Cambridge Universities). He experienced difficulty securing employment until he finally found a home at the London School of Economics where he taught for twenty-three years. He lectured around the world during his career and was knighted in 1965. Popper died in 1994. As one of the most influential polymaths of our time he received accolades and honors from all corners of the globe both during his life and after.

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