SELF-GOVERNANCE IN AN OPEN
SOCIETY: FIRST PRINCIPLES
The struggle [for social order] will be decided in the minds of the
generation-and within that generation, substantially by the minority
who have the gift of reason.
Russell Kirk (1952)
Why First Principles?
First Principles offers a synopsis of the theory, history, and
philosophy of self-governance. We try to place in perspective how we got from
history to here while simultaneously making estimates of how best to get from
here to history.
In beginning we attempt to define the common ground
we share-irrespective of our political views. Those agreements come to the
surface as the authors we present talk about human nature, the human
condition, the human element, or the human spirit. Without a relatively
uniform perception regarding both the variations and the commonalities of our
character, our abilities, our goals and most importantly, what motivates us as
individuals, it is unlikely consensus will be achieved with respect to
governing paradigms. Appreciating, in a relatively coherent manner, where
human consistencies and idiosyncrasies work either for us or against us is not
difficult but it is crucial to arriving at agreement as to where and how
government is likely to work. These comprehensions are not only the first
hurdle in political or social or economic conversation, they are the most
important-thus the many points where references to the human condition or
human spirit independently come to the surface.
The next hurdle is to voluntarily determine the
manner in which we will be governed, and to realize the consequences of each
assumption made in the course of investigating and designing political and
economic relationships. The authors we discuss attempt to define what has been
proven to work, and why, and what has not, and why not.
The synopses we offer are just that-brief surveys;
they suggest a focus to guide readers along paths that lead from the first
of earlier times to the relevant inquiries, reasoning, and alternatives that arise as we govern ourselves today. First Principles
presents an overview of the basics of modern political and economic thinking.
The books we discuss are ordered in four sections;
A. The Architecture of a Free Society
B. The Twentieth-Century American Experience
C. Additional Fundamental Readings
D. The Future.
The lists are an attempt to achieve logical
groupings based on subject matter, the era in which each volume was written,
the degree of challenge each poses, and its historical significance. We offer
the synopses in the general sequence in which we recommend they be read.
A Note About Terms
To understand the story told through these synopses requires a
clarification of terminology. Today in America the word conservative denotes
someone who believes in a number of interrelated elements: a basic set of moral values and historical truths; free-market
economics; minimal government intervention in the lives of citizens;
significantly decentralized government composed of separate parts that check
and balance one another at all levels; the practical qualities of
self-reliance and personal accountability; and a strong national defense. An
American conservative wishes to conserve, or restore, the self-government
envisioned by our country's Founders. Until the 1930s in America however, and
still today in Europe, the words liberal and liberalism were employed to
locate American conservative philosophy on the political spectrum. It is
necessary to understand these terms in their various environments and eras in
order to appreciate their use by the authors we review.
During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries
when capitalism was expanding and the swift accumulation of wealth was
notorious, socialism and equalitarianism gained an intellectual cachet. The
fact that there was "poverty in the midst of plenty" caused more
reaction than understanding. As a result, there arose an equally swift
political attempt to redistribute this new wealth simply because disparity
existed. There was little effort to discover cause and effect or the
consequences of dismantling the system that had created both economic success
and the rise in living standards for all.
As free enterprise seemed to falter during the Great
Depression of the 1930s, liberalism, which is also the political cousin of
capitalism, was semantically bastardized, intentionally, by a movement that
proselytized "liberal populism." Populism refers in part to an
effort whereby a more "equitable" allocation of society's wealth is
achieved-that is, one based on essentially equal economic
redistribution-without consideration of economic tenets that are based on
innate human characteristics and real-world economic truths.
The movement is termed populist because its myriad
equalitarian aspects are deemed popular with the citizenry-or at least the
portion of it that is on the receiving side of the equation. Thus, liberalism
in the original sense-which was associated with far-reaching economic
progress-became distorted by the addition of equalitarian goals; the fact that
populist methods were an attempt to spread liberalism's (meaning capitalism's)
wealth without regard to any social or economic measure was initially not
widely discussed, certainly not by those doing the disbursing. That group was
reaping political advantage they didn't want to dilute with discussions of
fiscal reality or human psychology.
The point is this: beyond understanding what the
words liberal or conservative mean in any given context at any particular time
it is necessary to comprehend how ideas and terms have evolved during the last
century and a half-most often intentionally, but not always consistently. As
author Paul Gottfried observed in After Liberalism (1999):
The history of liberalism in the twentieth century has been one of
semantic confusion. . . . [L]iberalism has not been allowed
to keep any fixed and
specific meaning. It has signified dramatically
different and even opposed things at different times and places . . .
from a defense of free-market economics and of
on distributed powers to a justification of exactly the opposite
Creating a common framework and uniform
terminology is necessary to allow for simple communication-but that goal isn't
always politically beneficial, thus the battle of words continues unabated.
In America, what today is denoted as liberalism
Europeans generally call democratic socialism. Because this phrase is both an
oxymoron (discussed in Chapter 38) and a public policy lever, its use makes
comprehension of political goals difficult from the outset. Its original
intent was to mislead the electorate for political gain by convincing the
citizenry both that democracy was still in effect and equalitarianism was
possible. That the latter was indeed not feasible no matter what political
machinery or distorted nomenclature was in place was buried in the soaring
rhetoric of possibility.
Frank Meyer, one of the authors reviewed in this
book, outlines how the word liberal was informally transposed in the United
States by the political use of language during the 1932 presidential campaign
between Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt.
Roosevelt used the term liberal in a manner opposite
of what he knew it meant, understanding that the public might not recognize
the difference-that they would listen to the words and the promises and not
think too deeply about the disconnection between the word's meaning and the
political rhetoric being offered. As this election occurred in the middle of
the hard times of the Great Depression, Roosevelt's political calculations
were more than advantageous for his purposes.
Liberalism had earlier been shorthand for describing
American freedom and responsibility. It represented that people were liberated
to pursue their own goals, without government intervention. Roosevelt offered,
in contravention to that definition, that government should be liberal in
helping people. The political effectiveness of his effort is unquestioned. It
is even somewhat accurate to say that his conceptual obfuscation would have
been fine if government hadn't helped too much over the ensuing decades-to the
point where some people not only stopped helping themselves, but were told and
shown how they were really not capable of self-sufficiency. Roosevelt moved
the country from employing a social safety net to deal with life's hardships,
to effecting the beginnings of a cradle-to-grave social welfare net. It was a
purely political calculation that caused the country to suffer greatly from
the law of unintended consequences. 1
1 A social safety net takes care of those who cannot help themselves; the
chronically ill or disabled or the unavoidably indigent. It also helps those
who are temporarily in need and have few options other than short term public
assistance. If properly designed these efforts do not operate as a
disincentive to self-help or self-esteem.
A social welfare net is implemented for political
purposes. These are programs available to everyone, irrespective of capability
or need (e.g., Medicare, federal aid to education, Social Security), and often
do not contain incentives within their design that encourage restraint in
their use or the duration of eligibility. Although citizens pay for some of
what they receive, usually at a flat rate, general tax revenues eventually
support the bulk of the cost. Over time, benefits expand, politically, without
any significant increase in user contributions. Additional general tax
revenues are then redirected to make up the difference. The programs become
state-controlled income redistribution, or state welfarism.
Eventually his brand of liberalism was taken too
far; it made children out of many citizens, and unwitting parents out of all
taxpayers. Because Roosevelt was successful in the 1932 election and three
more after that his rhetoric became ingrained in political discourse.
Liberalism in the U.S. became identified with an expansion of government. As a
result, later authors coined the word 'conservative' and the phrase 'classical
liberal' to regain some control of the nomenclature of political, economic,
and moral debates. In the rest of the world, however, liberalism still means
the opposite of what it nominally means in America-that people are liberated
to control their lives without legislative or bureaucratic interference.
Humpty Dumpty noted awhile back "When I use a
word it means just what I choose it to mean." That may be a convenient
approach for fictional characters, high school sophomores, or YouTube
adherents, but it is quite useless in the real world. Unfortunately, the
perversion of language is a formidable and ubiquitous tool in politics. Today
words are often Humpty Dumpty-like moving targets, sometimes used to inform,
sometimes to mislead. When linguistic integrity is compromised and substance
is changed through political manipulation rather than rational evaluation, we
And, just so we don't heap too much blame for any of
this on one person, we recognize that Roosevelt's twisting of the meaning of
liberal was not the first instance in America where language was turned on its
head for political purposes. At the time the U.S. Constitution went through
its bruising ratification process in the late 1780s, the word federalist was
equally turned about by no less a democratic icon than Alexander Hamilton.
Originally, a federalist was one who believed in the Articles of Confederation
(drafted 1777, ratified 1781), the precursor to the U.S. Constitution of 1787,
where the government was a federation of sovereign, or independent,
Federalist (Chapter 6) Hamilton used the word federalist to represent
his idea of a strong national government-most importantly, one with the power
to tax (a power not contained in the Articles of Confederation). But, to those
reading his arguments, the word federalist meant what it always had-one
who believed in limited federal power and autonomous self-governing states in
charge of their own administration and taxation. By the time the ratification
process was over, federalists were those who supported a strong central
government and the word came to mean the obverse of what it originally
As you read through some of the early books by
Friedrich von Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and Wilhelm Ropke,
understanding the authors' use of the term liberal is important because the
word conservative was not in their lexicon until near the end of their
careers. And, just to make matters a little more complicated, the term
classical liberalism-instead of conservative-is now used by some authors to
define what liberalism meant prior to its being politically hijacked during
the Roosevelt years. However, as the meaning of these terms did change
gradually, and because the context in which the words are used will almost
always tell you what the author intends, it will not be difficult to keep them
straight. The caution is offered only to make the words stand out, so the
reader can be watchful.
What one takes away from either First Principles or the texts on
which it is based will depend primarily on two things: how well one
appreciates the concepts that underlie the stories presented in each volume,
and how one relates that appreciation to the real world in which we now live.
This is no small feat. It requires paying attention and acting with political
and intellectual integrity, two components of self-governance that are often
It also requires recalling that the precise use of
language remains as consequential in the political and philosophical battles
being waged now as it was in those fought over the centuries. It behooves the
reader to recognize the nuances, gradual changes, and the sometimes
intentional blurring effected for political purposes. The writings and
speeches of William F. Buckley, Jr. are the most helpful in this arena. He
makes clear some of the instances of political deception and electoral
temporizing founded in dishonest rhetoric. His dissection of these distortions
underscores equally the importance of fidelity to linguistic integrity and the
need to expose its absence. Confucius observed: "The first step in
restoring order in a chaotic society is to restore proper meaning to words.
At the end of this section we offer definitions of
various words, concepts, and movements in order to assist the reader's
comprehension of what is being presented. At the conclusion of some of the
synopses there are additional definitions to help facilitate comprehension.
Further clarifications are available through our companion web site, <www.firstprinciples.us>,
or through your local print or Internet dictionary.
The authors in this symposium do not always agree with one another, and
every author is not always "right" in all he offers. The discussion
is better because of their disagreements. The range of inconsistency varies
from conflict regarding fundamental understandings and conclusions to mere
differences in approach. Some authors expand on the theories of others by
applying them to the real world. However, when Frank
Meyer took issue with Russell
Kirk in the twentieth century or Thomas
Paine with Edmund
Burke in the eighteenth, the disagreements were deep. One can learn much
from these and other classical discussions; indeed, one may not be able to
comprehend the long developmental process of modern self-governance without
having most of them as background.
Our authors often go beyond postulating, defining,
and defending basic truths to the recognition that failures are as much a part
of life as successes. In other words, no matter how true a theory may appear
to be, when human beings become involved pretty much anything can happen. When
theory is exposed to reality and errors are found they are mostly useful-by
demonstrating what won't work-although the results can sometimes be
devastating. This seemingly cannot be avoided, for human beings are not only
imperfect, they are imperfectable. In spite of our authors' uniform conviction
that the human spirit in each person should be its own guide (so long as it
does not trespass on the rights of others) sometimes that spirit does go awry,
thus the need for some form of regulation and redress.
There is an inverse relationship between the size and
power of government and the extent of individual freedom. Some legislators and
bureaucrats err grievously when succumbing to an apparently innate need or
desire to tell other human beings how to lead their lives (the same need that
probably drove them to "public" service in the first place) and
impose blanket rules and programs without accommodating geographic, economic,
and/or social-much less innate human-differences. The authors dissect and
discredit the immodesty of demagogues who seek to control men, supposedly for
their own good. The exercise of the liberal's fatal conceit-as Hayek termed
it-diminishes our lives by destroying the essence of individualism.
The books reviewed here evince a marked emphasis on
goodness, morality, and to a limited extent, religion. To remain free, a
must be good to and for one another. The Golden Rule (whether
considered in a religious context or more prosaically) must come into play. If
people do not observe various societal necessities, then as Hayek noted,
"every act of dishonesty or violence, whether violence to person or to
principle, will result in the call for more law, more regulation." The
resulting outcry-"There oughta be a law!"-grows, and the idea of
freedom isn't just diminished, it is simply lost in the competing claims that
the "other guy" should somehow be constrained or punished. We forget
we are to control ourselves, that that is our responsibility.
The authors rightly emphasize that a moral
underpinning is necessary for freedom to exist among individuals. The freedom
that results also allows individuals to protect themselves from an overweening
government-a moral act as well. Ultimately it may be as simple (and utopian)
as this: If we have a moral society it doesn't much matter what type of
government we have (a moral citizenry will correct its own mistakes). If our
society is not moral, it equally doesn't much matter what type of government
we have (an immoral society will not follow the lead of decency, and it will
not be cowed by the force of government). Of course, individuals typically
exhibit both moral and immoral behavior (e.g., many of the Founding Fathers
were slave owners); thus what type, and what extent, of governance we choose
does become important.
Liberty without virtue is subject to the
influence, and corruption, of power. Liberty
is a natural right, virtue is a natural good.
Corruption is a natural consequence of power, thus virtue must control
power, of either the individual or the masses, so that liberty may exist.
The vote of a
majority cannot make right or just what is not.
Without the protection of virtue liberty will die.
In the United States we are fortunate to have not
only a remarkably moral society, but also a fundamentally religious one. In
our culture, government only becomes necessary on the individual level when
the human condition forestalls "goodwill toward men." Government is
also useful in other circumstances, such as protecting us from foreign
interference, or in fulfilling public needs that individuals cannot easily
accomplish alone. These are considerations that affect the body politic after
we establish a moral framework. And if that moral framework is not
established, then governing is a matter of much greater difficulty.
Corruption-whether individual or organizational,
artistic, social, or intellectual-is not new. What is new is
the public's inability, if not refusal, to constrain behavior on the grounds
that there is no valid standard by which to judge it. This attitude is termed
"moral relativism" and it holds that most choices are of equal
value; in other words, because all individuals are philosophically equal each
opinion, interpretation, and judgment should be considered to have equal
value. This reflects a step away from understanding the interdependence of
morality and governance-and the hard-won reality that some choices are better
than others, demonstrably better. In today's world, by way of example, the
media's portrayals of a moral society (or less than moral society) help create
forces that sometimes work against the universal lessons learned during thirty
centuries of social evolution. Competition for listeners, readers and viewers
is so intense that intellectual, and thus moral integrity is often
substantially compromised in the process of bringing content to the public.
Margaret Thatcher's recent book, Statecraft (2002), addressed the need
and expectation of morality in American (or any free) society:
The Founding Fathers believed that although the form of republican
government they had framed was designed to cope with human failings,
it provided no kind of substitute for human virtues. For them American
self-government meant exactly that-government by as well as for the
people. James Madison knew that democracy presupposed a degree
of popular virtue if it was to work well. In Number 55 of the Federalist
Papers he wrote:
As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a
certain degree of circumspection and distrust, so there are other
qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem
and confidence. Republican government presupposes the existence
of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form.
[Emphasis added by Lady Thatcher]
The loss of that higher degree of virtue in society endangers the opportunity
for a viable democratic republic. Our everyday world rests on a foundation of
reciprocity that is largely unstated, but is equally universally understood.
If that commonality is not present, a free society can exist, but it is more
likely to be anarchic than angelic.
Finally, we turn to the words of John Adams, the
Founding Father who (after Benjamin Franklin) probably understood the most
about human nature as it intersected with the new government:
[T]he foundation of our national policy should be laid in private
morality; if individuals be not influenced by moral principles, it is
vain to look for public virtue.
Many of the works presented here were written in the middle of the
twentieth century when socialism, not just liberal populism, was ascendant and
the entire world tilted toward collectivist policies and programs. These were
almost universally enforced through totalitarian rule. Today, with socialism
debunked and freedom ascendant, some may question the need for our focus on
these old books and those former times. The answer is simple: collectivist and
totalitarian policies and goals have morphed, not died. To combat these new
and varied challenges requires vigilance and education. As author George
Santayana (1863-1952) noted in suggesting that people must help themselves:
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
Repeating the twentieth century's mistakes would not be pretty.
In his introduction to The
Constitution of Liberty, Friedrich von Hayek observes:
[I]f old truths are to retain their hold on men's minds, they must be
restated in the language and concepts of successive generations.
What at one time are their most effective expressions gradually
become so worn with use that they cease to carry a definite meaning.
By way of example, although parts of socialism are
virtual anachronisms (such as state ownership of the means of production or
state control of resource allocation), many of socialism's ideals retain their
allure. Modern liberals know they cannot successfully control enterprise
through confiscation of, or excessive rules regarding private property, or
command production in a direct manner. Nevertheless they are unrelenting in
their efforts (and sometimes their inventiveness) to reinitiate these ends
indirectly through tax and regulatory measures.
The goal of such efforts, like
the goals of socialism, is nothing more than the redistribution of private
Liberals still endeavor by these new means to attain the equalitarian society
sought by Karl Marx (1818-1883) in The Communist Manifesto (1848):
"From each according to his ability, to each according to his
needs." The fundamental question, which interferes with these liberal
tendencies, is how to define needs, or encourage abilities. If it is suggested
that someone doesn't have something he "needs," the first issue
becomes how and by whom is need determined?
Assuming the need is valid, the second issue is to
determine if government is responsible to fulfill that need for the
individual, or if government is to foster an atmosphere that allows the person
to meet the need for himself. If it is to be the latter, then freedom from
government is the only model that will achieve the goal. If it is to be in
large measure the former, then collectivist, totalitarian government is the
eventuality; there is little room for adjustment in the middle. The
consideration of when and how government is to act reflects much of the
substance of the discussion offered here.
Liberals often feel good about what they are trying
to do and are ignorant of what they destroy in the process-the American
virtues of liberty, individualism, and self-reliance. The inability, or even
coarse refusal, of populists to take their ideas to logical conclusions and
put them to the test of history and the human experience allows socialist
liberalism to remain both theoretically attractive-as state welfarism-and
As James Madison noted,
I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the rights
of the people by the gradual and silent encroachments of those in
power than by violent and sudden usurpations.
His understanding has not become stale with age.
A Very Brief History
As noted earlier, until the Great Depression (1929-1941) liberal-on both sides
of the Atlantic-generally meant an approach to government and social life that
implied a very limited central authority and
few controls on people. Citizens
were routinely supposed to manage their own lives; they were
"liberated" from the pre-nineteenth-century command of monarchy and
church. The sixteenth century's Protestant Reformation, combined with some
aspects of the eighteenth century's Enlightenment (both of which are defined
below and dissected in several synopses) had fostered much of this
In Great Britain, the Reformation resulted in the
birth of the Puritan (or Reform) wing of the Church of England. When various
adherents to that group emigrated from England in the 1600s they became the
founders of the American experiment. From the 1600s until the first third of
the twentieth century liberalism evolved to embody the modern ethos of
personal responsibility and minimal government. Then, in the political and
economic climate of the 1930s the meaning of liberalism was reversed in
America, and the new words previously discussed-conservative and classical
liberalism-were put in place to describe old liberalism's philosophy.
The hallmark of classical liberalism is that
individual freedom is a natural right, not a government or societal grant.
Co-equal with the primacy of individuality is the recognition that an open
society cannot, by definition, become tyrannical. If ideas and information are
never censored or punished, the foundation for a free society exists.
Classical liberalism refers to a society in which human imagination enjoys
Democracy became the starting point for the
governance of such a society. It facilitates continuous changes in leadership
and is conjoined with abiding respect for the principle of civic rule by law
(versus authoritarian rule by men). This assumes, of course, that the laws are
a philosophical framework where government takes little from us, manages only
those social necessities that we cannot efficiently obtain for ourselves, and
leaves us alone to shape our own lives, communities, and futures. To protect
the fundamental rights of the governed, Thomas Jefferson (who feared men as
much as he admired mankind's ultimate rationality) wanted written recognition
of basic rights, contained in a document that could not easily be altered by a
In questions of power, then, let no more be heard about confidence in
man, but bind him down from mischief with the chains of the Constitution.
Along this line Madison remarked in The
All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree.
But statists allege that society cannot run
itself; instead they contend that the needs and economic prospects of the
people have to be organized so that decision making resides in an executive
elite-not in individuals, or in their community, or in their representative
legislature. In other words, statists insist the public is too ignorant, or
even too stupid, to govern itself. For these men freedom is simply
intolerable-because it results in inequality and inconsistency. They cannot
embrace the reality that inequality is endemic, unresolvable, and central to
human existence and progress, no matter what form of social construction is in
place. They contend they can outsmart or outgun reality.
The history of the statist movement teaches us that
socialist ideas lead to government that becomes despotic for two reasons:
First, those who actually wield power invariably wax confident in their
delusional omniscience that they can create a society of equal results.
Second, collectivist ideals do not just invite, but they require totalitarian
controls simply because human beings will not voluntarily submit to the
wholesale authority of others that is the necessary result of equalitarian
goals. The individual, family, and community-the essential ingredients of
society-are reduced by statist regimes to having only the freedoms that
government allows. In collectivist societies people are required to act as
part of an overall social order, and individuality is viewed as
anti-intellectual, if not seditious. Human nature will not long suffer the
indignities or controls of such an arrangement.
Opposing this dominant trend-which continually gained
momentum through the middle of the twentieth century-were a few classical
liberals who stood against the socialist tide. A reversal of course became
necessary in the minds of those who understood the power and the utility of
freedom; who understood that life is not just unequal, but that inequality
brings the best of humanity's efforts to the greatest portion of society; that
inequality not only doesn't hold people down, it lifts everyone up. Most
importantly, it was clear that without life's inequalities nothing would be
created that was worth arguing about other than-because of its
absence-freedom. For these
classical theorists, people and history (and
history's prescriptions) became the reference point.
Although totalitarian socialism is leaving the
world's stage, quixotic collectivist ideas are far from consigned to the trash
heap of history. There remains a twentieth-century legacy of statist rhetoric
(sometimes offered with an intellectual smugness masquerading as political
correctness or social wisdom) in American and Western European media and
academia and in the politics of the Third
World. Idealism is still the common language of socialist cant, particularly
in Europe where Judeo-Christian philosophy (which harbors the origins of
individual freedom) is nearly irrelevant.
The battle against socialism's falsehoods never ends, because there are always
well-meaning (at least in their own view) individuals who feel they know
better than we do how to live our lives and how to distribute society's means
and products. Our would-be guardians still seek to protect us from ourselves
and each other; ever more intrusively they demand the right to dictate our
interactions pursuant to standards of political correctness-an ill-defined,
constantly-changing, emotional contract on which they claim society must be
based. In the wry view of Stanley Johnson, a British former Member of the
European Parliament, there is a worthwhile battle to be fought "against
the crooks and nannies looking into nooks and crannies."
is most often political ideology wrapped in a cloak of do-gooderism that is
little more than one person or group’s contested opinions.
Its subjective nature and emotional foundation expose its flaws as it
deviates from observable reality. Political
correctness becomes self-perpetuating and self-aggrandizing as it enlarges the
enabling atmosphere that opposes the supposedly politically incorrect
behavior. Ultimately, political
correctness is promoted in an ill-founded attempt to silence those who
question progressive/liberal goals.
The foundation of a politically correct society is
one in which an equalitarian distribution of its products and conditions is
the goal. Government's neosocialist schemes of regulation and taxation are
part and parcel of what we now call the "therapeutic state" or
"nanny government." Within this government the bureaucracy grows
ever more burdensome and economically and morally corrupt. Statist
equalitarianism-which takes form in a social welfare net that removes
individual responsibility (and thus individual opportunity and incentive) for
life's everyday cares-represents philosophically and politically one of the
main battlegrounds of the twenty-first century.
On Being Politically Correct
As noted earlier, there are often public attempts to place constraints on our
ability to enjoy our individuality, private space, and personal preferences;
this type of repression comes in the form of political correctness. The
gender, race, national security, religious, or even fashion police make
disproportionate and inappropriate calls for diversity, multiculturalism,
pluralism, affirmative action, or other social controls, where the state is to
dictate societal interaction. A commitment to the individual, or even to
excellence, is termed inappropriate when there are alleged emotional or
equalitarian needs to be met. As we step onto this slippery slope we must
carefully balance two overriding considerations: our public nurturing of
universal civil, social, human, or other rights, versus our fundamental
individual rights. Achieving a balance in this instance has been ignored in
many circles as the presumptions of those who understand what is politically
correct become dictatorial.
Perhaps at base, the difference between the views of
liberals and conservatives in these cases relates to their respective beliefs
regarding human rights, or natural rights. Liberals view such rights in a
contractual light, the result of various cultural or societal agreements, and
thus as a social construct or a political choice. Viewed in this manner such
rights are negotiable, and understandable only in relation to the times and
the circumstances. Conservatives view these same rights as either God-given or
natural, not subject to alteration to meet the fad or fashion or whim of the
day. When liberals deny the existence of immutable natural rights, they use
the terminology of rights in a capricious manner. When right and wrong become
relative terms, political correctness takes over-and social coherence becomes
wholly at risk.
In order to enforce the views of those who see
society's members as controllable (and therefore entitled to less freedom than
they might otherwise be), there has arisen a modern fealty to the managerial
state. This particular management is not the type that directs traffic or
collects taxes to fund public administration, but aims to superintend the
people themselves. It is an intentionally
camouflaged and modernized implementation of a supposedly more benign,
collectivist totalitarianism. Collectivists formerly intoned, "Just do
it." They insisted on compliance by fiat, unsupported by reason or even
ment. Today's governmental managers say, "Do it. It is good for you
and for everyone else."
In this manner the public administrators create a
moral imperative rather than just a social necessity that claims the right to
guide society. However, it is only their morality and their imperative,
despite its claimed universality. It is not consensually arrived at, but
determined through social science-in other words, through opinions that have
been selected, not proven. These opinions do not meet with uniform agreement
or acceptance; their implementation thus denies freedom of choice, action, and
debate, and man's individuality, when it does not conform to the liberal
overview, is labeled dysfunctional.
How did we go backward so quickly after the defeat of
socialistic totalitarianism was secured? As freedom paired with capitalism
showed the way to solve the mechanistic problems of life-food on the table,
clothes on our backs, shelter over our heads-the idealists were left with
thoughts that actual paradise could be achieved. They were driven from the
economic battlefield, where life's necessities are hard earned, by
capitalistic freedom, while they claimed they knew all along how to procure
these necessities. But once the basics were deliverable to everyone the
welfarists entered the evanescent arena of perfect human comity and equality.
To this group what can be still should be. These thoughts are likely the
result, to put it charitably, of too much time, too little understanding. The
rest of society pays for the consequences of this naive idealism by being
forced to reinvent wheels that are already carrying society along. It is ever
The politically adept managers of the new utopia
assert they can fix what ails us; and they intend to use the state to enforce
their conclusions. The behaviorists abet the political class and aver
scientific verity for their contentions. They claim "expert" status
in spite of the lack of evidence, factual or otherwise, that they are experts.
These equalitarians intentionally mount their politically correct assault
through selected courts and legislatures intimidated by threats of political
reprisals. A fawning media is used to validate their views. The prescriptions
of historical experience are now held to be passé; understanding the
imperatives of the human condition is dismissed; and all decisions are
henceforth to be made "scientifically," in spite of the decidedly
unscientific methods being employed. This ephemeral milieu, where society's
faults and inadequacies are to be repaired by statistics and opinion, is yet
another political and intellectual battleground of the present century.
Property and Government
Traditional European liberal doctrine (now classical liberalism or
conservatism in America) has been associated philosophically and politically
with capitalism since at least the time of Adam Smith and the eighteenth
century's Scottish Enlightenment. At that juncture the need for private
property and the free
market to be inextricably intertwined with free political expression and the rule of
law became clear. If people were not free to choose in
either venue, then both systems broke down.
The underpinnings of economic freedom-stable,
enforceable laws; a free market; private property-are a sub-set of political
freedom. Economic freedom is the essence of capitalism, but without legally
protected property rights and impartial public authorities to enforce the law
no foundation for incentive, initiative, or imagination (there is only
anarchy). These elements are the mechanisms that drive human progress. The
political principles that ensure our economic liberty are elemental; they
cannot be divided or implemented fractionally. They embody what is called
Modern political contests often center upon who will
determine what can or cannot be taken or constrained or encouraged by public
authority-generally through taxation or regulation, or a lack thereof-for the
ostensible greater good of society. Far too frequently, however, a concern for
the public is declared by a candidate for office (irrespective of political
affiliation), but after electoral success that person offers only shop-worn
and tired programs designed to do little more than make everyone feel
good-and, of course, see to that official's reelection. These programs are
customarily accomplished with newly raised tax dollars or newly written
regulations that most often actually work against the candidate's campaign
Unfortunately, politicians often do not know what
they are doing-they have studied neither history nor economics and frequently
have little or no marketplace experience (this is especially true today as
politicians find electoral employment a good career choice). But often they
are dazzled by what they can be: a darling of the media, or the recipient of a
special interest's accolades and financial support, or simply the social
consummation of their own vainglorious and fatal
conceit. The consequence is
that the country pays for ignorance when it is forced to operate an economic
engine on empty rhetoric.
On the administrative side of governance, bureaucrats
commonly look upon the alleviation of society's "ills" (many of
which are not universally viewed as problems) solely as their mission-not in
any fashion the obligation or opportunity of either the individual or the
community. They rarely find an occasion to help foster personal initiative or
private assistance, especially if they can create some administrative
mechanism that will serve as a substitute for these options. They allow, by
their very actions, palpable distortions of government purpose to arise.
Practically speaking, if bureaucracies actually solved problems, those
employed there might work themselves out of a job-clearly not something in the
bureaucrat's best interest. Instead, as noted by author C. Northcote Parkinson
in his 1957 book Parkinson's Laws, if their franchise begins to wane,
bureaucrats tend to seek out or invent additional areas of need so government
can provide another "service" which then justifies their continued
When programs found ineffective are reduced by
executive or legislative authority, bureaucrats (and their private sector
partners) often attempt to achieve through the obscurity of regulation and/or
stark administrative power that which they could not win in the political
arena. Or they simply ignore what they've been told by the electorate and find
ways to do what they "know" to be right by expanding other facets of
Ultimately, the primary difficulty with government
programs is there is no market discipline. When bureaucracies fail they don't
face bankruptcy or liquidation, they use their failure to push for bigger more
intrusive programs (a program's small size or the inadequate reach of the
bureaucrat's power being used to excuse their failure to achieve results in
line with their enabling legislation). As well, of course, politicians and
bureaucrats don't spend their own money-thus accountability on either the
practical or intellectual level is not part of their fiscal equation.
Most importantly, the philosophy and repercussions of
governmental good works that seek immediate relief for the downtrodden are
invariably not followed to their logical conclusion.
Oftentimes these emotionally satisfying but socially and economically
inappropriate impulses are found to do more harm than good. As Charles Murray
noted in his book Losing Ground (1984):
When welfare reforms finally do occur, they will happen not because
stingy people have won, but because generous people have stopped
What Murray was referring to was the public's eventual recognition of the
negative consequences of giving a handout instead of offering a hand up.
Murray's primary point was made by the 1996 legislation that effected massive
welfare reform in America (discussed in Chapter
31). Unfortunately, the social welfarists persevere with their efforts in
spite of the ignorant public's voted preferences; for example, by
administratively expanding other "entitlement" programs that have
not been modified or eliminated to take the place of what has been
legislatively rescinded in the primary arena. Specifically, they have done
this to work around and take the place of the now-discredited direct welfare
payments reformed in 1996. This is a dishonest solution and openly retards
progress toward the stated goals of both citizens and legislators.
The consequences of welfare reform are frequently
fought in the courts, to everyone's further detriment, because legalistic
decisions are often narrow and inflexible. In almost all cases, legal battles
in this arena are little more than rearranging the batting order of a last
place team. Implementation of the public's electoral statements is not only
the honest response, it is the logical one. If the electoral preferences do
not work, reversion to welfarist solutions will be greeted warmly with liberal
"I told you so" rhetoric. But if the directions of the voting public
are successful, then everyone is better off-except, perhaps, a few soon to be
out-of-work public employees.
If private property is secure, if the people and
their governmental representatives (whether or not elected) ensure incentive
is in place to allow the public to act unhindered in their economic and social
decisions, then society can be free and prosperous. When property is jealously
protected, demagogic politicians cannot take advantage of social change or
even crises to implement feel-good policy that is politically and/or
economically bankrupt. Many of the books reviewed here were written by
economists who understand the direct relationship between the limitations of
law, the benefits of recognizing free-market economic reality, and the human
condition. Their insights into how government can achieve its legitimate goals
while keeping human freedom and dignity in view have enabled many to see that
liberty is more than a political concept. Unfortunately, in order to get elected,
politicians often offer the voters happiness (usually in the form of
a free lunch), not a promise to protect their liberty. If the political class
is to deliver a free lunch, it must have power-which means the citizen will
have less freedom. That is the Faustian bargain by which the citizen gives the
Devil his due.
Government cannot be used to protect individuals from
the results of their own actions. It cannot strive for a particular
distribution of economic resources, promote any particular region or group, or
dictate a conduct code without becoming oppressive and destroying individual
freedoms. To do so would end America as we know it and put into question the
validity of individualism itself. Many contentious issues in our politics
today involve areas of life that are wrapped up in some form of government
intervention or desire for government intervention. This is usually at the
behest of a
group that is trying to force its own agenda on other groups. Controversial
ideas must be tested in the marketplace, not imposed by government.
Edmund Burke commented two centuries ago, "All that is necessary for the
triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." Forgiving Burke his
seventeenth-century gender insensitivity, his point is that we must prevent
intellectual and moral corruption and ensure the implementation of good policy
based on sound reasoning or no one will. In the synopses that follow you will
see references to the fact that the only true protection for the citizen is
vigilance; laws, leaders, and institutions alone cannot shield us from
perfidy, dishonesty, infidelity, deceit, or disloyalty. In the fields of
economics, taxation, regulation, and social policy, the attitude of vigilance,
not deference, must always be the foundation of our relationship with those
whom we elect to govern.
Capitalism and Capitalists
A tangential journey from Adam Smith's nascent capitalism (explicated in Wealth
of Nations [Chapter 12]) may be helpful at this point. First
Principles is not intended to offer a detailed comprehension of
capitalism's machinations; it is designed to foster an understanding of
capitalism's unambiguous ties to freedom and the consequences that flow from
that relationship. If capitalism's salient features-freedom of action and
consequence-are not fitted first in the world that surrounds us, then the
remainder of our efforts will be more difficult. Once the case is made
regarding the organic link
between capitalism and freedom, then investigation
of all matters regarding the minutiae of a free-enterprise system may proceed
as the reader's interest leads.
In the eyes of some, a twenty-first-century battle
still rages over one of capitalism's foundations: freedom of action for both
those who produce and those who consume. These individuals maintain that
capitalism is at best immoral because its results offer only inequality;
because inequality is unfair in this group's view both the system and its
participants must be controlled. This group attacks what they allege is
immoral economic freedom using the unequal results of capitalistic enterprise
as the weapon. Ultimately, however, capitalism as an economic system is
not moral, amoral, or immoral; only the people who operate within it can have
those characteristics. But the more important consideration is that
capitalism's unequal results have nothing to do with morality; they are simply
what drive human activity; they reflect nothing more than human incentive and
capability. The claim of immorality-and even inequality-exists only in the
hands of the demagogues. When freedom of economic enterprise, measured by the
actual results we obtain, is balanced against the demand for some condition of
human parity, equality as an issue of morality is reduced to a political
conversation only. With freedom as our operating platform the world's progress
is astounding; if equality were used as our fuel, the state of the world would
be much, much different, and less, on all levels. Many of the authors
presented here speak directly to these issues.
However, on the smaller stage and much to the chagrin
of many of capitalism's promoters, there are bad, immoral, and thieving people
who find the free-enterprise system's minimal controls useful for their
nefarious purposes. For myriad reasons-not the least of which is media
exploitation-this infamous group, and the consequences of their activities,
occasionally form the basis of public perception of capitalism's essence. Thus
a defense of capitalism in this book isn't one designed to advance its
fundamental validity, but to deconstruct the self-serving and dishonest
diversions of its detractors-who mostly contend that because life is not
perfect under capitalism, capitalism must be
at fault. What they really mean to say is that if life is not perfect within a
free society, then a totalitarian construct, under their control, will be.
Capitalism's value, in broad terms, is ascertained by
simply observing the progress of humanity under its auspices-and comparing
that with the results obtained by means of other systems. The middle
and economic ground-between a society that is perfectly able to foster the
well-being of its inhabitants (utopia), and one rife with thieves and frauds
(anarchy)-was the true field of play as capitalistic freedom began to spread
and succeed. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (once the English
Industrial Revolution had become the Dow Jones Industrial Average), additional
revolutions-in the myriad laws that aimed at rationally and fairly aligning
people and the economy so they could work together functionally-brought the
system mostly in balance (but never perfectly and never permanently). When the
system was able to operate without substantial restraints the standard of
living and dignity achieved through its mechanisms was unmatched, even unimagined
by any previous generation or model. But the bad guy persona enjoyed by the
nineteenth century's capitalist caricature, the result of that era's
capitalistic excesses, has never melted away-first, because it is too
convenient for the coarse media or the politically crass not to exploit it,
and second, because that person, albeit in inappreciable numbers, still exists
There will always be people who engage in fraudulent
or dishonest behavior-no matter what economic system is employed. This fact
relates to human nature, not to economic paradigms; the bad guys in
collectivist and dictatorial regimes excelled in the creation of misery and
depredation far beyond what selfish mock-capitalists might have conjured up in
their heyday. What to do with capitalism's miscreants is discussed in several
of the synopses that follow, but the basic premise is this: people who distort
the system are not capitalists, they are still just thieves or villains. To
alter or discard the system that they misuse is neither necessary nor
desirable; instead we must remove them from the equation. Yet, even when that
happens, the perception often remains that it is the system's freedom
that is flawed, not the person. Thieves still break into our homes, but we
don't abolish private property to thwart their efforts-we put them in jail.
In order to obtain a rational view of capitalism and
its participants, we must counter myth with reality. For example, as Forbes
Magazine publisher Steve Forbes observed, one common myth is that those who
succeed in business "owe" something back to the community. The
allegation is that only business owners profit from their businesses. Ignored
entirely are the benefits obtained by the public (that receives new products
or services), investors (whose risk is financially rewarded and who thereafter
perpetuate the cycle), employees (who
receive wages, health care, retirement, etc.), and the rest of the economic
munity that benefits from the multiplier effect of private enterprise.
This, of course, is not to forget the other conspicuous beneficiary-the
government-that procures revenue by means of taxes levied on the profits that
are earned. If there is no enterprise, and profit, there is no government,
simply for lack of fuel.
While a voluntary charitable impulse is laudable,
social pressure that the entrepreneur "return" something to the
community for his success is in error. As Forbes observed, it leaves the
impression that something has been "taken" in the first place.
Business ventures are attempted at great personal and financial risk for the
entrepreneur, his investors, and his employees. However, if the public
perception that something is owed remains, it encourages the idea that
capitalism itself is wrong and that engaging in it can only be atoned for by a
return of its ripened fruits.
The breakdown in logic comes when the harvest of the capitalistic process is
to be distributed and the effort of planting, growing, and tending is
forgotten. Some think everyone should end the day on equal footing-regardless
of any obvious inequality of contribution or capability. In the minds of this
group, if one person receives more than another, then oppression (not
just inequality) has occurred. The fact is that if equality of result is
preordained, incentive is destroyed. There is no happy middle ground between
equal result and equal opportunity. Either freedom of action and consequence
exist or they do not, for by its very nature, anything in between must be
arbitrary. It is human inequality of contribution and capability that
allows us to imagine what can be and helps us to create what will be. It was
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1788) who observed that ability should be rewarded
for the advantage of the community.
A healthy capitalist society looks positively on what
has been achieved and eagerly greets the thought of what else can be
accomplished. This capitalism does not look enviously on the successful, but
admires their achievement while benefiting from their effort. When great or
small things are attained, most people are inspired, not resentful. Creating
a profit is perhaps the most moral of acts because so much is achieved with
the incentive it provides, and so little in its absence.
expanded discussion of this topic see Wealth
and Poverty [Chapter 27].)
After three centuries of free-market achievement,
debate on various economic systems continues only because of public
misperceptions or demagogic disingenuousness. Potential misgivings about
capitalism-crudely and cruelly manipulated by the popular press and liberal
idealists-are what allow this "contest" to persist. Capitalism is
sometimes seen in a light that does not take into account both its moral
foundation and its fitness for the job at hand. This is because politics or
idealism-not fundamental economic issues-are often allowed to drive the
As Ludwig von Mises intoned almost a hundred years ago, the battle is not
between capitalism and socialism (or now welfarism), but between capitalism
and chaos. Resolving these perceptions and the issues yet extant in this arena
is the focus of many of the efforts that follow.
The Human Condition
American socialist liberalism failed mostly because its purveyors
misunderstood human nature. To be sure, liberals have always found sympathetic
voters-people who wish to live in an imaginary world receptive to their
passion to achieve perfection by proclamation. But efforts in this direction
are undermined by the reality that governs our interactions: the human
condition, man's imperfectability. As Wilhelm Ropke observes in A Humane
It is the precept of ethical and humane behavior, no less than of
political wisdom, to adapt economic policy to man, not man to
Liberals tend to be parentalists and apologists; they believe that because
they imagine what could be, they must tell us what should be. As Ropke notes,
we cannot use government to force people to be different from their essence.
Sadly, liberals often think man's essence is selfish and dark-thus their
insistence on attempting to control us. But the essence of humanity-humanity,
not any given individual-when considered in a social context, freed from
oppression and supported by the rule of law, is decency, honesty, and
fairness. That these traits and intentions are not in perfect sync for every individual every moment is a reflection of our imperfectability. Yet
even if mankind cannot be perfect, it can, and does, strive to be so. In
nature, certainly man is anarchic, not out of venality, but out of
self-protection. When refuge is offered by means of a moral and ordered
liberty, the better part of our nature surfaces for one simple reason: being
good to one another in the fashion of enlightened self-interest achieves more
for each of us, and all of us, than does acting in any other manner. In other
courtesy, honesty, integrity are contagious. This theme is
explored in greater detail later in this volume.
Ludwig von Mises addressed another real world fact
that confronts today's politically correct equalitarianism head-on; Mises knew
that social cooperation cannot rest in egalitarian authority where everyone's
opinion is valid and no one is allowed to be in charge. He understood that
human inequalities (in our respective abilities) placed within institutional
hierarchies are what allow society to work and progress. Although such views
could fatuously be termed antidemocratic or even condescending and oppressive,
Mises understood that individual inequalities are natural. To ignore those
natural characteristics in ordering the economic or social aspects of any
society is a formula for failure.
Further, because someone must be in charge
Mises argues that human interaction ought to be primarily managed locally,
rather than in distant government. He reasons that government should be
simple, so those over whom it rules can understand it. The less complex
government is, the more obvious corruption and incompetence are when they
arise and the more easily they can be corrected. When the power of those in
charge becomes too great, or corrupt, or intrusive, or just wrong, the
governed can see these things, and take action.
Observations and Considerations
While economy of words is always desirable, you will nevertheless find some
ideas and concepts appearing more than once in this book. Occasionally these
redundancies may seem pedantic, but the points iterated are core to each
author who makes them. Many find the foundation of what they observe or
conjure within the small orchard of principled thought, others are forced to
act or react by the bright light of harsh experience. To not pay homage to
their square one-and to the many authors who arrive at virtually the same
square one over so many centuries past-would do a disservice to the remainder
of what each individual has to say, and to the overall observations to be made
Some of these foundations are nearly universal. An
example: a point made equally often and stridently by the political observers
and economists represented in this book is that the many varieties of
socialism, which seemed possible to eighteenth-century idealists and became a
theoretical obligation in the nineteenth, morphed in the
into a singular obsession termed state welfarism that remains in the
twenty-first a social, fiscal, and national danger. As Jacques Barzun notes in
From Dawn to Decadence (2000), when John Stuart Mill opined in the
nineteenth century that "the national product [of England] could be
redirected at will and that it should be so ordered for the general
welfare," the battle-not between capitalism and socialism, but between
capitalism and chaos, as Ludwig von Mises termed it-was joined. When future
president Franklin Delano Roosevelt uttered similar thoughts as he regarded
the Prussian-German economic model in 1912, it was apparent socialism was seen
by him as something good, and the State as something better: "The
[Prussians] passed beyond the liberty of the individual to do as he pleased
with his own property and found it necessary to check this liberty for the
benefit of the freedom of
the whole people" he announced to the People's Forum of Troy, New York.
Lord Acton's contention that "liberty is not a means to a higher
political end, it is itself the highest political end (Chapter
9)" was found wanting in Roosevelt's eye.
That socialism assumed its place on the world stage in the twentieth century,
undaunted by either logic or common sense, "taking," in Barzun's
words, "the twin form of Communism and the Welfare State, either under
the dictatorship of a party or under the rule of democratic parliament and
bureaucracy" was so audacious an idea in the face of reality that many of
our authors remained astonished. They felt evermore obligated to expose
sequentially the insanity of socialism and its theoretically more benign but
equally untenable progeny, state welfarism. As well, many of their acolytes
were forced to action. To observe with what common certitude these authors
held and voiced their views in spite of equally vehement opposition, inures to
the benefit of anyone who sees in these pages not just sense, but a reason for
We hope through the recognition of the universality of many of these
principles-whether in economics, governance, the protection of rights, or the
necessity of performing duties-to achieve an appreciation of their extensive
serviceability. Much as the foundations of most buildings share common
engineering principles while supporting manifold architectural options, the
first principles that underlie modern society's forms and relationships are
equally simple and universal. It is essential that we recognize these
foundations as the sometimes repeated substructure in varied applications and
Finally, as was observed by historian Forrest McDonald when he wrote E
Pluribus Unum (1965), his history of the formation of our republic at the
time of the American Revolution:
If I have stated the obvious I do not apologize, for it is the obvious
that is so often most difficult to see.
The intention of First Principles is actually to do just that-state
the obvious, note how each author uses the obvious to make more nuanced or
broad points, and finally, to use the obvious to give credence to the
principles that underlie both the origins and functioning of a democratic
republic supported by a free-enterprise economic system. As Thomas Paine
noted of his own writing, upon receiving criticism for his style and structure:
As it is my design to make those that can scarcely read understand,
I shall therefore avoid every literary ornament and put it in the
language as plain as the alphabet.
As you explore the materials presented in First Principles we hope you
will appreciate the intellectual integrity of the authors and their works, and
the freedom of discussion our society affords each of us. We unreservedly
believe that ideas have consequences. Bad ideas have bad consequences, bad
government is still a distinct possibility, and acting even with the best of
intentions can have unintended, often harmful, consequences.
As John Adams was fond of observing, "facts are stubborn things." As
you peruse the fundamentals presented here, try to keep both an open mind and
a commitment to traveling all pathways to their logical conclusions. In this
manner you may sharpen your own understanding and help solidify freedom and
virtue in a more dependable and public fashion. You may even discover new
approaches and methods to deal with particular problems of government and
human relations, or help resurrect old ones.
Learn, then act. In that way our system and our society are made better.
There are some words and phrases that appear throughout the books reviewed
in First Principles that are difficult to decipher, or for which exact
meanings are not readily apparent, or that have a historical significance with
which the reader may not be familiar. The following definitions will go some
distance toward explaining what these words and phrases mean to conservative
writers. The list appears here, and not in an appendix, because understanding
these words and concepts before reading either the synopses or the underlying
books will make the journey much easier.
authoritarianism: the suppression of the freedom of individuals, and
control of individuals without considering or soliciting their wishes or
circumstances: government by force rather than consent.
Benthamism: the moral doctrine of Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) that
posits the greatest happiness of the greatest number as the ultimate goal of
society and the individual. Closely related to Utilitarianism, the doctrine
that the worth or value of anything is determined solely by its utility, its
usefulness. Benthamism is anti-individual and anti-individual rights.
bourgeoisie: the social class between the aristocracy (the very
wealthy) and the proletariat (the working class); the middle class of small
business owners. In socialist doctrine the bourgeoisie, or capitalists as a
social class, is antithetical to the proletariat.
Calvinism: (named for John Calvin [1509-64], theologian and
religious reformer, lawyer) Calvin's religious pronouncements had a practical,
temporal side and his quest for civil order was a blend of both law and
theology. His amalgam of the Ten Commandments and cultural admonitions to
perform civic duties, such as paying taxes and bowing to the authority of
government, brought civility to bear as society perfected itself after the
Middle Ages. Religion was recognized as having a secular side in that it is a
necessary adjunct in the fight against anarchy. Calvinism, represented today
especially by Presbyterians and some Baptists, but also members of the broad
Reform tradition, offers a dual, practical approach to social organization.
(male) suffrage, equality in church
self-government and other church matters, resistance to oppression, the
obligations of civic duty, and ideals of personal liberty-were transferred
almost in their entirety (from 1620 forward) into the nascent American
capitalism: an economic system in which most of the means of
production, distribution, and/or exchange are privately owned and operated for
profit. Initially capitalism was to be an open competitive system but
government intervention and controls have developed over the centuries to
counteract the economic power created by the success of the capitalism itself,
and to deal with issues of national defense and public safety, health and
well-being as they are affected by capitalistic practices.
classical liberalism: limited and decentralized state power, a
free-market economy, freedom for the individual, and personal responsibility;
now generally a part of conservatism in America.
collectivism: government control of most spheres of social and
economic life; similar to socialism but without direct ownership of the means
communism: an economic theory and system that takes socialism as its
basis with regard to production and distribution. Communists assert that all
means of production and distribution belong to the community as a whole (this
tenet is the core of socialism), with the ownership of all other property also
resting in the community; communist doctrine holds there is no need for
private property. Distribution to individuals is "from each according to
his abilities, to each according to his need." (See Marx, Karl
conservatism: a social movement espousing minimal government
intervention in personal lives, maximization of individual liberty coupled
with personal responsibility, economic freedom with reliance on the market and
decentralized decision making to order social/economic relationships,
adherence to tested institutions and methods as described in the American
Constitution and the writings of America's Founders. A more comprehensive
definition assumes the existence of an objective moral order based on
historical evidence. Within that moral order the individual is primary and the
the state minimal. The individual enjoys certain freedoms and rights,
but assumes certain duties and responsibilities. Conservatism is anti-utopian;
it understands mankind's inequalities, and the benefits that derive
there-from, and acknowledges human imperfectability.
Deism: the belief that God exists and created the world but
thereafter did not interfere with or assume any control over it. Reason is
sufficient to prove the existence of God, but Deism rejects both revelation
and specifically, religious authority. Deism holds that the universe, once
created by a benevolent God, operates on rational rather than supernatural
principles. (See also Reason, Age of.)
demagogue: a leader who uses the passions or prejudices of the
populace for his own interest; an unprincipled agitator. "Demagoguery is
the use of hyperbole and misinformation for political advantage by
exaggerating either one's own virtue or the villainy of others"-Dick
Armey, Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1994-2002.
despot, despotism: government by a singular authority,
either an individual or a tightly knit group, which rules with absolute power.
The word implies tyrannical control; a form of government that exercises
exacting and near-absolute dominion over all of its citizens.
dialectics: the art or practice of examining opinions or ideas
logically, often by the method of question and answer, so as to determine
their validity; logical argumentation. Used by Friedrich Hegel and Karl Marx
in their theories of social action. It is based on the concept of
contradiction or opposites (thesis and antithesis) and their continual
economics: economics is the study of acts of choice (causes) and
their results (effects). Economics is not about things but about people's
actions and reactions to their world. Economics itself does not have an
ethical or moral base; economics is only about choices and actions. Economics
is indifferent to the goals of actions; it is a science of means, not ends.
Note: most dictionaries treat the words egalitarian and equalitarian
as synonymous. In classical liberal and/or conservative theory and writing,
however, the words are not interchangeable, and are, in fact,
opposites. The following definitions capture this fundamental difference:
egalitarian: a belief in equal opportunity and equal rights for all
equalitarian: a belief in equal results or status for all people,
irrespective of individual effort, capability, or opportunity.
Enlightenment, The: the eighteenth-century philosophical movement
characterized by rationalism, learning, and a spirit of skepticism and
empiricism in social, educational, religious, and political thought. The
movement was centered in France and was founded in the blossoming of
scientific understanding, often giving it anti-religious overtones. Its goal
was the transformation of civilization on purely rational principles to
achieve human perfection. Many of the Enlightenment's hopes were dashed with
the disastrous reality of the French Revolution of 1789 that left unchecked
power in the hands of a self-selected group in a legislative format. This was
found to ensure no more fairness and justice than leaving such power in the
hands of one person. Friedrich Nietzsche [1844-1900], a nineteenth-century
German philosopher, captured the Enlightenment's failure succinctly when he
observed "Man, instead of using reason to understand reality, tried to
use it to master reality." The subsequent appreciation of man's
imperfectability guided most of the ensuing rationalistic attempts at order
and social construction. To control men's worst impulses when they exert
dominion over others, mechanisms such as the separation of powers, checks and
balances, frequent democratic elections, and a written constitution alterable
only by the people, were implemented.
epistemology: the branch of philosophy that investigates the origin,
nature, methods, and limits of human knowledge.
essentialism: the study of both economics and society through the
use of base definitions of terms that embody their empirical or observable
meanings. (Examples: a hammer is a heavy object used to exert force; taxes are
revenues collected and used by a governing authority.)
fascism: a system of government characterized by a rigid one-party
dictatorship and forcible suppression of opposition, the retention of private
ownership of the means of production but under centralized
belligerent nationalism, and claims to racial purity. First appeared in Milan,
Italy (1919), under the Fascisti, founded by Benito Mussolini. The
Fascisti's ostensible purpose was to oppose and then suppress all radical
political movements in Italy, but their leaders-the Black Shirts-eventually
established an ordinary dictatorship under Mussolini. Germany's National
Socialism, a variant of fascism named for the National Socialist German
Workers Party, or Nazi Party (1931-1945), was an amalgam of fascism and
socialism created by Adolph Hitler, but taken to greater extremes than the
free market: a set of circumstances and suppositions where the
activities of the participants are not subject to coercion and where all
individuals may exchange their products, services, or ideas voluntarily. A
market, of whatever nature or subject matter, from education to economics,
from government to social interaction, in which the terms of exchange are set
and re-set by supply and demand in open competition, and are otherwise
unregulated. In a free market, decision making devolves to those closest to
the activities involved, who have the greatest knowledge of what is occurring
and how to achieve whatever goals are desired. Free-market activity is the
opposite of centralized control, where distant decision makers, often
operating largely on theory, cannot comprehend the myriad factors that affect
entire systems. A free market allows individuals to learn what they do not
know, and then act on what they learn, by providing theory with an open
general will: the
theory that a government’s decisions represent the will of the people, or a
majority thereof. In a
representative democracy the claim that legislative actions or executive
declarations embody the general will is used to quell opposition and dissent,
thus increasing the power of both those in office and the bureaucrats who
operate the system.
The assertion that
those elected are qualified to define public consensus arose as democracy
spread subsequent to the American Revolution.
The general will, after it is presented by elected officials or
candidates, is deified by its foundation in democratic process.
historicism (determinism): a theory that holds that the future is
determined by what happened in the past; the belief that historical
inevitability makes studying the past a way to predict the future.
human condition, the: a reference to the totality of the experience
of being human. As imperfect, and imperfectable beings, the manner and content
of our individual and group actions and reactions (both good and bad) as we
experience life's realities are the substance of this condition.
inflation: rising prices caused by an increase in the amount of
money and credit circulating in an economy with no equal increase in the
supply of goods or services. Prices rise as the supply of money increases
because more dollars are chasing the same amount of goods; when people have
more money, they are willing to pay more for any given object, causing its
price to be bid up. The increase in the amount of money is the result,
primarily, of government printing more currency. When the supply of money
increases, the value of each unit of money decreases. In general, governments
print more money in order to balance their budgets. An unbalanced budget
arises when governments spend more money than taxation brings in. Inflation,
allowed to continue unchecked, causes the monetary system to collapse and the
currency to become worthless, as happened in Germany in 1923 and in America in
Jacobins: from the Hebrew: one who seizes by the heel, a supplanter.
Politically radical French democrats during the revolution of 1789, ultimately
led by Maximilien Robespierre, who favored extreme change in France's social
structure. So called because their meetings were initially held in the Jacobin
friars' convent. The Jacobins instituted the Reign of Terror in 1793, their
intention being to bludgeon opponents-through mass and summary executions-into
acceptance of and conformity with their views. Refers today to political
radicals, especially persons with equalitarian impulses.
In opposition to the radical Jacobins was the Gironde Party, a group of
mostly moderate Republicans who sought, in the model of the United States,
democratic government without a monarch. Thomas Paine's support for this
group almost cost him his life.
jingoism: boasting of one's patriotism and favoring an aggressive,
Labor Party (English): a political party organized to protect and
further the rights of workers, or professing to do so; originally a democratic
socialist party, it is now evolving away from that stance.
liberal: in politics, a word or label denoting views with
essentially opposite meaning in Europe and America. Historically (and yet
today in Europe) a political viewpoint developed during the nineteenth century
that stressed personal freedom, limited state interference in the individual's
life, and the importance of constitutional rule. In mid-twentieth-century
America, liberal came to denote those who favor largely opposite goals
such as "reform" of current conditions or perceived problems through
the creation of new social patterns or values; change is to be achieved by
means of direct government intervention and programs. Personal freedom and
preference is often to be controlled by the state; the stated and sought-after
"community" good is valued over personal freedom and individual
liberalism, or collectivist or populist liberalism (American): the
opposite of classical liberalism; state economic control, various intrusive
interventionist state actions that limit individual freedom and expand
welfarism, with highly progressive and redistributionist tax structures.
Liberal Party (English): formerly the Whig Party in England; a party
of no fixed principles today.
libertarianism: a political doctrine that supports the freedom of
people to act for themselves so long as they do not interfere with the rights
of others, and that favors government action only if it is confined to those
activities that the members of a society cannot efficiently and voluntarily
perform either individually or collectively at the local level; generally
opposed to legislation involving deviant personal conduct of any kind, for
example, legislation against narcotics use.
macroeconomics: The study of any national economy, the global
economy, or other whole economic systems through the accumulation of
continually changing economic information, such as the rate of inflation, of
unemployment, of production, of price levels, etc. The effects of government
actions on these large markets are also a key part of market analysis.
Manifest Destiny: the nineteenth-century doctrine that it is the destiny of
the Anglo-Saxon nations, especially the United States, to dominate the entire
Manifest Destiny: the nineteenth-century
doctrine that it is the destiny of the Anglo-Saxon nations, especially the
, to dominate the entire
marginal utility: the minimum degree of utility (usefulness), below
which any activity (including everything from manufacturing to social
controls) is not profitable enough to be continued.
Marx, Karl: (1818-1883) nineteenth-century political economist and
social philosopher. His concept of economic justice was mathematical, and
taken to its logical end resulted in a pure uniformity of existence for
mankind. Marx's theories, based on his assumption that the history of society
was a history of class struggles, were tested in a pragmatic manner as a
result of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the imposition of
communism-Marx's brand of socialism-on the Russian people. Neither the
experiment nor Marx's theories were able to pass the "real world"
test and Russian (Soviet) Communism collapsed in 1991 when the Soviet Union
ceased to exist as a political and economic entity. Marx's labor theory of
value (that because all value was created by labor, all value should be
returned to labor) was discredited as capitalism matured and the benefits and
economic value of its various components (management, capital formation,
imagination, incentive, etc.) was recognized.
meliorism: the belief that the world naturally tends to get better,
and especially that it can be made better by human effort.
microeconomics: the branch of economics concerned with the behavior
of and decisions made by individuals, households, and firms and how these
decisions interact to form the prices of goods and services and the factors of
production and distribution.
monetarism: the theory that economic stability and growth are
determined primarily by the supply of money.
hazard: the idea that if people feel
isolated from risk they will gamble more and/or they’ll risk more when they
do gamble. A moral hazard spills
over into illicit activity, behavior in which people would normally not
engage, if enough insulation from risk is created.
moral relativism: the belief that moral propositions do not reflect
absolute or universal truth, that ethical judgments emerge simply from social
customs and personal preferences; the belief posits that there is no single
standard by which to assess an ethical proposition's truth.
This term reflects
a view that morality is personal and self or socially-defined. When used as a
foundation for public interaction it can evolve to complacent
irresponsibility, social futility and self-indulgence.
multiculturalism: a philosophy or theory based on the view that
society works better if people feel their cultural beliefs are respected and
that they do not have to abandon their values to be considered good citizens.
This view holds that several different and distinct cultures (rather than one
national culture) can coexist peacefully and equitably in a single country and
that laws, customs and behavior are subject to citizen preference rather than
unifying cultural norms that evolve sustainable values. A contrary view holds
that overt or mandated cultural individuality breeds unnecessary conflict and
jealousy and impedes citizen comity. This form of multiculturalism can devolve
to pluralism (see below). Those who hold the contrary view argue that a basic
national uniformity is essential (particularly in terms of language), but do
not oppose informal recognition and tolerance of limited individual cultural
multiplier effect: in
capitalism the consequences of an initial amount of private spending washing
through the economy causing additional spending by inventors, investors,
suppliers, producers, distributors, advertisers, sales forces, and consumers.
Each step adds value and increases tax revenue.
The multiplier effect from inventor to consumer is circular.
The opposite of the multiplier effect is government stimulus
or Keynesian spending that is a one-time event.
The effect of tax dollars taken from the private economy (or created
out of thin air by government printing more currency) that are redistributed
as stimulus spending are reduced, first, by the bureaucratic cost (called
friction) of government acting as a middleman and, second, through
misallocation of funds via political intrusion into distribution decisions.
Circulation of private funds that do not pass through the hands of
government that are guided by the invisible hand of the free market actually
create the multiplier effect sought by government.
Government attempts to stimulate an economy are better achieved through
tax and other policies, including reduced government spending, that provide
incentive for private economic activity.
nominalism: a doctrine of the late Middle Ages that all universal or
abstract terms are mere necessities of thought, or conveniences of language,
and therefore exist as names only and have no realities corresponding to them;
the opposite of realism. The idea that man's opinions are of greater
consequence than truths gained by experience.
normative: of or establishing a norm or standard; pertaining to what
ought to be, in contrast to a "positive" analysis, that is, analysis
which determines what is.
opportunity cost: when one is choosing between two options, an
opportunity cost is what is incurred because something else is chosen (i.e.,
any choice "costs" one a different choice). The opportunity that is
lost is the next most valuable end, after the one chosen, toward which one
could apply one's resources.
paradigm: the set of common beliefs and agreements about how
problems should be understood and addressed; a coherent understanding of
cause-effect relationships; the predominant view that defines what exists in
the real world.
pluralism: A condition in which members of diverse ethnic, racial,
religious, language, or social groups maintain their traditional cultures or
special interests within a common (shared) culture. Pluralism is a framework
of interaction in which groups show sufficient respect and tolerance of each
other that they fruitfully coexist and interact without conflict but also with
or without significant assimilation. Pluralism is more separatist than its
cousin multiculturalism. In a pluralistic setting often mutually exclusive and
contradictory religious, moral and/or political doctrines are held to be equal
in status-though equality in merit or value are not universally accepted.
Strident pluralism, such as when two languages cause intra-country conflict is
called Separatism (Canada, Belgium).
political correctness: a term used to describe efforts to discourage
recognition of various political or other views that are not in sync with
equalitarian (and related) criteria. While it frequently refers to a
linguistic phenomenon, it also extends to describe a non-economic, emotionally
based political ideology and behavior. When the state decides what is
"correct" for the society, the state's decisions evidence a
"political" correctness, arbitrated by those in the government and
supposedly, but not necessarily, expressing the general will. Those seeking a
politically correct society strive for equality or social justice (from a
particular viewpoint not necessarily universally accepted) through suppression
of thought, speech, or practice they deem antithetical to achieving that goal.
Questioning the morality or validity of various viewpoints that are not
universally accepted is not permitted in a politically correct milieu; it is
deemed "incorrect" speech.
(political) diversity: diversity refers to all of the
characteristics that make individuals different from each other. In a
political/sociological sense diversity reflects a respect for and
accommodation of racial/ethnic, gender, cultural, disability, sexual
orientation, and social differences. Political diversity, however, is often
seen as a goal to be imposed (with all the difficulties of legislating
morality or cultural norms), rather than as a byproduct of evolving social
populism: a political philosophy directed to the needs of the common
people and advocating a more even distribution of wealth and power, without
specific regard to classical economic tenets. Also: containing or advocating
nativist or nationalistic tendencies, such as high tariffs and a restrictive
positivism: a rationalist philosophy based solely on positive,
observable, scientific facts, and their correlation to one another. It rejects
speculation on or search for ultimate origins. It is an inductive method of
reasoning that attempts to prove theories via evidence. Also called logical
pragmatism: the theory that we learn best from experience, from what
"works." Pragmatism leads to tolerance of others and their views;
that is, for what works for them. Pragmatism became popular with the advent of
the modern age when there arose many belief systems from which to choose.
Skepticism about the authority or finality of any particular set of
beliefs-out of the many available-led to pragmatism.
proletariat: the working class, especially the industrial working
class; the class above serfs, peasants, or others bereft of freedom or
Puritan: A term first used c. 1570 for English Protestants who
wanted to "purify" the Church of England of ceremony and ritual not
found in the Scriptures. At first they simply wanted to reform their church,
but by 1620 many were separatists who wanted to start their own churches. They
felt reform was hopeless. There were never many separatist Puritans in England
because they tended to emigrate to America. "Puritan" described a
tendency, not a denomination; thus many sects evolved from Puritanism,
depending on the parts of the Anglican (Church of England) service with which
they disagreed. Puritans often defied human authority (religious or secular)
in order to follow or rely solely on Scripture.
rationalism: the principle or practice of accepting reason as the
only authority in determining one's opinions or course of action. The theory
that reason, or intellect, rather than the senses, is the true source of
knowledge. A rejection of revelation or the supernatural as explanations for
Realpolitik: foreign policy based on calculations of actual
power and national interest.
Reason, Age of: a loosely defined period which began near the end of
the eighteenth century, where rationalism was to define human experience and
existence; also the title of a book by Thomas Paine whose thinking was
archetypal of the age. Paine was a deist (see Deism). He vehemently
rejected the authority of Judeo-Christian tenets and scriptures. In The Age
of Reason, Paine outlined his objections to theism and his belief in
deism, and he dissected the miracles and inconsistencies in the Old and New
Testaments in an effort to bolster his view that God is less palpable than the
adherents to conventional religions claim. Paine used reason, which he called
"the most formidable weapon against errors of every kind," to point
out problems and expose contradictions within various religions. Paine was so
sure of his own reasoned conclusions that he thought the collapse of
"revealed religion" was imminent as mankind entered the new Age of
redistribution (economic): a political effort to shift a substantial
portion of society's wealth from the entrepreneurial class to the remainder of
the population. This is accomplished by means of high rates of taxation
whereby income, profits, estates, etc., are reallocated
to the less well-off
through law and regulation (such as Social Security and Medicare), direct
transfers (in the form of various subsidies), and implementation of other
public welfare measures. Generally considered to achieve ends opposite of the
intended goal by undermining the incentive that created the wealth that is to
be redistributed. Redistribution also depletes the pool of capital that is the
fuel of economic activity thus making the entire nation poorer.
Reformation, or Protestant Reformation: the sixteenth-century
movement initiated by Martin Luther with the nailing of ninety-five theses to
his parish church door in 1517. The theses sought to expose religious
inconsistencies and apostasies. The movement was aimed at reforming the Roman
Catholic Church and resulted in the establishment of Protestantism-a group of
Christian churches not aligned with, and often opposed to, the Roman Catholic
and Eastern Orthodox Churches. Luther, a priest, contended that the Roman
Catholic Church was corrupt and in need of reform. He favored the translation
of the Bible into contemporary languages because most people could not read
Latin. Luther strongly opposed the selling of forgiveness by church
functionaries, which sale he considered to be immoral, especially when the
sale was of forgiveness for future sins. The idea behind the Protestant
Reformation was simple: the Church should be changed, or reformed, so that it
would be less greedy, and also fairer and accessible to all people, not just
the rich and well educated. Luther held that the only religious authority was
the Bible, not the Church hierarchy.
Renaissance: the period of European history from the early
fourteenth to the late sixteenth centuries. The term is derived from the
French word for rebirth, and originally referred to the revival of the values
and artistic styles of classical antiquity, especially in Italy. The word
later acquired a broader meaning. Voltaire in the eighteenth century
classified the Renaissance in Italy as one of the great ages of cultural
achievement. In the modern age the Renaissance is considered a distinct
historical epoch characterized by rejuvenation of the arts, the rise of the
individual, renewed scientific inquiry and geographical exploration, and the
growth of secular values.
scientism: the philosophy that scientific methods can and should be
applied to all fields of knowledge.
Scottish Enlightenment: the period c.1740-c.1800 when the intellectuals
—most notably David Hume, Adam Smith, and Frances Hutcheson, Hume’s
antagonist—explored societal changes wrought by capitalism and science. The
Enlightenment (p. 43), which flowered in
also in the eighteenth-century, was a movement characterized by rationalism,
empiricism, and a spirit of skepticism in social, political, and scientific
thought. Using the
Enlightenment’s intellectual tools and their own pragmatism the Scots
watched mankind react to its surroundings.
From these observations they saw the necessity of accommodating the
individual rights, duties, and opportunities of people rather than imposing on
them theoretical verities that often didn’t work in real-world situations.
The conclusions of the Scots led to the elaboration of personal freedom
as the common denominator in all human equations.
the newly-born scientific method and the division of labor and their impact on
economics and society, Scottish intellectuals began a centuries-long
contemplation of modernity’s moral foundations as they are affected by
economic, social, and scientific realities. Modern scientific processes based
on understanding evidence, experience, and causation were developed in this
period. Hume elaborated many principles of the scientific method while he also
investigated the evolving relationship between science and religion.
Simultaneously Smith expanded understanding of the intellectual
foundation and logical consequences of capitalism.
The confluence of these economic and scientific advances revolutionized
human thinking and progress.
secularism: a system of doctrines, philosophy, beliefs, and/or
practices that rejects any form of religious faith and worship; the belief
that religion and ecclesiastical affairs should not enter into the functions
of the state.
social contract; social compact: the voluntary submission of free
people to the authority of government in order to secure their rights. If the
government violates those rights, it breaks the contract and the people are
free to organize themselves in another manner-by the use of force if
necessary. The protection of rights and the enforcement of duties are the
functions of government, but if government exerts power beyond that agreement,
then the right of defiance is manifest. However, there are shades of citizen
justification for self-determination, for no government is perfect or
perfectly administered. If government fails
the populace, there is a right of
resistance; if government oppresses the people, there is a right of
revolution. A continued theft of rights or enforcement of slave-like duties is
no more justified in government than it is in private matters.
socialism: a theory and system that holds that the ownership of the
means of production and distribution shall be by society as a whole rather
than by free individuals. Everyone is to share equally in both the work and
the product. In communist doctrine, socialism is that stage coming between
capitalism and communism; a dictatorship-theoretically of the proletariat as a
class, but normally of individuals-is required to bring about the eventual
transition to a communist society.
sovereign state: a state independent of all others; a political
entity not controlled by outside forces.
Soviet Union; Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR): the former
communist country in Eastern Europe and northern Asia; established in 1922; it
included Russia and fourteen other socialist republics. The Soviet Union was
the political entity that came into being after the 1917 Russian Revolution
and the following Civil War of 1918-20. It was the home of a worldwide effort
at socialist revolution by means of both stealth and force. The government and
the country were run by a totalitarian political entity, The Communist Party
of the Soviet Union. For most of the half-century following World War II, the
Soviet Union vied with the United States for political and ideological
domination of both populations and countries in what was termed the Cold War.
The USSR ceased to exist politically in 1991, but its disintegration began in
1989 with the initial breakdown of its economic and political structures. When
the USSR collapsed, its constituent parts became fifteen independent
countries, many of which were loosely aligned in the Commonwealth of
Independent States. Soviet is the Russian word for council. Soviets were
councils of workers' deputies and organizationally began to be formed during
the 1905 Russian Revolution (the deputies were those who represented the
workers in the councils; the term deputies reflects their subordinate, in
theory, position to the workers themselves); the term took on greater
political meaning subsequent to the 1917 Revolution.
statism, statist: a term used to describe any economic system where
government implements a significant degree of centralized economic planning,
which usually includes a comprehensive welfare system and state ownership of
the means of production, as opposed to a system where economic planning occurs
at a decentralized level by private individuals in a free market. A statist is
one who believes in or implements this form of governmental control.
tautology: needless repetition of an idea in a different word,
phrase, or sentence; redundancy; adding nothing to the sense of a subject.
Tory: the political party in England labeled today as Conservative.
Also applied to those Americans who sided with Great Britain and opposed the
American Revolutionary War.
totalitarian, -ism: a form of government in which one person, a
dictator, or a political party exercises absolute control over all spheres of
human life, and opposing political parties or ideas are prohibited.
utilitarian, -ism: the notion that the greatest happiness of the
greatest number should be the aim of all social policy (regardless of
individual rights and freedoms). (See Benthamism.)
Utopia, utopia: an imaginary island described as having a perfect
political and social system, from a book of the same title by Sir Thomas More
(1478-1535); any place, state, system, or situation of ideal perfection,
especially social perfection.
Whig: the English political party that sided with the Americans
during the Revolutionary War and opposed maintaining American ties to Great
Britain by force. The party championed popular individual rights. Also the
name of the U.S. political party (1836-1856) that supported protection of
industry and limitation of executive power.