BALANCING POWER WITH RESPONSIBILITY FORT WORTII The realities of twentieth century problems often elude our of forts to grapple with them because the vocabulary we use is totally unrealistic. Walter Prescott Webb and Thurman Arnold are among the distinguished writers who have sought to liberate us from self-deceptive thinking in this area. Language which actually described the situation of our European ancestors as they emerged from feudalism can do little but confuse their twentieth-century descendants’ of forts to ‘comprehend the current situation. Five hundred years ago the concept of ownership in fee simple described the real relationship of many men to their property. The artisan who found himself free of feudal obligations could own the place where he reared his family and made his living. He owned the tools of his trade. Several generations passed before the guilds set enforceable limits on his individual freedom to use them. His present-day descendant, as Webb pointed out in Divided We Stand, is involved in a new feudalism. Corporate organizations are in charge of the tools of his trade and the elaborate technical, financial, commercial, and political arrangements that circumscribe his practice of it. He works for a “private” or a “public” agency that claims a pervasive fealty as a condition of security and advancement. The Author Even if he belongs to the shrinking minority who are not called employees, his actual position as the “owner” of an individual proprietorship! or the practitioner of a profession can scarcely be described in language that suggests real independence. Small businessmen are at the mercy of complex developments over which they have little control. Most teachers have long depended on public or private institutions to provide the increasingly elaborate setting in which they practice their profession. \(Which makes it a shade quixotic to come out in the twentieth century one of the scientists the schools arc now diligently preparing will ever own a cyclotron. Most doctors can scarcely afford clinical facilities, not to . mention hospitals, or the leisure and equipment for research. Lawyers used to have clients : now clients have lawyers. Even the farmers who are not engaged in corporate farming need increasingly expensive equipment and elaborate marketing arrangements. THE more interdependent we become, the more urgently we need to reach a concensus on ethical terms for living together in decency. Yet we have not developed standards that fit our status as members of overlapping, interacting groups. Our obsolete vocabu:ary has slowed us down. The purposes of some whose power comes from realistic manipulation of the groups on which we depend are best served when we make no progress. We must learn to cope with this kind of exploitation. Let us begin with the reality : We are all organization men. But we can protect and enlarge the human values we cherish if we build an ethic to fit current actualities. I submit that the basis for this ethic is the concept of balancing power with responsibility. We can start with a quantitative application : To whom much is given, of him shall much be required. Then we can think in terms of matching the responsibility assumed with the same kind of power : Power to make the policies of a factory should not be convertible into power to dominate a water pollution study or censor a minister’s sermons. We can consider that the character of the responsibility suggests the proper uses of the power : In collective bargaining, everybody sits on the side of the table he was sent to sit on. Iii a complex society, the unpardonable sin is irresponsible use of power. In the murky realm of politics, cynicism thrives on outmoded thinking. In our confusion we fail to uphold standards, either passively, by pronouncing politics dirty and leaving it to the dirty politicians, or actively, by soiling our hands in the service of some interest, special or general, selfish or altruistic. We don’t know what is wrong because we don’t know, in any explicit terms, what’s right. What we need is a standard that combines the ethical with the practical. An explicit commitment to balanc ing power with responsibility would be a useful tool in formulating such a standard. It would be relevant to the proprietary attitude of many public figures toward a public of fice: no office is the personal property of a politician. It would pass telling judgment on a special interest hiding behind an of ficeholder. It might startle the substantial contributor of money, influence. or work in a victorious campaign : no contributor owns an of ficial in fee simple. It might extend the meaning of subversion to cover other activity than Communists’ “boring from within.” Any of fort to turn one group, without regard for its primary interest, to the purposes of another is subversion. This yardstick suggests the relationship of importing oil companies to the Texas Railroad Commission, or of Pro-America to the League of Women Voters, or of Freedom In Action to the major political parties. The idea of balancing power with responsibility might clarify the responsibilities of those parties and their reasonable claims on their candidates, their party officials, and their members. It might even shed a new light on the ancient and accepted practices of log rolling and political blackmail. IF THIS IDEA is a poor basis for the formulation of realistic ethical standards, let us discover better ones, which will produce workable standards. For in the absence of specific ethical commitments the decencies languish and die. MARGARET CARTER Yarborough’s Growing Stature AUSTIN Guest columnist this week is Mrs. Margaret Carter, the leader of the liberal Democrats in Fort Worth. “The only important thing about my background is that I have it in common with so many other people,” she says. She is descended on her father’s side from a Marshall physician, who arrived with his Alabama bride and her dowry of five house slaves in the late 1840’s and departed in the early ’60’s to become a brigadier general, C.S.A. On her mother’s side her family were English miners who migrated to Pennsylvania. Her father was city clerk in Sherman, where she was born. She has gone to school and college, taught ‘school, married, and borne three children all within an area bounded by Sherman on the north, Belton on the South, Highway 81 on the west, and Highway 75 on the east. “What,” she asks, “could be more provincial ?” She married Jack Carter of Thurber, a miner’s son, the seventh and last of an ambitious brood who f inished law school and became Democratic county chairman, president of the Young Democratic Clubs of Texas, and state Democratic executive committeeman. Mrs. Carter has been president of the Tarrant County Democratic’ Women’s Club, vice-president of the Texas Democratic Women’s State Committee, and secretary of the Tarrant County Democratic Organizing Committee, of which she is now second vice-president responsible for precinct work. She represented Tarrant County in 1955 and ’56 on the Democratic Advisory Council for Texas. Mrs. Carter says: “To quote the ‘Ballad for Americans,’ I’m the ‘et cetera and the and so forth who do the work.’ I have the commonest experience of ordinary Texas people in my bones. My personal philosophy derives from two demanding loyalties : I am a Christian and a Democrat. If I ever have a memorial urnno tombstones, please! I hope the inscription will read : The most important fact about anybody is his membership in the human race.’ ” ABILENE Ralph Yarborough’s speeches since Sept. 24 will illustrate my belief that he has doubled in stature since he was elected in 1957. He was a good man then; he is becoming whatever it means to say “a great man” now. He is different not in the way he seems but in what he says. For a long time excuses have been made for Senator Johnson on the theory that he is “as liberal as a senator from Texas can be.” The tolerances of the people for ideas they are not used to do limit the possibilities of a public life. But even as Johnson barnstorms the state sloshing out platitudes to what he must think are the dopes who vote for himstuff that reminds one of the insurance man’s “scare ’em and sell ’em” pitch or .the speech of a general before a military academy, all vaguely smelling of the same stuff rewritten thirty timesYarborough has made a few speeches which show he has far more faith than “the next president” in the public intelligence. LET YARBOROUGH speak for himself : Sept. 24, at the fall convocation of Mary Hardin Baylor College in Belton : “The central thought which I would day concerns an appraisal of your own life: a charting of the course you intend to follow. Soon, if you have not already done so, you must make a decision for individualism as opposed to conformity in your modern woman’s world. You must, as it were, decide whether you will shape your own destiny or allow it to be moulded by someone else ; whether you will run with the pack or often walk alone. Throughout history, the men and women who have made the greatest contributions to life have generally been individualists who walked alone.” \(To say this to young men would be nothing; to say it to young women Sept. 27, at the annual dinner meeting of the American Jewish Committee, Houston Chapter, in Houston : “Those who would destroy the United Nations are attacking one of the chief bulwarks of our safety, and, be it remembered, one of the chief evidences before the world of the validity of our claim to disinterestedness in international affairs.” This was also the speech in which Yarborough condemned “prejudice, racial, religious, and national,” and said that happily “this unthinking, emotional approach is being countered … by a scientific and intellectual study of the causes of the rise and growth of prejudice.” Oct. 17, of the Truman Rally in Dallas, one of the most segregationist cities in Texas: a man who will, with justice, humility, and pride, recognize and represent the rights of all Americans of every race, color, and creed.” \(Yarborough also set forth his other standards for the next president even though he lost the applause, as he went along, of those who thought them too high for Lyndon Johnson to live tip to. In such a formal setting, with the party satraps and thousands looking on and Johnson on the platform behind himthis Oct. 19, before the convention of Texas Independent Auto Dealers in San Antonio: “The only area where we may need additional government controls over business i to protect the buying public and the little businessman from the. ruthless pressures and monopolistic practices of those rapacious and irresponsible special interests who would stifle competition. … Administered prices and monopolistic practices are a growing threat to the great free enterprise system …” \(The economic theory for which the right wing has no satisfying anFINALLY, the Farmers’ Union barbecue at Friona High School cafeteria Oct. 20: “Wasted Food in a Hungry World”: “Nothing is more tragic than this fact : “Ours is a country, which holds in storage $7,000,000,000 worth of socalled food surpluses. Yet tens of thousands of our needy aged and dis abled suffer from malnutrition ; and outside of America more than one third of the human beings in the world go to bed hungry every night. This happens while so-called surplus grain, enough to make tens of billions of loaves of bread, is storedmuch of it spoiling and being eaten by weevils or rats. “I think it’s high time we give the human race a break and feed every bite of this food that is needed to folks who need it. … You call it neighborliness. … When a man is down and out, when his family’s hungry, when he needs help, you give it to him. if you can. You do it, not because you have to but because you want to. You help because it’s the decent thing to do.” “Use more surplus food for lunches for needy school children … needy aged … physically disabled … for the starving millions around the world who wonder where their next meal is corning from. … Can we expect to permanently keep the good will of the starving uncommitted peoples of the earth when we offer to deliver on their clocks. tanks and guns. while unused grain rots in storage? … We will send out of these surplus foods, fleets of rations to the starving peoples of the world. … “As Democrats we are dedicated to just one thingthe people, and their pursuit of happiness. Our interest in and concern for people doesn’t stop at the county or state line, or at the American border. It goes wherever the ideal of Human Liberty lives in the hearts of men.” A “STRONG and active faith” is working in Yarborough. Reassured by his politic’al achievement and by the good he has done, he has. it seems to me, looked ever more carefully into himself, asking again ,and again, as a way of life, “Am I serving my ideals ? Do I have power and persuasive responsibilityI am afraid to use? What was the effort for if not to do the right thing when it’s hardest to do?” R.D. THE TEXAS OBSERVER Page 5 October 30, 1959
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