that has created big business, neither can we reverse the correlative political history, that has created offsetting big government. But just as we can find, by new thinking, many possibilities of renewing personal kinds of work, so also, I believe, can we find, by new thinking, many possibilities of renewing our citizenship in a politics that is close to us. Immediately at hand is the precinct convention of one’s chosen party. In Texas these conventions are farcical. They are made farces on the Democratic side by the hardening of organizational division, by the unit rule, and by the tradition in Texas that the governor owns the state party But the precinct convention could have all the attributes of the old town hall. To make it alive again as part of government, I believe we’d need to insist, in the conventions themselves as citizens, on the right to free discussion. As a matter of law the unit rule should be outlawed; it not only shuts up the minority, it literally rubs it out of existence, and the distortion of majority will as unit-rule bloc votes are cast at each successive stage in the convention series becomes incomputable. How fine it would be for each precinct in a town or in the country to have real discussions, real votes, and proportional division of the delegates to the next convention, each delegate free to follow his conscience on what comes up! I think we need, too, to have more townhall meetings that go on year round. Each town of any size ought to have open debates, televised as a public service, sponsored by a nonpartisan group with no fear of controversy, with free and open discussion afterward. “The Town Hall of the World” on TV may be very good theater, but it’s just a show. To be real in the time of the nation of millions, democracy must occur again in one’s town, in one’s own life. A man must be relevant himself to what his community stands for. I cannot understand what has happened to us, that this obvious and old-fashioned town hall politics has been machined out of our lives, that we stand mute before the politicians and the mysterious processes of superfinanced elections and cloakroom deals in the legislatures. Again it is the reality of personal existence that is slipping away from us, as we decide which slogan ,to be for, and therefore which candidate. If we do not reassert our personhood as the precondition of civilized life, I seriously fear for the existence of American democrary. Government is becoming mainly administrative. Wiretapping is gaining ground among us, and thousands of companies are now using lie detector tests against applicants for employment and against employees. Security checks by the many government bureaus that investigate people are becoming commonplace. In other words, the government is now investigating the citizens, instead of the citizens investigating the government. Devices have been invented that can be “aimed” at conversations 6 The Texas Observer hundreds of feet away and pick up every word of them. If ever we just happened to get a president, or an attorney general, or an income tax director, who was willing to use the powers of the state ruthlessly and electronically, we would have a serious situation at once. If big business gets a much more pervasive hold in the fabric of our daily lives, the same methods could be directed against our privacy and independence and ‘freedom from within the private business sector. Periodically I am Once again the sickness has gone too far for aspirin to work. It is the deeper condition of our psyche we need look to. Socialism as economics works fairly well in many cases and many countries, and it’s nothing to be afraid of. But on the other hand, economics is a practical question, What works best?, and the answer varies from industry to industry, from situation to situation, depending on the country, the nature of its needs and resources. The United States has accepted a mild mix of free enterprise and socialism; we are not shocked by the much headier mix of this blend in Sweden, England, or Canada ; neither do American liberals still believe, as perhaps was once rather generally believed by reformers, that socializing nearly everything is wise on its face. What has come to concern me in this area the last few years, however, is the effect of the taboo-power in the word, “socialism,” on our national ethosthe values that young people intuitively know to be at the center of the system into which they are expected to plunge themselves. Mr. Kennedy surely was trying to revive in the young a central awareness of the public welfare, of the idea of the common good. In the war on poverty and such programs as medicare we at least see embodied forms of the struggle between this idea and the idea of self-interest as the best central value. I fear that the national taboo against socialism or anything that can be called socialism has been a severe depressant on the currency of the idea of the common good, what Lippman calls “the public philosophy,” without which we cannot even begin to talk about the restoration of community values, or what is best for the ones who are left out. I would like to see this taboo repudiated openly by thoughtful people of whatever politics; to see every man re. nounce his own argumentative advantage because of it and denounce anyone who avails himself of it. Let us speak again with pride of the most good for the most people, and leave standing in a pool of silence those who shriek it’s socialism. Again and again, when I try to think of such things in a general way, my mind reverts to an intuition a friend of mine had stirred to alarm by the extent to which we have accepted militarism in every major aspect of our life and values. We could evolve into a police state, an electronic fascism, while maintaining every outward form of political democracy. The time is already past due to stand up for man, for woman, for his privacy, for her privacy : If I had to give a name to the cause that now moves me most, it would not be conservative, liberal, anarchist, or socialist: it would be personalist. once, that the things that must be done in mass must be socially controlled, and not controlled for the profit of a few, and that we must meanwhile erect high walls around the,private and the personal in life, and we shall call these protected places, fields of freedom. I think this thought comes back to me because it is like a conjunction; it is a connective between two grossly different aspects of the modern reality, the huge and interrelated mass economic and political mechanisms, and the intimate and immediate life a person moment by moment livestwo aspects that either must peacefully coexist, or there be an end to freedom. The whole complex interrelated economy is properly subordinated to the one notion, that it exists to serve man, the person, the one who is here and there, and not anything else. The technological complex belongs in a particular to this company or that, but as a whole it must serve to endow and liberate the life of the individual person, or it is not justified; it is not justified by being privately owned, it which is so automatic and employs fewer and fewer men, if it plays us false by making us what we do not want or need and extracting from us through its prices too large a portion of our freedom to get such things. That in our economy which is competitive, all hail, let us have more of it, as it is; but that which has become noncompetitive, collusive, bulky, and dominative and manipulates us instead of we manipulating it, must be accepted as a collective thing, and made benign. Telephones And Trains I think now as clearly as I can, as though there were no special interests, and fears and bugaboos. I do not see why our telephone company should be both privately owned and privately managed. It is not competitive and cannot pretend to be. It performs a general service all of us often need. In principle it is no different from the school and the post office. It has made the girls who work The Taboo of ‘Socialism’
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