We should pay no attention to the recommendations of men who call the Constitution an eighteenth-century agrarian document—who apologize for capitalism and free enterprise. We should refuse to follow their siren song of concentrating, increasingly, the powers of government in the Chief Executive, of delegating American sovereign authority to non-American institutions in the United Nations, and pretending that it will bring peace to the world by turning our armed forces over to a U.N. world-wide police force.
Finally, as it will be accepted in principle that the state is responsible for establishing fraternity on behalf of its citizens, we shall see the entire people transformed into petitioners. Landed property, agriculture, industry, commerce, shipping, industrial companies, all will bestir themselves to claim favors from the state. The public treasury will be literally pillaged. Everyone will have good reasons to prove that legal fraternity should be interpreted in this sense: "Let me have the benefits, and let others pay the costs." Everyone's effort will be directed toward snatching a scrap of fraternal privilege from the legislature. The suffering classes, although having the greatest claim, will not always have the greatest success; their multitude will, meanwhile, increase constantly, from which it follows that we can have only one revolution after another.
Eminent men and able men of great experience and wisdom are blaming the people for looking more and more to the Federal Government to meet their wants and to exercise governmental control over them, and this to the destruction of local self government, the rights of the States, and the rights of the people, all which are the basic factors of our social, economic, and constitutional life.
Might I humbly question whether the people are primarily to blame for this?
Nearly two thousand years ago, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, the Master miraculously fed 5,000 people. They immediately wished to make Him king. One who could feed them without their working for it, ought to be made their sovereign. This would solve for them the all important problem of earthly existence. Perceiving their thoughts and to avoid being dragged forth as the seeming head of a rebellion, the Master dismissed them and Himself fled their presence, going "up into a mountain apart to pray." That night He crossed over to the other side of the sea , and the multitude learning of it, took ship and also crossed over, and came to Him again. They gathered about Him, deceitfully worshipping, declaring: "Of a truth thou art the Son of God." But He discerning their thought and purpose, reproved them saying: "Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled."
He then preached the great sermon on the bread of life, and the sacred record declares: "From that time many of his disciples went back and walked no more with him."
He was useless to them, except as the gratuitous provider of their bread and meat.
So do multitudes.
If our Congressmen would stop the march of the people to Washington for their government and their substance, they should cease distributing the loaves and fishes from the steps of the Treasury Building across the road from the White House. You Congressmen have the absolute power to stop it; have you the courage? If it is not done, you, not the people, must take on the censure.
There is one principle as old as human government, indeed as old as human relations: He who holds the purse strings, rules the house, the nation, the world.
If Congressmen wish to restore local self-government, and the rights of the States and of the people, let them send back to the States, to the local communities, to the Churches, and to the children of indigent parents, where it belongs, the duty of caring for their own sick and decrepit and aged, their own unfortunate and underprivileged. Then the march on Washington will cease and the countermarch back home will be a Marathon.
I am not forgetting that this may cost a good many Congressmen considerable inconvenience and more abuse, it may cost some of their them official lives. But they are planning and legislating for the conduct of a war which will cost hundreds of thousands of the actual lives of our best manhood; might they not make an infinitely less sacrifice of their own official lives for the common good and for our free institutions? And I tell you, our free institutions are far more threatened by our domestic usurpations than by the outcome of this war. If you Congressmen would save this nation and its free institutions, cease to appropriate the national funds to meet local wants and problems of welfare.
We have been used to speaking of our political system (as envisioned by the founding fathers) as one in which opinions collide constitutionally, wherein vested interests cancel each other out, or tame each other before a safe majority is formed, or, at least, in which vested interests are brought out into the light by the democratic process. Indeed, this system has served us well. Winners and losers have played out the drama almost always within constitutional constraints, as turns have been taken at the levers of power by different majorities. What was not allowed for fully, however, nor could it be, is what happened when government, instead of remaining a referee, first became a participant and then became a possibly permanent majority itself.
It remains to be seen whether or not our nation can tame big government. There is, frankly, no precedent for dismantling, even partially, a welfare state, especially in a peaceful and constitutional way. Such a Goliath will not go quietly to surgery.
We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.