We star in our own movies, we photograph ourselves incessantly, we click the mouse and a machine confirms our sense of mastery. And, since our technology is really just an extension of ourselves, we don't have to have contempt for its manipulability, the way we might with actual people. It's all one big endless loop. We like the mirror and the mirror likes us. To friend a person is merely to include the person in our private hall of flattering mirrors.
I may be overstating the case, a little bit. Very probably, you're sick to death of hearing social media dissed by cranky fifty-one-year-olds. My aim here is mainly to set up a contrast between the narcissistic tendencies of technology and the problem of actual love. My friend Alice Sebold likes to talk about 'getting down in the pit and loving somebody.' She has in mind the dirt that love inevitably splatters on the mirror of our self-regard. The simple fact of the matter is that trying to be perfectly likable is incompatible with loving relationships. Sooner or later, for example, you're going to find yourself in a hideous, screaming fight, and you'll hear coming out of your mouth things that you yourself don't like at all, things that shatter your self-image as a fair, kind, cool, attractive, in-control, funny, likable person. Something realer than likability has come out in you, and suddenly you’re having an actual life. Suddenly there's a real choice to be made, not a fake consumer choice between a BlackBerry and an iPhone, but a question: Do I love this person? And, for the other person: Does this person love me? There is no such thing as a person whose real self you like every particle of. This is why a world of liking is ultimately a lie. But there is such a thing as a person whose real self you love every particle of. And this is why love is such an existential threat to the technoconsumerist order: it exposes the lie.
One of the heartening things about the plague of cell phones in my Manhattan neighborhood is that, among all the texting zombies and the party-planning yakkers on the sidewalks, I sometimes get to walk alongside somebody who's having an honest-to-God fight with a person they love. I'm sure they'd prefer not to be having the fight on a public sidewalk, but here it's happening to them anyway, and they're behaving in a very, very uncool way. Shouting, accusing, pleading, abusing. This is the kind of thing that gives me hope for the world.
Which is not to say that love is only about fighting, or that radically self-involved people aren't capable of accusing and abusing. What love is really about is a bottomless empathy, born out of the heart's revelation that another person is every bit as real as you are. And this is why love, as I understand it, is always specific. Trying to love all of humanity may be a worthy endeavor, but, in a funny way, it keeps the focus on the self, on the self's own moral or spiritual well-being. Whereas, to love a specific person, and to identify with their struggles and joys as if they were your own, you have to surrender some of your self.
The Commanding Heights
The consequence of all this was an economic system that had three self-defeating characteristics. The first was the 'Permit Raj'—a complex, irrational, almost incomprehensible system of controls and licenses that held sway over every step in production, investment, and foreign trade. The control system had begun as an emergency improvisation during World War II, but after independence it became far more, with much greater ambitions. What was meant to be the embodiment of the all-knowing allocators and balancer of the economic national interest turned into an endlessly arbitrary bureaucracy. Everything needed approval and a stamp. If a businessman wanted to shift from making plastic shovels to plastic pails, he had to get approval. A company had to get approval before it could increase output. Indeed, any company worth over $20 million had to submit all major decisions, including the membership of its board of directors, for government assent. Even trivial decisions required stamps. All of this meant hanging around interminably in government offices and seeking to curry the favor of a myriad of officials. But if you had the licence and the stamp, there was a consolation—protection against competition from those who did not have the necessary approvals. The result was a host of interests that did not encourage economic growth—'the politicians who profit from the corruption, the bureaucrats who enjoy the power, the businesses and the workers who like the sheltered markets and squatters' rights.'
The second characteristic was a strong bias toward state ownership, reflecting what has been described as the Fabians' 'measured and slow-paced ascent up the Marxist mountain.' The public sector rose from 8 percent of GDP in 1960 to 26 percent by 1991. The central government owned about 240 enterprises, excluding traditional state industries like railways and utilities. Their importance can be seen in their scale. By the end of the 1980s, 70 percent of the jobs in the large 'organized' sector of the economy were in state-owned companies. Moreover, it was estimated that half of the 240 firms were in fact terminally bankrupt. Rather than letting 'sick' companies fail, the government took them over and ran them. Workers assumed that salaries were the guaranteed 'rewards' for being employed while overtime was their pay Even when their enterprises were closed down, they still expected to be paid the overtime. State-owned companies generally operated in totally sheltered markets, with no discipline from competition The result was a state-owned sector that had no incentive to be efficient, that did not respond to customers, and that racked up ever-growing losses.
The Hindustan Fertilizer Corporation made for a truly brilliant example. In 1991, at the time of the economic crisis, its twelve hundred employees were clocking in every day, as they had since the plant had officially opened a dozen years earlier. The only problem was that the plant had yet to produce any fertilizer for sale. It had been built between 1971 and 1979, using considerable public funds, with machinery from Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and a half-dozen other countries. The equipment had looked like a great bargain to the civil servants who made the basic decisions, because it could be financed with export credits. Alas, the machinery did not fit together and the plant could not operate. Everyone just pretended that it was operating.
The third self-defeating characteristic was a rejection of international commerce. What has been described as 'export pessimism' settled over decision makers. India adopted the inward-looking drive for self-sufficiency that had been so fashionable in the developing world in the 1950s and 1960s. By rejecting foreign trade and foreign investment, it excluded itself from the world economy. India developed a very large cadre of highly talented scientists and engineers, but, as in the Soviet Union, there were major obstacles to deploying new technologies in the marketplace. The hostility toward foreign investment, the severe limits on international trade, and the constraints on competition all closed down the avenues by which innovation moves into nations. India fell behind technologically. Often, technology was frozen at the level at which it had been in the 1950s or 1960s.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Lectures on Aesthetics
The peculiar mode to which artistic production and works of art belong no longer satisfies our supreme need. We are above the level at which works of art can be venerated as divine, and actually worshipped; the impression which they make is of a more considerate kind, and the feelings which they stir within us require a higher test and a further confirmation. Thought and reflection have taken their flight above fine art. Those who delight in grumbling and censure may set down this phenomenon for a corruption, and ascribe it to the predominance of passion and selfish interests, which scare away at once the seriousness and the cheerfulness of art. Or we may accuse the troubles of the present time and the complicated condition of civil and political life as hindering the feelings, entangled in minute preoccupations, from freeing themselves, and rising to the higher aims of art, the intelligence itself being subordinate to petty needs and interests, in sciences which only subserve such purposes and are seduced into making this barren region their home.
However all this may be, it certainly is the case, that art no longer affords that satisfaction of spiritual wants which earlier epochs and peoples have sought therein, and have found therein only; a satisfaction which, at all events on the religious side, was most intimately and profoundly connected with art. The beautiful days of Greek art, and the golden time of the later middle ages are gone by. The reflective culture of our life of today makes it a necessity for us, in respect of our will no less than of our judgment, to adhere to general points of view, and to regulate particular matters according to them, so that general forms, laws, duties, rights, maxims are what have validity as grounds of determination and are the chief regulative force. But what is required for artistic interest as for artistic production is, speaking generally, a living creation, in which the universal is not present as law and maxim, but acts as if one with the mood and the feelings, just as, in the imagination, the universal and rational is contained only as brought into unity with a concrete sensuous phenomenon. Therefore, our present in its universal condition is not favourable to art. As regards the artist himself, it is not merely that the reflection which finds utterance all round him, and the universal habit of having an opinion and passing judgment about art infect him, and mislead him into putting more abstract thought into his works themselves; but also the whole spiritual culture of the age is of such a kind that he himself stands within this reflective world and its conditions, and it is impossible for him to abstract from it by will and resolve, or to contrive for himself and bring to pass, by means of peculiar education or removal from the relations of life, a peculiar solitude that would replace all that is lost.
In all these respects art is, and remains for us, on the side of its highest destiny, a thing of the past.
War And Peace And War
A shoe maker in the city who spends hours every day hunched over his work will make a lousy warrior—weak, clumsy, and nearsighted. Therefore, any Bedouin is a better warrior than your average city slicker. When you add to this individual superiority the high group solidarity of the desert dwellers, their military advantage becomes overwhelming.
The civilization zone is divided into states and empires, which are, in any case, normally quite good at defending themselves against nonstate societies. For one thing, the civilization supports much greater population densities than the desert, so the civilized armies tend to be larger than the 'barbarian' ones. Civilizations also have technological advantages, such as fortifications, catapults, better arms, and armour. As long as the state keeps its internal cohesion, it is capable of defending itself against the nomads. (There are exceptions—nobody could stand against the Mongols of Chinggis Khan.) When the state loses its unity and falls into civil strife, it immediately becomes easy prey for Bedouins.
Ibn Khaldun noticed that the political dynamics of the Maghreb tend to move in cycles. When a state in the civilization zone falls into internal strife, it becomes vulnerable to conquest from the desert. Sooner or later, a coalition of Bedouin tribes is organized around one group with a particularly high asabiya. When this coalition conquers the civilization zone, it founds a new state there. The leading group establishes the new ruling dynasty, while other Bedouins become the ruling class—the new aristocracy.
The members of the conquering generation and even their children preserve their desert ways. They keep their military skills honed, and, most importantly, their group solidarity high. As generations succeed generations, however, the conditions of the civilized life begin to erode the high asabiya of the former Bedouins. Generally speaking, by the fourth generation the descendants of the founders become indistinguishable from their city-dweller subjects. At this point, the dynasty goes into permanent decline. It can persist in the 'degenerate' state for a few more generations, but sooner or later another Bedouin coalition arises in the desert, and the cycle repeats itself. The members of the degenerated dynasty are dispossessed of their wealth, some killed, and others driven into exile.
An important element of Ibn Khaldun's theory is the corrosive effect of 'luxury' on group solidarity. He argues that as the former tribesmen forget the rude ways of the desert, and become accustomed to the new luxurious life, they somehow become 'enervated.' This aspect is actually the weakest component of the theory. It is not clear at all why 'luxury' should be detrimental to the military effectiveness of a group. Such 'luxurious' habits as good food, sound shelter from the elements, and bathing should promote good health, and thus have a positive effect on military prowess. Even obvious 'excesses,' such as immoderate drinking and feasting, did not seem to impair the military effectiveness of, for example, barbarian Franks or the later Vikings. On the contrary, collective feasting creates the feeling of camaraderie that strengthens group cohesion. Ancient writers frequently inveighed against the supposedly enervating effect of luxury. But it does not seem to be good sociology. Interestingly, Ibn Khaldun, who also devotes a lot of space to this theme, nevertheless hedges his message. He says, 'luxury will at first give additional strength to a dynasty. The reason for this is that a tribe that acquired royal authority and luxury is prolific and produces many children, so the community grows. Thus, the group grows. Furthermore, a great number of clients and followers is acquired. The new generation grows up in a climate of prosperity and luxury.' Luxury begins to play a negative role only 'when the first and second generations are gone, and the dynasty begins to become senile.' Ibn Khaldun's explanation of how the ruling dynasty loses its asabiya is weak because he relies too much on inappropriate biological analogies: 'Dynasties have a natural life span like individuals.'
Far from establishing an effective equality among the citizens, the Roman Empire, flinging wide the portals of the commonwealth, created a profound distinction between the honestiores (people of good standing and wealth) and the humiliores or tenuiores (the poor). While the political equality of all was proclaimed, inequality was introduced into the law, especially the penal law. Poverty rendered the title of Roman citizen almost illusory, and the great mass of the population was poor. The error of Greece, disdain for the workman and peasant, had not disappeared. At the outset, Christianity did nothing for the peasant; it even injured the rural population by instituting the episcopate, in the influence and benefits of which the towns alone shared. But it had a bearing of the first importance on the rehabilitation of the worker. One of the counsels given to the artisan by the Church was to pursue his trade with zest and application. The name of operarius was restored to honour; in their epitaphs the Christian workman and working woman were praised for having laboured well.
The workman honestly making his livelihood day by day, such indeed was the Christian ideal. For the primitive Church avarice was the supreme crime, and yet most often avarice was simple economy. Almsgiving was deemed a strict duty. Judaism had already made it an injunction. In the Psalms and prophetical books, the Ebion is the friend of God, and to give to the Ebion is to give to God. Almsgiving in Hebrew is a synonym of justice (sedaka). It was necessary to put a check on the eagerness of the pious to justify themselves in this manner; one of the precepts of Ouscha forbade them to give to the poor more than a fifth part of their means. Christianity, which was in its origin a society of Ebionim, fully accepted the idea that the rich man, if he fails to give away his superfluous wealth, is holding back the property of others. God gives his whole creation to all men. 'Imitate the equality of God, and none shall be poor,' we read in a text which once on a time was held to be sacred. The Church itself became a charitable institution. The love-feasts and the distributions made of surplus offerings served to feed travellers and the poor.
All along the line it was the rich man who was sacrificed. Few wealthy persons entered the Church, and their position therein was of the most difficult nature. The poor, proud of the Gospel promise, treated them with an air that might well seem arrogant. The rich man had to seek forgiveness for his fortune as a derogation to spirit of Christianity. Strictly speaking, the kingdom of God was closed to him, unless he purified his wealth with almsgiving, or expiated it by martyrdom. He was regarded as an egoist, who thrived by the sweat of others. Community of goods, if it had ever existed, did so no longer; what was called 'the apostolic life,' that is to say, the ideal of the primitive Church of Jerusalem, was a dream lost in the distant past; but the believer's property was only half his own. He had little hold on it, and in reality the Church participated in it as much as he did.
It was in the fourth century that the struggle grew great and infuriated. The wealthy classes, nearly all of whom were attached to the old worship, fought vigorously, but the poor won the day. In the East, where the action of Christianity was much more comprehensive, or rather less thwarted, than in the West, there were scarce any rich men left after the middle of the fifth century. Syria, and more especially Egypt, became countries of an entirely ecclesiastical and monastic cast. The church and the monastery—that is to say, the two forms of community—were the sole wealthy bodies. The Arab invaders, when they hurled themselves on these countries, found, after some battles on the frontier, that they had no more to do than drive a flock of sheep. Once their liberty of worship was assured, the Christians of the East were ready to submit to all tyrannies. In the West, the Teutonic invasions and other causes prevented the complete triumph of poverty. But human life was suspended for a thousand years. Industries on a large scale became impossible; by reason of the erroneous ideas current on usury, all banking and insurance business was put under a ban. The Jew alone could manipulate money; he was forced to grow rich, and then he was reproached for the fortune to which he had been condemned. Here was Christianity's greatest error. It did much worse than say to the poor: 'Enrich yourselves at the expense of the rich;' it said: 'Riches are nothing.' It cut away the very root of capital, it prohibited that most legitimate thing, interest on money, and, with the air of guaranteeing the rich man his wealth, it deprived him of its fruits, rendered it unproductive. The fatal terror diffused throughout the whole of mediaeval society by the alleged crime of usury, was the obstacle which, for more than ten centuries, hampered the progress of civilisation.
The total amount of industry in the world considerably diminished. Countries like Syria, where comfort brings less enjoyment than it costs trouble, and where, accordingly, slavery is a condition of material civilisation, were lowered a step in the human ladder. The ruins of antiquity remained as vestiges of a world vanished and misunderstood.
Rabbit At Rest
'Charlie, I have a problem.'
'A couple of 'em, actually. For one, I ought to do something about my heart. I just can't keep drifting along waiting for my next MI.'
'You're losing me, champ.'
'You know. Myocardial infarction. Heart attack. I was lucky to get away with the one I did have. The docs tell me I ought to have an open-heart, a multiple bypass.'
'Go for it.'
'Sure. Easy for you to say. People die having those things. I notice you never had one.'
'But I did. In '87. December, you were in Florida. They replaced two valves. Aortic and mitral. When you have rheumatic fever as a kid, it's the valves that go. They don't close right. That's what gives you the heart murmur, blood running the wrong way.'
Rabbit can hardly bear these images, all these details inside him, valves and slippages and crusts on the pipe. 'What'd they replace them with?'
'Pig heart valves. The choice is that or a mechanical valve, a trap with a ball. With the mechanical, you click all the time. I didn't want to click if I could help it. They say it keeps you awake.'
'Pig valves.' Rabbit tries to hide his revulsion.
'Was it terrible? They split your chest open and ran your blood through a machine?'
'Piece of cake. You're knocked out cold. What's wrong with running your blood through a machine? What else you think you are, champ?'
A God-made one-of-a-kind with an immortal soul breathed in. A vehicle of grace. A battlefield of good and evil. An apprentice angel. All those things they tried to teach you in Sunday school, or really didn't try very hard to teach you, just let them drift in out of the pamphlets, back there in that church basement buried deeper in his mind than an air-raid shelter.
The Economist as Preacher and Other Essays
History is written by and for the educated classes. We know more about the thoughts and actions of an eighteenth-century lord than about 100,000 members of the classes which were at or near the bottom of the income and educational scales. No one can deduce, from documentary evidence, the attitudes of these lower classes toward economic philosophies, whereas the noble lord's words are enshrined in Hansard and several fat volumes of published correspondence. Hence we cannot determine from direct documentary sources what the attitudes toward laissez-faire of these lower classes have been.
Nevertheless, it is an hypothesis that is plausible to me and I hope tenable to you that these lower classes—who have increased immensely in wealth and formal education in the last several hundred years—have been strongly attracted to the economic regime of laissez-faire capitalism.
One highly persuasive evidence of this is the major spontaneous migrations of modern history: the armies of Europeans that came to the United States, until barriers were created at both ends; the millions of Chinese who have sought entrance to Hong Kong, Shanghai, and other open Asian economies; the millions of Mexicans who these days defy American laws designed to keep them home. These have not been simply migrations from poorer to richer societies, although even that would carry its message, but primarily migrations of lower classes of the home populations. An open, decentralized economy is still the land of opportunity for the lower classes.
The stake of the lower classes in the system of competition is based upon the fact that a competitive productive system is remarkably indifferent to status. An employer finds two unskilled workers receiving $3.00 per hour an excellent substitute for a semiskilled worker receiving $8.00 per hour. A merchant finds ten one-dollar purchases by the poor more profitable than a seven-dollar purchase by a prosperous buyer. This merchant is much less interested in the color of a customer than in the color of his money.
If it is true that a large share of the population of modern societies (and many other societies as well) eagerly migrates to competitive economies when given the opportunity, why have these people supported the vast expansion of governmental controls over economic life in the many democratic societies in which they constitute an important part of the electorate?
I shall postulate now, and argue the case later, that the lower classes have not supported regulatory policies and socialism because they were duped or led by intellectuals with different goals. Instead, these classes have shared the general propensity to vote their own interests. Once the unskilled workers enter an open society, they will oppose further free immigration.
The Sermon on the Mount, by which we mean the absolute ethics of the Gospel, is something far more serious than those who are so fond of citing its commandments today believe. It is not to be taken frivolously. What has been said about causality in science also applies to this ethic, namely that it is not a hired cab which one may stop at will and climb into or out of as one sees fit. Rather, the meaning of the sermon (if it is not to be reduced to banality) is precisely this: we must accept it in its entirety or leave it entirely alone. Hence the case of the rich young man: 'he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.' The commandment of the Gospel is unconditional and unambiguous—'give all that thou hast'—everything, absolutely. The politician will say that this is an excessive and socially meaningless demand if it is not made to apply to everybody, which means taxation, expropriation by taxation, confiscation, in other words, coercion and order applied to all. The ethical commandment disregards such questions completely—that is its essence. The same applies to the injunction to 'turn the other cheek!'—unconditionally, without asking by what right the other person has struck you. An ethic of indignity, except for a saint. This is the heart of the matter: it is necessary to be a saint in all things, or at least one must want to be one, one must live like Jesus, the Apostles, Saint Francis and men of that kind; then this type of ethic becomes meaningful and expresses a kind of dignity.
But not otherwise. For while it is a consequence of the unworldly ethic of love to say, 'resist not evil with force,' the politician is governed by the contrary maxim, namely, 'You shall resist evil with force, for if you do not, you are responsible for the spread of evil.' Anyone seeking to act in accordance with the ethic of the Gospel should not go on strike, since strikes are a form of coercion; instead he should join an unaffiliated trade union. Above all, he should not talk of 'revolution,' for that ethic surely does not teach that civil war of all things is the only legitimate form of war. The pacifist whose actions are guided by the Gospel will refuse weapons or throw them away, as we Germans were recommended to do, so that we might fulfil our ethical duty to end the war, and thus to end all war. The politician will say that the only sure means of discrediting war for the foreseeable future would have been peace on the basis of the status quo. Then the people of all nations would have asked what the point of the war was. It would have been reduced to absurdity, which is not now possible. For the war will have proved to be politically profitable for the victors, or at least for some of them. The responsibility for this outcome lies with the behaviour which made it quite impossible for us to resist. What will now happen—once the phase of exhaustion has passed—is, that peace, not war, will have been discredited—and this will be the result of absolute ethics.
Finally, there is the duty to be truthful. For the ethic of absolute principles this is an unconditional duty. Hence it was concluded that all documents should be published, especially those which placed a burden of guilt on our country, and that a confession of guilt should be made on the basis of these documents—unilaterally, unconditionally, regardless of the consequences. The politician will take the view that the upshot of this will not serve the cause of truth, but rather that truth will certainly be obscured by the misuse of the documents and by the passions they unleash. He will take the view that the only productive approach would be a systematic, comprehensive investigation, conducted by disinterested parties; any other way of proceeding could have consequences for the nation which could not be repaired in decades. 'Consequences,' however, are no concern of absolutist ethics.
That is the crucial point. We have to understand that ethically oriented activity can follow two fundamentally different, irreconcilably opposed maxims. It can follow the 'ethic of principled conviction' (Gesinnung) or the 'ethic of responsibility.' It is not that the ethic of conviction is identical with irresponsibility, nor that the ethic of responsibility means the absence of principled conviction—there is of course no question of that. But there is a profound opposition between acting by the maxim of the ethic of conviction (putting it in religious terms: 'The Christian does what is right and places the outcome in God's hands'), and acting by the maxim of the ethic of responsibility, which means that one must answer for the (foreseeable) consequences of one's actions. A syndicalist who is committed to the ethics of conviction might be fully aware that the likely consequences of his actions will be, say, increased chances for the forces of reaction, increased oppression of his own class, a brake on the rise of his class. But none of this will make the slightest impression on him. If evil consequences flow from an action done out of pure conviction, this type of person holds the world, not the doer, responsible, or the stupidity of others, or the will of God who made them thus. A man who subscribes to the ethic of responsibility, by contrast, will make allowances for precisely these everyday shortcomings in people. He has no right, as Fichte correctly observed, to presuppose goodness and perfection in human beings. He does not feel that he can shuffle off the consequences of his own actions, as far as he could foresee them, and place the burden on the shoulders of others. He will say, 'These consequences are to be attributed to my actions.' The person who subscribes to the ethic of conviction feels 'responsible' only for ensuring that the flame of pure conviction (for example, the flame of protest against the injustice of the social order) is never extinguished. To kindle that flame again and again is the purpose of his actions, actions which, judged from the point of view of their possible success, are utterly irrational, and which can and are only intended to have exemplary value.
Yet we have still not reached the end of the problem. No ethics in the world can get round the fact that the achievement of 'good' ends is in many cases tied to the necessity of employing morally suspect or at least morally dangerous means, and that one must reckon with the possibility or even likelihood of evil side-effects. Nor can any ethic in the world determine when and to what extent the ethically good end 'sanctifies' the ethically dangerous means and side-effects.
The decisive means of politics is the use of violence.
The Romantic Imperative
They argued that while philosophy cannot stimulate action nor religion convince reason, art has the power to inspire us to act according to reason. Because it so strongly appeals to the imagination, and because it so deeply effects our feelings, art can move people to live by the high moral ideals of a republic.
Ultimately, then, the romantics sought to replace the traditional role of religion with art as the incentive and stimulus for morality. Hence they developed ideas for a modern mythology, a new Bible, and a restored church. Now the artist would take over the ancient function of the priest.
This case for the power of art to educate humanity was first put forward by Schiller, but it soon became a leitmotiv of the romantic movement. It is a central theme of Novalis's Heinrich van Ofterdingen, of Friedrich Schlegel's Ideen, of Wackenroder's Herzensergieftungen eines kunstliebenden Klosterbruders, and of Tieck's Pram Sternbalds Wanderungen. Nowhere does it emerge with more simplicity and clarity, however, than in a later work of high romanticism, Heinrich von Kleist's short story Heilige Cacilie oder die Macht der Musik.
It is very idealistic, to say the least, to assume that we can become better people simply by listening to music, reading novels, and attending plays. If art does have that effect, one is tempted to say, that is probably because people are already predisposed to it, and so already educated for it. But then the whole case for art is caught in a vicious circle: art educates humanity only if people are already educated.
The charge of naivete is one of the most common objections to Schiller's argument, and the reputation of the romantics for hopeless idealism is largely based on it. But this criticism rests on a very superficial understanding of the role of art in romantic education. When the romantics wrote of aesthetic education they were not simply referring to the effect works of art have on moral character. They had something more in mind. But what?
Exactly how the romantics understood aesthetic education becomes clear from a close reading of Schiller's Briefe. It is striking that, in the tenth letter, Schiller virtually concedes the whole charge of naivite. He admits that art will educate only the virtuous, and he notes that the periods when art flourished were also those when morals declined. But, after accepting these points, Schiller then turns his argument in a new direction. The question for him is not whether art has an effect on moral character, but whether beauty is an essential component of human perfection itself. Schiller's argument is that if we perfect ourselves—if we form our various powers into a whole—then we will become like works of art. To perfect ourselves is to unify the form of our reason with the content of our sensibility; but the unity of form and content is what is characteristic of beauty itself. Hence aesthetic education does not consist in having our characters formed by works of art but in making our characters into works of art.
Schiller's most detailed account of how a person can become a work of art appears in his treatise Anmut und Wurde. Here he puts forward his ideal of 'the beautiful soul' (die schone Seele), the person whose character is a work of art because all his or her actions exhibit grace. For Schiller, a graceful action is one that shows no sign of constraint—whether that of a physical need or a moral imperative—and that reveals the spontaneity and harmony of a person's whole character. Such an action does not stem from sensibility alone, as if it were the result of natural need, and still less from reason alone, as if it were the product of a moral command; rather it flows from the whole character, from reason and sensibility acting in unison. The beautiful soul does not act from duty contrary to inclination, or from inclination contrary to duty, but from inclination according to duty. Such a spontaneous inclination is not, however, the product of the desires and feelings that are given by nature, but the result of our moral education, the discipline and training of virtue. In a graceful action, then, our desires and feelings are neither repressed according to reason, nor indulged according to sensibility, but refined and ennobled, or, to use a modern term, 'sublimated.'
Schiller's ideal of the beautiful soul gives a completely new perspective on how art motivates moral action. It is not that contemplating works of art inspires us to do good deeds, but that there is an aesthetic pleasure inherent in human excellence, which serves as an incentive to attain and maintain it. The stimulant to moral perfection does not derive from any work of art but simply from the pleasure involved in the exercise of characteristic human activities. Like most moralists, Schiller maintains that virtue brings its own reward, a unique kind of pleasure; he simply adds that this pleasure is essentially aesthetic, because achieving human perfection is like creating a work of art.
Schiller's argument in behalf of aesthetic education ultimately depends on a theory of beauty as perfection. Such a theory could easily be generalized and extended to whatever is capable of perfection, whether it is an object in nature, an individual person, or the state and society itself. This was a temptation that neither Schiller nor the romantics could resist. They broadened their case for the primacy of the aesthetic in human life by also applying it to the state and society. They argued that the perfect society or state is also a work of art. In the final letter of the Briefe, for example, Schiller wrote of his Utopia as an aesthetic state (asthetischen Staat), which, like a work of art, unites the different members of society into a harmonious whole. In his Glauben und Liebe Novalis imagined a poetic state in which the monarch is the poet of poets, the director of a vast public stage in which all citizens are actors. And in his early manuscript Versuch einer Theorie des geselligen Betragens Schleiermacher imagined an ideal society in which individuals form a beautiful whole through the free interaction of personalities and the mutual exchange of ideas. Schiller, Novalis, and Schleiermacher all assume that the perfect society or state is like a work of art because there is an organic unity between the individual and the social whole, which is governed neither by physical nor moral constraints but only free interaction.
The early romantic ideal of Utopia was therefore the creation of a social or political work of art. This aesthetic whole would be a Bildungsanstalt, a society in which people would educate one another through the free exchange of their personalities and ideas.
Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges
The Ancient City
The word country, among the ancients, signified the land of the fathers, terra patria—fatherland. The fatherland of every man was that part of the soil which his domestic or national religion had sanctified, the land where the remains of his ancestors were deposited, and which their souls occupied. His little fatherland was the family enclosure with its tomb and its hearth. The great fatherland was the city, with its prytaneum and its heroes, with its sacred enclosure and its territory marked out by religion. 'Sacred fatherland' the Greeks called it. Nor was it a vain word; this soil was, indeed, sacred to man, for his gods dwelt there. State, city, fatherland: these words were no abstraction, as they are among the moderns; they really represented a group of local divinities, with a daily worship and beliefs that had a powerful influence over the soul.
This explains the patriotism of the ancients—an energetic sentiment, which, for them, was the supreme virtue to which all other virtues tended. Whatever man held most dear was associated with the idea of country. In it he found his property, his security, his laws, his faith, his god. Losing it he lost everything. It was almost impossible that private and public interests could conflict. Plato says, 'Our country begets us, nourishes us, educates us;' and Sophocles says, 'It is our country that preserves us.'
Such a country is not simply a dwelling-place for man. Let him leave its sacred walls, let him pass the sacred limits of its territory, and he no longer finds for himself either a religion or a social tie of any kind. Everywhere else, except in his own country, he is outside the regular life and the law; everywhere else he is without a god, and shut out from all moral life. There alone he enjoys his dignity as a man, and his duties. Only there can he be a man.
Country holds man attached to it by a sacred tie. He must love it as he loves his religion, obey it as he obeys a god. He must give himself to it entirely. He must love his country, whether it is glorious or obscure, prosperous or unfortunate. He must love it for its favors, and love it also for its severity. Socrates, unjustly condemned by it, must not love it the less. He must love it as Abraham loved his God, even to sacrificing his son for it. Above all he must know how to die for it. The Greek or Roman rarely dies on account of his devotion to a man, or for a point of honor; but to his country he owes his life. For, if his country is attacked, his religion is attacked. He fights literally for his altars and his fires, pro aris et focis; for if the enemy takes his city, his altars are overturned, his fires are extinguished, his tombs are profaned, his gods are destroyed, his worship is effaced. The piety of the ancients was love of country.
The possession of a country was very precious, for the ancients imagined few chastisements more cruel than to be deprived of it. The ordinary punishment of great crimes was exile.
Exile was really the interdiction of worship. To exile a man was, according to the formula used both by the Greeks and the Romans, to cut him off from both fire and water. By this fire we are to understand the sacred fire of the hearth; by this water the lustral water which served for the sacrifices. Exile, therefore, placed man beyond the reach of religion. 'Let him flee,' were the words of the sentence, 'nor ever approach the temples. Let no citizen speak to or receive him; let no one admit him to the prayers or the sacrifices; let no one offer the lustral water.' Every house was defiled by his presence. The man who received him became impure by his touch. 'Any one who shall have eaten or drank with him, or who shall have touched him,' said the law, 'should purify himself.' Under the ban of this excommunication the exile could take part in no religious ceremony; he no longer had a worship, sacred repots, or prayers; he was disinherited of his portion of religion.
We can easily understand that, for the ancients, God was not everywhere. If they had some vague idea of a God of the universe, this was not the one whom they considered as their providence, and whom they invoked. Every man's gods were those who inhabited his house, his canton, his city. The exile, on leaving his country behind him, also left his gods. He no longer found a religion that could console and protect him; he no longer felt that providence was watching over him; the happiness of praying was taken away. All that could satisfy the needs of his soul was far away.
Now, religion was the source whence flowed civil and political rights. The exile, therefore, lost all this in losing his religion and country. Excluded from the city worship, he saw at the same time his domestic worship taken from him, and was forced to extinguish his hearth-fire. He could no longer hold property; his goods, as if he was dead, passed to his children, unless they were confiscated to the profit of the gods or of the state. Having no longer a worship, he had no longer a family; he ceased to be a husband and a father. His sons were no longer in his power; his wife was no longer his wife, and might immediately take another husband.
In Search of History
At some point in the conversation she had said to me, 'Caroline asked me what kind of prayer should I say? And I told her, "Either Please, God, take care of Daddy, or Please, God, be nice to Daddy."'
What she was saying to me now was: Please, History, be kind to John F. Kennedy. Or, as she said over and over again, don't leave him to the bitter old men to write about.
Out of all this, then, being both a reporter and a friend, I tried to write the story for which Life's editors were waiting in New York. I typed in haste and inner turmoil in a servant's room and a Secret Service man, who had been sleepless for days, burst in on me and snarled, 'For Christ's sake, we need some sleep here.' But I went on; and in forty-five minutes brought out the story she was waiting for, her message that Americans must not forget this man, or this moment we styled 'Camelot.'
Life was waiting, and at 2 A.M. I tried to dictate the story from the wall-hung telephone in the Kennedy kitchen. She came in while I was dictating the story to two of my favorite editors, Ralph Graves and David Maness, who, as good editors, despite a ballooning overtime printing bill, were nonetheless trying to edit and change phrases as I dictated. Maness observed that maybe I had too much of 'Camelot' in the dispatch. Mrs. Kennedy had come in at that moment, having penciled over her copy of the story with her changes; she overheard the editor trying to edit me, who had already so heavily edited her. She shook her head. She wanted Camelot to top the story. Camelot, heroes, fairy tales, legends, were what history was all about. Maness caught the tone in my reply as I insisted this had to be done as Camelot. Catching my stress, he said, 'Hey, is she listening to this now with you?' I muffled the phone from her, went on dictating, and Maness let the story run.
So the epitaph on the Kennedy administration became Camelot—a magic moment in American history, when gallant men danced with beautiful women, when great deeds were done, when artists, writers and poets met at the White House, and the barbarians beyond the walls held back.
Which, of course, is a misreading of history. The magic Camelot of John F. Kennedy never existed. Instead, there began in Kennedy's time an effort of government to bring reason to bear on facts which were becoming almost too complicated for human minds to grasp. No Merlins advised John F. Kennedy, no Galahads won high place in his service. The knights of his round table were able, tough, ambitious men, capable of kindness, also capable of error, but as a group more often right than wrong and astonishingly incorruptible. What made them a group and established their companionship was their leader. Of them all, Kennedy was the toughest, the most intelligent, the most attractive—and inside, the least romantic. He was a realistic dealer in men, a master of games who understood the importance of ideas.
First ask yourselves, Gentlemen, what an Englishman, a French-man, and a citizen of the United States of America understand today by the word 'liberty.' For each of them it is the right to be subjected only to the laws, and to be neither arrested, detained, put to death or maltreated in any way by the arbitrary will of one or more individuals. It is the right of everyone to express their opinion, choose a profession and practice it, to dispose of property, and even to abuse it; to come and go without permission, and without having to account for their motives or undertakings. It is everyone's right to associate with other individuals, either to discuss their interests, or to profess the religion which they and their associates prefer, or even simply to occupy their days or hours in a way which is most compatible with their inclinations or whims. Finally it is everyone's right to exercise some influence on the administration of the government, either by electing all or particular officials, or through representations, petitions, demands to which the authorities are more or less compelled to pay heed. Now compare this liberty with that of the ancients.
The latter consisted in exercising collectively, but directly, several parts of the complete sovereignty; in deliberating, in the public square, over war and peace; in forming alliances with foreign governments; in voting laws, in pronouncing judgments; in examining the accounts, the acts, the stewardship of the magistrates; in calling them to appear in front of the assembled people, in accusing, condemning or absolving them. But if this was what the ancients called liberty, they admitted as compatible with this collective freedom the complete subjection of the individual to the authority of the community. You find among them almost none of the enjoyments which we have just seen form part of the liberty of the moderns. All private actions were submitted to a severe surveillance. No importance was given to individual independence, neither in relation to opinions, nor to labor, nor, above all, to religion. The right to choose one's own religious affiliation, a right which we regard as one of the most precious, would have seemed to the ancients a crime and a sacrilege. In the domains which seem to us the most useful, the authority of the social body interposed itself and obstructed the will of individuals. Among the Spartans, Therpandrus could not add a string to his lyre without causing offense to the ephors. In the most domestic of relations the public authority again intervened. The young Lacedaemonian could not visit his new bride freely. In Rome, the censors cast a searching eye over family life. The laws regulated customs, and as customs touch on everything, there was hardly anything that the laws did not regulate.
Thus among the ancients the individual, almost always sovereign in public affairs, was a slave in all his private relations. As a citizen, he decided on peace and war; as a private individual, he was constrained, watched and repressed in all his movements; as a member of the collective body, he interrogated, dismissed, condemned, beggared, exiled, or sentenced to death his magistrates and superiors; as a subject of the collective body he could himself be deprived of his status, stripped of his privileges, banished, put to death, by the discretionary will of the whole to which he belonged. Among the moderns, on the contrary, the individual, independent in his private life, is, even in the freest of states, sovereign only in appearance. His sovereignty is restricted and almost always suspended. If, at fixed and rare intervals, in which he is again surrounded by precautions and obstacles, he exercises this sovereignty, it is always only to renounce it.
I must at this point, Gentlemen, pause for a moment to anticipate an objection which may be addressed to me. There was in antiquity a republic where the enslavement of individual existence to the collective body was not as complete as I have described it. This republic was the most famous of all: you will guess that I am speaking of Athens. I shall return to it later, and in subscribing to the truth of this fact, I shall also indicate its cause. We shall see why, of all the ancient states, Athens was the one which most resembles the modern ones. Everywhere else social jurisdiction was unlimited. The ancients, as Condorcet says, had no notion of individual rights. Men were, so to speak, merely machines, whose gears and cog-wheels were regulated by the law. The same subjection characterized the golden centuries of the Roman republic; the individual was in some way lost in the nation, the citizen in the city.
Capitalism, Democracy, and Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery
Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery in Lake Wobegon, a Minnesota town invented by humorist Garrison Keillor, operates under a sensible, if rather unexhilarating, slogan: 'If you can't get it at Ralph's, you can probably get along without it.' It is my perspective that democracy and capitalism, despite their image problems, have triumphed in part because people have essentially been persuaded to accept a version of Ralph's slogan: The systems can't supply everything, but on balance, people have effectively if sometimes rather reluctantly concluded, if you can't get it with democracy and capitalism, you can probably get along without it.
For example, it is possible to create a society in which order reigns supreme, but experience suggests that society in the process loses flexibility, responsiveness, intellectual growth, and individual freedom. Although they complain about it all the time, democrats have basically decided that, even though democracy is distressingly, profoundly, and necessarily messy and disorderly, it's better, on balance, to get along without the blessings an orderly society can bring.
And capitalism revels in—indeed, seems viscerally to require—a considerable amount of insecurity, risk, and uncertainty. It may be possible, al least in principle, to design an economy in which privilege, station, prices, employment, and economic security are comfortably, reassuringly, and authoritatively preserved. Since these approaches tend to stifle the economically invigorating effects of selfish acquisitiveness, however, they lead to slower growth and to less wealth overall. Experience seems to suggest, then, that it is better to learn to get along without total security.
In addition, capitalism and democracy are in important respects viscerally unequal and unfair at the systemic level, if not at the personal level.
This condition stems naturally and inevitably from the related facts that both systems leave individuals free to pursue their interests and that some will simply do better at the pursuit than others. Thus even when everyone is equally free, some people under democracy will be more successful at manipulating the political system in a beneficial way (extracting favors from it, getting it to support their pet policy projects). And under capitalism, some will prosper because they are more successful at providing goods or services other people happen to value at the moment.
This inequality of result will often emerge because people are differently abled: differently skilled, differently capable. For some people, particularly for those who are inclined to overrate their own abilities, this condition is deeply unpleasant, even unbearable, and they can become resentful.
But inequality will sometimes also result not so much because people are differently abled but because they are differently lucky: They succeed because they just happen to know or be related to someone who can help them out at a crucial point, because they just happen to be in the right place at the right time, or because an ill-considered, even foolish, gamble just happens to pay off. In an important sense, then, freedom is notably unfair. Democracy is perhaps worse off than capitalism with regard to the issues of equality and fairness. Capitalism does not profess to make everyone equally wealthy, but the beguiling, ringing notion that 'all men are created equal' has often been taken to suggest that some sort of political equality is central to democracy; the system can be seen, then, to be viscerally hypocritical.
But if capitalism and democracy can't supply orderliness, certainty, equality, security, and systemic fairness and are thus (only) pretty good in the Ralph's Grocery sense, their image mismatches make them pretty good in opposite senses. Democracy compared to its image is (merely) pretty good, while capitalism compared to its image is (actually) pretty good.
The laid-back and markedly unromantic perspective of the folks at Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery—unexhilarating, perhaps, but blessedly free of misdirecting hyperbole—is relevant to the development of democracy and capitalism in another sense as well.
It seems to be that an institution is likely to be fundamentally sound if it can function adequately when people are rarely, if ever, asked to rise above the ignorance and selfishness with which they have been so richly endowed by their creator. Or, putting it a bit more gently: Since human beings are a flawed bunch, an institution will be more successful if it can work with human imperfections rather than requiring first that the race be reformed into impossible perfection. Therefore, it may well actually be fortunate that democracy does not require people to be good or noble, but merely to calculate what is best for them or what they take to be in the best interest of society, and to seek to further these interests if they happen to be so inclined, while capitalism raises selfishness and acquisitiveness to dominant motivations. And it may be desirable that democracy and capitalism are about as romantic, to apply Charlotte Bronte's phrase, as Monday morning.
In The Age Of Prose
He became a tram conductor in Chicago and, unable to learn the names of streets, used to call out the wrong stops and lost his job. After once again working as a farm labourer, he made a slim living as the journalist he had promised to be and by lecturing to the many Norwegian communities in Minnesota. In the summer of 1888 he left America, sailed to Copenhagen, ready magisterially to pronounce on the culture of the new continent. The Cultural Life of Modern America is a witty, eloquent, amusing, and, more often than not, wrong-headed book. He might have been warned by what he himself said in print about Mark Twain's The Innocents Abroad: that it was marred by the author's rather superficial acquaintance with European traditions, the inadequacy of his aesthetic perception, his provincial nationalism, and the all too blatant intrusion of his political persuasion. The persuasion was, of course radical-democratic.
Although Hamsun's own political or quasi-political convictions made themselves heard at least as loudly in his book on America, it certainly could not be said of them that they were democratic. Rather they were Nietzschean in their intellectual-aristocratic bearing, and radical only in their aversion to the tyranny wielded by the masses over the works of the mind, to the naive religiousness and the numbing of the tragic sense through the optimism of the therapeutic popular pedagogues. It is, certainly, Walt Whitman's 'marvellous naivete' that has won 'a couple of followers' for his mediocre 'tabular poetry, those impossible inventories of people, states, housewares, tools, and articles of clothing'; and it is Emerson's preachiness that made this 'Aesop of the American mob of moralists' the supplier of 'mottoes for their most ingenuous goody-goody books.' Later in his life Hamsun recanted his harsh pronouncements on America, called the book 'my youthful sin' and its views 'lopsided,' and opposed its republication. Yet many passages of it are magnified projections of his abiding belief that 'we become more and more civilized and lose in spirit.' After 1889 and 1890, the years in which America and Hunger were published, Hamsun's biography is that of a more and more successful novelist and—at least outwardly—secure family man until in old age catastrophe overtook him.
Although Gandhi complained that British imports were damaging the Indian textile industry, Indian producers had practiced a comparable form of cultural imperialism for centuries. The Indians flooded southeast Asia with their high-quality textile products, starting as early as the first century A.D. and continuing through the present day. India was dominant in the African trade as well, especially after the slave routes opened up. The development of Indian handwoven textiles relied on 'exploiting' these external markets.
Indian penetration of other Asian markets was so strong that some of them erected import barriers against the Indian products. Thailand, for instance, enforced import restrictions and sumptuary laws to the detriment of the Indian trade. The British had once sought protection against Indian cloth as well. In the eighteenth century, Indian cloth was greatly popular in Britain. Hand-painted cotton chintz was very popular in European markets, especially in England, and revolutionized European textile styles. An English ban on chintz failed to keep the product out, just as a 'buy domestic cloth' movement, an English precursor of Gandhi's Swadeshi movement, failed. The textiles were so highly demanded that they entered England through the Netherlands. These forms of cultural imperialism, as practiced by Indians, supported the industries that Gandhi later claimed were victimized by British cultural imperialism.
The very notion of Gandhi's Swadeshi movement was based on foreign influences. The Swadeshi writers had been strongly influenced by John Ruskin, William Morris, and the nineteenth-century Arts and Crafts movement of Great Britain. These individuals decried the effects of commerce on art and called for a return to the indigenous production of national handicrafts. Yet the Arts and Crafts movement borrowed from foreign influences heavily. William Morris, who produced some of the finest carpets in British history, looked to Persian weaving for inspiration about design.
By conservative estimate, between September 1969 and May 1970 there were some two hundred fifty major bombings and attempts linkable with the white left—about one a day. (By government figures, the actual number may have been as many as six times as great.) The prize targets were ROTC buildings, draft boards, induction centers, and other federal offices. As far as is known, almost all these acts were committed by freelance bombers and burners, though the Weathermen, the most organized phalanx, were probably some inspiration to greener terrorists. For every bomber and arsonist there were several who mulled over the idea. The members of one Berkeley commune liked to go out at night, for example, randomly trashing Safeways (in support of striking farm workers) or banks (against imperialism); massive retaliation might be imminent, they thought, and for that contingency they kept a Molotov cocktail in the basement, designed to the specifications of the New York Review of Books cover of 1967. A San Francisco grouplet, impressed by the attention the media paid to political explosions, hoarded dynamite and talked seriously about blowing up Grace Cathedral (which had been a refuge for antiwar meetings) as an act of protest.
As antiwar militants turned against imperialism, attacks turned to the headquarters of multinational corporations. On February 4, a riot in Isla Vista, outside Santa Barbara, in protest against the guilty verdicts in the Chicago Conspiracy trial, culminated in the burning of the local branch of the Bank of America. (A student explained, 'It was the biggest capitalist thing around.') Five nights after the townhouse explosion, bombs went off in the Manhattan headquarters of Socony Mobil, IBM, and General Telephone and Electronics; a note to the press denounced 'death-directed Amerika.' No one knows how many people committed all these acts; probably only a hundred or two, including police agents. (The most famous was Thomas Tongyai, 'Tommy the Traveler,' who expertly posed as an SDS organizer in upstate New York and taught militants how to make Molotov cocktails to burn down a campus ROTC building.) Many antiwar militants were reduced to cheer-leading. 'The real division is not between people who support bombings and people who don't,' wrote Jane Alpert, herself a secret member of a freelance bombing collective, 'but between people who will do them and people who are too hung up on their own privileges and security to take those risks.'
Why Globalization Works
If we regard choices as valuable in their own right, then there are few choices more important to people than those to travel and, if necessary, to escape from oppressive, exploitative or predatory regimes. This is self-evidently true in big ways. It is also true in smaller ones. In the 1960s, it was forbidden for British citizens to take more than tiny amounts out of the country. This was worse than humiliating and unpleasant. The policy was designed to allow the government to avoid the exchange rate effects of a policy of inflation designed to maintain full employment in the presence of trade union pressures. This was a predatory policy. It ended up by wiping out the savings of a sizeable portion of the British middle classes. If money could have been taken out of the country, these dangerous and ultimately unsustainable policies would have been halted far sooner. This is the sense in which, as discussed in the previous chapter, the possibility of capital mobility desirably constrains the state. That is one reason for welcoming capital account liberalization, notwithstanding all the difficulties.
Now consider a second reason for convertibility. It is clear that a well-run and regulated financial system is a tremendous economic asset. Its functions are central to the good performance of the economy and to the ability of the population to live their lives in a tolerable manner. The purpose of the financial system is to mobilize savings, allocate capital, monitor management and transform risk. This is not just for the elite. Think, for example, of poor farmers. Consider the benefit they can obtain from the ability to put money by safely, to obtain adequate insurance of their harvests, to sell their crops in advance in liquid and competitive markets, or to buy useful assets before they have saved up the money they need. By performing these functions, the financial system can transform the effectiveness of the economy. A great deal of empirical work, much of it summarized in a comprehensive evaluation published by the World Bank in 2001, has demonstrated that the size of the financial sector alone, regardless of its sophistication, has a strong causal effect on economic performance. As the study notes, 'there is now a solid body of research strongly suggesting that improvements in financial arrangements precede and contribute to economic performance.' In terms of its impact on growth, the most important effect seems to be on productivity, not on the accumulation of capital.
Yet how are developing countries with what are, in general, tiny financial markets to obtain the first-class financial sectors that they need? Among the developing countries, only China and Brazil have financial sectors with assets that amount to even 1 per cent of the global total. In about a third of all countries the total assets of the banking system are less than $1 billion, smaller than those of an insignificant local bank in the US. Another third have assets of less than $10 billion. Yet, in 2000, the world's fiftieth largest bank, KeyCorp of the US, had assets of $83 billion. It is impossible for such tiny markets to support competition among self-standing national players with realistic aspirations to world-class performance. Unless one believes the world's poor deserve only low-quality financial services, the answer has to include substantial inward foreign direct investment in the sector. Outsiders bring five benefits. The first is superior know-how and efficiency. The second is the ability to exploit the economies of scale generated in world markets. The third is the ability to piggy-back on the skills and experience of the home-country regulator of the new entrant into the financial market. The fourth is a desirable disruption of domestic insider connections that allow the monopolization of the financial system by groups of powerful people, at the expense of the taxpayer and small customers, as both providers and would-be users of funds. Last, countries with a higher proportion of foreign-owned banks and a smaller proportion of state-owned banks are also less prone to financial crises, perhaps because the foreign banks are better regulated, better managed or merely more immune to pressures for imprudent lending.
Moreover, many of the fears about the presence of foreign banks have proved misplaced. There is no hard evidence, notes the World Bank, that the local presence of foreign banks has destabilized the flow of credit or restricted access to small firms. Instead, the entry of these banks has been associated with significant improvements in the quality of regulation and disclosure. The very threat of entry has often been enough to galvanize the domestic banks into overhauling their cost structure and the range and quality of their services, with the result that foreign entry has often proved not to be as profitable for the entrants as they may have anticipated.
Ideologues and Presidents
Differences among the planners centered about the relative weight to be given to persuasive as opposed to coercive means of government leadership. Berle generally favored the former. Although he thought that public ownership of vital industries would in time become 'irresistible,' Berle hoped that in the meantime the government might instill a new morality among the business elite. If necessary, Tugwell was willing to err on the side of coercion. Because man is social, he argued in 1932, 'the individual, to get anywhere himself, must subordinate himself, must sink or swim with others. He must consent to function as part of a greater whole and to have his role defined for him by the exigencies of his group.' That Tugwell took his ideas seriously is suggested by the fact that he saw the failure of the TVA and the National Recovery Administration (NRA) in terms of their inadequate concentration of power. Like Berle, Tugwell believed that public ownership of key industries, such as banking and utilities, was the way of the future. Unlike Berle, Tugwell at times prescribed action toward these ends in the New Deal.
The planners were ideologues. They represented their ideas as being logically coherent and compelling. Any intelligent person could see that truth was on their side, for they had discovered, or paid homage to those they felt had discovered, the inexorable laws of progress. Their theories were based, furthermore, on a view of man's ultimate nature. Man was a communal being who could find fulfillment only in cooperative, as opposed to competitive, institutional settings. In Tugwell's words:
Men are, by impulse, predominantly cooperative. They have their competitive impulses, to be sure; but these are normally subordinate. Laissez faire exalted the competitive and maimed the cooperative impulses.
A Survey of Our Era
The world is becoming one in an altogether new sense. More than four centuries ago the discovery of America marked the first step in the process by which the European races have now gained dominion over nearly the whole of the earth. The last great step was the partition of Africa a little more than twenty years ago.
Now, almost every part of the earth's surface, except the territories of China and Japan, is either owned or controlled by five or six European races. Eight Great Powers sway the political destinies of the globe and there are only two other countries that can be thought of as likely to enter after a while into the rank of the Great Powers. Similarly a few European tongues have overspread all the continents except Asia, and there it seems probable that those European tongues will before long be learned and used by the educated classes in such wise as to bring those classes into touch with European ideas. It is likely that by 2000 A.D. more than nine-tenths of the human race will be speaking less than twenty languages.
Already there are practically only four great religions in the world. Within a century the minor religions may be gone; and possibly only three great faiths will remain. Those things which are already strong are growing stronger; those already weak are growing weaker and are ready to vanish away. Thus, as the earth has been narrowed through the new forces science has placed at her disposal, and as the larger human groups absorb and assimilate the smaller, the movements of politics, of economics, and of thought in each of its regions become more closely interwoven with those of every other. Finance, even more than politics, has now made the world one community, and finance is more closely interwoven with politics than ever before.
World history is tending to become one history, the history no longer of many different races of mankind occasionally affecting one another's fortunes, but the history of mankind as a whole, the fortunes of each branch henceforth bound up with those of the others.
Concluding Unscientific Postscript
I had been a student for a half-score of years. Although never lazy, all my activity was nevertheless only a sort of brilliant inactivity, a kind of occupation for which I still have a great partiality, and in respect of which I perhaps even have a little genius. I read much, spent the remainder of the day loafing and thinking, or thinking and loafing, but that was it; the creative germ in me went in everyday use and was consumed in its first greening. An inexplicable persuasive power held me constantly in check, as strong as it was subtle. This power was my indolence. It is not like the impetuous craving of love, or the intense incitement of enthusiasm; rather it is like a wedded wife who keeps one in check and with whom one gets on very well, in this case so well that it never occurs to one to want to marry. And this much at least is certain, that although I am not otherwise unacquainted with the comforts and conveniences of life, indolence is of all conveniences the most comfortable.
So I sat there and smoked my cigar until I fell into a reverie. Among others I recall these thoughts. You are getting on, I said to myself, and are becoming an old man without being anything, and without really taking on anything. Wherever you look about you on the other hand, in literature or in life, you see the names and figures of the celebrities, the prized and acclaimed making their appearances or being talked about, the many benefactors of the age who know how to do favours to mankind by making life more and more easy, some with railways, others with omnibuses and steamships, others with the telegraph, others through easily grasped surveys and brief reports on everything worth knowing, and finally the true benefactors of the age, who by virtue of thought make spiritual existence systematically easier and yet more and more important. And what are you doing?
Here my soliloquy was interrupted, for my cigar was finished and a new one had to be lit. So I smoked again, and then suddenly this thought flashed through my mind: You must do something, but since with your limited abilities it will be impossible to make anything easier than it has become, you must, with the same humanitarian enthusiasm as the others, take it upon yourself to make something more difficult. This notion pleased me immensely, and at the same time it flattered me to think that I would be loved and esteemed for this effort by the whole community, as well as any. For when all join together in making everything easier in every way, there remains only one possible danger, namely, that the ease becomes so great that it becomes altogether too easy; then there will be only one lack remaining, if not yet felt, when people come to miss the difficulty. Out of love for humankind, and from despair over my embarrassing situation, having accomplished nothing, and being unable to make anything easier than it had already been made, and out of a genuine interest in those who make everything easy, I conceived it as my task everywhere to create difficulties.
Pursuits of Happiness
By the 1730s and 1740s in older colonies and by the 1740s and 1750s in the newer ones, both provincial and, except in the most recently settled areas, local politics were dominated by coherent, effective, acknowledged, and authoritative political elites with considerable social and economic power, extensive political experience, confidence in their capacity to govern, and—what crucially distinguished them from their European counterparts—broad public support. Second, they had viable governing institutions at both the local and provincial levels most of which were becoming more and more assimilated to those in metropolitan Britain, vigorous traditions of internal self-government, and extensive experience in coping with the socioeconomic and other problems peculiar to their own societies. Third, even though political participation was limited to white, independent, adult males, their political systems were almost certainly more inclusive and more responsive to public opinion than those of any other societies in the world at that time, and they were becoming more and more capable of permitting the resolution of conflict, absorbing new and diverse groups, and, as their recent histories had so amply attested, providing political stability in periods of rapid demographic, economic, and territorial expansion.
If the several colonial polities were becoming more expert, they were also becoming far more settled. By the mid-eighteenth century, levels of collective violence and civil disorder were ordinarily low, few colonies had outstanding issues that deeply divided the polity, society routinely accepted existing institutional and leadership structures, relations among the several branches and levels of government had been thoroughly regularized, rates of turnover among elected officials were low, changes in leadership followed an orderly process through regular constitutional channels without serious disruption of the polity, and factional and party strife was either being routinized or reduced to levels at which it was not dysfunctional within the political system. As was manifest in declining turnover among elected representatives to the colonial assemblies in most colonies, the electorate increasingly exhibited a passive and uncoerced deference toward the governing elite. With their attentions firmly concentrated on their own individual and family goals in the private realm, the vast bulk of the electorate seems, in ordinary times, to have had little interest in taking an active role in public life. Together, these developments brought a new stability and regularity to colonial poetical life in the three or four decades before 1760.
Notwithstanding these developments, the public realm everywhere remained small. Citizens expected little from government; budgets and taxes were low; paid officials were few; civil and judicial establishments were small, part-time, and unprofessional; and the maintenance of order devolved very largely upon local units of government, which had few coercive resources vis-a-vis the free population. Thus, despite efforts by elites to enforce stricter moral standards in communities during the mid-eighteenth century and attempts by provincial governments to deal with a possible rise in crime by adopting more severe penal measures during the last half of the century, local governments, bowing to local opinion, remained relatively permissive in dealing with minor offenses involving violations of morality and punished all but the most heinous crimes with whippings and fines rather than imprisonment, banishment, or execution. Indeed, possessing limited powers, colonial governments necessarily exerted only weak authority and were heavily dependent upon public opinion, which sharply limited the scope for action among political leaders. Government in these always potentially highly participatory polities was necessarily consensual. Always open to challenge from dissatisfied elements among the free population, the several polities of late colonial British America invariably contained a latent potential for widespread popular mobilization.
If many of the features of these emerging American political systems revealed a growing capacity for accommodation among increasingly differentiated and complex social populations within the several colonial polities, the same can be said for developments in other areas of cultural life. The societies of all regions of colonial British America remained predominantly English. But the substantial immigration of non-English groups after 1713 and, notwithstanding the strong predisposition of people from many of these groups to settle in communities of their own kind, the consequent intermingling of peoples of diverse cultural and national backgrounds and competing religious persuasions slowly edged people toward a habit of compromise and an enhanced capacity for the toleration and acceptance of ethnic, cultural, and religious diversity. At the same time, the overwhelming cultural preoccupation with the pursuit of individual and family happiness in the socioeconomic area seems everywhere to have weakened the impulse to try to enforce a coercive religious uniformity.