Constitutional government has triumphed in the rest of Europe, in the United States and in most of the countries of South America only within a span of little more than two hundred years since the founding of our nation. But even constitutional government is still the rule of authority, as clearly as the rule of an autocrat, although not to such a great degree. In a republic, and still more in a democracy, at least a majority of the people is supposed to acquiesce in the measures of the government; while an autocrat may issue orders against the desires of everybody else: he is held in check only by fear of provoking a revolt.
But while the majority in a democracy may voluntarily unite their action, the minority does not join with them voluntarily; it is virtually compelled to acquiesce, however much against its wishes. Such association as we have, even at its highest, is still the rule of force or authority, as it has been since the earliest ages.
By the definition then of society, a perfect society must be a voluntary agreement on the part of all the associated, but a completely social condition has not yet been attained: we are still only partly socialized. It is not sufficient that we secure “the greatest good for the greatest number.” No matter how great a number of people may agree to unite for a common end; no matter how small a number may dissent; if the minority is coerced by the majority into acquiescence, the condition is not social but anti-social. It is only when each individual is free to withhold acquiescence, that a completely social condition is attained. Society, in its full meaning, has not yet been reached. We are but approaching the time when it will be established. Almost all the theories and generalizations that have been laboriously worked out by the economists in relation to our present incomplete society have no application to a perfect form of association.
As for the common end in view, it has always been, in the authoritative societies of the past and present, in one word — war. Man, although a gregarious animal, and amicable toward the members of his immediate clan, is a predatory animal towards other clans, doing his fighting in packs, and the military societies of the past were organized quite as much for conquest as for defense. Up to the sixteenth century, conquest was regarded as the proper occupation of princes, as noted by the astute Machiavelli. Whether conquering or conquered, men enjoyed, and still enjoy, the excitement of fighting and use it as a means to grow relative individual wealth. But a time came when war ceased to be the chief occupation of life. Commerce and industry grew.
Most of our social ills today in the United States are caused by the failure of the social organization to keep pace with the rapid development of industry. Industry and Commerce, Siamese twins, so closely united that they cannot be separated, are today the supreme interest of the world; yet they are continually held back by a form of social organization suited to a quite different condition, which is to the condition of universal war that formerly prevailed. Not until we have entirely done away with the present form of social organization, abolished the remnants of authority that still survive, and substituted the reign of liberty, that is to say, of free contract, can the fullness of our industrial and commercial potential be realized. War requires authority; trade requires liberty.
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