What is Wrong With America?
What Is Wrong With America?
“There was once indeed a time when Americans plumed themselves on their individualism; but the fine trait of self-help is not so common now, and what we hear nowadays is rather the enervating cry, “Let the government do it.”
So obsessed are the people with politics, so omnipotent in action and so all-sufficing in providence do they deem the government that to some of them it seems either that legislative statutes are a substitute for moral principles, or that virtue can be legislated into persons whether they want it or not.
This acceptance of legislation as a species of miracle-performing leads to remarkable consequences. If legality can be substituted for morality, it follows that no one need have any character; and, if an individual could be terrorized into goodness by the penalties of man-made laws, why should a person put forth any effort to acquire the habits of goodness?
But the law cannot make the people good; it can only make them pretend to be.
Puritanical blue laws defeat their own object; the futility and perniciousness of such laws are the evidence of their essential quackery . . . There are many credulous Americans who can be interested in the League of Nations, for such a league of governments appears to afford an alternative to the duty of cultivating intelligence and morality and might work a miracle by the quick and east way of erecting more political machinery. Apparently therefore, it is not the saints, not the teachers, but the politicians who are going to save mankind.
Although it was the statesmen who did nothing to prevent, but everything they could to bring about, the World War, yet such is the incurable gullibility of some Americans that they will doubtless enjoy the brief but false security when, by entrance into the League, the American masses are persuaded to imagine that they have succeeded in shifting off their own shoulders and onto the shoulders of a group of secret diplomatists, the responsibility of maintaining peace.
Thus the adoption of a panacea will provide a welcome inducement to abandon the slow and hard work, [and] only adequate method, which is to go to the root of a matter and remove all the causes of the trouble.”
(Editorial, What Is Wrong With America? The Libertarian Magazine, March 1924)