The Socialists’ False Premise
October 18, 1953 — The Indianapolis Star (Letter)

The Mossadegh Project | March 31, 2020                                     

“As long as these 43 states remain sovereign and as long as the governments of these states retain the responsibility as well as the right to govern in all local matters, neither socialism nor its uglier twin brother communism will ever gain power in our land.”

Legal scholar Albert James Harno (1889-1966) wrote this extremely lengthy letter to the editor of The Indianapolis Star, a newspaper which, like Harno, had an axe to grind against Socialism.

The People Speak
October 18, 1953

Attorneys Establish A Research Center For Betterment Of Laws To Keep Us Free

To the Editor of The Star:

Albert James Harno (1889-1966), The lawyers of America are in the process of building a bar center in Chicago. The initial buildings in this enterprise are an administration building to house the headquarters of the American Bar Association and affiliated organizations, and a great library and research center.

What are the factors that lie behind this movement? It represents the fulfillment of a dream that has been nourished by the leaders of the Bar over a considerable span of history. The establishment of a library and research center has implications that appeal to men’s imagination.

We Americans subscribe to the premise, which is basic to the conception of all of our institutions, that ours is a nation governed by law. But somehow we have not quite envisioned the evolutionary characteristics of law: that law must adapt itself to the emerging needs of a society which is ever in the process of change; that law which is not responsive to these emerging needs tends to become no more than a set of rules that do not govern well.

Law that governs well must, indeed, have stability, it must have enduring qualities; but it also must be adaptable to a changing environment. It follows that as laws become obsolete, popular dissatisfaction with them tends to become articulate, and when felt needs for better laws and better law administration remain unrequited, popular dissatisfaction leads to a breakdown in law enforcement.

Since popular discontent with the law today centers in the criminal law and its administration, it is befitting that the new center bears on criminal law administration. This undertaking is in charge of a committee of which Mr. Justice Jackson is the chairman. [Robert H. Jackson, who died the following year] The lawyers who are planning this enterprise, and who are contributing toward its financing, contemplate something that is much more significant and exciting than the establishment of a physical home for the American lawyer. They envisage a place of research a place where ideas may be engendered and measures developed for law improvement and the better administration of justice.

What are the objectives of the American Bar? Indiana has taken the lead, in recent years, in the struggle to return to the states both the powers and the responsibilities that were taken from us during the 20 years of the two “Deals.” Our legislatures have petitioned the national Congress to stop sending us economic aid, taken from our own pockets, and to stop imposing the economic and political controls that such aid has always carried with it. Our people have worked and voted to cut back the growing centralization of governmental power which has been establishing greater and greater economic and political control in Washington. We have directly challenged the Federal government’s right to impose what we believe to be onerous, and unwise restrictions preventing us from making our welfare records open to public inspection.

Many of our people have led the fight against Federal aid to our schools on the grounds that such aid will and must impose Federal regulation and Federal standardization on those who educate our children. All of this “state’s rights” activity here is soundly based in the fundamental philosophy of those who founded our republic.

The Founding Fathers feared big government because they knew that unlimited power, even in the hands of a democratic majority, was dangerous to individual freedom and to the rights of minorities. They deliberately framed our governmental structure to prevent the assumption of unlimited power by any man or group of men. They set fixed limits for Federal authority and they reserved all unspecified powers to the people and to the states. They created a Federal system that recognizes the sovereignty of 48 independent states and leaves to these states and the people in them both the right and the responsibility for self government.

As long as these 43 states remain sovereign and as long as the governments of these states retain the responsibility as well as the right to govern in all local matters, neither socialism nor its uglier twin brother communism will ever gain power in our land. The establishment of the monolithic socialist or Communist state is only possible when most governmental power has already been centralized into a single place. A standardized and inflexible uniform nation cannot be established if our states remain split up with separate laws, separate customs, separate political powers and separate social and educational institutions.

The drive to centralize government in the United States gained its greatest impetus under the two “Deals.” [The New Deal (FDR) and the Fair Deal (Truman)] Economic centralization of power has become large and menacing. It was achieved by the Federal grants-in-aid programs which in all cases imposed Federal control and regulation of the spending of the money. It was achieved by the establishment of a huge bureaucracy to administer these Federal laws and regulations supplanting state power and also competing with state political patronage.

If the states allow this trend toward greater and greater Federal aid and Federal control to continue, the creation of the instruments by which socialism and communism can leap to power will have been accomplished. Then uniform laws, uniform political institutions, uniform taxation, uniform economic controls, uniform education and uniform health and welfare programs can be put into effect.

Once this is done, chains of centralized economic and political power will have been forged. There remains but one step, violent revolt or sudden coup, that the Communist needs to take in order to seize this concentrated power. “The history of liberty,” wrote Woodrow Wilson, “is a history of resistance. The history of liberty is limitation of governmental power, not the increase of it.”

The Socialists’ False Premise

The greater the power granted to a centralized government, the less power and the less liberty remains with the people. Those who believe in the practicability of establishing socialistic Utopias and still preserving liberty base their belief on a false assumption of the nature of man.

They believe men are inherently good and can be trusted with absolute power over the lives, the property and the liberty of their fellows. They believe that we can create absolute power without having it absolutely corrupted. Nothing in the history of mankind supports this idealistic view. Every government that has been given absolute power has established tyrannical absolutism and destroyed individual liberty.

Our Founding Fathers knew their history. They had lived under the heel of corrupted power. They distrusted government by men, instead of by law. That is why they strove to set up a government of divided and limited powers. That is why Thomas Jefferson, who more than most of his associates trusted in the goodness of the people, spoke the overwhelming view of all the leaders of his time when he said, “In questions of power let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down by the chains of the Constitution.” Today the Eisenhower administration is attempting to return to the people and the states some of the rights and responsibilities taken from them by the two “Deals.”

The Manion Commission has been set up to study ways and means of doing this. [Manion Commission on Intergovernmental Relations] Much good can be expected from it. But the only way our people can be certain of retaining their freedom, of preserving the independence of the states, of stopping and rolling back the drive toward political, economic and social centralization in America is to act themselves at home.

Only if our people keep fighting against Federal aid programs, keep fighting onerous Federal restrictions, keep voting for those who promise more power to the states and less to Washington, can liberty be preserved. As President Eisenhower put it recently, “How can we better fit ourselves to be worthy of freedom, to guard its virtues, to enjoy its bounty? . . . Only if each citizen in every community matches the founders of this nation in fiery independence, confident optimism, sturdy self reliance, and that appetite and capacity for difficulties which have always been such plain marks of America.” [Oct. 6, 1953 address]

“What is the vital consideration underlying all the efforts of the American Bar?” he inquired. “We are commissioned by the state to render a service . . . The standard of public service is the standard of the Bar, if the Bar is to live; the maintenance of justice, the rendering of justice to rich and poor alike; prompt, inexpensive, efficient justice.”

This conception has broad implications. It is the responsibility of lawyers to co-ordinate the spirit and the letter of the law into an effective instrument for justice. It is equally important that the people who are subject to a government of law have a clear understanding of the essential function law performs in a free society and that they should know of the vitality and continuity it gives to all of our institutions.

As aptly expressed by Woodrow Wilson, every citizen “should know what law is, how it came into existence, what relation its form bears to its substance, and how it gives to society its fibre and strength and poise of frame.” The vision of the Bar for its new center is that it will become a focus of enlightenment on law its function in society and the ever-constant need for improvement in its substance and administration.

Dean, University of Illinois, College of Law Urbana, Ill.

Republican Challenges Assumption That Americans Hate War (1951)
Perpetually In Favor of War | by Bruce Barton (1951)


Related links:

Taxpayer Does Not Get Money’s Worth? (June 1953 letter on Socialism)

Make Popular Vote Effective | The Wilmington Morning Star, Nov. 5, 1952

Some Resolutions | The Salt Lake Tribune (Jan. 1952 letter)

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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