DEMOCRACY IS SELF-GOVERNMENT
Harold W. Percival
PRINCIPLES OF TRUE DEMOCRACY AS SELF-GOVERNMENT
Democracy as self-government by the people cannot be established on the antagonisms of man against man, nor on men of the nature of shifting sands. Democracy as the government of self-governed people, the living government that will endure through the ages, must be founded not on shifting policies but on stable principles; it must be founded on the principles in man which are of truth, identity, rightness, of reason, of beauty, of power, and, of the love of that undying conscious sameness in every Doer which is the humanity in man, the sameness and relation of the conscious Doers in human bodies. When the government is established on these principles it will be a true democracy, and it will continue as the permanent government of the people through the ages. These principles are in every human, however much he may have obscured or covered them with wrong, subterfuge, ugliness, selfishness, and hate. It will be useless to try to remove the coverings. They will fall away as soon as man recognizes that these principles of true democracy are in himself. They must be in him if they are the principles of democracy. As people recognize these principles in themselves, they will be able to express their unexpressed hopes, to articulate their inarticulate aspirations, to voice the unvoiced innermost ideals of all people for a new way, a better way, of life—toward which all alike may think and work, each in his own manner, but for the common good of all.
The Old Way
The old way of life has been expressed in phrases, such as: “Each man for Himself,” the “Survival of the Fittest,” or “Might is Right.” And the policy or statecraft of government has been: “Expediency.” Mankind has lived through the brute and barbarian stages of savagery without having outgrown them. But the growth and development toward civilization have brought man to the end of the Old Way. The brutality of man in seeking for himself only that he might survive by his might over others, in any field of endeavor, and that expediency, in business as in government, are the standards of Right, have gone about as far as they can go on the Old Way. To go on by the Old Way much longer will bring on confusion, revolution, and destruction of business and government by war and death. To go on by the Old Way will be to return to the beginning of the Old Way: No man will trust any man. Each man will strive against any other man. How then can any survive?
The New Way
The Old Way has been: the one or the few against the many, and the many against the one or the few. The New Way is: the one or the few for the many, and the many for each one and for all. This must be seen to be the New Way of life, else there will be no New Way. These facts cannot be forced on “the few” or on “the many.” The few and the many, as the people, must all understand that this is to be the New Way—the right and straightforward Way of life, to civilization, to true Democracy.
Big Business and Government
Business is concerned with the work of production and consumption and in the relation of negotiation and exchange by buying and selling.
If the purpose of exchange is to benefit all concerned, the producers and consumers and buyers and sellers will be benefited. But if the purpose of the people who are buyers and sellers or negotiators is to gain at the expense or regardless of those others of the people who are the producers and consumers, then the business of buying and selling will also suffer loss, because the loss of some of the people must inevitably be shared by all of the people. This obscure fact, which is not seen or is disregarded, is one of the causes of failure in business.
Little business began when some people exchanged with other people the things they had for the things the others had. Then all the people concerned benefited by exchanging what they had but did not need as much as the things they got in exchange. When a family wanted to build a house, all the people helped that family build that house. And that settlement and people grew, by each producing and exchanging their products and their labor with each other. They increased and prospered. Much of the pioneering in a new land was of necessity done that way.
But the pioneer business of exchange could not continue that way. Trade and labor and manufacture and merchandising needed a medium of exchange. And money was the medium of exchange. After money was established as the medium of exchange, people centered their interest in money instead of in the things for which it was exchanged, because they thought that if they could get the money they could then buy anything that could be bought. Business at that time valued money as the representative of profit or gain on what it bought or sold. Later on, instead of considering money to be the representative of value, business made money to be itself the value; the value of the things bought and sold, and the value as profit or loss on what was bought and sold.
While money had been only the representative of the value of the things bought and sold, business was the master of money; but when the measure of value was put in terms of money, money became the master of business and business became the slave of money, of negotiating and buying and selling for gain, with the accumulating of money as the one-pointedness of big business.
Big business is any kind and every kind of effort for gain. Anything that is conceived from which there can be profit, that will be produced. If there is no demand for that thing, a demand will be created and that thing sold for gain. The business of big business is not to wait until the people want to buy, not to try to sell what is good in preference to what is bad for the people; the business of big business is to go-get-the-people and sell what the people can be most easily made to buy, good or bad, and in the selling of which there is gain.
Turnover, getting and selling, is the art of big business, which is psychologized, mechanized and merchandised. It is alleged that anything, good or bad, can be sold by advertising it. High pressure advertising is high pressure selling. The pressure is put on advertising through the daily papers, the weekly and monthly magazines, and signboards, and illuminations, and moving pictures, and radio, and through living human machines—all of which is high pressure selling.
Barnum was a pioneer high pressure advertising salesman. He knew what he was talking about when he said: “The people like to be fooled.” And he proved it.
The open advertising of big business makes the people choose to buy anything by stimulating and appealing to their weakness: vanity, envy, jealousy, greed, lust; and, what is not done openly, is done surreptitiously when it is against the law, such as the big business of racketeering in forbidden drugs, wines and liquors, and other illicit traffic.
The more there is of such big business, the less choice there is for the people who buy. The people are told by big business what to choose. In time such people will want to be told what to choose. The greater the authority of big business, the less authority there is for the people. The more initiative is taken by big business, the less initiative there is in the people. People are allowing big business to take away their initiative and authority concerning what they need and want, by telling them what they need and should or must buy.
Government will become a big business if the people give authority or allow the government to take the authority of big business. When the government is allowed by the people to be a business, then there is war between the government and big business. Then big business will control and direct government or the government will take over and become big business. And the big business of government will then become the only one big business of the country. The government would then have a monopoly on the country and the people which, of course, would be the ideal of big business. The big business of government would employ the people of the country as employees and as workers in the employ of the Big Business Government. Then the big business government will engage in war with the governments who make war on their business, with the governments who have also taken over or direct the big business of their countries, and have made over their governments into big business. Should the government not start a war with other countries, then there will be war between the workers for the government and the workers of government. Then: goodbye business; there is no government.
It is monstrous for big business to try to control government and, also, it would be outrageous for government to control or take over and be big business. The ascendancy of one over the other would be destructive and disastrous to the people.
Private enterprise should be allowed or helped to straighten out itself by seeing the need for its own good and for the good of the people.
Big business struggles to show its constant growth. To grow and to gain it must get more and more business. In time the business suffers from a disease, an unnatural and unwholesome cancerous growth. The cancerous disease of big business continues to spread. As it grows beyond the need of its community it spreads to other cities and states in the nation and to other nations until it spreads into all nations of the world. Then the big business of each nation struggles with the big business of the other nations. And the big business of each nation demands its government to protect its interest in the nation it is in, to get business from other big business. Then there are exchanges of complaints and threats of the governments; and, possible war. This ever-expanding Big Business is one of the troubles of the people of the world.
There should be a limit to the growth of big business, else it will kill or control other business. It will increase the wants of those whom it should serve until it induces them to buy beyond their purchasing power. Then it dies from overgrowth, or, if it continues, by periodical reorganizations, and by liquidating its liabilities on its creditors and the people.
Modern business is work, not merely for a living but for material gain in commercial, industrial and other activities; from huge interlocking corporations to the smallest business, the purpose of the business is to get as much as possible for what is given in exchange. Business is at its best when it benefits everyone concerned. Business is at its worst when all its parts are geared and every one is goaded to the making of money. Then unfair dealing and dishonesty are practiced, and the interests of most are disregarded.
Big business is based on the accomplishing of a purpose and the giving or getting something for what is done or given. If “competition is the life of trade,” as it is said to be, dishonesty is in the trade and in the people, else the trade must die. Competition should be in the producing of a better article without an increase in price, not in competitors selling the same article at ruinous prices to defeat each other. To keep on cutting the price lowers the quality of the product, sells below cost, deceives the buyer, and encourages the people to look for bargains at the expense of the seller.
If liberty, opportunity, and the pursuit of happiness are the rights of the individual in a democracy, then reasonable limits must be set for the growth of a business, else big business will intercept and annul those rights.
There is only one way in which big business can continue to be big business. That way is: to allow a profit to the producer; that the articles sold to the people are as represented; that the business pays fair wages to its employees; and that it reserves a reasonable, but not more than a reasonable, profit for itself.
Business is not or cannot be so conducted at present, because competition requires and encourages misrepresentation and dishonesty in competitors and in the people they serve; because business costs too much in overhead; because business tries to sell to the buyer more than the buyer can afford to pay for; because people are the silent partners of business, and business does not see the obscure fact that what is not in the interest of the people will be against the interests of business.
It is one thing to point out the wrongs in business; it is quite another matter to rectify and cure them. The cure cannot be applied from the outside; the cure to be a cure must be made from the inside. The cure must come from business and the people. It is not likely that enough business men would see or apply the cure to make it effective; and, if business wanted to apply the cure, it is not likely that the people would stand behind and support them. The people can apply the cure if they will, but only if they will.
The cure must be demanded of business by the people. When the demand is strong enough business must comply with the requirements of the demand, because there can be no business without the people. The people should demand that in all its operations business take into consideration the interests of all concerned; that it will not engage in dishonest competition to secure trade; that all things for sale may be advertised, but that prospective buyers are to be relieved from the frantic high pressure advertising telling them what to buy and urging them to buy, in order that the people themselves may choose and buy at their own discretion; that all things advertised are as represented; that the things sold must return reasonable, but not exorbitant profits; and, that the profits be divided between the employers and the employees—not equally but proportionately, according to what the employers and the employees put into the business. This can be done, but the business part of it cannot be done by the people. The business part of it must be done by the business. Such can be the demand of the people. The business men are the only ones who can answer to the demands and who can meet the requirements, if they will remove the blinders of extreme selfishness long enough to see that in so doing it will be for their own ultimate interest. That is the business part of the cure.
But the people’s part is the most important part of the cure; that is, that the people will not buy from a business if that business does not comply with their specified requirements. The people should understand that if a commodity is advertised to sell below cost, they are being deceived by the seller or they are helping the seller to ruin the producer; then they will refuse to be parties to a petty crime. The people should refuse to patronize a business that deals in special bargains, because that business cannot sell below costs and remain in business; it is a dishonest business. If the people will be honest with business, business must be honest with the people to continue in business.
Business and government are representatives of the people. Do the people really want an honest government, and honest business? Then they themselves must be truly honest; or, was Barnum right when he said: “The people want to be fooled”? It stands to reason that from self-interest alone, if they will understand the situation as it is, the people will have an honest government, and honest business, by being self-governed and honest themselves. The chase and race for money has made or is making man a money maniac. The money maniacs are making of the world an insane-asylum. Ever before them is their leading thought, represented by gain, profit, money, anything for money. After one is infected by the contagion of money mania he does not or cannot analyze his condition. His activities and drives for gain, money, allow him no inclination or opportunity to consider any limit to the profit and money he wants, or where the race will take him or when it will end, and what is to become of his accumulations after the race, which he cannot or will not stop, is over.
He vaguely knows that death is racing with and is ahead of or behind him. But he cannot afford to let death interfere with his plans now; he is too busy. He learns little or nothing from the examples of victims of money mania who have preceded him or from those who are his contemporaries; he wants only to know how to make more money. But he is anxiously watched by those who are waiting for his demise. When he is overtaken and taken away by death, he is soon forgotten. And those of his beneficiaries who have not been infected by the contagion of money mania soon scatter his accumulations.
There is purpose in everything that happens. Behind the objective purpose there are other purposes. Behind the purpose of business, from the pioneering little business to the capitalistic big business, there are purposes other than the making of money. Money is only one of the necessary wheels in the industrial machine of big business. The idolater of the dollar is usually a shrewd and narrow man; he is seldom, if ever, the intelligence or brains of big business. Big business requires imaginativeness and understanding. Big business gathers in and includes in its ranks all four classes of human workers, as it cannot do without each of the four classes: the body worker, the trader worker, the thinker worker, and the knower worker. Physics, chemistry, biology and all other branches of the sciences, as well as the arts, the professions, and the schools of learning contribute to the industry and commerce in the efficiency and economy of big business.
Behind all purposes there has been a guiding purpose in the development of big business and government throughout the world, and especially in the United States of America. From the pioneer whose purpose was self-dependence with responsibility in freedom and in a new land with wide frontiers, to the builders of big business who open new roadways on and through the earth, who plow into and search out the depths of the waters, who battle the storms and ride the air, and who reach for new horizons of the light beyond, always beyond, into the unknown, with efficiency and economy, everything has taken place for a purpose. If in the development of big business the purpose should become pecuniary and centered on the dollar, to get and to hold, then big business is afflicted with near-sighted selfishness; the horizons contract with the inversion of vision and growth; the energies and resources of big business are restricted to industrial war. Then governments requisition big business for wars of nations.
The only just war is the defense of democracy, to protect the land and the people. A war for conquest, for business or for plunder, is against democracy, and should be opposed and prevented by the people.
If big business is allowed to control the government, or if the government of the United States is allowed to control or become big business, government and big business will have failed and the people will be responsible for their failure, because the individuals of the people did not themselves practice self-control and self-government, and because the voters did not select and elect as their government the representatives who were self-governed and otherwise qualified to govern in the interests of the people. Then the guiding purpose behind government and big business ceases its guidance, and government and big business and the people run amuck.
This is a time of trial, a crisis, for democracy, for the people. And malevolent efforts are made to lead the thoughts of the people and government into and under the brand of one of the “ologies” or “isms.” If the people let themselves be made into an ism, that would be the end of democracy. Then the people who have always been shouting in other’s ears for liberty, freedom, justice, opportunity, and the “et ceteras,” will have lost the opportunity to have what they would not make. Democracy is nothing less than self-government. All the good books and wise men in the world cannot make or give democracy to the people. If ever there is to be a democracy in the United States the people must make it. The people cannot have democracy if they will not be self-governed. If individuals of the people will not try to control and govern themselves they may as well stop shouting and let the oily-tongued politicians or the frenzied dictators silence and shackle them and drive them in terror to despair. That is what is happening in parts of the world today. That is what may happen here if the object lessons which dictator-ruled countries now offer is not learned. Each one who is for himself and for his party and for what he can get from the government, and wants what he can buy at the expense of business, is the dupe and victim of business, his party, and the government. He is the victim of his own duplicity and dishonesty.
Let each one who wants democracy begin self-government with himself, and in no long time we will have a real democracy, and big business will discover that in working for the interests of all the people it is in fact working for its own interest.
The one who has a vote and will not vote, deserves the worst that government can give him. The voter who does not vote for the most honorable and best qualified to govern, irrespective of party, deserves to be cowed into line and to eat from the hands of politicians and their bosses.
Government and business cannot do for the people what the people will not themselves initiate and insist that government and big business must do. How so? The individuals of a people are so many individual governments—good, bad, and indifferent. Individuals can begin self-control in little things and self-government in big things by thinking and doing what they know to be right and so prevent themselves from the expression of what they know to be wrong. This is not interesting to indifferent ones, but the determined people can do it. While controlling the worst by the best that is in them, the people are practicing self-government. It will be a new experience from which, as they continue, they will develop a new sense of power and responsibility. Government by the individual will give insight of what is needed in big business and in government by the people, as democracy. Government and big business must then be necessarily concerned with the interests of a united and responsible people. As individuals practice self-control and begin to learn the great art and science of self-government, it will become more evident to the people that there is a guiding purpose behind government and big business; that the United States is a country with a great destiny; that notwithstanding its many mistakes the United States is developing a future immeasurably greater than any Utopia which has ever been dreamed of or conceived.
The future will be the practical extension of accomplishments in the last fifty years, in the mastery and direction of forces of nature for the interests of the people, according to the degree of self-control and self-government of those who direct the forces. The guiding purpose behind big business and the people has been that they train their bodies and brains for great projects and immense undertakings, for a wide range of clear thinking, accurate reasoning, and right judgment concerning unknown forces and facts.
It can be observed that big business has paid large dividends to the investors of brain and brawn and intelligence, on their time and money; that there has been great increase in national wealth; that there has been a constant increase of comforts and conveniences for the people; and that these and other benefits have resulted under what is called the capitalistic system. Accompanying the great benefits there have been many disadvantages, such as congestion of population, unfair legislation, popular strikes, business failures, panics, poverty, discontent, lawlessness, drunkenness, and misery. The disadvantages have resulted not from business or government or from any one party, but from all parties; from the readiness of each party to blame the other parties and to blind itself to its own faults, and from the unwillingness of all to see the facts as the facts are.
Here are some facts to be considered: The conditions of “Capital” and “Labor” have been bettered although they have suffered the disadvantages of their war. The country and big business have increased in wealth although each has wasted money and handicapped the other by trying to obstruct and control the other. The people and big business have benefited each other although business has charged as much as the people could be induced to pay at “bargain prices,” and although the people have hunted to get products below the cost of production. Business and government and parties and people have worked for their own interests without regard to the interests (and often against the interests) of the others. Each person or party who has tried to disguise his own intentions in order to deceive the others, has of course worked against his own interest and is a victim of his own blind greed. All parties have worked at cross purposes, and yet there have been benefits.
From a consideration of the facts one can reasonably imagine how much more can be accomplished for everybody if some of the obstructions and handicaps are removed and the wastes turned to profits, if only the people and big business and government will see the facts, change their tactics, and replace their disagreements with agreements for mutual benefits, and exchange the war of party against party for the peace and betterments of all parties and individuals. This can be done if people will by thinking become imbued with the understanding that the interests of all the people are and should be the interests of each one of the people, that the interests of each one of the people are and should be the interests of all the people. These statements may sound like rattle and nonsense to catch the rabble, and to tease the ears and annoy sophisticated and successful people. But these fundamental and obscure facts must be stated and restated until they are understood by the people and big business and government to be the facts that they are. Then they will be the basis on which all four classes will build a real democracy.
As a cinder in the eye, a toothache, a sore thumb, a pebble in the shoe, or hindrance in speech will directly affect one’s thought and bodily action, so surely will the good or ill which befalls the individual, affect all the people, and so will the prosperity or distress of the people react on and affect the individual. The difference in the comparison between the individual case and that of the people is that each can understand the application to oneself because he is in an indirect relation to all parts of his body; but although he is not in all other human bodies, he is related to each other conscious one in all other human bodies. All the conscious ones in all human bodies are immortal; all are the same in origin; all have the same ultimate purpose; and each will eventually work out his own perfection. The relation and sameness of all conscious ones are the Humanity in man. All may not at once understand this. But it is well to consider it, because it is true.
In view of the facts presented it is proper to ask: Will big business become addicted to the idolatry of the dollar, or will it see that its own interests are in the people’s interests?
Will government forget or refuse to understand that the fundamental of democracy is government by the people and in the interests of all of the people as self-government?, or will an elected government use the authority and power given it to make itself masters of big business and of the people?, or will it realize and perform its duties, to govern in the interests of all of the people?
Will the people be party-conscious people and deceive themselves or allow themselves to be deceived by party politicians to elect party men to power, and to be bamboozled and bossed by the politicians until they lose their right to think and speak and the right to vote by ballot?, or will the people take the opportunity they now have: individually to practice self-control and self-government, to elect to government only able and honorable men who pledge themselves to govern in the interests of all of the people, regardless of party politics?, and, will the people insist that big business honorably conduct business in the interests of all concerned, and support business in so doing?
The answers to these questions depend not so much on the government or on big business as on the people, because government and big business are of the people and are representative of the people. The questions must be answered by the people, individually to themselves, and the determinations of the people must be made into laws and must be enforced by the people; or all the talk about democracy is mere noise and twaddle.
All that may be desired in life can be produced by the four essentials that are necessary to produce anything that is produced. The four essentials are: brains and brawn and time and intelligence. Each of the four classes of human beings have these four essentials. Each one of each of the four classes has as much but no more and no less of the time-essential as any other one of the classes. The other three essentials are held in varying degree by each one of the four classes. No one of these essentials and no class can be dispensed with in the production of anything.
When “Capital” and “Labor” will put aside their differences and will work in coordinate relation and in generous cooperation for their common good and for the interest of all the people, we will in due time have a real Democracy. Then the people will be able to enjoy the good things in life.
The worthwhile things in life, which people cannot really have under present conditions where each seeks his own interests, usually at the expense of others, are homes of cheerful and industrious families, strong and wholesome and beautiful bodies, clear thinking, the understanding of the human being, the understanding of nature, the understanding of the relation of one’s body to nature, and the understanding of one’s own Triune Self.
Copyright 1980 by The Word Foundation, Inc.