Darrow the Cynic

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DARROW THE CYNIC

In many ways Donald R. Richberg and General Johnson came off the victors in their public quarrel with Clarence Darrow. The defenders of NRA proved easily and conclusively the gross inconsistencies of Mr. Darrow’s reasoning, but they did not thereby validate the National Recovery Act and other measures of the Roosevelt recovery program. By exposing the addled thinking of Mr. Darrow, they have gained nothing in constructive defense of the follies of the NRA and its underlying philosophy.

It seems to be fate that the cause of opposition to administration policies falls into the hands of the Wirts and Darrows. They snatch the spotlight and the big headlines, while the calm, well-reasoned criticism of Ogden L. Mills is shunted into the background.

Mr. Darrow’s social philosophy has been shaped by his past experiences as an advocate for the accused, the oppressed, the unfortunate. He has become the champion of the underdog.

In a battle between society and a coupled of murderers, Mr. Darrow indicts society and excuses the criminals. A man of this type of mind would be expected to have a low opinion of the possibilities of human nature.

You might expect him to say, as he did say, “All competition is savage, wolfish and relentless and can be nothing else. One may as well dream of making war lady-like as of making competition fair.”

Mr. Darrow overlooks the fact that all advancement in social justice has consisted in applying workable rules for the enforcement of fair play — not perfect rules, by any means, but workable rules. They are ever being amended in an effort to reach a greater degree of fairness. As wolfish instincts become refined and sublimated better rules are accepted. We still have a long way to go, but we have certainly made a lot of progress in the last three centuries.

The most amazing thing about the Darrow report is that, while he is a professed cynic regarding human nature as applied to rules regulating fair competition, he advocates socialism, or socialized control of industry, which is based on the highest faith in mankind.

Mr. Darrow lacks the faith that business can ever be made to compete on a fair basis; yet he is willing to repose faith in a bureaucratic control over the lives of 120,000,000 persons.

Socialized industry means nothing less than the control of industry in the hands of a few tyrants. If takes a prodigious amount of faith in human nature to approve such a system.

Socialism, or socialized control of industry, to be successful, must presuppose: (1) That the leaders who battle their way to the top (through ruthless competition for leadership) will be not only superman, but also spotless, selfless characters; and (2) that the great mass of individuals will not be spoiled by the multiplicity of government props and aids that will surround them.

A people whose life is ordered for them by a small group of alleged supermen cannot retain the moral fibre of a people who are left to use their own initiative and invention.

A realist would concede that human nature is capable of great things, but in order to bring out the most and the best in him the individual must be left as far as possible a free agent, unhampered by manifold interferences from a paternalistic government. Political freedom means freedom for the individual to develop.

The question the country must settle is, how far, under our modern industrial set-up, must we go in ?? ???? down regulatory laws in order to protect individual liberty? What is the bare minimum of regulation consistent with modern conditions?

We believe that the National Recovery act, the Securities act, the Stock Exchange regulations bill and the other measures go far beyond the necessary minimum of regulation.

President Roosevelt and his advisers think that NRA and present legislation does not go far enough. There the ????  ?? ????ed, and it should be fought out along these lines.

Fitchburg Sentinel (Fitchburg, Massachusetts) May 22, 1934

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