1 FEBRUARY 1963, Page 24

The People, Perhaps

The Age of Reform. By Richard Hofstadter. (Cape, 30s.) The Paradoxes of Freedom. By Sidney Hook. California and C.U.P., 40s.)

MR. HOFSTADTER'S The Age of Reform provides a welcome look into the paradoxes of America's"' tradition of reform, a tradition responsible for the nation's current ambivalent attitude toward world responsibility. Mr. Hofstadter begins his study with the Populists, and he is rightly and perceptively critical of them. Bryan and his followers founded their movement (which was only the culmination of earlier, less outspoken agrarian reform movements) on the basis of the American agrarian myth. This myth of the self- sufficient yeoman farmer, says the author. had never been substantiated in reality. The ideal behind the myth had been more the notion of

THE SPECTATOR. FEBRUARY I, opportunity, of the self-made man, which gave rise to the spirit of the businessman and not that of the idyllic farmer. Thus the paradox of businessmen farmers rallying behind a standard whose very nature had produced the period of tremendous industrial expansion they were fighting against. But Populism was shortsighted and provincial, distrusting all those alien to the rural way of life. There were two nations—`the robbers and the robbed.' The farmers, together with the small businessmen, were being robbed.

After 1900 moralistic Populism merged with moralistic Progressivism. Middle-class and urban by nature, Progressivism gained nation-wide popularity and supported both urban and rural reforms. But it, too, harkened back to the non- existent past of the Populists. Corporations were Wrong because they placed a strain on private property. The individual had been submerged. Theodore Roosevelt's attempts to maintain faith in the neutrality of the power of the State and Woodrow Wilson's determination to phrase national policy in moral terms expressed the movement's fundamental support of a defunct !ndividualism. Mr. Hofstadter says it succinctly:

• . the Progressive movement was the com- plaint of the unorganised against the conse- quences of organisation.' Interestingly enough (and this is an acute observation on the part of Mr. Hofstadter) important support for the Pro- gressives, came from the old gentry, the Mug- Wumps. The newly rich, the spawn of industrial growth, had by-passed them on the road to Power and influence. Fear of such displacement drove them to recoup their losses through reform.

But if Mr. Hofstadter is indeed the careful analyst of the Populists and the Progressives, his argument is even more poignant with regard to file New Deal. He says of the Roosevelt era in his introduction : 'The next episode in the history of reform, the New Deal, was itself a product of that over-organised world which had so much troubled the Progressives. The trend toward Management, toward bureaucracy, toward big- ness, everywhere had gone so far that even the torts of reform itself had to be consistent with ,ff

He substantiates his case in his final chapter:

• • its [the New Deal's) indignation was directed far more against callousness and waste, far less against corruption or monopoly, than the indignation of the Progressives, and . . . its inspiration was much more informed by engi- neering, administration, and economics, con- siderably less by morals and uplift.' FDR worked with the trusts to achieve his reform, not against them. Although the New Deal was essen- tially isolationist, 'what it could not escape was the reality of . . "one world."' With that final statement we are up to date. Professor Hook's work is a plea for a liberali- sation of approach .to the words of Jefferson as set down in the American Constitution and the 1.1!11 of Rights. He believes .lefferson did not wish views to be taken literally. Inalienable ights; if inalienable is to mean absolute, • are annpossibilities. Natural rights, as Jefferson would ,g,.r,ee, are determined by personal and social utility One good or right limits another. There trim be no freedom unless those who attempt to frustrate such desires (to achieve their freedom) s...0 curbed. Understanding this, common- sense presuppositions (and not dogma) must come into play when interpreting exactly how c.nstitutional principles fit into circumstances.

reasonable must determine rights, for 'to be about is to be absolute about nothing except

Ill being reasonable

Mr. Ihok • •

of.th applies these premises to the actions s Supreme Court and to the right of revolu-

tion in democracy. He feels the Court has taken upon itself despotic powers of judicial review without having necessary checks placed upon it by the legislative and judicial branches of the United States Government. He proposes that the Court should have the power to nullify acts of Congress by unanimous decision. With regard to revolution he says there is no moral or political justification for it in a democracy. In a democracy one cannot do whatever one's conscience dictates. One cannot be indifferent to the lives of others.

What this boils down to is: 'Once we venture, as we sometimes must, on a dangerous course which may lead to our salvation in a particular situation but which may also be the beginning of our path to perdition, the only

answer we can give to the question: "Where will we stop?" is "Wherever our intelligence tells us to stop!"' But cannot things be the other way round? Intelligence can too easily be influenced by the circumstances themselves and by the biases with which that intelligence approaches circum- stances. Witness the history of American reform, Compare Hook with Mr. Hofstadter's summing up of the Progressives: 'In their search- for mechanical guarantees of continued popular control the reformers were trying to do some- thing altogether impossible—to institutionalise a mood. When the mood passed. some of the more concrete reforms remained: but the formal gains for popular government, while still on the books, lost meaning because the ability of the public to use them lapsed with the political re- vival that brought them in. and the bosses and the interests promptly filtered back.'