“ECONOMIC depression and political radicalism go hand in hand. When economic distress reaches a certain point, the individual citizen no longer uses his political power to serve the public, but only to help himself. His ideal of political liberty pales before his ideal of economic equality.“
Once this sentiment has eaten its way into the hearts of the majority of a nation, any political system is doomed to failure. It is useless to tell the embittered masses that their political and economic rulers are not responsible for their misfortunes. It is equally useless to point out to them that a revolution with its attendant disorders would not improve their situation, but would hopelessly compromise it. The world is not ruled by reason, but by passion, and when a man is driven to despair he is ready to smash everything in the vague hope that a better world may arise out of the ruins.
Intelligent and orderly as [people] are… they are in danger today of falling into this reckless state of mind. It would seem that the economic crisis, the reduction of large classes of the population [out of the middle class and into the lower class], and the unemployment of nearly five million persons, cannot go on for many more years without ruining the nation as a whole. Here is a population, well-equipped from the point of view of health and intellect, which in general is forced to be satisfied with an income barely sufficient for a minimum existence. One-eighth of those who are able and eager to work are unable to find any opportunity to do so. And those who are employed see no possibility of little by little rising to positions where their abilities will have fuller scope. Above all — and this is perhaps the worst aspect of the situation — not only are great numbers of persons forced to abandon any hope of advancement themselves but they must also relinquish the idea of giving their children an adequate education and thus opening up a way for them to better their situation.
The consequence is a pronounced and inclusive dissatisfaction with the prevailing economic system. All the blame for every ill is laid on the shoulders of the capitalistic system, despite the fact that it has been hampered and weakened to a considerable degree by governmental interference….But it is certainly one of the secrets of success not to allow the feelings of self-reliance and self-help which exist in a nation not to go to waste. America has managed things better in this respect [than Europe has, where] the self-made man is no longer the ideal of the people. The number of those who are beginning to think in terms of socialism is increasing.
The [other political party] offers the advantage that one may indulge in cheap socialism, the socialism of envy, without having at the same time to forgo class-consciousness or a sense of superiority over the [lower class.]… Their “socialism” is a hatred of capitalism; their “Marxism” is a hatred of democracy. Whether this party will ever make up its mind to take the leap and try an assault upon the Republic is extremely doubtful.