It would have been possible for us to use our acquired freedom to establish a solid base for our communal existence. We have not, however, done so. The behavior of men of our time must therefore be a subject of extreme astonishment to future generations. It is, in fact, strange that a society as alert as our own to the power of scientific methods and ideas should not have used these methods to organize its own life. Science has given us the mastery over almost everything on the earth's surface. It could also have given us mastery of ourselves and ensured the success of our individual and social existence. But we have preferred the speculations of eighteenth century philosophic thought to the clear and simple concepts of science. Instead of advancing toward concrete reality, we have stuck fast in abstractions. Undoubtedly, concrete reality is difficult to grasp and our minds are glad to take the line of least resistance. Perhaps it is man's natural sloth which makes him choose the simplicity of the abstract rather than the complexity of the concrete. It is less arduous to hymn the praises of formulas or to drowse over principles than to find out laboriously how things are made and by what means they can be manipulated. It is easier to argue than to observe. As everyone knows, few observations and much discussion are conducive to error: much observation and little discussion to truth. But there are far more minds capable of constructing syllogisms than of accurately grasping the concrete. That is why humanity has always delighted in playing with abstractions even though abstractions give man an incomplete and, at times, totally false vision of reality. Something which is logically true may be empirically false. Are not the cosmologies of Aristotle and St. Thomas entirely erroneous? The geometry of Riemann is no less logical than that of Euclid; the fact remains that it does not apply to our world. If one is not to take false steps in pursuit of the real, it is essential to base oneself, not on the visions of the mind but on the results of observation and experience.
The democratic nations fail to recognize the value of scientific concepts in the organization of communal life. They put their trust in ideologies, those twin daughters of the rationalism of the Age of Enlightenment. Yet neither Liberalism nor Marxism bases itself on an exhaustive observation of reality. The fathers of Liberalism, Voltaire and Adam Smith, had just as arbitrary and incomplete a view of the human world as Ptolemy had of the stellar system. The same applies to those who signed the Declaration of Independence, to the authors of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen as also to Karl Marx and Engels.
The principles of the Communist Manifesto are, in fact, like those of the French Revolution, philosophical views and not scientific concepts. The Liberal bourgeois and the Communist worker share the same belief in the primacy of economics. This belief is inherited from the philosophers of the eighteenth century. It takes no account of the scientific knowledge of the mental and physiological activities of man we possess today nor of the environment which these activities need for their ideal development. Such knowledge shows that primacy belongs not to economics, but to man's own humanity. Instead of trying to find how to organize the State as a function of the human, we are content to declaim the principles of the Declaration of Independence and of the French Revolution. According to these principles, the State is, above all, the guardian of property; the head servant of banking, industry and commerce.
The liberty enjoyed by the majority of men does not belong to the economic, intellectual or moral order. The dispossessed have merely the liberty to go from one slum or one public house to another. They are free to read the lies of one paper rather than another, to listen to opposing forms of radio propaganda and, finally, to vote. Politically they are free; economically they are slaves. Democratic liberty exists only for those who possess something. It allows them to increase their wealth and to enjoy all the various goods of this world. It is only fair to admit that, thanks to it, Capitalism has achieved a vast expansion of wealth and a general improvement in health and in the material conditions of life. But it has, at the same time, created the proletariat. Thus it has deprived men of the land, encouraged their herding together in factories and appalling dwellings, endangered their physical and mental health and divided nations into mutually hostile social classes. The Encylopedists had a profound respect for the owners of property and despised the poor. The French Revolution was directed against both the aristocracy and the proletariat It was content to substitute the rat for the Hon; the bourgeois for the noble. Now Marxism aims at replacing the bourgeois by the worker. The successor of Capitalism is Bureaucracy. Like Liberalism, Marxism arbitrarily gives first place to economics. It allows a theoretical liberty only to the proletariat and suppresses all other classes. The real world is far more complex than the abstraction envisaged by Marx and Engels.
Universal suffrage springs from belief in the equality of individuals. This belief is, however, merely a fantasy of our imagination. One individual is equal to another only in the sense that he is a man and not a gibbon or a chimpanzee. Here again, one may ask whether certain creatures, born of a man and a woman, really possess a human personality. Can an anencephalous monster be said to be a person? Should we consider an idiot, whose mental activity is inferior to that of a dog, a human being? The confusion of symbol and fact has led us to give every individual the same prerogatives. We have not grasped the fact that, though men can be considered equal from the philosophical point of view, they cannot be considered so from the scientific. Many individuals, both in France and America, never get beyond the psychological age of ten and the majority of us never attain full mental maturity. It is, nevertheless, these submen who, thanks to universal suffrage, set the tone in the nation's politics. We have not known how to refute the principles whose application has led to such consequences. The substitution of the contract for the statute, brought about by the French Revolution, is based on a vision of the mind, not on knowledge of reality. Human labor is not something which can be bought like any other commodity. It is an error to depersonalize the thinking and feeling being who operates the machine and to reduce him, in industrial enterprise, to mere "manpower." Homo Oeconomicus is a fantasy of our imagination and has no existence in the concrete world.
Our ancestors of the French Revolution sincerely believed in the existence of the rights of man and of the citizen. It never occurred to them that such rights have never been verified by observation and that they are merely constructions of the mind. The truth is that man has no rights: what he does have is needs. These needs are observable and measurable. It is necessary to the success of life that they should be satisfied. Rights are a philosophical principle; needs, a scientific concept. In the organization of our collective life, we have preferred our intellectual whims to the data of science. The triumph of ideologies ratifies the defeat of civilization.