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Chapter 6: Further Implications of the Neglect of Economic Thinking

2. The Approach of the "Social Sciences"

It is customary to hypostatize social cooperation by employing the term "society." Some mysterious superhuman agency, it is said, created society and peremptorily requires man to sacrifice the concerns of his petty egoism for the benefit of society.

The scientific treatment of the problems involved starts with the radical rejection of this mythological approach. What the individual forgoes in order to cooperate with other individuals is not his personal interests opposed to that of the phantom society. He forsakes an immediate boon in order to reap at a later date a greater boon. His sacrifice is provisional. He chooses between his interests in the short run and his interests in the long run, those which the classical economists used to call his "rightly understood" interests.

The utilitarian philosophy does not look upon the rules of morality as upon arbitrary laws imposed upon man by a tyrannical Deity with which man has to comply without asking any further questions. To behave in compliance with the rules that are required for the preservation of social cooperation is for man the only means to attain safely all those ends that he wants to attain.

The attempts to reject this rationalistic interpretation of morality from the point of view of Christian teachings are futile. According to the fundamental doctrine of Christian theology and philosophy, God has created the human mind in endowing man with his faculty of thinking. As both revelation and human reason are manifestations of the Lord's might, there cannot be ultimately any disagreement between them. God does not contradict himself. It is the object of philosophy and theology to demonstrate the concord between revelation and reason. Such was the problem the solution of which patristic and scholastic philosophy tried to achieve.2 Most of these thinkers doubted whether the human mind, unaided by revelation, would have been able to become aware of what the dogmas, especially those of the Incarnation and of the Trinity, taught. But they did not express serious doubts concerning the faculty of human reason in all other regards.

The popular attacks upon the social philosophy of the Enlightenment and the utilitarian doctrine as taught by the classical economists did not originate from Christian theology, but from theistic, atheistic, and antitheistic reasoning. They take for granted the existence of some collectives and ask neither how such collectives came into existence nor in what sense they "exist." They ascribe to the collective of their choice—mankind (humanité), race, nation (in the sense attached to this term in English and in French, which corresponds to the German Staat) nationality (the totality of all people speaking the same language), social class (in the Marxian sense), and some others—all the attributes of acting individuals. They maintain that the reality of these collectives can be perceived directly and that they exist apart from and above the actions of the individuals who belong to them. They assume that the moral law obliges the individual to subordinate his "petty" private desires and interests to those of the collective to which he belongs "by rights" and to which he owes unconditional allegiance. The individual who pursues his own interests or prefers loyalty to a "counterfeit" collective to that of the "true" collective is just a refractory.

The main characteristic of collectivism is that it does not take notice of the individual's will and moral self-determination. In the light of its philosophy the individual is born into a collective and it is "natural" and proper for him to behave as members of this collective are expected to behave. Expected by whom? Of course, by those individuals to whom, by the mysterious decrees of some mysterious agency, the task of determining the collective will and directing the actions of the collective has been entrusted.

In the ancien régime authoritarianism was based upon a kind of theocratic doctrine. The anointed king ruled by the grace of God; his mandate was from God. He was the personification of the realm. "France" was the name both of the king and of the country; the king's children were enfants de France. Subjects who defied the royal orders were rebels.

The social philosophy of the Enlightenment rejected this presumption. It called all Frenchmen enfants de la patrie, children of the fatherland. No longer was compulsory unanimity in all essential and political matters to be enforced. The institution of representative government—government by the people—acknowledges the fact that people may disagree with regard to political issues and that those sharing the same opinions consort with one another in parties. The party in office rules as long as it is supported by the majority.

The neoauthoritarianism of collectivism stigmatizes this "relativism" as contrary to human nature. The collective is seen as an entity above the concerns of the individuals. It is immaterial whether or not the individuals spontaneously agree with the concerns of the whole. At any rate it is their duty to agree. There are no parties; there is only the collective.3 All the people are morally bound to comply with the collective's orders. If they disobey, they are forced to yield. This is what the Russian Marshal Zhukov called the "idealistic system" as opposed to the "materialistic system" of Western individualism that the commanding general of the American forces found "a little difficult" to defend.4

The "social sciences" are committed to the propagation of the collectivistic doctrine. They do not waste any words on the hopeless task of denying the existence of individuals or proving their villainy. In defining as the objective of the social sciences concern with "the activities of the individual as a member of a group"5 and implying that the social sciences so defined cover everything that does not belong to the natural sciences, they simply ignore the existence of the individual. In their view, the existence of groups or collectives is an ultimate given. They do not attempt to search for the factors that make individuals cooperate with one another and thus create what is called groups or collectives. For them the collective, like life or mind, is a primary phenomenon the origin of which science cannot trace back to the operation of some other phenomenon. Consequently, the social sciences are at a loss to explain how it can happen that there exists a multitude of collectives and that the same individuals are at the same time members of different collectives.

  • 2. L. Rougier, La scolastique et le Thomisme (Paris, 1925), pp. 36 ff., 84 ff., 102 ff.
  • 3. Etymologically, the term "party" is derived from the term "part" as contrasted with the term "whole." A brotherless party does not differ from the whole and is therefore not a party. The slogan "one-party system" was invented by the Russian Communists (and aped by their adepts, the Italian Fascists and the German Nazis) to conceal the abolition of the individual's freedom and right to dissent.
  • 4. About this incident, see W. F. Buckley, Up from Liberalism (New York, 1959), pp. 164-68.
  • 5. E. R. A. Seligman, "What Are the Social Sciences?" Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, I, 3.