FROM THE ANTHOLOGY: The Clash of Ideas

The Reconstruction of Liberalism

Courtesy Reuters

THE GOOD SOCIETY. BY WALTER LIPPMANN. Boston: Little, Brown, 1937, 402 p.

THE present generation is rightly concerned, and concerned far more deeply than its immediate forbears ever were, in the ending or mending of the monstrous economic and social inequalities and iniquities which permit and even foster the distress we see about us in the midst of plenty. In sharp contrast with the older notions of an inevitable progressive development that had best be let alone, or even with the recent naïve belief that depressions were a thing of the past, there is a determination among men of the present day, particularly the younger ones, to do something about this; and some would even go so far as to threaten the very existence of plenty itself, in their hatred of the glaring unevenness of its distribution. There is a divine discontent in the air, a discontent which may lead us on to reform if it is wise, or to chaos if it is misdirected. Which shall it be? This is the burning practical question; and it must have an answer very soon, for we are now in the dangerous state of readiness to accept and to act on any suggestion whatever, bad or good, rather than not act at all. Unquestionably one cause of our confusion and bewilderment is the suddenness with which events have thrust this question upon us. We have been faced unexpectedly with the necessity of making a quick decision which may in all likelihood involve the fate of our race, and we have had no time to think the question through.

One thing is clear enough: the world in its present mood will never put up with a mere "muddling through" as an answer. The preservation of the status quo is a solution that can satisfy none but the contented; and just now most men are not contented. Whether the answer to be made shall be for reform or for annihilation of our institutions, that answer will

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