Mussolini and Gentile’s *The Doctrine of Fascism*

[This text is also available via my Texts in Philosophy page.]

Benito Mussolini and Giovanni Gentile

The Doctrine of Fascism


MussoliniLike all sound political conceptions, Fascism is action and it is thought; action in which doctrine is immanent, and doctrine arising from a given system of historical forces in which it is inserted, and working on them from within.1 It has therefore a form correlated to contingencies of time and space; but it has also an ideal content which makes it an expression of truth in the higher region of the history of thought.2 There is no way of exercising a spiritual influence in the world as a human will dominating the will of others, unless one has a conception both of the transient and the specific reality on which that action is to be exercised, and of the permanent and universal reality in which the transient dwells and has its being. To know men one must know man; and to know man one must be acquainted with reality and its laws. There can be no conception of the State which is not fundamentally a conception of life: philosophy or intuition, system of ideas evolving within the framework of logic or concentrated in a vision or a faith, but always, at least potentially, an organic conception of the world.

Giovanni_GentileThus many of the practical expressions of Fascism such as party organization, system of education, and discipline can only be understood when considered in relation to its general attitude toward life. A spiritual attitude.3 Fascism sees in the world not only those superficial, material aspects in which man appears as an individual, standing by himself, self-centered, subject to natural law, which instinctively urges him toward a life of selfish momentary pleasure; it sees not only the individual but the nation and the country; individuals and generations bound together by a moral law, with common traditions and a mission which suppressing the instinct for life closed in a brief circle of pleasure, builds up a higher life, founded on duty, a life free from the limitations of time and space, in which the individual, by self-sacrifice, the renunciation of self-interest, by death itself, can achieve that purely spiritual existence in which his value as a man consists.

The conception is therefore a spiritual one, arising from the general reaction of the century against the materialistic positivism of the XIXth century. Anti-positivistic but positive; neither skeptical nor agnostic; neither pessimistic nor supinely optimistic as are, generally speaking, the doctrines (all negative) which place the center of life outside man; whereas, by the exercise of his free will, man can and must create his own world.

Fascism wants man to be active and to engage in action with all his energies; it wants him to be manfully aware of the difficulties besetting him and ready to face them. It conceives of life as a struggle in which it behooves a man to win for himself a really worthy place, first of all by fitting himself (physically, morally, intellectually) to become the implement required for winning it. As for the individual, so for the nation, and so for mankind.4 Hence the high value of culture in all its forms (artistic, religious, scientific)5 and the outstanding importance of education. Hence also the essential value of work, by which man subjugates nature and creates the human world (economic, political, ethical, and intellectual).

This positive conception of life is obviously an ethical one. It invests the whole field of reality as well as the human activities which master it. No action is exempt from moral judgment; no activity can be despoiled of the value which a moral purpose confers on all things. Therefore life, as conceived of by the Fascist, is serious, austere, and religious; all its manifestations are poised in a world sustained by moral forces and subject to spiritual responsibilities. The Fascist disdains an “easy” life.6

The Fascist conception of life is a religious one,7 in which man is viewed in his immanent relation to a higher law, endowed with an objective will transcending the individual and raising him to conscious membership of a spiritual society. “Those who perceive nothing beyond opportunistic considerations in the religious policy of the Fascist regime fail to realize that Fascism is not only a system of government but also and above all a system of thought.

In the Fascist conception of history, man is man only by virtue of the spiritual process to which he contributes as a member of the family, the social group, the nation, and in function of history to which all nations bring their contribution. Hence the great value of tradition in records, in language, in customs, in the rules of social life.8 Outside history man is a nonentity. Fascism is therefore opposed to all individualistic abstractions based on eighteenth century materialism; and it is opposed to all Jacobinistic utopias and innovations. It does not believe in the possibility of “happiness” on earth as conceived by the economistic literature of the XVIIIth century, and it therefore rejects the theological notion that at some future time the human family will secure a final settlement of all its difficulties. This notion runs counter to experience which teaches that life is in continual flux and in process of evolution. In politics Fascism aims at realism; in practice it desires to deal only with those problems which are the spontaneous product of historic conditions and which find or suggest their own solutions.9 Only by entering in to the process of reality and taking possession of the forces at work within it, can man act on man and on nature.10

Anti-individualistic, the Fascist conception of life stresses the importance of the State and accepts the individual only in so far as his interests coincide with those of the State, which stands for the conscience and the universal, will of man as a historic entity.11 It is opposed to classical liberalism which arose as a reaction to absolutism and exhausted its historical function when the State became the expression of the conscience and will of the people. Liberalism denied the State in the name of the individual; Fascism reasserts

The rights of the State as expressing the real essence of the individual.12 And if liberty is to he the attribute of living men and not of abstract dummies invented by individualistic liberalism, then Fascism stands for liberty, and for the only liberty worth having, the liberty of the State and of the individual within the State.13 The Fascist conception of the State is all embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value. Thus understood, Fascism, is totalitarian, and the Fascist State—a synthesis and a unit inclusive of all values—interprets, develops, and potentates the whole life of a people.14

No individuals or groups (political parties, cultural associations, economic unions, social classes) outside the State.15 Fascism is therefore opposed to Socialism to which unity within the State (which amalgamates classes into a single economic and ethical reality) is unknown, and which sees in history nothing but the class struggle. Fascism is likewise opposed to trade unionism as a class weapon. But when brought within the orbit of the State, Fascism recognizes the real needs which gave rise to socialism and trade unionism, giving them due weight in the guild or corporative system in which divergent interests are coordinated and harmonized in the unity of the State.16

Grouped according to their several interests, individuals form classes; they form trade-unions when organized according to their several economic activities; but first and foremost they form the State, which is no mere matter of numbers, the suns of the individuals forming the majority. Fascism is therefore opposed to that form of democracy which equates a nation to the majority, lowering it to the level of the largest number17; but it is the purest form of democracy if the nation be considered as it should be from the point of view of quality rather than quantity, as an idea, the mightiest because the most ethical, the most coherent, the truest, expressing itself in a people as the conscience and will of the few, if not, indeed, of one, and ending to express itself in the conscience and the will of the mass, of the whole group ethnically molded by natural and historical conditions into a nation, advancing, as one conscience and one will, along the self same line of development and spiritual formation.18 Not a race, nor a geographically defined region, but a people, historically perpetuating itself; a multitude unified by an idea and imbued with the will to live, the will to power, self-consciousness, personality.19

In so far as it is embodied in a State, this higher personality becomes a nation. It is not the nation which generates the State; that is an antiquated naturalistic concept which afforded a basis for XIXth century publicity in favor of national governments. Rather is it the State which creates the nation, conferring volition and therefore real life on a people made aware of their moral unity.

The right to national independence does not arise from any merely literary and idealistic form of self-consciousness; still less from a more or less passive and unconscious de facto situation, but from an active, self-conscious, political will expressing itself in action and ready to prove its rights. It arises, in short, from the existence, at least virtually, of a State. Indeed, it is the State which, as the expression of a universal ethical will, creates the right to national independence.20

A nation, as expressed in the State, is a living, ethical entity only in so far as it is progressive. Inactivity is death. Therefore the State is not only Authority which governs and confers legal form and spiritual value on individual wills, but it is also Power which makes its will felt and respected beyond its own frontiers, thus affording practical proof of the universal character of the decisions necessary to ensure its development. This implies organization and expansion, potential if not actual. Thus the State equates itself to the will of man, whose development cannot he checked by obstacles and which, by achieving self-expression, demonstrates its infinity.21

The Fascist State, as a higher and more powerful expression of personality, is a force, but a spiritual one. It sums up all the manifestations of the moral and intellectual life of man. Its functions cannot therefore be limited to those of enforcing order and keeping the peace, as the liberal doctrine had it. It is no mere mechanical device for defining the sphere within which the individual may duly exercise his supposed rights. The Fascist State is an inwardly accepted standard and rule of conduct, a discipline of the whole person; it permeates the will no less than the intellect. It stands for a principle which becomes the central motive of man as a member of civilized society, sinking deep down into his personality; it dwells in the heart of the man of action and of the thinker, of the artist and of the man of science: soul of the soul.22

Fascism, in short, is not only a law-giver and a founder of institutions, but an educator and a promoter of spiritual life. It aims at refashioning not only the forms of life but their content—man, his character, and his faith. To achieve this propose it enforces discipline and uses authority, entering into the soul and ruling with undisputed sway. Therefore it has chosen as its emblem the Lictor’s rods, the symbol of unity, strength, and justice.


When in the now distant March of 1919, speaking through the columns of the Popolo d’Italia I summoned to Milan the surviving interventionists who had intervened, and who had followed me ever since the foundation of the Fasci of revolutionary action in January 1915, I had in mind no specific doctrinal program. The only doctrine of which I had practical experience was that of socialism, from 1903-04 until the winter of 1914—nearly a decade. My experience was that both of a follower and a leader—but it was not doctrinal experience. My doctrine during that period had been the doctrine of action. A uniform, universally accepted doctrine of Socialism had not existed since 1905, when the revisionist movement, headed by Bernstein, arose in Germany, countered by the formation, in the see-saw of tendencies, of a left revolutionary movement which in Italy never quitted the field of phrases, whereas, in the case of Russian socialism, it became the prelude to Bolshevism.

Reformism, revolutionism, centrism, the very echo of that terminology is dead, while in the great river of Fascism one can trace currents which had their source in Sorel, Peguy, Lagardelle of the Movement Socialists, and in the cohort of Italian syndicalist who from 1904 to 1914 brought a new note into the Italian socialist environment—previously emasculated and chloroformed by fornicating with Giolitti’s party—a note sounded in Olivetti’s Pagine Libere, Orano’s Lupa, Enrico Leone’s Divenirs Socials.

When the war ended in 1919 Socialism, as a doctrine, was already dead; it continued to exist only as a grudge, especially in Italy where its only chance lay in inciting to reprisals against the men who had willed the war and who were to be made to pay for it.

The Popolo d’Italia described itself in its subtitle as the daily organ of fighters and producers. The word producer was already the expression of a mental trend. Fascism was not the nursling of a doctrine previously drafted at a desk; it was born of the need of action, and was action; it was not a party but, in the first two years, an anti-party and a movement. The name I gave the organization fixed its character.

Yet if anyone cares to reread the now crumpled sheets of those days giving an account of the meeting at which the Italian Fasci di combattimento were founded, he will find not a doctrine but a series of pointers, forecasts, hints which, when freed from the inevitable matrix of contingencies, were to develop in a few years time into a series of doctrinal positions entitling Fascism to rank as a political doctrine differing from all others, past or present.

“If the bourgeoisie—I then said—believe that they have found in us their lightning-conductors, they are mistaken. We must go towards the people … . We wish the working classes to accustom themselves to the responsibilities of management so that they may realize that it is no easy matter to run a business … . We will fight both technical and spiritual rear-guardism … . Now that the succession of the re­gime is open we must not be fainthearted. We must rush forward; if the present regime is to be superseded we must take its place. The right of succession is ours, for we urged the country to enter the war and we led it to victory … . The existing forms of political representation cannot satisfy us; we want direst representation of the several interests … . It may be objected that this program implies a return to the guilds (corporazioni). No matter! I therefore hope this assembly will accept the economic claims advanced by national syndicalism … .

Is it not strange that from the very first day, at Piazza San Sepolcro, the word “guild” (corporazione) was pronounced, a word which, as the Revolution developed, was to express one of the basic legislative and social creations of the regime?

The years preceding the March on Rome cover a period during which the need of action forbade delay and careful doctrinal elaborations. Fighting was going on in the towns and villages. There were discussions but … there was something more sacred and more important: Death … . Fascists knew how to die. A doctrine—fully elaborated, divided up into chapters and paragraphs with annotations, may have been lacking, but it was replaced by something far more decisive,—by a faith. All the same, if with the help of books, articles, resolutions passed at congresses, major and minor speeches, anyone should care to revive the memory of those days, he will find, provided he knows how to seek and select, that the doctrinal foundations were laid while the battle was still raging. Indeed, it was during those years that Fascist thought armed, refined itself, and proceeded ahead with its organization. The problems of the individual and the State; the problems of authority and liberty; political, social, and more especially national problems were discussed; the conflict with liberal, democratic, socialistic, Masonic doctrines and with those of the Partito Popolare, was carried on at the same time as the punitive expeditions. Nevertheless, the lack of a formal system was used by disingenuous adversaries as an argument for proclaiming Fascism incapable of elaborating a doctrine at the very time when that doctrine was being formulated—no matter how tumultuously—first, as is the case with all new ideas, in the guise of violent dogmatic negations; then in the more positive guise of constructive theories, subsequently incorporated, in 1926, 1927, and 1928, in the laws and institutions of the regime.

Fascism is now clearly defined not only as a regime but as a doctrine. This means that Fascism, exercising its critical faculties on itself and on others, has studied from its own special standpoint and judged by its own standards all the problems affecting the material and intellectual interests now causing such grave anxiety to the nations of the world, and is ready to deal with them by its own policies.

First of all, as regards the future development of mankind, and quite apart from all present political considerations. Fascism does not, generally speaking, believe in the possibility or utility of perpetual peace. It therefore discards pacifism as a cloak for cowardly supine renunciation in contradistinction to self-sacrifice. War alone keys up all human energies to their maximum tension and sets the seal of nobility on those peoples who have the courage to face it. All other tests are substitutes which never place a man face to face with himself before the alternative of life or death. Therefore all doctrines which postulate peace at all costs are incompatible with Fascism. Equally foreign to the spirit of Fascism, even if accepted as useful in meeting special political situations—are all internationalistic or League superstructures which, as history shows, crumble to the ground whenever the heart of nations is deeply stirred by sentimental, idealistic or practical considerations. Fascism carries this anti-pacifistic attitude into the life of the individual. “I don’t care a damn” (me ne frego)—the proud motto of the fighting squads scrawled by a wounded man on his bandages, is not only an act of philosophic stoicism, it sums up a doctrine which is not merely political: it is evidence of a fighting spirit which accepts all risks. It signifies new style of Italian life. The Fascist accepts and loves life; he rejects and despises suicide as cowardly. Life as he understands it means duty, elevation, conquest; life must be lofty and full, it must be lived for oneself but above all for others, both near bye and far off, present and future.

The population policy of the regime is the consequence of these premises. The Fascist loves his neighbor, but the word “neighbor” does not stand for some vague and unseizable conception. Love of one’s neighbor does not exclude necessary educational severity; still less does it exclude differentiation and rank. Fascism will have nothing to do with universal embraces; as a member of the community of nations it looks other peoples straight in the eyes; it is vigilant and on its guard; it follows others in all their manifestations and notes any changes in their interests; and it does not allow itself to be deceived by mutable and fallacious appearances.

Such a conception of life makes Fascism the resolute negation of the doctrine underlying so-called scientific and Marxian socialism, the doctrine of historic materialism which would explain the history of mankind in terms of the class struggle and by changes in the processes and instruments of production, to the exclusion of all else.

That the vicissitudes of economic life—discoveries of raw materials, new technical processes, and scientific inventions—have their importance, no one denies; but that they suffice to explain human history to the exclusion of other factors is absurd. Fascism believes now and always in sanctity and heroism, that is to say in acts in which no economic motive—remote or immediate—is at work. Having denied historic materialism, which sees in men mere puppets on the surface of history, appearing and disappearing on the crest of the waves while in the depths the real directing forces move and work, Fascism also denies the immutable and irreparable character of the class struggle which is the natural outcome of this economic conception of history; above all it denies that the class struggle is the preponderating agent in social transformations. Having thus struck a blow at socialism in the two main points of its doctrine, all that remains of it is the sentimental aspiration—old as humanity itself—toward social relations in which the sufferings and sorrows of the humbler folk will be alleviated. But here again Fascism rejects the economic interpretation of felicity as something to be secured socialistically, almost automatically, at a given stage of economic evolution when all will be assured a maximum of material comfort. Fascism denies the materialistic conception of happiness as a possibility, and abandons it to the economists of the mid-eighteenth century. This means that Fascism denies the equation: Well-being = Happiness, which sees in men mere animals, content when they can feed and fatten, thus reducing them to a vegetative existence pure and simple.

After socialism, Fascism trains its guns on the whole block of democratic ideologies, and rejects both their premises and their practical applications and implements. Fascism denies that numbers, as such, can be the determining factor in human society; it denies the right of numbers to govern by means of periodical consultations; it asserts the irremediable and fertile and beneficent inequality of men who cannot be leveled by any such mechanical and extrinsic device as universal suffrage. Democratic regimes may be described as those under which the people are, from time to time, deluded into the belief that they exercise sovereignty, while all the time real sovereignty resides in and is exercised by other and sometimes irresponsible and secret forces. Democracy is a kingless regime infested by many kings who are sometimes more exclusive, tyrannical, and destructive than one, even if he be a tyrant. This explains why Fascism—although, for contingent reasons, it was republican in tendency prior to 1922—abandoned that stand before the March on Rome, convinced that the form of government is no longer a matter of preeminent importance, and because the study of past and present monarchies and past and present republics shows that neither monarchy nor republic can be judged sub specie aeternitatis, but that each stands for a form of government expressing the political evolution, the history, the traditions, and the psychology of a given country.

Fascism has outgrown the dilemma: monarchy versus republic, over which democratic regimes too long dallied, attributing all insufficiencies to the former and proving the latter as a regime of perfection, whereas experience teaches that some republics are inherently reactionary and absolutist while some monarchies accept the most daring political and social experiments.

In one of his philosophic Meditations Renan—who had pre-fascist intuitions—remarks, “Reason and science are the products of mankind, but it is chimerical to seek reason directly for the people and through the people. It is not essential to the existence of reason that all should be familiar with it; and even if all had to be initiated, this could not be achieved through democracy which seems fated to lead to the extinction of all arduous forms of culture and all highest forms of learning. The maxim that society exists only for the well-being and freedom of the individuals composing it does not seem to be in conformity with nature’s plans, which care only for the species and seem ready to sacrifice the individual. It is much to be feared that the last word of democracy thus understood (and let me hasten to add that it is susceptible of a different interpretation) would be a form of society in which a degenerate mass would have no thought beyond that of enjoying the ignoble pleasures of the vulgar.”

In rejecting democracy Fascism rejects the absurd conventional lie of political equalitarianism, the habit of collective irresponsibility, the myth of felicity and indefinite progress. But if democracy be understood as meaning a regime in which the masses are not driven back to the margin of the State, and then the writer of these pages has already defined Fascism as an organized, centralized, authoritarian democracy.

Fascism is definitely and absolutely opposed to the doctrines of liberalism, both in the political and the economic sphere. The importance of liberalism in the XIXth century should not be exaggerated for present day polemical purposes, nor should we make of one of the many doctrines which flourished in that century a religion for mankind for the present and for all time to come. Liberalism really flourished for fifteen years only. It arose in 1830 as a reaction to the Holy Alliance which tried to force Europe to recede further back than 1789; it touched its zenith in 1848 when even Pius IXth was a liberal. Its decline began immediately after that year. If 1848 was a year of light and poetry, 1849 was a year of darkness and tragedy. The Roman Republic was killed by a sister republic, that of France. In that same year Marx, in his famous Communist Manifesto, launched the gospel of socialism.

In 1851 Napoleon III made his illiberal coup d’etat and ruled France until 1870 when he was turned out by a popular rising following one of the severest military defeats known to history. The victor was Bismarck who never even knew the whereabouts of liberalism and its prophets. It is symptomatic that throughout the XIXth century the religion of liberalism was completely unknown to so highly civilized a people as the Germans but for one parenthesis which has been described as the “ridiculous parliament of Frankfurt” which lasted just one season. Germany attained her national unity outside liberalism and in opposition to liberalism, a doctrine which seems foreign to the German temperament, essentially monarchical, whereas liberalism is the historic and logical anteroom to anarchy. The three stages in the making of German unity were the three wars of 1864, 1866, and 1870, led by such “liberals” as Moltke and Bismarck. And in the upbuilding of Italian unity liberalism played a very minor part when compared to the contribution made by Mazzini and Garibaldi who were not liberals. But for the intervention of the illiberal Napoleon III we should not have had Lombardy, and without that of the illiberal Bismarck at Sadowa and at Sedan very probably we should not have had Venetia in 1866 and in 1870 we should not have entered Rome. The years going from 1870 to 1915 cover a period which marked, even in the opinion of the high priests of the new creed, the twilight of their religion, attacked by decadentism in literature and by activism in practice. Activism: that is to say nationalism, futurism, fascism.

The liberal century, after piling up innumerable Gordian Knots, tried to cut them with the sword of the world war. Never has any religion claimed so cruel a sacrifice. Were the Gods of liberalism thirsting for blood?

Now liberalism is preparing to close the doors of its temples, deserted by the peoples who feel that the agnosticism it professed in the sphere of economics and the indifferentism of which it has given proof in the sphere of politics and morals, would lead the world to ruin in the future as they have done in the past.

This explains why all the political experiments of our day are anti-liberal, and it is supremely ridiculous to endeavor on this account to put them outside the pale of history, as though history were a preserve set aside for liberalism and its adepts; as though liberalism were the last word in civilization beyond which no one can go.

The Fascist negation of socialism, democracy, liberalism, should not, however, be interpreted as implying a desire to drive the world backwards to positions occupied prior to 1789, a year commonly referred to as that which opened the demo-liberal century. History does not travel backwards. The Fascist doctrine has not taken De Maistre as its prophet. Monarchical absolutism is of the past, and so is ecclesiolatry. Dead and done for are feudal privileges and the division of society into closed, uncommunicating castes. Neither has the Fascist conception of authority anything in common with that of a police ridden State.

A party governing a nation “totalitarianly” is a new departure in history. There are no points of reference nor of comparison. From beneath the ruins of liberal, socialist, and democratic doctrines, Fascism extracts those elements which are still vital. It preserves what may be described as “the acquired facts” of history; it rejects all else. That is to say, it rejects the idea of a doctrine suited to all times and to all people. Granted that the XIXth century was the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy, this does not mean that the XXth century must also be the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy. Political doctrines pass; nations remain. We are free to believe that this is the century of authority, a century tending to the “right,” a Fascist century. If the XIXth century was the century of the individual (liberalism implies individualism) we are free to believe that this is the “collective” century, and therefore the century of the State. It is quite logical for a new doctrine to make use of the still vital elements of other doctrines. No doctrine was ever born quite new and bright and unheard of. No doctrine can boast absolute originality. It is always connected, it only historically, with those which preceded it and those which will follow it. Thus the scientific socialism of Marx links up to the utopian socialism of the Fouriers, the Owens, the Saint-Simons; thus the liberalism of the XIXth century traces its origin back to the illuministic movement of the XVIIIth, and the doctrines of democracy to those of the Encyclopaedists. All doctrines aim at directing the activities of men towards a given objective; but these activities in their turn react on the doctrine, modifying and adjusting it to new needs, or outstripping it. A doctrine must therefore be a vital act and not a verbal display. Hence the pragmatic strain in Fascism, it’s will to power, its will to live, its attitude toward violence, and its value.

The keystone of the Fascist doctrine is its conception of the State, of its essence, its functions, and its aims. For Fascism the State is absolute, individuals and groups relative. Individuals and groups are admissible in so far as they come within the State. Instead of directing the game and guiding the material and moral progress of the community, the liberal State restricts its activities to recording results. The Fascist State is wide awake and has a will of its own. For this reason it can be described as “ethical.”

At the first quinquennial assembly of the regime, in 1929, I said “The Fascist State is not a night watchman, solicitous only of the personal safety of the citizens; not is it organized exclusively for the purpose of guaranteeing a certain degree of material prosperity and relatively peaceful conditions of life, a board of directors would do as much. Neither is it exclusively political, divorced from practical realities and holding itself aloof from the multifarious activities of the citizens and the nation. The State, as conceived and realized by Fascism, is a spiritual and ethical entity for securing the political, juridical, and economic organization of the nation, an organization which in its origin and growth is a manifestation of the spirit. The State guarantees the internal and external safety of the country, but it also safeguards and transmits the spirit of the people, elaborated down the ages in its language, its customs, its faith. The State is not only the present; it is also the past and above all the future. Transcending the individual’s brief spell of life, the State stands for the immanent conscience of the nation. The forms in which it finds expression change, but the need for it remains. The State educates the citizens to civism, makes them aware of their mission, urges them to unity; its justice harmonizes their divergent interests; it transmits to future generations the conquests of the mind in the fields of science, art, law, human solidarity; it leads men up from primitive tribal life to that highest manifes­tation of human power, imperial rule. The State hands down to future generations the memory of those who laid down their lives to ensure its safety or to obey its laws; it sets up as examples and records for future ages the names of the captains who enlarged its territory and of the men of genius who have made it famous. Whenever respect for the State declines and the disintegrating and centrifugal tendencies of individuals and groups prevail, nations are headed for decay.

Since 1929 economic and political development have everywhere emphasized these truths. The importance of the State is rapidly growing. The so-called crisis can only be settled by State action and within the orbit of the State. Where are the shades of the Jules Simons who, in the early days of liberalism proclaimed that the “State should endeavor to render itself useless and prepare to hand in its resignation”? Or of the MacCullochs who, in the second half of last century, urged that the State should desist from governing too much? And what of the English Bentham who considered that all industry asked of government was to be left alone, and of the German Humboldt who expressed the opinion that the best government was a lazy one? What would they say now to the unceasing, inevitable, and urgently requested interventions of government in business? It is true that the second generation of economists was less uncompromising in this respect than the first, and that even Adam Smith left the door ajar—however cautiously—for government intervention in business.

If liberalism spells individualism, Fascism spells government. The Fascist State is, however, a unique and original creation. It is not reactionary but revolutionary, for it anticipates the solution of certain universal problems which have been raised elsewhere, in the political field by the splitting up of parties, the usurpation of power by parliaments, the irresponsibility of assemblies; in the economic field by the increasingly numerous and important functions discharged by trade unions and trade associations with their disputes and ententes, affecting both capital and labor; in the ethical field by the need felt for order, discipline, obedience to the moral dictates of patriotism.

Fascism desires the State to be strong and organic, based on broad foundations of popular support. The Fascist State lays claim to rule in the economic field no less than in others; it makes its action felt throughout the length and breadth of the country by means of its corporative, social, and educational institutions, and all the political, economic, and spiritual forces of the nation, organized in their respective associations, circulate within the State. A State based on millions of individuals who recognize its authority, feel its action, and are ready to serve its ends is not the tyrannical state of a mediaeval lordling. It has nothing in common with the despotic States existing prior to or subsequent to 1789. Far from crushing the individual, the Fascist State multiplies his energies, just as in a regiment a soldier is not diminished but multiplied by the number of his fellow soldiers.

The Fascist State organizes the nation, but it leaves the individual adequate elbow room. It has curtailed useless or harmful liberties while preserving those which are essential. In such matters the individual cannot be the judge, but the State only.

The Fascist State is not indifferent to religious phenomena in general nor does it maintain an attitude of indifference to Roman Catholicism, the special, positive religion of Italians. The State has not got a theology but it has a moral code. The Fascist State sees in religion one of the deepest of spiritual manifestations and for this reason it not only respects religion but defends and protects it. The Fascist State does not attempt, as did Robespierre at the height of the revolutionary delirium of the Convention, to set up a “god” of its own; nor does it vainly seek, as does Bolshevism, to efface God from the soul of man. Fascism respects the God of ascetics, saints, and heroes, and it also respects God as conceived by the ingenuous and primitive heart of the people, the God to whom their prayers are raised.

The Fascist State expresses the will to exercise power and to command. Here the Roman tradition is embodied in a conception of strength. Imperial power, as understood by the Fascist doctrine, is not only territorial, or military, or commercial; it is also spiritual and ethical. An imperial nation, that is to say a nation which directly or indirectly is a leader of others, can exist without the need of conquering a single square mile of territory. Fascism sees in the imperialistic spirit—i.e. in the tendency of nations to expand—a manifestation of their vitality. In the opposite tendency, which would limit their interests to the home country, it sees a symptom of decadence. Peoples who rise or re-arise are imperialistic; renunciation is characteristic of dying peoples. The Fascist doctrine is that best suited to the tendencies and feelings of a people which, like the Italian, after lying fallow during centuries of foreign servitude, are now reasserting itself in the world.

But imperialism implies discipline, the coordination of efforts, a deep sense of duty and a spirit of self-sacrifice. This explains many aspects of the practical activity of the regime, and the direction taken by many of the forces of the State, as also the severity which has to be exercised towards those who would oppose this spontaneous and inevitable movement of XXth century Italy by agitating outgrown ideologies of the XIXth century, ideologies rejected wherever great experiments in political and social transformations are being dared.

Never before have the peoples thirsted for authority, direction, order, as they do now. If each age has its doctrine, then innumerable symptoms indicate that the doctrine of our age is the Fascist. That it is vital is shown by the fact that it has aroused a faith; that this faith has conquered souls is shown by the fact that Fascism can point to its fallen heroes and its martyrs.

Fascism has now acquired throughout the world that universally which belongs to all doctrines which by achieving self-expression represent a moment in the history of human thought.



  1. Philosophic conception

(1) If Fascism does not wish to die or, worse still, commit suicide, it must now provide itself with a doctrine. Yet this shall not and must not be a robe of Nessus clinging to us for all eternity, for tomorrow is some thing mysterious and unforeseen. This doctrine shall be a norm to guide political and individual action in our daily life.

I who have I dictated this doctrine, am the first to realize that the modest tables of our laws and program the theoretical and practical guidance of Fascism should be revised, corrected, enlarged, developed, because already in parts they have suffered injury at the hand of time. I believe the essence and fundamentals of the doctrine are still to be found in the postulates which throughout two years have acted as a call to arms for the recruits of Italian Fascism. However, in taking those first fundamental assumptions for a starting point, we must proceed to carry our program into a vaster field.

Italian Fascists, one and all, should cooperate in this task, one of vital importance to Fascism, and more especially those who belong to regions where with and without agreement peaceful coexistence has been achieved between two antagonistic movements.

The word I am about to use is a great one, but indeed I do wish that during the two months which are still to elapse before our National Assembly meets, the philosophy of Fascism could be created. Milan is already contributing with the first Fascist school of propaganda.

It is not merely a question of gathering elements for a program, to be used as a solid foundation for the constitution of a party which must inevitably arise from the Fascist movement; it is also a question of denying the silly tale that Fascism is all made up of violent men. In point of fact among Fascists there are many men who belong to the restless but meditative class.

The new course taken by Fascist activity will in no way diminish the fighting spirit typical of Fascism. To furnish the mind with doctrines and creeds does not mean to disarm, rather it signifies to strength­en our power of action, and make us ever more conscious of our work. Soldiers who fight fully conscious of the cause make the best of warriors. Fascism takes for its own the twofold device of Mazzini: Thought and Action. (Letter to Michele Bianchi, written on August 27, 1921, for the opening of the School of Fascist Culture and Propaganda in Milan, in Messaggi e Proclami, Milano, Libreria d’Italia, 1929, P. 39).

Fascists must be placed in contact with one another; their activity must be an activity of doctrine, an activity of the spirit and of thought

Had our adversaries been present at our meeting, they would have been convinced that Fascism is not only action, but thought as well (Speech before the National Council of the Fascist Party, August 8, 1924, in La Nuova Politica dell’Italia, Milano, Alpes, 1928, p. 267).

(2) Today I hold that Fascism as an idea, a doctrine, a realization, is universal; it is Italian in its particular institutions, but it is universal in the spirit, nor could it be otherwise. The spirit is universal by reason of its nature. Therefore anyone may foresee a Fascist Europe. Drawing inspiration for her institutions from the doctrine and practice of Fascism; Europe, in other words, giving a Fascist turn to the solution of problems which beset the modern State, the Twentieth Century State which is very different from the States existing before 1789, and the States formed immediately after. Today Fascism fills universal requirements; Fascism solves the threefold problem of relations between State and individual, between State and associations, between associations and organized associations. (Message for the year 1 October 27, 1930, in Discorsi del 1930, Milano, Alpes, 1931, p. 211).

  1. Spiritualized conception

(3) This political process is flanked by a philosophic process. If it be true that matter was on the altars for one century, today it is the spirit which takes its place. All manifestations peculiar to the democratic spirit are consequently repudiated: easygoingness, improvisation, the lack of a personal sense of responsibility, the exaltation of numbers and of that mysterious divinity called The People. All creations of the spirit starting with that religious are coming to the fore, and nobody dare keep up the attitude of anticlericalism which, for several decades, was a favorite with Democracy in the Western world. By saying that God is returning, we mean that spiritual values are returning. (Da the parte va it mondo, in Tempi della Rivoluzione Fascista, Milano, Alpes, 1930, p. 34).

There is a field reserved more to meditation upon the supreme ends of life than to a research of these ends. Consequently science starts from experience, but breaks out fatally into philosophy and, in my opinion, philosophy alone can enlighten science and lead to the universal idea. (To the Congress of Science at Bologna, October 31, 1926, in Discorsi del 1926. Milano, Alpes, 1927, p. 268).

In order to understand the Fascist movement one must first appre­ciate the underlying spiritual phenomenon in all its vastness and depth. The manifestations of the movement have been of a powerful and decisive nature, but one should go further. In point of fact Italian Fascism has not only been a political revolt against weak and incapable governments who had allowed State authority to decay and were threatening to arrest the progress of the country, but also a spiritual revolt against old ideas which had corrupted the sacred principles of religion, of faith, of country. Fascism, therefore, has been a revolt of the people. (Message to the British people; January 5, 1924, in Messaggi e Proclami, Milano, Libreria d’ Italia, 1929, p. 107).


  1. Positive conception of life as a struggle

(4) Struggle is at the origin of all things, for life is full of contrasts: there is love and hatred, white and black, day and night, good and evil; and until these contrasts achieve balance, struggle fatefully remains at the root of human nature. However, it is good for it to be so. Today we can indulge in wars, economic battles, conflicts of ideas, but if a day came to pass when struggle ceased to exist, that day would be tinged with melancholy; it would be a day of ruin, the day of ending. But that day will not come, because history ever discloses new horizons. By attempting to restore calm, peace, tranquility, one would be fighting the tendencies of the present period of dynamism. One must be prepared for other struggles and for other surprises. Peace will only come when people surrender to a Christian dream of universal brotherhood, when they can hold out hands across the ocean and over the mountains. Personally I do not believe very much in these idealisms, but I do not exclude them for I exclude nothing. (At the Politeama Rossetti, Trieste , September 20, 1920 ; in Discorsi Politici, Milano, Stab. Tipografico del Popolo d’ Italia, 1921, p. 107).

(5) For me the honor of nations consists in the contribution they have severally made to human civilization. (E. Ludwig, Talks with Mussolini, London, Allen and Unwin, 1932, p. 199).


  1. Ethical conception

I called the organization Fasci Italiani Di combat tin onto. This hard metallic name compromised the whole program of Fascism as I dreamed it. Comrades, this is still our program: fight.

Life for the Fascist is a continuous, ceaseless fight, which we accept with ease, with great courage, with the necessary intrepidity. (On the VIIth anniversary of the Foundation of the Fasci, March 2E, 1926, in Discorsi del 1926, Milano, Alpes, 1927, P. 98).

You touch the core of Fascist philosophy. When recently a Finnish philosopher asked me to expound to him the significance of Fascism in one sentence, I wrote in German: We are against the “easy life.” (E. Ludwig: Talks with Mussolini, London, Allen and Unwin, 1932, p. 190.)


  1. Religious conception

(7) If Fascism were not a creed how could it endow its followers with courage and stoicism only a creed which has soared to the heights of religion can inspire such words as passed the lips, now lifeless alas, of Federico Florio. (Legami di Sangue, in Diuturna, Milano, Alpes, 1930, p. 256).


  1. Historical and realistic conception

(8) Tradition certainly is one of the greatest spiritual forces of a people, inasmuch as it is a successive and constant creation of their soul. (Breve Preludio, in Tempi della Rivoluzione Fascista, Milano, Alpes, 1930, p.13).

(9) Our temperament leads us to appraise the concrete aspect of problems, rather than their ideological or mystical sublimation. There­fore we easily regain our balance. (Aspetti del Dramma, in Diuturna, Milano, Alpes, 1930, p. 86).

Our battle is an ungrateful one, yet it is a beautiful battle since it compels us to count only upon our own forces. Revealed truths we have torn to shreds, dogmas we have spat upon, we have rejected all theories of paradise, we have baffled charlatans white, red, black charlatans who placed miraculous drugs on the market to give a happiness n to mankind. We do not believe in program, in plans, in saints or apostles, above all we believe not in happiness, in salvation, in the Promised Land. (Diuturna, Milano, Alpes, 1930, p. 223).

We do not believe in a single solution, be it economical, political or moral, a linear solution of the problems of life, because of illustrious choristers from all the sacristies life is not linear and can never be reduced to a segment traced by primordial needs. (Navigare necesse, in Diuturna, Milano, Alpes, 1930, p. 233).

(10) We are not and do not wish to be motionless mummies, with faces perpetually turned towards the same horizon, nor do we wish to shut ourselves up within the narrow hedges of subversive bigotry, where formulas, like prayers of a professed religion, are muttered mechanically. We are men, living men, who wish to give our contribution, however modest, to the creation of history. (Audacia, in Diuturna, Milano, Alpes, 1930, p. 1.)

We uphold moral and traditional values which Socialism neglects or despises; but, above all, Fascism has a horror of anything implying an arbitrary mortgage on the mysterious future. (Dopo due anni, in Diuturna, Milano, Alpes, 1930, p. 242).

In spite of the theories of conservation and renovation, of tradition and progress expounded by the right and the left, we do not cling desperately to the past as to a last board of salvation: yet we do not dash headlong into the seductive mists of the future. (Breve preludio, in Diuturna, Milano, Alpes, 1930, p. 14). Negation, eternal immobility, mean damnation. I am all for motion. I am, one who marches on. (E. Ludwig, Talks with Mussolini, Lot Jon, Allen and Unwin, 1932, p. 203).


  1. The individual and liberty

(11) We were the first to state, in the face of demo liberal individualism, that the individual exists only in so far as he is within the State and subjected to the requirements of the state and that, as civilization assumes aspects which grow more and more complicated, individual freedom becomes more and more restricted. (To the General Staff Conference of Fascism, in Discorsi del 1929, Milano, Alpes, 1930, p. 280).

The sense of the state grows within the consciousness of Italians, for they feel that the state alone is the irreplaceable safeguard of their unit and independence; that the state alone represents continuity into the future of their stock and their history. (Message on the VIIth anniversary, October 25, 1929, Discorsi del 1929, Milano, Alpes, 1930, p. 300).

If, in the course of the past eight years, we have made such astounding progress, you may well think suppose and foresee that in the course of the next fifty or eighty years the onward trend of Italy, of this Italy we feel to be so powerful, so full of vital fluid, will really be grandiose. It will be so especially if concord lasts among citizens, if the State continues to be sole arbitrator in political and social conflicts, if all remains within the state and nothing outside the State, because it is impossible to conceive any individual existing outside the State unless he be a savage whose home is in the solitude of she sandy desert. (Speech before the Senate, May 12, 1928, in Discorsi del 1928, Milano, Alpes, 1929, p. 109).

Fascism has restored to the State its sovereign functions by claiming its absolute ethical meaning, against the egotism of classes and categories; to the Government of the state, which was reduced to a mere instrument of electoral assemblies, it has restored dignity, as representing the personality of the state and its power of Empire. It has rescued State administration from the weight of factions and party interests (To the council of state, December 22, 1928, in Discorsi Del 1928, Milano, Alpes, 1929 p.328).

(12) Let no one think of denying the moral character of Fascism. For I should be ashamed to speak from this tribune if I did not feel that I represent the moral and spiritual powers of the state. What would the state be if it did not possess a spirit of its own, and a morality of its own, which lend power to the laws in virtue of which the state is obeyed by its citizens?

The Fascist state claims its ethical character: it is Catholic but above all it is Fascist, in fact it is exclusively and essentially Fascist. Catholicism completes Fascism, and this we openly declare, but let no one think they can turn the tables on us, under cover of metaphysics or philosophy. (To the Chamber of Deputies, May 13, 1929, in Discorsi del 1929, Milano, Alpes, 1930, p. 182).

A State which is fully aware of its mission and represents a people which are marching on; a state which necessarily transforms the people even in their physical aspect. In order to be something more than a mere administrator, the State must utter great words, expound great ideas and place great problems before this people (Discorsi del 1929, Milano, Alpes, 1930, p. 183).

(13) The concept of freedom is not absolute because nothing is ever absolute in life. Freedom is not a right, it is a duty. It is not a gift, it is a conquest; it is not equality, it is a privilege. The concept of freedom changes with the passing of time. There is a freedom in times of peace which is not the freedom of times of war. There is a freedom in times of prosperity which is not a freedom to be allowed in times of poverty. (Fifth anniversary of the foundation of the Fasci di Contbattimento, March 24, 1924, in La nuova politica dell’Italia, vol. III, Milano, Alpes, 1925, p. 30).

In our state the individual is not deprived of freedom. In fact, he has greater liberty than an isolated man, because the state protects him and he is part of the State. Isolated man is without defence. (E. Ludwig, Talks with Mussolini, London, Allen and Unwin, 1932, P. 129).

(14) Today we may tell the world of the creation of the powerful united State of Italy, ranging from the Alps to Sicily; this State is expressed by a well-organized, centralized, Unitarian democracy, where people circulate at case. Indeed, gentlemen, you admit the people into the citadel of the State and the people will defend it, if you close them out, the people will assault it. (speech before the Chamber of Deputies, May 26, 1927 , in Discorsi del 1927, Milano, Alpes, 1928, p. 159).

In the Fascist regime the unity of classes, the political, social and coral unity of the Italian people is realized within the state, and only within the Fascist state. (speech before the Chamber of Deputies, December 9, 1928 , in Discorsi del 1928, Milano, Alpes, 1929, p. 333).


  1. Conception of a corporative state

(15) We have created the united state of Italy remember that since the Empire Italy had not been a united state. Here I wish to reaffirm solemnly our doctrine of the State. Here I wish to reaffirm with no weaker energy, the formula I expounded at the scala in Milan everything in the state, nothing against the State, nothing outside the state. (Speech before the Chamber of Deputies, May 26, 1927, Discorsi del 1927, Milano, Alpes, 1928, p. 157).

(16) We are, in other words, a state which controls all forces acting in nature. We control political forces, we control moral forces we control economic forces, therefore we are a full-blown Corporative state. We stand for a new principle in the world, we stand for sheer, categorical, definitive antithesis to the world of democracy, plutocracy, free-masonry, to the world which still abides by the fundamental principles laid down in 1789. (Speech before the new National Directory of the Party, April 7, 1926, in Discorsi del 1926, Milano, Alpes, 1927, p. 120).

The Ministry of Corporations is not a bureaucratic organ, nor does it wish to exercise the functions of syndical organizations which are necessarily independent, since they aim at organizing, selecting and improving the members of syndicates. The Ministry of Corporations is an institution in virtue of which, in the centre and outside, integral corporation becomes an accomplished fact, where balance is achieved between interests and forces of the economic world. Such a glance is only possible within the sphere of the state, because the state alone transcends the contrasting interests of groups and individuals, in view of co-coordinating them to achieve higher aims. The achievement of these aims is speeded up by the fact that all economic organizations, acknowledged, safeguarded and supported by the Corporative State, exist within the orbit of Fascism; in other terms they accept the conception of Fascism in theory and in practice. (speech at the opening of the Ministry of Corporations, July 31, 1926, in Discorsi del 1926, Milano, Alpes, 1927, p. 250).

We have constituted a Corporative and Fascist state, the state of national society, a State which concentrates, controls, harmonizes and tempers the interests of all social classes, which are thereby protected in equal measure. Whereas, during the years of demo-liberal regime, labour looked with diffidence upon the state, was, in fact, outside the State and against the state, and considered the state an enemy of every day and every hour, there is not one working Italian today who does not seek a place in his Corporation or federation, who does not wish to be a living atom of that great, immense, living organization which is the national Corporate State of Fascism. (On the Fourth Anniversary of the March on Rome, October 28, 1926, in Discorsi del 1926, Milano, Alpes, 1927, p. 340).


  1. Democracy

(17) The war was revolutionary, in the sense that with streams of blood it did away with the century of Democracy, the century of number, the century of majorities and of quantities. (Da the pane va it Mondo, in Tempi della Rivoluzione Fascista, Milano, Alpes, 1930, p. 37).

(18) Cf. note 13.

(19) Race: it is a feeling and not a reality; 95% a feeling. (E. Ludwig, Talks with Mussolini, London, Allen and Unwin, 1932, p. 75).

10. Conception of the state

(20) A nation exists inasmuch as it is a people. A people rise inasmuch as they are numerous, hard working and well regulated. Power is the outcome of this threefold principle. (To the General Assembly of the Party, March lo, 1929, in Discorsi del 1929, Milano, Alpes, 1930, p. 24).

Fascism does not deny the State; Fascism maintains that a civic society, national or imperial, cannot be conceived unless in the form of a State (Stab, anti-Slato, Fascismo, in Tempi della Rivoluzione Fascista, Milano, Alpes, 1930, p. 94). For us the Nation is mainly spirit and not only territory. There are States which owned immense territories and yet left no trace in the history of mankind. Neither is it a question of number, because there have been, in history, small, microscopic States, which left immortal, imperishable documents in art and philosophy.

The greatness of a nation is the compound of all these virtues and conditions. A nation is great when the power of the spirit is translated into reality. (Speech at Naples, October 24, 1922, in Discorsi della Rivoluzione, Milano, Alpes, 1928, p. 103). We wish to unity the nation within the sovereign State, which is above everyone arid can afford to be against everyone, since it represents the moral continuity of the nation in history. Without the State there is no nation. There are merely human aggregations subject to all the disintegrations which history may inflict upon them. (Speech before the National Council of the Fascist Party, August 8, 1924, in La Nuova Politica dell’Italia, vol. III; Milano, Alpes, 1928, p. 269).

11. Dynamic reality

(21) I believe that if a people wish to live they should develop a will to power, otherwise they vegetate, live miserably and become prey to a stronger people, in whom this will to power is developed to a higher degree. (Speech to the Senate, May 28, 1926).

(22) It is Fascism which has refashioned the character of the Italians, removing impurity from our souls, tempering us to all sacrifices, restoring the true aspect of strength and beauty to our Italian face. (Speech delivered at Pisa, May 25, 1926, in Discorsi del 1926, Milano, Alpes, 1927, p. 193).

It is not out of place to illustrate the intrinsic character and profound significance of the Fascist Levy. It is not merely a ceremony, but a very important stage in the system of education and integral preparation of Italian men which the Fascist revolution considers one of the fundamental duties of the State: fundamental indeed, for if the State does not fulfill this duty or in any way accepts to place it under discussion, the State merely and simply forfeits its right to exist. (Speech before the Chamber of Deputies, May 28, 1928, in Discorsi del 1928, Milano, Alpes, 1929, p. 68).

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[This text is also available via my Texts in Philosophy page.]

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Garrett Hardin on India’s 600 million population in 1974

Hardin is one of the most widely-read twentieth-century intellectuals, most known for his two pieces “The Tragedy of the Commons” and “Lifeboat Ethics: The Case Against Helping the Poor.” The two are intimately related, as one diagnoses a fundamental problem with resources and the other draws policy conclusions.

A key quotation, in which Hardin states his view of the problem with India:

“India, for example, now has a population of 600 million, which increases by 15 million each year. This population already puts a huge load on a relatively impoverished environment.Hardin,Garrett The country’s forests are now only a small fraction of what they were three centuries ago and floods and erosion continually destroy the insufficient farmland that remains. Every one of the 15 million new lives added to India’s population puts an additional burden on the environment, and increases the economic and social costs of crowding. However humanitarian our intent, every Indian life saved through medical or nutritional assistance from abroad diminishes the quality of life for those who remain, and for subsequent generations. If rich countries make it possible, through foreign aid, for 600 million Indians to swell to 1.2 billion in a mere 28 years, as their current growth rate threatens, will future generations of Indians thank us for hastening the destruction of their environment? Will our good intentions be sufficient excuse for the consequences of our actions? …”

The article’s conclusion:

“Without a true world government to control reproduction and the use of available resources, the sharing ethic of the spaceship is impossible. For the foreseeable future, our survival demands that we govern our actions by the ethics of a lifeboat, harsh though they may be. Posterity will be satisfied with nothing less.”

I note that India’s population has now passed the 1.2 billion mark that Hardin feared. Further, those Indians are living at a higher standard of living, including a historically-unprecedented lifting of hundreds of millions out of abject poverty.indian_people Even further, India’s forest coverage is increasing, according to official reports.

So a question: Is there a serious rethinking of Hardin’s argument occurring among intellectuals and policy makers — or is it still the prevailing orthodoxy?

(And I wonder how many of those 600 million additional Indians have grown up to become Hardinesque intellectuals advocating policies that would have made their own lives non-existent.)

Source: “Lifeboat Ethics: The Case Against Helping the Poor”, Psychology Today, September 1974.

Related: My video-lecture discussion of the Tragedy of the Commons (or transcript here).

Corrupção — a regulamentação governamental ajuda?


Coisas ruins acontecem no livre mercado. Algumas pessoas mentem, utilizam atalhos, cometem fraudes e passam cheques sem fundo. Outros não cumprem contratos, oferecem ou aceitam suborno, pagam propina, roubam e assim por diante.

Frequentemente isso se traduz em argumentos em prol da regulamentação governamental. O livre mercado maximiza a liberdade, diz o argumento, dando mais oportunidades aos indivíduos imorais. Logo, a regulamentação governamental é necessária para controlar a imoralidade.

Contrariando tal argumento, existe a alegação de que o livre mercado pode se autopoliciar. Empresas e indivíduos estão preocupados com suas reputações, de forma que as empresas e os indivíduos bem sucedidos procurarão se resguardar de escândalos. Consumidores astutos podem buscar seus direitos, pesquisar antes de comprar, e divulgar quaisquer tipos de abusos. E o litígio é sempre uma opção para se buscar compensação em casos mais sérios de mau comportamento.

Mas então um escândalo ocorre no mundo corporativo — a fraude contábil da Enron ou o Esquema Ponzi de Bernie Madoff, por exemplo — e o outro lado do debate é reenergizado. Viu! Finalmente capturamos alguns bandidos! Ao que parece, aquele tipo de comportamento é normal, e o livre mercado obviamente não consegue se policiar, daí a clara necessidade de maior regulamentação governamental.bernie-madoff-monster-225x300

Não tão rápido — o outro lado responde, pois a regulamentação governamental introduz novas oportunidades de corrupção. Não sendo cínico, mas os funcionários públicos — políticos, burocratas e reguladores — não têm sido conhecidos por subornar, conceder favores, aceitar propinas e buscar o poder pelo poder? Conceda a esse tipo de pessoas o poder sobre pedaços multibilionários da economia e você terá muito mais corrupção.

A regulamentação política também atrai o tipo de empresários que são astutos em mudar as regras do sistema e que preferem usar o lobby e as ferramentas políticas para enriquecer, ao invés de conquistá-la por meio do livre mercado.

A Enron, por exemplo, era uma clássica empresa corporativista dentro de um dos setores de negócios mais regulamentados — o setor de energia. O Citibank, que foi resgatado diversas vezes na última metade do século XX, é outra empresa “conectada” em outro dos setores mais regulamentados pelo governo — o setor bancário.

Felizmente, a ciência social moderna veio ao nosso socorro. Mais dados estão disponíveis, e computadores mais rápidos e estatísticas mais sofisticadas fornecem-nos melhores ferramentas para compreender a realidade.

Uma forma de analisar as informações é por meio da comparação entre países ao redor do mundo. Algumas nações são mais transparentes e outras são mais corruptas. E algumas nações são mais limpas e outras são mais regulamentadas.

Sobre transparência e corrupção: a Transparência Internacional faz um bom trabalho de medição da corrupção. Todos os anos ela publica um índice que estabelece um ranking de 180 países, do mais transparente ao mais corrupto. Nações como Dinamarca, Nova Zelândia e Canadá tipicamente obtém uma ótima classificação como relativamente transparentes. Outras nações como o Zimbábue, Venezuela e Uzbequistão são notoriamente corruptas. E nações como Argentina, Tailândia e Etiópia estão atualmente no meio do ranking.

Sobre liberdade e regulamentação: Doing Business é um índice publicado pelo Banco Mundial. Ele constrói um índice de 189 economias que mede a liberdade dos negócios por diversas dimensões: nível de facilidade para 1) obter uma licença; 2) direito de propriedade; 3) proteção contratual. Hong Kong, Suíça e Estados Unidos tipicamente estão no topo da lista (mais fácil de fazer negócios). Entretanto, as economias mais controladas e onde é mais difícil para fazer negócios incluem Bolívia, Haiti e Angola. E no meio do ranking estão nações como Rússia, Marrocos e Costa Rica. Outro índice interessante é o Índice de Liberdade Econômica [link em português].corruption

Então, podemos realizar um teste: coloque as nações mais transparentes de um lado e nações mais corruptas do outro. Depois, separe nações mais livres de um lado e nações mais regulamentadas do outro. Agora compare as duas listas. As nações mais livres também são as mais transparentes? Ou são as mais corruptas? Nações mais controladas e regulamentadas têm níveis menores de corrupção nos negócios?  Ou são as mais sujas?

Veja você mesmo e tire suas conclusões — é indiscutível que os dados mostram uma forte correlação: as economias que têm melhor relação com os negócios são as menos corruptas, e as com pior relação com os negócios são as mais corruptas.

Esse é somente um teste; não há dúvida de que existem outros fatores culturais que contribuem positiva ou negativamente para o panorama de cada país.

E se nos dedicássemos a investigar uma única nação? Há muitos dados e estatísticas sobre os Estados Unidos. Uma medida crua de regulamentação nos Estados Unidos têm sido contar o número de páginas do Diário Oficial — a publicação governamental que atualiza constantemente as leis e regulamentações. Algumas dessas regulamentações são novas e outras são modificações, e algumas das regulamentações são pequenas mudanças e outras envolvem grandes revisões. Mas o grosso do Diário Oficial efetivamente nos diz algo sobre as tendências regulatórias.

Um ponto de destaque é o site Regdata do Mercatus Center, o qual se propõe à árdua tarefa de medir níveis de regulação em diferentes setores. O insight aqui é que, digamos, finanças e entretenimento são dois grandes setores econômicos, contudo o setor bancário em Nova York é mais firmemente regulado que o setor cinematográfico de Hollywood. Ou para se fazer outra comparação: a produção de energia, tendo como seu centro principal Houston, é muito mais controlada que a produção de computadores, com centros principais no Vale do Silício e Redmond.

E se tentarmos contar a quantidade e a severidade das regulamentações dentro de cada setor de negócio? Então podemos mais precisamente avaliar e comparar setores distintos: agricultura, transportes, telecomunicações, esportes, finanças, atacado, varejo, energia, entretenimento, educação, mineração, manufatura, serviços públicos e assim por diante. (E o Regdata permite montar gráficos muito bacanas.)enron-white-house

Agora, que tal analisarmos a questão da corrupção: em quais setores ocorreram os casos mais notórios de corrupção de nossa geração? Enron, WorldCom, Arthur Anderson, Solyndra, Bernie Madoff, Countrywide, Bear Stearns e assim por diante. Escolha a sua própria de escândalos.

Agora para a questão decisiva: é pura coincidência que os piores casos de corrupção tenham ocorrido nos setores mais regulados — bancário, energia, habitação e transportes?

Por outro lado, considere algumas outras grandes corporações: Apple, Intel, Warner Brothers e a NFL. Elas trabalham em setores muito menos regulados — computação, entretenimento e esportes — e elas têm escândalos menores e mais mundanos.

Resolver o problema da corrupção é uma questão urgente, mesmo em países relativamente transparentes. Ela drena recursos dos produtivos, direcionando-os aos improdutivos. Talvez mais perigosa seja a desmoralização que a corrupção causa, já que faz com que as pessoas concluam que a geração de riqueza de forma honesta é uma ingenuidade, e que devem lucrar o máximo que podem antes que os inescrupulosos cheguem.

Sim, no livre mercado sempre haverá alguns casos de corrupção. No entanto, deveríamos estar abertos à hipótese, confirmada repetidamente pelas ciências sociais, que mais regulamentação significa politizar o mundo dos negócios ainda mais, e que os tipos de corrupção que a política permite são muito mais destrutivos.

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hicks-stephen-2013“Corrupção — a regulamentação governamental ajuda?” Por Stephen Hicks. Tradução de Matheus Pacini. Revisão de Russ Silva. Artigo Original no “The Good Life”. Visite para ler os últimos artigos de Stephen Hicks.

Stephen Hicks é o autor do livro Explicando o Pós Modernismo e Nietzsche and the Nazis.

Kant and socialism, according to Cassirer

Cassirer,ErnstErnst Cassirer (1874-1945) was a leading neo-Kantian philosopher. He trained under Hermann Cohen (1842–1918), a founder and leader of the Marburg school of neo-Kantianism, which was perhaps the most dominant school of philosophy in the German academic world in the 19th century.

Here is Cassirer’s assessment of why Kant matters to the history of socialism:

“Within the movement of German neo-Kantianism the close connection between Kantian ethics and socialism was strongly emphasized by Hermann Cohen and Paul Natorp [1854–1924]. They pointed out that socialism was a necessary consequence of the Kantian categorical imperative and that the socialist movement was essentially a moral movement whose philosophic basis is best expressed in the Kantian moral philosophy.”

Ernst Cassirer, “Kant, Immanuel,” in Seligman and Johnson, Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (MacMillan, 1932, volume 8), p. 541.

Mussolini and Kant on war and the sacrifice of individuals.
Friedrich Engels against liberal peace.
Was Kant an Enlightenment liberal?

Republicar “Mein Kampf” é a decisão correta?


As autoridades alemãs permitirão a reimpressão da obra Mein Kampf (tradução oficial, Minha Luta) de Adolf Hitler, após décadas de censura.

Pessoas decentes podem argumentar que o livro é muito perigoso para ser publicado. Mas o fato é que Mein Kampf é muito perigoso para não ser publicado.

O grande medo é que as ideias de Hitler não estejam mortas e que seu livro precipite outro movimento social terrivelmente patológico. O nacionalismo e o socialismo ainda apelam a muitos. As combinações das duas ideologias atraem novos adeptos a cada dia na Europa e ao redor do mundo (veja O renascimento do nazismo na Europa — não é somente racismo).

Mein Kampf está disponível em muitas edições, em muitos idiomas e até mesmo online. Portanto, o furor relativo a sua reimpressão está mais ligado aos próprios alemães: eles podem lidar com isso?

Uma de muitas piadas antigas diz que um alemão perguntou ao outro: “Quantos poloneses são necessários para trocar uma lâmpada?” O outro alemão respondeu: “Eu não sei. Vamos invadir a Polônia para descobrir!”.mein-kampf

É sempre engraçado cutucar a reputação histórica alemã. Mas já se passaram três gerações desde o fim da II Guerra Mundial. Mudanças culturais importantes ocorreram na Alemanha com respeito ao militarismo, autoritarismo, antissemitismo e outros elementos existentes nos ideais nacional-socialistas. Existe muita evidência de que a Alemanha de hoje está muito acima da média em civilidade e decência. Isso significa que o “controle cultural” pós-nazismo pode ser abolido.

Mesmo além do caso particular da Alemanha, existe um ponto importante e geral sobre a proibição de, até mesmo, as ideias mais repulsivas: a censura enfraquece nossa habilidade de combatê-las.

Levi Salomon, palestrando para o Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism (Fórum Judaico para a Democracia e Contra o Antissemitismo, tradução livre) sediado em Berlim, opõe-se à reimpressão do livro Mein Kampf: “Esse livro está fora da lógica humana”.

Talvez isso seja verdade. Mas o livro não está fora da experiência humana. Nós devemos entender a “lógica” das crenças nacional-socialistas, não importando o quão ilógicas possam ser na realidade. Estas crenças continuam a ter um apelo psicológico e social poderoso para muitos, então é crucial que toda a geração saiba exatamente quais são, por que atraem tantas pessoas — e como combatê-las.

Os nazistas não eram somente alguns caras loucos que, por um golpe de sorte, chegaram ao poder. Por muito tempo uma visão caricatural do nacional-socialismo tomou conta da opinião pública.

Mas considere uma questão. Anos antes de os nazistas tomarem o poder, 3 vencedores do prêmio Nobel — Johannes Stark, Gerart Hauptmann e Philipp Lenard — apoiavam os nazistas.

Também antes da chegada dos nazistas ao poder, muitos intelectuais com doutorado das melhores universidades alemãs escreveram livros que apoiavam a ideologia nacional-socialista. Entre eles estavam o historiador Dr. Oswald Spengler, que publicou seu best-seller The Decline of the West (em português, A Decadência do Ocidente) em 1918. Spengler era o mais famoso intelectual alemão da década de 1920. O teórico jurista Dr. Carl Schmitt escreveu livros que ainda são reconhecidos como clássicos do século XX. O teórico e cientista político Moeller van den Bruck publicou The Third Reich (O Terceiro Reich) em 1923, o qual foi sucesso de vendas durante a década de 1920. E o filósofo Dr. Martin Heidegger, considerado por muitos como o detentor da mente filosófica mais original do século, apoiou ativamente os nazistas tanto na teoria como na prática.Nazi-Swastika-Austria

Muitos dos gênios apoiadores do nacional-socialismo eram extremamente cultos e se consideravam discípulos de George Hegel, Karl Marx e Friedrich Nietzsche — e como responsáveis pelo trabalho vital e idealista de aplicação daquelas filosofias abstratas à política do mundo real.

Então, o problema não é somente Adolf Hitler. E se formos censurar todos os escritos que levaram ao nazismo, a lista se torna longa.

Também é um fato relevante que muitos milhões de alemães votaram no Partido Nazista. Na decisiva eleição democrática de 1933, os nazistas venceram com 43% dos votos — mais que o total dos outros três partidos combinados. (Em segundo lugar, estavam os Socialistas e em terceiro, os Comunistas, o que nos fala muito do clima político e intelectual da época.)

O sucesso eleitoral dos nazistas não foi também produto de um conjunto de ideias contidas somente em livros. Na construção do seu movimento, os nazistas utilizaram princípios modernos de marketing, logística e administração. Eles aplicaram novas teorias da psicologia e da sociologia para formar um movimento central de centenas de ativistas devotos, expandindo-se a um movimento de massa de milhões de seguidores. Não obstante, não queremos censurar livros relacionados à logística aplicada, marketing ou psicologia social.

A seguir são propostas algumas perguntas difíceis: Por que tantos intelectuais concordavam com as ideias nacional-socialistas? Por que tantos voluntários, doadores e profissionais devotaram suas energias para a criação de um notável movimento político? Por que milhões de cidadãos alemães votaram — com frequência de forma entusiasta — nos nazistas? Eram todos simplesmente estúpidos / depravados / insanos?

Não, não eram. Gostando ou não do fato, o nacional-socialismo incorpora uma profunda filosofia de vida — e é isso que explica seu poder. Pode-se argumentar que a filosofia nazista não é lógica e racional. Eu concordo. Ainda assim, poucas filosofias são. Também pode-se argumentar que o nazismo, se seguido à risca, leva à psicose. Concordo novamente. Mesmo assim, isso se aplica também a muitas outras filosofias.

Mas tampouco é lógico, racional ou sadio ignorar um conjunto de ideias que continua a inspirar movimentos ao redor do mundo. Suprimir ideias perigosas é muito mais perigoso que lutar contra elas abertamente.nuremberg_party_rallies_gallery_main_2

Uma sociedade livre pode funcionar somente se a maioria de seus membros entender quais os princípios que a norteiam e a razão pela qual são melhores que as alternativas. Isso pressupõe que eles sabem quais são alternativas, obviamente.

Portanto, não existem atalhos em nossa educação cultural continuada. Todas as gerações devem discutir e debater as grandes ideias — verdadeiras ou falsas, conhecidas e possíveis, saudáveis ou perigosas — tornando-se intelectualmente preparadas para defender e expandir a civilização liberal.

Às vezes, o impulso à censura foca no simbolismo de permitir que livros malignos sejam publicados. Não censurar Minha Luta, por exemplo, é uma declaração, pelas autoridades, de que consideram as ideias nacional-socialistas dentro do limite da opinião aceitável.

Contudo, nós deveríamos lembrar que a sociedade livre rejeita a ideia de que é função das autoridades decidirem quais opiniões são aceitáveis. Esse é nosso trabalho, de cada um de nós, individualmente.

Em sua opinião dissidente em um caso clássico de censura americana, o juiz Potter Steward fez uma observação pertinente: “A censura reflete a falta de confiança de uma sociedade em si mesma”.

Existe um importante simbolismo intrínseco ao encorajamento da livre expressão: nós podemos lidar com isso.

Então, vamos fortalecer tal autoconfiança. Nós temos a inteligência e o caráter para lidar com os Hitlers potenciais, assim como seus talentosos teóricos.

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hicks-stephen-2013“Republicar “Mein Kampf” é a decisão correta?” Por Stephen Hicks. Tradução de Matheus Pacini. Revisão de Russ Silva. Artigo Original no “The Good Life”. Visite para ler os últimos artigos de Stephen Hicks.

Stephen Hicks é o autor do livro Explicando o Pós Modernismo e Nietzsche and the Nazis.

Somos perversos demais para a liberdade?


Um antigo mito fala de um jovem pobre que encontrou um anel mágico. Seu nome era Giges. Ele era um pastor, responsável por apascentar as ovelhas do vilarejo enquanto pastavam nas colinas. Seu trabalho era solitário, mal pago, e na maioria das vezes, ele cheirava a ovelha.

Certo dia, em uma caverna, Giges encontrou um anel com uma pedra preciosa. Ele colocou o anel em seu dedo e descobriu algo fascinante: quando virava o anel para dentro da palma, ele ficava invisível. Quando virava o anel para fora, ele se tornava novamente visível.

Você pode prever o que aconteceu depois.

Sucedeu uma onda de crimes. Giges abandonou as ovelhas e retornou ao vilarejo. Coisas caras foram roubadas. Mulheres foram estupradas. Pessoas foram assassinadas. Não havia testemunhas.

E a ambição de Giges não parava por aí — roubar, enganar e matar até chegar ao topo. Eventualmente, ele assassinou o rei, assumiu o trono, e tornou a ex-rainha, sua rainha.

Que terrível, não é?

Mas se você tivesse o anel de Giges, você não faria o mesmo?Etty-Candaules_King_of_Lydia_Shews_his_Wife_to_Gyges

Antigos pensadores de Heródoto a Platão usaram o mito de Giges para meditar sobre a ética política. Giges, argumentavam, não é um indivíduo peculiar — ele é um homem comum e um substituto para a ação humana. O anel é uma metáfora para o poder — o poder de fazer o que você quiser sem consequências. E o que Giges deseja? Ele deseja o que qualquer ser humano deseja — riqueza, sexo, vingança e muito mais.

O poder de invisibilidade do anel significa que ele pode agora satisfazer seus desejos mais íntimos da forma mais fácil possível. Ele não precisa trabalhar duro por dinheiro. Ele não precisa flertar para conquistar mulheres. Ele não precisa de estratagemas para matar seus inimigos.

Assim, na matemática da filosofia: natureza humana + poder = crime.

Os seres humanos, segundo o mito, são por natureza criaturas de paixões predatórias — orgulho, luxúria, cólera e mais. Mas, na medida em que agimos em nossas paixões mais fortes tornamos a vida em sociedade algo brutal ou impossível.

O mito propõe um novo desafio ao ideal de uma sociedade livre. O poder do anel concedeu liberdade a Giges — a liberdade para fazer o que desejasse. Mas a lição parece ser que tal liberdade é socialmente destrutiva. A liberdade solta a natureza humana, e a natureza humana é socialmente corrompida. Então, se quisermos viver em uma sociedade pacífica e produtiva, então a liberdade é o inimigo que devemos combater.

O desafio de Giges é diferente de outros desafios à liberdade que já consideramos

O mito de Giges diz que não são forças exteriores como a escassez ou o poder que nos fazem fazer coisas ruins. Em vez disso, a corrupção já está dentro de nós. A natureza humana é dominada por desejos que nos tornam incapacitados para a liberdade (Veja também “Conservadores contra o capitalismo de livre mercado”.)

Giges é um mito grego, mas temos versões similares dessa história em outras culturas mediterrâneas.titian-adam-and-eve

No livro do Gênesis, fonte comum para as três principais religiões do mundo ocidental, aprendemos que Adão e Eva, no seu primeiro ato de liberdade, roubou o fruto. Na geração seguinte, Cain matou Abel. As gerações subsequentes, livres para tomarem suas próprias decisões, mentiram, estupraram, roubaram, massacraram e assim por diante — até que Deus retornou na geração de Noé. Deus viu a corrupção e a devastação que os humanos tinham trazido e decidiu exterminá-los, começando do zero. Mas mesmo na nova era, a natureza humana se perdeu, e novamente, levou aos mesmos resultados destrutivos. Daí, a doutrina do Pecado Original.

Dos tempos antigos até hoje, nossa visão pessimista da natureza humana tem sido uma fonte regular de ataques à sociedade livre.

“O homem é muito mal para ser livre”, escreveu Joseph de Maistre no século XIX. “Homo homini lúpus” (“O homem é o lobo do homem”), escreveu Sigmund Freud no século XX. “Crueldade e conflito são traços humanos básicos”, concorda o filósofo John Gray, no século XXI.

Então, de acordo com os defensores dessa repugnante visão da natureza humana, o que nós deveríamos fazer para tornar possível a convivência social?

Retomando a matemática da filosofia, concluímos que: se a natureza humana combinada ao fortalecimento da liberdade leva a resultados negativos, então, para evita-los, temos que mudar a natureza humana ou tirar a liberdade das pessoas. Como não podemos mudar a natureza humana, o argumento que normalmente segue é que temos de sufocar as manifestações negativas.

Uma forma de fazê-lo é através do medo. Antes de encontrar o anel, Giges não agiu sobre suas paixões porque tinha medo de ser descoberto. Contudo, o anel eliminou tal medo, e suas paixões tomaram o controle. Então, para resolver o problema, temos que assegurar que os humanos permanecerão da forma que Giges era antes do anel: relativamente fracos e com medo de serem descobertos pelas autoridades.

No âmbito secular, podemos assegurar que a polícia e os tribunais tenham maiores poderes de vigilância e de punição. No âmbito religioso, podemos tentar fazer as pessoas acreditarem em um Deus que está sempre alerta e que as punirá severamente. “O temor do Senhor é o princípio da sabedoria(…),” estre trecho de Provérbios 10-11, por exemplo. Devemos incitar o medo das forças autoritárias, sejam elas seculares ou religiosas, como um contragolpe necessário à natural depravação humana.Peter_Paul_Rubens_-_Cain_slaying_Abel,_1608-1609

Medo de poderes externos como a polícia ou deuses é uma forma de controle, contudo, podemos também nos utilizar de controles internos ao tentar ensinar pessoas a autoconterem. Em vez do medo político, podemos utilizar a culpa moral.

Se o problema é a ganância, por exemplo, podemos desde o primeiro dia ensinar uma lição moral às crianças: que o amor pelo dinheiro é a raiz de todo o mal. Quando eles naturalmente passam a desejar dinheiro, uma batalha interna começara entre o seu desejo por dinheiro e sua crença adquirida que deseja-lo é imoral. A tática da ganância não funcionará perfeitamente, contudo, o sentimento de culpa gerado em certa medida as levará a suprimir sua ganância.

Se o problema for a luxúria, então ensina a abstinência sexual como um ideal moral. É claro, não funcionará perfeitamente, mas a culpa sexual reduzirá a luxúria. Se o problema for a raiva, então ensine que um indivíduo deveria sempre perdoar. O desejo natural por vingança é a moralidade ensinada do perdão lutará fortemente dentro de cada um de nós, e se nos sentirmos culpados por buscar vingança, então, é menos provável que a busquemos.

Então, se o mito de Giges, Eva, e Cain capturam uma verdade profunda sobre a natureza humana, portanto, parece que temos somente duas soluções: precisamos de uma moralidade da culpa ou de uma política do medo — ou ambas.

Existe uma forte tendência na história: o pessimismo sobre a natureza humana é quase sempre relacionado com moralidade e política autoritárias. O contrapositivo também é verdadeiro: sistemas políticos e morais liberais são quase sempre baseados no otimismo sobre a natureza humana.

Eu sou um liberal¹ e um otimista — o que significa que devo responder ao poderoso mito de Giges. Esse será o assunto que tratarei no próximo artigo.

¹ No sentido filosófico da defesa da liberdade humana, e não no sentido contraditório e contemporâneo utilizado nos Estados Unidos, o qual prega uma mistura de liberdades e controles.

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hicks-stephen-2013“Somos perversos demais para a liberdade?” Por Stephen Hicks. Tradução de Matheus Pacini. Revisão de Russ Silva. Artigo Original no “The Good Life”. Visite para ler os últimos artigos de Stephen Hicks.

Stephen Hicks é o autor do livro Explicando o Pós Modernismo e Nietzsche and the Nazis.

Inteligência, liberdade e quem sabe o que é melhor para você


Inteligência é o recurso mais importante do ser humano.

Um sinal disso é o tempo que gastamos na educação de nossos jovens. Para algumas espécies, tais como esquilos e águias, o aprendizado necessário para se tornar um adulto é adquirido em questão de meses. Para espécies mais inteligentes, tais como chimpanzés e elefantes, é uma questão de anos. Mas nós, humanos, necessitamos de uma dezena ou mais de anos para adquirir o conhecimento, as habilidades de aprendizado, e o julgamento necessário para a vida adulta.

Nós precisamos desenvolver o nosso físico — força muscular, resistência e flexibilidade — mas, sobretudo, cada pessoa necessita desenvolver sua mente. Um leão usa a força para subjugar sua preza, o inseto usa a flexibilidade para encontrar o que necessita em buracos e fendas, e um ganso usa a resistência para voar centenas de quilômetros. No entanto, os humanos prosperam, principalmente, pelo poder do seu pensamento.

“Mente são, corpo são” — disse o antigo poeta romano. Esse é o estado de total realização do ser humano. (O que pode explicar porque pessoas espertas são tão atraentes — embora eu devesse evitar transformar esse artigo em uma confissão pessoal).good_choice-bad_choice

A conexão entre inteligência e viver livremente é estabelecida pelo pensamento — capacidade inerente à mente de cada indivíduo — que lhe permite interagir com o mundo ao seu redor. Um ser humano livre vive ao pensar por si próprio, ao agir de acordo com seu julgamento, e ao se responsabilizar pelos resultados.

É claro que pode haver ajuda alheia; todavia, essencialmente, cada um de nós deve chegar a suas próprias conclusões, trilhando o seu próprio caminho. Quando nos tornamos adultos, deveríamos ser capazes de viver de forma independente. Esse é o desafio e a beleza de ser humano.

Em uma sociedade cada dia mais complexa, viver bem depende de nossa habilidade para entender coisas complicadas — como funcionam as tecnologias, princípios de civilidade, mercados internacionais, política global e assim por diante. A complexidade da sociedade aumenta conforme aprendemos e fazemos mais, e aquela mesma complexidade felizmente nos presenteia com os mais variados estilos de vida. Mas esses estilos de vida também geram mais demandas sobre a nossa inteligência.

E se algumas pessoas não conseguirem acompanhar o ritmo?

É por isso que o desafio do paternalismo é tão profundo. A alegação paternalista é que alguns de nós são cognitivamente mais forte que outros, e que o bem-estar dos cognitivamente mais fracos e da sociedade como um todo será melhorada se algum poder decisório for retirado dos mais fracos.

Os paternalistas reconhecem que, sim, isso pode ser elitista. Mas, eles contra-atacam: o liberalismo também não é elitista? A liberdade funciona somente para os inteligentes entre nós — isto é, para aqueles que têm o que é necessário para viver de forma autorresponsável. Mas ele ignora as capacidades dos menos dotados entre nós, que necessitam de alguma supervisão. Assim sendo, a política mais benevolente não seria a paternalista, aquela que aplica limitações à liberdade?

O paternalismo faz três alegações interligadas:Paternalism-cartoon

  1. O controle paternal trará resultados gerais melhores que a liberdade.

  2. Nós nos deparamos com um trade-off: devemos escolher entre (a) viver com menos liberdade, mas em condições melhores ou (b) viver com mais liberdade, mas em piores condições)

  3. A opção (a) é preferível.

Todas essas alegações são falsas.

Em primeiro lugar, pouquíssimas pessoas são tão incapazes ao ponto de não saber como administrar suas vidas. Se, de fato, estivermos preocupados com a próxima geração, basta ver as crianças jogando videogames, com todas as demandas de exploração, avaliação, coordenação, memória e assim por diante. Quantas dessas crianças são, por natureza, tão limitadas cognitivamente como para serem incapazes de aprender as habilidades básicas à vida?

Algumas são. Mas a maior parte daquela pequena minoria pode se tornar adulta, trabalhar com atividades mais simples, vestir-se e se alimentar, brincar e desfrutar de seu tempo livre como preferir. E para caminhar em terrenos intelectualmente desafiantes, eles podem confiar em redes sociais estabelecidas com familiares, amigos, vizinhos e organizações filantrópicas. O próprio número irrisório de pessoas pouco inteligentes não justifica políticas governamentais paternalistas.

Outra pergunta pertinente seria: Quantas pessoas incapacitadas intelectualmente dessa geração são assim por culpa do paternalismo da geração passada? Na década passada, os legisladores paternalistas focaram nas pessoas que estavam fazendo escolhas erradas. Assim, tiraram o seu poder de decisão — prejudicando ainda mais a capacidade de aquela geração saber como tomar decisões corretas.

Se, por exemplo, você tirar o plano de aposentadoria das mãos das pessoas, você faz com que mais pessoas não tenham um plano de aposentadoria. Se você livrar os pais da responsabilidade pela educação dos seus filhos, então você criará pais menos competentes. E quando essa geração chegar, os paternalistas se desesperam com o fracasso no planejamento financeiro e parental — e pedem mais paternalismo como solução.

A solução não é mais paternalismo, mas sim menos.

O paternalismo também envolve uma injustiça: para ajudar alguns, nega liberdade aos outros. Alguns indivíduos não podem avaliar competentemente os valores nutricionais dos alimentos e bebidas que ingerem, por exemplo, os paternalistas querem limitar as opções alimentares de todo o mundo. No máximo, o desejo dos paternalistas de controlar os outros deveria, no máximo, focar-se naqueles que eles julgam ser intelectualmente inferiores (abaixo da média). Não há justificativa para estender aquele controle ao restante da sociedade que é capaz de avaliar valores nutricionais.

De certa forma, uma sociedade livre é o caminho mais longo e difícil. Ela impõe demandas de pensamento e autorresponsabilidade sobre os indivíduos. Ao mesmo tempo, uma sociedade livre é o caminho mais fácil, porque as sociedades livres são mais ricas e com mais recursos disponíveis para o nosso desenvolvimento cognitivo e mais proteções contra os erros que cometemos.Fork-in-Road_02

Uma sociedade livre realmente se torna mais complexa nas áreas de tecnologia, direito, finanças e medicina. Ao mesmo tempo, ela cultiva uma variedade de especialistas — mecânicos, advogados, planejadores financeiros, médicos — com quem podemos nos consultar para obter conhecimento e aconselhamento necessário para tomarmos nossas decisões.

Mesmo assim, muitas pessoas tomarão decisões ruins em uma sociedade livre. Mas, como a personagem do livro Crime e Castigo de Dostoiévski sabiamente disse: “Errar em nosso caminho é melhor que acertar em caminho alheio”. Ser humano significa fazer suas próprias escolhas. A sólida autorresponsabilidade é um princípio fundamental da moralidade. Não é algo negociável, independente do seu nível de inteligência.

O paternalismo subverte assim nossa humanidade.

Pense, como analogia, na questão parental. Podemos entender os pais que são tentados a controlar a vida de seus filhos até a vida adulta. Eles trouxeram o filho ao mundo e exerceram o controle paternal quando o filho era ainda criança. Mas essencial à missão parental é libertar os filhos do estado de dependência — e libertar a si mesmo do hábito de controle.

Existe algo errado com pais que têm a necessidade de controlar a vida adulta de seus filhos — estão mal orientados ou, na pior das hipóteses, trata-se de uma questão patológica.

O mesmo se aplica a políticos paternalistas, só que com menos desculpas.

No próximo artigo: respondendo os argumentos paternalistas em prol da limitação da democracia.

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hicks-stephen-2013“Inteligência, liberdade e quem sabe o que é melhor para você”. Por Stephen Hicks. Tradução de Matheus Pacini. Revisão de Russ Silva. Artigo Original no “The Good Life”. Visite para ler os últimos artigos de Stephen Hicks.

Stephen Hicks é o autor do livro Explicando o Pós Modernismo e Nietzsche and the Nazis.

Você é capaz de viver uma sociedade livre?


Honestamente: você tem o que é preciso? Todos nós gostamos de pensar que somos mais espertos que a maioria, mas a matemática é cruel. Metade de nós está abaixo da inteligência média, e alguns de nós estão consideravelmente abaixo dela. Então, por que deveríamos pensar que a liberdade é uma boa política para todos?

Eu acredito que a liberdade seja a melhor política; às vezes, todavia, não é fácil defendê-la. Pressupõe-se que, em uma sociedade livre, as pessoas sejam capazes de viver de forma responsável, o que, por sua vez, pressupõe que elas tenham inteligência suficiente para tal.  Uma democracia pressupõe que a maioria das pessoas tomará boas decisões políticas de forma consistente, o que, por sua vez, pressupõe que elas tenham inteligência suficiente para fazê-lo.

Mas se pode alegar, sim, que é ingênuo pensar que a maioria das pessoas é suficientemente inteligente. Aceitamos esse difícil desafio, já que somente ao confrontar os melhores argumentos de ambos os lados é que poderemos estar certos de nossas próprias conclusões.

Aqui está a suprema ironia, cortesia do colunista Marilyn vos Savant, sobre quão baixa pode ser a inteligência média. Vos Savant tem a distinção, de acordo com o Guiness Book, de ter a maior pontuação de todos os tempos em testes de QI.bran-cereal

Um leitor escreveu a Vos Savant com um problema matemático confuso que tinha estado debatendo no jantar com sua esposa e seu cunhado. Suponha que você encha um copo com 100% de farelo de cereal Bran (%) em uma tigela, e depois você coloca um copo com 40% de cereal Bran dentro da mesma tigela. Qual a porcentagem de Bran dentro da tigela?

A esposa do leitor disse 140% — aparentemente, um indivíduo deveria somar as duas porcentagens para obter a resposta correta. O cunhado discordou, defendendo que um indivíduo deveria subtrair a porcentagem menor da maior, de forma que a resposta correta é 60%. O leitor, por sua vez, pensou que ambas as respostas, 140% e 60%, estavam erradas — e que a resposta correta depende se o primeiro copo foi de bran 100% ou de bran 40%.

Aqui temos três pessoas que não sabem resolver problemas matemáticos básicos. Quais são as chances de elas terem as habilidades cognitivas necessárias para viver nesse mundo complexo e altamente tecnológico? Elas podem calcular as porcentagens para, digamos, uma boa nutrição ou taxas de juros compostos do cartão de crédito? Para tal, é necessário somente considerar quantas pessoas são obesas ou estão muito endividadas. Intelectualmente, eles estão praticamente perdidos no mundo atual — e, em nome da liberdade, temos de deixá-los à própria sorte.

E pode ser pior. Talvez você saiba matemática básica. Mas não podemos esquecer que os três cidadãos supracitados podem facilmente derrotar você em qualquer votação referente a políticas públicas. Quais são as chances de que os votos dos três eleitores (que têm problemas com a matemática) sejam melhores que o seu voto (de uma pessoa que sabe matemática) no que tange à política orçamentária; julgamento de níveis aceitáveis de agrotóxicos nos alimentos; eficácia de vacinas ou mesmo na questão do clima? Quais são as chances de que a democracia seja algo mais que um lento suicídio dos coletivamente estúpidos?risks-benefits-balance-scale-225x193

Talvez uma liberdade administrada seja melhor para a maioria das pessoas. É claro, alguns de nós são mais inteligentes que os outros. Então, os inteligentes (eu, você e vos Savant) podem fazer o bem ao tomar as decisões importantes em nome dos nossos concidadãos menos inteligentes ou, pelo menos, empurrá-los na direção correta. Isso não seria melhor para os menos inteligentes que deixá-los dependentes de sua precária inteligência?

Então, o argumento conclui, sejamos sinceros: deveríamos desenvolver um sistema político que concede poder aos inteligentes. Vamos tirar imediatamente o poder dos menos inteligentes — pelo seu próprio bem e pelo bem da sociedade como um todo.

Nos tempos antigos, Platão argumentou que precisamos de reis-filósofos. Para nossa moderna sociedade, intensiva em tecnologia e ciência, podemos atualizar o termo: precisamos de reis- filósofos-cientistas.

Você se assusta com o tom ditatorial da proposta? Talvez, nós não precisamos ir tão longe, incluindo alguns elementos democráticos. Podemos permitir que todos votem, deixando que a maioria dos votos determine quais candidatos terão a autoridade para tomar decisões importantes em nosso nome. Ou, para tornar nossas escolhas como eleitores mais fáceis, vamos obrigar que os partidos escolham previamente os candidatos mais inteligentes, e nós, eleitores, escolheremos os melhores entre eles.

Mas nossos representantes, uma vez eleitos, logo terão problemas. Eles perceberão que o mundo é muito complexo e que muitas, mas muitas decisões importantes devem ser tomadas — mas que eles próprios nem sempre têm o conhecimento necessário para decidir de forma sábia.

Então, eles criarão uma série de agências governamentais empregando especialistas — manufatura e comércio, serviços bancários e finanças, alimentação, farmacêuticos e medicina, transporte, e educação de nossas crianças. Essas agências especializadas serão autorizadas a tomar as medidas necessárias em nosso nome, e nós poderemos viver felizes, sabendo que pessoas inteligentes estão cuidando de nossas vidas.plato

Eu acabei de descrever algo muito parecido com o sistema atual dos Estados Unidos e da maioria das nações desenvolvidas do mundo. Dependendo da visão de cada um, vivemos em algo que deveria ser chamado Democracia paternalista duplamente indireta ou a Aristocracia benevolente altamente diferente. Nós, cidadãos, podemos fazer algumas escolhas, mas dentro de uma estrutura selecionada e oficializada por nossos superiores intelectuais.

Naquele sistema, os de menor inteligência são protegidos das consequências de sua ignorância em suas próprias vidas, e o restante de nós são protegidos das consequências dos seus votos em nossa vida pública. Talvez alguns ajustes no sistema sejam necessários — mas se a lógica do argumento acima é válida, então nós já vivemos no melhor dos mundos políticos.

Então, temos um desafio para aqueles de nós que desejam viver livremente. Nós queremos escolher a educação de nossos filhos. Nós queremos decidir por nós mesmos o que beber e comer. Nós queremos fazer nossos próprios planos financeiros. Nós até mesmo queremos escolher nossos próprios médicos e planos de saúde, e muito mais. Mas por que isso deveria importar à luz do argumento supracitado em prol do paternalismo?

Note que o argumento paternalista é impulsionado pelo medo — medo dos estúpidos e dos desinformados. Nós precisamos protegê-los deles mesmos porque tememos que não possam viver sozinhos. E precisamos nos proteger dos estúpidos e desinformados, porque tememos as consequências do poder político dessa maioria em uma democracia.

Esses medos não são considerações irrelevantes, mas não são a base para uma filosofia política apropriada. Por que não? Esse é o tema do meu próximo artigo.

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hicks-stephen-2013“Você é capaz de viver uma sociedade livre?” Por Stephen Hicks. Tradução de Matheus Pacini. Revisão de Russ Silva. Artigo Original no “The Good Life”. Visite para ler os últimos artigos de Stephen Hicks.

Stephen Hicks é o autor do livro Explicando o Pós Modernismo e Nietzsche and the Nazis.