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miércoles, 5 de noviembre de 2014

Liberalism


by José Antonio Primo De Rivera, 1903 - 1936
(founder of La Falange Española)

article originally published in La Nación, Sept 25, 1933 
taken from http://www.rumbos.net/ocja/jaoc2058.html
Translated from the Spanish by Roberto Hope

Make sure you become a millionaire


You hold it from both ends, between the index finger and the thumb, You apply it to the object being observed. Does the object fit the gauge exactly? If it does, it is right. If it does not fit or does not fill it? Then it is not right. The matter could not be simpler!

With such a procedure, a morning newspaper – admirable, otherwise for a thousand reasons – has achieved to pass judgment on all kinds of events. The gauge – the one which is held between the index and the thumb – is contained in these words: “Individual rights should be respected.” As we can see, it is not a sentence which should cause great exertion to grasp. But it has a marvellous virtue, once acquired; it frees he who acquires it, for the rest of his years, from the annoying need to think. Those convinced by the sentence find solved, for ever, the problem of evaluating any public action. Have individual rights been respected? The action is alright!. Have individual rights been forsaken?  The action is wrong!  Dictatorships, revolutions, laws ... no matter how complex and profound the impact on the life of a people, they acquire a transparent simplicity.

Now, what are individual rights?
Let's imagine a worker of that same newspaper which discovered the standard. The man has been working, for several years already, as a linotypist. He is paid well, fine!, but the man lives subject to the linotype for several hours a day. Along with the linotype, his life runs and ripens. One morning, at dawn, the worker who has spent the wee hours of the morning in front of the linotype's keyboard, notices a cold sweat running on his forehead. His eyes begin to see blurred. Suddenly, his mouth gets twisted in a rictus. He falls heavily on the floor. Several workmates pick him up, He is unconscious. From his mouth flows a thin stream of blood. He is dead.

The worker leaves a widow and six children, none of which is old enough to work. The widow gets a subsidy, greater due to the generosity of his employer than what is required by law. She lives for a number of months, maybe a year or two, on it. But the day comes when the last coin from her subsidy slips from her fingers. No more is there enough to eat at home.The children become paler by the day. They will soon be easy prey to anemia and tuberculosis. And to hatred.

And then? Then, if the worker's widow is fortunate enough to live in a liberal state, she will find herself with a magnificent constitution, which will guarantee all kinds of rights to her. The famous “rights of individuals”. The widow will have the liberty to opt for the profession which she most pleases. Nobody can prevent her, for instance, from opening a jewelry store or a bank. She will also have the liberty to select her place of residence. She can live in Nice, in Deauville or in a palace in the outskirts of Bilbao. The earth will split open before allowing any limit to be imposed on her freedom to express her thoughts! The widow will be very free to establish a newspaper like the one in which her husband used to work. And as, in addition, laws protect her religious liberty, it will be permitted for her to found a sect and open a chapel.

All that legal richness! does it not comfort everybody?  Of course it may be that perhaps this widow may not feel any urgent itch to write political articles or found a new religion. Maybe, on the other hand, she might stumble into some small obstacle to set up a factory or establish a newspaper. It may happen that her major concern should consist of finding sustenance for her and for her children. But that is exactly what the liberal state does not provide her. Right to eat; of course, no doubt! But food?

The poor widow will have to capitulate in the harsh struggle. She will accept whatever she gets for sewing ten hours every day. She will fast so that her children can get the illusion that they eat something. And while, at night, in the dimly lit garret, she burns her eyes on the stitches, no liberal orators will be lacking who prepare paragraphs like this one: “No longer is there any slavery. Thanks to our laws, nobody can be forced to work in anything other than the trade he freely chooses.”

This is how the liberal state, a mere formula articulator, is no good when it is most needed. Laws permit everything, but the economic and social organization does not take care to ensure that those freedoms can materialize in concrete realities.

Reader: if you live in a liberal state, be sure you are a millionaire, and good looking, and smart and strong. Then, yes, with everybody hurled into free competition, life is yours. You will have a newspaper with which you can exercise your freedom of speech, automobiles in which you can exercise your freedom to move ...; whatever you may wish! But woe to those millions and millions of badly endowed beings! For them the liberal state is savage. Of all of them it will make cannon fodder in the ruthless economic struggle. For them – entitled to the most resounding and most unattainable rights – will be hunger and misery.

That, Humanity has already seen. That is why, to judge political events demands more profound gauges than those mentioned in the morning newspaper. It demands states which do not limit themselves to tell us what we are allowed to do, but that all of us are put to protect the weak, requiring without rancor sacrifices from those who are powerful and in a condition to be able to do it. Two types of state attempt to achieve such ambition. One is the socialist state, which seems just at its point of departure but is sterilized afterwards by its materialistic conception of life and by its leaning to class struggle. The other is a state which aspires to the integration of the people in the warmth of a common faith.

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