Isabel Paterson, July 16, 1939, New York Herald Tribune
Went to spend an evening with Padraic and Mary Colum, to hear some good talk. . . . They belonged to Dublin's literary group in its great days, so, of course, we spoke of the death of Yeats, which was like the closing of a door on a whole era. . . . And we tried to define what had gone out of the world lately, some sense of human dignity and worth, which Yeats personified in his life, as other men have in other periods. . . . Mary Colum spoke of the curious derivation from Hegel of the Marxist 'dialectic' and the justificatory theory of the Totalitarian State; and said it was inexplicable that one man (Hegel), writing in personal obscurity a few books which had only a handful of readers--which are in fact utterly unreadable by the average man--could have brought about such tremendous and terrible changes in human affairs. . . .
We had to differ; we doubt if the labels are anything but after-thoughts. . . . What really happened, we said to Mary Colum, you stated yourself in an incidental paragraph in your own volume on the development of principles of literary criticism: From These Roots. . . . There she remarked that one hundred and fifty years ago the Declaration of Independence knocked Europe off its moral base. . . .
Which we hold to be a self-evident truth. . . . And Europe has never recovered its equilibrium. . . .
What happened to Europe was America. . . . Hegel and Marx were bitter reactionaries who did not understand in the least what they were asking for--but if they had lived long enough they'd have got it just the same. . . . Europe is getting it now. . . . They wished to maintain the static political framework of Europe. . . .
The loose, almost imperceptible, limited, minimum form of purely secular government, originating in America--the theory of which does not even admit the concept of 'the state' or 'the government' as an entity of itself, but only considers it to be a function of the private person exercised through narrowly delegated means by representatives elected for a short and automatically expiring term--this theory and form of government was utterly antithetic and astonishing, almost incredible to the European mind. . . . Now that wouldn't have mattered so much, if it had not succeeded in a new and peculiar way. . . . It released undreamed-of energies. . . . Not merely the full potential energies of muscular man-power, but the inventive power of free minds. . . . It ushered in the dynamic age, steam-power, electric power, and we don't know what next. . . . But the main thing is that it was an incalculably expanding energy that was released, which no static political framework can possibly contain. . . . Admit that power to such a political structure, and it must burst it in fragments; it can only operate with reasonable safety under minimum government, where it originated. . . . It has to be allowed to spread in all directions to be comparatively harmless. . . . To put the problem in the simplest terms, the ordinary man must have a motor car; thus the power is divided into negotiable quantities, and the harm it may conceivably do is only that of a collision between two motor cars. . . . Let it be under 'control' of the state, and the harm it must do is the collision of two armies, the state's method of using power.
Europe traditionally thinks in terms of the static and all-embracing political framework. . . . Yet it takes in that new power--and explodes. . . . And if our bright young thinkers in America who have, for a generation past, been trying to turn back and copy the European political model which was discarded here over a century ago--if they have their way, America will explode, too. . . . It is bound to.
In short, Europe is acting like the American Indians. . . . Here we must mention that we are not making any specific claim of superiority for Americans over Europeans, or Indians, either. . . . Every way of life has its own virtues; one need not be superior to another, but it is the part of wisdom to recognize essential differences where they exist. . . . The American Indians had virtues. . . . It is generally assumed that they were literally and directly exterminated, or as nearly so as the case may be, by force of arms. . . . This is not true. . . The number of Indians slain in war was not great. . . . But they would accept from the white man only those things which must destroy them--firearms and liquor. . . . Firearms alone, simply in the hands of the Indians, would have destroyed them fairly soon; firearms inevitably must destroy a hunting economy. . . .
And Europe now will only accept from America that which must destroy it--the mechanical power, the dynamo, without the political framework which will accommodate it. . . .
If any one wishes to interrupt here and say the European way of life was better than the American, we're not objecting. . . . Each way is best for those who want them. . . . But they won't mix, and they won't work both ways. . . .
Well, then Mary Colum said, why don't you write that? . . . So there it is. . . . There was no reason why she should have to listen to it unaided. . . .