The loss of Doctor Richter's suggested reading list that saved my life was tragic, a fact that I am constantly being reminded of.
Some books -- Whittaker Chamber's Witness, for example, or Orwell's Homage to Catalonia -- were unforgettable. Others, especially those that I could not locate at the time, never got read, so I had no memory at all in order to reconstruct. I did have a wisp of a memory about a book that had, I thought, the words "rebel colonel" in the title, but was marked down in Richter's precise handwriting as "American political economy." Imagine my surprise, then, when at the thrift store the other day I encountered, complete with autographed, pristine dust jacket, a first edition copy of The Rebellious Colonel Speaks: Selected Papers of Willard F. Rockwell (McGraw Hill, 1964).
This is it! I thought. This is the book. And for the princely sum of ninety-eight cents plus tax, I walked away with it. Rockwell's biography is as obscure as his book. He was quite an amazing self-made man -- soldier, engineer, inventor, highly successful venture capitalist and social critic in a time when no one wanted to hear him. LTC Al Rockwell's biography, such as it is available on the Internet, can be found here.
Here are some quotes from this remarkable book, which consists mostly of the transcripts of speeches and article that Rockwell gave over the years:
The powers of the Federal Government have increased to a point which endangers our civil liberties, destroys the dignity on man, and is actually checking the industrial advances which have made this country the greatest industrial nation in the world, with the highest standard of living. . . Industry, and industry alone, has brought about these improvements in the last half-century, if you recognize industry as the work of all producers, and if you recognize their opponents as all politicians and any others who consume more than they produce.
And that was from a speech Rockwell gave in Pittsburgh on 24 February NINETEEN FORTY-SEVEN aboutr the federal bureaucracy entitled "See How They Bungle."
Fundamental changes in the Constitution have been effected so gradually and so cleverly that the present generation of citizens seldom realize what they have lost. We gave up amny freedoms in exchange for promises of security.
From an address entitled "The American Heritage" given to the Mississippi Manufacturer's Association in 1954:
In my opinion, the enormous and unprecedented growth of industry in this country has been possible because Thomas Jefferson was the greatest statesman who ever lived, and we had the benefit of his wisdom in the writing of our Constitution and the great Bill of Rights. There is a distinction between a statesman and a politician, and every country's future depends upon its statesmen. A politician is only selfishly interested in his own personal success in the next election, while a statesman is most interested in the welfare of the next generations. . .
Our thriving new young country has had only three great advantages: first, the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which, you should be reminded, contains no guarantee whatever that happiness will be furnished at the expense of other citizens. Under that form of government, the wealth of our people increased through individual enterprise until our people had the second great advantage: mass buying power. Then our workers of all classes devised and promoted the mass-production methods which have made us the most powerful nation. These three advantages are available to all other nations, and only they, themselves, can secure them.Without attempting to discuss aspects of the socialistic and capitalistic systems or making any comparisons of their merits, I would like to point out that most of the people in the Western hemisphere and Western Europe belong to religious faiths which endorse the Ten Commandments. To paraphrase just one of these Ten Commandments, there is the admonition that "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's property." If that Commandment were honored by its observance, there would be no more wars among civilized nations, and there would be no socialism in any civilized, God-fearing nation. Socialism is a form of religion with no other God than the green-eyed monster of envy.Socialism is born of the envious desire to take over a neighbor's possessions without payment. When that envy is provoked among enough citizens to create laws which confiscate part of any neighbor's increase in income or property, that community or that state has adopted Socialism. When it operates through forceful confiscation of property by the state, it is called Communism, which is a difference without a distinction. Red Russia's leaders have only promised a communistic paradise after they have eliminated all opposition and conditioned the survivors to government regimentation. They have only demonstrated that human nature is so constituted that Communism must be imposed by dictatorship and cannot be sustained without a ruthless suppression against deviation as soon as it is detected. After more than a generation of practice, the Russian dictators continue to find deviationists in the ruling ranks who are promptly killed off, while mil;lions of objectors in the lower ranks have been condemned to death or to slave-labor camps, working under conditions guaranteed to repress their resistance and shorten their earthly existence.The ridiculous desire to secure social security for the people by government fiat has almost throttled private initiative, enterprise, and thrift in several European countries. The taxes required by the government to support socialistic schemes are always imposed on all producers, with the highest rates applied to the highest producers. The inevitable result is that the high penalty on high producers brings about a great decline in the nation's production of wealth and everything that contributes to wealth, which is accelerated by the continuous increase in the demands for greater benefits for non-producers. Eventually, the once industrious nation becomes a nation of slackers by the simple process of pilfering from producers to supply support all who cannot, or will not work.Socialism surely does promote the political welfare of political shysters and demagogues, and the politician who promises the most unearned rewards receives the most votes; and, after succeeding to office, he must wring more taxes out of the rapidly shrinking group of producers to pay off his political debts.Our country cannot hope to maintain its former rate of progress until it finds its way out of the dead-end street marked "Socialism" and resumes its path on the broad highway of Constitutional government. That should be the first desire of every disciple of Thomas Jefferson.
I will try to have a book review of this remarkable volume when I have finished it.