Read GOOD NEWS AND HARD WORK - NEWS AND GOVERNMENT - CHAPTER IV of Crowds A Moving-Picture of Democracy, free online book, by Gerald Stanley Lee, on


It was not merely because the seventh commandment was negative, but because it was abstract that David found it so hard to keep.  If the seventh commandment (like Uriah’s wife) could have had deep blue eyes or could have been beautiful to look upon, and, on a particular day in a particular place, could have been bathing in a garden, David would have found keeping it a very different matter.  The tendency to make a statue of purity as a lovely female figure carries us a little further in moral evolution, than the moral statement that Moses had managed to get, and it was further toward the concrete, but it was not far enough for a real artist or man who does things.

One of the things about the real artist that makes him an artist, is that he is always and always has been and always will be profoundly dissatisfied with a statue of a female figure as an emblem of purity.  He challenges the world, he challenges God, he challenges himself, he challenges the men and women about him when he is being put off with a Statue as an emblem of purity.  He demands, searches out, interprets, creates something concrete and living to express his idea of purity.

How can President Wilson, in getting the Trusts not to be corrupt, in trying to win them-how can President Wilson make the law alluring?  How can he make the People have a Low Voice?

A great deal if not nearly everything depends in tempting business men to be good, upon the tone in which they are addressed.  Every government, like every man, soon comes to have its own characteristic tone in addressing the people.  And, as a matter of fact, it is almost always the tone in a government, like the voice in a man, which tells us the most definitely what it is like, and is the most intimate and effective expression of what it wants and is the most practical way of getting what it wants.  Everybody has noticed that a man’s voice works harder for him, works more to the point for him in getting what he wants than his words do.  It is his voice that makes people know him, that makes them know he means what he says.  It is his voice that tells them whether he is in the habit of meaning what he says, and it is his voice that tells them whether he is in habit of getting what he wants, and of knowing what to do with what he wants when he gets it.

A government does not need to say very much if it has the right tone.

The tone of a government is the government.

If President Wilson is going to succeed in tempting business men to be good, he is going to do it, some of us think, by depending on three principles.

These three principles, like all live, active principles, may be stated as three principles or as three personal traits.

First, by being affirmative. (Isaiah, in distinction from Moses.)

Second, by being concrete. (Bathsheba.)

Third, by being specific, by seeing the universal in the particular. 
(Like any artist or man who does things.)

The value of being affirmative and the value of being concrete have already been touched upon.  There remains the value of being specific.

Possibly, in this present happy hour, when our country has grown suddenly sensible and has become practical enough to pick out at last, once more, a President with a real serious working sense of humour, even a sense of humour about himself, it may not be considered disrespectful if I continue a little longer dropping in on the Government, and saying what I have to say in a few plain and homely words.

The trouble with most people in being economical with their money is, that when they spend it, they spend it on something in particular, and when they save it, they try to save it in a kind of general way.  The same principle applies to doing right.  It is because when people do right, they do it in a kind of general pleasant, abstract way, and when they do wrong they always do something in particular, that they are so Wicked.

A man will do almost anything to save his life at a particular place and at a particular time, say at ten o’clock to-morrow morning, if he is drowning, but if he has a year to save it in, a year of controlling his appetites, of daily, detailed mastering of his spirit, of not taking a piece of mince pie, of stopping his work in time and of going to bed early, he will die.

It is easier when one is going under water for the third time and sees a rope, to stretch just one inch more and grasp the rope, reach up to forty more years of one’s life, all concentrated for one on the tip of a rope, than it is to spread out saving one’s life over a whole year, 365 breakfasts, 365 luncheons, 365 dinners, 33,365 moments of anger, of reckless worry, of remorse, of self-pity, 40,000 of despair and round up with a swing at the end of one’s year at the tiptop of one’s being, as if it had only taken five minutes.  And yet it is only an act of the creative imagination of seeing the whole, of having a happy, daily, detailed spectacle of the end in view, that is, of the part in its setting of the whole-going without a piece of mince pie.  If one could only make one’s self see the piece of mince pie as it is, it would not be difficult.  If one could see it on the plate there and see the not taking it as a little wedge-shaped rivet, a little triangular link of coupling in the chain that keeps one holding on forty years longer to this planet, a piece of mince pie left on a plate would become a Vision.

This seems to be the principle that works best in getting other people to be good.

Perhaps the President will succeed in getting Trusts to be good, by taking hold of specific Trusts, one by one, and setting them-all mankind looking on-in the nation’s vision, setting them even in their own vision-taking the Trusts that thought they had got what they wanted, making them stand up and look (in some great public lighted place) at what pathetic, tragical failures they are, letting them see that what their Trust had wanted all along, if it had only thought about it, was not success one went to jail for-success by getting the best out of the most people, but success by serving the most people the best.

A great many of us in America have been exercising our minds for a long time now about the eagerness of the Trusts, and the trouble we were going to have in curbing the eagerness of the Trusts.

Sometimes I have wondered if, after all, it was our minds we were exercising, for when one sits down seriously to think of it, it is the eagerness of the Trusts that is the most hopeful thing about them.

What is the matter with our American Trusts, perhaps, is not and never has been, their eagerness, but their eagerness for things that they did not want, and for things that almost everybody is coming to see that they did not want.

The moment that the eagerness of our American Trusts is an eagerness for things that they really want, the Trusts will be seen piling over each other’s heels, asking the government to please investigate them.  The more they can get the people to know about them and about their eagerness, the more the people will trust them and deal with them.

All that we have been waiting for is a government that sees the part from the point of view of the whole, which will take up a few specific Trusts and be specific enough with them to make them think, think hard what they really want, and what their real eagerness is about, and the entire face of modern business will change.  First the expression will change and then the face itself.

The moment it is found that the government is a specific government, all the trusts that know what they really want and know what they really are doing, will want to be investigated, because they will want everybody to know that they know.  In case of the trusts that do not know what they want and that do not know what they are doing, the government will just step in, of course, and investigate them until they find out.

A specific government will not need to be specific many times.

It takes up a particular Trust in its hand, turns it over quietly, empties its contents out before the people and says to everybody, “This particular Trust you see here has tried to be a kind of Trust, which it found out afterward, it did not want to be.  It is the kind of Trust whose officers hide their faces when they think of what it was that they thought that they thought that they wanted....

“These men you see here, forty silent nations looking on, hundreds and thousands of self-respecting, self-supporting, public-serving, creative, successful business men, whom all the world envies looking on, do hereby beg to declare to all business men who know them and to the people, that they did not ever really want these things for themselves that their business says or seems to say they wanted.

“They wish to ask the public to put themselves in their places and to refuse to believe that they deliberately sat down, seriously thought it all out, that they had planned to express to everybody what their natures really were in a blind, brutal, foolish business like this which we have just been showing you.  They beg to have it believed that their business misrepresents them, that it misrepresents what they want, and they ask to be again admitted to the good-will, the hope and forgiveness, the companionship of a great people.

“They declare” (the government will go on) “that they are not the men they seem.  They are merely men in a hurry.  They want it understood that they have merely hurried so fast and hurried so long that they now wake up at last only to see, see with this terrific plainness what it really is that has been happening to them all their lives, viz.:  for forty, fifty, or sixty years they have merely forgot who they were and overlooked what they were like.

“In hurrying, too, it is only fair to say they have had to use machines to hurry with and unconsciously, year by year, associating almost exclusively with machines, their machines (pump handles, trip-hammers, hydraulic drills, steam shovels and cranes and cash registers) have grown into them.

“This is the way it has happened.  ‘Let the nation be merciful to them,’ the government will then say, and dismiss the subject.”

What our President seems to be for in America, is to do up a nation in one specific, particular man who expresses everybody.

This man deals with each other specific man, his aggressions and services, as a nation would if a nation could be one specific man.

The President of the United States is the Comptroller of the people’s vision, by seeing a part and dealing with a part as a part of a whole, he governs the people.

He is the Chancellor of the People’s Attention.

The business of being a President is the business of focusing the vision, of flooding the whole desire or will of a people around a man and letting him have the light of it, to see what he is doing by, and to be seen by, while he is doing it.

The corporations have expressed or focused the employers of labour.  The Labour Unions have focused or expressed the will of the labourers, and the government focuses and expresses the will of the consumers, of the people as a whole, rich and poor, so that Labour and Capital, both listen to It, understand It and act on It.

The way to deal with a specific sin is to flood it around with the general vision.  Then it does not need to be dealt with.  Then strangely, softly, and almost before we know-out there in the Light, it automatically deals with itself.

When the Government takes hold quietly of the National Cash Register Company, turns it up, empties its contents out,-all its methods and its motives-and all the things It thought It wanted, and then proceeds to put its president and twenty-nine of its officers into jail, my readers will perhaps point out to me that this action of the government as a method of tempting people to be good, while it may have the virtue of being concrete and the virtue of being specific, certainly does not have the other virtue that I have laid down, the virtue of being affirmative.  “Certainly” they will say “there is not anything affirmative about putting twenty-nine big business men in jail.”  Many people would call it the most magnificently negative thing a President could have done.  Moses himself would have done it.

It does not seem to me that Moses would have done it, or that it was essentially negative.  It could not unfairly be claimed that in spite of its negative look on the surface, it was the most massive, significant, crushing affirmation that a great people has made for years.

By putting the twenty-nine officers of the National Cash Register Company in jail, the American people affirmed around the world the nation’s championship of the men that had been defeated in the competition with the National Cash Register Company.  They affirmed that these men who were not afraid of the National Cash Register Company because they were bigger, and who stood up to them and fought them, were the kind of men Americans wanted to be like, and that the officers of the National Cash Register Company were the kind of men Americans did not want to be like, would not do business with, would not tolerate, would not envy, would not live on the same continent with, unless they were kept in jail.

The President of the United States, sitting in Washington, at the head of this vast affirmative and assertive continent, indicted the Cash Register Company, that is, by a slight pointed negative action, by pushing back a button he turned on the great chandelier of a nation and flooded a nation with light.  We, the American people, suddenly, all in a flash, looked into each other’s faces and knew what we were like.

We had hoped we believed in human nature, and in brave men and in men against machines but we could not prove it.

Suddenly, we stood in a blaze of truth about ourselves.  Suddenly, we could again look with our old stir of joy at our national Flag.  If we liked, we could swing our hats.

Perhaps I should speak for myself, but I had been trying to get this news for years.  It is news I have wanted to live with and do business with.  I have been trying to get my question answered.  What are the American people really like?

The President points at the National Cash Register Company and I find out.  All the people find out.

In the last analysis, the masterful, shrewd, practical, and constructive part of being a President of the United States-the thing in the business of being a President that keeps the position from being a position which only the second rate or No type of man would have time to take, is the fact that the President is the Head Advertising Manager of the United States, conducting a huge advertising campaign of what Americans really want.

He takes up the National Cash Register Company, picks out its twenty-nine officers, makes it a bill board sky-high across the country.  “Here are the kind of business men that the people of the United States do not want, and here are the kind of men that we do!”

The thing that makes indicting a trust a positive and affirmative act is the advertising in it.

Gladstone once wrote a postcard about a little book of Marie Bashkirtseff’s.

Twenty nations read the little book.

Every now and then one watches a man or sees a truth that would make a nation.  One wishes one had some way of being the sort of person or being in the kind of place where one could make a nation out of it.

One thinks it would be passing wonderful to be President of the United States.  It would be like having a great bell up over the world that one could reach up to and ring!  But it is better than that.  One touches a button at one’s desk if one is President of the United States, a nation looks up.  He whispers to twenty thousand newspapers, “Take your eyes away a minute,” he says, “from Jack Johnson and Miss Elkin’s engagement, and look, oh, look, ye People, here is a man in this world like this!  He has been in the world all this while without our suspecting it.  Did you know there was or could be anywhere a man like THIS?  And here is a man like this!  Which do you prefer?  Which are you really like?”

There is nothing really regal or imperial in a man, nothing that makes a man feel suddenly like a whole Roman Empire all by himself, in 1913, like saying “Look!  Look!”

Sometimes I think about it.  Of course I could take a great reel of paper and sit down with my fountain pen, say Look for a mile, “Look! look! look! look!!!-President Wilson says it once and without exclamation points.  Skyscrapers listen to him!  Great cities rise and lift themselves and smite the world.  And the faint, sleepy little villages stir in their dreams.”

Moses said, “Thou shalt not!” President Wilson says, “Look!”

Perhaps if Moses had had twenty thousand newspapers like twenty thousand field-glasses that he could hand out every morning and lend to people to look through-he would not have had to say, “Thou shalt not.”

The precise measure of the governing power a man can get out of the position of being President of the United States to-day is the amount of advertising for the people, of the people, and by the people he can crowd every morning, every week, into the papers of the country.

A President becomes a great President in proportion as he acts authoritatively, tactfully, economically, and persistently as the Head Advertising Manager of the ideals of the people.  He is the great central, official editor of what the people are trying to find out-of a nation’s news about itself.

By his being the President of what people think, by his dictating the subjects the people shall take up, by his sorting out the men whom the people shall notice, this great ceaseless Meeting of ninety million men we call the United States-comes to order.