Seedbed of Socialism — Ambitious Agitators, Malcontents, and Idlers — J. Reuben Clark Jr.

Prophet Statesmen, J. Reuben Clark Jr.

There are among us ambitious agitators and malcontents, those unwilling, and it may be unable, to meet the press and rivalry—most dear to freemen—of free competition among a free people. Nurtured frequently under systems of government and society alien to our own, they come to us and would prescribe for our ills the potions that might have cured the disease preying upon the social and governmental system from which they came, but which are poison to the body politic of this nation. While those of these malcontents who are alien number but few from the many millions of fine, courageous citizens who have come to us from alien lands, yet these few are strong in their union of thirst for power and plunder.

The ranks of these are swelled by those of our own with disappointed hopes, by our idlers, by those of us who wish to reap where we did not sow, by those unfortunate persons whose plans for wealth, sometimes merely for sustenance, went awry, and by those few amongst us with unholy ambitions who would be willing to bring to us even chaos itself so they might themselves get unrighteous power …

To this point of time there are certain great and obvious defects in the designs of some of these would-be reformers who seek to thrust us headlong into this whirlpool of European isms and autocracies. One defect that I will mention in the thinking of the group is this: They plot somehow first to parcel out the wealth produced by our present economic system and then they intend to scourge and destroy that system; yet they visualize a world following after this parcelling out, that shall still have and enjoy all the wealth created by this system which they intend to destroy, notwithstanding that, so far as human experience goes, it is only such a system that can produce the wealth and ease they crave. Perhaps it is enough to repeat two homely sayings that come to mind: “Do not kill the goose that lays the golden eggs,” and “You cannot eat your cake and have it.” …

A serious defect in the schemes of this group is the failure of these so-called reformers to appreciate how much of what they clamor about we already have, and their ignorance that what we do not have and that would be good for a free people to have, might come in due and constitutional form. They show no adequate understanding either of the spirit or of the letter of our Constitution form of government. They give no sign of having ever carefully weighed and planned how needed reforms might come to us by constitutional methods. They show no disposition to work under the Constitution and within our traditions and ideals. They evidence no ability to think in terms of law; they think rather in terms of the sword. Force, not a reasoned, consenting will, is their thesis. That their own views are the ultimate good, that they only are wise, that mankind itself has no aggregate wisdom, that men must be driven to the final goal, that the people cannot be trusted and have not the wisdom to govern themselves—these seem the guiding fallacies of this group’s new reform. God himself does not coerce the will of man; why should puny fellow man think he may do what God does not?

Excerpts from a talk given by J. Reuben Clark Jr. on February 22, 1935. J. Reuben Clark Jr. (1871–1961), served as a mem­ber of the First Pres­i­dency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1931–1961. Prior to his full-time church ser­vice he was assis­tant solic­i­tor to the State Depart­ment, worked in the Attor­ney General’s office, Under Sec­re­tary of State, the author of the clas­sic study, the “Clark Mem­o­ran­dum on the Mon­roe Doc­trine” and U.S. ambas­sador to Mex­ico. Among those who knew his work best, J. Reuben Clark was rec­og­nized as the fore­most con­sti­tu­tional scholar of the 20th Century.