LIFE AND LIBERTY: A Return to First Principles by Frederick Martin Stem

LIFE AND LIBERTY: A Return to First Principles

Email this review


First principles, according to the German-born author of Capitalism in America (1951) and The Citizen Army (1957), must be ""biosocial""--based on the life processes themselves. It sounds vague, and is. Starting from the muzzy, misleading idea that living organisms overcome entropy, Stem proclaims that fluidity, spontaneous diversity, and cooperation are the life-and-liberty-giving basis of society at its noblest. The result is liberalism (a creed which really doesn't have to be this softheaded) at its most Pollyanna-ish. Stern fearlessly declares against unchecked military spending and the privileged role of big business in government. On the other hand, he has nary a qualm about industrial expansion and ever-increasing consumer capacity as crowning national glories: they represent the life processes of growth and productivity. The names of Darwin, Marx, and de Tocqueville are repeatedly invoked with a minimum of justification. A happy balance of equality and liberty is offered as the solution to all sociopolitical ills; education should liberate rather than repress the young; consumer advocates are keeping alight the torch of humanism. Stern rises above cliche only in regard to one specific: the plethora of Federal regulatory agencies which combine administrative and bastardized judicial functions. Even here he hasn't much to say (he wants the two functions separated to mitigate present conflicts of interest), but at least he's talking about a real issue, not about apple pie and motherhood.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1975
Publisher: T. Y. Crowell