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Page 5 of Mountain Life & Work vol. 15 no. 4 January 1940

Part of Mountain Life and Work

Winter, 1940 MOUNTAIN Lur. AND WORK Page S trial centers, all had a more vital relation to rural economic welfare than did crop and livestock improvement. The nation suddenly became conscious that the rural community was no longer a local, largely self-sufficing unit, but that it had relationships which were world-wide in scope. Again, when our government was founded it was made up largely of property holders. Limitations were made on the suffrage to see that property was protected against the encroachments of political power of the propertyless. These limitations were gradually removed. Later large amounts of property became concentrated in the hands of a few. The modern democracy in America has roots. But they are no longer in a relatively equal, small-holding family base; rather they are in a vast mass of voting population made up of the propertyless workers in the cities and the tenants in the country, and a vast amount of wealth controlled by a comparatively few families. These arc the bases of the modern democracy; these will determine state and national policies in the future. It remains to be seen whether the institution of democracy that we have inherited and that we have thought to be so solidly grounded can withstand the pressure of the coming struggle for power. A third trend that must be considered is the tendency of the American people to turn to the federal government for the solution of all problems. Not many years ago organized labor was opposed to government limitations on low wages or long hours of work, except for women and children. Now, organized labor is favorable to national minimum wage and maximum hour limitations. A large part of the American farm population has been opposed to government regulation of prices of farm products. Yet laws have been placed on the statute books of many states and of the national government authorizing the fixing of prices for milk producers. Logically this is the first step toward fixing the prices of other products. This statement of fact is not intended to be a criticism of the policy. It is only intended to call attention to its significance. Similarly, in matters of relief, employment, health, and even the organization of our recreational life, people are looking to the federal government to provide paid leadership, and groups are being organized by the state to serve these interests. Our confidence in the government is almost childlike. Its efficiency has won the support of the people and they turn to it for aid on every occasion. There is the question as to whether social democracy is not waning in America. In the earlier pioneer days, farm help lived in the country home as a part of the family. Do they continue to do so in all parts of the United States? Also, in some sections of the country we hear of rural and village communities divided into three or more classes, each having its own type of church and social connections. A real problem everywhere is the 50 per cent or more of rural population that are not really a vital part of the social activities going on; many of these are of the poorer group. A few people are taking part in everything going on. Then many are not in social life at all. Can democracy in government survive if social democracy disappears? Truly, democracy in America today is at the crossroads. Shall we continue to encourage private individuals and organizations to look after their own welfare, looking to the government only as a servant, and as a proctector and regulator of the conditions under which such private activities function? Or shall we become in fact members of a totalitarian state through which we will carry on our economic and social activities? The reader is left to judge for himself which is the trend in America today and whether it is the right trend. The only contention here made is that whatever policy is adopted should be followed only after the most careful consideration of the implications of the policy, and with as full a knowledge as possible of the steps to be taken. One effective way of securing consideration of important matters is through study groups. So far as group study of civic affairs is concerned, the writer believes that such groups should be fostered largely, if not entirely, by private agencies. The government should, of course, be expected to help in every way possible. It can assist in training leaders. It can, on request, assist in providing study material. But it should not control the selection of topics nor the type of material to be studied. The utmost democracy should be preserved in determining what shall be studied and the material used. In line with this purpose the United States Department of Agriculture is attempting to help

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