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The End of the Means
Or What’s Good About the Draft

In 1929 Dewey came out with a two volume collection of his magazine articles called Characters and Events, anthologized by J. Ratner.  It’s divided into sections with a brief remark by Dewey preceding each.  Before one section we read:

“To be interested in ends and to have contempt for the means which alone secure them is the last stage of intellectual demoralization.

“Not all who say Ideals, Ideals, shall enter the kingdom of the ideal, but only those shall enter who know and who respect the roads that conduct to the kingdom.

“John Dewey” (Vol. 2 page 549.)

I don’t know whether Ratner is quoting Dewey or Dewey wrote these introductions for the book, but the sentiment above is appropriate, as we shall see.

In this section’s first essay, “The Social Possibilities of War”  originally published in 1918 near the end of WW I  Dewey tells his readers what’s good about the war and what’s in store for them after it’s over.  (He had promoted the U.S. entering this European war before 1917, by the way.)

“[Already as a result of the war:]  Legal possession and individual property rights have had to give way before social requirements.  The old conception of the absoluteness of private property has received the world over a blow from which it will never wholly recover.

“Not that arbitrary confiscation will be resorted to, but that it has been made clear that the control of any individual or group over their “own” property is relative to public wants, and that public requirements may at any time be given precedence by public machinery devised for that purpose.  Profiteering has not been stamped out; doubtless in some lines of war necessities it has been augmented.  But the sentiment aroused against profiteering will last beyond the war, while even more important is the fact that the public has learned to recognize profiteering in many activities which it formerly accepted on their own claims as a matter of course.”

Dewey defines profiteering as “manipulating property rights to take a private profit out of social needs” and democracy as socialism, and then praises various government regulations of business initiated during the war.  He continues:

“To dispose of such matters by labeling them state socialism is merely to conceal their deeper import:  the creation of instrumentalities for enforcing the public interest in all the agencies of modern production and exchange.  Again, the war has added to the old lesson of public sanitary regulation the new lesson of social regulation for purposes of moral prophylaxis.  The acceleration of the movement to control the liquor traffic [i.e. what came to be Prohibition] is another aspect of the same fact.  Finally, conscription [i.e. the draft] has brought home to the countries which have in the past been the home of the individualistic tradition the supremacy of public need over private possession.”  (Pages 555-556. Originally published in The Independent, June 22, 1918 under the title “What Are We Fighting For?”)

Thus your life belongs to “society”  the government  it is not your own.  When you read Dewey’s educational writings, keep in mind that when he talks about servants of society, he means it.

“... to suppose ... that a good citizen is anything more than a thoroughly efficient and serviceable member of society, one with all his powers of body and mind under control, is a cramped superstition which it is hoped may soon disappear from educational discussion.” (“Ethical Principles Underlying Education” 1897, Early Works, vol. 5 page 59.)

Dewey’s chatter about ends and means is the pragmatic version of “by any means necessary.”  When you or yours get in the way of Dewey’s ends, you will be a victim of his means.  The end is collectivism, the means:  whatever he cares to experiment with.

There is no connection between Dewey’s mushy idea of ends and means, which justifies anything, and Alexander’s precise conception, which is delimited to use.

(Admittedly Alexander himself goes off the deep end occasionally, himself alexanderizing sometimes.  But when he does, his conclusion is either true for legitimate reasons, or merely silly  never ill-willed.)

For Alexandrians, Dewey is bad PR.

For Deweyans, Alexander is stolen goods.