Does the End Justify the Means?

Contributed by Doug Ferguson

A photo of Saul Alinsky

There is a fundamental philosophy underlying much of what goes on in the world today. It doesn't matter if it deals with climate change, national or international political power, inner city violence, poverty, the environment, or any other issue endlessly dramatized by our mainstream media, politicians and many of the so called "experts" in our midst. It accounts for the humorlessness, confusion, rancor, hatred, and in many cases, the episodes of outright anarchy we see in our country and the world.

It is a wholesale endorsement of this idea: If you believe your cause is good, noble or profitable, or you just want raw power, then the end justifies the means. If the means is exaggerating, falsifying or even damaging the opposition's reputation by doing these things for your cause, then it is justified. Limiting your opponent’s freedom to speak in whatever means possible is justified. Even physical violence can be justified for your cause.

This philosophy was codified by Saul Alinsky in his "Rules for Radicals", published in 1971, summarizing methods he had used over his long career in Chicago as the original "community organizer", where he founded the Industrial Areas Foundation to train future followers of his methods. In his book, he devoted a whole chapter to justify his tactics as "---anything is fair in war". Using his complicated explanation of "just causes" and "greater good", today’s proponents view most of their issues as "justifiable wars".

The fundamental concept is by no means a new one. Ideas of Machiavelli and many other schemers in history come to mind. However, Alinsky's methods took old ideas and adapted them to modern conditions in the USA and have been endorsed by many powerful people. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as young politicians both endorsed his methods if not his goals. Obama's original move from New York to Chicago as a young man was to join Alinsky's foundation and become a "community organizer".

The problem is once you adopt this philosophy, you eventually change the noble "ends" you wanted to achieve. This happens through the principle of unintended consequences and ignoring real and potentially solvable social, economic and environmental problems through civil means. You also create new problems that were not anticipated. Wars, no matter how justified they may be, always have had negative and unseen destructive consequences. Wars also create problems even after they have been won. History abounds with examples.

That is why stable societies have elections, civil laws and representative governments to resolve issues and problems. Either that, or they must resort to some form of enforceable dictatorship. A safe society that provides for its members’ basic stability needs cannot have anarchy. Wars create anarchy during their duration and, in most cases, long after they are over.

As more and more organizations and movements endorse these "Rules for Radicals" methods we will see more and more anarchy in our country and throughout the world. Unless the trend to devalue civility, honesty and truth is reversed in our country, it inevitably will lead to more violence and either to a police state or civil war.

We can hope and pray for the best, but first we must see the problem for what it is.