A complex of ideas such as that of the threefold social order is often accused of having no “practical recommendations” on this or that specific issue. “Now there is the collapse of the currency! What does the proponent of the threefold order suggest as a remedy?” The only reply he can give is, “The whole recent course of world economy has been one that meant competition between the different nations, and thus it led to the depreciation of money in one particular case. Improvement can begin only when, instead of instituting specific measures with a view to remedying this or that, the whole course of economic life is transformed by means of the threefold system. Specific measures may of course improve particular aspects for a while; but so long as the character of economic methods remains essentially the same, isolated ‘improvements’ can do no good. In fact, an ‘improvement’ in one quarter is bound to make matters worse in another.”
The only really practical means to rebuild what has been destroyed is the threefold social order itself. For example, if people would make comprehensive changes consistent with the threefold order within a part of the economy suffering under depreciation, the actual course of events would remedy the evil. Only someone who is for one reason or another afraid of practical work in the sense of the threefold social order could ask the question mentioned above. Such a person wants the proponents of the threefold idea to tell him how to cure particular symptoms without applying the three-fold cure to the disease itself.
In this point lies the variance between the representatives of the threefold idea and all those who fancy it possible to retain the old form of social life with its unified state, and to succeed in building up a new structure within it. The whole idea of the threefold social organism rests on a perception that the old social orientation of the unified state is what has brought the world into its present catastrophic situation; and that one must therefore decide to rebuild from the ground up in keeping with the threefold idea.
Until the courage for such a thoroughgoing measure is aroused in a sufficiently large number of people, our diseased social life will never be restored to health. Without this thoroughgoing change, the only thing that can possibly take place is a hoarding of economic and political power by the victorious nations and the oppression of the vanquished. The victors can, for a while, continue with the old system; the evils that result from it at home can be balanced through their domination of the vanquished. However, the vanquished are at this very moment in a plight that necessitates the instant, thoroughgoing action proposed here. It would, of course, be better if the victors, too, acquired insight. The conditions they are bringing about at home must, as time goes on, lead to a recognition of the intolerable situation in the vanquished country — and thus to new catastrophes. The vanquished, however, cannot afford to wait, for each delay makes their life situation more and more impossible.
The threefold idea is certainly one that runs counter to the habits of thought and feeling of those who favor a unified national state. To admit to themselves candidly that the evils they now see around them are the result of this idea is, for many today, like being asked to stand with no ground beneath their feet. The ground these people want to stand on is the unified state. They want to take it as given, and build upon it institutions they hope will lead to an improved state of affairs. However, what is necessary is to create new ground; for this, the courage is lacking.
The main thing that is necessary in order for the three-fold idea to take effect is to see that as many people as possible realize nothing but a radical change can do any good. Far too many people have already allowed the narrowest range of life to shape their judgment in public affairs. This is especially true of the very people who are active in the large industrial concerns. They credit themselves with an all-embracing faculty of judgment in large affairs; actually, they are capable only of what their own narrow range of life has taught them.
What must be done is to promote a clear understanding (of which there is so little today) of the circumstances of public life. The more people there are who know how the forces of public life have operated until now, and how they have inevitably led to the present catastrophe, the fewer will be the obstacles to the threefold social order. Everything that can help to spread such clear perceptions prepares the soil on which the threefold idea can take practical effect.
Accordingly, one must not expect much to come of discussions with members of one or another party; for in the end, as long as they choose to remain within their party, they will still tend to interpret every thought put forward by supporters of the threefold idea according to the party's convenience. Once one has recognized the value of this impulse, one should make it understood far and wide. One can do nothing with people who do not want the threefold social organism, but only with those who are filled with the idea. Only with these people is it possible to discuss the details of public affairs. One really ought to see that one simply cannot speak with Mr. Erzberger about public affairs as long as Mr. Erzberger is Mr. Erzberger!
I write this because I see that, in this respect, not all those who have embarked upon the threefold idea are sailing on the right tack. The threefold social order is an idea one must serve unreservedly if one wants to serve it at all. It affords a basis for mutual discussions with each and every one; but the idea must lose nothing of its radicality in discussion. People will take this course of action once they perceive the real causes of the downfall. Such a perception will give the needed courage for thoroughgoing measures. For the prevailing helplessness is, after all, simply the consequence of a lack of insight.