Another and no less menacing danger lies in the occasional non sequiturs besetting well-meaning nations. There are only too many Americans who cannot clearly distinguish between the role of the Preamble of the Declaration of Independence and that of the Constitution. The former contains philosophical statements, and these are either universally true or not true at all. The latter is a political blueprint tailored to the measure of the United States, which has also “grown into” these clothes. It is true that the drafters of the Constitution had the aims of the Preamble in mind; but the Constitution always remains a means to a specific end, and in different times, in different countries, other means for the preservation of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” may be more reasonable and effective. The catastrophic history of democracy in republican Europe and republican South America should be a terrible lesson to all pan-democrats —not only because it meant bitter suffering for the millions directly involved, but also because these truly “awful” mistakes are literally “brought home” to Americans by the recurrent necessity of sending millions of their sons and fathers to the sausage grinders of the Old World. Here the grim lament of St. Augustine could be repeated: Acceperunt mercedem suam vani vanam. The exhortation of the great Swiss conservative thinker, A. P. von Segesser, not to reduce the guarantees of liberty to a single, invariable pattern, had clearly not been heard.
On the other hand, we do not want to create the impression that we believe America faces these problems merely in the channels and the media of foreign policy. The frightening victories of technology render the issue of amateurism versus expert knowledge as serious in America as in the Old World. The time is not far off when it will no longer be possible to skirt this problem by a shallow optimism, or by the empirically untenable assertion that to deny the average man’s perspicacity in political matters is “sheer Manichæism.” (This sort of frivolous credulity we find even in the Catholic camp.)
Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Liberty or Equality: The Challenge of Our Time (1940)