The long-term disadvantage of an appeal to conscience shouldbe enough to condemn it; but it has serious short-termdisadvantages as well. If we ask a man who is exploiting acommons to desist "in the name of conscience," what arewe saying to him? What does he hear? -- not only at the momentbut also in the wee small hours of the night when, half asleep,he remembers not merely the words we used but also the nonverbalcommunication cues we gave him unawares? Sooner or later,consciously or subconsciously, he senses that he has received twocommunications, and that they are contradictory: 1. (intendedcommunication) "If you don't do as we ask, we will openlycondemn you for not acting like a responsible citizen"; 2.(the unintended communication) "If you behave aswe ask, we will secretly condemn you for a simpleton who can beshamed into standing aside while the rest of us exploit thecommons."
It is easy to show that the class is not a null class. Recallthe game of tick-tack-toe. Consider the problem, "How can Iwin the game of tick-tack-toe?" It is well known that Icannot, if I assume (in keeping with the conventions of gametheory) that my opponent understands the game perfectly. Putanother way, there is no "technical solution" to theproblem. I can win only by giving a radical meaning to the word"win." I can hit my opponent over the head; or I canfalsify the records. Every way in which I "win"involves, in some sense, an abandonment of the game, as weintuitively understand it. (I can also, of course, openly abandonthe game -- refuse to play it. This is what most adults do.)
"Indeed, the process has been so widely commented uponthat one writer postulated a common life cycle for all of theattempts to develop regulatory policies. The life cycle islaunched by an outcry so widespread and demanding that itgenerates enough political force to bring about establishment ofa regulatory agency to insure the equitable, just, and rationaldistribution of the advantages among all holders of interest inthe commons. This phase is followed by the symbolic reassuranceof the offended as the agency goes into operation, developing aperiod of political quiescence among the great majority of thosewho hold a general but unorganized interest in the commons. Oncethis political quiescence has developed, the highly organized andspecifically interested groups who wish to make incursions intothe commons bring sufficient pressure to bear through otherpolitical processes to convert the agency to the protection andfurthering of their interests. In the last phase even staffing ofthe regulating agency is accomplished by drawing the agencyadministrators from the ranks of the regulated." [p.p.60-61]
We can see then that although from one point of view the personalphilistinism of Hitler and Stalin is not accidental to the rolesthey play, from another point of view it is only an incidentallycontributory factor in determining the cultural policies of theirrespective regimes. Their personal philistinism simply adds brutalityand double-darkness to policies they would be forced to supportanyhow by the pressure of all their other policies -- even werethey, personally, devotees of avant-garde culture. What the acceptanceof the isolation of the Russian Revolution forces Stalin to do,Hitler is compelled to do by his acceptance of the contradictionsof capitalism and his efforts to freeze them. As for Mussolini-- his case is a perfect example of the of a realist in these matters. For years he bent a benevolenteye on the Futurists and built modernistic railroad stations andgovernment-owned apartment houses. One can still see in the suburbsof Rome more modernistic apartments than almost anywhere elsein the world. Perhaps Fascism wanted to show its up-to-dateness,to conceal the fact that it was a retrogression; perhaps it wantedto conform to the tastes of the wealthy elite it served. At anyrate Mussolini seems to have realized lately that it would bemore useful to him to please the cultural tastes of the Italianmasses than those of their masters. The masses must be providedwith objects of admiration and wonder; the latter can dispensewith them. And so we find Mussolini announcing a "new Imperialstyle." Marinetti, Chirico, ., are sent intothe outer darkness, and the new railroad station in Rome willnot be modernistic. That Mussolini was late in coming to thisonly illustrates again the relative hesitance with which ItalianFascism has drawn the necessary implications of its role.
In the Middle Ages the plastic artist paid lip service at leastto the lowest common denominators of experience. This even remainedtrue to some extent until the seventeenth century. There was availablefor imitation a universally valid conceptual reality, whose orderthe artist could not tamper with. The subject matter of art wasprescribed by those who commissioned works of art, which werenot created, as in bourgeois society, on speculation. Preciselybecause his content was determined in advance, the artist wasfree to concentrate on his medium. He needed not to be philosopher,or visionary, but simply artificer. As long as there was generalagreement as to what were the worthiest subjects for art, theartist was relieved of the necessity to be original and inventivein his "matter" and could devote all his energy to formalproblems. For him the medium became, privately, professionally,the content of his art, even as his medium is today the publiccontent of the abstract painter's art -- with that difference,however, that the medieval artist had to suppress his professionalpreoccupation in public -- had always to suppress and subordinatethe personal and professional in the finished, official work ofart. If, as an ordinary member of the Christian community, hefelt some personal emotion about his subject matter, this onlycontributed to the enrichment of the work's public meaning. Onlywith the Renaissance do the inflections of the personal becomelegitimate, still to be kept, however, within the limits of thesimply and universally recognizable. And only with Rembrandt do"lonely" artists begin to appear, lonely in their art.
Every man then is caught in what Bateson has called a"double bind." Bateson and his co-workers have made aplausible case for viewing the double bind as an importantcausative factor in the genesis of schizophrenia. The double bind may not always be so damaging, but it alwaysendangers the mental health of anyone to whom it is applied."A bad conscience," said Nietzsche, "is a kind ofillness."
Since proof is difficult, we may even concede that the resultsof anxiety may sometimes, from certain points of view, bedesirable. The larger question we should ask is whether, as amatter of policy, we should ever encourage the use of a techniquethe tendency (if not the intention) of which is psychologicallypathogenic. We hear much talk these days of responsibleparenthood; the coupled words are incorporated into the titles ofsome organizations devoted to birth control. Some people haveproposed massive propaganda campaigns to instill responsibilityinto the nation's (or the world's) breeders. But what is themeaning of the word conscience? When we use the wordresponsibility in the absence of substantial sanctions are we nottrying to browbeat a free man in a commons into acting againsthis own interest? Responsibility is a verbal counterfeit for asubstantial quid pro quo. It is an attempt to get something fornothing.