One improvement I have learned from my childhood experience with my father: I do not threaten punishment in the morning. That was awful. Late into the night I would lie awake tossing and wondering what he was going to do to me. Usually he did nothing. A quiet, impressive 'talking to' was all I got.
In all cities, the better classes - the business men - are the sources of corruption, but they are so rarely pursued and caught that we do not fully realize whence the trouble comes.
The longer I live, the more I feel that the individual is not so much to blame - not even the worst individuals, not even the 'best' citizens - as the system of corruption which has grown up about us, and which rewards an honest man with a mere living and a crook with all the magnificence of our magnificent modern life.
If our political leaders are to be always a lot of political merchants, they will supply any demand we may create. All we have to do is to establish a steady demand for good government.
If we would vote in mass on the more promising ticket, or, if the two are equally bad, would throw out the party that is in, and wait till the next election and then throw out the other party that is in - then, I say, the commercial politician would feel a demand for good government and he would supply it.
Whenever anything extraordinary is done in American municipal politics, whether for good or for evil, you can trace it almost invariably to one man. The people do not do it. Neither do the 'gangs,' 'combines,' or political parties.
The commercial spirit is the spirit of profit, not patriotism; of credit, not honor; of individual gain, not national prosperity; of trade and dickering, not principle.
My father made with me one serious mistake which I see parents about me making. He got himself somehow into the awkward position of an authority; I thought he knew and was right on everything - for a while.
The typical American citizen is the business man. The typical business man is a bad citizen; he is busy. If he is a 'big business man' and very busy, he does not neglect; he is busy with politics, oh, very busy and very businesslike.
My mother would thump me sharply on the head with a thimble or a spoon if I became too noisy with the whistle when I was playing I was a steamboat captain. She had no sense of the dignity of command.
Most men think graft a sporadic evil, breaking out here and there, with no connection between outbreaks. I shared the same opinion, but very soon I discovered that the graft in the cities always leads to the graft in the State.
The Soviet government sprouted and grew out of the habits, the psychology, and the condition of the Russian people. It fitted them. They understand it.
If we would leave parties to the politicians, and would vote not for the party, not even for men, but for the city, and the State, and the nation, we should rule parties, and cities, and States, and nation.
My father would invite me sweetly to come and sit on a stool at his feet, and, as I let myself trustingly down, he would gently kick the seat from under me - and laugh.