There is nothing so naive as cynicism. A cynic is one who believes that men are
innately depraved, that irrationality and cowardice are their basic
characteristics, that fear is the most potent of human incentives—and,
therefore, that the most practical method of dealing with men is to count on
their stupidity, appeal to their knavery, and keep them in constant terror.
In private life, this belief creates a criminal; in politics, it creates a
statist. But, contrary to the cynic’s belief, crime and statism do not pay.
A criminal might thrive on human vices, but is reduced to impotence when he
comes up against the fact that “you can’t cheat an honest man.” A statist might
ride to power by dispensing promises, threats and handouts to the seekers of
the unearned—but he finds himself impotent in a national emergency, because
the language, methods and policies which were successful with parasites, do not
work when the country needs producers.
When one discards ideals, the fact that a given policy (such as government
controls) is evil, does not constitute a reason for rejecting it. On the
contrary, such an estimate serves as an incentive to adopt and expand that
policy: to a cynic’s mind, that which is evil, is potent and practical.