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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 2, No. 17. August 9, 1939

Limits to the Authority of Society Over the Individual

Limits to the Authority of Society Over the Individual

period of childhood and nonage in which to try whether it could make them capabale of rational conduct in life. The existing generation is master both of the training and the entire circumstances of the generation to come: it cannot indeed make the periodicly wise and good, because it is itself so lamentably deficient in goodness and wisdom: and in best efforts not always in individual cases, its most successful ones; but it is perfectly well able to make the rising generation, as a whole, as good as, and a little better than, itself. If society lets any considerable number of its members grow up mere children incapable of being acted on by rational consideration of distant motives, society has itself to blame for the consequences. Armed not only with all the powers of education, but with the ascendancy which the authority of a received opinion always exercises over the minds who are least [unclear: suited] to judge for themselves, and aided by the natural penalties which cannot be prevented from falling on those who incur the distaste of the contempt of those who know them; let not society pretend that it needs, beside all this, the power to issue commands and enforce obedience in the personal concerns of individuals, in which, on all principles of justice and policy, the decision ought to rest with those who are to abide the consequences. Nor is there anything which tends more to discredit and frustrate the better means of influencing conduct, than a report to the worse. If there be among those whom it is attempted to coerce into prudence or temperance, any of the material of which vigorous and independent characters are made, they will infallibly rebel against the yoke. No such person will ever feed the others have a right to control him in his concerns, such as they have to prevent him from injuring them in theirs and it easily comes to be considered a mark of spirit and courage to fly in the face of such usurped authority, and do with ostentation the exact opposite of what it enjoins; as in the fashion of grossness which succeeded, in the time of Charles II, to the fanatastical moral intolerance of the puritans. With respect to what is said of the neccessirt of protecting society from the bad example set to others by the vicious or self-indulgent; it is true that bad example of doing wrong to others with impunity to the wrong-does. But we are now speaking of conduct which, while it does no wrong to others [gap — reason: illegible] to the great harm to the age [gap — reason: illegible] do not see how those who [gap — reason: illegible] otherwise than that the [gap — reason: illegible] must be more salutary [gap — reason: illegible] displays the misconduct [gap — reason: illegible] painful or degrading [gap — reason: illegible] conduct is justly [gap — reason: illegible] to be in all or most cases. [gap — reason: illegible]

Man sitting at desk with hands on chin