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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 49

The Rights of the State

The Rights of the State.

Besides the child and the parent, the State has rights and duties of its own absolutely independent of the page 96 Church. It does not ask any permission of the Church to exist or ensure the conditions of its own existence. Rightly considered, the State is nothing but human society, acting collectively to preserve the equality of rights among all the individuals that compose it, and to guarantee to each individual the maximum of individual liberty which is compatible with this equality of rights. If all individuals knew and respected the rights of others, there would be no need of the State as an organized power; and the power of the State will fall into disuse precisely in the proportion that all individuals do actually learn to know and respect the rights of others. The organized power of the State, however, must continue to be exercised until that day; and it does not exist by the sufferance of, or in subordination to, the organization known as the Church.

1.The first great right of the State, then, is to exist, and to perpetuate its own existence. Whatever conditions are indispensable to its existence, it has an absolute right to require. It is based wholly on the social theory that the individual, not the family, is the social unit. On this theory its right to exist as an organization rests on the prior rights of the individuals that compose it; and its whole function is to maintain, protect and enlarge, as much as possible, these antecedent individual rights.
2.The second great right of the State is to establish universal suffrage, as the necessary condition of its own existence as a society in which the rights of all individuals shall be equally respected.
3.The third great right of the State is to establish universal intelligence and social morality, as the necessary condition of universal suffrage.
4.The fourth great right of the State is to establish universal education, as the necessary condition of universal intelligence and social morality.page 97
5.The fifth great right of the State is to establish a universal system of public schools, as the necessary condition of universal education.
6.The sixth great right of the State is to establish universal use of the means of education by the instruction of all children either at the public schools, or at private schools, or at home, as the parents may elect; and, further, to establish public examinations of all children at proper times and places. If the children pass these examinations successfully, the State will be satisfied, no matter how or when or where they acquired the requisite knowledge; but, in the case of children who fail to pass the examinations, it will properly require them to attend such schools as shall furnish it.

All these six rights are involved in the right of the State to exist as a society of individuals whose equal rights are universally known and respected. A knowledge of these rights and the corresponding duties constitutes that social morality which should be taught in the public schools; and it can be taught easily from textbooks which shall not infringe in the least on the religious beliefs of anybody. All religions profess to teach it; it can be taught, and should be taught, as a simple matter of positive knowledge, without stepping outside of the circle of the common relations of human life.