The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 81
"Is there a Government in this country?" asked the Irishman in a well-known story, who, being informed that there was, promptly replied, "Then begorra I'm agin it." This attitude of mind is not exclusively Hibernian. Our race is in its blood and bone individualistic. The struggle demanded by a rough environment and early foes endowed the Teuton with unusual energy and independence. This endowment was aided by a process of selection. The wanderings that brought our early ancestors to Western Europe and the British Isles provided that process. These migrations Westward, then as now, were migrations of the strong and intrepid souls The others, as they always do, stayed behind. The Teuton becomes the Anglo-Saxon with a courage, enterprise and self-assertion which have made our nation what she is. For sixty generations or more, experience and struggle bred in our ancestors the fighting instincts, and the spirit so acquired is not easily or soon subdued. It accounts for the emulative individualistic stamp upon most of our customs, laws and institutions. It accounts at least in part for that impatience of State interference which has always been one of our conspicuous national traits. But this impatience is also a legacy of early government. Liberty is loosely defined as that freedom of speech and action permitted by law; but traced to their origin, it will be found that most of the great popular liberties we enjoy have been won for us by the people being very much "agin the Government." Civic freedom, historically considered, has been the result of increasingly effective systematic resistance to monarchical or oligarchical despotism. The price of liberty with us has indeed been eternal vigilance. The injustice and oppression of even a far past accounts for many present popular prejudices. Among animals fear of former enemies long survives the cosmic struggle which engendered it, and even in our Anglo-Saxon nation, where the people and the people alone are the real rulers, there is a racial and traditional disposition to be "agin the Government." It is true one reason for this is that the majority, even in the freest democracies, have not yet learnt to really feel the power of the State as their power, but the disposition of antagonism [unclear: t] which I have referred will. I believe, [unclear: be] lie John Stuart Mill's forecast that [unclear: a] the majority become more and [unclear: mo] conscious of their power, individual [unclear: li] erty will probably be as much [unclear: ex] to invasion from the State as it [unclear: no] is from public opinion. I need [unclear: no] say that those observations have [unclear: n] special local application. They [unclear: app] generally to all modern democracies [unclear: o] our Anglo-Saxon stock.
I have emphasised this preliminar [unclear: a] point because the habitual or [unclear: instin] attitude of a people towards [unclear: go] emmental control is one of the [unclear: most] important facts to be observed in [unclear: an] consideration of the nature and [unclear: fut] development of legal liberty. [unclear: befor] proceeding with this dissertation, [unclear: le] me say that 1 have no hesitation [unclear: i] claiming your attention for an hour [unclear: te] the most important question that [unclear: ca] interest a free people. 1 mean [unclear: th] basis, nature, and probable future [unclear: a] vicissitudes of our liberties. This [unclear: que] underlies and indeed envelopes [unclear: al] political questions; but while it [unclear: doe] so I shall divorce its consideration [unclear: al] completely as possible from all local [unclear: o] party interests, views or propaganda. My data and observations, it will [unclear: b] seen, are almost wholly those [unclear: derive] from the democracies of the [unclear: norther] hemisphere, while my treatment [unclear: o] this great subject will be as far [unclear: a] 1 can make it philosophical. Let [unclear: me] further add that throughout this [unclear: essa] I make no reference to national [unclear: d] fence as a function of the State. [unclear: Th] omission is not due to oversight, [unclear: bu] to the fact that in our nation [unclear: nation] defence does not affect the civic [unclear: free] allowed the subject.
What, then, do we mean by [unclear: leg] liberty y Definitions often only [unclear: obscur] the common import of a word, [unclear: fo] to be told that an archdeacon is [unclear: a] man who discharges archidiaconal [unclear: fun] tions does not shed much light [unclear: a] "Legal liberties" are defined by [unclear: on] of the best works on Jurisprudence [unclear: a] that by Professor Salmond, from [unclear: who] book this and my later definitions [unclear: a] drawn—as those benefits which I [unclear: ceive] from the absence of duties [unclear: in] posed upon myself. They are [unclear: th] various forms assumed by the [unclear: interes] which I have in doing as I [unclear: please] They are the things which 1 may [unclear: d] without being prevented by law, [unclear: whil] page 4 [unclear: y] sphere of legal liberty is that [unclear: shere] of activity within which the [unclear: a] is content to leave me alone.
These definitions, while technically [unclear: ccurate] do not, of course, come as [unclear: a] revelation of new light, but this [unclear: re] to the sphere of legal liberty [unclear: mands] some attention. We are told [unclear: lat] it is "the sphere of activity with-[unclear: a] which the law is content to leave alone." This derives all my rights, [unclear: a] berties and freedom from the law.
[unclear: a] enjoy them on sufferance. 1 am [unclear: ft] alone, not because I have natural [unclear: ad] inviolable right not to be [unclear: inter] with by the State so long as [unclear: a] am not injuring someone else, but [unclear: because,] forsooth, the State "is [unclear: con] to leave me alone." That this [unclear: a] in final analysis the correct and [unclear: ly] view of the relation between the [unclear: late] and the individual even in a [unclear: odern] democracy is beyond question. [unclear: ad] yet how inconsistent with this [unclear: act] is that petulant impatience with [unclear: which] we hear people sometimes [unclear: de] and on the passing of a new law, What right has the State to [unclear: inter] with me?" it indeed cannot be [unclear: enied] that there is a widespread [unclear: un] feeling that we do not live [unclear: ad] move merely by leave of Caesar, [unclear: but] that somehow, or in some way, [unclear: a] State has and can have only a [unclear: rictly] limited power over its people and [unclear: at] the sphere of our liberties is not [unclear: efitned] and circumscribed by the law's [unclear: ermission,] tacit or otherwise, but by [unclear: he] natural, inalienable and [unclear: indestruc] rights we have as civilised human [unclear: ings.] This was what was vaguely [unclear: lt] when a man affected by a recent [unclear: atute] demands with emphatic indig-[unclear: ation]: "What right has the State to [unclear: terfere] with my British liberty in [unclear: his] way?" This feeling is a very [unclear: d] one. It is involved in a problem [unclear: which] has engaged thinking minds [unclear: a] the days of Aristotle, viz.—What [unclear: a] the true relationship between the [unclear: dividual] and the State?
|1.||The individual is conceived as sub-[unclear: dinate] to the State;|
|2.||The great aim of all political [unclear: lought] is the formation of good [unclear: citi]|
|3.||Every social question should be studied primarily from the ethical and educational point of view;|
|4.||Wealth is not to be esteemed for its own sake or for the enjoyment it procures, but for the higher and moral and public claims to which it may be made subservient;|
|5.||The State therefore claims a controlling and regulating authority over every sphere of social life, including the economic, in order to bring individual action into harmony with the good of the whole.|
But between Aristotle's and Austin's day many an attempt was made by different writers to first account for the fact of Government, and next justify or limit its supreme power. A short reference to some of these writers will show how old and deep seated is the feeling that men possess in civilised societies natural and indestructible rights which no law can properly invade. This reference may seem to some unnecessarily academical, but 1 would remind those who are impatient of so-called academical treatment of social questions that it is to just that treatment that the greatest revolutions and social changes have been immediately or ultimately due, and nothing will illustrate this better than the theories of the writers to whom I now proceed to refer. The impetus they gave to democratic development affects us even at the present day. Beyond all doubt, says Professor Ross in his splendid work on Social Control, "the democratic movement in Western Europe arose out of the radical movement of thought in the 18th century, which discredited traditions by compelling them to submit their credentials at the bar of reason and justice." "Without Rousseau." said Napoleon, "there would have been no French Revolution.
To Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau and their theories modern liberty owes more than to the Baltic, Trafalgar or Waterloo. The pen of the philosopher has in the world's history been a more potent instrument of progress than the sword of the soldier, and it is impossible to estimate the influences of, for instance, Rousseau's teaching upon the national destinies of Europe. Hut probably without Hobbes and Locke we should never have had the "Contract Social." All three writers wrestled with the problem have just alluded to. All three try to define the true extent of the power of Government and the sphere of individual liberty. Why should the subject obey, and what are the limits if any, of that obedience? That was the enigma they each sought to solve. Hobbes, the father of English political thought, places the test of liberty in an imaginary contract.page break
He begins with the assumption that before the State was created all men were by nature free and equal. This freedom and equality, however, did not bring the millenium. He thinks or assumes that it produced incessant war between each and all, and that our early ancestors decided upon what might be called a peace at any price policy to escape from this ever-lasting disorder. Hence the whole community entered into a contract, and gave over to a person or a body of persons—a monarch or an oligarchy—all their natural rights for the purpose of establishing a sovereign power that could enforce law and order among them. This supposed contract contained no reservations. The transfer of rights was absolute, and the soverign so created was absolute and irresponsible. Thus the people properly and in the most literal sense became subjects. Liberty is strictly such freedom as this supreme power chooses in its uncontrolled discretion to allow the people. So Hobbes taught in the "Leviathan," published in 1651 and few doctrines have had a profounder influence upon subsequent political thought and action that this. John Locke, coming some decades later, assumes the same imaginary contract as Hobbes, and also a pre-existing state of nature of a more peaceful character, but he inserts an important reservation in the contract. The people do not give up their natural rights absolutely and irrevocably to the monarch or oligarchy as in the former theory. The surrender is conditional upon the good behaviour of the sovereign, and if he is unjust, the people have a right to cancel the contract—in other words, to rebel.
Locke, in his "Essay on Civil Government," which was an elaborate defence of the Revolution of 1688, attempts to set up and define the limits of the State's power and the tests of justification for disobedience. These are mainly the degree of protection given by the State to person, property and freedom of thouht. What Rousseau made of this imaginary state of nature and this social contract every student of the French Revolution knows. He glorifies the state of nature pre-existing before the State arose, and his pre-social man is a happy, contented, healthy fellow; while the contract he enters into to establish a sovereign power is in essence very different indeed from that of either Hobbes or Locke.
Under Rousseau's social compact the people do not surrender their natural rights to a monarch or oligarchy or any other separate controlling body. They surrender their rights to all the people, and not to any other sovereign. "Each of us," he says, [unclear: a] "puts his person and hisfaculties [unclear: in] to a common stock under the [unclear: sover] eign direction of the general will, and [unclear: a] we receive every member as an [unclear: insep] arable part of the whole. But from all control and power of Government [unclear: cer] tain great natural inalienable and [unclear: in] destructible rights of man are [unclear: ex] cepted." Two main objects [unclear: underlie] this theory—the first to place [unclear: sover] power in the people, and the [unclear: peo] ple only; the second to secure to each [unclear: a] individual a wide sphere of liberty which could not be interfered with [unclear: a] by the State. For the most part [unclear: Rous] seau is not a thinker, but a dreamer; [unclear: a] and yet to Rousseau may be traced [unclear: a] many of the most remarkable features [unclear: a] of the American constituion and to Rousseau you must go for the [unclear: origin] of many of the great social doctrines of to-day.
Rouseau published his "Le Contract [unclear: a] Social" in 1762, but it was thirty years before his doctrines left the salon and [unclear: a] the student's closet and wrote themselves on the streets of Paris in the horrors of the Revolution. And "academic" in the worst sense these theories really are. History, or science knows nothing of Hobbes' Locke's or Rousseau's state of nature or of the social contract. They are gratuitous assumptions bearing no kind of correspondence to an historical fact or social evolution. They help us, indeed, no better to arrive at any true on useful basis for State interference and individual liberty than the classic myths of Romulus and Remus. Edmund Burke, a practical politician and to some extent a philosopher, rejects with contempt Rousseau's whole system.
"Thanks," he says, "to our sullen resistance to innovation, thanks to the cold sluggishness of our national character, we have not yet, like the French nation, been subtilised into savagesed, In England we have not yet been come pletely disembowelled of our natural entrails. We have not yet been [unclear: draw] and trussed in order that we may be filled like stuffed birds in a museum with chaff and rags and paltry blureo shreds of paper about the rights [unclear: on] man." We preserve the whole of [unclear: our] feelings still native and entirely unsophisticated by pedantry and infidelity."
I quote these remarkable words because they not only express with Burke's matchless power the artificiality of social construction and the false conception of human natured which pervade Rousseau's doctrines but they also illustrate the attitude of the conservative individualism of England to novel social doctrines That the influence of the "[unclear: Contract] page 6 Social" has greatly affected modern conceptions of liberty there can be no doubt. That it has stimulated the world-wide democratic movement must be at once conceded; that it fostered it fostered and justified that doctrine of natural liberty which lies at base of "Laissez faire" is obvious; but that it has given us any solution of or helpful light upon the problem I am now discussing may, I think be fairly doubted. As Waitz says in his "Pontik," published in 1862, "The State is not something arbitrarily made it does not arise by a contract between men. The State grows like an organism, but not according to the laws nor for the ends of mere natural lile, It has its foundations in the higher moral tendencies of man, and is a sphere for the realisation of moral ideas. It is not a natural but a moral organism." To the view here expressed l shall return later, when 1 shall endeavour to show that it contains the true criteria of State action and individual liberty.
New I return tor a moment to the delinitioa—that the sphere of legal liberty is the sphere of action within which the law is content to leave me alone. This, it will be observed, covers not only political and social action, but economic action. Our history makes so much more of political and social liberties that we are apt to forget the importance of economic fiberties both in themselves and in their influence upon all other kinds of freedom. The changes which have taken place in our modern views of political liberty are mainly due to changes during the last one hundred years in national economic conditions. The future development of British liberty will depend more upon Britian's economic evolution than upon any other changes. Political and religious liberty have during the last eighty years been steadily widening to completeness, but throughout that period there has also been an unmistakable disposition to limit economic freedom. Now, as Cliffe Leslie points out, the whole economy of every nation is the result of a long evolution in which there has been both continuity and change, and of which the economic side is only a particular aspect. The intellectual, moral, legal, political and economic sides of social progress are indissolubly connected. In other words, it may be shown that the expansion in energy and area of popular political and social rights is mainly responsible for the limitation of economic rights, to which I have alluded; and the same action and reaction may be discerned throughout the development of all our liberties.
These facts justify the view that at the present time, and for many years to come, the most important aspect of the relation between the State and the individual is the sphere of liberty the law will allow a man in parsuing his trade or calling, ana in the acquisition and use of his wealth. To forecast the future it is nearly always needful to look at the past, and no one can understand the present transition stage of economic liberty in Western Europe without some knowledge of the teachings of Quesney in France and of Adam Smith in Britain one hundred and fifty years ago. Equally essential is a knowledge of the industrial conditions and restrictions of their day. Their doctrines of the widest natural freedom to every man in his business or calling—of unlimited freedom of trade—of unrestricted competition—have influenced and moulded all our political economy and still largely dominate economic thought and political action. These doctrines led a revolt against the strangling legal interferences which enveloped the trade and industrialism of their day. Labour was hampered with all sorts of antiquated and absurd restrictions, declaring where the workmen should live, what trade they should follow when and where they should sell their goods industries were in a network of regulations. The coach builder in England was forbidden either to make, or to employ a journeyman to make, his coach wheels—he must buy them from a master wheelwright. The bootmaker in parts of France could make—but he must not mend—shoes, in Germany everything was done by rule. Spinning, for instance, came under public inspection and the yarn was collected by officials. The privilege of weaving was confined to the confraternity of the guild. Methods of production were strictly prescribed. Public inspectors exercised control. The right of dealing in cotton goods was confined to the confraternity of the merchant guild. To be a master weaver had almost the significance of a public office the sale was also under street supervision. For a long time a fixed price prevailed, and a maximum sale was officially prescribed for each dealer.
In England commerce was still struggling in the decaying straight jacket of the old mercantile laws. Everywhere throughout the industrial and commercial system were artificial rules, regulations, prohibitions and privileges. Liberty was checked by a thousand ties, production hampered, prices unnaturally raised, and both the and freedom of merchants and of the wealth-making agents of the were repressed or manacled. From this oppression the promised land was page 7 natural liberty, and any doctrine that led that way was hailed as a deliverer. In Adam Smith's day regimentation had by law and by-law probably reached its meridian. Kilty years later, under Hoe trade and laissez faire, the opposite extreme was in full operation. Thus, as so often in the world's history, one extreme led to another, for in social movement, as in the play of all other forces., we can see that rythmic or oscillatory progress which Herbert Spencer traces throughout all nature, organic and inorganic. It is not surprising that amid this cobweb of pernicious artificial restriction the the doctrine of "back to the freedom of Nature"—to Natures own methods—was readily received.
Smith's fundamental doctrine was that the most effectual plan for advancing people to greatness is to maintain that order of things which Nature has pointed out. That is, to allow every man to pursue his own interest, his own way, and bring his industry, capital, or labour into the freest competition with those of his fellow-citizens.
This he calls the natural system of perfect liberty and justice, and in this view we find him on common ground with Rousseau and his school.
Summed up, his belief was that if the State swept away all restrictive measures and permitted the freest play of individual interest, the operation of natural law would produce the greatest good of the whole community.
Nature is one with rapine, a harm
No preacher can heal.
The may fly is torn by the swallow—
The sparrow is speared by the shrike
And the whole little wood where I sit
Is a world of plunder and prey.
No; the cosmic process recognises no rights or liberties. Might through its whole field is right. Force, insensate and unpitying, holds undisputed sway.
I know this aittagonises our yearnings. We would fain believe that love is creation's final law, but candour and observation—the struggle in held and wood and sea and stream—compel us to the conclusion that "Nature, fed in tooth and claw, with ravine shrieks against the creed." But, it may be asked, even if the process be a grim one, does it not produce "the survival of the fittest." No doubt it does; but what is meant by the "fittest"? It is to the ambiguity of this word that Huxley ascribes the fallacy that Nature's methods can help mankind to perfection. "Fittest," he says, has a commotation of "best," and about "best" there hangs a moral flavour But in nature the "fittest" only those most fully adapted to the circumstances of their existence. What is "fittest" depends upon the conditions. If our hemisphere were to cool again "the survival of the fittest" might bring about in the vegetable kingdom a population more and more stunted, and humbler and humbler organisms, until the "fittest" that survived might be nothing but lichens, diatoms, and such microscopic organisms as those which give red snow its colour. While if the hemisphere became hotter our valleys would become uninhabitable by any animated beings save depends those that flourish in a tropical jun-gle. In human societies the law of Nature shows itself in the tendency of the strongest and most assertive to tread down the weaker, and we can measure a nation's advancement by the degree to which its laws limit or repress this tendency. This is put by Huxley in these words: "The influence of the cosmic process—that is, of Nature's laws on the evolution of society is the greater the more elemental y its civilisation. Social progress means a checking of the cosmic process at every step, and the substitution for it of another which may be called the ethical process, the end of which is not the survival of those who may happen to be the fittest in respect of the whole of the conditions which obtain, but of those who are ethically the best." The moral processes by which human improvement can be achieved are antithetic to Nature's process, the characteristic feature of which is the intense and increasing struggle for existence. Nature's method is to force adjustment on pain of extinction with her current conditions. The moral or ethical method is to adjust circumstances and conditions to the needs of the higher type we desire to create. The first step in this direction is the elimination of the cosmic struggle for existence by removing or preventing the conditions which give rise to it and this step requires stringent and numerous restrictions upon the belauded natural individual liberty of the orthodox economists.
"The object of this essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion or control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public, opinion. That principle is that the sole end for which mankind are warranted individually or collectively in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number is self-protection; that the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community against his page 9 will is to prevent harm toothers. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightly be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so—because it will make him happier, or because in the opinions of others to do so would be wise or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil in case he do otherwise to justify that the conduct from which it is desired to deter him must be calculated to produce evil to someone else. The only part of the conduct of anyone for which he is amenable to society is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign."
|(1.)||The sphere of one man's liberty should be limited only by the necessity of preventing harm to others;|
|(2.)||Unless his conduct injures someone else it should be absolutely free;|
|(3.)||No man can be in any way coerced for his own good or improvement;|
|(4.)||The mass of people over 21 are in civilised countries in the maturity of their faculties;|
|(5.)||The doctrine does not apply to children or young persons below the age of 21;|
|(6.)||It does not apply to backward states of society in which the race may be considered in its non-age;|
|(7.)||It applies only to nations which have attained the capacity of being guided to their own improvement by conviction or persuasion, that is, the individuals of which are capable of being improved by free and equal discussion;|
|(8.)||If a people have not attained this capacity, then a ruler full of the spirit of improvement is warranted in the use of any expedients that will attain an end perhaps otherwise unattainable;|
|(9.)||All advanced nations, including our own, have attained this capacity.|
|(1.)||For the good and improvement of the persons coerced;|
|(2.)||For the alteration, establishment and improvement of social institutions customs or conduct;|
|(3.)||For making alterations in the existing forms of Government.|
But to forbid such coercion is simply to forbid progress. "All the great political changes which have been the principal object of European history for the last three centuries have been cases of coercion in the most severe form, although a large proportion of them have been described as struggles for liberty by those who were in fact, the most vigorous wielders of power.
But Mill's whole doctrine, and, indeed, the teaching of the whole of his school of natinal liberty, are based upon a false assumption, and it is this—that in all the countries which we are accustomed to call civilised, the mass of adults have so much selfcontrol, are so well acquainted with their own interests, and are so me disposed to pursue them, that no [unclear: co] pulsion or restraint put upon any [unclear: thing] them by law for the purpose of [unclear: d] moting these interests (including [unclear: the] moral improvement)can really [unclear: D/] mote them. If this assumption [unclear: were] true, Mill's doctrine would be empty truism, but if it is not to it falsifies the entire system. [unclear: Im] ligent and well-directed compulsion admits is proper in the case of [unclear: back] ward races—it is also proper in [unclear: to] case of youths up to the age of Then, it seems, it must [unclear: sudden] cease. As if men and women [unclear: was] not often "but children of a [unclear: la] growth," and some form of [unclear: coere] were not as necessary to their well-[unclear: being] as in the case of schoolboys. Mill's page 10 assumption is that "free and equal discussion" can effect all the improvement of which men and women are capable. They are thus all highly national animals under complete self-control, to whom if by free and equal [unclear: dispartion] a certain course is logically proved to be right it will be promptly followed. But what is wanted for social improvement is not so much precept or reasoning as conduct. Deeds not words. Morals have often been worst when moral teaching was best, as Rome in her heyday showed. It is not to know the right but to do it that human nature finds so difficult. How little of man's misconduct is really due to want of knowledge? how much to wickedness of weakness which coercion alone can check? As Stephen points out: "Of ten thousand people who get drunk is there one who could say with truth that he did so because he had been brought to think after 'free discussion' that it was wise to get drunk? Would not every one of the ten thousand, if he told the real truth, say in one dialect or another: 'I got drunk because I was weak and a fool, and could not resist the immediate temptation'?"
I am not, it must be observed, depreciating or overlooking the great value of moral suasion. I am meeting the contention that under a system of natural liberty suasion along can be relied upon to effect moral improvement. Surely it is clear that the degree of liberty which should be allowed an individual is the effect its exercise has, not on himself alone, but on general well-being, and that the degree of liberty which will really benefit a people depends upon the use the mass or the majority of them make of it. Freedom in the few or the many whose use tends to retard progress—to demoralise or pauperise the individual himself or large sections of the community—is not a blessing but a curse. It matters not whether this freedom is in public or in private life, or in the political, social or economic domain of human action. "Men," Mill's great critic says, "are so constructed that whatever theory as to goodness and badness we choose to adopt, there are and always will be in the world an enormous mass of bad and indifferent people—people who [unclear: defferately] do all sorts of things which the ought not to do, and leave [unclear: undone all] sorts of things which they [unclear: to] do." Estimate the [unclear: proporly men] and women who are [unclear: fish,] sensual, frivolous, wicked, idle, [unclear: absolutely] commonplace and wrapped up in the smallest of petty routines, and consider how far the freest of free discussion is likely to improve them. The only way by which it is practically possible to act upon them at all is by compulsion or restraint. Whether it is worth while to apply to them both or either I do not now enquire. I confine myself to saying that the utmost conceivable liberty which could be bestowed upon them would not in the least degree tend to improve them. It would be as wise to say to the water of a stagnant marsh, "Why in the world do not you run into the sea? You are perfectly free. There is not a single hydraulic work within a mile of you. There are no pumps to suck you up, no defined channel down which you are compelled to run, no harsh banks and mounds toconfine you to any particular course, no dams and no flood-gates; and yet there you lie, putrefying and breeding fever, frogs and gnats, just as if you were a mere slave!" The water might probably answer, if it knew how: "If you want me to turn mills and carry boats, you must dig proper channels and provide proper waterworks for me." In other words, provide the conditions of progress and improvement to which I am compelled to conform. These words, it will be remembered, are from the pen of a strong and striking personality—one of the greatest lawyers and judges of recent times.
Again, Mill's system of liberty may be assailed on another broad ground. Shortly put, his system teaches that men should be allowed both in the domain of law and morals to do as they please so long as they do not injure others. Now, what is meant here by "injury to others?" If it means prejudicial to the interests of Society, then obviously all conduct of an anti-social character such as wasteful extravagance and gross intemperance, might be restrained, and the strictest social control justified. This, however, is clearly not Mill's view. The conduct from which along a man may be compulsorily deterred "is that which is calculated to produce evil to someone else," and as such conduct is in the vast majority of cases, even where we call the offence a crime, an invasion of some legal private right, the doctrine substantially means that a man's sphere of legal liberty should be circumscribed only be the legal duties he owes definite or definable persons. This view reflects that spirit of liberty which says that so long as a man interferes with no one else's right he should be allowed to go to Hell his own way if we wants to. This doctrine is still, in theory at least, the dominant one. It is the basis of orthodox individualism, and page 11 of most of the arguments against increasing social control for moral improvement. It has been strenuously relied on to oppose statutory regulation of the drink, gambling, and other social evils; of public health, of food adulteration, of monopolies of all kinds, of the hours, conditions and wages of shop and factory labour. It is opposed, and expressly opposed, to all legal control which aims primarily at the good of the person affected. It forbids social improvement as the immediate aim of the coercive methods of the law such a doctrine of liberty time has shown us is false. It proceeds, we see, upon two great fallacies—the first, that the adult population of a civilised country have in all their actions that full measure not only of intelligence but of self-control which induces them to order their lives upon the lines of their best permanent welfare; the second, that if conduct is not injurious to the right of definite persons it cannot be prejudicial to the permanent welfare of society as a whole. I have already dealt with the nrst fallacy. I now propose to discuss the second. In large measure this fallacy springs from the teachings of the school of natural liberty, from the Jaissez faire and the laissez passer of the physiocrats and their later English and French successors. These doctrines were not unsuited to the agricultural and pastoral conditions of those days. The freedom you may, from the point of view of the community, allow to isolated farmers you cannot allow to dwellers in a crowded city. One need not illustrate this further than by a reference to a modern city's by-laws. What I may do upon, bring upon, or build upon my land in a city is circumscribed in a hundred ways, quite unnecessary in the country. I may not in certain areas build in wood. I may not keep pigs or many other things. I may not expectorate upon the pavement. I may not let my chimney catch fire. I may hot loiter in the street. If my home or shop becomes so dilapidated or decayed that it may affect health, it must be pulled down. The welfare of the whole requires this increasing limitation of the freedom of each. Again, reflect upon upon the independence and self-supplying ability of isolated farmers, and contrast it with the complicated web of independence between the people in a city. There in almost the whole round of daily life, in all its wants and activities, there is this mutual dependency. A milkman gets drunk quite respectable in his own house and fails to deliver milk to his customers next day. The butchers close their shops for two or three holidays in succession without sufficient notice. The bakers go on strike. The trams cease running. The gas or electric light workers stop work and suddenly leave the street and home in darkness. In none of these cases need there be any infringement of the rights of others, and yet need one emphasise the injury to a community by being suddenly deprived ofmilk, meat, bread and light? Instances to show the same thing might be multiplied indefinitely. Modern society is not merely a collection of unrelated units. It is based upon the mutual dependence of its constituents, and its life and progress demand such social control of its constituents as will first equip them for their duties of citizenship in its widest sense and then compel them to perform these duties. This view is obviously in opposition to Mill's assumption that the welfare of society is best promoted by the widest individual freedom, and by allowing each to pursue his own ends in his own way. Under his system, to promote general welfare the State must be as passive as possible, for all State action involves some interference with private right, and the whole duty of the State lies in the protection of these rights. The British Museum, as Stephen points out, is a monumental infringement of Mill's rule, since to maintain that national institution the State must by law take some portion of people's property in the shape of taxation. Thus strictly the British Museum should be suppressed by the police. Indeed, the logical result of this doctrine is administrative nihilism. Its conception of the State is that of a majestic policeman, and the whole end and aim of its functions that of putting twelve good men into a box to protect legal rights. This is still the theoretic basis of British liberty, first used over a hundred years ago as a genuine policy of progress, and fifty years later, under the new industrialism, as a policy of despotism and degradation.
From all this misconception as to the promotion of general welfare, from natural liberty and the apotheosis of individual rights, we are steadily going back to Aristotle. He taught that the State had educative and reformative functions, that it was its duty to make good citizens.
In this view the character of the State is changed from policeman toparent. The end and aim of Government is changing and has changed from police and other legal protection to providing the conditions which will promote general welfare. The old method was a survival of the fittest—that is, of those page 12 who could best adapt themselves to, or make the best of, the current conditions produced by natural freedom. The new method is to limit that freedom and devise and provide by law or science such conditions as will improve the moral and material welfare of the people as a whole. This involves, as required, bothe a kinder and a firmer collective hand.
If the State is to provide the path, it must see that it is taken and, if necessary, compel its use. Some modern nations furnish their people with free schools, but they also punish parents who neglect to send their children there. Under prudent domestic Government, discipline is as necessary as opportunity for the welfare of the family. The excess or absence of either will do harm, and the same is true of the paternalism of the State.
In this changing conception of the State's functions, private rights and liberties must be substantially affected, as I shall shortly show. Meantime, let me say that such prudent social control as I am indicating should produce neither the evils of unrestrained self-seeking found under natural liberty or the regimentation of revolutionary Socialism. In approving of this conslusion, Huxley says: "In this business of the Government in that elementary polity a family, the people who fail utterly are on the one hand the martinet regimentalists, and on the other the parents, whose theory of education appears to be that expounded by the elder Mr. Weller when he enlarged upon the advantages which Sam had enjoyed by being allowed to roam at will about Covent Garden Market from babyhood upwards. Individualism pushed to extremes in the family is as ill-founded theoretically and as mischievous practically as it is in the State, while extreme regimentation is a certain means of either destroying self-reliance or of maddening to rebellion. And so when we turn from the family to the aggregate of families which constitute the State, I do not see that the case is substantially altered."
The doctrine is already widespread that the proper relation between the State and the individual is at least analagous to that of an intelligent parent to his family, and it is being increasingly seen that the system of natural liberty is a dogma that over looks the extent to which the ethos in men's hearts must through the State control the cosmos, if human society is to rise to a higher civilisation.
I have said that this sublimation of the State from policeman to parent involves modifications in all conceptions of rights and duties—in other words, of legal liberty. Once it is conceded that the law may compel me prohibit me, punish me, or tax me, not only for the protection of legal rights, but for the purpose of improving me or of providing the conditions by which others to whom I owe no legal duties may be improved, the whole doctrine of liberty I am here attacking becomes a discredited dogma. The rights formerly and under Mill's doctrine so sacred and paramount, lose their inviolabel sanctity and supremacy, and become subsidiary to the needs of parental schemes of social progress. We have so long knelt at the throne of individual rights that this dethronement stated as a general principle sounds like treason. It threatens, it would seem, our cherished private freedom, and makes for oppression. We talk with bated breath of individual liberty. Like the "Om" of Oriental creeds, these words have acquired the attributes of idolatry. They have become blessed like "Mesopatamia," and all that is often deemed necessary to discredit a policy of social progress is to show that it infringes or limits individual liberty. Let us deidolise this phrase if we want a clear perception of the respective rights and duties of Man and the State. What gives, for instance, such special sanetity to individual rights of property? The inherent justice of their origin? Hardly. When the great bulk of the acquired wealth of England was not earned by its owners, but by inheritance, and when a Mr Paten is free to corner wheat and thus extract a million sterling from the pockets of the people! Is, then, this sanctity due to the ideal equality of such rights? Scarcely! While pinching poverty is everywhere contrasted with colossal fortunes! Surely, then, this sacred regard is owing to the pre-appointed harmony and beneficent operation of the law creating and protecting these and other individual rights? By no means! Since Huxley could forcibly and truthfully declare in his essay on "Government" that: "Even the best of modern civilisations appears to me to exhibit a condition of mankind which neither embodies any worthy ideal nor even possesses the merit of stability. I do not hesitate to express the opinion that if there is no hope of a large improvement in the condition of the greater part of the human family; if it is true that the increase of knowledge, the winning of a greater dominion over Nature which is its consequence, and the wealth which follows upon that dominion ae to make no difference in the extent and intensity of want, with its concomitant physical and moral degradation among the page 13 masses of the people, I should hail the advent of some kindly comet which would sweep the whole affair away, as a desirable consummation. What profit is it to the human Prometheus that he has stolen the fire of heaven to be his servant, and that the spirits of the earth and of the air obey him, if the Vulture of pauperism is eternally to feed on his very vitals and keep him on the brink of destruction?" Certainly in the old world, of which these words were written, the gospel of he sanctity of individual rights and liberty as the road of progress has not brought the millenium. There is, indeed, in thelight of its results something almost ironical in the doctrine that general welfare is best promoted by the State confining its functions to the protection of the rights and liberties of individuals. General welfare can be measured by the proportion of the whole population which can be fairly described as leading healthy, industrious, moral, comfortable lives. I need not here discuss what this proportion is in old world countries, but let us see who have the rights whose protection we are told is the sole purpose of the State and the true path to wider well-being.
To do this, let us clear the ground by some understanding of what is really meant by "rights" in the strict and proper sense. A "rights" is an interest respect for which is a duty and disregard of which is a wrong. There can be no "right" without a corresponding duty; no duty without a corresponding right, any more than there can be a husband without a wife or a father without a child. For every duty must be towards some person or persons, in whom, therefore, a correlative right is vested. Conversely, every right must be a right against some person or persons, upon whom a correlative duty is imposed.
Now it is clear from this that the more rights a man has the more duties are due him by others, while the fewer rights he has the fewer duties will be due to him. If he have no rights, as in the case of a slave, no duties are due to him. But what "interests" do "rights" imply? In a free country rights consist mainly in the interests a man has in respect of his person and reputation, and interest in respect of things. A man has a right not to be killed, injured, assaulted, wrongly arrested or defamed. But these are not "interests" upon which a man may live. He cannot thrive upon his right to not being killed or wrongly arrested. A man may have all these rights and yet starve. They are of real value to him for the purposes of existence only in so far as they enable him to exercise or acquire rights over things—that is, over some kind of property—food, wages, or the soil. It is these latter rights that are by far the most important of all legal rights in point of number and market value. Hence in a civilised state the rights the law has in fact chiefly to protect are the rights of property. To further elucidate this let us substitute "liberties" for rights.
My legal rights are the benefits I derive from legal duties imposed upon other persons. My "legal liberties" are the benefits which I dervie from the absence of legal duties imposed upon myself.
Thus "right" marks the possession of the interest; "liberty" my legal freedom to use or enjoy it. I have a right over my estate, and therefore I am legally free to cultivate it.
Thus it will be seen that liberties and rights are strictly correlatives, and that the fewer liberties he possesses. But the "liberties" correlative to rights over things are much productive of profit than the "liberties" correlative to rights to personal freedom and reputation. I may use my right to walk the street without being assaulted, and use it eight hours a day for twenty years and yet gain nothing by it but an appetite, which I have not the mans to satisfy.
What, for instance, are the "liberties" of the great mass of the people in the cities of England? Then we are told that there are in London about two million people who do not know here next week's food is to come from. They have no property. Their rights do not expose them to the evils of high living. They have a right not to be killed—a right not to be injured, assaulted, wrongfully arrested or defamed. These rights cannot be taken into the market, like a right to a house in Belgravia. You cannot [unclear: aise] a loan on them. The "liberties" of these people are, as I have shown, the correlatives of their "rights"; and what are their "liberties"? They are free to walk the streets—so long as they keep moving; but being neither land-owners nor tenants, the street or some other public place, and that alone, is where they have any legal right, or, in other words are legally at "liberty" to be. The great mass of the poor in old world countries, who are without property of any kind, have few rights which require the protection of the law. Gain or other advantage is the great incentive to breach of rights—be they in respect of property or person—but what gain or advantage could be derived, for instance, from infringing any rights the London poor have? But contrast with page 14 their rights those of a city millionaire he has rights of every description and in every direction. Rights to had estate to personal estate, rights of action and rights to the services of others. All his investments and wealth may be expressed in his rights. He is a millionaire of rights, and consequently has due to him from others a million of duties. Or, put in correlative terms, he is a millionaire or liberties while the liberties of a man without property of any kind is personal liberty to walk the streets in such a manner as not to obstruct the traffic. Liberty is in its legal sense freedom to exercise a right, but what is the use of talking of a man's liberty if he have no rights to exercise? You might as well talk to a man in a waterless desert of his liberty to quench his thirst, or to a man who can get employment nowhere of his liberty to earn a living!
Remembering this, we revert to the orthodox doctrine that general welfare is best promoted by the State confining itself to the protection of individual rights, and findthat it really means that the State's main concern is the interests of property owners the larger the owner, the more the State is concerned with his protection. Surely a beautiful doctrine this when the vast majority of the people (I am speaking, of course, of the old world) have no property at all.
I have given some time to an anlysis of what our idolised "individual liberty" really means to the great mass of the old world people. This idolatry still prevails, but the hollow places in the idol are being slowly revealed.
The freedom implied is mainly a negative freedom. Nay, it is a misleading illusion flattering or soothing the ear but yielding nothing to men's hope. Let me here anticipate a hasty criticism. I am, observe, under-estimating in no way the absolute necessity for legal protection of rights. The enforcement of lawa and order is the first essential of the State's existence, and the security of life and property which law and order confers is a paramount need not only of social progress but of our present social life. The purpose and only purpose of the reference I have made to individual rights and liberties is to expose to [unclear: or iteler] the leading dogma of [unclear: indi] that the protection of these rights and liberties is the sole proper function of the State and the best means of promoting general welfare. In doing this it was necessary to [unclear: refute] the basic principle of the natural liberty school voiced by Mill and the orthodox economists that true individual freedom consists in being allowed to do whatever one pleases so long as it does not infringe the right of others. The full operation of such a system has we know produced social evils too great and well known to need any illustration here. This system has too long been a pernicious fetish, and even where it violated the deepest sense of our humanity, the answer once deemed sufficient was "Fiat libertas ruat justitia."
What, then, are the proper limitations of the sphere of individual freedom?
First we can shortly state a rule which disposes of an infinite amount of fine-spun theorising about the sanctity of freedom. Freedom which a man uses to make a beast of himself has no sanctity and deserves no legal protection. Hence, then, the law, so long as it scrupulously respects proper privacy and all the more intimate and delicate relations of life, may wisely forbid anything which, allowing for the utmost individual variety of rational taste, no sensible person would wish to do, provided always that such interference is in the interests of the individual himself or of the well-being of the community. This proviso excludes meddlesome prohibitions in respect of small things.
The rule so stated would leave as wide a sphere of personal freedom as anyone deserving of respect could desire. Surely such a rule is more consonant with our conceptions of ture manhood and womanhood than a doctrine which expressly permits swinish excess so long as it invades nobody else's rights.
That this rule involves considerable limitations upon the area of personal freedom must be conceded, but these limitations will be those approved and unequivocally dictated by the intelligence and moral sense of the community. It is in final analysis coercion to bring human conduct nearer to an ethical ideal. It is in one aspect society conceiving its ideals as the measure of its rights against the individual. This is all antithetical to the individualism of natural liberty, and the service or injury this new system will do the future depends upon success or failure in discovering the true socientific frontier between collective control and personalfreedom. Already it is generally conceded in practice, if not in theory, that individual liberty may berestrained in the interests of public health and of public morals. Restriction in this direction will doubtelss increase. But the most marked limitations of the old theoretical sphere of personal freedom have taken place, and no doubt will continue to take place, on the econo- page 15 mic side of life. Here, again, these limitations arise from social control more or less consciously pursuing an ideal. In last analysis it is the ethical process restraining the cosmie. The conviction is growing in the national mind that society must look beyond its mere total production of wealth to how it is produced, how it is distributed, and what is the effect of such production and distribution upon the mass of the people. The ideal of general welfare as I have already defined it is not promoted merely by increasing the grand total of national riches through unfettered competition, but by providing in large measure freedom of opportunity the pursuit of this ideal is becoming more and more the conscious aim of the State. Such purpose tends to check all individual right or liberties which are antagonistic to its ideal. This may be expressed as follows:—Individual freedom may be restrained wherever that is found necessary to enable the State to provide the conditions, material or otherwise, deemed essential to general well-being.
But our race has only slowly, painfully and semi-consciously come to see that the system of natural liberty I am attacking furnishes in itself no true basis for modern social progress. I say "modern," because it is mainly owing to the complex development of capitalism, industrialism and invention during the last 100 years that this system has become so inadequate for true social progress.
I have already shown that at least in the old world the so-called "liberties of the subject" are but a mockery if the subject can acquire no rights to exercise. The whole fabric of modern society grows ever more complex and artificial. The ties of kinship as social bonds have almost disappeared, and the State must furnish new bonds to supply their place. The old intimacy and mutual aid of the village and the countryside have in large measue been supplanted by the "multitudinous desolation" of the city. The exigencies involved in this change demand something more substantial than the negative freedom of individualism. In one aspect of it, the basis of society is really the family. That is, a household for the most part, if not wholly, supported by the earnings or means of its head. Upon the husband and father the law casts an imperative duty to maintain wife and children. It will imprison him for beggary. It will punish him if he have no lawful visible means of support. It is his duty to have such means or earn them. Upon such a basis, then, society is built. But what if an honest and willing man have no means? What if he can find no opportunity of earning them? Is society so vitally concerned with the health and existence of the household and yet not concerned with what is pre-essential to the household's existence? This, if true, were surely a paradox, and yet it is the logical result of the laissez faire doctrine. But the truth is that from the point of view of general welfare possession of, or means of possessing, individual rights is at least as important as their protection, for possession of rights whose exercise will provide a living is essential to a discharge of the primary duties of citizenship liberty, conceived in vacuo, can no longer be relied on by the State to promote social progress or general well-being. True economic freedom in a modern nation, it has been said with profound truth, "is not the absence of restraint but the presence of opportunity." And what is meant by the "presence of opportunity."? I take it to mean a sphere of activity—a scope of work—with the tools or other materials requisite to such sphere of work, by and through which a willing man may maintain himself and discharege the legal and moral duties of citizenship.
In opposition to Mill's doctrine of liberty and non-interference of the State, it is now being increasingly reccognised that a proper purpose of Government is to bring tools to willing hands which would otherwise be idle or precariously employed. This is but an example of the people collectively, consciously and directly providing the conditions considered essential or expedient for general welfare and progress.
To provide these conditions (prudently and cautiously devised, let us hope), individual rights and liberties must if necessary be limited and checked. But while the functions of the State must increase in area and number if our social ideals are to be promoted, every increase should be jealously watched. Excess of social control upon the injividual life is as pernicious as excessive liberty. It mattes little from what source that control emanates. In religion the coercion of law, or even of an aggressive public opinion, produces an insolent orthodoxy which makes conformity a radiant virtue and doubt and dissent an offence. Conformity so thrust upon a peple kills religious liberty. In art the enforcement of canons of taste produces as it always has produced, a conventional, stilted and rigid school. On the social side of life excessive collective controal either by law or custom, imposes that dead, or paralysing uniformity seen in Eastern countries, and thus destroys page 16 "the picturesque in man and man." On the economicside, excessive interference checks enterprise and effort, disheartens intiative, invention and [unclear: rege,] and produces an industrialism [unclear: once] cramped, inefficient and waste—
The lessons of the past warn us aganist giving too wide a sway to Government over the individual life. Excessive controal is vicious, whether is based upon the divine right of kings or of popular majorities. It is well here to emphasise the fact that social welfare, although largely the same, is not synonymous with human servation of the State may be advanced by restaints and prohibitions really hurtful to individual well-being. There are limits to the claims of collective interests and advantages, just as there are limits to the claims of individual freedom. Most students of sociology are agreed as to the effect upon a nation's members of woman's modern sphere of freedom. The new aspirations and efforts of woman to individuate in fuller life than that of merely mother and household drudge might conceivably be restrained by law in the interests of the cradle, but what in such event of the welfare of the women themselves? The seientific frontier between the individual and society cannot be laid down from any a priori reasoning. Experience, thoght, trial, failure, and retrial will all be necessary to ascertain its true position. Meanwhile we see on every side in all modern democracies a steady movement towards authoritative regulation in almost every domain of life except the religious. Evils rightly or wrongly traced to freedom are inducing restraints upon that freedom. Already freedom in connection with drink, gambling, horse-racing, drugs, duelling prize-fighting, tabacco, and morals generally is in several countries being steadily and greatly curtailed. Both in America and Great Britain there is a growing demand by the best citizens for some restriction upon the freedom of the press so as to protect particularly the young against the demoralising influence of a certain class of journalism. In most advanced countries there is—or thereis likely to be—increased restraints placed upon wastrels and vagrants and some form of legal discipline imposed upon the great mass of the obviously unemployable, both for their own good and that of the community. To anyone who makes a careful survey of the legislation of the last fifty years in most modern democracies it is amazing to see the extent to which society is turning away from the old school of natural personal freedom and is imposing by compulsion its conceptions of decency, temperance and moral well-being upon the individual life.
In the same spirit of coercion towards an ideal it has enforced all sports of regulations to secure the health and physical welfareof the people.
But the most striking limitations and infringements of liberty have been those imposed on what I have called the economic side of life.
The purposes of these limitations and infringements, although apparently various, are really phases of but one aim—sometimes, it must be admitted, but vaguely seen—and that aim has been to improve the conditions hygienic, moral and material of labour.
It will serve to remind you of the extent to which the limitation has gone if I point out that in several countries now it is a penal offence for a man to work, no matter how wilingly, or for another to employ him at a shilling, or indeed a farthing less than the rate of wages fixed directly or indirectly by law. This and countless other illustrations one might give show how far coercion instead of the old system of freedom is relied upon to promote general welfare.
I have already said that individual liberty has been and will be increasingly invaded to secure or provide the conditions deemed by the majority essential to progress. Primary education is now furnished by the State at the expense of the general body of the taxpayers. In Spencer's words, "I am taxed in order that my neighbour's children may be taught." Legal compulsion in turn is applied to force parents to send their children to the schools so established. Secondary and university education, mainly at the expense of the whole people, is almost free. So is technical education. Thus the State invades private rights by taking part of each man's property or money by way of taxation to provide what I may call equipment conditions for the people—a general, specialand technical training.
In industries it seeks by legal compulsion to secure the material conditions of decency by enforcing healthy surroundings, a living wage, and restricted hours. In several countries now, including England, the State may at the expense of the community take a man's land from him compulsorily to provide poor and unemployed people with farms, and not only with the soil, but with the means to work and develop it.
Thus not merely in new lands, but in old the State is striving to furnish its people with opportunity, not, as page 17 formerly, with legal protection of rights alone, but with the means of acquiring rights. To secure or provide these conditions, private rights are now unhesitatingly invaded. Land is taken, monopolies forbidden, free competition checked, and everyone in the State, according to his ability, placed under compulsory tribute to provide the means of securing a rough approcah to freedom of opportunity for all
Our conceptions of individualliberty have fundamentally changed with a change in our national aims. Wealth and its production still appear to be the paramount concern of orthodox political seience. This has tended to make every consideration of social evils subsidiary to the methods of increasing national riches. Such a disposition is clearly seen in the arguments by which Bright and Cobden resisted the early factory laws. The old Adam in individualism dies hard but "Wealth and its production" as the principal national aim is yielding steadily to "Want and vice and their reduction" as that aim. And in this transition of regard from wealth to want may be found the key to most of the limitations which for fifty years past have been increasingly imposed by law on individual liberty. "Want and vice and their reduction" as a collective ideal calls for a policy very different from that of laissez faire, and it is mainly the perception of this, or if you will the deception of this, that is driving modern democracies along the road of increased regimentation. It has been said that talk is the surface ripple—thought a ground swell, but national sentiment an ocean current. The great ocean current of democracy to-day is popular sentiment seeking, sometimes unconsciously, sometimes clearly, a social ideal. It issetting towards a State paternalism—to a closer control of each for the gain of all. We may like or dislike this great movement. Our individual preferences or antipathies count for little. You may denounce the River God, but the stream will bear you with it all the same. There is no wisdom in the angry opposition to the Zeitgeist. What is recognised as inevitable must be made the best of, and he who, failing to perceive its irresistibility, sets himself to check a world movement, is only a modern Mrs Partington with broom, mob-cap and apron, hopelessly attempting to sweep back the Atlantic.
But, I may be asked, what capacity has a democracy to devise, apply and, above all, enforce such an intelligent parental process as metaphorically speaking will make a garden of the wild?
I have already pointed out how essential compulsion is to progress, and the question naturally arises—How can the mass of men and women, falling as they do short of self-control, become in the form of a democracy the intelligent governors, not only of themselves, but of the whole community. This is a stock argument, and there is not a little in it, but not so much as I, at least, once thought. The view seems very plausible that order their own lives on rational-moral lines are incapable of controlling others. Then theaverage citizen is taken and his qualification for regulating the conduct of others examined and these qualifications found wanting. I am satified that this method of testing the capacity of the majority at least for moral Government is fallacious and misleading, for, strange at it may seem, the history of the world has shown that even a very bad man may make a very good ruler. It has been well said that "rare is the strength that can singel-handed overcome temptation, but common enough is that mild predilection for the right which is capable of supporting someone else under temptation." The affection of weak knees does not, thank Heaven, debar us from triumphing over the frailties of others! Nothing is more trite than the saying that he who cannot control himself is not fit to control others—and nothing is more false. If only those were allowed to uphold standards who had demonstrated their fitness to live up to them, how our reigning ideals would suffer! What widespread blindness if no one might pick motes from his brother's eye until he had cleared his own optic! The truth is, as it has been well put by Ross, that the faculty of apprehending one's neighbour's case so much better than one's own renders available for social control a vast amount of correct sentiment which is too weak to be effective for self-control. Just as in mining the cyanide process permits the reduction of low-grade ores formerly unprofitable, so the method of mutual control turns to account a vast deal of flabby anaemic sentiment which hither to has been of no use whatever in raising the general level of conduct. The "voice of a people" is indeed always much in advance of the practice of that same people. "Video meliora proboque deteriora sequor." Collective sentiment reflecting an ideal tends in a democracy to pass into a law whichin turn helps to lift practice nearer to the standard of the ideal. Many a man who votes prohibition as an ideal is consciously invoking compulsion to pre- page 18 vent not only his neighbour but himself from having a grass of grog.
It may, however, be contended that democracy offers no guarantee that sound and elevated sentiment will thus pass into law. I do not deny that there is room for this doubt, but let it be remembered that history presents us with an apparent paradox, namely, that where the humbler and the socalled higher classes of our nation have differed regarding great social questions, the events have proved the humbler right and their so-called betters wrong. This is forcibly put and shown by Bryce in his "American Commonwealth," where he sums up the position in these words:—"Nearly all great political causes have made their way first among the humbler and middle classes." This fact, indeed, may be traced to deeper reasons which go far to relieve our gravest doubts as to the capacity of collective control for the purpose of intelligent government. We hear much of a social sense anti of a social conscience. I know that these phrases are of vague import, but in final analysis they mean collective consiousness a social ego only emerges with any clearness when natural sentiment becomes organised and articulate—when, indeed, collective opinion becomes self-conscious, when it begins to realise both its authority and its duties. Now it is in modern democracies, especially those with manhood and womanhood sufrage, that collective opinion—that is, of course, of the people as a whole—is most highly organised and active. Hence Professor Ross in the admirable work to which I have already referred, in observing this says:—"It is democracies that are most active in humanitarian legislation. 'The people' are the readiest to respond to a generous proposal. In every organisation of national opinion the bottom is more radical on purely moral questions than the top. If we would mark the moral plane of an age we look to the common people, and not to the hierarchies. For progressive views as to the rights of slaves, foreigners, enemies, or the lower races we appeal to the intuitions of common men, and not to the spokesmen of highly organised bodies of sentiment such as the church, army, trade, or 'society.' It is to the masses and not to the classes that we must protest against natural wrong-doing."
If, then, as Mill thought, individual liberty will be increasingly exposed to invasion as the majority become conscious of their power; as, in other words, national sentiment and opinion not only reign but rule, there does not seem any clear justification for the often expressed fear that that invasion will violate any true principle of justice.
But it may be said that progress depends on more than unsophisticated national sentiment. It demands invention, calculation, reasoning no the part of the Government. I do not demy this, but one of our greatest illusions is that reasoning is the main factor in social progress. Mr Balfour emphasises this in his "Fragment on Progress." "To hear some people talk," he says, "one would suppose that the successful working of social institutions depended as much upon cool calculation as the management of a joint stock bank; that from top to [unclear: ttom] and side to side it was a mere question of political arithmetic." The clatter of argument is often the most striking accompaniment of interesting social changes. The position of reasoning, therefore, and its functions in the social organism are frequently misunderstood. People fall instinctively into the habit of supposing that because it plays a conspicuous part (i.e., and accompaniment) in the improvement or deterioration of human institutions, it therefore supplies the very base on which they may be made to rest, the very mould to which they ought to conform, and they naturally conclude that they have only to reason more and to reason better in order speedily to perfect the whole machinery by which human felicity is to be secured. Surely, adds Mr Balfour, this is a great illusion.
Society is founded—and from the nature of human beings which constitute it, must in the main be always founded—not upon criticism (or reasoning), but upon feelings and beliefs, and upon the customs and codes by which feelings and beliefs are, as it were, fixed and rendered Stable. And even where these harmonise, so far as we can judge, with sound reason they are not in many cases consciously based on reasoning; nor is their fate necessarily bound up with that of the extremely indifferent arguments by which from time to time philosophers, politicians and, I will add, divines, have thought fit to support them. Mr Balfour then proceeds to show that this is true of a democratic Government based on public opinion. Thus, then, it will be seen that if such a Government is in the main collective sentiment operating as law, it is not likely to be less rational than other forms of government.
There still remains one other aspect of legal liberty to which I desire to refer. The sphere of individual freedom depends upon the efficacy of the restraints which circumscribe it. It is idle to talk of the legal limits of page 19 liberty if their observance cannot be enforced. Thus, one of the negative protections to a large part of personal freedom in past centuries was the ruler's inability to enforce obedience to restraints. Now, obedience under a free democracy and obedience under despotic rule have, or at least seem to have, entirely different complexions. If those ruled have no voice in their own government, if constraint is imposed by an independent sovereign power, such as a monarch or an oligarchy, obedience is felt as coercion and is resisted, resented, or grudgingly yielded. I pointed out in the first part of this address that something of this feeling still survives in our attitude to government, but it is fast disappearing.
But turning now to the former kind of obedience—obedience to a law passed in a democracy based on universal suffrage. That is felt to be obedience to the people as a whole. It tends to be vaguely viewed as a self-imposed restraint, and that same difference is discernible in the spirit of submission which we see in obedience to the dictates of our own self-control and those of an independent dictator respectively. Hence there is about a government based upon the will of the people a strength unknown to other forms of government. "Once the principle that the will of the majority honestly ascertained must prevail has soaked into the mind and formed the habits of a nation, that nation acquires an immense effective forece, and obedience to it becomes unquestioning if not cheerful."
In this lies at once the advantage and the peril of democracy. The advantage, in that its proper progress is not likely to be barred or long delayed by the resistance to its laws of strenuous and militant individual interests. Thus, so far as collective control is really expedient for the welfare and progress of the nation, it will be effective. But here arises a possible peril order in this world is usually produced by a conflict—either of forces or of interests. The opposition of centripetal and centrifugal forces gives the earth her orbit. If either were much weakened there would be disaster. The conflict of interests between man and the State has done much to give us our social order and the present area of individual liberty. But if the resistance of the individual to collective encroachment is much weakened—if what Mr Bryce calls a sense of the fatalism of the multitude disarms all individual opposition, and the champions of personal freedom leave the field as men who yield to fate—what is to prevent State regulation crossing all the frontiers of individual liberty and imposing upon the whole round of private life a control as oppressive as an Oriental despotism? That this is conceivably possible is undeniable; that it is humanly probably in an Anglo-Saxon democracy we may confidently deny. This is, however, the danger mostemphasised by those who regard a wide area of individual legal liberty as essential to the vigour and manhood of our race. But most of these grave apprehensions overlook the stability of national characteristics. National character is the product of many influences. It is due to racial origin and racial mexture—to geographical position, to the struggle for existence within and without its territorial limits, and to all the other experiences, including those of religion, which for a thousand years or more have gone to mould it. So formed it is not easily changed.
The character of our nation is sullen and stubborn, only slowly impressed by effects of government. I have already said that the spirit of individualism, which is the spirit of the widest liberty, is a national inheritance. It rejoices in that aggressive freedom which declares that a man's house is his castle. Thus the temper and character of the Anglo-Saxon people afford the best safeguard against any undue democratic domination of the State. The vigorous individuality that down the centuries has won us our civic freedom is not likely to be easily extinguished by democratic repressions. The instinctive love of liberty—the courageous exercise of it, which conspicuously mark our nation, will reflect themselves in all collective control and will, at least for many years yet, secure for individual freedom even a wider area than is either necessary or desirable in the best interests of the State. This prediction is favoured by other temperamental traits. Burke speaks of British "sullen resistance to innovation and the cold sluggishness of our national character which resists the subtilising of the philosophers." Certainly our countrymen have none of the inflammable qualities of a Latin people, like the French. They have never taken Utopias seriously. You cannot capture them by any large doctrinaire schemes of social reform. They dislike theories. They have little patience with any proposal which does not present a practicality they can grasp. They are moved to action not by fancy-fed ideals, but by the presence of a condition—by the pressure of immediate necessities. They may talk about El Dorados, but in practice they are men of short views focussing such policy as they have upon page 20 the immediate future. Such men are the despair of the revolutionary Socialist and the idealist in a hurry, and such a national character is the best guarantee against nay sudden or radical changes which threaten to destroy or seriously impair proper private legal liberty.
|1.||There is in Anglo-Saxon nations an excessive impatience of State interference due partly to racial qualities and partly to the struggle by which freedom has in the past been wrested from Government.|
|2.||That in their attitude towards the powers of the State the people of our nation are apt to ignore the fact that it is only from these powers and under their protection along that they derive their righs and liberties.|
|3.||For many centuries man has been trying to find some scientific boundary between the rights of the individual and those of the State; and the theories of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau and Adam Smith resulted in the doctrines of natural liberty which limit the State's functions to those of keeping order and protecting rights, while they extend the area of individual freedom to the widest extent possible without injury to the rights of others.|
|4.||This led to a fanatical individualism under which the condition of the English labourer was worse than at any previous period of English history.|
|5.||The school of natural liberty still largely dominates orthodox economic thought.|
|6.||It is based upon the cosmic propcess, the struggle for existence and the survival of the fittest, and is opposed to the moral or ethical process of human betterment.|
|7.||Thought and experience has shown that in modern nations the system of natural liberty is not a policy of true social progress. That, on the contrary, such progress can be attained only by limiting greatly individual liberty and by eliminating the struggle for a bare existence by checking and removing the competition and other conditions which give rise to it. This involves provision both for the ascent of capacity and the descent of incapacity.|
|8.||That the true policy of progress in modern nations is not the mere protection by the State of legal rights, but provision by the State of the conditions which are essential to the welfare of the people. This means the securing for all who need it some measure of freedom of opportunity as well as protection.|
|9.||That for the improvement of those coerced and for the provision of the conditions of general welfare, the State may, in defiance of the tenets of individualism, properly curtail individual liberty.|
|10.||That as the solidarity of a nation increases and society becomes increasingly organised the closer relation and interdependence of the uits of population necessitate a restricted area of individual freedom.|
|11.||That conceptions of the area of personal freedom have changed with changes in our national aims, and a policy of "Want and Vice and their reduction" is slowly supplanting the cardinal national policy "Wealth and its production."|
|12.||That the trend of the freest democracies is towards a State paternalism which will aim at some degree of freedom of opportunity and make individual rights subsidiary to the essential needs of such a policy.|
|13.||The most advanced democracies evince the tendency to make their ideals the test of their rights to infringe and limit individual freedom.|
|14.||That obedience to Government is more easily obtained under universal suffrage than where the people have little or no voice in their own control, and this is one of the chief perils of democracy.|
|15.||That the national character and temper of our nation amy be trusted to prevent any serious limitation of the area of liberty really essential to a self-respecting, vigorous manhood.|
It will be observed that each of these propositions bears upon the question of our legal liberty—that is, to the cases and purposes in and for which my property, conduct or speech may be interfered with by the State. In all the perplexing difficulties of the subject-matter of this address, no man can speak with confidence. If I appear to have spoken with confidence it is not because I feel any certainty about the accuracy of my views or anticipations. Upon such a subject as my present one dogmatism would be not only unjustified but an impertinence.
But if there is doubt as to the shapes and forms and methods of future Government, one thig is clear—that a democracy is in the long run governed by the character of its people, and unless the people possess the cardianl virtues of honesty, industry, temperance and justice, and individually and collectively desire to promote them, no form of Government can be a success and no nation escape decay. It is as legislation reflects or enforces these qualities, and only as it does this, that it can promote an ever-widening human welfare.