The Man Versus The State, with Six Essays on Government, Society, and Freedom

Herbert Spencer
Spencer, Herbert
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First Pub. Date
Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund, Inc.
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Foreword by Eric Mack. Introduction by Albert Jay Nock is not available online. Essays published 1843-1891.

1. Two remarkably dry and impersonal accounts of Spencer's life are: An Autobiography of Herbert Spencer 2 volumes (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1904); and D. Duncan's Life and Letters of Herbert Spencer 2 volumes (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1908). D. Wiltshire's The Social and Political Thought of Herbert Spencer (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978) is the most systematic on the topic. It is personally sympathetic, highly informative, but too conventional in its own theoretical perspective and evaluation.

2. Wiltshire, p. 76.

3. Duncan, i, p. 324.

4. Cf., The Principles of Ethics (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1978) ii p. 87. Yet in 1888 Spencer was still attacking conscription as the natural product of militarism and as an unjust imposition on the "working classes." Duncan, i, pp. 380-391.

The Man Versus the State: The Coming Slavery

5. Hansard's Parliamentary History, 32, p. 710.

6. Since this was written the sum has risen to £10,000,000; i.e., in 1890.

7. Fortnightly Review, January 1884, p. 17.

8. Factories and Workshops Act, 41 and 42 Vic., cap. 16.

9. Since this was written, these mischiefs have come to be recognized, and the system is in course of abandonment; but not one word is said about the immense injury the Government has inflicted on millions of children during the last 20 years!

10. See letter of Local Government Board, The Times, 2 January 1884.

11. Verification comes more promptly than I expected. This article has been standing in type since 30 January, and in the interval, namely on 13 March, [the article was published on 1 April], the London School Board resolved to apply for authority to use local charitable funds for supplying gratis meals and clothing to indigent children. Presently the definition of "indigent" will be widened; more children will be included, and more funds asked for.

12. Fortnightly Review, January 1884, p. 21.

13. Russia, p. 422.

14. Socialism made Plain. Reeves, 185 Fleet Street.

15. If any one thinks such fears are groundless, let him contemplate the fact that from 1867-8 to 1880-1, our annual local expenditure for the United Kingdom has grown from £36,132,834 to £63,276,283; and that during the same 13 years, the municipal expenditure in England and Wales alone, has grown from 13 millions to 30 millions a year! How the increase of public burdens will join with other causes in bringing about public ownership, is shown by a statement made by Mr. W. Rathbone, m.p., to which my attention has been drawn since the above paragraph was in type. He says, "within my own experience, local taxation in New York has risen from 12S.6d. per cent. to £2 12S. 6d. per cent. on the capital of its citizens—a charge which would more than absorb the whole income of an average English landlord."—Nineteenth Century, February 1883.

16. Fortnightly Review, November 1883, pp. 619-20.

17. Lactant, De M. Persecut., cc. 7, 23.

18. Taine, L'Ancien Régime, pp. 337-8 (in the English Translation).

19. Report of Commissioners for Inquiry into the Administration and Practical Operation of the Poor Laws, p. 37. 20 February 1834.

The Man Versus the State: The Sins of Legislators

20. Political Institutions, § § 437, 573.

21. Ibid., § § 471-3.

22. Landfrey. See also Study of Sociology, p. 42, and Appendix.

23. Constitutional History of England, ii, p. 617.

24. W. E. H. Lecky, History of Rationalism, ii, pp. 293-4.

25. De Tocqueville, The State of Society in France before the Revolution, p. 421.

26. Young's Travels, i, pp. 128-9.

27. G. L. Craik's History of British Commerce, i, p. 134.

28. Craik, loc. cit., i, pp. 136-7.

29. Ibid., i, p. 137.

30. More recently, Glasgow has furnished a gigantic illustration of the disasters which result from the socialistic meddlings of municipal bodies. The particulars may be found in proceedings of the Glasgow Town Council, reported in the Glasgow Herald for 11 September 1891. In the course of the debate it was said that the Glasgow Improvement Trust had for years been pursuing a "course of blundering," and had landed the corporation "in a quagmire." Out of some £2,000,000 taken from the ratepayers to buy and clear 88 acres of bad house property, £1,000,000 had been got back by sale of cleared lands, but the property remaining in the hands of the Corporation, mostly vacant land, has, by successive valuations in 1880, 1884, and 1891, been shown to have gradually depreciated to the extent of £320,000—an admitted depreciation, believed to be far less than the actual depreciation. Moreover, model-blocks built by the Improvement Trust, have proved to be not only financial failures, but also failures philanthropically considered. One which cost £10,000, and in the first year yielded 5 per cent, brought in the second year 4 per cent, and in the third 2¾ per cent. Another which cost £11,000 yields only 3 per cent. And, as is thus implied, these dwellings, instead of being in demand, have a decreasing number of tenants—a decreasing number, too, notwithstanding the fact that the clearing of so large an area of low-class dwellings has increased the pressure of the working population, made the over-crowding greater in other parts of the city, and intensified the sanitary evils which were to be mitigated. Commenting on the results, as they had become manifest at the close of 1888, Mr. Honeyman, President of the Social Economy Section of the Glasgow Philosophical Society, said that the model-building put up by the Improvement Trust, was one "which no sane builder would dream of initiating, because it would not pay," and that they had "put anything like fair competition entirely out of the question": "driving the ordinary builder from the field." He also pointed out that the building regulations and restrictions imposed by the Improvement Trust, tended "to keep the land belonging to the Corporation vacant, and hinder the erection of dwellings of the humblest class." In like manner, at a meeting of the Kyrle Society, the Lord Provost of Glasgow pointed out that when, with philanthropic motives, they built houses for the working-people at prices which would not pay the ordinary builder, then "immediately the whole of those builders who had hitherto supplied the wants of the working classes would stop, and philanthropy would require to take the whole burden of the provision on itself."

To achieve all these failures and produce all these evils, many thousands of hard-working ratepayers, who have difficulty in making both ends meet, have been taxed and pinched and distressed. See, then, the enormous evils that follow in the train of the baseless belief in the unlimited power of a majority—the miserable superstition that a body elected by the greater number of citizens has the right to take from citizens at large any amount of money for any purpose it pleases!

31. Mensch, iii, p. 225.

32. The Nineteenth Century, February 1883.

33. "The Statistics of Legislation." By F. H. Janson, Esq., f.l.s., Vice-president of the Incorporated Law Society. [Read before the Statistical Society, May 1873 Pub.]

34. Fire Surveys; or, a Summary of the Principles to be observed in Estimating the Risk of Buildings.

35. See The Times, 6 October 1874, where other instances are given.

36. Sir Thomas Farrer, "The State in its Relation to Trade, p. 147.

37. Ibid., p. 149.

38. Hansard, vol. clvi, p. 718, and vol. clviii, p. 4464.

39. Letter of an Edinburgh M.D. in The Times of 17 January 1876, verifying other testimonies; one of which I had previously cited concerning Windsor, where, as in Edinburgh, there was absolutely no typhoid in the undrained parts, while it was very fatal in the drained parts—Study of Sociology, chap. i, notes.

40. I say this partly from personal knowledge; having now before me memoranda made 25 years ago concerning such results produced under my own observation. Verifying facts have recently been given by Sir Richard Cross in the Nineteenth Century for January 1884, p. 155.

41. Sir G. Nicholl's History of the English Poor Law, ii, p. 252.

42. See The Times, 31 March 1873.

43. In these paragraphs are contained just a few additional examples. Numbers which I have before given in books and essays, will be found in Social Statics (1851); "Over-Legislation" (1853); "Representative Government" (1857); "Specialized Administration" (1871); Study of Sociology (1873), and Postscript to ditto (1880); besides cases in smaller essays.

44. On the Value of Political Economy to Mankind. By A. N. Cumming, pp. 47, 48.

45. The saying of Emerson that most people can understand a principle only when its light falls on a fact, induces me here to cite a fact which may carry home the above principle to those on whom, in its abstract form, it will produce no effect. It rarely happens that the amount of evil caused by fostering the vicious and good-for-nothing can be estimated. But in America, at a meeting of the States Charities Aid Association, held on 18 December 1874, a startling instance was given in detail by Dr. Harris. It was furnished by a county on the Upper Hudson, remarkable for the ratio of crime and poverty to population. Generations ago there had existed a certain "gutter-child," as she would be here called, known as "Margaret," who proved to be the prolific mother of a prolific race. Besides great numbers of idiots, imbeciles, drunkards, lunatics, paupers, and prostitutes, "the county records show two hundred of her descendants who have been criminals." Was it kindness or cruelty which, generation after generation, enabled these to multiply and become an increasing curse to the society around them? [For particulars see The Jukes: a Study in Crime, Pauperism, Disease and Heredity. By R. L. Dugdale. New York: Putnams.]

46. Mr. J. Chamberlain in Fortnightly Review, December 1883, p. 772.

47. T. Hobbes, Collected Works, vol. iii, pp. 112-13.

48. Ibid., p. 159.

The Man Versus the State: The Great Political Superstition

49. Hobbes, Collected Works, vol. iii, pp. 130-31.

50. The Province of Jurisprudence Determined. Second Edition, p. 241.

51. Fortnightly Review, 1880, vol. xxvii, p. 322.

52. Bentham's Works (Bowring's edition), vol. i, p. 301.

53. W. H. Prescott, Conquest of Peru, bk. i, ch. i.

54. J. Harris, Highlands of Æthiopia, ii, 94.

55. R. F. Burton, Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome, i, p. 226.

56. Bentham's Works, vol. ix, p. 97.

57. W. J. Burchell, Travels into the Interior of Southern Africa, vol. i, p. 544.

58. Arbousset and Daumas, Voyage of Exploration, p. 27.

59. G. Thompson, Travels and Adventures in Southern Africa, vol. ii, p. 30.

60. G. A. Thompson, Alcedo's Geographical and Historical Dictionary of America, vol. i, p. 405.

61. Alex. Michie, Siberian Overland Route, p. 248.

62. C. Brooke, Ten Years in Sarawak, vol. i, p. 129.

63. W. Ellis, History of Madagascar, vol. i, p. 377.

64. Sir T. S. Raffles, History of Java, i, 274.

65. W. Marsden, History of Sumatra, p. 217.

66. J. Beecham, Ashantee and the Gold Coast, p. 90.

67. H. R. Schoolcraft, Expedition to the Sources of the Mississippi River, v, 177.

68. G. W. Earl's Kolff's Voyage of the Dourga, p. 161.

69. "The Methods of Jurisprudence: an Introductory Lecture at University College, London," 31 October 1882.

70. Sir J. E. Tennant, Ceylon: an Account of the Island, etc., ii, p. 440.

71. J. Bonwick, Daily Life and Origin of the Tasmanians, p. 83.

72. Nineteen Years in Polynesia, p. 86.

73. Voyages of the Adventure and Beagle, ii, p. 167.

74. A. R. Wallace, Travels on Amazon and Rio Negro, p. 499.

75. H. R. Schoolcraft, Expedition to the Sources of the Mississippi, v, p. 177.

76. B. F. Hartshorne in Fortnightly Review, March 1876. See also H. C. Sirr, Ceylon and Ceylonese, ii, p. 219.

77. Address of C. B. Vignoles, Esq., f.r.s., on his election as President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Session 1869-70, p. 53.

78. Data of Ethics, § 21. See also § § 56-62.

Essay: The Proper Sphere of Government

79. "We remember a religious society which, in its laws, declared that it was instituted to promote the goodness of God; and truly it may be said that enactments against atheism are passed upon the pretence of endeavouring to promote his existence."—Sidney Smith's Phrenology, p. 8.

80. It is said that the statute book still contains enactments on these points.

81. This refers to some remarks which appeared in the Nonconformist upon the previous letter.

82. This must not be construed into a reflection upon voluntary benevolence. If, for the sake of ameliorating, to a certain extent, the miseries of the wicked, the Almighty has seen well to implant in their fellow-creatures, sympathies, which shall induce them to pity and assist, it must be at once concluded that the exercise of those sympathies, is conducive to the general happiness. But, this admission in no way involves the approval of a systematic arrangement, set up by fallible men, for the purpose of doing by wholesale, what the Almighty has only seen fit to do partially. Meanwhile, it is greatly to be wished that the charitable, would use a more judicious discrimination, in the distribution of their gifts, and extend their assistance rather to unfortunate industry, than to suffering wickedness.

83. See "Wealth of Nations," vol. iii, p. 257.

84. The East and West Indies, cannot be considered as applicable cases, as far as regards the colonists. The greater number of their European inhabitants, are only temporary residents, and nearly all the remainder are either branches of the aristocracy, or their agents, and these are not legislated for as ordinary emigrants.

85. See M'Culloch, Art. East India Company.

86. See Sir A. Burns' private and suppressed correspondence.

87. Since this was originally published, works have appeared, containing abundant evidence that the boasted intellectual enlightenment produced by government education on the continent, is more than neutralised, by the moral degradation that has accompanied it, and showing that these state-trained nations, are decidedly inferior to the people of this country, in real manliness. Those who are in love with the Prussian system would do well to read Laing's "Notes of a Traveller."

88. That such prophecies would be realized may be gathered from Sir James Graham's late education bill, which has run its brief career since these remarks first appeared.

Essay: Over-Legislation

89. Workhouses supported by the Union of several communities. In Scotland they are called "combination poorhouses."

90. "Nunky" diminutive of "uncle." As we would say, "Uncle Sam pays."

Essay: The Social Organism

91. It may be well to warn the reader against an error fallen into by one who criticized this essay on its first publication—the error of supposing that the analogy here intended to be drawn, is a specific analogy between the organization of society in England, and the human organization. As said at the outset, no such specific analogy exists. The above parallel is one between the most-developed systems of governmental organization, individual and social; and the vertebrate type is instanced merely as exhibiting this most-developed system. If any specific comparison were made, which it cannot rationally be, it would be made with some much lower vertebrate form than the human.

Essay: Specialized Administration

92. Here, and throughout the discussion, I refer to these controlling systems only as they exist in the Vertebrata, because their relations are far better known in this great division of the animal kingdom—not because like relations do not exist elsewhere. Indeed, in the great sub-kingdom Annulosa, these controlling systems have relations that are extremely significant to us here. For while an inferior annulose animal has only a single set of nervous structures, a superior annulose animal (as a moth) has a set of nervous structures presiding over the viscera, as well as a more conspicuous set presiding over the organs of external relation. And this contrast is analogous to one of the contrasts between undeveloped and developed societies; for, while among the uncivilized and incipiently civilized there is but a single set of directive agencies, there are among the fully civilized, as we shall presently see, two sets of directive agencies, for the outer and inner structures respectively.

93. To meet the probable objection that the experiments of Bernard, Ludwig, and others, show that in the case of certain glands the nerves of the cerebrospinal system are those which set up the secreting process, I would remark that in these cases, and in many others where the relative functions of the cerebro-spinal nerves and the sympathetic nerves have been studied, the organs have been those in which sensation is either the stimulus to activity or its accompaniment; and that from these cases no conclusion can be drawn applying to the cases of those viscera which normally perform their functions without sensation. Perhaps it may even be that the functions of those sympathetic fibres which accompany the arteries of the outer organs are simply ancillary to those of the central parts of the sympathetic system, which stimulate and regulate the viscera—ancillary in this sense, that they check the diffusion of blood in external organs when it is wanted in internal organs: cerebro-spinal inhibition (except in its action on the heart) working the opposite way. And possibly this is the instrumentality for carrying on that competition for nutriment which, as we saw, arises at the very outset between these two great systems of organs.

94. See Social Statics, chap. xxi., "The Duty of the State." See also essay on "Over-legislation."

95. Lest there should be any misunderstanding of the terms positively regulative and negatively regulative, let me briefly illustrate them. If a man has land, and I either cultivate it for him, partially or wholly, or dictate any or all of his modes of cultivation, my action is positively regulative; but if, leaving him absolutely unhelped and unregulated in his farming, I simply prevent him from taking his neighbour's crops, or from making approach-roads over his neighbour's land, or from depositing rubbish upon it, my action is negatively regulative. There is a tolerably sharp distinction between the act of securing a citizen's ends for him or interfering with his mode of securing them, and the act of checking him when he interferes with another citizen in the pursuit of his ends.

96. See Essay on "Railway Morals and Railway Policy."

97. See Essay on "Over-Legislation."

98. See Essay on "Representative Government—What is it good for?"

Essay: From Freedom to Bondage

99. See Essay on "The Morals of Trade."

100. Marvellous are the conclusions men reach when once they desert the simple principle, that each man should be allowed to pursue the objects of life, restrained only by the limits which the similar pursuits of their objects by other men impose. A generation ago we heard loud assertions to "the right to labour," that is, the right to have labour provided; and there are still not a few who think the community bound to find work for each person. Compare this with the doctrine current in France at the time when the monarchical power culminated; namely, that "the right of working is a royal right which the prince can sell and the subjects must buy." This contrast is startling enough; but a contrast still more startling is being provided for us. We now see a resuscitation of the despotic doctrine, differing only by the substitution of Trades-Unions for kings. For now that Trades-Unions are becoming universal, and each artisan has to pay prescribed monies to one or another of them, with the alternative of being a non-unionist to whom work is denied by force, it has come to this, that the right to labour is a Trade-Union right, which the Trade-Union can sell and the individual worker must buy!

End of Notes

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