Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 27.djvu/427
nevolent despotism would do certain things " better " than they are done by oar republican Government. "Why is it, then, that we will not hear of any kind of despotism that our repugnance to a benevolent despotism is scarcely less than our repugnance to a purely selfish one? Because we hold that the word " better," as applied to the work of a despotism of any kind, is a very shallow " better " ; and that, while cer- tain superficial aspects of the national life might be improved under such a regime, the deep and abiding interests of the country would suffer. "Well, what people have to learn is that something despotic attaches to all government ac- tion outside of the sphere which pe- culiarly belongs to government, the protection of the community from for- eign, and of individuals from private, aggression. All government action is of a compulsory character; all takes away something from the liberty of the individual ; all stands in the way of the spontaneous development of the agen- cies for doing what the Government unnecessarily undertakes. Social bonds are not knit by what the Government does, but social bonds are knit by ev- ery development of private enterprise, by every spontaneous development of means to ends for social purposes. If government managed everything for us, society in the true organic sense would cease to exist. The individual would find himself at every turn face to face with a great mechanism, and would no longer have the sense of be- longing to a living and growing sys- tem. It is easy to sneer at these ideas as being "half a century behind the times"; but whoever does so should remember that at least one illustrious name stands associated with them, and that it is not usual to cite the author of the " Synthetic Philosophy " as a man left in the rear of the world's intellect- ual march. " Democracy," we are told, has left these notions behind, and will never take them up again. What de-
��mocracy will or will not do in the fu- ture it is rash to assert ; for our own part we venture on no predictions. We should just wish, however, to remark that it settles no question of right or wrong, truth or error, to say that "de- mocracy " has done so and so. De- mocracy, we presume, is not infallible. These abstractions, however, are most misleading. Tell us the exact truth : that a certain community living under certain institutions, and at a certain stage in its intellectual and moral de- velopment has turned its back on a par- ticular set of ideas; and we shall not only know precisely what you mean, but shall also be able to estimate the importance and value of your state- ment. But tell us that the abstraction " democracy " has done the same thing, and we are entitled to reply that no abstraction is capable of any such ac- tion.
On the principle our contemporary has laid down, it is impossible to say at what point state action should cease ; for the more the state undertakes the more it is impelled to undertake. To add one new function to-day is to pre- pare for the addition of a dozen within a few years. Take the case of the Eng- lish Government. Having the post- office under its control, it was led to make use of the post-office organization for the issue and payment of money- orders. Then followed the establish- ment of post-office savings-banks ; then the absorption of the telegraph system ; then the establishment of a parcel-de- livery and general express business. On the Continent the post-office collects debts, pays newspaper subscriptions, and carries money in very much the same way as the express companies do here. Where is this kind of thing to stop ? The larger the organization, the greater the temptation to apply it in some new way, or to accomplish by means of it some new object. There are those, no doubt, who think this increasing influ- ence and interference of government a