Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 39.djvu/657

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639
THE LIMITS OF STATE-DUTIES.
THE LIMITS OF STATE-DUTIES.[1]

By HERBERT SPENCER.

OF the many reasons for restricting the range of governmental actions, the strongest remains to be named. The end which the statesman should keep in view as higher than all other ends, is the formation of character. And if there is entertained a right conception of the character which should be formed, and of the means by which it may be formed, the exclusion of multiplied State-agencies is necessarily implied.

"How so?" will doubtless be the exclamation of many. "Is not the formation of character the end to which much of the legislation we advocate is directed? Do we not contend that an all-important part of the State's business is the making of good citizens? and are not our school-systems, our free libraries, our sanitary arrangements, our gymnasia, etc., devised with the view of improving their natures?"

To this interrogative reply, uttered with an air of astonishment and an implied conviction that nothing remains to be said, the answer is that everything depends on the goodness of the ideal entertained and the appropriateness of the appliances for realizing it; and that both of them are radically wrong.

These paragraphs sufficiently indicate the antagonist views to be here discussed. Let us now enter on the discussion of them systematically

Upward from hordes of savages to civilized nations, countless examples show that to make an efficient warrior preparation is needed. Practice in the use of weapons begins in boyhood; and throughout youth the ambition is to be a good marksman with the bow and arrow, to throw the javelin or the boomerang with force and precision, and to become an adept in defense as well as in attack. At the same time speed and agility are effectually cultivated, and there are trials of strength. More relevant still to the end in view comes the discipline in endurance; sometimes going to the extent of submission to torture. In brief, each male of the tribe is so educated as to fit him for the purposes of the tribe — to fit him for helping it in maintaining its existence, or subjugating its neighbors, or both. Though not a State-education in the modern sense, the education is one prescribed by custom and enforced by public opinion. That it is the business of the society to mold the individual is asserted tacitly if not openly.

With that social progress which forms larger communities

  1. From Justice, being Part IV of the Principles of Ethics, now in press of D. Appleton & Co.