social interests, or claims of society at large. Ultimately all interests, individual and public, are secured and maintained because of a social interest in so doing. But this does not mean that individual interests, the details of which the nineteenth century worked out so well, are to be ignored. On the contrary, the chiefest of social interests is the moral and social life of the individual, and thus individual interests become largely identical with a social interest. In securing them because of the social interest in the moral and social life of the individual, however, and in recognizing that individual self-assertion is only one human want, which must be weighed with others in a finite world where all wants cannot be satisfied, a governmental paternalism or even maternalism may become proper, which would have seemed intolerable to thinkers in the last century. In this connection, Mill on Liberty has a permanent value, despite the entire change in our views as to the end of law and of the state. Just as in the seventeenth century an undue insistence upon public interests, thought of as the interests of the sovereign, defeated the moral and social life of the individual and required the assertion of individual interests in Bills of Rights and Declarations of Rights, there is a like danger that certain social interests will be unduly emphasized and that governmental maternalism will become an end rather than a means and will defeat the real purposes of the legal order. Hence, although we think socially, we must still think of individual interests, and of that greatest of all claims which a human being may make, the claim to assert his individuality, to exercise freely the will and the reason which God has given him. We must emphasize the social interest in the moral and social life of the individual, but we must remember that it is the life of a free-willing being.
Page:The Harvard Classics Vol. 51; Lectures.djvu/361
This page has been validated.