Page:The right to ignore the state (1913).djvu/13

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

divine will cannot be fulfilled, the preservation of it is, by our objector's own showing, a duty. Or, in other words, it appears not only that the maintenance of liberty of action may be a point of conscience, but that it ought to be one. And thus we are clearly shown that the claims to ignore the State in religious and in secular matters are in essence identical.

The other reason commonly assigned for nonconformity admits of similar treatment. Besides resisting State dictation in the abstract, the Dissenter resists it from disapprobation of the doctrines taught. No legislative injunction will make him adopt what he considers an erroneous belief; and, bearing in mind his duty toward his fellow-men, he refuses to help through the medium of his purse in disseminating this erroneous belief. The position is perfectly intelligible. But it is one which either commits its adherents to civil nonconformity also, or leaves them in a dilemma. For why do they refuse to be instrumental in spreading error? Because error is adverse to human happiness. And on what ground is any piece of secular legislation disapproved? For the same reason—because thought adverse to human happiness. How then can it be shown that the State ought to be resisted in the one case and not in the other? Will any one deliberately assert that, if a government demands money from us to aid in teaching what we think ill produce evil, we ought to refuse it, but that, if the money is for the purpose of doing what we think will produce evil, we ought not to refuse it? Yet such is the hopeful proposition which those have to maintain who recognise the right to ignore the State in religious matters, but deny it in civil matters.

§7. The substance of this chapter once more reminds us of the incongruity between a perfect law and an imperfect State. The practicability of the principle here laid down varies directly as social morality. In a thoroughly vicious community its admission would be productive of anarchy.[1] In a completely virtuous one its admission will be both innocuous and inevitable. Progress toward a condition of social health—a condition, that

  1. Mr. Spencer here uses the word "anarchy" in the sense of disorder.