« ForrigeFortsett »
A time, however, came, in the progress of human affairs, when men ceased to think it a necessity of nature that their governors should be an independent power, opposed in interest to themselves. It appeared to them much better that the various magistrates of the State should be their tenants or delegates, revocable at their pleasure. In that way alone, it seemed, could they have complete security that the powers of government would never be abused to their disadvantage. By degrees, this new demand for elective and temporary rulers became the prominent object of the exertions of the popular party, wherever any such party existed; and superseded, to a considerable extent, the previous efforts to limit the power of rulers. As the struggle proceeded for making the ruling power emanate from the periodical choice of the ruled, some persons began to think that too much importance had been attached to the limitation of the power itself. (it might seem) was a resource against rulers whose interests were habitually opposed to those of the people. What was now wanted was, that the rulers should be identified with the people; that their interest and will should be the interest and will of the nation. The nation did not need to be protected against its own will. There was no fear of its tyrannizing over itself. Let the rulers be effectually responsible to it, promptly removable by it, and it could afford to trust them with power of which it could itself dictate the use to be made. Their power was but the nation's own power, concentrated, and in a form convenient for exercise.
The notion that the people have no need to limit their power over themselves, might seem axiomatic, when popular government was a thing only dreamed about, or read of as having existed at some distant period of the past.
In time, however, a democratic republic came to occupy a large portion of the earth's surface, and made itself felt as one of the most powerful members of the community of nations; and elective and responsible government became subject to the observations and criticisms which wait upon a great existing fact. It was now perceived that such phrases as "self
government," and "the power of the people over themselves," do not express the true state of the case. The "people" who exercise the power, are not always the same people with those over whom it is exercised, and the "self-government" spoken of, is not the government of each by himself, but of each by all the rest. The will of the people, moreover, practically means, the will of the most numerous or the most active part of the people; the majority, or those who succeed in making themselves accepted as the majority: the people, consequently, may desire to oppress a part of their number; and precautions are as much needed against this, as against any other abuse of power. The limitation, therefore, of the power of government over individuals, loses none of its importance when the holders of power are regularly accountable to the community, that is, to the strongest party therein. This view of things, recommending itself equally to the intelligence of thinkers and to the inclination of those important classes in European society to whose real or supposed interests democracy is adverse, has had no difficulty in establishing itself; and in political speculations "the tyranny of the majority" is now generally included among the evils against which society requires to be on its guard.
In England, from the peculiar circumstances of our political history, though the yoke of opinion is perhaps heavier, that of law is lighter, than in most other countries of Europe; and there is considerable jealousy of direct interference, by the legislative or the executive power with private conduct; not so much from any just regard for the independence of the individual, as from the still subsisting habit of looking on the government as representing an opposite interest to the public. The majority have not yet learnt to feel the power of the government their power, or its opinions their opinions. When they do so, individual liberty will probably be as much exposed to invasion from the government, as it already is from public opinion. But, as yet, there is a considerable amount of feeling ready to be called forth against any attempt of the law to control individuals in things which they
have not hitherto been accustomed to be controlled by it; and this with very little discrimination as to whether the matter is, or is not, within the legitimate sphere of legal control, insomuch that the feeling, highly salutary on the whole, is perhaps quite as often misplaced as well grounded in the particular instances of its application. There is, in fact, no recognized principle by which the propriety or impropriety of government interference is customarily tested. People decide according to their personal preferences. Some, whenever they see any good to be done, or evil to be remedied, would willingly instigate the government to undertake the business while others prefer to bear almost any amount of social evil, rather than add one to the departments of human interests amenable to the governmental control. And men range themselves on one or the other side in any particular case, according to this general direction of their sentiments; or according to the degree of interest which they feel in the particular thing which it is proposed that the government should do; or according to the belief they entertain that the government would, or would not, do it in the manner they prefer; but very rarely on account of any opinion to which they consistently adhere, as to what things are fit to be done by a government. And it seems to me that, in consequence of this absence of rule or principle, one side is at present as often wrong as the other; the interference of government is, with about equal frequency, improperly invoked and improperly condemned.
The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to
prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil, in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him must be calculated to produce evil to some one else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.
76. THE NON-ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS OF GOVERNMENT.
Professor W. W. Willoughby in his book on the Nature of the State distinguishes between "essential" and "non-essential" functions of government and holds that the state is justified in exercising the latter:
The refutation of the individualistic doctrines, leads necessarily to the assumption that the State may, in certain cases, properly exercise powers other than those that are necessary for its mere existence and the maintenance of order. These other functions we term "non-essential" or common welfare" functions. They include in general the economic, industrial and moral interests of the people. They are the activities assumed by the State, not because their exercise is a sine qua non of the State's existence, but because their public administration is supposed to be advantageous to the people. They are such that if left in private hands would either not be performed at all, or poorly performed.
The determination of just what powers shall be assumed by the State, is solely one of expediency, and as such lies 1 See above page 111, note.
within the field of Politics or the Art of Government and not within the domain of political theory. For this reason we are not here called upon to discuss the utilitarian arguments pro and contra, upon which the public control of this or that interest is to be defended or opposed. In each instance the particular circumstances of the case must determine whether or not the advantages to be derived from the public control in a particular case are more than offset by the weakening of the selfreliance of the people, by the encroaching upon their personal freedom, by the opening of the way to corrupt influences in government, or by the creating of precedents for the assumption of activities by the State that will be detrimental to the general interests. This is practically the rule followed by all modern civilized States.
In accepting this broad utilitarian basis for the State's action, as including every activity that may in any way promote the general welfare, the greatest latitude of individual opinion is permitted as to just what public functions will subserve this end. According to the weight given to the various arguments for and against State action one may differ little in practice from the limited policy dictated by the individualist, or from the extreme doctrine of the socialist or even the communist. The only point here insisted upon is that there is no a priori or fixed limit which can be placed to governmental activity, but that the assumption of each function must rest upon its own utilitarian basis.
By a necessary course of events the trend has been towards the assumption by the State of new functions in the control and regulation of industrial life; and the same causes that have operated in the past will continue to have their effect in the future. As industrial society develops, and increases in coherence and complexity, the social interests—those affecting the people in general-will become more numerous and important, and enlightened utilitarianism will demand the subordination of individual interests to the general weal of the community. It is not necessary to recite here the numerous and important instances during comparatively re