Hearn on Government (1863)


This is a chapter from William Edward Hearn, Plutology or the Theory of the Efforts to Satisfy Human Wants (Melbourne: George Robertson, 1863; London: Macmillan and Co., 1864).

See biographical info about him here and the complete book in HTML or facs. PDF.

I have highlighted some of the text which I think are particualrly interesting.

It is pat of a collection of works by Australian classical liberals.



1. The impediments to industry that arise from the action of government may be divided into three classes. They may spring either from the non-performance or the imperfect performance by government of its appropriate functions; or from its improper performance of those functions ; or from its performance of duties not pertaining to its legitimate sphere of action. As to the first of these classes, little now needs be said. The impediments which it includes are the negatives of the advantages mentioned in the next preceding chapter. Still their influence is not confined to the mere absence of advantages that might have been secured. War and anarchy produce terribly positive results. But the maintenance of rights, including of course protection from violence and fraud, is, as we have seen, a condition precedent to the existence of industry, or at least to the extension of any industrial organization. The execution of this great duty admits of various degrees. Rights are very differently maintained in England, and in Kansas ; in the nineteenth century, and in the ninth. According to the approach which the performance of the function makes to perfection is the benefit or the injury to industry. In the savage _times of [425] European anarchy, not a vestige can be discovered for several centuries of any considerable manufacture. Even in the later periods of the middle ages, when government had regained its energy, and civilization had considerably advanced, we read of systematic robberies by men of rank. The castled crag of the German prince became the secure retreat for unsparing marauders. "Robbery, indeed," says Mr. Hallam,[FN: Middle Ages, vol. iii. p. 315.] " is the constant theme both of the capitularies and of the Anglo-Saxon laws : one has more reason to wonder at the intrepid thirst of lucre which induced a very few merchants to exchange the products of different regions than to ask why no general spirit of commercial activity prevailed."

Such a state of anarchy indeed belongs to an age long before the period of industrial development ; and the lordly robbers of Europe have been replaced by a very different class of depredators. But even in our time and in our own country where rights are maintained as never before or nowhere else, examples are but too frequent and too extensive of the imperfect performance of this great function of the state. Equity suits dragging their slow length along for upwards of a century ; insolvent land-owners who can neither part with their estates nor profitably manage them ; just claims defeated from some technical defect, the conveyance of an estate costing upwards of 30 per cent, of the purchase-money every time that it is transferred, and yet the title never absolutely secure ; the insolvent triumphing in his fraudulent gains ; the honest witness harassed and insulted ; all these and all the other reproaches, present and historical, both of our substantive law and of our mode of procedure, furnish ample evidence of the extent to which the neglect or the inefficiency of the state embarrasses industry.


2. The non-feasance of the state, important though it be, is not so fatal to at least the continuance of society as its misfeasance. When government is merely inefficient, men endeavour themselves to supply the want. If there be a deficiency in protection, Lynch-law and vigilance committees furnish their summary procedure and their vigorous executive. Where such remedies cannot be applied, the depredator may be open to conciliation. If the defect be in the administration of justice, men will when it is possible abstain from litigating their rights ; and will refer their disputes to some arbitrator of their own selection. If government will not give a good title to the land that adventurers want, they occupy it without any title. If government neglect to construct main roads, traffic limits itself to the dimensions that bush tracks will admit. But although a subject can thus supply the omission or repair the neglect of the state, he is powerless to oppose its hostile action. When the power on which above all he relied for aid is exerted to his detriment, his case is desperate. The insecurity to which the action of the government or its agents gives rise is indeed the only form of insecurity that absolutely paralyzes man's productive powers. Against every other depredator he has some hope of defending himself Against the force of the society in which he lives, he has none.

The most usual case of governmental malfeasance is found in taxation. The state cannot be maintained without a revenue ; and the imposition and collection of a revenue is consequently a legitimate and important function of government. Since the revenue represents the cost to the subject of the services he receives from the state, the due performance of this function can never be of any advantage to industry. The sacrifice we make for the attainment of any object, however cheerfully it is made and however much the object is prized, can not in itself be a good to us. But [427] taxation, although it never can be or produce positive good, may, if it be excessive or ill managed, prove a very formidable evil.

3. The principal injuries of a merely economic nature to which taxation gives rise are the uncertainty of the tax, its excessive amount, and the mode in which it is raised. The first of these injuries is obviously a case of insecurity. If a man never know what is his own, if he be compelled to surrender any portion of his earnings that the officers of the state may think fit, if he has at the same time to endure in its collection all the insolence of office, the worst kind of insecurity is established. Such is the acknowledged cause of the present lamentable condition of many once prosperous countries in the East. Such was the condition of India under Indian rule ; and, although the worst European misrule never even approaches Oriental tyranny, such was the principal cause of the poverty of the French peasantry before the revolution. The taille or village tax was arbitrarily assessed ; was collectively levied as a personal tax ; and was subject to perpetual variations. Thus no farmer could foresee in any year the probable amount of his taxation in the succeeding year. "To evade," says M. De Tocqueville,[FN: France before the Revolution, p. 233.] "this violent and arbitrary taxation, the French peasantry in. the midst of the 18th century acted like the Jews in the middle ages. They were ostensibly paupers, even when by chance they were not so in reality. They were afraid to be well off, and not without reason." Each tax-payer had in fact a direct and permanent interest to act as a spy on his neighbor; and to transfer to him a portion of his own liability by informing the collector of the increased wealth which this fortunate neighbor had acquired. To such an extent was [428] this practice carried that agricultural societies were unable to offer the prizes which such societies now usually give, lest in the assessment of taxes for the ensuing year the winners should find that they had literally gained a loss.

4. Of the effect of excessive, as distinguished from uncertain, taxation, the history of the later Empire furnishes an instimctive example. Within sixty years after the death of Constantine, the great organizer of the imperial financial system, before the barbarian inroads had even approached the frontiers of Italy, not less than one-eighth of the whole surface of the fertile province of Campania was from the operation of that financial system found to be waste and uncultivated land, and as such, exempted from taxation [FN: Gibbon, vol. ii. p. 337 (Dr. Smith's Edition).] This amazing desolation, as Gibbon justly calls it, which could so quickly turn the very garden of Italy into a desert was by no means confined to that country. In the Gallic provinces a land tax to the almost incredible amount of one-third of the net produce of the land was imposed. This ruinous tax, which might in cases of emergency be increased at the discretion of the Praetorian Prefect, and was readjusted every fifteenth year according to the increased or diminished capabilities of the farm, was supplemented by the further exaction of forced labour and a poll-tax. The pressure of these accumulated burdens was continually augmenting. As one tract of land after another was thrown out of cultivation, the tax upon the remainder became continually more oppressive. As increasing poverty diminished the number of those who could contribute the full amount of their pol-tax, the demands on the less indigent were proportionately increased. This result was accelerated by the mode of collection. The curiales, or members of the municipality, were [429] held to be responsible for the amount of taxes payable within their district. If land were thrown out of culture, they were required to assume all its burdens. If the poll-tax failed to reach the assessed amount, they were oliged to make good the deficiency. Nor were they allowed to escape from their position. Many of them sought for refuge in privileged pursuits ; in the church, the public service, the army, or even, it is said, in slavery. But all such modes of escape were forbidden ; a rigorous search was always made ; and the deserter if found was compelled to return to the calamitous greatness thus thrust upon him.[FN: See Guizot's History of Civilization, vol. i. p. 305.]

5. But even if the sum payable for the expenses of government be precisely ascertained, and be moderate in its amount, the manner in which it is raised may seriously affect industiy. In the earlier periods of society, when the relations of the executive to the people were less political than proprietary, the exigencies of the state were supplied by the property of the state. In feudal countries the vast domains of the crown, and the various lucrative branches of the royal prerogative were in the first instance supposed to be applicable to public purposes. It was only after their exhaustion and upon emergency that the voluntary aids, which in England were gradually developed into our system of parliamentary taxation, were, at least in theory, required. Yet it is now well understood that a territorial revenue, although at first sight it appears to cost no person anything, is one of the most costly forms of maintaining its government that any community can adopt. It prevents the proper settlement of the country ; and it keeps all the lands which are so applied comparatively, if not wholly, unproductive. A great landowner, as Adam Smith remarks, is seldom a great improver [430] of agriculture ; and this remark is a fortiori true when that land-owner is the sovereign. But the retention of land by owners who, like the crown, cannot use it as profitably as other persons could do, is a mere waste of the public resources ; and consequently retards the industrial evolution. These principles are now generally recognized in practice ; and accordingly settlement, and not revenue, is the avowed object of the land policy in most new countries of the present day. For the same reason in such countries territorial endowments are now rarely granted. When it is desired to give public assistance to any object, that assistance is given not in land but in money. As the country becomes fully settled, the population becomes more numerous and more wealthy ; and consequently their contributions, as well to the state as for voluntary purposes, soon exceed any direct profits that could be made from the land. The advice therefore of Burke [FN: Works, vol. iii p. 367.] is now practically followed " to throw the unprofitable landed estates of the crown into the mass of private property, by which they will come through the course of circulation and through the political secretions of the state into our better understood and better ordered revenues."

6. The mode in which the public revenue of most countries is now raised is by indirect taxation. This practice is open to grave objections. So far as these objections are political or administrative, so far as they relate to equality of contribution or to the convenience of collecting those contributions, they are beyond my present purpose. I am not now treating of the art of finance, but only of the impediments which certain financial operations present to industry.


It is obvious from the very nature of the case that indirect taxation acts as a disturbing force upon prices. It interferes with the free action either of labour or of some of its aids. It presents an artificial obstacle to the attainment of the desired object ; and not unfrequently this obstacle is much greater than the actual amount of the tax would seem to indicate. The spontaneous course of industry is thus disturbed, and various industrial derangements follow. Sometimes industry is diverted into new and less productive channels. We see this result by the return of the trade when the duty has been removed. When coffee for example was taxed at one and sixpence a pound, its consumption was very limited : when the amount of duty was reduced to sevenpence, its consumption rose 750 per cent. When the duty was again raised to one shilling the consumption was again checked. When a reduction to sixpence was effected, the consumption once more largely expanded : and when ultimately all the duties on coffee, irrespective of its place of growth or importation, were assimilated and reduced to threepence, the result was even more remarkable. At the commencement of this century the average consumption of coffee in Great Britain was one ounce per head; at the present time it is about twenty-two ounces per head.[FN: Porter's Progress of the Nation, p. 549. Levi On Taxation, p. 75.] Many persons must therefore at the earlier period have sacrificed their personal inclinations ; and the capital required to supply their desires must either have been idle, or have been employed in rendering a less urgent service. The effects too of these disturbances are often felt in some remote part of the industrial system, and in some unexpected manner. The high duty on coffee was found to check the establishment of coffee-houses, and to promote the sale of intoxicating drinks. In consequence of the excise upon glass [432] chemists were unable to procure the vessels suited to some of their purposes ; and thus chemical researches were obstructed, and an injury was done to all the arts to which chemistry contributes. The duty on paper through the medium of the jacquard-cards employed was also a heavy tax upon figured silk.[FN: Spencers Essays, p. 320.] The brick duties prevented the lining of shafts and the tunnelling of workings, and so considerably increased the danger of mining. When the duty on salt was abolished, the manufacture of soda became profitable. The regular and abundant supply of soda altered the manufacture of soap, and extinguished the trades in kelp and in wood-ashes which the previous necessities of the soap-boiler had called into existence. The cost of soap which had thus been indirectly increased was still further raised by an excise duty. Its consumption consequently in 1801 was four times less than 1851, and its place was in some degree taken by injurious and caustic powders. Hence an excessive destruction of clothes was at least to some extent the direct consequence of an excise upon salt. Thus indirect taxation, like every other case of state interference, propagates a multitude of changes, and generally of injurious changes, which previous to their occurrence could never have been anticipated.

Another inconvenience arising from indirect taxation is that the precautions which must be taken to guard against a fraudulent evasion of the duty sometimes preclude, when the subject of the tax is a manufactured article, the possibility of improvement in the process. In the case of the excise upon glass this result was very perceptible. Glass of a peculiar size or glass of a peculiar thickness and glass of a peculiar colour could not be made at all, because the excise reonilations under which the manufacture was conducted did not correspond with the properties of the [438] materials employed. Nor was it possible to conduct any experiments for the purposes of ascertaining the causes that affect the properties of the various kinds of glass, or of mtroducing any novelty into the manufacture. Permission indeed might be given by the excise authonties ; but it was always granted with reluctance : and the trouble and annoyance incident to such applications to a public board compared with the contingent character of the advantage to the manufacturer effectually prevented any new investigations.

7. Such are some of the chief obstacles to industry that are caused by taxation. But as the right line is the test both of itself and of the oblique, it may be useful, even if it be not wholly within my limits, to consider briefly the true principles which should regulate the exercise of this great public function. Political society is spontaneously formed for the performance of matters pertaining to those interests that are common to every member of the society. Such a performance necessitates the command of considerable pecuniary resources. The person who derives the advantage in any matter is the person who ought to bear the consequent burden. Since all are alike interested in the action of the state, all should alike contribute to its support. Since all are interested in a like degree, all should contribute in a like proportion. This rule requires not equality of contribution, but equality of sacrifice ; not equal rights, but an equal maintenance of rights. Every subject therefore should contribute to the expenses of the state in proportion to his income, that is to his total revenue from whatever source derived. This payment is for value received ; and is consequently not an evil in any other sense than that in which every other payment is an evil. It is a sacrifice for the attainment of a much greater good : a sacrifice comparatively trifling indeed, even when it is highest, [434] but still a sacrifice. Nor is it in itself a good, as it has been strangely represented to be. It is a means of obtaining a good, but it is itself something very different. Like every other payment, therefore, it should be made plainly and directly for the object in respect to which it is paid. If the sacrifice be greater, or the return for it be less than is necessary, the remedy is to reduce the one or to increase the other. We only cast an air of mystery over a simple transaction, when we pay a higher price for something else, and get government as it were thrown into the bargain. The contribution for public purposes is a plain duty ; and every evasion of this or of any other duty brings with it its own punishment.

On both jural and on industrial principles therefore the proper mode of taxation is an income tax properly levied on every person according to his means.[FN: See on this subject a paper "On the General Principles of Taxation, as illustrating the advantages of a perfect Income Tax." By W. Neilson Hancock, LL.D. Journal of Dublin Statistical Society, vol. i. p. 285.] This method is consistent with natural justice, and causes the least possible interference with industry. What the practical objections to this tax at the present time are I shall not now consider. It is not for me to say whether such a tax ought or ought not to be imposed in any country. Even if its imposition were practically impossible, the principle would not on that account be the less true. But the theory of government which these considerations assume can only prevail in an advanced state of society. They have nothing in common with a paternal or a proprietary government. They assume that the taxpayers regard their contributions not as oppressive exactions but as the reasonable consideration for a highly prized service. In the present condition therefore of our political knowledge and of our political morality, we [433] probably must remain content with a system very far removed from the ideal standard. We can only endeavour from time to time to approach as closely to thaat standard as our circumstances will admit.

8. The obstacles that the state by its assumption of improper functions causes to industry are so numerous and so varied that brevity in any notice of them is almost unattainable. But I shall confine myself to that undue extension of the functions of the state which is shown both in its regulation of industry, and in its own attempts to conduct industrial enterprises. As to the regulation of industry by the state little now remains to be said. So completely has the true character of this interference been explained that the details of our early industrial history read like the narratives of the examination by the ordeal or of the trials for witchcraft. Yet during several centuries this action of the state was universal throughout Europe : and at the present day it is far from being obsolete. Under this system the state commanded what branch of industry men should pursue and what they should abstain from pursuing. It insisted that the branches of indvistry which it authorized should be conducted in the manner, with the materials, and at the time, that it prescribed and not otherwise. It fixed the remuneration proper in its estimation for personal services and for commodities. It determined what persons and what classes of persons should engage in each kind of occupation, what time they should spend in learning their business, and what qualifications they should respectively possess. It indicated the persons with whom business might be transacted, and the places at which exclusively negotiations might be carried on. It prescribed the conditions on which men might pass to and fro within the country or to other countries. We now know the real character and effect [436] of these interferences, and of the multitude of similar interferences that so long impeded industry. But the mode in which they operated, and where they still exist continue to operate, may admit of some brief illustration.

The effects of the direct interferences with labour whether complete or partial are obvious. They hinder the labourer from working at the occupation which he desires to pursue ; and they hinder others from employing the persons whom they think proper. But besides checking both directly and indirectly the efficacy of labour, this system obstructed every one of the industrial aids. I shall not go beyond our own statute book for examples. The laws that encouraged one species of industry at the expense of another obviously interfered with the employment of capital. The usury laws had not only this effect, but also checked the extension of credit. When the Reformation Parliament prohibited dry calendering, or the use by dyers of brasil wood, and other innovations that were introduced by aliens, and further insisted that woollen caps and hats should be made " according to the ordinary workmanship before in use," it thereby refused to admit of improvements, or to accept the aid of inventions. The Bubble Act at a later date aimed a formidable blow at co-operation. The combined action of men to obtain the market value for their work was punished as conspiracy. To quote examples of interference with the right of exchange would be to quote the greater part of our earlier statute law, and no inconsiderable portion of much later date. So incessant and so mischievous was this interference in every European community that, if it were not for smuggling, trade must have absolutely perished. " In every quarter and at every moment the hand of government was felt. Duties on importation and duties on exportation : bounties to raise up a losing trade, and taxes to pull down a remunerative one : this branch of industry forbidden, and [ 487] that branch of industry encouraged ; one article of commerce must not be grown because it was grown in the colonies ; another article might be grown and bought but not sold again, while a third article might be bought and sold and not leave the country. Thus too we find laws to regulate wages ; laws to regulate prices ; laws to regulate profits ; laws to regulate the interest of money ; Customhouse arrangements of the most vexatious kind, aided by a complicated scheme which was well called the sliding scale, a scheme of such perverse ingenuity that the duties constantly varied on the same article, and no man could calculate beforehand what he would have to pay."[FN: Buckle's History of Civilization, vol. i. p. 255.]

The power of the state has also been so exerted as to check the natural course of social evolution. The policy of the staple towns at which exclusively commodities for export could be sold, the attempts to establish staple trades or in other words to encourage certain forms of industry, the endeavour to retain the old agricultural system against the extension of pasturage, the compulsory culture of some particular product such as hemp, all interfered with the spontaneous differentiation of society. In like manner the statutes "[FN: 22 and 23 H. VIII. aud 5 Eliz.] which forbade brewers to make their own barrels, or butchers to tan their own leather, or coachmakers to make their own wheels, tended to perpetuate an excessive co-operation, and prevented the natural integrations that would otherwise have taken place. In short, every attempt to interfere with the ordinary development of a country, to abolish the woollen trade that the linen trade might be encouraged, to charge the manufacturing interest that the farmers may be protected, or the mining interest that the manufacturers may be able to meet the competition of [438] foreigners, to refuse in a new country to sell land to the settler for the sake of the grazier, or to exterminate the grazier in the hope of making room for the farmer, to laud some one pursuit, whether agriculture, or pasturage, or commerce, as the especial object of national policy, and to hold out unusual inducements to enter upon that pursuit, or in any way to check the natural course of settlement in any country, tends to produce an unnatural uniformity in the occupations of that country and so to arrest its development and retard its progress.

9. Some of the most serious objections to the quasi-mercantile action of government or its management of industrial enterprises are of a political nature. As the Royal Prerogative in England attained its greatest height when it was brought most frequently and vividly before men's minds in matters affecting its proprietary rights and in its humbler form of business transactions,[FN: See Hallam's Constitutional History, vol. ii. p. 311] so the general authority of government is increased by every extension of its irregular functions. " If," says Mr. Mill,[FN: Liberty, p. 198.] " the roads, the railways, the banks, the insurance offices, the great joint stock companies, the universities, and the public charities were all of them branches of the government ; if in addition the municipal corporations with all that now devolves on them became departments of the central administration, if the employés of all these different enterprises were appointed and paid by the government, and looked to the government for every rise in life, not all the freedom of the press and popular constitution of the legislature would make this or any other country free otherwise than in name."

In a merely economic view the principal damage thus [439] done is the interference with the spontaneous evolution of industry. We have seen that in the ordinary course of events each want is supplied in the order of its intensity ; and that the failure of any such supply is consequently evidence that some more pressing requirement is felt. This order is disturbed by the intervention of government. Since the capital at its disposal is obtained from the community, every operation that government undertakes is the displacement of a corresponding portion of industry. If the labour and the capital thus employed had been left to find their natural channels, they would have satisfied some want. If the want were the same as that which the government undertook to supply, the intervention of the latter was needless : if the want were different, that intervention was a disturbance of the natural course of development.

But the same funds are seldom so available in the hands of government as they are when they are in the hands of private persons. This proposition, which indeed is now generally admitted, is established by the fact that almost every undertaking of government is a monopoly, and so depends for its existence upon artificial support. But a monopoly for the benefit of government is not different in its nature from a monopoly for the benefit of an individual. Both are alike subject to the Nemesis that waits upon their kind. Thus the intervention of government not only deranges the natural order in which wants are satisfied ; but obtains for a given amount of effort a smaller quantity of that satisfaction which it affords than in ordinaiy circumstances might be obtained. It has those defects of a weakly and inferior organism which whether in animals or in societies nature removes by death ; and it has the further defects which an unnatural and artificial immortality involves.


A still more pernicious consequence of the undue intervention of the state is the check that it gives to the development of practical intelligence and of habits of association. The conversion of the ordinary branches of industry into public functions tends to destroy a natural and most potent agency for public education. Although this tendency involves far wider considerations than those of mere economy, yet its influence upon industry is very serious. Useful as is scholastic instruction, it is insufficient to supply the practical training of the citizen. The business of life forms an essential part of the education of a people. The absence of this discipline, no less than the absence of the usual rudimentary discipline, leaves the mental development stunted and incomplete. In all political affairs the highly-trained German is confessedly inferior to the unlettered Englishman or American. The fatal effects which the absence of political experience exercised on the political thinkers of France in the first revolution are well known.[FN: De Tocqucville's France, p. 258.] We are familiar with the want of practical ability frequently observable in men of great speculative powers and of remarkable erudition. It was a remark of the Chancellor Clarendon, no unfriendly critic surely, that "of all mankind none form so bad an estimate of human affairs as churchmen." And this want of political tact and skill is even more conspicuous in that class of learned and studious men whose lives are devoted to academic pursuits. So sensible indeed of this besetting weakness are the most eminent members of that class that, sometimes, as in the case of Savigny, they deliberately seek some share in the duties of active life as a means of intellectual growth and invigoration. But amongst the larger part of every community where Anglican institutions prevail, this practical education is continally going on. [441] Every part of public business constitutes an adult school, not the less efficient because the students are unconscious of the process. When a man serves on a jury, when he sits as a vestryman or as a municipal councillor, when he acts as member of a committee for any public purpose whether it be for business or for charity or even for mere amusement, he is learning a lesson that no schoolmaster can teach. He learns to think of something else than himself and his immediate affairs ; to comprehend common interests and to manage joint concerns. Such a lesson strengthens the tendency towards cohesion and checks the tendency to disunion. It is besides a discipline both moral and intellectual of the best kind. It gives that feeling of responsibility which a confidence reposed in a man by others rarely fails to produce ; and it stimulates the judgment to a healthy and vigorous action.

All these beneficial results are checked when the state saves its subjects the salutary trouble of attending to public business. " A people," says Mr. Mill,[FN: Political Economy, vol. ii. p. 539.] "among whom there is no habit of spontaneous action for a collective interest, who look habitually to their government to command or prompt them on all matters of joint concern, who expect to have everything done for them except what can be made an affair of mere habit and routine, have their faculties only half developed : their education is defective in one of its most important branches." The longer that this deficiency continues, and the more confirmed the habits to which it has given rise, the greater is the difficulty and the severer the struggle in the return to the natural state. It is essential to the spontaneous development of industry that men should be gradually trained by the means which it provides to their social and political duties. In this as in [442] every other natural process success is the reward of discipline. Before a man can rightly use his freedom, he must be accustomed to be free. Before a man can successfully associate with other men, he must have had some expeiience of co-operation. Before a man can properly conduct any industrial enterprize he must be acquainted with the wants that he proposes to supply. Slaves on their emancipation generally commit many excesses. When any branch of trade after a protracted course of interference is set free, the reaction is proportionate to the preceding restraint. We wonder at the indolence of the free negro, and are ready to pronounce his emancipation a failure : but we forget the duration of his previous degradation. We lament the extravagance of mercantile speculation in some new business ; but the long existence of the old monopoly has escaped our memory, and the effects which such a monopoly produces upon the imagination of those who are excluded from it. Not unfrequently the evil has been so long continued as to render its cessation impossible. Even though the pernicious consequences are plainly seen, the former course must still be pursued. The craving for the false stimulant must be gratified at all hazards. As wrong leads to wrong, so every interference necessitates or at least appears to necessitate its successor.[FN: See for a remarkable example in the case of the supply of food by government during the Irish famine, Transactions of the Central Committee of the Society of Friends, p. 22.]

10. There is now little risk at least in any Anglican country that the old extravagancies of state-action will be revived. When a reader of the present day learns that about eighty years ago Jeremy Bentham's father was brought before a magistrate on a charge of wearing unlawful buttons,[FN: Bentham's Works, vol. x. p. 87.] [443] he can hardly restrain an incredulous smile. When we read of the pilloryings and the confiscations that in France up to the time of the Revolution punished a deviation from the regulation pattern of soft goods, we seem to listen to a traveller's tales of some mischievous apes, and not a narrative of sad realities acted by civilized men. Nor is it likely that either in the present or any future generation any urgent request will be made to government to carry on under its own direction any great manufactuiing or other productive operation. When men are profitably conducting their business, they do not wish to have government either as an agent or as a rival. Yet although its outward manifestations are thus changed, the spirit which gave rise to this perversion of the functions of the state is still vigorous. In one place it appears in the form of communism, or of socialism, or of some kindred system. In another it wears the more modest disguise of protection. Sometimes it speaks in the stern tones of absolutism. Sometimes it sounds the war-note of the modem redresser of every wrong, democracy. Impatient philanthropists can think of no other remedy for the evils which they deplore than a law-made agency. Practical men cannot understand the continuance of the world without their customary support. Men of the most opposite opinions and with the most opposite objects desire to employ each in support of their own purposes the power of the state, but never question the extent of that power or the expediency of its exercise. All are unanimous that there is no human evil which may not be remedied by a proper Act of Pailiament.

Yet in all such cases, however dissimilar they apper-, we recognize the same unbelief and the same presumption. Men have no faith in the existence or in the operation of the natural laws that regulate society ; but have full reliance on their own fortune, and their own powers. They are [444] convinced both that the time is out of joint, and that they were born to set it right. " They have so little faith in the laws of things and so much faith in themselves, that were it possible they would chain earth and sun together lest centripetal force should fail. Nothing but a parliament-made agency can be depended on ; and only when this infinitely complex humanity of ours has been put under their ingenious regulations, and provided for by their supreme intelligence, will the world become what it ought to be ! Such in essence is the astounding creed of these creation-menders."[FN: Spencer's Social Statics, p. 294.]

This strange presumption arises from two defects, the one intellectual the other moral. Of these defects the former proceeds partly from the low state of our political and social knowledge, partly from the indisposition of men to analyze the general terms with which they are familiar, and partly from the common confusion between an acquaintance with the practical details of a process, and an accurate knowledge of the principles upon which it is founded. In these circumstances men fail to observe the facts presented to them, or if they do perceive them to apprehend their true meaning. With the advance and the diffusion of knowledge this unconscious ignorance, and the presumption which it engenders, will gradually disappear. But this state of mind involves to some extent a moral fault, the removal of which is much less easy. This defect proceeds not from a want of knowledge but a want of faith. It is a mistrust in the natural system by which the world is governed, a doubt that notwithstanding the cogency of the proof the promised sequences of nature will fail. Even in physical science this feeling is not uncommon. In works of construction the attempt to obtain excessive strength [445] is not merely wasteful, but, by bringing a needless strain upon the parts least fitted to receive it, is absolutely mischievous. Yet, even where the principles involved are well known, this defect is the one which is most common in new machinery, and which when once it has been practically adopted is most difficult to remove. For centuries English ships were built on a principle which involved great waste of material and great inefficiency, although the mathematical principles that the art of ship-building involved were perfectly understood. " It requires," as it has been well observed,[FN: Edinburgh Review, vol. lxxxix. p. 66.] "no common powers of calculation and not a little faith for men to trust to the safety of structures which have apparently been deprived of half their former strength." It is not therefore surprising that in social affairs this hesitation should be strongly felt. Few men have strong convictions on such subjects. Few therefore even of those who have studied the laws of society can forbear from some immediate action, either too impatient or too uncertain of the result to wait. It will indeed be long before these impediments to industrial progress can be completely removed. Yet not on that account should those who believe in the sufficiency of the moral order of the world, and desire to see its action unimpeded by human interference, bate one jot of heart or hope. This period of doubt and of uncertain groping after truth is an inevitable stage in social advancement. In due season it will pass away. A single life-time, though it be of the longest, is but a short time in a nation's history ; and although the changes we desire to see may be hidden from our eyes, they are only reserved for a generation better prepared for their enjoyment. There is a passage in Herodotus which Dr. Arnold was fond of quoting expressive of the [446] bitter pain that arises from the combination of knowledge and of helplessness. But those who like Arnold zealously battle for the true, the just, have indeed their own mission, but need their own discipline. The reformer must be taught to feel that the good will come not as he wills or when he wills ; but easily, almost spontaneously, when the world is fitted to receive it. Yet not the less, though success may be far distant, is he to labour, and so far as in him lies to promote the good work. " The highest truth the wise man sees, he will fearlessly utter ; knowing that, let what may come of it, he is thus playing his right part in the world ; knowing that if he can effect the change he aims at, well ; if not, well also, though not so well."[FN: First Principles, p. 123.]