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he may read of Admiralty bunglings—of ships ill-built, pulled to pieces, rebuilt, and patched ; and of a sluggishness which puts the national dockyards “about seven years behind all others. Now the exposure is of an extravagance which erects gaols at a cost of £1200 per prisoner; and now of a carelessness which permits important legal records to rot among rubbish. Here is a sailor of whom the State demanded sixpence a month towards a hospital which was never provided, and whose pension from the Merchant-Seamen's Fund is nothing like what it would have been from an ordinary insurance society; and there, on the other hand, is a Mintmoneyer who gets more than £4000 a year for doing what a tithe of the amount would amply pay for. Official delay is seen in the snail-paced progress of the Museum Catalogue; official mismanagement in the building of Houses of Parliament not fit for speaking in; and official perversity in the opposition always made to improvements by the Excise, the Customs, and the Post-Office authorities. Does the expediency-pbilosopher feel no apprehensions on contemplating such evidence? Or, as one specially professing to be guided by experience, does he think that on the whole experience is in his favour?
“ It is a gross delusion to believe in the sovereign power of political machinery,” says M. Guizot. True: and it is not only a gross delusion but a very dangerous one. Let a people believe in government-omnipotence, and they will be pretty certain to get up revolutions to achieve impossibilities. Between their exorbitant ideas of what the State ought to do for them on the one side, and its miserable performances on the other, there will surely be generated feelings extremely inimical to social order.
But this belief in “ the sovereign power of political machinery” is not born with men; they are taught it. And how are they taught it? Evidently by these preachers of universal legislative superintendence, and by having seen, from
their childhood, all kinds of functions undertaken by government officials. The idea which, in his comment upon the late events in France, M. Guizot calls a "gross delusion," is an idea which he, in common with others, has been practically inculcating. He has kept in action, and in some cases even extended, that system of official supervision to which this idea owes its birth. Was it not natural that men living under the regulation of legions of prefects, sub-prefects, inspectors, controllers, intendants, commissaries, and other civil employés to the number of 535,000—men who were educated by the government, and taught religion by it—who had to ask its consent before they could stir from home-who could not publish a handbill without a permit from the authorities, nor circulate a newspaper after the censor's veto—who daily saw it dictating regulations for railways, inspecting and managing mines, building bridges, making roads, and erecting monuments—who were led to regard it as the patron of science, literature, and the fine arts, and as the dispenser of honours and rewards—who found it undertaking the manufacture of gunpowder, superintending the breeding of horses and sheep, playing the part of public pawnbroker, and monopolizing the sale of tobacco and snuff-who saw it attending to everything, from the execution of public works down to the sanitary inspection of prostitutes; was it not natural that men so circumstanced should acquire exalted ideas of State power? And, having acquired such ideas, were they not likely to desire the State to compass for them unattainable benefits; to get angry because it did not do this; and to attempt by violent means the enforcement of their wishes ?* Evidently the reply must be affirmative. And if 80, it is not too much to say that this over-stepping of the proper sphere of government, leading as it does to that “gross delusion,” a belief in “ the sovereign power of political machinery,” is the natural forerunner of such schemes as those of Blanc and Cabet, and of that confusion which the attempt to realize thein by State-agency must produce.
* Just in time—just while I have before me these pages of this revised edition, there comes a striking verification. A propos of the measures now being taken for dealing with the famine, and the effects produced on the minds of the peasants, a report from Russia in The Standard for 28th November, 1891, says:-“The peasant says to himself that the Czar has fed him up to now, and shall continue to feed him. In one case I hear that an official who endeavoured to explain the impossibility of this was met by the reply-- If our Czar cannot feed us, we will have a Czar who can.'"
There are other modes, too, in which social stability is endangered by this interference system. It is a very expensive system. The further it is carried the larger become the revenues required; and we all know that heavy taxation is inseparable from discontent. Moreover, it is in its nature essentially despotic. In governing everything it unavoidably cramps men; and, by diminishing their liberty of action, angers them. It galls by its infinity of ordinances and restrictions; it offends by professing to help those whom it will not allow to help themselves; and it vexes by its swarms of dictatorial officials, who are for ever stepping in between men and their pursuits. Those regulations by which the French manufacturers were hampered during the last century, when the State decided on the persons to be employed, the articles to be made, the materials to be used, and the qualities of the products—when inspectors broke the looms and burnt the goods that were not made according to law; when improvements were illegal and inventors were fined; had no small share in producing the great revolution. Nor, among the causes which conspired to overthrow the government of Louis Philippe, must we forget the irritation generated by an analogous supervision, under which a mine cannot be opened without the permission of the authorities; under which a bookseller or printer may have his business suspended by the withdrawal of his licence; and under which it is penal to take a bucket of water out of the sea.
Thus, if we regard government as a means of upholding the social state, we find that, besides suffering a direct loss of power to perform its duty on attempting anything else, there are several subsidiary ways in which the assumption of additional functions endangers the fulfilment of its original function.
THE REGULATION OF COMMERCE.
In putting a veto upon any commercial intercourse, or in putting obstacles in the way of any such intercourse, a government trenches upon men's liberties of action; and by so doing directly reverses its function. To secure for each man the fullest freedom to exercise his faculties compatible with the like freedom of all others, we find to be the State's duty. Now trade-prohibitions and trade-restrictions not only do not secure this freedom, but they take it away. So that in enforcing them the State is transformed from a maintainer of rights into a violator of rights. If it be criminal in a civil
power commissioned to shield us from murder to turn murderer itself; if it be criminal in it to play the thief, though set to keep off thieves; then must it be criminal in it to deprive men, in any way, of liberty to pursue the objects they desire, when it was appointed to insure them that liberty.
We saw that as unjust institutions derive their viciousness from moral defects in the people living under them, they must be uniformly pervaded by that viciousness—that as social laws, creeds, and arrangements consist merely of solidified character, the same character will be shown in all the social laws, creeds, and arrangements which co-exist; and, further, that any process of amelioration will affect them simultaneously. We saw that tyranny in forms of government, tyranny in the conduct of lord to serf, tyranny in religious organizations and discipline, tyranny in the marital