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experiments on a small scale. It is the Socialism
which can only be realised through the State, and
which must have a whole nation as a subject on
which to operate. It is the government of all by
all and for all, with private property largely or
wholly abolished, landowners got rid of, capital
rendered collective, industrial armies formed under
, the control of the State on co-operative principles,
and w^ork assigned to every individual and its value
determined for him.

Speaking of this form of Socialism, Schaffle
says :

" Critically, dogmatically, and practically, the cardinal thesis
stands out — collective instead of private ownership of all in-
struments of production (land, factories, machines, tools, &c.);


* organisation of labour by vsoeiety,' instead of the distracting
competition of ])i'ivate capitalists ; that is to say, corporate
organisation and management of the process of production
in the place of private businesses; public organisation of the
labour of all on the basis of collective ownership of all the
working materials of social labour; and finally, distribution
of the collective output of all kinds of manufacture in pro-
poition to the value and amount of the work done by each
worker. The producers would still be, individually, no more
than workmen, as there would no longer be any private property
in the instruments of production, and all would, in fact, be work-
ing with the instruments of production belonging to all — i.e.,
collective capital. But they would not be working as private
manufacturers and their workmen, but would all be on an equal
footing as professional workers, directly organised, and paid their
salary, by society as a whole. Consequently, there would no
longer exist in futvire the present fundamental division of private
income into 2)Tofits (or in some cases the creditor's share, by way
of interest, in the profit of the debtor) and wages, but all incomes
would equally represent a share in the national produce, allotted
directly by the community in proportion to the work done — that
is, exclusive returns to labour. Those who yielded services of
general utility as judges, administrative officials, teachers, artists,
scientific investigators, instead of producing material commodities
— i.e., all not immediately productive workers, all not employed
in the social circulation of material, would receive a share in the
commodities produced by the national labour, proportioned to the
time spent by them in work useful to the community." *

The Socialism thus described has come to be
commonly designated Collectivism, and the name is
convenient and appropriate. It is the only kind of
Socialism greatly in repute at present, or really
formidable ; and, consequently, it is the form of it
which especially requires to be examined. It is the

" The Quintessence of Socialism " (Engl, tr.), pp. 7-9.


Socialism which I shall henceforth have chleflv In

Collectivism will appear to most men obviously to
involve an excessive Intervention of the State — one
which deprives individuals of their fundamental
rio-hts and liberties. It Is Society org-anised as the
State Intervening In all the Industrial and economic
arrangements of life, possessing almost everything,
and so controlling and directing Its members that
private and personal enterprises and Interests are
absorbed in those which are public and collective.
Most people will ask for no proof that such
Socialism as this would be Incompatible with the
freedom of Individuals : and would be a deofradlnof
and ruinous species of social despotism. They will
consider this self-evident, and deem that those who
do not perceive that Collectivism will be utterly sub-
versive of liberty, and that Its establishment would
be the enthronement of a fearful tyranny, must be
blind to the distinction betw^een liberty and tyranny.

Now, that Collectivism must inevitably and to a
most pernicious extent sacrifice the rights and
liberties of Individuals to the will and authority of
Society, or the State, I fully believe ; but I admit
that I must prove this, and not assume It. The
whole question as to the truth or falsity of
Collectivism turns on whether It necessarily does so
or not, and, therefore, nothing should be assumed
on the point. I shall endeavour to meet the
obligation of proving Collectivism to be a system
which would be destructive of liberty by discussing
the chief positions maintained, and the principal


proposals advocated, by Collectivists. But in what
remains of this chapter I must be content to indicate
the ground from which I shall thus examine the
claims of Collectivism, and of Socialism generally.

Individualism is an excess as well as Socialism,
and one excess while it so far tends to counteract,
also so far tends to evoke, another. When Hobbes,
for example, inculcated a theory of selfishness, a
system of ethics which made self-love the universal
principle of conduct, he was speedily followed by
Cumberland, who maintained the negative in terms
of the directest antithesis, and taught that the only
principle of right conduct is benevolence. The most
ready and forcible mode of denying an obnoxious
theory is by positively affirming and defending its
contrary. It is, therefore, only what was to have
been expected that the prevalence of Socialism
should drive many of those who see its dangers into
Individualism ; that a consequence of one class of
social theorists assio-ninsr to the State far more
power than it ought to possess should be the
ascribing to it by another class of far less power
than it is desirable to allow to it ; that a belief in
State omnipotence should generate a belief in
administrative nihilism. In this we are willino- to
recognise a natural necessity, or even a providential
arrangement. Humanity very probably requires to
learn impartiality through experience of the contra-
dictions and exaggerations of many parties and
partisans. Yet none the less is every man bound to
try to be as impartial, as free from excess on any
side, from all narrowness, exaggeration, and par-


tisanship as he can. And, therefore, while desiring
fully to acknowledge alike the truths in Socialism
itself and the importance of the services rendered
by those who oppose the errors of Socialism from
individualistic standpoints, I must, for my own
part, endeavour to deal with Socialism without
making use of the principles or maxims of what I
reofard as Individualism.

The Individualist assumes that the limits of
State action should be unvarying, and may conse-
quently be indicated in some simple rigid formula.
It would plainly be very convenient for indolent
politicians if the assumption were true, but it does
not seem to be so. The sphere of State power has
not been the same in any two nations, nor in any
one nation at any two stages of its development.
And there is no good reason for thinking it should
have been otherwise. Nay, a man who does not see
that the measure of State control and direction to
be exercised ought to have varied according to the
characteristics, antecedents, circumstances, education,
enterprise, dangers, and tasks of those who were to
be controlled and directed, must be a man to whom
history is a sealed book, and who is consequently
incapable of forming a rational theory of the sphere
and functions of the State. The slightest survey of
history should suffice to convince us that an
enormous amount of mischief has been caused by
over-legislation, and that human progress has largely
consisted in widening the range of individual liberty {
and narrowing that of public interference ; but it
must make equally manifest that nations have



generally owed their very existence to having been
subjected in their youth to a system of discipline
and government which they justly rejected in their
maturity as despotic. We may well be suspicious,
therefore, of formulae which profess to convey to us
in a few words the absolute and unvarying truth
concerning what is essentially relative and ever
varying. When examined they will always be found
to be very inadequate, and often, notwithstanding
a specious appearance of clearness, obscure or even

J. S. Mill's Essay on "Liberty" is a noble and
admirable production, but there is very little light
or help indeed to be got from what its author
considered its "one simple principle, entitled to
govern absolutely the dealing of society with the
individual in the way of compulsion and control" —
namely, the principle "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 sole
purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised
over any member of a civilised community, against
his will, is to prevent harm to others."

The proof of this principle will be sought for in
the Essay in vain. The distinction between effecting
good and preventing harm cannot be consistently
and thoroughly carried through in such a connec-
tion. Soldiers are no more maintained to repel
foreign enemies, and policemen to apprehend thieves
and murderers, merely in order to prevent harm,
without any view to doing good to the community,


than physicians are called in to free individuals of
sickness, but not to help them to get well. In all
the functions of government the production of good
and the prevention of evil are inseparable, and they
are equally legitimate aims of action.

Further, the so-called " principle " while seem-
ingly definite, is in reality utterly vague. All vices
inevitably injure not only those who indulge in
them, but cause suffering to those who do not.
There are few, if any, actions which are purely
self-regarding. It is just because of the amount of
harm which drunkenness produces that a class of
social reformers desire to put an end to all liberty
to make use of strong drinks. Mr. Mill of course
opposed their proposals, but it was certainly not by
adhering to his "one simple principle." That
prmciple can be no effective barrier to encroach-
ments on individual liberty, to over-legislation, to
social despotism.

At present Mr. Spencer is generally regarded by
Individualists as a safer and more consistent guide
than was Mr. Mill. And his " Man versus The
State " is undoubtedly a most vigorous and oppor-
tune assault on excessive State intervention. While
I reg-ard it as one-sided and exao-o-erated in some of
its charges, and seriously at fault on certain points,
I admire it in the main as not only a valuable book
but a brave and excellent action.

I cannot perceive, however, that in it or any
other of his works Mr. Spencer has established an}'-
self-consistent or practical system of Individualism.
Mr. Auberon Herbert and the Party of Individual


Liberty believe that they find at least the firm
foundation-stone of such a system in his formula,
" the Liberty of each, limited alone by the like
Liberty of all." But is it so ? To me these words
seem to be vague and ambiguous. They tell
neither what is the liberty of " each " nor of " all,"
and, therefore, nothing as to how, or how far, the
liberty of each is to be limited by that of all.

"Like liberty!" Like to what? Like to a
liberty which has no other limit than the limit of
others ? Then the formula means that each indi-
vidual may do to any other what he pleases,
provided all other individuals may do to him what
they please. But that is simply saying that there
should be no society, no government, no law
whatever ; that man is made for anarchy and
lawlessness ; that his ideal condition is what
Hobbes supposed to be his primitive condition —
" bellum omnium contra omnes."

If the formula does not mean this it must mean,
what it unfortunately, however, does not state, that
if men are to live as social beinefs the libertv of each
man, and of all men, should be limited by a like
law, the common law. This is quite true. If I
become a member of any society I must agree to
obey the laws of the society. I cannot be a citizen
of any country unless I consent to have my liberty
limited by its common and constitutional law. I
may seek the improvement of the law in a constitu-
tional way, but if I go further I renounce my
citizenship and must become an alien or an enemy.
In every society the liberty of each and of all its


members is limited by the common and constitu-
tional law of the society, and must be so limited,
otherwise the society will dissolve. It is social law
which must limit and render like the liberty of each
and of all the members of the society ; not the
limitation of the liberty of each by the like liberty
of all which determines what is the proper constitu-
tion of society.

Liberty is limited by law, justly limited only
when limited by just law ; law and justice are not
constituted by liberty, or mere equality of liberty.
In fact, the phrase, " the Liberty of each, limited
alone by the like Liberty of all," is destitute of
meaning apart from knowledge of a law which
limits liberty — apart from knowledge of the very
law which it is supposed to reveal.

The theory that the State has for its sole aim to
protect life, liberty, and property, or, in other words,
to repel invasion and punish crime, is definite and
intelligible. But it is also arbitrary and inade-
quate. Those who object to pay taxes for anything
except defence from fraud and violence might, in
consistency, object to taxation even for that. There
may be men who seek from the State no protection,
and who are prepared to endure wrong without
appealing to it for reparation. There may be many
who consider it a greater hardship to be compelled
to contribute to the maintenance of an army in a
distant dependency than to the support of a school
in their own neio^hbourhood. To me it seems that
no member of a nation has reason to complain of
being required, so long as he profits by the various


real and precious advantages of good government,
to bear his share of its necessary expenses ; that, on
the contrary, to refuse to do so would be selfish,
unreasonable, and unjust. The State, in my view,
has a variety of functions through the right exer-
cise of which all its members are greatly benefited,
and for the exercise of which, therefore, they
may be fairly required collectively to provide.
The political Individualism which denies to the
State the right to intervene in any measure or
in any circumstances for the positive development
of industry, intelligence, science, morality, art, is
as erroneous, and, could it be consistently and
completely carried out, which happily it cannot,
would be almost as pernicious as fully developed

Does it follow that one who thus discards indi-
viduahstic theories of the Hmits of the State must
needs accept some sociahstic theory thereof, or can
at least have no firm standing ground from which
to oppose Socialism, or definite and sound criteria
by which to test it ? By no means. It is true that
he has not a theory which he can sum up in a
sentence like either the Socialist or the Indi-
vidualist. It is not so easy to formulate a theory
which will apply to all the relevant facts with all
their complications and variations, as to formulate
one which is a mere ideal of the reason or imao-ina-
tion, and calmly or boldly indifferent to all trouble-
some and antagonistic realities. But though neither
an Individualist nor a Socialist, a man need not be
— and if he undertake to discuss political subjects


ought not to be — without some theory as to the
proper Umits of State action ; and however conscious
he may be that his theory can be only an approxi-
mation to the full truth, he may be confident of
having in it means sufficient to enable him to test
such a theory as Socialism. I should gladly, if time
and space enough were at my command, discuss the
question of the limits of State intervention, as there
are few questions more worthy of careful considera-
tion. I can only here and now, however, indicate
in a few sentences that, apart from such a discussion,
we may without arrogance undertake to form and
express a judgment on socialistic conclusions and

First, then, there are simple, definite, and well-
ascertained moral laws which ought to condition
and reofulate the actions both of States and of indi-
viduals. We may fairly demand that all theories
alike of State intervention and of personal conduct
shall recoo-nise these laws. It is obvious how this
applies to our subject. Certain unfriendly critics of
the doctrine of laisser-faire have understood it to
mean that the State should not restrict commercial
competition within even the limits of veracity and
honesty. This was certainly not what Adam Smith
or any eminent economist belonging to his school
meant by it. Adam Smith formulated the doctrine
of laisser-faire, or natural liberty, thus : " Every
man, as long as he does not violate the laivs of
justice, is left perfectly free to pursue his own
interests his own way, and to bring both his
industry and capital into competition with those of


any other man or orders of men."* There may have
been some theorists — it is difficult to disprove a
negative — who omitted from his teaching of the
doctrine the condition expressed by Adam Smith in

* " Wealth of Nations," Bk. IV. ch. ix. p. 286 (Nicholson's ed.). In the
" Introductory Essay " prefixed to his edition Prof. Nicholson has made
some remarks on Adam Smith which I cannot deny myself the pleasure of
reproducing : " The author of the ' Theory of Moral Sentiments,' the key-
stone of which is sympathy, the man who at his death left a much smaller
fortune than was anticipated, owing to his constant expenditure in deeds
of unostentatious charity, the man who was especially distinguished
amongst his contemporaries by his geniality and kindness, is popularly
supposed to be the father of the dismal dogmas which amongst the vulgar
(if the term may be still used in its older signification) pass current for
Political Economy. The most cursory perusal of the ' Wealth of Nations,'
however, will convince the reader that the spirit in which it is written is
essentially human, and the most careful scrutiny will bring to light no
passage in which the doctrine of ' selfishness ' is inculcated. The ' economic
man,' the supposed incarnation of selfishness, is no creation of Adam Smith ;
all the characters of the ' Wealth of Nations ' are real — Englishmen,
Dutchmen, Chinese. The ' economic man ' of ultra-Ricardians is no more
f",o be found in Adam Smith than is the ' socialistic man,' the incarnation
of unselfishness, the man who loves all men more than himself on the
arithmetical ground that all men are more than one. Adam Smith was
unacquainted with any society composed mainly of either species. Of
the ' socialistic man ' he writes : ' I have never known much good done by
those who affected to trade for the public good. It is an affectation
indeed not very common among merchants, and very few words need be
employed in dissuading them from it.' But the most severe passages in
Smith's work are those in which he condemns the various ' mean and
malignant expedients ' of the mercantile system, and satirises the ' eco-
nomic ' merchants who, actuated only by the ' passionate confidence of
interested falsehood,' in order to promote 'the little interest of one little
order of men in one country hurt the interest of all other orders of men
in that country, and of all other men in all other countries.' Adam Smith
treats of actual societies, and considers the normal conduct of average
individuals" (pp. 13, 14). The present writer, in the article "Buckle,"
published about twenty years ago in the " Encyclopaedia Britannica,"
indicated how little foundation there was for the opinion that in the
" Theory of Moral Sentiments" man was represented as purely benevolent
and in the " Wealth of Nations " as purely selfish. Comparatively re-
cently Dr. Kichard Zeyss, in his "Adam Smith und der Eigennutz," 1889,
has dealt with the same question more fully and quite conclusively.


the words italicised ; there can be no doubt that a
great many people have not given due heed to it in
their practice ; but, of course, the doctrine when so
misrepresented and mutilated is not merely a false
but a disg-raceful doctrine. The Individualism which
should teach the doctrine in such a form must be at
once condemned. Socialism is to be tested by a like
criterion. If any of its proposals directly or in-
directly imply a violation of the laws of justice, it is
so far a theory of State action to be repudiated.
Secondly, there are certain fundamental human
\ liberties essential to the true nature and dignity of
man, but which have been only slowly and painfully
realised through ages of struggle. Bodily freedom,
enfranchisement of women, industrial freedom, intel-
lectual, moral, and religious freedom, political free-
dom, with freedom of speech and association, are
such liberties. They are all amply justified both by
a true philosophy of man's nature and relationships
and a correct interpretation of his history. Any
system which implies that they are to be contracted
or suppressed may be reasonably suspected to be
erroneous, likely to be fatal to human progress and
welfare if successful, but really doomed to failure.
The whole history of the world has shown that,
although the arrest and repression of the movement
towards liberty have been attempted by force, fraud,
and seduction of all kinds and in all ways, it has
been without avail. I see no liberty 5^et gained by
humanity which ought to be sacrificed or even

Thirdly, there are economic laivs — natural laws of


national wealth — which cannot be neoiected or
violated with impunity. Systems of social con-
struction not conformed to them ouofht not to be
adopted. There is a science which professes to
exhibit these laws — political economy. Not many
years ago its teaching was generally received with
a too unquestioning trust. At present it is widely
viewed with unwarranted suspicion, or foolishly
assumed that it may be safely disregarded. The
laws of political economy have not, indeed, either
the perfect exactitude or the entire certainty of
mathematic or dynamical laws. The natural sciences
have reached few truths which answer to a strict
definition of law ; the social sciences have probably
reached still fewer. But short of absolutely exact
and indubitably demonstrated laws there are many
more or less satisfactorily ascertained relations and
regularities of causation, of dependence and se-
quence, which may fairly be viewed as laws, and
which it may be very desirable to know. Political
economists have brought to light many such truths.
They have also laboriously collected and carefully
classified masses of economic data, subtly analysed
all important economic ideas, and exhaustively dis-
cussed a multitude of economic questions and
theories. They have thus made large additions to
the knowledge and thought indispensable to en-
lightened statesmanship.

I am not, and never was, an adherent of what
was not long ago considered economic orthodoxy in
England. Thirty years ago it became my profes-
sional duty to teach political economy, and from the


first I endeavoured to show that the distinctive
tenets of the dominant Ricardian creed in regard to
value, rent, and wages, were erroneous, and reached
by a one-sided method which was largely biased by
personal and national prejudice. The fact that
these tenets are the very pillars on which Marx and
Lassalle reared their whole economic structure
certainly shows that economic error can be powerful
for evil ; but it also shows the necessity for the
refutation of such error, and that economic truth
must be fruitful of good. The attempts which have
been made during the last twenty years to subvert
and discredit political economy have only increas-
ingly convinced me of the soundness and value of
its teaching as a whole and in essentials. Those
who set it at nought in their social schemes will, I
am persuaded, lead grievously astray those who
take them as guides. Economical expediency or
the reverse to a nation in its organic entirety is an
indication of the legitimacy or illegitimacy of State

Online LibraryRobert FlintSocialism → online text (page 5 of 38)