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THE FIRST STEPS TOWARD A MILLENNIUM
[1888]

We are offered countless projects of social reform, the aim of which is to bring in the millennium. Let us see what the first condition of such projects must be, and whether we are prepared to fulfil it.

The student of social problems, who investigates them without preconceived or pet notions, finds again and again that he is brought, at the end of his analysis, face to face with this fact: it is a question of population. It is a question of marriage, of the reproduction of the species; of parental responsibility, competency, and duty; in short, of the family. In all the social speculations of the day, however, scarcely any attention is ever paid to this range of subjects. It is assumed that every one has a right to marry without responsibility to others, that society has no right to intervene, that children come into the world without any antecedents upon which reason and conscience could operate, that family life is sacred, even to the extent that parental folly, ignorance, and caprice must enjoy a prerogative of wasting or perverting the youth of children. Liberty, the rights of parents, and the whole non-interference theory, are here introduced when nothing has been heard of them before.

I maintain (1) that the part of our social code and social creed which wants re-examination and reconstruction is that which relates to marriage and the family; and (2) that, if there is to be any state regulation at all,