Open main menu

Page:Earth-Hunger and Other Essays.djvu/155

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

of constant and easy verification. It is historical and institutional. That means, however, that it is in the flux and change of civilization, wherefore the reason and conscience of men are kept in constant activity to re-examine accepted principles, and to reach new and more nearly correct solution of problems. On account of this activity, institutions are modified constantly, and the concrete contents of the public creed, about rights and duties, are undergoing constant change. It does not appear that this can ever be otherwise. There is an assumption that we can attain to social stability by finding out the right "form of government," or the correct "social system," but no ground for such a notion can be found in philosophy or history.[1] The equilibrium of rights and duties constitutes the terms on which the struggle for existence is carried on in a given society, after the reason and conscience of the community have pronounced judgment on those terms. The very highest conception of the state is that it is an organization for bringing that judgment to an expression in the constitution and laws. A state, therefore, is good, bad, or indifferent, according to the directness and correctness with which it brings to an expression the best reason and conscience of the people, and embodies their judgment in institutions and laws. The state, therefore, lives by deliberation and discussion, and by tacit or overt expressions of the major opinion.

The fact that laws and institutions must be constantly remolded in the progress of time by the active reason

  1. One of the most remarkable signs of the confusion reigning in social science is the fact that current discussion is marked by an attempt to force positive character upon the doctrines of the state, or to make a science of "political science," which never can be anything but historical and institutional; and at the same time to deny scientific character to economic laws and to insist that they are historical and institutional.