Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/683

This page has been validated.

than is necessary to protect his person and the remainder of his property, you violate those very rights for the protection of which alone governments are instituted among men. Then, before the state can be justified in undertaking any enterprise, it must be shown, first, that the thing to be done is necessary either for the maintenance of its own existence or for the protection of the persons and property of its subjects; and, second, it must also be shown that it can be done better by the state than by individual effort.

There is at present in America a strong tendency to enlarge this sphere of government. Indeed, it may be said that it is our national weakness to look to the Government for everything. Thousands seek to throw upon the state the responsibility for miseries brought on by their own injudicious actions. The fact is that, beyond the safety of person and property, government forms one of the least factors in that complex product called happiness. Our greatest danger is the danger of being governed too much. As a result of this tendency to increase the domain of government, we have technical and professional colleges established and maintained by the state. When tried by our first criterion, I apprehend that it would be difficult to show that it is necessary to educate physicians and lawyers at public expense in order to protect persons and property; and it may well be doubted whether the rapid increase in the membership of these professions, due in no small degree to these institutions, is a national blessing. "But," it is asked, "are not the physician, the advocate, the engineer, necessary to the convenience and happiness of the community?" Certainly, so are food, clothing and shelter; yet not even Bentham thought of providing these at public expense. Then what special claims can these institutions have upon the public? The same arguments that would justify the state in educating the lawyer and doctor would also justify it in endowing the grocer and clothier, for they, too, are necessary to the convenience and happiness of society.

Moreover, the state, by supporting these institutions of special education, inflicts a positive injury upon society in crowding these favored professions, by thus interfering with those laws of social equilibrium which alone should govern the choice of vocation. Whenever the state by special legislation renders one vocation more accessible than another, it injures society by turning into one channel the intellectual energy that rightfully belongs in another. If, then, our premise be correct, these expensive institutions of technical learning are beyond the true province of the state.

But if the state is not denied all right to teach, what instruction shall she give? I answer, those things that will enable the rising generation to perform intelligently their functions as citizens. Yet how many leave our state institutions learned in the literature of Greece and Rome, but ignorant of our own history; conversant with the ideal republic of Plato, but unacquainted with the writings of our own Hamilton;