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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/459

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443
THE NEW TORYISM.

additional staff of officers, and partly to meet the outlay for new public institutions, such as board-schools, free libraries, public museums, baths and wash-houses, recreation-grounds, etc., local rates are year after year increased, as the general taxation is increased by grants to the departments of science and art, etc. Every one of these involves further coercion—restricts still more the free action of the citizen. For the implied address accompanying every additional exaction is: "Hitherto you have been free to spend this portion of your earnings in any way which pleased you; hereafter you shall not so spend it, but we will spend it for the general benefit." Thus, either directly or indirectly, and in most cases both at once, the citizen is, at each further stage in the growth of this compulsory legislation, deprived in one or other way of some liberty which he previously had.

Such, then, are the doings of the party which claims the name of Liberal, and which calls itself Liberal as being the advocate of extended freedom.

 

I doubt not that many a so-called Liberal will have read the preceding section with impatience, wanting, as he does, to point out an immense oversight which he thinks destroys the validity of the argument. "You forget," he wishes to say, "the fundamental difference between the power which, in the past, established those restraints that Liberalism abolished, and the power which, in the present, establishes the restraints you call anti-Liberal. You forget that the one was an irresponsible power, while the other is a responsible power. You forget that, if by the recent legislation of Liberals people are variously regulated, the body which regulates them is of their own creating, and has their warrant for its acts."

My answer is, that I have not forgotten this difference, but am prepared to contend that the difference is in large measure irrelevant to the issue.

In the first place, the real issue is whether the lives of citizens are more interfered with than they were; not the nature of the agency which interferes with them. Take a simpler case. A member of a trades-union has joined others in establishing an organization of a purely representative character. By it he is compelled to turn out if a majority so decide; he is forbidden to accept work save under the conditions they dictate; he is prevented from profiting by his superior ability or energy to the extent he might do were it not for their interdict. And he can not disobey without abandoning those pecuniary benefits of the organization for which he has subscribed, and bringing on himself the persecution, and perhaps violence, of his fellows. Is he any the less coerced because the body coercing him is one which he had an equal voice with the rest in forming?

In the second place, if it be objected that the analogy is faulty, since the governing body of a nation, to which, as protector of the