Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 27.djvu/202

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THE Editor of the Contemporary Review having kindly allowed me to see a proof of the foregoing article by M. de Laveleye, and having assented to my request that I might be allowed to append a few explanations and comments, in place of a more formal reply in a future number of the Review, I have, in the following pages, set down as much as seems needful to prevent the grave misunderstandings likely to be produced by M. de Laveleye's criticisms, if they are permitted to pass unnoticed.

On the first page of his essay, M. de Laveleye, referring to the effort to establish "greater equality among men" by "appropriating State, or communal, revenues" for that end, writes—

"Mr. Spencer considers that this effort for the improvement of the condition of the working-classes, which is being everywhere made with greater or less energy, is a violation of natural laws, which will not fail to bring its own punishment on nations, thus misguided by a blind philanthropy" (p. 485).

As this sentence stands, and especially as joined with all which follows, it is calculated to produce the impression that I am opposed to measures "for the improvement of the condition of the working-classes." This is quite untrue, as numerous passages from my books would show. Two questions are involved—What are the measures? and—What is the agency for carrying them out? In the first place, there are various measures conducive to "improvement of the condition of the working-classes" which I have always contended, and still contend, devolve on public agencies, general and local—above all, an efficient administration of justice, by which they benefit both directly and indirectly—an administration such as not simply represses violence and fraud, but promptly brings down a penalty on every one who trespasses against his neighbour, even by a nuisance. While contending for the diminution of State-action of the positively-regulative kind, I have contended for the increase of State-action of the negatively-regulative kind—that kind which restrains the activities of citizens within the limits imposed by the existence of other citizens who have like claims to carry on their activities. I have shown that "maladministration of justice raises, very considerably, the cost of living for all;"[1] and is, therefore, felt especially by the working-classes, whose state is most closely dependent on the cost of living. As one of the evils of over-legislation, I have, from the beginning, urged that, while multitudinous other questions absorb public attention, the justice-question gets scarcely any attention; and social life is everywhere

  1. "Study of Sociology," p. 415, postscript in library edition.