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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/321

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WHAT IS CIVIL LIBERTY?

Herein lies the curse of socialistic schemes when viewed from the side of the supposed beneficiary. They are a bait to defraud him of his liberty. I do not see how the German accident and workman's insurance can fail to act as a law of settlement, thereby, under a pretense of offering the workman security, robbing him of his best chance of improving his position. Still, the cases where a man incurs his own servitude for the sake of his own privilege are not as bad in some respects as those in which some have privileges for which others bear servitudes.

The modern jural state, at least of the Anglo-American type, by its hostility to privileges and servitudes, if not by direct analytical definition of its purpose, aims to realize the above definition of liberty. It is the one which fills our institutions at their best, and the one which forms the stem of our best civil and social ideals. If all privileges and all servitudes are abolished, the individual finds that there are no prescriptions left either to lift him up or to hold him down. He simply has all his chances left open that he may make out of himself all there is in him. This is individualism and atomism.[1] There is absolutely no escape from it except back into the system of privileges and servitudes. The doctrine of the former is that a man has a right to make the most of himself to attain the ends of his existence. The doctrine of the latter is that a man has a right to whatever he needs to attain the ends of his existence. If the latter is true, then any one who is bound to furnish him what he needs is under servitude to him.

The fact, however, is rapidly making itself felt that this civil liberty of the modern type is a high and costly thing. A generation which has been glorying in it and heralding it to all the world as a boon and a blessing, to be had for the taking and to be enjoyed for nothing, begins to cry out that it is too great for them; that they can not attain to it nor even bear it; that to be a free man means to come up to the standard and be it; and that it is asking too much of human nature. They want somebody to come and help them to be free. It has always been so. Men have failed of freedom not because kings, nobles, or priests enslaved them, but because liberty was too high and great for them. They would not rise to it. They would submit to any servitude rather. Therefore they got servitude.

The strain of civil liberty is in the demand which it makes on the whole mass of the people for perpetual activity of reason and conscience to re-examine rights and duties, and to readjust their equilibrium. Civil liberty is not a scientific fact. It is not in the

  1. The writer of an otherwise good book (Rauber, "Urgeschichte des Menschen," ii, 291, fg.) indulges in an extraordinary screed against the atomists. He reaches the conclusion that fate is the state. To me it seems that fate is one's father and mother.