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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 36.djvu/723

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LITERARY NOTICES.

ing truth from falsehood. An encouraging improvement in our educational ideas has been shown of late, and it seems as if the time could not be far distant when all who have any voice in the training of the young will see clearly what knowledge and what acquirements are of most worth.

 


LITERARY NOTICES.

Individualism, a System of Politics. By Wordsworth Donisthorpe, Barrister-at-Law, author of "Principles of Plutology," etc. London and New York: Macmillan & Co. Pp. 393. Price, $4.

This is a work which we feel justified, after a careful perusal, in commending to the study of our readers. The questions which it discusses are of the first importance, and Mr. Donisthorpe gives one the impression of a man thoroughly familiar with his own ground, and whose conclusions have not been formed at haphazard or without deep and earnest reflection. The main idea of the book is that individualism properly understood furnishes the key to a true political system. The last thing Mr. Donisthorpe would wish to do would be to relax the bonds of society. His aim, on the contrary, is to strengthen and perfect society, in the first place, by a scientific separation of the domain of the state and that of private activity; and, secondly, by carrying to its fullest legitimate development the principle of individual liberty. He has not, perhaps, developed his thesis in the most coherent manner possible; we think the work might be rearranged and perhaps somewhat compressed, with advantage to the main argument; but meantime we are glad to recognize in it a powerful and timely plea for principles of government with which "The Popular Science Monthly" has always been distinctly in sympathy. Mr. Donisthorpe writes as a lawyer; and the influence of his juristic studies is visible on every page. At times his argument gains in force through the dispassionate practicality of the legal mind; and at times it assumes a character somewhat too forensic for the best general effect.

In Chapter I we have a discussion of the growth and evolution of the state. There is nothing here distinctly novel. As regards the origin of political government the author accepts the ideas of Mr. Spencer, and refers also with approval to "the learned and fascinating works of the late Sir Henry Maine." He develops well, however, the idea that the tendency of modern times has been toward the forming of larger and larger political aggregates; and that in the present day the facilities for communication and transport which science has made available have increased more wonderfully than ever the possibilities of state growth. Apparently Mr. Donisthorpe's ideal is one center of law—so far as law is an absolute necessity—and the widest possible individual liberty throughout the whole community. He is not a friend to what is called "local option"; he considers that it means little else than local tyranny, and perhaps he is right. He does not believe in cutting up a country into larger and smaller geographical squares, and making the conditions of life for each man depend on the particular square in which he chances to live. He holds that the same (legal) conditions of life should be available for all members of the community, and that these should be of the simplest character possible. "Imperial law," he says, "must henceforth be based on individual and local liberty."

Chapter II deals with "The Structure of the State." The author announces himself a thorough-going democrat, and ventures to lay down the principles to which a true democratic government must conform. We must refer to the book itself, however, for his definition and defense of democracy, including the principle, unreservedly accepted, of universal suffrage. One remark here is worth quoting: "Majorities for their own sakes would do well not to bring minorities to bay. The result may be either painful or humiliating—painful, as when the minority (in heads, in riches, and in organization) withstood the tyranny of the Stuarts; humiliating, as when England bowed down before the determined Boers of the Transvaal. It is not wise to threaten what you do. not mean to perform. Minorities mean action; majorities as a rule do not."

In Chapter III, on "The Functions of the State," we have, in the first place, a résumé of the functions commonly assigned