Under the influence of socialism, most liberal thought in recent years
has been in favor of increasing the power of the State, but more or
less hostile to the power of private property. On the other hand,
syndicalism has been hostile both to the State and to private property.
I believe that syndicalism is more nearly right than socialism in this
respect, that both private property and the State, which are the two
most powerful institutions of the modern world, have become harmful
to life through excess of power, and that both are hastening the loss
of vitality from which the civilized world increasingly suffers.
The two institutions are closely connected, but for the present I
wish to consider only the State. I shall try to show how great, how
unnecessary, how harmful, many of its powers are, and how enormously
they might be diminished without loss of what is useful in its
activity. But I shall admit that in certain directions its functions
ought to be extended rather than curtailed.

Some of the functions of the State, such as the Post Office and
elementary education, might be performed by private agencies, and are
only undertaken by the State from motives of convenience. But other
matters, such as the law, the police, the Army, and the Navy, belong
more essentially to the State: so long as there is a State at all it is
difficult to imagine these matters in private hands. The distinction
between socialism and individualism turns on the nonessential
functions of the State, which the socialist wishes to extend and
the individualist to restrict. It is the essential functions, which
are admitted by individualists and socialists alike, that I wish
to criticize, since the others do not appear to me in themselves

The essence of the State is that it is the repository of the collective
force of its citizens. This force takes two forms, one internal and one
external. The internal form is the law and the police; the external
form is the power of waging war, as embodied in the Army and Navy. The
State is constituted by the combination of all the inhabitants in a
certain area using their united force in accordance with the commands
of a Government. In a civilized State force is only employed against
its own citizens in accordance with rules previously laid down, which
constitute the criminal law. But the employment of force against
foreigners is not regulated by any code of rules, and proceeds, with
few exceptions, according to some real or fancied national interest.

There can be no doubt that force employed according to law is less
pernicious than force employed capriciously. If international law could
acquire sufficient hold on men’s allegiance to regulate the relations
of States, a very great advance on our present condition would have
been made. The primitive anarchy which precedes law is worse than law.
But I believe there is a possibility of a stage to some extent above
law, where the advantages now secured by the law are secured without
loss of freedom, and without the disadvantages which the law and the
police render inevitable. Probably some repository of force in the
background will remain necessary, but the actual employment of force
may become very rare, and the degree of force required very small.
The anarchy which precedes law gives freedom only to the strong; the
condition to be aimed at will give freedom as nearly as possible to
every one. It will do this, not by preventing altogether the existence
of organized force, but by limiting the occasions for its employment to
the greatest possible extent.

The power of the State is only limited internally by the fear of
rebellion and externally by the fear of defeat in war. Subject to these
restrictions, it is absolute. In practice, it can seize men’s property
through taxation, determine the law of marriage and inheritance, punish
the expression of opinions which it dislikes, put men to death for
wishing the region they inhabit to belong to a different State, and
order all able-bodied males to risk their lives in battle whenever it
considers war desirable. On many matters disagreement with the purposes
and opinions of the State is criminal. Probably the freest States in
the world, before the war, were America and England; yet in America no
immigrant may land until he has professed disbelief in anarchism and
polygamy, while in England men were sent to prison in recent years for
expressing disagreement with the Christian religion[3] or agreement
with the teaching of Christ.[4] In time of war, all criticism of
the external policy of the State is criminal. Certain objects having
appeared desirable to the majority, or to the effective holders of
power, those who do not consider these objects desirable are exposed
to pains and penalties not unlike those suffered by heretics in the
past. The extent of the tyranny thus exercised is concealed by its very
success: few men consider it worth while to incur a persecution which
is almost certain to be thorough and effective.

Universal military service is perhaps the extreme example of the power
of the State, and the supreme illustration of the difference between
its attitude to its own citizens and its attitude to the citizens of
other States. The State punishes, with impartial rigor, both those who
kill their compatriots and those who refuse to kill foreigners. On
the whole, the latter is considered the graver crime. The phenomenon
of war is familiar, and men fail to realize its strangeness; to those
who stand inside the cycle of instincts which lead to war it all seems
natural and reasonable. But to those who stand outside the strangeness
of it grows with familiarity. It is amazing that the vast majority of
men should tolerate a system which compels them to submit to all the
horrors of the battlefield at any moment when their Government commands
them to do so. A French artist, indifferent to politics, attentive only
to his painting, suddenly finds himself called upon to shoot Germans,
who, his friends assure him, are a disgrace to the human race. A German
musician, equally unknowing, is called upon to shoot the perfidious
Frenchman. Why cannot the two men declare a mutual neutrality? Why not
leave war to those who like it and bring it on? Yet if the two men
declared a mutual neutrality they would be shot by their compatriots.
To avoid this fate they try to shoot each other. If the world loses
the artist, not the musician, Germany rejoices; if the world loses the
musician, not the artist, France rejoices. No one remembers the loss to
civilization, which is equal whichever is killed.

This is the politics of Bedlam. If the artist and the musician had been
allowed to stand aside from the war, nothing but unmitigated good to
mankind would have resulted. The power of the State, which makes this
impossible, is a wholly evil thing, quite as evil as the power of the
Church which in former days put men to death for unorthodox thought.
Yet if, even in time of peace, an international league were founded to
consist of Frenchmen and Germans in equal numbers, all pledged not to
take part in war, the French State and the German State would persecute
it with equal ferocity. Blind obedience, unlimited willingness to kill
and die are exacted of the modern citizens of a democracy as much as
of the Janizaries of medieval sultans or the secret agents of Oriental

The power of the State may be brought to bear, as it often is in
England, through public opinion rather than through the laws. By
oratory and the influence of the Press, public opinion is largely
created by the State, and a tyrannous public opinion is as great an
enemy to liberty as tyrannous laws. If the young man who will not
fight finds that he is dismissed from his employment, insulted in the
streets, cold-shouldered by his friends, and thrown over with scorn by
any woman who may formerly have liked him, he will feel the penalty
quite as hard to bear as a death sentence.[6] A free community requires
not only legal freedom, but a tolerant public opinion, an absence of
that instinctive inquisition into our neighbors’ affairs which, under
the guise of upholding a high moral standard, enables good people
to indulge unconsciously a disposition to cruelty and persecution.
Thinking ill of others is not in itself a good reason for thinking well
of ourselves. But so long as this is not recognized, and so long as the
State can manufacture public opinion, except in the rare cases where it
is revolutionary, public opinion must be reckoned as a definite part of
the power of the State.

The power of the State outside its own borders is in the main derived
from war or the threat of war. Some power is derived from the ability
to persuade its citizens to lend money or not to lend it, but this
is unimportant in comparison with the power derived from armies and
navies. The external activity of the State—with exceptions so rare
as to be negligible—is selfish. Sometimes selfishness is mitigated
by the need of retaining the goodwill of other States, but this only
modifies the methods employed, not the ends pursued. The ends pursued,
apart from mere defense against other States, are, on the one hand,
opportunities for successful exploitation of weak or uncivilized
countries, on the other hand, power and prestige, which are considered
more glorious and less material than money. In pursuit of these
objects, no State hesitates to put to death innumerable foreigners
whose happiness is not compatible with exploitation or subjection, or
to devastate territories into which it is thought necessary to strike
terror. Apart from the present war, such acts have been performed
within the last twenty years by many minor States and by all the
Great Powers[7] except Austria; and in the case of Austria only the
opportunity, not the will, was lacking.

Why do men acquiesce in the power of the State? There are many reasons,
some traditional, some very present and pressing.

The traditional reason for obedience to the State is personal loyalty
to the sovereign. European States grew up under the feudal system,
and were originally the several territories owned by feudal chiefs.
But this source of obedience has decayed, and probably now counts for
little except in Japan, and to a lesser extent in Russia.

Tribal feeling, which always underlay loyalty to the sovereign, has
remained as strong as it ever was, and is now the chief support for
the power of the State. Almost every man finds it essential to his
happiness to feel himself a member of a group, animated by common
friendships and enmities and banded together for defense and attack.
But such groups are of two kinds: there are those which are essentially
enlargements of the family, and there are those which are based upon a
conscious common purpose. Nations belong to the first kind, Churches to
the second. At times when men are profoundly swayed by creeds national
divisions tend to break down, as they did in the wars of religion
after the Reformation. At such times a common creed is a stronger bond
than a common nationality. To a much slighter extent, the same thing
has occurred in the modern world with the rise of socialism. Men who
disbelieve in private property, and feel the capitalist the real enemy,
have a bond which transcends national divisions. It has not been found
strong enough to resist the passions aroused by the present war, but
it has made them less bitter among socialists than among others, and
has kept alive the hope of a European community to be reconstructed
when the war is over. In the main, however, the universal disbelief in
creeds has left tribal feeling triumphant, and has made nationalism
stronger than at any previous period of the world’s history. A few
sincere Christians, a few sincere socialists, have found in their creed
a force capable of resisting the assaults of national passion, but they
have been too few to influence the course of events or even to cause
serious anxiety to the Governments.

It is chiefly tribal feeling that generates the unity of a national
State, but it is not only tribal feeling that generates its strength.
Its strength results principally from two fears, neither of which is
unreasonable: the fear of crime and anarchy within, and the fear of
aggression from without.

The internal orderliness of a civilized community is a great
achievement, chiefly brought about by the increased authority of the
State. It would be inconvenient if peaceable citizens were constantly
in imminent risk of being robbed and murdered. Civilized life would
become almost impossible if adventurous people could organize private
armies for purposes of plunder. These conditions existed in the Middle
Ages, and have not passed away without a great struggle. It is thought
by many—especially by the rich, who derive the greatest advantage from
law and order—that any diminution in the power of the State might
bring back a condition of universal anarchy. They regard strikes as
portents of dissolution. They are terrified by such organizations as
the Confédération Générale du Travail and the International Workers
of the World. They remember the French Revolution, and feel a not
unnatural desire to keep their heads on their shoulders. They dread
particularly any political theory which seems to excuse private crimes,
such as sabotage and political assassination. Against these dangers
they see no protection except the maintenance of the authority of the
State, and the belief that all resistance to the State is wicked.

Fear of the danger within is enhanced by fear of the danger without.
Every State is exposed at all times to the risk of foreign invasion.
No means has hitherto been devised for minimizing this risk except the
increase of armaments. But the armaments which are nominally intended
to repel invasion may also be used to invade. And so the means adopted
to diminish the external fear have the effect of increasing it, and
of enormously enhancing the destructiveness of war when it does break
out. In this way a reign of terror becomes universal, and the State
acquires everywhere something of the character of the Comité du Salut

The tribal feeling out of which the State develops is natural, and the
fear by which the State is strengthened is reasonable under present
circumstances. And in addition to these two, there is a third source of
strength in a national State, namely patriotism in its religious aspect.

Patriotism is a very complex feeling, built up out of primitive
instincts and highly intellectual convictions. There is love of home
and family and friends, making us peculiarly anxious to preserve our
own country from invasion. There is the mild instinctive liking for
compatriots as against foreigners. There is pride, which is bound up
with the success of the community to which we feel that we belong.
There is a belief, suggested by pride but reinforced by history, that
one’s own nation represents a great tradition and stands for ideals
that are important to the human race. But besides all these, there is
another element, at once nobler and more open to attack, an element of
worship, of willing sacrifice, of joyful merging of the individual life
in the life of the nation. This religious element in patriotism is
essential to the strength of the State, since it enlists the best that
is in most men on the side of national sacrifice.

The religious element in patriotism is reinforced by education,
especially by a knowledge of the history and literature of one’s own
country, provided it is not accompanied by much knowledge of the
history and literature of other countries. In every civilized country
all instruction of the young emphasizes the merits of their own nation
and the faults of other nations. It comes to be universally believed
that one’s own nation, because of its superiority, deserves support in
a quarrel, however the quarrel may have originated. This belief is so
genuine and deep that it makes men endure patiently, almost gladly, the
losses and hardships and sufferings entailed by war. Like all sincerely
believed religions, it gives an outlook on life, based upon instinct
but sublimating it, causing a devotion to an end greater than any
personal end, but containing many personal ends as it were in solution.

Patriotism as a religion is unsatisfactory because of its lack of
universality. The good at which it aims is a good for one’s own
nation only, not for all mankind. The desires which it inspires in
an Englishman are not the same as the desires which it inspires in
a German. A world full of patriots may be a world full of strife.
The more intensely a nation believes in its patriotism, the more
fanatically indifferent it will become to the damage suffered by other
nations. When once men have learnt to subordinate their own good to the
good of a larger whole, there can be no valid reason for stopping short
of the human race. It is the admixture of national pride that makes
it so easy in practice for men’s impulses towards sacrifice to stop
short at the frontiers of their own country. It is this admixture that
poisons patriotism, and makes it inferior, as a religion, to beliefs
which aim at the salvation of all mankind. We cannot avoid having more
love for our own country than for other countries, and there is no
reason why we should wish to avoid it, any more than we should wish to
love all individual men and women equally. But any adequate religion
will lead us to temper inequality of affection by love of justice, and
to universalize our aims by realizing the common needs of man. This
change was effected by Christianity in Judaism, and must be effected in
any merely national religion before it can be purged of evil.

In practice, patriotism has many other enemies to contend with.
Cosmopolitanism cannot fail to grow as men acquire more knowledge of
foreign countries by education and travel. There is also a kind of
individualism which is continually increasing, a realization that every
man ought to be as nearly free as possible to choose his own ends, not
compelled by a geographical accident to pursue ends forced upon him by
the community. Socialism, syndicalism, and anti-capitalist movements
generally, are against patriotism in their tendency, since they make
men aware that the present State is largely concerned in defending the
privileges of the rich, and that many of the conflicts between States
have their origin in the financial interests of a few plutocrats.
This kind of opposition is perhaps temporary, a mere incident in the
struggle of labor to acquire power. Australia, where labor feels its
triumph secure, is full of patriotism and militarism, based upon
determination to prevent foreign labor from sharing the benefits of a
privileged position. It is not unlikely that England might develop a
similar nationalism if it became a socialist State. But it is probable
that such nationalism would be purely defensive. Schemes of foreign
aggression, entailing great loss of life and wealth in the nation which
adopts them, would hardly be initiated except by those whose instincts
of dominion have been sharpened through the power derived from private
property and the institutions of the capitalist State.

The evil wrought in the modern world by the excessive power of the
State is very great, and very little recognized.

The chief harm wrought by the State is promotion of efficiency in
war. If all States increase their strength, the balance of power is
unchanged, and no one State has a better chance of victory than before.
And when the means of offense exist, even though their original purpose
may have been defensive, the temptation to use them is likely, sooner
or later, to prove overwhelming. In this way the very measures which
promoted security within the borders of the State promote insecurity
elsewhere. It is of the essence of the State to suppress violence
within and to facilitate it without. The State makes an entirely
artificial division of mankind and of our duties toward them: towards
one group we are bound by the law, towards the other only by the
prudence of highwaymen. The State is rendered evil by its exclusions,
and by the fact that, whenever it embarks upon aggressive war, it
becomes a combination of men for murder and robbery. The present system
is irrational, since external and internal anarchy must be both right
or both wrong. It is supported because, so long as others adopt it,
it is thought the only road to safety, and because it secures the
pleasures of triumph and dominion, which cannot be obtained in a good
community. If these pleasures were no longer sought, or no longer
possible to obtain, the problem of securing safety from invasion would
not be difficult.

Apart from war, the modern great State is harmful from its vastness
and the resulting sense of individual helplessness. The citizen who is
out of sympathy with the aims of the State, unless he is a man of very
rare gifts, cannot hope to persuade the State to adopt purposes which
seem to him better. Even in a democracy, all questions except a very
few are decided by a small number of officials and eminent men; and
even the few questions which are left to the popular vote are decided
by a diffused mass-psychology, not by individual initiative. This is
especially noticeable in a country like the United States, where, in
spite of democracy, most men have a sense of almost complete impotence
in regard to all large issues. In so vast a country the popular will
is like one of the forces of Nature, and seems nearly as much outside
the control of any one man. This state of things leads, not only in
America but in all large States, to something of the weariness and
discouragement that we associate with the Roman Empire. Modern States,
as opposed to the small city States of ancient Greece or medieval
Italy, leave little room for initiative, and fail to develop in most
men any sense of ability to control their political destinies. The
few men who achieve power in such States are men of abnormal ambition
and thirst for dominion, combined with skill in cajolery and subtlety
in negotiation. All the rest are dwarfed by knowledge of their own

A curious survival from the old monarchical idea of the State is the
belief that there is some peculiar wickedness in a wish to secede
on the part of any section of the population. If Ireland or Poland
desires independence, it is thought obvious that this desire must be
strenuously resisted, and any attempt to secure it is condemned as
“high treason.” The only instance to the contrary that I can remember
is the separation of Norway and Sweden, which was commended but not
imitated. In other cases, nothing but defeat in war has induced States
to part with territory: although this attitude is taken for granted, it
is not one which would be adopted if the State had better ends in view.
The reason for its adoption is that the chief end of almost all great
States is power, especially power in war. And power in war is often
increased by the inclusion of unwilling citizens. If the well-being
of the citizens were the end in view, the question whether a certain
area should be included, or should form a separate State, would be left
freely to the decision of that area. If this principle were adopted,
one of the main reasons for war would be obviated, and one of the most
tyrannical elements in the State would be removed.

The principal source of the harm done by the State is the fact that
power is its chief end. This is not the case in America, because
America is safe against aggression;[8] but in all other great nations
the chief aim of the State is to possess the greatest possible
amount of external force. To this end, the liberty of the citizens
is curtailed, and anti-militarist propaganda is severely punished.
This attitude is rooted in pride and fear: pride, which refuses to
be conciliatory, and fear, which dreads the results of foreign pride
conflicting with our own pride. It seems something of a historical
accident that these two passions, which by no means exhaust the
political passions of the ordinary man, should so completely determine
the external policy of the State. Without pride, there would be no
occasion for fear: fear on the part of one nation is due to the
supposed pride of another nation. Pride of dominion, unwillingness to
decide disputes otherwise than by force or the threat of force, is a
habit of mind greatly encouraged by the possession of power. Those
who have long been in the habit of exercising power become autocratic
and quarrelsome, incapable of regarding an equal otherwise than as a
rival. It is notorious that head masters’ conferences are more liable
to violent disagreements than most similar bodies: each head master
tries to treat the others as he treats his own boys; they resent such
treatment, and he resents their resentment. Men who have the habit
of authority are peculiarly unfit for friendly negotiation; but the
official relations of States are mainly in the hands of men with a
great deal of authority in their own country. This is, of course, more
particularly the case where there is a monarch who actually governs.
If is less true where there is a governing oligarchy, and still less
true where there is some approach to real democracy. But it is true to
a considerable extent in all countries, because Prime Ministers and
Foreign Secretaries are necessarily men in authority. The first step
towards remedying this state of things is a genuine interest in foreign
affairs on the part of the ordinary citizen, and an insistence that
national pride shall not be allowed to jeopardize his other interests.
During war, when he is roused, he is willing to sacrifice everything
to pride; but in quiet times he will be far more ready than men in
authority to realize that foreign affairs, like private concerns, ought
to be settled amicably according to principles, not brutally by force
or the threat of force.

The effect of personal bias in the men who actually compose the
Government may be seen very clearly in labor disputes. French
syndicalists affirm that the State is simply a product of capitalism, a
part of the weapons which capital employs in its conflict with labor.
Even in democratic States there is much to bear out this view. In
strikes it is common to order out the soldiers to coerce the strikers;
although the employers are much fewer, and much easier to coerce,
the soldiers are never employed against them. When labor troubles
paralyze the industry of a country, it is the men who are thought to be
unpatriotic, not the masters, though clearly the responsibility belongs
to both sides. The chief reason for this attitude on the part of
Governments is that the men composing them belong, by their success if
not by their origin, to the same class as the great employers of labor.
Their bias and their associates combine to make them view strikes
and lockouts from the standpoint of the rich. In a democracy public
opinion and the need of conciliating political supporters partially
correct these plutocratic influences, but the correction is always only
partial. And the same influences which warp the views of Governments
on labor questions also warp their views on foreign affairs, with the
added disadvantage that the ordinary citizen has much fewer means of
arriving at an independent judgment.

The excessive power of the State, partly through internal oppression,
but principally through war and the fear of war, is one of the chief
causes of misery in the modern world, and one of the main reasons for
the discouragement which prevents men from growing to their full mental
stature. Some means of curing this excessive power must be found if men
are not to be organized into despair, as they were in the Roman Empire.

The State has one purpose which is on the whole good, namely, the
substitution of law for force in the relations of men. But this
purpose can only be fully achieved by a world-State, without which
international relations cannot be made subject to law. And although
law is better than force, law is still not the best way of settling
disputes. Law is too static, too much on the side of what is decaying,
too little on the side of what is growing. So long as law is in theory
supreme, it will have to be tempered, from time to time, by internal
revolution and external war. These can only be prevented by perpetual
readiness to alter the law in accordance with the present balance of
forces. If this is not done, the motives for appealing to force will
sooner or later become irresistible. A world-State or federation of
States, if it is to be successful, will have to decide questions, not
by the legal maxims which would be applied by the Hague tribunal, but
as far as possible in the same sense in which they would be decided by
war. The function of authority should be to render the appeal to force
unnecessary, not to give decisions contrary to those which would be
reached by force.

This view may be thought by some to be immoral. It may be said that the
object of civilization should be to secure justice, not to give the
victory to the strong. But when this antithesis is allowed to pass,
it is forgotten that love of justice may itself set force in motion.
A Legislature which wishes to decide an issue in the same way as it
would be decided if there were an appeal to force will necessarily take
account of justice, provided justice is so flagrantly on one side that
disinterested parties are willing to take up the quarrel. If a strong
man assaults a weak man in the streets of London, the balance of force
is on the side of the weak man, because, even if the police did not
appear, casual passers-by would step in to defend him. It is sheer cant
to speak of a contest of might against right, and at the same time to
hope for a victory of the right. If the contest is really between might
and right, that _means_ that right will be beaten. What is obscurely
intended, when this phrase is used, is that the stronger side is only
rendered stronger by men’s sense of right. But men’s sense of right is
very subjective, and is only one factor in deciding the preponderance
of force. What is desirable in a Legislature is, not that it should
decide by its personal sense of right, but that it should decide in a
way which is felt to make an appeal to force unnecessary.

Having considered what the State ought not to do, I come now to what it
ought to do.

Apart from war and the preservation of internal order, there are
certain more positive functions which the State performs, and certain
others which it ought to perform.

We may lay down two principles as regards these positive functions.

First: there are matters in which the welfare of the whole community
depends upon the practically universal attainment of a certain minimum;
in such cases the State has the right to insist upon this minimum being

Secondly: there are ways in which, by insisting upon the maintenance of
law, the State, if it does nothing further, renders possible various
forms of injustice which would otherwise be prevented by the anger
of their victims. Such injustices ought, as far as possible, to be
prevented by the State.

The most obvious example of a matter where the general welfare
depends upon a universal minimum is sanitation and the prevention of
infectious diseases. A single case of plague, if it is neglected, may
cause disaster to a whole community. No one can reasonably maintain,
on general grounds of liberty, that a man suffering from plague ought
to be left free to spread infection far and wide. Exactly similar
considerations apply to drainage, notification of fevers, and kindred
matters. The interference with liberty remains an evil, but in some
cases it is clearly a smaller evil than the spread of disease which
liberty would produce. The stamping out of malaria and yellow fever by
destroying mosquitoes is perhaps the most striking example of the good
which can be done in this way. But when the good is small or doubtful,
and the interference with liberty is great, it becomes better to endure
a certain amount of preventable disease rather than suffer a scientific

Compulsory education comes under the same head as sanitation. The
existence of ignorant masses in a population is a danger to the
community; when a considerable percentage are illiterate, the whole
machinery of government has to take account of the fact. Democracy in
its modern form would be quite impossible in a nation where many men
cannot read. But in this case there is not the same need of absolute
universality as in the case of sanitary measures. The gipsies, whose
mode of life has been rendered almost impossible by the education
authorities, might well have been allowed to remain a picturesque
exception. But apart from such rather unimportant exceptions, the
argument for compulsory education is irresistible.

What the State does for the care of children at present is less than
what ought to be done, not more. Children are not capable of looking
after their own interests, and parental responsibility is in many
ways inadequate. It is clear that the State alone can insist upon the
children being provided with the minimum of knowledge and health which,
for the time being, satisfies the conscience of the community.

The encouragement of scientific research is another matter which
comes rightly within the powers of the State, because the benefits of
discoveries accrue to the community, while the investigations are
expensive and never individually certain of achieving any result. In
this matter, Great Britain lags behind all other civilized countries.

The second kind of powers which the State ought to possess are those
that aim at diminishing economic injustice. It is this kind that
has been emphasized by socialists. The law creates or facilitates
monopolies, and monopolies are able to exact a toll from the community.
The most glaring example is the private ownership of land. Railways
are at present controlled by the State, since rates are fixed by law;
and it is clear that if they were uncontrolled, they would acquire a
dangerous degree of power.[9] Such considerations, if they stood alone,
would justify complete socialism. But I think justice, by itself, is,
like law, too static to be made a supreme political principle: it does
not, when it has been achieved, contain any seeds of new life or any
impetus to development. For this reason, when we wish to remedy an
injustice, it is important to consider whether, in so doing, we shall
be destroying the incentive to some form of vigorous action which is
on the whole useful to the community. No such form of action, so far as
I can see, is associated with private ownership of land or of any other
source of economic rent; if this is the case, it follows that the State
ought to be the primary recipient of rent.

If all these powers are allowed to the State, what becomes of the
attempt to rescue individual liberty from its tyranny?

This is part of the general problem which confronts all those who still
care for the ideals which inspired liberalism, namely the problem of
combining liberty and personal initiative with organization. Politics
and economics are more and more dominated by vast organizations, in
face of which the individual is in danger of becoming powerless. The
State is the greatest of these organizations, and the most serious
menace to liberty. And yet it seems that many of its functions must be
extended rather than curtailed.

There is one way by which organization and liberty can be combined, and
that is, by securing power for voluntary organizations, consisting of
men who have chosen to belong to them because they embody some purpose
which all their members consider important, not a purpose imposed by
accident or outside force. The State, being geographical, cannot be a
wholly voluntary association, but for that very reason there is need
of a strong public opinion to restrain it from a tyrannical use of its
powers. This public opinion, in most matters, can only be secured by
combinations of those who have certain interests or desires in common.

The positive purposes of the State, over and above the preservation
of order, ought as far as possible to be carried out, not by the
State itself, but by independent organizations, which should be left
completely free so long as they satisfied the State that they were
not falling below a necessary minimum. This occurs to a certain
limited extent at present in regard to elementary education. The
universities, also, may be regarded as acting for the State in the
matter of higher education and research, except that in their case no
minimum of achievement is exacted. In the economic sphere, the State
ought to exercise control, but ought to leave initiative to others.
There is every reason to multiply opportunities of initiative, and to
give the greatest possible share of initiative to each individual,
for if this is not done there will be a general sense of impotence
and discouragement. There ought to be a constant endeavor to leave
the more positive aspects of government in the hands of voluntary
organizations, the purpose of the State being merely to exact
efficiency and to secure an amicable settlement of disputes, whether
within or without its own borders. And with this ought to be combined
the greatest possible toleration of exceptions and the least possible
insistence upon uniform system.

A good deal may be achieved through local government by trades as
well as by areas. This is the most original idea in syndicalism, and
it is valuable as a check upon the tyranny which the community may be
tempted to exercise over certain classes of its members. All strong
organizations which embody a sectional public opinion, such as trade
unions, coöperative societies, professions, and universities, are to be
welcomed as safeguards of liberty and opportunities for initiative. And
there is need of a strong public opinion in favor of liberty itself.
The old battles for freedom of thought and freedom of speech, which it
was thought had been definitively won, will have to be fought all over
again, since most men are only willing to accord freedom to opinions
which happen to be popular. Institutions cannot preserve liberty
unless men realize that liberty is precious and are willing to exert
themselves to keep it alive.

There is a traditional objection to every _imperium in imperio_, but
this is only the jealousy of the tyrant. In actual fact, the modern
State contains many organizations which it cannot defeat, except
perhaps on rare occasions when public opinion is roused against them.
Mr. Lloyd George’s long fight with the medical profession over the
Insurance Act was full of Homeric fluctuations of fortune. The Welsh
miners recently routed the whole power of the State, backed by an
excited nation. As for the financiers, no Government would dream
of a conflict with them. When all other classes are exhorted to
patriotism, they are allowed their 4½ per cent. and an increase of
interest on their consols. It is well understood on all sides that an
appeal to _their_ patriotism would show gross ignorance of the world.
It is against the traditions of the State to extort their money by
threatening to withdraw police protection. This is not due to the
difficulty of such a measure, but only to the fact that great wealth
wins genuine admiration from us all, and we cannot bear to think of a
very rich man being treated with disrespect.

The existence of strong organizations within the State, such as
trade unions, is not undesirable except from the point of view of
the official who wishes to wield unlimited power, or of the rival
organizations, such as federations of employers, which would prefer a
disorganized adversary. In view of the vastness of the State, most men
can find little political outlet for initiative except in subordinate
organizations formed for specific purposes. Without an outlet for
political initiative, men lose their social vigor and their interest
in public affairs: they become a prey to corrupt wire-pullers, or to
sensation-mongers who have the art of capturing a tired and vagrant
attention. The cure for this is to increase rather than diminish the
powers of voluntary organizations, to give every man a sphere of
political activity small enough for his interest and his capacity,
and to confine the functions of the State, as far as possible, to the
maintenance of peace among rival interests. The essential merit of
the State is that it prevents the internal use of force by private
persons. Its essential demerits are, that it promotes the external
use of force, and that, by its great size, it makes each individual
feel impotent even in a democracy. I shall return in a later lecture
to the question of preventing war. The prevention of the sense of
individual impotence cannot be achieved by a return to the small City
State, which would be as reactionary as a return to the days before
machinery. It must be achieved by a method which is in the direction of
present tendencies. Such a method would be the increasing devolution of
positive political initiative to bodies formed voluntarily for specific
purposes, leaving the State rather in the position of a federal
authority or a court of arbitration. The State will then confine itself
to insisting upon _some_ settlement of rival interests: its only
principle in deciding what is the right settlement will be an attempt
to find the measure most acceptable, on the whole, to all the parties
concerned. This is the direction in which democratic States naturally
tend, except in so far as they are turned aside by war or the fear of
war. So long as war remains a daily imminent danger, the State will
remain a Moloch, sacrificing sometimes the life of the individual, and
always his unfettered development, to the barren struggle for mastery
in the competition with other States. In internal as in external
affairs, the worst enemy of freedom is war.