[This essay is taken from Chapter 23 of Man vs. the Welfare State.]
In 1884, Herbert Spencer wrote what quickly became a celebrated book, The Man Versus The State. The book is seldom referred to now, and gathers dust on library shelves if, in fact, it is still stocked by many libraries. Spencer's political views are regarded by most present-day writers, who bother to mention him at all, as "extreme laissez faire," and hence "discredited."
But any open-minded person who takes the trouble today to read or reread The Man Versus The State will probably be startled by two things. The first is the uncanny clairvoyance with which Spencer foresaw what the future encroachments of the State were likely to be on individual liberty, above all in the economic realm. The second is the extent to which these encroachments had already occurred in 1884, the year in which he was writing.
The present generation has been brought up to believe that government concern for "social justice" and for the plight of the needy was something that did not even exist until the New Deal came along in 1933. The ages prior to that have been pictured as periods when no one "cared….. if the present generation thinks this is true even of the 1920s, it is absolutely convinced that this was so in the 1880’s….Yet the new reader's initial astonishment when…..ToRead More…..