There comes a moment in law school, much relished by law professors, when students read a decision by the United States Supreme Court, throwing open the gates of progressive theory of government, which stated explicitly that the United States is not guided by Herbert Spencer’s social statics. I remember the moment when I ended up on the Professor’s Enemies List by raising my hand and asking him what Herbert Spencer had said and why the social statics were so bad. The answer I got was the sort of “go away kid you’re bothering me” type of response. So I dedicated some time to reading Herbert Spencer, and he actually struck me as sort of interesting, and relevant to our modern budget debates, not to mention our debate about how much role government should have in a time of debt and deficit.
In the spirit of things, I’ll note that in 1841, Herbert Spencer was having a problem with Barack Obama and Deval Patrick. I give you Herbert Spencer from his essay “the Proper Sphere of Government”, inspired by the latest Deval Patrick proposal and last night’s State of the Union address:
“We hear one man proclaiming the advantages that would accrue, if all turnpike roads in the kingdom were kept in repair by the state; another would saddle the nation with a medical establishment, and preserve the popular health by legislation; and a third maintains that government should make railways for Ireland, at the public expense. The possibility of there being any impropriety in meddling with these things never suggests itself. Government always has exercised the liberty of universal interference, and nobody ever questioned its right to do so. Our ancestors, good people, thought it quite reasonable that the executive should have unlimited power…; and as they made no objection, we, in our wise veneration for the good old times, suppose that all is as it should be…”
Who would have guessed that Patrick and Obama were the conservatives in our society!