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The Right and Wrong of Compulsion by the State

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Pages: 62

Book format: An electronic version of a printed book that can be read on a computer or handheld device designed specifically for this purpose.

Publisher: Date:8/4/2009 - General Books LLC

By: Auberon Herbert

Excerpt from book: in philosophy: another in art: another in matters of trade: another in matters of labour: another in matters of contract: another in matters of amusement. One person will desire to regulate the people in a few matters, and give freedom in many: another to give freedom in few and regulate in many. There is no possibility of permanent human agreement in the matter, where once you have ceased to stand on any definite principle, where once you have sanctioned the use of force for certain undefined needs of the moment. And observe well what you are doing. Under this plea of the needs of the moment you are sanctioning not only the right of some men to coerce others, but their right to decide how and when and for what purposes they shall coerce others. It is the power-holders, freed from any general principle that controls and directs them, who have to decide as to the limits and application of their own power. For who else can do so? You have given this right of using power into their hands because they are the majority. You must also give this other right of determining and defining the application of power into their hands, for there is nobody else to whom you can give it. Nor is it reasonable to say that we may trust to the general good sense that exists amongst all men not to abuse the power that is thus placed in their hands, and not to stretch its limits to a dangerous and unjust extent. When power is once given, it becomes impossible, in the absence of any general principle or fixed standard, to say what is dangerous or unjust: because the danger and injustice are involved in the very idea and the very fact ofsome men — be they the many or the few — possessing undefined power over others. I would urge upon all those persons who hold this careless language,—that power may be justl...  

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