By F. David Roberts
Paternalism did not entirely fade away, however, just as a laissez faire vision had long antedated 1830. Both were part of a social conscience also defined by a revived philanthropy, a new humanitarianism, and a grudging acceptance of an expanded government, all of which reflected a strong revival of religion as well as the growth of rationalism.
The new dominance of a laissez faire vision was dramatically evident in the triumph of political economy. By 1860, only a few doubted the,eternal verities of the economists' voluminous writings. Few also doubted the verities of those who preached self-reliance, who supported the New Poor Law's severity to persons who were not self-reliant, and who inspired education measures to promote that indispensable virtue. If economic laws and self-reliance failed to prevent distress, the philanthropists and voluntary societies would step in. Such a vision proved far more buoyant and effective than a paternalism whose narrow and rural Anglican base made it unable to cope with the downside of an industrial-urban Britain.
But the vision of a laissez faire society was not without its flaws. Its harmonious economic laws and itshope in self-reliance did not prevent gross exploitation and acute distress, and however beneficent were its philanthropists, they fell far short of mitigating these evils. This vision also found a rival in an expanded governme
- Stanford, CA