The Foundations of the Modern Commonwealth

The Foundations of the Modern Commonwealth

The Foundations of the Modern Commonwealth

The Foundations of the Modern Commonwealth

Excerpt

"From my scattered and uncertain knowledge of history and government," writes a recent graduate of Harvard College in a personal letter to the author, "it seems to me that government is not only a necessary evil--but it has always existed for the benefit of those in power, and their friends." The writer of this letter, an immigrant's son, who had worked hard for his education and yet found time to study history and government as well as subjects of more immediate practical use, was answering some questions which must often arise in the minds of Americans whose experience of life causes them to reflect upon the nature of government. Is government an evil? If so, is it a necessary evil? Has it always existed for the benefit of those who govern, and must it always do so, or may it also benefit the governed?

Americans pride themselves on taking a realistic view of things and are prone to answer such questions as these in the manner in which they are answered above. The practical problem of government, they say, is, therefore, so to distribute the power that the benefits may be as widely shared as possible. But is this the wisest answer? And if it is, then how widely is it practicable to distribute the power without spreading it out so thin that the government loses what little capacity it may possess for the service of public interests? The anarchist, on the one hand, is merely a person who would distribute the power so widely that its benefits would be altogether lost. On the other hand, there are those who believe so strongly that government is a necessary evil, that they would concentrate authority in the fewest possible hands lest the . . .

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