State socialism exists as an instructive mirror for the politician in which he may study his own future developments. It shows him the superstitions and defects of his political system in their most exaggerated form; it caricatures the blunders that men make in trying to govern each other on the principle of unlimited force. Our common everyday superstition of supposing that we can represent 25,000 persons on all the great subjects of life, by one marvelous person in some congress or parliament, of supposing that it is reasonable to give all the rights to three persons, because they are three, and no rights of any kind to two persons, because they are two; of supposing that numbers create moral rights; our common and everyday mistake of constructing huge machines, that nobody understands or controls, and that govern men as much as they are governed by them; of handing the nation over in a lump sum to the officials; of turning the officials into sacred persons, and turning the public into dead material, without will, conscience and intelligence of its own; of giving every individual, say, the one-ten millionth voice in the affairs of all his neighbors, and no practical authority over his own affairs; of thus allowing men who don't own themselves to own the selves of others; of destroying differences and consecrating uniformity; of massing the good, the bad, and the indifferent all together under one system, and therefore making regulations that apply to the criminal and half-criminal, apply also to the good citizen, and thus reducing the best and ablest citizens to systems fitted to the least intelligent and the least civilized citizens, as a cavalry charge is regulated by the pace of the slowest horse; of multiplying regulations till they become as the grains of the sand of the sea, and require libraries to contain them, and a professional class to expound them; of supplying the nation during every day of the year with the utmost possible material of every kind for quarreling over, of destroying those natural rewards of ability and industry, and those natural penalties of faults which belong to free life, and replacing them with every sort of artificial contrivance which can suggest itself to the perverted political imagination; of trying to dodge the great natural law of progress by making the able and industrious carry on their backs, as their compulsory burden, the less able and the less industrious; of making the workers of all kinds subject to the talkers—all these superstitions and mistakes, and many more, are the common property of the politician and the socialist, between whom there is only a difference of degree. The socialist is only the politician kept a little longer in the oven and hard-baked; the politician is only the immatured socialist.
Now, what are the results of this particular favor? The most striking result is that the wealthier class think that it is their right and their duty to direct the education of the people. They deserve no blame. As long as they pay by rate and tax for a part of this education, they undoubtedly possess a corresponding right of direction. But having the right they use it; and in consequence the workman of today finds that he does not count for much in the education of his children. The richer classes, the disputing churches, the political organizers are too powerful for him. If he wishes to realize the fact for himself let him read over the names of those who make up the school boards of this country. Let him first count the ministers of all denominations, then of the merchants, manufacturers, and squires. There is something abnormal here. These ministers and gentlemen do not place the workmen on committees to manage the education of their children. How, then, comes it about that they are directing the education of the workmen's children? The answer is plain. The workman is selling his birthright for the mess of pottage. Because he accepts the rate and tax paid by others, he must accept the intrusion of these others into his own home affairs–the management and education of his children. Remember, I am not urging, as some do, the workmen to organize themselves into a separate class, and return only their own representatives as members of school boards; such action would not mend the unprofitable bargain. To take away money from other classes, and not to concede to them any direction in the spending of it, would be simply unjust–would be an unscrupulous use of voting power. No, the remedy must be looked for in another direction. It lies in the one real form of independence–the renunciation of all obligations. The course that will restore to the workmen a father's duties and responsibilities, between which and themselves the state has now stepped, is for them to reject all forced contributions from others, and to do their own work through their own voluntary combinations. Until that is done no workman has more, or has a claim to have more, than half rights over his own children. He is stripped of one-half of the thought, care, anxiety, affection, responsibility, and need of judgment which belong to other parents.
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And so it happens that not only is a man with new ideas a real terror inside the walls of a great department, but that there are two phases that succeed each other in turn in the life of these departments. There is the period of somnolence, the mechanical repetition of what had been said and done in past years, the same sending out of the old time-honored forms, the same pigeonholing of the answers, the same holding of inspections, the same administering of the nation by the junior clerks; and with it all, complete insensibility as to what influence the system as a whole is exercising on the soul of the people. The daily thought and care of a good official begins and ends with taking precautions that the system, as a system, is working smoothly and without friction. As to what the system is in itself, it is not his province to think, and he very rarely does think. He did not create it; he is not directly responsible for it—as a rule nobody knows who is responsible for it; his work is simply to make the countless wheels duly follow each other with regularity and precision. That somnolent period, however, only lasts for a time; presently comes the revolutionary period of remorselessly pulling down and then building up in haste—a period in which the department suddenly awakes from its sleep, aroused perhaps by some external impulse, perhaps by the truer perceptions, or perhaps by the wayward fancies of some minister, fresh to office, who longs to inaugurate his own little revolution. Then the sleepers become changed into reformers; and suddenly we are authoritatively assured that we have been following altogether wrong methods, that the old system, under which serious evils have been growing up, must be at once transformed into something of a new and very different order. The nation, dully and dimly aware that things are not as they should be, smiles approvingly, and through its press, faintly applauds; and the plant, perhaps of some twenty years' growth, is straightway torn up by the roots—a fate which after a few years will be again shared by the new thing that now takes its place.