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CHAPTER XIII

THE FUNCTIONS OF GOVERNMENT

The Functions of Government.-Government, we stated in the opening chapter, is the organization within a state for the purpose of maintaining internal peace and order for the general welfare of the people, and preserving the national independence from foreign aggression. It follows logically that the functions which governments should exercise should be those which most perfectly secure this internal peace and order and general welfare, and this protection from external attack. Conditions in one state may warrant the government in assuming more extensive functions than are assumed by the government of a neighboring state; in times of great national peril, any government may assume much greater functions than it would assume under ordinary circumstances; but in all cases and at all times the sole justification for the functions which a state exercises is the preservation of peace and order within its boundaries to further the general welfare of its people, and the insurance of safety from external aggression.

I. INDIVIDUALIST THEORIES

Different Theories of the Functions of Government: Individualistic.-Radically different theories of the functions of the government under ordinary circumstances are held by different thinkers. A few generations ago a group of writers advocated the limitation of governmental powers and functions so far as possible. These “individualists," as they are called, contended that government is a necessary evil, only to be endured because, without the restraints imposed by government, the crimes of certain members of the community

might threaten the peace and security of all. The only chance for the full and proper development of the individual depended upon non-interference by the government. Every function exercised by the government was, according to these thinkers, an infringement on the natural inherent liberty of the individual. If it were not for the inborn selfishness of man, whereby he sought commonly to elevate himself at the expense of his fellow human beings, government would be unnecessary and men would be allowed to develop their capacities to their fullest without restraint.

The Individualistic State.-What, then, would be the condition of affairs in an individualistic state? Government would exist only as a police department to punish crime, to provide against external aggression and for the maintenance of peace and order, and to enforce contractual obligation. There would be no governmental ownership of railroads, of telegraphs, or even (according to some of the post office; no governmental regulation of corporations or of labor; no governmental support of libraries, museums, and the like; no provision by the government for public education, health, or sanitation:—such functions of the government are to be condemned, according to the individualists, as infringing upon private enterprise or encroaching upon private liberty.

Argument for Individualistic State. The individualists argued for their ideas by emphasizing the evils of overgovernment in paralyzing men's initiative, and by pointing to the analogy of the natural world where the principle of the "survival of the fittest" resulted (they claimed) in the evolution of a higher type of being. Where men become accustomed to look to the government for help, they lose the ability to help themselves and tend to degenerate. Allow a free competition without governmental assistance, and the individual strains to his utmost capacity to survive in the struggle and thus develops his powers more and more. The superman, the ideal man of a type above what we know at present, is only to be evolved, they asserted, under such conditions.

Weakness of Individualistic System. The most fundamental weakness in the individualistic theory lies in its emphasis upon the development of man as opposed to the welfare of the whole group of men. Government is not an organization for the sole purpose of evolving a few supreme individuals: it is rather an organization to secure conditions under which the general welfare of the whole people is furthered. With the results of the Industrial Revolution—the sudden growth of huge cities with their new problems of public health, sanitation, transportation, and the like, the building of great factories housing the machinery which the workmen needed in order to make a living, the amassing of immense fortunes which gave the possessor overmuch power for good or for ill—a reaction against the individualistic theories set in. The welfare of the whole group required that strict sanitary regulations be imposed upon each person for the benefit of all persons, that regulations be imposed upon the individual factory owner to protect the relatively helpless mass of workers, that the ignorant be protected by governmental regulation from the results of their own ignorance; in short, that the government act more and more as the trustee of the people as a whole to administer the aggregate power of the state for the general welfare. With the spread of liberalism to the extent that the people actually do exercise a control over their government, the former distrust of government has naturally disappeared. When the government owns or manages the railroads or supply plants, when the government introduces a system of compulsory education, when the government establishes a great library or museum, or equips scientific expeditions, the people no longer are inclined to condemn these activities as encroachments upon individual enterprise, but to welcome them as the acts of their own collective agency intended for their own collective benefit. The doctrines of the individualists are discredited at the present time in favor of a theory of governmental functions which emphasizes the advancement of the general welfare.

II. SOCIALIST THEORY

Socialistic Theory of the Functions of Government.-The exact antithesis of the individualistic theory of the functions of government is the socialistic. Whereas the individualist believes in the minimum of government, the socialist believes in the maximum; whereas the individualist looked upon government as a necessary evil, the socialist looks upon it as the supreme good.

Socialism pictures the government as owning all the means of production, communication, transportation, and distribution. Thus all the land, mines, water supplies, forests, gas supply plants, power plants, and the like would belong directly to the government; all the telegraph and telephone lines would belong to the government; all the railroads, trolley lines, steamship lines, and stage lines would belong to the government; and all the wholesale and retail markets, stores, and shops would belong to the government. To work these various agencies, all the people of the state would be organized by, and be under the control of, the government. The government would be the sole employer of labor. The socialistic state would be a huge coöperative community under government management. Government ownership and organization, and general coöperation among the people of the state, are the essential features of the socialist theory.

The Socialist State.-What, then, would be the system in the ideal socialist state?

Politically, it would be more nearly a perfect democracy than any with which we are familiar. The initiative, referendum, and recall, the most effective measures for accurate representation of all sections of the community, entire responsibility of every official of the government at any and all times to the people,-such devices would be introduced to insure democracy.

Economically, the socialist proposes to replace the present competitive system of private capital with a system by which

the community shall own the means of production and distribution and shall use these for its own benefit. The community is to be organized into labor forces for production and to each laborer is to be distributed a part of the production proportionate to the amount of labor performed. Workmen will still be workmen, but they will be working for the state with tools belonging to the state and will be paid the full value of their labor by the state, instead of working for the individual capitalist with tools belonging to the capitalist and being paid by the capitalist a sum less than the full value of his production. "Surplus value" (i. e. the value of the completed product over and above the cost of production), which formerly constituted profits for the capitalist, will cease to exist; wages as such will be transmuted into an income representing a share in the national production exactly proportioned to the individual's share in that production. All workers, whether directly producing articles of consumption such as wheat, corn, meat, cotton, or whether of service to the community as lawyers, musicians, teachers, will receive a share of the total production directly proportioned to the time they have spent in work for the community. Furthermore, income from other sources than labor performed will not be possible under the socialist system. The use of property as a means of getting more property, as by loaning it for interest, or (what is equivalent) investing it in stocks with the expectation of receiving dividends, or building houses to rent to others, is absolutely forbidden under the socialist system, whereby the only source of income shall be labor. The results must be, the socialists claim, a practical equality in income.

The socialist government will be systematized in vast departments. The department of production, by means of monthly and yearly statistics collected from all sections of the community, will estimate the amount of each product necessary,--the amount of food products, cloth products, building material, manufactured products, etc. With this deter

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