The State and Industry During the War and After (Classic Reprint)

The State and Industry During the War and After (Classic Reprint)

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Excerpt from The State and Industry During the War and After

It is over the methods which the State should adopt in order to promote the well-being of its citizens that the real argument begins. But even here there are two points on which there is pretty general agreement, for in modern States it is recognised by all except the extreme anarchists that the State must undertake the defence of the country from the attacks of enemies from without, and that it must administer justice and keep order between individuals within its borders. Some individualists are apparently prepared to leave the matter here, and to regard the State as little more than a policeman, while at the other end of the scale are some representatives of State Socialism, who look on the State more in the light of a universal provider, and between these extremes all shades of opinion have been held. A brief sketch of the changes which have taken place in the relations of the State to the citizen in our own country during the last 300 years may, therefore, not be out of place as illustrating the way in which opinion on the subject has fluctuated, as well as the difficulty that has hitherto been experienced in laying down any definite and hard and fast guiding principles.

Fluctuation in Opinion and in State Activity.

During the 17th and the greater part of the 18th centuries the amount of interference exercised by the State in the lives of the people was considerable. Government was paternal, and there was comparatively little heard of individual liberty or the rights of individuals. To mention a few examples: -

Both foreign and domestic trade were in a great measure controlled and regulated by the State; wages and prices were not left to the free play of economic forces; the Statute of Apprentices checked the freedom of the employer to employ whom he liked, while working men were not free to go from place to place in search of employment. During this period the amount of power exercised by the State was probably in accordance with the public opinion of the day, and that this was the case with regard to some of the industrial legislation is seen by the fact that one of the first demands of the early Trade Unions which sprang up in the 18th century was that the statutes empowering magistrates to fix wages should be enforced. Even in the early years of the 19th century the Trade Unions pressed for the strict enforcement of the law with regard to the employment of apprentices, which had become almost a dead letter.

Early in the 19th century a change began to be apparent both in the attitude of the State itself and in the general trend of opinion towards the functions of the State.

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