Certain limiting factors: Underlying this argument is the assumption that no body which represents the community as a whole whether, as in guild socialism, it represents the producers or, as in a territorial assembly, it seeks to represent the consumers, will ever, by itself, adequately safeguard the right of the individual to realize himself.
That can only be done by organizing those who seek to secure some special interest into an association , which is prepared, in the last instance, to resist the will of government. In any State where there is an absence of the critical Spirit in the attitude of the citizens to their rulers, the preservation of rights is a difficult matter.
An attitude of contingent attack involves, it may be, the possibility of disorder, but it makes government itself vigilant to the opinion about it and men who prefer, in the internal life of a State, the path of perpetual peace to that of organized protest will, sooner or later, lose the habit of freedom. For, in the end, governments are made responsible less by the laws they must obey than by the character they will encounter.
A public opinion that is informed and organized is worth, for this purpose, all the checks and balances that have ever been described by political philosophers. For as governments degenerate unless they are forced to live at a high level,so, also, they improve where they meet the alert and erect intelligence of men.
It is integral to this conception of the mechanism of political responsibility that every State should possess a vigorous and independent judiciary. The government must be suable in the courts for tort and breach of contract in the same fashion as the most humble member of the community. The judges themselves, if they are appointed by, must also be irremovable by, the executive.
Nor can there be any administrative law which permits the final interpretation of statutes to be made by government officials. Their powers, especially in a period which has seen the vast growth of administrative discretion, must always be powers directly traceable to statute. They must be so exercised that they fulfill, in their operation, the obvious canons of reasonableness.
Whether this involves the writing of a Bill of Rights into the Constitution, those rights being accessible only by special procedure, is a delicate question. Certainly Bills of Rights have served this purpose in the United States that they have reminded men of things for which, because they were precious, they had to fight and may yet again be driven to do battle for.
They create a tradition of conduct the habits of which are valuable. Here it is enough to say that the principle that no man shall be judge in his own cause applies as well to government as to any other institution in the community. Only when the judiciary is accorded a special pre-eminence can it act as the guardian of a freedom which the least measure of dependence will at once cause to suffer encroachment.
Two other considerations are here of the first importance. The avenue to responsibility lies along the road of critical publicity. The freedom of a people depends, to a degree we are only beginning to realise, upon the quality of the news with which it is supplied. Its press must be free to attack authority in whatever manner it thinks fit, to publish what it please, to defend what programme it desires, the only limitation being the law of libel.
How best to secure the supply of adequate and truthful news is a question to be discussed later. But anyone who has watched, for instance, the way in which newspapers can turn the public mind to the direction their proprietors desire will realise that an alliance between the government and the press might be fatal to the very heart of democratic government.
The other consideration is equally urgent. We have justified the concept of a territorial State on the ground that it provides the most direct method available of organizing that plane of life where the interests of men, as the users of services, are relatively identical. The territorial State, that is to argue can in theory protect the interests of consumers better than any other association.
But it can only do so on the essential condition that there is, broadly speaking, approximate economic equality in the community. For, ultimately, the possession of wealth means the power to determine what is produced for consumption and if society is divided, as it is now divided, into a small number of rich and a struggling mass who exist upon the very margins of adequacy, it is obvious that the State, whatever its theoretic purpose, will always be weighted against the interests of the poorer citizens.
They fail to secure access to all which makes life worth living. Their houses will be mean, their education of low quality. The conditions of their existence will never afford them that resiliency of mind which comes from the possession of material comfort. Any State which hopes for permanency must at least abrogate the struggle for bread.
This seems to involve either some form of communism or else such a control of private enterprise as mitigates in every direction the harsh results of its operation. The experience of Russia has shown us that the establishment of communism is not likely to come rapidly men will sooner part with their souls than with their possessions. Social change in the direction of equality is more likely to be the result of slow and even painful experiment.
We are not faced by the prospect, at least over a long period, of the communal ownership of the means to wealth. But if government is to be morally legitimate, we are certainly faced by the need so to control the production and distribution of wealth that the general interest of the community is not regarded as the happy result of a mere sum of private interests, but is a recognized minimum in which each citizen has an equal share.
We shall inquire later into the institutional implications of this view of equality. What mainly follows from it, so far as the State is concerned, is the doctrine that all systems of property are justified only to the degree that they secure. in their working, the minimum needs of each citizen as a citizen. No legal rights, therefore, are ethically valid which do not arise from a contribution made to that need. I ought to have what I enjoy only as the result of the services I perform. My property is, from the standpoint of political justice, the measure of economic worth placed by the State upon my personal effort towards the realization of its end.
Obviously, therefore, there can be no property-rights without functions. I can possess only because I serve, I cannot, morally, possess because someone else has served. There is no justice in a State which exacts labour from some of its members as the price of their life, and allows others to live upon labour in which they have had no share. Property is therefore never justified, as Burke believed in a special representation in the State.
The only representation there entitled to find place is the representation of persons and these are entitled, for common needs, to be considered as of equal worth. This does not mean that the bricklayer will win the same reward or the same esteem as the great artist but it does mean that the human impulses we can hope to satisfy by social organization are of equal importance, whether we meet them in bricklayer or in artist. The degree of success that any State can win is measured by its power to realise that equality in the event.
One last remark may be made. That the State is, in some form or another, an inevitable organisation will be apparent to anyone who examines the human nature that we encounter in daily life. But to admit that it is inevitable is not to admit that it is entitled to moral pre-eminence of any kind. For, after all, the State is not itself an end, but merely the means to an end, which is realised only in the enrichment of human lives. Its power and the allegiance it can win depend always upon what it achieves for that enrichment.
We are, that is to say, subjects of the State, not for its purpose, but for our own. Realisable good means always some happiness won for the lives of persons, or it means nothing. Power, therefore, must seek the widest possible distribution of such happiness. We are entitled to suspect the State save as we see under its aegis the unfettered growth of human personality. We are entitled to condemn it save as its powers are used deliberately to defeat the forces which stand in the way of that growth.
Ultimately at least, the minds of men can give service to no end less than the realization of what is best in themselves. They can give allegiance to no lesser ideal. They exercise most truly their citizenship when they seek with wisdom a release from the servitude, alike material and spiritual, that is born of the perversion of power.