Laissez Faire Essay
('I omit' says Archdeacon Paley, 'much usual declamation upon the dignity and capacity of our nature, the superiority of the soul to the body, of the rational to the animal part of our constitution; upon the worthiness, refinement, and delicacy of some satisfactions, and the meanness, grossness, and sensuality of others: because I hold that pleasures differ in nothing but in continuance and intensity' - Rousseau took the Social Contract from Locke and drew out of it the General Will.In each case the transition was made by virtue of the new emphasis laid on equality.Suppose that by the working of natural laws individuals pursuing their own interests with enlightenment in condition of freedom always tend to promote the general interest at the same time!
At the end of the seventeenth century the divine right of monarchs gave place to natural liberty and to the compact, and the divine right of the church to the principle of toleration, and to the view that a church is 'a voluntary society of men', coming together, in a way which is 'absolutely free and spontaneous' (Locke, ).Fifty years later the divine origin and absolute voice of duty gave place to the calculations of utility.In the hands of Locke and Hume these doctrines founded Individualism.The individualism of the political philosophers pointed to laissez-faire.The divine or scientific harmony (as the case might be) between private interest and public advantage pointed to laissez-faire.The compact presumed rights in the individual; the new ethics, being no more than a scientific study of the consequences of rational self-love, placed the individual at the centre.'The sole trouble Virtue demands', said Hume, 'is that of just Calculation, and a steady preference of the greater Happiness.' (, section LX).This is the second current - sprang from long-dead controversies, and carried on its way by long-exploded sophistries - which still permeates our atmosphere of thought but it did not drive out the former current. The early nineteenth century performed the miraculous union.It harmonised the conservative individualism of Locke, Hume, Johnson, and Burke with the socialism and democratic egalitarianism of Rousseau, Paley, Bentham, and Godwin.These ideas accorded with the practical notions of conservatives and of lawyers.They furnished a satisfactory intellectual foundation to the rights of property and to the liberty of the individual in possession to do what he liked with himself and with his own.