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LIBERALISM HERBERT SPENCER The most extreme reflection of nineteenth-century individualism is to be found in the encyclopedic system of Herbert Spencer 1820-1903 Both his paternal and maternal ancestors were of a long English and French nonconformists dissenters and rebels and Spencer traces in his Autobiography his conspicuous disregard of political religious and social authority to the tradition of independence and dissent so long cherished by his family Spencers education was informal unconventional and highly deficient in the more traditional studies of literature and history His father encouraged his interest in the science and tecnology and Spencer became an engineer However he practiced his profession for a few years because he became increasingly interested in political economy sociology biology and philosophy He was a subeditor of The economist from 1848 to 1853 and then ventured into a full-time career as a free-lance author As early as 1842 Spencer contributed to the Nonconformist a series of letters called The Proper Sphere of Government his first major publication It contains his political philosophy of extreme individualism and Laissez Faire which was not much modified in his writings in the following sixty years Spencer expresses in The Proper Sphere of Government his belief that everything in nature has its laws organic as well as inorganic matter Man is subject to laws bot in his physical and spiritual essence and as with man individually so with man socially Concerning the evils of society Spencer postulates a self-adjusting principle under which evils rectify themselves provided that no one interferes with the inherent law of society In discussing the functions of the state Spencer is concerned with what the state should not do rather than what it should do Maintenance of order and administration of justice are the only two proper realms of government activity and their purpose is simply to defend the natural rights of man to protect person and property The state has no business to promote religion regulate
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