Who indeed? And yet, more than 120 years after these words were written, that same Parliament is passing ever more laws, and administering them ever more energetically, if not wisely, in order to make us, if not “righteous and happy”, then obedient and well-behaved. Despairing of human nature, we trust in the state.
The author of this essay looked forward, without enthusiasm, to “the golden age of officials”. That age has arrived. He foresaw that “if the Socialistic programme be carried out with the least fulness, we shall have lost a thing in most respects not to be regretted, but, as a moderator of oppression, a thing nearly invaluable – the newspaper. For the independent journal is a creature of capital and competition; it stands and falls with millionaires and railway-bonds and all the abuses and glories of today; and as soon as the State has fairly taken its bent to authority and philanthropy, and laid the least touch on private property, the days of the independent journal are numbered. State railways may be good things, and so may State bakeries; but a State newspaper will never be a very trenchant critic of the State officials.\”