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PREFACE "FROM my scattered and uncertain knowledge of history and government," writes a recent graduate of Harvard College in a personal letter to the author, “it seems to me that government is not only a necessary evil—but it has always existed for the benefit of those in power, and their friends." The writer of this letter, an immigrant's son, who had worked hard for his education and yet found time to study history and government as well as subjects of more immediate practical use, was answering some questions which must often arise in the minds of Americans whose experience of life causes them to reflect upon the nature of government. Is government an evil? If so, is it a necessary evil? Has it always existed for the benefit of those who govern, and must it always do so, or may it also benefit the governed?
Americans pride themselves on taking a realistic view of things and are prone to answer such questions as these in the manner in which they are answered above. The practical problem of government, they say, is, therefore, so to distribute the power that the benefits may be as widely shared as possible. But is this the wisest answer? And if it is, then how widely is it practicable to distribute the power without spreading it out so thin that the government loses what little capacity it may possess for the service of public interests? The anarchist, on the one hand, is merely a person who would distribute the power so widely that its benefits would be altogether lost. On the other hand, there are those who believe so strongly that government is a necessary evil, that they would concentrate authority in the fewest possible hands lest the burden of the evil become too great to be borne. If these extremes of opinion are to be avoided, then how many shall share in the power? And what share shall each receive ? And where shall the line be drawn, beyond which the authority of the rulers shall not go, in order that within some limit the private individual may do as he pleases ?
Having undertaken to show how far the science of government has gone in discovering the answers to these questions, I was struck by the difficulty of writing on the subject without first defining the meaning of terms. The word "govern" itself is derived from the ancient Greek expression meaning steer. A "governor," therefore, is a helmsman or pilot. Carrying out the figure of speech, the science of government may be defined as the science of piloting the ship of state. But what is a ship of state? And whither is it to be piloted? Or, dropping the metaphor, what is a state? And what ends, if any, does it serve? To these questions many answers have been given, but without resulting in any general agreement among those who write about the state and about government. Some writers mean by the state one thing; others, another. The confusion of language breeds confusion of thought. Without agreement in the use of these fundamental terms it is idle to attempt to answer the further questions: Who shall be the pilot of the ship of state? How shall he be compensated for his pains ? And will he ever be worthy of his hire? The discussion of the nature of the state and of the purposes of its existence has filled the following pages and crowded out the consideration of forms and processes of government. I have been content to try to state the problem of government, believing that a fair statement of the problem is at least the beginning of its solution.
So this book is only an introduction to the study of the
science of government. Indeed, it is only a partial introduction, for, like ships of the sea, ships of state are of various kinds, and it will scarcely be denied that in the inferior kinds of states government has often existed mainly for the benefit of those in power and their friends. But more than that is now demanded of the rulers of the better sort of states, and it is of the latter that I write. It is particularly the government of the modern commonwealth to the study of which this book is an introduction. In other words, the problem which I have tried to state is that of government not merely, but especially that of popular government at the present time.
The notes on books, appended to each chapter, make no pretense of completeness. They are confined to books in the English language—especially recent books—which the interested reader may care to examine. I have tried to include chiefly those which may help him to pursue further the particular topics in which he may be most interested. Many books which I myself have found helpful are omitted; others are included which maintain theories which I cannot accept. Some, indeed, most readers will agree, are bad books. They are significant on account of the errors rather than the truth which they contain. Some books also are included which deal mainly with topics which I have scarcely noticed, if at all, because I could not do so without digressing too far from the course of my argument. But the topics with which they deal are the subjects of controversy among political scientists and cannot be ignored by those readers who wish to pursue further the study of contemporary political theory.
In conclusion I wish to express my gratitude to my friends who have contributed by many private and informal discussions to my understanding of my own ideas. . They will not expect me to name them here, but I ought to mention three who have read the manuscript or proofs