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The Future of Governments

    Naturevolume 134page694 (1934) | Download Citation



    AN address delivered by N. M. Butler at the Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, Long Island, on September 2, attributes the attack on ‘liberalism’ in the world generally to the very limited extent to which knowledge and power have been linked in official public life, compared with industrial and commercial life. The wide gap between instructed public opinion and Government, and the control of Government by legal formulae, by passion and by highly organised and effective self-seeking minorities, are largely responsible for the deadlock which threatens many fields of public action. Mr. Butler does not believe that compulsion, whether by a dictator or by a majority, offers any permanent solution of our difficulties. What is required is intellectual and moral discipline to fit mankind for the use of liberty. Dictatorships, no less than democracies, have failed to readjust their policies or the economic life of the peoples concerned to the revolutionary changes in production and intercourse brought about by the application of science. The highest task of liberalism to-day, he claims, is to meet this situation, to show how to end this international anarchy and confusion and to solve these new problems constructively with out resort to any form of compulsion. Mr. Butler outlined very broadly the principles of a programme ensuring not only freedom of thought, speech, worship and assembly but also of opportunity to earn a livelihood, and insisted on the importance of preserving individuality in the economic as in other spheres. The whole area of civilisation requires widening and integrating to relieve the economic conditions from which the attack on liberalism largely arose, and Government, agriculture, industry, transport, commerce and finance require adjusting to the conditions of human life and action existing to-day.

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