Spencer, Herbert. The Man Versus The State. Edited by Truxton Beale. Kennerley. $2.

HERE are collected nine essays by Herbert Spencer, all of which deal with the relation of the individual to the social group, seeking to prove that the laissez faire conception of social life is the correct one. The essays are finished with prefatory remarks by the following distinguished gentlemen: W. H. Taft, Charles W. Eliot, Elihu Root, Henry Cabot Lodge, David Jayne Hill, Nicholas Murray Butler, Augustus P. Gardner, E. H. Gary, Harlan F. Stone. The names themselves should, perhaps, constitute a sufficient commentary on a work that frankly defends the institution of economic individualism.

The fatal error in the book lies in the fact that no such application as is here attempted can be made. Spencer wrote these essays a generation ago at a time when even his powerful intellect could not possibly foresee the tremendous and complicated economic development that began in America about the middle of the 90s, and that has, only within the past decade, become oppressive at points.

The point of the book, as it is presented by its commentators, is simply this: That government has no right to interfere with industry. It is here contended, by means of the Spencerian social philosophy, that this is a "free" country; that "freedom" means the right of any individual to manipulate the means of a whole people's life, if he is clever enough and fortunate enough to do so; and that, once an individual has gained control of an industry, he is responsible to no one for the manner in which he may choose to conduct it. This is the doctrine of economic individualism. Curiously enough, these gentlemen defend the doctrine in the sacred name of "liberty." To limit the individual, they tell us, is to encourage despotism; and they confess that they are much alarmed at the growing tendency of government to interfere with "individual initiative."