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And then what about the great principles, which my friend does not propose exactly to follow, but on which at all events he will be good enough to keep a watchful eye? Where are they? What are they? What great principle remains, when you have sanctioned unlimited power? You can't appeal to any of the great rights—as rights; the rights of self-ownership and self-guidance, the rights of the free exercise of faculties, the rights of thought and conscience, the rights of property, they are no longer the recognized and accepted rules of human actions; they are now reduced to mere expediencies, to which each man will assign such moderate value as he chooses. You are now out in the great wilderness, far away from all landmarks. Around the throne of unlimited power stretches the vast solitude of an empty desert. Nothing can be fixed or authoritative in its presence; by the fact of its existence, by the conditions of its nature, it becomes the one supreme thing, acknowledging—except perhaps occasionally in courtly phrases for soothing purposes—nothing above itself, writing its own ethics, interpreting its own necessities, making of its own safety and continuance the highest law, and contemptuously dismissing all other discrowned rivals from its presence.
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This, then, is the first point to notice—that no literary phrases about social organisms are potent enough to evaporate the individual. He is the prime, the indispensable, the irreducible element in the whole business. The individual has a far too solid and matter-of-fact existence to be eliminated by any arts of literary conjuring. Now take the second point. Is there a resemblance, on the one side, between the individual and certain social wholes, in which he is included, and on the other side, between an organism and its component parts? The answer must be: yes. All parts included in wholes have a generic likeness to each other of a certain kind. A brick in a house, a muscle in a body, have each of them relations to their own whole (the house and the body) which may be compared to the relations existing between an individual and the various social bodies in which he is included. But if there is a certain resemblance, there are also striking differences. The life of the muscle exists simply for the sake of the organism. Taken out of the organism it dies, and has no further use. So with a brick. Like the muscle, it does not exist (excluding, perhaps, the case of a certain town in the Midlands on election days in the old times) for its own sake. It has no use or purpose apart from the building in which it is to form part. It is not an end in itself. In these cases the organism is greater than the part; but with the individual it is not so. He is included in many wholes—his school, his college, his club, his profession, his town or county, his church, his political party, his nation; he forms part of many organisms, but he is always greater than them all. They exist for him; not he for them. The child does not exist for his family, the boy does not exist for his school, the undergraduate for his college, the member of a church or club, or trades union, or cooperative society, or joint-stock company, for his church, club, society, trades union, cooperative society, or joint-stock company, the member of a village or town does not exist for his village or town, or the member of a nation for his nation. All these various wholes, without any exception, in which an individual is included—these so-called organisms of which he forms part—exist for the sake of the individual. They exist to do his service; they exist for his profit and use. If they did not minister to his use, if they did not profit him, they would have no plea to exist. The doom of any one of them would be spoken, if it were found to injure, not to benefit, the individual. He, the individual, joins himself to them for the sake of the good they bring him, not in order that he may be used by them, and be lost to himself, as the brick is lost in the house, or the muscle in the organism. The individual is king, and all these other things exist for the service of the king. It is a mere superstition to worship any institution, as an institution, and not to judge it by its effects upon the character and the interests of men. It is here that socialist and Catholic make the same grand mistake. They exalt the organization, which is in truth as mere dust under our feet; they debase the man, for whose sake the organization and all other earthly things exist. They posit the claims of the external organization as supreme and transcending all profit and loss account, and they call upon men to sacrifice a large part of their higher nature for the sake of this organization. They both of them sacrifice man, the king, to the mere dead instrument that exists for man's service. But why is a man to be sacrificed to any organization? How can any organization stand in front of, stand higher than, man? Test the matter by mere common sense. Could we go to a man and say: “You will be so much worse off materially, mentally, morally, by joining such and such an association, but for the sake of the association itself I entreat you to join it.” Does not every person, who pleads for an association, take pains to show that in some way, materially or morally, the individual will be profited by joining it; and in so speaking he bears evidence to the simple truth that the association—whatever it be, church, nation, or penny club—exists for the individual, and not the individual for the association.