This collection of essays was originally published in 1891, at a time when the modern welfare state was first taking shape. The theoretical and empirical contributions are fine examples of the classical liberal tradition in British thought.
Spencer develops various specific disastrous ramifications of the wholesale substitution of the principle of compulsory cooperation—the statist principle—for the individualist principle of voluntary cooperation. His theme is that “there is in society . . . that beautiful self-adjusting principle which will keep all its elements in equilibrium. . . . The attempt to regulate all the actions of a community by legislation will entail little else but misery and compulsion.”