ABSTRACT

The content of Herbert Spencer’s liberalism underwent remarkably little change during the sixty years in which he articulated it. With the exception of his views on landownership and the franchise, Spencer enunciated in 1902 virtually the same views that he had expressed in 1842. What had changed, however, and markedly so, was his mode of justification for those liberal ideas. In Social Statics Spencer merely asserted that adherence to the principle of equal freedom was the condition of a liberal society of self-developed agents. Spencer argued that protection of these rights was the sole function of government, and that if it strayed beyond this role, the state necessarily violated the LEF and committed injustice. There was, however, an ‘unofficial’ justificatory argument for the LEF alluded to by Spencer towards the end of Social Statics. This was the argument of individuality.