It has often been asserted in theory, and still more often in practice, that the real end of the State is the rule of the supreme power, especially of princes over their subjects.
If the maintenance of this rule were the end of the State, the logical conclusion must be that the ideal State should be as absolute and as extensive as possible, so that the final aim of political effort would be absolute universal monarchy, or rather universal despotism. This would make it impossible to reconcile national freedom with the development of human powers.
The whole conception has its origin, not in human nature, nor in the social impulses which nature has implanted in mankind, but in the ambition of rulers and their haughty desire to exalt themselves.
Aristotle long ago condemned this opinion in the famous dictum, `All constitutions which regard only the private good of the rulers are corruptions or perversions of the normal constitutions.' (Politics, iii. 6. 1279a, 19) It is forgotten that a nation exists within the State; that the subjects are men like their rulers, and possess the same human capacities, feelings and powers; that it is therefore preposterous to regard the one class as the sole possessors of political rights, and the others as simple objects of their rule, as things. All the arguments against slavery are equally valid against this sort of despotism.
Rule is unquestionably an attribute of the power of the State, but it is not the end of the State; on the contrary it is a means to realise the end of the State. It is rather a duty towards the nation than a right to be enjoyed by the ruler.
Rule therefore requires to be limited and defined by the constitution. The ideal of a State which approaches as nearly as possible to perfection does not consist in absolute, but in constitutional, i.e. relative rule. It often happens that some form of government, originally founded with good intentions, ceases in time to suit the altered conditions of a nation. In such a case it cannot be the duty of a healthy policy to leave this system unaltered just as it was inherited from previous generations: on the contrary, one's aim should be to improve the now useless system, and to restore harmony with the other conditions of the national life.
According to the theocratic theory, the end of the State is the realization of God's kingdom upon earth. Stahl says: `The duty of the State depends upon the service of God. It should establish the rule of God, and maintain justice, discipline, and morality, which are God's commands for social life.' (Rechtsphilosophie, ii. 2) In the middle ages this conception was generally believed both by Christians and Mohammedans. But the modern world, while granting the religious importance of this view, and fully comprehending how the whole machinery of the world was revealed to the pious spirit by the light of the divine administration, utterly rejects the erroneous and fatal way in which divine rule was applied to direct the conduct of human affairs.
The comparison on which the idea of theocracy rests, that the prince rules over a nation as God rules over the world, is obviously false. God's rule over the world is the rule of an absolute over relative beings, of the creator over his creatures: we cannot discover its origin, nor can we define its methods or its objects. The rule of a prince over a nation is the rule of a man over men, i. e. similar beings; the prince's life is guided and his qualities limited just as those of his subjects, and the latter are fully capable of criticising him from a human standpoint.
The comparison of a prince with God is therefore false from every point of view, and, as it leads to pride and excessive self-esteem, it is also harmful. The end of the State must be recognisable by men, it must be determined by human nature, and it must be at any rate nearly attainable by human effort.
It is altogether erroneous to place the end of the State outside the people and country which form it, so that it becomes merely a means to secure external objects.
The clerical party has been accustomed to prove the necessity of the States of the Church by pointing out that the independence and authority of the Roman Catholic Church require a Pope who shall be at the same time sovereign ruler in Rome. They fail to perceive that this argument clearly tells against the temporal power. For by it they deny the independence of the Papal States, and with it their character as a State, because no State can exist as the slave, wanting both will and legal rights, of some external power, even though this latter be the Roman Catholic Church. They presume that the Roman people who compose this State have submitted to a political serfdom in the interests of a religious and non-political community, a presumption which is equally opposed to the character of the people and to the religious nature of the Church.
History has declared its judgment upon this enormity. Rome now belongs, not to Catholic Christendom, which is divided into many States, but to the Roman, or rather to the Italian, nation, of which the Romans are members.
But even in the present day there are several examples of the same error. The principality of Lichtenstein obviously does not exist for the sake of the small village of Lichtenstein and its scanty population. It serves only for an external object, viz. to support the rank and dignity of the princely dynasty which lives outside the country at the imperial court of Austria. This is obviously a State which has not its end in itself.[Back to:]