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Spencer's Law

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My friend Steve Davies [2], the great historian at Manchester Metropolitan University, describes "Spencer’s Law."  And here it is, in the words of Herbert Spencer himself:

Yet while elevation, mental and physical, of the masses is going on far
more rapidly than ever before—while the lowering of the death-rate
proves that the average life is less trying, there swells louder and
louder the cry that the evils are so great that nothing short of a
social revolution can cure them. In presence of obvious improvements,
joined with that increase of longevity which even alone yields
conclusive proof of general amelioration, it is proclaimed, with
increasing vehemence, that things are so bad that society must be
pulled to pieces and re-organised on another plan, In this case, then,
as in the previous cases instanced, in proportion as the evil decreases
the denunciation of it increases; and as fast as natural causes are
shown to be powerful there grows up the belief that they are powerless.

This quotation is found on page 6 of the 1981 Liberty Fund reprint of A Plea for Liberty, edited by Thomas Mackay, and originally published in Great Britain in 1891.  Spencer wrote the Introduction.  Here’s Liberty Fund’s on-line version of Spencer’s essay [3].

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