… is from page 188 of the 2000 Liberty Fund edition of Frederic William Maitland’s profound 1875 dissertation at Trinity College, Cambridge, A Historical Sketch of Liberty and Equality:
To me it seems that if we start with the comparison suggested by such phrases as “body politic” or “social organism” we are not within sight of that sort of knowledge that every old woman in a village has and has long had of the human body. She knows truths about the span of life, about the growth of children, about their teething, about gray hairs, old age and death, the like of which we do not know, and so far as I can see are not going to know about the parallel social phenomena, if any such parallel phenomena there be. In effect she judges from time to time that some child is not in a normal condition, though she does not use the word “normal.” She sends for the doctor, or, may be, living in Devonshire, she sends for the seventh son of a seventh son. No matter what she does, no matter how absurd may be the remedies that she tries, she knows that normally a baby’s body is not covered with scarlet blotches. Have we brought, are we likely to bring our inductive political science up to this high level?
Much bad social science has been done by anthropomorphizing collectives. This bad social science, in turn, spawns bad – and sometimes even calamitous – public policies.