Auberon Herbert (1838–1906) is an eloquent, forceful, and uncompromising defender of liberty—indeed, in the judgment of Richard M. Ebeling he is "one of the most important and articulate advocates of liberty in the last two hundred years." Herbert was a major participant in the profound and wide-ranging intellectual ferment of the late Victorian age. He formulated a system of "thorough" individualism that he described as "voluntaryism." To Herbert, "you will not make people wiser and better by taking liberty of action from them. A man can learn only when he is free to act." As Eric Mack writes, "Carrying natural rights theory to its logical limits, Herbert demanded complete social and economic freedom for all noncoercive individuals and the radical restriction of the use of force to the role of protecting those freedoms—including the freedom of peaceful persons to withhold support from any or all state activities." There are ten essays.
"For ten years we have been busy organizing national education. A vigorous use of bricks and mortar is not generally accompanied by a careful examination of first principles,1 but now that we have built our buildings and spent our millions of public money, and civilized our children in as speedy a fashion as that in which the great Frank christianized his soldiers, we may perhaps find time to ask a question which is waiting to be discussed by every nation that is free enough to think, whether a state education is or is not favorable to progress?2
It may seem rash at first sight to attack an institution so newly created and so strong in the support which it receives. But there are some persons at all events whom one need not remind, that no external grandeur and influence, no hosts of worshipers can turn wrong principles into right principles, or prevent the discovery by those who are determined to see the truth at any cost that the principles are wrong. Sooner or later every institution has to answer the challenge, “Are you founded on justice? Are you for or against the liberty of men?” And to this challenge the answer must be simple and straightforward; it must not be in the nature of an outburst of indignation that such a question should be asked; or a mere plea of sentiment; or the putting forward of usefulness of another kind. These questions of justice and liberty stand first they cannot take second rank behind any other considerations, and if in our hurry we throw them on one side, unconsidered and unanswered, in time they will find their revenge in the imperfections and failure of our work.
National education is a measure carried out in the supposed interest of the workmen and the lower middle class, and it is they especially–the men in whose behalf the institution exists–whom I wish to persuade that the inherent evils of the system more than counterbalance the conveniences belonging to it."
Auberon Herbert (1838-1906) was an English radical individualist who was influenced by the work of Herbert Spencer. With a group of other late Victorian classical liberals he was active in such organizations as the Personal Rights and Self-Help Association and the Liberty and Property Defense League. He formulated a system of “thorough” individualism that he described as “voluntaryism.”