The Limits of State Action

The Limits of State Action PDF/EPUB ☆ Limits of


The Limits of State Action ❴PDF / Epub❵ ★ The Limits of State Action Author Wilhelm von Humboldt – Polishdarling.co.uk The grand, leading principle, towards which every argument unfolded in these pages directly converges, is the absolute and essential importance of human development in its richest diversityThis descri The grand, leading principle, towards which of State PDF/EPUB Á every argument unfolded in these pages directly converges, is the absolute and essential importance of human development in its richest diversityThis description by Wilhelm von Humboldt of The Limits ePUB Ù his purpose in writing The Limits of State Action animates John Stuart Mill s On Liberty and serves as its famous epigraph Seldom has a book spoken so dramatically to another writer Many commentators Limits of State PDF ↠ even believe that Humboldt s discussion of issues of freedom and individual responsibility possesses greater clarity and directness than Mill s The Limits of State Action, by Germany s greatest philosopher of freedom, as F A Hayek called him, has an exuberance and attention to principle that make it a valuable introduction to classical liberal political thought It is also crucial for an understanding of liberalism as it developed in Europe at the turn of the nineteenth century Humboldt explores the role that liberty plays in individual development, discusses criteria for permitting the state to limit individual actions, and suggests ways of confining the state to its proper bounds In so doing, he uniquely combines the ancient concern for human excellence and the modern concern for what has come to be known as negative libertyJ W Burrow is Professor of History at the University of Sussex.

    The Limits of State Action PDF/EPUB ☆ Limits of F A Hayek called him, has an exuberance and attention to principle that make it a valuable introduction to classical liberal political thought It is also crucial for an understanding of liberalism as it developed in Europe at the turn of the nineteenth century Humboldt explores the role that liberty plays in individual development, discusses criteria for permitting the state to limit individual actions, and suggests ways of confining the state to its proper bounds In so doing, he uniquely combines the ancient concern for human excellence and the modern concern for what has come to be known as negative libertyJ W Burrow is Professor of History at the University of Sussex."/>
  • Paperback
  • 161 pages
  • The Limits of State Action
  • Wilhelm von Humboldt
  • English
  • 26 January 2019
  • 0865971099

About the Author: Wilhelm von Humboldt

Wilhelm Friedrich Wilhelm Christian Karl Ferdinand of State PDF/EPUB Á von Humboldt, German man of letters extraordinary, close friend of the poets Goethe and Schiller, whose life s work encompasses the areas of philosophy, literature, linguistics, anthropology, The Limits ePUB Ù education, and political thought as well statesmanship was born in Potsdam on June , and died at Tegel near Berlin on April , Although there has always been strong interest in Humboldt Limits of State PDF ↠ expressed by political and cultural historians and educationists in Germany, it is only in recent decades that his contributions to the formation of modern linguistics, to semiotics, hermeneutics and language philosophy have given rise to renewed attention to his pioneering achievements in these areas, even though much of his work in linguistics has remained unknown or unexplored until recently Yet numerous linguists beginning with Pott and Steinthal in Germany and the American Brinton in the nineteenth century to Boas, Sapir, B hler, Weisgerber, and Chomsky in the twentieth century derived or claimed to have derived important insights from Humboldt But their interest in Humboldt was partial at best and limited to those aspects of his work that could be utilized to reinforce or to legitimize their own projects and methodologies It is quite misleading to associate the term Humboldtian linguistics or Humboldtian language philosophy with any one specific direction, for example with the Whorfian thesis of linguistic relativity or with Chomsky s opposite notion of a universalist generative grammar because these tend to ignore other equally orimportant dimensions of Humboldt s work After his death in his linguistic work was effectively disregarded by mainstream linguists in Germany whose primary interest was focused on the Indo European language group Thus a prominent figure like Franz Bopp would maintain that the languages of the South Pacific represented but decayed forms of Sanskrit despite the fact that Humboldt had already thoroughly disproved this opinion in his Kavi Work and demonstrated that these languages constituted what is called today the Austronesian language group Mueller Vollmer Even the linguist Heyman Steinthal who published in a two volume edition of Humboldt s writings entitled Die Sprachphilosophischen Werke Wilhelm s von Humboldt Humboldt s works in language philosophy see Works , bibliography in his introduction and commentaries criticises Humboldt from a reductionist psychologistic position and neither here or anywhere in his other writings made a serious attempt to discuss Humboldt s own arguments and to investigate his actual philosophical position In France, on the other hand, we find throughout the th century a comparatively sustained interest in Humboldt that was confined chiefly to his work in the Asian languages and to his Basque studies As a member of the Soci t Asiatique in Paris he published a number of articles in the society s official journal, the Journal Asiatique For a list of these articles, see B sch , p and the latter in turn carried reviews of some of his writings It has to be noted that this French reception resulted largely from the personal contacts and scholarly exchanges that he maintained with a number of prominent French linguists such as Jean Fran ois Champollion, Jean Pierre Ab l R musat, Eug ne Jacquet, and Eug ne Burnouf Yet Humboldt s French reception, while including some of his important linguistic studies, all but omitted their philosophical concerns and underlying principles Typical is the review of Humboldt s groundbreaking treatise from , On the Dual that appeared in the Nouvelle Revue Germanique, I , where the reviewer blended out entirely the philosophical intent and key argument of the piece Ibid and thus distorted beyond recognition Humboldt s integration of linguistic research and language philosophy which lies.



10 thoughts on “The Limits of State Action

  1. Rick Sam Rick Sam says:

    This is one of the best books that I ve read as it helped me to think better Humboldt says To what end state institutions should be set to their activity is the design of the whole book and most important question Humboldt s writing is dense and penetrating.I learned about Freedom and could see how America has it in their conscious thought My favorite part of the book was, when he said, Men who love labor for its own sake, improve it by their plastic genius and inventive skill, cultivate This is one of the best books that I ve read as it helped me to think better Humboldt says To what end state institutions should be set to their activity is the design of the whole book and most important question Humboldt s writing is dense and penetrating.I learned about Freedom and could see how America has it in their conscious thought My favorite part of the book was, when he said, Men who love labor for its own sake, improve it by their plastic genius and inventive skill, cultivate intellect and refine their pleasures I would recommend this book to Political philosophers

  2. Djordje Mladenović Djordje Mladenović says:

    Consdering the date this book was writen, postulates of liberalism that are discribed in it still stands Maybe not in the exact way that they are described in the book Changed, I would say Of course, some things have changed a lot attitude toward women , and some are still the same But thats the beauty of this book You can see the similarities and the differences between now and then.

  3. Otto Lehto Otto Lehto says:

    Humboldt s posthumously released classic text is still a radical libertarian s wet dream It is hard to believe it was written in the 1790 s and not in the 1990 s But it is also a passionately humanistic and optimistic treatise about human nature from an Enlightenment polymath and visionary Humboldt, like his brother Alexander, was a Renaissance man of science, art and politics In addition to being a bit of closeted and sometimes openly ultra liberal or libertarian even leaning towards an Humboldt s posthumously released classic text is still a radical libertarian s wet dream It is hard to believe it was written in the 1790 s and not in the 1990 s But it is also a passionately humanistic and optimistic treatise about human nature from an Enlightenment polymath and visionary Humboldt, like his brother Alexander, was a Renaissance man of science, art and politics In addition to being a bit of closeted and sometimes openly ultra liberal or libertarian even leaning towards anarchism as the ideal of human affairs Wilhelm was deeply interested in psychology, history, sociology, ethics, aesthetics and anthropology The book s prose has an air of Classical Rome and Greece about it, too which is another reason to call him a Renaissance man Humbold t proposal is very close to the vision of the ultra minimal state, or night watchman state, of Robert Nozick, Murray Rothbard, Fredric Bastiat and other right wing libertarians The concern for limiting state action, as the name implies, arises from a need to protect the private sphere of individuals The reason for this, however, is slightly different from many right libertarians, since he emphasizes the inherent need for diversity and self direction in a fashion typical to Classical authors, Rousseau and others He believed in voluntary cooperation over coercion, based on a notion of natural law that grants us unassailable human rights He saw that the current political reality, almost everywhere, despite the colourful differences that separate one community from another, was one of a general lack of freedom He lamented this fact, as any decent man should, but miraculously called for a calm reform of opinions and institutions, over incautious revolution.The book heavily inspired John Stuart Mill, who published his On Liberty in 1859 only a couple of years after the belated publication of Humboldt s tactfully subversive tract in 1854 What these two thinkers share is a faith in the spontanous powers of human creativity, good will and cooperation They were not immune to the dark side of humanity, but they were believers in the light of reason within and they believed, like all good liberal illuminators, that freedom was an elusive but attainable goal They believed that removing the fetters of the state at least in most areas of human life would push mankind up on its path towards greater diversity and flourishing.To be frank, Humboldt was not the greatest writer, and certainly Mill managed to scribble similar sensibilitieselegantly down in his On Liberty, but there are, too, some wonderful and inspiring passages containing deep and interesting ideas on the pages of The Limits of State Action The book contains some rather enthusiastic even though he hated that term eulogizing for liberty and diversity The early chapters, in particular, are full of memorable phrases and lines, some of which have served as epigraphs in the books of Mill and Hayek And for a good reason.The book is rather short, but somewhat heavy going, especially during the middle chapters, where Humboldt gets bogged down in the nitty gritty of legal theory and constitutional political economy These chapters are the least interesting However, the fact that the main arguments are always helpfully summarized at the end of each chapter improves readability somewhat And Humboldt gets his groove back towards the end of the book, where he provides some lofty thoughts on the relationship between pure theory vs pragmatic policy making always a hot topic It is a fairly rich and varied book, with some chaptersinteresting than others, but garbed in an almost aristocratic sense of fuck you, anything is possible, people The overall package, a real bundle of power, manages to resonate due to its theoretical insights, humanistic language and philosophical radicalism It combines pure theory, ardently plead and cried for, with a no nonsense approach to legislative affairs and a surprisingly modern dose of realpolitik Let us remember Humboldt had work experience in the public sector where he worked in administration The book was written by a rather young person, but it holds old ideas and new insights that are timeless There is an aura of uniqueness to it, with its unique blend of humanism and liberalism Ifhumanists had his love for freedom, andlibertarians his love for humanity, the world would be a better place He has lit up the lampposts on our way towards the utopia of tomorrow, but he has also shed light on the darkness of ignorance surrounding our hope how little we actually know about our real conditions , and shown us the long and arduous path ahead The book ends, appropriately, calling for perseverence in the face of natural resistance from governments and people who are not ready for freedom Such an assessment of today s struggles calls for a sparkle of hope flamed by a knowledge of the practicability of gradual change towards the theoretical limit of a society run by individuals in mutual harmony and maximal diversity

  4. Mathias Mathias says:

    Wilhelm von Humboldt is considered the progenitor of German liberalism Born in 1767, he wrote this essay probably in 1792 Some excerpts were published in journals soon after he wrote it, but the whole essay has been published only in 1850 First he had problems with censorship in Berlin and after some months he grew discontent with the work Eduard Cauer, the historian who wrote the introduction to the 1850 publication argued that the work was much inspired by the French Revolution and after t Wilhelm von Humboldt is considered the progenitor of German liberalism Born in 1767, he wrote this essay probably in 1792 Some excerpts were published in journals soon after he wrote it, but the whole essay has been published only in 1850 First he had problems with censorship in Berlin and after some months he grew discontent with the work Eduard Cauer, the historian who wrote the introduction to the 1850 publication argued that the work was much inspired by the French Revolution and after the fascination with it has ceased, the work must have seemed inadequate to its author Further, Cauer boasts that the work could be of no importance to the political science of his time where the view that the state is a necessary evil had to make place for a view much deeper and truer view which one he doesn t tell us According to him, political science showed that we didn t need to be freed from the state after all, but to be free in the state and that the power of the state has become the power of the people He says that the political ideals were now contrary to those of Humboldt and that this was for the better It took only a little less than a hundred years, to make it clear for even the most stupid person, that this nonsense had nothing to do with reality Anti liberal views seem to have run in the Cauer family, in 1933 Wilhelm Cauer signed the Vow of allegiance of the Professors of the German Universities and High Schools to Adolf Hitler and the National Socialistic State. Ironically, Wilhelm Cauer faced problems by the Nazis because one of his ancestors was Jewish Was that the freedom within the state that Eduard Cauer was praising so highly a couple of generations a go It is clear that Eduard had in no way a real grasp of the horrible things he was saying and the logical consequences that led from it It s about high time we learn that anti liberal activities and propaganda have consequences which nobody wants to live with Not even those guys like Cauer who have their mouths wide open trying to make fun of the immature , utopic or unpragmatic classic liberals In the whole introduction, Cauer introduces not a single argument as to what is wrong with Humboldt s ideas They re old fashioned and that s that This reminds me much of how later the Marxists would deal with their opponents Now, finally to the book itself I ve read the german original version, Ideen zu einem Versuch, die Gr nzen der Wirksamkeit des Staats zu versuchen It s similar to Spencer s classic Social Statics and Rothbard s The ethics of liberty in that it tries to grab hold of the rights of the individual and the duties and limits of the state The result is similar to the other two books, and although it s not quite going as far as the other two, I was still positively surprised by its liberal insights Humboldt says that the true purpose of man, which is prescribed by his eternal unchanging reason, is the highest and proportioned creation of his forces to a whole For this creation, liberty is the first and indispensable condition.He calls any endeavour on the part of the state reprehensible, to interfere with the private matters of its citizens, unless this is done in direct reference to one citizen violating the rights of another.Hey says that any state institution which tries to increase the wealth of a nation, like poor relief, subsidisation of agriculture, industry and commerce, finance and coinage operations, bans on import and export, prevention or repairment of damage done by nature, have disadvantages and are inappropriate for good politics Among the disadvantages he mentions that the spirit of government dwells in such institutions and brings forth in a nation conformity and an alien practise Also, the institutions of the state weakens the force of the nation They accustom people too much to rely on foreign instructions, guidance and help, instead of thinking for themselves regarding solutions to their problem The force of acting and the moral character suffers There s a relocation of a man s conception of merit and guilt the idea of the former doesn t motivate him any and he suffers less and less from a feeling of the latter.As everybody relies upon the help from the state, the fate of one s fellow citizens is evengiven over to the state, i.e people start to help each other less and less And where the citizen is colder against the citizen, the marriage partner is colder against the marriage partner, and the father against the family As we now all know looking at welfare families in trash TV The institution of marriage should be left to the people who should be able to make contracts to deal with their specific needs Another disadvantage lies in the fact that people are different, and that there s no one rule that fits anybody And it retards the development of individuality and singularity in humans in their moral and practical lifes.The state needs many employees, which are mostly occupied with signs and formulas of the things In this way a lot of intelligent people are withdrawn from thinking and from real work And their mental power suffers because of the empty or one sided work Humboldt makes some statements against representation and the majority principle.For Humboldt security is the only thing which men cannot achieve and it is here that he sees the role for the state Under security, he understands both protection from foreign enemies and civil wars He says that in earlier nations kings were just leaders in war and judges in peace However, he does not explain how much security we need, or what kind of security Gustave de Molinari has dealt with all the superstition concerning the role of the state in producing security This was of course, after this essay was written.He says that those imbued with imperiousness are not susceptible for the beauty of freedom and love slavery, but do not want to be the slave.He has a peculiar stance concerning wars Some statements make him seem pro war He is begrudged to see that wars become less and less often, because people become stronger through it He says somenonsense about the glory of war and stuff like that but the important point is that he is very clear that the state should not advance war in any kind.He also argues against state run schools or schools led by the state Education is the most important factor and public education has problems to provide diversity and always favours a certain form.The state isn t allowed to directly promote or lead religiosity If he comes to some religious ideas in defence, he promotes not true conviction but belief in authority The preachers and the service should not be under the control of the state Laws have to be simple, common and of less quantity This idea has been further developed by Bruno Leoni s Freedom and the Law, which I m almost through with The most has to be done by voluntary citizens And this idea has been further developed by Order Without Law by Robert C Ellickson, which I also have almost read through The human who is left to his own devices has a difficult time coming to the right elementary laws, but they are not easily erased any An idea that has later been advanced by the great Montessori The state has to care for the insane and immature as well and their situation may require a special treatment.Humboldt is not acquainted with the Title transfer theory of contract and adopts instead a promise based theory where the state declares extreme outcomes as illegal.Influenced by Hobbes, Humboldt believes that the citizens transfer all the prosecution of right unto the state This is of course an illusion, many inter personal conflicts are solved by non state parties He argues that even killing someone should be allowed if the other party agreed to it assisted suicide But he goes on to say that it could be too easily abused, which makes a penal crime necessary About punishments he says they have to be nasty, to deter potential criminals He remarks that physical and moral feelings are different in different parts of the world and in different times He is against clan or family liability, only the person who did the crime should be punished And the punishment should never be bigger than the crime, because a criminal s rights can only so far be violated, as the criminal himself did violate the rights of others The crimes that have to be punished the hardest are those which attack the rights of the state He doesn t say what the rights of the state are but claims that the citizens security depend upon them.He reminds us that the suspect has to be carefully distinguished from the criminal and that a suspect should never be treated like a criminal This is something that today in my country, Switzerland, is under threat Just recently the political right wanted to introduce legislation whereby endangerers could be treated as criminals However, Humboldt does claim that in cases of strong suspicion, but where there is not enough to convict someone Absolutio ab in instantia , continuing supervision by state is needed I don t follow Humboldt here and it seems in contrast to what he said before He also says that a criminal doesn t lose his human and civil rights The first end only with the live and the latter only through a lawful judicial exclusion from the state.He also deals with the question whether the state should try to prevent crimes before they happen You know, like in minority report Humboldt replies that this is impossible and should therefore not be attempted Finally, he deals with the case of children Unfortunately, his ideas here seem mostly modestly statist The state has to determine a legal age of maturity The state has to see that the fatherly violence doesn t step outside its boundaries Therefore the state has to supervise the family, but he is not allowed to stipulate a certain education or upbringing Only in cases where family duties have been violated or are near to be violated but how would anyone know that , has the state a right to interfere.Humboldt believes that the security of wards are guaranteed if the superintendence lies in the hands of the state In the end he deals with how to bring his liberal ideas to reality Unlike Rothbard he doesn t think that any possibility to bringliberty to this world should be taken Rather, new liberties should only be instigated if the people are ready for it, if they experience the unjust laws as shackles.This has been a very difficult read, because of the way Humboldt expresses himself He is not a master of simple sentences The book is very fascinating, considering its from 1792, it was both a child of its time and ahead of its time The study of liberties has made some progress since this book, but a lot of it is still up to date There are many ideas in it that didn t make it into this review, so I recommend everybody to read it

  5. Eric Gulliver Eric Gulliver says:

    This text of Classical Liberalism speaks for itself The true end of Man, or that which is prescribed by the eternal and immutable dictates of reason, and not suggested by vague and transient desires, is the highest and most harmonious development of his powers to a complete and consistent whole Freedom is the first and indispensable condition which the possibility of such a development presupposes 16 But, still, freedom is undoubtedly the indispensable condition, without which even the p This text of Classical Liberalism speaks for itself The true end of Man, or that which is prescribed by the eternal and immutable dictates of reason, and not suggested by vague and transient desires, is the highest and most harmonious development of his powers to a complete and consistent whole Freedom is the first and indispensable condition which the possibility of such a development presupposes 16 But, still, freedom is undoubtedly the indispensable condition, without which even the pursuits most congenial to individual human nature, can never succeed in producing such salutary influences Whatever does not spring from a man s free choice, or is only the result of instruction and guidance, does not enter into his very being, but still remains alien to his true nature he does not perform it with truly human energies, but merely with mechanical exactness 28 The State is to abstain from all solicitude for the positive welfare of the citizens, and not to proceed a step further than is necessary for their mutual security and protection against foreign enemies for with no other object should it impose restrictions on freedom 31

  6. Billie Pritchett Billie Pritchett says:

    Enlightenment thinker Wilhelm von Humboldt outlines his political theory in this book, arguing for a libertarian conception of the state He believes basically that the state should only be entrusted to ensure the security of its citizens and nothingThe rest of the transactions that would occur between people would occur from their free and creative impulses, including education, work practices, road safety, etc by the way, he did not actually mention work and roads but on his theory th Enlightenment thinker Wilhelm von Humboldt outlines his political theory in this book, arguing for a libertarian conception of the state He believes basically that the state should only be entrusted to ensure the security of its citizens and nothingThe rest of the transactions that would occur between people would occur from their free and creative impulses, including education, work practices, road safety, etc by the way, he did not actually mention work and roads but on his theory these would be in the domain of free persons, not the state This is a very developed political theory concerning the reason why anyone needs a state as opposed to who should govern a state

  7. Henry Silver Henry Silver says:

    Contrary to the popular perception of von Humboldt as a proto Randian exponent of the purported right wing anti statist creed, The Limits of State Action enunciates the authentic classical liberal objectives to dissolve state, ecclesiastical, and private entities of concentrated power and wealth and to emancipate the individual from the compulsion to rent himself herself to despotic masters in perennial drudgery and wage slavery Hayekian, Misesian, and Rothbardian zealots conveniently neglect t Contrary to the popular perception of von Humboldt as a proto Randian exponent of the purported right wing anti statist creed, The Limits of State Action enunciates the authentic classical liberal objectives to dissolve state, ecclesiastical, and private entities of concentrated power and wealth and to emancipate the individual from the compulsion to rent himself herself to despotic masters in perennial drudgery and wage slavery Hayekian, Misesian, and Rothbardian zealots conveniently neglect to mention the part of von Humboldt s analysis hostile to private tyranny If anything, the treatise and, by extension, 18th century classical liberalism at large prefigure the development of libertarian socialism and anarcho syndicalism in the 19th century, except with a modest difference in the distribution of concern placed on the church and state vis a vis private tyranny I urge everyone to look into Noam Chomsky s brilliant work on this topic He s even granted publicly available interviews on the topic

  8. Anderson Paz Anderson Paz says:

    Esse um cl ssico liberal do estadista alem o von Humboldt Escrito quando este tinha 24 anos, apresenta sua perspectiva de um Estado m nimo que permite o auto cultivo do indiv duo O autor, humanista individualista, prop e uma constitui o social que permita o desenvolvimento da Bildung Isto , a possibilidade de um Estado limitado permitir que os indiv duos possam se desenvolver mais plenamente, mais harmonicamente por meio do auto cultivo Essa obra, t o influente no pensamento de Merquior, Esse um cl ssico liberal do estadista alem o von Humboldt Escrito quando este tinha 24 anos, apresenta sua perspectiva de um Estado m nimo que permite o auto cultivo do indiv duo O autor, humanista individualista, prop e uma constitui o social que permita o desenvolvimento da Bildung Isto , a possibilidade de um Estado limitado permitir que os indiv duos possam se desenvolver mais plenamente, mais harmonicamente por meio do auto cultivo Essa obra, t o influente no pensamento de Merquior, continua a ter seu lugar de import ncia, ainda que muitas propostas do texto estejam superadas

  9. Bima Putra Bima Putra says:

    One of the greatest essay about freedom

  10. Craig Bolton Craig Bolton says:

    LIMITS OF STATE ACTION, THE by WILHELM VON HUMBOLDT 1993

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10 thoughts on “The Limits of State Action

  1. Rick Sam Rick Sam says:

    This is one of the best books that I ve read as it helped me to think better Humboldt says To what end state institutions should be set to their activity is the design of the whole book and most important question Humboldt s writing is dense and penetrating.I learned about Freedom and could see how America has it in their conscious thought My favorite part of the book was, when he said, Men who love labor for its own sake, improve it by their plastic genius and inventive skill, cultivate This is one of the best books that I ve read as it helped me to think better Humboldt says To what end state institutions should be set to their activity is the design of the whole book and most important question Humboldt s writing is dense and penetrating.I learned about Freedom and could see how America has it in their conscious thought My favorite part of the book was, when he said, Men who love labor for its own sake, improve it by their plastic genius and inventive skill, cultivate intellect and refine their pleasures I would recommend this book to Political philosophers


  2. Djordje Mladenović Djordje Mladenović says:

    Consdering the date this book was writen, postulates of liberalism that are discribed in it still stands Maybe not in the exact way that they are described in the book Changed, I would say Of course, some things have changed a lot attitude toward women , and some are still the same But thats the beauty of this book You can see the similarities and the differences between now and then.


  3. Otto Lehto Otto Lehto says:

    Humboldt s posthumously released classic text is still a radical libertarian s wet dream It is hard to believe it was written in the 1790 s and not in the 1990 s But it is also a passionately humanistic and optimistic treatise about human nature from an Enlightenment polymath and visionary Humboldt, like his brother Alexander, was a Renaissance man of science, art and politics In addition to being a bit of closeted and sometimes openly ultra liberal or libertarian even leaning towards an Humboldt s posthumously released classic text is still a radical libertarian s wet dream It is hard to believe it was written in the 1790 s and not in the 1990 s But it is also a passionately humanistic and optimistic treatise about human nature from an Enlightenment polymath and visionary Humboldt, like his brother Alexander, was a Renaissance man of science, art and politics In addition to being a bit of closeted and sometimes openly ultra liberal or libertarian even leaning towards anarchism as the ideal of human affairs Wilhelm was deeply interested in psychology, history, sociology, ethics, aesthetics and anthropology The book s prose has an air of Classical Rome and Greece about it, too which is another reason to call him a Renaissance man Humbold t proposal is very close to the vision of the ultra minimal state, or night watchman state, of Robert Nozick, Murray Rothbard, Fredric Bastiat and other right wing libertarians The concern for limiting state action, as the name implies, arises from a need to protect the private sphere of individuals The reason for this, however, is slightly different from many right libertarians, since he emphasizes the inherent need for diversity and self direction in a fashion typical to Classical authors, Rousseau and others He believed in voluntary cooperation over coercion, based on a notion of natural law that grants us unassailable human rights He saw that the current political reality, almost everywhere, despite the colourful differences that separate one community from another, was one of a general lack of freedom He lamented this fact, as any decent man should, but miraculously called for a calm reform of opinions and institutions, over incautious revolution.The book heavily inspired John Stuart Mill, who published his On Liberty in 1859 only a couple of years after the belated publication of Humboldt s tactfully subversive tract in 1854 What these two thinkers share is a faith in the spontanous powers of human creativity, good will and cooperation They were not immune to the dark side of humanity, but they were believers in the light of reason within and they believed, like all good liberal illuminators, that freedom was an elusive but attainable goal They believed that removing the fetters of the state at least in most areas of human life would push mankind up on its path towards greater diversity and flourishing.To be frank, Humboldt was not the greatest writer, and certainly Mill managed to scribble similar sensibilitieselegantly down in his On Liberty, but there are, too, some wonderful and inspiring passages containing deep and interesting ideas on the pages of The Limits of State Action The book contains some rather enthusiastic even though he hated that term eulogizing for liberty and diversity The early chapters, in particular, are full of memorable phrases and lines, some of which have served as epigraphs in the books of Mill and Hayek And for a good reason.The book is rather short, but somewhat heavy going, especially during the middle chapters, where Humboldt gets bogged down in the nitty gritty of legal theory and constitutional political economy These chapters are the least interesting However, the fact that the main arguments are always helpfully summarized at the end of each chapter improves readability somewhat And Humboldt gets his groove back towards the end of the book, where he provides some lofty thoughts on the relationship between pure theory vs pragmatic policy making always a hot topic It is a fairly rich and varied book, with some chaptersinteresting than others, but garbed in an almost aristocratic sense of fuck you, anything is possible, people The overall package, a real bundle of power, manages to resonate due to its theoretical insights, humanistic language and philosophical radicalism It combines pure theory, ardently plead and cried for, with a no nonsense approach to legislative affairs and a surprisingly modern dose of realpolitik Let us remember Humboldt had work experience in the public sector where he worked in administration The book was written by a rather young person, but it holds old ideas and new insights that are timeless There is an aura of uniqueness to it, with its unique blend of humanism and liberalism Ifhumanists had his love for freedom, andlibertarians his love for humanity, the world would be a better place He has lit up the lampposts on our way towards the utopia of tomorrow, but he has also shed light on the darkness of ignorance surrounding our hope how little we actually know about our real conditions , and shown us the long and arduous path ahead The book ends, appropriately, calling for perseverence in the face of natural resistance from governments and people who are not ready for freedom Such an assessment of today s struggles calls for a sparkle of hope flamed by a knowledge of the practicability of gradual change towards the theoretical limit of a society run by individuals in mutual harmony and maximal diversity


  4. Mathias Mathias says:

    Wilhelm von Humboldt is considered the progenitor of German liberalism Born in 1767, he wrote this essay probably in 1792 Some excerpts were published in journals soon after he wrote it, but the whole essay has been published only in 1850 First he had problems with censorship in Berlin and after some months he grew discontent with the work Eduard Cauer, the historian who wrote the introduction to the 1850 publication argued that the work was much inspired by the French Revolution and after t Wilhelm von Humboldt is considered the progenitor of German liberalism Born in 1767, he wrote this essay probably in 1792 Some excerpts were published in journals soon after he wrote it, but the whole essay has been published only in 1850 First he had problems with censorship in Berlin and after some months he grew discontent with the work Eduard Cauer, the historian who wrote the introduction to the 1850 publication argued that the work was much inspired by the French Revolution and after the fascination with it has ceased, the work must have seemed inadequate to its author Further, Cauer boasts that the work could be of no importance to the political science of his time where the view that the state is a necessary evil had to make place for a view much deeper and truer view which one he doesn t tell us According to him, political science showed that we didn t need to be freed from the state after all, but to be free in the state and that the power of the state has become the power of the people He says that the political ideals were now contrary to those of Humboldt and that this was for the better It took only a little less than a hundred years, to make it clear for even the most stupid person, that this nonsense had nothing to do with reality Anti liberal views seem to have run in the Cauer family, in 1933 Wilhelm Cauer signed the Vow of allegiance of the Professors of the German Universities and High Schools to Adolf Hitler and the National Socialistic State. Ironically, Wilhelm Cauer faced problems by the Nazis because one of his ancestors was Jewish Was that the freedom within the state that Eduard Cauer was praising so highly a couple of generations a go It is clear that Eduard had in no way a real grasp of the horrible things he was saying and the logical consequences that led from it It s about high time we learn that anti liberal activities and propaganda have consequences which nobody wants to live with Not even those guys like Cauer who have their mouths wide open trying to make fun of the immature , utopic or unpragmatic classic liberals In the whole introduction, Cauer introduces not a single argument as to what is wrong with Humboldt s ideas They re old fashioned and that s that This reminds me much of how later the Marxists would deal with their opponents Now, finally to the book itself I ve read the german original version, Ideen zu einem Versuch, die Gr nzen der Wirksamkeit des Staats zu versuchen It s similar to Spencer s classic Social Statics and Rothbard s The ethics of liberty in that it tries to grab hold of the rights of the individual and the duties and limits of the state The result is similar to the other two books, and although it s not quite going as far as the other two, I was still positively surprised by its liberal insights Humboldt says that the true purpose of man, which is prescribed by his eternal unchanging reason, is the highest and proportioned creation of his forces to a whole For this creation, liberty is the first and indispensable condition.He calls any endeavour on the part of the state reprehensible, to interfere with the private matters of its citizens, unless this is done in direct reference to one citizen violating the rights of another.Hey says that any state institution which tries to increase the wealth of a nation, like poor relief, subsidisation of agriculture, industry and commerce, finance and coinage operations, bans on import and export, prevention or repairment of damage done by nature, have disadvantages and are inappropriate for good politics Among the disadvantages he mentions that the spirit of government dwells in such institutions and brings forth in a nation conformity and an alien practise Also, the institutions of the state weakens the force of the nation They accustom people too much to rely on foreign instructions, guidance and help, instead of thinking for themselves regarding solutions to their problem The force of acting and the moral character suffers There s a relocation of a man s conception of merit and guilt the idea of the former doesn t motivate him any and he suffers less and less from a feeling of the latter.As everybody relies upon the help from the state, the fate of one s fellow citizens is evengiven over to the state, i.e people start to help each other less and less And where the citizen is colder against the citizen, the marriage partner is colder against the marriage partner, and the father against the family As we now all know looking at welfare families in trash TV The institution of marriage should be left to the people who should be able to make contracts to deal with their specific needs Another disadvantage lies in the fact that people are different, and that there s no one rule that fits anybody And it retards the development of individuality and singularity in humans in their moral and practical lifes.The state needs many employees, which are mostly occupied with signs and formulas of the things In this way a lot of intelligent people are withdrawn from thinking and from real work And their mental power suffers because of the empty or one sided work Humboldt makes some statements against representation and the majority principle.For Humboldt security is the only thing which men cannot achieve and it is here that he sees the role for the state Under security, he understands both protection from foreign enemies and civil wars He says that in earlier nations kings were just leaders in war and judges in peace However, he does not explain how much security we need, or what kind of security Gustave de Molinari has dealt with all the superstition concerning the role of the state in producing security This was of course, after this essay was written.He says that those imbued with imperiousness are not susceptible for the beauty of freedom and love slavery, but do not want to be the slave.He has a peculiar stance concerning wars Some statements make him seem pro war He is begrudged to see that wars become less and less often, because people become stronger through it He says somenonsense about the glory of war and stuff like that but the important point is that he is very clear that the state should not advance war in any kind.He also argues against state run schools or schools led by the state Education is the most important factor and public education has problems to provide diversity and always favours a certain form.The state isn t allowed to directly promote or lead religiosity If he comes to some religious ideas in defence, he promotes not true conviction but belief in authority The preachers and the service should not be under the control of the state Laws have to be simple, common and of less quantity This idea has been further developed by Bruno Leoni s Freedom and the Law, which I m almost through with The most has to be done by voluntary citizens And this idea has been further developed by Order Without Law by Robert C Ellickson, which I also have almost read through The human who is left to his own devices has a difficult time coming to the right elementary laws, but they are not easily erased any An idea that has later been advanced by the great Montessori The state has to care for the insane and immature as well and their situation may require a special treatment.Humboldt is not acquainted with the Title transfer theory of contract and adopts instead a promise based theory where the state declares extreme outcomes as illegal.Influenced by Hobbes, Humboldt believes that the citizens transfer all the prosecution of right unto the state This is of course an illusion, many inter personal conflicts are solved by non state parties He argues that even killing someone should be allowed if the other party agreed to it assisted suicide But he goes on to say that it could be too easily abused, which makes a penal crime necessary About punishments he says they have to be nasty, to deter potential criminals He remarks that physical and moral feelings are different in different parts of the world and in different times He is against clan or family liability, only the person who did the crime should be punished And the punishment should never be bigger than the crime, because a criminal s rights can only so far be violated, as the criminal himself did violate the rights of others The crimes that have to be punished the hardest are those which attack the rights of the state He doesn t say what the rights of the state are but claims that the citizens security depend upon them.He reminds us that the suspect has to be carefully distinguished from the criminal and that a suspect should never be treated like a criminal This is something that today in my country, Switzerland, is under threat Just recently the political right wanted to introduce legislation whereby endangerers could be treated as criminals However, Humboldt does claim that in cases of strong suspicion, but where there is not enough to convict someone Absolutio ab in instantia , continuing supervision by state is needed I don t follow Humboldt here and it seems in contrast to what he said before He also says that a criminal doesn t lose his human and civil rights The first end only with the live and the latter only through a lawful judicial exclusion from the state.He also deals with the question whether the state should try to prevent crimes before they happen You know, like in minority report Humboldt replies that this is impossible and should therefore not be attempted Finally, he deals with the case of children Unfortunately, his ideas here seem mostly modestly statist The state has to determine a legal age of maturity The state has to see that the fatherly violence doesn t step outside its boundaries Therefore the state has to supervise the family, but he is not allowed to stipulate a certain education or upbringing Only in cases where family duties have been violated or are near to be violated but how would anyone know that , has the state a right to interfere.Humboldt believes that the security of wards are guaranteed if the superintendence lies in the hands of the state In the end he deals with how to bring his liberal ideas to reality Unlike Rothbard he doesn t think that any possibility to bringliberty to this world should be taken Rather, new liberties should only be instigated if the people are ready for it, if they experience the unjust laws as shackles.This has been a very difficult read, because of the way Humboldt expresses himself He is not a master of simple sentences The book is very fascinating, considering its from 1792, it was both a child of its time and ahead of its time The study of liberties has made some progress since this book, but a lot of it is still up to date There are many ideas in it that didn t make it into this review, so I recommend everybody to read it


  5. Eric Gulliver Eric Gulliver says:

    This text of Classical Liberalism speaks for itself The true end of Man, or that which is prescribed by the eternal and immutable dictates of reason, and not suggested by vague and transient desires, is the highest and most harmonious development of his powers to a complete and consistent whole Freedom is the first and indispensable condition which the possibility of such a development presupposes 16 But, still, freedom is undoubtedly the indispensable condition, without which even the p This text of Classical Liberalism speaks for itself The true end of Man, or that which is prescribed by the eternal and immutable dictates of reason, and not suggested by vague and transient desires, is the highest and most harmonious development of his powers to a complete and consistent whole Freedom is the first and indispensable condition which the possibility of such a development presupposes 16 But, still, freedom is undoubtedly the indispensable condition, without which even the pursuits most congenial to individual human nature, can never succeed in producing such salutary influences Whatever does not spring from a man s free choice, or is only the result of instruction and guidance, does not enter into his very being, but still remains alien to his true nature he does not perform it with truly human energies, but merely with mechanical exactness 28 The State is to abstain from all solicitude for the positive welfare of the citizens, and not to proceed a step further than is necessary for their mutual security and protection against foreign enemies for with no other object should it impose restrictions on freedom 31


  6. Billie Pritchett Billie Pritchett says:

    Enlightenment thinker Wilhelm von Humboldt outlines his political theory in this book, arguing for a libertarian conception of the state He believes basically that the state should only be entrusted to ensure the security of its citizens and nothingThe rest of the transactions that would occur between people would occur from their free and creative impulses, including education, work practices, road safety, etc by the way, he did not actually mention work and roads but on his theory th Enlightenment thinker Wilhelm von Humboldt outlines his political theory in this book, arguing for a libertarian conception of the state He believes basically that the state should only be entrusted to ensure the security of its citizens and nothingThe rest of the transactions that would occur between people would occur from their free and creative impulses, including education, work practices, road safety, etc by the way, he did not actually mention work and roads but on his theory these would be in the domain of free persons, not the state This is a very developed political theory concerning the reason why anyone needs a state as opposed to who should govern a state


  7. Henry Silver Henry Silver says:

    Contrary to the popular perception of von Humboldt as a proto Randian exponent of the purported right wing anti statist creed, The Limits of State Action enunciates the authentic classical liberal objectives to dissolve state, ecclesiastical, and private entities of concentrated power and wealth and to emancipate the individual from the compulsion to rent himself herself to despotic masters in perennial drudgery and wage slavery Hayekian, Misesian, and Rothbardian zealots conveniently neglect t Contrary to the popular perception of von Humboldt as a proto Randian exponent of the purported right wing anti statist creed, The Limits of State Action enunciates the authentic classical liberal objectives to dissolve state, ecclesiastical, and private entities of concentrated power and wealth and to emancipate the individual from the compulsion to rent himself herself to despotic masters in perennial drudgery and wage slavery Hayekian, Misesian, and Rothbardian zealots conveniently neglect to mention the part of von Humboldt s analysis hostile to private tyranny If anything, the treatise and, by extension, 18th century classical liberalism at large prefigure the development of libertarian socialism and anarcho syndicalism in the 19th century, except with a modest difference in the distribution of concern placed on the church and state vis a vis private tyranny I urge everyone to look into Noam Chomsky s brilliant work on this topic He s even granted publicly available interviews on the topic


  8. Anderson Paz Anderson Paz says:

    Esse um cl ssico liberal do estadista alem o von Humboldt Escrito quando este tinha 24 anos, apresenta sua perspectiva de um Estado m nimo que permite o auto cultivo do indiv duo O autor, humanista individualista, prop e uma constitui o social que permita o desenvolvimento da Bildung Isto , a possibilidade de um Estado limitado permitir que os indiv duos possam se desenvolver mais plenamente, mais harmonicamente por meio do auto cultivo Essa obra, t o influente no pensamento de Merquior, Esse um cl ssico liberal do estadista alem o von Humboldt Escrito quando este tinha 24 anos, apresenta sua perspectiva de um Estado m nimo que permite o auto cultivo do indiv duo O autor, humanista individualista, prop e uma constitui o social que permita o desenvolvimento da Bildung Isto , a possibilidade de um Estado limitado permitir que os indiv duos possam se desenvolver mais plenamente, mais harmonicamente por meio do auto cultivo Essa obra, t o influente no pensamento de Merquior, continua a ter seu lugar de import ncia, ainda que muitas propostas do texto estejam superadas


  9. Bima Putra Bima Putra says:

    One of the greatest essay about freedom


  10. Craig Bolton Craig Bolton says:

    LIMITS OF STATE ACTION, THE by WILHELM VON HUMBOLDT 1993


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