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CIVIL GOVERNMENT IN CALIFORNIA
THE SCOPE OF GOVERNMENT
1. Different Views as to the Scope of Government. Government exists in order that public wants may be satisfied, that public interests may be advanced, and that rules for regulating the conduct of individuals in their dealings with one another may be established and enforced. There is much difference of opinion as to the extent to which these functions should be pursued.
The individualist believes that governmental activity should be restricted to the satisfaction of the most obvious public wants, such as the preservation of order,
order, the suppression of crime, and the protection of guaranteed constitutional rights; that in the advancement of public interests government should concern itself only with those lines of action which interfere least with private enterprise, such as the maintenance of roads, the improvement of rivers and harbors, and the encouragement of agriculture, industry, and commerce; and that in regulating the conduct of individuals toward one another, government should interfere as little as possible with personal freedom, confining its scope to such matters as the settlement of disputes, the enforcement of contract rights, and the establishment of general rules for the transaction of business. This belief is known historically as the doctrine of laissez faire.
On the other hand the socialist believes that society, through its agent, government, should extend its activities so as to include practically all the economic enterprises now conducted by individuals.
Between these two groups lies the great mass of citizens, who, adopting no fixed rule, would have the question of the government's function in any particular case settled by the merits of the case itself.
2. The Attitude of European Government toward Industry. — During the Middle Ages, and until the latter part of the eighteenth century, business of all kinds in Europe was strictly regulated by law. This was not difficult, because there were no large accumulations of capital under the control of small groups of men. Private corporatiors did not become prominent in the business world until the end of the eighteenth century, except the great trading companies of an earlier date; but, with the enormous expansion of business during the nineteenth century, they multiplied to such an extent that most of the business of the civilized world is now conducted by them. This means that business is now controlled by comparatively few men. These men exert great influence in politics. They in general believe in the doctrine of laissez faire and do all in their power to prevent the regulation of business by city, county, state, and national governments. Toward the end of the eighteenth century England discontinued the strict control which she had previously exercised over private business. Frightful abuses in factories and mines soon appeared, and during the nineteenth century Parliament was compelled by public opinion to pass many laws for the regulation of trade and industry. These laws regulate the employment of women and chil