The Humanitarian with the Guillotine

Excerpt from The Mainspring of Human Progress by Henry Grady Weaver

Contributed By Mike Kapic – November 1, 2023

In her discerning book, The God of the Machine, Isabel Paterson draws important distinctions between Christian kindliness directed toward the relief of distress, and the misguided efforts of those who would make it a vehicle for self-aggrandizement.

She points out that most of the major ills of the world have been caused by well-meaning people who ignored the principle of individual freedom, except as applied to themselves, and who were obsessed with fanatical zeal to improve the lot of mankind-in-the-mass through some pet formula of their own. “It is at this point,” she says, “that the humanitarian sets up the guillotine.”1

Although prompted by good intentions, such a program is usually the outgrowth of egomania fanned by self-hypnotism. As stated before, it is based on this idea: “I am right. Those who disagree are wrong. If they can’t be forced into line, they must be destroyed.”

Egoism, a natural human trait, is constructive when kept within bounds. But it is highly presumptuous of any mortal man to assume that he is endowed with such fantastic ability that he can run the affairs of all his fellowmen better than they, as individuals, can run their own personal affairs.

As Miss Paterson observes, the harm done by ordinary criminals, murderers, gangsters, and thieves is negligible in comparison with the agony inflicted upon human beings by the professional “do-gooders,” who attempt to set themselves up as gods on earth and who would ruthlessly force their views on all others – with the abiding assurance that the end justifies the means.

But it is a mistake to assume that the do-gooders are insincere. The danger lies in the fact that their faith is just as devout and just as ardent as that of the ancient Aztec priest.

  1. Isabel Paterson, The God of the Machine (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1943), chap. xx. P. 155