Herbert Spencer Quotes

Herbert Spencer (1820 – 1903) was an English sociologist, biologist, classical liberal political theorist and philosopher. Spencer made a great contribution to subjects like ethics, anthropology, political theory, religion, philosophy, sociology and biology.

Spencer is known for creating the concept known as “survival of the fittest”. He described it in his “Principles of Biology” from 1864. “Survival of the fittest” can also be used in ethics and sociology.

Herbert Spencer Quotes

It is a mistake to assume that government must necessarily last forever. The institution marks a certain stage of civilization — is natural to a particular phase of human development. It is not essential, but incidental. As amongst the Bushmen we find a state antecedent to government, so may there be one in which it shall have become extinct.

— Herbert Spencer

No one can be perfectly free till all are free; no one can be perfectly moral till all are moral; no one can be perfectly happy till all are happy.

— Herbert Spencer, Social Statics

The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.

— Herbert Spencer

If every man has freedom to do all that he wills, provided he infringes not the equal freedom of any other man, then he is free to drop connection with the state – to relinquish its protection and to refuse paying toward its support. It is self-evident that in so behaving he in no way trenches upon the liberty of others, for his position is a passive one, and while passive he cannot become an aggressor. It is equally self-evident that he cannot be compelled to continue one of a political corporation without a breach of the moral law, seeing that citizenship involves payment of taxes; and the taking away of a man’s property against his will is an infringement of his rights.

— Herbert Spencer

Every man is free to do that which he wills, provided he infringes not the equal freedom of any other man.

— Herbert Spencer, The Ethics of Social Life: Justice

How is it that Liberalism, getting more and more into power, has grown more and more coercive in its legislation?

— Herbert Spencer, The Man versus the State

Every man may claim the fullest liberty to exercise his faculties compatible with the possession of like liberties by every other man.

— Herbert Spencer, Social Statics

The liberty the citizen enjoys is to be measured not by the governmental machinery he lives under, whether representative or other, but by the paucity of restraints it imposes on him.

— Herbert Spencer, Man versus the State

Strong as it looks at the outset, State-agency perpetually disappoints every one. Puny as are its first stages, private efforts daily achieve results that astound the world.

— Herbert Spencer, Essays: Scientific, Political, and Speculative (1891)

Old forms of government finally grow so oppressive, that they must be thrown off even at the risk of reigns of terror.

— Herbert Spencer, Essays on Education