The Forgotten Man

William Graham Sumner

Sumner devoted his lecture “to discuss one of the most subtle and widespread social fallacies” – collective undertakings for the abolition of social pathologies that fail to take into consideration the situation of the individuals. Such initiatives are oft en a result of noble motives, but they are rarely associated with the actual will to act from their originators. Mostly, Sumner pointed out, A and B agree that C will help whomever is in need. Projects of this type may concern various misfortunes: unemployment, drunkenness, epidemics or consequences of natural disasters; and manifest themselves in various forms; but are always carried out through politics by the state. Moreover, it always the common man who is burdened with their implementation. This hard-working individual who takes care of himself and his family and wants only to be left  alone is this “forgotten man”, of whom the architects of social policy do not think. Meanwhile, truly effective and noble help can only be carried out voluntarily and outside of state politics. Even more, the benefi ciaries of the aid benefit the most when they are left  to get out of their difficult position through their own effort. This is how social evolution works. “If we let nature alone, she cures vice by the most frightful penalties. It may shock you to hear me say it, but […] a drunkard in the gutter is just where he ought to be. Nature is working away at him to get him out of the way, just as she sets up her processes of dissolution to remove whatever is a failure in its line”, wrote Sumner.


Keywords: liberalism · leseferism · social evolution · individualism · forgotten man

Przejdź do wersji polskiej

Currently read volume

The journal founded by Leszek Kołakowski, Bronisław Baczko and Jan Garewicz appears continuously since 1957.

Instytut Filozofii i Socjologii PAN Archiwum Warszawskiej Szkoły Historii Idei Bibliografia Filozofii Polskiej The Interlocutor Wydawnictwo IFiS PAN Polskie Towarzystwo Filozoficzne
© Archiwum Historii Filozofii i Myśli Społecznej 1957-2010.