Captivated by two allied and seemingly indomitable intellectual forces, the radically individualist, antistatist philosophy of the Benthamite Utilitarians and the rigidly free market economics of the Classical School, the Victorian era spurned governmental solutions to acute social problems.
In its fanatic embrace of self-interest, self-help, and atomistic individualism, the period can only be characterized as an "age of laissez faire." It is precisely this halcyon or demonic vision (depending upon one's political perspective) of nineteenth century British economics, political philosophy, and governmental policy that has come under withering assault in the last three decades.
The Classical economists after Smith held nothing but contempt for either a natural law, deistic conception of the universe and man's place in it or for a moral philosophy buttressed by natural rights.
(2) Did Britain in the nineteenth century, or in some distinct portion of it, personify the ideal of minimal governmental intervention in the economic and social realm, or rather, was the period the breeding ground for the rampant collectivism that would follow?
(3) Finally, what was the essential thrust of Benthamism as a political philosophy, and as a theoretical tool for the analysis of policy; and what effect did Benthamites have upon the course of British politics?
Bentham spared none of his vituperative skills in excoriating such doctrines as mere self-serving myth, undefended and indefensible dogma, and his calumnies banished such Lockean encumbrances from the arena of respectability.
But for Adam Smith (1723-1790), Bentham's predecessor, such was not the case.