Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Quote of the Day

The only way to make a government tolerant, and hence genuinely free, is to keep it weak…Thomas Jefferson, the greatest of all American political philosophers, saw this clearly, and so he was in favor of keeping the government as weak as possible. He believed that in any dispute between a citizen and an official, the citizen ought to have the benefit of every doubt. But Jefferson was too intelligent a man to believe that the sweet could not be obtained without also taking in a certain amount of bitter. He knew that a weak government was very likely to be an unstable one – that its very mildness would be no more than a symptom of sickness. He swallowed this fact bravely and even went to the length of arguing in favor of frequent revolutions. But not many men of today would go with him so far.

Most men incline in the other direction. They like a strong government because, so long as they do not offend it, it gives them protection and security; they are quite willing to give up some of their liberty, and even a great deal of it, in return for those boons.

—-HL Mencken


  1. #1 Chris Berez
    November 18, 2004

    F**kin A, Ed. What a fantastic quote. I love Mencken, but I have to say I’ve never seen that quote before. It sums up our situation perfectly. It much reminds me of a graphic novel by the great Alan Moore called “V For Vendetta.” The hero in it is an anarchist, and while I do not hold to that philosophy (I condsider it to be naive and utopean), the hero says something that I think holds to this situation. He is trying to abolish a facist government, and in explaining it to another character, says something to the effect of “First chaos, then utopia.” Not those words exactly, but the point was that, in transformation from one system to another, a period of chaois and conflict would be inevitable, but after that the new system would settle into stability. Coupling that with Mencken, I think we have the perfect senario. Yes, by switching to a “weak” government there would be a period or periods of revolution. But once we reached a system where the people felt happy and safe, society would balence itself out. People just want to feel free and safe, and under our present system they have come to believe that by supporting the quasi-authoritarian system we have now they are best protrecting themselves.

    This is all very idealistic, I know. And probably a load of BS. I guess everyone is always saying “If only they could see it MY way, they’d be happy. I know the TRUTH.”

    Oh well. Just some thoughts that I figured I’d jot down.

    Thanks for sharing the quote.
    (sorry for all the spelling errors but I haven’t been able to get Word to work on this computer, and I don’t have a source for Spell Check. Thanks for battling your way through this).

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