Friday, October 12, 2007

on the duty of civil disobedience (part one)

What a fabulous essay by Henry David Thoreau. I highly recommend every citizen read this. But I realize how difficult that can be. So what I'm a gonna do is translate it for you. He packs so many ideas into each sentence, we'll have to plod our way through a little at a time. Since most normal folk just don't have copies of the world's great philosophical works in their personal libraries, here's a link for ya. Remember this was written in 1848 (according to my book. 1849 according to that website).

I HEARTILY ACCEPT the motto, — "That government is best which governs least"; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe, — "That government is best which governs not at all"; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.

in other words, the best sort of government has the least control over the people. He is saying that when people are ready to take responsibility for their own actions, to do what they know is right rather than be governed and always told what to do, they will have no need for government. He says that government is a tool, and if it's useful to us, all of us, we should use it. And when it becomes broken and would hurt us, we should throw it away and get a new one.

He says that the great deeds done in the name of our country were not accomplished by the government, but by People! The government sometimes slowed down the process or prevented the people from doing even greater things.

Trade and commerce, if they were not made of India rubber, would never manage to bounce over the obstacles which legislators are continually putting in their way; and, if one were to judge these men wholly by the effects of their actions, and not partly by their intentions, they would deserve to be classed and punished with those mischievous persons who put obstructions on the railroads.

This isn't so different from today. Big business, with lots of money in the bank, bounces over the obstacles the government puts in the way of trade and commerce. I'm not certain if he's calling the rich businessmen crooks, or the politicians who create laws that benefit them, I would say it's probably both.

No comments: