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Blupete's Weekly Commentary


February 8th, 1998.

Selected quotes on
"Government Power"

I have already written on the subject of government (blupete's Essay on Government). This week I simply turn to the literature and give you a few choice quotes on the subject of, government power.

Samuel Butler:
Authority intoxicates,
And makes mere sots of magistrates;
The fumes of it invade the brain,
And make men giddy, proud, and vain ...:
By this the fool commands the wise,
The noble with the base complies,
The sot assumes the rule of wit,
And cowards make the brave submit.
(Hudibras, 1680.)

John Locke:
"The great question which, in all ages, has disturbed mankind, and brought on them the greatest part of those mischiefs which have ruined cities, depopulated countries, and disordered the peace of the world, has been, not whether there be power in the world, nor whence it came, but who should have it." (Treatises On Government, 1690)

John Stuart Mill:
  • "A man's power means the readiness of other men to obey him."
  • "The object of this essay [On Liberty] is to assert one very simple principle, ... that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightly exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his or her will, is to prevent harm to others."

    Montesquieu:
  • ".. constant experience shows us that every man invested with power is apt to abuse it, and to carry his authority as far as it will go ... virtue itself has need of limits ... Power should be checked with power."
  • "That which cannot be compassed by reason, wisdom and discretion, can never be attained by force."

    Benjamin R. Tucker:
    "Power feeds on its spoils, and dies when its victims refuse to be despoilers. They can't persuade it to death; they can't vote it to death; they can't shoot it to death; but they can always starve it to death." (As quoted by H. L. Mencken in A New Dictionary of Quotations.)

    William Hazlitt:
  • "... he who wields it [power] is often but the puppet of circumstances, like the fly on the wheel that said, "What a dust we raise!" It is easier to ruin a kingdom and aggrandize one's own pride and prejudices than to set up a greengrocer's stall. An idiot or a madman may do this at any time, whose word is law, and whose nod is fate. Nay, he whose look is obedience, and who understands the silent wishes of the great, nay easily trample on the necks and tread out the liberties of a mighty nation ..." ("On Great and Little Things.")
  • "Man is a toad-eating animal. The admiration of power in others is as common to man as the love of it in himself; the one makes him a tyrant the other a slave." (Political essays, 1819.)

    Edmund Burke:
    "The power of the state comes out from the willingness of the people to obey, - Why do they obey, and at what point will they not obey? It was Hume who expressed surprise of the easiness with which "the many are governed by the few"; those who govern have the force of opinion on their side, forget whether the opinion is right or wrong."
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    Peter Landry

    February, 1998 (2013)