Saturday, October 9, 2010

Henry David Thoreau Says No to Big Government

Here are some quotes from Henry David Thoreau's Civil Disobedience, which we are discussing in my senior seminar tomorrow.  What do you think Thoreau would have made of O'Reilly or Chris Matthews?

* That government is best which governs not at all

*   Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well disposed are daily made the agents of injustice

*A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority

*…any man more right than his neighbors already constitutes a majority of one

*Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison 

*A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority…but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight

*Know all men by these presents that I, Henry David Thoreau, do not wish to be regarded as a member of any incorporated society which I have not joined.

*They who know of no purer sources of truth, who have traced up its stream no higher, stand, and wisely stand, by the Bible and the Constitution, and drink at it there with reverence and humility; but they who behold where it comes trickling into this lake or that pool, gird  up their loins once more and continue their pilgrimage toward its fountainhead.


Doug Plumb said...

He has a Penguin classic, "Where I Lived and What I lived For". Its a very easy and great read at about 130 pages. Its easy to see why he didn't like big government - he preferred to lecture and go home staying out of the fray of politics where he lectured. He was a do-it-yourselfer - built his own house in the wilderness.

Anonymous said...

I am so grateful for your support for Paladino who says this:

There is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual. That's not how god created us, and that's not the example that we should be showing our children.

and that children “would be much better off and much more successful getting married and raising a family” than being gay. “And I don't want them to be brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option. It isn’t."

Of course, a government that governs best governs the least. It should stay out of our bedrooms, except when it comes to homosexuality.

Go Carl !!

Mitchell Langbert said...

Thanks, Doug. Yes, Thoreau was the first hippie. But he also had some political interests reflected in Civil Disobedience. He was an abolitionist and he opposed the Mexican War. He advocated civil disobedience because he saw government as inherently unjust.

Mitchell Langbert said...

Dear Anonymous: I don't see in the quotes you give where Paladino says that government should enter anyone's bedroom. Your view of small government is to retain New York's current tax burden. I disagree. There are plenty of things I've done of which many people would disapprove, and the same is true of Paladino, including the e-mails. But the issue facing New York is excessive government spending, and he is the only candidate to sincerely favor a sharp cut.

Libertarians have trouble coping with reality, which is why their candidates get 2% or less of the vote. That's a good prescription for continuing New York's big government decline, which I for one don't appreciate.

Doug Plumb said...

I have been absorbed in the Critique Of Pure Reason. Nothing I have ever encountered comes close to this book. Plato is a distant second. The Critique has a bad reputation for being hard to read. It isn't - its logical, well written and packed densely (Smith-Kemp version). I can't see anything in Neitzche but see everything in this.

Thoreau and other libertarians expound what Kant almost "proves".

Anonymous said...

I fully support Paladino's Agenda. He should cut out government. There should be no government at all. Police and Fire departments should be privatized. In fact every thing should be privatized. There should be no Medicare, no Social Security and no Medicaid. There should be no law courts, and CUNY should be disbanded. I would love a place without any government. It would be just like like Afghanistan.
The only place where there should be government is in the area of marriage. I agree with Paladino when he says that the government should prevent homosexuals from amrrying, period. Just like in Taliban country.

Mitchell Langbert said...

Dear Anonymous: You are not responding to anything that Paladino has said. If you disagree with my anarchist beliefs that's one thing but you are being unfair to ascribe my views to Paladino. If you want to read a defense of individualist anarchism the place to go is Murray Rothbard's "For a New Liberty" but even I do not go quite that far. I see a 10-15% of the economy role for government. The current 50% role is absurd and destructive. CUNY will do fine on its own. As things stand now it only gets a third of its budget from Big Brother.

As far as Paladino, he has been advocating a 20% cut in government, which is quite modest given that since 1950 government in New York has grown by hundreds if not thousands of percent in absolute terms and something like 400 to 800 per cent in terms of incomes. His main issue of focus has been Medicaid. Since New York's Medicaid plan is twice the per capita cost of California's cuts would not involve anything remotely approaching an anarchistic ideology. Rather, it would barely begin to bring New York in line with other big government states like California. If that seems like anarchism to you, perhaps you should drop another dose of LSD and give up politics as a hobby. You're too stoned to think coherently.