Amid the tsunami of political rhetoric that threatens to annihilate us all, my mind forever returns to Henry David Thoreau. We have so much government and so many laws they we can no longer do the right thing. We are merely forced to do whatever the majority – if it is even possible to define ‘the majority’ – insists we do for its good.
Henry David Thoreau wrote
“That government is best which governs not at all.”
“[The government] does not keep the country free. It does not settle the West. It does not educate. The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more; if the government had not sometimes got in its way.”
“I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government.”
“Can there not be a government in which majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but [where] conscience [decides right and wrong]? I think we should be men first and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right. It is truly enough said, that a corporation has no conscience, but a corporation of conscientious me is a corporation with a conscience. Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of the respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice. A common and natural result of an undue respect for laws is, that you may see a file of soldiers, colonel, captain, corporal, privates, power-monkeys, and all, marching in admirable order over hill and dale to the wars, against their wills, ay, against their common sense and consciences”
“He who gives himself entirely to his fellow-men appears to them useless and selfish; but he who gives himself partially to them is pronounced a benefactor and philanthropist.”
“Thus the State never intentionally confronts a man’s sense, intellectual or moral, but only his body, his senses. [The state] is not armed with superior wit or honesty, but with superior physical strength. I was not born to be forced… If a plant cannot live according to its nature, it dies; and so a man.”