Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Quotes of the Day

On democracy and majority rule:

"And what sort of philosophical doctrine is this -- that numbers confer unlimited rights, that they take from some persons all rights over themselves, and vest these rights in others. ... How, then, can the rights of three men exceed the rights of two men? In what possible way can the rights of three men absorb the rights of two men, and make them as if they had never existed. ... It is not possible to suppose, without absurdity, that a man should have no rights over his own body and mind, and yet have a 1/10,000,000th share in unlimited rights over all other bodies and minds?" ~ Auberon Herbert

"To speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government. Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it. After all, the practical reason why, when the power is once in the hands of the people, a majority are permitted, and for a long period continue, to rule, is not because they are most likely to be in the right, nor because this seems fairest to the minority, but because they are physically the strongest. But a government in which the majority rule in all cases cannot be based on justice, even as far as men understand it. Can there not be a government in which majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but conscience? -- in which majorities decide only those questions to which the rule of expediency is applicable? Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then? I think that 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 men is a corporation with a conscience. 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." ~ Henry David Thoreau

1 comment:

Tim Higgins said...

Maggie,

I am feeling a little empty and a bit gloomy after analyzing the choices of my fellow citizens. I am therefore forced to add some simpler quotes from one that I know is a favorite writer to both of us, Robert Heinlein:

"Does history record any case in which the majority was right?"

"Democracy is based on the assumption that a million men are wiser than one man. How's that again? I missed something."

Autocracy is based on the assumption that one man is wiser than a million men. Let's play that over again, too. Who decides?"

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