I set about to write a post this morning encompassing a stream of thought I’ve had bouncing about in my head for days. As I wrote down some of the stray thoughts they started to sound familiar…until I realized someone already wrote this essay. In 1849, Henry David Thoreau published ‘Resistance to Civil Government’, which became better known as ‘Civil Disobedience’. This essay is, if anything, more apropos today than in 1849. Although Thoreau’s essay was driven by his resistance to slavery, and rejection of the War with Mexico, the premise of his essay is stated right up front…and I have excerpted other parts from it that directly apply today. It begins:
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.
Consider that the government of 1849 was the tiniest fraction in reach and power of what it is today…what would Henry say today, eh?
Yet this government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way. It 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. For government is an expedient by which men would fain succeed in letting one another alone; and, as has been said, when it is most expedient, the governed are most let alone by it. 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.
That paragraph bears re-reading…please do. It is the perfect rejoinder to Obama’s: “You didn’t build that, someone else built that!”
All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable. But almost all say that such is not the case now. But such was the case, they think, in the Revolution of 1775. …All machines have their friction; and possibly this does enough good to counterbalance the evil. At any rate, it is a great evil to make a stir about it. But when the friction comes to have its machine, and oppression and robbery are organized, I say, let us not have such a machine any longer.
…Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? … But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil. It makes it worse. … Why does it not encourage its citizens to be on the alert to point out its faults, and do better than it would have them? Why does it always crucify Christ, and excommunicate Copernicus and Luther, and pronounce Washington and Franklin rebels?
Why is the TEA Party labeled “violent” and “racist“? Because it opposes the overreach of government. Why is the “Occupy” movement embraced by government? Because it serves the ends of the government.
…perhaps you may consider whether the remedy will not be worse than the evil; but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.
When I converse with the freest of my neighbors, I perceive that, whatever they may say about the magnitude and seriousness of the question, and their regard for the public tranquillity, the long and the short of the matter is, that they cannot spare the protection of the existing government, and they dread the consequences to their property and families of disobedience to it. For my own part, I should not like to think that I ever rely on the protection of the State. But, if I deny the authority of the State when it presents its tax-bill, it will soon take and waste all my property, and so harass me and my children without end. This is hard. This makes it impossible for a man to live honestly, and at the same time comfortably in outward respects. It will not be worth the while to accumulate property; that would be sure to go again. You must hire or squat somewhere, and raise but a small crop, and eat that soon. You must live within yourself, and depend upon yourself always tucked up and ready for a start, and not have many affairs.
The two highlighted portions of that paragraph sum up the POWER the Government has over us…and suggest a way to lessen that power. It is a hard suggestion, given the comforts we have worked for and feel we have earned by that work.
The progress from an absolute to a limited monarchy, from a limited monarchy to a democracy, is a progress toward a true respect for the individual. Even the Chinese philosopher was wise enough to regard the individual as the basis of the empire. Is a democracy, such as we know it, the last improvement possible in government? Is it not possible to take a step further towards recognizing and organizing the rights of man? There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly.
Thoreau would literally throw up if he saw the march of Progressivism…and the power it now wields. The State doesn’t TRUST the individual to make the right choices. Thus “public notices/information” become “nudges“…”nudges” become shoves…and shoves become TYRANNY! Why? Because the ultimate goal of the Progressive movement is this: “Everything not mandatory is forbidden!”
Since, by the Progressive definition, the State IS all knowing, and all caring…why shouldn’t we allow, even encourage, the State to guide our every move…and save us from ourselves?? Indeed.