Government

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Category: Note
Author: Oscar Wilde
High hopes were once formed of democracy; but democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people. It has been found out. I must say that it was high time, for all authority is quite degrading. It degrades those who exercise it, and degrades those over whom it is exercised. When it is violently, grossly, and cruelly used, it produces a good effect, by creating, or at any rate bringing out, the spirit of revolt and Individualism that is to kill it. When it is used with a certain amount of kindness, and accompanied by ...
Category: Note
In order to crush all opposing forces and to facilitate the perfecting of the totalitarian machinery, it became necessary to step up the process of centralization. This alone is able to foster uniformity and egalitarianism, and to ensure swift execution of governmental orders.
Category: Note
Democracy, indeed, has no enthusiasm for the exceptional, and where she cannot deny or remove it, she hates it from the bottom of her heart. Herself a monstrous product of mediocre brains and their envy, democracy can use as tools only mediocre men, and the pushing place-hunters give her all desired guarantees of sympathy. Yet it must be admitted that a new spirit, coming from below, gets hold of the masses so that they, driven by dark instincts, are looking again for the exceptional. But herein they may be surprisingly badly advised, and take a fancy to a Boulanger!
Category: Note
The Emperors possessed, it is true, an immense and unchecked power which allowed them to gratify all their whimsical tastes and to employ for that purpose the whole strength of the state. They frequently abused that power arbitrarily to deprive their subjects of property or life; their tyranny was extremely onerous to the few, but it did not reach the greater number; it was fixed to some few main objects and neglected the rest; it was violent but its range was limited. But it would seem that, if despotism were to be established among the democratic nations of our days, ...
Category: Note
After having thus taken each individual one by one into its powerful hands, and having molded him as it pleases, the sovereign power extends its arms over the entire society; it covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated, minute, and uniform rules, which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot break through to go beyond the crowd; it does not break wills, but it softens them, bends them and directs them; it rarely forces action, but it constantly opposes your acting; it does not destroy, it prevents birth; it does not tyrannize, it ...
Category: Note
. . . in our own day, no fact is more incontestable and conspicuous than the love of democracy for authoritative regulation. . . . The expansion of the authority and the multiplication of the functions of the State in other fields, and especially in the field of social regulation, is an equally apparent accompaniment of modern democracy. This increase of state power means a multiplication of restrictions imposed upon the various forms of human action. It means an increase of bureaucracy, of the number and power of state officials. It means also a constant increase of taxation, which is ...
Category: Note
No prophecy is safer than that the results anticipated from a law will be greatly exceeded in amount by results not anticipated.
Category: Note
The great political superstition of the past was the divine right of kings The great political superstition of the present is the divine right of parliaments. The oil of anointing seems unawares to have dripped from the head of the one on to the heads of the many, and given sacredness to them also and to their decrees.
Category: Philosophy
This series of twelve letters was published in The Nonconformist in 1842-43. In 1843 the letters were reprinted under the present title by W. Brittain of London and sold for fourpence. Things of the first importance—principles influencing all the transactions of a country—principles involving the weal or woe of nations, are very generally taken for granted by society. When a certain line of conduct, however questionable may be its policy—however momentous may be its good or evil results, has been followed by our ancestors, it usually happens that the great masses of mankind continue the same course of action, without ...
Category: Philosophy
Philosophical politicians usually define government, as a body whose province it is, to provide for the “general good.” But this practically amounts to no definition at all, if by a definition is meant a description, in which the limits of the thing described are pointed out. It is necessary to the very nature of a definition, that the words in which it is expressed should have some determinate meaning; but the expression “general good,” is of such uncertain character, a thing so entirely a matter of opinion, that there is not an action that a government could perform, which might ...
Category: Philosophy
From preceding arguments it was inferred, that if the administration of justice had been recognised as the only duty of the state, a national church would not have existed, that restrictions upon commerce could never have been enacted, and that a poor law would be inadmissible. As the last conclusion will not meet with such general approbation as its predecessors, it is deemed requisite to enter more fully into the evidence that may be adduced in support of it: and the Nonconformist being the organ of a political body, who profess to act upon principle and not upon expediency, and ...
Category: Philosophy
My last letter, entering as it did rather deeply into the poor law question, might almost be considered by some of your readers, as a digression from the ostensible object of this essay, although a very necessary one to the establishment of the principle advocated. I must now, however, still further trespass upon their patience, in the endeavour to answer the query proposed to me—” Has not every man a right to a maintenance out of the soil?” for this, after all, is the pith of the question submitted. 3 Before proceeding, it may be observed, that the burden of ...
Category: Philosophy
“That it is the duty of the state to adopt measures for protecting the health, as well as the property, of its subjects,” is the fundamental principle espoused by the Eastern Medical Association of Scotland. The majority of the medical profession hold the same opinion; a respectable portion of the public at large apparently agree with them; and, judging by the enactments that have from time to time been made, the state itself admits the truth of the doctrine. The position is a very plausible one. Some of the arguments urged on its behalf appear, at first sight, decisive. And ...
Category: Philosophy
It will probably be objected to the proposed theory of government, that if the administration of justice were the only duty of the state, it would evidently be out of its power to regulate our relations with other countries, to make treaties with foreign powers, to enter into any kind of international arrangement whatever, or to levy wars that might be absolutely necessary. So much of the objection as relates to the absence of power to make treaties, may be disregarded. Commerce, or war, are nearly always, directly or indirectly, the subjects of negotiation between governments, and as free trade ...
Category: Philosophy
Colonisation may possibly appear to some, to be a stumbling-block in their way to the desirable conclusion, that the administration of justice is the only duty of the state. We may anticipate the question—What would the colonies do without our governance and protection? I think facts will bear me out in replying—Far better than they do with them. The subject naturally ranges itself under three heads—the interests of the mother country, of the emigrants, and of the aborigines. First, then, the interests of the mother country. The records of ancient nations have ever, shown that the riches of a community, ...
Category: Philosophy
The question of state interference has been hitherto examined, only in those departments of its application, in which its existing effects are visible—viz., in commerce, religion, charity, war, and colonisation. In all of them that interference has been deprecated. It now remains to consider those social institutions which, though at present prospering in their original unfettered simplicity, are threatened by schemes for legislative supervision. Of these the first in importance stands—education. It is clear that a system of national instruction is excluded by our definition. It cannot be comprehended under the administration of justice. A man can no more call ...
Category: Philosophy
An overwhelming prejudice in favour of ancient and existing usages has ever been, and probably will long continue to be, one of the most prominent characteristics of humanity. No matter how totally inconsistent with the existing condition of society—no matter how utterly unreasonable, both in principle and practice—no matter how eminently absurd, in every respect, such institutions or customs may be—still, if they have but the countenance of fashion or antiquity—if they have but been patronised and handed down to us by our forefathers—their glaring inconsistencies, defects, and puerilities, are so completely hidden by the radiant halo wherewith a blind ...
Category: Philosophy
Had our governors always taken care, duly to perform their original, and all-important functions—had the administration of justice ever stood pre-eminent in their eyes—had it at all times been considered as the one thing needful—and had no other questions ever been entertained at its expense, then might their interference, in matters with which they had no concern, have been more excusable. But it is not so. To the long list of their sins of commission, we have to add the sin of omission; and most grievously has the nation suffered from their neglect, as well as from their officiousness. Describe ...
Category: Philosophy
A few remarks upon an important collateral topic, in so far as it is affected by the solution of the question in hand, may not be here out of place. The enfranchisement of the working classes is the topic alluded to. With that large class of men, whose conclusions are determined by the dictates of expediency, rather than by the demands of justice, one of the objections to an investment of power in the hands of the people, is this—” Society is a complicated machine; the interests of its members are many and various, and so mysteriously connected and intertwined ...
Category: Philosophy
A brief review of the arguments that have been set forth in the foregoing letters may serve to place the general question more distinctly before the mind. Having shown that the proposed definition of state duties was in exact accordance with the primitive requirements of society—was, in fact, theoretically derived from them, and that its derivation did not countenance the universal interference now permitted; an attempt was made to exhibit some of the chief advantages that would arise out of the restoration of our various social institutions to their original freedom from legislative control; in the course of which it ...
Category: Note
The doctrine that it is the duty of the state to protect the public health, contains the germ of another gigantic monopoly.
Category: Note
Imperious necessity is the grand stimulus to man’s physical and mental endowments, and without it he would sink into a state of hopeless torpidity. Establish a poor law to render his forethought and self-denial unnecessary—enact a system of national education to take the care of his children off his hands—set up a national church to look after his religious wants—make laws for the preservation of his health, that he may have less occasion to look after it himself—do all this, and he may then, to a great extent, dispense with the faculties that the Almighty has given to him. Every ...
Category: Note
Alongside all swindlers the state now stands there as swindler-in-chief
Category: Note
This incessant creation of restrictive laws and regulations, surrounding the pettiest actions of existence with the most complicated formalities, inevitably has for its result the confining within narrower and narrower limits of the sphere in which the citizen may move freely. Victims of the delusion that equality and liberty are the better assured by the multiplication of laws, nations daily consent to put up with trammels increasingly burdensome. They do not accept this legislation with impunity. Accustomed to put up with every yoke, they soon end by desiring servitude, and lose all spontaneousness and energy. They are then no more ...