Saturday, May 13, 2006

With small men no great thing can be accomplished 

In Comments, reader M@ refers us to John Stuart Mill's On Liberty, saying that "what Mill says about the "tyrrany of the majority" is pretty much all you need to know about the necessary limits of majority rule in a liberal democracy. Every high schooler in the western world should read it. There are very, very few other books I would say that about."
Also instructive are the sentences at the end of Mill's essay, which apply to what is going on now in Washington and maybe also in Ottawa:
The worth of a State, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it . . . a State, which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands even for beneficial purposes, will find that with small men no great thing can really be accomplished; and that the perfection of machinery to which it has sacrificed everything, will in the end avail it nothing, for want of the vital power which, in order that the machine might work more smoothly, it has preferred to banish.
In other words, if the nay-sayers and freethinkers and shit-disturbers are discredited or silenced, the government will run smoother but the nation as a whole will fail.

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