Wednesday, June 1, 2022

So Much Noise!

“Whatever be the national extent, civil order, and regular government, are advantages of the greatest importance; but it does not follow, that every arrangement made to obtain these ends, and which may, in the making, exercise and cultivate the best qualities of men, is therefore of a nature to produce permanent effects, and to secure the preservation of that national spirit from which it arose.  We have reason to dread the political refinements of ordinary men, when we consider that repose, or inaction itself, is in a great measure their object; and that they would frequently model their governments, not merely to prevent injustice and error, but to prevent agitation and bustle; and by the barriers they raise against the evil actions of men, would prevent them from acting at all.  Every dispute of a free people, in the opinion of such politicians, amounts to disorder, and a breach of the national peace.  What heart burnings? What delay to affairs? What want of secrecy and despatch? What defect of police?  Men of superior genius sometimes seem to imagine, that the vulgar have no title to act, or to think.  A great prince is pleased to ridicule the precaution by which judges in a free country are confined to the strict interpretation of law.

“We easily learn to contract our opinions of what men may, in consistence with public order, be safely permitted to do.  The agitations of a republic, and the license of its members, strike the subjects of monarchy with aversion and disgust.  The freedom with which the European is left to traverse the streets and the fields, would appear to a Chinese a sure prelude to confusion and anarchy.  ‘Can men behold their superior and not tremble?  Can they converse without a precise and written ceremonial?  What hopes of peace, if, the streets are not barricaded at an hour?  What wild disorder, if men are permitted in any thing to do what they please?’”

- Adam Ferguson, from An Essay on the History of Civil Society

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