Friday, July 23, 2010

Lemming Tracks: The Only Maxim of a Free Government

"There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty."
Notes for an Oration in Braintree Massachusetts (Spring 1772), via John Adams Web

A maxim is "a saying that is widely accepted on its own merits." (Princeton's WordNet) I'm inclined to think that John Adams was right, when it came to trusting any one person "with power to endanger the public liberty."

I'd extend it to include smallish groups of like-minded people. Even if they mean well.

It's Not Always the Other Guy

What John Adams said could be applied to 'those people over there' easily enough.

For folks who are convinced that America can do no wrong and the United Nations can do no right, freedom "obviously" must be protected from those people over on the left.

For folks who are equally convinced that America can do no right and the United Nations can do no wrong, freedom "obviously" must be protected from those people over on the right.

An over-simplification of contemporary America's two major political philosophies? Certainly. The point is that threats to freedom are easier to see, when someone else is doing the threatening.

When it's someone you agree with, or who wants to "save the children," not so much.

A Mercifully Brief Retrospective: Five Decades of Freedom in America

While I was growing up, some folks passionately declared that 'those traitors' should be locked up. The 'traitors' in question didn't agree with America's policies of the day, and said so. In public.

That didn't sit well with some of the more intensely red-white-and-blue-blooded all-American folks of the day. They were convinced that people who didn't agree with them should be locked up, or at least 'go back where they came from.'

That was then.

Today, folks with another set of assumptions hold a significant number of positions in American government, media, and educational institutions. Just as their right-wing counterparts did, they're very concerned about freedom of expression.

As long as they agree with the ideas expressed.

Different words, same tune.

The Lemming will now step down off his soapbox, and get back to looking online for something of interest.

Related posts:Yet more related posts, in other blogs:

2 comments:

Brigid said...

"with poser to endanger the public liberty."

I think you meant to copy what the quote actually said, ""with power to endanger the public liberty."

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...

Brigid,

Right you are.

Thinking about it, I don't see how Poser, by itself, could endanger the public liberty. Eventually, if or when AI is added to the software - but that's another topic.

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