Full-Length Friday

Full-Length Friday Liberty Quotation: Edith Hamilton on How Athens Lost Its Freedom

Quote Posted on Updated on

hamilton“What the [Athenian] people wanted was a government which would provide a comfortable life for them, and with this as the foremost object ideas of freedom and self-reliance and service to the community were obscured to the point of disappearing.  Athens was more and more looked on as a co-operative business, possessed of great wealth, in which all citizens had a right to share.  The larger and larger funds demanded made heavier and heavier taxation necessary, but that only troubled the well-to-do, always a minority, and no one gave a thought to the possibility that the source might be taxed out of existence. [ . . . ] Athens had reached the point of rejecting independence, and the freedom she now wanted was freedom from responsibility.  There could be only one result. [ . . . ] If men insisted on being free from the burden of a life that was self-dependent and also responsible for the common good, they would cease to be free at all.  Responsibility was the price every man must pay for freedom.  It was to be had on no other terms.”

Edith Hamilton, The Echo of Greece [1957]

Full-Length Friday Liberty Quotation: Thomas Paine on the Distinction Between Society and Government

Quote Posted on Updated on

Thomas Paine“Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins.  Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices.  The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions.  The first is a patron, the last a punisher.

“Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer!  Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise.  For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of this property to furnish the means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him out of two evils to choose the least.  Wherefore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others.”

Thomas Paine, Common Sense [1776]