I'm currently reading Cato's Letters by John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, and thought that I might share some especially topical lines that I found in letter number 17 (hardcover p. 123-128). In this essay, the authors are describing "what measures have been taken by corrupt ministers, in some of our neighbouring [sic] countries, to ruin and enslave the people over whom they presided" (124). The following such "measures" strongly reminded me of recent goings-on:
"They will engage their country in ridiculous, expensive, fantastical wars, to keep the minds of men in continual hurry and agitation, and under constant fears and alarms; and, by such means, deprive them both of leisure and inclination to look into publick miscarriages. Men, on the contrary, will, instead of such inspection, be disposed to fall into all measures offered, seemingly, for their defence, and will agree to every wild demand made by those who are betraying them" (125).
"They will create parties in the commonwealth, or keep them up where they already are; and, by playing them by turns upon each other, will rule both" (125). The authors almost got it right here--they just failed to consider that the parties might simply merge their interests by internal choice, while maintaining the show of opposition.
"They will not suffer any men, who have once tasted of authority, though personally their enemies, and whose posts they enjoy, to be called to an account for past crimes, though ever so enormous. They will make no such precedents for their own punishment; nor censure treason, which they intend to commit" (125). Need I say more?
"They will put men into employments, without any regard to the qualifications for those employments, or indeed to any qualifications at all, but as they contribute to their designs, and shew [sic] a stupid alacrity to do what they are bid" (126). Harriet Miers certainly comes to mind.
"But if the constitution should be so stubbornly framed, that it will still preserve itself and the people's liberties, in spite of all villainous contrivances to destroy both; then must the constitution itself be attacked and broken, because it will not bend. There must be an endeavour, under some pretence of public good, to alter a balance of the government, and to get it into the sole power of their creatures, and of such who will have constantly an interest distinct from that of the body of the people" (127). Living and breathing Constitution, anyone?
And this last was my favorite: "They will, by all practicable means of oppression, provoke the people to disaffection; and then make that disaffection an argument for new oppression, for not trusting them any further, and for keeping up troops; and, in fine, for depriving them of liberties and privileges, to which they are entitled by their birth, and the laws of their country" (126). Remember, folks, capitalism caused the present recession and made health-care costs skyrocket! It's time for a heavy dose of government interference!
I hope you all enjoyed these. It was good to see Cato's Letters take off a little, finally; some of their earlier letters are somewhat disgustingly statist. Does anyone else have any favorite relevant quotes from this work?