Random Sightings on a Walk through My Notebook

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“That government is best which governs not at all,”

Said Henry David Thoreau,

But what did he know?

“Liberty: not the daughter but the mother of order,”

Declared Pierre-Joseph Proudhon,

And then he passed on.

“When the government is too intrusive, people lose their spirit,”

Noted Lao-tzu,

As I would, too.

“Great men are almost always bad men,”

Declared Lord Acton

— some wisdom to act on.

“Let us strangle the last king with the entrails of the last priest,”

Urged Denis Diderot.

— an extreme to which I will not go.

“Nothing is so prone to contaminate — under certain circumstances, even to exhaust — the source of all noble and ideal sentiments, which arise of themselves from normally developing sexual instinct, as the practice of masturbation in early years,”

Wrote Richard von Krafft-Ebing,

As he felt his sexual powers ebbing.

“Loyalty, decency, compassion, love — these are . . . irremediable, crippling flaws in a professional politician,”

Declared Erik Tarloff,

And then he ran off.

If, all things considered, there is a national profit in increasing the size of the army, why not call the whole male population of the country to the colors?”

Asked Frédéric Bastiat.

So, in World War II, the Keynesians tried that.

“Our government makes no sense unless it is founded on a deeply felt religious faith — and I don’t care what it is,”

Declared Dwight D. Eisenhower,

A man of scant theological power.

“The Powers That Be literally stand on their dignity. Nothing deflates them more effectively than deft lampooning,”

Wrote Walter Wink.

An apt observation, I think.

“I beseech
you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken,”

Cried Oliver Cromwell,

Several years before his dead head fell.

“Man, therefore, is a curious, dreamy, humourous and wayward creature,”

According to Lin Yutang,

Who wrote but never sang.

“There are two kinds of men and only two. / There’s the one staying put /In his proper place / And the one with his foot / In the other one’s face.”

Sweeney Todd knew

A thing or two.

“You can’t kill ideas. But you can sure shoot the people who hold them,”

Noted G. Gordon Liddy

— a statement both true and witty.

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Robert Higgs [send him mail] is senior fellow in political economy at the Independent Institute and editor of The Independent Review. He is also a columnist for LewRockwell.com. His most recent book is Neither Liberty Nor Safety: Fear, Ideology, and the Growth of Government. He is also the author of Depression, War, and Cold War: Studies in Political Economy, Resurgence of the Warfare State: The Crisis Since 9/11 and Against Leviathan: Government Power and a Free Society.

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