Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on August 6, 2011

in Myths and Fallacies, Other People's Money, Politics, Property Rights, Reality Is Not Optional

… is from page 66 of Sir Henry Sumner Maine’s Popular Government (1885):

Yet nothing is more certain, than that the mental picture which enchains the enthusiasts for benevolent democratic government is altogether false, and that, if the mass of mankind were to make an attempt at redividing the common stock of good things, they would resemble, not a number of claimants insisting on the fair division of a fund, but a mutinous crew, feasting on a ship’s provisions, gorging themselves on the meat and intoxicating themselves with the liquors, but refusing to navigate the vessel to port.

Who can doubt that Maine would be completely unsurprised by today’s events in Washington, DC?

It’s a shame that it is necessary to point out here that oppostion to what Maine calls “benevolent democratic government” – by which Maine means largely unlimited democracy – does not imply support for dictatorship, oligarchy, or any other form of top-down, centralized command.  Rather, by far the best alternative to unlimited democracy is a system based upon respect for private property rights and for the patterns of market activities that such rights give rise to.


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