Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on August 18, 2011

in Nanny State

… is one of Frederic Bastiat’s incisive critiques of the nanny-state.  It’s found on page 435 of Frederic Bastiat, The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics (Liberty Fund, 2011); it is from an essay that originally appeared in 1848, entitled “Laissez-faire”:

This is simply absurd.  Do you seriously have such faith in human wisdom that you want universal sufferage and government of all by all and then you proclaim these very men whom you consider fit to govern others unfit to govern themselves?

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{ 21 comments }

vidyohs August 18, 2011 at 9:29 am

I love the minds that cut clean to the truth of a matter.

Vikram August 18, 2011 at 2:47 pm

Very well said !!!

Dan J August 18, 2011 at 10:12 am

But the one’s governing will be intellectuals who have graduated from an Ivy League school and remained there until called upon to serve on a panel with other enlightened experts. Surely, we need enlightened experts for the masses who are far too untrustworthy to know what is best.

juan carlos vera August 18, 2011 at 10:12 am

I think today’s democracies have at least two classes of problems:
1-An operational problem. Democratic governments are no longer constitutional governments, now.
2-A transcendental problem. Governments nullify a right that democracy aims to protect and preserve, which is “freedom.” Once a government is legitimately established nullifies the freedom of all individuals that disagree with that government. These individuals are subject to the will of those who choose and agree with the ruling. These individuals are not free to meet again to set up and finance a government that truly represents them. This problem is so elementary, violations of freedom are so rude, that sooner or later will cause the annihilation of such democratic system…

SweetLiberty August 18, 2011 at 11:23 am

Absolutely! Our government has all but thrown out the rulebook (read: Constitution) except for the General Welfare clause which is used as the reason du jour for every administration to enact socialist policies which they deem utterly necessary.

By giving men the power and authority to govern us, they see it as an obligation to “do something” about everything. Every action they take, every law they enact, necessarily limits liberty.

Those who criticize Gov. Perry for not personally being responsible for creating the disproportionate job growth in Texas fail to realize that by not interfering, by following the rules and guidelines others have laid down before him that work well, he has exhibited a willpower greater than most politicians can muster. (This is not meant as a blanket endorsement of Perry, but rather used as an example to point out one area – based upon feedback I’ve read – how great an impact an elected official can have just by leaving a working system alone.)

Dan J August 18, 2011 at 1:56 pm

US Representative James Clyburn of South Carolinas 6th Congressional District stated in an interview with Judge Andrew Napolitano in 2009 that ” much of what Congress does is not Constitutional”. – Brian and the Judge radio show 2008-2009

Only, Socialists and supporters of the panel of experts to govern industries find nothing wrong with Obamacare. Talk about stretching on an argument. This ‘mandate’ should disqualify Obama and other candidates who approved from elected office.But, this is the inevitability of govt.

Sam Grove August 18, 2011 at 1:04 pm

We might call people who put great faith in democracy “democratic monarchists”. At least George seems to fit that bill.

oversexed August 18, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Spoken like a true fascist.

Greg Webb August 18, 2011 at 11:51 am

Excellent quote! Bastiat cuts right through the statist hypocrisy of saying that the statist is for “people-led democracy,” but then revealing the truth by saying that the average citizen is too stupid to take care of himself so he or she needs ever bigger government to protect him or her. The two are simply incompatible.

Sam Grove August 18, 2011 at 1:06 pm

The smart sociopath always sees himself up rather than down the heirarchy, and so is often an advocate of hierarchy.

PrometheeFeu August 18, 2011 at 2:45 pm

I must admit that I became a libertarian the day I gave up an interest in entering politics. I knew I could be trusted with the power of the state. But I find highly dubious that anyone else could be trusted with that power.

Dan J August 18, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Ha! ‘ I knew I could be trusted with the power of the state…. But highly dubious that anyone else….’

That is funny.

Statement said, internally, by over 300million nationally, and 6billion internationally.

oversexed August 18, 2011 at 1:43 pm

What makes you think that you are not a sociopath, smart or dumb?

PrometheeFeu August 18, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Very wise comment. I often bring that up when people argue in favor of anti-hate-speech laws. Not that it convinces many people mind you.

Vikram August 18, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Outstanding

Chucklehead August 18, 2011 at 4:33 pm

“Do you seriously have such faith in human wisdom that you want universal sufferage and government of all by all and then you proclaim these very men whom you consider fit to govern others unfit to govern themselves?” Can you rewrite that in 140 characters or less? It would make a good tweet.

Dan J August 18, 2011 at 4:39 pm

If you can do it in 5 words or less, You can be president.

Tyler August 19, 2011 at 4:50 pm

u srsly hve faith n human wisdm tht u wnt unvrsl suffrg+govt of allbyall thn proclaim the men u consdr fit 2 govrn othrs unfit 2 gvrn selvs?

that’s 140.

kyle8 August 20, 2011 at 9:02 am

How about:

You think everyone must vote so they pick our leaders, but you don’t even trust them to pick their own nose without Govmnt help!

Moggio August 28, 2011 at 8:40 am

Bastiat did not use the word “absurd” but the French word “plaisant”, that is to say “funny” or “amusing” or “ridiculous” or “laughable” in English.

A more complete quotation is, in French (without italics):
“À cela les socialistes disent : Laissez faire ! mais c’est une horreur ! — Et pourquoi, s’il vous plaît ? — Parce que ; quand on les laisse faire, les hommes font mal et agissent contre leurs intérêts. Il est bon que l’État les dirige. Voilà qui est plaisant. Quoi ! vous avez une telle foi dans la sagacité humaine que vous voulez le suffrage universel et le gouvernement de tous par tous ; et puis, ces mêmes hommes que vous jugez aptes à gouverner les autres, vous les proclame inaptes à se gouverner eux-mêmes !”
(http://bastiat.org/fr/laissez_faire.html)

Moggio August 28, 2011 at 8:42 am

Bastiat did not use the word “absurd” but the French word “plaisant”, that is to say “funny” or “amusing” or “ridiculous” or “laughable” in English.

A more complete quotation is, in French (without italics):
“À cela les socialistes disent : Laissez faire ! mais c’est une horreur ! — Et pourquoi, s’il vous plaît ? — Parce que ; quand on les laisse faire, les hommes font mal et agissent contre leurs intérêts. Il est bon que l’État les dirige. Voilà qui est plaisant. Quoi ! vous avez une telle foi dans la sagacité humaine que vous voulez le suffrage universel et le gouvernement de tous par tous ; et puis, ces mêmes hommes que vous jugez aptes à gouverner les autres, vous les proclamez inaptes à se gouverner eux-mêmes !”
(http://bastiat.org/fr/laissez_faire.html)

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