… is the final paragraph of my favorite essay by one of my all-time favorite thinkers. The essay, written in 1830, is by Thomas Babington Macaulay; its title is “Southey’s Colloquies on Society“:
It is not by the intermeddling of [English poet laureate] Mr. Southey’s idol, the omniscient and omnipotent State, but by the prudence and energy of the people, that England has hitherto been carried forward in civilization; and it is to the same prudence and the same energy that we now look with comfort and good hope. Our rulers will best promote the improvement of the nation by strictly confining themselves to their own legitimate duties, by leaving capital to find its most lucrative course, commodities their fair price, industry and intelligence their natural reward, idleness and folly their natural punishment, by maintaining peace, by defending property, by diminishing the price of law, and by observing strict economy in every department of the state. Let the Government do this: the People will assuredly do the rest.