… is from page 112 of the 2000 Liberty Fund edition of Frederic William Maitland’s profound 1875 dissertation at Trinity College, Cambridge, A Historical Sketch of Liberty and Equality (links added):
There seems to me no absurdity in speaking of one form of government as more absolute than another, though Hobbes, Austin, and other analytical jurists think there is. That form of government is least absolute under which it may be expected that constitutional opinion, “opinion of right” (as Hume calls it), will allow to those who are ordinarily called the rulers the fewest powers.
Government’s powers can certainly be constrained. But at the end of the day these powers can and will be constrained only by the prevailing ideas and opinions of the people (which themselves are largely the product of how people talk to, and communicate with, each other). Make the public more skeptical of the state – reveal the state to be far more ordinary and venal, and far less majestic and caring, than portrayed by its dependents and apologists – and the power of the state will be constrained. Fail to make the public skeptical of the state – fail to reveal the state in all of its ugly reality – and stupid state worship will condemn humankind to tyranny and misery.