Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Thought For The Day

‘What institution of government could tend so much to promote the happiness of mankind as the general prevalence of wisdom and virtue? All government is but an imperfect remedy for the deficiency of these. Whatever beauty, therefore, can belong to civil government upon account of its utility, must in a far superior degree belong to these. On the contrary, what civil policy can be so ruinous and destructive as the vices of men? The fatal effects of bad government arise from nothing, but that it does not sufficiently guard against the mischiefs which human wickedness gives occasion to’.
[Adam Smith, Moral Sentiments: TMS IV.2.1: 187; 1872 edition: pp 165-66]

Adam Smith was quite right. Utopian proposals and plans for reform that do not take account of human nature are prone to derision, if advocated, and to disappointment if implemented, and the unintentional results are obvious for all to see and suffer from.

As neat a description of party politics as could be offered for the many failings of governments. The only barrier to ‘human wickedness’ (which covers a multitude of crimes of commission and omission) is that of the system of justice, separate from government, and safeguarded by Liberty – democracy is a necessary but not sufficient condition (they ‘elect’ cruel dictators don’t they?).

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