Notable Quote – Plus!: On Restraining the ‘Passions of Men’

Quintin Hogg - Author of The Case for Conservatism
Quintin Hogg

“For Conservative thinkers believe that man is corrupt, that his appetites need restraint, and that the forces of custom, authority, law, and government, as well as moral discipline, are required to keep sin in check.”

-Quintin Hogg




John Adams
John Adams

“Experience has ever shown, that education, as well as religion, aristocracy, as well as democracy and monarchy, are, singly, totally inadequate to the business of restraining the passions of men, of preserving a steady government, and protecting the lives, liberties, and properties of the people.”

-John Adams


The point, of course, is that men are sinners, corruptible by nature, and nothing can change that.  Human beings are therefore incapable of crafting a heaven on earth because we will inevitably screw it up and turn it into someone else’s hell.

Conservatism accepts this but it also understand the human desire for community.  That we are social creatures who need the association of others.  That association creates families, neighborhoods, communities, groups, even factions and political parties, who will choose leaders, and who will inevitably empower those leaders to advance their own best interests before those of others, forgetting that this will inevitably encourage those leaders to develop interests of their own at the expense of anyone who does not share them.

While we grasp the need for personal responsibility and freedom, we will happily give that up for free stuff from our guy.  But this is no different than a monarchy whose lordlings keep the reigning “king” on the throne and keep the subjects from rebelling with bread and circuses, or Food stamps and free phones if you prefer.

The Founders understood that institutions were not enough, but also had the sense to know that without them there would be nothing to constrain human nature from devolving into anarchy, oligarchy, or some other from of tyranny.   So some form of government would always be required, one that was limited and subject to everyone’s will so that only truly necessary objects of shared interest would be worth the time of any national government.  Local issues would be better managed by more local representatives, all the way down to the burgs and burrows, townships and even neighborhoods of such a vast and diverse land, where changing the guard was a simple matter executed by those most affected.

Today, we are not as far from that as we can be, but it is very difficult to see there from here.  The people in government obsessed with diversity and the needs of the working family, have and continue to do everything in their power to ensure that the only institutions left to manage such interests are centralized, run by people who favor such forms, and inaccessible to those they claim to serve, making rules meant to apply to millions where they might only make sense to a select few.   And it has become a monolithic and impenetrable edifice.

The faction of Government sits at the center of what now is the wealthiest portion of the nation.  It is run by men and women, drawn to the corruption of money and power, who have made the business of governance so intractable that they are reduced to public relations ministers, representatives from the Federal government to the states, whose staffs do little more at this point than rearrange the deck chairs on the titianic.

At the same time it is no longer appropriate to comment on such matters without them being re-cast as attacks–not on ideas or decisions–but on race, gender, or ethnic origin or even against the bosom of government itself.

Every deed or misdeed is measured for its ability to grow government–those that will advance the scope of state power are fit into a narrative, and fed to the media for our continued programming while the Federal power brokers continue to annex, subvert, or eliminate whatever institutions are left to restrain him, dismantling them, relegating them, or driving them off the field of battle entirely.

At some point they shift their energies from institutions to smaller groups, and even individuals.  They will continually smear them in the collective conscious until a public fear has nested itself in the collective unconscious.  The bureaucracy will then serve its masters by using its unelected police state powers to intimidate or bully dissenters into silence, though at some point they will no longer need to be so subtle.   Opposing factions or individuals associated with them, properly ensconced as villains by the media in the minds of even the slimmest and likely misinformed majority, will find themselves ushered  off on the thinnest of charges, their “anti-government” rantings spilled out as evidence of their unsuitability to remain “free” citizens.

Did I mention that we’re more or less already at or near this last part, though I confess that I am still optimistic about our chances of rolling things back.  But to do so we must understand what Hogg and Adams have told us about human nature.  And we must listen.

The people in power, those connected to them, the ones whose first prioirty is to make the government edifice thicker and higher, the ones seeking to expand dependence on that government no matter what name they give it, what are they saying?  Who are they trying to silence?  What is it that they object to so much?

They object to any message that hints at a state or a nation where the government is not making more and more decisions about how you live than you are able to make for yourself.  This is America.  It is not perfect because none of us are.  But it is a place where you are the only one who can turn yourself into a slave.  And you have been doing just that.  By refusing to restrain the passions of men, by failing to even see the threat they represent, we have been giving away our ability to constrain them.  If we as states do not discover ourselves as the source of federal power and not the object of it, then the tyranny of Democratic socialism is in our families future, if not something worse.

Freedom is not free.  But it costs less than the bureaucratic superstate that confronts us now.  A creature erected by sinners, run by corruptabel souls, who desire not just the fruit of your labor but your rights to associate, to speak, even to defend yourself, and who are also willing to put themselves above their own “law.”

They say that decline is inevitable in a Democracy so I guess Barack Obama was right.  ‘We are the people we’ve been waiting for.’

Or are we?