Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“You don't have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight.”     Barry Goldwater

November 23, 2005

Three Quotes

by Eric

Sometime soon I’ll get a random quote generator on here. In the meantime, here’s a few quotes to ponder for the day.

“Freedom includes the right to say what others may object to and resent… The essence of citizenship is to be tolerant of strong and provocative words.”
– John G. Diefenbaker (1895-1979) Prime Minister of Canada

“Who are a free people? Not those over whom government is exercised, but those who live under a government so constitutionally checked and controlled that proper provision is made against its being otherwise exercised.”
– John Dickenson (1732-1808) Source: Farmer’s Letters, 1767

“Men in authority will always think that criticism of their policies is dangerous. They will always equate their policies with patriotism, and find criticism subversive.”
– Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) Historian and author Source: Freedom and Order, 1966

Think about them, talk about them.


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7 Comments

  1. What if the policy is of the type John Dickenson promotes, that of limited goverment? I’m not so sure it is particularly patriotic but if people call for a ‘people’s revolution’ to usurp limited government with their version of a centrally planned eutopia then I am inclined to call it subversive. Is this wrong?

    It reminds me of another quote, “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” I’m not always prepared to go along with that one. The dissent must be well reasoned and not some thinly vieled call for a dictatorship. This leads to the sort of thing where the terrorist/insurgents in Iraq are called ‘freedom fighters’ by some. I could not possibly disagree more. The insurgency in Iraq is not some patriotic form of dissent. It is a bloodthirsty grab for tyrannical power. The patriotism of dissent must be qualified by the content of the dissent, not that it merely takes place.

    I think we have to look at the rights and wrongs of declarations of either patriotism or subversion. Patriotism in the name of liberty is not a bad thing and neither is subversion in the face of tyranny.

    Comment by tkc — November 23, 2005 @ 12:22 pm
  2. Hey TKC, I think it is important to distinguish between censorship, which is the point of what Commager and Diefenbaker are saying, and individual responsibility and beliefs. Also, there is a difference between speech and actions. The terrorists and insurgents in Iraq are taking action that is destructive to the life, liberty and property of other individuals. That sort of action can only be justified in extreme circumstances (see the Declaration of Independence for such a justification). On the other hand, my right to advocate radical marxism, for example, has to be protected or I have lost a piece of my liberty.

    Comment by Eric — November 23, 2005 @ 12:37 pm
  3. I understand a right to advocate radical marxism must be protected. I’m not advocating censorship. However, since radical marxism almost always results in the destruction of personal property rights, when it moves from advocacy to implementation then I will cry foul. It matters very little to me if my cry of foul is labeled as patriotism or subversion. Just because someone claims patriotism does not make them unassailable. Just because someone is being subversive does not make them wrong. The quality of the action will define the correctness of the action, not merely the word. I’m not trying to make a case for censorship, only that the positive and negative connotations of certain words do not always apply. It is a sort of ‘talk is cheap’ and ‘actions speak volumes’ type of argument. I’ve seen too many instances of people playing word games to defend actions that are deplorable.

    For example, the Founding Fathers were clearly being subversive to the rule of King George. However, most of us will agree that that subversion was justified and we now describe them a patriotic. So when people compare the insurgents in Iraq to the Minutemen of the Revolutionary War I think a terrible disservice has been done whether or not either one is called patriotic or subversive.

    I’m trying to think of a better way to make this point but nothing is coming to mind. Sorry if it seems like I’m rambling.

    Comment by tkc — November 23, 2005 @ 2:01 pm
  4. Let me try one more ramble.
    Patriotism generally has a positive connotation. Subversion generally has a negative connotation. When patriotism is used to defend the deplorable then the connotation of the word becomes meaningless and the correctness of the actions being taken must be judged by something else. When people deliberately distort the positive and negative connotations of words I think it is an unnecessary debasement of the language. It is usually done to deflect people’s attention away from nefarious goals. I don’t particularly care for this brand of dishonesty.
    So in a round-about way I’m agreeing with Commager.

    Comment by tkc — November 23, 2005 @ 2:17 pm
  5. Tough, I know.

    I can say whatever I want. I am responsible for the outcome of what I say. Most folks who speak lies and disinformation tend to use “free speech” as a shield against being responsible for their consequences of their speech. This is a larger problem, not just with speech. Before individual rights, there is individual responsibility.

    Comment by Eric — November 23, 2005 @ 2:39 pm
  6. Sad, isn’t it, that Canada has moved so far away from the position set forth by Diefenbakere.

    Try publicly expressing, for example, the idea that homosexuality is immoral if you live in Soviet Kanuckistan. You will be prosecuted and persecuted for the violation of the dignity of homosexuals — and their comments regarding you, your views and (if such is your motive) your religious faith will be considered protected speech.

    Comment by Rhymes With Right — November 24, 2005 @ 9:46 am
  7. Diefenbaker is probably rolling over in his grave on a daily basis, considering how Canada has completely overturned the foundations of Anglo liberty.

    Comment by Eric — November 24, 2005 @ 11:48 pm

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