Other Thoreau Quotes

“Just now, in a rousing victory speech, Kentucky’s newest senator, Rand Paul, announced, ‘Thomas Jefferson wrote, “That government is best that governs least.”’ Except, no. He didn’t. Henry David Thoreau did.” [Time]

  • “Beware of all enterprises that require a new set of clothes.”
  • “Every people have gods to suit their circumstances.”
  • “Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it.”

  • “How does it become a man to behave towards the American government today? I answer, that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it.”
  • “Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth.”
  • “To have done anything just for money is to have been truly idle.”
  • “It is never too late to give up our prejudices.”
  • “Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.”
  • “God reigns when we take a liberal view, when a liberal view is presented to us.”
  • “The universe is wider than our views of it.”
In Victory Speech, Rand Paul Misquotes Thomas Jefferson [Time, via Political Correction]

Henry David Thoreau Quotes [BrainyQuote]


This wonderful quote, “The universe is wider than our views of it”, keeps me from feeling too depressed after watching yet another election cycle determined by the most transparent manipulation of people’s childish fears. In the larger scale of things it probably doesn’t matter who wins a single election in a single nation on a single planet in a single solar system in a single galaxy in a single universe. Presumably even the pundits at Fox and MSNBC would agree, at least off the air.

that Thoreau guy has a pretty good shelf life doesnt he.

Shalom from Jerusalem. Have I missed anything?

@Dodgerblue: Just most of us being either stoned on Vicodin, Xanax, Klonopin; or drunk.

My corollary to #1: Beware all fashions that require uncomfortable undergarments.

@Dodgerblue: Besides that election shit, and baked and I waiting for you to MAKE YOUR DAMN MOVE in Scrabble, just a lot of teeth-gnashing and cussing from Dodgers fans (especially the ones I work with) at the spectacle that is YOUR SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS.

For your viewing pleasure from Israel:
Mayor/Lite Gov McDreamy greets the team.

The Beard meets The Guvernator – Arnie asks him, “Where’s the machine?”

Aubrey Huff channels Zoolander

It’s been a busy week.

@karen marie wants to know — Fucking integrity, how does it work?:

So basically Berlusconi is the Carl Paladino of Italy… except if Carl Paladino had actually been elected?

@Capt Howdy:
Indeed. Particularly when considering the full quote that Paul attributed incorrectly to Jefferson:

“I heartily accept the motto,—“That government is best which governs least;” and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which I also believe,—“That government is best which governs not at all;” and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient.” – from Civil Disobedience

Interestingly, Thoreau is calling it a motto, which would indicate it was not an original quote of his either.

@libertarian tool: Calling all Research Librarians!

Another option: First known use. Works for the OED.

On it. According to Wikipedia, Thoreau was probably paraphrasing the motto of “The United States Magazine and Democratic Review” published and edited by John L. O’Sullivan, an interesting figure in his own right:

“In 1837, O’Sullivan co-founded and served as editor for The United States Magazine and Democratic Review (generally called the Democratic Review). It was a highly regarded journal meant to champion Jacksonian Democracy, a movement that had usually been disparaged in the more conservative North American Review. The magazine featured political essays—many of them penned by O’Sullivan—extolling the virtues of Jacksonian Democracy and criticizing what Democrats regarded as the aristocratic pretensions of their opponents.”

Back when the Democrats held the values of the “Tea Party”.

More generally: It’s been about twenty years since I’ve read Thoreau (and I have a friend who’s much more a Thoreau groupie), and while there’s plenty there for contemporary Libertarians to mine, I just don’t see Thoreau and Rand (Ayn or Paul) occupying the same wide universe. Not if you take each of them seriously.

… or if you’d prefer that they not.

@libertarian tool: I’d be delighted if they did.

But if you’re to take Thoreau seriously, you can’t just cherry-pick American Individualism quotes. Politicians (of any party) co-opt him at their peril.

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