January 17, 2006

Great Jefferson Quote

Can you imagine any modern President drafting a statement with the eloquence, economy, and profundity of the following?

[O]ur rulers can have authority over such natural rights only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God. The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

From the E-text Center, UVA Library.

...It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. There in but nine words is the purest distillation of a libertarian's opposition to criminalizing "victimless" conduct.

(Hat tip: Timothy Sandefur, whose thoughts on Blackstone and the common law you should go read. Now.)

Update: Be sure to read Timothy's co-blogger's thoughts on Blackstone, too. Very, very good stuff.

Posted by JohnL at January 17, 2006 09:26 PM | TrackBack

There is an entire website devoted to nothing but Jefferson quotations that I stumbled onto one night. Three of my favorites:

"I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it."

"The freedom and happiness of man... [are] the sole objects of all legitimate government."

"Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath?"

Yes, I'm a libertarian, but a Christian one. Reading Jefferson brings into abjectly stark relief how far this country has strayed from its original mission: Seatbelt laws, helmet laws, blood alcohol laws, substance abuse laws (To name but a paltry few): All those things are anti-American, and by extension, anti-Christ, since He is the ultimate author of our liberties (Not to mention that Christ is the original Libertarian). All of those laws are nothing more than money grabs and they have our legal system pimping for the treasury and insurance companies. Not to mention that many taxpayer-funded government agancies waste of billions of dollars per year solely to support those reprehensible laws.

It is interesting to me that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin (To name but three) all grew their own marijuana and distilled their own strong spirits (And the cannabis was not grown only for the hemp to make rope: Settlers in this country knew what marijuana was and the qualities it has virtually from the moment they stepped off the ships, because the Native Americans gave it to them; "Here White Eyes, try some of this, then order pizza."). Why can't more people see this simple fact? Because the government is such an effective propaganda machine... and the laws in this country are made by lawyers. This country has become a government of the lawyers, by the lawyers, and for the lawyers because - with the exception of a few tokens - all the lawmakers are lawyers. Obviously, that's a conflict of interest of the worst kind because lawyers are going to make laws for the benefit of lawyers, and not the citizens. If the founding fathers - most lawyers themselves - would have known that the legal profession was going to devolve into a mob of money-grubbing, ambulance-chasing shysters they surely would have barred (ha, ha) anyone with a law degree from serving in the legislative branch of the government (Which is obviously what ought to be done).

Which brings up a Shakespeare quotation I rather like.

Posted by: Hucbald at January 19, 2006 02:35 AM

To bad there is no chance for the Libertarian Party to ever gain any acceptence. I still work to try to turn the Republican party in a libertarian direction because they are somewhat closer than the Democrats.

One thing to consider, is that Jefferson, for all his knowlege and eloquence, was not a succesful President. He was considered as a bungler. That is why although I am a libertarian, I am also a pragmatist. Too much pure theory, of any type, can get you in trouble.

Posted by: kyle at January 19, 2006 05:19 PM

Hucbald, Jefferson - like many of the Founders - was a Deist, not a Christian. He did not believe in the Trinity or in the divinity of Jesus, heretical notions to most Christians you would know today. And I totally agree that he and most of the other Founders would weep if they could see to what horribly intrusive extent the central government has insinuated itself into our everday lives. One of their biggest concerns was preventing factionalism, so I think they would be very disenchanted with the K-Street special-interest groups, too.

Posted by: JohnL at January 19, 2006 09:40 PM

Interesting post and interesting comments, John. Looks like a winner.

But smells like teen spirit. (Sorry, couldn't help myself, not even sure what that means.)

Posted by: RP at January 20, 2006 10:02 AM

John: I know about Jefferson's unorthodox spiritualism, and I share some of it myself. Jefferson wrote his own version of the NT that contaned only what he thought to be logically true. Back in my Evangelical days, that horrified me. Later - after years of reading virtually every english translation of the Bible available - I began to see Jefferson's point: There is no way anyone with a brain can accept that every word in the Bible is inspired directly by God and is absolute truth, because so much of it is contradictory. Jeremiah held the clue for me when he said of the Word of God, "The false pen of the scribe has turned it into a lie./The lying pen of the scribe has made it of no effect." (Depending on the translation) And also that God did not instruct Israel in the mind numbing details of the rituals associated with sacrificial offerings &c. (Interesting to note: Scribes are the direct antecedents of... lawyers). I'm not a "chapter and verse" quoter of Biblical text, so you'll have to read Jeremiah for yourself, but this made me realize that the Bible was written, transcribed, and re-transcribed countless times over the centuries by men, many of whom had their own agendas, some of which were, let's say, less than pure. So I began to realize that the Bible can be explained - in this sci-fi fan's terminology - with the reverse motto of The X-Files: "The truth is IN there," but there is also a lot of nonesense. Vis-a-vis the NT, I have come to believe that the only unpolluted Gospel is that of Mark: No virgin birth, the family of Jesus thought He was crazy (And, certainly they wouldn't have though that if His birth was "Miraculous") &c. Mark starts off with the ministry of John the Baptist: If you eliminate everything from the other Gospels before that point, they make a lot more sense (But there are other later corruptions present in the other three versions). One question that will turn every Evangelical into a rationalizing fool: "If God promised David that one of his direct decendents would rule forever, why would God have fathered Jesus Himself through the Holy Spirit and turned that promise into a lie?" Joseph was the father of the Christ, in the normal, natural way; otherwise He is no Branch of David, Jesse &c. Jewish lineage is always traced through the Father, and Mary was not of the House of David. This reply is too long, but don't think I hate all lawyers: I'm a MAJOR Hugh Hewett fan (There are a FEW good ones. LOL!). Christ freed us from the burden of the errant law of man, as well as from the penalty of the divine Law of God.

Posted by: Hucbald at January 21, 2006 08:52 AM

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Posted by: vawwr at February 24, 2010 12:13 PM
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