Lord Acton and Democracy


I was thinking about the quote , ” Absolute power corrupts and power corrupts absolutely and went back and looked at Lord Acton’s quotes on Democracy. Some are remarkably current for having been written over 200 years ago. I am not sure if I should be comforted or concerned because of that. His thoughts are a curious mixture of liberalism and conservatism. I think he might be a Libertarian now?

“Liberty becomes a question of morals more than of politics.”
“Political atheism: End justifies the means. This is still the most widespread of all the opinions inimical to liberty.”
“Duty [is] not taught by the state.”
“Men cannot be made good by the state, but they can easily be made bad. Morality depends on liberty.”
“Liberty consists in the division of power. Absolutism, in concentration of power.”
“Bureaucracy is undoubtedly the weapon and sign of a despotic government, inasmuch as it gives whatever government it serves, despotic power.”
“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you supersede the tendency of the certainty of corruption by authority.”
“Despotic power is always accompanied by corruption of morality.”
“Authority that does not exist for Liberty is not authority but force.”
“Everybody likes to get as much power as circumstances allow, and nobody will vote for a self-denying ordinance.”
“Limitation is essential to authority. A government is legitimate only if it is effectively limited.”
“For it is a most striking thing that the views of pure democracy…were almost entirely unrepresented in [the American] convention.”
“A liberal is only a bundle of prejudices until he has mastered, has understood, experienced the philosophy of Conservatism.”
“The will of the people cannot make just that which is unjust.”
“It is bad to be oppressed by a minority, but it is worse to be oppressed by a majority.”
“Absolute power demoralizes.”
“There should be a law to the People besides its own will.”
“Democracy generally monopolizes and concentrates power.”
“The common vice of democracy is disregard for morality.”
“Socialism easily accepts despotism. It requires the strongest execution of power — power sufficient to interfere with property.”
“Official truth is not actual truth.”
“Political economy cannot be supreme arbiter in politics. Else you might defend slavery where it is economically sound and reject it where the economic argument applies against it.”
“The value of history is certainty – against which opinion is broken up.”
“History is a great innovator and breaker of idols.”
“Progress, the religion of those who have none.”
“It is easier to find people fit to govern themselves than people fit to govern others.”
“Moral precepts are constant through the ages and not obedient to circumstances.”
“The notion of sin and repentance waned with the belief in authority. Men thought they could make good the evil they did.
“The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern.”
“[On France:] The country that had been so proud of its kings, of its nobles, and of its chains, could not learn without teaching that popular power may be tainted with the same poison as personal power.”

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About safrisri

I have been a teacher since 1971 and have taught at all educational levels from pre-school to college. My college degree is general science which I arrived at after 5 years and 5 different majors. A degree as it turns out, almost as valuable and in demand as one in Neo-Bulgarian Mythology. I have been around education for around 40 years and can remember when teaching was a pleasant, happy and creative job and our schools were the same. My writings will reflect on my past mistakes and successes and what my students have taught me about education.
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