Gary M. Galles - Contributor
Galles is a professor of econmics at Pepperdine University.
Remembering the great political thinker...
[Gary M. Galles] 1/12/04
On January 12, 275
years ago, Edmund
Burke was born in Dublin. The central passion
throughout his public life was opposition
to arbitrary power and the tyranny of government's "officious,
universal interference" in people's lives. As he still inspires
people today with that passion, it is worth spending a moment
to reflect on his words.
"It is better
to cherish virtue and humanity, leaving much to free will...than
to attempt to make men machines and instruments
of political benevolence. The world as a whole will gain by a
liberty without which virtue cannot exist."
in good and steady government, as its substance and vital principle."
man can separately do, without trespassing upon others, he
has a right to do..."
"Whenever a separation
is made between liberty and justice, neither...is safe."
"The people never
give up their liberties, but under some delusion."
"The true danger
is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedience, and by parts."
"I am not one
of those who think that the people are never in the wrong.
..But I do say that in all disputes between them
and their rulers, the presumption is at least upon a par in favor
of the people."
On Arbitrary Power and Law
"The people at
large...should not be suffered to imagine that their will...is
the standard of right and wrong...they [cannot]...use
any arbitrary power whatsoever..."
"Justice is itself
the great standing policy of civil society."
"All human laws
are, properly speaking, only declaratory; they have no power
over the substance of original justice."
"Law and arbitrary
power are at eternal enmity..."
a subversion of natural justice, a violation of the inherent
rights of mankind."
more truly subversive of...human society than the position
that any body of men have a right to make what
laws they please..."
legislators have been often satisfied with the establishment
of some sure, solid and ruling principle in
government...and having fixed the principle, they have left it
afterwards to its own operation."
[The marketplace] "...obliges
men, whether they will or not, in pursuing their own selfish
interests, to connect the
general good with their own individual success."
"Free trade is
not based on utility but on justice."
"It is in the
interest of the commercial world that wealth should be found
"It is better
to leave all [contractual] dealing...entirely to the persons
mutually concerned in the matter contracted for
than to put this contract into the hands of those who can have
none, or a very remote interest in it, and little or no knowledge
of the subject."
On Government and Property
"It is a popular
error to imagine the loudest complainers for the public to
be the most anxious for its welfare."
"The public is
the theater for mountebanks and imposters."
"The moment that
government appears at market, the principles of the market
will be subverted."
very first idea, speculative or practical, that it is within
the competence of government...to supply the
poor with necessaries...To provide for us in our necessities
is not in the power of government. It would be a vain presumption
in statesmen to think they can do it. The people maintain them
and not they the people. It is in the power of government to
prevent much evil; it can do very little positive good in this,
or perhaps in anything else."
not made by government, but government by and for it. The one
is primary and self-existent; the other is
secondary and derivative."
undefended with principles, became a repository of spoils..."
"The most unjust
and impolitic of all things [is] unequal taxation."
remind us of what we seem to have forgotten, judging from the
current state of America. If we would remember
them--especially that "In a democracy, the majority of the
citizens is capable of exercising the most cruel oppressions
upon the minority" and that "the greatest security
of the people against the encroachments and usurpations...is
to keep the Spirit of Liberty constantly awake"-and return
them to practice, America would be a better place.
2004 Gary M. Galles