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Monday, May 4, 2009

Edmund Burke Quote # 2

A series of quotes, actually, all from "Speech Introducing a Motion for an Enquiry into the Causes of the Late Disorders in America," May 9, 1770:
...there is no right that may not terminate in a wrong, if it is not guided by discretion.

[snip] behoved you, before you committed the government to a measure which you could not easily recede from, to provide against the consequences.


You are not to commit the government to any measure unless you are sure you can carry it through.
Of the things that appall the conservative, recklessly experimental government has to be near the top of the list. I do not mean that new ideas can never be tried; that would be foolish. But it is also foolish to commit your government to policies and/or actions that have neither a track record of working in the past nor any indication that they are based on the realities of human nature, economics, the physical world, etc. It is foolish to commit your government to actions or policies without, like the good chess player, trying to look several moves ahead to see what might go wrong, and provide against it. It is foolish to commit your government to doing something on the basis of no more than a faint hope that you might be able to make it work, the sheer desire that people might, given your sterling leadership, behave differently than they have over the last several millennia. To govern in this way is to commit your country to great risks with no recourse should something go wrong--and, as the plumber in Moonstruck said all those years ago, "Something always goes wrong."

In this world, there are people who are utterly convinced that if only the smart people--who are invariably the ones that agree with them, of course--were in charge, that all would be well. The reality is that even to think such a thing is to show yourself ignorant of the realities and limitations of human nature, and to set yourself up for disaster. Wiser minds proceed cautiously rather than precipitously, ever mindful of the human race's endless capacity to get things Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition.

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