Private lives, public laws

The freedom we enjoy extends also to ordinary life; we are not suspicious of one another, and do not nag our neighbor if he chooses to go his own way.


He who imagines that he can give laws for the public conduct of states, while he leaves the private lives of citizens wholly to take care of itself; who thinks that individuals may pass the day as they please, and that there is no necessity of order in all things; he, I say, who gives up the control of their private lives, and supposes that they will conform to law in their common and public life, is making a great mistake.


Europe seemed incapable of becoming the home of free states. It was from America that the plain idea that men ought to mind their own business, and that the nation is responsible to Heaven for the acts of State, burst forth like a conqueror upon the world they were destined to transform, under the title of the Rights of Man.

Lord Acton, Sir John Dalberg-Acton (1834-1902)

The maxims are, first, that the individual is not accountable to society for his actions, in so far as these concern the interests of no person but himself. Advice, instruction, persuasion, and avoidance by other people if thought necessary by them for their own good, are the only measures by which society can justifiably express its dislike or disapprobation of his conduct.

— John Stuart Mill

The above quotes come from the beginning of written history (Pericles and Plato) up to modern times (Lord Acton and John Stuart Mill). Only Plato thinks it right for the state to get heavily involved in the private lives of its citizen. Pericles, Lord Acton, and John Stuart Mill believe the state should first satisfy a heavy burden of justification before intruding on the individual and the choices each make in their own self interest.

Consider these ideas against such as we see in our current world. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg had his city pass an ordinance to regulate how big a soft drink one could buy if it contains sugar. Obamacare dictates what kind of health insurance we can buy, with little or no opportunity for allowing us to make our own choice on the matter. Government now controls what toilets, light bulbs, and shower heads we may choose.

Plato’s guardians are all around us, guarding us. Sticking their noses where they don’t belong.

Check out The Lives of Others.  All who love liberty and can think clearly hope it’s not the future; some would like it to be.

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