Sunday, January 17, 2010

John Adams Quotations (Part 2)

In 1772 John Adams observed in his journal:
Ambition is one of the more ungovernable passions of the human heart. The love of power is insatiable and uncontrollable . . .

There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust to no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.
To any proponent of smaller government, the Bush years were a disappointment and the
prospects for the Obama years are downright terrifying. This realization has made me appreciate Adams' observation that "There is danger from all men." With the wrong incentives and no check on legislative scope (e.g. enumerated powers) both parties have demonstrated that they will grow government faster than the economy. Insatiable and uncontrollable indeed.

We all know our areas of disagreement with the "other side" so let's save that discussion for another time--or at least not focus on it here. Can you think of any area where both parties have messed up and prove the maxim that "there is danger from all men"?


  1. "Power can be such a tease...
    you're always wanting more...
    it's good to know that, just like sex,
    it can be paid for..."

    - Pedro the Lion

  2. I think the real harm between the major political parties is the development of partisan media (MSNBC, FoxNews). It seems to have played a major role in polarizing the parties, making it harder and harder for people to be moderate in their political beliefs--and probably harder for politicians of both sides to reach across the aisle for help. The two-party system wasn't meant to be an us vs. them system. It was intended to bring about debate and discussion about important issues.

  3. I think it's important to remember that there's always been a lot of animosity between parties and in politics in general. Just look at political cartoons portraying Lincoln as an ape or Thomas Jefferson's behind the scenes attacks on all his opponents. The most effective presidents have been those who have had great power but used it with restraint (e.g., Lincoln's insistence on welcoming the South back into the union without strings attached, TR's great white fleet, etc.).

  4. Right, I had the same thought Mat. In the Adams biography that they he disliked parties for the same reasons Ashley mentioned--so they were present from the get go. Parties are just an unavoidable feature of democracy.