War, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. […] A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other.
(John Stuart Mill, “The Contest in America,” Fraser’s Magazine, Vol. LXV, 1862, p. 268).
The men whom the people ought to choose to represent them are too busy to take the jobs. But the politician is waiting for it. He’s the pestilence of modern times. What we should try to do is make politics as local as possible. Keep the politicians near enough to kick them. The villagers who met under the village tree could also hang their politicians to the tree. It’s terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged today.
(G.K. Chesterton, Interview to the Cleveland Press, March 1, 1921).
The heroes of declining nations are always the same — the athlete, the singer or the actor. The word ‘celebrity’ today is used to designate a comedian or a football player, not a statesman, a general, or a literary genius.
(John Bagot Glubb, The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival. Edinburgh: William Blackwood & Sons, 1977).
We must learn this rule, which is true alike of rich and poor — that no man and no class of men ever rise to any permanent improvement in their condition of body or of mind except by relying upon their own personal efforts. The wealth with which the rich man is surrounded is constantly tempting him to forget the truth, and you see in family after family men degenerating from the position of their fathers because they live sluggishly and enjoy what has been placed before them without appealing to their own exertions. The poor man, especially in these days, may have a similar temptation offered to him by legislation, but this same inexorable rule will work. The only true lasting benefit which the statesman can give to the poor man is so to shape matters that the greatest possible opportunity for the exercise of his own moral and intellectual qualities shall be offered to him by the law.
(Lord Salisbury; quoted in James J. Ellis, The Marquis of Salisbury. London: James Nisbet, 1892, p. 185).
The notion of obligations comes before that of rights, which is subordinate and relative to the former. A right is not effectual by itself, but only in relation to the obligation to which it corresponds, the effective exercise of a right springing not from the individual who possesses it, but from other men who consider themselves as being under a certain obligation towards him. Recognition of an obligation makes it effectual. An obligation which goes unrecognized by anybody loses none of the full force of its existence. A right which goes unrecognized by anybody is not worth very much.
It makes nonsense to say that men have, on the one hand, rights, and on the other hand, obligations. Such words only express differences in point of view. The actual relationship between the two is as between object and subject. A man, considered in isolation, only has duties, amongst which are certain duties towards himself. Other men, seen from his point of view, only have rights. He, in his turn, has rights, when seen from the point of view of other men, who recognize that they have obligations towards him. A man left alone in the universe would have no rights whatever, but he would have obligations.
(Simone Weil; quoted in Maria Popova, “The Needs of the Soul: Simone Weil on the Crucial Difference Between Our Rights and Our Obligations,” Brain Pickings, February 3, 2016).
The optimist view of politics assumes that there must be some remedy for every political ill, and rather than not find it, will make two hardships to cure one. If all equitable remedies have failed, its votaries take it as proved without argument that the one-sided remedies, which alone are left, must needs succeed.
(Lord Salisbury, “The Position of Parties,” The Quarterly Review, Vol. CXXXIII, 1872, p. 569).
The reason why we are often deceived as to changes, which we desire without believing them possible, is, that we are unacquainted with the theory of moral forces. The physical world is but an image, or if you will, a repetition of the spiritual; and one we may alternately study in the other. Water only sufficient to fill a girl’s thimble, when reduced to vapour, bursts a shell. The same phenomenon is observable in the moral order of things. An idea — an opinion — a simple adhesion of the mind are but what they are: but, if a degree of sufficient heat make them pass to the state of vapour, then those sober principles become enthusiasm, fanaticism, passion in a word, (good or bad,) and under this new form they can raise mountains. Be not discouraged by the coldness you see around you: there is nothing so tranquil as a powder magazine half a second before it explodes. We have but need of fire: Ferte cito flammas; and this is what we possess.
(Joseph de Maistre; quoted in James Burton Robertson, “Joseph de Maistre,” The Dublin Review, Vol. XXXIII, 1852, p. 457).