"The free man owns himself. He can damage himself with either eating or drinking; he can ruin himself with gambling. If he does he is certainly a damn fool, and he might possibly be a damned soul; but if he may not, he is not a free man any more than a dog."
Gilbert Keith Chesterton
(1874-1936) British essayist, critic, poet, and novelist
Broadcast talk, June 11, 1935
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Reader comments about this quote:
I would not claim to own myself - I exist, therefor I am; the law there declaring all rights inalienable; and, such individual under current tyranny is less free than a dog. Other than that: ABSOLUTELY, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." That I could rate this with innumerable stars a countless number of times.
 -- Mike, Norwalk     
  • 5 1
    I'm sorry Mike,
    I don't get it. I certainly don't understand your enthusiasm. For one thing, it's poorly written. The clause "but if he may not" is too far from what it responds to. And the word "may" instead of "does?" Clearly he didn't spend any more time on this than it takes to read it. And then there's the reference to the dog. Since when is a dog an example of not being free?
    If someone besides G.K. Chesterson said this it would have even been considered interesting.
     -- Walter Clark, Fullerton CA     
  • 1 2
    I'm not sure if a dog is free, but my cat certainly is.
     -- jim k, austin tx     
  • 3
    Oops, I'm not sure about the 5 stars I gave it.
     -- jim k, austin tx     
  • 2
    The general reference is that a man is free to harm or destroy himself. He may be a fool for doing it, all the while, no third party has the right to stop him from hurting himself. Government can not lawfully compel an individual's compliance outside the confines of justice. A de jure representative republic has no lawful enabling ability to license or inflict a punishment on a victimless act (a breach of an innocent third party's person or property - he can do what ever he wants to himself; smoke, do drugs, drive a vehicle without a seat belt, gamble to excess / poverty, etc.).

    The dog reference here is as property owned by a superior. If a man's actions are compelled (wear a seat belt even though it may kill where, not wearing the belt would save life - the individual is owned by a superior) as are the dog's actions (sit, roll over), the individual man is not any more free than the dog.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
  • 5
    "...if he may not..." to wit; if he is not allowed to; if he does not have that choice; he is not a free man...
     -- L. Hanson, Edmonton, Canada     
  • 3
    Wild and domesticated ( enslaved ) . Every dog has a master, and the cat with their divine nature knowing they can feed themselves, never loosing the instinct to survive. The cat is at liberty and knows it ! The quote is well thought out, inside out. The secular socialist reprobate, with their wealth and social engineering wish all to become dogs as they are ! The attack in 2008 of the backbone of the nation, where those with skill make their way, called ( way fairing ) , those middle class builders are forced to refocus their skill to framing words for the fight. By design no doubt to draw out the fight. Perennialism vs Essentialism . Our nation was founded by rugged individualist , those that were able to make it own their own trusting in Our Creator as mentioned by our founding fathers. This blood runs in our history and veins . Give me Liberty or give me death !
    Semper Fi.
    Jim if you know the cat is free, you must know the dog is a slave. As always well said Mike and Jim. Whether simple or otherwise.
     -- Ron w13, Or     
  • 3
    Get rid of unconstitutional Medicaid on the federal level and make people take responsibility for themselves. If the states want this that's fine
     -- cal, lewisville, tx     
  • 2
    Man is as easily domesticated as a dog which explains why many cry for a benevolent master rather than their own freedom. My cats may be 'free,' but they definitely prefer their 'entitlements' to food and shelter rather than to hunt and live outside in the winter. I find 'pets' poor examples of 'free' creatures.

    Many people prefer to be master over others than to allow others to live as seems best to them -- and they call it 'loving' their pets. I don't have 'pets' -- I am taking care of stray animals that left to fend for themselves would die in nature or be captured and then 'put to sleep' for lack of a master. And that is my choice to offer my own support to help another -- to require by law that I do so is reprehensible. I would much rather the cats could find their 'niche' in the world in which they did not need humans to feed and care for them -- but once you start feeding these dumb animals, they become permanent dependents. How can we expect anything different with humans?
     -- E Archer, NYC     
  • 3
    It is not up to social engineers to control and dictate the decisions and choices of personal responsibility. That choice is a singularly an unalienable right of the individual ... whether or not their choices are right or wrong in another individual's eyes.
    As long as an individual makes a personal choice that does not harm another person or their property that person should be left alone from government interference or dictates.
     -- Mary - MI     
  • 3
     -- Howard, Bangkok      
     -- BR King, Ogden      
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