"It is the theory of all modern civilized governments
that they protect and foster the liberty of the citizen;
it is the practice of all of them to limit its exercise,
and sometimes very narrowly."
H. L. Mencken
(1880-1956) American Journalist, Editor, Essayist, Linguist, Lexicographer, and Critic
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Reader comments about this quote:
Though the second half of the quote can be narrowly argued, the first half has absolutely no validity to it. Modern governments abhor an individual's liberty and openly foster the elimination thereof. No government on earth governs by law, but rather governs by man only. Governments that claim to protect and foster the liberty of the citizen by compelled compliance, license, victimless crimes, slavery through larceny do not protect or foster liberty, even very narrowly, they despotically exchange liberty for tyranny.
 -- Mike, Norwalk     
  • 1
    It is ironic that when government protects a citizens liberty the citizens at large see it as an attack on theirs. I have recently read of citizens at large having outrage over the issuance of a stamp honoring Muslim holidays. The protection of liberty by government is generally the protection of us from each other. Our liberty is basically limited to giving wide berth to all others, while we are not at liberty to tell others what to do, think or pray, and this pisses many of us off.
     -- Waffler, Smith, Arkansas     
    Mike, I think you missed the point of the first half of the quote. Mencken said it was the "theory"of government to protect and foster liberty, he didn't say they did it, just the opposite. As to Waffler on Muslim holidays, why would we honor a group whose very religion advocates violence to anyone not a Muslim. Their founder belived you either convert or die.
     -- jim k, austin     
  • 1
    jim, you are right. I had considered that, My comments were to the general public at large whose concept of freedom and liberty seem to be less than substantive, lawful, or theoretical. The 'me too' or otherwise sheeple are either consumed in materialism or some twisted lip service grabbed from a chaotic ethos. The theory of freedom to most is not much more than the ability to get more privileges than the next guy. The quote is accurate if understood from a freedom/liberty basis.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
    Hypocrisy knows no bounds when it comes to politics. The only time I heard 'freedom' mentioned by candidates running for office was when they were talking about bringing freedom to other countries like Iraq -- of course the solution is to abridge our rights at home: arrests without warrant, suspension of habeas corpus, surveillance of private citizens without knowledge or warrant, militarization of domestic police, classification of any dissent or protest as 'terrorism', hijacking of the free press, confiscation of weapons used for defending one's property during states of emergency (like in New Orleans after a hurricane), knowingly passing unconstitutional statutes, compelled drugging of children in school, and basically fostering every plank and principle of communism. But as long as we are entertained and kept dumb, we beg for more. I suppose Waffler's 5 stars are for his support of the government limits rather than Mencken's disdain of government hypocrisy.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
    Jim K. the Jews killed every one on their way to the promised land also, and we honor them. And Christians have been known to kill not only their enemies but each other of different sects. I stood up in a small Baptist church on the weekend of the Fourth of July several years ago and asked to give praise and thanksgiving for a country in which "we can be Muslim if we want to be". Most were shocked at my words but a little old lady who often stated that she was a fairly new Christian spoke out immediately and said "Thats right!' This was at a time that Muslims were in general considered to be our enemy and were all suspects. The defense of religious freedom even for the Muslims during this time by none other than W was a sight to behold and something every American should be proud of and thankful for. How short our memories are!
     -- Waffler, Smith, Arkansas     
    Waffler, how short or myopic is your memory. Islam currently is progressing expansionist reasoning of the fascists / socialist's secular religion. To be tollerant of a religion or to protect the right to other's religious belief(s) does not mean we have to honnor their holidays. What have you heard about the domestic terrorism directed against Catholics, Mormons, and other Christian faiths? Have you heard Schwarzenegger, Patrick, Obama, or Bush denounce the attacks on such people and property? NO! Freedom of religion is seriously waning in this country, along with nobility of man concepts, freedom, and liberty.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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