"Is a democracy, such as we know it, the last improvement possible in government? Is it not possible to take a step further towards recognizing and organizing the rights of man? There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly. I please myself with imagining a State at least which can afford to be just to all men, and to treat the individual with respect as a neighbor; which even would not think it inconsistent with its own repose if a few were to live aloof from it, not meddling with it, nor embraced by it, who fulfilled all the duties of neighbors and fellow-men. A State which bore this kind of fruit, and suffered it to drop off as fast as it ripened, would prepare the way for a still more perfect and glorious State, which also I have imagined, but not yet anywhere seen."
Henry David Thoreau
(1817-1862) American author, poet, philosopher, polymath, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian, and transcendentalist
Civil Disobedience (1849)
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Reader comments about this quote:
The time has come when I and many others dream of living "under the radar" ... out of sight of the government. It is paradoxical that I am dependent on a check from the US to live, but I justify it because the money was originally mine, taken from my honest wages both as taxes and "social security" and had I invested it, it would have been much more.
 -- Rick Jolley, T ombstone     
  • 1
    It sounds like Mr Walden pond yearns for the same thing as the Communists cry for "the withering away of the state". What I feel he forgets in his dream is that individuals are a higher and independent power but do form associations, alliances, groups and parties to get things of a social, politcal or community nature done. I have recently driven through some of the remotest places I have been in the United States, in southern New Mexico. I found people living their lives I guess similar to what Thoreau did on Walden Pond, but they also seemed to be at peace with their neighbors, state, and national government. That an individual is higher or above all other individuals combined is where I think Mr. Thoreau goes a little off of the deep end. He apparently wishes to be "an island unto himself" which as we know someone has told us is impossible.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
  • 2
    A nice idea, but since all governments are corrupt,I doubt that we will ever see it happen. Ours, in Washington, seems to be especially corrupt with Nancy and the gang at the helm.
     -- jim k, austin     
  • 1
    Rick Jolly, you never owned any money. You only had it in your possession, but federal reserve notes belong to the government. Destroy one and they will arrest you for destroying federal property. I don't like the thought of it either, but it is an unfortuneate truth. Now, remember her highness Barbara Boxer, who demands to be addressed as SENATOR. She feels this is a title of power over others and so deserves so much respect. Now we know who is master and who is serf!
     -- cal, lewisville, tx     
  • 1
    Cal any man or women who does not ask for the respect due them or their office is denigrating or disrespecting both. A Senator represents a lot of people especially in California. We have plenty enough disrespectfully and ugly behavior in this country for someone to bring street behaviour into the halls of Congress is uncalled for. Senator Boxer was correct to require the respect due her office not only for her but for the entire US Senate.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
     -- Mike, Norwalk      
    It just goes to show that democracy as we know it eventually becomes a tool for the super rich who control the media and thus sway opinion in their favor. Television has been a powerful tool for manipulating the masses and the culture. We are entering an interesting time where for a while we have a chance to learn what is NOT being broadbast at the behest of the rulng class.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
  • 1
    The ideal of self-government is not operational, but a direction to move in. Similarly, the ideals of truth and justice are not to be fully attained, but to be furthered. As Thoreau wrote "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them."
     -- Allen Weingarten, Monroe Township, NJ     
  • 1
     -- Michele M, Townsville Australia      
    Henry David ought to move to a cabin in the woods !
    ( sarcasm )
     -- Bobble, No. Ferrisburgh, VT     
    There is an " epitome of Independence " measured and observed very closely in this nation. This comes by way of individuals who walk at liberty. The paragon of virtue is measurable. Hence the corralling of all to subdue that minority.
     -- Ronw13, Yachats Or     
  • 1
    As we await the results in GA, PA, MI, WI, & AZ, Thoreau asks whether this is really the system we need to preserve our Liberty.  Today we await to see if our rights have been voted away by another state, thus requiring my state to acquiesce to the will of another.  And what if the authoritarians are cheating?  A true republican form of government comes the closest to Thoreau's ideal.  We must not let the powers-that-should-not-be usurp all the protections of our Constitutions.  We were warned about this day by the Founders.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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