"Society is produced by our wants,
and government by our wickedness."
Thomas Paine
(1737-1809) US Founding father, pamphleteer, author
"Common Sense"
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Reader comments about this quote:
yep, pretty much.
 -- Mike, Norwalk     
  • 5
    There are two kinds of government, bad and worse. Ours is definitly in the worse department. Perhaps government could be described as a necessary evil.
     -- jim k, austin     
  • 8
    It wasn't intended to be this way, a few wicked people... 1. the political direction and control exercised over the actions of the members, citizens, or inhabitants of communities, societies, and states; direction of the affairs of a state, community, etc.; political administration: Government is necessary to the existence of civilized society. 2. the form or system of rule by which a state, community, etc., is governed: monarchical government; episcopal government. 3. the governing body of persons in a state, community, etc.; administration. 4. a branch or service of the supreme authority of a state or nation, taken as representing the whole:
     -- M.Brown, F     
  • 6
    An unavoidable truth. We must always consider our government in this context -- and that the government is no more immune to wickedness than society. Therefore, government needs to be limited, not to have the power to 'bail' us out of our responsibilities. Government should not have the power to 'cheat' in order to bring about balance.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
  • 6
    Jim, to describe evil as necessary is to admit what history proves, we, mankind in general, do not learn from our mistakes. The criminal doesn't care to learn what's good or evil because the wants of his selfish nature are all that matter to him and the unselfish nature of good people tend to forgive and forget the wrongs done against them. Evil, or infringements, errors, mistakes etc against the natural rights of man are the means we are supposed to use to learn not only the difference between right and wrong, but also to learn to DO right whether our personal sefishness might urge a different action or not. This is where man goes astray and the needs and wants of the material world lead to more selfishness to greed and at the least the general acceptance of infringements on rights as proper and to the extreme the idea that enforcible law violations (serious infringements) are proper. The second is caused by the first and errors and mistakes (evils) abound throughout society. Just when past societies reach a point of ridding evil from their midst and keep it at bay, the apathy that new found wealth in the material leads to and the general sense of forgive and forget causes the people to forget the lessons learned from the past and by so doing open the door for ever chomping at the bit evil to get the upper hand once again. Does this make evil necessary as it is impossible for man to govern himself and he must be kept in line by government? No, our forefathers proved it can be done, but, the lesson we've failed to learn over and over again is not to ever be too forgiving of, and never ever forget about, evil and its destructive power on mankind and its ever present nature to do harm to anyone and everyone, anytime and any place. This is a truth man needs to learn....again. I find it hard to believe that evil is necessary if lessons are learned and if necessary, only to remind us of our personal errors that allow evil to thrive. One of our forefathers said that the Constitution should be the one document every citizen should carry in his pocket and know why it was important to/for him to do so, or something to that effect. I believe self government is not a necessary evil but a necessary good that man just has to learn how to operate properly. It's important to remember our administrative form of government was NOT to govern us but to administer the logistics of protecting our natural right to govern ourselves in respect of anothers right to do the same. We have difinitely strayed a long way from there.
     -- Anon     
  • 5
    That was the reason Hobbes' thought a Leviathan government was necessary: the few wicked among us. Of course there is no guarantee the Leviathan will not be wicked and infinitely more destructive.
     -- Ken, Allyn, WA     
  • 4

    " Government, like dress, is a badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of Paradise."

    Thomas Paine
     -- Patrick Henry, Red Hill     
  • 2
     -- Patrick Henry, Red Hill      
    Does this mean that government is an embodiment of 'our wickedness' or a necessary 'product' to control our wickedness? I would also suggest the latter. I would also suggest that society is a product of human 'needs' rather than 'wants' - Anon seems to use the terms to mean the same thing when in many instances they can be the polar opposite. Good government should concern itself with creating and maintaining sustainable environments that meet human needs and therefore has to be caring and also controlling in relation to evil and wickedness.
     -- Mick, Manchester     
  • 3
    Mick says, "Good government should concern itself with creating and maintaining sustainable environments that meet human needs and therefore has to be caring and also controlling in relation to evil and wickedness." ;-) Your altruistic groupthink is showing again.

    It is the PEOPLE that concern themselves with creating and sustaining their environment and family. I'm sure you have many great ideas on how government 'should' do this or that, but rather than get consent and agreement from all those you wish to socially engineer, you push for the 'rules' of the sustainability program to become 'laws' that all must follow.

    What part of Liberty do you not get, Mick? What price shall we all pay for your dreams of utopia? Who will decide what gets weeded from the garden (environment)? Who determines what sustainable is? And who is paying these people? Government is a corporation, it is collective power. It has no compassion and cannot care -- forcibly controlling people, taxing their every move, is the result of putting the government in charge of governing the people themselves. That's the source of revolutions.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
  • 3
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