"Others -- as most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders -- serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the devil, without intending it, as God. A very few -- as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men -- serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part ..."
Henry David Thoreau
(1817-1862) American author, poet, philosopher, polymath, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian, and transcendentalist
A Duty of Civil Disobedience [1849], available at http://www.cs.indiana.edu/statecraft/civ.dis.html; La Désobéissance civile, translated by Micheline Flak (Montréal: La Presse, 1973), p. 60
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Reader comments about this quote:
By way of example, the second plank of the communist manifesto. Some believe it to be the most fair tax possible while in reality, the theft of the noble laborer's fruits is not just immoral and contrary to the God of Nature's fiscal law, its manifistation is through greed and control mongers, with few there be to resist, resulting in the destruction of economies. Even mother Russia has abandon its unlawful evil child to begin a strong economic recovery.
 -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    You are so good Mike at turning a quote to your agenda. I respectfully suggest that "God of Nature's fiscal law" says that a billionaire generally gets no more years to live than others, can eat no more than others, gets only 24 hours a day like the rest of us. Huge wealth brings only power over economics and people. For information about optimal use of wealth go to responsiblewealth.com .Some of the members are Gates, and Buffet.
     -- Waffler, Smith, Arkansas     
    Another reason why to distrust those that quote their own scriptures as 'the word of God.' Power corrupts. Gates and Buffet are charitable voluntarily -- that is something the leftists ought to remember. Forced 'charity' is merely theft. The US government is supposed to protect Americans from monopolies - instead they have become the servants of them. Fix the system to prevent the 'theft of the noble laborer's fruits' rather than taxing those that get rich from it. You can start with the Fed who owns every 'dollar' in Gates and Buffet's pocket.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
    Waffler, thank you. My agenda is to bring about a moral, well thought out self responsible freedom and liberty to any and all, each and every. Your mis-direction off topic rhetoric has missed the point once again and is but another example of conscience without benefit of head use. What does a billionaire's getting no more years to live than others, eating no more than others, or getting only 24 hours a day like the rest of us have to do with fiscal law? NOTHING. Huge wealth brings only huge wealth and nothing more. It is the love of money (personal moral dilemma, attitudes and attributes) that is the problem, not the money itself (including the amount thereof). Money doesn't corrupt. Money, the abundance, or lack thereof, is but a mere magnifying glass, exposing the inner individual. Power over economics is an economic issue (can I get a 'dah'), wether a few or the many possess the muscle to flex or inkling to actively/inactively get involved. Hours to live or eat are non-fiscal issues. Personal responsibility may be expressed in fiscal law, as well as any number of other categories. My point was: serving the state (not the people) with a non-logical or ill thought out conscience is rarely done with a moral distinction.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
    It's a great quote but it's not how it should be. An interesting observation is this; I have never heard a billionaire whistle while he works but I have road sweepers - perhaps I meet more road sweepers than billionaires. All I know is that the Gates foundation has given Rotary nearly a $billion to help Rotary eradicate Polio from around the world, Buffet also. In Rotary we have a mantra and it's for all peoples including legislators and office-holders: Is it the TRUTH? Is it FAIR to all concerned? Will it build GOODWILL and better FRIENDSHIPS? Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
     -- RobertSRQ     
    There is nothing better than making money and cornering a market. Watch Carnegie's story, even his daughter stated he virtually mentally and physically brutalized Italian immigrant labor in his Pittsburgy steel mills. When he got old and tired and was the richest man in the world he gave it all to libraries. Who do we thank for the libraries him or the destitute steel workers that made him rich? All I was suggesting Mike is that natural law, the laws of biology, life expectancy, the rotation of the earth and moon etcetera are much more God's Natural Law that the laws of the dismal science.
     -- Waffler, Smith, Arkansas     
    Wealthy people can be moral or immoral. The wealth just seems to make their morality more noticeable to the rest of us. Wealth has nothing to do with morality. E Archer, NYC has put it very well. As to the quote - if some one truly "serves" with his head his conscience would already be part of it.
     -- warren, olathe     
    To truly serve the state and to place it in the survival mode you are putting yourself at odds with the vast majority.  The vast majority ask what can my country do for me. It's only that rare individual who can ask, what can I do for my country that has the ability to move the state forward.  He has something positive to offer. Say what you will about JFK, he truly set the boys apart from the man with that pronouncement.
     -- Fredrick William Sillik, Anytown     
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