Tuesday, January 26, 2010

An Old Lie

It is hard to believe that the party of President Obama is a direct descendant of the party of Thomas Jefferson.

In a letter to Thomas Cooper in 1802, Jefferson wrote, "If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people, under the pretence of taking care of them, they must become happy."

Is there any better example of the unreliable nature of political parties? How the party of Jefferson became the party publicly committed to "taking care of" people is a lesson in the weakness of political virtue.

But perhaps the fault lies not in the party, but in the people. Perhaps political parties will become whatever kind of party people want the most.

This appears to be Jefferson's view, for in his letter to Cooper, he does not say we must prevent political parties, businesses, or religious institutions from "wasting the labors of the people." He specifically warns against government.

Today, we joke that the phrase "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you" is one of most popular lies in the world. Reading Jefferson, we see that it is also one of the oldest.

1 comment:

Brian H said...

Misquote. It's "dangerous", not "popular".