Saturday, April 21, 2007

Calhoun on Liberty, Taxes and Progress

John C. Calhoun (March 18, 1782 – March 31, 1850) was a leading United States politician and political philosopher from South Carolina during the first half of the 19th century. He served as state Senator, U.S. Representative, Secretary of War (under under James Monroe), Vice-President (under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson), U.S. Senator and Secretary of State (under John Tyler).

"Now, as individuals differ greatly from each other, in intelligence, sagacity*, energy, perseverance, skill, habit of industry and economy, physical power, position and opportunity — the necessary effect of leaving all free to exert themselves to better their condition, must be a corresponding inequality between those who may possess these qualities and advantages in a high degree, and those who may be deficient in them.

"The only means by which this result can be prevented are, either to impose such restrictions on the exertions of those who may possess them in a high degree, as will place them on a level with those who do not; or to deprive them of the fruits of their exertions.

"But to impose such restrictions on them would be destructive of liberty — while, to deprive them of the fruits of their exertions, could be to destroy the desire of bettering their condition.

"It is, indeed, this inequality of condition between the front and rear ranks, in the march of progress, which gives so strong an impulse to the former to maintain their position, and to the latter to press forward into their files. This gives to progress its greatest impulse."

-- John C. Calhoun, "Disquisition on Government," (published posthumously, 1851)

*sagacity - "acuteness of mental discernment and soundness of judgment"

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