The Last State of Man is Worst than the First

“Every great reform which has been effected has consisted not in doing something new, but in undoing something old.  The most valuable additions made to legislation have been enactments destructive of preceding legislation; and the best laws passed, have been those by which some former laws were repealed.” 

Henry Thomas Buckle, History of Civilization in England (1872)*

Henry Thomas Buckle could be remembered as Henry Thomas Unbuckle, since he was a nineteenth-century liberal who most admired government when it was abolishing itself.  Buckle believed that the best laws repealed old laws, that the most constructive political policy was destruction of old political policies. Buckle did not carry his doctrine to absolute anarchism and the abolition of government, but he believed that government was pernicious when it attempted to do anything more than “maintain order,” “prevent the strong from oppressing the weak,” and “adopt certain precautions respecting the public health.”**

Buckle feared what St. Augustine had long before called the libido dominandi, the will, or perhaps better the lust, for power.  “The love of exercising power has been found to be so universal,” Buckle wrote, “that no class of men who have possessed authority have been able to avoid abusing it.”**  What Buckle did not foresee is that even his minimalist state afforded boundless opportunities to gratify the libido dominandi, and that the love of exercising power could easily craft an officious and persnickety tyranny out of the maintenance of order, the prevention of oppression, and precautions respecting the public health.

Buckle did not foresee that the maintenance of order would be crafted into a doctrine like “stochastic violence,” which quashes criticism on the pretext that words might cause excitable idiots to run amuck.  Buckle did not foresee that the prevention of oppression would be crafted into the doctrine that sexual fetishists shall dictate vocabulary to their fellow citizens.  Buckle did not foresee that precautions respecting the public health would be crafted into a sadistic regimen of obedience training.

Buckle did not foresee libido dominandi would have a field day with laissez faire.

“When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none.  Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”  Matthew 12: 43-45


*) Henry Thomas Buckle, History of Civilization in England, three vols. (London: Longmans, Green and Co.., 1872), vol. 1, p. 275
**) Buckle, Civilization, vol. 1, p. 281

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