a circumstance...must always support itself

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gil12345

Senior Member
chinese
Hi there,

"In this sense, it must be owned, that liberty is the perfection of civil society; but still authority must be acknowledged essential to its very existence: and in those contests, which so often take place between the one and the other, the latter may, on that account, challenge the preference. Unless perhaps one may say (and it may be said with some reason) that a circumstance, which is essential to the existence of civil society, must always support itself, and needs be guarded with less jealousy, than one that contributes only to its perfection, which the indolence of men is so apt to neglect, or their ignorance to overlook."

Hume, Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary, Part I, Essay V, OF THE ORIGIN OF GOVERNMENT | Library of Economics and Liberty (last para.)

I don't understand the underlined part. I get the sense as follows: if a condition is essential to civil society, it must be sufficient to support itself. (a circumstance seems to me is equal to authority. "one" is equal to "liberty.") Nevertheless, I am still unclear about this part.

Thanks

Gil
 
  • Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    One may say that a thing which is essential to society will inevitably defend itself, and and needs be guarded with less jealousy...

    And yes, that thing is "authority". It's a way of saying: "You don't need laws to protect the powerful, they can protect themselves. You need laws to protect the weak against the abuses of the powerful."
     

    gil12345

    Senior Member
    chinese
    One may say that a thing which is essential to society will inevitably defend itself, and and needs be guarded with less jealousy...

    And yes, that thing is "authority". It's a way of saying: "You don't need laws to protect the powerful, they can protect themselves. You need laws to protect the weak against the abuses of the powerful."
    I try to interpret this part as follows: Someone would say because authority can support itself for its indispensability to the civil society, it needs less attention; on the other hand, because people tend to ignore the liberty which only contributes to the perfection of it, we should give it more attention.

    Am I right?
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    Yes.

    It's been summarised as "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty [which] power is ever stealing from the many to the few." - Wendell Phillips or
    Leonard H. Courtney or J.P. Curran or...
     
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