embrace their ideal with a passion that makes Robespierre seem prudent


Senior Member
The quotation comes from http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2017/04/unmarred-lago

Quotation: Among the radicals, Peter Navarro, the head of the National Trade Council, Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary and Robert Lighthizer, Mr Trump’s nominated trade representative, have all railed against America’s large trade deficit with China, which they attribute to China unfairly favoring its producers, and recommended tougher enforcement of trade rules or, in Mr Navarro’s case, import tariffs on Chinese goods. “Modern free-traders,” Mr Lighthizer once wrote, “embrace their ideal with a passion that makes Robespierre seem prudent.”
Hi everyone! How to understand the bold part? My interpretation is as below:

Robespierre is said to be a tyranny who indiscriminately executed a great many in the Reign of Terror. In this sense the revolutionist seems to be far from being 'prudent', but modern free traders go even further than him. They are so irrational as to make him look 'prudent'.

So the sentence essentially means "modern free-traders pursue their ideal with an even more irrational passion than Robespierre did"
  • boozer

    Senior Member
    I think you have it. :thumbsup:

    Based on the sentence alone: it implies that Robespierre was very passionate, but next to modern free-traders he would have seemed prudent (here prudent is seen as the opposite of passionate). Which, in turn, suggests that modern free-traders are even more passionate than he was.


    Senior Member
    :idea: Thanks. Having read Maximilien Robespierre - Wikipedia , I suppose Robespierre is a bit crazy... :oops:

    "To punish the oppressors of humanity is clemency; to forgive them is barbarity."
    — Maximilien Robespierre, 1794

    The Committee of General Security began to manage the country's internal police. Terror was formally instituted as a legal policy by the Convention on 5 September 1793 in a proclamation that read, "It is time that equality bore its scythe above all heads. It is time to horrify all the conspirators. So legislators, place Terror on the order of the day! Let us be in revolution, because everywhere counter-revolution is being woven by our enemies. The blade of the law should hover over all the guilty."[56]

    Scott AM

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    It's a deliberate exaggeration, used to emphasize how passionate modern free-trade advocates are. The writer isn't saying that they are irrational, or that they are as (literally) passionate as Robespierre was. The writer is just saying that modern free-trade advocates are very, very, passionate.

    In the same way, if you say someone is "as strong as an ox", you aren't saying that he literally has the same strength that an ox has. Just that he is very, very, strong.
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