June 18, 2010 Leave a comment
From Theory & History by Ludwig von Mises:
The way toward a realistic distinction between freedom and bondage was opened, two hundred years ago, by David Hume’s immortal essay, On the First Principles of Government. Government, taught Hume, is always government of the many by the few. Power is therefore always ultimately on the side of the governed, and the governors have nothing to support them but opinion. This cognition, logically followed to its conclusion, completely changed the discussion concerning liberty. The mechanical and arithmetical point of view was abandoned. If public opinion is ultimately responsible for the structure of government, it is also the agency that determines whether there is freedom or bondage. There is virtually only one factor that has the power to make people unfree — tyrannical public opinion. The struggle for freedom is ultimately not resistance to autocrats or oligarchs but resistance to the despotism of public opinion. It is not the struggle of the many against the few but of minorities — sometimes of a minority of but one man — against the majority. The worst and most dangerous form of absolutist rule is that of an intolerant majority.