According to Henry David Thoreau "that government is best which governs not at all" do you agree with him?

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According to Henry David Thoreau “that government is best which

governs not at all” do you agree with him?

Henry David Thoreau’s a controversial theorist writing against the backdrop of 19th Century America. As an advocate of individual freedoms and limited government, Thoreau’s work can be seen as a rejection of the social and political inequalities, in particular the culture of slavery, rife throughout the US at this time. Thoreau believes that all individuals should have the right to follow their conscience and that when the state restricts the conscience of any group or individual, it is the responsibility of all how are aware to speak out against this. These ideas prove the framework around which Thoreau builds his utopia view of the state, in which the rights and beliefs of all members of society are upheld at all times. Whilst few would disagree with Thoreau’s rejection of slavery and call for expanded social and political freedoms, it is important to emphasis the idealistic, at times illogical and ultimately unattainable nature of his theory.  

Thoreau proposes that governments tend towards perversion and abuse, before the expression of the will of the governed. Thoreau cites the Mexican war, 1846-1848, during which a small elite group were able, due to their political influence, to extend the slave trade to new US territories, despite popular opposition. Modern western governments appears to be typified by perversion in the form of spin, the 2000 election in the US, supposedly the most democratic nation on the earth, was surrounded by controversy, corruption and error. Thoreau comments surrounding the corrupting nature of government appear relevant to today’s world. Having established this correlation between government and corruption Thoreau moves to argue that government acts to suppress the ‘creative enterprise’ of the people which they claim to represent. Again this appears relevant today, the huge popular opposition against war in Iraq was unheard by both the US and British governments, additionally the motivations of these two nations have often been heralded as corrupt along economic and political lines further strengthening Thoreau’s case. However, it is not these valid observations that form the basis of Thoreau’s contribution; rather it is the theoretical model for government which provide the focus of criticism. What then is this theoretical model?

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Thoreau’s believes that all men should be able to act according to their conscience irrespective of the will of the majority or the laws of society. It is from this notion of individual conscience that Thoreau builds his concept of the state. The state should seek, not to offend or interfere with the conscience of any individual. For Thoreau when the individual finds his conscience at odds with the laws of the state and his ‘creative enterprise’ is restricted, that individual or any other individual aware of the injustice, should feel obliged to speak out, for Thoreau this act of ...

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3 Stars - There are several strengths of this piece. It is articulately written, explaining Thoreau's key beliefs intelligently, and evaluating them in comparison to other political ideas and events. Where this essay could be improved is with greater use of primary supporting material instead of paraphrasing. The conclusion only really addresses the question implicitly.