A Few Words from Eric Hoffer

“Freedom means freedom from forces and circumstances which would turn man into a thing, which would impose on man the passivity and predictability of matter. By this test, absolute power is the manifestation most inimical to human uniqueness. Absolute power wants to turn people into malleable clay.”
“Scratch an intellectual and you find a would-be aristocrat who loathes the sight, the sound, and the smell of common folk.”
“Unless a man has talents to make something of himself, freedom is an irksome burden. Of what avail is freedom to choose if the self be ineffectual? We join a mass movement to escape individual responsibility, or, in the words of the ardent young Nazi, ‘to be free from freedom.’”
“To the frustrated, freedom from responsibility is more attractive than freedom from restraint. They are eager to barter their independence for relief from the burdens of willing, deciding and being responsible for inevitable failure. They willingly abdicate the directing of their lives to those who want to plan, command and shoulder all responsibility.”
“Absolute power corrupts even when exercised for humane purposes. The benevolent despot who sees himself as a shepherd of the people still demands from others the submissiveness of sheep.”
“To the frustrated, freedom from responsibility is more attractive than freedom from restraint. They are eager to barter their independence for relief from the burdens of willing, deciding and being responsible for inevitable failure. They willingly abdicate the directing of their lives to those who want to plan, command and shoulder all responsibility.”
“The basic test of freedom is perhaps less in what we are free to do than in what we are free not to do.”
“The aspiration toward freedom is the most essentially human of all human manifestations.”
“If you want a Big Brother, you’ll get all that comes with it.”

Read Hoffer:
The True Believer;Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements
The Ordeal of Change
Reflections on the Human Condition

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Rand Careaga

    OK, I’ll bite:

    “Though they seem at opposite poles, fanatics of all kinds are actually crowded together at one end. It is the fanatic and the moderate who are poles apart and never meet. The fanatics of various hues eye each other with suspicion and are ready to fly at each other’s throat. But they are neighbors and almost of one family. They hate each other with the hatred of brothers. They are as far apart and as close together as Saul and Paul. And it is easier for a fanatic Communist to be converted to fascism, chauvinism or Catholicism than to become a sober liberal.”

    [I agree with that. It is particularly easy for a Communist to convert to Catholicism -much more so than either of the other two choices- because a Communist who comes to realize that that the social and material compulsions inherent to that ideology are precisely what makes it unworkable, is the Communist who will look for what works. Compelled communism can never end anywhere but in the gulag. Uncompelled, voluntary communism? That's one way to look at Catholic monasticism. It's also the only healthy way it works. The pure Communist, at heart, wants to surrender to some authority, somewhere. I'm surprised more of them don't quit the realipolitik for the cloister. :-) -admin]

  • http://www.wakepedia.blogspot.com Wakefield Tolbert

    Great quote gallery. Wish I had time to say more. Caught this from your Twitter page.

    Good work!

  • http://www.zazzle.com/shanasfo shana

    I think we should all send Stupak and his lot 30 plastic silver coins to remind them that they now stand with Judas on the side of death. They have to be the world’s biggest fools to think that there will be no abortion/euthanasia/rationing added, tacked on or placed upon us by executive order by the most culture of death politicians we’ve ever seen in this country.

    Then, we work like mad to repeal this horror, find every legal means to stop it, block it, fight it – and any other legislation like it – and replace every member of Congress who voted for it. And then t’row the Executive branch out the door with all his Czars next.

  • SueC

    I like Shana’s suggestion. Let’s drown them in PLASTIC silver coins!

  • Kevin Cavanaugh

    Sounds like he read his Kierkegaard! Thanks.

  • http://yank-rbkc.blogspot.com Anthony

    I opposed the bill for fiscal and philisophical reasons, but can we all get a bit of perspective. We are talking about a fiscal and government boondoggle, not the Enabling Act here.

    I do agree with your comment though on monestaries. If you are going to submit to power, it can only work if it is voluntary and otherwordly.

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  • Momma K

    Lesson learned.

    I will never, ever again vote for a “Pro-Life Democrat”. I believed them and was betrayed by them.

  • dry valleys

    Given your response to Rand Careaga, I’m mystified as to why you chose to become politically active & call yourself a classical liberal. Looking at European history, classical liberal parties have generally been deeply anti-clerical & particularly anti-Catholic (especially under the likes of Bismarck) & the church has responded by condemning liberals. It has often done well under authoritarian regimes, Franco’s Spain being the one that springs to mind, & the fact that this is not something an American Catholic would agree with is a fact of American culture, not something intrinsic to the worldwide church.

    By “liberals” I don’t mean people like me, I mean people who are now referred to as “libertarians”. If I had to choose two ideologies that just don’t fit, right-wing individualism & Roman Catholicism would be good candidates for the irreconcilable box. Because you are going beyond being anti-government, & go over to actually celebrating a force which undermines social conservatism & will in 100 years’ create a load of wealthy, atheist consumers in the Third World who are all on the pill & certainly no longer the darlings of the religious right.

    Geoffrey Wheatcroft on someone who “moved right”. I am confused as to why the likes of Christopher Hitchens are celebrated by conservatives when he is plainly a hardcore left-winger who simply disagrees with other left-wingers on an issue. It’s not a coincidence that he attacks religion, & recently slagged off the church (something I actually agreed with- you should know that my style is softer but in fact I agree with the firebrands & wouldn’t actually say I was more “moderate” than them on religion). It’s never a coincidence, & it’s always best to be careful who you join forces with (which is why I saw from the beginning that Islam is not something liberals should have anything to do with).

    “Hoffer further notes that the reason working-class Americans did not by and large join in the 1960s protest movements and subcultures was they had entry into meaningful labor as an effective rite of passage out of adolescence”

    Well, after Thatcher finished her work, working-class boys in Britain can certainly no longer go into the sorts of jobs their grandfathers (mine was a miner) did. If they can’t get office jobs they will be picking tat up & putting it back down again in a warehouse or on benefits because that sort of work has been done away with. They told us we could sell each other houses & let bankers make us all rich, but so much for that, eh?

    I think it’s fairly facile to tell a bunch of ex-miners or redundant steel workers at the job centre that, by claiming welfare, they’ve surrendered their “freedom”. Any conservative he-man who wants to call them contemptible weaklings for claiming income support whilst looking for another job should try saying it to their faces. But not one of the blowhards would dare do such a thing.

    I have said a fair bit of stuff, I suppose because some time has suddenly made itself available on a slow day & after a lot of thankless work I had a lot to say about stuff that has as little to do with real life as possible ;)

  • Mark L

    I disagree with Mr. Hoffer on one score, but only as a matter of interpretation. It is not power that corrupts but immunity from the consequences of one’s actions (in this world — we all have to answer in the next). If you know you can do corrupt things — take others’ property and liberty, indulge personal impulses at the expense of others, etc — without real fear of punishment and retribution, then a certain percentage of humans will do corrupt things, whether or not they are in positions of power.

    Power often confers immunity — which is why people so often confuse power for immunity as the cause of corruption. But think about societies in which order has disappeared and law is nonexistant. In those places even those that lack true power behave corruptly. Put down anything of value and it disappears the moment it is unguarded. The person that took it has no real power — just immunity from the consequences of taking it. If everyone cheats on their taxes and only a few get caught (because of the sheer numbers cheating) then you have almost total immunity from the consequences of being a tax cheat. Certainly you have enough immunity to justify the cost/benefit of cheating, even if you lack power individually.

    In reality immunity corrupts and absolute immunity corrupts absolutely.

    Congress believes they have immunity. It is time to dispell that illusion.

    Or, in the words of Rudyard Kipling:

    It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
    For fear they should succumb and go astray,
    So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
    You will find it better policy to say:

    “We never pay any one Dane-geld,
    No matter how trifling the cost,
    For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
    And the nation that plays it is lost!”

  • Manny L.

    “The aspiration toward freedom is the most essentially human of all human manifestations.”

    I would like to believe that is true. I no longer do. Given how Europeans continuously give up their freedom for security, given how the left continously puts out limitations to freedom through gov’t programs, given how the general public don’t mind living off other people’s income, I can no longer believe in such an ideal as human freedom inherent in all human beings. This is not a day for such idealism.

  • Jeff

    The Framers would not recognize the country at this point. Was it Jefferson or Franklin who when asked what the Constitution had given the country, replied “A republic, if you can keep it.”

    The whole point of the federal Constitution was a very limited federal government with a light footprint. Now it is all-intrusive, all the way up to “reproductive rights” and taxing everything that twitches.

    On a different note, I find reading Sean Winters over at America increasingly impossible. He is now trying to suggest that Stupak did not sell out the pro life cause. There are none so blind as those who will not see….

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Valleys, in Europe it may have been the sitution that “classic liberals” were anti-clerical, but that isn’t the way it’s worked in America, where many classic liberals were often very religious, and devout church members. Here, the anti-church, anti-religious stuff were pushed by the Left, rather than classic liberals, and it didn’t really pick up steam until the 60′s.

    As for the worldwide church—well, a lot of it is black, third-world, and being persecuted by Islam these days (check out Nigeria.)

    As for the Catholic, or any other church doing well under Franco, or any other despotic regime—-my own belief is that when the world starts approving Christians too much, and big government supports them too much, we’re doing something wrong. I’m less concerned with how we fare under some tyrant or other, than I am with how we spread the Gospel.

    And it isn’t necessarily “He-man conservatism” to point out that welfare ultimately weakens a society, and makes people too dependent on the government. You can feel genuinely sorry for those who have to take public assistance, and still think it’s not a good thing for the long run.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    As for “libertarians”, on this side of the Atlantic they tend to be right-wing, free market, conservative independent types, who want government completely out of people’s lives; this doesn’t sound much like you, Valleys.

  • Skay

    We are being “ruled” not governed by Chicago thugs.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    The American people let the government know that they didn’t want this Health care bill—and the Dems went ahead, and pushed it on us anyway.

    This is tyranny, and we are, indeed, being “ruled’, not “governed.”

  • EJHill

    Welcome to perpetual adolescence! We have handed our adulthood over to the Washington technocrats. Peter Robinson of the Hoover Institute reminded NRO readers last night of this passage from “From the “Legend of the Grand Inquisitor,” Dostoyevsky’s story-within-a-story in The Brothers Karamazov:

    “They will have no secrets from us. It will rest with us to permit them to live with their wives and concubines, or to forbid them, to have children or remain childless, either way depending on the degree of their obedience to us; and they will submit most joyfully to us the most agonizing secrets of their souls—all, all will they lay down at our feet, and we will authorize and remit them all in Thy name, and they will believe us and accept our mediation with rapture, as it will deliver them from their greatest anxiety and torture—that of having to decide freely for themselves.”

  • Prologue

    MarkL said:”It is not power that corrupts but immunity from the consequences of one’s actions (in this world — we all have to answer in the next).”

    Yes! I believe it was Dostoevsky who said: If there is no God, everything is permitted!

    However, I’ve lived long enough to see the other shoe drop, just when it seems no one can touch a corrupted person. And it happens often. The fallout from all this arrogance will be staggering, and it will come out of left field, in a way no one could possibly have imagined.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    Good morning Comrades –

    Congratulations! Your health care and, therefore, your very bodies and persons, are now property of the federal government.

    Da svedanya!

  • Jeff

    I’m so happy the Democrat party and the federal government will take care of me, until I get old and then no so much. I can’t fend for myself, and who really wants to. What is outrageous is that mandatory funeral costs coverage was left out of this bill. The injustice cries out to Heaven. Everyone is entitled to a decent funeral.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    Looking at European history, classical liberal parties . . .

    Looking at European history, classical liberalism is limited to Britain, and does not include the continent. Hence, Locke, and not Rousseau. The American Revolution by former Englishmen against Englishmen, and not the French Revolution against all mankind.

  • dry valleys

    No, I’m not a libertarian. I’m sorry if I was imprecise in my language & gave you to think I was calling myself one.

    By “anti-clerical” & “secular” I don’t mean anti-Christian. In fact, in Europe as in America, classical liberals were often devout believers. But their point was that they were outside the state churches & opposed the priviliges granted to them. Now America, of course, does not posess a state church because it was founded by people of this mentality (& I really think America is different because its founders had views that were seen as out of place where they came from originally).

    I am speaking very specifically of the Catholic Church, not Christianity as a whole. For an organisation that talks of its worldwide reach & long history, it’s entirely right not to look solely at 21st-century America, & this particular organisation (which I raise because our hostess & many commentators belong to it). They have had very close ties to secular authority in a lot of European countries, & this has attracted libertarians’ ire.

    I say America is different because I am not regarded by anyone in Britain as being especially pro-statist. In fact, I oppose the present government because it has extended the state’s power so much, often doing some good but at an unfeasbily high cost, more often doing harm. But I see that in America I suddenly & magically become a radical!

    I like to think I can answer back to my critics. But I suppose it’s my own fault for writing such sprawling comments if I don’t want to be attacked on several fronts :)

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    Give Niccolò Pelosi her due though. From the perspective of pure power politics, she showed herself to be quite skilled.

  • dry valleys

    Perhaps she will crack open a bottle of her wine to celebrate? I always wondered what it tastes like. Is it different to that produced from less exalted people’s grapes?

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    From what I’ve heard, it’s produced by illegal immigrants.

    Good ol’ Nancy. . .

  • Charlie

    As someone who read Mr. Hoffer’s occasional newspaper column as a young adult, I have to say the man had a profound impact on the way I think. So simple, so clear; definitely not an academic. Maybe our president needs to do a little manual labor to clear his mind of it’s misperceptions. Although I really can’t see him surviving for long as a stevedore.

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