Sunday, September 18, 2011


Henry David Thoreau does not like government, specifically the government of the United States, his home.  He disagrees with what his government is doing with it’s army waging a war with Mexico.  The power of this nation, he believes, comes from the individuals that operate in the government, not the government itself.  The government actually imposes on the people instead of helps them.  The line “Trade and commerce, if they were not made of India rubber, would never manage to bounce over the obstacles which legislators are continually putting in their way; and, if one were to judge these men wholly by the effects of their actions, and not partly by their intentions, they would deserve to be classed and punished with those mischievous persons who put obstructions on the railroads.” shows the government as a machine of mismanagement.  Thoreau also brings into question the effectiveness of majority rules in regards to justice.  Majority rules works more on the will of the strongest then the will of justice.  But also what good is justice if you just vote, instead of taking action yourself to stop the injustice.  Most people would ask then why don’t you just reform the government?   Thoreau’s answer would be that one of the main obstacles against reform would be people who disagree with the government but support it anyway.  So in a way it is indifference that is the biggest obstacle.  Thoreau’s decided to go against the government and was put into jail.  When he got out, his neighbors and friends, instead of going against the government with him or resisting, was indifferent.

Indifference is something that’s always been a problem in most countries.  While voting is good and all, it pales in comparison to direct action.  Our government says that its for the people, but creates laws that punish us for not supporting it with money.  Why should people pay for a government that goes against its wishes?  The government which acts like a machine, turns the men who serve it into machines, because they ignore their consciences.  But great men serve their government with their consciences and also resist the government. But resisting might lead to jail. I find Thoreau trip to jail interesting, because it is good to make a comparison to the jails that the government uses for white collar crimes.  In Thoreau’s jail cell he had a window, a hospitable, smart cell mate and was not abused at all.  What would have happened if he instead of refusing to pay a tax blew up a courthouse, would he have gotten the same treatment?  He had time to think and notice the sounds of his village.  (Personally I think he took his jail visit very well.)  But besides the jail visit, he does bring up a good point.  Why is the majority more just then the minority?  A small group of people can accomplish as much as a large group of people if they work together properly.  The Supreme Court works with less then 20 people, but they have changed so many things with just discussion.  So why is it that some major decisions in our government to left to the mass, who most of us have found out in the past, aren’t just, can be easily swayed and can’t all communicate with each other very well..  We say that how the people speak, but it is the Electoral College that selects the president.  But the Electoral College is swayed by the popular vote and if the voter of the district does not go with the popular vote, then their chances of maintaining their position is jeopardy.  While Martian Luther King one man who only concern was getting equal rights for Blacks in America, was able to change the nation with his words without worrying about disagreeing with someone, because he knew his cause was just.


  1. The Electoral College is a great example!! Someone mentioned as we were leaving class Friday that they don't vote because the Electoral College is what actually counts. Like you said if the representative doesn't go with their stat'es popular vote they will more than likely be voted out. So my question is how is this not going with popular opinion?

    I think Thoreau's time in jail was a bit of a joke. Although he had some time to think, he didn't really make any sacrifice at all! He talks about how he continued on his business of going to the shoe store as he would have done the day before. Now think if he didn't pay that tax and no one paid it for him, do you think he would still feel the same way years and years later?

    What do you think would happen if, like he suggested in the very beginning, there wasn't a standing government? He says "The government is best which governs not at all," if we had a government that didn't enforce any rules or didn't have rules do you think things would still run smoothly?

  2. I like the way you explained what Thoreau was trying to tell us. I didn't really understand what Thoreau was telling us because I am no good at political things in society but you summed it up really good in a way I could understand it a little better.