Money and Government According to Jefferson

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Thomas Jefferson


In an effort to effectively balance my time this semester, I vowed not to devote myself to some of my known time-sucks.  One of them was reading the Thomas Jefferson book I got for Christmas.  Confession:  I’ve been failing.  Not entirely failing, really.  I read to help put me to sleep.  So I’m accomplishing one of my goals by violating one of my tenants.  I’m forgiving myself.
The book is so insanely interesting.  There’s been parts I’ve been tempted to skim, but I’m so glad I haven’t.  I would have missed out on Jefferson’s random rant about woolly mammoths.  Or a great argument against eugenics.  This quote on government and money struck me as quite powerful.  I have no real agenda in sharing it, other than today’s sequestration opens a new door to politics and money.  A realm we have never entered before.  While Jefferson isn’t talking about sequestration, I thought it would be interesting to see where his words led a discussion.  Talk about sequestration.  Don’t talk about sequestration.  Just contemplate and discuss.

“Mankind soon learn to make interested uses of every right and power which they possess, or may assume.  The public money and public liberty, intended to have been deposited with three branches of magistracy, but found inadvertently to be in the hands of one only, will soon be discovered to be sources of wealth and dominion to those who hold them; distinguished too by this tempting circumstance, that they are the instrument, as well as the object of acquisition.  With money we will get men, said Caesar, and with men we will get money.  Nor should our assembly be deluded by the integrity of their own purposes, and conclude that these unlimited powers will never be abused, because themselves are not disposed to abuse them.  They should look forward to a time, and that not a distant one, when corruption in this, as in the country from which we derive our origin, will have seized the heads of government, and be spread by them through the body of the people; when they will purchase the voices of the people, and make them pay the price.  Human nature is the same on every side of the Atlantic, and will be alike influenced by the same causes.  The time to guard against corruption and tyranny, is before they shall have gotten hold on us.  It is better to keep the wolf out of the fold, than to trust to drawing his teeth and talons after he shall have entered.”

Thomas Jefferson

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