Saturday, June 26, 2010

Elihu Root

I was just doing a little research this morning and I came across this nice little quotation from Elihu Root:
"...[I]n estimating the value of any system of governmental institutions due regard must be had to the true functions of government and to the limitations imposed by the nature upon what it is possible for government to accomplish.  We all know of course that we cannot abolish all the evils in this world by statue or by the enforcement of statutes, nor can we prevent the inexorable law of nature which decrees that suffering shall follow vice, and all the evil passions and folly of mankind.  Law cannot give to depravity the rewards of virtue, to indolence the rewards of industry, to indifference the rewards of ambition, or to ignorance the rewards of learning.  The utmost that government can do is measurably to protect men, not against the wrong they do themselves but against the wrong done by others and to promote the long, slow process of educating mind and character to a better knowledge and nobler standards of life and conduct.  We all know this, but when we see how much misery there is in the world and instinctively cry out against it, and when we see some things that the government may do to mitigate it, we are apt to forget how little after all it is possible for any government to do, and to hold the particular government of the time and place to a standard of responsibility which no government can possibly meet."
It goes on, and the whole section is great.