Sunday, May 30, 2004


I've been reading about Montesquieu this evening, and came across this (an interpretation of M's thought by the author), which I think is quite a beautiful line:

Even the most benevolent despotism is a violation of the human spirit, and can maintain itself only be tending toward extreme and terrible simplicity. ("Philosophy and the state in France", N. Keohane, p. 401)

Basically, this seems to be part of a thought that wherever there is simplicity in government there is despotism, and that all governments naturally tend towards this unless checked by institutional complexity or good fortune. Hence the famous checks and balances.

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