Is Identity Still Possible Without Government?

Identity is of the utmost importance to people. We categorize and compartmentalize ourselves constantly, all to establish a sense of who we are and where we fit into. This is so important to us that we’ll risk life and death to better place and identify ourselves. Such is the case of the Civil Rights Movement and civil disobedience. Breaking unjust laws and overflowing jails, helped African Americans to distinguish themselves as equal, and not second rate citizens. This helped them move against the state’s nomenclature. This is one way the state can be unjust. It can seek to divide identities and create schisms in the population. The group-think mentality it can foster can be dangerous, this is exactly what Henry David Thoreau worked to abolish. While the state in some cases can turn people into cogs, most of the time I believe it is a necessary identifier. Although categorizing ourselves is not always necessarily fruitful to our well being, it does help us make sense of things and helps us to rally together. The notion of no government, makes me worried that citizens would not work together as often towards common goals. The state still provides a home and network for people to feel comfortable and important. It is only when the state gets too big that this network becomes jumbled and people feel that they have no place.

Do you think that even without a state people could still have identity? Can cultural ties and lines be enough for a person to feel whole? If the state is not pervading a sense of identity is it just? If so, what identities are just and unjust?

Civil Disobedience and small-government fandom

“Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient” (Cummings, pg. 238).

With this quote, Thoreau summed up the thoughts of every small-government supporter under the sun. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Ron Paul read this to little Rand before bedtime. This isn’t to say Thoreau would be marching along with the Libertarians and the Tea Partiers of America, though I’d be hard-pressed to say “Civil Disobedience” didn’t somehow influence the politics of these movements.

While I don’t know much about Thoreau’s social views, I do know one thing: he liked his government to be small and respectful towards the rights of the individual. Another quote that illustrates this is “Yet this government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way” (Cummings, pg. 238). Thoreau isn’t the least bit subtle about his views on government, as demonstrated by this quote and others like it.

But what about taxes? After all, it’s commonplace for a small-government fan to criticize taxes. Well, fear not, for Thoreau gives a big thumbs down to those as well! After all, he did refuse to pay his taxes during the Mexican-American War; granted, it was more tied to his abolitionist views (Cummings, pg. 238). But even then, it’s undeniable Thoreau just straight-up didn’t like taxes in general. When someone says something like “If a thousand men were not to pay their taxes this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure as it would be to pay them and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood” (Cummings, pg. 244), it’s obvious that person doesn’t like taxes. This is especially true when that person compares taxes to war.

A person I would say has a Thoreauesque view of government is Cliven Bundy. Bundy is a Nevada rancher who engaged in a stand-off with the Bureau of Land Management because of his disdain for grazing rights on federal land. More to the point, he had a knack for not paying his taxes. I’m Thoreau would’ve thrown some support his way.

Bundy sources: and

Would Thoreau fit in with the Libertarians and Tea Partiers of today? Or would he stick out like a sore thumb?


No Government: Is It Really the Answer?

I the very beginning of his piece on civil disobedience Henry Thoreau states that he believes, “That government is best which governs not at all.” (Cummings 238) This point of his just simply feels insanely impractical. While I very much agree that government should have strict limits, removing it entirely is by no means the correct answer. Without a government we would easily slip into anarchy, with no powerful force to represent and protect the average citizen the powerful would simply take control and what freedoms you temporarily had would likely come to a quick end. One point of Thoreau’s that really, let’s say irritated, me was, “The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies.” “In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgement or of the moral sense.” (Cummings 239). With this he basically states that anyone who serves the state is nothing more than a mindless automaton with no free will or thoughts of their own. As one of the people he speaks about I can only say how wrong he is, I follow orders because I agree with them and trust that they serve the betterment of this nation. And if given an order I morally disagree with I have the option to refuse it as unlawful. Mr. Thoreau clearly never truly understood what it means to serve in any capacity and his opinions are flawed because of it.

Do you agree with Mr. Thoreau? Do you believe that the government does more harm than good? That those who serve the government are simply mindless pawns?

Violence is not the Answer

baltimore-cover-finalMartin Luther King Jr. was an advocate for nonviolent protest. He saw nonviolence as a much more effective way of protest, and he was right. This reading came at a most peculiar time, with the riots in Baltimore taking place. In a letter he wrote from the Birmingham City Jail, King penned. “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.” (Cummings, 579) King recognized the advantage and genius of nonviolent acts and protests. The fact of the matter is, people do not respond to violent protests and riots. Just like today with Baltimore, the people have done themselves no favors by rioting with senseless violence. The issue at hand, whether justified or unjustified, can be overlooked because it is easy to just focus on the violence. King wrote, “My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure.” (Cummings, 580) People do not respond to violence, at least not positively. Change is not forced with violence, but rather with determination and in King’s words, through creative tension. Martin Luther King III, Martin Luther King Jr’s son, was recently quoted saying that his father would be greatly disappointed with the recent racial riots. The fact of the matter is, violence is never the answer. None can put it better than King himself when he said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Birmingham to Baltimore: The Case for Civil Disobedience

Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther King Jr. are among my personal favorite rhetoricians and political inspirations, for similar reasons.  Both were important revolutionary thinkers whose words and actions birthed and articulated the concept of civil disobedience: the act of violating unjust laws, rules, and norms in society to protest the conditions of that society.


In Thoreau’s case, he refused to pay taxes in protest of both America’s system of slavery and its involvement in the Mexican War to propagate it.  In “Civil Disobedience,” he outlines his reasoning for dissenting against the government actively with his taxes rather than, as others would suggest, voting to overturn those actions.  In layman’s terms, he argues that voting itself does nothing for a cause; it’s merely gambling that your side will be in the majority.  “Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it.  It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail.  A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority.” (Cummings 241)  Thoreau’s work would later become the inspiration for other movements of civil disobedience, including Ghandi’s Indian independence movement and the civil rights movement headed in part by Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King, like Thoreau, was a textbook example of civil disobedience.  In his case, he fought against the Jim Crow era segregation and discrimination that plagued the entire United States, but was most severe in the Southern states.  One of his lesser known, yet extremely important pieces, “Letter from the Birmingham City Jail” outlines to one of his critics the causes of his demonstrations and why they are justified.  A few of his points stand out to me, but by far the most powerful and relevant is the following: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.” (Cummings 579)

Injustice anywhere

As I’m sure we are all painfully aware, the United States today in many ways resembles the Jim Crow era of the past.  The violence, bloodshed, police brutality, and insipid racism exhibited years ago in Birmingham are reflected in the modern examples of Baltimore, Stanton Island, Ferguson, and hundreds of other cities.  And like Thoreau and King before them, thousands of people in these cities are acting out against the systems of injustice.  I strongly believe that these events will serve as flashpoints for a new rights movement, and that we will be at the forefront of a better, more equitable future because of it.

What do you guys think?  Will Baltimore become the new Birmingham?

Cummings, Michael E. American Political Thought. Seventh ed. Thousand Oaks: CQ, 2015. 241, 578. Print.

Civil Disobedience

The best form of government is one that doesn’t govern at all. What does that even mean? Does that mean that America should just cast aside it’s entire political system and let us run free because we know so well what is good for us?

Some of America’s greatest achievements have been a result of civil disobedience; The Civil Rights Movement, for example. There’s no denying that civil disobedience has an effect on the situation, but people fail to realize that it’s not always a good effect.

I know it’s like beating a dead horse bringing this up, but just look at what’s happened over the past year. First, Ferguson. Now, Baltimore (not saying that they don’t have a right to be upset.) But is that type of civil disobedience really making any positive change for their situation? Yes, it’s 2015. And yes, racism still exists. So for those who do think down on African American’s this is most likely just adding fuel to the fire whether that’s right or wrong.

When it comes to civil disobedience to prove a point or start a movement which do you think is more effective? Peaceful civil disobedience or active civil disobedience?

Civil Disobedience

Civil disobedience such as peaceful protests are a great way to make the government realize a change is needed. The problem I have is when civil disobedience turns into what happened in Baltimore and standing on the American flag. When Henry David Thoreau said,”that government is best which governs not at all.” I asked myself what it would be like if we had a government that didn’t govern at all. I see people taking advantage of it immediately by looting and breaking the law because this is what happens when their isn’t a governmental presence in cities these day. I understand what Thoreau is saying but it’s just not realistic. Less government is a good thing in my opinion but no government would be an all out free for all. Government regulates things such as businesses becoming monopoly’s, fair wages, helping the poor, etc. Without regulation of these things it would be a dog eat dog world. Thoreau said, “This American government, what is it but a tradition.” What do you think he meant by this? Thoreau also said, “The government itself, which is only the mode which people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it.” What do you think he meant by perverted?

History and politics

In the history of the United State, the populace have not only argued about what is moral or immoral, but also how big our government and the smaller state governments should be. Should government be small or should it be a part in every part of our lives. This weekend we read two articles, one by Henry David Thoreau and the other by Martin Luther King Jr. Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther King Jr both write about resisting the evils that exist in society. The differences are that Henry David Thoreau lived in the early 1800’s and he believed that the evil in society was slavery in the south, and how many northerners were indifferent to the issue and were willing to pay taxes to the federal government that he believed was promoting the practice. He also believed that people should disobey against the government to stop the government and crumble it, and that without government the evil of slavery will end because the government was promoting it. He even goes on to state “That government is best which governs not at all: and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have, Government is at best but an expedient;  but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient.” (238) His ways of civil disobedience include not paying taxes and armed resistance, which may, or may not have inspired John Brown in his unsuccessful endeavors to get rid of slavery. However, Martin Luther King Jr was around during the mid-1900’s and believed that the evil was racism and government could be used to help eliminate it. He also advocated for non-violent protests such boycotts and marches, and that the law should be followed, like paying taxes. He was such an advocate for peace and non-violence that he even set up a blueprint for it that includes, “The collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive, negotiation, self-purification, and direct action.”

What method of civil disobedience is best violent, or non-violent? Any examples from today or from the past? henry-thoreau2

Letter from the Birmingham City Jail

The Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power movement was an unforgettable event of the late 1950s, and early 1960s. Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was the heart and soul and perhaps the most easily remembered activist from this time. His philosophy was directed on nonviolent direct action.

When he was in the jail, he saw a statement that stated people were calling his nonviolent protests “unwise and untimely” and starts by asking why they thought that. He states that the reason he is in jail is because he is “compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond [his] particular hometown” and compares himself to the Apostle Paul. King’s main goal was that of negotiation. He says that it was the purpose of direct action and also that most anything can be solved with negotiation.

He goes on to explain his reasoning against the argument of ‘untimely.’ He says that, “I [King] has never yet engaged in a direct movement that was ‘well-timed.'” He is sick of getting told to simply “wait!” because to him this means never. “Justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

“injustice anywhere is a great to justice everywhere.”

How do you think the world would be different if King emerged at this time, not the 1950s.

Our Need for Civil Disobedience

For America, civil disobedience is the founding nature of our country. If it weren’t for civil disobedience and revolutionary action, the United States would likely not exist the way it does today. Though it seems that Americans are losing this quality of fighting for justice. Though it seems to have resurgence with the reoccurring killing of black Americans in places like Ferguson and Baltimore. Though this is still a minority, and the rest of the populace are just complacent or just trying to reform the system. In Henry David Thoreau, he talks of civil disobedience by opting out of the government, in his piece, “Civil Disobedience.” When talking of government, he states, “That government is best which governs least.” As a believer in nonaggression through government action, he stop paying taxes due to the United States government’s declaration of war with Mexico. This is a method of civil disobedience which resulted in him being put into prison. This kind of behavior still exist in America, though in many regards is far less active then people in places like Europe and the Arab spring nations. Another aspect is protest and disobedience seems to be a cultural occurrence in nations that have had tyrannical governments in the past. Though with the U.S. being so young with a consistent government, we as Americans have not recognized the need for revolutionary reform, but instead utilize a waste of effort through voting and supporting the establishment. This should be frowned upon, and instead encourage civil disobedience taking injustice head on. So do you think us as Americans should encourage civil disobedience, or should we rely on the system to make needed change?